The subtle art of pairing whiskey & spirits with the perfect cigar.
Choosing the right cigar can be a task in itself, but finding the perfect pairing of bourbon with your chosen cigar creates a whole new layer of complexity. If you have ever found yourself staring into the sea of limitless possibilities of whiskey labels wondering which will create the magic combination with your favorite cigar — don’t worry, we can help.
These simple tips for pairing cigars and bourbon will have you making expert matches in no time.
When it comes to pairing cigars and bourbon (or other similar brown spirits), there are a few guiding principles to be aware of. Generally, pairing a cigar with a whiskey that shares a similar flavor profile can create a winning match. But, while you might assume more robust cigars pair better with the spicy notes of some bourbons, this is not always the case. Sometimes the flavors in the cigar and bourbon can work to balance each other out. Mild with strong, or robust with light. Experimentation is key!
- Similar flavor profile (chocolatey, spicy).
- Milder bourbon/cognac with stronger cigar.
- More robust cigar with lighter bourbon/cognac.
Selecting a Cigar
General Guidelines for Pairing Cigars with Bourbon:
- The cigar should have a fuller body than the bourbon.
- The cigar should be milder than the bourbon but not too light because the flavors will overpower it.
- Begin with a lighter-flavored cigar and gradually increase the flavor intensity as you select your pairings.
- Be mindful of strength levels in your whiskey—bourbon is typically around 90 proof (45% alcohol), so anything over 100 proof (50%) might overpower your cigar.
- Always match the cigar’s age to the bourbon’s age; younger bourbons should be paired with newer cigars, while older bourbons should be paired with aged cigars.
Selecting Your Whiskey
Pairing your cigar and bourbon is all about the time of day and the type of cigar you’re smoking. A daytime smoke, like a mild-to-medium-bodied Connecticut or Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapped cigar, will pair nicely with bourbons that are aged in new oak barrels, such as Four Roses Single Barrel and Michter’s Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey. This pairing will bring out the sweetness in the woody flavors of the cigar and soften its peppery notes.
On the other hand, cigars for the evening or after dinner should be paired with an oak-matured whiskey — think Eagle Rare 10-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Liga Privada No. 9 Robusto, which have more pronounced flavors of chocolate, caramel and spice. The deep flavor profiles will couple well with the spicier notes of cigars at this end of the spectrum while also providing ample room for complexity and nuance when smoked together.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with rum, cognac, and bourbon. Full-bodied cigars pair nicely with dark rum and vintage cognac. Cognac specifically pairs well with full-bodied cigars because of its unique aroma. For cocktails, try an Old Fashioned or Kentucky Mule. Pairing with typical vodka and tequila cocktails like might be a little trickier.
Selecting an After-Dinner Cigar
Pairing cigars and bourbon is a delicate balance. Your cigar should complement the flavor of your bourbon and vice versa. For example, suppose you’re looking for a cigar that complements a sweeter-style bourbon. In that case, I recommend trying out a cigar with a lighter body and flavor profile, like the La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva No. 1. For something with more spice, go with something like Viaje Exclusivo Leaded or EP Carrillo Short Run 2012 Habano Maduro. You can also try pairing a light-bodied cigar with a high-proof bourbon; it’ll have the same effect as drinking an after-dinner cordial, minus the calories.