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Article: A Spirited Synergy: When Bourbon and Cigars Meet


By: Lindsay Heller

Cigar enthusiasts are certainly no strangers to bourbon—in fact, many are introduced to the other when both tobacco and spirits are paired for an elevated experience. But what happens when a leading name in bourbon works as a partner with arguably the most famous name in cigars? A premium like no other before it is born.

Weller by Cohiba is a trailblazer, made from the collaboration between parent distillery Buffalo Trace, and the blending team at General Cigar Company's Santiago factory in the Dominican Republic. Said to be the first Cohiba to be created expressly for pairing with a fine spirit, observing a conversation between Harlen Wheatley (Master Distiller) and Sean Williams (Cohiba Brand Ambassador) served to further reiterate the similarities between bourbon and premium tobacco. 

I'd be remiss to not point out how amused I am that Harlen's surname is Wheatley, and Weller is a wheated bourbon. (It's almost as if he was born to do his job!) Serving as the sixth Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace since the Civil War, Harlen has the distinct honor of preserving time-honored traditions, while looking toward the future as the world's thirst for bourbon grows stronger. "As a distiller, you have to be very patient," says Wheatley, and the same certainly rings true for growing, curing, and blending tobacco for premium cigars. 

Early on in the conversation, Sean Williams stated this situation is the result of "two iconic brands having a chance to come together," but the importance behind the role each of these companies' plays in their respective industries runs so much deeper. "Weller basically explores the recipe side of bourbon," according to Harlen Wheatley, noting that the family of brands made under the Buffalo Trace umbrella are connected to a deep history, and are the direct result of the distillery's evolution over the past 200+ years. Cigars too are a result of history, with their beginnings dating back to the native Arawak tribespeople who flourished in what is now the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. In fact, the word cohiba is from the Taíno language meaning "sweet grass," which is how the tobacco leaves were described long before Columbus reached their land.

For the uninitiated, W.L. Weller is accredited as being the first to use wheat as the secondary grain in straight bourbon, as opposed to the more commonly-utilized rye in the mid-19th century. Weller's use of a different grain within the mash created a softer, smoother taste; akin to learned methodology when curing tobaccos, experiments over time have resulted in ways master blenders can promote the most favorable nuances within the leaves chosen for specific cigars.

Exclusively-blended for the Weller 12 Year experience, the inaugural release of Weller by Cohiba is offered in a 5.5"x49 Robusto format, and is adorned with a seven-year-aged Maduro wrapper grown in lush fields of Olancho, located in the San Agustín Valley of Honduras. Replete with a US Havana Connecticut binder, this inner leaf encapsulates a select grouping of long-filler tobaccos, comprised of Piloto Cubano (Dominican Republic), Estelí (Nicaragua), and crops from the remote volcanic island of Ometepe (Nicaragua). The medium to full-bodied Weller by Cohiba offers a rich, creamy smoke with subtle notes of cocoa and leather, which complement the bright and elegant wheated profile of Weller's award-winning 12-Year Bourbon.

The synergy between Weller 12-Year Bourbon and Weller by Cohiba is an experience like no other; however, Sean Williams notes, "while the depth and complexity of this cigar make [sic] it the ideal choice for pairing with your favorite spirit, Weller by Cohiba is equally as extraordinary when savored on its own."

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