Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – De Kuyper Vieux Special

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.

De Kuyper Vieux Special

Vieux aka Dutch Brandy is a distilled spirit from either grain or molasses. It used to be known as Dutch Cognac until a DOC made it impossible to name products not deriving from the Cognac region of France with that name. This Vieux Special from De Kuyper uses a French distilled spirit as a base, but with its own Dutch twist. De Kuyper is a family owned business since 1695. The Vieux Special has an ABV of 35%.


In a Glencairn glass I can smell grapes, apple and wood without any ethanol at all. There is a sweetness and it has all the characteristics of a brandy. There is a bit of a bite in the back of the throat while sipping this spirit. Summer fruit such as apple and pear are clearly in the flavour palate, with some sweetness and some wood. This is pleasant, not the best brandy on the world, but very pleasant. It will go well with cigars with a woody flavour profile such as Cohiba,  Rocky Patel Olde World Reserva Corojo or the Macanudo Inspirado Jamao.

The nose is completely gone when I try the spirit in a rocks glass. Even when I stick my nose completely in the glass, there is no aroma at all. Taste wise, it tastes a little sweeter than in a Glencairn glass, a little more accessible but with less character. That makes this easier to pair, with a larger variety of cigars from a mild to medium Connecticut Shade cigar such as the Padron Damaso to a Honduran Sancho Panza Maduro.

Royal Manhattan

This is a twist on the Manhattan, which is a series of cocktails named after the New York Burroughs. On the Hennessey website, they claim to be the inventor of the Royal Manhattan but I don’t know if that’s true. But it doesn’t matter, I’m trying this cocktail with a different brandy anyway.  The nose shows the Angostura bitters with the aroma of the Vieux and a little sour note, almost like pickle juice. I worry about this cocktail as I am not a fan of these spirit forward cocktails. This cocktail packs a punch, the sweetness of the vermouth pairs well with the bitters and the Vieux. Even though there is just a dash of bitters, the bitterness is clearly noticeable. And that bitterness is also the reason why this cocktail will pair nicely with a stronger cigar. I paired it with a San Cristobal, the Nicaraguan version from Ashton and My Father Cigars.


And now for the Royal Manhattan recipe:

2 ounces or 60ml of De Kuyper Vieux Special
1 ounce or 30ml of Sweet Vermouth
1 dash of Angostura
garnish: brandied cherry
Stir the ingredients with some ice in a mixing glass and then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

Almond Crusta

Maybe one of the original “Craft Cocktails”,  The Crusta”  was first “conjured” by Joseph Santini in 1850’s New Orleans at a bar on Gravier Street, if you’re familiar with New Orleans.  The name “Crusta” is derived from the fancy sugar crusted rim.   The garnish, which is a wide cut of orange or lemon peel,  is circled around the inner top of the glass, is another signature element of this drink. The Almond Crusta is a riff on the Crusta with cognac, gin, and orgeat for the almond part.

The nose is pure lemonade with a little hint of almond.  The cocktail is very refreshing. The citrus is the strongest flavour, it overpowers the gin and the Vieux but the booze does play a part in the background and give the drink body and a bite. The almonds are a nice touch. The orgeat also brings some sweetness. Even though this cocktail is citrus forward, the citrus isn’t too strong to make a pairing with a cigar hard. I would go for a stronger cigar with earthy flavours. For Cuba that would be the Montecristo Edmundo or #2 for sure. For non-Cubans I wouldn’t mind pairing this with a CAO Pilon Añejo or a Padron 1926 #6.

And now for the Almond Crusta recipe:

1 ounce or 30ml of De Kuyper Vieux Special

½ ounce or 15ml of Gin
½ ounce or15ml of Orgeat
¾ ounce of 22½ml of Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 dashed Angostura bitters

Garnish: sugar rim and a lemon strip
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the liquids. Shake vigorously and then strain into a chilled highball glass. Garnish with the lemon peel.

Inspector X

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