Frodo wrote:Most pairings with cigars are either complements or contrasts... The stonger the stick the stronger the partner needs to be.
I would generally tend to agree with Frodo's guidelines. They provide an excellent basis upon which to begin experimenting when it comes to matching cigars and spirits or wines / fortified wines / beers, etc.
Through the years, I've paired all manner of beverages and cigars. Some combinations have been predictably satisfying. But others, which I might not have initially expected to work, have genuinely surprised.
I’ve attempted innumerable combinations of single malt Scotches and cigars, and come to the conclusion that it’s well nigh impossible to generalize as to what might work and what won’t. There is simply too much room for personal preference, time/circumstance/mood and unexpected surprises to play into the equation. That said, I’ve certainly enjoyed the following pairings...
Aberlour a’bunadh with a Cohiba Siglo VI: This is one match I actually knew beforehand would be stupendous. How could it be otherwise? The Sherry overtones and velvety texture of the high-proof spirit are made for the pastry-like tobacco profile of the Cohiba. You just have to make sure that the cigar isn’t one of those issues suffering from an overly herbaceous character.
Ardbeg 10YO with a Bolívar Corona Junior: As the Islay shifts from sweetness to surging smoke and citrus salt, it uncannily manages to elicit the Pfeffernusse cookie spiciness of the cigar. If you’re bothered by the untamed ruggedness of the whisky, try adding the merest drop of Pedro Ximenez Sherry to the bottom of the glass.
Ardbeg 1977 with a Ramon Allones Gigantes: This combination is complexity and decadence personified. The pungent and oily malt intertwines with the multifaceted, exotic woodiness of the cigar to create a real trip for the taste buds.
Balvenie 10YO Founders Reserve with a Juan Lopez Selección No.2: The rippling honey overtones and spicy oak of the Highlander play off the praline and coffee nuances of the Robusto stylishly. An inexpensive yet very satisfying pairing.
Balvenie 12YO Double Wood with a Vegas Robaina Famosos: The osscillating sweet and dry characteristics of both whisky and cigar lead to a warm and comforting experience.
Caol Ila 12YO with a Fonseca No.1: I’m still not quite sure what makes this pairing jive. Perhaps it’s the manner in which the rounded and all-too-drinkable nature of the Islay whisky counterpoints the mild though penetrating bittersweet quality of the Cuban tobacco blend. Anyway, I liked it.
Glenlivet 18YO with a H. Upmann Magnum 46: What one gets here is the gently smoked peach demeanour of the whisky melding with the rich tobacco core and nuts and spices nuances of the cigar. The overall effect is lovely.
Glenmorangie 10YO with a Romeo y Julieta Churchill: Don’t try this combo with a recent issue of the RyJ, as only age will diffuse the strength and bring out the full range of subtleties of the Churchill sufficiently to match the delicate yet persistent nature of the Northern Highlander. But when the time is right...
Highland Park 18YO with a Cohiba Siglo IV: I’m hard pressed to think of a combination of single malt whisky and cigar that better approaches the ideal of an effortless sense of complexity and composure.
Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition and a La Gloria Cubana Médaille d’Or No.4: I know. You’re thinking, “Big whisky... little cigar.” Trust me, however. The smoky to sherried ebb and flow of the Islay ‘giant’ brings out the subtly honeyed, herbaceous and spicy taste of the Palmita sip and puff by sip and puff. This match was a real revelation!
Yes... Habanos are my virolas of choice.