Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Sunday Relaxation, Cigar and Beer

After burning through the remaining firewood last weekend, we received a new delivery on Saturday. That led to hauling many wheelbarrow loads of wood from the driveway to the rack out back on Sunday. But, it's a wonderful sight now. We're all set for the fall fire pit season.

The weather in the afternoon was exceptional for some post-chore relaxation on the porch. I grabbed a New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale and a Rocky Patel LB1 to enjoy in the down time before dinner.

I didn't think much about how the two would pair. I simply had the urge for a Fat Tire and for the LB1. The Amber Ale has a creamy, mild caramel malt flavor. There's a nice, but low key, toasted bread aspect to it as well. It's a refreshing afternoon beverage.

Rocky Patel LB1 features a smooth Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with a Honduran binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. The smoke certainly carries a bolder flavor profile than the beer. Coffee, cedar, and earthiness come through first. It starts off on the spicy side before some underlying sweetness begins pushing through. LB1 is a medium to full bodied smoke.

Both flavor profiles are enjoyable. They are compatible but mostly stand on their own without complimenting or contrasting one another. Just fine for an afternoon break.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Blade and Bow Bourbon with BLTC Super Deluxe

After a fun morning of shooting Saturday, I retired to the back deck for some long-awaited treats before dinner. I'd recently picked up a new cigar from Black Label Trading Company, and had an interesting bottle of bourbon waiting in the wings.

Blade and Bow Bourbon is one that, to my chagrin, I've never picked up before. Our state-controlled liquor stores offered it for 20% off in a one-day sale recently and that led me to look into it. Under Blade and Bow's Solera system of aging, older barrels are never emptied fully before refilling. Each barrel of Blade and Bow contains some portion of the last bourbon produced at the iconic Stitzel-Weller distillery before it closed in 1992.

The bourbon is very smooth, with notes of caramel, white fruit, crisp grains and a subtle oak char. There's a hint of spiciness, but it remains a cool, easy drinking bourbon. It will most certainly be a frequent resident of my whiskey cabinet.

Black Label Trading Company Super Deluxe is a new, and very limited, release from the boutique cigar maker. The box-pressed 5 ¼ x 52 Robusto features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper over an Ecuadorian habano binder. The filler tobaccos come from Nicaragua. The cigar was also released in Petite Corona (4 ½ x 48) and a Lancero (7 x 42) vitolas, all box-pressed. The cigar produces deep, earthy and spicy notes. It's a full bodied, bold smoke with copious smoke output.

Anyone following along will notice I've been mentioning Black Label Trading Company cigars frequently. I find their smokes hit my preferences for dark, full-bodied cigars. I'm not sure if Super Deluxe will replace the BLTC Last Rites or Bishops Blend as my current favorites of their releases. However, I still have more Super Deluxe in my humidor to enjoy and confirm or reverse that thought. I enjoyed the Super Deluxe down to the hot nub. Of course, that gave me the time to pour more of the excellent bourbon.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Misty Morning Shooting Games

It was raining lightly but steadily during my drive to the Cavalier Range for Saturday's monthly IDPA match. Despite the weather prognosticators indicating the rain would have stopped by the time I left the house, I was hopeful I'd be shooting in clear skies shortly. The mist was still falling as we gathered, and everyone lamented the sight of plastic bag covered targets. However, the match directors opted to delay the start for 30 minutes or so to let the rain pass. Success! We'd be shooting at un-bagged targets!

The first stage our squad shot had the longest shots of the match; quite the warm up. Three groups of targets were engaged in priority, near to far. All arrays featured a non-threat centered on the group. Two arrays of three had a target hidden being the non-threat, the furthest group was just two partial targets.

Luckily the bags came off for shooting

The amount of movement needed along the fault line depended on the shooter's confidence level with tight shots near the non-threats. Technically, I think you could "see" all the targets from just two positions, although every shooter I watched took a few more steps back and forth. To my surprise, this was my best stage. Despite shooting it down 5, it was a stage win in my division and a 3rd overall finish.

The next course of fire had us starting with just six rounds in the gun. Beginning the run facing a wall, there was an open target, and two targets engaged from cover. Successfully making all six of those shots meant you could reload on the move to the last point of cover to find the last two targets. I was -3 for the run.

The next stage also featured a downloaded start, this time with just one round loaded in the gun. We started with the muzzle of the gun pointed at a spot on a non-threat in front of us. At the signal we were required to fire the one round at our choice of two open targets before retreating to cover and reloading. We then engaged those two open targets from cover. The rest of the targets on the stage were visible from two further points of cover. All targets required three hits each. This was a -0 stage for me.

Next up was the "go fast" stage. We started centered on a wall, with an open target to our right which was shot first. There were five more targets arranged behind the wall, and it was the shooters choice from which side to shoot from first. Target priority meant there were three targets to be engaged from whichever side you started on, and two from the other.

Even though each target required just two shots minimum, I think most shooters fired extra rounds, really fast, to enable reloading while in transition. I was -1 for the stage despite extra shots.

The last stage was a long field course with seven targets, some with non-threat cover. We started touching one end of a wall. The first shots were at two targets at opposite sides of the course, but shot from the same point of cover. We then worked our way down a "hallway" engaging targets from different nooks and angles. It was a good "running" course and I was -4 for the stage.

The weather turned out great, but there was still a fairly small turnout. The possible inclement weather, and ammo shortages, are likely contributing factors. There was also a competing VCDL special event at a nearby range that attracted some of the regulars. 

It was a good day of shooting. I was moderately pleased with how I shot, even though I was 13 points down total. That had me finishing 9th of 32 overall, and 4th of 17 in SSP. Not bad for a slow, old guy. I'm not going to win any major awards, but it's nice to be somewhat competitive, despite bad knees and old eyes.  :-)  Now if I only had the range and the ammunition to put in some practice.

Pasting targets was a challenge at times

Saturday, September 26, 2020

BLTC Last Rites and an IPA

After dinner Friday I was in the mood for a nice IPA. I was also in the mood for a good cigar. IPA's aren't always the best companions for cigars, so I had to give my selection some thought. I originally had my eyes on some new cigars I'd not yet tried, but opted for the known. 

I had a few bottles of Lagunitas IPA in the fridge, left from a friend's visit recently. That part of my choice was easy. Now for the cigar. After a few scans of the humidor I settled on a Black Label Trading Company Last Rites.

Lagunitas IPA pours a golden amber with a frothy white head. The aroma is citrus and pine. The flavor profile has robust citrus and pine hop notes, with a caramel malt backbone. The sweet malt and bitter hop aspects are in good balance. There's a lingering bitterness in the oily finish. This is a not a palate killer, but still highly flavorful. 

I felt confident about the cigar choice, having enjoyed many Last Rites previously. The 6" x 60 Toro features a slightly oily Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, over a Honduran binder with Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. The full body smoke has notes of creamy chocolate, coffee, and cedar throughout.

The bold, mildly spicy cigar cuts through the piney bitterness of the beer very well. At the same time the bold hop flavor of the beer isn't lost in the smoke either. I was very pleased with my selections for this flavorful pairing.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Thursday Cigar and Beer

It was an early start to the weekend Thursday when I headed over to 1781 Brewing after dinner for a beer and smoke at the cigar lounge. After a week of very cool weather, one that actually had me turning on the heater for a smoke on the deck earlier in the week, it was nice to sit outside comfortably as the sun set. As usual, the first stop was to fill my mug with a tasty beer. Also as usual, I opted for the Washington's Hare Porter. The mildly sweet caramel and toffee notes, with just a touch of bitterness, go quite well with most cigars I smoke. And the low 5.5% ABV makes it easier to have a refill, should I desire.

In perusing the lounge's humidor, I saw it held a box of Black Label Trading Company Bishops Blend, in the Corona Larga vitola. I have been enjoying the Robusto size sticks I grabbed last July at the shop, but had never tried the slightly larger size. 

As noted previously, Bishops Blend is a limited release from Black Label Trading. This year's edition was created in two sizes, with only 450 boxes of 20 produced in each of the vitolas. The blend is comprised of an Ecuador Habano Maduro wrapper, an Ecuador Habano binder, and a mix of Nicaraguan, Connecticut broadleaf, and Pennsylvania broadleaf filler tobaccos. The smoke is full bodied with flavors of coffee, cocoa, and some interesting dark fruit notes. It is my humble opinion that this Black Label release is one of the best sticks of 2020. 

Most of my previous pairings with Bishops Blend have involved whiskey of some variety. The stick works just as well with the porter, as expected. Besides the tasty beer and smoke, the evening was filled with fun conversation with other folks in the lounge. Inevitably, some of the conversation veered to politics and the social unrest plaguing our country. Despite the presence of viewpoints on opposite sides of the spectrum, the discussion remained civil and even jovial. That's the magic of the cigar lounge.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Undercrown Maduro & Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Continuing the fire pit and power outage story… 

After rebuilding the fire, I headed inside to grab another smoke and a beer. The second cigar choice for the early evening was the Liga Undercrown Maduro from Drew Estate. This cigar has been mentioned before in these Musings and is a long-standing favorite.

I enjoy the Undercrown Maduro in the 5" x 54 Robusto size. The cigar wears a Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper, a Habano Connecticut binder, and Brazil Mata Fina and Nicaraguan Habano fillers. It's a creamy smoke featuring notes of rich espresso, cocoa sweetness, and a hint of dark fruit.

Returning to the cellar, I dug out a bottle of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout from the Winter 2006-2007 bottling. For many years we were very good about buying bottles of this brew each year to stash away. Unfortunately I've let that slip the past few years, and we've also worked through the older bottles. This 14 year old was the most senior of the stash.

The beer still maintains a rich aroma as well as good carbonation. The flavor profile retains its richness as well. There's a mildly bitter, semi-sweet chocolate overall profile. Notes of coffee, vanilla, and some nuttiness come through as well. The 10% ABV is wholly undetectable on the palate. 

The combination of the dark, semi-bitter beer, along with the espresso and chocolate notes of the cigar made for a delectable pairing. Sadly, after a few hours of the ongoing power outage, I had to leave the comfort of the fire in order to turn on the generator. Now I had the hum of generators both in the distance, and up close, disturbing the peacefulness of the evening.

Eventually the power was restored, thankfully earlier than the resolution time initially broadcasted by the power company. Leaving the fire burning, we retired to the house for a late dinner. After dinner Colleen did a little baking and I returned the yard. Not desiring the time around the fire to come to an end, I stirred that coals and put on a few more logs. Colleen soon joined me and we stared into the fire until late in the evening. And now my wood pile was suddenly very empty.

The long afternoon and evening by the fire was a great way to mark the last weekend of the summer. I do think our time spent out back disrupted some of the local deer who like to bed down in the yard overnight. I could hear rustling in the woods on occasion and the light from my flashlight was reflected back by green orbs staring back at me. At least I am going with the assumption those were deer.

The End

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Barrel Aged Cigar & Two Stout Beers

We got the first fire of the season going last Sunday. The last weekend of the summer was cool enough for a fire to be enjoyable, yet still warm enough to not require bundling up. After a late brunch I uncovered the woodpile and prepped the pit. Looking at the amount of wood left from last season, I estimated I had enough for two fire pit sessions before needing to restock. 

After lighting the fire, I grabbed an older stick from the humidor. I've been eying my last Camacho Imperial Stout Barrel Aged stick for some time, and finally brought myself to light it up. These were a limited, one time release, but cigars are meant to be smoked, not just admired. 

The story behind the cigar reads like a travelogue. The barrels used in the aging of the tobacco for this blend first housed bourbon at Heaven Hill Distilleries. The barrels were then sent to Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado to age their Imperial Stout beer. Next, the barrels were then shipped to the Camacho factory in Honduras. There, the company’s signature tobacco, Honduran Original Corojo, was aged inside for a minimum of six months. The cigar is comprised of 100% Maduro tobaccos. The wrapper is Mexican San Andrés. The binder and fillers include the barrel-aged Honduran Corojo, along with Brazilian and Dominican tobaccos.

As soon as I lit the cigar, I really had few regrets about burning my last one. I knew it would be as enjoyable as I remembered. The 6" x 50 Toro is tightly packed, with a slightly restricted draw, but still produces copious flavorful smoke. Dark, rich roasted coffee and dark chocolate predominate, with a touch of sweet vanilla coming through as well. 

To go along with the stick, I also dug deep into the beer stash and pulled out a Stone Brewing 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. The bottling date stamped on the bottle is 01/15/16. The beer features roasted malt with a sweet, toasted bread graininess. The beer is moderately bitter with a full mouthfeel. It was an excellent match for the flavors of the cigar.

The warm fire added to the enjoyment of the rich beer and cigar. As this would be a nearly two hour smoke, I headed back to the basement to dig for another old beer. I came up with a bottle of Smuttynose Imperial Stout, this one bottled way back in 2006. 

As expected, this stout also paired well with the Camacho cigar. The beer featured roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, and some hints of dark fruit. There was very little in the way of hop bitterness. The mouthfeel was creamy and smooth, with a dry aftertaste. After cellaring for fourteen years, the carbonation was still moderate.

As Colleen and I chatted and continued to enjoy the fire, we became aware of the sound of generators in the distance. Soon after that, I received a text notification that our house was without power. At that point, there was little left to do except to feed the fire, grab another cigar to smoke and pull another old beer from the cellar. Apparently I'll need to restock the wood pile sooner rather than later.

To be continued …

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Sam Adams Octoberfest & Hamlet 25th Anniversary

After a fun IDPA match Saturday morning, Colleen and I sat outside during the afternoon to enjoy a beer, some reading, and the cool sunshine. I opted to try a Hamlet 25th Year Robusto. I'm a fan of Hamlet cigars, especially the Tabaquero, but I've never tried this one. The master roller at Rocky Patel, Hamlet Paredes is known for putting out full bodied cigars, but the 25th Year breaks that mold by featuring a mild profile. Hamlet calls it "a cigar for the everyday smoker."

One of the likely reasons I've passed by this cigar in the past was the mild flavor description. I generally prefer medium to full bodied smokes, although I'll grab a milder smoke to have with coffee in the morning. That was my intent when I purchased the 25th Year, but this afternoon my curiosity got the better of me and I opted to try it out. 

The 5½" x 50 stick is wrapped in a golden brown Ecuadorian Habano leaf. The binder is Pennsylvania broadleaf, with Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers. The flavor kicks off with a mild cedar and pepper spice over mild chocolate and creamy coffee. The spice decreases in the later stages, while the chocolate and coffee notes gain an even creamier aspect.

The beer selection for this cool day was Sam Adams Octoberfest. I've been enjoying this seasonal for the past few weeks as it's one I look forward to each year. The caramel and bread sweetness, spiced with just a touch of hop bitterness offers a refreshing drink. 

The malt of the beer stepped on the flavors of the mild cigar to some degree. While I enjoyed the flavors put off by the well-constructed cigar, they were just outside my wheelhouse, and didn't hold my interest in the last third. That, combined with the growing chill in the air as the sun dropped below the trees, led me to abandon the stick with a couple inches left. Despite that, I have no doubt that I'll light another when the appropriate setting and mild cigar mood strikes.