Photo: muratkoc (Getty Images).
The image of a man enjoying a smoldering cigar and a warm snifter of cognac is so synonymous with style and sophistication it’s almost a cliche or a parody. Maybe men don’t often sit before a fire to indulge in hand-rolled, aged tobacco and even more aged brandy, but they should.
For those who do, it’s no laughing matter. Fine cognac and cigars should never be wed haphazardly. They must be properly paired lest they clash with each other. Such a waste would be unthinkable, so we turned to one of world’s elite experts in both spirits and cigars to aide us in our perfect pairings.
Enrico Garzaroli – founder and owner of the elite Bahamas hotel, Graycliff; owner of the third largest wine collection in the world (valued at around $10 million); and the purveyor of Graycliff Cigars – can point the way with confidence.
Before we get started, it’s important to note for the uninitiated that, for a brand to take on the cognac badge, it should really be the grape-based brandy coming out of western France or the Cognac region, specifically. It’s a similar notion to tequila, which should technically come out of the Mexican town of the same name. If it comes from anywhere else, the concoction should be termed an “agave-based spirit.” In the end, all cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac.
Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège and Macanudo Café
As the biggest cognac brand in the world, Hennessy is often the starting point for cognac drinkers. The mild Macanudo Cafe is an equally solid starter cigar. As Garzaroli put it, “Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège will go fantastically with cigars for young people.”
AE Dor No.9 Cognac and Graycliff G2 Maduro
Stepping up in complexity in both brandy and tobacco, this is a stronger pairing with a blend of rich tastes. “The Number 9 is a full and dark aged cognac that will pair very nicely with powerful cigars,” Garzaroli suggested.
Delamain Vesper XO Grande Champagne Cognac and Rocky Patel American Market Selection Robusto
Calling it a “fantastic pairing for elegant cigars,” Garzaroli matched this combination for the more experienced cognac lover and veteran cigar smoker.
Camus Napoleon Cognac and Cohiba Macassar
Garzaroli pointed out that this is perhaps the most obvious pairing on the board as Camus makes Cohiba’s own tie-in cognac brand.
Gautier Extra 1755 Cognac and Don Tomas Special Edition Connecticut Lancero
A long, thin Lancero cigar takes a little longer to smoke, and Garzaroli recommended passing that time with the sophisticated Gautier 1755 – one of the top selections from the French distillery.
Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal and Davidoff Nicaragua Robusto Rosado
“Remy Martin has been very hot with its 1738 cognac,” Garzaroli said. “It offers notes of plums, chocolate and figs and pairs nicely with a robusto.”
Hine Rare VSOP Cognac and Graycliff Crystal Churchill
Garzaroli spoke highly of this last selection, a lesser known cognac from Jarnac, France. If you’re going to spend a longer stretch to explore such a brandy in its full complexity, you’re going to be there a while. You’ll need the larger Churchill to keep you company.