Cigars and bourbon are said to be a “match made in heaven.” Most people who enjoy a draw and a drink swear that the cigar opens up the glass and brings out its hidden flavors. The bourbon flavors of honey, caramel, charred wood, maple syrup, fruit nut add some sweet tastes to cigars’ leathery flavors.
First and foremost, it is essential to understand your cigars;
The same way that whiskey is refined to bring out its unique characteristics; sweetness, smoothness, smoke, or heat, cigars are also keenly made and refined to assert flavors such as oak, allspice, chocolate, and citrus.
It is only fair to accord the same appreciation given to bourbon to the cigars as well.
To perfect a cigar pairing and your bourbon, you need to bear a few cigar characteristics in mind.
The cigar body
This describes the strength of the taste from the smoke of the cigar. It can be mild, medium, or full-bodied.
The cigar size
A bigger cigar means that you will enjoy the smoke for longer. If your purpose to enjoy a short draw, then a shorter cigar is ideal for you. You would want to pair a long cigar with a bourbon that has a long finish. This gives more time to enjoy both the cigar and the drink.
The cigar rating
Cigars are measured for their quality, on a scale of 0 -100. You will want to go for those with a higher rating.
Cigars have unique taste outlines that evolve throughout the smoke. The flavors that exist in the cigar depend on where the tobacco originated. It also depends on the curing process, the fermentation, and how the cigar has been matured and stored.
The most common flavors found in cigars are the tastes of wood. Examples are hickory, teak, and cedar. The preferences of fruit include citrus, stone fruit, and red berries. Spicy tastes are like chocolate, coffee, baking spices, and pepper. Some specialized flavors are charred meat and leather.
How to choose a bourbon for pairing
Every bourbon has a distinct and unique taste profile that ranges from mild to bold. This is the strength of the bourbon. For starters, when trying to find the right whiskey for pairing with a cigar, it is best to begin with, one with a lower proof. Those from a wheat or corn mash bill are preferred since they tend to be sweet and softer in flavor. You can then move to a bourbon that has a more classic taste, one which is lovely and has a full body, but at the same time not too hot or spicy. Lastly, graduate into a spicy and bold bourbon, one with a higher rye mash bill will be just fine.
Bourbon is produced with a mash bill with a minimum of 51% corn. This gives bourbon its sweet flavor. The remaining 49% consists of a mixture of barley, wheat, or rye, which adds different flavors that range from soft to spicy. The maturation of bourbon is done in new charred oak barrels, which also adds some hints of wood and smoke, depending on when the drink has stayed in the barrels.
Some most common bourbon flavors include oak, vanilla, and caramel; wood-forward flavors are leather, almond, and cedar; spicy flavors are baking spices, cloves, and cinnamon, or heat-like chili.
How to pair cigar and bourbon
For the best pairing, it is recommended to match the cigar’s body to the whiskey body. This means that cigars with a full-body go well with full-bodied bourbon. Mild cigars go with mild bourbon. Any form of imbalance in one component can saturate the other, or worse still, a full cigar may overpower a soft whiskey.
Still, it is best to try and pair opposites. For example, a cigar with sweet and spicy flavors will go well with bourbon with bitter and sharp flavors.
So, how do you put together your bourbon and cigar?
Here is a little guide on the process involved in pairing your cigar and drink.
First, take a drag of the cigar and twirl the smoke in your mouth. Then take a drink of the whiskey and turn both of them in your mouth for a while. How does the cigar’s smoke blend with the bourbon flavor?
Next, take a drink of the whiskey and twirl it in your mouth, then another drag of your cigar. Feel how the drink mixes with the tastes of the cigar. Remember to take notes as you do this, as you may need to refer to them in the future.
Tips for pairing a cigar, and your favorite drink.
Both cigars and bourbon have distinct and robust flavors. It is imperative to get your pairing just right if you want to enjoy them equally.
Here are some tips that will help you pair your cigar and bourbon.
Know your cigars
It is essential to know and understand the vital qualities; it’s flavor and structure. Cigars come in different shapes and sizes based on the brand. These differences can alter the taste of the cigar.
Cigars are measured in length and ring gauge. A large ring gauge usually has more filler tobacco, and a smaller ring gauge will tend to have a distinct flavor of the wrapper. Large cigars allow their tastes to improve all through the smoke. On the other hand, shorter cigars will have the same flavor throughout the smoke.
Match the body of the cigar to the body of the bourbon.
I have stated this earlier in this article. It is an important aspect to consider for that perfect pairing.
Cigars are characterized according to their body. This refers to the smoke’s strength and intensity, the balance of the smoke’s tastes, and the flavors’ endurance. It is described as either mild, medium, and full.
Bourbon also is characterized according to its body. This means how the bourbon feels inside your mouth; it can be thick, meaning that it suits a bit heavy on the roof of your mouth and tongue. It could also evaporate quickly in your mouth.
Matching the two’s bodies will mean that each item will stand out on its own, and none will tend to overwhelm the other.
Choose complimentary flavors
The uniqueness of both bourbon and covers means that any two mismatches will give you a bad experience. It is advisable to do a little bit of research on bourbon and cigars’ flavors before you venture into pairing them. This way, you will find a blend that will best fit your palate and help you enjoy a wonderful experience.
The secret to a perfect pairing is finding cigar and bourbon flavors that complement each other. For example, a vanilla-scented bourbon that is sweet will pair nicely with a cigar with flavors of chocolate or baking spices. A cigar with intense aromas of wood and citrus will go well with bourbon with floral notes.
Expensive is not always better.
You know for a fact that bourbon is an expensive drink. The process involved in creating its unique flavors is time-consuming. Aged barrels are legally only allowed to be used one time. Also, some bit of bourbon is lost during the aging process through evaporation. This is the reason why most bourbons will tend to be expensive. Younger bourbons, however, are not that pricey and could offer splendid pairings for your cigars.
Cigars, too, have the fame of being luxurious items only available to the rich and influential people. This does not mean that an expensive cigar is a better smoke; on the contrary, you can find very high-quality cigars at affordable prices.
Try different pairings and trust your judgment.
The only way you will find the perfect cigar and bourbon pairing for your palate is to try out different pairings. Of course, not every trial will be pleasant, but you will have fun doing it. Remember that your palate is the final determinant of what a good pairing is. So always trust your instinct about the flavors you enjoy. If you do not like sweet bourbons, try out the spicy flavors or the floral ones.
If you feel that full-bodied cigars are a bit too strong for you, yet you enjoy a bottle of robust bourbon, do not be afraid to match it with a mild cigar. Mix and matching different bodied bourbon and cigars is not a sin!
Let’s look at the types of pairings one can enjoy;
Here, a light-bodied bourbon is paired with a light-bodied cigar. An example is the Evan Williams Single Barrel, which is considered a light-bodied and mild bourbon (about 86 degrees). This is best when paired with a mild cigar such as a Macanudo, known for its smooth and aromatic nature. The cigar’s spiciness and creaminess blend well with the vanilla, caramel, and orange tastes of the Evan Williams Single Barrel. You can enjoy this painting any day or season, with or without friends around.
A medium-bodied bourbon like the Rock Hill Farms is not too hot, rough and its finish is not too long. Since this bourbon has a spicy kick due to its high content of rye in its mash bill, it is best not to pair it with a spicy cigar. The oak, honey, and fruity tastes in the bourbon should be paired with a cigar that complements it. A good suggestion is the Cohiba Esplendido. It is creamy and rich tobacco with a hint of butter in it. A pairing such as this is one you would want to use for special occasions or woo in a new client.
To achieve this, pair a full-bodied bourbon with a full-bodied cigar. An example of a robust bourbon is Booker’s Bourbon. It is rich in flavor and is full proof. Its flavors of vanilla, leather, orange peel, honey, pecan, and its heat are best paired with a cigar that will not be overpowered. An excellent cigar for this would be Don Arturo Gran AniverXario Fuente, a solid cigar with cinnamon, coffee, and pepper tones. If finding the Don Arturo is hard, then the best alternative would be the H. Upman.
Such a pairing is best for celebrating victories – closing a critical deal, or landing that lost sought after promotion.
Good drag and a drink is the right way of relaxing your stress and fatigue away. Pairing the two, however, is not rocket science. Some little practice is needed to cultivate a taste for both and understand how to pair the two to get the experience you will enjoy.
Again, all you require is your palate, so it all boils down to your personal preference!
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