Summer is upon us, and that means more opportunity to sip bourbon outdoors with a good cigar. However, if you don’t pair cigars with bourbon all that often it can be a daunting task. In fact, I recently heard Fred Minnick say that pairing cigars and bourbon is a lot more difficult than pairing cigars with rum because with bourbon there might only be a few cigars that pair well with a given bourbon, whereas with rum almost anything will go together. He’s absolutely right – you have to find that perfect balance between the two, ignoring the age-old advice of pairing full bodied with full bodied and light bodied with light bodied. It often helps to have a few recommendations to get started, but I always suggest taking your own notes along the way, as it can be very helpful in making more informed decisions about what goes with what later down the line.
Old Fitzgerald Bottled In Bond
This Old Fitzgerald is a splendid, affordable, bonded wheater (whiskey with wheat in the mash bill), with a long history (editor’s note: these pairings correspond with the classic variant, for notes on the new limited edition 11 year old release, please lick here.) On the nose you may notice stone fruit, brown sugar, and baking spice, while on the palate you may notice dried cherries and leather. You’ll want to find a medium to full bodied cigar to go with this one, and something with a little spice can balance out the sweetness of the cigar. Three great options include:
HR 1845 By Hirochi Robaina – This extremely well-balanced cigar could be paired with a wide variety of bourbons or ryes. In this pairing the smoke brings out apple pie notes in the bourbon, while the bourbon brings out milk chocolate bar notes in the smoke. The combined tastes are reminiscent of baked cakes.
Tatuaje Krueger 2016 – It may be difficult to come by one of these, but many of the Tatuaje Monster series cigars would be a great substitute here. Together in this combination the smoke brings out notes of cinnamon apples in the bourbon, while the bourbon brings out fresh tobacco notes in the cigar.
Liga Undercrown Gran Toro – This enjoyable cigar is carried in most major cigar shops, making it an excellent go-to. In combination with the bourbon, the smoke takes on earthy notes with a hint of rich, dark cocoa, while the smoke enhances the dried cherry and baking spices of the bourbon.
How to have a bourbon and cigar pairing party at home
There are a couple of ways you can go about this: First, you can choose one cigar and offer it with a flight of bourbons that vary in characteristics from mash bill to barrel entry proof to bottling proof. I suggest one wheater, one low rye, and one high rye. Conversely, you could choose one bourbon and three cigars and try to determine which cigar pairs best with the bourbon. This is a little more difficult and costly, but it can really help decide the best cigar to go with your favorite evening pour. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of taking notes during the process.
A few cigars, three bottles of bourbon, some glasses, pens, and paper can make for a surprisingly fun evening with friends!
Maggie Kimberl is a bourbon writer focusing on bourbon culture and tourism in Louisville and Kentucky. When she's not covering the bourbon beat you can find her browsing through vintage vinyl with her kids or tending to her homegrown tomatoes. Follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/LouGirl502 Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lougirl502/ and check out her blog LouGirl502.com.