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Best Rye Whiskey & Cigar Pairings

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

The resurgence of rye whiskey is in part owed to a contemporary crop of bartenders possessed with a creative spirit and a fascination with history. That’s why you’ve seen the attention showered on rye whiskey skyrocket in recent years as the historic American spirit increases its shelf presence on high-end menus and as a key ingredient in craft cocktails. The rise and fall and rise again of rye began its roller coaster ride in the late 1700s as the British siphoned off molasses imports from the Caribbean to the colonies – up until which time, the colonists displayed an unquenchable thirst for rum. Disputes over British taxation of molasses caused rye production to thrive in states like Pennsylvania and Maryland as a result.

For comparison’s sake, despite our nation’s puritanical heritage, writer Jim Vorel recounts some stupefying stats regarding alcohol consumption in the 19th century according to historian W.J. Rorabaugh. By the 1830s, citizens in the U.S. consumed alcohol at a level roughly 45% higher than we do today – or the equivalent of plowing through “3.4 standard, 750ml bottles of Jim Beam White Label Bourbon per household per week.” An overabundant consumption, however, didn’t cause rye whiskey to disappear from prominence – Prohibition pushed it out of the spotlight. It’s only been in recent in decades that rye’s revival has come full circle. Let’s take a swig of the best rye whiskeys you can pair with cigars today.

#1 - Ashton Symmetry & Angel's Envy Rye

Ashton Symmetry is handmade from a zesty, smooth, and intense recipe of Dominican and Nicaraguan long-filler tobaccos beneath a Cuban-seed wrapper grown in Ecuador. The 94-rated ‘Top 10’ cigar conveys original and highly Cubanesque flavor. It matches up marvelously with a top-shelf pour of ultra-rare Angel’s Envy Rye. A profile of rum, sherry, and oak leads to a sweet, dry finish which is intricately interwoven with Symmetry’s bright, enticing taste and aroma. Angel’s Envy Rye rests for up to 18 months in Caribbean rum casks to gain its complex, spicy flavor.

#2 - Fuente Fuente Opus X & Kentucky Owl Straight Rye 11 Year

Among the rarest and most sought-after cigars available, Fuente Fuente Opus X is drawn from only the finest tobaccos cultivated at the Fuente family’s world-famous estate, Chateau de la Fuente, in the Dominican Republic. A spicy profile of coffee beans and wood mesmerizes the senses from beginning to end. Equally elusive, Kentucky Owl Straight Rye 11 Year delivers a luscious dash of lavender, honey, cloves, and vanilla in the nose while the raw taste of fresh split cedar, saw dust, and cinnamon delicately clings to the silky and smoky flavor in Opus X. Both cost a small fortune, so borrow a friend’s black AmEx, or postpone your next special occasion until you’ve come into some money.

#3 - La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor & Whistle Pig Old World 12 Year Rye

Celebrated cigar-maker Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia blends the 95-rated former ‘#2 Cigar of the Year,’ La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor from an extensively aged San Andrés wrapper leaf and an intricate interior of select Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Cracked black pepper, espresso beans, almonds, and wood harbor marvelous transitions of taste and wind up finishing a bit sweet. An 86-proof, ultra-refined profile in Whistle Pig Old World 12 Year Rye carries loads of clever spices, apricots, raisins, and plums with a chocolaty finish and a touch of caramel in the nose. Both are bold but lack nothing in the way of elegance.

#4 - San Cristobal Quintessence & Willett Family Estate 4 Year Rye

San Cristobal Quintessence is assembled from a gingerbread-hued Cuban-seed wrapper grown in Ecuador and an ample marriage of premium aged binder and filler tobaccos grown on select Garcia family estates in Nicaragua. Notes of molasses, black pepper, cedar, and cocoa meld perfectly in a 95-rated classic, ranked as the ‘#3 Cigar of the Year’ for 2021 by Cigar Aficionado. In Willett Family Estate 4 Year Rye, spices dominate a finish foreshadowed by a nose of tart cherry and cinnamon with flavors of dark fruit, pepper, and vanilla. San Cristobal and Willett offer an exquisite exchange you’ll gladly savor slowly.

#5 - My Father & E.H. Taylor Straight Rye

Among the first cigars to put the Garcia family on the map for premium connoisseurs is the original My Father, a hearty 94-rated ‘Top 5’ release. Meaty flavors of fresh ground coffee and leather emerge in a full-bodied profile of vintage Nicaraguan long-fillers under an oily Ecuador Habano wrapper leaf. E.H. Taylor Straight Rye drives a forward but refined palate of dried fruit, black pepper, and fresh dill. Lingering and a bit sweet, E.H. Taylor is an ideal complement to the rich, leathery texture of My Father. Together, they are stark and embracing.

#6 - Padron 1964 Anniversary Maduro & Michter's US*1 Single Barrel Rye

A lauded profile of cayenne, cinnamon, dark cocoa, and cedar characterizes Padron 1964 Anniversary Maduro thanks to an extensive aging process. Select Nicaraguan long-fillers are bound in a box-pressed shape by a dark and partially sweet Nicaraguan Maduro wrapper leaf. Notes of pepper, butterscotch, oak, and citrus present a bright, stimulating taste in Michter’s US*1 Single Barrel Rye. Sheared grains maximize the flavor in a magnificent rye that pairs perfectly with Padron, served neat or in a cocktail.

#7 - Oliva Serie V Melanio & Sazerac 6 Year Rye

The 96-rated Oliva Serie V Melanio was awarded Cigar Aficionado’s #1 Cigar of the Year title for 2014. A profile of wood, caramel, and coffee bean notes emerges with leathery texture and a touch of white pepper. The blend is drawn from an Ecuador Habano wrapper leaf and a deep recipe of Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Sazerac 6 Year Rye is an ideal companion with sweet and spicy aromas of vanilla and clove. A profile of candied peppers, citrus, and licorice enliven the dry, smoky character of Oliva in an excellent match.

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