Monday, June 24, 2024

Sagamore Spirit Sherry Finish Rye, CAO V660, and the Heat!

Our heat advisory reached its peak over the weekend, but that didn't stop my enjoyment life's simple pleasures. While the wall thermometer read 98° on Friday evening, the "official" temperature was a mere 94°. It's all in your attitude and perspective really. To my mind, outside is preferred over inside, especially when I can add a cigar to the mix.

A CAO Flathead V660 and some Sagamore Spirit Sherry Finish Rye, enjoyed with multiple large glasses of ice water, was the order of the evening.

The CAO Flathead V660 is a cigar I had not explored in a while, though I've had some resting in my humidor since last August. It's a big cigar and as such requires some devoted time to enjoy in its full measure. The 6 x 60 box-pressed dark chocolate hued Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper covers an Ecuadorian Connecticut binder and Nicaraguan fillers. The flavor profile offers rich, semi-sweet chocolate, and espresso notes. The cap of the V660 is quite flat and I always use a punch to open it, rather than attempting a standard straight cut. Despite its heft, the cigar has a wide open draw. I have used a V cutter on one in the past and found the draw too open for my preferences.

The Sagamore Spirit Reserve Series Sherry Finish Rye goes especially well with a full bodied cigar. This is a 4-year old straight rye whiskey which is further aged for 18 months in PX Sherry casks, and bottled at 106 proof. The rye is a brilliant a deep burnt orange color. Aromas of figs, cherries, and raisons greet the nose, foretelling the flavors to come. Upon lighting an immediate hit of cinnamon spice starts things off. A dark sherry impression soon arrives, joining the dark fruit notes. The sherry finished rye is quite flavorful with just a hint of alcohol in the smooth finish. I've had this bottle for about two years, and after this outing there is only a small amount remaining. I chose not to finish it off, just to be able to savor one more pour, probably in the near future.

A couple of cooling fans moderated the heat on the porch ever so slightly. Despite the temperature, I experienced an enjoyable evening, watching the occasional firefly showing off, while enjoying a two hour smoke and sip.


Saturday, June 22, 2024

Weekend Beer Math

In case anyone asks  . . . 

Enjoy the weekend. And stay cool


Friday, June 21, 2024

From One Year to the Next

On the first full day of summer last year, I was lamenting the need to fire up the propane heater to enjoy a cigar on the deck. 

This year, the wall thermometer tells me that today's evening repast will require no such preparations. I do expect it may cool slightly when the sun sets and I'm fully ensconced outside with a cigar and bourbon, and some new blues coming from the outdoor speaker.

Truth be told, I prefer the present weather to the previous year's.

Happy Friday.


Thursday, June 20, 2024

Summer Kickoff

After what seemed like a long wet spring, summer officially arrived on Thursday. And in typical Virginia fashion, the season arrived in a heat wave. I always welcome the warm weather nonetheless. Though technically summer officially arrives at exactly 4:51 p.m. EDT, this is interestingly the earliest summer solstice since June 20, 1796, when George Washington was president.

After I set out the morning lawn sprinklers, I poured a cup of coffee and sat down with a little Sagrado Feito Connecticut. 

The Sagrado Feito Connecticut is a 5 x 38 Petite Corona. Part of the May Luxury Cigar Club mailing, it's been in my humidor just about 5 weeks. The rustic looking Connecticut wrapper hides Dominican binder and fillers. The tobaccos are said to be aged before rolling, but that's as specific information as I've found.

After taking a couple cuts from the pointed cap, I found the pointed tip was still a little small for comfortable smoking, but the draw was wide open so I left it there. The first quarter of the cigar required constant effort to maintain a good light, but when the small cigar was lit, it produced plenty of smoke. As the cigar progressed, the burn improved significantly. 

The flavors were sweet but mild, with nuts and cedar predominating. Near the end a splash of white pepper made an appearance. I've smoked only one cigar from Sagrado previously, the Sagrado Lilith Petite Corona. That cigar I found superior to the Feito, and an exceptional coffee accompaniment. This one was less impressive, though a morning coffee and cigar is always an enjoyable moment.


Monday, June 17, 2024

A Big Smoke for Friday: El Septimo Empress of Sheba

It took me most of Friday to decide on my evening selections. I guess that's the problem with having a wide selection on hand. I picked up this El Septimo Empress of Sheba about a month ago, when shopping for some celebratory cigars. The 6 x 60 Gordo is part of El Septimo's Emperor Collection. The Emperor Collection is dedicated to history's most sovereign rulers. The deep brown maduro wrapper of the Empress of Sheba glistens behind the decorative gold and blue bands.

El Septimo is characteristically unrevealing on the details of the blend. When I asked to cigar shop proprietor about the blend, he simply responded, "You got me." The cigar looked enticing so I took a chance on one.  

The El Septimo Empress Empress Sheba has been resting in my humidor for just a month. That's the minimum time I prefer to keep new additions before they are smoke, though I am not always as patient as I plan. I decided to use a punch to open the cap and found I loose, open draw, right near the edge of my preference.

The initial flavor that hit me was a moderate white pepper. That was soon joined by a creamy dark chocolate and nut blend. Smoke production was copious. Chocolate and espresso came to the forefront through the bulk of the cigar. Occasionally another smack of white pepper would mix things up a bit.

The large cigar fell right in the medium bodied range. In the second half, I felt a bit of strength come through, however the flavor profile changed little throughout the smoke. It did have the feel of well-aged tobacco, though I have no info to confirm that. The burn was a bit faster than I expected, ending at around 90 minutes. Overall an enjoyable, though unexceptional smoke, if a bit on the pricey side.

I enjoyed a couple pours of one of my go-to sippers, Four Roses Small Batch Select. There isn't too much to be said about it that I haven't already said in previous Musings. This Four Roses bourbon is crafted from a blend of six of the Four Roses mash bills and is bottled at 104 proof. The profile is filled with sweet, dark fruit, vanilla and oak, with just a touch of spice. It's a moderately priced bourbon that pairs well with cigars, fruits, and cheese. Just the thing for weekends in these parts.


Friday, June 14, 2024

Flag Day and National Bourbon Day - What a Combo!

June 14 is filled with truly "Made in America" celebrations. Today is Flag Day, the day we celebrate our Nation's flag and all it represents. On the same day we also mark National Bourbon Day, the day we celebrate an "official" American beverage. 

On June 14, 1777 the Continental Congress resolved "That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." Our first flag has evolved over time to the one we proudly fly today with 13 stripes and 50 stars. To this day, I hold it to be the most striking of any Nation's flag. There are many misguided and anti-freedom people in the US today who claim our flag is a racist or oppressive symbol. Ironically, a majority of those making those accusations, would hardly be as free, if even allowed to avoid the death penalty, under the governments they so ignorantly wish to emulate. 

National Bourbon Day came later. On May 4, 1964 Congress proclaimed bourbon to be a “distinctive product of the United States.” I am not sure when the National holiday came to be, nor how the day came to be celebrated on June 14. Tradition, or legend, holds that May 4 was actually the first time bourbon was distilled, but who would really know? The day likely has more to do with distillery marketing than history, but who could be against such a celebration? There is certainly an argument that could be be made for joining it with Flag Day given its connection to our great Nation.

So fly the flag and enjoy a sip of bourbon today, and be thankful for both.

Fun fact: Viewing the American flag leads to higher brain function.


Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Creation of the Beer Fridge

It begins here.

And finishes in the basement or garage. That's where the majority of its existence will be.


Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Sunday Wine, Hors d'Oeuvres, and a Cigar

Aah. . . Sunday afternoon. Even in retirement, Sunday's remain special. Mass in the morning, then a nice breakfast/lunch, followed by reading, and piddling around the house or yard. There was a time when Sunday afternoon also included a visit to one of our favorite local pubs for drinks and light food before dinner. Now it we are more likely to spend the late afternoon on the deck, with of course, drinks and light food, with the added bonus that I can also enjoy a cigar.

This past Sunday afternoon I had an urge for wine instead of beer or bourbon. It just seemed right for the sunny afternoon. I selected a bottle of Rebellion "Commonwealth" red wine. The local wine is from the Rebellion Bourbon Bar in Fredericksburg. Rebellion offers a house stave pick of Maker's Mark bourbon. When they receive the bourbon, they also receive the barrel it was aged in. Rebellion work with a local vintner to produce a red wine aged for 8 months in the barrels.

My wine knowledge is generally limited to liking a wine, or not. I do favor full bodied reds. The bourbon barrel aged wine is semi-dry with sweet dark berry fruit notes. It is low in tannins with no bitterness. I didn't find any distinctive or different notes, outside of a very pleasantly drinking wine.  And, one that happened to pair quite nicely with the La Paline Black Label cigar I chose to enjoy.

The La Palina Black Label is a 6 x 50 Toro. The cigar has not spent much time in my humidor as I just picked it up last week when visiting the cigar lounge. However I was most interested in trying it out, and it just looked like it would pair well. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

The cigar uses a Brazilian Bahiano wrapper, which encases a double binder of Dominican and Nicaraguan leaves, as well as filler tobaccos from those two countries as well. The Black Label kicks off black pepper spice, along with hints of cocoa and roasted nuts. As the smoke progressed the cocoa shifted to more of a sweet dark chocolate. The cigar provides a full bodied smoke, although it is not harsh at all and should be approachable by most smokers. I enjoyed a 90 minute smoke with no burn issues.

I had high hopes for the pairing, and I was not disappointed. The two flavor profiles were complimentary, like a classic red wine and chocolate pairing.


Monday, June 10, 2024

Friday Evening - A Cigar, A Rye, and New Music

I'd been looking forward to revisiting the Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye, and finally did pull it down from the shelf on Friday evening. I also grabbed a Rocky Patel The Edge 20th Anniversary to smoke along with the rye on a pleasantly warm and low humidity evening. This sort of weather doesn't last long in Virginia.

Batch 2 of Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye was released in the fall of 2022. The mash bill is 95 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley and bottled at moderate 105 proof. The #1 char barrels used for the cigar blend were smoked over tobacco leaves.

The aroma is light in the rocks glass, but a rye spice and a hint smoke come through. The rye spiciness is forward in the sip. Tobacco and citrus notes come through after the initial spice. A caramel and tobacco smoke presence coats the palate in a lingering finish. Taking a sip of water clears the spice and helps the tobacco smoke come through. I enjoyed the Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye. It's not the typical cognac - port - wine finish of other "cigar blends" but makes a quite pleasant pairing for the cigar.

The Rocky Patel Edge 20th Anniversary is a smoke I've enjoyed often. This particular 5 1/2" X 50 Robusto has been resting in the humidor for a year. The 20th Anniversary was introduced by Rocky Patel in 2022 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Edge series. The stick has a 10 year aged Ecuador Sumatra wrapper, a Honduran Broadleaf binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Panama. The chocolate brown, silky wrapper gives evokes a classic HERSHEY'S Chocolate Bar. The medium bodied smoke delights with rich notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and nuts. The flavor was consistent throughout the smoke, which was just fine with me as it was pairing with the rye most beautifully.

The Friday evening was made even more enjoyable with some new music from a favorite artist. I'd been looking forward to Joanne Shaw Taylor's new blues album to be released. As Friday was the release date, it got a couple play throughs in the course of this evening.


Sunday, June 9, 2024

Sunday Humor

A laugh for your Sunday morning.

A preacher was delivering a temperance sermon one hot Sunday afternoon. With great exposition, he said, “If I had all the beer in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.”

With greater conviction, he banged his fist on the pulpit; “And if I had all the wine in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.”

Finally, he said, “And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.”

Sensing he delivered a powerful sermon, he whipped his brow and sat down.

The choirmaster, with shock on his face, looked over the congregation, stood very cautiously, and announced with a wry smile, “For our closing song, let us sing Hymn #365: “Shall We Gather at the River?”

This laugh courtesy of OldNFO


Friday, June 7, 2024

Relaxing at the Cigar Lounge

I decided to go over to the cigar lounge to enjoy an afternoon of smoking inside for a change. Feeling free from any interruptions from my (former) employer, I sat down with a Aganorsa Leaf La Validación Habano. 

The lounge was pretty empty in the early weekday afternoon. Instead of conversation, I spent the time reading. (Kindle app on my phone for the win.) The Aganorsa Leaf La Validación Habano is a cigar I've not tried previously. This 6 1/4 x 52 Toro is smoothly wrapped in an Ecuador Habano leaf, with Nicaraguan binder and fillers. The double gold-accented, colorful bands make for a showy presentation. 

The first few puffs are a robust black pepper wake up. The smoke quickly gets slightly more balanced with the addition of leather and some sweet chocolate. As I smoked I occasionally detected nuts and a dry earthiness. The cigar kept its full bodied and spicy personality throughout. The burn was even and slow, giving a full two hours of enjoyment.

In a bit of irony, I received a text message from my old boss. It was not unwelcome though, as we had also developed a non-work related friendship. He also recently left the company and was just checking in to chat. That was certainly more preferred than a work interruption. 


Wednesday, June 5, 2024

AVO Unexpected Celebration and Courage & Conviction Double Cask Reserve

I don't try to age cigars for long periods in general. The oldest cigars in my humidor are around five years old. Most are two years old or less. "Smoke 'em if you got 'em" I say. There was one AVO Unexpected Celebration in there from my purchase in August 2019.

When the AVO Unexpected line was released it was touted as a new line of specially crafted cigars. In reality the cigars appear to be rebranded prior releases. The Celebration is the same as the AVO XO. Probably not the best PR that AVO could do, but that marketing technique is probably not unique to them.

The Celebration is rolled with an Ecuadoran wrapper, and binder and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic. The cigars were aged for six years before being released. So I'll see what 10 years of aging bring.

This cigar was about the same as I remember. Mild, with sweet chocolate and cedar. Probably the last time I smoked the AVO Celebration was the fall of 2020. I recall it was a smooth, mild cigar, that went well with my morning coffee. This time I decided to pair an American Single Malt Whisky that I had never tasted. I had an airplane bottle Courage & Conviction Double Cask Reserve from Virginia Distilling on hand. I had grabbed the bottle to try out the whiskey before investing in a larger bottle. 

The Double Cask Reserve consists of a blend of 50% Bourbon cask aged, 25% Sherry cask, and 25% Cuvée cask aged whisky. (Whisky is the distiller's preferred spelling.) The flavor made me think of a scotch or irish whisky. It had a mild flavor, with hints of hay, oak, with a hint of pepper and fruit sweetness. The 96 proof was easy on the palate. 

I enjoyed the Courage & Conviction Double Cask Reserve quite a bit. It was well-matched with the cigar's profile. I lamented not having a bit more than the little 50 ml bottle. Coincidently about the same time I was preparing to enjoying this pour, a friend messaged me about the Px Sherry finish Courage & Conviction he was enjoying. It would appear I need look for some more offerings in this lineup.


Monday, June 3, 2024

El Septimo Sacred Arts Collection Da Vinci

For an afternoon smoke recently I grabbed an El Septimo Sacred Arts Collection Da Vinci. This was one of the "special" cigars I picked up recently as I prepared for the great relaxing (aka, retirement.) It hasn't been in the humidor long, but I was anxious to try it out.

The Da Vinci is part of the Sacred Arts Collection by El Septimo. The 7 1/2 x 40 Lancero has a dark chocolate maduro wrapper. The wrapper leaf is toothy with a slightly dry look, though it did not feel dry.

The cigar had a tighter draw than I prefer, which it retained throughout the 95 minute smoke. I had to retouch the bun a couple times when the smoke production wavered. The smoke was dry and earthy, with bit of cedar and black pepper. The spice was joined by cocoa and nuts as the smoke progressed. It was a medium bodied smoke that I enjoyed despite the extra effort required for the draw.

For the sunny afternoon smoke, I paired the El Septimo Sacred Arts Collection Da Vinci with a couple glasses of beer. I started with a leftover Lights Out Holiday Ale from Blue Mountain Brewery. The malty, slightly spiced beer proved a good match. I followed it with a malty Smithwick's Irish Red Ale. Again, the malt rich beer prove a nice compliment to the El Septimo. A pleasant afternoon all around.


Saturday, June 1, 2024

Retirement, Padrón, and Little Book Chapter 6

After a life of chasing a paycheck, twenty-five years of it spent at one company, I am done. Now we can truly get on with enjoying life and the rewards of a successful career. I had been thinking about a starting pairing for the occasion, and even picked up some "special" cigars as options with which to celebrate. I opted to start the next phase with a Padrón 1926 Serie No. 1 Maduro. Perusing my whiskey selections, the Little Book Chapter 6 "To The Finish" struck me as a fitting first toast drink.

The Padrón 1926 Serie No. 1 was a two and a half hour pleasurable and flavorful smoke. I began that time deleting all  the work-related apps from my phone. After that, the evening was spent relaxing, knowing there were to be no more emails from work, no more Slack messages, and no more phone calls to interrupt the peace. 


Thursday, May 30, 2024

Your Bourbon Has Been "Discarded"

I was excited for the bottle of a newly released bourbon to arrive in time for the weekend. But alas.

Is this the UPS version of a "Thank you" card?

The shipper was very responsive and issued an immediate refund of the charge. I am now taking my chance on a reorder.


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Almond Old Fashioned and Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut

After the enjoyable Perdomo the previous day, I was reminded of the Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut that's been in my humidor since August 2019. I decided it was high time to smoke it. To complete the pairing I mixed up a couple Almond Old Fashioned cocktails to enjoy for our "traditional" Sunday Cocktails on the Deck.

Almond Old Fashioned
  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 oz. Amaretto
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Mix the ingredients over a large ice rock. 
Express an orange peel over the top and add as a garnish.

The cocktail is sweet but at the same time has a balanced bitterness. I used Laws Four Grain Bourbon which I think adds a touch of sweet citrus to the mix. 

The Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut Epicure is a 6" x 56 Toro. It boasts an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper which was aged for eight years and then spent another eight months aging in bourbon barrels. The binder and fillers hail from Nicaragua.

Despite nearly five years of life in the humidor and jostling from adding and removing cigars, the Perdomo stick was in excellent shape. It was still quite pliable and undamaged. The medium-bodied smoke is buttery, with sweet honey and citrus notes. There's a mild cedar spice in the background throughout the smoke. The cigar burned evenly and without issue. When I came back to it after being inside to mix another round of cocktails the cigar was still fully lit and required no touchups at any point.

The Almond Old Fashioned and Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut cigar each complicated the other quite well.


Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Vixen Red Ale and Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Sun Grown

I spent Saturday morning finally getting around to potting up some plants for the deck that had been waiting for my attention for a while. Afterwards, it was time to sit and enjoy the plants and the warm sun. A Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Sun Grown, a local Red Ale, and a "book" was the order of the Memorial weekend Saturday afternoon.

The Old Bust Head Vixen Irish Style Red Ale is a very nice ale, rich in malt with a hint of hop bitterness. It's one I seek out when shopping for Irish Ales in the Spring. This lone bottle was found in the back of the refrigerator, left since last year. It was still in fine condition.

The Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Sun Grown in the 5 x 54 Robusto proved a most satisfying accompaniment. The cigar spent just four weeks resting in my humidor but the smoke was near flawless. The cigar features a milk chocolate colored Nicaraguan Sun Grown wrapper over Nicaraguan binders and fillers. This wrapper leaves were aged for 6 years, followed by an additional 10 months aging in used bourbon barrels. 

The 10th Anniversary Sun Grown is a medium to full bodied cigar. Starting off with sweet caramel and cedar, the smoke is thick and full. As it progresses, caramel, molasses, and coffee join the mix. The spice morphs to a light black pepper. This is a very flavorful smoke. My only disappointment being that it's been so long since I've picked up a supply to have on hand.

I generally prefer to use the Kindle for reading when smoking. It's easy to manage with one hand, and any ashes dropped on the screen can be easily blown off. Sitting on the deck, reading with a good beer and cigar was a most enjoyable way to pass the time. 


Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day

As we begin the unofficial start of Summer, it is necessary to take a moment to pray for those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. We may choose to celebrate the holiday with food, drink, fun and friends, but must do so remembering the reason behind it. Without the sacrifice of our fallen heroes this great country, and indeed the world, would be a much different and lesser place.

It is those sacrifices that helped to preserve the freedoms we value and enjoy today. As we pause to remember our lost heroes, may we also vow to be steadfast in our opposition of those who wish to destroy that which has been so hard won.

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." -- John 15:13

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Woodford Reserve Double Oak With My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT

It's been a busy week around the house, filled with contractors doing work, interspersed by medical appointments, and other necessary business. I was looking forward to some down time with much anticipation. There's been a bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon sitting on my shelf since a friend gifted it to me at Christmas. It was high time to open it. I selected an El Centurion  H-2K-CT by My Father Cigars to enjoy with the smooth Double Oaked.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is one of those libations that I like to keep around. It's a great bourbon to serve to both the new bourbon drinker and the experienced aficionado. I don't believe I've run across someone who does not enjoy it. 

The nose has a pleasing sweet aspect of vanilla and corn. As expected moderate oakiness is present. Sipping coats the palate with rich impressions of sweet vanilla, caramel, oak, and dark fruit. The flavors are robust but not harsh or overwhelming. There's a mild heat of pepper in the finish to top off the enjoyment. There's a reason Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is a staple of many home and restaurant selections. The price tag isn't bad either.

My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT  is a cigar I've paired with success to a variety of libations in the past -- bourbon, stout, wine. The 6 x 52 Toro has a rounded box-press shape with an oily, caramel colored H-2K-CT Connecticut wrapper. The H-2K-CT leaf is Cuban-seed strain of tobacco grown in open sunlight and cultivated in the Connecticut River Valley. The binder and fillers are Nicaraguan. 

This cigar has been resting in my humidor for about 10 months now. The medium bodied smoke comes across as creamy, with a mild pepper warmth. The flavor profile is complex, with vanilla, nuts, caramel, roasted coffee, and dark fruit note detected. The cigar is consistent from start to finish with no transitions over the 90 minute smoking time.

I enjoyed the time spent on the deck with the drink and cigar. The down time was used to reflect on a too long list of friends who have coincidently all passed in the past two months. In addition, this was the kickoff of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. It was time to pause and give thanks to all of those who gave their lives defending the liberty that allows me to sit and enjoy some of my favorite pastimes in safety and freedom. May we never forget their sacrifices, or allow them to have been in vain.


Sunday, May 19, 2024

Liga Privada H99 - An Early Retirement Gift to Myself

With retirement just a couple weeks away, I was looking to treat myself to an early retirement splurge. Hogsheads Cigar lounge held a Drew Estate event last Friday evening, which provided the perfect opportunity to indulge myself. 

The evening featured most, if not all, of the extensive Drew Estate lineup, but the "main event" was showcasing the new Liga Privada H99. Along with the regular vitolas the line cigar, the event-only Corona Doble was available for sale as well. I had decided prior to arriving I was going to treat myself to a box of 24.

The purchase of this special box qualified me for slew of H99-themed swag to go along with it. A glass ashtray, Xikar cutter, keychain, a cigar rest, and a selection of free cigars, were all added to my bag. The hardware will be added to my shelf of other themed cigar accoutrements to make appearances as demanded.

I spent the evening at the lounge enjoying fun conversation and smoking a couple other Drew Estate cigars. I didn't win ay of the raffles of the evening, but I had my prize. I'll let the H99 cigars rest in my humidor for as long as I can resist. I am looking forward to enjoying it soon though -- and I'll have plenty of time to do that. 


Friday, May 17, 2024

Coffee Break: Undercrown Maduro

This coffee break supported by the Liga Privada Undercrown Maduro from Drew Estate. The temperature was in the mid-60° range -- not cool, but warm enough to not require any supplemental heat. I think I can finally bring in the portable heat sources until the fall.

The Liga Privada Undercrown Maduro from Drew Estate is one that I smoke frequently and that has been mentioned often in these Musings. The 5" x 54 Robusto has been resting in my humdor since February. It combines a Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper, a Habano Connecticut binder, with Brazil Mata Fina and Nicaraguan Habano fillers. The medium-bodied smoke has rich espresso and cocoa sweetness. Some dark fruit and bitterness is also in the mix.

This is a cigar I like to keep on hand. ("Siri, remind me to pick up more Undercrown Maduro.") I almost universally enjoy it with a bourbon or a dark beer. I don't recall that I've paired it with coffee, though it seems likely I would have at some point. The dark espresso notes in the cigar contrasted with the comparatively lighter notes of the rich, black coffee. The combo was enjoyable and I poured a second cup to enjoy.

We've been under an extended period of dark and rainy days of late. As I wrapped up my smoke, though it would be setting soon, the sun finally came out from behind the clouds. It was a morning dawn -- at the end of the day. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Coffee Break: Muestra de Saka #NLMTHA

Another tease of Spring weather meant coffee and a cigar on the deck. I was in the mood for a lancero, a desire that often arises when I'm looking for an afternoon smoke, usually with coffee. As with this day, those situations often include some acoustic blues coming from the outdoor speaker.

The cigar of choice was the Muestra de Saka #NLMTHA from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. The cigar was part of a Lancero Sampler I purchased last August from Luxury Cigar Club. (I have no connection with LCC other than being a satisfied member.)

The Muestra de Saka #NLMTHA is a 7 x 38 stick consisting of all Nicaraguan tobaccos. That's as detailed as the information goes. The wrapper is an attractive dark brown and the cap has a small pigtail. As the story goes, Steve Saka was regularly hounded by fans to create a lancero vitola, a size he apparently disdains. When he ceded to those requests, he stated his feelings with the hashtag name, which stands for "now leave me the hell alone." 

A quick hit with the lighter and the cigar is easily lit and a thick cloud of smoke fills the air. The first impressions are of roasted nuts and dark coffee. As the cigar warms up, cedar and pepper spices join the mix, though the spices don't drown out the coffee aspect. There's a bread and oak base that comes through as well. As the cigar progresses, the dark coffee shifts to the bitter espresso side of the spectrum. 

The Muestra de Saka #NLMTHA provided a 70 minute accompaniment to the coffee and music. Despite the intermittent cloud cover cooling the air occasionally, it was an extremely pleasant repast on a Sunday afternoon.


Monday, May 13, 2024

Hidden Humidor Treasure: 2018 Fratello DMV Virginia

I decided to dig deep in the humidor for something to smoke on a recent evening. Pulling out the bottom tray where I had put cigars "for later" led me to a Fratello DMV Virginia. I have just two left from the original 2018 release, and looked forward to seeing how the cigar had aged.

This Fratello DMV Virginia features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, with an Ecuadorian binder. The fillers are a mix from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and the USA. I've always enjoyed Fratello cigars, but the original DMV releases are some of my favorites. 

The Virginia vitola is a 5 1/2  x 52 Robusto. After more than five years in the humidor, the cigar still has an oily sheen and the chocolate brown wrapper is in perfect condition.

I first smoked the DMV Virginia during a release party at my local lounge, where I had the pleasure of meeting Fratello owner Omar de Frias. My notes on the cigar from that evening included tasting a strong spice and roasted note, as well as an oily sensation on my lips. As I've smoked more over the years, I've noticed the flavors have mellowed very little, but have come together in a balanced profile. I still get roasted coffee, leather, cedar, and bit of pepper. 

The vintage Fratello DMV Virginia burned evenly, producing copious flavorful smoke. I truly enjoyed it and look forward to, slowly, going through the remaining sticks of the series that I have tucked away.


Saturday, May 11, 2024

Blanco Liga Exclusiva de Familia Connecticut Robusto

Many folks assume a dark wrapper means a cigar is strong and full bodied. The assumption is often incorrect. Admittedly, I am guilty of an opposite assumption, that all lighter colored cigars are mild and boring. It's true that Connecticut wrapper cigars can disappoint me, but that's not a universal truth. For one such case, meet the Blanco Liga Exclusiva de Familia Connecticut Robusto.

Blanco Cigars, made at the Plancencia factory in Nicaragua, have a reputation for being strong smokes. Some even come with a warning. This Blanco cigar was part of the February Luxury Cigar Club Core shipment. When I saw the cigar, I was at first taken aback. I am signed up for the Medium-Full package, and here's this Connecticut Shade wrapper. Then I saw the Blanco label, and was optimistic. 

Blanco Liga Exclusiva de Familia Connecticut Robusto features a Honduran grown Connecticut Shade wrapper, with Nicaragua binder and filler. The smooth shiny wrapper and colorful band combine for a very attractive cigar. Upon light up, I got an immediate hit of black pepper. It was predominant but not overpowering. Quickly that was joined by sweet cream and woodsy notes. The balance of sweet and spice continued throughout the smoke.

Due to some temporary alcohol restrictions imposed by prescription pharmaceuticals,  I enjoyed the cigar with a lightly flavored carbonated water. That was actually the perfect accompaniment. Despite the full bodied nature of the cigar, a bourbon may have muted the flavors too much. Perhaps a cappuccino would have been a nice pairing.

In summary, don't judge a book, or cigar, by its cover. You might miss out.


Friday, May 10, 2024

Toscano Antico and Espresso

I enjoyed a fun "Italian" dessert after dinner this week. I had the urge to enjoy one of the Toscano cigars I brought back from Italy last fall. An espresso seemed fitting to go along.

The Toscano Antica is a 6 x 38 cheroot slim panatela with a very rustic appearance. The cigars are dry rolled and do not require storage in a humidor. The wrapper is fired cured Kentucky tobacco and the filler is blend of USA and Italian tobaccos. There is no binder leaf. This is the classic Clint Eastwood Western movie cigar.

The Toscano Antica has a strong wood fire aroma even before lighting. The flavors when smoking bring to mind smoky BBQ with some sweetness added in. Despite the rough, dry appearance the burn has no issues and gave about a 40 minute smoke. That was plenty of time for a couple of double espressos.

I do enjoy these cigars on occasion. Fortunately Tuscano packages them for export and they can be had, rather inexpensively, from many online retailers.


Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Sagradi Lilith With My Morning Coffee

I enjoy coffee with a cigar fairly regularly. It's usually as part of an afternoon pick me up. Although often craved, having the time to linger in the morning is an infrequent pleasure. (Though that schedule restriction will soon be a thing of the past.) 

This past weekend, on a cool morning, I had the pleasure of a leisurely smoke with my mug(s) of hot coffee. The Sagrado Lilith Petit Corona was my choice for this repast.

The roughly rolled 5 x 43 stick features a light brown Ecuadorian wrapper, with Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. The cigar was part of the December 2023 Luxury Cigar Club shipment. It's been resting for about five months, while I awaited a fitting coffee moment. The medium bodied smoke has balanced notes of black pepper and cinnamon, along with a hay and floral presence.

I've lamented in the past that finding cigars that are well-suited to pairing with black coffee, for me, has been a challenge. It seems from recent experience, that the secret is found in cigars featuring Dominican tobaccos. True or just recency effect, the Salgado Lilith was a truly enjoyable accompaniment for the morning caffeine dose.


Saturday, May 4, 2024

Cigar Lounge - Rinse and Repeat

Another Friday evening and I opted once again to have a cigar at the brewery cigar lounge. Though I have beer, cigars, and even whiskey at home, the change of pace and chance to chat with other beer and cigar fans prompted my visit.

Coincidently there was a Civil War reenactment event taking place this weekend at the brewery. There was a large and growing crowd of "blue and gray" participants milling about. The main events were to take place on Saturday and Sunday, but the reenactors were camping for the weekend. Many drank their beer from their tin cups, and I saw some even resorting to matches (outdoors!) to light cigars and pipes. Most were not to bound to avoiding those anachronisms.

I broke from my usual cigar-friendly porters and stouts to enjoy the 1781 Brewing Boogie Water Pale Ale. The 5.5% ABV ale has a juicy citrus profile that is both flavorful and refreshing. As I recall the brewery releases it each Spring, but I  have never tried it. I did rather enjoy it.

I grabbed what's becoming a somewhat regular cigar for me when I visit the Olde Towne Tobacconist brewery lounge, the Veritas 412. I have some of these at home as well, but still gravitate to them when walking the humidor.

Maybe it's the dark Pennsylvania Maduro wrapper I see. Perhaps the San Andrés binder and Nicaraguan Double Ligero and Pennsylvania fillers that attracts. Whatever the reason, the full flavored smoke with semi-sweet chocolate, black pepper, and roasted nuts is a favorite.

As the sun set, I moved inside where the wood stove had been lit. I was feeling relaxed and enjoying conversation. The pleasant setting mandated a refill of my mug and another cigar. I lit up a Micallef A to carry me into the late evening. This is a "brick and mortar" only cigar, the company opting to cease selling via mail order houses. I hadn't had one for some four years. No pictures were taken so I'll save that tale for another day.


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

ODG 114 and Black Label Novemdiales

I remarked on Instagram that just making it to Tuesday can be cause for celebration. It was hyperbole, but I did feel the need to sit and relax after a day of work frustrations. 

Before I even opened my humidor, I had the Black Label Trading Company Bishops Blend Novemdiales in mind to smoke. I still have a few resting since last October and figured they might be hitting their prime. I've mentioned previously that the annual Bishops Blend releases are among my favorite smokes, and this variation from 2023 is especially enjoyable. The Pennsylvania broadleaf wrapper, Ecuadorian habano binder, and a complex filler of tobaccos from Nicaragua, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut provide a flavorful smoke from the 5 x 50 Robusto.

The densely packed cigar burned well and provided a full bodied smoking experience. Rich, dark fruit, boosted with bitter espresso were the predominate flavors. There are also strong cedar and pepper spices adding to the excitement.

Pairing the cigar with the Old Grand-Dad 114 seemed to me an obvious choice. The 114 proof bourbon has a high rye mash bill providing a spicy noted in both the aroma and palate. Upon sipping I get a copious brown sugar and caramel sweetness, along with bold rye and cinnamon spices. The 114 proof provides warmth and a long finish.

As predicted, the pairing was perfect. The evening spent on the porch, with warm temperatures and a mild breeze was a fitting finish to the day. I'll plan more of these.


Saturday, April 27, 2024

A Stout and a Cigar

Kicking off the weekend, I grabbed a dusty bottle of Hardwood Bourbon Barrel GBS from a dark corner  of the basement. I didn't see a date on the caged and corked bottle, but it's at least five years old if not more. I wasn't sure what cigar to pair but I had an urge to smoke another El Centurion H-2K-CT by My Father Cigars, so that was the selection.

Immediately upon opening the bottle of stout, I could smell sweet aromas of chocolate and bourbon wafting through the kitchen. Bourbon Barrel GBS is Harywood's Gingerbread Milk Stout that has been aged in bourbon barrels for twelve weeks. The base Gingerbread Stout is spiced with vanilla beans, cinnamon, baby ginger, and honey. The barrel aging adds even more complexity to the finish. The finished 11.5% ABV stout has a complex flavor profile of chocolate and spices with a pleasing bourbon undertone. The beer is incredibly smooth with enough "warming" character to take the chill from a cool evening.

As mentioned, the My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT is a cigar I've enjoyed many times. The box-pressed 6 x 52 Toro has an oily, brown H-2K-CT Connecticut wrapper. This leaf is a Cuban-seed strain of tobacco grown in open sunlight and cultivated in the Connecticut River Valley. Nicaraguan binder and fillers complete the picture.

The El Centurion consistently has given me a 90 minute smoking time. The burn throughout was even and required no touchups. The smoke give flavors of creamy vanilla, nuts, caramel, roasted coffee, dark fruit note, with a very light pepper touch.

I've paired the My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT with both bourbon and wine previously. It also proved a delightful accompaniment for the Hardwood Bourbon Barrel GBS too.


Friday, April 26, 2024

Espresso Old Fashioned

This is a new-to-us cocktail we recently added to our "repertoire." It was something seen on a random Instagram reel and sounded good. It's quite tasty, though as the photo shows, it's a bit of a murky looking drink.

Espresso Old Fashioned
    • 2 oz. Bourbon 
    • 1 oz. Fresh Brewed Espresso 
    • 1/4 oz. Demerara Syrup 
    • 2-3 Dashes Pecan Bitters
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until cool. Strain the drink into a rocks glass over large ice cube. Garnish with a few coffee beans.

In our first attempt, I used 1/2 oz. of the Demerara Syrup, per the original recipe. However, we both found that to be a little too sweet. It was so good that we did decided to make another right away, this time reducing the sweetener. That change allowed the espresso flavor to shine even more. If you like your espresso on the sweeter side, the extra sweetener may suit you.

I made the espresso a short time before mixing the cocktails and it was still warm when I used it. In the future I think I'll brew it in advance to reduce the dilution from the ice while mixing.

I used George Remus Bourbon to make the cocktails. I thought the 94 proof bourbon was enough to be noticeable over the bitter espresso. A lower proof bourbon may not suffice. However, I have no doubt we'll experiment with both lower and higher proofs in the future.


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Afternoon Tea and Jose Dominquez Signature Series Gigante

After some chores around the house I grabbed some time on the deck with a cigar and a book. There was a breeze cooling the air, but intermittent cloud cover allowed occasional access to the sun's heat. I decided to try out the Jose Dominquez Signature Series Gigante that had been sitting in my humidor since last August when it arrived as part of the monthly Luxury Cigar Club package.

The monterous 6 x 60 stick features an Honduran Connecticut, a Sumatran binder, with Dominican and USA Broadleaf fillers. The large size and Connecticut wrapper, both features are outside my favored preferences, led the cigar to sit for the last eight months. I combined the cigar with a cold tea. 

The Jose Dominquez Signature Series Gigante was a little more flavorful than its appearance would hint. The is a distinctive honey aspect, along with earth, leather, and cedar. As is not unusual with large ring gauge cigars, the draw was very open and airy, which in my opinion inhibits the flavors. The cigar still hovered around the medium bodied level.

The wrapper on this particular cigar, while smooth overall, exhibited some rough veining remnants. The one pictured above had a "Frankenstein" semblance. 

I enjoyed the Jose Dominquez Signature Series Gigante more than I expected I would. It went well with the mildly sweet and lemon iced tea. 


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Black Works Studio Intergalactic and a Night at the Lounge

I wasn't in the mood to sit on the cold porch Friday evening, so I headed over to the Olde Towne Tobacconist outpost at 1781 Brewing. I was hoping the cool-again weather wouldn't keep other folks away. When I arrived the parking lot was busy and I realized there was live music this evening. Unfortunately I wouldn't hear the music from inside the lounge, but again, I wasn't desirous of sitting in the cold.

After filling my mug with 1781's delicious Winter Bock, I went over to the lounge. I grabbed an Intergalactic by Black Works Studio, and picked my seat near the door to see passersby, but close enough to the wood stove to stay warm.

The Black Works Studio Intergalactic selected was a 6 1/4 x 46 Corona Larga. The cigar is rolled with a slightly rounded off foot and a small twisted bun on the head. It features a dark Indonesian Sumatra wrapper. The binder is Ecuadoran Habano, and the filler from Nicaragua. The first few draws bring a big dose of black pepper and cedar that tingles the nose. The flavor picks up cedar and charred wood as it progresses. The Intergalactic is a medium to full bodied smoke. I found that in combination with the malty beer, the profile picks up a creamy aspect, moderating the spiciness of the smoke. 

After a short while I was joined by a gentleman who was enjoying a cigar while his family enjoyed the music and winery side of the venue. Like me, he chose warmth over music. It turns out we had some similar experiences in both our careers and travels. Since I had arrived well before him, I decided to grab another smoke and a refill of my beer as we chatted. It made for an enjoyable evening. 


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Before It Turned Cold. Again.

Writing this as I remind myself that Spring in Virginia is schizophrenic -- just when you think it's getting warm, the weather abruptly changes. We went out to dinner with a large group of friends on Thursday evening. Before going out, one of those friends visited for an afternoon drink and smoke. It was near 80° so the screen porch was quite pleasant.

I cracked open the bottle of Bulleit 12 Year Rye I had found earlier in the week. This delightful whiskey requires a more in-depth review, to come later. In summary, the well-aged rye is smooth, with sweet notes of toffee, vanilla, and brown sugar. There's a nice rye spice that does not overwhelm but gives even more character to the drink. 

We enjoyed our cigars and whiskey, before heading out for a long evening with friends, until the "late" hour of 9:45 PM, when somebody noticed that the restaurant closed at 9:00. They were obviously very accommodating.

And now it's back to 60° days and 40° nights for the next week.