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.
Jim Beam Original (white label)
Jim Beam is an American brand of bourbon whiskey produced in Clermont, Kentucky, by Beam Suntory. It is one of the best-selling brands of bourbon in the world. Since 1795 (interrupted by Prohibition), seven generations of the Beam family have been involved in whiskey production for the company that produces the brand. The brand name became “Jim Beam” in 1943 in honour of James B. Beam, who rebuilt the business after Prohibition ended. But nowadays, Jim Beam is part of Beam Suntory but the Beam family is still involved as Fred Noe, the great grandson of Jim Beam, became the seventh generation Beam family distiller in 2007
During the late 18th century, members of the Böhm family, who eventually changed the spelling of their surname to “Beam”, emigrated from Germany
and settled in Kentucky. Johannes “Jacob” Beam (1760–1834) was a farmer who began producing whiskey in the style that became bourbon. Jacob Beam sold his first barrels of corn whiskey around 1795.
The Jim Beam Original is 80 proof aka 40% ABV. It is the world’s number 1 selling bourbon. Jim Beam Bourbon derives its rich, satisfying flavour from a treasured family recipe and is crafted longer than the law requires, for a fuller, smoother flavour. Twice as long actually. Jim Beam Original is distilled from corn, rye, malted barley and of course water.
First, I tried this in a Glencairn glass. The nose is quite sweet, like sweet corn with vanilla and hay. Gentle also, not harsh. If the nose is any prediction of what to come, I can understand the popularity of this bourbon. The sweetness is also available in the taste with oak, vanilla and a little spice. There is some white pepper as well, and the finish contains toasted oak with some sweetness. A West Tampa Red sounds like a great pairing, as well as an Oliva 135th Anniversary. For the Cuban smokers, try a Bolivar Royal Corona with this bourbon.
Oddly enough there is more ethanol in the nose in a rocks glass. The other aromas are milder, but that has all to do with the open shape of the glass compared to the Glencairn where the aromas are forced through the tulip shape. The spirit itself has less of a bite in this glass, smoother and friendlier. There is also a slightly salty undertone. That’s why I would pair it with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, or a Maduro wrapper. I’m thinking Liga Privada T52, or a Broadleaf wrapped Tatuaje. For Cubans, it’s either the Cohiba Maduro or the Partagas Maduro.
Orange on the nose, but if you have read more of my whisky & cigar pairings you know that an Old Fashioned always comes with an orange aroma due to the orange oil and the orange peel. The cocktail is sweet with bitterness from the Angostura. To compare I made the same cocktail with Peychaud bitters for my wife, and the bitters do make a difference. But since I’ve been doing the Old Fashioned with Angostura bitters for all articles, I keep using these. The sweetness has a hint of corn and there is a bit of vanilla as well. The cocktail is quite friendly and that makes it easy to pair with cigars. This is a friendly cocktail that goes well with any medium or stronger cigar. I won’t give a specific recommendation here because anything goes in my humble opinion.
And now for the Old-Fashioned recipe:
1 sugar cube
3 dashes of bitters
2 oz or 60 ml of whisky
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.
This cocktail comes straight from the Jim Beam website. But I made some changes. I swapped is the amaretto as I have a bottle of Amaretto Disaronno while this cocktail on the Beam website asks for De Kuyper Amaretto. The recipe doesn’t mention egg white, but I took a page from Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s book and added an egg white as well. His recipe asks for a high proof bourbon though, so the recipe I’m using is a mash up between the one from this legendary mixologist and the Jim Beam version. Let’s call this the Cigar Inspector Amaretto Sour then.
Amaretto dominates the nose, it’s almond. Almost like almond paste that pastry chef use for deserts and cookies. The egg white and the carbonated qualities of the lemon lime create a nice foam layer on this bright yellow cocktail. One small sip and I’m sold. This cocktail has a creamy mouthfeel, almonds, the lemon brings a bright tart, while the bourbon brings oak and vanilla. Simply wow. And even though there is lemon, it is not so strong in flavour that it makes pairing hard. I love this cocktail and because of that I would take a cigar that I love as well. A complicated, well balanced cocktail deserves a complicated and well balanced cigar. One of the cigar manufacturers that I admire for his ability to create complexity and balance is Didier Houvenaghel. So I would pick a La Preferida, La Ley or Nicarao. Or I could go for a HENK cigar, which is co-blended by Houvenaghel. Otherwise I would go for Opus X, Padron 1964, Joya de Nicaragua Cinco Decadas or a Muestra de Saka. The Cohiba Year of the Rabbit (the premium one, not the machine made Cohiba Short in the special box) would be my pick for a Cuban cigar, or maybe the Diplomatico PCC 30th Anniversary.
And now for the Amaretto Sour recipe:
1 ounce or 30ml of Jim Beam
1 ounce or 30ml of Amaretto
¼ ounce of 7.5ml of Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
¼ ounce of 7.5ml of Lemon Lime (I use Sprite)
¼ teaspoon sugar (or rich simple syrup)
1 egg white
Garnish: lemon wheel and a cherry
Add the egg white, bourbon, amaretto, sugar and lemon juice in a shaker. Shake vigorously. Add ice and shake again. Strain in a rocks glass over fresh ice, then top up with the lemon lime.