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.  


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Sunday Cocktails, Hors d'oeuvres, and a Cigar

It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon as we enjoyed our before dinner drinks and appetizers. Colleen grabbed a selection of snacks, including some delicious Sopresatta. I mixed up Old Fashioneds, using Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon. I experiment frequently with different bourbons and ryes for the classic drink, but our favorite remains the Four Roses.

Naturally I needed a cigar to enjoy as well. I selected the Oliva Serie V in a 6 x 56 Torpedo. Anything from the Serie V lineup is sure to please.

The Italian meat, Irish cheese, and nuts provided a tasty accompaniment. We even added some Salsa and crackers to the international mix. If I do say so myself, the Old Fashioned cocktails were right on point. And the creamy chocolate, nut, coffee, and cedar flavors from the cigar fit in nicely. 

Despite the constant rain of pollen requiring covering of the drinks and food, it was a very enjoyable afternoon repast. When it was done, I grilled some Flat Iron steaks for dinner while Colleen sautéed onions and mushrooms for the side. All in all, a fitting feast for Sunday.


Monday, April 15, 2024

Maker's Mark Private Selection and Rocky Patel A.L.R. II

Kicking off the weekend, I grabbed one of my favorite Rocky Patel cigars, the A.L.R. Second Edition. I also went back to the Virginia ABC pick of Maker's Mark Private Selection Hint O' Chocolate II. In retrospect, it was a "Volume Two" sort of evening. 

The evening was cool and breezy, but bearable. Colleen even grabbed a coat and joined me on the porch for a pour and conversation. 

The Maker's Mark Hint O' Chocolate has grown on me since I first tried it in 2022. The 107.9 proof bourbon has a pleasant aroma of fruit and oak. With sipping, there is sweet cream along with a stone fruit and some drying oak. The milk chocolate I had originally detected in the finish, which was slightly off-putting to me, is nearly imperceptible. Colleen noted without prompting that she wasn't tasting any chocolate. Interesting given the naming, but a pleasant development in my opinion.

The Rocky Patel A.L.R. Second Edition is a 6 1/2 x 52 box-pressed Toro. The initials on the band stand for Aged, Limited, and Rare. The wrapper is San André Maduro, and the binder and filler tobaccos are of Nicaraguan origin. The wrapper is slightly rough and is dry to the touch. The burn was slow and even, the cigar offering a pleasant 80 minute smoke. The ALR is full bodied with coffee, roasted nuts, and just a touch of spice. 

It was a pleasant "outing on the deck, even if it did get much cooler quickly. Colleen headed inside after a bit while I finished my smoke, and another pour of the Maker's Mark.


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Sunday Sunset With Crux Du Connoisseur and Chai Tea

After dinner on Sunday I once again aheaded out to the porch for a last bit of relaxation before the Monday grind. I was looking through the humidor for a smaller smoke and came across the Crux Du Connoisseur No. 3. I also grabbed pod of an instant Chai Tea Latte that was in the pantry. I am not sure when or why we picked that up, but it seemed like a promising accompaniment.

The Crux Du Connoisseur No. 3 was included in the January Luxury Cigar Club mailing. The 5 3/4 x 35 panatela is draped in a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper. The binder is also Nicaraguan and the filler Honduran. The cap and wrapper are somewhat roughly applied, and I did have to use my PerfecRepair to glue the corner of the wrapper back down after cutting. There were no other issues and that repair was easy and seamless.

The smoke starts off with a surprise kick. Cinnamon hits right off the bat. Sweet caramel and espresso join in the mix very quickly and the profile balances out. This medium to full bodied profile continues through the length of the cigar. In the last inch or so, the espresso begins to dominate the caramel. The cigar was a surprisingly robust and flavorful smoke with a short 45 minute burn time. Before that time was up I was perusing online web sites with an eye to buying more. It's an ideal "quick smoke."

And the instant Chai Tea Latte? It was flavorful, and was a near-perfect pairing. While I was enjoying the beverage and cigar that sun was hitting at a low angle and shining directly on me, heating up the space against the house where I sitting. Despite the reported 60° temperature, I needed neither a jacket nor the heater. A fine way to close out Sunday to say the least.


Monday, April 8, 2024

At the Cigar Lounge - Veritas 412 and 1781 Winter Bock

It's been quite some time since I enjoyed a cigar at one of my local cigar lounges. The effects of available time, travel, and a really good selection at home have all served to defer those visits. I finally got out to Olde Towne Tobacconist at the Farm (Facebook link) this past weekend. Online they had promoted having the wood stove going so I knew would be warmer than my deck and portable propane heater.

As usual, I first stopped inside the brewery to grab a glass cup of 1781 Brewing Winter Bock. I hadn't brought my mug club mug and was disappointed they were serving in plastic cups. But at least it showed off the bright caramel orange color of the beer. The lager had a slightly sweet caramel malt flavor with just a touch of hop bitterness. It went down smoothly, and quickly. 

I selected a Veritas 412 to go with my beer this evening. The 6 x 54 Toro has a dark Pennsylvania Maduro wrapper. There's a San Andrés binder that holds Nicaraguan Double Ligero and Pennsylvania fillers. The 412 is a full flavored smoke, yet it is quite smooth at the same time. There is semi-sweet chocolate, black pepper, and roasted nuts in the profile. It's bold and dark, but with a mild sweet toasted underpinning. This centers in on my favorite notes in a cigar. The flavor profiles of the beer and the cigar were excellent together.

I've enjoyed the other Veritas cigars I've tried. The Veritas 412 might be my favorite the bunch, though that impression could simply be a recency effect. However, the brand seems to not be widely available. Checking my usual online sources uncovers a very limited selection, with many of the options showing out of stock. The only place I've found them is at this particular lounge. Which reminds me, I need to pick up more "to go" on my next visit.


Sunday, April 7, 2024

A Weller Evening

I've been waiting for warmer weather to enjoy another of the Weller by Cohiba smokes I picked up last August. I've smoked one not long after the purchase. It was enjoyable but needed a bit more humidor time. The cigar had some minor burn issues and tasted a little harsh at times. After waiting eight months, I was itching to have another. Alas, the weather this weekend turned to the chilly side. But, I still have propane for the heaters, so I went for it any way. Patience only goes so far. 

On top of the desire to enjoy this cigar, I've been wanting to go back to my bottle of Weller Antique 107. The hard-to-find bottle is down to its last third, so I've been drinking it sparingly. I decided to go for the "matched pair."

The 2023 Weller by Cohiba is a 6 x 50 Toro that comes in individual aluminum tubes. I removed the cigars from the tubes for humidor storage. The deep brown Nicaraguan Jalapa wrapper encases a USA Broadleaf binder. Brazilian Mata Fina, Nicaraguan Esteli, and Nicaraguan Jalapa tobaccos make up the fillers. In a partnership with Weller Bourbon the binder leaves were aged in Weller Bourbon barrels from the Buffalo Trace distillery, producers of Weller Bourbon. I saw one reference specifically stating Weller 12 Year as the bourbon, but the Cohiba and other websites are non-specific. Nonetheless, I paired the cigar with Weller Antique 107, because that's the one I have.

The cigar is densely packed and firm to the touch. The area around the band had no give whatsoever. After clipping the cap, I used my PerfecDraw to open it up a bit. The draw remained firm until the last third. Regular double puffs were required for good smoke production, but the cigar never went out. Only one early correction to the burn was required.

The flavor profile of the Weller by Cohiba is rich dark chocolate with caramel and toasted oak notes. There's a small bit of black pepper at the beginning, which seems to disappear later on. Despite the dark appearance of the cigar, it's medium bodied, with a smooth and creamy texture.

I picked up the Weller Antique 107 a couple years ago, back when the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Cartel  actually put hard to find bottles on the shelves when they came in. One could find interesting bourbons at random times. It was worthwhile checking out the stores at random times to find fun stuff.  The bottle cost under $50 at that time too.

Using wheat instead of the more usual rye, gives the 107 proof drink a "softness" in both the aroma and the palate. Dark fruit, caramel, and a floral note waft from the glasss. Upon sipping, I get a mild cinnamon, along with raisons, vanilla, and dark caramel. The finish is oily but short lived. The poof adds some body but is a negligible note. I really could sip this all day.

The pairing of the two Wellers was enjoyable. The mild sweetness of the bourbon played nicely with the caramel and chocolate sweetness from the cigar. I do think a more robust cigar may have overshadowed the soft bourbon. The Weller by Cohiba is a limited release and not an inexpensive smoke. I like the flavor profile, though the cost is high buck for the bang. On the bright side, the well-packed cigar gave a two hour plus smoking time. That was plenty of time to enjoy a few pours of the Weller Antique. 


Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Easter Candy and Tatuaje Avion 13 Tuxtla

Forty-days of avoiding sweets, and then a bonanza! I often wonder if the tradition of chocolate at Easter started because Catholics were graving the things they gave up for Lent. The fabled Easter Rabbit still makes a small drop at our home, despite it being empty of (actual) children. I paired some of those sweet treats with a cigar on Sunday afternoon.

The Tatuaje Avion 13 Tuxtla is the last of a batch I purchased in July 2022. I figured it was probably getting close to, or past, its prime. The Tuxtla is a strong, bold blend by design and I didn't want to lose that.

Tatuaje Avion 13 Tuxtla is variation of the original Avion 13, which featured a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper. The Tuxtla has a San Andrés wrapper. Both cigars have a Nicaraguan double binder and filler. The 6 7/8 x 52 box pressed perfecto is a large, well constructed, and attractive stick. The dark brown wrapper is oily in the hand. 

The foot lights easily and the burn spreads evenly as the cigar widens to its full circumference. The initial flavor is pepper and cedar. As the cigar heats up and the burn gets to the body of the cigar, espresso and cocoa join the mix. Eventually a mellow earthiness comes in to play. 

The Avion 13 Tuxtla started out as a full bodied smoke, though as I passed the mid-point, the profile mellowed slightly. I didn't feel the flavor was as strong as I remembered. That could be the nearly two years spent in the humidor. In any event, it was still plenty flavorful and enjoyable.


Monday, April 1, 2024

Saturday Sunshine, Highland Black Mocha Stout, and CAO America

On the Saturday before Easter, while the family watched NCAA basketball, I escaped to the deck to enjoy the sunshine. The sun was shining causing me to squint in the bright light, and it was glorious. It was mid-afternoon and I was in the mood for a beer with my cigar.

The mostly-beer fridge downstairs had recently been rearranged to make room for all the Easter food being prepared. A bottle of Highland Brewing Black Mocha Stout turned up during that shuffle. Admittedly, the bottle was from our trip to North Carolina a few years back, but it had been refrigerated during the intervening years, so I was hopeful. Upon pouring, the beer had a full, stiff head so all was good.

Highland Black Mocha Stout has dark chocolate, coffee, and citrus hops in the aroma. The breeze in the air was wafting it to my nose as a prepared the cigar for lighting. Dark, bitter cocoa and chocolate malt great the palate. There's a pleasantly bitter roasted maltiness that lingers in the aftertaste. I began to wish there was another "lost" bottle in the fridge to be found.

I had picked up a five pack of the CAO America last fall, with the plan to save them for an Independence or Memorial Day weekend, but they seem be getting smoked regularly, so perhaps those plans will be altered.

CAO America Potomac is a 5 x 56, fat Robusto. It features a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper accented with a barber pole of Connecticut shade leaf. A Brazilian binder encases a blend of Dominican Republic, Italy, Nicaragua, and USA Connecticut fillers. That recipe produces notes of vanilla and cedar, with a touch of pepper coming in at the end. The medium bodied smoke has a creamy overall feel to it. It's a very nice compliment to the dark stout.

I enjoyed a 75 minute smoke in the sun. While the cigar and beer was finished, I was table to enjoy the sun a while longer. It was time to grill the beef for tonight's carne asada feast.