Best Cigars to Pair on National Tequila Day 2020
On July 24, the world will celebrate National Tequila Day. It sounds like it is going to be a rowdy celebration, at least with my past experiences with this libation.
While many people are only acquainted with this drink in the form of a quick shot or a margarita, tequila actually has a storied past and many different, high-end variations.
Today we are going to examine the history of tequila as well as the different varieties. On top of that, we are going to look into some great cigar and tequila pairings to help you enhance your experience with this fiery and popular spirit.
The History of Tequila
The birth of tequila can be traced back to before the 16th century before any European explorers arrived on the shores of Mexico.
Indigenous tribes would ferment the agave plant, mostly grown outside the city we know now as Tequila. When the conquistadors arrived during the 16th century, they brought with them their own drinks, such as brandy and other European sprits.
However, their supply was limited, and once they would run out, they had to look towards their surroundings to fulfill their needs. They learned to ferment the popular agave plant during this time, and the tequila we know of today was born.
The first mass production of the drink took place around 1600, and a few years later the King of Spain gave the Cuervo family the first license to officially produce tequila.
To learn a more detailed history of tequila, feel free to check out this article from a few years back.
Like cigars, tequila comes in a variety of different styles. While cigar varieties are determined by different tobaccos, tequila is quite different. There are only two different tequila varieties when it comes to ingredients. There is Mixtos, which is a blend of agave and other forms of sugar, and there is 100% agave tequila, which is seen as more high-end.
While looking at one of the varieties, these can further be broken down into subcategories. These distinctions are based upon the aging and fermentation process, which can create unique flavors. Let us take a look at the four major tequila varieties based upon these criteria.
Blanco Tequila is the most basic, and in my opinion roughest variety of 100% agave-based tequila. Blanco gets its name from its clear complexion, looking more like a gin or vodka then your typical tequila.
It is the least aged of all the major tequila varieties. It usually bottled right after distillation. If it is aged, it is only for a few months and usually in a stainless steel barrel. This process gives the Blanco a more unrefined yet complex profile.
Since many of the flavors didn’t have time to ferment or mature out, the flavor profile of a Blanco is usually pretty hefty. Some popular brands like Espolon make a popular Blanco variety.
Due to its profile and intensity, a Blanco is best often paired with something strong and flavorful. This is so neither the cigar nor the tequila overpowers each other.
Most Blanco tequilas have a good amount of spice to it, so matching it up with a robust, spicy smoke should work out wonderfully. I would go with a nice, full-bodied Nicaraguan, like the Undercrown Sun Grown or the Alec Bradley Black Market Esteli.
This type of tequila literally means rested. Resposado is aged for a minimum of two months, usually in an oak barrel. This makes it much smoother and more refined than a Blanco, while still offering up a great amount of flavor.
Due to its long aging time and the use of wood barrels, Resposados start to change color, giving it the darker, an almost yellow hue that many tequila drinkers recognize. One of my favorites is the Casamigos Resposado. It is aged for seven months in American oak barrels that previously housed whiskey.
As stated above, a Resposado is much smoother, yet still has a wide array of distinct flavor notes. For the Casamigos, you are looking at hints of vanilla and caramel due to the age in whiskey barrels. I would go with a medium body smoke, something smooth with rich notes. An Ashton Aged Maduro or a Fratello Navetta Inverso would be perfect.
This is where we start getting into the upper echelon of the tequila world. Anejo, which any cigar smoker knows means aged, is tequila that is aged for over a year but less than three years in small wood barrels.
The gold color really begins to shine with this variety, as well as an abundance of flavors. The Cazadores Tequila Anejo is a popular choice with great color and aroma as well as a smooth and complex profile.
For an Anejo tequila, you want something smooth but with a little body to it. The extended aging in the wood barrels is going to give you notes of pepper and spice along with a dash of oak as well.
Oddly enough, the perfect cigar for an Anejo tequila is an Anejo cigar. The new H.Upmann Anejo uses tobaccos aged for up to five years. It is the perfect combination of smooth and flavorful with rich notes of chocolate along with a dash of cedar, spice, and leather.
This variety was actually only officially established in 2006. Extra Anejo tequila is the high-end sipping tequila that is popular today amongst connoisseurs. The tequila is aged for no less than three years using a variety of wooden barrels.
This gives it a deep, dark color, similar to whiskey. In fact, Extra Anejo is a great tequila for a whiskey drinker, as it shares many characteristics. The perfect example, in my experience at least, is the Patron Extra Anejo.
Aged for several years in American, French and Hungarian barrels, this tequila is incredibly smooth and offers up fruit notes as well as hints of vanilla, oak, and dried fruit. For an Extra Anejo, you need an extra special cigar. Something that is rich and bold yet subtle and smooth.
I would go for a higher-end Maduro, something like the Sin Comprimiso or La Coalicion from Crowned Heads. The darker wrapper will offer you similar notes of dark fruit and sweetness while the aged tobaccos provide a smooth, creamy finish.