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We mentioned the Cigar Cinema offerings from Cigar Aficionado last week, so this week I'd like to return to one of their videos from a while back in which Jack Bettridge and Dave Savona pair cigars and beer.  This is something I have written about before, so of course I found the video rather interesting.

Their inclusion of Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA and the excellent, though mysterious, Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA have led me to mostly forgive their use of a Michelob product.  Their reaction to the monster from Delaware is great, and I completely agree that cigars and beer can be paired with great success.  Mr. Bettridge wisely repeats his theory that the bodies of the cigar and beer should match, which I think is probably the case.  However, I also think that at times, a strong, heavy-bodied cigar can be paired with a lighter, hoppier beer because of the latter's palate-cleansing effect. 

As the warmer weather returns, I hope to be doing a great deal more experimentation with these pairings myself.
Over at Cigar Aficionado's excellent Cigar Cinema, Jack Bettridge and Dave Savona share some excellent advice on pairing cigars with Irish whiskey.  The cigar is one of their top 25 cigars, and is nicely priced at $6.25, but the whiskeys are all rather high-end.  I am not an expert with the Irish whiskeys, but can say that in the past I've enjoyed Tullamore Dew quite a bit.

You can watch the video by following this link.  Make sure to check out Mr. Bettridge's excellent herringbone tweed jacket.

It's been nearly a year since Mr Maujean and I have reported on our drinking-and-airgun experiments, and when we last spoke about it we discussed the unsuitability of cigars as an accompaniment to shooting.  Well, it was a hot summer day, and I had an imperial stout to review, so I thought it would be nice if I could just sip the stout while I was doing something else.  I've always thought that a really nice stout has a range of flavors that develop as the beer warms up, and though I'm not necessarily a proponent of drinking room-temperature (or outside in the summer in Oregon temperature) beer, it can really help one get a handle on a dark one.

eel_river_ravens_eye.jpgSo I dug out my BB gun, which hadn't seen any action in probably eight months, and set up some targets at an embarrassingly close range.  I then popped open the beer, an Eel River Raven's Eye Imperial Stout, and began drinking and plinking.  My first step was to take a look at this beer, because I suspected that analyzing the brew up close might help tune and refine my eyesight, thus honing my aim.  This is a rich-looking, dark, espresso-colored brew with a brownish-tan head that has poor retention, which doesn't throw me off too much, as I figured it would have a rather high ABV and thus not a lot of yeast life left for bottle conditioning.  I then fired five shots at my first target and did horribly.  My lack of practice was really showing.

"Maybe it's the wind," I thought to myself, and so I sniffed the beer hoping that a bit of olfactory exercise would sharpen my wind-detecting senses, whatever they are.  Pleasant coffee and roasted grain aromas wafted into my nostrils.  This beer certainly smells like a stout, and certainly looks like a stout, and what the hell, I may as well admit it.  I was going to shoot at my second target before tasting the beer, but I couldn't help myself.  I was in for a little bit of a surprise.

The Raven's Eye has a fairly light, drinkable body for an imperial stout.  It's still a big beer, with a surprising fruit character and a rich, medium body that highlights all of the flavors you'd expect from an imperial stout.  The heat of its 9.5% ABV is well-concealed, however, and since I didn't look at the bottle while I was drinking it, I assumed it to be perhaps a 7% ABV beer, which would be quite low for an imperial stout.

As I continued to shoot, the beer warmed up a little, and the rich sweetness became accented by a nice roasted bitterness in the finish.  I enjoyed the beer quite a bit, I must say, and whether it was the quality of the brew or the practice, my shooting improved noticeably by my sixth target, and I was getting much better grouping and even a good number of bull's eyes.  While I could never sanely endorse drinking and shooting at the same time, I can sanely endorse this beer, and would urge you to go out and buy some, and maybe save it for the chilly Fall months ahead.

Pairing Beer and Cigars

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When it comes to pairing beer and food, one can take two approaches.  The first approach is the complimentary one, where certain flavor notes in the beer match certain flavors in the dish.  This works pretty well until you get into heavy, rich foods, where you tend to want something refreshing on the palate between mouthfuls.  The second approach is the opposite, where you aim for contrasting flavor profiles between the two, which fulfills the palate-cleansing desires when the dish is on the heavy side, and gets downright bizarre when you begin pairing imperial stouts with your crisp summer salads.  Obviously the rules are not set in stone.

With cigars I've always thought the rules would be fairly complimentary.  Light cigars with lighter beers, heavier cigars with heavier beers.  I contemplated, however, pairing a cigar with Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, which is one hell of a beer and might need a lighter cigar with it.  Could I be correct?  Well, I didn't have any Bourbon County Stout, so I tried something else.

A Punch in the Jaw

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     Jerry folded his arms.  'It's now or never.'
     'You're right.'  Frank looked around vaguely for a clock.  'It always bloody is.'

Punch Gran Puro Santa RitaToday I've decided to pair a Punch Gran Puro Santa Rita with a can of Old Speckled Hen and The Condition of Muzak from The Cornelius Quartet by Michael Moorcock. This turned out to be a magnificent mix, though Jerry Cornelius stories probably seem like they'd be better suited for something hallucinogenic, or at least a glass of absinthe, but what can I say? I'm a rebel. Let's get back to the cigar, though. This cigar was beautiful, with a milk chocolate wrapper of fine Honduran leaf and nice long filler. The band came off nicely without tearing the wrapper at all. It started out magnificent and was a great smoke all the way through. It had a strong, earthy flavor with notes of woody cedar and hints of lemon or some other citrus. There was a good nicotine strength to the thing, and the mouth feel of the smoke was perhaps just a bit lacking. Overall, a wonderful cigar, though.

Combining it with the Old Speckled Hen turned out to be quite inspiring. The earthy notes in the cigar brought out the nutty richness in the ale quite well. The beautiful balance between the flavoring hops and the malt did a terrific job cleansing my palate between puffs on the cigar, and left a pleasant, creamy lingering flavor on the tongue. Together, these two provided a flavorful, enjoyable backdrop against which the surreal adventures of Mr Cornelius could unfold. I cannot recommend this particular combination highly enough; I give the entire experience five stars.

5 stars!

Perdomo Lot 23 Belicoso Cigars ---- 5-PACKIn the first of our line of pairings, Mr Maujean and I decided to explore the combination of cigars, scotch, and BB guns. We chose Perdomo Lot 23 Belicoso for the cigar, Cutty Sark for the scotch, and an innocent dangling plastic bottle for our target. Knowing the danger of mixing booze and bullets (even tiny BBs), we drowned the scotch in club soda, which was a small mercy considering it's some of the cheapest blended scotch one can buy that's still drinkable. Leisure-lovers take note: cheap scotch mixed with club soda is one of the backbones of classy drinking. It's important to cultivate a taste for this particular beverage.

The Perdomo Lot 23 was a really fine smoke for the value. They have a pleasant, carmel-brown Connecticut wrapper and fine Nicaraguan long filler. The smoke is creamy and easy on the tongue, and my cigar burned quite easily with a good firm ash all the way down to the nub. I was able to keep puffing on it until it threatened to burn my fingers, and I didn't want to give it up. As Mr Maujean mentions in his review, these seem to be really low-nicotine cigars and we had to load up our pipes a bit later just to feel like our day wasn't completely wasted.

The shooting was pretty fun, though perhaps doesn't pair all that well with a cigar. You can't really hold a cigar in your mouth while you shoot, because the smoke gets up your nose and in your eyes. You can't really hold it in a hand, either, as it's awkward and again, there's all that smoke. However, I think back fondly to images of really tough WWII sergeants with stogies gripped betwixt their teeth as they shout orders and rush into battle, and I suspect that shooting and cigars are probably a great combination that just require a bit more practice. As a service to our readers, we promise to try this combination over and over again until we've mastered it.

Some might have noticed my erstwhile colleague's crude challenge to me, and I am now faced with something of a dilemma. As a pacifist, I really don't want to shoot at anybody with anything, but as a gentleman of leisure, I find it difficult to refuse a duel. However, I believe it is proper form for the man accepting the duel to set the terms, so, Mr Maujean, I do accept. But the weapon will not be Airsoft pistols, but a series of Sazeracs. We shall have a battle of the livers!

Perdomo Lot 23

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brown light-veined wrapper
nutty creamy spicy done
mild autumn flavors
Perdomo Lot 23 Belicoso Cigars ---- 5-PACK

This was a very good tasting, nothing short of the smell of gunpowder and the crack of a slug speeding off to kill a defenseless moving target could have made it better. As it was, we shot a BB gun at a plastic bottle hanging in a tree and had a grand time, drinking Cutty Sark  and soda and smoking our Perdomo Lot 23 Belicoso cigars. Erik isn't a good shot, but it won't matter until we start dueling with air soft pistols, at which point I'm going to win (Erik: I challenge you, cur!).

As for the cigar, the nicotine levels were not what I had hoped, and it became necessary to smoke a pipe full of Squadron Leader to complete the evening with the proper nicotine saturation. This cigar was quite a bit milder than I expected it to be, I usually smoke more intense styles. I ended up putting the Perdomo down with about 1.5 inches left on it, due to a long run down one side. Erik however, smoked his down to the nub and had no problems. I imagine the bad burn I experienced had to do with the BB gun involvement. I kept putting the stick down to take my shot, allowing me to actually hit the bottle several times. Trying to fire a rifle with the burning stub of a cigar in your mouth is not recommended, unless, like Erik, you prefer to hit things other than your target.
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