Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Which cigar? Which drink?


When you smoke cigars at a certain point always the same question comes up: what drink to enjoy during the smoke?

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Vintage cigars from the 80s and early 90s


Ask 10 people and you'll get 10 different answers. Red wine, white wine, Port, Scotch Single Malt, coffee, beer, champagne, Sherry, Cognac, Brandy... a long list which could be continued. But who's right? In my opinion all and none of them. There is not THE drink to go along with a cigar... maybe there is one which's perfect because it's more or less neutral in taste (depending on the source and the additional ingredients)... it's water. Water is the only drink which will give you the least influence on the taste of the cigar that you are enjoying.

Wine, beer, whisky - just a little part of the range of drinks

I picked up this topic for a more detailed report due to a question risen on Instagram asking for the favorite drink with a cigar. It sounds like a very simple question but the answer is not as simple as many people would expect it to be.

As you can see here on my blog I love Scotch Single Malt Whisky but for me it's not possible to name one specific whisky which would fit to any cigar. The list of drinks you can enjoy with the brown gold is very, very long... let me try to put together the most common:
  • Red and white wine
  • Port wine
  • Scotch Single Malt
  • Irish Whiskey
  • American Whiskey (Bourbon, Rye, etc.)
  • Coffee
  • Beer (with all its different styles)
  • Sherry
  • Vodka
  • Tequila
  • Cognac
  • Brandy
  • Rum / Rhum Agricole
  • Black and green tea
  • Cocktails
  • Absinthe
  • etc.
Different drinks, different glass ware

Over the years I found some interesting combinations, I tried combos which didn't work at all... but don't forget: that's just MY personal taste... maybe a combo which worked fine for me is absolutely horrible for you. Finally you've to make your own experiences and find out what you like or not.

If you do some research about this topic you'll find many different opinions about it, here are a few which I came across:
  • It's the best to combine spirit and cigar from the same country... Cuban cigar and Cuban rum. After that statement you see the people smoking any Cohiba combined with a Havana Club 3 yo. Neat, of course. I'm sorry to say but I wouldn't use that even for a cocktail, there I use at least the 7 yo... but there are much better rums around than that... just my personal opinion.
  • Combine a light cigar with a strong drink and a strong cigar with a light drink. Hrmmm... it seems like people wanna overpower one with the other... for me it's definitely vice versa: strong cigar + strong drink (and strong means for me strong in taste and aroma)
  • Beer is absolutely no match for a cigar because of the carbonization. I have to disagree because it can be a great match... btw: there are beers floating around with a low carbonization...
  • The best drink to combine with a cigar is an old vintage champagne. It definitely can be a good combo.
  • Whisk(e)y is too strong to be combined with a cigar. Really? I agree that the taste will be influenced but that can also be an interesting experience.
  • Water is the only drink to be enjoyed with a cigar to avoid any influence on the taste. I agree on that if I smoke a cigar which I don't know. But you have to be careful with the water too... there are waters which are not neutral tastewise because they contain a lot of minerals.

If you want to learn more about those different pairings you can search some help in the literature... and there's a lot stuff around which can help you. First of all you should know the partners well that you wanna pair. Therefore it's definitely helpful to taste them separately, maybe you also fill your knowledge with some background information of the cigar and the drink...

Some literature

The book "Cigarre & Co" (which is German only) is a nice collection of combinations of drinks and cigars with some general explanations of the drink itself, general recommendations and finally for each section some proposals of possible combos. It can definitely be helpful to make the first steps in the materia, especially if you're new to it...

Quintero Churchill, Dunhill Tubos, 1994

Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva... goes well with an Ardbeg Uigeadail 2003

In my opinion - and that's also a theory that you can find from different sources - the drink should be adapted to the different phases of the cigar. Normally the cigar develops during the smoking time, the body gets stronger from third to third... therefore you should have the "lightest" drink in the beginning and the "strongest" at the end... whatever you personally define as light and strong. This means if you want the perfect drink to your cigar that it's not only one but maybe at least two or three.

I made this experiment with a Cohiba Pyramide Extra (this one was a pre-release one which was rolled also with Medio Tiempo in it which made it even more intensive aroma-wise). The first half of the cigar was accompanied by an Anchor Steam Beer, the second half by a 13yo. Laphroaig which's been finished in a Chateau Latour Cask. For me it was a great combo and made the cigar definitely a perfect pleasure because both drinks complimented this excellent smoke very well. My full review of the cigar can be found here: http://bit.ly/CohibaPE

First half: Anchor Steam Beer ; second half: Laphroaig 13yo., Chateau Lafite finish

Another pairing including a detailed tasting report I did with a Vegas Robaina Familiares from 1998 and four beers from Brew Moon in New Zealand. If you are interested in my impressions, you can find them here: http://bit.ly/Robaina_Brew_Moon

Robaina Familiares and Brew Moon 'Dark Side of the Moon' Stout

Ok, let me show you some more of the combos that I already enjoyed, but don't expect any detailed descriptions, it was just pure pleasure. They worked all fine for me, maybe you'll like them too... you've to try it to make the experience on your own.

Unsweetened ice tea, Padovani, Belgian beer, Caipirinhia, Scotch Single Malt, Coffee 

As always there is also here an exception of the rule: the Trinidad brand is the only one for me for which you can make a general advice for a drink to go with the smoke... which is champagne. I prefer to use a sparkling wine from Mauler, Switzerland which is made like a French campagne. It goes very well with any Trinidad I smoked... Reyes, Fundadores, Robusto T, Ingenios etc. A friend from Canada recommended it to me and I tried it out... and liked it.

Trinidad and Swiss "champagne"

I could continue the list of pro's and con's for different drinks and combinations but I think the message is clear: there is no wrong or right, combine whatever you like... 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12/03 - The Titan's Xmas Smoke


It's already December, the year's coming to its end and it's the time of all those Xmas events everywhere. Even though it's not under the slogan of Xmas, this smoke is our kind of Xmas smoke. And we celebrate with a classic cigar of a brand which looks back on 80 years of history: the Montecristo Especial from 1997. Already 17 yo. and it ought to be an amazing smoke for the Cuban cigar loving bon vivants. It's a truly classic vitola, Laguito No. 1 with a RG of 38 and a length of 192 mm. Yes, there are RG's which are smaller than 50, a fact which seems to be forgotten if you've a look on the new releases... like the Cohiba Robusto Supremo with a RG of 58(!), enough tobacco to make two cigars out of it.

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Montecristo Especial

Boxing date 1997


This year we'd some more true classics: we started the year with an outstanding Partagas Seleccion Privada No. 1 from 1999, which is THE Partagas par excellence. Second cigar of the year, a Montecristo Edmundo Dantes, Conde 109 from 2008 (second batch). No. 3 a and b, a Diplomaticos No. 7 from the 80s followed by a Los Statos de Luxe Selectos from 1996. And as a final smoke the Montecristo Especial from 1997. Four great evenings with excellent company and smokes.

Montecristo Edmundo Dantes Conde 109, Diplomaticos No. 7, Partagas Seleccion Privada No. 1

But let's come back now to the smoke of the evening, the Montecristo Especial.  For all the detailed tasting reports you should check out feltedhat.com, but I'll republish my impression that I've posted after I smoked another cigar out of the same box. The experience that I'd during this smoke was more or less the same, maybe this time the cigar was even more intensive and aromatic.





After opening the box you only smell a very reserved odor of tabacco... even if you try to get the smell directly from the cigar, it's very reserved...

Ok, light the fire and start it up.... but it continued what I had before... nearly no taste... but there was smoke, so the cigar seems to burn.

(Remark: this time it's different: a massive explosion of white pepper during the first centimeter).

After the first centimeter the cigar starts to unfold: roasted coffee, first very decent but getting more and more intensive, strong aromas of old and aged tobacco.... remember the library smell and taste... Hints of leather came to the surface.... The cigar needs time... it should be smoked very slowly that it don't gets hot and bitter.... 
If you give this cigar the time that it needs, it's opening and shows its hidden secrets.... at times it was flowery and in the last third it's getting more powerful with leather, polished wood and tobacco.
The feedback of my fellow smokers was also very positive, everybody liked this cigar and was very happy with it. We all agreed that the cigar seems to be on the top of its aging progress, maybe it'll still age well for a while but it shouldn't be stored too long anymore.

While smoking we also enjoyed an interesting brandy. This one has been filled in 1000 used Sherry casks (Fino and Amontillado) and has been matured for at least 3 years, because it's a Gran Reserva which has to be 3 years or older acc. to the definitions. The result is a spirit which I never would've guessed to be a Sherry but maybe a Rhum Agricole. A big surprise, unusal but it complimented the cigar very well. The name Uno En Mil is based on the no. of casks which have been filled. All bottles are hand-bottled, numbered and sold as Single Cask Bottling.

Uno En Mil - one of thousand


Stay tuned for the our next get-together, then we will smoke a Sancho Panza Sanchos from 1995! Awesome! A totally underrated brand... and cigar which will take at least 2.5 hours of smoking time!


Thursday, December 04, 2014

11/29 - Sixday Nights, Zurich


60 years of indoor track racing in Zurich, a great anniversary which was celebrated by an enthusiastic audience.

There were a lot more people than the last time when I was there back in 2011 and the atmosphere was amazing! Additionally I had an accreditation as a photographer which gave me another perspective for my shots.

The final Americaine was the key for the victory... 6 teams within one round... 10 rounds before the end Dillier/Lampater in the lead, all other teams one round behind them... but Cavendish and Keisse rode like unleashed and caught up with the leaders.... and won the final sprint which helped them to win by points! A really thrilling final and the Hallenstadion was going crazy... it's great to see that events like this gain again some more popularity...

Lean back and enjoy my impressions of the big final of the Sixday Nights in Zurich...

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