A good pairing of bourbon and cigars pairing is the right way to end a long and stressful day. That much, we all know. Whether you’re relaxing on the deck or watching a game, a good smoke paired with a nice, single malt or rum cocktail is always a winner. Although scotch and rum are great choices, don’t overlook a good American bourbon.
Scotch and bourbon are both excellent forms of whiskey. The former is Scottish and the latter is American. Yet, there are distinct differences in the distillation process, materials used, and the overall flavor. That makes choosing one over the other important choice for any cigar aficionado. Pair an Ashton ESG with a swig of Gentleman Jack for a full-bodied flavor with a hint of warmth and spice, for example.
Much like with the rise of infused cigars, the right flavor combination is essential when pairing a drink with a smoke. The reason certain drinks and cigars work well is that the flavors complement each other. Understanding which drinks and cigars pair best is key to a rich, cigar-smoking session you’ll never forget.
Why Bourbon Works
There’s a distinct reason why certain spirits work with cigars and why others don’t. Generally, the rule is, the more full-bodied the cigar flavor, the more full-bodied the drink you should pair with it. This is precisely why spirits like vodka and gin are poor pairings for cigars. The taste of even a medium cigar completely overpowers the taste of most clear spirits like vodka.
Even flavored varieties of some alcohol don’t pair well with most cigars because the alcohol lacks smoothness or leaves an undesirable burn or aftertaste. This is why rum often pairs well with true Cuban cigars. The flavors match each other.
Similar to the variety and age of tobacco in finer cigars, the aging process and ingredients of bourbon produce unique flavors that complement cigar smoking. For instance, pairing a Padron 1964 with a swig of Knob Creek goes down smoothly. Yet, the subtle sweetness and earthy spices of the Padron 1964 also perfectly complement the woody flavors in Knob Creek bourbon. Vanilla vodka and peach schnapps just can’t provide the same combination.
Finding the Right Bourbon and Cigars Pairing
Pairing your favorite cigar with the right bourbon is as much about your own personal taste as it is the experience. To know what goes well together you need to fully understand the flavors in the bourbon and the cigar.
To think of it as food, you wouldn’t put fish sauce on a T-bone. In the same way, you wouldn’t mix a smooth and easy-burning Cohiba with a shot of Jim Beam. For cigars, it’s mostly about the flavors the tobacco and wrapper bring into the mix. For bourbon, there’s the entire distillation process.
Bourbon is made from many more ingredients than a cigar, namely corn, barley, rye, and for milder varieties, wheat. This gives every bourbon coming off the line a distinct flavor profile with different hints of this or that to consider.
It’s much the same as Cuban tobacco differs from Nicaraguan or Dominican tobacco. Each brand of bourbon changes the ratio of ingredients, additives, distillation time, and other factors. The final result produces a unique blend and taste for you to enjoy.
Ideas for Pairing Bourbon and Cigars
You’ll find that the most exquisite cigars have an equally complex flavor profile. One example is a medium-bodied Nicaraguan San Cristobal Revelation, which has a woody flavor like cedar or oak. In this case, the ideal pairing will have complimentary notes of sweetness. The slight hints of vanilla and caramel found in a bottle of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon are a great accompaniment to a San Cristobal. For a slightly different taste, Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon with its hints of toffee and honey balances earthy or woody flavors.
Full-bodied cigars that offer a blend of spice, leather, and wood, and a hint of sweetness from the wrapper, are more at home with a sweeter finishing bourbon. A full-bodied Honduran specialty like a Rocky Patel compares well with a glass of Wild Turkey or Jim Beam. The flavors of vanilla, toffee, and caramel complement the cayenne kick and mahogany finish of a Rocky Patel.
Sometimes finding the right pairing takes a bit of trial and error. It’s much like learning to savor a good cigar. Finding the right bourbon and cigars pairing is a process. It’s similar to swirling the smoke from a cigar around in your mouth to really taste the distinct flavor of the tobacco. The same is true for bourbon.
The best way to find the right pairing of bourbon and cigars is to slowly taste the drink. Take note of the different flavors that comprise the bourbon. When you savor and enjoy every sip, you’ll find the right pairing and gain a broader appreciation for the right combination.
Image Credit: Unsplash