Thursday, December 30, 2021

Christmases Cold and Warm

It's an old joke that if you don't like the weather in Virginia, wait a few minutes and it will change. It's also true that the weather on a any calendar day can be wildly different from year to year. This is especially true in the winter. (In the summer, you can just expect it to be hot. Period.) White Christmases are rare here, but last year, we were treated to one of those uncommon events. 

Over Christmas 2020 we experienced snow and very cold weather. That didn't stop me from enjoying the Rocky Patel A.L.R. Second Edition shown below. The full experience is recounted in this post

Christmas 2021 was at the complete opposite end of the weather spectrum. The day was sunny, and by the afternoon the temperature hit 71°. That meant smoking on the deck without the need for supplemental heating or winter clothing.

On this most recent Christmas afternoon I chose the new Undercrown 10 Lonsdsale with which to celebrate the day. The Undercrown Maduro is a favorite, and the new Undercrown 10 is a special release to mark the 10th anniversary of the cigar. The Starr Hill Snow Blind Dopplebock is a perennial favorite.

The difference in smoking experiences between the two years was remarkable when it comes to the weather. However, the pleasure of a good cigar is universal no matter the temperature.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

When Are They Open?

I get that not everyone is adept at online marketing and social media. But clearly telling customers when you are open should be pretty simple. And a priority. While researching a local brewery to visit during my vacation, I came across this confusing mess.

First, I checked the brewery website for their hours.

Mon - Tues: Closed

Wed - Thurs: 3pm - 9pm

Fri - Sat: Noon - Midnight

Sunday: Noon - 11pm

Maybe I'll visit on Wednesday or Thursday, I thought. 

Next I looked at their Facebook page and saw a slightly different schedule.

Mon - Tues: Closed

Wed: 3pm - 9pm

Thursday: Closed

Fri - Sat: Noon - Midnight

Sunday: Noon - 11pm

However, Wednesday still looks good. 

Then I started scrolling through the brewery's posts, and saw a post labeled "Winter Hours."

Mon - Tues: 3pm - 8pm

Wed - Thurs: Closed

Fri - Sat: Noon - Midnight

Sunday: Noon - 10pm

So, Wednesday is out? Monday or Tuesday? Which listing is current, and correct?

Maybe I had better call them. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas, Not Cancelled

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." --Dr. Seuss

All through the lead up to this most joyful season, I was often shocked to hear people lamenting that the supply chain issues would "ruin Christmas." I was amazed as various mayors, governors, Fauci, and even the resident of the White House, for the second year, threatened Christmas gatherings. I could only shake my head at the ignorance of those talking, and those believing the pronouncements.

When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.
-- Luke 2: 15-20


Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, August 2010

Christmas is here. The true source of our joy, the Nativity of the Lord, is celebrated beginning today. Despite shipping woes. Despite commercialism. Despite fascist decrees about "shots," and travel and gathering restrictions. This glorious Feast is upon us. And it had nothing to do with the White House Minister of Propaganda claiming "we've saved Christmas."

As I remind people often, the season of Christmas only begins today, December 25. This joyous celebration actually continues until the Feast of Epiphany on January 6. It is disappointing to see the celebrations stop abruptly the day after Christmas, as the lights and decorations suddenly vanish. Surely as Christians we believe the birth of Our Savior is an event worthy of more than a single day of rejoicing. During the troubling times we find ourselves enduring, there seems to be all the more reason to celebrate the joy of the season in its entirety.

However you mark the occasion, may it be spent with family, friends, and good cheer.

Merry Christmas!

Today is born our Savior Christ the Lord.
-- Psalm 96

Friday, December 24, 2021

Cigar and Whiskey on a Cold Evening

With the final Christmas decorations hung, and presents wrapped, Christmas Eve Eve offered time for an early evening repast with some bourbon and a cigar. I knew it would be getting cold quickly on the deck so I chose a smallish stick, the Rocky Patel Disciple in Robusto. I also had a bottle of Blade and Bow bourbon I had picked up a few weeks ago that was as yet unopened. That needed to be remedied.

The Rocky Patel Disciple is a 2021 release. This 5 x 50 Robusto features a black and gold decorative sleeve and band covering adorning nearly the entire cigar. Coincidently, very Christmasy. Once the paper sleeve is removed, a chocolate brown San Andrés wrapper is revealed. Nicaraguan wrapper and filler tobaccos make up the rest of the blend. 

I had smoked another Disciple last month, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I got the same notes of espresso and cocoa, with a few spurts of black pepper. This time though, I'd rank the smoke more in the medium body range, rather than full. Different mood, different beverage, or different meal prior? Who knows, but still an enjoyable smoke.

The Blade and Bow remains a favorite. An easy sipper, it features notes of caramel and oak, with a hint of spice. It's gone great with every cigar that I've tried pairing.

As predicted, the temperature dropped quickly when the sun set. As I was nearing the end of the cigar, I noticed that the Dark Sky app on my phone was reporting 37° with a "feels like" of 34°. For an hour the two propane heaters had provided sufficient warmth. As I was nearing the final puffs on the cigar, one of the heat sources ran out of fuel, signaling the end of an extremely enjoyable pre-holiday evening.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Afternoon Coffee and Cigar

Ah, the Winter Solstice. My reminder that the days will now start getting longer, even if the average temperature remains miserably low. At least we've turned the corner on short days. This week, after errands and lunch out with Colleen, I relaxed on the deck with a cappuccino and a smoke. 

The smoke selection this afternoon was the Crowned Heads Le Carême Belicosos Finos LE 2021. I've mentioned this limited edition version of Le Carême in the past since the brand is a favorite. The medium bodied blend of sweetness with spice made an excellent pairing with the creamy espresso drink.

The coffee in the cup didn't last as long as the smoke, but I was enjoying the cigar immensely, so didn't feel compelled to venture inside to prepare another cup. And the temperature on the deck, supplemented by propane and electric heat, was made quite pleasant. With enough good beverage and cigars, we'll get through the winter yet.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Stormy Afternoon Smoke and Beer

The weather last Saturday a bit out of the ordinary, especially for a mid-December day. But, this is Virginia, so no weather pattern can really be classified as unexpected. The day was cloudy and windy, though the temperature rose to 70° by mid-afternoon. After hanging Christmas lights in the morning, I headed to the porch with a cigar and a beer. 

My beverage selection was the 2021 Anchor "Our Special Ale." The Winter Warmer style ale pours a deep brown shade with a stiff and long lasting beige head. I was surprised by the thick head during the first pour and nearly overflowed the glass. The aroma has notes of dark bread, nutmeg, and ginger, all with a faint rum-like undertone. 

Sipping brings forth a pleasing combination of roasted notes, molasses, mild holiday spice, and citrus. The profile is balanced with no one flavor dominating. A lingering sweet malt and coffee comes out in the finish. Overall, a very tasty winter libation and one I'll enjoy frequently while it's available.

For the accompanying smoke, I decided to revisit the Quesada Oktoberfest 10th Anniversary I sampled last month. As expected, I got the same sweet, wood, and earth notes. Previously, my pairing featured an Oktoberfest beer, a combination that I found to be less than ideal. The Anchor Ale I opted for this time proved much more satisfactory. The richer notes of the beer provided a pleasing contrast to the cigar, and also seemed bring out a bit of toasted flavor in the smoke.

In keeping with the "dark" aspects of the pairing, the darkness of the weather increased as well. About halfway through my smoke the rains began in earnest. Due to the high winds, I could feel the rain coming through the screens of the porch. Relocating to the center of the deck, I escaped the moisture, but the dampness soon had me reaching for my sweatshirt. The thermometer still read 70°, which was actually up a degree from when I started the smoke, though it felt much cooler. The loud rainfall did force me to turn the volume up on my music, but it was still an enjoyable afternoon. 

Returning inside, Colleen informed me the pot of bison chili she'd been working on was ready to serve. The meal provided a fine finish and perfect warm up from the time spent outside.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

A Better Black Friday

The day after Thanksgiving, while the family binged on football and computer games, I headed over to the cigar lounge for a relaxing smoke and beer. The newly expanded humidor and lounge at Olde Town Tobacconist (at the farm) was open and I was anxious to peruse the selection. (More on this in a future post.) 

I selected an Oliva Serie V Special V Figurado. The extensive Serie V line is one I've enjoyed frequently, but this doubly-named variety is one I've not had previously. The 6 x 60 figurado features a nipple foot and tapered head. The Habano Sun Grown wrapper is oily and smooth, with a rich chocolate color. The binder and fillers are Nicaraguan with Jalapa Valley Ligero tobacco in the mix. The tiny foot lit quickly and the burn evenly took hold. The flavor profile quickly progressed to a full-bodied blend of coffee, chocolate, and cedar. The smoke was thick and flavorful.

The accompanying beverage was 1781 Brewing Wilderness Porter. This is a new (I believe) porter version from the brewery. It's a full flavored beer with a dark chocolate, caramel, and nutty profile. I detected a hint of roasted mail and smoke. I'm a fan of the 1781 Washington's Hare Porter but this one takes the flavors up a notch and is quite tasty. It's truly a fitting cigar-pairing libation.

The Oliva cigar gave about a 90 minute smoke and offered the opportunity for a second mug of the porter. It was a satisfying pairing and made for an exceptionally enjoyable afternoon. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Thursday, November 25, 2021

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

George Washington said it best . . .

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation. 
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington


Although President Washington proclaimed this day of thanksgiving and prayer in 1789, the Thanksgiving Day we celebrate today didn't become a national holiday until 1863 when President Lincoln established the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving.

Have A Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you a day filled with family, friends, and fond memories. May God bless your life with His gifts today and everyday.

Thanksgiving Classic

Yeah, I know I post this every year. And you've seen it on other sites this week as well. But, admit it, this never gets old.

It just wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving if I didn't laugh at this again.

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Remembering Blessed Miguel Pro

[Reposted from November 23, 2013.]

November 23 is the Feast Day of Blessed Miguel Pro. Born on January 13, 1891, in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Pro was ordained a Jesuit priest in Belgium in 1925. He returned to his home country in 1926, in the midst of that country's Cristeros War. After being falsely accused of an attempted bombing, Father Pro was executed by government forces without trial.

Blessed Miguel Pro's final request was to be allowed to pray to his heavenly Father.

After which he refused a blindfold and faced the firing squad bravely, proclaiming ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Father Pro's executioners initially failed at their task, and the deed was finished at point blank range.

I am saddened, but hardly surprised, at the ignorance of the American public regarding the persecution of Catholics, and of the Cristero War that took place in Mexico in 1926 through 1929. Some 250,000 people lost their lives in the Mexican government's persecution that was supported by the government of the United States with both funds and air support. Given the ever-growing intolerance towards Christians, especially Catholics, in the United States, we would do well to remember.

Christ the King, by the intercession of Blessed Miguel Pro, I beg you to answer my prayers. Give me the grace and the strength necessary to follow your heroic example and to live my Catholic faith in spite of all temptations and adversities. Amen.

Images from Wikipedia.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Tatuaje Wolf at the Fire Pit

After spending the morning clearing the yard of leaves, which included all the leaves accumulated in the fire pit, I built the first fire — at home — this season. While I've enjoyed time fireside while on trips, and even at the cigar lounge, our home pit has been sadly idle. Until this weekend.

By mid-afternoon Saturday I was anxiously preparing the kindling and stacking logs nearby. After a short time I had the start of a nice fire, and could pour a beer, light a cigar, and take my seat in a comfortable chair. The cigar chosen was the Tatuaje Monster Mash Wolf, and the beverage was Highland Brewing Black Mocha Stout.

I was expecting this to be a flavorful pairing, and was not disappointed. The Black Mocha Stout pours nearly black, just showing some dark red hints at the edges. A thin, tan head quickly diminishes. I can detect aromas of dark chocolate and coffee. Dark cocoa and roasted malt lingers in the aftertaste.

Tatuaje Monster Mash Wolf is the fourth cigar I've smoked from the 2021 Monster Mash assortment. The 6 x 52 Torpedo has a toothy, oily Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper leaf, with Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The initial flavors from the smoke combine a medium woodiness with bitter dark coffee. There's some mild pepper initially. The pepper faded as I smoked, perhaps being "cooled" by the flavorful beer.

As the sun began to set, much too early, the temperature likewise dropped, but the fire was putting off a nice heat. The neighbors' intermittent garden equipment also ceased operation as darkness arrived. The flavor of the Wolf was holding strong, with more intense spicy notes of black pepper making an appearance. In the last third of the stick, the spice coated my palate and lips with that little bit of extra kick. The transition was notable, and wholly enjoyable. 

Too soon, the cigar was finished, and the short nub tossed into the waning fire. The several hours spent listening to the crackling of the fire, and unseen creatures rustling in the woods, while enjoying an excellent cigar made for a wholly enjoyable afternoon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Scenes From the Weekend

We treated ourselves to a long, four day weekend and headed off to our (current) favorite spot near Buchanan, VA. What had earlier been predicted to be a wet, cold weekend, turned out to be a fairly dry, but still cool weekend. For most of the weekend it was perfect for afternoon and evenings spent outside enjoying the view, good drink, and of course, cigars.

The roads were crowded on the drive to southwest Virginia Thursday, and the trip a little longer than usual, but before the sunset I was on the porch enjoying a refreshing beer and smoke. The cigar was Black Label Trading Company Viaticum, paired with Blue Mountain Lights Out Winter Ale.

The scenery of the surrounding pastures and mountains in the distance added to the blissful feeling. 

After lunch on Friday, the winds heralding an approaching cold front diminished significantly and we were able to enjoy some time by the fire pit. Over the course of the next five hours or so, we burned a lot of wood, while I sipped some whiskey, and enjoyed a couple fine cigars.

The first pairing included Few Bourbon and the Crowned Heads Las Calaveras 2021

Watching the stars come out by the glow of the fire is an experience that never fails to set a man's heart at ease. 

After a quick dinner inside, it was time to return to the fire and enjoy another good cigar. I closed the evening with the 2021 Black Label Trading Company Bishops Blend. And naturally, a few more sips of the Few bourbon were in order. 

Saturday afternoon brought us to the "main event" of the weekend, the VA Tech Hokies football game against Duke. The cold front arrived in force, with brisk winds and rapidly falling temps — classic football weather I suppose. Due to the high winds, I opted to skip my customary tailgate cigar before the game.

Well-bundled against the cold, although the efficacy of the multiple layers diminished as the evening wore on, we enjoyed an exiting game and a Hokies win.

I really could not have hoped for a more relaxing and enjoyable weekend.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Oktoberfest-themed Beer & Cigar Pairing

After a week of unseasonably cold temperatures, we were treated to a comparatively warmer days last week. I'd been wanting to try the new Quesada Oktoberfest 10th Anniversary cigar, and do so while I still had some Oktoberfest beers on hand. The "less-cold" temps offered the opportunity to do so.

Quesada Oktoberfest 10th Anniversary 'Das Boot' vitola is a 6 x 52 torpedo featuring an oily Mexican San Andrés wrapper, a Dominican binder as well as Dominican fillers. Quesada's annual Oktoberfest release is said to be designed to be paired with a Märzen-style beer, traditionally served during Oktoberfest celebrations. This year's release marks the 10th such annual offering.

The fridge getting low on Märzen selections, I opted for a domestic, but well done, Sam Adams Oktoberfest. In my opinion, one of the best readily available, though non-local options if you're looking for an Oktoberfest beer.

After admiring the classy looking label, and the shiny maduro wrapper, I fired up the porch heaters, and then the cigar.  (It was "warmer" outside, not warm.) Throughout the smoke, the flavor profile was consistent with woody and earthly notes. An underlying sweetness was present as well. As the stick progressed, I noted an increased roasted espresso component but it stayed well-muted. 

While I smoked a bit of the cigar before really diving into the beer, I found the blend to be quite well done. However, the beer and cigar pairing, was somewhat unremarkable. The sweetness of the beer and the underlying sweetness of the cigar combined to be somewhat dull. Standing alone, I found each to be very flavorful. When I break out another Quesada Oktoberfest, I might try a beer with more roasted notes. I think such a combination might be more enjoyable. In any event, I don't mind trying. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Five O'Clock Friday: Time to Drink

[Thought I'd have a go at resurrecting the "Five O'Clock Friday" regular series featuring humorous (to me) memes and other time wasters found online.]


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Whistlepig Farmstock Rye & Rocky Patel Disciple

During a recent shopping trip, whilst I had an armful of bottles on the way to the checkout,  I spied a couple bottles of Whistlepig Farmstock Rye on a shelf. Ah well, what's one more bottle?

Farmstock Rye is a newly stocked label in our state-controlled liquor stores. In their best imitation of Socialist countries where a government monopoly controls supply, VA ABC makes it hard for us in the Old Dominion to obtain rarer spirits. I grabbed my one allowed bottle and was thankful to have been in the store at that moment. (Previous posts on this Prohibition-inspired rule of government can be found here and here.)

I had also recently picked up some of the Rocky Patel Disciple. This is a newly released blend that I have been looking forward to trying since it was announced. This past weekend offered the opportunity to pair the two new additions.


The Disciple Robusto is a 5x50 stick featuring a very dark San Andrés wrapper that's hidden behind two bands which cover nearly the entire cigar. Maybe that serves to add a level of protection to the stick, which was also packaged in cellophane, but it's probably just meant to be an attention grabber in deference to the marketing folks. In any event, the large foot band slid right off. (Sadly, the other band had so much glue it came off in several pieces, fortunately without damaging the cigar.) But I digress.

The dark wrapper encases binder and fillers tobaccos from Nicaragua. The cigar is full bodied and richly flavored. The predominate notes are espresso and cocoa. There are the occasional hints of black pepper and raisons. This is a cigar I truly enjoyed. It produced copious smoke and maintained a sharp burn line, all the way to a tiny, hard to hold nub. This is a cigar which fulfilled my favorite flavor notes to a tee.

But what about the whiskey you say? I am glad you asked. Per the label, the Farmstock Rye features a "triple terroir" blend of which 52% is Whiskeypig's 3-year rye using their own grains, 31% from a 6-year rye, and 17% being a 10-year aged rye. The resulting whiskey a well-balanced, somewhat mild, tasty blend of rye spiciness, leather and oak. There was only a slight burn hitting the tongue, and the finish is clean and short. Overall this is a mellow but flavorful sipper. The cigar and whiskey pairing was a quite decent match.

Oft times I find cigar flavors coming up on the short side of the distilled beverage flavors. In this case, the cigar was definitely the winner of the battle, but not by a knockout. It's definitely a combination I'd repeat. (And I have the supplies to do so.)


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Sources of Warmth

As noted recently, there's been no time for a fire this fall. So far. But that doesn't mean we're not keeping warm. On a recent cool evening it was finally time to break out the propane floor heater on the screen porch. That, along with a pour Jack Daniel's Gentleman Jack and a vintage 2018 Fratello DMV Virginia cigar, provided all the heat that was needed.

I think Gentleman Jack might be an undersung treat. I've had this bottle for quite some time, and it slowly got shifted deep in the cabinet until I pulled it out recently. At 90 proof, the whiskey is smooth and easily sipped. It's got a nice bite initially but mellows on the palate quickly. Interestingly, I've brought this one up in conversation recently with other bourbon fans and the reply is always of the same sort, "Oh yea, that's a nice one." It went quite well with the cigar, that after three years in my humidor has mellowed just a notch.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Saturday Morning. Saturday Night.

I was left to my own devices this past weekend; Colleen was spending time with her sisters, and the yard was too wet to get any chores done there. My Saturday started out with driving around town running errands, but by mid-morning I was able to finally sit and relax after a busy week. 

I ground some of the house coffee from my local tobacconist and grabbed a smoke out of the Tatuaje Monster Mash box. 

The coffee is slightly less bold than my usual preference, but it's got a great flavor with a low acid level and we enjoy it here frequently. The chosen cigar was the Tatuaje Monster Mash Face. The 4 7/8 x 56 stick has a San Andres wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and fillers.

I've now smoked three from the Monster Mash box and this is my favorite of the varieties so far. The cigar has a sweet leather flavor that adds a touch of spice as it progresses. I find it very hard to match back coffee with cigars, and often get tired of the combination early in a smoke. Not so with this pairing, it was very complimentary pairing. Fortunately the french press brewed two full cups for my enjoyment.

Earlier in the week I made a run to the ABC store to pick a few more bottles of whiskey for the cabinet. On a whim, I grabbed a bottle from the local A. Smith Bowman distillery. As with our local tourist attractions, it's easy to overlook the stuff right in your own town. I looked forward to revisiting this John J. Bowman Single Barrel.

With no plans for Saturday evening either, I fired up the propane heater on the screen porch, poured a wee bit of the Bowman, and lit a Davidoff Winston Churchill Late Hour. 

The bourbon gave off strong, pleasant aromas of honey, vanilla, and fruit. It was tempting me even as I staged the picture. Succumbing to a sip or two before heading outside, I detected oak, vanilla, and dark fruit flavors, with a hint of citrus. There was a significant but not overpowering spice note to the finish. 

I can't explain why I chose the Davidoff when perusing my humidor. Despite being ranked as one of the bolder sticks in the Davidoff lineup, it still seems a moderately mild cigar to me, especially when smoked with whiskey. The notes of almond, milky coffee, cocoa given off are pleasant but somewhat muted by the bolder flavors in the drink. Still it was an enjoyable smoke, and the two hour burn time offered ample opportunity to enjoy the whiskey.

Good beverage and good cigars were fitting bookends to a pleasant and relaxing Saturday. 


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Still No Fire in the Fire Pit

I often enjoy looking through old photos on my laptop to see what I was doing at this time in years back. One thing I've noticed recently, that in years past, we've already enjoyed several fires out back by now. This year, between frequent weekend trips and day after day of wet weather interspersed with warm temperatures, it just hasn't happened this fall. Yet.

The closest we've come so far this season is siting around the pit a couple weeks ago, using it as a foot rest. The condensation on the bottle above illustrates just how warm it was, even in the shade. Despite the absence of the wood fire, it was an enjoyable respite.

Soon, real soon, we'll be enjoying wood smoke along with the tobacco smoke. If it would just stop raining…


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Cigars, Drinks, and Football

As fall arrives, so does the realization that I have unused vacation time at risk of loss. My employer has a generous leave policy, but that policy also allows for no banked time. "Use it or lose it" is the rule. 

As such, I've been striving to put in real "time off" before the end of the year, mostly in the form of long weekends. A few weeks ago, we managed a three day weekend away.

Our first evening at the VRBO farmhouse, to help recovered from the time on the road, included a good bourbon and cigar, naturally. 

The Old Forester 1910 Whiskey is a libation I've been enjoying frequently of late. It's got just enough spice to be interesting, but is readily sippable, leading to frequent topping off of the glass. The accompanying smoke was the Crowned Heads Las Calaveras Edicion Limitada, 2020 vintage. I'd saved a single stick of both the 2020 and 2019 releases. Now that the 2021 edition is released and represented in my humidor, I've decided to smoke those reserves. The stick was much as I remembered with sweet, earthy notes and a hint of pepper and spice. As a side note, I had smoked the 2019 stick earlier in the week and found the flavors significantly muted after the two year rest.

The following day featured an afternoon smoke and beer on the patio, enjoying the mountain and farm scenes in the distance. Highland Brewing Black Mocha Stout is a beer we brought back from a recent trip to western North Carolina. The malty stout features deep roasted grains and chocolate for a robust flavor profile, with a very low 5% ABV.

The Dissident Tirade cigar is by Oveja Negra, whose brands also include Black Label Trading Company and Black Works Studio. The stick sports a dark San Andres Mexican wrapper hiding an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan, Dominican fillers. The bold cigar stood up well to the equally robust beer. The matching color schemes of the beer and cigar labels were a coincidence I noticed when staging the photograph.

The long weekend culminated, like many of our fall trips, with a college football tailgate and game. I might be accused of looking forward to the tailgate cigar as much as the game itself. This pre-game celebration featured an old favorite, Fratello Navetta Inverso.

The Navetta Inverso puts a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper over an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers. The cigar has cedar and earth notes, with hints of sweetness. Some subtle pepper makes the occasional appearance as well.

After a long weekend featuring an abundance of good smoke, drink, and food, the return to the work routine was surprisingly bearable. It also made me start planning how to use up the rest of those days before January 1.


Friday, October 22, 2021

Still Kicking

Hello friends,

It's been a while since I've posted here. I figured I owed the one or two of you who visit here an update.

No, I haven't succumbed to the Wuhan Flu, nor even had a taste of it. Despite the lack of content the last two months, I'm still enjoying good beer and bourbon, smoking cigars regularly, and we're frequently traveling over long weekends to do fun stuff. Unfortunately, I haven't been shooting as much as I would like, but that should change after college football season.

So why the lack of posts? Honestly, and frankly, I ran out of things to say. Here's a cigar and the beverage I enjoyed with it. Here's a description of the match I shot. It all got repetitive. Let's face it, life has been a bit of a broken record of late.

On top of that, work is busy -- in a good way. But after living on the laptop all day, tapping on it during my relaxation time became a bit uninspiring. 

October 6 marked the 14 year anniversary of these Musings. I'm a bit disappointed that it wasn't celebrated with a post. But, that is what it is. There will be more posts coming at some point, so the blog isn't dead.

Meanwhile, I am still quite active on Instagram. It's quick and easy for me to check in over there. That feed is focused mainly on cigars, craft beer, and bourbon. If that interests you click the link here or the graphic over in the sidebar.

That's the update. It's Friday and I'm headed out for a cigar and a beer or two.



Still enjoying life.

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.