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Pairing your cigars: Benedictine & Brandy (The Rev Goes ‘Old School’)
B&B has as its base Benedictine, an herbal liqueur that was developed way back in the 1500’s by Benedictine monks in Normandy, France for “medicinal purposes.” While monks may take vows of poverty and chastity, they definitely do NOT give up booze, and over the centuries have developed many fine alcoholic beverages, like Chimay Ale, to enjoy while doing vespers or whatever it is monks do when they’re off the clock. Supposedly, only 3 people at a time know the recipe for Benedictine which is probably risky business when you’re dealing with a product that can get you drunk.
Pure Benedictine is a bit on the sweet side, so in the 1930’s, people started mixing it with cognac and the company that produced Benedictine (eventually Bacardi) began selling their own mixture of Benedictine & Brandy in the now-familiar school bell shaped bottles thus making it most likely the first pre-mixed cocktail.
As luck would have it, Mr. Ron also smoked cigars and like many guys in the early 1980s, smoked Macanudo Baron de Rothschilds, those mild old chestnuts that many people to this day think are the Cadillacs of cigars. Occasionally, he’d hand one of these out with the jigger of B&B and the group would commence to sipping and smoking, talking usually about politics and the Saints. And thus my lifelong hobbies of smoking cigars, drinking and bullsh**ting were born!
So what are the best cigars to pair with B&B? Here are some factors to consider: To my palate, B&B, as a liqueur, is definitely on the sweet side of the taste spectrum and has the essences of honey and citrus. While it can be enjoyed neat, most folks, including myself, prefer to drink it on the rocks. At 80-proof, the alcohol content is fairly high.
For me, there are two ways to go with the cigar pairings. First, as a distinctively flavored drink, B&B goes well with a milder cigar that does not mask the drink’s unique qualities. Cigars such as the Rocky Patel American Market Selection, Flor de Oliva Gold, Don Tomas Special Edition Connecticut, any standard-issue Arturo Fuente or Gispert (natural wrapper) would all make good choices.
Conversely, should you want to really treat your palate to the dog-equivalent of sticking your head out of a car going 70 mph and smelling a million things at once, you could select a more complex cigar and experiment until you find a combination that had a myriad of flavors intermingling. The La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero, EPC Short Run, Padron 3000, Oliva V or Cabaiguan would make excellent partners for a full-flavored experience. I sampled the Double Ligero and the EPC Short Run while “researching” this article and found both to be more than satisfying partners to B&B on the rocks.
Sometimes, to find something new, we have to look back at something old. With the cigar selection much better now than in the 1980’s, why not try pairing some of your current favorite cigars with a drink you might’ve forsaken for a few years. Like I did with B&B, you might well be creating new flavor experiences you might otherwise have missed.