It used to be there were two busy times of the year to work in or around the bourbon industry in Louisville- Derby Festival and Bourbon Festival. Other than that things were pretty quiet most of the time. These days the action is nonstop, so finding a time to sit down with Michael and Wayne to do a cigar pairing study can be a challenge. Case in point- I’m writing this month’s notes instead of Michael because he’s on his way to board the American Queen in St. Louis to teach passengers about bourbon history during a yearly Bourbon Cruise.

The cigar we chose for this pairing was a Drew Estate Liga Undercrown Shade Belicoso. This cigar features an Ecuadorian Connecticut shade-grown wrapper, a Sumatran binder, and Dominican Criollo 98, Nicaraguan Criollo, and Corojo fillers. It is available at most shops that carry Drew Estate products, though these came from Riverside Smoke Shop. The smell of this cigar before lighting reminded all three of us of the smell of hanging tobacco, which reminded Michael of his days working hanging tobacco in tobacco barns in Kentucky as a young man. We all agreed this cigar had a rich tobacco and straw taste with some cedar and a creamy mouth feel.

Throughout the study we are keeping a core set of bourbons, ranging in proof and mash bill, occasionally rotating in a new one if we feel the need. There was a learning curve leading up to this and we’ve found that proof is as much a factor when pairing as is the mash bill.

Four Roses Yellow Label

Michael: Bourbon takes the straw out of the smoke and makes it very creamy and smoke makes the Bourbon very fruity with cherries and berries with vanilla Cream. This is my second choice of tonight’s pairings- Four Roses Yellow Label is shaping up to be a fantastic go-to bourbon for almost any cigar!

Maggie: The creamy mouth feel is heightened on both bourbon and smoke with this combination. The bourbon brings out the cedar in the smoke and the smoke brings out a strong cherry/stone fruit flavor in the bourbon.

Old Fitzgerald Prime

Michael: Smoke makes Bourbon very rich apple but Bourbon does not help the smoke. Very one dimensional.

Maggie: While the bourbon seems to bring out more cedar in the smoke, I agree with Michael both seem to fall flat with this combination.

Old Granddad Bottled in Bond

Michael: Smoke makes the bourbon very citrus and cream – think orange cream sickle. Bourbon makes smoke more complex and tasty with cocoa and fruit notes. This was my favorite combination of the evening.

Maggie: Right away this is the clear winner to me. I can’t imagine anything beating this pairing. Even in addition to Michael’s notes, the smoke makes the finish on this bourbon last longer.

Eagle Rare

Michael’s Notes: The smoke kills the taste of Bourbon without gaining any benefit for either. Very disappointing.

Maggie’s Notes: Same. Eagle Rare has not proven to be a good cigar pairing bourbon. This warrants further study to determine why.

Michter’s US1

Michael’s Notes: The smoke brings out chocolate and berries in the Bourbon and the Bourbon brings out cedar and spice in the smoke. A very pleasant combination.

Maggie’s Notes: The smoke enhances a rich chocolate taste in the bourbon I’ve never noticed on its own. The bourbon elevates the spiciness and cedar in the smoke. Great combination- my second choice!


Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl