For you bourbon enthusiasts out there, the name Pappy Van Winkle usually produces two responses; The first is that of utter joy as your mind thinks to that wonderful wheated bourbon flavor… but that is quickly turned to sadness by the fact that you can’t find a bottle to purchase. To say that Pappy Van Winkle bourbon is a hard find would be the understatement of the year.
You have to win a lottery just to earn the shot at buying one for goodness sake. (Our Bourbon Lottery is good place to start.)
Well, I am here to say that the new Pappy Van Winkle cigar, which is a collaborative effort between the Van Winkles and Drew Estate, might be a little harder to purchase. Now I don’t usually review cigars that you can’t find at one of our many locations but I felt that the uniqueness and buzz that this new product is generating was worth a few lines.
When news of this cigar was first published I am certain that there were many who believed that this was just a marketing thing (slapping the Pappy name on another product would make it sell like crazy, right?). I can almost guarantee that most of those folks have changed their mind if they have smoked one of these cigars.
Jonathon Drew is a segment creator. Whether it was his Acid line, Tabak, and most recently KFC, Mr. Drew is famous for bringing products to market that folks don’t know they want yet. This is a little different because of the hysteria that a product like Pappy generates, but that doesn’t guarantee success because in the end the cigar has to be good.
Visually, the cigar really gets you excited. The wrapper is comprised of two leaves with San Andres covering the cigar but the top portion from the cigar band up being a darker Kentucky “tapa negra” style cap. The two contrasting colors are met in the middle by the highly identifiable Pappy Van Winkle label.
It looks great but how does it taste? I absolutely loved it. The thing that amazed me the most about this cigar is how much the smell of the tobacco doesn’t translate to the flavor of the smoke. This cigar undoubtedly has some fire-cured tobacco in it because you can smell it right away. But when you light the cigar the heavy smoky flavors are muted and give way to sweeter, vanilla notes that one would expect to come from a bourbon barrel. This obviously comes from that sweet cap that was fermented in a bourbon barrel, and it’s amazing how much influence a small leaf can have. If you are not a fan of the Kentucky Fire Cured cigars because of their bold smoky flavor, then this cigar (if you can get your hands on it) is for you.
I paired the cigar with a glass of Pappy Van Winkle 12 year old bourbon and the two were absolutely perfect together. Now the charred oak, charcoal flavor is there but it doesn’t over power the experience. I also detected some spice notes as well including cinnamon and nutmeg. I would rate the overall strength of the cigar to be medium and the robusto took me just over an hour to smoke.
If you want to give this one a try it can only be ordered on the Pappy Van Winkles website right now. I’m not sure if or when it will be available in stores but you can guarantee that if it does become available we’ll have it.
Chris Gwaltney, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits category manager: premium cigars and craft beer
Follow me on twitter @ABCcigarChris