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Cigar Pairing: Perdomo Stout & Imperial Chocolate Stout

Cigar Pairing: Perdomo Stout & Imperial Chocolate Stout
3 years ago No comments

Spend any time around cigar fanatics or lurking on stogie-related internet forums and the discussion will inevitably turn to favorite beverage pairings. Tradition dictates that heated debate over the merits of whiskey vs. coffee will start 1.4 seconds after the question is raised until cooler heads prevail and agree that whiskey in the coffee is a good compromise. There will be some confusion over whether pairing with wine is ever possible, plain or sparkling water will make a surprisingly strong showing, Dr. Pepper will be mentioned, and then there will be that one guy who insists that milk is the best smoking accompaniment ever and you won’t be quite sure if he’s pulling your leg or not.

With all these choices, however, comes the additional task of trying to figure out which type of cigar pairs best with what drink. Does Bourbon go better with Nicaraguan or Dominican cigars? Should I smoke a Maduro when I drink black coffee and a shade-grown when I add cream? Is a Habano wrapper the best choice if I am drinking rum and cola or should I light up a spicy Cameroon? What if I only have milk in the fridge and a Candela in my humidor, is the world about to end?

It comes as no shock that some pairings just don’t work. There’s a previous review of mine where a bitter, hoppy pale ale so conflicted with the cigar’s profile it nearly derailed the whole thing. That was not an isolated event, either. With the explosion of craft breweries and the near-overwhelming variety of ales and lagers to choose from, I have had to be more careful when pairing a fine handmade with beer. Such is why I found the Perdomo Craft series so intriguing. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I can’t recall any other cigar being blended for a specific beverage, and here we have three styles made specifically to go with my favorite, yet most difficult to pair with, sudsy beverage.

I was wary at the same time, however. If you read Perdomo’s ad copy for each of the cigars, it seems as though the main criteria for pairing is choosing the beer that is the closest in color to the cigar. A light-colored beer like lagers and Belgian Witbier go with the shade-covered Pilsner, the ruddy Amber cigar is best for darker Märzens and IPAs, while the Maduro-coated Stout is recommended for, well, stouts. It smacks of a gimmick. Then, while noticing a Perdomo Stout resting happily in my humidor and wondering what to do with it, I happened across a 9.6% ABV imperial chocolate stout from Foothills Brewing at my local growler filling station. It was then that I decided for the sake of science and the enlightenment of you wise readers, the time had come to test Nick Perdomo’s claim.

The cigar itself presents all the hallmarks of quality for which Perdomo is well known. Solidly constructed and carrying the scent of leather and fine tobacco, the cold draw offers the promise of a nice draw and tastes of baker’s cocoa powder, which contrasts perfectly with the exploratory sip of the viscous, dark, and rather sweet liquid in my goblet. Lighting easily, I take slow pulls off the stick to gauge the profile before taking another taste of the ale. My first impression is of a tart sourness which worries me at first, but I’m pleased to report this very soon turns into a delicious sourdough toast flavor on exhale. There’s also a wealth of oak, earth, and black pepper, but none of the sweetness commonly ascribed to Maduros. I take this as a good sign. With the beer as syrupy as it is, I am going to need something to keep my palate from becoming overwhelmed.

Time for another drink to see if the Perdomo Stout can compete with such a potent elixir. Wow! OK, so the rich sweetness of the beer is masked by the toastiness of the smoke, turning the chocolate from mild to dark. Almost like a 70% cocoa candy bar. This is exciting. After the quaff, a few more mouthfuls of creamy smoke reveal…hints of vanilla! There’s also some graham cracker goodness that fades slowly on the tongue. Sip…Puff…Sip…Puff… The base malt is starting to shine through from behind the more bitter toasted barley that was used to create the wickedly black color of the beer. The cigar is tempering the sweetness of the beer, while the stout is bringing out the sweetness originally missing from the stogie’s profile. I am impressed.

I get caught up the moment, and it seems a long while before the ash reaches an inch, but when it finally does, it is a little precarious, so I tap it off. The strength is a solid medium, and I don’t think the high gravity of the beer is causing me to underestimate it. The profile seems to have settled in, not amazingly complex or ever-changing, but that is good. A lot is going on with the beer, and I do not want a competition, just a steady companion. The burn is somewhat rugged, but I’m blaming a small tear in the wrapper. I will give it a chance to correct before breaking out the lighter.

This pairing seriously works, and it makes me want to smoke and drink, so I’m making the second pour into the glass at the start of the second third of the Perdomo. My insulated stainless growler has kept the ale at draught temperature, which is nice and cool but not so cold that it masks the flavor. Instead, I’m now picking up the distinctive taste of dark cherry in both beer and cigar. How fortuitous since I was beginning to think the profile was done evolving. As you will notice, the burn does straighten out without my assistance so add that to the list of positives.

Not much to report for the rest of the delicious experience other than finding another tear in the Perdomo that I think may affect the burning again. I keep my main humidor at 65% humidity, and I think this might be too dry for this particular style. Also, the wrapper does seem thin. The burn does get a bit wonky but works itself out again. As I approach the nub, the robust stout helps fight some late-stage bitterness in the cigar and extends my smoking time at least 30 minutes. This extra time allows for a nice buzz to develop.

Final verdict: This is a match I would not hesitate to recommend. It was easily one of the most complimentary pairings I have ever found, and that’s saying a lot because smoking and drinking is one of my favorite pastimes. However, I’m skeptical that the Perdomo Stout would be a good fit with the more common Irish stouts like Guinness. However, it’s a fine Maduro regardless of what you are drinking so feel free to experiment and let me know.


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