Cigars and alcohol. Two luxury products that go hand in hand, and sometimes even meet on business level. Aging tobacco in whisky, rum, or cognac barrels is a practice several brands do to achieve extra flavour to the wrapper for certain lines. The famous bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has their own cigar, sold in tubes with the signature wax coating. Drew Estate works with Pappy van Winkle and used to make Kahlua cigars. Mombacho used to have the Diplomatico series. General Cigars works with Sazerac, which resulted in Fireball cigars, Weller by Cohiba and collaborations with Buffalo Trace. And there is the Diesel Whisky Row, a collaboration with Rabbit Hole Distilleries. Fratello Cigars also sells craft beer. Most famous are probably the Cuban collaboration between Martell Cognac and Cohiba. Dominique London, the European retailer with more than 20 shops in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and the Canary Islands takes it one step further. They bought a distillery in Wales and produce whisky, gin, rum, vodka and liquors.
Bulas Porto 10 years white
White Port is a white fortified wine from the Douro region of Portugal. Port wine takes its name from Portugal’s second-largest city, Oporto (also known as Porto). Though the wine is produced in the rural Douro Valley, the city is the wine’s spiritual home. Traditionally, Port wines are matured and eventually shipped from the Port lodges along the riverfront of Villa Nova de Gaia.
White Port is produced from a blend of different white wine grape varieties, with the best known including Esgana Cão (known elsewhere as Sercial) and Malvasia Fina. Both are better known as two of the four noble grape varieties used in Madeira production. Other white Port grape varieties include Arinto, Cercial, Donzelinho Branco, Folgasão, Gouveio Branco, Rabigato Branco, Viosinho, Vital and Verdelho, to mention just a few of those permitted and recommended by the industry’s regulatory body, the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto.
I tried white port many moons ago during a tasting and thought it was a better pairing with cigars than red port. So I went out to get myself a bottle of white port to see if I still think that way. Port is not easy to find in my neck of the woods and I am not too familiar with the drink. I ended up with Bulas Port 10 years White port from a local supermarket. And even though it says white, the port is more of an amber colour. This particular batch was bottled in 2019 with an ABV of 20%. The Bulas family has been making (fortified) wines for centuries. The information on the Bulas website says that this wine is vinified with long skin maceration, fermented in stainless steel vats at a temperature of 22ºC and addition of brandy to finish. Before bottling the blend of the best wines, they aged in French oak barrels during an average of 10 years. This wine has a golden-amber colour and intense complex aromas of dried fruits with notes of orange, honey and wood. In the mouth it is extremely rich, where the acidity gives elegance and crunchy notes, and has a long finish
Port is best enjoyed in a wine glass, so I took a wine glass and poured a little bit of white port. The drink has a nice amber hue and a nice nose of dried fruit, orange, wood, nuts and liquorice. The port is thick and oily, very rich in flavour. Honey sweetness, citrus acidity, fruity flavours. Apricot is the main fruit flavour. The finish is long and enjoyable with a little white pepper. This will go well with a Habano or Corojo wrapped, a Padron 2000 Natural for example.
Port & Tonic
A riff on the classic gin & tonic, but in a different type of glass. The White Port and Tonic is a popular drink in Portugal, a spin on the classic Gin and Tonic using white port wine. The Portuguese cocktail is an aperitif, or drink for before a meal. There is just something about serving this in a big wine glass that makes it feel extra luxurious.
The nose is a muted down version of the neat Bulas 10 White Port with the addition of lemon from the garnish. The concoction reminds me of sour plum drinks. A little too acidic to my taste when it comes to pairing with cigars, but if you are not smoking this is a nice summer cocktail. I would not mess around with a mild cigar, the cigar has to be able to stand up against the acidity, but I would also not go for a cigar too strong as that would overpower the cocktail. Maybe the My Father Connecticut, La Aurora 107 or a Macanudo Hyde Park.
And now for the Port & Tonic recipe:
2 ounces or 60 ml of white port
4 ounces of 120ml of Tonic
Garnish: lemon wheel
Add the white port in a wine goblet filled with ice. Top with tonic and stir gently. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
Black raspberries are known as blackcaps in the mid-Atlantic. This refreshing cocktail mixes the berries with gin, lemon juice and slightly sweet white port for an invigorating, sweet and tart result.
I admit, I screwed up. Instead of basil I muddled mint but I only discovered when I already added gin and port. So I added basil anyway, but of course it was too late to get the mint out. And that shows up in the nose, where mint is the strongest aroma. But the basil is also present just as berries, juniper and the woody, liquorice aromas of the port. The lemon is not present in the nose at all. The lemon is very much present in the flavour though, with sweetness from the berries and the syrup, apricot from the port, botanicals from the gin plus the mint and basil. This is a complex cocktail that deserves a nice, medium to full bodied cigar. An Island Jim Maduro, El Cobre by Oliva, cigars like that.
And now for the Blackcap sour recipe:
8 blackberries or raspberries
3 fresh basil leaves
1½ ounce or 45ml of Gin
1 ounce or 30ml of White port
¾ ounce or 22½ml of Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
½ teaspoon of Simple syrup
Muddle 5 berries with the basil leaves in a cocktail shaker and add all the wet ingredients and ice. Shake for about 30 seconds. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the remaining berries.
White Port Paloma
Paloma cocktails are all the rage these days. A little bit of white port and superfine sugar softens the sting of tequila. I have never been a fan of Paloma cocktails, but I do love white port so maybe this will be the one that changes my mind.
On the nose this cocktail is a mixture of the grapefruit and the port. The first sip already tells me that this Paloma isn’t the one that will change my mind. The bitterness of the grapefruit is too strong for me. The apricot and wood of the white port is a nice undertone and the strength of the tequila gives it a nice little kick and some character. The bitterness needs a strong cigar, something earthy to balance it out. Montecristo #2, Pledge Prequel, Black Label Deliverance Nocturne, or the Foundation Tabernacle Havana Seed.
And now for the White Port Paloma recipe:
1½ ounce or 45ml of Tequila
1½ ounce or 45ml of White port
1½ ounce or 45ml of Grapefruit juice
½ teaspoon of Simple syrup
Club soda to top
Garnish: Grapefruit slices
Add the tequila, port, grapefruit juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass with fresh ice and top with club soda.