Balance Is Beautiful: Bourbon & Cigar Pairings
If you think about classic menswear, what picture comes to mind? If it’s the silhouette of an immaculately tailored gentleman sitting at a beautiful, dimly-lit bar laden with the rarest whiskies, an orange-hued Old Fashioned sitting on a leather coaster adjacent to a gold plated cigar tray, whilst the cigar smoke slowly fills the room, you’re probably not the only one. There’s a reason why everyone wanted to be Don Draper during the height of AMC’s Mad Men.
Certain cigars are just meant to be enjoyed with a good quality whisky. American bourbons tend to be sweeter than their counterparts across the pond as well as further out East, so there’s a natural association of cigars with this variety of whisky — be it original or in cocktail form. Before lockdown, my favourite evenings would always end up at NOLA bar in East London, drinking Sazeracs (and occasionally Old Fashioneds) with cigars. In fact, having gone almost a year without this vice, I ended up purchasing ingredients specifically to make Sazeracs at home. It’s still very much a work in progress, in case you were wondering.
Through the creation of whisky cocktails at home — Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, Sazeracs and so on — I wanted to play trial and error to see which cigars would work best with the bourbons I had at my disposal. The best things come in threes, as they say, so I picked the three bottles I consider my favourites at this point in time — Rowan’s Creek, Longbranch and Rebel Yell.
Rowan’s Creek x Le Hoyo de San Juan
I was introduced to Rowan’s Creek at Milroy’s of Soho. By far one of the best bars in the world for whiskies, every time I visit I always make sure to order a dram of something I’ve never had. Speaking to the barkeep, she suggested trying this as it had a ‘peanut buttery’ aftertaste. Naturally, I tried it, loved it, and immediately bought a bottle. It’s now my ‘treat’ in the drinks cabinet that I save for special occasions. Special occasions also call for special cigars. This bourbon is fantastic when paired with a Le Hoyo de San Juan. Honestly, what a gem of a cigar this is. Don’t get confused by the size, as it is super light, thus naturally complimenting the sweet, smooth and buttery Rowan’s Creek. A pairing for the ages, which I would happily recommend to anyone listening (or reading, for that matter). Drink over ice or as an Old Fashioned.
Longbranch x Trinidad Vigia
Longbranch by Wild Turkey is seriously underrated. The bottle is also beautiful, which helps. A collaboration between Master Distiller Eddie Russell and actor Matthew McConaughey, the bourbon is ‘refined using charcoal from both Kentucky white oak and Texan mesquite’. Full-bodied, slightly smoky and with a beautiful finish, there’s only one place to go with this drink: Trinidad. The Vigia is a short, no-fuss smoke, therefore the drink should be the same. One of EGM’s best selling cigars, the Vigia’s wood, honey and leather notes marry perfectly with the accents of the bourbon. Drink neat or over ice.
Rebel Yell x Ramon Allones Specially Selected
In my aforementioned determination to create the perfect Sazerac, I thought I’d try my hand with this rye from Rebel Yell, for the primary reason that I had never heard of it. Now, I admit I’m cheating a little as it’s technically not a bourbon, but, it carries the same characteristics. It’s incredibly rich and full-bodied but doesn’t really have much of a burn which makes it quite dangerous as, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get through it fairly quickly. The notes of chocolate and vanilla make it a solid option for a rye sazerac (or just over ice), and a solid option to have with Ramon Allones Specially Selected. One of the oldest producers of cigars, this particular cigar is full-bodied with notes of coffee, marzipan and citrus, so the sweetness of the Sazerac perfectly balances out your experience, especially if you have a preference for a 50/50 (50% rye and 50% cognac). Balance makes everything beautiful, and that’s especially the case here. Drink over ice, or as a rye or 50/50 sazerac.