Pairing CAO Cigars With Flying Dog Beer and Ale
To experience maximum enjoyment while smoking a cigar, it is important to pair your cigar with an appropriate libation that compliments the particular flavors in the smoke. It is also important to match full bodied cigars with full bodied beverages, and mild-to-medium smokes with a more medium bodied drink that will not overpower a less potent cigar. When it comes to smoking and drinking, I almost always choose the cigar that I want to smoke first, then I select an appropriate drink to accompany that particular cigar. Some folks do this the other way around, while others choose what they want to smoke and drink independently of each other.
To take the guesswork out of pairing a cigar with an appropriate beverage, CAO and Flying Dog have joined forces to create a pairing pack of four CAO cigars with four Flying Dog craft brews. As of July 1, 2014, these pairing packs can be purchased at 36 Total Wine stores throughout six states. For more details, please refer to the press release. I have sampled all four suggested pairings of CAO cigars with Flying Dog beers and ales, and have ranked them below in order of my enjoyment.
CAO Brazilia Gol and Gonzo Imperial Porter
The CAO Brazilia Gol cigar measures 5 x 56 and is made with a Brazilian wrapper and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. This cigar is medium-to-full bodied and has a nice rich flavor that starts off with some sweetness and pepper. The pepper quickly fades but a tempered spicy taste remains for the duration of the smoke. The Gonzo Porter is also medium-to-full bodied with a nice rich flavor and the taste of sweet spice, and somewhat heavy on the hops. This brew has the highest alcohol content of the four, coming in at 9.2%.
For the first 20 minutes, I really enjoyed this pairing, as both the cigar and the brew complimented each other beautifully. You might not think that the taste of a brew would change as the drink progresses (like some cigars), but the increase in the porter's temperature after about 20 minutes really opened up an explosion of flavors. At this point, the taste of hops along with some bitterness might be just a bit too much for some palates, but the cigar continued to taste great and burn evenly while holding a long ash and delivering a nice volume of smoke with every puff. It took me about 45 minutes to finish the beer while smoking the cigar down to two inches remaining.
Now I don't always drink beer, but when I do... I rate this pairing with 4.25 points on a 5-point scale during the first 20 minutes, but beyond that point, my enjoyment of the porter dropped below 4 points, while the Brazilia cigar scored a solid 4.25 points throughout the entire smoke.
CAO OSA Sol and Snake Dog IPA
The CAO OSA Sol Lot 50 cigar measures 5 x 50, and is made with a Honduran Olancho San Agustin wrapper, Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and a blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The cigar is medium bodied and has a somewhat sweet and smooth taste/texture with subtle spices. The OSA had a great draw, burned evenly and held a long ash. The Snake Dog India Pale Ale is also medium bodied, with a taste of hops and spices that are much less intense compared to the porter. The alcohol content is 7.1%.
I found OSA and Snake Dog to be a very good pairing, which will most likely appeal to many mainstream palates. Not too subtle, but definitely not overpowering. A very enjoyable and refreshing combination on a warm summer day. The OSA Sol and the Snake Dog were pretty consistent in flavor during the 45 minutes that it took me to smoke the cigar down to 1½ inches remaining while drinking the IPA. I rate this pairing with a very sold 4 points on a 5-point scale.
CAO Mx2 and Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout
The CAO Mx2 cigar measures 5 x 52 and is made with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Brazilian Maduro binder and a four-country blend of filler tobaccos from Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Peru. The cigar is medium-to-full bodied and has a deep rich earthy flavor with a hint of spice. The Pearl Necklace Stout is also medium-to-full bodied with a rich flavor, but without having a high level of alcohol, only 5.5%. Not much flavor of hops either, less than in the other three samples. The Oyster Stout is actually brewed with Rappahannock River oysters, although I did not detect much of an oyster flavor. The flavors of both the cigar and the stout were compatible and went very well together.
It took me 40 minutes to drink the Pearl Necklace Oyster stout and smoke the CAO Mx2 cigar down to two inches remaining, without the need for any relights nor touch-ups. The cigar had a great draw, burned evenly and held a long ash. I rate this pairing with a respectable 3.75 points on a 5-point scale.
CAO Gold and Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA
The CAO Gold Robusto cigar measures 5 x 50 and is made with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper and a blend of Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The cigar is mild-to-medium bodied, with a hint of some sweet spice. The Raging Bitch IPA is also mild-to-medium bodied, but with a noticeable bitter-sweet flavor and a taste of hops. Although a tad lighter in body than the Snake Dog, it definitely has more flavor along with a higher alcohol content of 8.3%. The zesty flavor of this IPA could be a bit too much for some palates, but it actually enhanced the flavor of the cigar.
It took me 35 minutes to drink the Raging Bitch IPA while smoking the CAO Gold cigar down to 1½ inches remaining. During that time, no relights nor touch-ups were required. The cigar had a great draw, even burn and held a long ash. The CAO Gold cigar paired well with the IPA, but this particular combination was not quite as enjoyable as the others. I rate this smoking and drinking experience with 3.5 points on a 5-point scale.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturers.