Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Macallan Quest

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.

The Macallan Quest

The Macallan has a history of 199 years, as the distillery was founded in 1824. It is one of the most acclaimed and best sold whiskies in the world and the company is known for their sherry cask finishes. And with that, it is odd that I never ventured into The Macallan. If you followed my pairing articles, you may have picked up that I dislike peated and smoky whiskies, but that I’m a sucker for sherry or port wood finishes. If a friend calls me and invites me over for drinks and a smoke and mentions Laphroaig. Lagavulin or Talisker, I am probably inclined to say no, but if the invite mentions a sherry cask whisky to try, I’m on my way already.

The Macallan Quest is a whisky for the duty-free & travel market. The spirit is fully matured in four different types of hand-picked European and American oak casks. Different types, but complementary to each other. The casks are European and American oak sherry-seasoned casks and hogshead, combined with American oak bourbon casks. The end result is a smooth whisky with an AVB of 40% without an age-statement.

Neat

The difference in flavour between a Glencairn glass and a highball glass, also known as a rocks glass or an old-fashioned glass, can be tremendous so as usual I am trying this whisky neat in both types of glassware. First the Glencairn glass. The colour of the spirit is golden but a lighter grade of gold. There is some ethanol on the nose mostly covered by citrus, vanilla and oak. The vanilla is subtle and promising. The whisky is full of flavour, bold, with a little bit of a bite. The bite comes from a ginger-like flavour, mixed with dried fruits, apple and a few dark spices. There is some white pepper too. Plenty of character but still smooth as can be. This whisky deserves a very good, high-end, cigar. I am going to light up an Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Destino al Siglo de Amistad. A Behike would be a worthy pairing too.

In a highball, the whisky smells smoother. The ethanol is weaker and the fruit aroma is stronger. The sweetness is a bit stronger with a little more apple in the flavour notes, but the ginger is also stronger. The whisky gets even more character in this glassware but is also a little rougher around the edges, without becoming rough. Bold but complex. And it deserves a cigar that is equally bold and complex. I am thinking about a Joya de Nicaragua Cinco Decadas, I am thinking a Cohiba 1966, Arturo Fuente Opus X tres ocho.

Old Fashioned

The classic cocktail, and one I’m comfortable making with this whisky. Another cocktail sounds sacrilegious even though I am going to do it. On the nose it’s all orange from the orange peel. The orange really shines through, it’s overpowering the oak, ginger and spices and brings out more of the vanilla in the whisky. Due to the sweeter profile, a nice medium bodied cigar with a Corojo or Cameroon wrapper would be nice. Oliva Serie G Churchill comes to mind. A Cohiba Robusto would be a great pairing too if you can find them.

And now for the Old-Fashioned recipe:

1 sugar cube
3 dashes of bitters

2 oz or 60 ml of whisky
orange peel
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 Honeypot
Using certain whiskies for cocktails is blasphemy and this is one of those cases. Yet, I do it and risk upsetting whisky purists and the good people of The Macallan in the process. Let me apologize in advance. The recipe of this cocktail comes from The Macallan website but uses The Macallan 12 Years instead of more luxurious Quest. Lemon and honey on the nose, overpowering the natural aromas of the whisky. The first sip shows why making a cocktail with this whisky is wrong, the lemon is overpowering all the nice, complex flavours. There is a hint of sweetness, but that little bit of lemon juice is definitely the dominant flavour. Due to the citrus forward flavour this cocktail is both refreshing and a bad cocktail to pair a cigar with. Something strong to stand up to the citrus might pull it off, but I have my doubts. I would try an EPC Pledge, Cain F or a strong Tatuaje like the Gran Cojonu.

And now for  The Honeypot recipe:

2 ounces or 60ml of The Macallan Quest
1 dash of Angostura bitters

¾ ounce or 22½ml of Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed.
½ ounce or 15ml of Honey Syrup
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a highball glass over fresh ice.

Inspector X

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