It’s not a big secret that brands are always pursuing writers in bold ways to get them to try out new products, but every now and then you get something thrown at you that really makes you wonder if they’ve gone too far.
A couple months ago Six Saints Rum, a company from Grenada, issued me a challenge on social media: “Have some extra cigars you legally brought home from Cuba? Try our Spice Your Own Cigar Infused Recipe.” The recipe in question, available here, called for steeping a Cohiba cigar in a mixture of various spices.
I did, in fact, have some cigars. And Six Saints Rum ($37), it turns out, is quite good—well balanced, with a price tag that didn’t make my stomach groan. But I didn't want to corrupt either with the other.
But once my gag reflex subsided, I became intrigued. Putting tobacco into liquor is not a new concept. There have been explorations into tobacco flavoring before: appropriately named Ivanabitch vodka has both tobacco and menthol-tobacco flavors in its portfolio. People have added pipe tobacco to cocktails before, and infusing smoke into drinks is common practice.
But those are all professionally measured beverages—the sorts of things you buy off a shelf or order mixed by a mixologist. They’re also done using artificial ingredients, or pipe tobacco, which is decidedly more bold in flavor and soft on chemicals than many other products. NPR took the fun out of all this information a while ago.
I mixed the recipe, but instead of using a rather precious and still technically illegal Cohiba, I opted for something I personally love, with a Cuban-esque flavor profile: the Flor de las Antillas Toro. Then I let it all sit for three days as ordered, before straining, pouring, and sipping it straight.
While I imagined I’d feel sick from drinking what I assumed would be the equivalent of a cup full of cigarette butts, was totally unfounded. The resulting flavor is surprisingly great, with the anise dominating the nose and a prominent flavor of vanilla appearing soon afterwards. There’s also an earthy, spicy tickle at the back of my throat. That comes from the nicotine and is an acquired taste, the same way Campari can be startling the first time you taste bold bitterness.
Was the sum of the parts greater than the whole? A delicious rum and a great cigar do not together make the ultimate cocktail or sipping spirit. But with an ever-reducing number of spots in which to smoke and drink, this may be the wave of the future anyway.