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.