Thursday, August 12, 2021

Jim Beam Repeal Batch & Le Carême Pairing

I've experimented with a lot of cigar and beverage pairings over the past few years. Be it whiskey, beer, coffee, soda, tea, etc., many work, some do not. Surprising as it may seem, I find coffee to be one of the hardest things to pair with cigars, especially black coffee. (Which, face it, is the only proper way to drink coffee.) Plain water is way down on my list when it comes to cigar accompaniment. To me it rarely enhances, and sometimes detracts from the cigar's flavor.

Most enjoyable are those times when a pairing works exceptionally well. That was the case recently when I poured some Jim Beam Repeal Batch bourbon with the Crowned Heads Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2021.


Jim Beam Repeal Batch is a bottle I picked up when it was first released in 2019. I enjoyed it, and emptied most of the bottle, before being distracted by other things. Repeal Batch is said to have been inspired by the Jim Beam bourbon of the 1930's. The bourbon is aged four years, is non-chill filtered, and bottled at 43%ABV. The flavor profile features oak, butter, and vanilla. It's a very smooth sipper with a clean finish. It sells locally (when you can find it) for $16.99 for a 750 ml bottle. It's a fine whiskey at a bargain price.

Recently I had to urge to dig out the Repeal Batch again. When I had the chance to do so on a recent Friday evening, I thought hard about what cigar to enjoy with it. I settled on the limited edition Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2021. Le Carême from Crowned Heads is one of my "keep on hand" cigars and the belicosos format is one I really enjoy in many cigars.


This turned out to be a great pairing, surpassing even my expectations. The cigar is medium bodied with creamy, sweet notes. There's a touch of cedar spice to add some complexity. The sweet oak and vanilla of the bourbon complimented it to perfection.

When I picked up this bourbon a couple years ago, the guy at the ABC store remarked, "At that price, you should buy more." In retrospect, he was right, and I'll probably grab more when I see it on the shelves. After a long period of unavailability, the regular production Le Carême is back in the stores. The limited release series is probably gone until another year, but I'll be watching for it too.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Lookout Brewery, Black Mountain, NC

A couple of weeks ago we escaped to western North Carolina to disconnect for a week of relaxation. We ensconced at a bed and breakfast for the week, which made for a nice base of operations. We would eat a hearty meal in the morning, then head out for a day of hiking, sight seeing, and brewery visits. 

We were treated to an appearance by the local bird feeder bandit one evening as we enjoyed dinner on the patio. The hungry bear stepped out of the woods, stared at us for a moment, then retreated back into the trees.


Naturally, I was looking forward to enjoying cigars at local breweries during the trip. Surprisingly, the NC breweries we visited were, with one exception, less than accommodating when it came to that pleasure. Of course, there are dozens of breweries in the Asheville area, so maybe we just hit the wrong ones. As so many of our local breweries allow cigars, many even having humidors onsite, I was shocked by the restrictions at breweries in our neighboring state.

One notable exception was Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain. We stayed right outside of the town, so it was just a short drive to the brewery. That was fortunate as this was the only brewery that we opted to pay a return visit to, as much for the beer and atmosphere as the chance to enjoy a cigar.


We ordered a couple of beers, and grabbed a table on the side patio in the shade. I quickly lit a Liga Privada Sun Grown Maduro to enjoy with the Toasted Hazelnut Dunkel. The Dunkel had notes of coffee and a pleasing nuttiness. It was a refreshing foil to the rather warm temperature and as expected paired well with the cigar. The resident food truck was not open so we grabbed two delicious wood fired pizzas from the shop right across the street. (We were enjoying the leftovers at the B&B when the bear paid a visit.)


We returned later in the week for more good beer, food, and a smoke. This time the food truck was open and we gorged ourselves on some tasty, and large, hot dogs. This time I opted for Curren's Cloudbreaker Hazy IPA. For my smoke I lit one of my favorites, the Powstanie Broadleaf, in the Belicoso format.


The Hazy IPA was very well done. There was a refreshing fruitiness, without being overly sweet, and balanced with just the right amount of hop bitterness. Mouthfeel was creamy with a clean finish and the moderate 5.7% ABV made it easy to go for a refill. 

I was struck by the friendliness of the patrons at the brewery. The crowd seemed be mostly "local" rather than "tourist" like us. In fact, Lookout Brewing reminded me a lot of my favorite local haunt for enjoying beer and cigars, 1781 Brewing, where so many of these Musings originate. The patrons and staff were friendly, the beers delicious, there was food onsite, and they had no objections to the enjoyment of cigars. In fact, small ash trays were placed on many of the tables.


I talked to the bartender for a bit to express my delight with finding them, and shared how much we enjoyed ourselves. "We are just a small business trying to be welcoming," she replied. I think they are succeeding. If you are in the area, and want a break from the larger, more well-known, and crowded, local breweries you won't go wrong with a visit to Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, NC.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Cavalier IDPA Match

In a schedule almost reminiscent of the "old days," I squeezed in IDPA matches on two consecutive weekends in July. After the Rivanna match the prior weekend, last weekend I made it to the monthly match at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol. It was an overcast morning, and we saw a brief rain shower early in the day, but the sun eventually shone and warmed things up. 

Our first stage of the morning saw us starting in a corner formed by two walls. Moving through the course fire, we engaged targets from several shooting positions. 


The next stage involved not one, but two movers, but contained a total of only three targets. The start position was standing behind a low barrier with our gun holstered. Using our strong hand, we were required to knock a tool bag off the wall, which activated the movers. The first target was an up and down mover, which meant we had to draw and put a minimum of two hits on it before it vanished. After that, we were left with a stationary partial target, and a swinger. It was a quick but interesting course of fire.


Our third stage, like the first, involved a maze of walls and targets. The design of the course offered options for the shooters, and fortunately for me, I was able to match my stage plan to the limited round count of the  Compact Carry Pistol division.


Approaching the fourth stage, I saw barrels. Just barrels, plus a lone open target at the end. However, walking along the row of barrels, five more hidden targets came into view. Per the stage briefing, when the open target was engaged depended on where one moved or was standing. It was a tad confusing, and perhaps not aligned with a strict interpretation of the rulebook, but was surely a fun stage to shoot. 



The last stage our squad shot had us starting with our magazines on a table, and the unloaded gun set on a shelf below the table top. I enjoy the "out of ordinary" starting positions. It breaks the autopilot mode and causes one to think just a little. After loading and retrieving the needed mags, you went on to engage various targets among the walls.


I shot several good stages, and a couple less so. I finished in the middle of the pack overall, at 24 of 51. However, I was the only person opting to shoot in CCP, so I was first in the division. (Take 'em where you get 'em.) 😁 I do find it interesting that when the Compact Carry Division was announced a few years back, it was quite popular. These days, less so. I still enjoy it though.

I thought the stages were more reminiscent of USPA-lite than what is typically seen at IDPA matches. They were all fun to shoot though. And as always, chatting with friends and fellow shooting enthusiasts are always highlight of the match. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Self Medicating with Bourbon and a Fratello Cigar

Our Sunday routine typically involves relaxing with coffee and one of Colleen's homemade pastries after morning Mass. Last weekend while pouring a tea kettle of water into the French Press, the lid shifted and I steamed my hand. Ouch! It wasn't enough to convince me to seek medical attention, but I was left with red skin and a couple small blisters. By the evening, I turned to bourbon and a cigar to "take the edge off."


The bourbon was the aforementioned Michter's US*1 Small Batch Bourbon. We're really enjoying that one. For the accompanying smoke, I selected a Fratello Bianco in a 6x50 Toro. The Bianco uses fillers from Nicaragua, Peru, and the USA. The binder is Dominican with a shiny Mexican San Andres Maduro wrapper as the finish.


The medium to full bodied smoke is earthy, with a balanced blend of sweet and bitter cocoa notes. While the flavor "feel" is somewhat creamy, there's a bold aspect to the profile as well. It seemed to bring out the sweetness in bourbon.

I very much welcomed the smoke, and bourbon, although in last third of the cigar, I was awkwardly holding the cigar in my left hand as my cooked fingers were sensitive to even the mild heat coming off the cigar. However, that left the injured hand free and capable of managing the glass of whiskey.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Relaxing with Davidoff and Michter's

After that fun, but hot, morning of shooting, my Saturday evening involved a more relaxed, and cooler, activity. I had picked up a few "special" cigars a while back with which to celebrate our son's wedding. The schedule didn't work to enjoy a smoke the weekend of the wedding, so I brought one of them out the following weekend. Coincidently, I happened by an ABC store during the wedding travels, and picked up a bourbon I had been looking to grab for a while. So, by extension, this was a "wedding celebration." 


The Davidoff Winston Churchill Late Hour seems to be one of those quintessential "special occasion" cigars. A little pricey, but not extravagant, I've not smoked it before mainly because the expected flavor profile was less full or bold than where I typically gravitate. However, most descriptions call it full bodied.

The 6x50 Toro features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over a Mexican San Andres binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Some of the tobacco used was aged in scotch whisky barrels for 6 months. The flavor profile is smooth, with notes of almond, milky coffee, and some cocoa. I'd consider it a medium to full bodied smoke. The flavors lingered without being overpowering. As expected, the burn was even and required no attention.


The bourbon in the pairing was also new to me, or at least not living in my recent memory. Michter's US*1 Small Batch Bourbon is said to be bottled from no more than 2 dozen barrels in a bottling run. At 91.4 proof (45.7% ABV) the bourbon is easy to sip, with an extremely smooth profile. There's a pleasing balance of caramel, vanilla, oak, with just a touch of pepper to keep it interesting. 

I thought the flavors, and body, of both the cigar and the bourbon met in an ideal balance. Both were pleasing on their own, each greeted one another equally. I would not have wanted a more spicy cigar with the Michter's, nor a harsher whiskey with the Davidoff. Bottom line, I have more of both on hand, and will surely recreate the pairing soon.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

A Hot Morning of Shooting

Although these Musings have been idle, life has not. Our son recently married, after a year of Wuhan Flu delays, and those preparations consumed more of our attention than I would have imagined, though that was given with much joy despite any stress. Over the last month or so, as the citizens of this country have gained "permission" to go about their lives once again as semi-free people, my "day job" has gotten busier. All that has meant more need for actual down time in my down time. And that, my friends, usually means good beer, bourbon, food, and cigars. Not laptop and blogging time. I did even manage to shoot an IDPA match a few weeks ago, and attend some cigar events, but never energized myself to put down any thoughts about those activities.

But this weekend featured a free Saturday, and the energy to join friends for a morning of shooting, once again at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club monthly IDPA match near Charlottesville, VA. It was a hot, sunny morning, but that didn't deter a small group of shooters, and a dedicated match staff, from having a good time in the sun.

The first stage we shot had us standing nose to nose with the "gang banger." Knocking him over we then engaged a total of 5 targets Mozambique-style, two to the body and one to the head. It was a quick stage to get the juices, and sweat, flowing. It was also my best stage of the day, with zero points down.


Next we moved on to a scenario that had a little more complexity to it. We began facing two "bandits" while holding a stack of money in our strong hand. Dropping the money, we engaged the two threats from retention; the gun in our strong hand, with our elbow held to our side.

Moving to a point of cover we engaged two falling poppers and two steel plates to be knock down. The last popper activated a double swinger on the other side of the barrier wall. Traversing to the next point of cover, we found an interesting array of four targets. There were two partial targets, an open sideways target, and a swinging target that had a non-threat also swinging behind it. Timing was critical so as to not hit the NTT as it swung in front of the moving target and behind the stationary one. I did complete the stage -2 points. 


The third stage was a "standards" stage that gave pause, and created a lot of vacillating over the best way to shoot it. The set up was simple; three targets on either side of a barrier, to be shot in tactical priority. The stage brief directed that each target required three hits, and two targets had to be engaged strong hand only, two weak hand only, and two freestyle. It was the shooter's choice as to the order of shooting style. As I was shooting in the Compact Carry Pistol (CCP) division, I would be making two reloads. That required thought as to which hand my gun would be in when it went to slide lock.


As I went through various options, it seemed I would need to ignore the desire to use WHO on  the closest targets. In fact, I would end up shooting either SHO or freestyle on the closest. That was fine, in theory, as I could engage them very quickly and be in a good position to complete the reloads. I ended up dropping a total of 10 points on the single hand shooting, and even one of the closest targets. I may have concentrated on what hand I should be using more than on the sights! This was one of those stages I would have enjoyed shooting multiple times to try different routines.


By the final stage, the sun was beating down in full force, and I struggled to keep the sweat out of my eyes. The start was facing up range with hands on head and gun holstered. We turned and shot a clay hanging in the center of a target. Once the clay was broken we move to either side of a barrier to engage four or three targets. 

Between the squinting from sweat, being tired, and simply shooting too fast, my hits were a little scattered. I ended up -5 points on this run. Still, an improvement over the previous stage.

The match was over around noon and the air conditioned car was a welcome respite for the 90 minute drive home. It was a fun morning with friends, one that I hope to repeat soon.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

A New Battle For Independence

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America 
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ...

Every American should read these words regularly, at least once a year on July 4. They are important to keep in mind this year especially as we grow ever closer to a need to fight for independence from another group of oppressive, power-hungry, elitists. For years, people who love God, love their country, expect equal opportunity, not handouts, for all, or respect the rule of law, have been labeled racist, and worse. We've spent over a year being told we had to stay indoors, close businesses, wear masks, get vaccinated, all under the warning banner of, "If you want your freedom back…" No one can give you your freedom back unless they took it from you in the first place. Sadly, many Americans willfully surrendered their freedoms for "safety" or succumbed to the new "wokism." 

Alarmingly, there is a growing, vocal group, led by politicians on the left, the major media outlets, and other "useful idiots," who seek to destroy what was created those centuries ago. Not only do they want to destroy that history, they actually seek to erase it from memory. Under their definition of freedom, they demand you speak only words they approve, read only the books they deem suitable, and worship only where and when they permit. Here in Virginia, the leftist governor plans to remove a 134 year old time capsule in Richmond and replace it with another to change what future Virginians learn about the state's past. Marxists throughout history have always preferred erasing history to teaching it.

Our forefathers were explicit. We maintain certain rights which are granted by our Creator. Today, groups of marxists, anarchists, socialists, and the assorted "woke" overtly, and often violently, attempt to restrict, redefine, and even remove basic God-given rights from the free citizens of these United States. The writers of this declaration stated, "all men are created equal…" Yet, those who seek to destroy this Nation from within bastardize that ideal to promote socialism, marxism, and just plain theft. They forcibly take from those who work for success and give to those who live as takers. That serves to create not only mediocrity, but compliance and dependance. 

The democrat party today, nationally and locally, is open and unabashed in their embrace of socialism. A society that has learned helplessness kneels in support because the cause seems nice. All the while, hundreds of thousands of people seeking to escape socialism flood our borders, both legally and illegally. The left welcomes them and often provides them more support than that offered to resident Americans. I imagine there is much snickering over cocktails by the leaders of the democrat party as they lure these immigrants into more of what they seek to escape.

But it's not all bad news. There are glimmers of hope. Patriotic Americans are speaking out, no longer remaining silent to avoid the wrath of social media mobs and "woke" corporations. There are signs of "buyer's remorse" among those who were seduced by the glitter of "social justice." More people see the truth behind the left's actions, instead of realizing the corruption and self-serving goals behind the rhetoric.  

July 4th, the day we celebrate our Founding Fathers' bravery in declaring independence from an oppressive government. It's a truly American holiday, made possible by a well-armed citizenry. This day shows us why those on the left have such a great fear of freedom-loving Americans. And indeed they should be afraid, and would do well to remember history. As noted in a recently seen meme, there's always room on the calendar for another holiday.

Happy Independence Day!

May God Bless These United States

Monday, June 21, 2021

Rivanna IDPA June Match

It has been many months since I last was able to get to one of the monthly IDPA matches at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol club outside of Charlottesville, VA. To my delight, everything aligned this month and I was excited to shoot and to see some old friends again. Given that I had missed the May match at the Cavalier club, I was looking forward to just getting in some range time. Even the weather cooperated; mostly overcast skies helped to moderate the warm temperatures. 

The first stage our squad shot was a "standards" stage. There were three groups of three overlapping targets shot from ever shrinking shooting boxes as we moved through the stage.

In an interesting twist, the center target in each array was declared "hard cover" for the targets behind it, meaning shoot throughs didn't count. That bit me on the last target array on the limited count stage. With that 5 second penalty, I was -6 on the stage.


Next up was a scenario called "Room Clearing 101." We began sitting at a table with our unloaded gun and the first loading device on the table, and our hands on the laptop keyboard. The course required us to load the gun, engage a steel popper activator and a drop turner target while seated. Next we moved forward down the "hallway" to engage a target around a corner, before moving down the next hall where we encountered five more threat targets through an opening in the wall.

After the miss on the previous stage, I was very pleased to shoot this stage clean, with zero points down. Seeing the -0 holes on the drop turner target was especially satisfying.

Moving onto to another range, we saw an elaborate setup featuring two vehicles that made up the next two stages, "Fender Bender" and "Fender Bender-er." The stage brief stated that we were involved in a rear end accident while driving through Southeast DC. 

In the first scenario of the duo, we were said to be the driver of the car that was hit. We began standing at the rear of the car, with a hand on each vehicle, as it we were leaning over inspecting the damage. We were then attacked by gang members. There was a target to be engaged over the trunk, and another further away to the left in the open. Leaving the start position, we rounded the vehicle, engaging two low targets on the move. Heading down range we found two more threats behind a wall. Next we moved across the stage to find more threats from cover.


At the final shooting position I felt at the time I had pulled a shot wide on the first target. After engaging the last target I swung back to do a make up and found my gun at slide lock. A too quick calculation had me deciding to end the run. Sadly the wide shot was not just a -1 or -3, it was a miss altogether. In retrospect, I should have taken the time to reload and fired another shot. I can certainly reload and reengage in much less than the 5 seconds the miss cost me.

In the next scenario, we played the role of the person driving the truck that caused the accident. For the start we placed our firearm, loaded with just three rounds, on the seat of the vehicle. We started by leaning in the driver side door, with our strong hand on the seat's headrest, while holding a cell phone to our ear with the other hand. Again, the idea was to defend from attackers taking advantage of the situation.

After engaging a partial target through the car with three rounds, we moved to the back of the vehicle to engage a target on the move before hitting a stomp place to activate a very fast clamshell. Moving down a hallway we then engaged a series of target arrays from cover on both sides of the aisle. I was just two points down on the disappearing clamshell target, which made me very happy. Unfortunately I had dropped on shot low into hard cover on that first target shot while leaning through the car, making me -8 for the stage. I also found out later I had been issued a -3 PE for a foot fault. Oh well, that's how the game goes sometimes.


It was a good size crowd that came out for the almost-summer match. The stages were all very interesting, each with it's own unique challenge. Overall, I was very pleased with my shooting, especially given the lack of range or match time recently. The misses on three stages hurt my overall standing of 23 out of 47 shooters. I was first of the just three CCP shooters in attendance. Despite the final scores, it was a great time with fun folks and interesting shooting opportunities. I'm already looking forward to next month's Rivanna match.

After a long cool shower at home, I headed over the the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewing to relax. A delicious, and somewhat gluttonous burger, some refreshing draft beer, and a cigar culminated an exceptional Saturday.