Pairing Cigars & Alchol – Karo 13 years XO

Pairing Cigars & Alchol – Karo 13 years XO
Date: May 2024
Author: Inspector X

Cigars and alcohol. Two luxury products that go hand in hand, and sometimes even meet on business level. Aging tobacco in whisky, rum, or cognac barrels is a practice several brands do to achieve extra flavour to the wrapper for certain lines. The famous bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has their own cigar, sold in tubes with the signature wax coating. Drew Estate works with Pappy van Winkle and used to make Kahlua cigars. Mombacho used to have the Diplomatico series. General Cigars works with Sazerac, which resulted in Fireball cigars, Weller by Cohiba and collaborations with Buffalo Trace. And there is the Diesel Whisky Row, a collaboration with Rabbit Hole Distilleries. Fratello Cigars also sells craft beer. Most famous are probably the Cuban collaboration between Martell Cognac and Cohiba. Dominique London, the European retailer with more than 20 shops in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and the Canary Islands takes it one step further. They bought a distillery in Wales and produce whisky, gin, rum, vodka and liquors.

Karo 13 years XO

A friend came to my house with a bottle of brandy and he didn’t know where he got it, what it was, and said “let’s have a few cocktails”. The beautiful label, with a design that reminds me of the 1920s, gave me a few hints on the origin. Some words looked like they are Dutch, but the rest of the label is English. After a quick google search, my suspicions were confirmed, this is a South African distillate. The brandy is blended under the watchful eye of renowned Master Distiller Kobus Gelderblom at Oude Molen distillery, Karo Cape Brandy XO is double distilled in copper pot stills and matured in French oak barrels for 13 years. The brandy uses Colombar grapes grown between the Swartberg and Langeberg mountain ranges. Legend has it that these grapes were planted and conjured by the hands of heroine Karo – a wild haired goddess whose image is depicted on the bottle.

But now, what is brandy? Brandy is a liquor made by distilling wine. The most famous brandies come from the Cognac and Armagnac regions of France and are better known under those names. But the brandy from Armenia is also famous and well-respected. I never had a South African brandy, so far, the only alcohol I had from South Africa is wine, so let’s try.


I grabbed a Glencairn glass, my usual preferred glass for trying a new spirit. A nice mellow aroma of vanilla and spices defines the nose of the Karo 13 years XO. The liquid is very fruity, peaches but with a bit of a spicy, chili pepper kick. It also has a nice sweetness and herbs. This is a nice brandy to drink on its own with a nice, medium to full cigar. I would pair this with a Kristoff GC series robusto, or a Davtian Ruby.

Brandy Daisy

The Brandy Daisy is a classic cocktail that dates to the mid to late 1800s. There are many different recipes but I used the oldest known version from cocktail legend Professor Jerry Thomas. The little bit of lemon dominates the nose but there is something that reminds me of honey, even though there is no honey in this cocktail at all. The rum I used has a vegetal aroma and that provides the backdrop for the lemon aroma. The lemon hits first with a nice tart, immediately balanced with sweetness. Sweetness from peaches and simply syrup. The orange from the orange liquor is still recognizable. All the individual components bring something to the table, making this a very enjoyable. This is perfect for a medium bodied cigar, something from Casdagli, Vegas de Santiago or a Byron. A perfect cocktail for Costa Rican tobacco.

And now for the Brandy Daisy recipe:
2 ounces or 60ml of Brandy
2 dashes of white rum
2 to 3 dashes of orange liqueur
¾ ounce or 22½ml of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3 to 4 dashes of simply syrup
1 ounce or 30ml of Club Soda.
Shake the ingredients, minus the Club Soda, in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a  chilled cocktail glass. Top with the club soda


The metropolitan is a classic brandy cocktail that’s nearly as old as the Manhattan or Martinez It’s equally simple and a brilliant way to showcase a great bottle of brandy. This recipe dates to around 1900 and mixes brandy, sweet vermouth, sugar, and bitters. It’s also sometimes known as the brandy Manhattan, though that recipe typically skips the metropolitan’s syrup. The aroma has spices and the aromas from the angostura bitters. The peach fruit and the vanilla from the brandy shine through with the bitterness of Angostura and the character of the vermouth. Even though this is a spirit forward cocktail, I do like it. It is well balanced. As for pairing, I wouldn’t mind a good maduro cigar, some Tatuaje with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper or a Fuente Añejo.

And now for Metropolitan recipe:
2 ounces or 60ml of brandy
1 ounce or 30ml of sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
½ teaspoon of simple syrup
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and the cocktail ingredients. Shake well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Inspector X

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