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Battle at the Bar

Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
10th Anniversary Issue, Nov/Dec 02

(continued from page 3)

While Cognac is the best known, traditional brandy for cigars, it would be a shame to ignore Armagnac, its French cousin to the south, and the burgeoning brandies of California. Armagnac enjoys a longer tradition than Cognac, but has suffered from marketing failures in America. Its chief differences come from the preponderance of sand in the soil and its method of distillation. A single run is made in a special still that allows it to retain more of the raw qualities of the grape. The best California brandy makers are quickly catching up to their French counterparts by adhering to the traditional methods of grape selection, distillation and Limousin oak aging.

When you find yourself partaking in the brandy-and-cigar tradition, note that one part of the clichè may be erroneous. Most connoisseurs do not use the huge, ball-shaped brandy snifter, but prefer a smaller tulip-shaped glass that concentrates the aroma rather than asphyxiating you with it. The former shape is probably a holdover from the days when room temperatures were so cold it was necessary to warm the drink in your hand. Whatever glass you have, try some of the following brandies with your favorite cigar.


MARTELL XO Supreme balance in a Cognac that combines flowers, anise, bread dough, walnuts and candy. Pairs best with mild to medium cigars, but won't wither with a full.

REMY MARTIN XO Range of complementing flavors in a Fine Champagne Cognac. Orange peel meets sweet cream, exhibiting vanilla and oak in an elegant mixture. Pairs well with cigars from medium body to full.

Courvoisier XO Exceptionally smooth Fine Champagne Cognac that melds fruit (orange), nuts (cashew), chocolate and caramel into a confection that pairs well with a full range of cigar bodies.

DAVIDOFF The cigarmaker's two Cognacs share a sweet licorice profile. Entry-level Classic is slightly fruity and lacks the body of the Extra, which smacks of nuts, meat and caramel with a fine finish. Both make excellent cigar partners across the board.

HENNESSY The XO is complexity itself: flowers, dried fruit, cream, grapes and almonds. Hennessy Paradis is smoother and downright orchestral: orange, sweet grape, roses, anise, macadamia, coffee, nutmeg, loam; each play harmony and take solos. Pair best with medium cigars.

FRAPIN XO VIP Fresh fruits, herbs and oak define this Grande Champagne Cognac. Bright and clean, it is nonetheless sweet. Smoke with mild- and medium-bodied cigars.

A. DE FUSSIGNY CIGARE BLEND Starts from a graham cracker nose and moves through a candied palette to reach a floral, oaken finish. Pairs best with milder cigars, but will support a wide range.

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