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Is there anything more relaxing than kicking your feet up with a great cigar and a few fingers of your favorite spirit? I can’t think of anything better.

Today, we’re going to discuss an incredibly controversial topic: pairing cigars and alcohol. This article will focus mainly on whiskey, since that’s what I tend to drink. However, you can apply these principles to any beverage pairing.

First, let’s put some disclaimers up front.

  1. I’m not an expert on this topic. I’m just a guy who smokes cigars and drinks whiskey, sometimes at the same time, and I happen to get paid to sell cigars on the internet. These are just my opinions and what works for me.
  2. I’m going to operate on the assumption that you’re drinking your bourbon neat. If you have water or ice cubes it will dilute the alcohol a bit and affect the way it matches your cigar.  
  3. That being said, the best cigar and the best whiskey are the ones you’re enjoying right now. Chances are, if you take a cigar you like, and you drink a bourbon you like, you’re going to like them both. It ain’t rocket science.

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the principles of pairing.

Match the Body


Here’s the basic rule of all pairings: match the body of your smoke with the body of your drink. Specifically, we’re talking about “body” in terms of the flavor profile. A mellow cigar may still be fuller in body.

What does that mean? What I’m referring to here is the feel and intensity of the flavor and smoke in your mouth when you take a puff. Let’s think of a cigar like Macanudo Cafe  – toast the foot and you’ll find a very mellow body. Just a little bit of cream and maybe some spice, with a very short finish. Let’s compare that to something like Liga Privada No. 9 – you take a puff of this and you’re going to find tons of pepper, leather, chocolate… it’s a full-bodied flavor, and that has nothing to do with the strength of the blend.

When you look at a whiskey, or any spirit of your choice, we want to have a similar experience so that things don’t get overwhelmed. If you’re drinking an incredibly peaty scotch and light a Macanudo Café, you won’t even taste the cigar.

So, that’s our first step. Figure out what you want to smoke, or what you want to drink, and think about what the body of that experience is. Then we’ll search for something to match it. In my example, I’m going to stick with our Liga 9 – it’s a full body, so I’ll want a strong, full-bodied whiskey to match.

Compare or Contrast


The next step is to figure out if you want a pairing that’s going to complement the flavor profile or contrast it. The theory here is easy. We either want a drink that’s going to match the flavors we’re already tasting or one that’s on the other end of the spectrum – if we drink something sweet and smoke something spicy, the drink should taste sweeter in contrast to the spice, and vice versa.

As to which type of pairing you want to do, I can’t offer much advice. This really comes down to personal preference. I think a complementary pairing is easier to do, so that’s where I lean, but there’s a lot of depth available if you can pull of a great contrast.

Let’s keep working with our Liga Privada as our example. Liga, for me, is a very chocolate and coffee heavy cigar. There’s also some black pepper and leathery notes in the experience. If I’m going to go with something complementary, I probably want an oaky, caramel heavy drink – aka most Kentucky bourbons on the market. If I want something to contrast, I’m thinking bright and citrusy, or maybe creamy, like a Monkey Shoulder scotch.

Try, Try, Try Again!

If you’re really committed to crafting nice pairings, the only way to get better is to practice. The easiest way to do this would be to set up a small flight for yourself. Choose a cigar you know you like and follow the steps above to find 3-4 different whiskeys that may work together. Pour a little bit of each, then give them a try. Be sure to cleanse your palate with something like a mineral water in between each sip to stop the drinks from bleeding into one another.

And of course, if you have a pairing that you think works amazingly, be sure to let me know or write up a post on our community. Cheers!

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