Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Bride and Frankenstein

I've been enjoying reading the classic work Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Admittedly, my most vivid recollection of the Frankenstein tale is of the Mel Brooks movie Young Frankenstein. A comedic comedy that never gets old, the movie is not the classic story penned by Shelley.

On a recent evening, I grabbed a cigar from my humidor to enjoy while reading on the deck. Coincidently, I was drawn to one of the few remaining cigars I have from the 2021 Tatuaje Monster Mash Series release. The cigar I happened to grab was the vitola called Bride. The Tatuaje Bride is named in reference to the character from the 1935 film, Bride of Frankenstein, based on the character created by Shelley. What could be a better pairing?

The Monster Mash Bride is a 5 5/8 x 49 with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper covering Nicaraguan binder and filler. The medium bodied smoke has enjoyable notes of coffee, cream, and hint of sweet fruit. 

Shelley's Frankenstein never finished his creation of the bride. But she lived on in the movies, and now provides inspiration for an enjoyable cigars.


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Sunday Cocktails and Smoke

Midway through the Memorial Day weekend, found us in our usual place -- on the deck enjoying the weather. After Mass and a late breakfast, I brewed a pot of French press coffee, and headed outside to enjoy the limited sunshine and spend some time with a good book. Rain threatened and the temperature cooled, while the breeze picked up, and we soon moved into the screened porch. And then it was time for cocktails. 

The libation of choice was a Bufala Negra cocktail. There are several variations of this flavorful bourbon cocktail online, but the one I've saved is simple. 

- 4 basil leaves               
- 1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar               
- 1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
- Ice for mixing, serving                
- 1 1/2 ounces bourbon               
- 1 1/2 ounces chilled ginger ale

In a cocktail shaker, muddle 3 of the basil leaves with the balsamic vinegar and simple syrup. Add ice and the bourbon and shake well. Strain the drink into an ice-filled rocks glass, stir in the ginger ale and garnish with the remaining basil leaf. Enjoy.

For the bourbon portion I used John J. Bowman Single Barrel from the A. Smith Bowman Distillery right here in Fredericksburg, VA. And naturally, a single large cube of ice in the glass.

I chose a Casa Magna Colorado Robusto to enjoy with the drink. The deep red Nicaraguan maduro wrapper holds Nicaraguan binder and filler. The cigar was listed as the 2008 Cigar Afficianado Cigar of the Year though I had never had it prior. The reddish-brown wrapper and gold label make an attractive presentation.

Sadly, I found the smoke to be fairly bland. There was no richness of flavors. I remarked to Colleen that I just wasn't getting a whole lot out of it. Even well after my drink was finished and I was sipping water, the flavor profile never really broke out. Mild leather, wood, and some sweetness, not much more. I did find a few online reviews that confirmed my experience with the Casa Magna Colorado being a one dimensional smoke. 

Despite the relatively uninteresting cigar, the afternoon was quite pleasant and time well-spent enjoying the outdoors.


Monday, May 29, 2023

More Range Time

I love the Spring days when it's warm but not yet humid, and the sun is bright but it's not scorching. On such afternoons the range beckons. And I try to answer, as I did right before the holiday weekend.

For this particular range trip, I brought along two different target options to create some variety in the "stand and shoot." In addition to the usual paper IDPA practice target, I used the "colors and shapes" target that offers mixed shapes in different sizes to varying exercises. All shooting was done with the Full Size SIG P320. I expect to focus on practice and match shooting with this gun for the upcoming months.

My outing started out shooting at both 10 and 15 yards to the IDPA target. I mostly focused on getting the gun on target from the draw quickly and consistently, shooting body shot or head shot pairs, or pairs with transitions between both. This was followed by 7 and 10 yards shot to different parts of the color target. Besides followups to the same target spot, I chose many different two shot transitions between different size shapes. The session finished up by shooting from one target to the other. Sometimes moving from large to small, other times from a smaller target area to a larger, all the while keeping in mind the range's two-shot string limit.

The 90 minute outing was a nice diversion from the work day. I also felt it was beneficial trigger time, even if limited in options. 


Memorial Day

On this last Monday in May, Americans stop to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. It is their sacrifices that helped to preserve the freedoms we value and enjoy today. Sadly, there are too many people in our country who take freedom for granted, or even naively despise the blessings of liberty. As we pause to remember our lost heroes, may we also vow to be steadfast in our opposition of those who wish to destroy that which has been so hard won.

As you enjoy time with family and friends on this Memorial Day, take a moment to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Their sacrifice keeps this Nation great.

"The purpose of all war is ultimately peace."
--Saint Augustine

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Saturday, Chores Then A Relaxing Smoke and Drink

We've been trying to make the most of this 3-day holiday weekend -- at least before the expected rain kicks in Sunday evening and Monday. This is a weekend we avoid shopping, taking trips, and even the calls from work will slow. Side thought, why is rain on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends such standard fare in Virginia? 

Saturday morning we spent some time grooming the 20+ year old Japanese Maple tree in front of our house. We planted the then small ornamental not too long after we moved in. At the time it seemed an extravagant purchase (it was) but it's provided a lot of enjoyment and aesthetics for a couple of decades now. It had accumulated a lot of dead branches and was looking a little dull as a result. The grooming brightened the display.

Next it was time to do some dreaded window outside cleaning. The front windows were done, with a noticeable brightening of the front yard. The rest will wait for a whole house wash to remove the winter grime and spring pollen.

We then moved on to the more pleasurable activities of the day, starting with some delicious ground chuck and brisket patties from the grill. I tried something new and cooked them using indirect heat until near done, then moved over high heat to finish and sear. It took longer than the typical grilling over high heat, but they were moist with a delightful light char. 

And at last, the feature event, a cigar and bourbon on the deck. I selected Horse Soldier Reserve Bourbon and a Southern Draw Manzanita

Horse Soldier bourbon seemed like an appropriate choice for the day. The story behind the bourbon is fascinating as it was founded by part of the original team of "horse soldiers," the Green Beret team that was the first to enter Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States. Their start is summarized in this article, "The Green Berets Who Went From Elite Warriors to Elite Bourbon Makers." 

"The Green Berets Who Went From Elite Warriors to Elite Bourbon MakersDays after 9/11, while many Americans were watching the news in a state of shock and horror, a team of 12 Green Berets took action. They covertly entered Afghanistan and began to wage war against the Taliban … on horseback.

"It wasn’t until 48 hours before their insertion that the men were informed they would have to traverse the steep and treacherous landscape of Afghanistan on horses. It was the first of many aspects of this mission, code-named Task Force Dagger, that they would have to figure out as they went along. 

"Despite being often cut off from communications with command headquarters and outnumbered forty to one, these men, The Horse Soldiers, fought in a series of intense battles side-by-side with militia allies and successfully captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif from the Taliban, a strategic stronghold.

"The Horse Soldier’s story inspired a book, a movie and a monument that can be seen at the 9/11 Memorial in New York. Nearly 20 years after Task Force Dagger’s success, retired Special Operators Scott Neil, Rob Schaefer, Mark Nutsch, Bob Pennington, Tyler Garner and John Koko, along with Elizabeth Pritchard-Koko, found a new mission: they founded American Freedom Distillery. The all-American company’s signature offering is the award-winning Horse Soldier Bourbon, which is sold in bottles pressed in molds made from steel salvaged from the World Trade Center site."

The Horse Soldier Reserve is the distillery's Barrel Strength expression. The proof varies between batches, the bottle I have is labeled 124 proof. The nose has dark caramel, sweet maple, along with hint of vanilla and fruit. When sipping I get charred wood, dark fruit, molasses, and a cinnamon like spice. In the finish an interesting fruit note comes up, reminiscent of dark cherries and plums. The 124 proof imparts some heat to mouthfeel, but it is very balanced by the flavor notes, and not overwhelming in the least. Summarize all that to say it's right on target for my flavor preferences.

Horse Soldier isn't just a "celebrity bourbon" using a name for marketing. With so many name-only marketing projects in the market it's easy to be cynical. These are award winning, well crafted and flavorful whiskies. While I naturally gravitated to the barrel strength version, I will make an effort to pick up their other expressions as well. 

The Manzanita from Southern Draw is one I've mused on a couple times previously. It's a smoke that stays at the top of my list, and consistently pairs well with bourbon. The cigar sports an attractive reddish-brown Habano wrapper over a Habano binder, and Corojo and Ligero fillers. The smoke has an earthy base with bold dark chocolate and cedar notes. The note of pepper helps it keep up with the demands of the bourbon.

The cigar, the bourbon, along with some good blues coming from the speaker, made for an extremely pleasant evening. As an added attraction our local fox momma made an appearance trotting through the yard on the way to the woods. We see her frequently bringing home food and hope she'll show us the kits someday soon.


Saturday, May 27, 2023

Kicking Off The Long Weekend

It seems the longest weeks are the ones leading up to a long weekend. But finally Friday arrived and preparations for the evening got underway. I finished the lawn maintenance chores early, and prepped the fire pit before dinner. 

I was looking forward trying out the Calumet Farm 10 Year Bourbon I had picked up a few weeks ago. That, along with a Padrón 1926 Serie 9 Natural were set in place, so once the fire got going the sipping and smoking commenced. 

This is my first exploration of Calumet Farm bourbon. When I was shopping out of state a few weeks ago, the store had the 8, 10, and 16 year expressions. I've read mixed reviews of the Calumet line but have been interested, so opted to go with the 10. The ten year was of average price for the age, and ten year bourbon is often a sweet spot. I was pleasantly surprised. I found moderately bold notes of charred wood, caramel, and some honey sweetness. The finish was a little spicy bit not overwhelming. My impression was of an enjoyable "classic" bourbon. Now the 16 year expression is tempting me.

Colleen inquired if I'd make a Mint Julep for her to sip while we enjoyed the fire. Of course! She had picked up a few fresh herbs for cocktails this weekend. It's a simple drink, so even when it was time for a refill, setting the cigar down to go inside and mix another didn't even require touch up to the smoke. (Even if I did accidentally use some whole ice cubes instead of chipped.)

The Padrón was a fine smoke as always. I don't smoke them frequently enough, still there are often a few in my humidor. The 1926 Serie 9 Natural is a Nicaraguan puro in a 5 1/4" x 56 box press format. It's a well-constructed cigar with a moderately firm pack. The 1926 is medium to bold smoke with creamy notes of coffee, nuts, and chocolate. The burn is razor sharp throughout with a persistent ash.

It's was a beautiful evening, and since we had an early dinner and were outside in the very early evening, we got to enjoy a lot of bird activity at the edge of the wood. It also meant there was time for another smoke and a bit more sipping. The second smoke for the evening was the Liga Undercrown 10 by Drew Estate

The Undercrown 10 features a Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper, Habano Connecticut binder, with Brazil Mata Fina and Nicaraguan Habano leaves as fillers. The creamy smoke features rich espresso, some cocoa sweetness, and a hint of dark fruit. As a medium-bodied smoke, the cigar paired well with the bourbon also.

I don't think I could have asked for a more enjoyable evening. The weather was great, as were the cigars and drinks. Of course the company could not have been better. And there are still a few more days to do more of the same.


Friday, May 26, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Planning for the Long Weekend

I think we'll be okay.

Have a safe and fun holiday. Remember the reason.


A Lancero and Larceny

I don't believe lancero shaped cigars are appreciated enough. The slender cigars average 7 - 7.5 inches in length, and a 38 ring gauge is typical. They do require a bit of extra attention when smoking to keep the burn going, at the same time striving to not heat up the cigar by puffing too frequently. They also require skilled rollers to produce a balanced and well-constructed cigar. As such, they are typically more expensive than their more standard sized counterparts. 

One of my favorites smokes in the classy vitola, is the Artesano del Tobacco Viva La Vida. The Nicaraguan puro is rolled in the AJ Fernando factory. It features a Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro 2000 wrapper, a Nicaraguan Corojo 99 binder, and a  Nicaraguan Criollo 98 filler. The full bodied cigar features notes of pepper, leather, chocolate and cream. It's truly an enjoyable smoke. The lancero vitola of Viva La Vida is a Luxury Cigar Club exclusive. 

This cigar was paired with Larceny Barrel Proof bourbon Larceny Barrel. This bottle is Batch B522, released May 2022. It is an "allocated" bourbon in Virginia but I was fortunate enough to hit a store at the right time to purchase it in September 2022. The bourbon comes in at 123.8 proof. This sipper brings notes of brown sugar, cinnamon, with some readiness. It's a moderately warm finish as the pepper and spice comes to the forefront in the finish.

This stick was the last of a five pack I purchased in May 2022. I'll be looking to order more soon.