All hail Thanksgiving, easily one of America’s greatest inventions. No pressure buying gifts or planning some opulent celebration, just breaking bread and clinking glasses with the ones you love (or sometimes simply have to tolerate). This year skip the chore of cooking a casserole and instead bring a bottle of something truly special to delight discerning guests at anyone’s table. These creative and sure-to-please options will all beautifully compliment your favorite post-turkey smoke as well.
Westland ‘Solum’ American Single Malt
Since its inception in 2010 Westland has been among the top handful of distilleries writing and re-writing what is possible in the robust American Single Malt category. The Seattle whiskey maker has long focused on what they dub a "sense of place" — aka terroir, specifically ingredients that are indigenous to their beloved Pacific Northwest. Now the third and final expression in their innovative Outpost Range takes abstractions in terroir to the terminal point. Following experiments in Northwest oak (Garryana) and barley (Colere), their new Solum label becomes the first nationally released whiskey peated entirely with American peat sustainably harvested from bogs only a couple hours south of the distillery. SRP $150.
Cigar Pairings: To contrast the distinct notes of dried fruit and savory smoke flavor, we turn to one of the best barrel aged cigars on the market – Davidoff Winston Churchill Late Hour. Select tobaccos in this cigar are aged in single malt barrels, producing flavors of dark chocolate and wood – a perfect matchup.
Del Maguey ‘Ibérico Jamon Pechuga’ Mezcal
Baked ham has long been a Thanksgiving staple, but have you ever offered that succulent fat-drizzled delicacy in your glass? Del Maguey, credited with introducing mezcal to America more than a quarter century ago, now does. Pechugas are rare mezcales made for only the highest of holidays, distilled with fruits and a whole chicken (or other meat protein) hung over the still so the bounty’s juices melt from the heat and blend into the distillation. Del Maguey’s unique version was imagined when founder Ron Cooper and famed Chef José Andrés visited the Oaxacan pueblo of Santa Catarina Minas, and the Spanish chef had the epiphany of crafting a pechuga with the famed ham from his homeland. The result is truly a thing of singular beauty: unique in umami profile, unctuous in mouthfeel and as expected reminiscent of the best salted and dry-aged acorn-fed Spanish ham. Despite its potent 49% ABV there’s zero heat, allowing for a deliciously smooth sipping mezcal. SRP $230
Cigar Pairings: Floral and distinct aromatic notes are the star of the show with this Mezcal, which sets the stage for the RoMa Craft Intemperance Whiskey Rebellion 1794. This medium to full-bodied blend is rich in notes of dried fruits and a hint of light cocoa creating a harmony of flavors with this Mezcal.
Brugal 1888 ‘01 Cacao’ Colección Visionaria Rum
The inaugural expression of Brugal 1888's new Colección Visionaria, dubbed ‘01 Cacao,’ was the brainchild of Jassil Villanueva Quintana, the fifth generation descendent of Brugal founder Don Andrés. As the current head of the label, Jassil wanted to incorporate the childhood memories of cacao trees from her home in Dominican Republic into the family’s excellent rum. But how to impart an authentic influence of cacao without adding anything artificial to the spirit? Simple: by toasting Dominican cacao beans in hand-picked virgin European oak casks, and infusing the wood with the beans’ nutty, velvety and fruity aromas. The rum then ages in the Dominican heat, adding layers of depth and cacao complexity without a drop of additives or additional sugars. SRP $100
Cigar Pairings: The strong forward notes of hot cocoa and oak lend this cigar to many possible pairing options, but the Wise Man Maduro was top of mind. The notes of charred oak, cocoa, and vanilla intermingled perfectly with this gorgeous rum.
Oxley London Dry Gin
If you’re looking for something a bit lighter to pair with your turkey and mountains of mashed potatoes, gin is always a good bet. London's Oxley innovated the category by developing a process that would allow for cold distillation — because heat from distilling can eviscerate the nuanced notes of more delicate botanicals. Over eight years (and 38 different recipes) they developed their own patented ColdCraft process, which allows Oxley to distill at -5°C. This opens the use of different botanicals including fresh orange, grapefruit and lemon versus traditional gin's dried peel. And since Cold Distillation means no heads or tails are lost, the gin retains more of the nuanced flavor notes of juniper and nine other botanicals. While the small batch process is slow — the Thames Distillery produces only 240 bottles a day — the results are an incredibly bright, citrus-forward London Dry Gin. SRP $35
Cigar Pairings: To help match something on the lighter side, a Joya De Nicaragua Numero Uno is up for the task on this one. The botanical notes of this gin measure up nicely to the smooth smoke of this classic. Expect hints of toasted cashews and a light pepper sensation with a delicious creamy undertone.
Mount Gay ‘Single Estate Series 23_01’ Rum
Although it’s the oldest running rum distillery in the world, this year marking its 320th anniversary, Mount Gay did not control its own sugar cane production until very recently. In 2015 the Barbadian rum concern purchased 324 acres of the old Mount Gay Estate in St Lucy, finally enabling the Caribbean maestros do ron to produce a Single Estate expression from field-to-glass under the control of Master Blender Trudiann Branker. From growing to harvesting to milling the sugar cane to converting it all into molasses, this First Edition of Mount Gay’s Single Estate Series represents Barbados unlike any rum ever before. 100% distilled in copper pot stills and aged in ex-bourbon wood, Single Estate Series 23_01 blends rum from the 2016 and 2017 harvests to create a spirit thick with notes of plum and green pear, ripe banana and star anise. Only 1,200 bottles can be found with a SRP of $400.
Cigar Pairings: The subtle notes of fruit and citrus flavor lends itself to a cigar with a bit of body. Try the Aladino Corojo Reserva which matches the profile nicely. The cigar’s distinct notes of pepper and cedar offer the perfect balance to this standout rum.
Ancho Reyes ‘Verde Poblano Chile’ Liqueur
Invite a bit of spice into your holiday meal with Ancho Reyes’ ‘Verde’ Chile Liqueur. Created by the folks behind Montelobos Mezcal, Ancho Reyes is a Mexican liqueur crafted of ancho chiles — a local Puebla specialty made from poblano peppers sun-dried for 2-3 weeks — which dates back to 1927. The Verde expression adds fire-roasted poblanos to the original recipe for more notes of subtle smoke and heat. Although a liqueur don't underestimate the potency of the Verde both in flavor and punch, as Ancho Reyes still packs a healthy jab at 40% ABV. Drink it as a digestif with ice to help settle that turkey bomb, or add a splash to a margarita for a fiery, innovative twist. As with all Montelobos products, Ancho Reyes is Kosher certified. SRP $40
Cigar Pairings: For this pairing, I landed right on Plasencia 1865 Alma Fuerte Colorado. This was the perfect cigar that was filled with smooth flavors of cedar and roasted almonds that went perfectly with the spice of this spirit without overwhelming the palate.
About the author: Nicholas Stecher, a 20-year veteran journalist covering music (Rolling Stone, Billboard, NYLON), high-end automotive (WIRED, Maxim, Automobile) and luxury travel (VICE, The Guardian, Cool Hunting), Nicolas has grown increasingly obsessed with the world of top-shelf liquor. He shares his favorite findings via his annual Best in American Whiskey Awards and Spirit of the Week column for MAXIM, and his @BoozeOftheDay Instagram project. For the pages of Cigora, Nicolas hopes to share some of his most unique discoveries for those both passionately curious and with discriminating tastes — for cigars or simply life itself. Follow him on the Gram at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.