abbinamento sigaro whisky

The paring between cigar and spirits is considered a real ritual now famous all over the world. Cuba, through the traditional “Sobremesa”, inspired and spread this type of matching. Sobremesa is a centuries-old custom of the Cuban population that provides relaxation after a heavy meal, smoking a cigar in combination with spirits or local liqueurs.

Before being able to deal with the topic of pairing between cigar and whisky (or wiskey), the topic on spirits will be introduced.

Definition and distillation techniques

A distillate, or spirit, is an alcoholic product derived from the distillation of a fermented sugar liquid that can be of vitivinicultural, cerelealicol, fruit and vegetable origin.
The distillation technique exploits the physical phenomenon whereby, thanks to the heat, any volatile substance can pass from the liquid to the gaseous state, and then return to liquid if it is cooled. This process takes place through the still, a copper device that allows to separate volatile substances based on their boiling point.

There are two distillation techniques:
Discontinuous Distillation (Post-Still): It can perform only one distillation at a time.
Continuous Distillation: Distillation takes place continuously and automatically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The quality of the distillate is lower than with discontinuous distillation.

Scotch Whisky

Scotch Whiskey is the Scottish spirit obtained from the distillation of a fermented must of water and malted barley (to which whole grains of other cereals can be added) and aged in wooden barrels used in an authorized place for 3 years. Both processes are to be carried out in Scotland.

Geographical indications

Scotch Whiskey can be produced in six areas of Scotland:
Highlands
Islands
Speyside
Islay
Campbeltown
Lowlands

The classification of Scotch Whisky

– Single Malt Scotch Whisky: Produced in a single distillery using only malted barley. The type of distillation must be discontinuous.
– Single Grain Scotch Whisky: Produced in a single distillery using wheat or corn.
– Blended Malt Scotch Whisky: Blend of two or more Single Malt produced in different distilleries.
– Blended Grain Scotch Whisky: Blend of two or more Single Grains produced in different distilleries.
– Blended Scotch Whisky: Blend of two or more Single Malt and Single Grain produced in different distilleries.

Additional mentions on the label
Single Barrel o Single Cask
Sub-category of Single Malt. Products from a single distillation and from a single barrel.

Irish Whiskey

The Irish Whiskey is the Irish spirit obtained from the distillation of a fermented must of water and malted or unmalted barley (to which other cereals can be added) and aged in used wooden barrels. Both processes must be carried out in Ireland. Generally thr Irish Whiskey carries out a triple distillation.
The classification of Irish Whiskey
– Single Malt Irish Whiskey: Produced in a single distillery with 100% malted barley using discontinuous distillation.
– Single Pot Still Whiskey: Produced in a single distillery with 50% malted barley and 50% unmalted barley or other cereals using discontinuous distillation.
– Grain Whiskey: Produced with 30% malted barley and other non-malted cereals using continuous distillation.
– Blended Whiskey: Blend of the categories mentioned above.

Bourbon Whiskey

The Bourbon Whiskey is the American spirit obtained from the distillation of a fermented must of water, corn (at least 51%) to which other types of cereals can be added. Maturation must take place in new wooden barrels which have undergone a carbonization process. Both processes must be carried out in the United States. Bourbon Whiskey is protected by the U.S. Standard of Identity, which regulates the disciplinary.

Additional mentions on the label
– Kentucky Bourbon: It must be distilled and aged at least 1 year in the state of Kentucky.
– Straight: It must mature for at least 2 years in new wooden barrels.
– Duration of maturation: It must be indicated if it has matured less than 4 years in new wooden barrels.

Rye Whiskey

The Rye Whiskey is American spirit obtained from a fermented must of water, rye (at least 51%) to which other types of cereals can be added. Maturation must take place in new wooden barrels which have undergone a carbonization process. Both processes must be carried out in the United States. Rye Whiskey is protected by the U.S. Standard of Identity, which regulates the disciplinary.
Additional mentions on the label
– Straight: It must mature for at least 2 years in new wooden barrels.

The pairing between cigar and whisky/whiskey in detail

The high alcohol content in whisky is a real double-edged sword when paired with a cigar: The softness given by alcohol greatly amplifies the intensity of the cigar when smoking, however if the alcohol in the distillate is present in a excessive, its pungency will tend to completely overpower the cigar.

Pairing according to structure and persistence

As with other drinks, the pairing according for structure and persistence also applies to spirits. Here are some rules:
– Cigars with a light body and not very persistent on the palate should be combined with poorly structured and persistent whiskys, which have passed a short to medium maturation period in wood.
– Medium-bodied and persistent cigars on the palate should be combined with medium-structured and persistent whiskys, which have passed a medium-long period of aging in wood.
– Full-bodied cigars, structured with a long persistence on the palate should be combined with full-bodied whiskys, structured, with a long persistence, which have passed a long period of aging in wood.

What to avoid

There are small things that should be avoided during the pairing between the cigar and the spirits.
– The excessive pungency present in clear spirits tends to overpower the cigar during the pairing. On the contrary, clear spirits with too neutral hints would be dominated by the cigar.
– It is advisable to avoid pairing cigars with hints of roasting with spirit with smoked or peat hints. The bitter aftertaste of both products would cause an unpleasant sensation in the mouth.

Conclusions

In this article we have introduced the topic of pairing between cigar and whisky. After having clarified the definition of distillate and having dealt with the various types of distillation, we went into the pairing between cigar and whisky, enhancing the marriage through criteria of concordance on structure and persistence, finally giving some advice on what would be best avoided in order not to ruin the match between the two.

 

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Photo by Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash

Mirko Pastorelli

Sommelier professionista (ASPI Associazione Sommellerie Professionale Italiana) in sedia a rotelle pubblicato a livello internazionale con svariate esperienze nella ristorazione e nella organizzazione di eventi. Scrive di abbinamenti sigari - bevande su Gusto Tabacco.

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