Recently, my friend, Wayne Klawier and I got together on the back deck to do a Bourbon and cigar pairing with the A. J. Fernandez “Last Call” cigar. We decided to use two of our favorite Bourbons, Four Roses Yellow Label and Henry McKenna 10 yo Bottled-in-Bond, plus Weller Full Proof. These are two traditional Bourbons made with rye and a Bourbon made with wheat.
The Last Call cigar has a smoke that has a robust flavor with lots of earthy, rich tobacco, with some caramel sweetness and a little cedar spice. We wanted to see how our favorite cigar Bourbons worked with the cigar, but we also wanted to try it with a wheated Bourbon of a higher proof. In the past we had found that wheated Bourbons needed a little more proof to bring out the different flavors in the smoke. Here are our results.
Four Roses Yellow Label: We are always amazed at how well this 80 proof Bourbon works with a cigar. We find the Bourbon to be full of vanilla flavor with some fruit notes and just a little sweet oak. The cigar added notes of orange zest and rich caramel to the whiskey. The whiskey added more vanilla sweetness and some dried fruit notes or apricot and cherry to the smoke. Once again, the Four Roses worked very well with the smoke.
Henry McKenna 10 yo Bonded: This Bourbon is full of rich caramel, almost a toffee flavor, with some apple notes and oak with a little pepper spice. The smoke made the flavor a definite toffee caramel with a hint of chocolate and added a little more pepper to the finish. The Bourbon brought out a little more earthiness of rich tobacco flavor with caramel sweetness to the smoke. Another very good pairing combination.
Weller Full Proof: This Bourbon has a lot of caramel or even butterscotch flavor with some ripe apple, pepper spice and oak. The smoke made the Bourbon more oaky and peppery while reducing the sweetness by taking out most of the fruit notes. The whiskey made the smoke a lot spicier. It was a decent pairing, but not our favorite.
In the end it was a tough decision. We really liked both the Four Roses and the Henry McKenna a lot and decided we would be happy to pair either one of them with this cigar again. The final decision was that the Four Roses won the day. We both really liked the way the smoke brought out the citrus in the Bourbon without reducing any of the other flavors. We also liked that dried fruit note the whiskey brought to the smoke. It was a close call and we agreed that we needed to do this again in the future. The Henry McKenna deserves a re-match.
Photo Courtesy of Rosemary Miller