The Art of Pairing:
“It is Good for Kinsmen To Do So”
by Reuben Ndjerareou
In the West, there is an art to almost everything. Almost everything has an art form highlighting people’s skills, talents, and gifts. Furthermore, art must be aesthetic to the five senses (smell, touch, hearing, sight, and taste). This standard has led to phenomenal and creative experiences. These experiences come in the form of different types of car clubs that take immense pride in caring for and being knowledgeable about their vehicles. You can find these experiences in dog show competitions. The dogs are groomed, trained, and exhibited to highlight their owner’s profound care and love. These experiences of remarkable creativity are pronounced in food preparation, presentation, and consumption. Countless TV shows, restaurants, businesses, and the like cater to the palate of humanity, our kinsmen-ship. Whatever the industry or interest, for a holistic human experience, there is some type of art form.
Pairing is an art form. Pairing is a term that covers a wide range of things. The Oxford Dictionary defines pairing as “the arrangement or match resulting from organizing or forming people or things into pairs.” This action of any pairing must be deliberate and identifiable, but most importantly, it must appeal to the five senses, especially taste, smell, and sight. I want to share two examples of pairings with cigars.
Dave Yancy, aka Greybeard, is a connoisseur and aficionado of cigar and whisky pairings. I had the privilege to see Greybeard in action as he educated a few of us on properly drinking your whiskey neat. I mentioned to him that when I drink whiskey, it is always hot and burns in my esophagus as it goes down. Greybeards smiled and stroked his long white beard like an elder Stateman. He stated, “The main reason whiskey will “drink hot” is not because of the spice but rather because of the alcohol itself. To drink your whiskey neat, it is recommended that you acclimate your system to ethanol.” It was the first time I had heard why whiskey burned so much. Furthermore, Greybeard showed how to ease whiskey’s burn. When you are not worried about the burn, “This will allow the taster to enjoy all of the flavors of the whiskey.” One must first understand the basic “behavior” of whiskey. I have learned that this is essential to truly enjoy the full experience of pairing any strong drink with a cigar.
Jeremiah Sutton is enthusiastic about wine and cigar pairing. Sutton is knowledgeable about wines and pairs his knowledge of wines with a compelling visual presentation. Even how he pours the wine into a glass has an art form. You must pour slowly and, in the end, twist your forearm gently while lifting up the bottle to stop the flow. This prevents wine droplets from forming and sliding down the side of the bottle. Wow, that was cool to learn! Furthermore, Sutton points out that you do not have to purchase expensive wines to truly have a great wine experience. Hearing Sutton explain a particular wine’s ingredients, origins, and process is like listening to a haiku poem – “…haiku poems are meant to invoke a particular instance or mood.”
I share my experiences with Greybeard and Sutton because they gave me the tools to enjoy my favorite pairing with cigars and coffee. I really enjoy coffee. Like whiskey and wine, coffee has unique blends and origins stories. There are cupping events to acclimate your palate to different coffees. There are coffee competitions that bring coffee connoisseurs from all over the world. There is some consensus on coffee methodology in the process, preparation, and presentation. However, consumers have their preferences, and that must be respected. Coffee roasting is an aspect of coffee culture that I have found to be talked about a lot. The coffee roasting process is delicate and must be done with extreme care, but most of all, it must be done with love. Isn’t that what we all seek in our experiences, LOVE?
At the same time, I entered the cigar culture; I also joined the coffee culture. The cigar and coffee cultures share many similarities. The pairing of the coffee culture and cigar culture seems natural to me. First, people in both groups will always talk about the culture, culture, culture! They talk about the culture of hospitality. Having asked many people what attracted them to the cigar culture. It is not cigars. It was the hospitality, the immense sense of being welcomed. Second, there is no judgment. Every person has his/her favorite cigar; some have several favorite cigars. Yes, there is sometimes a consensus on what is a better-quality cigar. This is the same for poorly made cigars. There is robust discussion and debate on why one cigar may be better than another. However, the point of discussion and debate is to learn and appreciate why somebody smokes what he/she smokes—respect people’s cigar choices.
Additionally, this choice extends to what type of cut someone prefers (v-cut, straight cut, hole punch). Yes, the type of cut affects the draw, and particular cigars smoke better because of the cut. However, the simple unspoken rule is that you make your recommendations and the reasons for them. Then you sit back and enjoy each other’s company, friendship, and kinsmen-ship. Finally, cigars are referred to as the great equalizer. Regardless of the cigar you can afford, you are equal among your peers. When you are not holding a cigar, people are quick to offer you a cigar. You are part of the tribe. We get together for the cigars, stay together for the fellowship, and come back because of the love.
Whether it is whiskey, wine, or coffee, the common pairing denominator is a cigar. Pairing is an artistic experience. It is an experience that excites, rejuvenates, and collaborates the five senses. Pairing is a relationship. It is a relationship between two things that independently are already good and make them better. Pairing is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to experiment with new things. Pairing is a culture. It is a culture that allows you the freedom to enjoy what you enjoy without judgment. It is a culture of Kinsmen, the art of getting together regularly because it is essential.