Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Monday, May 29, 2023
Sunday, May 28, 2023
"The Green Berets Who Went From Elite Warriors to Elite Bourbon MakersDays after 9/11, while many Americans were watching the news in a state of shock and horror, a team of 12 Green Berets took action. They covertly entered Afghanistan and began to wage war against the Taliban … on horseback."It wasn’t until 48 hours before their insertion that the men were informed they would have to traverse the steep and treacherous landscape of Afghanistan on horses. It was the first of many aspects of this mission, code-named Task Force Dagger, that they would have to figure out as they went along."Despite being often cut off from communications with command headquarters and outnumbered forty to one, these men, The Horse Soldiers, fought in a series of intense battles side-by-side with militia allies and successfully captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif from the Taliban, a strategic stronghold."The Horse Soldier’s story inspired a book, a movie and a monument that can be seen at the 9/11 Memorial in New York. Nearly 20 years after Task Force Dagger’s success, retired Special Operators Scott Neil, Rob Schaefer, Mark Nutsch, Bob Pennington, Tyler Garner and John Koko, along with Elizabeth Pritchard-Koko, found a new mission: they founded American Freedom Distillery. The all-American company’s signature offering is the award-winning Horse Soldier Bourbon, which is sold in bottles pressed in molds made from steel salvaged from the World Trade Center site."
Saturday, May 27, 2023
Friday, May 26, 2023
I don't believe lancero shaped cigars are appreciated enough. The slender cigars average 7 - 7.5 inches in length, and a 38 ring gauge is typical. They do require a bit of extra attention when smoking to keep the burn going, at the same time striving to not heat up the cigar by puffing too frequently. They also require skilled rollers to produce a balanced and well-constructed cigar. As such, they are typically more expensive than their more standard sized counterparts.
One of my favorites smokes in the classy vitola, is the Artesano del Tobacco Viva La Vida. The Nicaraguan puro is rolled in the AJ Fernando factory. It features a Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro 2000 wrapper, a Nicaraguan Corojo 99 binder, and a Nicaraguan Criollo 98 filler. The full bodied cigar features notes of pepper, leather, chocolate and cream. It's truly an enjoyable smoke. The lancero vitola of Viva La Vida is a Luxury Cigar Club exclusive.
This cigar was paired with Larceny Barrel Proof bourbon Larceny Barrel. This bottle is Batch B522, released May 2022. It is an "allocated" bourbon in Virginia but I was fortunate enough to hit a store at the right time to purchase it in September 2022. The bourbon comes in at 123.8 proof. This sipper brings notes of brown sugar, cinnamon, with some readiness. It's a moderately warm finish as the pepper and spice comes to the forefront in the finish.
This stick was the last of a five pack I purchased in May 2022. I'll be looking to order more soon.
Thursday, May 25, 2023
I first mused about the shenanigans or incompetence, take your pick, at the Virginia ABC here. Now it seems VA ABC is also quite adept at digging itself into a hole. On May 23, this was posted on the Virginia ABC Twitter feed.
I couldn't make this stuff up.
The afternoon's selection was an Oliva Serie V Melanio. This box pressed robusta is one that I enjoy frequently with a cup of coffee. The cigar produces creamy notes of chocolate, coffee, a subtle earthiness, all with just a hint of spice. I enjoyed the smoke and french press brewed coffee while starting the classic read. In a bit I went to pick up my empty much to fetch a refill when it slipped from my hands, breaking into several pieces.
This is a coffee mug I've had for many years. The writing was starting to fade, but it felt good in the hand. It will be missed. However, coffee mugs seem to accumulate over the years, so there are plenty more waiting in the wings.
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Other than the occasional local IDPA match, recent experience at the MD State Championship notwithstanding, I've been sorely lacking in my time spent at the range simply practicing. The matches, while fun, provide just 50 - 60 rounds downrange, and nothing in the way of repeated drills. Shooting is a perishable skill and I've lamented the lack of consistency I've developed. Reviewing my journal, it revealed I have not been to the range to practice since May of 2021. Shame on me.
As warmer weather settles in, I have vowed to change that. I've blocked time on my calendar to hopefully allow more trips to the local range. That activity kicked off this week. Loading the car took extra time due to cleaning the spider webs and nests from the range supply box that had sat untouched for so long. I took both the Full Size and Compact SIG P320 guns to work with. I've shot the Compact exclusively in matches since early 2021.
|A Long Missed View|
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
Monday, May 22, 2023
The search for hard-to-find bourbon in Virginia is a challenge. The State controls the sale of distilled beverages through their own distribution system and retail stores, known as the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (VA ABC). It's a huge money making scheme, that at the same time creates a manipulated supply and demand for sought after spirits. It's a system any Marxist government would be proud of. For more than a decade there have been pushes to privatize sales of alcohol, which are met with strong resistance from the "revenuers."
About a year ago, Virginia began supposedly randomizing the distribution of certain spirits, mostly bourbon, to its stores. The stores sit on the stock of "allocated" beverages until, supposedly without any advance notice, until the State decrees certain stores are "authorized to sell any limited availability products in stock." Emails and social media posts are sent out and enthusiasts rush to the listed stores. (Example notification here.) Most of the spirits are limited to three or six bottles of a variety in any given store, and the specific products made available is varied and unknown until one arrives at the store.
The system is not without issues. There have been incidents when an included store actually had no allocated stock to sell. I've arrived at my nearby store in as little as 17 minutes after the announcement, only to see lines out the door and the shelves picked bare of the most sought after spirits. Even if there is a selection left, purchases are limited to one bottle per customer per day from all the limited availability products offered in any location.
The State also runs periodic lotteries for the allocated bourbons. A selection of the allocated beverages is made available through a lottery, in which the winners are given the opportunity to purchased the selected bottle. The listed items may have available quantities from two to several hundred. Entries received for each product are typically upward of 25,000. Not great odds.
It as been rumored that in April 2022 lottery, ALL of the winners had last names starting with the letter A, or the entrant has inserted a space before their last name. That leads one to believe that the lotteries have long been handled incompetently and unprofessionally. Suspicions around the lottery were heightened this week, in what VA ABC described as a "statistically abnormal" occurrence when a few lucky folks won multiple bottles.
I was surprised last week to read in a Virginia bourbon enthusiasts Facebook group a post from someone claiming to show his lottery winnings of three of the four bottles. I was naturally skeptical, until I saw more discussions on Facebook and Reddit, and subsequent media release by the agency.
The "statistically abnormal results" are revealed by VA ABC here,
"Two entrants won all four products; 50 entrants won three products; and 229 entrants won two products. There were 978 total winners for 1,313 available products. The lottery was conducted April 19-23. Winners and non-winners of the lottery were notified on May 12. Virginia ABC is honoring the results and selling the products in line with the lottery terms and conditions."
. . .
"George T. Stagg Bourbon – 37,485 entries and awarded 770 bottles = 1 in 48.68 chance of winning
"Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye – 35,828 entries and awarded 286 bottles = 1 in 125.27 chance of winning
"William Larue Weller Bourbon – 37,416 entries and awarded 209 bottles = 1 in 179.02 chance of winning
"Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old – 35,492 entries and awarded 48 bottles = 1 in 739.41 chance of winning"
To describe one person winning all four as "statistically abnormal" is a stretch. Two people winning all four is goes beyond that. VA ABC says "Everyone who enters during the 3-day period has an equal chance of being selected. Odds depend on the number of entries received and the number of bottles available." Obviously that statement is blatantly false, without apology. The VA ABC statement says the normal process was used for the drawing. If that was the case, this would be a normal occurrence. Social media posts described the selection process to be one of manual sorting, review, and lots of cutting and pasting in Excel. Not something one would expect from a well-funded state agency. Or maybe, exactly what one would expect.
I do not doubt that advance word of the random store drops is made available in some cases to friends and family, maybe even for profit. The unusual lottery results in May could be a matter of incompetence and lack of oversight, or some as yet undiscovered corruption. In any event, the Virginia ABC is struggling to prove both competence and integrity. The state should stop issuing noncommittal and meaningless statements, and replace the system and the people behind it. Or better yet, respect private enterprise and get out of the alcohol distribution business.
There's an update with more head shaking absurdity here.
Saturday, May 20, 2023
Friday, May 19, 2023
This is not the story I had planned to tell. Instead, I have a different story to relate. Pull up a chair.
I have not attempted to shoot any sanctioned IDPA matches since 2019, limiting my time to the occasional local match. In the year following the "cardiac event" in January 2019, I did shoot a few big matches. From a health point of view, all was well, but I never seemed to get back in the groove. My shooting has since been limited to 50-60 rounds at local monthly matches.
This year I decided to shoot the MD State IDPA Championship, which was held in Lexington Park, MD last Saturday. This is always an enjoyable match, with interesting stages and fun people. I've even had a modicum of success at it. I was looking forward to the day spent with friends.
Despite pleasant weather the week leading up to the match, the weather for Saturday was predicted to include no small amount of rain. As it turned out, the rain was limited until the shooting day was over. The intermittent showers had no effect on the waterproof targets employed by the match organizers.
|Shooters waiting to start|
I started the match shooting poorly. Was I rushing, not paying enough attention to my sights, or just succumbing to pressure? Maybe all of that. But, there was still a lot of match to go. On our fourth stage, I left the point of cover and moved to back around the end of a wall. Then I heard "Stop!" I obeyed and looked at the timer SO to my right, thinking there was a prop malfunction on the stage. He turned to the score pad SO who said I had broken the 180. I was stunned. I quickly asked him if I had muzzled him, and he replied the gun had not broken the line by much. I obviously was unaware, but a small infraction is an infraction nonetheless. After, "unload and show clear" I thanked the SO, hung my head, and began packing my gear. Thirteen years of competing in IDPA and I had never experienced a DQ. I've always heard, "There are those who have DQ'd, and those who will." I've never subscribed to that, and believe it to be a defeatist attitude. And, now here I am.
Looking at a bright side, lunch was now being served. I retrieved car keys from our driver for the day, stowed my gear, and headed to lunch. At least it was a tasty Mission BBQ spread.
Now there was nothing left to do but watch and enjoy the show. Fortunately, I had packed a few cigars, intending to enjoy a wind down smoke at the end of the match. That was now a consolation smoke.
Since I wasn't able to leave, I also opted to help paste with my squad to pass the time. Even that was limited as the squad was efficient and quickly swarmed to reset the stage between shooters; there was a lot of incentive as the rain was quickly approaching. Conversations with the SOs on each subsequent stage was also quite humbling. Each roll call still included my name, with which I answered, "Dave's not here," followed by an explanation from my squad mates, which could also include a friendly dig, at my expense of course. I'd expect no less from my friends. Despite not shooting, I still logged 3.7 miles of walking that day.
After the match, I was able to enjoy another smoke with some other shooters as we waited for the award presentations. Then it was time for my second favorite activity when traveling to Maryland for IDPA — shopping for bourbon. I picked up something new, and a replacement for an empty.
There was no time for a smoke after returning home. An after dinner drink was comforting after a day spent on the range, watching.
Thursday, May 18, 2023
That evening's smoke was a long-time favorite, the Southern Draw Manzanita. This stick has been resting in my humidor since last October so was ripe for lighting up. I truly enjoy the earthy smoke accented with bold dark chocolate and cedar notes. There is kick of pepper to help it match the simple demands of the bourbon.
The Blanton's Single Barrel is one that is considered allocated in Virginia's state-run distribution
scam scheme. Since it's not often easy to get, I'll drink it on limited occasions. Not only special occasions, even Tuesday evening will do.
Of course, before the cigar was finished, the next batch of rain was moving through.
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
I've been trying to get back to posting with some regularity. Obviously, that has not been successful. It's not that I haven't been penning posts. I have been drafting Musings fairly regularly. I never committed to publishing them, and soon they seemed too "in the past," or were deemed to be thoughts or opinions best kept to myself.
Yet, I've missed it. I frequently note that this blog is primarily for my own enjoyment. It's a way of reliving interesting occurrences in my average life. Yet, it seemed that there was little variety in the content. These days, that reminiscing purpose has somewhat been supplanted by Instagram. Just about all my cigar, bourbon, and beer experiences get logged there. Check it out.
Surprisingly, over the past month I've had three folks mention to me in person that they noted the absence of content. Frankly I was shocked. First, I rarely talk about this blog to friends, yet some knew. Second, I didn't think there were that many readers!
I've got a few posts in draft, and some ideas for others in mind. It felt odd to just jump back in without some intro though. I don't know to whom it will be interesting, but it will be to me. That's what matters.