Whisky & Culture

Searching for perfection

perfection The Whisky & Cigar Challenge matches a premium whisky with a premium Cuban cigar to produce the perfect match
By Dominic Roskrow
It took hundreds of judges, three tasting sessions and events in Glasgow and Havana to do it, but the judges in this year’s Whisky & Cigar Challenge, hosted by Whisky Magazine, Habanos SA and London restaurant Boisdale, reckon that this year’s winning combination is the
perfect match.The partnership between Scotland and Cuba through two of the world’s finest products – whisky and cigars – is now in its second year, and this time around a first tasting involving retailers, whisky experts and cigar experts was held in Glasgow. From four separate flights eight whiskies were selected and taken to Havana.There, as part of the Cuban Cigar Festival the list of eight was whittled down to just two.And then, in a final tasting involving 250 tasters, a final combination was chosen. The winner was The Macallan Cask Strength and Partagas Paramides.Commenting on the results, Whisky Magazine’s managing director Damian Riley-Smith said that it would be hard to find a more perfect matching.“All the whiskies entered in this year’s event were put forward because they worked well with cigars, and there were no mismatches at all,” he said.“To stand out in this company takes some doing and undoubtedly both the final two pairings were exceptional. The deserved winner was The Macallan, though, and most judges agreed that it made a perfect match to a good Cuban cigar.”Finest combination: The Macallan Cask Strength and Partagas PiramidesWhat the judges said:“A great dessert combination.”“Avery dangerous combination – a glass full of this whisky, a fantastic cigar and perhaps a beautiful woman – who could want more?”“Excellent – the best of the day,”“Superb balance in flavour and strength.”Highly recommended: Chieftain’s Cigar Malt and Partagas PiramidesWhat the judges said:“Big spicy flavours with plenty of bite –and coming back to it underlines its superiority.”“An evening combination by the fireplace.”The other recommended combinations Aberlour a’bunadh and Partagas Piramides“Fantastic strong sherry flavours combine so well with the strong, confident cigar.”Auchentoshan Three Wood and Montecristo No.2“A pleasing combination with the cigar smoke cooling the whisky.”Cutty Sark Aged 25 Years and Montecristo No. 2“Intense and complex flavour, rich and with wonderfully different aromas – the combination is fantastic.”The Dalmore Special Cask Strength Aged 30 Years and Partagas Piramides“The strong, peaty flavour of the whisky combines very well with the complex, spicy and dark chocolate flavours of the cigar.”Hart Brothers Glen Grant Distillery Aged 29 Years and Partagas Piramides“A marriage made in Havana – amber, strong and powerful – great balance.”Whyte and Mackay Masters Reserve 21 Year Old and Montecristo No. 2“The great sensation of caramel and chocolate mixed with the overlaying of the light cigar.” 
Whiskies tastedAberlour a’bunadh
Ardbeg Uigeadail
Auchentoshan Three Wood
Balvenie 21 Year Old
Black Bottle 10
Bowmore Darkest
Chieftains Cigar Malt
Cutty Sark 25 Year Old
The Dalmore 30 Year Old Highland Malt
Gonzalez Byass Finish
The Dalmore Cigar Malt
Dewars 12 Year Old Special Reserve
Glen Grant 29 Year Old
Glenfiddich 30 Year Old
Glenmorangie Malaga Wood Finish
The Glenrothes 1973 Vintage
Grants 18 Year Old
Highland Park 12 Year Old
Highland Park 18 Year Old
Peerless Glen Grant 33 Year Old
The Glenlivet 18 Year Old
The Macallan 1876
The Macallan Cask Strength
Whyte and Mackay 21 Year Old
Whyte and Mackay 30 Year OldShortlisted whiskiesAberlour a’bunadh, 59.8%
Auchentoshan Three Wood, 43%
Chieftain’s Cigar Malt Aged 13 Years, 50%
Cutty Sark Aged 25 Years, 45.7%
The Dalmore Special Cask Strength, 42%
Hart Brothers Glen Grant Distillery Aged 29 Years, 53.6%
The Macallan Cask Strength, 57.4%
Whyte and Mackay Masters Reserve 21 Year Old, 43%Tasted withMontecristo No 2
Partagas Piramides