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.
Bowmore is an Islay whisky from the Bowmore Distillery, which has been operating since 1779. It is now owned by Suntory, the Japanese whisky giant. The distillery has been operation from the late 1700s with a hiatus of a decade between 1915 and 1925 and during the second world war. During the second world war, the distillery became the RAF Coastal Command Centre. The standard range from Bowmore exists of the Bowmore No.1, 12 year old, 15 year old darkest, 18 year old, and 25 year old.
The Bowmore website writes about the 18 years that it’s cosseted away in the finest, hand-selected oak casts and that it’s allowed to mature at its own sedate pace. It is one of the rarest Bowmore whiskies, and that the production is limited.
First, I tried the Bowmore 18 in a Glencairn glass, as you probably already figured out if you read some of my previous articles. On the nose I get a mild smoke with citrus, ripe fruit and a butterscotch caramel sweetness. The colour of the spirit is a mellow mahogany colour. The first sip has some peat with a little alcohol burn that fades into a complex fruit with dark chocolate. This is both complex, deep and balanced. The oily whisky has a long finish with some dark peat and sweet wood. There is some spice too. This requires a complicated cigar with some strength. I would enjoy this with either a Liga Privada L40 or an Oliva V Lancero.
After the Glencairn glass it was time to try the Bowmore 18 in a rocks glass, or a highball as it’s called sometimes. The nose is a bit stronger but the smoke is less strong. The ripe fruit and caramel get more pronounced in this type of glass. The whisky itself seems to have more spice this way, almost herbal with mild peat. In the Glencairn glass there was a bit of a bite, which is not the case in a rocks glass, so I would recommend a rocks glass. The caramel and butterscotch sweetness is also a bit stronger. This is a very pleasant whisky that would go well with any medium-full to full cigar. Think of a Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchill or a Bolivar Royal Corona in the Cuban scope. For cigars from other countries, I would go with the Don Pepin Black Label Robusto, Perdomo Lot 23 Maduro, Davidoff Nicaragua or cigars in that direction.
The nose is smoke and orange. Smoke from the Bowmore 18, orange from the peel. Which is not unexpected. The few dashes of Angostura bitters change the whisky completely. The peat and the smoke is elevated while the ripe fruit flavour is suppressed. As for me, not being a fan of peaty drinks, that is not a good thing. The sugar provides sweetness, together with the caramel and butterscotch notes from the whisky. The orange oils did their work, as there is a mild orange flavour as well. This is a cocktail for a strong cigar, something with some chocolate in the profile would be nice as the drink itself Is earthy enough.
And now for the Old-Fashioned recipe:
1 sugar cube
3 dashes of bitters
2 oz or 60 ml of Bowmore 18
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.
The nose is a mixture of the Bowmore 18 and its smoky aroma and the spice and herbal aromas from the Drambuie. The smoke aroma wins, but that’s no surprise since it’s 2 parts Bowmore 18 versus 1 part Drambuie. The drink itself is also a perfect mixture of the two spirits. Smoke and strength from the whisky, herbs and a bit of honey sweetness from the Drambuie. This is a cocktail for colder weather as it warms you inside and it has those winter spices and herbs. I would pair this with a strong Nicaraguan cigar, something by Steve Saka, with the exception of the Sobremesa Brulee of course. Or a stronger Joya de Nicaragua, a Jas Sum Kral Red Knight or an A.J. Fernandez cigar.
And now for the Rusty Nail recipe:
1½ ounces or 45ml of whisky
¾ ounce or 22½ml of Drambuie
Add the liquids in a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice.