Monday, February 22, 2010

Youve got your cigar, but what to drink with it?

This weeks post isn't a review, mostly because I didn't have time over the last week to review something new! Choosing what you will have to drink (if anything) with your cigar is always a fun topic of discussion among cigar lovers. You need to keep in mind the body of the cigar, is it mild or full bodied? You don't want to choose a heavy stout or cognac when having something really mild, or you will completely cover up the flavor. What you are looking for is a drink/cigar pairing that will compliment each other.

Lets start with booze free choices. If I am having a cigar earlier in the day, I have found that a cup of black tea or chai works perfectly with a mild/medium bodied cigar. As I am not a coffee drinker I usually stick with tea, but most of my customers at Bull and Bear seem to really enjoy their cigars with some sort of coffee. In the summer months, a glass of sweet iced tea is another of my favorites to pair with an afternoon cigar. Some people don't like the sweetness, but I like the contrast it offers to a spicier cigar. My most common non alcoholic drink with a cigar is usually Pepsi or Root Beer. I like the carbonation and flavor combo. I tend to stay away from citrusy sodas though when it comes to pairing them with a cigar.

Now onto the fun drinks! Beer. Good Beer. Not that mass produced yellow water served all too frequently. Now, I am not a beer snob (ok, maybe a little bit) but I like to select a beer that actually has some flavor behind it! The style of beer I drink with a cigar tends to be seasonal. In the warmer months, I opt for an amber ale like Dead Guy Ale from Rogue Brewing Company or Bell's Amber, Fat Tire, and any number of Brown Ales. I tend to shy away from hoppier beer, but many of my friends really like a nice IPA or pale ale with their cigar. I enjoy these hoppy beers, but not always with a cigar. In the colder months, its all about the Porters and Stouts. (my favorite style of beer) This winter I have really been liking Left Hand Milk Stout, Founders Porter, and Bells Porter. The malty, chocolaty, roasty, coffee flavors of these beers are an amazing pairing with a nice robust cigar.

When it comes to liquor, I am not the traditional cigar smoker that likes Scotch. In fact, I dont like anything in the Whiskey family, whether it be Bourbon or single malt. I think I am in the minority when it comes to that though, as most cigar smokers seem to love the peaty flavor of a single malt with their cigar. My favorite spirits with a cigar are aged rums, Anejo Tequilas, and Cognacs. I never really liked Tequila until I started sampling different Anejos, my current favorite is Trago. (made in Las Vegas of all places) For Cognac, I usually go with the classic Remy Martin VSOP. It isn't super expensive, and really delivers in the flavor department. I tend to drink Cognac in the cooler months, it just doesn't feel like a summer drink to me. Finally, there are your aged rums. A nice aged rum pairs perfectly with a cigar in my opinion. My favorites being Pyrat XO, which is a little on the sweeter side, and Ron Zacapa 23. The Zacapa is probably one of the best liquors I have ever had with a cigar. It is amazingly smooth and goes down way too easy. Another that I really like, is the Havana Club Anejo 7 Anos. It isn't quite as sweet as the others. The problem here is that this is a Cuban rum, therefor you cannot get it legally in the USA... All of these different liquors I usually drink neat, but in the summer I occasionally drop an ice cube in my rum just to mix things up.

Wine is another option. I really enjoy wine, mostly reds, but don't often pair it with a cigar for some reason. When I do, I usually go for a nice full bodied cab or sirah. I have found that certain white wines, usually the dryer styles, work well with a cigar as well. I can't honestly remember what particular types of whites though, as I am not a big white wine drinker. Port however, I really love with a cigar. Some people don't like the sweetness of a good tawny with a cigar, but I sure do! Taylor Fladgate 10 and 20 year are my favorites, but usually the 1o year because of the price difference between the two.

I am not a big cocktail drinker, but when I do pair one with a cigar it is usually the classic Cuban Mojito. This is one of the few citrusy drinks I think works very well with a cigar. The mint flavor is really clean on the palate, and the lime provides a nice zing to cut through the sweetness of the drink. Those who don't like a sweet drink with their cigars will probably not like this pairing though, but it is definitely worth trying.

There you have it! My guide to what I like to pair with cigars. What are your favorites?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tatuaje J21 Reserva

Ahh yes, another cigar from Tatuaje! This time its the J21 Reserva, a robusto that measures in at 5 X50. This Nicaraguan Puro has a Corojo ligero wrapper, the same wrapper that is on my favorite Tatuaje, the Cojonu 03. Its not the prettiest, with some random veining throughout the wrapper. Ligero doesn't tend to be the prettiest though, since it gets the most sun of all the types of tobacco.

This is a very solidly build cigar, very firm with no soft spots. The wrapper, while slightly ugly, has a very even color and is just slightly rough to the touch. The draw has just the right amount of resistance, showing that it was rolled perfectly. The predraw flavors are earth and just a little cocoa. After lighting, this immediately tastes like i expect a Tatuaje to taste, with upfront spice, leather and an earthyness I really enjoy. The spice seems to taper off just a bit, and a hard wood flavor joins the party as I get a little further into this cigar. This seems slightly milder than the Cojonu, but still very bold in the flavor department. This is a very smooth cigar as well, with very clean pronounced flavors, not muddy at all.

This cigar started out burning very even, but got a little wavy at the halfway point, It has a nice white ash that is just a little on the flaky side. I knocked it off at just over an inch, but I think it would have held on a little longer if I had let it. (I didnt feel like ending up with ash on my floor tonight)

The Tatuaje J21 Reserva is another great offering by Pete Johnson/Pepin. It has a lot of the same flavors as the Cojonu, which I said earlier is my favorite Tatuaje, but with a little less strength and in a smaller format. This makes it a great option for when I don't Have time for the 03 Cojonu, or want something dialed back a bit as far as body goes. This is still a solid medium/full bodied cigar with a very nice complexity to the flavor. I love the rich, bold flavors that this cigar offers. These are between $10-11 a piece, so while not an everyday cigar, it is one to definitely keep in mind when you have a few extra bucks and want something very tasty.

As most of you know, I now work at a cigar shop in St. Charles called Bull and Bear, and yes, we have these in stock! That being said, just because I sell them, it doesn't have any impact on my review of this cigar. As I've said before, I give my honest opinion of the cigars I review here. No one is paying me to say anything about a particular stick, and I am not getting anything in return by saying good things about any of them. I only put in here that we carry them at Bull and Bear because I do what I can to support my local shops, and these aren't a cigar I see that often in shops in the area.

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Father Le Bijou 1922 Petite Robusto

I have reviewed the My Father Le Bijou blend before, but I figured reviewing a different size couldn't hurt. I did the Toro last time (where I gave a little more info on the background of this cigar), and this round I am reviewing the Petite Robusto, which measures in at 4.5 X 50. This cigar is another one of Pepin's Nicaraguan Puros, with a Habano Oscuro wrapper. The wrapper is beautiful. Very dark and very attractive. Like usual, Pepin knows how to roll a cigar, and this looks impeccable. Being a smaller cigar, the 2 bands pretty much cover up the entire stick, which is just a little odd looking, but at least they are attractive bands.

The draw seems a little loose, and like the Toro, shows cedar and a little spice on the predraw. This cigar starts out with waves of thick, spicy smoke that tingles the nose. This certainly hits the ground running. After a few minutes the spice calms down just a little bit, and a hard wood and earthiness really start to take over as the dominant flavors. I don't remember the toro having such a woody flavor profile, but all of the other flavors I noted in the Toro review are here, along with that creamy porter characteristic. The burn has been pretty even, and the ash is very white and solid. I am always amazed at the construction is any cigars that come out of Pepin's factories.

This wasn't the first of the Petite Robusto's ive smoked, and it certainly won't be the last. I really like these when I want a premium cigar in a smaller format. These show a nice complexity with plenty of flavors to keep you interested. These are around $6.50-7 a piece, and are definitely worth the price. I would love to get a box of these in the near future. I did recently get a box of the regular My Father blend, in the belicoso size, which I will be reviewing soon as well, so look for that to compare to the Bijou line. I did a review of the My Father lancero a while back, but lanceros smoke very differently and I figured I better get a review up of another size of that blend. I think overall, I like the Bijou blend a bit more. I find them to be a more complex and richer smoke. These come in at a solid medium/full bodied cigar, where the regular My Fathers (at least to me) are a solid medium bodied smoke.

Here is a comparison shot of the My Father Belicoso (to be reviewed soon) and the Bijou blend. You can really see the difference in wrappers.