A Dram Fine Cigar - The Whiskey Wash

A Dram Fine Cigar

By Alan Wood / March 27, 2019

The world of cigars is often quite a strange and confusing place, filled with terms like Corona, Robusto and Churchill. Whisk(e)y is a very similar world, where people will describe aromas as being like old leather, tobacco and your grandfather’s wood burning stove. For a long time, cigars and whisk(e)ys were only for the privileged few, (well the good stuff, anyway, especially when it was older than the drinker). This is changing as more people are finding out about hidden gems and forgotten brands.

The key thing when trying to find a cigar that will be enjoyable with a dram is flavor – flavor is key. Like all whisk(e)ys there is a surprising depth and complexity available for all palettes from beginner to professional smoker. The general rule of thumb tends to be full bodied Cuban cigars pair very well with Islay or rich smoky whisk(e)ys, whereas your Dominican, American and lighter styles tend to go with Lowland/Highland/Speyside Scottish whisky or bourbons.

The rule that I use when enjoying a smoke and a dram when I am out is that i go small (half corona), while at home with more time I will indulge in a longer smoke. The ring gauge (circumference) of the cigar will influence the taste, with the thicker the cigar the hotter the burn due to the higher level of tobacco.

This is the same when you hear people talking about 60% ABV (120 proof) whisk(e)ys. These can often have a burn similar to a robusto, but can be some of the most immersive and challenging whisk(e)ys out there. When enjoying a cigar with these mysterious libations you will notice something unusual happening. The cigar will mimic the whisk(e)y as you work through it – the flavors will change and grow, while softer flavors from the cigar will fade to produce stronger notes that fight with the full-bodied nature of the whisky.

Cigars and whisky make a fine pair (image via Alan Wood)

The next thing to think about when pairing and enjoying whisk(e)ys and cigars is region and flavor, and nowhere is this more apparent than with Scottish whiskies. If you have been on a Scottish distillery tour, especially those on Islay, they will make reference to a substance called peat. This is what gives the whiskies from this region, along with other things, its signature flavor.

However, it is not all about peat. Casks, storage and barley can all play an undeniably important part in deciding the final flavor of the dram. This is the same with cigars, where water, cloud cover and soil types can play a huge role in producing the perfect leaf. In both the world of whisk(e)y and cigars there are people known as master blenders. It is their job to make sure each batch of product tastes the same day in day out, year in year out.

Another key thing to remember here is aging. Both tobacco and whisk(e)y are aged to perfection – something this good takes time – and is not meant to be rushed. Scottish whisky by law has to be aged a minimum of three years, with some maturing for as many as 50 years or more before they reach a discerning palette. This is why distillers tend to focus on 10 being the youngest age as this is the point where the whisky has mellowed out enough.

In the world of tobacco, it can be aged anywhere from a few months after harvest to years before it will even be rolled. Often younger tobaccos, like whiskies, tend to be very spicy, whereas older, more matured stock will have a luxurious smoothness and richness.

But one thing that you will realize very quickly when finding your perfect pairing is that this is not an easy or quick thing. It will take time and it will take patience (and a bit of your bank balance), but it will be one of the most rewarding things, as both are designed and meant to be enjoyed slowly while watching the world drift by with a pleasant glow in your soul and in a cloud of happiness.

The one thing I will leave you with is that there is no such thing as a right or wrong pairing. A wild monster from the misty Scottish isles with a sedate Cuban, or a gun slinging gut punch bourbon with a fiery Dominican. It is all in what appeals to you.