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Taste College: Cigar Pairings

There is a perfect cigar for every activity and occasion. As tobacconists, we need to understand our customers' preferences to make the best recommendations. This means we must ask the right questions. People smoke cigars for different reasons. Some people like to smoke alone, meditate, and relax while doing nothing, while others prefer to socialize, talk and do things while smoking cigars.

Active cigar smokers may do yard work, play golf, fish, or drive while they smoke. As a general rule of thumb, thicker ring gauge (rg) cigars may work better in these conditions. Thinner cigars may not hold up as well in windy or active conditions. Golfers tend to prefer longer and thicker cigars to hold up to the environment and the length of time it takes to play the game, while someone doing yard work may prefer a shorter cigar. Ask your customer questions to help guide them to the right cigars. Special occasions like weddings, birthdays, bar-b-q's, tailgating, and graduations are great opportunities where cigars are used to celebrate and punctuate special events.

The Weather

Weather is yet another factor which will influence cigar consumption. Shorter and more flavorful cigars may be better for cold weather because fuller flavor translates better in colder air - cold air can desensitize the palate and olfactory senses. Shorter sizes also make better sense for people who have to smoke outside in cold weather.

The Dog Walker

Dog Walker is a relatively new term to describe smaller/shorter cigars which are ideal for the short amount of time it takes to walk a dog.

Cigars For Friends

Cigars make great gifts and friends love receiving cigars! Most people smoke socially and to celebrate special occasions, but cigars also act as a punctuation that can make any occasion special. Many tobacconists recommend smoking the same cigars as your friends because it helps to talk about what you are tasting, share notes, and learn in the process. Smoking cigars with friends can be enriching and educational.

Women Cigar Smokers

Do not assume women want smaller and daintier cigars. Male and female palates and taste are not different. Although women make up a much smaller percentage of cigar smokers, it is important not to assume they want more 'feminine' products. As with men, when servicing women, it is appropriate to ask what vitola (length and ring gauge) they will find comfortable in their hands and mouth, but it is inappropriate to assume anything about their flavor preferences.


Weddings are a tremendous opportunity to sell and consume cigars. They are also an excellent opportunity to promote the retail tobacconist's business with branded matches, cigar cutters, bags, and nicely packaged products. It is always nicer to package cigars in left over cigar boxes with matches than to throw a messy bag of cigars on a table. When buying or selling cigars for a wedding, unless otherwise instructed, it is best to play it safe with milder cigars.

Food & Beverage

Pairing food, beverages and cigars is the ultimate opportunity to enhance your customer's experience and promote loyalty to your business. The right pairings make everything taste better!

Cigars pair well with coffee, tea, beers, scotch, bourbon, rye, port, brandy, wine, and many clear spirits. In general, sour cocktails pair less well with cigars, but if that is your customer's preference, then who are we to disagree? As we learned in Taste College, taste is subjective!

The simplest approach to pairing cigars with beverages and food is to match the body of the cigar with the body of the food and beverage.

Light bodied and milder strength cigars will pair well with less acidic white wines, younger reds, creamy liquors, and pilsner and lager beers.

Medium bodied cigars pair well with Lowland, Speyside, Irish and blended whiskies (less peaty), many rums, bourbons, ryes, ports, some fuller bodied red wines, and some ales, lagers and IPA beers.

Fuller bodied and spicier cigars may need fuller bodied beverages to hold up on the palate. A cigar that is too flavorful will mask the beverage, or vice versa. These cigars pair well with peaty Islay and heavier scotches, spiced rums, and stouts, porters, and bock beers.

Cautionary Note: Cigar Wrapper color/shades do not necessarily tell the story of how flavorful or spicy a cigar may be. While generally lighter colored wrappers may reflect a lighter flavored cigar, this is not always the case. And some darker wrapper cigars can also be deceptive and actually be mild in flavor. Maduro cigars that have been fermented longer to be darker and sweeter will pair well with sweeter beverages and foods.

Flavor Pairing Theory

If you taste hints of chocolate, nuts, spices, wood, leather, or vegetal traits in a food or beverage then those same perceptions can be picked up from a cigar. Pairing similar food and beverage flavors together with cigars is the traditional way to pair well. We call this process of pairing like things together Like Pairing. Conversely, you can pair dissimilar things together that interplay, contrast, and enhance each other: think of peanut butter and chocolate, or grilled cheese and tomato soup. We call this Contrast Pairing. Both methods are valid, a little subjective, and a great way to experiment and enhance your appreciation of the organoleptic delicacies you are tasting.

Cigar Pairing

Certified R&D Tobacconists: United States

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R&D Cigar DealerR&D Cigar Dealer
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Roberto Molina, CRTHabana Port Cigar Merchants
Metarie, LA - United States
(503) 324-6462

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Jamar Small, CRTOld Virginia Tobacco Co.
Woodbridge, VA - United States
(703) 492-2260

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Robert Grand, CRTMayan Import Company
New Orleans, LA - United States
(540) 568-1003

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