In this primer, we’re going to discuss how to pair cigars with various wine and spirits. Historically, many men have enjoyed the pleasures of a fine cigar as the sipped brandy or whisky in the evening. Today, the art of perfect pairings has moved into coffee, wine, and even beer. So what are the tricks to ensuring harmony between your cigar and your drink?
How to Pair Cigars and Alcohol
The same as you can easily decipher which dressing goes best with your salad, the same technique rings true for men looking to pair a fine cigar and an equally fine libation.
There are many spirits that cigars pair well with and some that simply don’t stand up nearly as well.
Drinks That Work Well
Drinks that Don’t Work As Well
The reason these white spirits don’t work as well is that in most cases, the cigar overpowers the spirit. There are some exceptions, but if you’re learning to pair your cigars and spirits, we suggest sticking with the basics at first.
The Trick To Pairing
There is one simple factor that can determine whether or not a drink will pair well and that’s the body. The first step to determining how a drink will pair with a cigar is to match the body. This means that if it’s a full bodied cigar, you likely need a full-bodied spirit that will not be overpowered by the cigar. Whenever you pair something, you want them to work in harmony. This means that both the cigar and the beverage stand out, and you can differentiate between the two.
As an example, if we wanted to pair a full bodied cigar with some spirits, without knowing the flavor profiles, we could surmise that the following beverages might work well:
- A bold bourbon like Bookers or peaty Scotch whisky like Lagavulin 16.
- A beer with a thick mouthfeel such as Guinness, Kilkenny or Innis & Gunn Rum Finish.
- Wine like a deep red Chianti or a Malbec.
If we wanted to pair a medium bodied cigar, we might choose something like:
- A Speyside Scotch whisky such as Glenlivet or Macallan.
- A VSOP Cognac from Hennessy or Remy Martin.
- A delicious rum like Flor De Cana 12 Year or Diplomatico Reserva.
On the other hand, if we want to pair a light bodied cigar with a drink, we might opt for:
- A young red wine, or ideally, white wine or prosecco.
- A mild Irish whiskey like 2 Gingers.
- A Calvados (apple brandy) such as Boulard.
- A Cerveza like Dos Equis or Corona.
There are exceptions to every rule, but if you’re unfamiliar with the cigar you’re going to be smoking, it is always best to begin by pairing the body of the cigar to the body of the spirit.
What is the Body?
When we review both cigars and spirits at Gentleman’s Gazette, we always place them in three categories:
- Full Bodied
- Medium Bodied
- Light Bodied
This isn’t always attributed to the strength or ABV, and certainly, much of it is personal preference, but it is a determination of the overall weight and fullness of the flavor on the palate. Although the aroma and the finish are taken into consideration, the overall feel on the tongue is what determines its body. When we receive cigars and spirits, we always compare them to ones in the same spirit categories (based on type and region) we’ve tried before. We rate the boldest and most powerful ones as full bodied; the most delicate as light bodied and the ones in the middle as medium bodied.
When we pair a cigar with a beverage, we want to make sure they are balanced, so one doesn’t dominate over the other. At the same time, you want to find attributes in the cigar that will help to show off the spirit and vice versa. Like a marriage or relationship, the differences between the two should help to elevate and strength the pair as a whole.
Highland Park 18 + Aging Room Quattro F55 Concerto
One of the finest Scotch whiskies under 25-years, the Highland Park 18 is a perfect blend of sweet and spice which lends itself perfectly to the limited F55 Concerto. The Sumatra churchill is a complex masterpiece that needs a whisky with a full-mouth feel but that isn’t overly peaty to harmonize with it rather than overpower it. There were only 400,000 of these cigars made, so they can be difficult to come by. But, if you have the chance, don’t pass up the opportunity to savour one of these exquisite cigars. If you can’t find the F55 Concerto, consider an Ashton VSG.
I.W. Harper + Romeo Y Julieta 1875
Both reasonably priced, and yet both exemplary, this bourbon from the historic distillery is a perfect choice for pairing with this medium-bodied cigar from the renowned manufacturer. Hints of spice, toffee and creamy vanilla run through both the whiskey and the cigar like wild stallions. They share many of the same flavor profiles which makes them a perfect match. However, they both have a range of flavours that separate them, yet work harmoniously together.
Hennessy X.O. Cognac + Davidoff Aniversario No. 2
Brandy and cigars have gone hand-in-hand since the dawn of time it seems. The resplendent Hennessy XO is a perfect daily digestif that pairs exquisitely with the Davidoff Aniversario No. 2 thanks to its fresh and light profile that doesn’t overpower the cognac. This is a great pick if you enjoy fine cigars and fine cognac daily. Both are equally smooth, with rich flavor profiles and a hint of spice from the cigar that balances out the sweetness of the cognac. For a more daring pair, consider the Hennessy Paradis Imperial with a Cohiba Esplendido from Cuba (when legally allowed).
Diplomatic Reserva Exclusiva Rum + Tatuaje
The rich and fruity rum has elegant notes of vanilla and molasses which play well with the satisfyingly earthy and lightly peppered flavours of this remarkably well-crafted cigar. If you’re a rum drinker, this is a great pick as notes of orange peel harmonize with the rum giving a uniquely Venezuelan feel. For another spectacular rum pairing, consider the Flor De Cana 18-Year with an Arturo Fuente Don Carlos No. 2.
Partida Anejo Tequila + Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 Robusto
Perhaps one of the finest and smoothest anejo tequilas ever produced, this pièce de résistance has a splendid herbal base note that handles the Rocky Patel like a mother holds her baby. It’s a comfortable sip with a distinct smokiness that subtly showcases the complexity of the tequila.
For a less herbal pairing, consider a well made reposado tequila with CAO La Traviata.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to pairing cigars and spirits. What are your favorite pairings?