The perfect whiskies to pair with your cigar

Cigars are best enjoyed with a tipple. Here are our best matches…

Smoking cigars is decadent. From the cost alone of a single stogie, to the rituals and rules we have built around the enjoying them – just think of smoking jackets – lighting up a Cohiba or Montecristo is less a pastime and more an event.

And a key part of what makes cigar-smoking so special is the pairings. From fine cured meats to even finer spirits, complimenting the flavour of your smoke with the taste of something just as rich and hedonistic is a must. Here, we concentrate on the king of spirits, and a gent’s best friend in the drinks cabinet: whisky. Below are five types of cigar – and the best whiskies with which to pair them.

When the filler is aged for an adequate time at the factory, a cigar will take on a smooth and leathery taste – a flavour afforded by certain wrappers also, such as those from Ecuador. For such cigars, your best bet is a peaty and smokey whisky, something equally as heavy and punchy to match your stogie.

We’d recommend a couple of whiskies to this end – starting with The Peat Monster by boutique blended whisky brand Compass Box in London. Expect richness and the bracing medicinal notes of Island peat to pair with your cigar. Or, if you’re looking for more overt smoke, try Glenlivet’s Nadurra Peated, the latest single malt scotch in the Nadurra series.

Cigars that are smooth tend to have a nutty flavour, due to taking on the flavour of the barrels the tobacco has matured and languished in over time. As such, the best way to compliment these rounded, wholesome flavours is by layering some pungent or sharp fruity notes over the top.

We’d go for something a little different to achieve this. Try a whisky matured in a sherry cask, as this unique maturation process will have imbued the spirit with fruity tones whilst ageing and rounding off the flavour itself. Try Penderyn’s Sherry Wood, a fruity single malt that spends some time in bourbon barrels before moving to the sherry casks, or Compass Box’s Spice Tree, that will bring notes of ginger, herbs and rich fruit to the party.

Whilst Spice Tree may seem like a perfect fit here, the spiciness of cigars is different to that of whisky. Whereas spiced spirits leave a pungent aftertaste, the kick with a cigar comes first. Like the initial tingle of spicy foods, notes of nutmeg, pepper and chilli can come through on the draw, and this requires something a little sweeter to balance the experience out.

Go for a sweet whisky – honeyed notes and caramel smoothness. Talker’s Distillers Edition is an aged, sweeter and richer offering than the distilleries usual fare – and will do a grand job of complimenting a spicy cigar. Similarly – and bear with us here – most bourbons are sweeter than scotch, and will do the job handsomely. Try Knob Creek Rye if you don’t believe us.

Again dependent on the barrels in which the tobacco is matured, some cigars boast a subtle vanilla flavour. Nothing too overt, but you can pick up the woodiness of this spice, and if you can find a whisky that too exhibits this note, the two can tease the flavours out of one another to produce a winning pairing.

Balvenie’s 17-year-old Doublewood has had plenty of time maturing to pick up the vanilla subtleties from its American oak barrels, and Macallan’s Amber – which hails from Speyside – has similar vanilla-coloured shades.

Your creamy cigars, the most thick and decadent of the lot, deserve an equally rich and buttery whisky. There’s the worry here that you’ll stumble into the depths of a dark and heavy whisky, so try to steer clear of anything too serious – because the best buttery spirits are also light and elegant.

Something like Abelour’s 18 Year Old – with its reassuringly golden top – fits the bill in this instance. Or, if you want to go lighter still, try Asyla, a light and elegant ‘party whisky’ from a stalwart of this list, Compass Box.

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