Looking to indulge your inner epicurean? Try pairing an aromatic cigar with a fine bourbon. Cigars and bourbon are a classic match. Whether you are an aficionado or a novice looking for new and extraordinary pairings, there are some basic rules you should know before lighting up and taking a sip.
Cigar Pairings 101
The most basic rule, if you’re choosing a whiskey to pair with your cigar, choose bourbon. Bourbon is always going to be your best bet when puffing on a rich cigar. That’s because bourbon’s typical flavor notes of charred wood, nuts, honey, fruit, and maple syrup find a perfect match in cigars. A glass of bourbon will bring much needed sweetness to the leathery darkness of stronger cigars, and the lush barrel notes find a great match in milder cigars.
That said, flavor profiles can sometimes clash, and so the other most basic rule of cigar and bourbon pairing is that the body of the smoke should match with the body of the drink. In other words, full-bodied cigars should go with full-bodied bourbons, milder cigars with milder bourbons, and so on. This is because imbalances in the notes can be quite jarring, sometimes even ruining the most exquisite of cigars. But when you get the balance right, there’s just about nothing better.
Finding that right balance can be hard, but here are a few more tips.
- Make sure you’re keeping notes. Before lighting up or taking that first sip, note the maker, line, and vitola (shape of the cigar), and the same basic facts about your chosen bourbon. Also, take a cold draw (a puff after cutting but before lighting), noting the flavor profile and other first impressions. Then, light up and roll the smoke around in your mouth. Taste and write down the different notes––pretty soon you’ll discover which notes you prefer, and can shop cigars accordingly. Finally, take a sip of your chosen bourbon. Roll the drink around your mouth, note how it matches or doesn’t match the flavor of the cigar. Keep puffing and sipping until you’ve made up your mind. We also recommend trying a bourbon flight so you can try small doses of the different combinations.
- Talk to your local tobacconist or cigar bar maven––they’re often the best sources when it comes to combination recommendations.
- Decide for yourself. We’ll offer a few combination ideas below, but always remember that taste is subjective––what tastes and feels great to someone else might not taste and feel great to you. That’s why it’s so crucial to take notes so that you can remember the different combinations you’ve tried previously.
One final note: it’s a complete myth that expensive cigars have to go with expensive bourbons. The mix and match options are varied and nuanced, no matter your budget. But, without further ado, some suggestions.
Cigar-boosting Bourbons and Bourbon-boosting Cigars
Maker’s Mark & full-bodied Nicaraguan cigars. Maker’s Mark is a great, unfussy bourbon for cigar-swirling. It’s a highly accessible whiskey with a delightful sweetness and ease on the palette––and, at $39.99, it won’t break the bank. There are nice citric flavors, vanilla and cinnamon for the second act, and it’s topped off with caramel and malt. Because Maker’s is made with wheat instead of rye, the delivery is sweeter and less intense than your typical bourbon. We recommend it with a Nicaraguan cigar like Padrón 2000 Maduro, Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Torpedo, or a Vegas Cubanas Generoso. These full-bodied cigars and their nutty, caramel, and pepper notes compliment the sweet Kentucky bourbon perfectly. With the Padróns you’ll see the bourbon bringing out hits of orange peel and marmalade.
- Jim Beam & Punch Maduro. Everyone knows Jim Beam, but maybe you didn’t know how incredible it can be with a Honduran cigar like Punch. We recommend Punch in a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper, though its Ecuadorian “Natural” wrapper is quite nice too. A smooth, medium-bodied cigar with notes of dark chocolate, black pepper, and hickory, it’s well-blended and rolled to perfection. But that perfection is just about doubled when paired with Jim Beam and its notes of toffee, caramel, and vanilla.
- Wild Turkey & Rocky Patel’s The Edge. Here’s our most intense and full-bodied pick. Another Honduran cigar, it’s been a long-time favorite for fans of the full-bodied. The rich, leathery flavors are activated by the iconic bourbon, as are The Edge’s notes of cayenne and coffee beans. Wild Turkey’s hints of vanilla, honey, and caramel will mix with the spicy cigar for a Big Bang-esque explosion of flavor.
But whatever bourbon and cigar combo you choose, make sure you’ve got all the necessary accoutrement to make your experience that much more pleasurable. One of the most necessary tools is a cigar holder, and you can’t do better than a Stage V Cigar holder. It’s a simple, versatile solution for cigar lovers looking to keep better track of a cigar or avoid dirtying it up on an unhygienic surface. Crafted with industrial-strength neodymium magnets, Stage V Cigar holders easily attach to golf carts, boats, or cars. You’ll never again mark up a wood surface or glass table. Put simply, Stage V Cigar Holders keep your cigar protected and safe.
Whether you’ve been smoking cigars for decades or are just starting to pick it up, the cigar and whiskey connoisseurs treasure hunt for finding the perfect combination is never done. Keep trying different combinations, and don’t be afraid to break some of the “rules” we highlighted above––sometimes you’ve got to do whatever it takes to find that perfect balance. Our final recommendation? Stop reading this. Instead, pour yourself a drink and light up a favorite cigar––your flavor odyssey awaits.