I have been a pipe smoker for 40 years now. I enjoy Kremer’s Black Royal tobacco from Kremer’s Smoke Shoppe here in Louisville with its rich vanilla, chocolate and coffee flavors with a hint of ripe fruits. To me it is a well-balanced smoke for all occasions. That includes sipping a Bourbon while I enjoy a smoke.Many people enjoy tobacco and Bourbon together. Not just pipe smokers but also cigar smokers. There are different philosophies about pairing tobacco with Bourbon. My good friend Maggie Kimberl is a cigar smoker and she believes in the opposites attract method for pairing a cigar and Bourbon. A strong flavored cigar calls for a lighter bourbon and vice-versa. I know many other cigar smokers with the same theory of pairing cigars and Bourbon. I call this a theory and not a rule because other people will disagree with the concept. I am not a regular cigar smoker and will not disagree or agree with Maggie but I will offer some observations of my own.
When I enjoy a cigar I tend to like a darker wrapper with a full bodied smoke. Being a pipe smoker I like a lot of flavor. I will pair the smoke with a Bourbon and many times I find Maggie correct in that I want a lighter Bourbon with the cigar. Maggie is correct that a full bodied Bourbon can engage in a wrestling match for the attention of your taste buds and sometimes that leads to some unpleasant results. However I have found that I like a full bodied Bourbon such as Old Forester Signature or Old Grand-Dad bonded with my pipe and it is a full bodied smoke as well. When I find a cigar that is similar in flavor to my pipe tobacco i.e. lots of chocolate/coffee flavors, I will try these Bourbons with it and enjoy the experience. I think a fruity Bourbon with a little spice works well with some full flavored cigars as long they are not too spicy themselves.
In my opinion lighter tobaccos, both pipe tobaccos and cigars, benefit greatly from the proper Bourbon. I do tend to agree with Maggie that a full bodied Bourbon works best with these tobaccos. However I once had a light cigar whose flavor was a light cedar that did not work well with a full bodied Bourbon but did work well with some Old Fitzgerald Bonded. There do seem to exceptions to the rules for me when it comes to pairing tobacco and Bourbon.
I have another friend, Wayne, who enjoys a good cigar and Bourbon in his man cave. I like smoking with him as our favorite game is to pick three Bourbons or Ryes and see which one works best with the cigar we are smoking. I have failed to write down any of the results, but I think that will be a project for the future. I think we will have to get systematic in this analysis and pick a full bodied Bourbon, a light bodied Bourbon and a Bourbon we think will work best with the tobacco based upon the aroma of the un-lit cigar. It will be fun to see what really works best. I will keep you posted on how it goes.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl