As mentioned last week when my review of the Toscano Stilnovo was published, I saved the second half of my review stick to pair with some Lagavulin that was recently gifted to me (not the full bottle, unfortunately, but I’ll take what I can get!).
For details on the cigar, please refer to my review. Lagavulin is a single malt Scotch whisky from Islam, an island off the coast of Scotland where the whisky is known for being highly peated. For those not familiar with the process, workers go out into the peat bogs and cut bricks of decomposing plant matter which are dried out. Scotch is made from barley. They spread the barley around the wooden floor of a building, then spray it with water to make it sprout—which they call malting. Then fires are made using the peat bricks as fuel and the smoke drifts up through the floor, killing the malted barley, which is then taken to brew and distill. Heavily peated Scotches are smoky and pungent, turning some people off. The first Scotch I ever had was Laphroiag—another Islay product—and it became my standard for what Scotch should taste like.
This Lagavulin is aged for 16 years and weighs in at 86 proof, or 43% alcohol by volume.
It took a minute to get the Stilnovo lit, even with its small ring gauge. Once going, though, I got the familiar notes of hardwood smokiness along with a little sweetness and earthiness.
The Lagavulin is almost syrupy thick and brings its own level of smoky sweetness to the party. Not as smoky as other Islay whiskies I’ve had, but sweeter, which is a nice change. Despite the smokiness, it was smooth until the alcohol vapors hit my throat, which was a tiny bit harsh. It mixed really well, though, with the woody smoke flavors of the cigar.
While Islay whiskies have remained my favorite Scotches over the last 25 years or so, I’ve struggled to find cigars that pair with them. The peat flavor just tends to stomp all over most blends. This European pairing, though, was fantastic with smoky woodiness all over the place and enough sweetness from each component to make it more interesting. Neither cigar nor whisky will be for everyone, but if one is…try it with the other.