We've been trying to make the most of this 3-day holiday weekend -- at least before the expected rain kicks in Sunday evening and Monday. This is a weekend we avoid shopping, taking trips, and even the calls from work will slow. Side thought, why is rain on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends such standard fare in Virginia?
Saturday morning we spent some time grooming the 20+ year old Japanese Maple tree in front of our house. We planted the then small ornamental not too long after we moved in. At the time it seemed an extravagant purchase (it was) but it's provided a lot of enjoyment and aesthetics for a couple of decades now. It had accumulated a lot of dead branches and was looking a little dull as a result. The grooming brightened the display.
Next it was time to do some dreaded window outside cleaning. The front windows were done, with a noticeable brightening of the front yard. The rest will wait for a whole house wash to remove the winter grime and spring pollen.
We then moved on to the more pleasurable activities of the day, starting with some delicious ground chuck and brisket patties from the grill. I tried something new and cooked them using indirect heat until near done, then moved over high heat to finish and sear. It took longer than the typical grilling over high heat, but they were moist with a delightful light char.
And at last, the feature event, a cigar and bourbon on the deck. I selected Horse Soldier Reserve Bourbon and a Southern Draw Manzanita.
Horse Soldier bourbon seemed like an appropriate choice for the day. The story behind the bourbon is fascinating as it was founded by part of the original team of "horse soldiers," the Green Beret team that was the first to enter Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States. Their start is summarized in this article, "The Green Berets Who Went From Elite Warriors to Elite Bourbon Makers."
"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."
The Horse Soldier Reserve is the distillery's Barrel Strength expression. The proof varies between batches, the bottle I have is labeled 124 proof. The nose has dark caramel, sweet maple, along with hint of vanilla and fruit. When sipping I get charred wood, dark fruit, molasses, and a cinnamon like spice. In the finish an interesting fruit note comes up, reminiscent of dark cherries and plums. The 124 proof imparts some heat to mouthfeel, but it is very balanced by the flavor notes, and not overwhelming in the least. Summarize all that to say it's right on target for my flavor preferences.
Horse Soldier isn't just a "celebrity bourbon" using a name for marketing. With so many name-only marketing projects in the market it's easy to be cynical. These are award winning, well crafted and flavorful whiskies. While I naturally gravitated to the barrel strength version, I will make an effort to pick up their other expressions as well.
The Manzanita from Southern Draw is one I've mused on a couple times previously. It's a smoke that stays at the top of my list, and consistently pairs well with bourbon. The cigar sports an attractive reddish-brown Habano wrapper over a Habano binder, and Corojo and Ligero fillers. The smoke has an earthy base with bold dark chocolate and cedar notes. The note of pepper helps it keep up with the demands of the bourbon.
The cigar, the bourbon, along with some good blues coming from the speaker, made for an extremely pleasant evening. As an added attraction our local fox momma made an appearance trotting through the yard on the way to the woods. We see her frequently bringing home food and hope she'll show us the kits someday soon.