January 25, 2013

Sir Winston Churchill – 30/11/1874 to 24/1/1965

About Winston Churchill

The Right Honorable Winston Churchill is known for two things.  He was a great and historic wartime leader of the United Kingdom, and an avid cigar smoker.  Well, perhaps three things as he was also a devout alcoholic.  Today marks the 47th anniversary of his death and I felt it fitting to try out two of his favorite things and see if they actually form what we would consider a “nice pair”.

Knighted Queen Elizabeth II (after declining to be Duke of London), Winston Churchill is widely known for being a large supporter of the Romeo y Julieta brand and their most famous devotee.  The famous vitola is named in his honor – the 7″ by 47 gauge cigar known as the Churchill. Churchill would often smoke 6 to 10 cigars a day, smoking them to what we refer to as “the nub”.  What was left was then given to his gardener to be smoked in his pipe.  A bit gross if you ask me…   Despite the massive amount of smoke intake, Winston Churchill lived to the age of 90, dying of a stroke.

biographer William Manchester says “There is always some alcohol in his bloodstream, and it reaches its peak late in the evening after he has had two or three Scotches, several glasses of Champagne, at least two brandies, and a highball.”  He goes on to note that Churchill’s favorite brandy was Hine, his preferred Champagne Pol Roger, and his top Scotch Johnnie Walker Red Label.  He would often mix his Scotch with soda or take just a little scotch and add plenty of water to it.  In his autobiography My Early Life, Churchill explains that he learned the Scotch-and-water habit as a young man in India and South Africa where the water was unfit to drink and “by dint of careful application I learned to like it.”

While visiting King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, Winston was informed he could neither smoke nor drink, for religious reasons, during a banquet thrown in his honor. Winston wasn’t having any. He informed the monarch that, “My religion prescribed as an absolute sacred ritual smoking cigars and drinking alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and the intervals between them.”1

About the Romeo y Julieta Churchill

Cigar inspector describes the experience as follows:

Despite the very masculine image of Sir Winston, I would class this as a rather feminine cigar. The typical floral and cedar RyJ flavours are present but better balanced than many other vitolas in the range. The Churchill starts out quite mild but is very enjoyable, the first two thirds do not develop very much, but it is a pleasant zen-like experience, requiring time and patience. Despite the imposing length, and perhaps because of it, this is a perfect beginner’s cigar…

Just as you get to the famous golden band … the Churchill starts to develop quite a bit of spice and promises a great ending. Very unfortunately, as I removed the red band and was on the last two inches, I most reluctantly had to butt it out because it became harsh without any redeeming qualities in terms of flavour.

About Johnnie Walker Red

This scotch is described as bright brass colour; light smoke, wood and vanilla toffee and spicy flavours; light style scotch.  It is clearly intended to be for blending and not sipping.  Perhaps this is why Winston Churchill didn’t add a drop of water to open the scotch but rather added a drop of the scotch to open up the water!

Pairing Johnnie Walker Red with Romeo y Julieta Churchill

Just reading the descriptions and going from my experiences with both of these products, I’m not sure how well these will pair.  On the cigar side we have softer, creamier flavors of light macadamia and floral notes.  On the drink side we have harsher notes of an under-aged scotch with smoke, cedar and then some softer vanilla notes.  In my mind I wonder if these will balance each other out, or will the drink be too harsh for the cigar.

I was actually very surprised lighting up and then taking a sip.  I found I actually enjoyed the cigar a bit more after the scotch although the cigar did nothing to the profile of the drink.  I think that the alcohol opens up the flavor palate in this case and carries some of the cigars flavor into the nasal cavity.  I actually get a lot of notes of black tea on this cigar.

The combination is enjoyable but not what I’d classify particularly as a “nice pair”.  However I’m not sure we’d even have the churchill to enjoy at all if it was for Sir Winston.  So, thank you Winny for the churchill – and those little things you did during the war.

Read about how we paired our Romeo y Julietas.

Read about our other scotch pairings.

Winston Churchill led an incredible life and I recommend reading about some of his experiences fighting in the early 20th century.

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