Maggie Kimberl, Wayne Klawier and I came together again to do a Bourbon and Cigar pairing. This time Maggie picked the cigar – a Surrogates Animal Cracker . This is an Oscuro cigar with a Habano Ecuadorian wrapper. I found the smoke to start off with cedar and pepper with some chocolate or vanilla tones with some hay on the finish. The Bourbons we chose were Four Roses Yellow Label, Old Fitzgerald Prime, Eagle Rare Small Batch, Old Grand Dad Bonded, Weller 107 and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel at 110 proof.
Four Roses was our favorite last time so we decided to start there and go up in proof. The Four Roses really started the night well. The combination made both the Bourbon and the smoke sweeter making the hay in the smoke more grassy sweet than dry hay. It also really made the chocolate in the smoke come forward. Revisiting this later in the cigar and I found it also brought out a little more fruit in the Bourbon complimenting the smoke quite well. Four Roses scores well again.
Next was the Old Fitzgerald Prime, another 80 proof Bourbon and a wheated Bourbon. The smoke made the Bourbon very creamy and coated the mouth with a silky feeling. The spice was almost gone from the smoke but there was a citrus finish to the Bourbon that was very nice. A very nice pairing. Revisiting later in the cigar and the Bourbon held up well with little change from the first drink.
Eagle Rare was the next Bourbon up in proof. I was disappointed in that they were not bad together but there was not much interaction other than a little chocolate enhancement to the smoke. Not a bad combination but I was hoping for more.
Up next was Old Grand Dad Bonded, one of my favorite Bourbons to sip on when I am outdoors. The Bourbon caused the spice in the smoke to become more of the sweet spices rather than pepper with more cedar on the end. The smoke really brought out the citrus flavors of the Bourbon. This is a nice combination that did not disappoint.
Another wheated Bourbon with Weller Antique 107 as the next pairing. The Bourbon made the smoke a little hotter, but not unpleasantly so but the creamy feeling from the other wheated Bourbon was still there, just not as strong. The smoke made the Bourbon a bit spicy and creamy.
The final Bourbon for the night was Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. The smoke made the Bourbon a bit hot in the mouth but did bring out some nice leather tones. The Bourbon enhanced the spice in the smoke.
For me, the winner for the evening was the Four Roses Yellow label once again. It enhanced the smoke and the Bourbon when paired together and I really like that hint of fruit that started to come out toward the end of the cigar. Next I would have a hard time choosing between the Old Fitzgerald Prime and The Old Grand Dad Bonded. Both were very good experiences and worthy pairings.
Several days before we did this study we discussed the bourbon lineup. I predicted a sweeter, lower proof wheater would pair best with an oscuro cigar, so we opted to add in an Old Fitzgerald Prime to the mix. In our last study I had predicted the Old Granddad Bonded would be the best pairing with the Padron Anniversary Natural because a lighter flavored cigar would need a bolder bourbon to compliment it. There was a sharp learning curve with this pairing exercise, as I learned last time proof plays just as much a part in the pairing as does the mash bill. Four Roses Yellow Label ended up being the clear winner last time, so we decided to drop the proof down with the Old Fitzgerald this time. The combination did not disappoint- this was the clear winner in my book. The smoke itself became creamier with this combination and any hint of spice was significantly mellowed. The bourbon took on almost a velvety texture with this pairing, and the sweetness and creaminess of both the bourbon and cigar were beautifully enhanced.
Though the rest of my pairing notes don’t differ significantly from Michael’s, I was surprised to discover that Four Roses Yellow Label was again at the top of my list. While Michael chose that as his top pairing and it came in second place for me, I’m beginning to wonder whether this is going to end up being the gold standard for whiskey and cigar pairing. We already have plans to keep this in our lineup as we continue this study.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl