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Cigar Pairings

Best Rum and Cigar Parings

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

Yeah, yeah, I know. That single-barrel, oak-cask bourbon is soooo good with your Robusto. Or maybe you love a single-malt, peaty without being overly smoky, with that Double Corona you’ve been holding onto. Fine, but you’re missing out on a pairings possibly more complex, more complementary and balanced if you’re not trying rum with the next Torpedo you light up. We’re talking about dark rum, a generally sweet spirit that is often grown in the same regions as the tobacco that goes into premium cigars. You know, what grows together, goes together. It’s no accident that rum and cigars are two of Cuba’s top exports, and you should definitely check out the Havana Club Selección de Maestros, maybe with a Cohiba, if you’re in Cuba or Europe. If you haven’t tried rum with your cigar, there are more excellent choices than ever these days. We can’t include them all, but you can have great fun trying different ones like El Dorado from Guyana; the excellent multinational line of Plantation rums; and, of course, the rum that upped the game, Ron Zacapa 23 from Guatemala. Here are some of the rums that pair best right now with five of our favorite cigars. One ice cube in my glass, please.

Ashton Heritage Puro Sol Corona Gorda & Santa Teresa 1796

It’s early in the day and you plan on smoking again after dinner. Let’s start with something delicious, but medium-bodied. The Ashton Heritage Puro Sol is full of flavor, but not overwhelming in power. This balanced smoke, with an Ecuador Habano wrapper surrounding Dominican filler, all sun-grown, will be enhanced by the Venezuelan Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera, the perfect aperitif rum. While Santa Teresa carries no vintage, ‘solera’ basically means the rum is blended with production of different ages, in this case from four to 35 years. This blend is then further aged resulting in a rum that is relatively light and dry (not so sweet) with a woody aroma and notes of honey and leather that match up well with the chocolate and caramel from the cigar.

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Robusto & Brugal 1888

This is a Dominican study in contrasts. The Don Carlos line offers lush flavors of oak, espresso and chestnuts and has a lightly sweet finish. In between puffs, sip the compatriot Brugal 1888, a very dry, double-distilled nectar with rum from four to 14 years old that first goes into American white oak barrels used for bourbon, and then into Spanish sherry oak casks. You can’t miss the dried fruit and vanilla coming through, but the drink remains almost tannic (from all that oak) and a little grassy as there is little, if any, sugar added (a process called ‘dosage’).

Padrón 80 Years & Flor de Caña 12

Let’s power up for this all-Nicaraguan pairing. Grab an earthy Padrón 80 years, a full-bodied, spicy perfecto that is nutty, chocolatey and wraps up with coffee and cedar notes. Pair that with the semi-sweet, oak-barreled Flor de Caña (Flower of the Sugar Cane) 12, a Nicaraguan rum that has a slightly peppery edge that tells me I’m having a real drink. The ‘12’ refers to the age of the oldest rum in the bottle. The ‘18’ gets a lot more recognition, but that’s a little too smooth, in my opinion, for this cigar. You’ll note some nougat, almond and molasses with a lot of sherry notes.  The end shows a bit of caramel and an oaky fade. Does it get better than this couple? Maybe not.

Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro Robusto & Pampero Aniversario

This Nicaraguan-made cigar was Cigar Aficionado’s number two Cigar of the Year in 2016. The dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper envelops Nicaraguan filler. It’s full bodied, earthy with a ton of complexity made up of coffee, maple syrup, pepper, cedar and a nice chocolate finish. You need a rum that will stand up to the power. The first sip of this Venezuelan rum might seem slightly bitter, but that will transition immediately into a supremely complex blend of ginger, clove, cinnamon and even a hint of black tea. You might get some lemon, but more than likely, with this pairing, you’re going to get spice from the rum that will also bring out the spice in the cigar. The roundish bottle comes encased in a leather pouch; perhaps a clue that you’re also going to get some leather in the finish of the rum.

Oliva Serie V Melanio Torpedo & Appleton Estate 21

When I first had this cigar, it just grew and grew in flavor and richness. I looked forward to the next time I indulged in it, pairing it with a glass of super-premium rum. The Melanio is a Nicaraguan box-pressed beauty that delivers pepper, caramel and wood flavors in a smooth, creamy fashion. The Jamaican Appleton Estate 21 is a splurge. It’s a blend, but each component rum is at least 21 years old. That makes for an elaborate range of flavors coming through. You’ll get orange peel, cocoa and coffee. Here’s where you really should drop an ice cube or add a bit of water to the glass to help bring out the rum’s complexity.

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