Whisky and Cigars...
Whisky and cigars are a classic combination, combining to heighten the taste of each, but which cigars are best and how do you choose your whisky match? Simply Whisky's Man In Havana is here to help with his 'A Dram Good Smoke' series of articles in which he adventures around the World discovering and matching the best cigars with the best whiskies.
A Dram Good Smoke No.1 - Introducing Simply Whisky's Man In Havana
I remember vividly my first cigar—it was a traumatic experience. I won’t tell you what age I was, but I was old enough to know better. For some time my eye had caught the Cuban cigar box of my uncle who was an occasional smoker. The bright colours of the box fascinated me and when my uncle wasn’t in the room I used to peek inside to savour the exotic aromas of tobacco and cedar. Soon temptation got the better of me and I managed (somehow) to get a H. Upmann, the favourite of President John F. Kennedy who made sure to stock up on them before placing the trade embargo on Cuba in 1962. I slinked outside the house one night, like a bad schoolboy, and found the lee of a wall where the wind wasn’t so strong. Not knowing you had to cut the cap off the cigar before lighting, I huffed and puffed until reason caught up with my folly. Once I had managed to light the thing I inhaled a plume of strong aromatic smoke into my virgin lungs. This was quickly followed by a queazy sensation and worse. The hallmarks of idiocy and genius are much the same: perseverance. Despite these inauspicious beginnings, cigars have become a source of joy and, like whisky, an adventure of discovery.
They’ve accompanied me along the significant milestones of my life and have often made a bad day tolerable and a great day supreme.
One of the pleasures for me of sipping a dram or lighting up a cigar is letting the mind wander. A particular dram matched with the right cigar might conjure images of purple heather-strewn glens, crashing Atlantic breakers, a slow-burning peat fire on a winter’s evening, sable sands and palm trees, or the Malecón in the evening when the sun goes down. Whatever images I think of, Scottish whisky and Cuban cigars are iconic expressions of two unique cultures, age-old distillations of the essence of these lands and their people. Although these beautiful lands are situated at opposite ends of the Atlantic, the universal laws of attraction seem to work well when it comes to their most famous exports. When married well, Scottish whisky and Cuban cigars are excellent partners, complementing and accentuating the best in each other.
But like all good relationships, you need to know what works and what doesn’t. That is where I come in, Simply Whisky’s Man in Havana! I teamed up with my good friends Simon and Franchi in Scotland where I was dramming away discovering the delights of Scottish whisky! We decided to pool our shared knowledge of whisky and cigars with the aim of matching the best cigars with the best whiskies. Simple! This is a novel approach and one we are sure you will enjoy.
We’ll be bringing you monthly articles where we match the best cigars with outstanding whiskies, introduce you to all things cigar and whisky related, with, of course, a twist of arcane knowledge, adventures, and generally good fun.
As my good friend Fidel says, stick that in your face and smoke it!
The Cigar - Cohiba Siglo IV
Let’s start with one of my favourite cigars, the Cohiba Siglo IV. This is the Roger Moore of cigars; tall, sophisticated, elegant, and with just the right amount of oommpphh when needed. Creamy and medium to full-bodied, it is earthy in character with leather, cedar, walnut, and coffee bean flavours with a vanilla finish.
The Roger Moore of cigars - tall, sophisticated, elegant with the right amount of oommpphh
Dae ye ken?
The name cohíba derives from the Taíno word for "tobacco." The Siglo range is also known as the La Línea 1492 Series
Cuba. All sizes of Cohiba are "totalmente a mano, tripa larga" — i.e. totally hand made, long filler
Mild creamy sweetness, fine pepper, and spice. Excellent draw and construction
Cohiba is the flagship brand of Habanos. It was created in 1966 for President Fidel Castro himself and was made at the then top secret but now world famous El Laguito factory. The Siglo range was introduced in November 1992 (available internationally in 1994) to mark the 500th Anniversary of Columbus’s epic voyage of discovery.
And now to the whisky match. I drammed a few different whiskies while sitting deep in the recesses of my red leather armchair before deciding upon the Mortlach 16 Year Old, a sherried whisky with a smokey chacter that drew me into the moment. I nosed my Mortlach for a few moments before lighting my Siglo IV. Returning to my dram I took a sip and held it in my mouth for around 16 seconds, one second for each year spent maturing in the cask. And now my first puff of cigar smoke...I particularly enjoy the interplay between spice, sherry and smoke.
The Whisky Match - Mortlach 16 Year Old
Mortlach is highly regarded, and this is a lovely dram with a smokey sherried character worth exploring
Dae ye ken?
King Malcolm's army fought the Danes in Mortlach in 1010, a time when the Vikings ruled Orkney and the Western Isles. The gravestone of a Viking general killed in battle became known as the Aqua Vitae Stone, after it was discovered being used as a bar counter
Fresh peppermint and dark chocolate. Complex and challenging
Balanced and flavourfull with sherry, sweet toffee, sultanas, a whiff of heather and then a little smoke
Long, smooth and smokey
The ancient village of Mortlach dates back to AD 566 while the Mortlach distillery began life as a smuggling bothy. The operation was legalised followed the Excise Act of 1823
I am a firm believer that a cigar is like a woman (or ladies: like a man) and deserves to be treated as such—it demands your undivided attention and time. To quote a wise man,
“The cigar smoker, like the perfect lover or bagpipe player, is a calm man, slow and sure of his wind” (Marc Alyn).
For those of you who make the time, I can recommend smoking this cigar while listening to Haydn’s London Symphonies. (If you enjoyed this article click here to be notified of new articles).