By Marshall Senkarik
Partaking of a fine cigar is a gentleman’s pursuit that is rarely pursued alone. This is not to say that cigars are mainly enjoyed in the company of friends and acquaintances—which is true enough, but rather when an individual holds a puro in one hand, they typically hold a glass in the other. Cigars and spirits have been enjoyed together almost since Europeans first encountered the tobacco leaf, and there is little question why. The intoxicating aroma of the cigar dances with the smooth, rolling taste of the accompanying liquor, quenching the thirst and cleansing the palette for the next draw.
They play off of each others strengths, and complement each other when something would seem missing on their own. Just as wine connoisseurs pride themselves on pairing together wines with meals, or fine cheeses, the cigar man will have his favorite spirit for each cigar. And there is more to it than personal preference. Never would I pair a fine, peaty, speyside scotch with a full bodied Honduran maduro—though I am quite fond of each on their own, together they would work to outdo rather than complement each other. The pairing of cigars and spirits is about flavor, texture, aroma, and feel, sure enough, but it is mainly about enjoyment. Try and get the most of each, without putting one or the other in the background. A good cigar and a fine spirit are definitely worth the effort.
This month I had the distinct pleasure of pairing an excellent Alec Bradley American Classic Blend toro with one of my favorite spirits; Evan Williams sour mash bourbon. The American Classic Blend is an aptly named cigar. It is light and clean with a round smooth flavor that tastes ad feels like a good cigar ought to. This is a light to medium smoke with a woodsy flavor to it. There is a distinct nuttiness on the tip of the tongue, with hints of leather that complement the chewy sweetness of the bourbon.
The Evan Williams has a rich, thick mouthfeel to it, with the semi-sweet chewiness of molasses. It is light and clean with a round smooth flavor that tastes and feels like a good cigar ought to. This is a light to medium smoke with a woodsy flavor to it. There is a distinct nuttiness on the tip of the tongue, with hints of leather that complement the chewy sweetness of the bourbon.
The Evan Williams has a rich, thick mouthfeel to it, with the semi-sweet chewiness of molasses. It is this sweetness that really brought out and complemented the nuttiness of the cigar, almost lending it a honey-almond flavor that was excellent together. The bourbon is smooth, warming, then giving way to just the right amount of burn at the end, reminding you that nothing so good can come for free.
The Alec Bradley toro burns a bit unevenly, but the ash is strong and bright, and it does not affect the way it smokes. The sweet spot of this cigar is definitely the first third. That is where the flavor is strongest and clearest, while after that the flavors become a bit more subdued, while my palate stayed strong with the flavors of the bourbon. The mouthfeel of each remained exquisite though, with a delightful tingle that came from a blending of the flavors.
I definitely recommend a lighter smoke with such a flavorful spirit as bourbon, and the Alec Bradley did not disappoint. The nutty, cedar flavors of the cigar really accentuated the sweet, rich feel of this classic American whiskey, which may have been drowned out with a more heavy bodied smoke. Alec Bradley and Evan Williams came together to provide a very enjoyable and satisfying evening, which may have only been improved to provide a very enjoyable and satisfying evening, which may have only been improved through the addition of good company. There are certainly worse way to fill an hour. Remember, when pairing quality cigars with excellent spirits, it is hard to be wrong, but some answers are more right than others.