The answer to the question of, “beer or whiskey?” in regards to cigar pairing can tell you a lot about the particular kind of cigar the person who answers is smoking. Why’s that? Well the reason why the answer to this question reveals so much information is that most people have a relatively similar general palette. The reason for this is that, back during our formative years as a species, where everyone was a hunter and gatherer, there needed to be some biological mechanism to tell us what to eat as well as what not to. Hence you’ve sweet foods being very appealing (as they were, by and large, very safe to eat), bitter foods being something to be completely avoided (as they were often poisonous) and sour foods falling somewhere in between (one needs salt but with sour berries one really doesn’t know if they’re poisonous or not until they are eaten). And thus, the modern palette began to form.
The relevance of all of this is that, whether we know it or not, we all tend to pair our foods, drinks and smokes by our in-born palettes. Matching sweet with sour and super-sweet with mild bitterness. Hence when one says that they prefer their cigars with white wine they are likely smoking a light bodied cigar. In a similar vein when one says that they enjoy their cigars with Irish whiskey or rum, they will generally tend to prefer more medium bodied cigars and when one prefers to pair their sticks with heavy single malts or extremely high IPA beer (Indian Pale Beer) they are likely favoring more heavy bodied cigars.
This, of course, is merely a general metric and not a absolute rule. That being said, it’s a good rule to follow, to pair one’s cigars up to one’s drinks by the “weight” of the cigar’s relative flavor, it’s “kick,” if you will. In this fashion you never let the strength of the drink overpower the cigar nor the boldness of the cigar outweigh the intricacies of the libation. The most important rule, more important even than properly balancing one’s palette, is to experiment, to try out as many different combinations of cigars and drinks as possible. Doing so will both expand and refine your palette as well as gift you with a venerable warehouse of cocktail party knowledge – a distinctive win-win if ever there was one.