Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Bourbon, $199.99
The back story
Americans continue to love their bourbon and other domestic-made whiskeys. Sales have soared for the category in recent years, with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reporting that they reached nearly $5.1 billion in 2022.
Meanwhile, many Americans have also always loved a good cigar. And these days, they’re showing their appreciation more than ever. Imports of premium (or hand-rolled) cigars have grown from 330 million stogies in 2017 to 464.5 million in 2022, according to the Premium Cigar Association.
All of which makes a cigar-friendly bourbon a natural, no?
Indeed, Joseph Magnus, a Michigan-based distillery whose roots go back to the pre-prohibition era, has been selling such a bourbon (and a fairly high-end one) for the last few years. It’s released regularly in limited quantities and batches are typically gone fairly quickly, according to Matt Overway, production manager for the brand.
So, how do you craft a bourbon that pairs with a cigar? Overway says it’s all about having a sip that’s rich enough to stand up to those potent tobacco flavors.
Part of that is about the proof — meaning it needs be boozy enough to holds its own (the Cigar Blend we tried clocked in a fairly alcoholic 114 proof). But it’s also about aging the spirit to a certain maturity, so it should come as no surprise that Cigar Blend is a blend of whiskeys aged between roughly 10 to 18 years. Plus, the whiskey is finished in barrels that formerly held Armagnac, so the French brandy adds its own notes of sweet complexity to the mix, Overway explains.
What we think about it
I’m a cigar-loving whiskey drinker so I was especially curious about this one. To Overway’s point, it’s a big, bold bourbon that can easily meet the challenge of pairing with a big, bold stogie. You’ll get notes of vanilla and dried fruit, a little hint of spice and a boozy kick with each sip — in all, quite hearty and delicious.
My only quibble is that you don’t really need to spend $200 to find a good whiskey (or other spirit) to enjoy with a cigar. I particularly like aged rums and Calvados, a French apple brandy, with my smokes — and those can be found for well under $100, to say nothing of other flavorful bourbons that can be had for far less than $200. Still, the Magnus Cigar Blend is quite a delight.
How to enjoy it
Overway suggests having this neat if you’re pairing it with a cigar, so the proof stays high. But if you want to sip it sans stogie, he suggests trying it with some ice and letting it slowly blend into the whiskey. “I like the journey of the proof change as the cube melts,” he says.