Perfect partners: pairing cognacs with cigars

Perfect partners: pairing cognacs with cigars

A perfectly aged cognac and a fine Cuban cigar: is there a more pleasurable way to round off a meal than the exquisite alchemy of their combined flavours? There’s a skill involved in pairing a cognac with a cigar in order to bring out the best in them both, and it’s one that takes effort, dedication and, yes, years of experience to perfect.

When someone realises that pairing the right cigar with the chosen cognac enhances the flavour and aroma of both, pairing may seem like a mysterious art. A newcomer may wonder how connoisseurs get that uncanny knack of matching the two together to create an experience that is nothing short of a flavour sensation. They may even feel a little envious – after all, anyone with a talent for pairing cognacs with cigars will find themselves admired and welcomed wherever there are people who care about the pleasures of taste and aroma. However, while the expert’s pairings are far from haphazard, there is nothing mysterious about them. They are the result of experience, experimentation and a carefully-developed palate.

Developing the palate is a matter of honing your observational skills. By carefully noticing and appreciating the subtleties of the various flavours and aromas of both the cognac and the cigar, and how they combine, you gain a deeper insight into which combinations do not work well. You can also identify which combinations are pleasant but unremarkable, and which come together to create a truly sublime experience.

Some cognacs partner particularly well with a wide variety of cigars, from the mildest of the mild to the most boldly full-bodied. This is particularly true of those, such as the Gautier Pinar Del Rio, that have been blended to be sipped alongside a cigar. Indeed, in the Gautier Pinar Del Rio, Top Spirits Ltd brings a fine example of a cigar cognac to the UK, with its stimulatingly complex, woody and fruity notes, along with a hint of vanilla in the blend.

Unsurprisingly, the better the cognac and the better the cigar, the more enjoyment is to be obtained from the experience of both, together or separately. However, quality isn’t the end of the story when it comes to pairing. One consideration beyond that of quality is body. Generally speaking, the cognac and the cigar should have a similar body, so that one does not overwhelm the other. Therefore, it’s unlikely that a young, light cognac would hold its own well in the company of a full-bodied cigar. However, a fine, well-aged cognac might be the perfect partner for the same cigar. On the matter of flavours, opinion is divided – unsurprisingly, as it is ultimately a matter of personal taste. Some connoisseurs hold that flavours should be complementary, rather than similar. They might find appeal in pairing a cigar, such as a Cuaba, with its often observed chocolate notes, with a somewhat fruity or spicy cognac.

Whatever the pairing, one of the ways of combining the flavours of the cigar and cognac which causes the most heated debate, is the practise of dipping the end of the cigar into the cognac. This is done in order to enjoy the taste of the spirits at the same time as the smoke. On the one hand, some aficionados find this practise adds nothing as they already experience the combination of flavours and aromas as they smoke and sip. On the other, the cigar and cognac combination is one which is meant to be enjoyed and, if some find that dipping increases their pleasure in the experience, who can say they are wrong?