I walked out of the humidor with a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 Tubo and put it down on the table in the Cigar Aficionado lounge next to a bottle of Laphroaig 16. Managing editor Greg Mottola looked up from his laptop.
“You’re going to smoke that cigar with that Scotch?” he said.
Debate ensued. (This happens a lot in our smoking room.) Laphroaig is among the most smoky and heavily peated Scotches around, and Greg felt the Hoyo that I had chosen was not enough cigar to stand up to the malt.
“Do you have something else in mind?” I asked. He reached for a Cohiba Siglo V (also packed in a tube) that he had found when he was in Italy.
“OK,” I said. “We’ll both drink the Scotch. You smoke the Cohiba, I’ll smoke the Hoyo. Let’s see how they work.”
Peaty Scotch is remarkably pleasant at 16 years old, as anyone who has sipped Lagavulin 16 (another Islay whisky) can happily attest. The Laphroaig is new, a recent addition to the Islay malt portfolio. The 96-proof spirit (48 percent ABV) spent its 16 years before bottling in first-fill, ex-Bourbon barrels. It retails for $90 for a 750 ml bottle.
I enjoy Laphroaig, but I usually drink the 10 year old, which is extremely peaty and smoky. How would an extra six years of age change the flavor?
Laphroaig 16 Year Old (48 percent abv, $90 per 750ml bottle)
Appearance: Coppery and somewhat dark.
Aroma: Not as smoky as expected, with floral notes and hints of burning birch.
Palate: Campfire smoke, smack of iodine, along with grilled pineapple and peach and chocolate-covered orange. Water brings out vanilla and toffee and additional sweetness.
Cigar Pairing No. 1: Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 Tubo (93 points) The Scotch paired beautifully with the Hoyo, finding a butterscotch note that wasn’t present before. A coconut note also came out in the cigar on the finish, and the cigar added sweetness to the Laphroaig.
Cigar Pairing No. 2: Cohiba Siglo V Tubo (92 points) This cigar met the Scotch almost note for note. The smoky peat was joined by a warm toastiness, and the notes of grilled peaches and pineapples were met with the Cohiba’s notes of dried apricots and figs. The Laphroaig’s vanilla and toffee met the Cohiba’s nougat and caramel.
Pairing peaty Scotch with cigars might seem like a daunting task, but our research has shown that it can work quite well. In this feature story (“Pairing With Big Peat”), senior features editor Jack Bettridge was pleased to find how well a pair of cigars matched with 11 of Scotland’s smokiest pours.
So who was right? In the end, Greg and I were both happy with our pairings. I’d say it’s a victory for both parties.
What cigar would you pair with a peaty Scotch? Let us know in the comments below.