The Perfect Match: A Guide to Pairing Whiskey and Cigars
“What’s the best drink to pair with a good cigar?”
This is one of those questions we get every so often in our inbox, and more importantly, we hear it a lot at our local cigar bar here in Orlando. Years ago, it was pretty common to end the night with a fine cigar and spirit, but the choices and options were pretty slim back then. Fast-forward to 2017 and you ask 10 people how to pair them and you might get 10 different answers. Coffee, craft beers and tea are just some of the things we’ve heard, but the truth is everyone’s taste is different. Our opinion? You can’t go wrong with a good brown liquor like whisk(e)y, rum, or cognac. Our preference usually tends to lean toward whiskey; think bourbon or scotch, but there are a lot of options out there to choose from. It’s a pick-your-poison kind of situation, but we wanted to make life easier for you, so this week we’ve teamed up with Holt’s Cigar Company to give you a cheat sheet guide to pairing whiskey and cigars! But don’t worry; we also have some recommendations for rum and cognac for those who prefer them!
In case you’re not familiar with their brand, Holt’s Cigar Company has been around since 1898, making them one of the oldest and most established cigar retailers in the world. It’s family owned and operated, and is based right here in the U.S. out of Philadelphia, PA. They carry over 500 brands including many of the top names associated with the cigar industry today. As a simple rule to follow, an easy way to pair whiskey and cigars or any spirit for that matter, is to match the strength profiles. By this we mean the descriptions you hear or see such as full bodied and medium bodied cigars. You’ll want to match these up with whiskies, which are described as lighter or heavier. For today we’ve got a nice selection of cigars from the La Aroma cigar family that features medium to full-bodied selections, and we’ve matched them with some brown spirits you can’t go wrong with. La Aroma is an original Cuban brand from the late 1800’s that’s been rejuvenated in Nicaragua and has grown into one of the hottest cigars on the market.
La Aroma de Cuba [93 Rating/Cigar Aficionado]
La Aroma de Cuba is a medium-bodied cigar with flavors of brown sugar, chocolate, nuts, cedar, and earthy tones. It has a cool spice and a delicious finish. To match its flavor profile, try pairing it with one of these:
- Scotch Whisky: Glenfiddich SR 12 Year Old
- Lighter notes of fruits and honey pair well with a milder smoke, making Glenfiddich an excellent choice for the single malt fan.
- Bourbon Whiskey: Makers Mark
- Sweet notes of orange and vanilla pairs will with a medium-bodied cigar, which will complement each other well.
- Rum: Mount Gay XO
- This tropical rum is sure to mix well with a medium smoke, it’s both rich and sweet and quite fruity.
- Cognac: Hennessy XO
- This nutty cognac features notes of honey, cocoa, and dried fruits, this is an excellent choice for a medium-bodied cigar but really works with several ranges.
La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial [93 Rating/Cigar Aficionado]
La Aroma de Cuba Edicio Especial is a medium-bodied cigar with notes of leather, earthy tones, cedar, and hints of cinnamon and light cocoa. It’s a favorite at Cigar Aficionado for its subtle richness that features an Ecuador Habano wrapper and a complex Cubanesque flavor profile. To match its taste, try pairing it with one of these:
- Scotch Whisky: Johnnie Walker Black
- The Glenfiddich SR 12 works here as well, but for the blended scotch, consider JW Black’s fruity and nutty offering.
- Bourbon Whiskey: Evan Williams Single Barrel
- EW Single barrel is an excellent choice for a medium bodied smoke that features notes of vanilla, orange peel, and toffee.
- Rum: Bacardi 8 Anos
- This sweet rum has a soft finish with delicious notes of oak, tropical fruits, and fennel.
- Cognac: Martell XO
- This softer cognac features citrus notes combine walnut, and pairs well with a light to medium smokes.
La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor[95 Rating/Cigar Aficionado]
La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor is a rich and versatile medium to full-bodied cigar with notes of almonds, dark cocoa, crisp spices, black pepper and hints of black cherry. It’s another popular choice at Holt’s which Cigar Aficionado awarded the “#2 Cigar of the Year” honors following its debut. Mi Amor features a sweet finish and delicious aftertaste. To match its flavor profile, try pairing it with:
- Scotch Whisky: Famous Grouse 12 Year Gold Reserve
- Another blended scotch is our choice here. Grouse 12 Year pairs well with a medium to full-bodied smoke such as the Mi Amor. This complex blend features notes of oak, caramel, toffee, and is rich to the taste.
- Bourbon Whiskey: Wild Turkey Rare Breed
- Rare Breed features plenty of flavors (maple, caramel, orange) sure to complement a medium to full cigar.
- Rum: Appleton Estate 21 Year Old
- Appleton is a popular Jamaican rum that features a wide range of styles and flavors. This one is perfect to pair with a medium to full-bodied cigar, that’s nutty, fruity, rich, and complex.
- Cognac: Remy Martin XO
- Remy XO is one of our favorite cognacs, and pairs well with a medium to full-bodied cigar. Its robust flavors include fruits and spices, orange peels and grape with notes of honey.
La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva [94 Rating/Cigar Aficionado]
La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva is a highly rated full-bodied cigar with bold flavors throughout. It includes decadent notes of dark chocolate, hickory, and peppery caramels and yet maintains its smoothness from start to finish. To match its flavor profile, try pairing it with:
- Scotch Whisky: Ardbeg 10 Year Old / Chivas Regal 18 Year Old
- Single malt or blended, you can’t go wrong with either the Ardbeg 10 or the Chivas 18. Ardbeg is a heavy drink that needs a full smoke. It’s very smoky, with notes of char, vanilla, and honey. With Chivas, it’s a rich blend that features vanilla, dark chocolate, wood, and marmalade.
- Bourbon Whiskey: Woodford Reserve
- This Kentucky bourbon has it all. It’s a heavier sip, complex with notes of oak, espresso, spice, rye, vanilla and butterscotch. Pair this with a full-bodied cigar and you won’t be disappointed.
- Rum: Havana Club Anejo 7
- This full-bodied Cuban rum matches a full-bodied smoke perfectly. It’s got great complexity with notes of guava, banana, and coffee. It’s one of our favorite rums on the market.
- Cognac: Courvoisier XO
- Courvoisier XO is a smooth cognac that blends together notes of chocolate, orange, and cashew.
Hopefully this helps and gets you started in the right direction. Like any good resource, these are our suggestions but to each his own. Don’t be afraid to buy a cigar sampler with a range of flavors and order a whiskey flight at the bar to see what works best for you. For more information on any of the cigars mentioned above, or additional selections you can visit Holt’s online, or visit them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.