Recently my friend Rod asked me for insights to an article on Canadian Whisky from Canadian Whisky

By the time I finished the reply, I realized I had enough material for a blog entry, so here it is:

Let me start by giving you some of my wine / whisky educational background.

15 years ago I made one of the best decisions of my life by registering for WSET classes in Calgary AB Canada.
A man named Francois, who managed a wine store that carried some amazing examples, taught the class.

During the class on whisky, he told us that products coming into the market from the United States were actually whisky’s made in Canada, shipped to the U.S. for bottling and returned to Canada under new labels and at much higher prices.
So, for over 15 years, I’ve known about the history of producers like Whistle Pig acquiring their “juice” from Canada.
That knowledge makes a difference when I’m selecting a whisky for purchase.

Alberta Premium imageFull disclosure: I’m a big fan of Beam Suntory’s Alberta Premium.

Yes, it’s inexpensive.
Yes, the packaging is dated and …


Canadian Whisky The New Portable Expert 2nd EditionYes, Davin de Kergommeaux in his book “Canadian Whisky – The Portable Expert” regarding Alberta Premium, states:
“Fermentation flavours normally associated with rye are deliberately distilled out, yielding a light mixing whisky with virtually no typical rye character”.

… but I grew up in Alberta, with Alberta Premium on my #WhiskyWall for as long as I can remember.
It’s the only spirit in my 5,000+ tasting notes where the flavour is permanently etched in my palate-memory.
It deserves a place in history, and not just because rail – tankers full of it are shipped to the States every year for repackaging.
But because it’s a really good product at a really good price.
Alberta Premium is the best-selling All-Rye Whisky in the world.
200,000 cs sold annually

Alberta Distillers makes about 20 million litres of whisky each year and exports about 14 million, sold in bulk and packaged by others who put their own name on it.
Most of it winds up in the United States, but up to 55 countries, Britain, France, Sweden, Japan – they all use Alberta distillers whisky.

In recent years, I’ve tasted hundreds of different whiskies.
A stand-out producer was … and continues to be:

Stalk & Barrel:
Stalk and Barrel Single Malt & Rye

Rye Whisky 60.7% abv & Single Malt Whisky 62.3% abv are 2 of the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted in my life.

And I’m not just saying Canadian Whisky … I’m saying all whiskies. Stalk & Barrel Whiskies are magical in the flavors & aromas they deliver.
And tasting them at cask strength was just the icing on the cake.



161022 Gary & Raj in studioWhen Raj Sabharwal and I were both in Atlanta for the Whiskies of the World show, he was kind enough to come to the Smooth Draws Cigar Radio studio where we enjoyed a tasting of the Stalk & Barrel Blue Blend at 40% abv and the Red Blend 43% abv.

180206 Stalk & Barrel Red and Blue Blend image

Gary “Doc” Laden was totally taken with the Red Blend.
Raj taught us so much about whisky & we thoroughly enjoyed the tasting, as you can see by the in-studio photo attached.

If you’re going to add a whisky to your wall, make it Stalk & Barrel.

Alberta Premium Dark HorseAlberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch.
Here in Canada we have Alberta Premium Dark Horse.
In the States, they have Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch.
If I’m not mistaken, if you read between the lines of the PunchDrink article, it’s kind of Alberta Premium retooled with Sherry.
For my personal tastes, it’s a little too sweet. But a lot of people like the sweetness Sherry imparts … I’m more a spicy-bite fan.
Lot 40Lot 40.
I guess I’ve got to give this one another taste. When it 1st came out, I lined up like every other whisky enthusiast … but I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about it. Keep in mind, I prefer sipping whiskies neat and this one just didn’t do it for me.
I guess bartenders like Lot 40 for its cocktail readiness.

Crown Royal line up imageCrown Royal
I always kind of smile at any Crown Royal product because until Northern Harvest Rye, it was basically a corn-based whisky. Keep in mind, because there’s not a whole lot of rules defining Canadian Whisky, it can be made of almost any kind of grain, but typically corn, barley & rye.
When I’m judging a corn-based whisky, I judge it on its merits and keep my personal bias out of it.
But when it comes to what I pour in my glass, I prefer to go with a Rye-forward expression, just like I prefer anything 43% abv or higher. I generally find 40% a little thin when it comes to whisky.

So that’s my insight on the whiskies listed in the article.
Forty Creek Barrel Select laying down
But, I think this article missed an important Canadian Whisky that’s available nation wide and in certain areas of the United States … and that’s Forty Creek Canadian Whisky.
It’s another of my preferred Canadians. John Hall worked tirelessly, facing numerous challenges to get that product on the market and it’s worthy of mention.

As a person who loves Canadian Whisky with Cigars, I’m also compelled to mention the Canadian Whisky / Cigar pairing at Big Smoke Las Vegas in 2014.
The reason I attended that particular show was because Jack Bettridge, along with Manuel Quesada, were hosting a Canadian Whisky tasting/ seminar.
The whiskies were: J.P. Wiser’s 18, Collingwood, Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask and Crown Royal

Quesada 40-bandThe cigar: Manuel Quesada’s Quesada 40th.

Like a lot of people, I’d have expected anything “sherry” to have been the best pair with a cigar. The sweetness can take on the smoke.
However, here’s the comments:
“With the Canadian Club Sherry Cask, a nougat flavor that didn’t appear before emerged for both Quesada and Bettridge.
While Bettridge declared this pairing as his personal favorite, Quesada politely disagreed.
“For me,” Quesada said, “it was the Wiser’s.
The liquid creeps back over the cigar sensations on the palate and layers it well”.

I was sitting in the 2nd row with a clear view of the moderators. I was very interested in observing their reactions.

Manuel Quesada Canadian Accents Seminar 2014
Photo Credit: Cigar Aficionado


JPWisers_18YO_CDN_750mLWhen Manuel tasted that Wiser’s 18 with his cigar, the look on his face was one of complete wonderment.
As a matter of fact, I’ve wondered since if he’d ever paired one of his cigars with a Canadian Whisky before.
You could tell that pairing made a huge impression on him … you know, the kind of moment where time stops and you just want to be alone with that whisky & that cigar.

In terms of producers, Alberta Distillers will always have a place in my heart.
But there’s no doubt that Dr. Don Livermore and the team at Wiser’s do a lot for Canadian Whisky & the people who love it.
Dr. Livermore’s Canadian Whisky Flavour Wheel is amazing!

72384_CORBYS_WHISKY WHEEL_8x11_4pc.indd


Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
Stalk & Barrel
JP Wiser’s
Beam Suntory Alberta Premium
Corby Lot 40
Crown Royal
Forty Creek Whisky
Quesada Cigars
Cigar Aficionado Canadian Accents
Canadian Whisky

   The Cigar: Invictis Centurio. TreJ Cigars.          Invictis Full Stick @ValBradshaw 24pt
Wrapper:  Ecuador Habano.
Wrapper Aroma from Head to Foot:
Quite sweet from the head through to the middle where dark chocolate & vanilla became prominent.  Gets a little mint-y towards the foot.
At-The-Foot: Earthy
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Criollo ’98 and Piloto Cubano
Blended by: Jose Blanco. Las Cumbres Tabaco.
Tabacalera La Palma factory / Dominican Republic. 
Designed by: Emma Victorsson

Vertigo down showing punch cleaner
Cigar Cut & Ignition.
Using the Vertigo Lighter / Punch combo. Great Punch; perfect entry; easy pop-out cleaning head.
TreJ Invictis Ignition: A couple of puffs and we’re smokin’!
Firm pack. Just a bit of a tight draw on the initial puffs, but then it loosens up nicely.
TreJ Invictis Tasting Notes:  Vanilla and Cotton Candy.
Got a bit of mint there. The smokiness is lingering in the back-palate.
Cocoa and coffee coming through on the 1st third.
Heading to the half-way point, Invictis is a medium body cigar with great draw and tastes/aromas of cream, almond & just a bit of graphite.
I’d suggest smoking this cigar more wet than dry. Biting down a bit allows a lot more smoke to filter through. Ash is a lovely white with slight grey striations.
The burn is holding even as it approaches the 1/2 point.
Past the 1/2 point, there was more toasted aroma/flavour on the TreJ Invicitis.
The ash hasn’t yet fallen – to me, a sign of great construction.
The TreJ Invictis is a lovely smoke.
Great for either the novice or the experienced cigar aficionado.
The ash fell just past the 1/2 way point and burns well, needing no additional attention.
Taste & aroma remain true. No sign of “heat” coming through after the ash fell; again, to me, a sign of impeccable construction.
Cigar maintains an even burn as it approaches the band.
As a matter of fact, it’s burning even better. Temperature remains consistent, making the smoking experience a treasure of length, balance and complexity.
There’s no flaws to the TreJ Invictis – often a rarity in cigars. It just keeps burning even & true. A pleasure at any time, this cigar suits any time of day.
You’ll need at least an hour for this cigar … an hour well spent.
Truly, a joy to smoke!

Lot 40 Sideway w: VB promo
TreJ Invictis paired with: Lot 40 Canadian Whisky: Wow. The whisky changed from something sweet to something savoury with the TreJ Invictis Cigar. Lot 40 overpowered the cigar a bit. Aromas and flavours a bit subdued; just a hint of cocoa.
Getting a bit of cereal on the nose at the 1/2 point of the TreJ Invictis cigar.
As the cigar approaches the band, the pairing with the whisky is rather neutral.
It’s a good pair, but the whisky isn’t offering anything that I would call complex.
The finale of the TreJ & Lot 40 Canadian Whisky is pleasant and acceptable.

Legendario Invictis
TreJ Invictis paired with: Legendario Rum:

I love how the cigar smoke has brought out concentrated sweet aromas from the Legendario Rum. On the palate, the creaminess & buttery impressions of the rum is staying true. I got some poppy-seed just now; very cool tasting experience.
Honey comes through on the Legendario Rum nose at the band stage of the TreJ Invictis.
Notes of milk chocolate and sweet cream.
Sweet spice compliments all the other flavours and aromas of the smoke.

Glenfarclas Invictis
TreJ Invictis Paired with: Glenfarclas 40yo Speyside Scotch:

The Invictis Cigar is adding a briny aroma-note to the Glenfarclas 40yo, which is a little unusual, but very interesting and not unpleasant.
Candy Corn on the nose of the whisky. Beautiful fresh rose aroma.
I love the aroma combinations lifting from the whisky, but have to admit that on the palate, the body of the Scotch doesn’t quite match the body of the cigar.
Just got a hint of coconut from the retro as a puff of the TreJ Invictis cigar came through.

Invictis Paired with: Coffee
Espresso expresses a bitterness associated with 70% cacao.
The Invictis Cigar is definitely a cigar best paired with spirits.
The espresso just sticks to the palate a bit too much.

The Spirits: Technical Tasting Notes on the Spirits prior to pairing with TreJ Invictis Cigar:
Lot 40 Canadian Whisky
Color: 24kt Gold
Nose: I got a little saltiness on 1st whiff, but that blew off, exposing the spicy sweetness classic to Canadian Rye: Caramel. Orange Peel & Brown Sugar.
Quite Earthy which I think might work well with the TreJ Invictis Cigar
Palate:  Smoke.  Orange Marmalade.  Charcoal on the retro.
Finish: Medium. Sweet
43% abv

Legendario Rum
18kt Gold
Nose: Candied Lemon. Tropical Fruit. Brown Sugar . Banana
Palate: Butter. Nougat. Almond. Lemon. Tannin
Finish: Medium. Savoury
40% abv

Glenfarclas 40yo Speyside Scotch Whisky
Color: 18kt Gold
Nose: Floral. Marzipan. Hint of Orange
Palate: Orange. Walnut. Sultana. Lemon.
Finish: Long. Tannin. Citrus
46% abv


In summary:  the TreJ Invictis Cigar works well with any of the brown spirits selected in this pairing exercise. It’s a cigar you’ll enjoy from beginning to end, but for my money, it’s Legendario Rum or Glenfarclas 40yo for the best over-all cigar and spirits tasting experience!
TreJ Cigars
Ron Legendario Rum
Lot 40 Canadian Whisky

Whisky Selection:
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Johnnie Walker Green Label
Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
Trinidad Vigia

There will be several tasting notes to track the changes to all the whiskies & the cigar as the tasting progresses.


Whisky Tasting Notes Prior to Trinidad Vigia Pairing:

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 45% abv.:
Nose: Cotton Candy. Apple. Mint. Candied Apple. Sultana
Palate: Cinnamon Hearts. Toast. Tangerine. Coffee.
Mouthfeel: Oily. Med+ heat on lips. Medium tannin at the gums.

Johnnie Walker Green Label 43% abv:
Nose: Cereal – Malt. Pomegranate. Oak. Banana. Tobaccojohnnie green
Palate: Feinty (aroma lift) Peat. Toffee. Red Currant. Burnt Toffee
Mouthfeel: Heat on the gums. Otherwise, very clean.



Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon 51.6% abv:

Nose: Red Berry Fruit. Cinnamon. Pineapple. Toffee. Vanilla. Fresh Corn
Palate: Band-Aid retro. Ginger. Praline Skor Bar/light chocolate. Nougat.Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2013
Mouthfeel: Clean. Med+ Tannin. Numbing sensation on gums.





Cigar Tasting Notes – Raw Draw,  Ignition & 1st Puffs.
Viaga with Xikar cutterTrinidad Vigia Cigar
Nose at raw draw: Heavy earth aroma.
Wrapper raw: Barnyard. Chocolate.
Filler aroma at Foot: Cinnamon. Manure. Dry Grass.Trinidad Vigia Foot

4/38 x 56

Holy Doodle! Talk about a loose pack on this cigar.
Trinidad Viaga PigtailI barely clipped the pigtail off and I’m getting huge mouthfuls of smoke.
It’s a little bitter to start. The smoke is sticking to the hard palate.
Trinidad Vigia Canister & Cigar
The Trinidad Vigia is all earth. Lots of tannin. Aromas of moss & mushroom.
Heavy tobacco taste at the back of the throat.

1st third: A hint of peppermint is quickly overcome by roasted meat. Oily impression on the mouthfeel. Roast Lamb smoke flavor.

First 3rd of Trinidad Vigia Cigar
Whisky Tasting Progression

CRNHR ViagaCrown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Sip of whisky. The nose has maple fudge and butterscotch now.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia – they’re a little at odds. They aren’t bad – but they aren’t enhancing each other either.
A puff of the Trinidad Vigia and I get popcorn.

Viaga with Johnnie GreenJohnnie Walker Green Label
Nose has become sweeter. Mincemeat.
Sip of Green label: Have you ever had Puffed Wheat Cake? It isn’t a universally recognized tasting note – but that’s what I’m getting.
Corn Syrup with a bit of dry cocoa & butter melted over wheat cereal.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
Harmony with the whisky. Vanilla on the mouth / fresh linen aroma. The cigar palate lightens with the JW Green influence.
The aroma is now hints of dried flowers.

Viaga w Four Roses LE Small BatchFour Roses Small Batch LE:
Nose: Hint of citrus. Lemon & Orange. Werther’s hard candy.
Palate: The drying effect of the alcohol is even more pronounced now. Sweet, heavy corn. Cream. Red Berry fruit.

Trinidad Vigia Cigar: Mincemeat taste. Coffee. Savory spice – like thyme.
It’s evolved to a mild+ cigar. No more hard-palate coating.
The burn is uneven and the ash fell at the 1st third.
Hint of iodine aroma.

Second 3rd of Trinidad Vigia.
Whisky Tasting Notes have evolved with the Cigar.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Nose: Carmel Corn. Sweet Corn.
Palate: The smoke kills any flavors in the mouth, but there is a bit of caramel lift on the back palate.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
Toasted Marshmallow aroma. Nutty. Brazil nut taste.

Johnnie Walker Green Label
Nose: Buttersctoch. Oats. Brown Sugar.
Palate: Coffee. Meaty.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
The Scotch wins this round, overpowering the reduced strength of the cigar on the palate.
Peat rises from the Johnnie Green.
Tar from the ‘gar.

Uneven burn continues. Trinidad Vigia Cigar is back to being med+ body.

Trinidad Vigia Cigar: Burnt popcorn. Black pepper.

Four Roses LE Small Batch Bourbon
Nose: White Flowers – which kind of surprised me. Brown Sugar.
Palate: Ginger. Orange Peel.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
½ way point. It’s getting a little hot.
Not a lot of flavour coming through – mostly just smoke.

Trinidad Vigia: Completely smoky cigar on the palate. Not unpleasant, but no complexity. I keep looking for flavors, but none to be found other than smoke.
Really, nothing but burnt popcorn.


Final 3rd of Trinidad Vigia.
Whisky Tasting Notes have evolved with the Cigar.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Canadian Whisky:
Nose: Mandarin Orange. Tangerine
Palate: Red Currant and bitter almond
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
The whisky tames the smoke, but doesn’t coax any flavours from the cigar.

Johnnie Walker Green Label
Nose: Smoke. Cereal – Porridge.
Palate: Honey. Oily/Waxy mouthfeel.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar: light molasses.
The JW Green pairs well with the Trinidad Vigia.
Spicy aroma – cloves.

Four Roses LE Bourbon
Nose: Lemon. Poppy. Caramel

Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
Nose: Dust. Cardboard. Lemon
Palate: Venison. Roasted meat.
The cigar loose pack increases as it hits the final 3rd.
Ash is ragged; really loose.
Stirations are dark grey with grey.


Best Pair for the Trinidad Vigia: Blended Scotch Whisky:
Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker Green Label keeps its aroma & flavour profile consistently good from beginning to end

Four Roses LE Small Batch Bourbon aroma is diminished. Palate is light Bourbon-esque.
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is unable to take on a cigar of this style.

Trinidad Vigia Cigar maintains it dominance in terms of smoke, but is without complexity from the half to the finish.

Trinidad Vigia Finish Crack wrapperWrapper lifts & cracks towards the nub. Bitterness ensues.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Trinidad Vigia Cigar – an average cigar. But hey, it’s a Cuban!

It was a fun exercise to write down all the changes/evolutions that took place in the whiskies & the cigar.
Viaga VB promo Canister


@ValBradshaw – #CubanCigarChallenge: Canadian Whisky. Bourbon. Rum.

This week I decided to do a “Cuban Connection” … so see which Brown Spirit paired best with a Cuban Montecristo Petit No 2 Cigar.
**Spoiler alert! The Whisky that paired best was the J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky. To find out why … read on, my friend …
3 pours and Montecristo Petit No2
The focus, remember, is on the Montecristo Petit No 2 cigar.
That’s because a lot of people ask me what beverage to pair with a
cigar. The only way to give a qualified answer is to taste at least 3 alcoholic beverages at the same time.
Not only does a choice of 3 provide necessary controls … but it’s also a whole lot of fun for me J

The Cigar: Montecristo Petit No 2. Provenance: Cuba
When I originally did the “sniff-test” on the Cuban Montecristo Petit No 2, I didn’t get much aroma from it. It smelled like a cigar.
Montecristo Petit No2 ValBradshaw left

However, when I cut it in preparation for igniting it, I got a release of that tell-tale “barnyard” aroma that is expected from your typical Cuban Cigar.

I’d been hesitant to light this cigar. Everything about it is strange to me.
The veins are quite prominent … with discoloration in green along the largest of them.
The wrapper’s touch feels like the cigar is dry, although it seems to have been properly stored at the Brick and Mortar from whom I bought it.
But, it’s a Cuban … so I can’t wait to smoke it!

Daniel Marshall Humidor Burl

Keeping Cigars Fresh – use a quality Humidor
All my Cigars are placed in one of my 3 Daniel Marshall Humidor’s for optimum care & storage. There is nothing like a quality humidor to add to the smoking enjoyment of a fine cigar!

Back to the pairing … 80% of taste is aroma … important in so many ways! 

Just like aromas never show up alone with cigars … the pairing I’m featuring for this Montecristo Petit No 2 is a trio of Brown Spirits, so the beverages are not showing up alone, either.

Yes, today will be a cage-match of sorts … pitting a Canadian Whisky against an American Bourbon and a Cuban Rum to see which one will emerge victorious in the ever-important pursuit of which beverage pairs best with the Cuban Montecristo Petit No 2

Just like caring for my cigars, I also care for my whisky with a zealous enthusiasm.
All my spirits are kept away from sunlight and heat.
Once opened, they are not allowed to languish for more than a year before finishing them.
You see, upon opening the spirit begins to “oxidate” … and thus, slowly deteriorate.
Oxygen is our best and worst friend as it breathes life into and takes life away from special things we hold dear, including our whiskies.

160213 Rum & Whisky in 2 weeksIt is not fair to either the cigar-pairing exercise or the brown spirit tasting regimen to compare one spirit from a freshly opened bottle, to one that’s been opened & sitting on the whisky/spirits wall for a while.
So, in the interest of fair-play & level playing field, each of these examples has experienced equal oxidation.

What that revealed is just like there were changes from the raw-draw of the Montecristo Petit No 2 Cigar, there were changes in the aroma of the spirits that I’ve poured.

The Nose
The aroma from the J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky & Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon changed, but only slightly.
The Legendario Elixir de Cuba’s aroma diminished quite a bit.
I could distinguish the Canadian Whisky from the Bourbon, but the rum had become less easily identified.

J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky has an abundance of cinnamon, sweet spice, orange, caramel and demerara brown sugar.

E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon has equal portions of eucalyptus, hay, bubble gum, orange peel and there’s a bit of solvent.

Legendario Elixir de Cuba Rum lost some of its original heady bouquet.
When I nose it after it’s been dormant for a while, I really have to look for a descriptor.
It comes up 2-dimensional: brown sugar and maybe a little lemon.

Claiming the title of “The Nose” in this weeks competition is:
J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky!

It’s HERf-time!

I like the torpedo-shaped head of the Montecristo Petit No 2

Montecristo Petit No2 Xikar
Xikar Guillotine Cutter

Cutting it at an angle with a Xikar Guillotine Cutter, allows the smoke-flow angle to act like a silver cup draining golden smoke straight into my mouth.

Not only that, but the torpedo is a great vitola for the “new to cigar lifestyle” smoker.
It’s almost impossible to cut off too much of the cigar cap – so the cigar wrapper won’t start to unravel.

Cigar Ignition
I’m lighting the Montecristo Petit No2 using a struck match to a cedar spill. You can buy custom cedar spills, but I make my own from thin sheets of Spanish Cedar, the same type you often find in a cigar tube.

It’s a little more work, but hey, I hand-polish each and every one of my ISO Standard tasting glasses, too.
It’s just part of the ritual.

Cuban Montecristo Petit No 2 is a delight to light! The draw provides a mouthful of satisfying smoke, taste tinged with brown sugar, mingling with aromas of leather, hay and mushroom

I’m also getting aroma at the entry of the mouth … peat (not the same as smoke), dark chocolate, coal (cool!) and white pepper.
The Montecristo Petit No 2 smoke coats the saliva. When I swallow it’s with a mass of palatable flavor that, quite frankly, gives this cigar great appeal.
There’s tons of earthy flavour.
To its credit, none of the tastes transition to bitter, keeping the Montecristo Petit No 2 sweet and succulent to smoke.

Time to take this golden smoke and pair it up with the 1st of the brown spirits.

The winner of the “Nose” award for this segment is:
Canadian Whisky: JP Wiser’s Red Letter … so that’s the spirit with which I shall lead

Wisers Red Letter Montecristo Petit No2 1st 3rd
JP Wiser’s Red Letter. Canadian Whisky

Now that the air is filled with cinnamon and citrus from the smoke, the nose I’m getting from the J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky is: floral.

The smoke is only slightly affecting the delicate aromas from the whisky … but that’s part of the stages of tasting. Upon a quick swirl, the nose opens up, giving way to a bit of lemon and a hint of brown sugar.

J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter is staying consistent, if just a bit subdued. That’s a sign of endurance from any alcoholic beverage.

Taste is 80% smell, so I’m always pleased when the beverage has aroma’s that rise above other influences.

JP Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky taste following a puff of Montecristo Petit No 2.
Molasses come through, with a bit of a sipping chocolate at the sides of the mouth.
I’m really swishing the whisky around in my mouth and getting freshness, like the spirit is acting as a palate cleanser to the Montecristo Petit No 2.
There’s a bit of tannin at the gums.
And a floral retro-nasal.

I’ve rinsed with water, now moving to:
Colonel E.H. Taylor Bourbon
Aromas from the Montecristo Petit No2 cigar are becoming even lighter, to a soft cinnamon and milk chocolate.

Getting a bit of soapiness from the Bourbon glass, but not in a bad way – in a freshly laundered way.
I detect an equally fresh cotton/linen mouthful of smoke from the Montecristo Petit No 2.

Oh, this is quite the trip

Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon & Montecristo Petit No2
A quick swirl to the bourbon and a bit of tobacco raises from the glass complimented with a great aroma of ripe red cherry from the cigar smoke.
There’s a bit of coconut, woodsy overtone to the E.H. Taylor Small Batch on the reduction.

EH Taylor Montecristo Petit No2 1st 3rd
Colonel E.H. Taylor. Small Batch Bourbon

A mouthful of Montecristo Petit No 2 cigar smoke washed down with Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch bourbon and there’s a calm to the palate.
Lots of soothing vanilla and a hint of pine of the retro-nasal.

The tastes and aromas fade pretty quickly with the Bourbon. But what was there was perfectly enjoyable.

If you’re doing a comparison like this, keep in mind the alcohol content with each of the beverages. I’ve noticed a real difference between the 3 competitors in this match, with abv. ranging from 35% for the Legendario Elixir de Cuba rum, to 45% for the J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter and 50% for the E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon.
That’ll make a difference in the over-all evaluation.


Legendario Elixir de Cuba & Montecristo Petit No2
Moving on to the Rum. The cigar smoke gives the rum a bit of a candy like aroma from the glass. Very pleasant.
A quick swirl and the aromas include a wet rock scent – freshwater, not saltwater.
Lots of brown sugar, raisins and just a bit of Jolly Roger Cherry candy.

The cigar puff, on the other hand, has grown milder as I reach the halfway point.

Legendario Montecristo Petit No2 half
Legendario. Elixir de Cuba

Legendario Elixir de Cuba is far too flavourful & mouth-coating for the finesse of the Montecristo Petit No 2.

Even though the rum is delicious as a sipper, it over-powers the cigar in the pairing. The mouthful of molasses with which the rum finishes might be better suited to a full-bodied Dominican Republic stick.

With this combination, I recommend taking a sip of the Legendario Elixir de Cuba, followed by a good mouthful of the Montecristo Petit No 2 cigar smoke.

Rum, and particularly aged rum, is a classic cigar pairing. Let’s face it, tobacco & molasses grow in the same region.
It’s important to know your brands – their strengths & their flavour profiles if you’re going to pair with a cigar.
Pairing can be tricky business.

Wiser's Red Letter Montecristo Petit No2
J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky

J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky – great with this cigar!

… it takes the lead in 2 out of 3 divisions!

J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter complexity is extraordinary. It has just the right amount of fruit to soften both the tannins and the 45% abv.

But having just finished the mouth-coating rum, I definitely have to rinse with water as I move through the samples one more time while the cigar approaches its final 3rd.

Cuban Montecristo Petit No 2 – Final 3rd 
Into the final 3rd of the cigar, tasting it with J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky, there’s a new-found headiness to both, but the cigar aromas are not going to be swayed by the strength of the spirit.
Montecristo Petit No 2 Cigar is holding it’s own and delivering more smoky, pencil shaving aromas and brioche flavors during the sip & smoke final 3rd.

Montecristo Petit No2 Wrapper Lift
Montecristo Petit No 2

**Note: What happens if the Cigar Wrapper starts to lift?
I should mention that at this point, less than an hour into the herf, the cigar wrapper on the Montecristo Petit No 2 started to lift. Cosmetically this is unfortunate for the cigar.
But otherwise, the construction & burn of this cigar has been very good through to this point.

It’s an easy smoke, complex, with a variety of great tastes & aromas.

JP Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky stayed completely palatable from the beginning, to the middle and right to the end in aroma, taste & compatibility to the Montecristo Petit No2. The two totally complimented each other and it was a charming match.

E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon final 3rd of the Montecristo Petit No2
I must say, what I especially like about E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon is no matter how long it sits in the glass, it never develops that sickeningly sweet corn aroma that can often lift from lesser quality bourbon. A big check-mark in its favour.
E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon, although a little hot on the palate – due to the 50% abv and its powerful Cigar Box aromas – takes the spotlight away from the Montecristo Petit No2.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like a high alcohol beverage when I’m sipping whiskey.
But for this cigar pair, it’s a bit over-the-top.

In conclusion …
Legendario Elixir de Cuba is second runner-up in this Cuban Cigar Cage-Match.
Make no mistake, it’s a delicious rum! However, it proved challenging as a pairing for the Montecristo Petit No 2 cigar.
But it could successfully challenge Port as a Dessert beverage.
I think restaurants would do well to add Legendario Elixir de Cuba to their drink menu as an alternative to Port as the digestif.
While it’s great on its own, it’s a little too sticky for the Montecristo Petit No2

EH Taylor Small Batch Bourbon is a terrific pour and one of my favourite Bourbons.
In this competition, it ranks 1st runner-up.
It did well in the 1st & 2nd third of the cigar … but by the final 3rd of the cigar, it was too much to make the full smoking experience a pleasure from beginning to end.

E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch: “As founding father of the bourbon industry, Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. left an indelible legacy. His dedication to distilling began at the close of the Civil War when he purchased O.F C. Distillery. There, he developed innovative techniques that are still in use today. Made by hand, this Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey has been aged inside century old warehouses constructed by E.H. Taylor, Jr.  Barrels are evaluated and selected to create a perfect blend of distinctive character that is like no other. This bourbon is a true sipping bourbon that honors the uncompromising legacy of E.H. Taylor, Jr.
Company TASTING NOTES: Tastes of caramel corn sweetness, mingled with butterscotch and licorice. The aftertaste is a soft mouth-feel that turns into subtle spices of pepper and tobacco”.

The winner of the inaugural Cuban Cigar Challenge is:
J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky!
when paired with
Montecristo Petit No 2 Cigar!

J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter is a fabulous Canadian Whisky, created by Master Blender, Dr. Don Livermore.
Don Livermore’s a wizard with whisky and you can trust anything he touches to bring joy to the glass.

“A tribute to our founder – J.P. Wiser – J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter is an award-winning Canadian whisky that is aged for a minimum of 10 years in American bourbon barrels and then further mellowed by finishing in virgin white oak casks, which produces well-integrated and complex flavours.
The pinnacle of Canada’s best-selling whisky family, this exclusive whisky has a higher strength of 45% ABV and is non-chill filtered, creating an authentic, full-flavoured and rewarding tasting experience.
Flavors of: Dried Fruit. Honey. Oak. Toffee. Vanilla Spice.”
Crafted by Master Blender Don Livermore, this is a very special Canadian Whisky

Montecristo Petit No2 Cuban Cigar
4.7” x 52rg
Medium Body Belicoso
$24.95+tax Cdn.
Smoking time: 1hr or less
Cigar Recommendation: Montecristo Petit No 2 is great for all levels of cigar smokers.
I would actually suggest a novice cigar smoker try this as an introductory cigar.
It’s mild, well constructed, doesn’t need any special attention through the smoking experience. No re-lighting, canoeing or uneven burn.
In other words, it wouldn’t discourage the novice and it brings enough complexity that even the most seasoned smoker would enjoy it.
Cuba’s Montecristo Petit No 2 is the kind of cigar that keeps us coming back.

Thanks for reading!

If you want to learn more about Canadian Whisky, I highly recommend Davin de Kergommeaux’s award winning book:
“Canadian Whisky – The Portable Expert”
Canadian Whisky Book Davin shelf