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!

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Gluten-Free Beer Review: Redbridge

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Staring in the face of the real possibility of gluten reactivity, the biggest hurdle for me to clear is going to be the beer issue. I’ve tried a few gluten-free beers in the past, but they were totally lackluster and not really worth drinking, let alone reviewing.

Alas, times are different now for the gluten-free world at large and things have gotten better. Maybe they’ve also gotten better in the beer world?

Anyway, Redbridge is a sorghum-based amber/red lager made by Anheuser-Busch. It weighs in a 4% ABV and an unspecified IBU rating. So what does this beer have to offer? Let’s find out.

Drank straight from the bottle so I can’t comment on color, but looking at the appearance of the beer through the bottle suggests a light golden color. Aromas of citrus hops come through the nose, as well as a glycerin-like sweetness from the sorghum. Flavors were very interesting and much more like that of an American pale ale than an amber lager – pale malt sweetness/breadiness supported by a bite of piney and grapefruit hop notes. Pretty thin/light in body and with high carbonation; this one is easy to kill several of.

Honestly, I found this beer to be very good. I got it to go with my gluten-free mushroom-Swiss burger at The Cove in San Antonio and it was a great pairing. The Cove is a great option in SA if you want a great gluten-free burger and fries, and obviously they have gluten-free drinks too. Oh, and the staff is super friendly and helpful. The bartender that day? As I paid out my bar tab and returned to my table, she noticed my lower half wear and gave me a pretty high compliment – “Oh, I love your shorts!” Never did I think I would get paid a compliment on my “Davy” Dukes but then again San Antonio and Abilene are totally different animals.

Anyway, I’m just glad I have at least one beer option should I have to make the commitment to gluten-free full-time. I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve not written a beer review in a long time, and that’s the reason – I don’t drink much beer anymore and what I have had recently in that respect are all previously reviewed beers. Alas, I might specialze in gluten-free beers in the near future as I try more. Bartender lady assured me she’d have some more different ones back in stock in a couple of weeks, so when I’m down there again it’ll be worthy of exploration.

Whatever the case, I’m giving this one a rating of 4/5. I would definitely drink this again.

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.

 

Product Review: NEAT Ultimate Spirits Glass

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Lovers of fine spirits will tell you that not all glassware is created equally. The proper glass can go a long way to enhancing the enjoyment of any spirit, be it whisk(e)y, rum, vodka, tequila or what have you. Likewise, the wrong glass can really break the experience. Who’d have thought that something so simple as a glass could make as much difference as it does?

There are many glasses to choose from now, from drinking straight out of the shot glass to snifters and everything in between. As of recent years, this glass has taken the world by storm it seems, and for good reason.

Part of my holiday gift from my parents this year was a set of NEAT Ultimate Spirits Glasses. NEAT (Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology) claims to have used science and engineering to develop a better glass – one that wafts the searing alcohol burn away from the nose as to allow for more of the true aromas to come through, and of course aroma in turn gives way to flavor as well. Pure ethanol burn can numb the sinuses, thus you don’t get the full array of aromas if you get too much of it.

Serving spirits in the NEAT glass is very simple – just pour to the widest point of the glass for your standard 1.5 ounce pour. This makes precise measurements easy. From there, do as you would any other spirits glass to get the aroma – swirl and inhale deeply through the nose.

Being the skeptic I am when I first saw it I thought it couldn’t make that much difference. Alas, I was quickly proven wrong when I took the first whiff of a familiar Scotch. I knew how it smelled and tasted out of a normal glass so that was a good one to use as my baseline. Taking a deep inhale I noticed very little alcohol burn at all (even with the near 120 proof), while being able to take in more of the true aroma. Hey, you mean this actually works? I’m in shock!

The shape of the glass means you’re not going to get too big of a sip at a time. It almost seems metered in that way too. Get just the right amount to swirl around on the tongue and taste all the flavors before taking the swallow. Maybe the hype is justified after all?

Best of all, these glasses are dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. You just can’t beat that.

Whatever the case, it does seem that this glass delivers on its claims. After drinking my fine cask strength single malts out of this glass I can’t imagine going back. This will become my new go-to glass for fine spirits and I highly recommend trying them for yourself. Once you try, you’ll never go back.

Scotch Review: Deanston Bordeaux Red Wine Cask Matured

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As promised, here is my review of the holiday gift I received from my parents.

This is a cask-strength single malt Scotch from Perthshire. This particular batch weighs in at 58.7% ABV, true to form and, as in the name, is aged in Bordeaux casks.

Pour is a deep copper color with streaks of red and chestnut brown. Nose of caramel, vanilla, honey and definite red wine and oak. Red wine up front. Vanilla, dark chocolate, oak, molasses some orange zest. Tannins round out the finish. Notes apricot brandy on the aftertaste and a big alcohol burn along with come cinnamon and ginger.

A truly delicious sipping Scotch, pair this with a hefty, full-bodied cigar. My selection was the previously reviewed Blanco Liga Exclusiva de Familia Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro and it was a beautiful pairing. Rating: 4.75/5.

Have you had this dram? Let me know what you thought!

Scotch Review: Ardbeg Uigeadail

Tonight I’m bringing you all a Scotch review! Hope you enjoy and hope this gets your interest up!

This peated cask strength single malt comes from Ardbeg in the Islay region of Scotland. As with every cask strength whisky, it varies in ABV but this batch comes in at 54.2%.

Goldenrod color on the pour. Very peaty/smoky on the nose with tones of oak, toffee and a fruity note I can’t quite put my finger on – maybe honeydew melon? Attack is bold and hot with alcohol astringency, substantial peat, caramel and a hint of dark chocolate. Finish is very hot and white long with tones of smoke, orange zest and hot cinnamon.

A solid cask strength dram. Not my favorite but very good to have with a nice strong cigar. Had a Padron Delicias in Maduro when pairing for review but would do well with other similar sticks. Rating: 4.25/5.