Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Drambuie

Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Drambuie
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.

Drambuie

The story of Drambuie dates back to around 1745 when Prince Charles Edward Stewart (aka Bonnie Prince Charlie) passed on the “secret” formula for his personal elixir while fleeing Scotland after the Battle of Culloden. The legend says that the recipient was Stewart’s trusted Captain John MacKinnon and that it remained on the Isle of Skye. During the late 19th century, Clan MacKinnon passed the recipe on to James Ross who improved it. He sold the revised liqueur at the Broadford Hotel on Skye, which continues to claim it is the “birthplace of Drambuie.” Upon Ross’ death, his widow sold the recipe to another MacKinnon family and the first commercial production of Drambuie began in Edinburgh in 1909. Today, the blending facility is located near Glasgow, Scotland and Drambuie is owned by William Grant & Sons.

Drambuie is a golden-coloured, 40% ABV liqueur made from Scotch whisky, heather honey, herbs and spices. The name “Drambuie” possibly derives from the Scottish Gaelic phrase an dram buidheach, “the drink that satisfies”, a claim made by the original manufacturers of the drink. I bought a bottle of Drambuie to make a cocktail for another alcohol and cigar pairing article where I mixed it with Bowmore 18 to create a rusty nail. But now I have that bottle, so why not use it in a few other concoctions?

Neat

The golden liquid has an aroma of whisky, honey, herbs and saffron. It is almost medicinal in smell, with a hint of ethanol. The liquid is quite oily with a thick viscosity. It does taste a little medicinal with the herbal notes and the honey sweetness, perfectly balanced with the whisky. The is a bit of an orange flavour, with vanilla, cloves, fennel, raisins and toasted almonds. It is quite complex in flavour. My wife described it as liquid Christmas cake with a burn. Due to the sweetness I would not pair this with a sweet cigar, so no Sobremesa Brulee or a cigar with a sweetened wrapper. But a stronger Connecticut Shade cigar, with lots of creamy notes, would go very well. Maybe an Ashton Classic in a bigger ring gauge, or a Joya de Nicaragua Cabinets Toro.

Bonnie Prince Charles

This cocktail is named after the inventor of Drambuie, Bonnie Prince Charles. On the nose there is orange, honey and lime. The drink is tart, the lime is strong in this drink even though it’s only a small part of the drink. It overpowers the cognac completely, and only some of the herbal flavours and the honey manage to cut through the lime. And since the lime is this strong, it makes this cocktail hard to pair with cigars. Only a full bodied cigar can stand up to the citrus, so I would go for a stronger Nicaraguan cigar. Something like the Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970, the Don Kiki Silver or most of the RoMa Craft cigars.

And now for the Bonnie Prince Charles recipe:
2  ounces or 60ml of Cognac or Brandy
1 ounce or 30ml of Drambuie
½ ounce or 15ml of lime juice, freshly squeezed
Shake the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail or Nick & Nora glass

Daiquiri Noir

On the nose I get the aroma from Pusser’s rum, the rum I used for this cocktail with some lime, honey and herbs from the Drambuie. The cocktail is surprisingly spicy, with dark liquorice, herbs and all well balanced with sweetness and honey. Does it come close to an original Daiquiri? No, not at all, but that doesn’t mean it is not a good cocktail. I can’t taste the mint though, unfortunately. The lime is a supporting flavour, only giving the cocktail a slight tartness. This cocktail is a great cocktail to pair with a medium bodied or full bodied cigar. I paired this with a My Father Le Bijou 1922 Box-pressed torpedo and that worked really well. Casa Magna would be a great option too, just like a Fuente Añejo, Davidoff Escurio, Bolivar Royal Corona and cigars in that range.

And now for Daiquiri Noir recipe:
7 mint leaves
2 ounces or 60ml of dark rum
½  ounce or 15ml of Drambuie
½  ounce or 15ml of lime juice, freshly squeezed
¼ ounce or 7½ml of rich simple syrup (2 to 1 syrup)
Muddle the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker. Add all the other ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Inspector X

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