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Drinks Pairings

Common Bonds: 16 Cigar And Bourbon Pairings

Mar 25, 2016 | By Jack Bettridge
Common Bonds: 16 Cigar And Bourbon Pairings

One of the strongest bonds in the spirits world defines the magic that happens when straight Bourbon meets a curling waft of cigar smoke. We paired two excellent cigars—a toasty, Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Torpedo and a fuller-bodied Fuente Fuente OpusX Robusto—with 16 fine Bourbons. Our favorite with each whiskey is indicated by asterisks.

Angel's Envy Cask Strength (variable proof, tasted at 119.3, $169): Aged rum is the first impression with molasses, banana and graham cracker. Then comes Port, anise, cinnamon, cloves and cocoa.

  • Padrón pairing: The whiskey overpowers the cigar a bit, but they make an accord through a like spice character.
  • *Fuente pairing*: The Port finish explodes with this cigar, and the Bourbon returns graham cracker and other pleasant notes.

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey (90 proof, $27.99): This whiskey is a bit coy about its high-rye recipe, but exudes oak, vanilla and orange peel. Then comes fruit before spices like pepper, cinnamon and anise.

  • *Padrón*: Bulleit draws sweet marzipan out of the cigar, while the Bourbon's rye spice is shown to better effect.
  • Fuente: The whiskey's spice resounds and the Fuente becomes rounder. This is a close call.

Eagle Rare Aged 10 Years (90 proof, $29.99): Nose of caramel and vanilla with walnuts. The palate offers molasses, toffee and honey before taking on spice for an indelible finish.

  • *Padrón*: The Bourbon accentuates the cigar's spice and toast, giving it creamy orange notes, while it shows its own vanilla.
  • Fuente: A bit of a clash between sweet and earth flavors, but a sweet spot exists in the cigar's leather.
Common Bonds: Bourbon And Cigars

Elijah Craig 23 Aged Years Single Barrel (90 proof, $199.99): Not overly tannic, but creamy, with orange and berry notes as well as cinnamon and licorice.

  • Padrón: A little too much whiskey for the cigar, but some pleasant connections.
  • *Fuente*: A better balance of bodies allows the Bourbon's fruit to elicit a bonbon effect.

Four Roses Small Batch (90 proof, $39.99): A Bourbon that bespeaks its name with plenty of floral aspects as well as a spicy bite. A parade of hard candy fruits win the day.

  • Padrón: The Bourbon's flowers pounce on this pairing, splashing candy on the cigar.
  • *Fuente*: The cigar shows off its sweetness and the whiskey gets mellow.

Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon (92.6 proof, $80): A nuanced Cognac nose, with caramel, vanilla, Sherry and spice on the palate.

  • *Padrón*: The cigar's hearty notes fill out the Hillrock as the Padrón gets sweet and spicier.
  • Fuente: The Hillrock is less ethereal and unmistakenly Bourbon-like, but without much payback.

Hudson Baby Bourbon (92 proof, $44.99, 375 ml): The pure-corn mash bill makes this whiskey sweet, with herbal, tannic and oily notes.

  • *Padrón*: A sea change: the cigar smooths the edginess and finds a molasses character.
  • Fuente: The same effect, but not as chewy.

Jefferson's Reserve Groth Reserve Cask Finish (90.2 proof, $79.99): Projects cinnamon and herbs with an underlying vanilla redolence. Wine notes transform into bigger berry flavors.

  • *Padrón*: The cigar's toast lends a welcome bite to the Jefferson, and the two waltz around a shared spice.
  • Fuente: The earthy cigar troubles this pairing, but the bourbon makes the smoke sweeter.

Jim Beam Signature Whole Rolled Oat (90 proof, $49.99 for 375 ml): Very sweet, fruit nose with spice and candy apple. Cherry, toffee, toast, nuts and tangerine on the palate.

  • Padrón: A sublime balance of soft flavors. The whiskey is rounder and the cigar sweeter.
  • *Fuente*: You completely forget the oat notion as you're lost in a swirl of caramel and licorice. Another tough choice.
Common Bonds: Bourbon And Cigars

Maker's Mark Cask Strength (variable proof, tasted at 113.2, $39.99): The high alcohol content never masks its citric flavor. Vanilla and maple candy are the second act, followed by cocoa and toffee.

  • *Padrón*: Any heat on the Bourbon dissipates and the Maker's conjures orange peel in the cigar, which offers toast and marmalade.
  • *Fuente*: Maple from the Bourbon transforms into a candy bar of chocolate and nuts. These are both winners.

Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond (100 Proof, $49.99): A huge nose of caramel and maple, with rye and a hint of candy.

  • Padrón: Very well-balanced. The whiskey gets richer barrel flavors. The cigar gains maple and spice.
  • *Fuente: These two find a hearty common ground, with leather and nuts, plus subtler notes like candy and spice.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded (100 proof, $24.99): High-rye recipe mashbill is the first to impress, but candied fruit and flowers fill in. Cinnamon tartness never overshadows the caramel/vanilla, banana, chocolate and cherry notes.

  • *Padrón*: Tartness on the whiskey backs off to allow more caramel/vanilla. The cigar gets nuttier and creamier.
  • Fuente: Candy resounds on the cigar. The whiskey is spicier.

Orphan Barrel Rhetoric (90 proof, $85): A floral nose, with leather. On the palate cinnamon, cherries and molasses chime in.

  • Padrón: The cigar becomes heartier. The whiskey gets only tang in return.
  • *Fuente*: This smoke's flavor range widens into fruits, cocoa and toast. Berry notes fade, but the spirit is heartier.

Wild Turkey Master's Keep (86.8 proof, $150): Not as woody as 17 years suggest. Complex, with grapes, toast, nuts, tea and light woods. Fruity on the palate.

  • *Padrón*: Tea and toast are revived for a pretty pairing. There's a synergy of sublime spice.
  • Fuente: Not as successful. The cigar trades in earth and leather for some fruit.
Common Bonds: Bourbon And Cigars

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked (90.4 proof, $49.99): Beyond the oak, caramel and toffee is a dose of spice including clove.

  • Padrón: The clove disappears as the whiskey dries a bit, but the cigar gains a toffee note.
  • *Fuente*: The whiskey's spice is kickstarted as the Fuente becomes subtler and gains some pepper and sweetness.

Wyoming Whiskey (88 proof, $43): A floral nose with some fruit and vanilla. Wheat, fruit and herbs on the palate.

  • *Padrón*: The cigar makes the whiskey softer and nuanced.
  • Fuente: Played well. The whiskey injected sweetness in the cigar.
Nicaragua Whiskey Bourbon
"My fellow cigar smokers, Enjoy your fine cigars and spirits, but know that while the correlation between cigars and cancer is minute, it increases when alcoholic beverages are consumed while you are smoking. I drink and smoke, but usually not at the same time. NIH studies bear this out. Everything in moderation. " —March 30, 2016 01:30 AM

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