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.
Nikka Coffey Grain
The Coffey still is the world’s first patented continuous still invented by Aeneas Coffey in 1830. While Masataka Taketsuru was staying in Scotland, he had an opportunity to learn how to distill grain whisky in a Coffey still firsthand from craftsmen at James Calder in Bo’ness in 1919. Masataka valued the feature of this type of still and installed two sets of Coffey stills after he established Nikka Whisky. The first still was imported from Scotland to Japan in 1963, followed by the second still in 1966. These traditional Coffey stills are not easy to operate and not efficient to obtain spirits. However, they retain flavors originating from ingredients and deliver a distinctive creamy texture
In the early 2010s, they decided to honour those stills by naming not one, but two whiskies after these stills, the Nikka Coffey Grain (released in 2012) and the Nikka Coffey Single Malt a year later. The first time I tried the Nikka Coffey Grain I was sold, a great whisky especially for an old fashioned. The Nikka Coffey Single Malt I have yet to try. Due to the success, the series expanded to a Nikka Coffey Vodka and a Nikka Coffey Gin, which I tried and wrote about both.
Nikka made several single cask, single grain releases before releasing the Nikka Coffey Grain as a continues production whisky. Distributors who loved the previous releases asked Nikka to create a regular production whisky with the single grain and Nikka Coffey Grain was born. The whisky comes in a 45% ABV. This is a signature grain whisky which is predominantly made from corn and then matured in old casks such as re-filled, remade and re-charred casks originally made from American oak to deliver the sweet and mellow flavors of Coffey distillates.
First up is the old trusty Glencairn, as said many times, my favourite kind of glass to taste spirits, especially spirits that I don’t know. That last part doesn’t go up for this whisky as I had it before and I like it a lot. This golden coloured whisky has a nice nose, sweet and fruity with mango, orange juice, papaya. A very fresh aroma. On the palate, this whisky is sweet and spicy. Caramelized popcorn, toffee, that kind of sweetness. Add in some citrus and tropical fruits, with a slightly salted and peppery undertone. The finish is oaky with marmalade sweetness. This will go great with almost any medium bodied cigar, for example the RoMa Craft Wunderlust, Ramon Allones Specially Selected, Alec Bradley Fine & Rare and many many more.
In a rocks glass, the nose is almost the same, only there is a bit more citrus. The same sweetness and fruity aromas, but the citrus is stronger. The whisky has a bit more of a bite in this type of glass as well. The popcorn is a bit stronger too, while there is less fruit. This whisky preforms better in a Glencairn than in a rocks but that’s often the case. Because it feels less refined in this glass, I would take a stronger cigar, medium plus or full. To stay in the RoMa Craft series, the Neanderthal KGF would be a great pick. Many Tatuaje blends would work really well too, or a Perdomo ESG Sun Grown.
This is probably the cocktail I make most, aside from a Gin & Tonic which in my opinion is more of a mixer than a cocktail. Recently I started making my Old Fashioned with Angostura Cocoa Bitters, and I have not looked back. But since I used Angostura bitters for the whole series, I will continue to do so. But once I finished this article, I’ll make myself an Old Fashioned with Nikka Coffey Grain and cocoa bitters.
The nose is all orange, strong, the orange oil overpowers any other aroma. Since this is quite a delicate whisky, the Angostura bitters are quite overpowering. The bitters together with the fruit is very nice, the citrus is enhanced by the orange oil. The sweetness is less caramel and toffee due to the added sugar. It’s still a very nice version of the Old Fashioned that will pair great with a Corojo or Cameroon wrapper, as long as the cigar has some body.
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.
The classic Whiskey Sour provides inspiration for countless cocktails, as bartenders across the world play with or add to its constituent parts (whiskey, citrus, sugar, egg white). In the case of the Japanese Sour, it involves Japanese whisky , the Japanese citrus yuzu and kuromitsu. Yuzu is a citrus fruit with a tart flavour that’s like a combination of lemon, lime and orange, and kuromitsu is a molasses-like syrup derived from kokutō, a mineral-rich unrefined sugar. If you don’t have kuromitsu, you can replace it with honey, like I did.
The five drops of bitters on top of the creamy egg-white layer dominate the nose. The egg white creates a creamy texture and this cocktail isn’t as sour as you might expect with the yuzu juice and lemon. The fruity flavours of the Nikka Coffey Grain are clear in this cocktail, with the citrus as a supporting flavour. The honey syrup provides a nice sweetness that balances everything out. There’s even a little hint of vanilla that I didn’t taste in the neat version nor in the old fashioned. It makes this cocktail a perfect companion for many cigars, from a mild and creamy Sobremesa Brulee to a Joya de Nicaragua Antano 1970 Churchill. But if you want to remain in the Japanese theme, why not try an Alec & Bradley Kintsugi?
And now for the Japanese Sour recipe:
2 ounces or 60ml of Nikka Coffey Grain
¼ ounce or 7½ml of yuzu juice
¼ ounce or 7½ml of lemon juice
1/3 ounce or 10ml of rich honey syrup (as a substitute for kuromitsu)
1 egg white
Garnish: 5 drops of bitters
Add the Nikka Coffey Grain, Lemon juice, Yuzu juice, honey syrup and the egg white in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously. Then add ice and shake again until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass. Add 5 drops of bitters as a garnish.