You may have noticed a trend for whisk(e)y brands to release a special bottle with a “cigar” designation: Cigar Cut, Cigar Blend, etc.
But what does that mean? Turns out, there’s no strict definition or even widely agreed-upon use case. For example, Western Kentucky’s Wheel Horse just released a Cigar Blend bourbon. It was aged over four years in its original oak barrels and then finished in a combination of Sherry, Port and Armagnac casks for approximately six to eight months. The barrels were then married and the whiskey was bottled at 101 proof, non-chill filtered.
“While there is no official definition for a ‘Cigar Blend,’ there is history to the term,” says Terry Lozoff, Spirits Director at Latitude Beverage, owners of the Wheel Horse brand, in a press release. “In American whiskey, Cigar Blends have typically involved a combination of finishes, with Armagnac and/or Cognac being a favored choice. For Wheel Horse Cigar Blend, we are using Armagnac-finished Bourbon as the base, but this is complemented by a smaller amount of Sherry and Port-finished Bourbons to create a profile that we believe is balanced, flavorful, and perfectly paired with a fine cigar.”
Meanwhile, Colorado’s Old Elk just released its second Cigar Cut whiskey, dubbed Cigar Cut Island Blend. It’s a combination of Old Elk’s Cask Finish Series, blending Old Elk’s base whiskeys (including the High-Malt Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Straight Rye Whiskey and Straight Wheat Whiskey) before finishing them in Port, Sauternes, Sherry or Rum barrels. Cigar Cut base whiskeys are aged a minimum of six years before their second maturation, which lasts between two months and two years.
While the combination of barrels is similar to Wheel Horse, the rationale for the name is a bit different. “Cigar Cut was designed to celebrate the summer moments we all cherish, whether that be enjoying a sunset and a nice glass of whiskey, getting the family together, or going on vacation with friends,” says Old Elk’s Production Manager, Melinda Maddox in a statement that made no mention of cigars at all.
Visiting the Last Cigar Factory in Ybor City, Cigar Capital of the United StatesThough production has dwindled, the Tampa, Florida, neighborhood remains a hub of cigar culture
Likewise, The Dalmore’s Cigar Malt Reserve is a single malt, initially matured in American white oak ex-bourbon casks and later, in proportion, additionally matured between Gonzalez Byass sherry casks which have previously contained 30-year-old Matusalem oloroso sherry and Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques, before being married together. The Scotch brand’s website suggests it’s a “perfect complement to a fine cigar.”
Jos A. Magnus & Co., meanwhile, actually touts the “bold, rich aromas of tobacco” in its Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Bourbon. It’s a combination of 11- and 18-year-old whiskeys with an Armagnac finish.
Cigar blends are not just limited to whiskey. Hine, a Cognac maker, collaborated with Hunters & Frankau of London, the UK’s exclusive distributor of Havana cigars, on a Cigar Reserve XO Cognac.
Overall, the general idea seems to be a spirit that’s spent time with additional maturation in unique barrels, possibly but not necessarily giving off tobacco-like notes. Enjoy them however you want, but also realize if you are going to pair a cigar and whiskey (or Cognac), the best combinations may not involve a cigar blend or cut.
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