You’ll swear this bourbon and cigar were made especially for each other.
By Benjamin Winokur
Bourbon, the quintessential American whiskey. In fact, I can’t help but think about bourbon and Mark Twain in the same thought process. How could I not? I’m sitting here with a glass of exceptional bourbon, a fine cigar, and an empty page awaiting my literary input. It was Twain himself who wrote “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”
Buffalo Trace saw fit to offer a bottle of Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel bourbon whiskey for this issue’s pairing. Good whiskey, indeed, and tonight I would come to appreciate Twain’s sentiment even more.
One immediately takes notice of the old-fashioned yellow label affixed to the bottle with “Bottled in Bond” printed in bold type across the bottom. Interestingly, E.H. Taylor was instrumental in passing the “Bottled-in-Bond” act of 1897, which required any spirit labeled as “Bonded” or “Bottled in Bond” to be the product of a single distiller from a single distillery during a single distillation season. Additionally, the act required that bonded spirits be aged in a federally bonded warehouse, supervised for at least four years, and bottled at 100 proof.
Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel bourbon is aged for 11 years, 7 months in fresh American oak casks before being bottled-in-bond at 100 proof.
Selecting a cigar to complement such a sophisticated spirit required careful thought, and I considered five different cigars before finally deciding upon a worthy partner: the 2014 Tatuaje Belle Encre Reserva. Released in March 2014, the Belle Encre Reserva is similar to the standard Belle Encre brown label blend by Tatuaje, with the exception of a luscious, dark-brown Connecticut broadleaf wrapper that was substituted in place of the Habano maduro wrapper that adorns the standard production versions of the brown label blend.
Kentucky, Meet Nicaragua
Manufactured at the My Father Cigars S.A. factory in Nicaragua, the Tatuaje Belle Encre Reserva is a 5 3⁄8 x 48 perfecto containing a blend of all-Nicaraguan filler and binder tobacco. The Connecticut broadleaf wrapper is rough, oily and without any noticeable tooth. Wafting from the foot of the cigar is an aroma of sweet earth, tobacco, cocoa and hay. The dry draw is similar, with notes of hay and cedar.
Upon lighting the Belle Encre Reserva, initial flavors of sweet earth and cedar greet my palate, only to be swept away by chocolate and then punctuated by a dash of red pepper on the retrohale. Medium-full in body, the first inch of the cigar offers solid smoke production and a perfect draw.
Throughout the first third of the cigar, a melody of earth, chocolate, fruit, leather and cedar play across my palate. Taking a sip of the Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. immediately following a draw of the Tatuaje produces a caramel sweetness on the finish that isn’t present in either the spirit or cigar by itself.
The bourbon has its own symphony of flavors that dance right alongside the Tatuaje Belle Encre Reserva. On the nose, it presents a subtle aroma of spice and figs, which is then followed by orange citrus, maple and a long, oaky finish.
Near the beginning of the second third of the Belle Encre Reserva I begin noticing similarities between the Tatuaje and Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. bourbon. Cinnamon spice arises as a focal point of the cigar as the chocolate dwindles, and notes of fruit, leather, wood and earth round out the profile. The full body and strength continue to produce voluptuous clouds of smoke.
Smoking through the middle, a molasses sweetness flits in and out, most often after a sip of the deep-honey-colored bourbon. If I didn’t know better, I would suspect that the Belle Encre and the E.H. Taylor, Jr. were made specifically for one another.
I begin taking a small sip of bourbon just before and immediately after a draw from the Belle Encre, to enjoy the magic that happens as the flavors marry while producing a satisfying, velvet-like mouth feel that is bursting with flavor.
The last third of the Tatuaje Belle Encre Reserva follows similarly to the previous third, as leather, fruit, earth, cinnamon and cedar combine for a profile that still showcases a healthy pepper on the retrohale with a smooth sweet cedar finish. The strength is indeed full, but on the lower end, while the body maintains its fullness. A sip of bourbon energizes my palate with its oaky maple finish, as I continue to smoke the Belle Encre Reserva well into nub territory.
Satisfaction On Many Levels
In the end, the Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel bourbon impressed me repeatedly throughout this pairing, and I enjoyed the bourbon three different ways: neat, neat with a few drops of water, and neat but chilled with whiskey stones.
As this bourbon is cask strength, weighing in at 100 proof, it is best appreciated neat with a few drops of water, which really opens the bouquet and allows you to enjoy the intricate balance of the spirit. While you can absolutely enjoy it neat all by itself, I believe by doing so you lose out on some of this delicious bourbon’s subtleties. I personally don’t recommend enjoying it chilled, either, but of course, to each their own!
The Tatuaje 10th Anniversary Belle Encre Reserva is a must-smoke cigar with a delightful balance of sweetness, earth, leather and spice. It’s a cigar that should continue to age well, too, as the ones in my personal box have only gotten better with time.
Benjamin Winokur is a Certified Tobacconist Apprentice and the founder of CigarJedi.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @CigarJedi.