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Cigar Pairings

How to Pair Whiskey & Cigars

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Whiskey and cigars go so well together because both are meant to be savored slowly. There’s always a great debate whether bourbon or scotch (single malt) is better with a good cigar, but it really comes down to personal preference. Bourbon enthusiasts argue its natural sweetness perfectly complements the smoky, sweet, and spicy profile many cigars offer. Scotch, on the other hand, can be deep, commanding, and more resonant, making it fit in better with the best strong cigars. We’ve dedicated dozens of pages to pairing cigars with bourbon, the best cigar and scotch pairings, and cigars that complement rye whiskey. Here is an overview of why whiskey is the overall spirit of choice for cigar lovers, how to pair whiskey and cigars, and a handful of classic bottles that belong on your shopping list when you’re setting up an at-home bar. A good place to experiment with whiskey and cigars is a cigar bar if you’ve got one nearby.

 Flavor Profiles

The most common cigar flavors include nuts, coffee, spices, wood, chocolate, and natural tasting notes like earth and leather. Premium tobacco is grown in specific regions around the world, notably the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Connecticut, and San Andrés in Mexico. Where the tobacco comes from, how long it’s aged, and the wrapper leaf determine much a cigar’s overall flavor.   

Bourbon is often sweet with notes of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, coconut, chocolate, dried fruit, toffee, honey, and spices. Single malt scotch can be quite peaty and smoky with notes of sea salt, tobacco smoke, charcoal, cereal, and spice. Some scotch is also floral, buttery, and sweet, but not as sweet as bourbon. With all whiskey, the barrels it’s aged in plays a critical role in how it tastes. Whiskey can be finished (aged) in French oak, American oak, sherry, Port, and rum casks, and all will impart a distinct flavor and aroma. 

There is no secret formula for pairing cigars and whiskey. Some aficionados insist on pairing strong cigars with strong whiskey, and mild with mild. Others weigh in that there is no nuance with this strategy, and you’re left with flavors that either overwhelm the palate and compete with one another, or, in the case of mild cigars and whiskey, a pairing that is uninspiring and flat. Read our staff cigar reviews for a thorough appraisal of a cigar’s tasting notes, the tobaccos it’s blended from, and the cigar-maker who blended it. Our reviews offer a valuable preview when you’re deciding what cigar to smoke with your whiskey. A cigar’s flavor often changes as you smoke it. Cigars intensify as the heat nears your palate. Some become spicier or sweeter at the end. Wrappers grown from Cuban seeds are great if you like a peppery taste. Smoke a good Maduro or a cigar with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper when you’re craving dark, sweet, and chocolaty notes in your smoke.

Best Cigars and Whiskey Pairings

Here is a trio of cigar and whiskey pairings to smoke and sip together. Cut and light your cigar, puff on it, swirl the smoke around in your palate, and push it out. We don’t recommend dipping your cigar in the whiskey. Hold a tumbler of bourbon or dram of single malt under your nose and take in its aroma. Swirl it around in the glass. Give it a moment to open up, and take a sip. Enjoying whiskey with a cigar is as much about aroma as it is about taste. Sip and smoke slowly, and give the whiskey and the smoke plenty of time to ruminate on your palate. You will be in heaven before long.

Ashton VSG & Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask Single Malt

Ashton VSG is blended by legendary cigar-maker Carlito Fuente from exclusive reserves of premium Dominican tobaccos and a succulent Sun Grown wrapper leaf harvested in the rich volcanic soils of Ecuador. The 94-rated profile delivers tasting notes of cedar, espresso, leather, and black pepper with hints of earth in a collection of famous shapes. Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask is a classic single malt matured in oak casks for 14 years before it’s finished in rum barrels. Aromas of toffee and fruit emanate before a warm palate of vanilla, orange, apple, and mangoes bathes the taste buds with buttery, lingering taste.

Arturo Fuente Hemingway & Angel’s Envy Rye

A toothy Cameroon wrapper leaf embraces an exceptional blend of premium Dominican long-filler tobaccos in several gorgeous handmade Perfectos in the Arturo Fuente Hemingway line. Iconic sizes like the Short Story, Signature, and Classic reveal luscious flavors of cedar, chestnut, cinnamon, and baking spices in a silky, medium-bodied finish. Angel’s Envy Rye is a small-batch whiskey created for connoisseurs who believe there is no limit to refinement. Its reddish amber hue glistens while a nose of maple, caramel candy, vanilla, hazelnut, spice, and sherry wood entices from the glass. Sweet notes of oak, sherry wood, and rum bless the palate with a hint of citrus.

Padron 1964 Anniversary Maduro & Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon

Padrón 1964 Anniversary Maduro is 94-rated classic drawn from the finest aged Nicaraguan tobaccos, including its oily Maduro wrapper leaf. Several celebrated box-pressed shapes like the bestselling Exclusivo and Torpedo deliver sweet and spicy notes of cedar, cayenne, nutmeg, and dark cocoa with marvelous complexity and aroma. High marks from the critics are also no stranger to Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. Variation exists within each batch. Caramel, graham cracker, and oak lure you in through the nose. Notes of charred oak and brown sugar mingle with hints of tobacco and leather in a long, warm finish.

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