The other day, my friend, Wayne Klawier, came over and we tried a La Coalicion Cigar I picked up at The Office Cigar Lounge in Floyd’s Knobs, Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Louisville. We decided that the cigar was full of the umami flavors of a charcoal-grilled steak with a little Worcestershire sauce and notes of coffee and cream. We wondered what rye whiskey would go well with it and I picked out five rye whiskeys from artisan distilleries outside of Kentucky. The order in which we tasted was from the lowest to highest proof. We were very pleased with the results and enjoyed the differences each rye brought to the cigar, so I decided that my notes would make a good blog.

We started with Old Tahoe 86 proof, straight rye from the Old Tahoe Distillery, Caldwell, Idaho. This rye is three years old and I found the flavor to be full of lemon zest, vanilla and pepper spice with a hint of oak. The smoke enhanced the oak and pepper spice in the rye while the rye took out the coffee notes in the smoke. It was not our favorite pairing with this cigar.

Next, we moved on to Journeyman Distillery’s Ravenswood Rye. This 90 proof rye does not have an age statement and does not call itself “straight”. It is made in Three Oaks, Michigan by the Journeyman Distillery. I found the flavor to be full of vanilla and cherries with a little bit of baking spices. The smoke made the cherry flavor move from sweet cherries to tart cherries and the spice became peppery. The rye added a mocha flavor to the smoke. We liked this pairing a lot.

Our third whiskey was the Liberty Pole Rye. This 18-month-old rye is made at the Mingo Creek Distillery in Washington, Pennsylvania and bottled at 92 proof. I found the flavor to be full of sorghum molasses and pepper with a sweet oak notes. The cigar brought out the oak and reduced the pepper flavors in the rye. The whiskey added additional sweetness to the smoke adding a molasses note and reduced the umami flavors. It was a decent pairing but we agreed that so far, the Ravenswood rye was our favorite pairing at that point.

The last rye we tasted was Driftless Glen rye. This 6-month-old rye is made by the Driftless Glen Distillery located in Baraboo, Wisconsin and bottled at 96 proof. I find this rye has flavors of vanilla and dried apricots with some baking spices and just a hint of oak on the finish. The smoke made the fruit more citrus in nature with lemon and orange zest with just a hint of apricots. The spice became cardamom and nutmeg. The rye added some dried fruit sweet notes to the smoke. It was another very good pairing.

After trying all four of these rye whiskeys, it became clear that our favorite pairings were the Ravenswood Rye and the Driftless Glen Rye. We tasted each again with the cigar and decided that the Ravenswood Rye was our favorite of the evening. Wayne and I decided that we would be happy to pair these two again in the future. 

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller