All things Whisky & Cigars
Cigars and Gin - An unexpected delight
Gin and cigars are not a common pairing, single malt being the iconic match. This week marked a first at our Cambridge sampling lounge: two Habanos cigars accompanied by three gins from the Cambridge Distillery. Our tastings typically pair whisky and cigars, and we regularly have conversations about which drams are best suited to which cigars. Bringing gin into the mix was uncharted territory.
We started off by choosing the gins, a process made easy by a sampling session with the Cambridge Distillery. Their combination of delicious local botanicals, innovative flavours, and cutting-edge distillation techniques results in gins of complexity and nuance unlike anything I’ve encountered before. For the first time, I enjoyed the taste of gin neat. Nothing to hide, nothing to mask. Just a beautiful spirit that opens into an extraordinary range of possibilities for the nose and palate to explore.
Having tried the gins, I was confident they would make an excellent companion to cigars, but wasn’t entirely sure which sticks to choose. Probably something a bit lighter and more floral. Consultation with our Hunters & Frankau sales rep confirmed that instinct, and the cigars chosen were the Por Larranaga Montecarlo and the San Cristobal La Punta. The prospect of pairing gin and cigars met with some scepticism leading up to the event, and so I was eager to see how it would go.
We started off with the Cambridge Dry Gin and the Por Larranaga, both of which I’d greatly enjoyed on their own in the past. Immediately I knew this was a match that was meant to be. The gin has such clarity that it didn’t muddle the palate, didn’t overwhelm the subtle flavours of the Montecarlo. Rather, the exquisite balance of sweet and savoury notes in the gin accentuated deep caramelly tones in the cigar, which at one point burst into a luscious burnt caramel. Meanwhile the toasty woody notes of the cigar lent an enticing depth to the gin, while also emphasising its bright citrus notes, leading into big pops of lemon verbena. I thought that both, though superb on their own, tasted better together than separately, their harmony resulting in something greater than the sum of the parts. The consensus in the room was that this pairing was a big success.
Next we moved on to the San Cristobal, accompanied by the Cambridge Distillery’s Japanese Gin. The La Punta kicks off incredibly light and delicate with a subtle sweetness, a perfect match for the gin’s delicately balanced character. As the cigar developed, its woody, cedar tones brought the gin’s toasted sesame flavours to the forefront, a gorgeous counterpoint to the refreshing hints of cucumber floating on top. Meanwhile, the tang of yuzu peel and notes of pepper provided a lovely contrast to the sweetness of the cigar, which turned into a stunning hit of honeycomb.
The La Punta slightly increases in strength as it progresses, and at about the mid-point we turned to our glasses of Truffle Gin, made with white truffle from the Piedmont region of Italy. This was definitely the hit of the evening for a lot of people. The rich, slight smokiness of the truffle matched the creamy smoothness of the cigar, which by this point was beginning to offer a bit more spice and intensity. While I’d personally found the truffle flavour of the gin to be a bit too intense on its own, it melded into the cigar and provided a rich backdrop that was an absolutely stellar sensory experience. I don’t know how to describe it other than, this was a happy place.
As the evening unfolded, an atmosphere of deep contentment permeated the room. This was a journey of taste that none of us had been on before, and it was incredible.
Shelly - Cambridge store Manager