I should state that I am not a smoker. The closest I came to that status was in high school; 1 menthol cigarette, 1 regular cancer stick and 4 clove flavored ones that make my lips taste sweet and rebellious. Over the years I have done a lot of literary and in-field research about the effect of smoking on tastebuds. I choose not to smoke because once compromised my palate cannot be replaced. Also, cigarettes and I just do not get along. I do however appreciate the aroma, complexity and craftsmanship of a good cigar.
In a very uncharacteristic move, I booked a cigar and beer pairing class at the 2016 Salone del Gusto. The premise of the class was to pair the same cigar to 3 different beers. Our host explained that the pairing was not meant to find which beer paired better with the stogie. The cigar in question, an Antica Tradizione, had notable changes in flavor as it was smoked. These had been divided into 3 sections of the cigar and each beer had been carefully selected to match the changing nuances.
Tuscan cigars tend to lean on the astringent side. Most generally pair them with soda or grappa. Our Antica Tradizione cigar was divided into 3 parts, the first providing a lighter profile with fruitier aromas. The second segment presented a more robust flavor and the final portion exhibited the strongest taste that lingered much more noticeably on the palate.
The selected beers followed a similar order of increasingly strong flavor profiles. My favorites were the last two. BB9 reminded me of mosto cotto, one of my favorite Italian liquors. BB10 degrees was a beer aged 2 years and presented some heavy chocolate tones. It surprisingly offered a fresh mouthfeel as well as a mellow anise aroma while staying balanced and smooth in flavor.
While this class did not convert me into a cigar smoker, it was a very enlightening experience. I learned that cigars are much more complex than most people realize. I still believe it would be challenging to pair food with cigars. Their complexity lingers and the dominant flavors carried in the smoke wield huge influence on anything later introduced into the mouth. While I am definitely no expert I say if you are going to have a cigar….smoke and drink. Leave the smoke and food combinations for the grill.
Until next time…