brandy

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 brandy, the topic on spirits will be introduced, starting from their definition and describing some types of brandy.

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:

  1. Discontinuous Distillation (Post-Still): It can perform only one distillation at a time.
  2. 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.

Brandy

Brandy is the spirit obtained from the distillation of wine after a variable period of aging in cask. Brandy is a denomination used worldwide.

Cognac

Cognac is a type of French brandy protected by an Apellation d’Origine Controlèe (AOC). It must be produced using discontinuous distillation.

Geographical indications
Cognac can be produced only in the departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime in western France, and a small portion of the Dordogne and the Deux-Sèvres department.

The AOC Cognac has six sub-areas called crus:
Grande Champagne.
Petite Champagne.
Borderies.
Fins Bois.
Bon Bois.
Bois Ordinaires.

Main grapes allowed in production
Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano).
Folle Blanche.
Colombar.
Folignan.

The classification of Cognac

Cognac VS : Maturation of 2 years in wood.
Cognac Supérieur: Maturation of 3 years in wood.
Cognac VSOP: Maturation of 4 years in wood.
Cognac XO: Maturation of 10 years in wood.
Cognac XXO: Maturation of 14 years in wood.

Additional mentions on the label

If the geographical indication is present on the label, 100% of Cognac must come from that area.

Fine Champagne: 50% of Cognac must come from Grande Champagne and the other half from Petite Champagne.

Vintage: Indicates the date of the vintage and not of the distillation.

Armagnac

Armagnac is a type of French spirit protected by an Apellation d’Origine Controlèe (AOC) and is considered the oldest spirit in France. It must be produced using continuous distillation.

Geographical indications.
The Armagnac territory is divided into three production areas:
Bas-Armagnac.
Tènarezè.
Haut-Armagnac.
Main grapes allowed in production
Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano).
Baco.
Colombard.
Folle Blanche.
Jurançon Blanc.

The classification of Armagnac

Armagnac VS : Maturation of 1-3 years in wood.
Armagnac VSOP: Maturation of 4 years in wood.
Armagnac XO: Maturation of 10 years in wood.
Armagnac XO Premium: Maturation of 20 years in wood.

Additional mentions on the label.
Vintage: Indicates the date of the vintage and not of the distillation.

The pairing between cigar and brandy in detail

The high alcohol content in brandy 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 brandys, 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 brandys, 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 brandys, 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 brandy. After having clarified the definition of distillate and having dealt with the various types of distillation, various types of brandy have been analyzed such as Cognac and Armagnac. We went into the pairing between cigar and brandy, 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 of Eduard Reisenhauer from Pixabay

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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