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.
Y Bét premium Welsh Vodka
The Y Bét Premium Welsh Vodka is distilled in the copper stills of the Snowdonia distillery. The spirit is handcrafted to be a little off-beat and composted to show the harmony of the Welsh element by bringing together sugar beets and pure crisp waters of the Snowdonia mountains. The sea buckthorn, used in most of the Foragers Gin also finds its way into this vodka, that has won several awards at the World Vodka Awards and the London Spirits Competition.
Honestly, I have never been a fan of vodka since I got hammered on it in my late teens. Even though that is a few decades ago, in my opinion vodka is either to get drunk quickly or as a great component in a cocktail. And so far, I haven’t found a vodka that was able to change my mind. It is such a neutral white spirit that it just doesn’t speak to me, yet when I received a few boxes of alcohol from Dominique London it included three bottles of vodka. This Y Bét Premium Welsh Vodka, the Y Bét Double Beet Vodka and the Y Bét Chocolate Vodka. The first of the three I try is the Premium Welsh Vodka before I venture into the flavoured ones.
Drinking the vodka straight from a Glencairn glass is my first introduction to the brand. The aroma is very strong and the shape of the glass doesn’t help much as it only concentrates the aroma. It almost smells like cleaning alcohol. The flavour is strong with sweetness, a hint of citrus but it’s also dry and leaves a peppery flavour on my lips. It is quite surprising and not bad. There isn’t a burn, the 42% ABV spirit isn’t abrasive but it is still not a drink I would order neat. Now, if you disagree with me and like vodka neat, good for you. In that case I would suggest a nice medium bodied cigar with a woody or nutty flavour profile. Something like the La Aroma de Cuba (La Aroma del Caribe outside the USA) Edicion Especial for example, or a Sancho Panza if you prefer Cuban cigars.
If you think you have read the text below before, you could be right. I made this cocktail with the Y Bét Premium Welsh Vodka and the Foragers Yellow Label gin, so I am recycling what I wrote then. But don’t worry, keep reading as there will be two more cocktails made to pair with cigars. As for the Y Bét Chocolate and Double Beet vodka, I will turn those into Vesper cocktails too as comparison. So keep following Cigarinspector.com as these articles will drop soon.
This is a strong cocktail, but that’s no surprise since all the components contain alcohol. Even though the gin vs vodka is 3 vs 1, there is a clear vodka flavour but mildly smoother, although further in the drink, the gin starts to shine and the vodka becomes the backdrop. The botanicals of the gin seem to have disappeared. The lemon peel gives a slight citrus flavour, but so mild it’s not an issue for a pairing. Since the alcohol content is quite high compared to other cocktails, I would pick a slightly stronger cigar but due to the quite neutral flavours of the cocktail this one can be easily paired with almost every cigar, palate wise, just make sure it’s strong enough to stand up against the ABV. So, I would not pick anything with a Connecticut Shade wrapper, unless it’s one of the modern “not your grandfather” Connecticut Shade cigars like the Jas Sum Kral Zlatno Sonce.
And now for the Vesper recipe:
3 ounces or 90 ml of Foragers Yellow Label Gin
1 ounce of 30 ml of Y Bét Premium Welsh Vodka
½ ounce of Lillet Blanc
Lemon peel for garnish
Put all the ingredients, minus the lemon peel, with some ice in your shaker and shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Double strain into a martini glass or a coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
Moscow Mules are traditionally made in copper mugs. These copper mugs are perfect as they conduct temperature and takes on the temperature of the mule. It keeps the drink cold and frosty enhancing the vodka flavour and natural properties of the drink. Since I don’t have a copper mug, I made the Moscow Mile in a highball glass. The aroma is light and fresh, more lime than anything else. The alcohol flavour is missing. But wow, what a cocktail this is. It’s lively, fresh with a nice mellow kick from the ginger. The lime makes the cocktail vibrant, but it’s not overpowering. I wasn’t expecting much of this recipe but this is as good or even better than a gin tonic on a hot summer day. It’s like an alcoholic homemade lemonade. And since the lime is not strong nor a base flavour it won’t fight with a cigar. This is a cocktail that will be a good friend with most cigars. From a milder Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure or a Joya de Nicaragua Antano CT to a full bodied Partagas Serie D #4 or a Drew Estate Liga Privada #4.
And now for the Moscow Mule recipe:
2 ounces or 60 ml of Y Bét Premium Welsh Vodka
½ ounce or 15 ml of lime juice
3 ounces or 90 ml of ginger beer
1 ounce or 30ml of soda water
Fill a Moscow Mule tin or a highball glass with ice. Add the Y Bét Premium Welsh Vodka and the lemon juice. Top with the ginger beer, I used Bundaberg Ginger Beer. Gently stir and garnish with a lime wheel.
This classic has a bit of an unknown origin. There are several stories about how and where this drink was invented. But it is a high alcohol cocktail that can get you drunk really fast. It is a balanced cocktail and therefore you won’t taste that it’s so potent. The balance also makes this a cocktail that is easy to pair although the sweetness from the simply syrup and the Coca Cola won’t make it a good match for sweet cigars. Something with a little more body to stand up to the potency of the cocktail, with woody, earthy or peppery notes can pair well with this drink. From an Alec Bradley Black Label to a Daniel Marshall Red Label and anything in between. A Cuban Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchill would also go well with this perfect summer drink.
And now for the Long Island Ice Tea recipe:
¾ ounce or 22.5ml Y Bét Premium Welsh Vodka
¾ ounce or 22.5ml El Rumba Cuban Rum
¾ ounce or 22.5ml silver tequila
¾ ounce or 22.5ml Foragers Black Label Gin
¾ ounce or 22.5ml triple sec
¾ ounce or 22.5ml simple syrup
¾ ounce or 22.5ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Cola, to top
Garnish: lemon wedge
Add the vodka, rum, tequila, gin, triple sec, simple syrup and lemon juice to a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with a splash of the cola and stir briefly. Garnish with a lemon wedge. Serve with a straw.