Monday, July 6, 2020

Independence Day Cigars & Cider

On July 4th, we headed over to one of our favorite spots to enjoy some live music, food, beverages, and, for me, cigars. The brewery / winery grounds were not all that crowded and we found a table under the shade of trees and set up camp. I had seen a social media post that a new cider was on tap at the brewery and headed into the winery for a couple glasses. Wilderness Gold Rush Cider is a dry, tart cider that turns out to be quite refreshing. I had intended to try just one before switching to some of my favorite 1781 Brewing beers. However, the cider was so enjoyable, and a perfect foil for the warm summer day, I decided to stick with it for the rest of the afternoon.

I lit up a Powstanie Habano to go with the crisp, dry cider. It occurred to me that the Powstanie was a somewhat fitting smoke for a day which celebrated independence. The Powstanie name comes from the Polish word for "uprising," and the company's logo includes symbols used by the Polish Resistance during World War II. And it's simply a good cigar as well.

A couple ciders later, it was time for food. The food truck of the day was Barbara's Soulfood Kitchen, serving up a wide range of tasty foods. Colleen opted for a crispy chicken sandwich, while I enjoyed a crab cake sandwich and an order of onion rings. The food was delicious and well prepared. We'll definitely  look for this vendor around town again.

As we continued to enjoy the live music, and the cider, I lit up another cigar to enjoy. The second smoke was one of the RoMa Craft CRAFT 2020 selections. I picked up a box of these uniquely wrapped cigars a few weeks ago and have been enjoying them. The CRAFT series is an annual, limited release, that 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. There are five different patterns presented in the box of 10. Distribution was limited to ten retailers, fortunately one my local shops was included in that group. 

Both of the cigars paired very well with the cider. They are medium to full bodied with notes of nuts, wood, earth, and cedar. The cigars are similar, featuring some of the same tobaccos, and even rolled in the same factory. 

We enjoyed ourselves through the afternoon and into the evening. When we finally decided to call it quits, we were packed up and heading for the car when we were told that fireworks would be visible soon. So instead, we set up our chairs by the car and enjoyed the show. 

It was a most fitting ending to a day of recognizing and celebrating the wonderful gift of living free in this great country.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Next Battle For Independence

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. 

Today, and all weekend, we celebrate our Founding Fathers' wisdom, foresight and bravery in declaring independence from an oppressive government. It's a truly American holiday, made possible by a well-armed, determined and freedom-loving citizenry. The celebration is a reminder to those of us who stand by those principles enumerated in 1776 that we must continue to both celebrate and defend them.

Sadly, there is an extremely vocal minority, supported by spineless politicians and other pandering snowflakes, 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. They increasingly resort to violence to get their way, brutally attacking innocent people and destroying property under the guise of "progress."

Our forefathers were explicit. We maintain certain rights which are granted by our Creator. Today, groups of marxists, anarchists, socialists, and the assorted "woke" violently attempt to restrict, redefine, and even remove basic God-given rights from the free citizens of these United States. They demand the government acquiesce to their demands, destroying what had been built over the last 20 years, or they will destroy it themselves, literally.

These groups so despise and fear our founding principles that even the sight of the American flag is offensive to them. The National Anthem sends them into convulsions. Statues and memorials that remember our past are being destroyed. We see daily reports how the lovers of tyranny are turning to violence in order to destroy the nation that was founded 244 years ago. With egregious attacks and lies, all while hiding behind masks, they seek to restrict liberty and create a compliant and submissive population. They scream about justice and inclusion, but in actuality they promote only division and separation. By their words and actions, it is obvious they seek destruction of a Nation, not peace and equality.

The haters of our freedom would do well to remember history. It only took three percent of the population to break the country free from tyranny the first time. True, patriotic Americans are growing weary of the daily attacks and violence. We grow tired of being labeled as racists, homophobes, or worse, all simply for valuing freedom and equal rights for all Americans.

So this Independence Day, celebrate America. Celebrate freedom. Contemplate what losing it means. Then prepare to defend it.

These men did not hide behind masks…

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 3, 2020

One Cigar, Two IPAs

A four day weekend. How shall I start? I decided to ease in to the mini-vacation with couple of beers and a smoke on the deck. I was rummaging through the humidor and saw a couple Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut, that have been sitting there for a couple years. It's been a while since I enjoyed one of those. I grabbed one of the beers sent by Tröegs Brewing last month, piped some B.B. King to the speaker, and settled in for a relaxing evening. 

Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut is a well-constructed Toro with a smooth Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper, around Cuban seed Nicaraguan binder and filler. The medium bodied smoke has a mix of nuttiness, cream, and coffee notes. I also get some sweet bready hints. There's a touch of pepper to be found. 

Perpetual IPA is a year-round beer from Tröegs Brewing. From the can it pours a dark amber color with a pure white head. The aroma is dank pine and citrus. Sipping brings on more of the same, with strong flavors of citrus rind, pine, and grain. The finish is long and bitter, with a hint of sweetness. The mouthfeel is resinous and sticky. At first I wondered if the beer would overpower the cigar. However the 20th Anniversary is a bit more full bodied than the average Connecticut shade wrapped cigar and held its own, the touch of pepper in the finish stepping in to meet the strong flavor of the beer.

The 6" x 56 stick provides a long smoke, so with about half the cigar left I grabbed another Tröegs IPA. Field Study IPA is a summer release from the brewery. Pouring a hazy straw color. It's topped by a frothy white head. With the beer sitting on the table next to my chair, and the cigar smoking next it, I could smell the delightful grapefruit aromas hitting my nose. The flavor profile features juicy citrus, especially grapefruit and melon. The finish is clean and short-lived, with some lingering grapefruit tartness. The mouthfeel is light and carbonated. I thought the Field Study IPA went with the cigar even better than the first beer. There's just enough sweetness in the smoke to match the citrus of the beer, and the pepper in the cigar fades in the last third as to not interfere.

Interestingly, the two Tröegs beers fall at opposite ends of the IPA spectrum. The first is a darker beer, featuring citrus rind and a pleasing bitterness. The latter features a juicy, citrus fruit sweetness. Both are excellent beers, but I know many folks prefer one profile over the other. I always hesitate when someone asks for "an IPA." There's a wide range of flavor profiles included in that term. 

The cigar was smoked down to the nub. It provided nearly two hours of enjoyment. And the long weekend was just getting started.

Interested in more cigar content? Follow me on Instagram at VASIGFan.

The beer mentioned in the post was an unsolicited gift from the brewery. The review represents my opinion and is provided without compensation.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Micallef Cigar and Amaretto

Relaxing after the morning's IDPA match, we retired to the screen porch for a before dinner libation. I felt the Micallef Grand Bold Maduro calling to me from the humidor. Such a strongly flavored cigar would typically call for a strong bourbon, but the afternoon heat had me desiring something a bit "lighter." Colleen offered a solution with, "I'll have an Amaretto on a rock." That sounded like just the thing.

The Micallef cigar is one I've enjoyed a few times recently. This 7"x50 Churchill would provide a good two hours worth of enjoyment. It features a beautiful, toothy, Ecuadorian wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. This is a full-bodied smoke with complex yet balance notes of toasted nuts, chocolate, wood, and a touch of cedar. 

The last time I enjoyed this cigar was with a sweet stout. The Disaronno Amaretto offered a different sort of sweetness, this time from almond instead of cocoa. Lower in ABV than any Bourbon option, the liquor kept me refreshed throughout the long smoke. With the slow melting ice block keeping the drink cool, it was exceptionally refreshing.

Interested in more cigar content? Follow me on Instagram at VASIGFan.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Liga Undercrown and a Bourbon

At the end of another long work day (aren't they all?) I settled down for a quick dessert after dinner. I grabbed a Liga Privada Undercrown Maduro from the humidor, and pondered an accompaniment. Spying a bottle of Jefferson's Ocean Aged At Sea Bourbon, I opted to pour a wee bit of the whiskey to go with my cigar.

Jefferson's Ocean Aged Bourbon matures in oak barrels for six to eight years before being placed on a ship to travel the ocean for another six months. The voyage is said to cross the equator 4 times with stops in 30 ports. Unsurprisingly, the ocean voyage affects the flavor. I found the 90 proof bourbon to be smooth and mild, with a hint of brine in the flavor. Admittedly, that was a little off-putting the first time I sipped it, but it quickly grew on me. I now find it a most refreshing drink. 

The Liga Privada Undercrown Maduro from Drew Estate is one of my "keep on hand" cigars. This cigar was from the latest batch added to the humidor a couple months ago. The cigar features a Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper (another of my "favorite things"), 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 mild bourbon, neither dominating the palate.

The Undercrown Maduro is one that always gets smoked down to the hot nub. And then still set down with a bit of disappointment when it's done.

Interested in more cigar content? Follow me on Instagram at VASIGFan.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Cavalier IDPA Match

Another Saturday and another chance to shoot. This past Saturday I joined some friends for the monthly IDPA match at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. This was the second weekend in a row when I was able to have some IDPA fun. It's a nice respite from all the pandemic pandering.

Our squad kicked off on a stage which had us starting mid-stage facing a wall. The stage was generally symmetrical, with numerous options for engagement. In fact, I noticed the first four shooters all ran the stage differently. For my part, I began by retreating to engage targets from cover at each side of the course. Then moving forward to the center fault line, there was a single target visible through an opening created by walls and barrels. Continuing forward to the center, two more targets were visible through that same opening. 

That was a fun stage, and I was happy to shoot it -0.

Moving on to the next bay, we found an interesting stage, with moving targets and steel. To either side, closest to us, was a swinger on the left and a disappearing drop turner to our right. Down range was a single static target and three steel poppers, one of which activated both movers. Each paper target required three hits each. Since neither mover was visible at the start, the down range targets had priority. However, as soon as the activation steel was engaged the movers took priority. There was a lot of discussion on the best way to shoot it, taking into account priority, timing, and concerns for not having an empty gun when the disappearing target was activated. With all the discussion and thought going into the stage, I neglected to take a picture.

I felt good going in to shoot the stage. The movers were moderately close, and there seemed to be plenty of time to get at least three shots in each. Yet, when the holes in paper were counted I was left 10 down for the course, mostly due to a couple of -3 shots, as well as some -1 holes on the swinger. Moving on…

Another retreating start was featured in the next stage. We began mid-stage, standing in a corner. Backing up range, there were targets engaged around walls at either side of the course. Next moving down the center of the array of walls, we shot a lone target from the fault line at an opening in the wall. Moving forward a couple more targets became visible through the same opening. Two more shooting positions came into play, before finishing the course of fire on a head shot only target while doing a hard lean around cover.

It was a quick stage, and I finished down two points. At least I was back on track after the previous run.

More steel showed up on the following stage. Shot from a single position, the stage consisted of four paper targets and four falling steel, placed at three levels of priority, the steel in the middle. Each paper target required three hits each. 

Rapidly engaging the first two targets, I swung towards the steel. I caught a glimpse of a -1 hit but moved on before it registered. The steel fell quick with one make up shot. The extra shot actually was a benefit in allowing me to reload on the transition to the back paper targets. This turned out to be my best stage, finishing second in SSP and fourth overall for the stage.

To shoot the last stage we engaged two targets close up while moving, again backwards, to engage a target from cover. Then we crossed the bay to enter a tight zig-zag hallway and find the final two targets. I ended -1 for this stage.

During my post match drive home I contemplated the morning's performance. Excepting the disaster of the movers, I was 4 points down for the remaining four stages. So, I was pretty happy with my accuracy. I find it's my movement and transitions that have been hurt the most by the months of limited or no shooting. I did notice myself hesitating and verifying shots before moving to the next position. Last week I caught myself dropping the gun out of shooting position while moving, and getting it back up late. I tried to remember that during this match and transition better. With matches limited and range time even more rare, perhaps I should get back to the discipline of dry firing. My (old) dry fire routine included practicing transitions between targets and positions which would likely help my overall score.

By the end of the match I was worn out from the heat and sun. Nonetheless it was a fun morning of shooting and seeing friends. Now that summer is truly here, heat and humidity on the range will be the order for the day over the next a few months. I'll take that over "social distancing" any day.

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Cigar and Port

Father's Day eve, Colleen and I enjoyed the pleasant weather with an evening on the screen porch, listening to music and thunderstorms. While discussing our beverage options, Colleen mentioned we had a bottle of port in the pantry. I had been preparing to mix up an Old Fashioned, but that port did sound good.

I was looking forward to enjoying the new Bishops Blend from Black Label Trading Company, and the Graham's 10 Year Tawny Port felt like it would be an excellent pairing option. Sure, some may say it's a winter drink, but some people are afraid the wear white before Memorial Day too.

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 vitola. 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 gives off flavors of coffee, cocoa, and some interesting dark fruit notes. There's a bit of pepper in there as well. It's a full bodied flavor profile. And extremely enjoyable. The burn was excellent as well.

The dark fruit notes in the port made for a very pleasurable pairing. As we poured repeated glasses of the port, I continually was impressed by cigar, and how well it went with the port. I generally gravitate to bourbon or beer when it comes to alcohol with cigars. Lately I've been experimenting with rum, amaretto, and even limoncello. This particular pairing was indeed a pleasure. 

I soon regretted that the cigar was merely a 5" x 48 Robusto. I picked up three of these at the lounge a few weeks, smoke one there and brought two home. I resisted lighting up the remaining stick in my humidor this evening. I'll save it for another day. Until researching the Bishops Blend for this post, I did not realize just how limited the production was. I wonder if the shop still has any left.

Interested in more cigar content? Follow me on Instagram at VASIGFan.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Tröeg's Haze Charmer and an Afternoon Smoke

For a light after work light refreshment recently I retrieved a can of Tröegs Haze Runner Pale Ale from the fridge. The can was part of a package of summer beers sent for review by Tröegs Brewing. Haze Runner is a new year round beer from Tröegs that was released this spring.

The beer has an unfiltered, hazy appearance due to the unmalted wheat used in the brewing, as well as dry-hopping. The glass sports a bright white head, which drops away after a few sips. Citrus and pine lead the aroma. Sipping brings juicy citrus flavors of pineapple, grapefruit and some sweet peach. There's a moderate mix of wheat and oak, and some pine in the finish. The mouthfeel is somewhat chewy with a tingling carbonation. It's an easy drinking beer that goes down fast, and the mild 5.5% ABV suits the fast drink.

Naturally I grabbed to smoke to enjoy as I reviewed the beer. Last month's shipment from My Cigar Pack included the limited Lost & Found No Free Lunch from Caldwell cigars. I wasn't familiar with the stick, though I expected it to be mild. Lost & Found finds cigars that were originally blended by other factories, then repackages them under the new label for charitable purposes. Proceeds from the sales of No Free Lunch will go to relief efforts related to COVID-19.

No Free Lunch features a Dominican wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Dominican fillers, producing a very mild cigar. While the cause is noble, I found the cigar to be rather uninspiring. Your mileage may vary depending on your preferences. At least the cigar flavor didn't overwhelm the beer. I nursed the beer along for about half the stick before boredom stepped in and I switched to the beer alone.

As a year-round offering, I'll keep an eye out for Tröegs Haze Runner at my local stores. It will make a very enjoyable summer refreshment. 

The beer mentioned in the post was an unsolicited gift from the brewery. The review represents my opinion and is provided without compensation.