How to Pair Cigars Part 3
Ok, I’m Ready, but What Should I Pair?
I’m glad I’ve finally convinced you to pair your cigars with a beverage. The next question you’re probably asking is, What should I pair? Well here’s the great thing, that’s totally up to you. I’m going to give you my suggestions and how I go about choosing my pairings.
The Academic Approach
Research the product, formulate a plan and go for it. This is my go to method, because it’s slightly scientific and more so artistic. Let’s get hypothetical for a minute. Let’s say you’re wanting to try a new cigar and a new spirit for this pairing. The next time you go to your cigar shop look around and try to find something that catches your eye. Maybe it’s the latest release from Oliva. If you have a smart phone handy open it up and do a quick search and try to find some reviews on it and see what people have been saying about it. Better yet, ask your store’s tobacconist and see what they say about it. Ask them what flavors they experienced. See if they line up with what the reviewers have to say about it. Buy a couple of them and then head to liquor shop.
Once you’re at your local wine and spirits store tell them you’re looking to try something new. Maybe it’s a new bourbon that’s just hit the shelves that you’ve been reading about. Again, ask the store employees if they’ve sampled it and what flavors they experienced or hopefully you can read some reviews of it online while you’re in the store. This is where it gets fun. Try and pick out something that you personally think would pair really well with the cigar.
Personally, I like to pair opposite flavors. So if my research turned up that the cigar I purchased has a dominant spicy profile, then I’m going to look for a spirit has more of a sweet flavor profile to it. Maybe even something that has a smokey flavor to it so I can get a nice combination of either spicy / sweet or spicy / smokey which usually results in a nice savory flavor combination. I like to think ahead and try to predict what this particular pairing will have to offer and that usually determines what I’m buying. You know what they say, fail to plan and plan to fail. I honestly don’t believe that when it comes to cigar pairings though. Because if I’m getting to smoke a cigar and sip on a distilled spirit I’m usually winning all around. For me it’s part of the journey and part of the fun is taking an educate guess on what will please my palate to the fullest.
Shooting from the Hip
This is another one of my favorite strategies when it comes to choosing a cigar pairing. Sometimes I just go into the cigar store and walk around until something catches my eye. I don’t do any research I just pick out something that I haven’t tried. I mean seriously what’s the worst that can happen? You could get a bum cigar and you’ve wasted at most $10-15. Not that big of a deal, in the grand scheme of things
Once I’ve picked out my cigar, I head on over to my liquor store and again, I pick something at random. I like to call this my blind trial. Now preferably, I like to try and pick something new. I want this to be a completely new experience for me. As my personal trainer Tony Horton says, variety is the spice of life!
The blind trial has its pros and cons for sure. Sometimes you could get one of the worst pairings you’ve ever experienced, other times you could have the greatest new flavor combinations in the world and they will create a new planet named after your discoveries. Most of the time, it’s somewhere in between. I’m actually in negotiations right now with the naming authorities for a recently discovered planet… Hopefully you don’t believe that… I’ve had some of these blind trials that have resulted in just down right terrible pairings that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but most of the time they are enjoyable enough that I can recommend them to others.
It’s only through this trial and error phase that you really learn what works well for your palate. Lets get real here, just because I’m a fan of a specific pairing doesn’t mean that you’re going to love it. So you’re going to have to try some things and see what happens, but that’s the whole point of the journey.
How about a Hybrid approach?
To me this is one of the most exciting approaches. It combines a little bit of adventure, but it’s a calculated adventure. You’re not just running out into the wilderness without a plan. What I like to do is take a cigar or spirit that I’ve experienced before and then just randomly pick something to pair with it. Now, I know it’s hard to be random especially if you’ve experienced both of them. I try not to think about it too much and I’ll do somewhat of a grab bag and see what happens.
This is the most common approach that I take. Mainly because I don’t have time nor the cash to be stopping in the cigar and liquor store all the time picking up new stuff. Typically, I have a stock pile of cigars and a decent stash of booze and I just pick up one of each and give it a try. Again, what’s the worst that can happen?
So again, the choice is really up to you. What approach would you take? One that is based on research, a blind trial or a hybrid method? They are all excellent choices as long as you’re smoking and drinking something, I’m happy!