Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Still Austin Single Barrel Cask Strength

During our recent trip to St. Louis, I stopped by a Total Wine to shop for distilled spirits and Still Austin Whiskey was at the top of my list. It's a brand that's been on my wishlist for some time. I had read online Total Wine was the only St. Louis seller. I didn't verify that by shopping around, as the Total Wine had more than enough selection to fill my needs. The seemingly endless shelves of interesting bourbon and other whiskey was a sight to behold compared to the pathetically poorly selection at VA ABC stores.

As we were buying a number of bottles of desired spirits, I limited myself to one Still Austin, selecting the Single Barrel Cask Strength. I finally had a chance to crack it open on a recent evening. The bourbon is a very bright and dark amber color in the glass. Strong brown sugar and dark fruit notes emenate from the glass. I am reminded of sherry in a way. There's a hint of the 116 proof in the nose. 

The first taste on the palate is warm and tingly. The heat is quickly moderated by flavorful notes of raison, plum, caramel, molasses, cinnamon, and maple. The profile is complex and richly satisfying. The flavors coat the mouth and linger for an extended time. 


The Still Austin Single Barrel Cask Strength belies its two year age statement. So often, I find bourbons in the two to three year age range simply come across as unfinished and unpolished. Not so with the Still Austin product. It has the richness and maturity one might expect from a more mature age statement.


I initially spent some time tasting the whiskey from a Glencairn glass to get an impression of the full profile. This led me to select a full bodied cigar to go along with it — the Southern Draw Kudzu Axil Lancero.

The Southern Draw Kudzu Axil Lancero has been in my humidor for close to a year now. The 6 1/2 x 40 stick features a small pigtail cap and closed foot. A dark brown Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper holds Nicaraguan Ometepe binder and Nicaraguan fillers.

The full bodied cigar starts off with cinnamon and black pepper. The spice notes are soon joined by leather and wood. In juxtaposition to the spice, there's also a creaminess to the smoke. I found the cigar and bourbon to be quite complimentary.

The evening air as I smoked on the porch was thick with humidity. The sky was cloudy and intermittent rain added to the heaviness of the air. My glass stayed coated with moisture. The cigar burn suffered a bit as it took on the moisture of the air. Attentiveness was required to keep a strong burn going. Still, it was a pleasant 80 minutes of smoking and sipping despite the less than agreeable weather.

Cheers!

Friday, July 19, 2024

Five O'Clock Friday: To Whiskey or Not To Whiskey

The choice is easy.


Have a great weekend. Stay safe.

(Meme makers don't proofread. It's humorous nonetheless.)

Cheers!

Thursday, July 18, 2024

A Brief Stop in Frankfort, KY

We spent the first week of July in St. Louis, MO attending a convention unrelated to my bourbon and cigar interests. Driving from Virginia by way of an overnight in Frankfort, Kentucky, we arrived after closing time for the local distilleries. We did enjoy dinner and a few drinks at Bourbon on Main in downtown Frankfort before retiring for an early morning start on the next leg of our trip. After an appetizer of Deviled Eggs and a cocktail, we enjoyed robust dinner of Kentucky Hot Chicken Strips and fries. I had a pour of E.H. Taylor, Jr. Straight Rye with my dinner. Never having tried the rye from this producer, I was curious. I found it enjoyable, not as much as the bourbons from Eh.H Taylor.


Returning home to Virginia by the same route, we again stopped overnight in Frankfort, KY. This time we planned to do some local sightseeing in the morning before continuing our journey.

Upon checking in to the hotel, we noticed there was a Big Boy restaurant next door. We walked over to it for a nostalgic dinner. Of course, a double decker smash burger with crinkle cut fries made up the enjoyable, even if not heart healthy, dinner.

Returning to the hotel I poured a bit of bourbon from my travel flask and sat down to plan the next morning's adventure.


Buffalo Trace Distillery is located in Frankfort. It's one of the few local distilleries open for visitors on a Monday. There were a few other sights nearby we wanted to see as well. The Buffalo Trace visitor center offers three bourbons on a daily basis; Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Traveller Whiskey, and Sazerac Rye Whiskey. They also offer a rotation of four brands, with one selection being offered each day; Weller Special Reserve, Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor Small Batch, or Blanton’s Single Barrel. The daily offerings, and stock status are posted in the morning on the Buffalo Trace website

I was hoping that E. H. Taylor would be the pick of the day. Alas, it was not. Blanton's Single Barrel got the nod that day. The distillery opens at 9:00AM. Arriving around 8:20AM we joined a line of about 100 fans.


The distillery rules state that a person may buy just one bottle of each variety on the limited list within a 90 period. Apparently some folks did not check the website before arriving in the morning. When one of the guides announced the picked of the day a number of folks left the line since they happened to be in "Blanton's jail" already.


The first stop is to have or ages verified. Our driver's licenses were scanned, and we were issued wrist bands tied to our ID. This process both confirms a legal age for any tasting, and serves as the monitoring system for the limited purchases. 

We did not have time for a tour on this trip, so we went right into the gift shop. After perusing the many shelves of Blanton's, we each selected a bottle that contained needed topper letters, we continued shopping. We left with new glassware, a bar mat, t-shirts, and some miniatures of Buffalo Trace for fun. The bottles of Buffalo Trace are not bound by limited purchases, unlike in Virginia, but we passed on them. The car was extremely packed and I do have several backup bottles on hand. I saw visitors stocking up with carts full of that popular, and reasonably priced bourbon. I also saw one person being denied his purchase of Blanton's when the cashier scanned his wrist band and noted he had already purchased a bottle within 90 days.


We had not planned to do any tasting this trip, but the lines at the tasting bars were short so we opted to indulge. It just 10:00AM, but the pours were small. We enjoyed a guided tasting for just the two of us before getting back on the road.


On the outbound leg of the trip, we noted a few other stops in Frankfort we wanted to make. The first was a Frank Lloyd Wright house. The Reverend Jesse R. Zeigler Residence is a private home in a quiet neighborhood. We made brief stop to take photos. I am sure the residents are used to it.


I also wanted to see the Daniel Boone Monument in a local cemetery. After a winding drive around the large, old cemetery we finally came upon the monument. I had in my mind that this was the grave of Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca. I later learned that Rebecca is indeed buried there. However there is controversy over the final resting place of her husband.

Apparently when the cemetery first opened, the remains of the couple were meant to be transferred to the new cemetery from the original resting place in Missouri. It later arose that the body buried next to Rebecca, and presumed to be Daniel, may in fact be another person. It is said that when Daniel died years after Rebecca, he was actually buried at her feet due to space availability. So it may be some other person under the monument, while Daniel Boone remains back in the Missouri site. A historical mystery that remains yet unresolved.


While in the cemetery we saw signs for the Kentucky Memorial for the Unborn. We made a brief stop to offer our prayers and respects.


After these stops, we continued our journey towards home. Stops for lunch, dinner, and stretching, made for a long day of travel. The trip was enjoyable and we saw many old friends gathered in St. Louis. We also caught up a cousin we had not seen in 25+ years for lunch. We already are thinking about when we will return to "Bourbon Country" for a longer, planned tour.

Cheers!

Monday, July 15, 2024

Sunday Cocktail: Paper Moon, With Noble Cigars Act Two

They keep telling us that we're experiencing an "extreme heat advisory." My response is, we're in Virginia, and it's July. Not to be daunted, we still headed out to the deck on Sunday afternoon, as we often do, for cocktails, snacks, and for me, a cigar.

During our recent travels we had picked up a bottle of Benedictine. For some reason it's harder to get in our area, most of the ABC stores stocking only the Benedictine & Brandy DOM. So we looked for a suitable cocktail to make use of it. The Paper Plane came immediately to mind.

The Paper Plane is a classic and easy to make drink, just four ingredient in equal parts. Add 0.75 oz. of bourbon, 0.75 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice, 0.75 oz. Amaro Nonino, and 0.75 oz. Aperol to a shaker and shake briefly over ice. The drink is strained and poured (typically) into a coupe glass. We prefer the rocks glass for most of pour drinks, so that's what we used. An orange peel is added for a garnish. Another advantage of the Paper Plane as a summer drink is that it's chilled, but not served ice. That minimizes dilution and the amount of condensation on the glass. And it's amazingly refreshing! Random meats, crackers, and nuts made up the hors d’oeuvres part of the table. 


The Noble Cigars is a relatively new cigar maker, founded in 2022 and based in Florida. They currently have two cigars, both rolled in Dominican Republic. The Noble Cigars Act Two has been in my humidor about 5 weeks before smoking. Would that be enough time? Let's see . . .

The 6 x 52 Toro is cloaked in a smooth, dark brown Mexican San Andrés wrapper. The innards are listed as simply Dominican. The Noble website describes the cigar as a full-bodied “Doble Ligero." Upon lighting, I get a warm black and chili pepper note right out of the gate. I can feel it on the retrohale as well. The poignant point is it's not harsh, just flavorful. As the cigar warmed, dark fruit, caramel, and chocolate all join the party. All the while, a fun chili note lingers in the background. Chili pepper and chocolate anyone? 


The burn on the Noble Cigars Act Two is near perfect, "stacking dimes" is how I've heard this performance described. Even with a break to make another batch of drinks, and long breaks to snack, the cigar never went out.

It's a pleasant experience when I try a totally unknown cigar, and get blown away. I got an enjoyable 90+ minute smoke from the cigar. That was just the right amount of time in the still, humid mid-day heat of the deck. Not even a breeze stirred to carry away the copious smoke.


I purchased a  5-pack of these smokes from Luxury Cigar Club, the only online retailer I've found. There are no listed retailers within 300 miles. At this writing, LCC is out of stock, but I have put in my address to be notified when that changes. 

Cheers!

Thursday, July 11, 2024

A (Very) Hot Smoking Time

We were on the road for eleven days to end June and begin July. There were many fun times while we engaged in other interests, but sadly no opportunity for enjoying a cigar. We did make a brief pass through Frankfort, KY, which included a stop at the Buffalo Trace Distiller to shop and do a morning tasting.

After a long day spent catching up on things around the house upon our return, I was looking forward to relaxing with a cigar. Alas, we're in the midst of a summer extreme heat wave, and the screen porch was hovering over 100°. I noticed after dinner that the thermometer needle had dropped below the 100° mark. Close enough.

Grabbing a Foundation Aksum from my travel humidor, I turned on the fans and tried to make the best of it. (I traveled with cigars, just didn't get to smoke them.)

The Foundation Aksum is a 5 x 50 Robusto cloaked in a very dark Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper leaf. The binder is Connecticut broadleaf and the filler tobaccos hail from the Jalapa and Estelí regions in Nicaragua. The cigar is a bold, full bodied smoke with rich notes of sweet espresso and dark chocolate predominating. Black pepper, and dark cherry and raison notes blended throughout. This is the same cigar previously released as Foundation Metapa. A trademark issue prompted the rebranding.

After getting settled and adjusted to the heat, I poured the remaining bit of Wilderness Trail Bourbon from my travel flask. (I also traveled with bourbon, but didn't need to pour from the flanked often since other sipping opportunities did abound.)

Wilderness Trail is a wheated bourbon. The distillery releases in small batches of 18 barrels, after 5-6 years of aging. Strong aromas of vanilla and caramel waft from the glass. There's a pleasing oak presence which joins the vanilla and caramel. A hefty dose of cinnamon and pepper spiciness rounds out the finish. That spicy heat makes a flavorful match for the robust cigar.

Perhaps some less "hot" flavor choices for the pairing may have been better for the very warm temperature. Still, the one hour break was welcome and enjoyable.

Cheers!

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Independence Day

A thought for today.

For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.
— Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman on the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, 24 June 1826.

This ending to Jefferson's last letter is worth remembering today.

Cheers!

Friday, June 28, 2024

Summer Coffee and Smoke

This week, I finally got around to planting a couple of trees we acquired about a month ago. They should have been put in the ground right away but I had to wait for a back issue to be (mostly) mitigated. They are finally in the ground, in the midst of an extreme heat wave. Time will tell how well they do.  

After that morning chore, I retired to the screen porch, with a Caldwell Lost & Found Cream Machine. Despite the heat, I also had a cup of cappuccino. We often enjoy a cappuccino in the afternoon. It's a faux pas to order cappuccino in the afternoon in Italy, but in this house, the rules don't apply. 


The Cream Machine had been hiding in the humidor since July of 2023. The light brown 6 1/4 x 52 Toro is wrapped with Ecuadoran Brazilian-seed Arapiraca tobacco. The rest of the blend is Dominican, consisting of a Dominican Piloto binder, with Dominican Piloto, Dominican HVA and Dominican Habano fillers. The cigar is hefty but has an open draw when cut. As suspected, the flavor profile started off mild, with creamy peanut and graham cracker notes. There's a hint of white pepper and cheddar. Through most of the smoke the flavor was consistent and the cigar burned well. I was enjoying the pairing with the creamy cappuccino.

In the last third of the Cream Machine, it started developing a bitter note. Interestingly the ash became very flaky at the same time, and started leaving a bit of a mess in my lap and chair. Could be I was smoking too fast or perhaps just the nature of that particular stick. The flavor was not unpleasant, but also a significant twist that I did not find as enjoyable. Overall the experience, coupled with the relaxation, made for a delightful afternoon repast. 

Cheers!

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Celebrating the Eve of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

One of the oldest celebrations in the Catholic Church, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist was June 24. Traditionally, a bonfire marked the eve of the Saint's birthday. For our part, we decided to enjoy a small commemoration with a fire, food, cigars, and drink.

We were joined for our celebration by a good priest friend, the evening starting out with a delicious slow cooked pork dinner. Afterwards we retired to the back yard for the main event. I grabbed a couple of the newly redesigned Wise Man Maduro selections from Foundation Cigars. We poured The Macallan Edition No.1 Scotch, and Colleen set out a selection of cheeses and salami to nibble on.


The fire was small, in deference to the high temperatures outdoors, and sat further back from the fire pit than usual. Still, it was warm! 

Foundation Cigars recently released a redesigned Wise Man line. The Wise Man Maduro and Wise Man Corojo. The older El Güegüense and Wise Man Maduro lines were discontinued. The new cigars are made at the My Father Cigars factory, another change. The previous lines were produced by the Aganorsa team

The 6 x 52 Toro has a dark reddish, Mexican San Andrés wrapper. Two Nicaraguan binders from Nicaragua Estelí and Jalapa regions, with a mix of fillers from Estelí, Condega and Jalapa.

The Wise Man Maduro was an excellent smoke. The cigars had been resting in my humidor for 6 weeks. I prefer a little longer rest for new arrivals but they performed wonderfully. The medium to full bodied smoke had hints of toasted nuts, earth, and sweet chocolate. There was a pleasing cedar spice throughout. At the cigar progressed, there was an occasional increased tasted of the spice, but the flavors remained in balance. Smoke production was thick with a creamy mouthfeel. The cigar was quite enjoyable and I suspect with just a bit more resting time, the spice notes would even out.

Afterwards, we cooled off inside with some chocolate icebox pie. All in all, a feast fitting to celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist, the last and greatest prophet.

Cheers!