Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Ardbeg Corryvreckan

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.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

The Ardbeg distillery has been producing whisky since 1798, and began commercial production in 1815 with only a hiatus between 1981 and 1989. Ardbeg Corryvreckan takes its name from the famous whirlpool that lies to the north of Islay, where only the bravest souls dare to venture. It was named the best whisky in the world 2010 at the world whisky awards. This drink is not for the faint of hearted with an abv of 57%.

Neat

As always, I try the spirit in a Glencairn glass first. The nose scares me as its smoky and peaty, which I don’t like, with berries and pine. There is a little saltiness to the aroma, and a barbecue bacon aroma. When I take the first sip, I taste a lot of the things I already smelled. Salt, smoke, peat, something meaty like honey glazed pork. It is deep and intense, with a hickory-like smokiness. This is a whisky that is not for me. And it needs a strong cigar to match up to it, something like an Oliva V Torpedo or a big fat Kentucky Fire Cured cigar from Drew Estate.

In a rocks glass the nose is much milder and sweeter. The pepper tastes stronger, with an even meatier mouthfeel, it’s almost like eating a pepper steak. There is some smoke and peat but it is not as strong as in a Glencairn. Still, I recommend a stronger cigar but I would not pick a peppery cigar though.

Old Fashioned

The orange is usually by far the dominant smell in the aroma, but in this case the orange is equally strong as the smoke and peat. I must admit, I cheated with this cocktail by not using a sugar cube but simple syrup instead. But for the nose, that should not matter at all. Strong black pepper with orange and sweetness are the dominant flavours, with smoke and peat as support and some of the other whisky flavours way on the background. A medium plus cigar will do, like an Ashton Heritage, Fuente Rosado or the Oliva Serie O Maduro for example.

And now for the Old-Fashioned recipe:

1 sugar cube
3 dashes of bitters
2 oz or 60 ml of whisky
orange peel
Put the sugar cube in a highball glass, add the dashes of bitters and a splash of water. Muddle the sugar cube. Add ice and the whisky. Stir for 10 seconds, then add an orange peel.

Green Hat

Produced in France by Carthusian Monks, Chartreuse is distilled with 130 natural herbs, spices, and flowers, and the recipe is kept so secret that only two monks in the order are allowed to know the exact ingredients at any given time, each held to a vow of silence. Back when the elixir was first created in 1605, it was intended for medicinal purposes, mostly longevity, which makes sense when you smell it. Thankfully, people back then grew a liking to its flavour in the 17th century, so the enterprising monks began producing it on a larger scale for general consumption. Add the green version of Chartreuse to an Old Fashioned and you have the green hat.

The nose is orange with herbs, the smoke and peat is hardly noticeable. The chartreuse brings a vanilla and herbal flavour to the table. It makes the drink much smoother even though there is still a bite. The finish is much longer too, sweet and vanilla, with smoke and oak. This will go well with a nutty cigar, so that means a Corojo wrapper, or something with a Honduran Connecticut wrapper. Honduran Connecticut is very different than Ecuadorian or American Connecticut Shade, so make sure you know the origin of the wrapper if you decide to go with a Connecticut wrapped cigar.

And now for the Green Hat recipe:

1 sugar cube
3 dashes of bitters
2 oz or 60 ml of whisky
one barspoon of green Chartreuse
orange peel
Put the sugar cube in a highball glass, add the dashes of bitters and a splash of water. Muddle the sugar cube. Add ice and the whisky. Stir for 10 seconds, then add an orange peel. Float the green chartreuse on top.

 Inspector X

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