Whiskey Barrel Coffee (whiskeybarrelcoffee.com) reached out to us to see if we would assist them in evaluating how their coffee pairs with cigars. I was very intrigued as whiskey and cigars are a fairly common pairing and coffee and cigars are another typical pairing. I was interested to see how this product that combined both of those drink aspects would pair with cigars.
A little bit about Whiskey Barrel Coffee: “At Whiskey Barrel Coffee, our passions influence everything we do. We believe that the true identity of an excellent cup of coffee comes from attention to detail throughout the entire process. No part of producing the perfect cup outshines another, and compromise is not a word we are willing to use when it comes to quality. True to our passion, we create small batch, hand crafted blends using the age-old art of green coffee melding, before manually slow roasting them in our vintage roaster.
We didn’t create Whiskey Barrel Coffee because we wanted another product to sell. Whiskey Barrel Coffee exists because we were searching for a distinct and unique experience that we were unable to find anywhere else. We wanted to combine our passions for coffee and bourbon whiskey in a way that would enhance the combined experience while staying to true to what makes each enjoyable on its own. We spared no expense in finding the highest quality ingredients and materials, and our process has been perfected over two years of dedicated testing and refining. Every step of the process is performed in a manner that offers the ultimate control, allowing us to ensure that every single bottle of Whiskey Barrel Coffee delivers the distinct experience we have worked tirelessly to perfect.”
I was sent two bottles of beans, the Light Roast and the Dark Roast. I chose to perform two cigar pairings with each roast. The first pairing for each roast would be with a cigar that I knew paired well with coffee. The second pairing for each roast would be with a cigar that I had not paired with coffee before, so that I could see how it would pair without having a previous coffee pairing experience.
Light Roast Pairing 1
The light roast was the first of the roasts I was going to try. I opened the bottle and was greeted with the wonderful aroma of the roasted full beans. I ground the beans and brewed the coffee. I chose to smoke a Romeo y Julieta (Non-Cuban) Viejo “E” with the coffee as it is one of my favorite cigars to pair with coffee in the morning. It is a mild to medium cigar so it works well as a cigar early in the day and the creamy profile lends itself to pairing with coffee.
For the first cup of coffee, I was drinking it black with no sweeteners added. I took a few sips before lighting up the cigar, just to get a feel for the coffee on its own. The light roast does carry a mellow flavor to it and there is not really any bitterness to note. With the coffee nice and hot, I do get a bit of the whiskey finish which for me is a bit of a tingling sensation on my tongue and roof of the mouth. It’s not an alcohol flavor, but actually the light whiskey flavor and experience.
Bringing the cigar into the mix, with its mild strength profile worked well with this light roast. The body of the coffee and the cigar are at about the same level, so one isn’t overpowering the other. When you make the transition from cigar to coffee or the other way around, it’s very complimentary. If you stick with the cigar for a couple of minutes for example, you’re not trying to search for that flavor over what was left from the coffee, each of them are able to come to the front when that is what you want to taste.
For the second cup of coffee, I added a little bit of milk and some agave syrup. I think this took too much away from the coffee itself and made it a very different experience. The creaminess from the coffee, was an easy transition to the cigar, but now the overall experience is about cream, and I would say not complex enough to be an interesting pairing. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the coffee, but to experience the full flavor and what EspressoSmith intended, I would say that with the light roast, keeping it black is the way to go. It may be ok if you want to add your sweetener of choice to it, but not too much.
Light Roast Pairing 2
With the second cigar to pair with the light roast, I went with the Quesada Jalapa Robusto. This is my first time smoking this cigar, so it will be interesting to see how it pairs with the coffee. I am drinking the coffee black for the first cup.
As the cigar starts, it has quite a bit of pepper. Taking a sip of coffee after a draw on the cigar really tames the pepper and is a nice transition. The pepper fades out of the cigar and become more woody which lessens the contrast with the coffee but still pairs well as you get a nice combo of the woody whisky nuance in the background. Nearing the midpoint of the cigar, it has become creamy which really complements the coffee.
For the second cup of coffee, I added a little agave syrup to it. The cigar has remained woody and creamy and with some sweetness from the coffee makes a nice combination. The whiskey finish adds a nice touch as well. The cigar has really mellowed out with the underlying creaminess being the primary attribute. This works well with the light roast of the coffee and works well with the coffee if it is sweetened or not.
Dark Roast Pairing 1
Opening up the bottle of dark roast, again, I was greeted by the aroma of the roasted full beans, this time with a much fuller and deeper aroma. I ground the beans and brewed the coffee. I chose to smoke a Joya de Nicaragua Antano Dark Corojo with the coffee. Normally I wouldn’t select this cigar to smoke early in the morning since it is typically referred to as a very full strength cigar, but I wanted something that I thought would stand up to a dark roast coffee, so I selected this to see how it would do.
For the first cup of coffee, I was drinking it black with no sweeteners added. I took a few sips before lighting up the cigar, just to get a feel for the coffee on its own. It has a deep, rich flavor to it with no bitterness. The whiskey finish is here in this roast as well, although there is quite a bit of delay, which is a nice touch. I get the coffee flavor right up front and for a good 2 to 3 seconds and then the whiskey finish comes in, which provides a long flavor experience with each sip.
Pairing this cigar with the coffee is a little different that the Romeo y Julieta and the Light Roast. In that pairing, the cigar had a very creamy profile which complimented the coffee in a no brainer pairing of coffee and cream. With this paring of the JdN and Dark Roast, the cigar has more of a spice profile to it, which does pair well with the coffee. Imagine two different scenarios of a spicy coffee and a spicy whiskey. To me, those are both enjoyable flavors. For the coffee, it reminds me of Mexican coffee if you’ve ever tried that, which adds some cinnamon spice to the coffee.
For the second cup of coffee, I added a little bit of milk and some agave syrup. This addition overmatched the Light Roast, but with the Dark Roast, it worked much better. The added sweetness was a nice touch. For those that enjoy sweetened coffee, this combination works well. With the deep and spicy flavors of the cigar, it creates a terrific pairing as well. The whiskey aftertaste is a bit muted in this form, but it is still there, and actually seems to present itself a little sooner.
Dark Roast Pairing 2
With the second cigar to pair with the dark roast, I went with the Padron 3000 Maduro. I am drinking the coffee black for the first cup. The cigar brings heavy wood flavors and a little spice on the retrohale. Taking a sip of coffee right after a draw on the cigar, the coffee cuts through the cigars flavor on the tongue all the way through the whiskey finish. Once the whiskey finish goes away, the woody flavors on my tongue come back. If I switch it up and take a sip of coffee first and then draw on the cigar after the whiskey finish subsides, the woody flavors are definitely there, but the retrohale is now more of cream than spice.
For the second cup of coffee, I added a little bit of almond milk. The almond milk added a little bit of creaminess to the initial coffee flavors, but felt that it caused the whiskey finish to be muted a little bit. The cigar has become really creamy and taking a sip of coffee after a draw is really a great pairing as the coffee really plays off the cigar. The cigar and coffee pairing continued in this same fashion the rest of the way and really provided a nice experience.
Overall, I found the coffee to be exceptional. It is a unique experience and if you enjoy both coffee and whiskey, then I would highly recommend that you seek some out. In regards to the pairings, they worked very well. I’m sure there are many more cigars that would work well pairing with the Whiskey Barrel Coffee, but as tastes are subjective, you will have to find out which ones work best for you. I tried to use some cigars that were readily accessible and have a fair amount of popularity so that if someone wanted to try these same pairings it would be easy to put together.
In addition to the Light and Dark Roasts, Whiskey Barrel Coffee also offers a decaf version, chocolate coated beans, classic coffee lines as well as coffee mugs and apparel. I highly recommend that you check out their site and pull the trigger on some of their coffee.