A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Cuban Cigars
Written by David Smith, Creative Content Manager, True Fronto
From Winston Churchill to Groucho Marx, Cuban cigars have played an important role in global society and have even been portrayed as the height of luxury—sound like something else you know? It should, because the world has found whiskey equally alluring. The two have been paired together for centuries with great results.
When combined correctly, the aromatic flavors of each blend beautifully to create a luxurious sensorial experience. If you’re new to matching up your favorite Cubans with whiskey—or new to Cuban cigars in general—you’ve come to the right place. This brief guide will provide you with some insights into the art and history of cigar-making and how you can use this knowledge to create the ideal pairing for your palate and preferences.
Finding Whiskey-Worthy Cuban Cigars
Like any great whiskey, Cuban cigars are meticulously crafted and have been for decades. There are about 100 steps to producing just one signature Cuban cigar. The process and materials involved are proud traditions of the country itself—there’s a reason why they’re called Cuban cigars. The country is famous for this export, which continues to be the gold-standard of cigar-making.
As with whiskey production, the methodology and materials used in cigar production matter. The way the tobacco is grown and cultivated plays a huge role in the flavor of the final product. All the best Cuban cigars are made from domestically grown leaves (this means that real aficionados can tell a Cuban cigar when they smoke one!)
Hand-rolled cigars that utilize a high-quality tobacco like Fronto leaf are the preferred approach for enjoying a proper Cuban cigar. This is largely because hand-rolled options tend to be made with more care, have a better filter, and boast a more authentic, nuanced flavor profiles than the machine-made products.
Machine models can be produced more simply and quickly—but at a cost to the quality of the final product. Machine-made options employ a filter that uses chopped up tobacco and stem, as well as a firmer wrapping that can withstand the harsher manufacturing process. Flavor is another casualty of this process; that’s why most of the elite brands focus on hand-rolled offerings instead.
As you review the guidelines for creating a great whiskey and cigar pairing below, do yourself the favor of going the hand-rolled route for a better overall experience. If you want to learn more about how to properly choose, smoke, and store your cigars first, visit this link, then return to these pairing notes.
How To Create The Perfect Pairing
If you’re going to enjoy the beauty of a well-made cigar, then you should pair it with its whiskey equivalent. As a general rule, aim to match the profile of your chosen cigar with a complementary whiskey. How do you do that?
Well, if you have a full-bodied whiskey, for instance, you should seek out a stronger cigar—one that can stand up to those bold, complex flavors. Likewise, mild cigars are great options for more mellow whiskeys. Here are some examples you should consider:
- Not only are lighter Cuban cigars a friendlier option for those new to cigar smoking, but they also pair well with sweeter whiskeys, which offer another more accessible entry point for novice whiskey drinkers. These cigars are subtle, floral, and fruity, making them great matchups for the smooth, sweet quality of many Bourbons.
- One of the more unusual pairings that still manages to work beautifully with a Cuban cigar is Canadian whiskey. Boasting a light, blended, and smooth profile touched by hints of cinnamon, Canadian whiskey has a quality that complements the flavors of medium to full strength cigars featuring notes of spice, wood, and leather.
- If you have a robust, full-bodied cigar, try pairing it with something just as strong—like a Scotch whiskey. The character of a single malt or single grain Scotch and its signature smokey, woody aroma pair beautifully with a rich Cuban cigar that mirrors many of those traits. When enjoyed together, they also help highlight other nuanced hints of fruit, flora, and spice found in each.
Ultimately, you don’t want either the cigar or whiskey to overpower the other; rather, you want to strike a balance in intensity and flavor so they can find harmony on your palate, which creates the perfect sipping and smoking experience.
There are many different pairings you can try based on the flavor of your favorite tipple—and lots of other types of cigars out there to try, too. One of the most enjoyable aspects of pairing the unique qualities of cigars and whiskeys is that you can experiment and discover your own perfect duo—or better yet, one for any occasion!
Interested in advancing your knowledge of distilling and the spirits industry? Check out Moonshine University’s upcoming courses to learn from the best in the business.
Written by David Smith, Creative Content Manager, True Fronto.