At the end of September, we had the opportunity to head down to Miami again to visit a bunch of manufacturer’s and one of these happened to be Guillermo Pena. Guillermo is a third generation cigar roller, stemming from Cuba and now residing in Miami. He actually rolls all of Paul Stulac’s cigar and Paul is the person who introduced us.
It’s no secret that we all enjoy Paul’s line of cigars and to meet the guy that actually makes those cigars was an honour and great experience!
When we were there, Guillermo has just released his own line of cigars under the company name of Pena Cigars and released this cigar in both a maduro and natural version. When we were there, Guillermo told us that he really enjoys both of his cigars highly with and pairs often with the Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve. Naturally, we took this as a challenge and wanted to give it a try ourselves and this is how we ended up at this pair.
About the drink
Johnnie Walker has a long history as a brand. Starting as a grocery store that sold whiskey under the name Walker’s Kilmarnock Whiskey, then distributing throughout the UK using the then new railroad. In 1870, the square bottle was introduced and they trademarked the label, which is angled at 24 degrees. In 1908, the company re-branded and changed the name to Johnnie Walker Whiskey (after Great-grandpa John Walker). In 1925, the company joined with Distillers Company, which was acquired by Guinness and then merged with Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo in 1997.
The words of Ralfy.com, “Johnnie Walker is a brand first and a whiskey second”, really appears to be true after researching the company.
As for the Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve in particular, this was an anniversary blend to commemorate Johnnie Walker’s 100th year anniversary. This whiskey is commonly made up of a combination of grain and single malt whiskies having a minimum age of 18 yrs in casks, but can be labelled a 15 year, 18 year, or sometimes without any age statement at all. Diageo is very guarded as to the contents of its blend, which may be to minimize competition.
Note: It is recommended to put a shot glass of JWG in the freezer for 24 hrs. This will thicken a bit, but not freeze, and will make honey notes will come alive.
Tasting Notes: Smell is ‘rum-like’. Sherry, fudge, toffee, brown sugar, and tannins are prominent to the scent. The flavour boasts of dried fruit, citrus and sherry. It’s been said that it “…tastes of everything, but not of anything in particular.” (Ralfy.com)
About the cigar
As mentioned above, Guillermo Pena is a third generation cigar roller. This cigar is a Nicaraguan Puro, planted, grown, and produced all in Estelli using Cuban seed. The cigar is aged for an additional 4+ months after being rolled. He mentions that when making this cigar, he was going for the genuine flavour of the 1950’s and so kept it as a medium bodied cigar. Guillermo is very involved in the selection of these leaves and specific cuts.
When asked why he found this to be a good pair, Guillermo said, “the first puffs of my cigar are full of cocoa and sweet sticky raisin, and after a few puffs the red pepper kicks in. The gold label is a sweeter whiskey.” So there you have it, here we go!
About the pair
We started with the drink first on this cigar. Upon smelling this drink, the initial notes were spot on. You could smell the sweetness, although very smokey on the nose. Upon first taste of the drink, it was very smooth, smokey oak and dried fruit with a short finish. You could really taste the sweetness in the initial tasting.
Upon tasting the cigar, there was definite Nicaraguan flavours off the bat. There was also lots of cocoa and raisin, as Guillermo claimed. Shortly into starting the cigar, the pepper notes came through quickly. Some of our members mentioned that it was “fresh” tasting, rather than aged, and another member mentioned that he tasted dates.
Now, after drinking again, the flavours of wood are somewhat more subdued. The cigar’s sweetness seems to come down a little, but it enhances the sweetness in the drink, so they compliment each other nicely in that way. Back and forth between the cigar and drink is very enjoyable as the two play tennis on your palate in the battle of flavour, but neither beats the other!
This was a very nice pair and we have to say thank you to Guillermo for this fantastic recommendation! It’s nice to know that manufacturer’s pay attention to this as well with their own cigars and to hear the recommendation right from Guillermo himself, and then find out that it’s a #nicepair along the way as well… priceless!
If you have the opportunity, give it a try!
On another note
We actually figured we’d give the Johnnie Walker Black a try here to taste the difference in price points. The gold reserve is only slightly more expensive than the black, but we find the difference in taste to be very different. The Black was much lighter in flavour and not as complex. On the swallow however it was much more sharp and again, a short finish. The citrus flavours were much more harsh and not as smooth as the Gold. Maybe on its own, this drink is good, but compared to the Gold Reserve, I’d just spend the extra bit to get the Gold.
For more notes on this cigar, check out Katman’s great review. It was great stick and we recommend you check it out!
Read our other whiskey and cigar pairings