Friday, September 18, 2020

Morning Coffee and AVO Cigar

An early morning cigar is a rare treat. An early morning cigar, and a view like this is an even more special time. During a recent long weekend "escape" to a mountain farmhouse, I rose before the rest of the house, made a cup of coffee, and sat down to enjoy the view and watch (and listen to) the cows arrive in the fields.

Among the cigars packed for the trip was this AVO Unexpected Celebration. The Unexpected lineup consisted of four "new" releases that AVO shipped last year. As was later revealed, the cigars were actually a rebanding of existing blends. Celebration is a 6" x 54 Toro with an Ecuadoran wrapper and binder and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic. After rolling, the cigars were aged for six years before being released. As it was later deduced, the blend is actually a relabeled AVO XO. 


The Celebration is a medium-bodied smoke that surprised me with a bit more flavor than its appearance indicated. The flavors off the bat were creamy and earthy with some light bitter chocolate and cedar. As the smoke progressed toward the middle, the flavors mellowed a bit, and I was thinking I was in for a boring smoke the second half. However, as the last third approached both the spice and sweetness ramped up a bit and kept things interesting. The hour plus smoke was enough for a couple cups of rich, black coffee. 

Soon the cows had moved on to other pastures and the household was stirring. It was time for breakfast and whatever the day's activities had in store. I do long for more mornings like that though.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

CAO Flathead and Henry McKenna

To start a long weekend recently, I grabbed one of the CAO Flathead 660 sticks and the remains of a bottle of Henry McKenna 10 Year Bottled-in-Bond. It was a great, though bittersweet, pairing. 


The CAO stick is one I've been pairing with my whiskey lately. It just seems to go so well. The full bodied smoke treats one to notes of semi-sweet chocolate and espresso. The burn typically needs some help to stay even on the square box-pressed stick, but this evening it burned extremely well, despite the ultra-high humidity from the heavy rain that was falling.

The Henry McKenna bourbon has gotten several mentions in these Musings previously. It's a whiskey I also enjoy frequently. After the bourbon won the Best in Show Whiskey at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, it's gotten harder to find. Sadly, on this occasion the bottle finally gave its last, and my supply is gone. I'll need to keep an eye on the store shelves for a chance to restock.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Pikesville Rye and BLTC Bishops Blend

On a recent evening, I was looking for a strong and flavorful beverage with which to sit and relax. Opening my liquor cabinet, the obvious choice was Pikesville Rye. This one of my favorite ryes, but one that I enjoy rather infrequently, in no small part due to the 110 poof bottling. The obvious choice to accompany such a bold whiskey was another bold favorite, Black Label Trading Company 2020 Bishops Blend

 


Historically, Pikesville Rye was first produced in Maryland as far back as the 1890's. Prohibition killed the Maryland rye industry, the lone exception being Pikesville Rye. No longer produced in Maryland, this historical recipe is now made in Kentucky by Heaven Hill. Exhibiting a brilliant copper color, the rye looks as good as it tastes. Rich honey and caramel is backed by the strong spiciness of rye. The 55% ABV is noticeable but smooth and palatable. 

The 2020 limited release of Bishops Blend from Black Label Trading Company is one that's gotten a couple mentions here recently. It's one of my favorite cigars from 2020. I almost cringe when I light another of my dwindling stash, but cigars are meant to be smoked and enjoyed, not sit in a humidor being admired. 

Bishops Blend features an Ecuador Habano Maduro wrapper, Ecuador Habano binder, and a blended filler of Nicaraguan, Connecticut broadleaf, and Pennsylvania broadleaf tobaccos. The smoke features full bodied notes of coffee, cocoa, dark fruit and pepper.

I smoked this one down almost to burning my lips and fingers. Despite any numbness brought on my the rye, I played it safe and put it down before any ill effects. I'll certainly keep my eye out for a chance to restock before they are all gone from the store shelves.

Friday, September 11, 2020

September 11: Never Forget

It's been nineteen years. Memories fade. There's a whole generation that didn't experience the reality of that day. Some never learned history. Some have forgotten history. The events of September 11, 2001 brought horrors to our shores that the world should never be permitted to forget. Today our days are filled with the effects of the Chinese virus, racial tension both real and fabricated, and the Marxist violence in our cities. Yet, none of this compares with the horrors inflicted upon our country by our enemies on that September day. 




Never Forget. Never Forgive.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

September 9 is "Buy a Priest a Beer Day"

A tradition initiated by the folks over at The Catholic Gentleman, "Buy a Priest a Beer Day" seems a worthy event.
On this festive day, faithful Catholics all over the world take their priests out for a beer and get to know them better. It’s a beautiful Catholic tradition that goes back to the time of St. Hopswald of Aleyard, the first man to take his priest out for a beer.

Okay, St. Hopswald wasn’t real, but your priest is real. Priests are people too, and they enjoy socializing over good food and drink as much as anyone. They also have a thankless and difficult job, a job that we couldn’t get to heaven without. Priests are the lifeblood of the Church, and they deserve some appreciation.

So with that in mind, I would challenge you to do something concrete to show appreciation to your priest on September 9th. Yes, it could be taking him out for a beer, or it could be inviting him over to share dinner with your family. Be creative if you want, but give back to your priest somehow, and let him know that his ministry is making a difference.

Even if you can't do it today, most of the priests I know would appreciate the gesture of a beer any day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Last Labor Day Cigar and Beer Hurrah

After a delightful four day weekend of good beer, whiskey, cigars, and simple relaxation, Monday afternoon provided one last bit of down time before resuming "normal" life. This delightful comb helped smooth the way.



Southern Tier Pumking is one of the few fall pumpkin beers I enjoy. I can even pour more than one in a sitting. Made with actual pumpkins, the beer has a smooth malt and pumpkin gourd flavor. So many so-called pumpkin beers, are little more than brews loaded up with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. The beer pours a hazy amber color with a thin white head. There's some spice to be sure, but the predominate flavors are graham crackers, caramel, and pumpkin. The 8.6% ABV is almost imperceptible. The beer was enjoyed only slightly chilled as we had just picked up the four pack a few hours earlier in the day.

The RoMa Craft CRAFT 2020 is a smoke I've mentioned in the past. I'm halfway through the box of ten, and still enjoying them. The annual CRAFT series features various combinations of Connecticut Broadleaf and Ecuadorian Connecticut wrappers featuring Mexican San Andrés accents, and also American Broadleaf and Ecuadorian Habano wrappers decorated with Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf. The 5¾" x 46 corona gorda is a great vitola than burns evenly and feels good in the hand.

Four days of pleasant weather, good food, good drink, and good cigars made for a remarkable, if too short, break.

Monday, September 7, 2020

A Guinness and BLTC Last Rights

After the rain storms on Friday, the holiday weekend weather forecast couldn't have been more enticing. Sunny, cool days followed by cooler nights were prognosticated. That certainly came to pass on Saturday. By mid-afternoon I could resist the call no more and headed to the deck. Raise the umbrella to block the sun's glare, put the cushions on the chairs, grab an e-book, and it was time to settle in with a drink and a smoke.

A Black Label Trading Company Last Rites and can of Guinness Draught would make a nice afternoon refreshment. 



The Last Rites is a well-rolled 6" x 60 Grand Toro with a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The binder is Honduran and the filler is a tasty blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan leaves. It's a full bodied smoke with notes of creamy chocolate, coffee, and cedar throughout. The large ring gauge cigar burned evenly and cooly. This is a cigar I reach for frequently at the lounge, and also bring home regularly.



I was never, and still am not, a fan of bottled Guinness. The flavor just doesn't appeal to me on the few occasions I was offered a bottle. That said, I absolutely loved the Guinness we drank on our visits to Ireland, and accepted that I'd only drink it abroad. Then a friend urged me to try to Draught cans with the nitro capsule. I admit it, this is the next best thing to getting it in Ireland or at least proper Irish pub here at home.

The smooth, creamy Irish Stout made a perfect companion to the dark yet creamy notes of the cigar. Like the cigar, the beer offers a nice balance of bitter roast and sweet malt. Neither wiped out the flavor of the other. The slow burning cigar would provide a solid two hour smoke. That provided enough reason to open another another can of the stout. At just 4.2% ABV, it was an easy choice.

Colleen sound joined me on the deck to do some reading and enjoy a beer as well. We read and talked as the evening approached. Soon, the hungry mosquitos began arriving. We realized we've not really had them much this summer. Then again, until this cooler weather, most of our time has been spent inside the screened porch. I guess it's time to get out the citronella candles.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

La Coalición and an Oktoberfest

My employer treated us to a four day weekend this holiday, so after a fun Friday afternoon spent driving country roads, just to get out of the house, I settled out to the screen porch for a beer and cigar. After a beautiful morning and afternoon, a storm was approaching but I was hopeful it wouldn't be too intense.

I grabbed a bottle of Blue Mountain 13.Five Oktoberfest to enjoy with the smoke. The beer pours a clear amber with just a wisp of head. The aroma is sweet with notes of caramel and bread. As expected the flavor is sweet malt and caramel, with just a touch of bitterness. It's a relatively light flavor profile with a thin mouthfeel. The beer was enjoyable, but lacking the heft that I personally prefer in a Märzen style beer. However, I won't pass by the rest of the six pack either.



In contrast to the beer, Crowned Heads La Coalición is a full-bodied smoke. This is one I've been looking to try for a while, but just never got around to picking it up. This 5½" x 50 Gordito was part of the August pack from My Cigar Pack and I was excited to finally try it. I got rich notes of chocolate, espresso, cedar, and a touch of pepper throughout the 90 minute smoke. The stick burned evenly producing copious smoke, although it did threaten to go out and need a touch from the torch a couple times. I was not at all disappointed in the cigar, though next time I think I'll pair it with a strong stout or a bourbon.

Eventually the skies darkened and that storm came through. The rain fell and the wind blew hard. I actually had to move away from the screen to stay out of the rain being forced through. It was a short burst of weather activity, and in a short while I was back in my normal seat enjoying the cool air and the return of blue sky.