Whiskey Tasting and Cigar “Pairing” – San Jose

I know very little about whiskey other than the fact that I love the good stuff. Throwing $40+ for a fifth that I’ve never before tried has always scared me a bit. This is one of the reasons why I chose to treat myself to a whiskey tasting event. Each ticket came with one whiskey-themed class, so of course I went with the Cigar and Whiskey Pairing Seminar.

After chugging a Red Bull on the sidewalk in front of the hotel (I had slept one hour in the previous thirty six), I entered and made my way to a large room already full of thirsty patrons. My first stop was the Do Good Distillery booth. Originally hailing from Modesto myself, I have often visited their HQ and have done a cigar and whiskey pairing video with them. Local affiliation aside, they make some great spirits. I recommend the Cherry Wood Smoked Whiskey.

Rye is my go-to. However, I wanted to find out if there were any scotches or Irish whiskies that would interest me since most of my experience in those categories comes from pounding Johnny Walker Red Label and Jameson at frat parties – I mean fraternity parties. I dug the West Cork Bourbon Cask Irish whiskey. Smooth and affordable. Scotch-wise, I ended up splurging on a bottle of Highland Park Full Volume. It wasn’t too peaty and had a nutty-vanilla finish. Also, the box resembled a guitar amplifier so it was just screaming my name. Finally, I picked up some rye by FEW. With a full stomach, liver in overdrive, and an empty wallet, I headed toward the cigar patio.

Why? Why did they need to have obnoxious “cigar babes” handing out the cigars for the evening? There are plenty of knowledgeable sisters of the leaf out there. I understand the marketing aspect of it, but these women were plain annoying. One was on her phone for most of the night while the other was running up to old dudes and asking them to take pictures with her.  Pursed lips, stomach in, chest out, and eyes that said, “please give me attention and/or an invite to your yacht parties.” You get the picture. The cigars for the evening were from a small company (that I shall not name) and the master blender was rolling fresh cigars at a table so everyone could see the skill and care that goes into each one.

Whiskies of the World

After smoking half of the dried out cigar that was given to me, I chucked it and pulled out a Serino Maduro XX. I can’t remember the whiskey that was poured (not due to whiskey consumption), but I was disappointed that they never talked about the reason for the pairing or even the tasting notes that you might expect to pick up. A gentlemen sitting near me called for one of the girls to re-light his cigar since they were equipped with flame thrower type lighters that appeared to be turned up to 11. I quickly slid him my lighter because I didn’t want to risk losing an eyebrow. One guy to my right mumbled under his breath to his companions, “This isn’t a great cigar.” He wasn’t wrong.

(Trigger Warning: Infused Cigars)

I overheard a different group recommending Javas and Acids to each other. I cringed so hard it sobered me up. As I weaved my way to the corner of the patio, I realized that even though most of they guys at the seminar had different (read: garbage) tastes in cigars, everyone was having an awesome time. Snobbery aside, that’s what social cigar smoking is all about and I can’t knock it. I poured another glass for myself and enjoyed the rest of my evening.

I’m not a fan of sappy endings. When I got home, I filed the extra cigar that was given to me into the trash can. The end.


Dom Cipponeri

Contributor at CigarNoise.com
Dom is also the founder of Cigar Analogies - an obscure review format that stems from his love of chickens, rock 'n' roll, and, of course, analogies.