Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Zuidam Oude Jenever

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. 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.

Zuidam oude jenever

I have been writing a lot about gin. I like gin, I like gin a lot. But the origin of gin is the Dutch spirit jenever. I wrote about the Zuidam Jonge Jenever in the past but there is also an oude jenever. The difference between a young (=jonge) and an old (=oude) jenever has nothing to do with the maturation of the product. A young jenever mainly differs in production method and in taste from an old jenever. An old jenever refers to the old production method and consists a great amount of malt wine. A young jenever refers to the usage of neutral (grain) alcohol. In the beginning of the 19th century a new distillation method with a column, made distilling to 96% ABV possible. Consequently there was no grain taste left in the grain distillate. A young jenever does not differ in age but in taste and composition to an old jenever.

The Zuidam Jonge Jenever wasn’t a drink to my liking, I prefer gin but let’s see how this Oude Jenever treats me. The spirit has been barrel-aged for a year and has an ABV of 38%. The barrels are American oak and the cool thing is that the barrel numbers are hand written on each label.

When I tried the Zuidam Jonge Jenever, I was not impressed with the neat version. It was too much alcohol for me and I fear that this will be the same with the Oude Jenever. Spirts such as Jenever, Gin and Vodka are the kinds of spirits I don’t like neat, but in cocktails I love them, especially gin.

The nose is quite pleasant although there is a hefty aroma of ethanol. There is juniper in the nose too. There’s a little hint of citrus and sweetness. The spirit feels oily and has flavours of bark, honey, orange, juniper, bark and creamy vanilla. I myself will not drink this neat ever again, but if you do and you like it, try pairing it with a Corojo wrapped cigar for a nice nutty flavour.

Jenever & Tonic

The nose is non-existent, there is no smell at all as the ice and the tonic mute it completely. There is a little bit of citrus, some juniper, sweetness and the overall flavour is quite bitter. It’s refreshing and you can see that jenever and gin share a common ground, yet gin is more complex than jenever and I prefer gin. This jenever and tonic would pair well with a stronger cigar. I wouldn’t go for something with a lot of pepper, I would pick something earthy or woody instead.

And now for the jenever tonic recipe:

2 ounces or 60ml of Zuidam oude jenever
4 ounces or 120ml of Tonic water
Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice. Add the jenever, then the tonic and stir gently.

Red Light Negroni

A twist on the negroni, a cocktail which is very popular but I have no idea why. I despise the negroni, but many cigar aficionados out there disagree with me. Cigar Journal even did a whole article about this, and Samuel Spurr, one of the writers for Cigar Journal is a big advocate of the drink.

On the nose this is quite an interesting drink. The bitter notes of the Campari are dominant, with the juniper of the jenever supporting the aroma of the Campari. The cocktail is bitter, as expected, but with a strange fruitiness as well. The only kind of cigar I can imagine pairing with this cocktail is something with a sweet Maduro or Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper to balance out the bitterness. But it’s safe to say, I won’t be pairing this cocktail with anything ever again, because I will never make this cocktail again for myself.

And now for the Red Light Negroni recipe:

1 ounce or 30ml of Zuidam Oude Jenever
1 ounce or 30ml of Sweet Vermouth
1 ounce or 30ml of Campari
Pour all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.

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