The perfect match: Armagnac and cigars?

Cross-merchandising cigars and digestifs can add sales value to an off-licence. Cigars with a powerful flavour should be enjoyed with a full-bodied digestif, such as a Scotch with a port, Madeira or sherry finish, or a XO Cognac.

Smokers have spent £453 million on cigars in the past year, according to Imperial Tobacco . But this figure has dropped by 2.7 per cent since June 2006, showing that the smoking ban has played a significant part in reducing sales.

Independent off-licences

have a 1.1 per cent share of total cigar sales, while multiple off-licences have a 1.6 per cent .

The generic body for Armagnac has been on a mission to discover the perfect match between cigars and France's famous brandy. Fourteen Armagnac houses participated in preliminary rounds of the Trofeo Habanos - a competition set up by the BNIA to find one blend and one vintage that stand out as the perfect partner for two mystery cigars.

Eight Armagnac houses then jetted off to Havana in February for the semi-final, and the winners were chosen by 300 members of the public . In the blended Armagnac category, Armagnac Hors d'Age, Jean Cavé was announced as the perfect partner to Punch Churchill, and in the vintage Armagnac category there were two winners - Bas-Armagnac 1978 Delord Armagnac and Bas-Armagnac 1987 Château de Briat matched to a Churchill De Luxe from Partagas.