Cigars and the whisky year 2018

Top pairings at WDK
Top pairings at WDK

Pairing cigars and whisky seems to be a fixed combination for some people. But where to start ? Which cigar to pick ? How to cut and light your cigar ? And how to enjoy the combo of smoke and  whisky aromas ? Find out for yourself how the different flavours are brought out by six fantastic whiskies of 2018 and five wonderful cigars. 

Once a year it is time to pair this year’s whisky beauties (aka Bokitos 2018) with five quality cigars at Whiskyslijterij De Koning (WDK). Let’s have a sneak peek.

Six aficionados enter the King’s Tasting Room and sit down at the long table that is neatly laid out by our host Rob Stevens. Tonight 6 out of 18 prize winning whiskies are lined up and ready to be uncorked, poured and tasted. I scan the other beauties which didn’t make it to the table: Benromach Wood Finish Chateau Cissac 2009 45% abv, Prizefight Irish Whiskey 43% abv, Springbank 15 yo (2003) 46% abv, Glenmorangie Astar 2017 52,5 % abv, Glengoyne Cask Strength 59,8 % abv, Lagavulin 12 yo Super Premium 55,1 % abv , Highland Park The Dark 17 yo 52,9% abv, Bladnoch 10 yo 46,7 % abv, Hazelburn 13 yo 47,4% abv Oloroso Sherry Cask (2018), Springbank 12 yo 56,3% abv Cask Strength (2018), Springbank 2009 9 yo 57,7% abv Local Barley, Tamdhu 58,3% abv Batch Strength #3 and Highland Park Valknut 46,8 % abv, the second release in Highland Park’s Viking Legend series.

Four wonderful cigars are waiting in their humidor.

San Pedro de Marcoris
San Pedro de Macoris

San Pedro de Macoris. This fine cigar originates from the Dominican Republic. The dark longfiller is a smoker of about 45 minutes, with a length of 124 mm and ringsize 52. The filler is a mixture of Brazilian and Dominican Piloto ligero and Olor tobacco and produces a robust longfiller with strong flavour.  It is good to know that the three main types of tobacco in the Dominican Republic are Olor Dominicano, Piloto Cubano and San Vicente. Both the origin of the Piloto Cubano as well as the San Vincente can be traced down to the world famous Vuelta Abajo in Cuba, the cradle of tobacco.

San Cristobal El Principe La Habana from Habanos S.A. 100% Cuban.

Liga Privada no 9 robusto oscuro, Nicargua.  Compostion: a Drew Estate  broadleaf dark wrapper from Connecticut, a Mata Fina binder and its core is a filler from Honduras, Nicaragua and  Cuba. This robusto has ringsize 54 and length of 127 mm

Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva Exquisitos, Dominican, Republic.  Wrapper: Connecticut shade, binder & filler: Dominican Republic. Ringsize 45, length 117 mm

…and already burning is my own Cuban Vegueros Mananitas. This surely is my all time favourite Vuelta Abajo cigar from the Cuban Pinar del Rio area.  A well wrapped cigar that tastes good, burns well and is an excellent value for money. Length 100 mm, ring size 46, strength medium to full. The filler, binder and wrapper are all from Cuba.

Vegueros Mananitas
Vegueros Mananitas

Where to start ?

Have you ever mustered the courage to pair a cigar with your favourite whisky ? First up, will it be a Cuban, Dominican, Dutch or Nicaraguan cigar ? What do you know about the types of tobacco, the various filler combinations and the binder and wrapper types ? Cigar aficionado Michael Frank teams up with three cigar gurus. Would you like to have this  knowledge within arms length ? Treat yourself on a book: The World of the Habano.

Pairing technique

And how to get the best out of your dram as well as your cigar ? I’ll let you in on my way of combining a dram with a good cigar. It pretty much comes down to the following. After you have judged the exterior of your cigar you choose how to cut the cap. This can be done in various ways and is quite an important part of the ‘foreplay’. Read the manual  ‘A cut above’ by Maggie Kimberl. Then go from there. Light your cigar with a burner. Avoid matches or the usual cigarette lighter at all times; they don’t burn fierce enough to get the necessary heat in your cigar. You might check out Cigar Aficionado Magazine for a complete manual. When you’re done it’s time to start pairing. Take a subtle draw to get the smoke of your cigar in your mouth cavity, then smell your whisky and at the same time let the smoke come out of your nose bit by bit. This way the alcohol flavours intertwine with the smoke. Note: close your eyes while you’re at it and more important, never inhale while enjoying your cigar !

The six combo whiskies

Glen Grant 18 yo, 43% abv, Rare Edition is my first surprise.  This whisky is double distilled in tall slender pot stills and unique purifiers as it says on the bottle. It was whisky of the year 2016  says Whisky Bible 2017.  A fruity, nutty, friendly, caky and oaky dram.

Macallan 18 yo , 43% abv (2000-2018); triple cask matured in European en American sherry seasoned oak casks and ex-bourbon American oak casks.

Highland Park The Light, 17 yo, 43% abv and matured in bourbon casks.

Springbank 23 yo 48% abv. A bottling by The Whisky Nerds. This top whisky was distilled on May 22,  1995 and bottled on November 5, 2018.  You could say we haven’t wasted any time to get the liquid out again.  A smell and taste of cacoa , coal smoke, straw….Phew !

Talisker 8 yo, 59.4 % abv cask strength.  What shall I say ?  A wonderful dram matured in American oak hogsheads. Read Tom van Engelen’s review ‘…the return of a giant’ on Maltfascination. Score: a solid 90 points.

Longrow 14 yo 57.8 % abv, a peated sherry cask matured, is the last in line.

The Chosen
The Chosen