Single Malt Scotch & Cigar Pairings

May 22, 2015

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Pairing fine Scotch and cigars is a worldwide institution.  They go together like salt & pepper, Mario & Luigi, and cheeseburgers with fried eggs.  Is that last one just me? Well, you should try it.  Anyway, the point is that both Scotch and cigars represent elegance, relaxation, and a taste for finer things.  They are both heavily reliant on age, proper timing, and the right combination of ingredients to make a great blend. A person’s preference for Scotch and cigars vary with their individual pallet.  While some like a more powerful blend, with a mix of intense spice and smoke, others prefer a more mild combination that emphasizes its smoothness and age.  By containing similar flavor notes and their natural correlation with the “lifestyle”, it only makes sense that cigars and Scotch would make quite the pair.  Yet the true question is not why they pair well, but how to pair them.

Single malt Scotch, is a Scottish whisky (the whiskey spelling is really only used in Ireland and the U.S.) that is made from only one distillery and utilizes only malted grain.  The main flavor characteristic of a single malt Scotch is its best and worst quality.  Being from only one distillery, a single malt scotch will contain only the flavors found in that particular area.  The benefit of this is that if you have a particular quality you really enjoy, say sweet or fruity, you can find a scotch that truly emphasizes this flavor on its own.  The downside, however, is you do not get as many complex flavors as you would with a blended.   

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In my poor attempt to keep this brief I will only be talking about the three main regions that are famous for their whisky.  The first is known as Highland whisky.  Just like cigars, Scotch flavors differ depending on different environmental factors such as humidity, climate, and water. Most Scotch from here is considered medium to light with a smooth, dry, and slightly floral taste.  Some famous brands of Highland single malt are Oban, Dalmore, and The Macallan.  Due to its mild to medium body and array of flavors, Highland single malt Scotch goes well with a number of cigars such as the Warped Flor de Valle, the Davidoff Aniversario, or the La Palina Classic.

Speyside is a region located at the top of the Highlands and it houses the largest amount of distilleries in the country.   Some of the world’s most famous single malts are made here, and they have made the region a haven for Scotch aficionados.  These brands include Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Glenlivet.  Speyside whiskys have been known to be sweet and smooth, with a nice mix of honey and vanilla notes.  When aged, they can produce a more dry fruit taste with a tad of spice. I would go with a nice, sweet maduro for this region.  My personal favorite pair up is an Ashton Maduro with Glenlivet 18.  A true maduro should be mild, rich, with a natural sweetness.  Other suggestions would be the Avo maduro, or the Perdomo Double Age 12 Year Vintage, which is actually aged in whisky barrels.

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The last main region for single malts is Islay, also known as “Whisky Island”.   It has a population of only 3,500 people, yet houses eight major whisky distilleries.  Scotch from Islay is known for its peat flavor.  Peat is a dark brown soil that is heated up and used to dry out the malt.   It creates a natural smoky taste.  Islay Scotch is usually ranked as the strongest, with intense flavor and a good amount of spice.  Some famous Islay brands are Lagavulin and Bowmore.   For these libations, I highly recommend a stronger, flavorful smoke.  An Opus X would go nice, as would a My Father, or a Liga Privada T52.  Choose a cigar that combines strength, intense flavor, but is also exceptionally smooth.

Well that’s all I have for single malts, but check me out next time to see what I match up with some of the best-blended scotch and even some Japanese Scotch.  I know, if it’s from Japan it can’t be Scotch blah blah blah, but just read the article and then you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Cheers!

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