Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Finally Got in Some Shooting

Two months. That's how long my range bag has been sitting untouched. Between family commitments, weather, and socialistic restrictions on freedom, opportunities to hit the range have been limited. In addition, I've been somewhat reluctant to dig into my ammo stash, given I don't expect the availability (and cost) to return to "normal" levels for at least two years. That said, I was excited to be heading to the Cavalier Rod and Gun Club for the monthly IDPA match on Saturday morning.

After a night of fitful sleep, due to excitement and some nervousness, I arrived at the range to greet friends and marvel at the sunny, warm morning. I also soon lamented dressing for slightly cooler weather. But it was time to shoot!

The first stage our squad shot had us staging the unloaded gun on a table, and all the magazines on another nearby table. After retrieving and loading the gun, there were three targets to be engaged around a wall and two more from either side of the stage after moving up range. This was my "shake off the dust"stage as I finished 5 points down.

The next stage was an unusual "open field" course with an odd start. Our gun was left on a table, loaded with just one round. Magazines were also on the table. There was a target directly in front of us, another off to the right that required a step or two backwards to engage, and as we continued backing up, two more targets appeared behind barriers. All targets required 2 hits each, except the last, which was a head shot only target requiring a single hit. Yep, start with one round, but it was the last target that required only one shot minimum. 

I shot the first three targets on the move while retreating. My path drifted to the left a bit causing me to take some extra steps to get to the fourth target, though I did shoot the course -0. 

Following that we moved to our first "normal," draw from the holster stage. The course of fire began with a close target that was shot from retention. Turning, we engaged two distant targets from cover before beginning down a winding path to finish the course. The remaining targets were generally shot while leaning around tight cover. Again, a -0 zero stage for me.

As we rounded the bend to the next bay, the first thing I noticed was a double swinger with two non-threat targets. It was soon realized that the swinger was immobile, but that didn't make it any less "in the way." The whole stage was shot from the box and started with us leaning leftward to hold the shovel handle. The target hidden behind the non-threat mass could be engaged low and from the right. Three open targets were then shot in priority. All targets required three hits minimum. 

My shooting on this stage felt really good. Transitions snapped to the targets and the sights were set quickly. The stage also went by in a blur. When it was all done, I was -0 on what was to be my best stage of the day, coming in 2nd in SSP and 7th Overall for the stage. 

The final stage of the morning continued the uniqueness of the stages shot thus far. We began seated at a table, the unloaded gun in a box, and magazines placed about the table per the shooter's preference. Shooting did not have to be done while seated. Directly to the front were three partial targets. To either side, obscured by barrels, were targets that only became visible when moving to the opposite sides of the table. Additional targets were found be retreating up range and shooting around walls on either side.

There were numerous paths that shooters took around the stage to engage all targets. My path started by stepping to the left, grabbing a magazine left on that side of the table, and engaging the three center and far right targets. Moving to the right end of the table, I engaged the far left target, then grabbing a magazine from that end of the table, reloading, and backing down the wall to get the outside target, finishing at the opposite wall and last target. Other shooters opted to circle the course, starting and ending at opposite ends of the table. Stages that offer many options are always fun to shoot and observe. Alas, I was -3 for the stage.

The Cavalier match on this warm November morning offered a welcome chance to visit with friends, and to get in a little range time. Though the round count was relatively low, the unique and interesting stages were a blast. It also shows that fun shooting doesn't rely on high round count. I felt really good about my shooting, although my placement of 21st of 31 Overall, and 12th of 23 in SSP would make one think otherwise. That finish, combined with a total of just 8 points down for the match, likely indicates to a general slowness of movement and shooting. Something I could probably improve on with a return to regular dry fire practice

Nonetheless, it was a beautiful morning, an extremely fun match, and a treat to see friends. And for that I couldn't be more thankful. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Post Turkey Smoke and Drink

After devouring a delicious Thanksgiving meal lovingly prepared by Colleen, while the family "rested" in the living room, I sought my solace on the back deck. The sun had not yet set, and the temperature still hovered in the upper 60's. 

Lighting a Rocky Patel LB1, I contemplated a beverage. I'd been looking forward to a glass of bourbon as a digestive. However, we had enjoyed some bubbly Prosecco with dinner, so I continued that with the cigar.

The Rocky Patel LB1 boasts a smooth Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, along with a Honduran binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. Coffee, cedar, and a subtle earthiness make for a satisfying flavor profile, come through first. The medium bodied smoke starts off with a touch of spice, transitioning to a muted sweetness in the background.

To my delight, and some surprise, the crisp flavor of the Prosecco paired well with the smoke. As the sun set and the cigar neared the its end, the call went out that pie was being served. That was my cue to join the family inside. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Flying Dog Barleywine & Crowned Heads La Coalición

Plans for an an early logout from work on Thanksgiving Eve didn't go exactly as hoped, but I was still able to be ensconced on the screen porch before the sun set. It was a bit on the cool side, but nothing the Big Buddy propane heater couldn't counter. I dug through the basement stash and found a Flying Dog Horn Dog Barley Wine. I am not sure how long the bottle has been sitting, but the paper label was faded and a little brittle. It's likely that this is a survivor from the beer tasting we hosted in the summer of 2013. I was confident the 10.2% ABV drink had aged well. 

The Horn Dog Barley Wine poured a translucent reddish brown color. The carbonation level was low despite the brief appearance of a beige head. The aroma was that of sweet caramel with a hint of alcohol. The flavor profile was rich with dark fruit notes like raisin and fig. A mild caramel and brown sugar sweetness lingered underneath to tease the palate. Even after some seven years, there was an aspect of booziness in the flavor still. All and all, this was an enjoyable libation. Alas, after double checking the fridge, it was the lone bottle hidden away.

The cigar choice for the before-dinner repast was the Crowned Heads La Coalición. This cigar is the fruit of a collaboration between Crowned Heads and Drew Estate. This particular stick is a 5 ½ x 50 Gordito vitola. It features a very oily Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over a Sumatra binder leaf. Tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua makes up the filler. The stick starts off with a spicy kick of pepper and cedar. Dark chocolate, espresso, and a sweet nuttiness make appearances throughout the smoke. The pepper notes seemed to decrease as the smoke progressed. Or perhaps that was the numbing effect of the ale.

I nursed the beer and the cigar for almost 90 minutes. The flavor combinations were enjoyable and complimentary. I have more of the La Coalición sticks on hand, and look forward to pairing them with other strong beers and whiskies.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation. 
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington
Although President Washington proclaimed this day of thanksgiving and prayer in 1789, the Thanksgiving Day we celebrate today didn't become a national holiday until 1863 when President Lincoln established the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving.

Have A Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you a day filled with family, friends, and fond memories. May God bless your life with His gifts today and everyday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving Classic

This never gets old. It just wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving if I didn't laugh at this again.

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Saturday by the Fire

It's was a relaxing weekend in general. After spending a little time Saturday morning clearing some underbrush and fallen trees, we decided to spend the better part of the day relaxing around the fire pit. After getting the fire started, and pouring a couple beers for Colleen and I, the first cigar I lit was the Micallef A

The Micallef A was first introduced last spring as the "To Be Named Maduro." The preview of the cigar gave members of the Micallef Ambassador program the opportunity to try the cigar and suggest a name for the final release. The final naming as simply 'A' is to honor the Micallef Ambassadors.

Micallef A features a Nicaraguan Maduro wrapper, an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder, and fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The 6¾ x 54 Churchill is the only vitola offered. When I smoked the preview stick, there were frequent burn touchups required to maintain an even burn line. The experience this time still required touchups, though they were less frequent. However, the wrapper peeled away from the cut end in several chunks, leaving only binder exposed for the last one inch of the stick that I held in my mouth.

Despite the construction issues, the flavor of the stick was quite enjoyable. A rich coffee and chocolate "mocha" profile dominated. There was a bit of pepper spice that built towards the finish. I paired a Lagunitas IPA with the Micallef A, and the stick lasted well into my second pint.

With the fire burning strong, and the sun starting to slip behind the trees, I returned to the humidor for a Fratello DMV Delaware (2019.) The cigars of the 2019 release of the DMV series all have an Ecuadorian binder with Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. Different wrapper leaves gives the variation between the four cigars in the annual release. The Delaware sports a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper. 

The 5 x 47 stick burned well and held a long ash. The flavor profile was full bodied with dark chocolate and espresso backed by cedar and pepper. I also detected a bit of leather and wood coming through. I have enjoyed all of the Fratello DMV variations I have tried, and this was no exception.

It was eventually time to stop feeding the fire and head inside for a late dinner. I hated to walk away from the smoky pleasures, but tomorrow was another day holding the expectation of more cigars before the weekend wound down.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Remembering Blessed Miguel Pro

[Reposted from November 23, 2013.]

November 23 is the Feast Day of Blessed Miguel Pro. Born on January 13, 1891, in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Pro was ordained a Jesuit priest in Belgium in 1925. He returned to his home country in 1926, in the midst of that country's Cristeros War. After being falsely accused of an attempted bombing, Father Pro was executed by government forces without trial

Blessed Miguel Pro's final request was to be allowed to pray to his heavenly Father.

After which he refused a blindfold and faced the firing squad bravely, proclaiming ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Father Pro's executioners initially failed at their task, and the deed was finished at point blank range.

I am saddened, but hardly surprised, at the ignorance of the American public regarding the persecution of Catholics, and of the Cristero War that took place in Mexico in 1926 through 1929. Some 250,000 people lost their lives in a persecution that was supported by the government of the United States with both funds and air support. Given the ever-growing intolerance towards Christians, especially Catholics, in the United States, we would do well to remember.

Christ the King, by the intercession of Blessed Miguel Pro, I beg you to answer my prayers. Give me the grace and the strength necessary to follow your heroic example and to live my Catholic faith in spite of all temptations and adversities. Amen.

Images from Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Tabernacle Cigars & The Beach, A Tradition?

I've got nothing else to share, so here's one last beach memory… One of the cigars I enjoyed during our recent vacation at the beach was The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigars. This is a smoke that's been in short supply for most of 2020, but recently started appearing on the shelves again. 

The 6 x 52 Toro features a shiny Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over a Mexican San Andrés wrapper and fillers from Honduras and Nicaragua. The smoke has notes of creamy chocolate, sweet vanilla, and a subtle earthiness

While enjoying this cigar and watching the ocean waves roll in, it occurred to me I had last smoked a Tabernacle during the prior year's vacation. I do tend to take pictures of most of the cigars I smoke and lots of those pictures end up on my Instagram account. Mostly I just enjoy going back and reminiscing about the cigars, as well as the people and places associated with them. I scrolled through those photos on my laptop, and sure enough, there it was.

I recall the weather was exceptionally windy during that trip, and smoking on the beach or even the deck was difficult. We retreated to the somewhat sheltered pool where I was able to enjoy the smoke while the family swam.

Now back to winter…

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Friday Smokes and Drinks

It's hard to believe it's Tuesday, and I'm just getting around to reminiscing about last Friday. It was a busy but fun weekend, spent visiting family and traveling without a laptop.

I "put a lid" on the week early Friday afternoon to enjoy a before dinner cigar in the waning warmth of a moderately warm November day. The weekend kicked off with a Rocky Patel Grand Reserve. The Grand Reserve was first released in 2018 for distribution in Europe. It proved to very popular, and was just released to the U.S. in the summer 2020. The blend for the cigar is undisclosed, the only details being the tobaccos were aged for two years before being rolled at the factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

This 5½ x 50 Robusto is a light, milk chocolate in color and exhibits an even burn all the way through. The flavor profile was that of creamy coffee and nuts. The cigar has a sweet note as well. When I first smoked the cigar this summer, I found it quite smooth and mild. This time, I detected a hint of cedar spice and would definitely rate it as medium bodied. The beverage accompaniment was a warm chai latte.

After a break for dinner, I returned to the porch to continue the welcome period of rest and relaxation. The sun having set, it was necessary to crank up the propane heater and pour something with a little more "warmth." Colleen has been doing some pre-holiday baking that involves rum as an ingredient. Seeing the bottles on the counter this week put me in the mood for a taste so I grabbed the bottle of Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum. I find this to be an easy sipper, with notes of brown sugar and clove. There's a sweet vanilla and oaky aspect to the profile as well. 

The cigar for the evening, was the Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial. The 6 x 54 Torpedo features a dark San Andrés wrapper. The binder and fillers are from Nicaragua. The Serie V Maduro is a full bodied smoke featuring rich, creamy chocolate with cedar and nuttiness in the finish. The ligero leaf added to the filler gives it a bit of strength. The cigar burned beautifully, producing about a 90 minute smoke

The rum and cigar worked decently well together. The milder rum flavors may have been slightly underwhelmed by the full bodied cigar, but overall the flavor profiles were a good match. The fact that I smoked the cigar down until it was literally burning my fingers is testimony to that. But all good things must eventually come to end. It was the same with the bottle of Don Q which must now be replaced.

Friday, November 13, 2020

CAO Brazilia Box Press - A Square Chimney

With temperatures in the upper 70's last weekend, sitting inside was out of the question. Sunday afternoon started with washing the car in the driveway, just like in the summer. Then Colleen and I did a short hike through the woods of a local National Battlefield park. Shorts and t-shirts were the order of the day, and I even worked up a sweat. Later in the day it was finally time to settle in for some proper relaxation on the deck.

After grabbing a couple of cold ciders from the fridge, I selected a CAO Brazilia Box Pressed while we watched the sun slowly sink. The Brazilia is one of CAO's most popular lines if social media is to be believed. I've enjoyed it many times, but this was my first time smoking the box pressed version.

The wrapper leaf is Brazilian Arapiraca, with a dark chocolate shiny appearance. The binder and filler leaves are Nicaraguan. The Brazilia is a full-bodied smoke, but it's not harsh at all. The flavor profile has a creamy aspect to it. I get hints of cocoa and coffee, with a sweet nuttiness and mild spice in there as well.

The box pressed nature of this cigar is stunning. This one in particular features the most extreme corners I think I've encountered. One side and corner were especially sharp. I suspect this stick may have been on the bottom corner of the box. 

The draw on the stick was loose and somewhat airy. Not unexpectedly, the burn needed regular maintenance to keep straight. I am somewhat compulsive when it comes to touching up even a mildly irregular burn line, so this one did have me reaching for the lighter frequently. That didn't detract from the enjoyment though. And the smoke output was prolific. Even at rest the cigar put off copious smoke. We have a couple tower fans on the screened porch, both for air circulation, and to create an "air curtain" to help block the smoke from drifting into others who may not want to be sitting in it. Colleen, who's not often bothered by wafts of cigar smoke, fired up a second fan on high speed to help clear the air. 

After an hour or so of enjoying our cold beverages and some salty snacks, the cigar was finished. For me it was an exceptional end to a bonus November weekend of warm weather. I don't think we'll get many more of those this year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Rocky Patel and Bourbon

As the temperatures drop, and the nation heats up, we still have summer vacation memories to fondly look back on. An after dinner drink and smoke is always a pleasure. When you're sitting on the coast, with the sounds of ocean waves crashing in the background, it's even better.

The smoke is one of my "go to" favorites, the Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro in Robusto. The Sun Grown Maduro features a chocolate brown, dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper encasing a Nicaraguan binder and filler. This cigar has a robust flavor profile featuring cocoa and espresso notes. There's just enough cedar spice to add an accent, but not predominate. The 5 x 50 box-pressed stick gives about a 45 minute smoke, just enough for couple pours of a good bourbon.

In this case, the bourbon is from Blade and Bow. This is one I've been enjoying a lot recently, which is why a bottle accompanied me to the beach. It's a smooth, easy sipper. Notes of caramel, white fruit, and crisp grains are accented by a subtle smoke char and hint of spiciness. 

Not a care in the world. For that week at least.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Tatuaje Avion 13 and 1781 Fimbulvinter Stout

If you're getting déjà vu, fret not. Both the featured beer and cigar have indeed both been mentioned here previously, the former more than once. But some things truly are worth repeating.

As I headed over to 1781 Brewing for a relaxing Saturday afternoon, I saw that my return trip would likely be delayed by an overturned tractor-trailer on the other side of the road. Arriving at the brewery, I decided to pass the time with a large vitola cigar. I had started to pick out another Tatuaje Karloff. Then the proprietor, knowing me well, pointed out that she had another box of Tatuaje Avion 13 smokes in stock. The 6 ⅞ x 52 Double Perfecto would be perfect to kick off a long afternoon.

Tatuaje Avion 13 features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper encasing Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Avion 13 wrapper differs from the other Avion vitolas, which have Ecuadoran Maduro wrappers. The robust, full body smoke has caramel and roasted coffee notes. It's a nearly two hour flawless smoke.

There normally wouldn't be much more to say about the 1781 Brewing Fimbulvinter with which I paired the cigar. It's a favorite of mine. You can read other reviews here and here, when the beer was paired with other cigars. However, this evening I was enjoying a variation the brewery offered called "Americano." The stout was brewed with the addition of a robust locally roasted coffee. This created an even richer coffee profile. The stout with the smoke made for an excellent combination.

After a few hours I heard that the road home had been cleared. But then I saw the food truck of the day, Cap'n Corbins Sea Food, had a table set up and they were shucking fresh oysters. That led to me grabbing a dozen on the half shell, another beer, and eventually another cigar. The afternoon soon turned to evening. When it was all said and done, it was an extremely enjoyable day, spent with good food, good beer, good cigars, and fine people.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Morning Circles

Ah, beach memories. Sitting on the deck enjoying the ocean waves in the morning, I looked down and marveled at this view as well.

How many circles do you count?

I need more mornings like that.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Powstanie Broadleaf

The Powstanie line of cigars is one I turn to frequently. Debuting in 2017, the brand name comes from the Polish word for "uprising," and the company's logo includes symbols used by the Polish Resistance during World War II. The cigar is available both Habano and Broadleaf versions. The Powstanie Broadleaf is my favorite. Sadly it was in short supply for much of 2020 but a few months ago my local shop was restocked and I picked up more of these flavorful smokes.

A fitting smoke when paired with a good bourbon, I've enjoyed the Powstanie Broadleaf in Toro, Robusto, and Belicoso vitolas, the Belicoso being my favorite. The cigars feature a chocolate brown broadleaf maduro wrapper, with an Indonesian binder, and Estelí Ligero, Jalapa and Pueblo Nuevo tobaccos making up the filler. The cigar gives a full-flavored smoke with creamy chocolate and woody notes throughout. A touch of cedar spice lingers in the background. The construction and burn is consistently excellent.

Enjoyed watching the sunset over the Appalachian Mountains…

Or while working in the cigar lounge…

At the beach last summer…

And again this summer…

It's a cigar for all seasons.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Tailgating 2020 Style: Cigars, Beer, Back Porch

There's no college football tailgating this year thanks to the Chinese virus, but we can still make do with pregame cigars and beer. After a morning spent splitting and stacking wood for the fire pit, I prepped for Saturday's Virginia Tech football game by relaxing with a cigar and beer on the deck. The cigar of choice was the somewhat apropos La Flor Dominicana Special Football Edition 2020 Miami edition. I grabbed some tame New Belgium Fat Tire ale for my afternoon glass. 

The La Flor Dominica stick was one I picked up last January. The annual special release is created especially for the market hosting the Super Bowl, and is made available only in the market hosting that game. Fortunately, I know somebody who knows somebody… Even though I have chosen to not watch any NFL for several years, I grabbed a couple of the sticks with the intent of adding them to our tailgate menu.

The 2020 football edition is a beefy 6 ½ x 50 stick with a mixed Ecuadorian Habano and Maduro wrapper used to create the artistic football design. The binder and filler is from the Dominican Republic. The flavor profile ranges in the medium range, with creamy notes of nuts and toasted bread. The burn was decent, but needed a couple touchups.

Fat Tire Amber Ale is a fitting afternoon beer at 5.2% ABV. The creamy caramel and toasted bread flavors are a nice match for the cigar. 

In truth, we wouldn't have been tailgating in Blacksburg for the afternoon's Virginia Tech vs. Louisville game since it was an away game. That doesn't diminish the disappointment of missing the fun fall activity this year. The time spent sipping and smoking was an acceptable substitute. And it was a Hokies win!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Hatteras Red Ale & CAO Pilón

Lost Colony Brewing Hatteras Red is a tasty Irish Red Ale from the Manteo, NC brewery. I've enjoyed it in the past at the brewery during visits to the Outer Banks, but this time I grabbed cans to go from a local shop. Poured into a beach-friendly plastic cup, the ale has a deep ruby red color. It features a sweet caramel malt backbone with mild roasted notes. A tease of bitter hops completes the profile. A nearly sessionable 4.9% ABV makes it perfect for an afternoon of easy drinking.

The afternoon's cigar was the CAO Pilón. The complex flavor profile of cocoa, espresso, nuts, and cedar meshed well with the sweet and toasted notes of the red ale. This stick didn't seem as tightly packed and slow burning as a previous sample, and the smoke lasted about an hour. That was more than enough time to enjoy a few cans of the low ABV beer.

This pairing made for a delightful repast as we rested after a day of sightseeing. Even reminiscing about it now relaxes the mind. Better yet, I think I brought a few cans home from the trip as well!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Stinky Cup Holder Ashtray

The cup holder ashtray from Stinky Cigar was something I purchased on a whim a while back. After losing more than one cigar off the table at the brewery when I went to refill my beverage, I ordered this to hopefully alleviate the issue. Designed for the cup holder in a car, the ashtray will not stand on its own when the lid is open, however it has still proven useful in many instances.

The ashtray will stand up securely when placed in an empty coffee mug. It also works great on the beach when set in the sand. The springy metal clips will hold the cigar without damage, and keep it secured from blowing away. 

The tight fitting lid will prevent any ash odors from escaping between uses. Even when smoking in the strong breeze of the Outer Banks of North Carolina I could set the cigar down to refill my beverage or grab a snack without worry.

Note: I am not affiliated with Stinky Cigar, just a satisfied customer.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Fratello Morning by the Ocean

When my schedule allows, one of my favorite ways to kick off the day is with a cigar and coffee in the morning. During a week at the Outer Banks, I was able to have that pleasure on a number of occasions. The first few days of the trip, the winds were high which made sitting on the beach or even the ocean side of the rental house unsuitable for smoking. Fortunately, we had a porch around back too. 

Lighting a Fratello D.M.V. Virginia to enjoy with my coffee, I was able to avoid the heaviest of the winds, but still spy the ocean around the side of the house. My Stinky cup holder ashtray, dropped into an empty mug, secured my cigar easily when I went inside to refill my coffee. 

The D.M.V. series is an annual release from Fratello created as a tribute to the D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware region where the brand got its start. The cigars are available in limited numbers only in this region. The original Virginia and District of Columbia 2018 vitolas are some of my favorites. I stocked up when they were available and have been slowly smoking through my stash.

The Virginia 2018 sports an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, an Ecuadorian binder and a blend of filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and the USA. The 5 ½ x 52 stick is medium to full bodied with notes of roasted coffee, earth and some spice. It's also a medium to full strength stick, one that gave me a small bit of a buzz when enjoyed early in the morning. The strong, sporadic winds coming around the house created the need for a few burn touchups, but otherwise the stick weathered the storm, so to speak.

A good cigar, enjoyed with a beautiful view, is a pleasure that's hard to beat.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

RoMa Craft CRAFT 2020

As handcrafted items, the skill that goes into creating a fine cigar should not be overlooked. The smoking experience is enhanced with an appreciation of the talent of the many hands that are part of the process. RoMa Craft's CRAFT series was created with the intent of honoring that time honored craftsmanship. 

The RoMa Craft CRAFT 2020 release features various combinations of Connecticut Broadleaf and Ecuadorian Connecticut wrappers featuring Mexican San Andrés accents, and also American Broadleaf and Ecuadorian Habano wrappers decorated with Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf. The cigars highlight the skills of the rollers at the Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

The 2020 release features five different patterns in a box of ten cigars. Distribution was limited to a mere ten retailers nationwide, and fortunately one of my local shops was included in that group. To get the full effect I picked up a full box when they were released in June and have been enjoying them immensely.

The CRAFT 2020 are medium to full bodied smokes with notes of nuts, wood, earth, and cedar. The cigars are similar, featuring some of the same tobaccos. I've noticed the flavor shifts as the burn moves through the different wrappers. The 5¾" x 46 corona gorda is a great vitola that burns evenly and feels good in the hand. I've enjoyed them with bottled tea, beer, cider, and bourbon.

There are just a few sticks from the box left in my humidor. But, I will not regret smoking the last one. Cigars, even the limited and special release ones are meant to be smoked. There's always another great cigar waiting in the wings.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

1781 Fimbulvinter Stout & Tatuaje "Karloff"

I found time to spend an evening at the Olde Towne Tobacconist cigar lounge over at 1781 Brewing on Friday. I was taking a week off from work, and the lounge visit was just one of many activities planned for the break. It had been a month since I visited the brewery and there were new beers, and cigars, to be tried out. The weather in the evening was quite cool and breezy, but that was not going to be a problem as the wood stove was burning warmly and the large doors were open to the outdoor seating area which was now enclosed in a plastic barrier. It was quite cozy.

One of the new beers on tap was the 1781 Fimbulvinter. This semi-regularly released Imperial Stout is rich with notes of dark roast coffee, bitter chocolate, and molasses. It's a growler-worthy favorite of mine, and a great cigar beer. 

I was pretty set on the cigar I wanted to try out this evening. I'd seen an announcement that the October 2020 release of the Tatuaje Monster Series Karloff had arrived at the shop earlier in the week. Interestingly, as I approached the shop's humidor, the proprietor remarked, "David, have you tried the Karloff?

Each October, Tatuaje releases another cigar as part of its Monster Series. This year's version features a Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. The 6 ⅝ x 49 stick has a closed foot. The cigar is full-bodied but still has a creamy, smooth, milk chocolate and nut flavor profile. It paired well with the stout and burned evenly the entire one hour smoke time. I'm honestly contemplating a box purchase. 

I ended up staying at the lounge for several hours, enjoying great conversation, more beer offerings, and even a second cigar. It was a pleasant evening to kick off the beginning of a long-anticipated vacation. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Blade and Bow Bourbon & LFD Double Ligero

It was an uncommon weekday evening when we ate an early dinner, probably because lunch was missed, which allowed for a slow drink and smoke in the early evening. I poured a bit of Blade and Bow Bourbon, and lit a La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero.

I suspect this bottle of Blade and Bow will need to be replaced soon. I've become quite enamored with this whiskey. The caramel, white fruit, oak, and subtle spice make this a pleasant sipper, alone or with a cigar.

The LFD Double Ligero is one of my favorite smokes. This particular one was a Crystal Tubo vitola which comes individually packed in a glass tube. The Double Ligero is typically a bold, strongly flavored smoke with notes of pepper, dark wood, and coffee. As I smoked this particular stick, I noticed that the flavors seemed somewhat subdued. Still full flavored for sure, but not quite what I was used to. The stick was acquired as part of a monthly cigar shipment some months back. I wonder if it was from older, more aged and therefore mellowed stock. Of perhaps it simply had to do with the size. This particular vitola measures a slim 5 ⅜ x 52. Most of the LFD Double Ligero sticks I've smoked were up to 7 x 60 in size. I suspect the larger vitolas allow for more prominent ratios of the flavorful ligero leaf.

Despite the ramblings of this blog, while I frequently enjoy a weekday cigar, rarely is it paired with a strong drink. This weekday diversion was most welcome and enjoyed. The cigar lasted just under an hour and the time was simultaneously spent with with leisure reading.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A Rainy Afternoon, a Pumpkin Ale, and a Cigar

Several days of steady rain killed the idea of yard work or visits to enjoy the outdoors at a local brewery. Instead I passed time over the weekend relaxing on the porch, listening to the sounds of the rainfall, and enjoy cigars on the deck. For one such interlude, I grabbed long time favorite, the Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro and settled in to appreciate a lazy afternoon. 

The Sun Grown Maduro features a chocolate brown, dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper that surrounds a Nicaraguan binder and filler. This cigar has a robust flavor profile featuring cocoa and espresso notes. There's just enough cedar spice to add an accent, but not predominate. The 5 x 50 box-pressed stick burns evenly and slowly.

I opened a Southern Tier Pumking to go along with the smoke. It seemed like a fitting choice for the cool, rainy afternoon. This happens to be one of the few "pumpkin beers" I will bring home from the store each fall. Pumking pours a bright orange color with a thin head. The aroma of pumpkin pie and sweet malt is apparent immediately. The expected pumpkin pie spices are present, but the aroma of pumpkin flesh is there as well. The flavor is that of real pumpkin pie — the bready crust, the sweet pumpkin flavor, and just enough cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to complete the picture. The 8.6% ABV is well-masked but gives just a welcome hint of warmth in the finish.

One of my frequent laments about pumpkin beers is that the flavor becomes boring or blasé quickly. Despite my preference for this one over many others, near the end of of glass, I was getting tired of it. That's about par, I have consumed three bottles of the four-pack, and the fourth will likely sit for a while or be shared with a friend.

On the other hand, the Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro never fails to satisfy and I smoked it down to a hot nub. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

CAO Pilón and 1792 Small Batch

I swear the last week lasted 10 days. On Friday, I finally had a chance to sit and relax with a drink and a cigar. And more importantly, sit for a couple of undistracted hours and chat with Colleen. It was the first real down time we've had since last Friday.

I grabbed a CAO Pilón from the humidor. I had never tried this one, and figured the smallish 5 x 52 Robusto would allow time for a followup smoke. (I was wrong.) Scanning the whiskey cabinet, I opted for a long-ignored bottle of 1792 Small Batch Bourbon.

CAO Pilón is a newer release from CAO. The name Pilón comes from a traditional fermentation method of arranging tobacco leaves in circular pattern into a round pile called a pilón. The process ferments the tobacco at a slower rate than the modern, large rectangular stacks, and is said to enhance the resulting flavor. CAO employed this technique in producing the Pilón cigars. 

The cigar was very densely packed. After cutting the cap, the end appeared almost a solid mass of tobacco, and the draw was quite tight. After lighting, and smoking for about 10 minutes the draw loosened  though it remained moderately snug the entire smoke. The flavor profile was complex, with notes of creamy cocoa, espresso, nuts, and cedar. There was a touch of pepper which built as the smoke progressed but never took the forefront. The burn was razor straight the entire length of the cigar. I did have to relight the stick twice, but that was more my fault for engaging in talk and not puffing. Amazingly, the cigar lasted a full two hours before it was too short to hold, but the smoke was never hot.

1792 Bourbon is a flavorful, and inexpensive bourbon. It's a high rye bourbon which adds a touch of spice to the flavor. The overall flavor profile is moderately strong with oak, caramel, and vanilla. The finish is dry, leaving the palate ready for another sip. I had forgotten how much I enjoy this bourbon.

I was very pleased with the Pilón. I'm looking forward to smoking the others I have. The pairing of the CAO Pilón and 1792 Bourbon hit the spot. I'd rank the combo as one of the best I've had of late. That said, I will still enjoy exploring many other combos in the future.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

LFD 50th Maduro & German Chocolate Cake Lager

I've been eyeing a couple large vitola cigars in my humidor, waiting for the time to enjoy them. With no trips planned, no major errands lined up, and (sadly) no shooting last weekend, the opportunity arose to spend some time with some of those more time consuming smokes.

I kicked off the weekend with a La Flor Dominicana TAA 2019 50th Anniversary Maduro. The cigar is a limited-edition release available only to retailers who are part of the Tobacconists' Association of America (TAA). I obtained it a couple months ago as part of a LFD sample from a local shop. This 6½ x 54 stick features an extreme rectangular box press shape. The dark Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper encases a Dominican binder and Dominican Criollo filler. The two large gold bands give the cigar a striking appearance. 

The beverage of choice this evening was Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery German Chocolate Cake Lager. This flavorfully-named beer starts life as a traditional German-style Doppelbock. The classic German-style lager is then conditioned over cocoa nibs, toasted coconut, vanilla, and pecans. The aroma is dark chocolate, vanilla, and a hint of coconut. The base dopplebock is the predominate flavor with a mild caramel sweetness. The added cocoa and nuttiness that come through are a pleasing addition. The vanilla aspect is on the mild side. The 8% ABV is muted with little alcohol presence in the flavor.

When I first saw this bottle I assumed it was a stout, and was intrigued to read the label further to find otherwise. The LCCB variation of the style was done very well. Oft times augmented beers tend to come off cloying or candy-like, especially went comes to vanilla additions. 

The 50th Anniversary Maduro was a medium-bodied smoke. The tightly packed stick gave off notes of cocoa, coffee, and earth. The flavor profile has a creamy, sweet aspect to it as well. The box-press presented some issues with the burn, requiring several touchups to keep it even, though that was not unexpected. The flavor profiles of the beer and the cigar were quite compatible and played well together. This large stick burned for a long two hours and 15 minutes. The bottle of beer I split with Colleen gave out well before that. Fortunately, the beer fridge offered many more options, all stories for later.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Thirteen Years of Blogging

It's been thirteen years since I started rambling in these Musings. That seems like forever in blog years. What started as Musings Over a Pint eventually expanded to include much more than just beer interests. 

It's been a fun adventure, and remains so after all these years. I still consider it mainly an exercise for my own enjoyment, and I regularly go back and reminisce on older posts. Every so often I get a hint that a few other people enjoy it too. The post count pales in comparison to that of some blogs I read, but the 3,114 posts made here so far represent no small amount of time spent with a computer on my lap.

I'm looking forward to many more years of jounaling this adventure, assuming the prohibitions and added taxes against alcohol, tobacco, and firearms continually pushed by democrats don't squelch the fun in the future.


Saturday, October 3, 2020

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Vintage 2007

Friday evening I decided to treat myself to something from the "old stuff" stash in the basement. My choice, after much deliberation, was Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Ale. This particular bottle was from the 2007 release. 

The beer poured a deep reddish-brown color with a very thin beige head. The aroma was dark fruit and sweet malt. My mouth watered at the delightful aroma. The flavors of the beer continued along the path started by the aroma. Dark fruits like dates and raisons came to mind. There was a hint of molasses in the sweetness. There was almost a port aspect to the finish. After thirteen years, the bold hoppiness of "fresh" Bigfoot had faded. The mouthfeel was on the thin side, with low carbonation. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed this special libation immensely.

It's always a little bittersweet to consume one of the aged beers. But the enjoyment of the beer is usually worth it. After all, beers are meant to be enjoyed, not collected.

In looking through the stash, we have a few more bottles of pre-2010 Bigfoot stored away. Unfortunately, we didn't save any of the more "recent" vintages. This winter I plan to stock up on this and a few other beers I favor for aging, and hopefully resume the yearly stocking for enjoyment down the road.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Mid-Week Cigar, and Chai Latte. Wait, What?

I often lament that the first four days after a weekend are the hardest. After making it through three of those days, I decided to celebrate with a quick smoke. I selected a Rocky Patel Cigar Smoking Championship Mareva for the moment.

This Rocky Patel stick was developed as the official cigar for the 2020 Cigar Smoking World Championship. The cigar was released in three sizes, but the 5⅛ x 42 Mareva vitola is the size used in the slow smoking competition.

The blend features Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder, with Honduran and Nicaraguan tobaccos as the fillers. The cigar has fairly strong notes of cocoa and espresso. A pepper and cedar spiciness lingers just under the dark chocolate notes, ever present but not overwhelming. The body is medium to full. The burn is even with copious smoke output.

The beverage pairing came from an instant Chai Latte pod I found in our pantry. Not sure where that box came from, but on a whim I decided to try it out. It was drinkable. The warm creamy beverage, with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg flavors, among other spices, actually made for a tasty pairing with the cigar. It's quite a switch for this black coffee guy, but I'll admit to having enjoyed it. I might even try a fresh made one at the coffee shop sometime, if I can bring myself to say "Chai Latte" out loud. :-)

For those curious, my smoking time on the cigar was just under an hour. I understand the record for slow smoking this particular stick is somewhere around three and a half hours! That just seems like work to me. I'll smoke for enjoyment, thank you. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Sunday Relaxation, Cigar and Beer

After burning through the remaining firewood last weekend, we received a new delivery on Saturday. That led to hauling many wheelbarrow loads of wood from the driveway to the rack out back on Sunday. But, it's a wonderful sight now. We're all set for the fall fire pit season.

The weather in the afternoon was exceptional for some post-chore relaxation on the porch. I grabbed a New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale and a Rocky Patel LB1 to enjoy in the down time before dinner.

I didn't think much about how the two would pair. I simply had the urge for a Fat Tire and for the LB1. The Amber Ale has a creamy, mild caramel malt flavor. There's a nice, but low key, toasted bread aspect to it as well. It's a refreshing afternoon beverage.

Rocky Patel LB1 features a smooth Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with a Honduran binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. The smoke certainly carries a bolder flavor profile than the beer. Coffee, cedar, and earthiness come through first. It starts off on the spicy side before some underlying sweetness begins pushing through. LB1 is a medium to full bodied smoke.

Both flavor profiles are enjoyable. They are compatible but mostly stand on their own without complimenting or contrasting one another. Just fine for an afternoon break.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Blade and Bow Bourbon with BLTC Super Deluxe

After a fun morning of shooting Saturday, I retired to the back deck for some long-awaited treats before dinner. I'd recently picked up a new cigar from Black Label Trading Company, and had an interesting bottle of bourbon waiting in the wings.

Blade and Bow Bourbon is one that, to my chagrin, I've never picked up before. Our state-controlled liquor stores offered it for 20% off in a one-day sale recently and that led me to look into it. Under Blade and Bow's Solera system of aging, older barrels are never emptied fully before refilling. Each barrel of Blade and Bow contains some portion of the last bourbon produced at the iconic Stitzel-Weller distillery before it closed in 1992.

The bourbon is very smooth, with notes of caramel, white fruit, crisp grains and a subtle oak char. There's a hint of spiciness, but it remains a cool, easy drinking bourbon. It will most certainly be a frequent resident of my whiskey cabinet.

Black Label Trading Company Super Deluxe is a new, and very limited, release from the boutique cigar maker. The box-pressed 5 ¼ x 52 Robusto features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper over an Ecuadorian habano binder. The filler tobaccos come from Nicaragua. The cigar was also released in Petite Corona (4 ½ x 48) and a Lancero (7 x 42) vitolas, all box-pressed. The cigar produces deep, earthy and spicy notes. It's a full bodied, bold smoke with copious smoke output.

Anyone following along will notice I've been mentioning Black Label Trading Company cigars frequently. I find their smokes hit my preferences for dark, full-bodied cigars. I'm not sure if Super Deluxe will replace the BLTC Last Rites or Bishops Blend as my current favorites of their releases. However, I still have more Super Deluxe in my humidor to enjoy and confirm or reverse that thought. I enjoyed the Super Deluxe down to the hot nub. Of course, that gave me the time to pour more of the excellent bourbon.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Misty Morning Shooting Games

It was raining lightly but steadily during my drive to the Cavalier Range for Saturday's monthly IDPA match. Despite the weather prognosticators indicating the rain would have stopped by the time I left the house, I was hopeful I'd be shooting in clear skies shortly. The mist was still falling as we gathered, and everyone lamented the sight of plastic bag covered targets. However, the match directors opted to delay the start for 30 minutes or so to let the rain pass. Success! We'd be shooting at un-bagged targets!

The first stage our squad shot had the longest shots of the match; quite the warm up. Three groups of targets were engaged in priority, near to far. All arrays featured a non-threat centered on the group. Two arrays of three had a target hidden being the non-threat, the furthest group was just two partial targets.

Luckily the bags came off for shooting

The amount of movement needed along the fault line depended on the shooter's confidence level with tight shots near the non-threats. Technically, I think you could "see" all the targets from just two positions, although every shooter I watched took a few more steps back and forth. To my surprise, this was my best stage. Despite shooting it down 5, it was a stage win in my division and a 3rd overall finish.

The next course of fire had us starting with just six rounds in the gun. Beginning the run facing a wall, there was an open target, and two targets engaged from cover. Successfully making all six of those shots meant you could reload on the move to the last point of cover to find the last two targets. I was -3 for the run.

The next stage also featured a downloaded start, this time with just one round loaded in the gun. We started with the muzzle of the gun pointed at a spot on a non-threat in front of us. At the signal we were required to fire the one round at our choice of two open targets before retreating to cover and reloading. We then engaged those two open targets from cover. The rest of the targets on the stage were visible from two further points of cover. All targets required three hits each. This was a -0 stage for me.

Next up was the "go fast" stage. We started centered on a wall, with an open target to our right which was shot first. There were five more targets arranged behind the wall, and it was the shooters choice from which side to shoot from first. Target priority meant there were three targets to be engaged from whichever side you started on, and two from the other.

Even though each target required just two shots minimum, I think most shooters fired extra rounds, really fast, to enable reloading while in transition. I was -1 for the stage despite extra shots.

The last stage was a long field course with seven targets, some with non-threat cover. We started touching one end of a wall. The first shots were at two targets at opposite sides of the course, but shot from the same point of cover. We then worked our way down a "hallway" engaging targets from different nooks and angles. It was a good "running" course and I was -4 for the stage.

The weather turned out great, but there was still a fairly small turnout. The possible inclement weather, and ammo shortages, are likely contributing factors. There was also a competing VCDL special event at a nearby range that attracted some of the regulars. 

It was a good day of shooting. I was moderately pleased with how I shot, even though I was 13 points down total. That had me finishing 9th of 32 overall, and 4th of 17 in SSP. Not bad for a slow, old guy. I'm not going to win any major awards, but it's nice to be somewhat competitive, despite bad knees and old eyes.  :-)  Now if I only had the range and the ammunition to put in some practice.

Pasting targets was a challenge at times