I like my *insert alcohol here* old and my women young.
May 14, 2012 10:53 PM   Subscribe

Does a liquor exist that meets the following [read: personal] criteria? What about a cigar to go with it?

TL;DR criteria at the bottom, feel free to skip down.

So, upcoming wedding/vacation is looming and, after borrowing a book about single malt scotch, I just got the oddball yet amazing idea to bring a special bottle of liquor to sip on as a nightcap for the week before/after the wedding.

The basis of the specialness that I'm hoping to incorporate would be to get a liquor that was made A) before I was or B) before the bride and I met. Respective ages listed below.

I'm looking into this route because I'm trying to limit the intake of craft beer for caloric/health reasons, I love me some beer and would rather just put the temptation to overindulge aside as much as possible.

I figured a scotch single malt would be the go-to variety of alcohol but I'm open to rye, Kentucky bourbon, Canadian whisky, and maybe even brandy/cognac though I'm a lot less experienced with the latter. I figured tequila might be a bit much, even though I've enjoed the nicer varieties I've had. I also think a liqueur like Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Limoncello, or (god forbid) Jagermeister would get a bit cloying before too long. I will admit that I LOVE Green Chartreuse. Other drinks I've enjoyed (neat/rocks) before are Disaronno, various blended scotches, Maker's Mark, Booker's, The King's Ginger, Pendleton whisky, and a good sour or martini on occasion.

The setting is beachy and fun. Weather is likely to be warm and breezy but I don't mind something that doesn't seem to go with the atmosphere.

Oh, did I mention that I wouldn't mind a cigar or three for the duration. I'm not much of a cigar person but I'll have a few a year when we have friends over and they bring them as housewarming gifts or offer them up. Again, I don't mind something flavor forward but I'm by no means an expert.

Budget concerns are there but I don't mind splurging a bit here for something fun and contemplative. Think double digit = very good, triple digit = doable but better be worthwhile, any greater than that is quite unlikely/impossible.


-- Prefer delicious, intense, savory flavors
-- Liquor Age > or = 10 years old is good
-- Liquor Age > or = 27 years old is better, but may be financially untenable
-- Price would ideally not include triple digits
-- Availability needs to be pretty high since a major metropolitan city/mail order is out of the question but I don't mind scouring the stores I do have access to.

Bonus Points for a nice cigar pairing, experience/aficionado level low but I understand the mechanics and practicalities of cigar smoking for what it's worth. Figure the same requirements as above.
posted by RolandOfEld to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
How about a delicious aged rum? They tend to go quite well with cigars.
posted by Little Orphan Ennui at 11:02 PM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe I didn't catch it, but you're talking about a special bottle just for you (and maybe your beloved to share) privately, right? Not something you're going to serve to everyone at the reception, yes?

Rums go well with cigars. Nice Cubans can be had, I hear.
posted by trip and a half at 11:04 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh ho, tempting! I'd be a bit scared that they'd be a bit sweet/cloying but recommendation well taken. My experience with rums has been rather limited to date, mostly of the cheaper/mixer variety.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:05 PM on May 14, 2012

Response by poster: trip and a half: Yes, 90% for me, 10% for the people in my close circle who will appreciate/desire a slug or two from the bottle while they're in town. The beloved might have a sample or so but will likely be drinking wine or not as much, at least until the wedding is said and done...
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:06 PM on May 14, 2012

Beachy - check, pairs well with cigars - check, unique - check, classy as hell - check, aged - check. There are some amazing rums to be found, just try calling around and get a list of names of available ones in your area.
posted by Little Orphan Ennui at 11:09 PM on May 14, 2012

Response by poster: Yea, seems to hit my price-point a bit better than the scotch varieties I'd seen so far in my searches as well. I guess y'all found a mile wide blind-spot in my thinking in less than 10 minutes.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:13 PM on May 14, 2012

Check your MeFiMail in half an hour or so. I'm doing some research.

(Also: Mazel Tov!)
posted by trip and a half at 11:19 PM on May 14, 2012

Response by poster: For the record, the nicest rum I've had was a bottle of Bacardi 8 Anos that we picked up a few years ago from the duty free shop in San Juan, PR. If I recall correctly it was good but that may or may not have included sipping and/or proper appreciation. I'm not sure... I don't remember disliking it as far as that goes.

trip: Will do. Hitting the sack now but will respond when I hear from ya. (Also: Mvto!)
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:35 PM on May 14, 2012

I only recently had a chance to sample some 1988 Glen Grant from the Hart Brothers Special Collection and it was extremely drinkable.

I can't really offer a cigar pairing because I almost never smoke, but I'm sure that Captain Black cigarillos, being very mild, wouldn't go amiss here.
posted by 256 at 11:37 PM on May 14, 2012

As a rule I never mix whiskey that deserves the name, but my favorite drink in springtime is sweet tea with Power's Whiskey. Since it's part pot-still it's very smooth without being as sweet as, say, a Canadian, and the flavors blend very naturally.

If you make the tea very strong and not too sweet (and you should), it will go well with any strong cigar. I usually have Cohiba Siglo 3s, but when I was still the States A Fuente Don Carlos was quite good too.
posted by 23 at 11:40 PM on May 14, 2012

Best answer: Try Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva. A delicious 12 year old Venezuelan rum, and should be less than $50. Eminently sippable and smooth. I tried the Bacardi 8 Anos as well in PR, it's ok, but there's a reason the locals drink Don Q or Ron del Barrelito instead.
posted by benzenedream at 12:09 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I sell cigars. The cigars I sell are made on premises however, and that's most of what I smoke too, so it's hard for me to give specific recommendations but I do have some general ones.

For drink pairing, the key is getting a cigar that has a strong enough flavor to match your drink without overwhelming it. With rum you generally want mild cigars for light rums, medium-bodied cigars for amber rums (and most scotches, in my opinion), and full-bodied cigars for dark rums. Generally, you can use color as a guide to this: mild cigars are blonde, medium ones are brown, and full-bodied ones are dark brown or nearly black. This won't be accurate 100% of the time but it is still a good guide.

Note that full-bodied cigars are not necessarily more potent than mild ones (contrary to what nearly everyone will tell you) as the chemicals that give flavor are totally different from nicotine. This is like how a stout is more flavorful than vodka despite having much less alcohol. So don't be afraid of dark cigars, although maybe stay away from anything that markets itself as "double ligero" or "double maduro" or anything like that, not because of the potency but because they are made for marketing purposes to ensnare immature macho men who just want the "strongest" cigar they can get, everything else be damned. It's a ridiculous fad although such things do have a place as a niche product. Anyway, don't be afraid of full-bodied cigars but don't just go out and get the heaviest smoke you can find, either.

Also don't try to get Cuban cigars if you are in the U.S. For one, they are severely overrated. Not to say they suck, just that they are really no better than other cigars. The fascination with Cuban cigars is centered around the mystique of the forbidden, rather than any real quality advantage. Also, and more importantly, almost all cigars sold as Cuban in the U.S. are counterfeit. Even moreso if you buy them in a store rather than through a personal connection. Seriously, the figure is like 98% fakes. There is great tobacco coming out of a lot of places, though the big three are Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. It's generally a good sign (though by no means a guarantee) if a cigar heavily features tobacco from one or more of those countries. Also, Connecticut grows world-class wrapper, and Cameroon grows my personal favorite albeit it's a bit love/hate.

As far as sizes, the main factor is how long you want to smoke for. A robusto, which is a popular size (they are short and fat, about 50x5", the 50 meaning ring gauge, or 50/64ths of an inch) will burn for 30-40 minutes for most smokers although more occasional smokers such as yourself might spend longer with it (which is actually a good thing as far as getting the best flavor from the cigar). A full-sized cigar like a churchill will smoke for an hour or so, a little panatela maybe 15-20 minutes. Get a cigar that is appropriately sized for the length of your drinking session. You shouldn't put it out and relight it, it will ruin the flavor. You also don't want to be stuck with an extra 20 minutes' worth of unwanted cigar, which you are guaranteed not to enjoy. Also buying more smaller cigars is a waste of money and for esoteric reasons having to do with cigar construction one big cigar also tastes better than two little ones (you spend more time in the sweet spot near the middle of the cigar).

Don't worry too much about proportions, i.e. length vs. width. Go with what feels right. The really skinny sizes like panatelas and lanceros do overheat a bit more easily though due to the venturi effect.

As far as brands, I love Padron. They're a bit pricey for me but are worth it for a special occasion. Rocky Patel also makes great smokes, as does CAO, as does Oliva. Ashton is good too. A lot of folks like Arturo Fuente though I personally think they're slightly overrated. There are tons of good brands, those aren't the only ones by any means. Ignore the Cuban brands like Romeo y Julieta, Cohiba, and Monecristo if you are in the U.S. These are actually not made in Cuba (not counterfeit, just made under the Cuban brand name in a different country for the U.S. market. They will say on the label that they are made in the Dominican Republic.) and have nothing to do with the cigars they are named after other than the name. They are made with marketing foremost, rather than quality.

Also, go somewhere that takes care of their cigars. A dried out cigar tastes like crap, no matter how delicious it may once have been. Go to a respected tobacconist, ideally someone who specializes in cigars, smokes lots of cigars themselves, and who stores their cigars properly, cares for them, and can make recommendations for you. Maybe you should try several different cigars with your rum, to give you a bit of variety and a chance to explore cigars a bit in a semi-purposeful way. Make sure to inquire about the best method for short-term storage of your cigars (hint: ziplock bag, cool dark place, not the fridge) or consider getting a humidor so that you can age them long-term. Properly cared for in a humidor, your cigars would improve anniversary by anniversary.

Anyway, that's more than I meant to say about cigars at this hour. Just keep in mind that cigar choice is very personal and that there is no "best" cigar, just cigars that you like and cigars that you don't. The above guidelines are just general advice that you can hopefully use to find some good candidates to try out. Have fun with it. Do go talk to a tobacconist if you can, and see what they can recommend you. Also, feel free to MeMail me for questions about cigars or about the cigars I sell. I don't work on comission or anything but I feel weird about talking them up in this forum so if you're curious just drop me a line.

Congratulations, and good luck finding something fantastic to accompany your rum!
posted by Scientist at 1:57 AM on May 15, 2012 [91 favorites]

Rocky Patel also makes great smokes

Seriously. You can't go wrong if you go this route; they are excellent.

(I smoke Macanudos when no one's around and Rocky Patels with my friends.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:00 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll jump in with elijah craig 12 or 18 year old singme barrel kentucky bourbon. It is an easy drink. Aged well. Pairs perfectly with cigar smoking. Splash of lime or cherry juice makes ut extra beachy and for long aged delightul brown liquors you'd be hard pressed to get with half a mile of the price point (its a steal)

Congrats on your impending nuptials.
posted by chasles at 5:18 AM on May 15, 2012

Old Armagnac. Darroze goes back a fair way and their early to mid seventies stuff is pretty magnificent, although pricey. Something around 27 years old shouldn't be so scary, price-wise.

Cigars? I like the occasional one but I'm no expert ad I think you'd do best to heed Scientist's obviously well-informed advice there. Personally I quite like Montecristos and Cohibas (I'm UK-based though, so we don't have the issue with Cuba), and when I've fancied something a bit smooth and subtle I've enjoyed the Davidoff Special "R". If you're not used to smoking cigars I'd steer clear of the huge ones like Churchills. They'll be too much for you.

Really, cigar and brandy is a classic pairing. That's the route I'd go, much as I love scotch.
posted by Decani at 6:22 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Prefer delicious, intense, savory flavors
-- Liquor Age > or = 10 years old is good
-- Liquor Age > or = 27 years old is better, but may be financially untenable

Laphroig 10-year is my go-to recommendation: it's peaty (read: briny and salty and smoky) but not as overpoweringly so as some so if you're just getting into whisky but you love intense, savory flavors it will probably appeal to you.

But, rather than taking recommendations from a bunch of internet strangers, I'm going to recommend a different approach: take your question to a bartender at a decent bar, on a day that's not too busy (earlier in the week: monday is going to be best). Tell them you want to drink a nice spirit suitable for your close friends the day before your wedding, and you're hoping to try a few to get an idea what you might like. To keep from getting too tipsy, ask if they can pour you some tastes (say, 1/3 of a drink) rather than full drinks -- and make it worth their time and the bar's. This is the kind of thing that a bored bartender on a slow day would probably enjoy -- but a busy bartender on a busy day would hate, so pick your time wisely and then be bold.

posted by gauche at 6:26 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Jumping in as I can and responding to a few points (and do real work here in the office):

Laphroig is something I've had before and enjoyed, I was wanting to steer clear and try something new. I should have mentioned that above.

Regarding taking something that's untried for me personally, I'm not scared to fly blind a bit as long as something has a following and is likely to be good.

All those other recommendations, be they scotch or rum (the Venezuelan rum looks quite tempting) are great and will be investigated. Ditto for the cigar stuff, Scientist gets a special call out for an amazing and quite helpful post for a newcomer to the habit.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:49 AM on May 15, 2012

Hey Scientist-- what's your cigar brand? Plug away, as they say!

Myself, I'd go with Woodford Reserve Bourbon-- definitely one of the affordable winners--it's far from cheap, but this nectar is worth it. As for cigar, you've got some good advice. Rocky Patel (and family-- his cousins have their own lines which're good) is definitely a winner, and a tobacconist can tell you how strong or mild each cigar is; there's the paleness of the wrapper is often a useful signal. Padron is a good choice, as is Arturo Fuente (they have a number of lines, from affordable to very dear).
posted by Sunburnt at 7:20 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cigars + Port are also a classic; you can get a 21 year old tawny for not too much bank, and it can be super tasty- particularly if you smoke maduros.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:29 AM on May 15, 2012

I was recently returned from the Dominican Republic with a bottle of Opthimus 21 year-old Rum. If I was going to go through a bottle of anything a few sips a night, this would be it (and I'm a huge fan of big peaty single-malts). You could also spring for the 25 year-old rum that is aged in malt whiskey bottles. Really good rums like this are as far away from the Bacardi crap that you're used to as Laphroaig is from Canadian Club.
posted by googly at 7:40 AM on May 15, 2012

How about a nice aged tawny port? My parents bought a good bottle each the year we were born and stored it for our 21st came up really nicely. You could buy 2 bottles and have one for pre wedding sipping and save the matching one for a big anniversary, or the birth of a first child or something.
posted by wwax at 8:03 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ah, Port, another blind spot in my reckoning. This bears consideration as well.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:06 AM on May 15, 2012

You need to be looking at rum. Bacardi is the McDonald's of rum, even if you're buying the Big Mac at that McDonald's. My suggestion? El Dorado 21 or up
posted by Brittanie at 1:26 PM on May 15, 2012

Tawny ports and dark rums are my two favorite things to drink with a good rich cigar. Or at all, for that matter. Both are insanely delicious, would go great with a smoke, and are available in the ages you are interested in. Note that you'll get more mileage out of a bottle of rum than of port however, as you drink smaller portions of the rum.

Also, if anybody is interested, I work for Cigar Factory New Orleans, which is a boutique cigar manufacturer in New Orleans. I'm just a sales/cashier guy, I don't make commission or have a stake in the business. Like they say, I just work here. If people want to know anything more about that then they're welcome to MeMail me, this isn't really the place for me to talk about it in detail.
posted by Scientist at 4:01 PM on May 15, 2012

Nthing the rum idea. I always thought I didn't like rum based on Bacardi etc. My cousin's Jamaican fiancee heard me say this and bought out a bottle of 18 year old Appleton Estate. Apparently it's not that I don't like rum, but that I'm a rum snob. Who knew?
posted by peppermind at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2012

Scientist: "Cohiba, and Monecristo"

The Dominican Cohiba and Montecristo cigars are perfectly good cigars. I wouldn't be surprised if a US shop wanted a mint for them just because of the name, though.
posted by wierdo at 9:59 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

That "Monecristo" typo is haunting me... anyway, yeah, they are probably perfectly good cigars (I confess I haven't tried any of them) as are most premium cigars made in the Dominican Republic. Lord knows they have plenty of good tobacco and skilled rollers there, there's absolutely no reason why they shouldn't be perfectly decent. I just can't help but think that they're probably overpriced due to having Cuban names, and that you can likely get better cigars for the money given that a Tatuaje or an Avo can't rely on poorly-informed Cuban-craving Americans to buy any old thing that happens to have "Cohiba" printed on the band. (Seriously, my most-dreaded question at work is "Hey, you got any Cubans?") Also I find that kind of marketing gimmickery to be sort of distasteful in general and for me it would spoil the smoking experience, though I'll admit that's a personal thing.
posted by Scientist at 9:04 PM on May 17, 2012

Best answer: Don't know how I missed this thread!

Based on your stated preferences, it does sound like an old rum might work. For years my sipping rum was Barbancourt 15 year, widely available. It's on the drier side for rum & tastes more of wood than molasses. Right now I'm working on a bottle of Eldorado 15yr, there is a 21 on the market as well; these smell decidedly sweeter, though the taste is only slightly sweet. These are all under $50.

If you like Laphroaig but want to try something different, you could try the Lagavullin 16 year. Like Laphroaig, it's a peaty malt from the island of Islay. To my mind it's a little more subtle, but at the same time pretty intense. Part of the Johnny Walker stable & therefore pretty widely available, about $75.

When whiskey hits 21 years of age, it seems to get way more expensive. To keep under $100 you'll probably have to stick to the 15 - 18 year old range.

If I calculate correctly, it sounds like maybe 1985 was a significant year? That happens to be a "declared vintage" for Port, and the wines are just getting interesting. You can find '85s for under $100, particularly if you go mail order. You could try wine-searcher.com. If I were buying an '85 I'd look first for Graham's. Taylor's and Fonseca are the other top brands, but not as successful in '85. For a relative bargain, I'd look for Warre, Gould-Campbell, or Smith-Woodhouse.

All port, whether tawny or vintage, is quite sweet, btw, so you may want to stick to the earlier suggestions.
posted by mr vino at 7:24 AM on May 22, 2012

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