Friday, July 3, 2020

One Cigar, Two IPAs

A four day weekend. How shall I start? I decided to ease in to the mini-vacation with couple of beers and a smoke on the deck. I was rummaging through the humidor and saw a couple Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut, that have been sitting there for a couple years. It's been a while since I enjoyed one of those. I grabbed one of the beers sent by Tröegs Brewing last month, piped some B.B. King to the speaker, and settled in for a relaxing evening. 

Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut is a well-constructed Toro with a smooth Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper, around Cuban seed Nicaraguan binder and filler. The medium bodied smoke has a mix of nuttiness, cream, and coffee notes. I also get some sweet bready hints. There's a touch of pepper to be found. 

Perpetual IPA is a year-round beer from Tröegs Brewing. From the can it pours a dark amber color with a pure white head. The aroma is dank pine and citrus. Sipping brings on more of the same, with strong flavors of citrus rind, pine, and grain. The finish is long and bitter, with a hint of sweetness. The mouthfeel is resinous and sticky. At first I wondered if the beer would overpower the cigar. However the 20th Anniversary is a bit more full bodied than the average Connecticut shade wrapped cigar and held its own, the touch of pepper in the finish stepping in to meet the strong flavor of the beer.

The 6" x 56 stick provides a long smoke, so with about half the cigar left I grabbed another Tröegs IPA. Field Study IPA is a summer release from the brewery. Pouring a hazy straw color. It's topped by a frothy white head. With the beer sitting on the table next to my chair, and the cigar smoking next it, I could smell the delightful grapefruit aromas hitting my nose. The flavor profile features juicy citrus, especially grapefruit and melon. The finish is clean and short-lived, with some lingering grapefruit tartness. The mouthfeel is light and carbonated. I thought the Field Study IPA went with the cigar even better than the first beer. There's just enough sweetness in the smoke to match the citrus of the beer, and the pepper in the cigar fades in the last third as to not interfere.

Interestingly, the two Tröegs beers fall at opposite ends of the IPA spectrum. The first is a darker beer, featuring citrus rind and a pleasing bitterness. The latter features a juicy, citrus fruit sweetness. Both are excellent beers, but I know many folks prefer one profile over the other. I always hesitate when someone asks for "an IPA." There's a wide range of flavor profiles included in that term. 

The cigar was smoked down to the nub. It provided nearly two hours of enjoyment. And the long weekend was just getting started.

Interested in more cigar content? Follow me on Instagram at VASIGFan.

The beer mentioned in the post was an unsolicited gift from the brewery. The review represents my opinion and is provided without compensation.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Micallef Cigar and Amaretto

Relaxing after the morning's IDPA match, we retired to the screen porch for a before dinner libation. I felt the Micallef Grand Bold Maduro calling to me from the humidor. Such a strongly flavored cigar would typically call for a strong bourbon, but the afternoon heat had me desiring something a bit "lighter." Colleen offered a solution with, "I'll have an Amaretto on a rock." That sounded like just the thing.

The Micallef cigar is one I've enjoyed a few times recently. This 7"x50 Churchill would provide a good two hours worth of enjoyment. It features a beautiful, toothy, Ecuadorian wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. This is a full-bodied smoke with complex yet balance notes of toasted nuts, chocolate, wood, and a touch of cedar. 

The last time I enjoyed this cigar was with a sweet stout. The Disaronno Amaretto offered a different sort of sweetness, this time from almond instead of cocoa. Lower in ABV than any Bourbon option, the liquor kept me refreshed throughout the long smoke. With the slow melting ice block keeping the drink cool, it was exceptionally refreshing.

Interested in more cigar content? Follow me on Instagram at VASIGFan.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Liga Undercrown and a Bourbon

At the end of another long work day (aren't they all?) I settled down for a quick dessert after dinner. I grabbed a Liga Privada Undercrown Maduro from the humidor, and pondered an accompaniment. Spying a bottle of Jefferson's Ocean Aged At Sea Bourbon, I opted to pour a wee bit of the whiskey to go with my cigar.

Jefferson's Ocean Aged Bourbon matures in oak barrels for six to eight years before being placed on a ship to travel the ocean for another six months. The voyage is said to cross the equator 4 times with stops in 30 ports. Unsurprisingly, the ocean voyage affects the flavor. I found the 90 proof bourbon to be smooth and mild, with a hint of brine in the flavor. Admittedly, that was a little off-putting the first time I sipped it, but it quickly grew on me. I now find it a most refreshing drink. 

The Liga Privada Undercrown Maduro from Drew Estate is one of my "keep on hand" cigars. This cigar was from the latest batch added to the humidor a couple months ago. The cigar features a Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper (another of my "favorite things"), Habano Connecticut binder, with Brazil Mata Fina and Nicaraguan Habano leaves as fillers. The creamy smoke features rich espresso, some cocoa sweetness, and a hint of dark fruit. As a medium-bodied smoke, the cigar paired well with the mild bourbon, neither dominating the palate.

The Undercrown Maduro is one that always gets smoked down to the hot nub. And then still set down with a bit of disappointment when it's done.

Interested in more cigar content? Follow me on Instagram at VASIGFan.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Cavalier IDPA Match

Another Saturday and another chance to shoot. This past Saturday I joined some friends for the monthly IDPA match at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. This was the second weekend in a row when I was able to have some IDPA fun. It's a nice respite from all the pandemic pandering.

Our squad kicked off on a stage which had us starting mid-stage facing a wall. The stage was generally symmetrical, with numerous options for engagement. In fact, I noticed the first four shooters all ran the stage differently. For my part, I began by retreating to engage targets from cover at each side of the course. Then moving forward to the center fault line, there was a single target visible through an opening created by walls and barrels. Continuing forward to the center, two more targets were visible through that same opening. 

That was a fun stage, and I was happy to shoot it -0.

Moving on to the next bay, we found an interesting stage, with moving targets and steel. To either side, closest to us, was a swinger on the left and a disappearing drop turner to our right. Down range was a single static target and three steel poppers, one of which activated both movers. Each paper target required three hits each. Since neither mover was visible at the start, the down range targets had priority. However, as soon as the activation steel was engaged the movers took priority. There was a lot of discussion on the best way to shoot it, taking into account priority, timing, and concerns for not having an empty gun when the disappearing target was activated. With all the discussion and thought going into the stage, I neglected to take a picture.

I felt good going in to shoot the stage. The movers were moderately close, and there seemed to be plenty of time to get at least three shots in each. Yet, when the holes in paper were counted I was left 10 down for the course, mostly due to a couple of -3 shots, as well as some -1 holes on the swinger. Moving on…

Another retreating start was featured in the next stage. We began mid-stage, standing in a corner. Backing up range, there were targets engaged around walls at either side of the course. Next moving down the center of the array of walls, we shot a lone target from the fault line at an opening in the wall. Moving forward a couple more targets became visible through the same opening. Two more shooting positions came into play, before finishing the course of fire on a head shot only target while doing a hard lean around cover.

It was a quick stage, and I finished down two points. At least I was back on track after the previous run.

More steel showed up on the following stage. Shot from a single position, the stage consisted of four paper targets and four falling steel, placed at three levels of priority, the steel in the middle. Each paper target required three hits each. 

Rapidly engaging the first two targets, I swung towards the steel. I caught a glimpse of a -1 hit but moved on before it registered. The steel fell quick with one make up shot. The extra shot actually was a benefit in allowing me to reload on the transition to the back paper targets. This turned out to be my best stage, finishing second in SSP and fourth overall for the stage.

To shoot the last stage we engaged two targets close up while moving, again backwards, to engage a target from cover. Then we crossed the bay to enter a tight zig-zag hallway and find the final two targets. I ended -1 for this stage.

During my post match drive home I contemplated the morning's performance. Excepting the disaster of the movers, I was 4 points down for the remaining four stages. So, I was pretty happy with my accuracy. I find it's my movement and transitions that have been hurt the most by the months of limited or no shooting. I did notice myself hesitating and verifying shots before moving to the next position. Last week I caught myself dropping the gun out of shooting position while moving, and getting it back up late. I tried to remember that during this match and transition better. With matches limited and range time even more rare, perhaps I should get back to the discipline of dry firing. My (old) dry fire routine included practicing transitions between targets and positions which would likely help my overall score.

By the end of the match I was worn out from the heat and sun. Nonetheless it was a fun morning of shooting and seeing friends. Now that summer is truly here, heat and humidity on the range will be the order for the day over the next a few months. I'll take that over "social distancing" any day.

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Cigar and Port

Father's Day eve, Colleen and I enjoyed the pleasant weather with an evening on the screen porch, listening to music and thunderstorms. While discussing our beverage options, Colleen mentioned we had a bottle of port in the pantry. I had been preparing to mix up an Old Fashioned, but that port did sound good.

I was looking forward to enjoying the new Bishops Blend from Black Label Trading Company, and the Graham's 10 Year Tawny Port felt like it would be an excellent pairing option. Sure, some may say it's a winter drink, but some people are afraid the wear white before Memorial Day too.

Bishops Blend is a limited release from Black Label Trading. This year's edition was created in two sizes, with only 450 boxes of 20 produced in each vitola. The blend is comprised of an Ecuador Habano Maduro wrapper, an Ecuador Habano binder, and a mix of Nicaraguan, Connecticut broadleaf, and Pennsylvania broadleaf filler tobaccos. The smoke gives off flavors of coffee, cocoa, and some interesting dark fruit notes. There's a bit of pepper in there as well. It's a full bodied flavor profile. And extremely enjoyable. The burn was excellent as well.

The dark fruit notes in the port made for a very pleasurable pairing. As we poured repeated glasses of the port, I continually was impressed by cigar, and how well it went with the port. I generally gravitate to bourbon or beer when it comes to alcohol with cigars. Lately I've been experimenting with rum, amaretto, and even limoncello. This particular pairing was indeed a pleasure. 

I soon regretted that the cigar was merely a 5" x 48 Robusto. I picked up three of these at the lounge a few weeks, smoke one there and brought two home. I resisted lighting up the remaining stick in my humidor this evening. I'll save it for another day. Until researching the Bishops Blend for this post, I did not realize just how limited the production was. I wonder if the shop still has any left.

Interested in more cigar content? Follow me on Instagram at VASIGFan.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Tröeg's Haze Charmer and an Afternoon Smoke

For a light after work light refreshment recently I retrieved a can of Tröegs Haze Runner Pale Ale from the fridge. The can was part of a package of summer beers sent for review by Tröegs Brewing. Haze Runner is a new year round beer from Tröegs that was released this spring.

The beer has an unfiltered, hazy appearance due to the unmalted wheat used in the brewing, as well as dry-hopping. The glass sports a bright white head, which drops away after a few sips. Citrus and pine lead the aroma. Sipping brings juicy citrus flavors of pineapple, grapefruit and some sweet peach. There's a moderate mix of wheat and oak, and some pine in the finish. The mouthfeel is somewhat chewy with a tingling carbonation. It's an easy drinking beer that goes down fast, and the mild 5.5% ABV suits the fast drink.

Naturally I grabbed to smoke to enjoy as I reviewed the beer. Last month's shipment from My Cigar Pack included the limited Lost & Found No Free Lunch from Caldwell cigars. I wasn't familiar with the stick, though I expected it to be mild. Lost & Found finds cigars that were originally blended by other factories, then repackages them under the new label for charitable purposes. Proceeds from the sales of No Free Lunch will go to relief efforts related to COVID-19.

No Free Lunch features a Dominican wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Dominican fillers, producing a very mild cigar. While the cause is noble, I found the cigar to be rather uninspiring. Your mileage may vary depending on your preferences. At least the cigar flavor didn't overwhelm the beer. I nursed the beer along for about half the stick before boredom stepped in and I switched to the beer alone.

As a year-round offering, I'll keep an eye out for Tröegs Haze Runner at my local stores. It will make a very enjoyable summer refreshment. 

The beer mentioned in the post was an unsolicited gift from the brewery. The review represents my opinion and is provided without compensation.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Rivanna IDPA Match

The Saturday of Father's Day weekend offered a rare, for the year 2020 so far, chance to shoot an IDPA match. On an overcast but warm morning I headed over the Rivanna Rifle & Pistol club for the "monthly" match. About 85 shooters braved all the pandemic posturing to enjoy the outdoors, camaraderie, and a morning of good shooting.

The first of four stages had us starting seated, with our unloaded gun in a box and magazines on the table. We faced an up close non-threat directly in front of us, with five targets downrange to be shot in priority. As a twist, the stage briefing stated the first four targets were shot while seated, while the last and furthest target was to be engaged while standing. All targets required three hits on each.

This is was fast and fun stage, which I was pleased to shoot zero down.  

The next stage involved shooting while retreating. The first two targets were mandated to be shot while standing at the start position, before we began backing up to engage four more targets as they appeared to either side as we passed by the barrels hiding them. Again, each target required a minimum of three hits on each.

Zero down again for me on this stage, though I did lose a bit of time fumbling the reload.

Moving on to stage 3, we found six targets and a couple of non-threats behind a wall. The two center targets were engaged through an opening in the wall. Two more targets were to be found by moving to both ends of the wooden barriade. Again, all targets required three hits, though this time it was specified as requiring two to the body, and one to the head. 

Wow. I was on a roll, with another -0 stage. 

The last course of fire had us shooting from a marked box on the ground, our movement limited to a few feet. Three non-threats placed mid-bay had to be avoided in order to engage the eight targets lined up at the back, each requiring two hits. Now the pressure was on, at least in my own head. Could I complete the match down zero? 

I was to be the next to last shooter on the last stage, but I avoided ruminating on that question while I waited. When it was finally my turn to shoot, I tried to do so deliberately, and at an even pace. It felt good, but the holes in the cardboard where just out of my vision range. I walked down range and listened to the call, "down 1."

Okay, down just one point for the match. No hits on non-threats. And, as I recall, a single make up shot the entire match. Of course, some would say such a clean match simply means I shot too slowly. But, I was pleased with the performance, finishing 4th of 18 in SSP.

I've been able to shoot very little during the covid-related panic and tyrannical restrictions on personal freedoms. For the morning at least, it was a pleasure to be be surrounded with other folks enjoying a good time.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Two Whiskeys, One Cigar

As I prepared for Friday evening, I had a hankering for some Redbreast 12 Year Irish Whiskey. I poured a glass, grabbed a cigar and headed for the porch. For this pairing I selected the Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial in a Torpedo format. The Oliva is one of those cigars I turn to often, and the torpedo is a fun vitola to smoke.

As I headed out the door, I mentioned to Colleen that this might not be the best pairing. I knew the cigar and I knew the whiskey. But I was craving both, so onward I went. The Redbreast is a relatively mild whiskey, with a subtle sweetness of white grapes and honey. It's a good whiskey with which to start a long evening. The Oliva 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. Both were exceedingly enjoyable, but as predicted, they just didn't compliment each other. But persevere I did.

Once that pour of whiskey was downed, I still had plenty of cigar left. Heading back to my whiskey stash, I went directly for the bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oak Whiskey. There was no risk involved in this choice, it would be a hit. This fine bourbon tops my list with smooth, sweet oak notes. A slight fruit and vanilla aspect adds to the pleasure. As expected, the match was perfect.

One of the aspects of enjoying beverages, be they coffee, beer, whiskey, or other, with cigars and food is experimenting with pairings. They may not always work, but when you find one that hits the spot like the Woodford and Serie V, it's a great pleasure. Of course, the ongoing hunt for perfection is always fun.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Flag Day & Other American Celebrations

On June 14, 1777, the Second Congressional Congress officially adopted the design of our nation's flag. Flag Day is celebrated each June 14 as proud Americans celebrate the freedoms the flag represents. Given the lack of respect, in fact hatred, so many show for our country's greatness these days, Flag Day offers an opportunity to remember how great this country truly is.

There are other, less official, holidays on today's calendar as well. June 14 is has been designated as National Bourbon Day. And if that doesn't tickle your tastebuds, it's also National Strawberry Shortcake Day

Our flag, some bourbon, and a sweet dessert — it really doesn't get more American than that!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Saturday Kickoff

Saturday dawned cool and sunny. Perfect for some early morning time on the back porch. While the household slept in a little longer, I allowed myself a bit of decadence and whipped up a cappuccino to enjoy with a Rocky Patel Sungrown Maduro Lancero.

The Sungrown Maduro is one of my favorites, though I usually enjoy the Robusto format.  The 7½" x 38 Lancero packs a stronger flavor profile due to the larger wrapper ratio and concentrated smoke. The cigar format and the USA Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper provide an elegant smoke, but one that requires a bit more concentration to maintain a good burn. The espresso and bitter cocoa flavor profile made an enjoyable match for the rich coffee drink.

Adding some Charlie Parker jazz in the background as I heard the house waking up, completed the atmosphere. I got through most of the smoke and a second cup of coffee before the neighbors fired up a pressure washer and drowned out the music and morning bird sounds. But no worries, it was time to go visit with house guests, before heading off to an afternoon at a local cigar lounge with a friend. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Tröegs Sunshine Pilsner

Saturday was an extraordinarily productive day. After breakfast, and on just a single cup of coffee, I went to work on my planned chores for the day. I reframed and hung a new screen door on the porch, transplanted some deck plants to the garden, and upgraded to a new work laptop. All before noon! After a shower and lunch, it was time for relaxation. That was enough productivity for a Saturday!

A few weeks back I received a summer care package of four beers and a bandana from Tröegs Brewing. I decided to grab one of them, and an appropriate cigar, and retire to my newly-doored porch to enjoy a rest. 

A can of Tröegs Sunshine Pilsner seemed appropriate for the sunny afternoon. Digging deep into the humidor, I located a Foundation Charter Oak Connecticut Toro.

Sunshine Pilsner is one of Tröegs' core beers. The beer pours bright straw yellow with a pure white head. The aroma is grass and hay. Sipping the 4.5% ABV pilsner brings notes of bread, grass, and white grape, all backed with a bitter citrus zest. The mouthfeel is crisp and carbonated. Grassy and citrus bitter notes linger in the finish. 

The Charter Oak Connecticut is a cigar I've not smoked in a couple years. I don't smoke a lot of cigars featuring Connecticut Shade wrappers, as they often get a bit bland, and even bitter at the end for me. In addition to the USA Connecticut Shade wrapper, this cigar features a Sumatra binder and fillers from Nicaragua. To my delight, the flavor of the smoke was pleasing to the end.

All in all, this sunny combo worked well together. Neither the beer nor the cigar overpowered the other. Rather than contrasting, the flavors of both, especially in the finish, were surprisingly similar.

If anything, the only downside of the experience was keeping the cigar dry. The cold beer in the humid air created copious condensation on the outside glass, and I frequently reached for the cigar with a wet hand. I nursed that glass of beer nearly through the entire smoke, often almost nodding off in the warm air. Not a bad way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon, if I do say so myself.

The beer mentioned in the post was an unsolicited gift from the brewery. The review represents my opinion and is provided without compensation.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Ending the Week, or Starting the Weekend?

Friday evening I jumped in the car to head over to the brewery to enjoy some music, a beer, and a cigar. The sun was shining overhead. As soon as I started west I could see dark clouds ahead. A quick check of the Dark Sky app on my phone showed storms approaching. So I changed course and headed back home. 

Moving to the porch I lit up a Fratello D.M.V. District of Columbia, made myself a Rye Old Fashioned and waited. I didn't have to wait long. Soon I actually needed to turn on a light on the porch, as the rain and lightening started in force and sunlight vanished.

Turning up the music, I sat back and enjoyed the quickly cooling temps, as well as the light and sound show. The Fratello D.M.V. is one of my favorite smokes. This one was released in 2018 and has aged to perfection. To my knowledge, this vitola and blend was a one-time release; the 2019 release changed the blends for all sizes. I have five four, left in my humidor that I am slowly going through. The medium bodied smoke has notes of leather and spice. It's a great pairing with the drink, and the nearly two hour smoke allows for a couple of glasses of the cocktail.

The storm passed relatively quickly, and I was thankful for the soaking rain for the lawn. As I enjoyed the evening, I got to thinking, was this a fine ending to the work week, or a fitting start to the weekend? I guess it was really both. I'm not sure what happened out at my original destination, but there's a whole weekend ahead to allow for another try.

Monday, June 1, 2020

A Wee Bit of Normality

Around our house we are especially pleased to see the month of May be done. Was it really only 31 days? Seems much longer. Like everyone else of course, we've been dealing with the "COVID-1984" restrictions. On top of that, we've had work being done on our house for the last several weeks. A kitchen renovation was planned long before the Chicom virus was in the news, but the work commenced in May. It's bad timing to be kitchen-less at the same time restaurants are closed. It's bad timing to have construction going on in your house when you are locked down at home. Once the kitchen work was done, we had painters in to refresh the entire first floor. Surprisingly, the painting was more disruptive to life (and work from home) around the house than the kitchen activity. But, that's all done now. This will be the first week in a month we had our house to ourselves. Of course, there's a lot left for us still to do, as we haven't fully moved all our stuff back into place yet.

On Saturday, after some work sorting house out, I picked up a friend and we headed over to the Olde Towne Tobacconist outpost at 1781 Brewing for an afternoon of visiting, beer, and cigars. It was extremely pleasant to sit outside, talk to other humans, and just enjoy the nice weather. Saturday evening, Colleen and I sat in our refreshed living space and enjoyed a relaxing dinner, all the while making plans for the next projects.

Sunday was glorious by virtue of finally being able to go to Mass, as the governor has now granted permission for worship to resume in our part of the state. We had to wear uncomfortable face masks, but it was Mass nonetheless. Even though the church was sparsely populated, we were able to celebrate live and in-person, rather than via an online stream.

In the afternoon we took advantage of the weather to enjoy the outdoor setting at 1781 Brewing. I believe it was the first time in 2020 that Colleen and I were able to get away from the house for an afternoon of relaxation. There was no live music playing as so often happens in the warmer months, but the sun was shining and the beer was good. And there were smiling humans out and about. Patrons were limited to two inside at a time when ordering beer or wine, but the outdoor space was full of "physically separated" families and dogs. 

The cigar lounge is closed on Sunday for sales so I had brought along my own options for smoking. After grabbing a mug of 1781 Brewing Farmhouse Pale Ale, I lit up a Rocky Patel Vintage 2006 Sixty

I typically enjoy darker beers with cigars; stouts, dopplebocks, even a red ale, are frequent choices. But I do enjoy hoppy beers, though they aren't always the best cigar pairings. The Farmhouse Pale Ale is a moderately hopped ale that strikes a nice balance of citrus and fruitiness. The hop notes leave a clean, short finish on the palate.

The cigar is one of my favorites, the Vintage 2006 in the 6" x 60 vitola. A Mexican San Andrés wrapper,  USA Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and Nicaraguan fillers combine to make a flavorful but not overpowering smoke. Dark chocolate, oak, leather and a mild sweetness predominate. It all works extremely well with the mild hop and fruit notes of the beer. It's a long smoke too, requiring a refill of my mug. 

We were later joined by some friends who happened to be out taking advantage of the beautiful environs and new freedoms as well. We enjoyed catching up with them as we wound down the afternoon.

Yes indeed, the weekend brought a bit of normality to our lives, despite the news of the anarchists around the country using a tragedy as an excuse to bring their cowardly violence to bear on innocent people. Let's pray that we are soon able to get back to peaceful living, and the restrictions on free movement and free enterprise will soon be a thing of the past. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Memories: Cigar Shopping in Dublin

The other day, while listening to a CD from a pub band we saw during our last trip to Ireland, I started looking through the photos I had taken in the Emerald Isle. Some of those photos brought back memories of the tobacconists we visited while in Dublin. I've previously shared some of our pub adventures from that trip.

The first stop we made was Peterson of Dublin. Peterson's is well-known as a pipe shop, but they do have some cigars in the downstairs part of the shop. 

At the base of the stairs, there were stacks of empty Cuban cigar boxes.

Also a display of cigar molds. 

The basement cigar area had no staff, and no one appeared to be coming down to offer any assistance, so our visit was short and we continued on with our walk of the city

Our next destination was the Irish Whiskey Museum, which just happened to be located right next door to the famous James Fox Cigar and Whiskey Store. Both stops were places I had been anticipating with much excitement.

All the cigar sellers we visited, had cabinet style humidors instead of the walk-in humidors frequently seen in the States. They also appeared to sell only Cuban cigars. I do know that regulations prohibit the selling of both Cuban and non-Cuban versions with the same name in the same place.

I enjoyed perusing the selection at James Fox, though it was a little frustrating due to Irish tobacco label laws. Regulations enacted in 2017 severely restrict the labeling on hand rolled cigars. Label designs are restricted to a specific gray scale color, as well as a single font selection. In essence, everything looks the same. Like most tobacco laws globally, the laws are simply "feel good" rules, in theory designed to prevent youth from spending their money on tobacco. In reality, few underage youth are buying expensive hand-rolled cigars — especially expensive Cubans. (Not surprisingly, tobacco laws typically have higher taxes associated with their passage.)

The staff at James Fox was friendly and helpful. I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with the clerk before choosing a small sampler pack for purchase.

All too soon, it was time to head off to other stops, even though my traveling companions were being most gracious and patient with my diversions from sight seeing.

The final stop was the interestingly named Decent Cigar Emporium

The shop was located up a narrow flight of stairs. This was the only shop I saw which appeared to have a lounge. However, in speaking with the staff, I learned the lounge is only for sipping coffee, as indoor smoking is banned in Ireland. I somehow neglected to take any photos inside at this stop. It was late in the day, and I suspect exhaustion was setting in. 

I enjoyed the visits to the cigar shops in Dublin, and had some pleasant conversations about cigar smoking in Ireland and the United States. My purchases were limited, mostly for fear of damage and packing issues while continuing our trip. The six purchased sticks, with their proper Irish labeling are below.

Fortunately, once the cloaks are removed, the wonderful labels are still attached.

Despite the visits to the cigar shops, I smoked just one cigar the entire trip. And that was the previously mentioned Fratello Bianco Boxer I had brought with me. That stick was enjoyed outside the magnificent Cahernane Manor House Hotel in Killarney.

I've only smoked a couple of the Cuban cigars I've acquired, but don't have any plans to store them long term. The others will be consumed in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Another Interesting Stout and Cigar Pairing

After a long-waited IDPA match on Saturday, I sought out another cigar and beer pairing with which to relax before dinner. Looking through the bottle reserves in a dark basement corner, I came across a bottle of Ommegang My Watch Has Ended Imperial Brown Ale. Reading the beer's description, it immediately struck me that a Micallef Grand Bold Maduro would make a fine accompaniment to the ale. 

The stout poured a rich dark brown, with a short beige head. The aroma was a pleasant sweet malt with a hint of chocolate. The flavor profile followed with semisweet cocoa and toffee notes. Mouthfeel was creamy with a short sweet, but not cloying, finish.

The Micallef Grand Bold Maduro is a 7x50 Churchill, featuring a dark Ecuadorian Broadleaf wrapper, over Nicaraguan binder and fillers. The full-flavored smoke offered nutty, wood, and espresso notes. There's a hint of sweetness that complimented the beer flavors quite well. A few salted cashews brought out to snack on were a fitting addition to both the beer and cigar.

I enjoyed this pairing, or actually trio, very much. The Micallef is a smoke I've recently come across and have enjoyed several times lately. Each time I smoke it down to the very end, this time accidentally burning my finger tip as I let it drift too close to the nub. 

I had plans for an after-dinner cigar and beverage as well, but the evening passed with other mindless distractions, ice cream and a movie, to be specific. However other pleasures were still in store for the long holiday weekend.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Finally. Some Shooting. Finally.

It's been a while, for sure, but I finally got to enjoy some shooting activities this weekend when the monthly IDPA match at the Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club resumed after a break for the Wuhan virus. I hadn't shot for nearly three months, and my range bag literally had dust on the top. The weather, which has been all over the place of late, cooperated this morning with the temperature hitting the low 80's.

The first stage our squad shot consisted of six targets spread out across the bay and hidden by various walls and non-threats. The targets were visible as you moved across the stage along a railing. With proper planning, they could all be seen from two positions. It was a good shake off the dust stage.

The next shooting challenge was a line of seven targets all shot while standing behind a table. The starting position was with the unloaded gun on the belt, and the first magazine held in both hands. This was my best stage overall, despite fumbling the start by missing the slide with my racking hand.

An unloaded gun start was also featured on the next stage. This time, the all magazines were required to be stowed on our person. Since I only use two magazine pouches, that meant starting with the first mag stuffed in my waistband. This load went more smoothly than the previous start. After loading and engaging three close targets, we made a somewhat awkward transition around a barrel and wall to the next point of cover and engaged two more targets. At this point, the gun was emptied of the 10 starting rounds, but my brain was ready to fire the "extra" 11th round, as if it was a loaded gun start. That momentary confusion resulted in my doing a standing reload, instead of more efficiently reloading while moving to the last point of cover. There are still some cobwebs to be dusted off it seems. 

The next stage was rather interesting, and had us shooting from a semi-enclosed space. A triangle formed by stack of barrels and a fault line, restrained all shooting through narrow openings between the barrels. The targets were arrange in a "V" that came to a point centered down range. Shooting the targets in priority meant alternating sides as you shot targets at varying distances. The first two targets, mid-range, where the ones visible at the start. Those were shot, then the shooter moved slightly forward, making the closest targets visible, before moving focus to the threats further down range. Shooting among the barrels gave the added distractions of bouncing the sounds of gunfire and the flying brass back to the shooter. Once it was all said and done, it was a fun stage to shoot. 

Finally, we got to the stage we had been hearing about all morning. A two-string scenario stage, shot with the support hand only. String 1 started with the loaded gun in our support hand, with the barrel touching a mark on the wall. We then engaged two targets to our left, and a third around the left side of the wall. The second string was shot to the opposite of the stage, engaging one open target to the right of the wall, then moving forward to find two more target around another wall. 

Seeing friends at the range had been a long-missed pleasure. The idea of not shaking hands in greeting and being reminded to "stand six feet apart" puts a damper on the reunion, but it was still a fun morning. I really don't understand why it's called social distancing, there is nothing social about the restrictions being imposed upon society. Perhaps compliance conditioning is a better term. 

Shooting the five stages took only about two hours. I was pretty satisfied with how I shot, finishing 4th of 13 in SSP. I was a little slow in my movement, and certainly a little sloppy in shooting. However, I had no targets that scored lower than -2, had no hits on non-threats, or procedural penalties. All in all a very good morning and a welcome sign of more matches anticipated soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Fine Cigar and Ale Pairing

When the work week was done, and Friday dinner complete, it was finally time to kick off the holiday weekend with a cigar and a beer on the deck. I had recently come across some 2013 bottles of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale in the basement, and had already earmarked at least one of them for this weekend. Perusing the humidor for a suitable companion to the strong beer, I selected an Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial Torpedo. I retired to the porch for what I knew would be a pleasant flavor experience.

The Bigfoot Ale was a good as I remembered it to be. While savoring the flavor, I realized that it had been several years since I had enjoyed this annual Winter release from Sierra Nevada. The mouthfeel was full, and mildly carbonated. It sports a sweet malt backbone that finishes with the rich bitterness of hops. Even after nearly seven years of "cellaring," the full hop bitterness is still strong on the palate. The 9.6% ABV was barely detectable, the alcohol well masked by the strong bittersweet flavors.

The Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial is one of my favorite smokes. It sports a beautiful Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and fillers, creating a full bodied smoke. Rich flavors of cocoa, coffee, roasted nuts, and cedar made for a fitting companion to the rich bitterness of the beer. The cigar gave a nearly two-hour smoke with a perfect burn from beginning to end.

All too soon the cigar neared its end, though outlasting the ale in my glass. I held on to the hot nub for as long as I could, the flavor never wavering. This was a thoroughly enjoyable combination, and one worth repeating. While my stock of 2013 Bigfoot is limited, I just happen to have bottles from other years stashed away. The Oliva stick was the last of my stock, but that shortfall is easily remedied by a trip to my local tobacconist. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Slew of Weekend Treats

The weekend was mostly more of the same, although there were a few niceties thrown in to the mix. Lord Northam has granted a few freedoms to his subjects in some areas of the state, so we saw a bit of normality. I had already squeezed in mowing the lawn on Friday, which left my Saturday morning a little more open, so I drove over to the local chain coffee franchise and treated Colleen and myself to a cup of frou-frou coffee. As I sat in the drive-thru line that wrapped twice around the building, I anticipated what I predicted to be a great cigar pairing.

I had first smoked the new Rocky Patel Number 6 last fall at a local lounge. I found the cigar to have an enjoyable flavor, but not the robust bold notes to which I typically gravitate. However, as a morning cigar with coffee, it held great promise.

Coffee, earth, and a touch of sweetness come through in this smoke. As predicted the pairing with the creamy coffee was delightful. The one cup of coffee was insufficient for the two hour smoke from this toro size cigar. I made my myself a mug of rich, french roast to enjoy. The cigar was just as pleasant with the coffee black as it was with the milk-rich version. Though one of the mildest cigars from Rocky Patel, the Number 6 has plenty of flavor to remain interesting to the very end.

Saturday's other treat, was the arrival of a summer fun care package from Tröegs Brewing. Samples of four of their summer ales were included. It's been a while since we were able to review some beers, so it's with much anticipation that I look forward to cracking those in the near future.

On Sunday, we shopped for, and then planted some new ornamentals around the house. The labor done, Colleen and I decided to take advantage of the government "permission" for restaurants to serve patrons at outdoor seating. We headed over a local ice cream stand and treated ourselves to some good ol' fashioned banana splits. These were the real deal; three flavors of ice cream, strawberry and pineapple toppings, whipped cream, cherries on top, and even some peanut sprinkles. We sat outside, at tables, and there were other people at nearby tables, and for a moment we could all forget about the plan-demic. And the splits were delicious!

Photo by Colleen

Coming home, we decided we weren't hungry for dinner. No surprise there. So I retired to the porch with a cigar. Going to the extreme flavor opposite of Saturday morning's cigar I opted for a La Flor Dominica Double Ligero Maduro. This LFD is a full-bodied, full-strength smoke, and one I enjoy regularly. Since I was still stuffed from the afternoon "dessert" I opted for only my bottle of water to accompany.

As is obvious from the above photo, my beverage choice soon changed. After smoking the cigar for a bit, I realized it really needed a pairing stronger than water. I grabbed a bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oak and poured a wee dram. Perfect. In fact, I added a few more pours before the smoke was complete. The strong espresso, dark chocolate and cedar notes complimented the oaky richness of the Bourbon in a wholly satisfying manner.

Despite ongoing pandemic pandering, there are signs of a return to normalcy and commonsense appearing. Getting out and about, though to a limited extent, and enjoying a number of my guilty pleasures over the weekend was a welcome respite. The upcoming week looks to be cooler and wetter, which will be beneficial to the new plantings. I am stuck inside working anyway. Here's looking forward to next weekend, which happens to be a three day break. There might even be a return to shooting in store!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Old Fashioned

My favorite alcoholic accompaniment for a fine cigar is a good beer, or a good Bourbon. Colleen and I enjoying experimenting with various cocktails, but when it comes to mixed drinks, I truly enjoy the simple Old Fashioned. The classic drink is a an excellent mate to a fine cigar.

While the variations on this drink are innumerable, this is the recipe I've adapted for my taste.
2 ounces 4 Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
¼ ounce Simple Syrup
3 dashes Angostura Bitter
3 dashes Regans’ Orange Bitters
1 Orange Peel
1 Luxardo Cherry
1 Large Ice Rock 
In a rock's glass, combine Bourbon, Simple Syrup, and the Bitters. Give it quick stir. Add in one large ice cube. Garnish with the Orange Peel and a Luxardo Cherry. 
Enjoy. Repeat.
The single large ice cube is a must as far as I am concerned. I rarely add ice to my whiskey, but if I do, it must be a slow melting single rock. They're a pain to make, but we keep them on hand nonetheless. If a Luxardo Cherry is not available, skip it. Please, no Maraschinos. 

I rarely have just one.

With Fratello D.M.V. Virginia

With Fratello Navetta Inverso

Monday, May 4, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Beer and Cigar Pairing

On Sunday we finally got to a point where we needed to head out for a few supplies. Walking the aisles of the store I was reminded why I dislike crowds and shopping in mega-stores. That disdain made all the greater dealing with the dystopian drama of face masks and directional arrows herding people like sheep. On the bright side, I also stopped into another store and picked up a few more cigars to put in the humidor for another day.

The shopping chores done, I needed a strong beer and a strong cigar. The development of a sunny, warm afternoon made the deck all the more welcoming. I checked the beer fridge and found a Founders KBS Espresso. The bourbon barrel-aged stout gets the addition of espresso beans during the aging, and checks in at a respectable 12% ABV.

A hearty beer merits a hearty cigar. I grabbed a Blanco Nine JT Limitado that's been aging in my humidor for almost two years. The limited edition cigar actually has a warning on its website, "WARNING!! 100% LIGERO." I've seen reviews with folks counseling on the strength of the smoke. I've always been a fan of extremes, whether it's beer, whiskey, or cigars, so was looking forward to the adventure.

The stout features a flavorful mix of bourbon, caramel, and coffee notes. The alcohol content is well masked, with no harshness noticed. Definitely one you want to sip and savor.

The Blanco cigar did not disappoint and complimented the beer to perfection. Cocoa, leather, espresso, and cedar spice were present throughout the nearly two hour smoke.

I nursed my beer through about the halfway point of the smoke. The nicotine strength didn't make itself felt to any extreme. Maybe the effects were checked by the alcohol strength of the Founders stout. In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed both.

When the smoke was finally finished, it was time to fire up the grill and prepare some spicy barbecued chicken for our dinner. Sunday was certainly a full-flavored sort of day.

If you're interested more cigar and beer pairings, as well as other tidbits that don't make the Musings, check out my Instagram content.