Cigars and Their Liquid Counterparts
Posted on July 13 2020
Cigars and Their Liquid Counterparts
I always emphasize that smoking cigars is a very personal experience. Each individual is different when in preference to both flavor profiles and the strength of the product, and that goes for alcohol as well. Therefore, comprehending your own taste buds is a must if you want to take it to the next level.
As thirst quenching and refreshing water can be, it will never be as satisfying complimenting the cigar with spirits. However, the vast amount of options and combinations can be somewhat overwhelming. With few tips and lots of personal experience, you can make an educated guess as to what type of spirit would work best for the cigar you will be smoking. Ultimately, our goal is to discover the perfect marriage between cigars and spirits.
Premium cigars and spirits are very much alike, with complex flavor profiles, and different strengths. Cigars are broken down to mild, medium or full strength. This category has nothing to do with the flavor(s) of the cigar but solely indicates the amount of nicotine within the product. Knowing the difference can also assist the consumer by paving a guideline of what type of experience they are looking for and avoid any negative ones.
As for spirits, the strength of the content is determined by the amount of ethanol (alcohol) contain in an alcoholic beverage, also known as alcohol proof. The higher the proof, the more alcohol contains in the beverage.
What really captivates me about cigars are the flavors that it produces by simply fermenting them under specific conditions without any additional artificial flavors added. From the five-basic taste (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami) to flavors of specific things (barnyard hay, oaks, nuts, cocoa, pepper spice, etc.), the flavor combinations are endless.
Unlike cigars, the flavors in spirits are more subtle. You use your scent of smell more than your actual taste buds. Floral, fruity, and honey sweet are some of the general notes you will get. Experienced veterans with a refined palate can even pinpoint specific flowers or fruits from the scent.
***Tips: Whiskey with a higher alcohol proof can be hard on the palate. Add few droplets of water and you can open up different flavors and scent which was masked by the strength of the whiskey. ***
Not everyone will experience the same tasting notes when smoking a cigar or drinking spirits. Everyone’s taste buds are different, associate the flavor profiles with what we have eaten in the past. Certain people have a wider palate than others due to their eating habits. Therefore, always take everything with a grain of salt when you compare your experience with other people.
Do not expect to find a perfect pairing right off the bat unless you fully understand the profiles of both cigar and spirits. There are two points to take into consideration:
- The strength of the cigar: You want to pair a fuller body cigar with a higher proof drink, and vise versa.
- The flavor profiles: This might take a couple of tries before you find what flavor matches since you need to know the general tasting notes of each product. Just like food, you want to see what will compliment one another. (i.e: food pairing with wine)
This is the part what inspired me to write a blog about cigar pairing. So now we have a very general idea of what to look for when pairing cigar with a beverage, but that isn’t enough if you want to maximize the experience. Until not too long ago, I have found out that I had been drinking and smoking in the wrong sequence. While attending a Fine Tobacco NYC event hosted by Matthias Clock, he showed the attendees the three proper steps that would maximize the experience.
- Take a small sip of your beverage. Wet your entire palate.
- Swallow any excess liquid without drying out your palate.
- Take a nice long puff of your cigar and let the smoke exit your mouth on its own.
This may seem simple, but like many of you, I used to puff on my cigar before drinking my beverage. All I can say is this has changed my whole experience, and I have not look back since.
Let us know what are some of your favorite cigar and beverage pairing in the comments below!
- Kevin Sun