Friday, November 25, 2022

Thanksgiving "Digestive": Blanton's and Crowned Heads

We ate our first Thanksgiving dinner early, around 1:00pm. This allowed a break before dessert, and then a second dinner later in the day. The Thanksgiving feast is too good to eat just once. (And of course, we enjoy turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce sandwiches the next day.) In between dinners, I retired to the back deck to enjoy a "digestive" while the family watched football inside. I was blessed with sun and a 60° temperature, making for a most pleasant time.

I didn't have any of the customary Wild Turkey on hand, so opted for what seems to be another popular Thanksgiving bourbon, Blanton's Single Barrel. Blanton's is an allocated bourbon under the government-comtrolled system of manipulated supply in Virginia, so I only break this one out occasionally.

Blanton's Single Barrel checks in at 93 proof, and has a mild, but pleasant aroma of sweet honey, vanilla, with a hint of spice. A moderately bold flavor profile with of caramel, honey, and vanilla as the major players. The finish lingers, adding a satisfying pepper hint to the game. I am surprised that I read so much cynicism online about this classic bourbon, as I find it a quite pleasant libation.

Given the balanced and nuanced flavor profile, I paired one of my favorite medium-bodied smokes, the Crowned Heads Le Carême Canonazo. The Le Carême sticks feature a shiny Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, a Sumatra binder, and Nicaraguan fillers. This 5 ⅞ x 52 box pressed stick is medium bodied with creamy, sweet chocolate and nutty notes.  It is a favorite to pair with milder, sweet bourbons. 

As I finished the smoke, a received a text from Colleen asking if I was ready for dessert. Feeling refreshed and reenergized after the filling (first) dinner, I acquiesced and returned to the feasting inside.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

A Bourbon and A Smoke to Kick Off the Holiday

The past week saw an abrupt change in the weather, with very cold temperatures coming in suddenly. While not bitterly cold, the quick switch from warmer temps made the change all the more jarring. Thankfully, the weather returned to more "seasonable" temperatures in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, at least for a short time. On Thanksgiving Eve, I took advantage of the weather to enjoy a cigar and bourbon on the deck — while running only one of the propane heaters!

I selected a Southern Draw Manzanita in the Robusto size. This is a cigar I've enjoyed in the past, and recently acquired a new supply. They'd been resting in the humidor for about a month, the minimal time before I'd consider lighting one. A reddish-brown Habano wrapper covers a Habano binder, with Corojo and Ligero fillers. The smoke has an earthy base with bold dark chocolate and cedar notes. A kick of peppers concludes the profile. Southern Draw cigars never disappoint and this is one of my favorites.

As an accompaniment, a grabbed a bottle of Russell's Reserve 10 Year Bourbon. I've had this bottle for some time but hadn't revisited it in a while. The aroma on this is, well, bourbon. It's got classic notes of vanilla and caramel. Sipping brings on more of the expected notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak. Like the kick at the end produced by the cigar, the bourbon has a nice, and lingering, rye kick in the finish. At just 90 proof, the Wild Turkey product is an easy sipper, that comes in bigger than its $40 price point. 

As a pairing, the combination was enjoyable. Frequently I'll pair higher proof bourbons with bold cigars. I did find that the boldness of the cigar subdued the bourbon flavors somewhat. I had started smoking the cigar before pouring the beverage, and noted the muted spice from the bourbon. However, I did enjoy a late night pour after the cigar, to appreciate the whole profile more.

Have a Very Happy Thanksgiving Holiday!

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Sanner's Lake IDPA

The stars, planets, and my schedule, aligned this month and I was able to once again shoot the monthly IDPA match at Sanner's Lake in Lexington Park, MD. It was March 2020 when I last attended this fun match. I headed out before dawn to meet my travel companions on a pleasant, warm November morning with much anticipation.

The first stage had us starting at the center of a wall of barrels. Targets were engaged from cover at either end of the wall, followed by two targets found in the open on the way to another wall of barrels, at the last point of cover. I was -7 but this was still my best placing stage.

The match included the 5x5 IDPA Classifier, split into two stages, which our squad shot next. I hadn't shot the classifier for some time, so was happy to at least complete it. I didn't shoot it was well as I would have liked, but it's really moot since I received a match bump to EX a few years ago, and despite the effect of age on eyes and knees, I'm stuck with that ranking. (Unless I lose a limb I am told.)

After the two classifier stages, we moved on to a deceitfully unforgiving stage. Starting on the left side of the stage we engaged an open steel target that revealed a popup paper target. We then moved right along a barrier and engaged targets from cover as they were revealed. Appearing straight forward at the initial glance, the stage was deceptive in that many of the shots were restricted by barrels and non-threat targets. There were a fair number of hits on non-threats and high points down recorded. As I was shooting I saw a non-threat move as I hit it's stick, but at least did get the shoot through score on the intended target.

The last stage we shot was the most complex of the morning, with numerous shooting positions and targets hidden among the props. And as fate would have it, I was to be the first shooter. Starting with hands on the center barrel, the first two targets were found to the right. Moving left and slightly forward, several targets were visible. We then progressed down the center "hallway."

As we processed to the center of the stage more targets appeared to the left, and to the right, including a steel popper and a partially exposed head-only target. We were told the head target was initially planned to be a swinger activated by the steel, the prop wasn't working so it was changed to a static target during set up. Advancing further forward, we saw some open targets before moving to shoot the last target from a hard lean around the left side of the wall. I found all the targets and had almost all -0 hits. Turns out in my haste, I dropped one shot into the "hard cover" black on an early target for my only points down on the stage.

I enjoyed the match and seeing friends, despite the two hour drive time each way. I ended up 22nd of 51 Overall, and 7th of 17 in SSP. We finished shooting before noon, and our first stop on the way home was to do some whiskey shopping at the local liquor store. The free enterprise stores in Maryland often offer selections not available in our more socialist-themed State stores in Virginia. I found a couple fun bourbons to bring home. After a stop for lunch, the day was complete except for the drive home. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Smoking on the Danube

Last month we enjoyed seven day cruise on the Danube River that included ports of call in Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. It was an amazing experience with beautiful sights, amazing food, and fun people. The conversations with people who lived much their lives under Communist rule were enlightening, and refreshing compared to the naiveté spouted by the left here at home. I knew setting out the schedule would be hectic, and I wasn't sure about the opportunity to enjoy cigars along the way. I did pack plenty, just in case

I did manage to find time to relax with a cigar on several occasions, usually in the evening after dinner. Nights on the sundeck were cool, breezy, and dark due to low lighting. Sort of like my deck at home in the fall. One afternoon we elected to stay onboard and relax rather than tour, so I immediately retired to the top deck and enjoyed the beautiful view and a fine cigar. 

Early in the trip I happened to mention having a cigar when talking to a couple we had just met. The husband's eyes lit up and I offered that he was welcome to join in. We enjoyed a couple of late night smokes. It's a testament to the cigar culture that strangers become friends quickly. We've exchanged contact info and I look forward to catching up on future travels.

I didn't get the opportunity to visit any cigar shops, like I did in Ireland. Most of the stores I saw were small stalls selling mostly cigarettes. The only smoking-related shopping I did was to pick up another disposable lighter. Not quite your typical souvenir.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Warming Up On A Cool Fall Evening

One a recent cool fall evening I broke out the only A. Smith Bowman whiskey I’ve not previously tried, at least to my memory, the Isaac Bowman Port Barrel Finished Bourbon. This lapse despite living local and even working next door to the distillery for many years. The bourbon has been hard to find for most of this year due to a bottle shortage. During a recent tour of the distillery I asked what was happening with all the Isaac Bowman sitting in port barrels and was told they had stock ready and it had been transferred to stainless steel tanks to hold. The bottle supply issue seems to have been resolved as all the Bowman bourbons have appeared in quantity at the ABC stores the last couple weeks.

The bourbon has some sweet fruit on the nose. The flavor profile is less sweet with dark fruit and a refined port influence. At 92 Proof, it's easy on the palate and has a clean, short finish with a faint lingering fruitiness. I’ve not always enjoyed port finished bourbons but this is a winner IMO. For $40 this could be a staple on the shelf. 

I chose one of my favorite cigar blends to enjoy with the bourbon, the Crowned Heads La Carême. I enjoy this cigar in all it's variations, but the 2021 Limited Edition Belicosos Finos is especially nice. (And now only three left in the box.)

The cigar is medium bodied with creamy, sweet notes. There's a touch of cedar spice to add some complexity and it's one that seems to go especially well with bourbons of all sorts.

Warm days followed by cool nights . . . that's Fall in Virginia. It takes me a while to adapt to smoking in the cold, using the propane and electric heaters. At first, I'll just forgo the pleasure, but as the cool evenings become more regular, the choice must be made. I've finally broken out one of the heaters. After burning off the dust, it provided just the touch to ward off the chill. And the bourbon didn't hurt either.