Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Foragers Soulful Sloe Gin

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 has 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 gin, rum, vodka and liquors, and bottle whisky. They were kind enough to sponsor Cigar Inspector with samples so we can write about pairings.

To make the Foragers Soulful Sloe Gin, native botanicals are hand-foraged and those include the freshest Late Harvest Sloe berries. The water for the gin comes from the mountains of Snowdonia. The gin is then made in small batches, the bottle we had was one out of 500 from Batch 2J2020.

The bottle, like all bottles from Snowdonia, have the thick wax but by now I’m getting quite handy removing it. I just run a very sharp knife along the bottle just below the cork and then it’s a piece of cake opening the bottle. And I must say, the white wax works beautifully with the dark amber liquid and the slightly curved bottle. Add the stylish minimalistic label and you have an interesting looking bottle that could be a conversation piece in any bar. Not flashy, just beautiful. But let’s not talk about the aesthetics of the bottle as this is all about what’s in the bottle and how to pair it with a cigar.

After pouring the Soulful Sloe gin in a highball glass the liquid almost looks dark orange. The aroma is strong and reminds me of flowers, specifically roses, with herbal notes and a little bit of liquorice. It’s almost like the cough syrup that I had to drink as a child. The drink itself is sweet, very sweet and almost like a syrup. It has a nice slightly orange undertone; The main flavour is berries with a hint of rose water. The drink is delicate and asks for a delicate cigar as well. But the cigar has to be able to stand up the sweetness. Dunbarton’s Tobacco & Trust Sobremesa might do the trick, but not the Sobremesa Brulee as that would be sweet on sweet. The overly sweetness of the Sobremesa Brulee would make the pairing unbearable sweet. The E.P. Carrillo New Wave Reserve is another option that could work well.

Or course I had to try the Foragers Soulful Sloe Gin in the classic, and most likely most popular cocktail in the world, a Gin Tonic. The only tonic I had available was the simple Schweppes but that’s fine for a Gin & Tonic. The colour of this cocktail is less appealing due to the mixture of the clear tonic and the amber coloured gin. But the cocktail itself is great, so much more refreshing than drinking the Soulful Sloe Gin straight. There is a mild tart taste and the drink is way less sweet this way. It calls for a darker cigar but not too strong. Something earthy would pair well. Maybe an Alec Bradley Tempus Nicaragua or the Plasencia Alma del Fuego. For the Cuban smokers, a Partagas E2 could work well.

Minty on the nose due to the muddled mint with the sweetness of the sloe berries. Very refreshing, ultimate summer drink. It starts out sweet as you first hit the sloe gin and it seems like a great pairing for a milder cigar such as the Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Natural or the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure #1. When you drink more you start tasting the lemon which makes is quite acidic and that’s hard to pair with a cigar. My suggestion for when you reach that point is something darker and stronger to stand up to the citrus, but not too heavy to take away the freshness of the cocktail. Maybe a Drew Estate Nica Rustica? Or, if you have the time, a Hoyo de Monterrey Primavera limited edition but then you’ll have to make yourself a double Sloe Gin Genie, which is not a bad idea anyway. This is a delicious cocktail and I’m an instant fan after my first sip, but due to the two faces of the cocktail it is very hard to pair it with a cigar.

To be honest, this was my first ever sloe gin and after drinking it straight and as a gin tonic, I realised that the sloe gin wouldn’t work in any of the gin cocktails I usually make. So, I went online to find a recipe to try and the one that stood out was the Sloe Gin Genie. The cocktail, simply built in a highball glass, is minty on the nose with sweetness from the berries. The mint aroma comes from the muddled mint in the cocktail. It’s a typical summer drink, very refreshing and it starts out sweet and mild because you taste the floating sloe gin first. And at that point, a milder yet flavourful Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Natural or Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure #1. But when you get further into the cocktail, the acidity of the lemon gets more pronounced. And as I wrote in my other pairing articles, a lime or lemon-based cocktail is often not the best pairing as the cigar needs to be able to cut through all the lime. And when the citrus hits, the mild cigars won’t be able to stand up against the lemon. Something slightly stronger is a better choice then, but nothing too heavy or dark as that would take away from the freshness of the cocktail. A Drew Estate Nica Rustica could be an option, or if you have the time a Hoyo de Monterrey Primavera Year of the Ox. But that last cigar is so long, you’re going to have to pour yourself another Sloe Gin Genie, which is not a bad idea anyway. It’s a delicious cocktail and I know that the rest of the bottle will be solely for Sloe Gin Genies but because of the two faces of the cocktail, it is a difficult cocktail to pair with a cigar.

Now for the Sloe Gin Genie recipe:

15ml or ½ oz simple syrup
30ml or 1 oz Sloe gin
30ml or 1 oz gin and to keep it in the family, I used Foragers Black Label

30ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
8 mint leaves
Lots of ice or crushed ice
Muddle mint leaves in highball glass. Add the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Mix well.Add crushed ice and mix again. Top with more crushed ice and float the Sloe gin on top.

Inspector X

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