Pairing Cigars & Alcohol: Balvenie Doublewood 12 Years

Pairing Cigars & Alcohol: Balvenie Doublewood 12 Years
Date: September 2023
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.

The Balvenie Doublewood 12 years – 25th anniversary edition

Balvenie is an old distillery, from 1892 when William Grant started Balvenie to supply whisky for William Grant blends. It took 80 years before Balvenie finally released a single malt, but it remained a rare find until 1990 when the distillery was given the freedom to focus more on single malts. This double wood was one of the results, launched in 1993. The bottle I have is a 25th Anniversary version, bottled in 2018.

The Doublewood name comes from the fact that the whisky has aged in two different casks. The first eleven years and three months, the whisky rests in refilled American oak barrels before being transferred into European oak Oloroso sherry butts for an additional nine months. I’m a fan of sherry cask whiskies, so this is one I am looking forward to.


In a Glencairn glass I get a hefty dose of ethanol with sultanas, spices and nuttiness. The whisky itself has sweetness and spice, there isn’t much of a bite. The sweetness comes in the shape of honey, vanilla and dried fruits. The spice has hints of cinnamon and then there is a slight nuttiness. This is a scotch that will please the lovers of bourbon as well. This is a smooth whisky with a hint of peat. This would be nice with an Aganorsa Supreme Leaf, or any other corojo wrapped cigar.
In a rocks glass there is still ethanol but not as dominant. The spice and savoury parts of the aroma are stronger, the sweetness is less. The drink also feels spicier, less sweet and there is a bit of a bite. The Balvenie Double Wood 12 years in a rocks glass is a great companion for a cigar with Maduro sweetness.

Old Fashioned

The nose is orange, but that’s no surprise. It’s common and expected with an old fashioned. The sweetness is stronger, with oak, vanilla and dried fruits. The Angostura provides a slightly bitter undertone. This whisky makes a nice old fashioned. Smooth, pleasant, balanced. This goes well with a lot of cigars, although I would not pick something too strong and definitely not something peppery. Also a very mild cigar would be a bad pairing, but anything in between would make for a pleasant afternoon or evening.

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.

Rob Roy

The Rob Roy cocktail is similar to the beloved Manhattan, except the Rob Roy calls for scotch instead of American whiskey. The swap from bourbon (or rye) to scotch may not seem significant, but the difference is notable. While the Manhattan dates back to around 1880, it’s believed that the Rob Roy first appeared more than a decade later, likely around 1894 at the Waldorf Astoria’s original location on Fifth Avenue. According to Frank Caiafa, NYC bartender and author of “The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book,” the drink was inspired by an operetta named “Rob Roy,” which was performed at the nearby Herald Square Theatre. Created by the composer Reginald De Koven and lyricist Harry B. Smith, the operetta was loosely based on a Scottish folk hero who was a Robin Hood-like figure named Rob Roy MacGregor.

This is a spirit forward cocktail, meaning, all components have alcohol. It’s not the type of cocktail I favour. I prefer tiki cocktails or citrus forward cocktails. But every now and then I try a spirit forward cocktail and this is one of those times. Even though the vermouth and the bitters are minor components, it’s those ingredients that are dominant in the nose. The bitters are strong in this cocktail, only slightly balanced by the vermouth. The characteristics of the whisky are still there, but the bitters are clearly in charge. This cocktail can do with a strong cigar, something with strong wooden notes to counter the bitters from the cocktail. I am thinking Ashton VSG or a San Cristobal Clasico, known as Paradiso outside the United States. As for Cuban cigars, I would not know what to pair this cocktail with.

And now for the Rob Roy recipe:
2 ounces or 60ml of Balvenie Double wood 12 Years
3 dashes of bitters
¾ ounce or 22½ml of sweet vermouth
garnish: Brandied cherries
Add the liquids in a mixing glass with ice and stir till well-chilled. Strain into a cocktail or Nick & Nora glass and garnish with the brandied cherries.

Inspector X

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