View Full Version : Tobacco-infused whiskey?

06-18-2008, 05:03
Lots of people like a cigar with a glass of bourbon or other whiskey. This has been restricted to the idea of smoking the tobacco when drinking the whiskey. To my knowledge, while there has been some talk here about using whiskey to flavor tobacco (and such tobaccos certainly exist), the reverse has not been considered: adding unsmoked tobacco to whiskey to enhance the taste.

Some might think the idea outlandish. However, a drink related to whiskey, as will soon appear, has been paired in this way in Italy. Also, apart from any precedent, on the idea of using a variety of ingredients to make a flavored spirit or a cocktail (lemons, other fruits, mint, cherries, etc.), why not use tobacco? It is another plant or herb-like substance which would seem capable of improving a whiskey or working in a cocktail.

If these considerations aren't enough to persuade, consider that tobacco used to be added to whiskey 100 years ago and more to improve the taste. Some of these concoctions were dubious: the practice clearly in many cases was intended to give a flavor to a white or unrectified new spirit. But the idea of adding tobacco to a good whiskey to make an interesting, fused flavor seems in line broadly with the original practice.

One would need to set aside of course any prejudice against tobacco. I don't smoke but would consider sipping a drink with tobacco infused in it.

Someone in Italy, a craft brewer, has created such a drink, a beer in this case. It is a dark beer flavored with "Kentucky Toscano tobacco".

Intrigued by that phrase, a little research showed that in Italy since the mid-1800's, a reputed cigar has been made called Toscano (it means Tuscan), and the cigar originally was made with flue-cured Kentucky tobacco. Today, that tobacco, albeit in much reduced amount, is still grown and prepared in Kentucky and some other Southern states I believe. Also, that type of tobacco is grown in other countries as well including Italy and parts of Africa. The current Toscano cigar appears (this again from online research) to be made both from imported and domestic examples of this flue-cured leaf.

I think it must be the case that the Italian brewer used a Toscano cigar to get the leaf to add to his beer.

Now, if one had a bottle of any good bourbon and added the same or a different kind of cigar leaf to it, I wonder what the taste would be like?

The Italian beer is called (interestingly) Ke To Re Porter, it is a 5.5% ABV porter and here is the taste note from Eyewitness Companion to Beer, a 2007 book of which Michael Jackson, the late English beer and spirits writer, was editor-in-chief (it appears to be Jackson's last book completed for publication before his untimely death):

"This unusual but pleasant porter is infused with Kentucky Toscano tobacco. Despite strong peppery and smoked flavors, it is surprisngly well-balanced and easy to drink". The brewer is a brewpub called Birra Del Borgo, see www.birradelborgo.it, it is about 60 miles northwest of Rome. I checked the website and there is a page on this beer with a description of its aroma and taste but I can't understand most of the Italian.

I would think any kind of bourbon might be suitable for a whiskey and tobacco-infusion experiment. Something rich and full might be a good place to start. I'm not sure rye would work, although maybe it would, perhaps with certain kinds of pipe tobacco. Bourbon seems a likely candidate though. I think adding something sweet such as corn or another kind of syrup, might be a good idea, too, but maybe not.



06-18-2008, 06:18
You're the mixologist. You make it, I'll try it. How are you going to infuse the tobacco into the bourbon? Please use good seed cigar leaves. Should I expect some in September?

06-18-2008, 07:20
Okay, I will Stu! I am not sure what cigars to use. Any suggestions from you or others?


06-18-2008, 07:41
I'm thinking pipe tobacco might be called for rather than cigar wrapper. It would certainly be easy to procure and to measure, your local tobacconist could guide you through possible candidates, and you could easily try tiny batches of several tobaccos until you found the profile you are looking for.

06-18-2008, 09:48
you've peeked my interest, I do not smoke either but I do enjoy the fragrance of a good cigar.

I would like to try the ke to re porter, any idea how or where to obtain it?


06-18-2008, 10:34
There are a couple of spirits out there which have a strong tobacco element; however I don't believe that either actually use tobacco infusion.

The first one I know of is the Germain-Robin "Old Havana (http://www.germain-robin.com/html/oldhavana.html)" which used to be bottled as "Fine Cigar". I was given a gift of it some years ago (when it was still "Fine Cigar") and can report that it did indeed have a definite aroma of tobacco. How they do that without infusion is a mystery to me.

It was great stuff to have with a cigar. Pricey, at around $100.

The other one is a SMS, the Dalmore "Cigar Malt (http://www.thedalmore.com/taste/cigartaste.htm)". Haven't tried this. Scores for this cover a wider range than I've seen for any other Scotch. Paul Pacult thinks it's great, but others have condemmed it as undrinkable.

As for what cigar to use, my own favorite line of cigars are the Fuente reserves (black trimmed band rather than the standard green). Probably as good a choice as any.

06-18-2008, 11:41
Thanks for these suggestions. I am thinking that something relatively subtle might be better than something too assertive. A good pipe tobacco is definitely an option.

As for that Italian beer, I believe it is only available in Italy and possibly only in the town it is made since it is from a brewpub.

However I would think an American porter could be used to similar purpose. E.g., buy any good micro porter, and add the leaves of (perhaps half?) a cigar to infuse for a while. Probably re-cap it and keep it for a week. I am not sure how the Italian brewpub did the infusion in its case, perhaps it used an apparatus similar to what is used for dry hopping except with tobacco used instead of hops.

The whole thing though is the right quantity, maybe half a cigar (even without wrapper) is way too much for 12 ounces. I am now thinking that a tablespoon may be enough. Hard to say until experiments are done and small sips taken. To my mind, there should be only a light flavoring from the tobacco.

By the way tobacco juice was added to beers also, 100 years ago, to colour it and maybe flavor it. There is really very little that is new under the sun. However some of those additions (maybe all) were not regarded as proper practice but rather as short-cuts.

If I end up doing this (I guess I will, with whiskey anyway), I will exercise caution to ensure a good taste but also a palatable product. And no matter how these are made, I suggest (if anyone tries this) that you taste only a little of it. Tobacco resins and the nicotine might be quite strong in unburned form.


06-18-2008, 11:59
Thanks for these suggestions. I am thinking that something relatively subtle might be better than something too assertive. A good pipe tobacco is definitely an option.

I was thinking this as I read the thread. Dropping a whole cigar into a bottle and letting it sit for a few months is one way to go, but I would be inclined to try a true infusion, using heat, and starting with just a pinch of tobacco. There is a tobacco-like taste in older bourbons and that, I think, is what you want to achieve.

I know you can buy cigars that have been marinated in Maker's Mark. Maybe other brands are available as well. After the marinating was done, somebody must have tried the whiskey. It apparently did not inspire a parallel product.

Another way to go might be something like the Lincoln County Process, packing a column with loose tobacco and dripping the whiskey through it.

06-18-2008, 15:45
If in fact they want to infuse whiskey with the flavor of a fermented tobacco leaf I am not sure if either the leaf or the whiskey will benefit. I would suspect that few would find it attractive. There are few similarities between smoking a cigar and consuming the extract of the leaves they are made from..... just as smoking a MM infused cigar is quite different then sipping a few fingers of MM.

As far as I am aware infused cigars never touch the infusion liquid, rather the aromas of the liquid are absorbed into the cigar. Placing a few cigars in a Ziploc bag with a bit of your favorite whiskey dribbled on a paper napkin for a few weeks will get the job done..... if you like that sort of thing...

06-18-2008, 16:42
So they're more steamed than marinated. Interesting. I didn't know.

06-18-2008, 17:52
The notes on the Toscano cigar (Internet) emphasize the fact that flue-cured leaf is "smoky" and Jackson's taste notes detect a smokey addition to the beer, and some bitterness (nicotine?). These qualities would seem equally capable of improving a whiskey.

That raw tobacco can impart pleasant flavors we know from snuff.


06-19-2008, 05:13
Chuck, I have a number of friends that enjoy their cigars with a very light infusion of scotch. They actually have a small humidor in which they place a shot glass with just a bit of scotch which serves as the humidity source. While not a scotch drinker I will say that the humidors smell fantastic.. although I prefer my cigars "straight". The downside is that the humidor can't be used for "plain" cigars again given the wood also absorbs the scotch aromas.

06-19-2008, 09:55
As a cigar smoker, I don't care for infused cigars. I love a good cigar with whiskey. The idea of the cigar infused into the whiskey instead of the other way around intrigues me however. When you do it Gary, I'd suggest a piece of a good smoking cigar instead of pipe tobacco. I smoke a pipe as well and most pipe tobacco is too aromatic to accompany whiskey in my opinion. A possible exception is pure VA leaf in a navy cut. It is hard to find however, and expensive. usually Va is mixed with perique or latikia which I think would detract from the whiskey, but you're the mixologist. Since you are in Canada, you have access to Cuban cigars. A small Monte Cristo, Cohiba, Romeo and Juliet, or Partagas should yield more than enough tobacco to flavor a couple bottles of whiskey. Would you have to use a premium whiskey? I would think that any sipping whiskey would work.

06-19-2008, 10:08
Thanks Stu, I'll look for something like you mentioned. I'll probably try it with something basic but decent, such as Beam Black.

Beam Black has a strong anise flavor that would be complemented by a flavor of raw tobacco, I think.

I'll pop half a stick in that and half in another bottle, maybe a dark rum.


06-19-2008, 10:23
I did a quick search and found that there is a tobacco spirit on the market. It is Perique Tobacco Liqueur, which is a liqueur flavored with rare Louisiana Perique tobacco and a little sugar. It was developed by absinthe maestro Ted Breaux from Louisiana.

I can't find a website on it, but there is a German site, www.perique.de which has an extended taste note in English in the comments section which praises the drink.

I take inspiration from such prior efforts and will report results soon.


06-19-2008, 10:29
Have you ever swallowed tobacco spit or a wad of snuff. You puke then turn green. However there are other herbs that can be infused. Thats how they sneak the wacky into Bonnaroo.

06-19-2008, 10:56
I used to take a bit of snuff many years ago and of course never swallowed it although some of the flavor is absorbed through the cheeks. In fact I might start by putting just a tablespoon of tobacco in the bottle. I don't know how Perique approaches it, whether they might add additional herbs. I'll try it and see.


06-19-2008, 14:18
I suggest getting some 200 ml bottles so you can run any number of different experiments at once. This will be easy to document, so it will be easy to scale up later if you hit on something that really works. I'm afraid if you do it by the 750 ml you're going to be flushing a lot of whiskey. While I think this is an intriguing idea, it might be hard to get it right.

06-19-2008, 14:49
Gary, give these folks a try... they can probably give you some cuban leaf..

Frank Correnti Cigars Ltd.
606 King Street West
Toronto, ON, M5V 1M6
Phone: 416-504-4108

06-19-2008, 14:50
Thanks Chuck, Reid, good ideas.


06-23-2008, 10:26
Gary, our Guru at the local tobacco shop gave me a bowl full of pure perique to try. I couldn't finish it. He laughed and said he'd never seen anyone finish a bowl of pure perique. He gave it to me because I'm one of two members of our pipe club that relish pure Virginia tobaccos. Perique is from Louisiana and I think someone crossed some Burley tobacco with a Tabasco pepper and called the result perique. I don't like burley, and Tabasco is not my favorite hot sauce (too much vinegar). A very tiny amount of perique does add to a Cavendish tobacco IMO, however.

06-23-2008, 10:28
Interesting, apparently it's very rare. Any heat/acid might be a good addition though to a spirit (on the lines say of adding red or other peppers to vodka).