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Pairing Cigars with Cask-Strength Whisky

Jack Bettridge
Posted: August 10, 2012

One of the latest trends in whisky has been a proliferation in the market of cask-strength spirits (those whiskies bottled straight out of the wood they were aged in without being diluted with water to the typical proof profiles that range in the 80s). The concept is that this is the way that the liquor was intended to be drunk—even while its alcohol quotient may be a bit challenging.

The trend caused us to wonder: What does it mean to cigar smokers in their search for the perfect marriage of tobacco and brown goods?

We selflessly soldiered through, braving the high proof and finding some pretty pleasing results from four whiskies from the Classic Malts Selection matched with two carefully chosen cigars.

Glenkinchie 20 Year Old Special Release Bottled in 2010, Lowlands, (110.2 proof or 55.1 percent abv, $189)

APPEARANCE: Very light, sunlight, color. Slow medium width legs.

NOSE: Candied aroma with floral characteristics and pears.

PALATE: Very candied and fruity in mouth, with honey drops and a slight cheese note, mark the lightest whisky in the grouping.

FINISH: As it tapers off, nuts and caramel appear and the Lowlands malt becomes uncharacteristically toasty.

CIGAR PAIRING: For a more medium-bodied cigar we chose a Felipe Gregorio Refusion F2 (6 inches by 58 ring gauge, not yet rated) from the Dominican Republic. By itself it was a full-flavored cigar, but not overly spicy with nuts and caramel flavors. The cigar played well with the Glenkinchie, bringing more toast to the light-bodied drink and gaining more depth in the bargain. One of the best pairings.

For a full-bodied smoke we went to the Montecristo Edmundo (5 3/8 inches by 52 ring gauge, 90 points) from Cuba. The cigar is a slow starter with lots of flavor, a substantial smoke rich with wood, sweet spice, nuts and orange peel notes. It didn’t pair well with the Glenkinchie, however, becoming too sweet and making the whisky taste overly cheesy.

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Comments   3 comment(s)

Valley Beverage Co. August 10, 2012 7:11pm ET

Great artictle. You should mention that all of these Scotches open up nicely with a bit of distilled water. That Lagavulin 12 year old will start showing some fruity notes with just a few drops of water added.

JACK BETTRIDGE — NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES,  —  August 13, 2012 10:24am ET

That is true, and I toyed with noting that as I had tasted them all (plus other cask-strength whiskies) separately (no cigars) for something else I'm working on. At that point, I did add water. For the purposes of this cigar pairing we didn't, so I didn't mention it. Another Islay that I tasted previously was the Laphroiag 10-year-old as it comes both in standard proof and cask-strength and I could compare them head to head. It was striking how such a peaty malt at 86 proof could be far less smoky at 111 (or whatever proof it comes out of the barrel at--it varies by batch). Then you add a bit of water and smoke releases.

Valley Beverage Co. August 13, 2012 12:49pm ET

Absolutely. The Laphroaig 10 cask strength is one of my favorite examples to demonstrate what just a little bit of water can do to a whisky. What an amazing spirit whisky is.

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