Bourbon Heritage and Cigars
On May 4th, 1964, Congress designated bourbon as a distinctive product of the United States. Nearly 60 years later, it remains the only spirit produced in the United States to enjoy this type of protection. This day is known as Bourbon Independence Day, a day to celebrate a spirit made of at least 51% corn, aged in new charred oak containers, not necessarily barrels, and distilled no more than 160 proof. However, looking at the title of this article, you’ll know that this isn’t the topic of discussion. We aren’t here to talk about what makes a bourbon, or Bourbon Independence Day, for that matter.
So why is this important? In 2007, Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Representative Rick Boucher of Virginia introduced concurrent resolutions in both the Senate and House of Representatives seeking to have the month of September designated as “National Bourbon Heritage Month” to celebrate America’s native distinctive spirit. On August 2, 2007, President George W. Bush signed the resolution into law; thus, September officially became Bourbon Heritage Month.
Okay great! We have a month, signed into law, designated to celebrate Bourbon. What does this have to do with Cigars, and what does this mean to me?
Okay, let’s get to the latter question first.
September is the month of events, festivals, promotions, and releases. This past weekend, at the time of this writing, two big Bourbon Festivals wrapped up. Many distilleries throughout the country offer limited releases, tours, custom cocktails, and so much more, all to celebrate the heritage of America’s spirit. Many restaurants will create bourbon-themed dinners and food pairing events, where chefs will create dishes specifically to complement the various flavors found in a specific bourbon. You may find bars offering tastings to sample bourbons you may not otherwise have the opportunity to try.
Bourbon and cigars have a long history together, often linked to social gatherings, leisure, and times of relaxation. The pairing of cigars and bourbon has been popular from various walks of life, including celebrities, businessmen and women, politicians, blue-collar workers, and writers across the country. Politicians have often indulged in cigars during meetings and negotiations to symbolize camaraderie. Celebrities, including sports, actors, and actresses, have been known to enjoy bourbons and cigars, as evident in photographs, magazines, and movies. The cultural references of cigars and bourbons is one of luxury and indulgence and have been romanticized in all art forms.
When pairing a cigar with a bourbon, consider the flavors in both the bourbon and the cigar and look for a marrying of flavors where each will enhance the other. Or you could choose a pairing that is more of a contrasting style of pairing, where a wheated bourbon would smooth the peppery spices from the cigar, or vice-versa.
Ultimately, pairing bourbon and cigars is a matter of personal taste and preference. It is an experience many enjoy, either for the pleasures it offers when the notes come together or for the social aspects associated with the pairings. Whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or a newcomer, exploring the pairings can be a way of discovering your palate and the many options available when you bring a cigar and a bourbon together.