Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Quick Range Trip

I haven't used my outdoor range membership all year. Since we recently paid the annual membership fee, I figured I'd go see if it's actually still there. I decided to take the Compact SIG P320. I had only shot that gun once this year, and that was for a pathetic attempt at the IDPA classifier in the summer. Between the cold weather and ammo shortage, I had the place to myself.

As a quick warmup, I shot 10 rounds at the head of an IDPA target at 7 yards, then moved back to 10 yards for the next 40 shots. Those shots were random combos of body shots, head shots, from low ready or the holster. The rules at this club state that no more than two shots may be fired in a string, and there must be a break between two shot strings. The length of the pause is undefined and varies on the mood of the club officials and their friendship with the shooter, so I was overly cautious.

I soon regretted only bringing along 100 rounds of ammunition. For the second box, I put out a target consisting of various sized shapes and shot from 10 yards. The rest of my shooting was mostly single shots, focusing on sight alignment and trigger press. I even devoted some time to SHO and WHO shooting.

Overall, I was pleased with how I shot the compact gun. I especially enjoyed to chance to just relax and do some shooting, even if only for a short time. While any benefit of "practice" may have been limited, the pleasurable diversion was welcome. I did not see or hear, any other shooters during my time at the range. I did wave to the camera in the tree, knowing I wasn't truly alone. If I find time in the new year to return, perhaps I'll bring a little more ammo.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Christmas Snow and Smoke

We don't get too many white Christmases in these parts. When we do, it's an exception, and then usually a blizzard. What a treat it was to walk out of church Christmas morning and see snowflakes falling from the sky. As we celebrated the day, I kept watching the temperature outside. By mid-afternoon, my phone was showing this:

That would be as good as it gets. So I bundled up, made a large cup of coffee, and set up the portable propane heaters on each side of my chair on the screened porch. I grabbed the Rocky Patel A.L.R. Second Edition I've been looking forward to, and had been saving especially for Christmas. 

The 5½ x 52 box-pressed Robusto has a Mexican San Andrés wrapper with a Honduran binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua. It sports a shiny embossed gold band. There was also a large band with marketing covering almost the entire cigar. With large band removed, the cigar has a classy, holiday-worthy appearance.

The A.L.R. Second Edition starts out with a bold pepper kick, but the spice mellows quickly. Full notes of espresso and cocoa follow. There's a touch of sweetness that lingers on the tongue. I've smoked a few of these before and it's always a consistent performer. Even with the box-press shape, and occasional cold breeze whipping through the screen, the burn was even, needing not a single touch up.

The cigar, which I held onto until it began to burn fingers and lips, lasted just over an hour. That was exactly the right amount of time given the weather. Though cold, the scenery was delightful to look at. And there wasn't enough snow to require any shoveling! I was thankful for the invention of the portable propane heater, but in the open space, there's only so much it can do. Looking ahead, it seems I took advantage of some of the "warmest" weather expected over the next few days.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas To All

As we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord, I wish everyone a most joyful and blessed Christmas season. May the blessings of God be upon you throughout the season and the whole year.

The Church at Shepherd's Field, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, August 2010 

When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.
-- Luke 2: 15-20


Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, August 2010

Surprisingly few realize that the season of Christmas only begins today, December 25, and that this joyous celebration actually continues until the Feast of Epiphany on January 6. It is disappointing to see the lights and decorations disappear the day after Christmas. Surely as Christians we believe the birth of Our Savior is an event worthy of more than a single day of rejoicing. During the troubling times we find ourselves enduring, there seems to be all the more reason to celebrate the joy of the season in its entirety.

However you mark the occasion, may it be spent with family, friends, and good cheer.

Today is born our Savior Christ the Lord.
-- Psalm 96

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Taking Advantage of a Warm Winter Day

It seems the longest vacation I take each year falls in the winter. It's always a "stay-cation" but still the short wet, cold days can limit fun activities. That's why when the temperature crept up to 50° on the eve of Christmas Eve, I took advantage of it. 

Perhaps it was apropos that both the cigar and beer selected were reminiscent of vacations at the beach. The Tabernacle is a smoke that has accompanied me to the beach often. Likewise, the Lost Colony Hatteras Red is a favorite of Outer Banks vacations

There was an intermittent cool breeze and the sun was fleeting, so despite the warmer temperature, I did decide to activate the propane heater. Nonetheless, it was an exceptionally enjoyable passage of time. Adding to the pleasure was the noticeable lack of power equipment running in the distance. Perhaps the neighbors were too busy with last minute holiday preparations to do any yard work.

While the beer lasted only a short time, I smoked the cigar down to the very end. The days to follow are expected to bring a return to more typical winter weather. There's little doubt there will still be tasty beverages and smokes to be enjoyed, it will just require more bundling up for the outdoor portion.

Monday, December 21, 2020

And Saturday…

It was so nice to enjoy a bit of warmth while I smoked on Friday evening, I decided to return to the lounge on Saturday. The morning was spent on chores around the house until mid-afternoon. I briefly considered heading to the back deck to relax but then remembered that the lounge would have a warm wood stove going. Truthfully, I did have an ulterior motive as well. I recalled from the previous evening that the shop had the newly released Black Label Trading Company Morphine 2020 Vintage on hand. That was a smoke I was wanting to try out.

The 2020 version of Morphine features unusual dual Mexican San Andrés and Ecuador Maduro wrappers. The San Andrés wrapper alone was enough to tempt me, but the combination was especially intriguing. Interestingly, the BLTC Bishops Blend, which ranks as one of my top cigars of 2020, features an Ecuadoran Maduro wrapper. 

I selected a 4½ x 50 Robusto to enjoy. The humidor also held some lancero versions of the stick. I opted to make a switch from my usual beer preferences, and order a 1781 Appalach Farmhouse Lager. This is a very popular beer from the brewery, though I don't recall that I've had it previously.

The beer had a grassy aroma and a pleasing, crisp grain flavor. It made for a refreshing afternoon libation. The Morphine sports an oily, dark wrapper. The stick had a dense feel to it when I cut it, but the draw was fine. One of the first things I noticed was the copious volume of smoke being put off. The flavor was full bodied and had notes of raisons, chocolate and coffee. There was a deep, but not overpowering spiciness that lingered in the finish. After just a few puffs, I started wishing the stick was a bit bigger. 

The milder flavored beer and the bold cigar paired amazingly well together. If there was a downside, it was that I only had time for the small cigar and a single beer. After 45 minutes by the wood stove, both were finished and I headed home. I did grab a Morphine in Lancero on the way out for future enjoyment.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

And then it was Friday…

After another seemingly endless week, Friday finally arrived. I'd been looking forward to a cigar in a warm setting for a couple weeks. While I've enjoyed some smokes on the deck, at some point the propane and electric heaters just don't keep up. So after dinner Friday, I headed over to the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge located at 1781 Brewing

As usual, I stopped first in the brewery to fill my mug. This evening I selected Irish Hen Red Ale. This imperial red ale checks in at a moderate 8% ABV. It has a deep red color and appears nearly black in the opaque mug. The ale has a sweet roasted malt backbone with a hint of bitterness in the finish. I sipped as I perused the lounge's humidor for a fitting cigar.

After selecting a La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Maduro DL-700, I took a comfortable seat in the enclosed "front porch" of the lounge. This is a cigar I've enjoyed a number of times at the lounge and is popular with many of the shop's patrons. The big 6½ x 60 stick offers about two hours of pleasurable smoking. The good looking cigar features an Ecuadoran wrapper with Dominican binder and fillers. The DL-700 is a full bodied, bold smoke. Rich notes of dark coffee and chocolate are predominate. A hint of pepper persists throughout the smoke. Despite the large ring gauge, the burn was even until the very end. 

The only inconvenience of the fun evening was the cold walk across the yard to the brewery when it was time for a beverage refill. A warming stop next to the wood stove quickly removed the affects of that brief outing.

The clear vinyl enclosed space was a little cool. Nonetheless, it was still much warmer than my back porch. As the evening progressed, and more folks arrived, the fun conversations, flavorful beer, and good cigars helped to move the chill from the mind. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Cigar for a Feast Day

Saturday, December 12 was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The day honors the appearance of Mary to St. Juan Diego in present day Mexico City on December 9, 1531. Also, referred to as The Virgin of Guadalupe, she is the Patron Saint of the Americas. Among the traditions of the Feast, is a focus on the image of the Lady left on Juan Diego's tilma during the appearance. In honor of that, I selected an appropriately decorated cigar to enjoy that day.

Guadalupe 25th Anniversary Limited Release Miami Edition Blend is a new release from Regina Cigars. The Miami cigar company donates a portion of its sales to support persecuted & displaced Christians, especially those in the Middle East. This blend celebrates the founder's 25th anniversary in the cigar industry and the significance of the December 12 date in his family. 

The 6 x 50 stick has a San Andres Maduro wrapper and an Esteli Criollo binder, hiding a Corojo/Criollo Jalapa filler. The large band features a beautiful image of the Virgin Mary. The smoke is medium to full bodied. It has dark chocolate espresso notes, along with a mild cooling citrus note. Unfortunately both samples I've smoked so far had some damage under the decorative ribbon foot band causing the wrapper to unravel. A touch up with PerfecRepair allowed me to smoke through the damaged section without too much disruption.

As an accompaniment, I selected a seasonally appropriate Hardywood Park Gingerbread Stout. This Imperial Milk Stout is part of a selection of "Christmas beers" released each year by the Richmond, VA brewery. The 9.2% ABV ale is brewed with locally sourced baby ginger and wildflower honey. The dark beer has a thin beige head and gives off but a faint sweet aroma. The flavor is predominately roasted malt and milk chocolate. The underlying spice kick of ginger and honey sweetness is mild. Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth. The flavor combination with the dark espresso notes of the cigar was a flavorful match.

The beer and the cigar made for a satisfying afternoon of relaxation on the deck. The mid-sixties temperature and bright sun was a welcome break from the doldrums of the cool, gray weather of the previous week.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Feast of St. Nicholas

December 6 is the Feast day of St. Nicholas, one of several Patron Saints of Brewing. St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, was a wealthy and generous man. His generosity towards others led to him being the inspiration for the tradition of Santa Claus and gift giving.

It's not entirely clear why Nicholas was chosen as a Patron Saint of brewing. Tradition states that Nicholas was having a beer at an inn where the inn keeper had murdered three boys and packed their bodies in a barrel of brine. Nicholas was offered some salted meat with his beer. Due to a local shortage of food, Nicholas became suspicious, found the bodies, and brought the boys back to life.

The Saint was also an ardent defender of the Faith. Nicholas was in attendance at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325. One of the orders of business for the Council was to refute the Arian heresy. It is said that one point the debate became so heated, an enraged Nicholas punched Arius in the face. While it may have been shocking at the time, one can't help but think he got the point across. I often think we could use a few more Bishops with the backbone of St. Nicholas today.

St. Nicholas died on December 6, in either 345 A.D. or 352 A.D. Inspired by this feast day, is Samichlaus Bier. Samichlaus is an 14% ABV doppelbock that at one time was billed as the world's strongest beer. The name means "Santa Claus" in the Swiss-German dialect of Zürich. Brewed only on December 6 of each year, the beer is aged for almost a year and released in time for the following year's feast day. Samichlaus was originally brewed by Brauerei Hürlimann, and later by Feldschlösschen Brewery. It is currently produced by Schloss Eggenberg of Switzerland.

We have some vintage Samichlaus in the cellar. Tonight will be an apt time to open a couple bottles and raise a toast to Saint Nicholas.

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Friday, December 4, 2020

Starr Hill Snow Blind - A Winter Favorite

One of the few things I look forward to with the advent of cold weather are the winter releases of some of my favorite seasonal beers. Starr Hill Snow Blind Doppelbock is one such delight. Snow Blind was first released in 2013, and I've not missed a winter without picking up at least a couple of six packs.

Snow Blind pours a deep brown color and sports a thin, short lived, beige head. Sunlight peaking through the glass gives the beverage a reddish tint. A rich caramel aroma with a hint of dark fruit greats the nose. The flavor is a bend of toasted malt, caramel and a touch of sweetness. There's a lingering malty sweetness that sticks to the palate for a pleasing finish. A moderate 7.7% ABV makes the flavorful beer easily drinkable.

My first glass of Snow Blind this season was paired with a Las Calaveras Edicion Limitada 2020. I've enjoyed several of the 2020 edition of this annual release. This one was the 5 x 52 Robusto which gives about a 45 minute smoke, easily time for a second pint. The full bodied smoke features sweet, earthy notes and a moderate amount of pepper and spice. It made for a flavorful pairing.

Though that was the last Las Calaveras in my humidor, there will definitely be more glasses of Starr Hill Snow Blind poured this winter.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Relaxing On A Sunny Afternoon

Not being a cold weather fan, I immensely enjoyed the warm, sunny afternoons we were treated to over the long holiday break. The day after Thanksgiving was no exception. Mid-afternoon I once again found myself on the deck, enjoying the sunlight coming through the trees and the sounds of happy birds in the woods. 

My cigar choice was the COA Pilón. I decided to start off with a little "pep up" in the form of a Chai Tea. I felt the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg flavors of the latte would make a good compliment to the cigar. The creamy cocoa, nuts, and honey notes of the smoke indeed made for a pleasing combination.

Of course, the warm beverage was short lived, lasting only an inch or so into the smoke. Perusing the beer fridge, I spied a Sam Adams Octoberfest. The sweet, malty goodness of the ale was also a pleasurable match for the cigar. 

The glass of beer lasted slightly longer than the tea, but was also empty before the cigar reached its conclusion. Knowing the evening held the possibility of another cigar, and perhaps a little bourbon, I finished the CAO Pilón without an additional beverage. The sun reflecting off the remnants of the fall foliage made for sufficient accompaniment.

No a bad day in the neighborhood. Even the sounds of leaf blowers in the distance were easy to ignore.

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.