Bathing in Booze: The Best Barrel Aged Cigars
Time to read 6 min
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Time to read 6 min
Cigars and booze go together so well that, instead of pairing up smoke and a drink, some romantic cigar makers have gone so far as to simply marry the two into one single experience: the barrel-aged cigar. The best barrel-aged cigars bring a special flavor to the tobacco that might be a little different than you’re expecting. The cigars are NOT lowered into a barrel full of spirits or wine. Instead, they’re aged in dry barrels that were once used for storing alcohol, but have been retired. (Going dry in retirement sounds sad, doesn’t it? If anything, one should find a few extra opportunities for drinking in the golden years… but we digress.)
So, the cigars spend time in alcohol barrels. It could be months or years, depending on the cigar maker. And there are tons of different choices for the booze, which we’ll get into below. Scotch, bourbon, rum, wine… if it comes in a barrel, adventurous cigar makers will try aging their tobacco in its luxurious afterglow.
There are some companies that go a step further and really infuse sticks with alcohol. Gurkha His Majesty's Reserve, Drew Estate ACID One, and Victor Sinclair Shots all come to mind. But the story of the best alcohol-infused cigars is a story for another day.
Without further ado, below are a few of our selections for some of the best barrel-aged cigars on the market. They don’t exactly taste like the spirits they’re related to, but they offer delicious toasty, woody, or other notes that will bring you right back to the barrel that birthed them.
Let’s lead out with one of the industry champions of this process. The Perdomo family long ago went all in on the idea of barrel-aging cigars and tobacco, to great effect. Their “champagne” wrapper is known around the world for its outstanding flavor – especially in the 10th Anniversary blend.
Of course, as you already know, it’s aged in champ- wait… it’s aged in BOURBON barrels? Why do they call it the “champagne?” Well, as the story goes, Nick Perdomo, Sr. described it that way and the name stuck. So, here we are.
The blend is Nicaraguan tobacco wrapped in a bright blonde Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf. Spice, oak, and honey all come together for a smooth and incredibly enjoyable smoke that people have been loving for a very long time.
Bourbon barrels, for the win.
Cohiba Macassar is named after a kind of ebony wood grown in Indonesia that is used to make many sleek humidors. Inside those humidors, you’ll need a nice tobacco blend, right? Cohiba is bravely stepping up to meet your needs, here.
The Cohiba Macassar uses a Connecticut habano wrapper, a feisty Connecticut broadleaf binder, and a long-filler blend from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Nicaragua. This interior blend undergoes four years of patient aging, and then things get interesting, because the final phase of the tobacco working schedule is to spend a year inside Dominican rum barrels. After all is said and done, you get a cigar with a flavor profile that includes fun spice and fruit notes, along with wood and wholesome wheat. You’re probably not going to be able to resist the urge to pair this one with a beautiful Dominican sipping rum, but if your cabinet goes dry, the cigar itself will do its best to bring you a memory of that experience.
This one not only features barrel fermented tobacco, but tobacco that is treated using a process commonly reserved for pipe tobacco. Drew Estate knows how to keep things interesting and super flavorful, and so this stogie from the Pappy Van Winkle series is yet another rich example of the flair we’ve come to love them for.
It’s all about the wrapper. Well, there’s actually a dual wrapper. The base leaf is earthy, pepper Mexican San Andrés. The “tapa negra” (“black cap”) leaf that is then placed around that is homegrown Kentucky tobacco. After two weeks of barn smoking, this leaf is shipped to St. James Parish in Louisiana for the perique treatment, which generally produces strong, fruity pipe tobacco. The tobacco for this cigar therefore is laid into Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels, covered in water, and pressed with railroad jacks.
During this process, the leaf breaks down and evolves into something aromatic and wonderful that fits in perfectly with the spicy, whiskey-inspired character of the cigar. The bar is set reasonably high for the best barrel-aged cigars, and Drew Estate’s Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented blend absolutely belongs in this group.
Man, everywhere you look Fuente is there, doing a fantastic job. If you’re tired of seeing them around every corner, just calm down and smoke one of their bomb blends. You’ll come around soon enough.
The Fuente Añejo was a bit of a recovery project. Hurricane Georges came along in 1998 and destroyed tobacco growing on Chateau de la Fuente farms. It would have been the wrapper on OpusX blends. In need of a substitute, Carlito Fuente could have simply slapped some Connecticut broadleaf on the sticks and called it a day. Probably would have been decent. But instead, he put the broadleaf in time out for nearly a year in oak cognac barrels, where it took on a wonderful new character.
The Fuente Añejo is hard to find, but worth every puff with flavors of cocoa, dark fruit, and licorice. Every cloud has a silver lining, even those that bring devastating hurricanes.
A.J. Fernandez, who plays a part in so many special blends, somehow also has time to invent new barrel aging processes. Perhaps it wasn’t that complicated for his Diesel Whiskey Row blend, but the fact that he had time to pull it off to his satisfaction while juggling all those other balls in the air makes us wonder when he finds time to sleep.
The tobacco for this blend comes of age in Rabbit Hole bourbon barrels. It’s a Mexican San Andrés binder that joins up with some seriously senior leaf in the form of the five-year aged Ecuadorian habano wrapper and the Nicaraguan long-fillers that have anywhere between five and eight years of age on them. It’s oaky, floral, spicy, and good enough to score above 90 points with the tastemakers of the world.
Whiskey Row is super popular, totally reliable, and without question one of the best barrel-aged cigars on the market. Don’t believe us? Just check out the hundreds of five-star ratings on these stories and you’ll see that this one needs absolutely no hype.
American-grown broadleaf and Maduro is a hearty blend, and Camacho always seems to be aiming for this type of unashamed personality in most of their cigars. They routinely offer spicy, bold smokes that are for a very particular type of cigar lover.
Stogies, ya know?
This American Barrel-Aged blend gets a special leaf thrown into the mix, too: six-year-old Corojo that was finished for months in charred oak bourbon barrels. The aromas and flavors are definitely in the campfire and wood-fired grill zone, and make it a really fun blend to light up.
You’re going to want a beer with this one. We’ll call out Bell’s Expedition Stout for dark sweetness to help counterbalance the spiced smoke.
Dark. Chocolatey. Woody. This last cigar on our list features tobacco that was aged in single-malt scotch casks. It’s just such a rich stick – perfect to reference the smoky legacy of a cigar smoker so famous that there’s forever going to be a size named after him.
The Late Hour combines a lot of flavorful tobacco, but you’re going to remember it for that dark, oily Ecuadorian wrapper. "To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day."
It took years to make the cigar. It will take you folks hours to burn it down. Here’s to Sir Winston, and one of the finest barrel-aged cigars on Earth.