I’ve been traveling a lot this year checking out distilleries outside of Kentucky – they do exist! As Mark Twain so eloquently said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I have to admit that sometimes I don’t consider whiskey made outside of Kentucky because I’m geographically blessed to live here. In my travels, however, I have met many wonderful people who are just as passionate about making whiskey as we are here in Kentucky, so I’m excited to start including more of their spirits in my cigar pairings. Tonight’s selections hail from Brooklyn, New York and Dripping Springs, Texas. I paired them with a great Nicaraguan cigar from Black Label Trading Co.
Black Works Studio is an offshoot of Black Label Trading Co. This Nicaragua based studio is known for making small batches of nicely blended cigars. They are sold at retailers across the United States, though only in select stores that have a relationship with this brand.
There were only 500 boxes of this particular vitola produced. There is a Mexican San Andres wrapper, a Nicaraguan Habano binder, and a Nicaraguan filler. The Black Works Studio Sindustry Robusto is 5×50. Upon first light this cigar was very spicy, but it quickly mellowed out to reveal cedar, oak, and earthiness.
This is a sourced product that is batched with water from the Texas distillery. The website says it came from Schenley Distillery, which I now* believe means Barton/Sazerac since Barton owns the Schelney brands now. I was unable to locate a COLA to be sure. It’s a very nice rye and they list the mash bill right there on the website: 53% rye, 39% corn, and 8% malted barley. The cigar brought out bright green apples and baking spices with hints of floral notes and an almost peaty quality. The rye brought out cocoa notes in the smoke. A nice pairing.
This is a two year old product distilled, aged, and bottled at the Dripping Springs, Texas distillery. The website lists the mash bill as 57% corn, 32% wheat, and 11% barley. The description says it uses local heirloom grains, including Texas wheat and yellow no.1 corn. The cigar brings out ripe cherry notes and spices in the bourbon, while the bourbon brings out oakiness in the smoke. Another nice pairing.
Kings County Distillery is located in Brooklyn and headed by Kentucky native Colin Spoelman. Spoelman is known for making a wide variety of different whiskeys, none of which are trying to be Kentucky Bourbon. This peated whiskey is made from 100% malted barley, and it almost smells like saddle leather. Together with the cigar there are subtle notes of apples and a hint of spiciness that must come from the barrel. The whiskey brings out cedar notes in the cigar. Another great pairing.
These were all nice pairings depending on what you are looking for. If I had to choose my absolute favorite it would be the Kings County Single Malt because I was a real fan of the saddle leather nose with this cigar. The others were very nice as well, which is a rare occurrence. I would easily recommend giving any of these combinations a try.
*An earlier version of this story stated that I believed the Red Handed Rye was distilled at MGP, as Schenley once owned that distillery and they do make a significant amount of rye whiskey. Michael corrected me on that – the Schenley distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana was a different one than MGP, and those brands were sold to Barton. As I have a sample bottle it doesn’t list which state it was distilled in, and I was unable to find the COLA or see the back of the bottle on the website, so I’m, assuming the answer is there. If you have this bottle send me a photo of the back!
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl