@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