Right before Christmas, Jonathan Drew took to social media to announce a boutique project in partnership with Cigars International called "The Smoking Monk of Esteli by Drew Estate". A selection of 5 unique blends, all in a Toro vitola, the handmade cigars were blended to be paired with specific styles of craft beer. The five blends included in the series are:
Hefeweizen – Mild-bodied with creamy notes of vanilla and a sweet finish
Imperial Stout – Hearty, medium to full-bodied blend with nuances of cacao and sweetened dark roast coffee
American IPA – Medium-bodied with a zesty flavor profile of citrus, spice, and slight smoky finish
Porter – Well-balanced, medium-bodied blend filled with notes of dark chocolate, coffee, and caramel
Triple Belgian – Medium to full-bodied with a rich, complex tobacco flavor and a spicy finish
In a Cigar Federation series, we will conduct 5 separate pairing reviews where we will experience each cigar by itself followed by an experience with the appropriate beer pairing. In addition, we will have a special series of Sharing Our Pairings focused on each cigar individually. Today, we begin the series with the Hefeweizen...
Size: 6.5 x 54
Cigars Smoked for this Review: Two
Price Point: $9.00
Cigar Purchased: Samples provided by Cigar.com
Quick Note: For this review I used the CF rating system. You can view it in detail here.
At first glance at the Hefeweizen, I questioned if I was the right person to be reviewing this cigar. A very light wrapper makes sense given the Hefeweizen connection, but I don't really expect it to fit my palate as I tend to prefer a bit more full-bodied cigars. The band on the cigar is consistent across the series with "The Smoking Monk of Esteli" written surrounding the logo. A foot band delineates each cigar in the series - this entry sees 'Hefeweizen' written on a green and gold band.
The wrapper itself, as previously stated, is a very light brown reminiscent of a Connecticut. The wrapper is clean with one major pressed vein running throughout. As I take a sniff of the foot, I'm met with a creamy sweetness - pretty much exactly what I'm expecting for this cigar. I clip the cap on the table cutter, and take some pre-light draws. The pre-light draw tastes EXACTLY like a cream soda - not like a cream soda or notes of, it tastes exactly like one. Delicious.
The initial draws are extremely unique and have me wondering if I'm tying this, mentally, to an actual cream soda. Do you know the carbonated taste you get in your nose when you drink a soda? That's the flavor I'm getting initially - really hard to explain. This is very obviously a mild Connecticut, but I'm enjoying the subtle flavors that I am getting - something that surprises me as I don't typically enjoy mild Connecticuts. Cream is subtle on the front of the tongue, but a vanilla note is strong in the back of the throat and on the retrohale. The cigar actually went out on me at almost the halfway mark and I had to relight. Upon relight, the sweetness and creaminess has subsided a bit.
I really think this cigar is tailing off in the 2nd half. The sweetness and creaminess has all but disappeared, and I'm getting some tobacco flavors with subtle notes of wood and spice. Halfway through, if you would have asked me my thoughts on this cigar, I would have given it a VERY surprising thumbs up, but the second half really hurt my overall impression.
For the pairing portion of the review, I chose the Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier. The Weihenstephaner isn't just one of the best Hefeweizens on the market, but it might actually be one of the better beers available period. Its also fairly accessible for most in the United States.
The Weihenstephaner Hefe Weiddbier pours a bit cloudy with a slightly orange shade. I get slight banana notes in the aroma. For the beer alone, the flavors are amazing with banana being dominant on the finish, but fruit salad on the front of the tongue with a little bread-like flavor. This is really an exceptional beer and one that, while I don't drink very often, I always enjoy.
For the pairing itself, I'm still a bit dumbfounded, and I'm not sure how I feel. The flavors of the Hefe are strong and profound while the cigar, while sweet and creamy, are a bit more mild so I find that the flavors of the beer are a bit overpowering on the mildness of the cigar. I'm still getting lots of vanilla on the cigar, but the main story is the beer - so fruit-y and banana-y.
I think this really comes down to your preference in the pairing. Do you want a beer you can drink while enjoying your cigar, or a cigar you can smoke while enjoying your beer? For me, this pairing actually worked, and I think I'd pick up another Smoking Monk Hefeweizen to smoke while I'm enjoying a Weihenstephaner or other Hefe.
Rating: 83 AKA “If I Had Them"
Pairing Rating: 86 AKA “Couple"