The Gluten-Free Cigar Lover: What To Drink With Cigars

So it’s been about a week and a half since I found out that I have Celiac disease and I’ve been gluten-free for almost a month now. During that time, I have only had one accidental exposure and oh man did I feel it! I guess that’s why I never knew it before – I had gotten so used to the reaction I didn’t even notice it, then once my body’s defenses had reloaded, I get glutenated and bam, misery!

Anyway, today’s topic is going to be what to drink with your cigars if you’re gluten-free. Of course, some of my old favorite pairings are a no-go now (namely stout beer and Scotch/Irish whisk(e)y), but I’m slowly discovering new alternatives to pair with my cigars that I think my fellow Celiac and NCGS folks will love.

Coffee, of course, goes without saying:
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The nectar of the gods – naturally gluten-free, a great cup of plain black coffee is almost a universal pairing with a fine cigar, and is naturally gluten-free and, if you’re watching your calories, has only 2 calories per cup! Of course, experiment with different blends and roasts to find your favorites to pair with what cigars, but you’re sure to find a coffee that goes with just about any cigar.

You’ve seen me pair red wine with cigars a lot too:

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Wine goes without saying as gluten-free as it’s made from grapes. Much like coffee, red wine is almost a universal pairing. With a range of varietals of red wine (from a mild Pinot Noir to a hefty Cabernet Sauvignon to everything in between), you’re sure to find a red wine that goes with just about any cigar out there. Match the body of the cigar to the body of the wine for best results.

If liquor is your preference, a nice dark rum is an excellent pairing:

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Rum is distilled from sugarcane, which is naturally gluten-free. Think a nice Flor de Cana with a medium to full bodied cigar for a ultra smooth smoking and drinking experience. Rum doesn’t have the afterburn that a whiskey would, so it won’t stand up to the ass-kicker cigars, but it’s got quite a variety of cigars to pair with it.

Now, for my new personal favorite pairing, brandy:

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Brandy is simply distilled wine, so no grains are present in the mash. Laurence Davis, owner of Sautter Cigars in London, UK, is on record as saying “brandy goes unbelievably with a cigar,” so I tired it. Man oh man was he ever right! A nice brandy (the above shown is E&J’s Very Special) goes great with a medium/full to full bodied cigar and gives me that afterburn I crave that I lost when I had to give up whisk(e)y.

One pairing not pictured here is a nice mimosa. A mimosa paired with a mild cigar is a great way to kick-start your day, is all gluten-free and absolutely delicious.

As far as some others I’ve talked to, I know a number of people who like vodka with cigars, however I’m not a fan and some vodkas can be glutenated so be careful. I’ve heard gin less commonly being paired with cigars, but some people I think like that too. Tequila I can’t see going well with a cigar but maybe it can.

Finally, closing this post out I’d like to make some comments about whisk(e)y. I’ve heard mixed reports on it so I’ll share my impressions. It seems that some Celiacs and NCGS people tolerate whisk(e)y OK while others seem to react to it the way they would if they ingested glutenated food or beer. Whereas most whisk(e)y that’s been tested meets the US FDA’s definition of certified gluten-free (less than 20 ppm), I think the root of the problem lies elsewhere.

My theory is that distillation actually breaks the gluten down into its individual peptides. Just which peptides are present in any given whisk(e)y we’ll never know. Also, no two people react to the exact same subset of gluten peptides. As such, I theorize that the ones who can tolerate whisk(e)y are not reactive to the peptides found in it, whereas the ones who react to it are. If we have the technology to test them for specific peptides, why aren’t we doing it?

As such, I am laying off whisk(e)y for now, especially in the early goings while my body heals itself. I might try reintroducing it at some point down the road to see if I can handle it. If I can, great. If not, oh well. I’ve found so many great alternatives anyway!

If I have any gluten-reactive cigar lovers who follow me, I’d like to hear from you. What do you like to pair with your cigars? I’m always wanting to learn more and try new things. Comment with your favorite pairings!

Wine Review: Tortoise Creek “The Chelonian” 2014

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It’s been a good long while since I’ve done a wine review so I figured I’d do one tonight.

This California Zinfandel from Tortoise Creek weighs in at 14.6% ABV. I like a good Zinfandel but I’m kinda picky about them, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up, especially given the price point. I was very pleasantly surprised by this one though!

Pours a deep burgundy color. Thick streaks of lacing when swirled, owing to its slightly higher-than-average alcohol content. Nose consists of raspberry, a touch of caramel and alcohol astringency. Medium bodied flavors of plum, black cherry, toffee and a hint of spicy vanilla. Finish is long and somewhat hot with a cinnamon afterburn.

For about $13/bottle you can’t go wrong. This is a great everyday wine that’s not too sweet or dry and easy to please.  Surprisingly complex for its price point, it went well with the pictured Blanco Nine JT Limitado but would also be a great dessert wine in my opinion. Rating: 4/5.

Wine Review: Apothic Inferno

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This offering from Apothic Wines is a red blend (they don’t disclose specifics from what I’ve found) aged for 60 days in whiskey barrels. Consistent with this aging, it does have a slightly higher than average alcohol content at 15.9% ABV. Whiskey (particularly bourbon) barrel aged wines have been a bit of a hot trend lately, so I expected nothing less than for Apothic to get in on the action. But did they do it well?

Pour is a deep burgundy color as a great red wine should. The nose is immediately greeted with notes of plum and cherry with a tinge of vanilla and woody bourbon. The palate is greeeted with a blast of bourbon with tones of vanilla, oak and maple syrup. This is supported by a black cherry and blueberry core. Finish is semi-dry with mild tannins and a long lingering warmth. I would rate the body at medium – it’s an easy drinking wine without being too heavy.

For the price (about $12/bottle it appears) I doubt you’re going to see a more wallet friendly whiskey barrel aged wine. I do feel the whiskey in this case might have been too assertive in that it seemed to be the star of the show instead of just adding character, but it was still a very enjoyable wine. I paired this with a Torano Exodus 1959 50 Year cigar for this review and it was a solid pairing. Rating: 3.5/5.

 

Cigar and Wine Reviews: Micallef Grande Bold A Maduro and Ménage à Trois Midnight.

Tonight I have a cigar and a wine to review, so let’s just get right down to business.

Grande Bold A Maduro

This offering from Micallef cigars features an Ecuadorian Broadleaf Maduro wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and long fillers. The size reviewed is a 5″ x 52RG Robusto vitola.

First light is a perfect draw producing thick plumes of smoke. Medium/full body. Earthy and peppery. A tinge of must and an unsweetened cocoa in the background.

The first third tames the pepper a bit while seemingly dialing the body down to medium. Smoke gets creamier and the cocoa asserts itself more on the finish while the earthy tones morph more toward a distinct leather.

The 2nd third sees a subtle shift as the leather takes on a cashew note and the pepper dies out completely allowing an aromatic bright cedar to shine on the retrohale. No further changes were noted in the profile but the body came back up to medium/full in the last third. Ending at 50 minutes for an average burn time for the size and entering a subtle mild/medium nicotine strength.

Flawless construction and a razor sharp burn. Ash holds for half the stick at a time. No issues there.

An interesting complex cigar great for any time of the day. Would go well with a variety of drinks but went very well with tonight’s wine. My only issue is I would have liked the body to maintain its intensity instead of dipping toward the middle. Rating: 4/5.

Ménage à Trois Midnight

This dark red blend from California consists of 59% merlot, 16% cabernet sauvignon, 15% petite sirah and 10% petit verdot.

Pours a deep burgundy color. Ample lacing when swirled. Aromas of black cherry and rose petals. Flavors of blackberries and raspberries, plum, cherry and a hint of nutmeg. Finish contains a slight hint of chocolate. Medium body and mouthfeel.

Very good middle of the road wine for everyday drinking. Not too expensive. Complex enough and easy to please. Went well with the above cigar. Rating: 4/5.

That’s all for today. Have you had either of today’s offerings? Let me know what you thought!

Wine Review – 1916 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Today we are reviewing a wine. I haven’t done many wine reviews on here but I’ve been asked to do more so I’ll try to make a conscious effort to do so. Today’s topic is this 1916 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon of a 2012 vintage.

This bottle I found at a local grocery store on special, but don’t let that fool you. It’s not a cheap wine by any stretch. My research has pointed to me to Espier Estate in Victoria, Australia as the mastermind behind this wine but the back of the bottle says “Our Cellars” in Hopland, CA so I’m utterly confused, as can be seen here along with the ABV. Maybe someone more knowledgeable than me  can educate me on what exactly this is.

Pours a deep red as a good Cab should. Ample lacing when swirled. Aromas of rose petals, blueberries and black cherry. The black cherry carries over into the initial attack which gives way to a jammy plum note and just a tinge of dark chocolate. Warm, peppery finish with oaky undertones and an ample amount of tannins. Medium to heavy body with a long warming aftertaste.

An excellent wine, it would go well with a heavy dinner or, as I had it for this review, paired with a full bodied Maduro cigar such as the previously reviewed Blanco Liga Exclusiva Maduro. Rating: 4.5/5.

Wine/Cigar Reviews – Stave & Steel Bourbon Barrel Cab and H&S Veiled Prophet

So today in my reviews we’re doing something a bit different – I’m reviewing a wine and a cigar. I absolutely love wine but I don’t review many wines here because I don’t feel as I have developed a super sophisticated palate for it yet but I’m learning (I’ve been drinking more and more wine lately – I find it goes very well with a cigar). Well this one is a special wine, and I’m reviewing it along with a special cigar review as well.

We’ll start with tonight’s wine.

Stave & Steel Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Bourbon barrel aged everything seems to be a fad lately so why the wine scene has not gotten into it yet I don’t know. Whatever the case, here we go. This offering from Stave & Steel retails around $15-20/bottle depending on geographic location.

Pours the deep reddish-purple color a good cab should. The nose is immediately greeted with a big whiff of smoky bourbon supported by floral notes and cherries. On the palate the bourbon is up front but not overbearing or dominating. The supporting flavors include dark chocolate, ripe cherries, mixed berries and features a smoky oak and tobacco finish with a touch of a warm vanilla aftertaste. Rich and substantial in the mouth and easy drinking.

If you like whiskey and you like wine, do yourself a favor and check this one out. It brings the two together beautifully. Pair with a hearty steak dinner or with a Habano or Maduro wrapped cigar for best results. Rating: 4.75/5.

And now for a truly special cigar pick:

Hiram and Solomon Veiled Prophet

The cream-of-the-crop stick in the Hiram and Solomon line by Blanco Cigars, this stick comes in one size (a whopping 7″ x 60RG “Grand Monarch” vitola) and features a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper and an undisclosed binder and long fillers.

First light revealed a perfect draw producing plumes of thick, chewy medium-full bodied smoke containing notes of a sweet creamy leather, nuts and a peppery but not overbearing retrohale.

Getting into the first third the pepper dials back a bit allowing a bright, aromatic cedar to join the retrohale and bringing in a rich, sweet caramel onto the draw. The flavors remained largely consistent into the 2nd third but with an added level of complexity as a bright, light roast coffee joins the mix. A very long 2 hour and 15 minute smoke surprisingly only a mild/medium nicotine strength by the end of it (ending with around 2″ to go; if you like the hot nub you can easily get almost 3 hours out of it).

Construction was what I will call excellent. It did have some of the characteristic burn issues found in 60 ring gauge cigars and required occasional touch-ups. It did also prefer to be double-puffed for the first third or so as more airflow was needed to generate smoke than I had in my mouth, but these were small things and definitely worth the flavor package.

This would make a lovely after dinner or special occasion smoke. Would pair well with almost any drink you throw at it, but just make sure you have ample time to sit down and enjoy it. Rating: 4.75/5.

That’s a wrap for today. Hope you enjoyed this special edition of my reviews. Let me know what you thought!