By itself, Scotch whisky can be a great experience, and when the right dram is paired with a great cigar, the effects can be elevated to near magical.
Big Smoke attendees had the chance to practice the enchanting art of combining smoke with drink during Sunday's final seminar, Touring Scotch-land, hosted by Cigar Aficionado senior features editor Jack Bettridge, with executive editor David Savona at his side.
At each seat inside The Mirage Convention Center was a place setting of four glasses, each filled with a different Scotch. The spirits for the seminar were curated to showcase four of the five recognized whisky regions of Scotland: Lowland, Highland, Islay and Speyside. (Campbeltown was left out.)
Representing the Lowlands was Glenkinchie 12 Year Old, which is distilled at a facility that dates back to 1825. Bettridge said that the Glenkinchie is a good representative of the region's typical flavor profile, as the whisky is lighter than those made in other areas of Scotland.
"It has a more floral, malty quality than other expressions," said Bettridge. "You'll typically taste vanilla and bread dough in the Lowlands." Bettridge noted that the Glenkinchie distillery is located near Edinburgh, making it one of the easiest Scotch-making facilities to visit.
After nosing and tasting the Glenkinchie, Bettridge then instructed the audience to remove the first pairing cigar from their Boveda humidity-controlled bags: an Alec Bradley Nica Puro Rosado Robusto. The 88-point cigar, as Savona noted, uses only tobaccos from Nicaragua and is made in that country at Plasencia Cigars S.A.
The duo noted that the Glenkinchie brought out a sweet, toffee-like note in the cigar.
As the audience and hosts continued to smoke the Nica Puro, everyone moved on to the next whisky, The Balvenie 12 Year Old Doublewood from the Speyside region of Scotland. Balvenie, said Bettridge, is one of the few Scotch-makers left that still practices traditional floor malting, an arduous task that is done to convert raw barley into malt.
Both Savona and Bettridge agreed that the Nica Puro became a bit sweeter with the addition of The Balvenie.
Next up was Glenmorangie Lasanta, a whisky distilled in the Highlands region that's been aged for 10 years before undergoing an extra maturation in Oloroso and Sherry casks. The sweetness of the whisky, Bettridge noted, elevated the sweetness from the Nica Puro, and vice versa.
Representing the smoky Scotches of the Islay region was Bowmore 18 Year Old, which pours the color of mahogany and offers a fruity bouquet in the nose, with just a hint of smoke. That smokiness, Bettridge said, comes from peat, the naturally decaying vegetation found all over Scotland.
Bettridge observed how the chocolate notes from the Bowmore ramped up the earthy chocolate of the Nica Puro.
It was then time to light up the next tasting cigar, the Alec Bradley Prensado Robusto. Cigar Aficionado's No. 24 cigar of 2013 is unique in that it uses a wrapper from Trojes, a region in Honduras.
The audience worked their way through each of the Scotch whiskies, pairing the Prensado with each one. The Prensado brought out more of the warm spices found in the Glenmorangie Lasanta, and the cigar's body matched the Bowmore 18 Year Old perfectly.
Bettridge then had the audience rate their favorite pairing, and many attendees cheered for the Nica Puro and The Balvenie as the most popular combination. Shortly after, Bettridge then quizzed the audience with a series of questions. The prize for being the first to answer? A bottle of Scotch.
And with that the seminar came to a close, and so did the 21st annual Big Smoke Las Vegas weekend. Some attendees lingered to talk and say their final good-byes, while others grabbed their luggage to head to the airport with their suitcases full of cigars and their bellies full of Scotch.
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