Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Bulleit Bourbon Single Barrel and a Smoke

Bulleit Bourbon is one of those staples that has a mostly permanent space on my shelves. The standard 90 proof bottle is great for sipping neat or in cocktails, and it can be easily found, in Virginia at least, for around $35. A while back, VA ABC had a limited release drop on a Saturday morning of single barrel bourbons and ryes from various distilleries. I found this Bulleit Bourbon Single Barrel on the store shelf the day after the drop. In talking to the store clerk I learned that Virginia received several hundred bottles to distribute, rather than the typical a few dozen bottles for the entire state.

The bourbon checks in at 104 proof. The release was promoted as being picked for, not by, VA ABC. The plentiful stock would indicate the release was not all bottled from the same single barrel, however there are no batch or barrel numbers listed on the label. The aroma is much like the standard expression, giving off classic bourbon notes of caramel and oak. The flavor presents vanilla, maple, caramel, all with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. The long lingering finish of spice and sweetness was quite agreeable. I was immediately impressed with the richness of the flavors. It reminded me of the standard Bulleit bourbon but brighter and with a ramped up flavor profile.

To confirm my thoughts, I poured tasters of the regular Bulleit and also of the 10 year version. These are all bourbons I find very enjoyable. In side by side tastings, they all share very similar flavor profiles, with small, but noticeable, differences. The 91.2 proof 10 year old exhibited the most muted flavors of the three. There was a bit more oak aspect, but overall the bourbon seemed milder and lingered on the palate for less time. The standard and single barrel expressions were remarkably similar in flavors present, but the single barrel is much brighter and enhanced. The finish also remained around longer. Twice the flavor at (nearly) twice the price, and worth it in my opinion. None of this lessened my opinion of the other Bulleit bourbons. 

I chose a cigar with which I was wholly unfamiliar to smoke with the Bulleit Single Barrel. The Tobacco Tactical Dead Conqueror Alexander the Great Maduro was a selection in the June My Cigar Pack shipment. The cigar is a collaboration between Tobacco Tactical and My Cigar Pack, and may have been a one time release. Information on the cigar is limited. The 6 x 52 Toro features a very dark chocolate San Andrés wrapper and Domican binder and fillers. There is also a Corojo wrapper version.

The Dead Conqueror is medium bodied with notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and nuts. There is some spiciness to the smoke but the whole flavor profile is quite balanced, although somewhat muted. I guess this one goes to further disprove the false adage that the darker a cigar the more bitter and full flavored it will be. The same misconception is also frequently repeated regarding beer. I had expected the cigar to be more intensely flavored, and was somewhat surprised that it turned out to be more reserved. 

I was extremely pleased with the Bulleit Single Barrel purchase. In fact, while writing these notes I saw that my local ABC still has stock. Though tempted to pick up another, I think I'll now seek out other Bulleit single barrel picks during my travels. I had lower expectations for the Dead Conqueror smoke, but was pleasantly surprised to enjoy it so much. I do have one other, along with a couple in the Corojo version. Whether they will become available in the future is in question.


Monday, October 2, 2023

Italy: Tuscano Cigars

During our two week visit to southern Italy, I kept a casual eye out for cigar shops. I had brought along a few cigars to smoke, but not enough to last the trip. I also hoped to find a few Cuban cigars I was interested in trying. Although tobacco stores were ubiquitous wherever we went, actual retailers of fine cigars were rare. 

Throughout the country, the Tabaccheria, or “tabacchi," were ubiquitous and found every few blocks at a minumum. In these typically stall-like stores, a variety of tobacco products are sold. Rolling and pipe tobacco, "e-cigarettes," and standard cigarettes are very popular. There are selections of Italian cigars, most of which I am unfamiliar with. The most common were the ones from Tuscano, a name I had heard in the past at least. I frequently saw men walking through the towns with these rustic sticks in hand.

Toscanos are "charoot" type cigars made in Tuscany. Think Clint Eastwood in the old "spaghetti westerns" and you'll know the cigar. They are rough rolled, consisting of a wrapper, that doubles as the binder, and filler leaves. The tobaccos used are fermented Kentucky tobaccos grown in Italy. The slender cigars are wider in the middle and taper toward the ends. Traditionally they are cut in half and smoked, although after my first one, I skipped that step and smoked them "whole." The cigars are dry and do not require humidification. They are packaged 5 to a box.

The first one I tried was Toscano Classico. The approximately 6 x 38 stick has the strong aroma of a smokey campfire. I expected a harsh experience, but it was more of a medium bodied smoke and easy to smoke. The flavor was reminiscent of smoky BBQ and semi-sweet chocolate. My initial Toscano pairing was with an Aperal Spritz, a classic Italian afternoon aperitif, and some Amaretti di Loreto almond cookies. The combo made for an enjoyable afternoon after a morning of sightseeing. The cigar left behind a persistent smoked wood flavor in the mouth.

I also picked up a box of Tuscano Antico when I had some time to kill one afternoon in Rome. I smoked it in the plaza just outside of the Vatican while waiting for our group to assemble. (Smoking is prohibited within the Vatican City State.) These were described as having stronger pepper notes. The one I smoked was less sweet than the Classico and I found it somewhat bitter. 

Having smoked the cigar supply I had packed, and failing to find a place to restock by the end of our trip, I stuck with Tuscanos the last few days of the trip. I had a fun "Italian" pairing on one of the last evenings, consisting of a Tuscano Classica and Birra Moretti Italian-brewed beer. The cool beer was very refreshing on a hot and humid Rome evening. 

During our last day in Italy I found the Fincato La Casa del Habano in Rome selling both Cuban and other cigars, although with an extremely sparse inventory. Alas being the end of the trip I had no time to pick any up to smoke.


Friday, September 29, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Choices

It was probably a Friday.

Enjoy your weekend. We will not judge you.


Veritas Three Blends and Horse Soldier Reserve Bourbon

I was looking for a high proof, full flavored bourbon to enjoy with a cigar after a long day of driving recently. A bottle of Horse Soldier Bourbon seemed the perfect choice. 

Horse Soldier Reserve is the distillery's barrel strength expression. The nose is strong with dark caramel, sweet maple, along with hints of vanilla and fruit. Even as the glass sat next to me on the table I could smell the bourbon goodness wafting up, the aromatics enhanced by the 124 proof. The flavor profile carries charred wood, dark fruit, molasses, and some cinnamon. I get a late fruit note in the finish. There is a bit of lingering heat that remains in balance. I should really pour this one more often, especially with a robust cigar. I posted more information about Horse Soldier bourbon in a previous post.

The cigar for the evening was the Veritas Three Blends. I was given one of these a couple years ago and enjoyed it. It's been a smoke I've been wanting to go back to. I found the Three Blends, as well as a couple others from Veritas, at the cigar lounge recently.

The cigar has a partial box pressed shape. The foot end of the Three Blends is box pressed, and the cigar transitions to a standard round shape towards the cap. The 6 x 54 cigar also grabs your attention due to the tri-colored wrapper. It is made of Sun Grown Ecuadorian Habano, Habano Maduro, and Connecticut leaves. The binder is Mexican San Andrés and the filler is a mix of tobaccos from Jalapa, Ometepe, Condega and Esteli. The roll is a little rough around the edges but the cigar is well filled and burned flawlessly. Given the unique shape and the complex wrapper, it must be a challenging cigar to create.

Three Blends is a full flavored cigar producing strong pepper right out of the gate. As the smoke progresses, the flavor mix adds espresso, wood, and nuts. The pepper remains but the other flavors claim equal billing. There's some vanilla sweetness that shows itself in time. I found this to be a flavorful and enjoyable smoke.

The robust flavors of both the bourbon and the cigar to played well together. The generous flavor array offered by the tobaccos were not overwhelmed one bit by the strong bourbon. It's a pairing I look forward to repeating.


Thursday, September 28, 2023

St. Wenceslaus, Patron Saint of Brewers

Originally posted September 28, 2012.

Today is the feast day of St. Wenceslaus, who is regarded as a patron Saint of Czech brewers.
St. Wenceslaus, duke of Bohemia, was born about the year 907 at Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). His father was killed in battle when he was young, leaving the kingdom to be ruled by his pagan mother. Wenceslaus was educated by his grandmother, Ludmilla, also a saint. She taught him to be a Christian and to be a good king. She was killed by pagan nobles before she saw him king, but she left him with a deep committment to the Christian faith. 
Throughout his life he preserved his virginity unblemished. As duke he was a father to his subjects, generous toward orphans, widows, and the poor. On his own shoulders he frequently carried wood to the houses of the needy. He often attended the funerals of the poor, ransomed captives, and visited those suffering in prison. He was filled with a deep reverence toward the clergy; with his own hands he sowed the wheat for making altar breads and pressed the grapes for the wine used in the Mass. During winter he would visit the churches barefoot through snow and ice, frequently leaving behind bloody footprints. 
Wenceslaus was eighteen years old when he succeeded his father to the throne. Without regard for the opposition, he worked in close cooperation with the Church to convert his pagan country. He ended the persecution of Christians, built churches and brought back exiled priests. As king he gave an example of a devout life and of great Christian charity, with his people calling him "Good King" of Bohemia. 
His brother Boleslaus, however, turned to paganism. One day he invited Wenceslaus to his house for a banquet. The next morning, on September 28, 929, as Wenceslaus was on the way to Mass, Boleslaus struck him down at the door of the church. Before he died, Wenceslaus forgave his brother and asked God's mercy for his soul. Although he was killed for political reasons, he is listed as a martyr since the dispute arose over his faith. This king, martyred at the age of twenty-two, is the national hero and patron of the Czech Republic. He is the first Slav to be canonized.
According to, the Saint's protection of local hops earned him much regard.
Because Bohemian hops were so valued, Wenceslas ordered the death penalty for anyone caught exporting the cuttings and obviously endeared himself to the local hop growers and brewers. He became the patron saint of Bohemia and Czechoslovakia and his crown became the symbol of nationalism for the Czechs. By extension he became a patron saint of Czech brewers.
King Wenceslaus is the inspiration for the Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslas.

So let's raise a glass of fine beer to the Good King, Saint Wenceslaus.


Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Italy: A Cigar and a Eucharistic Procession

We recently returned from a two week pilgrimage in Italy. Visiting historical and religious sites in Naples, San Giovanni Rotundo, Lanciano, Assisi, Rome, among others was a wonderful and joyful experience. Besides the beautiful churches and amazing history, we also enjoyed great food and drink, and even had time for cigars on occasion. 

Once such smoking occasion was in San Giovanni Rotundo, the home town of Saint Padre Pio. When we stepped outside after dinner I noticed the hotel's outdoor dining area had "Vietato fumare" signs posted -- some of the rare no smoking posters we saw during the entire trip. Our bus driver happened by and we asked him where we could smoke. He looked at us like we were crazy and waved his arms around, stating, "Outside." That was the situation almost everywhere. If an outdoor dinner area didn't have ashtrays on the tables, they'd generally bring you one if asked. 

We opted to stroll and smoke. We had visited San Giovanni Rotundo fourteen years ago, and although the town had grown and expanded exponentially, we still recalled our way around the old original section.

As walked by the Basilica where the Saint had lived, we heard the distinctive sound of a thurible being swung coming from inside the church. We realized a Eucharist Procession was taking place and the people were exiting the building onto the plaza in front. We stopped our stroll and knelt in adoration until the procession reentered the church. Coincidentally, during our first visit to San Giovanni Rotundo 14 years ago, we happened upon a huge procession as well during a festival. 

Although we had enjoyed cigars after some dinners earlier in the trip, I happened to joke to the priest friend with us that this could be the inaugural smoke of our informal Saint Pope Pius X smoking group. We took it as Divine Providence that the procession began as we arrived with our cigars in front the basilica. 

There would be many cigars and other adventures during our trip. Some of those will be the subject of later Musings.


Monday, September 25, 2023

Foundation El Güegüense with an Octoberfest Märzen

Sometimes you just want a big cigar and a beer. The El Güegüense Toro Huaco from Foundation Cigars is a hefty 6 x 56 cigar that fills the bill. It's a great candidate to enjoy on a warm afternoon of sipping beers. The Nicaraguan puro has a Corojo 99 wrapper and binder, and the binder is a blend of Corojo 99 and Criollo 98 tobaccos. A chocolate brown wrapper is somewhat bumpy with the rough inner leaves seemingly trying to escape. Despite a rough appearance, the oily wrapper held everything together and the cigar performed without issue. This is a medium bodied cigar. A blend of cocoa, espresso, sweet chocolate, nuts, accented with along mild pepper spice combined for a complex and flavorful smoke. 

I look forward each fall to the Ocktoberfest beers that many breweries release, even if they do show up in the summer. In especially enjoy the Märzen style beers over the more grain forward "fest beer" versions. Bell's Brewing Octoberfest is one that's generally easy to find.

The beer pours a coppery orange color with a thick and persistent white foamy head. The aroma of caramel and malt great the nose. A malt forward flavor profile is balanced with biscuit and caramel sweetness. It worked quit well with the chocolate and espresso notes in the cigar.

The umlaut accented names in this pairing may have been a coincidence, but in a sense, it was a sign of a pairing made to happen. 


Friday, September 22, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Buying Whiskey vs. Drinking Whiskey

The struggle is real.

Time to get to work on that.


A Sweet Pairing - Carrillo Pledge and Barrell Batch #33

For this pairing I pulled down a half empty bottle that's been untouched of late. It's been idle, somewhat because it's not readily available in Virginia, but mostly because I buy more bourbon than I drink. It's actually quite rare to finish off a bottle unless it's a regular mixer. Given the ever shrinking shelf space, I may have to make a concerted effort to reverse that trend.

Barrel Craft Spirits sources whiskeys from around the world, and expertly crafts new blends that are released as new batches, on a regular basis. Batch #33 was released in mid-2022. The bourbon was well-received by bourbon fans almost immediately. The 116.6 proof bourbon is a blend of  5, 6, 7, and 9 year old barrels from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. It carries a 5 year age statement based on the age of the youngest component.

The aroma warms the nose with notes of cinnamon and fruit pie. Sipping brings enhanced baking spices and fruit sweetness into the mix. There's a moderate warmth to the profile but it's balanced by a pleasing sweetness. The flavorful finish is long, coating the tongue with persistent sweet fruit and caramel notes.

I've been enjoying a few different cigars from E.P. Carrillo of late. This time I grabbed a E. P. Carrillo Pledge Prequel. This is a 5 x 50 Robusto wrapped in a US grown Cuban-seed tobacco called Connecticut Habano. The binder hails from Ecuador and the filler tobaccos are Nicaraguan. The soft box pressed stick is adorned with distinctive blue and gold labels. The wrapper leaf is dark chocolate in color and lightly mottled.

The flavor profile runs in the medium to full bodied range. There is some intitial spice and pepper. The main flavors are black coffee, oak and a sweet tobacco flavor. The burn throughout was even giving plenty of flavorful smoke. If we can put any stock in cigar of the year rankings, it should be noted that Cigar Aficionado ranked the Pledge Prequel the #1 cigar of 2020. Thanks to that, this one was very hard to find for a while, but seems to be widely available once again. Despite the popularity, it remains a reasonably priced cigar, with the consistent high quality one expects from E. P. Carrillo.

I enjoyed this pairing. The sweetness left on the palate from the bourbon and the sweet coffee flavors of the cigar were very complimentary. Either one is a delicious treat by itself, and together they are even more delightful.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select With E.P. Carrillo Allegiance

Recently I've been going back through some of the whiskeys on my shelves that have not been opened for a while. Sometimes they are ones that didn't excite me, or I just didn't like, when they were first opened. Others are simply ones that have been overlooked in the crowd. Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

The 375ml bottle was picked up in spring of 2022. I drank a bit, and then it slowly got pushed back and lower on the shelves as new bottles made their way in. Frankly, at this point I didn't recall too much about it. 

The 94 proof whiskey is reminiscent of the classic Jack Daniel's Old No. 7. There's a mild aroma of fresh baked bread, caramel, and a faint alcohol burn in the nose. Upon tasting, the "Tennessee Whiskey" charcoal filtered softness is there as expected. It's a milder, softer profile than the proof number might indicate. Sweet caramel, oak, and butter cookie come to mind. Although I don't have any No. 7 on hand for comparison, and have not tasted it in a while, this strikes me as a slightly enhanced Old No. 7. Of course, that's to be expected as these single barrels are the source of the classic whiskey's blend.

As for the cigar for this weekend afternoon pairing, I grabbed a E. P. Carrillo Allegiance Sidekick. The 5 x 50 stick is covered in a mottled, dark chocolate brown Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper. The cigar has a rustic appearance. The binder and fillers are comprised of Nicaraguan tobaccos. Looking at the cigar I wonder if I have overstepped the whiskey. The smoke starts off with a kick of cedar and pepper. As it warms, the flavor picks up bitter cocoa. It's a gritty, earthy smoke, unlike what the Jack Daniel's presented.

I spent some time taking fast sips of the drink and puffs on the cigar, varying which came first. I was trying to decide how they worked together. It was not a bust, but this was not a star pairing either. I went into the tasting with some apprehension. Sometimes there's just happens to be a cigar I feel like smoking and a whiskey I want to (re)explore, so I go forth nonetheless. The Jack Daniel's did not hit my usual preferences in a whiskey, while the cigar did. In any case, it was an afternoon spent sipping and smoking, so what's not to love?


Monday, September 18, 2023

Gold Leaf Adorned Cavalier Genève BII Viso Jalapa

This unique cigar came in my July Luxury Cigar Club pack. I have been enjoying this subscription for a few months. I usually receive cigars that are unknown to me, be they new or limited releases, or older varieties not sold any longer. The Cavalier Genève BII Viso Jalapa Robusto Gordo was an interesting inclusion, and a brand I was not familiar with. Especially interesting was the 24-karat gold leaf that adorns the wrapper of the Cavalier Genèva cigar.

I found this to be a fairly bold cigar. The Nicarguan Visa Jalapa tobacco used in the wrapper is described as being similar in flavor to ligero tobaccos, the top leaves of the plant which produce the strongest tobacco used in cigar, though slightly milder. The binder and filler tobaccos are Nicaraguan habano. I could certainly detect the presence the bold leaves upon lighting. Dark chocolate, pepper, and a sharp grassy note made for a full flavored smoke. 

The burn on this particular stick required attention through the first two thirds. One side of the cigar burned substantially slower than the other. I wouldn't call it canoeing in the strictest sense, it was not a narrow line going down the side. Imagine one half of the cigar being coated in flame resistant material. This wreaked havoc with my fixation on an even burn. I managed to ignore the lopsided burn until the difference reached 1 1/4 inches or more before touching up. The ash was quite solid and required effort to knock it off when trying to even the burn. Undoubtably this contributed to the short 45 minute burn from the 5 x 54 stick.

I was very interested in seeing how the smoking through the gold lead would be. Fortunately by that point the burn was progressing evenly.

The gold leaf glowed a bit as the burn hit it, but mostly held on and maintained the diamond shape over the ash. I held the nub as long as I could, barely touching it to my lips for the final light draws.

Despite the burn issues I enjoyed the bold smoke offered by the Cavalier Genève BII Viso Jalapa. It's certainly a cigar I would smoke again. I enjoyed this one simply with some carbonated water. If I acquire more in the future, I'm definitely pouring a strongly flavored bourbon to go along with it.


Friday, September 15, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Irish Humor

A laugh to start the weekend.


Few Bourbon With Fratello Arlequin

I was surprised to find that I haven't reviewed either part of this pairing previously. Both the Few Bourbon and the Fratello Arlequin have often been featured in my Instagram posts. Time to correct that. 

Fratello Arlequin sports a chocolate brown Mexican San Andrés wrapper leaf over a Ecuardoran binder. The filler tobaccos are from Nicaragua and Peru. This one is a 6 1/4 x 54 Toro. (Every time I type Arlequin, my laptop autocorrects it to harlequin. Arlequin is the Spanish word for harlequin. Autocorrect can be annoying.) The cigar is the last one of a bulk purchase made in February 2022 so is well rested.

The medium bodied cigar gives rich notes of earth and cacao. There's roasted coffee and cinnamon coming through as well. As the cigar warms, the flavors picks up a sweeter, creamy aspect that smooths out the whole profile for a very enjoyable smoke.

Few Bourbon is one that seems to get mixed reviews from bourbon fans. It's a younger whiskey, aged less than four years, so still has a few rough edges, but I enjoy it. It's got bread, corn, and vanilla notes, with a fairly intense pepper and cinnamon spice. There's peppery finish is long lasting. 

Few Bourbon drinks a little hotter than expected from the 100 proof. However, I am not sure that's really a bad thing when pairing with a flavorful cigar.


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Georgian Chacha Tasting

Wherever you go in the world, there seems to be specialty alcohol "native" to the region. We once had Arak with a shop owner in Bethlehem who then wanted us to visit the "high end" part of his store. I remember getting a hotel manager in Italy to open his bar after a late arrival to explore Grappa. Most recently we got to try Unicum in Hungary last fall. Though it wasn't "in country" I recently had the chance to try Georgian chacha that was brought back from Georgia (the country not the southern US state.) Our son and his wife and were given a sampler of chacha by their friend who had been stationed there. Knowing I'd be interested, they brought it with them to share during a recent visit.

Chacha is a pomace brandy distilled from the leftover grapes from wine making. The samples in the package were 45% ABV although I read that some natively brewed versions can reach 85%. It can be aged in various woods or flavored with herbs or fruits. Typically served very chilled, the bottles rested in the freezer for a bit before our exploration.

The four varieties in the sampler were Classic Chacha, Oak Aged Chacha, Honey Chacha, and Tarragon Chacha. That was the order in which we tried them. We also had some hastily gathered food pairings based on recommendations on the package.

The classic chacha was accompanied by a thin slice of ginger. The flavor I thought was fairly plain, with lots of the expected raw alcohol burn. A tiny nibble of ginger moderated the flavor. Next up was the Oak Aged variety. This one spent 12 months in oak barrels. The oak influence was strong and it reminded me of the oak notes present in bourbon. The suggested pairing was BBQ and cheese, which we faked with a some homemade sauce dabbed on a cracker with a bit of cheese. The oak aged flavor was definitely my favorite of the options.

The next pour, the honey chacha was perhaps the most mild. It had a sweet honey flavor. I found this one somewhat uninteresting, though my companions seemed to enjoy it the most. Finally it was time to try the tarragon flavored chacham. This was the strongest flavor of the group. And for my tastes, the least enjoyable. The mild licorice flavor was not enticing. Did I mention the beverage was green?  I enjoy tarragon as a seasoning in many dishes, but it did not excite me as a drink flavor. 

I found this an interesting tasting experience. It was fun to explore another regional liquor. Of our group, I think I enjoyed the chacha the most. The rest thought the strong alcoholic beverage was too harsh and not something they'd try again. I on the other I hand would, and am intrigued by some of the other stronger variations I've since read about.


Monday, September 11, 2023

Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye and Rocky Patel A.L.R. 2nd Edition Pairing

I was fortunate enough to win a random drawing in a Facebook Bourbon and Cigar group for a bottle of Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye recently. I had not heard of Buzzard's Roost prior to this event. The Kentucky company sources whiskey and then uses specifically prepared barrels to finish. From the website,
We start by sourcing the best aged whiskey we can find, but the real magic is in our barrels. We use only brand new, 53-gallon white oak barrels that are carefully toasted and very lightly charred. Each one is designed from the ground up to deliver a specific flavor profile.
We work closely with our cooperage to tweak every parameter of the barrel  - from the seasoning to the charring to the development of our custom toast profiles. All of our barrels are unique and proprietary to our company, giving Buzzard’s Roost a truly one-of-a kind flavor. After resting only a few weeks in our new barrels, the whiskey is purposefully transformed and ready for bottling.
The initial batch of Cigar Rye was released in April 2022 to much success, and Batch #2 followed in late 2022. The mash bill consists of 95 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley, and is bottled at 105 proof. Buzzard's Roos uses all #1 char barrels to finish their whiskeys. The light char allows other flavors from the different barrel treatments to be highlighted. For the Cigar Rye, the charred barrels are smoked over aged tobacco leaves.

Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye pours a bright amber brown, viscous liquid. Rye spice and smoke greet the nose. A deeper inhalation picks up a trace of alcohol. Upon sipping, a touch of tobacco smoke hits but very quickly there's a sweet and citrus impression coming through. Caramel and a citrus rye spiciness take the foreground. After the sip, the dry leather and smoke note lingers for a long time. The smoke finish is mild and reminiscent of tobacco and wood.

Since the whiskey was unknown to me, I chose to pair it with a known, old favorite, Rocky Patel Aged Limited Rare 2nd Edition. I select one in the limited edition Bala vitola. The Bala is a 5 3/4 x 58 Perfecto that is widest at the foot. It was created for a special limited humidor from Rocky Patel. I don't own one of the $2,500 humidors, but managed to obtain a few of the cigars at a cigar event attended by Rocky Patel last winter.

The ALR 2 starts out with a bold pepper kick. As the burn progresses the profile is quickly joined by espresso and cocoa. The touch of sweetness that lingers in the finish completes the picture. 

The Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye had a different flavor profile than a lot of finished whiskeys. It wasn't as sweet as a port or rum cask finish. Neither is it a peat smoke finish. The tobacco and smoke flavors of the Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye complimented the similar profile of the cigar. Additionally, it's an enjoyable flavor that does not overwhelm and could just as easily be enjoyed alone, without a cigar. 

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Buy a Priest a Beer Day

September 9 is "International Buy a Priest a Beer Day." This annual holiday serves to remind us that priests are real people who also enjoy a good beverage. This recognition is the brainchild of the folks over at The Catholic Gentlemen.
This festive holiday traces its origins back to the pious deed of St. Hopswald of Aleyard, the first man to buy his priest a beer. The legend goes that St. Hopswald, a master brewer by trade, was a Teutonic pagan who was converted and baptized by a zealous Catholic priest.

One day, St. Hopswald committed a grievous sin. Without wasting a moment, he ran quickly to his priest and confessed. Later that day, as he was particularly enjoying the peace of a clean conscience, St. Hopswald was so filled with gratitude for his priest’s sacramental ministry that he rushed to the rectory and offered to buy his priest a beer.

Okay, if you haven’t figured it out by now, St. Hopswald wasn’t real, but your priest is, and without priestly ministry, getting to heaven would be well nigh impossible!

Believe it or not, priests are real people, and they enjoy socializing over good food and drink as much as anyone. They also have a thankless and difficult job, a job that we couldn’t get to heaven without. Priests are the lifeblood of the Church, and they deserve some appreciation.

Even if you aren't able to buy a round or two for your favorite priest today, raise a pint today in honor of the men who devote their lives to the Church.

The late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI celebrates his 88th birthday.


Friday, September 8, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: The Sad Life of Bread

The things that could have been.


Gatherings: Casual-Fancy Meals to Share

We are always on the lookout for new recipes and food ideas to try. Colleen is as passionate about cooking and baking as I am about cigars and bourbon. As such, there are stacks of cookbooks, recipes, and food related books throughout our home. My role is mostly that of a consumer, while Colleen manages the preparations as well. There's a new book on the table that I expect will contribute to our dining pleasures.

Gatherings: Casual-Fancy Meals to Share is a new addition to the extensive library from America's Test Kitchen. The premise of the book is simple -- themed meals for entertaining friends in your home, with minimal stress. Easy plans for cocktails and appetizers, through the main course, and on to dessert are illustrated.

The book begins with some basic planning tips before getting into the meat (no pun intended) of the book. Each themed meal is presented in an easy to follow guide along with timings and tips. There's a "game plan" for the preparations which could start a few days in advance, all the way up to the hours before your guests arrive. The chefs include numerous options throughout for streamlining or simplifying the process based the situation.

The individual recipes within each organized meal are easily made on their own as well if you simply want to supplement your own plans. There's a handy listing of the recipes by course; drinks, appetizers, main courses, sides, desserts, etc. You can scan the list to mix and match as your tastes, and pantry, warrant.

The book contains numerous color photographs of the dishes. It's an attractive book and one that would make a welcome gift for both budding cooks and new hosts, as well as experienced chefs looking for inspiration. The book sitting in our living room has attracted the attention of visitors.

The publication date for Gatherings: Casual-Fancy Meals to Share is September 19, 2023. It is available for preorder from America's Test Kitchen as well the usual online book sellers.

A copy of this book was provided at no cost by the publisher. This review presents my opinion and is provided without obligation or compensation.


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Teeling Irish Whiskey For A Humid Evening

I was staring at my whiskey shelves recently, comtemplating what I wanted to sip. I focused in on the Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey bottle. This particular bottle was bottled in May of 2016, and my notes say I acquired it in February of 2019. It's been around awhile. Needless to say I don't frequent the Irish whiskey selections I have. Teeling seemed a fitting lighter drink for the humid evening.

Teeling Whiskey makes their Small Batch by individually aging whiskies in used bourbon barrels. The whiskies are then blended and aged for six months in rum casks. Then resulting whiskey is bottled at 46% ABV.

Upon pouring, I was immediately struck by the bright straw yellow color of the beverage. It was a marked change from the brown bourbon I am accustomed to seeing in my usual beverage. The whiskey is mild and subtle but still flavorful. I get notes of caramel and vanilla, with a very light spice. There's a dark, sweet fruit influence as well to add interest. I actually enjoyed the Teeling more than I expected, and it certainly exceeded any dim memory I have of it after so many years.

The Rocky Patel LB1 is a smoke I've been smoking more of recently. The medium bodied cigar has notes of coffee, cedar, earthiness, a touch of spice, and a mild sweetness in the finish. When I took a preview sip of the Teeling Irish Whiskey before picking a cigar, I gravitated right to the LB1 selection as a fit. My instincts were correct and the pairing was spot on. 

The high humidity fortunately did not affect the cigar, but my glass remained wet from dew. After a bit I noticed the label on the bottle was getting soggy. I topped my glass off before taking the bottle inside, increased the speed on the fan, and enjoyed the rest of the smoke.


Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Sunday Cocktails and Oliva Serie V Lancero

This edition of "Sunday Cocktails on the Deck" features a twist on a classic drink, and a "classy" version of a favorite cigar. It's no secret that the Old Fashioned is a go-to cocktail for us. It's quick and easy to make, shows off the flavors we love in bourbons and ryes, and is simple to modify for variety. 

This time we employed Bulleit Bourbon, along with the Backstrap syrup from J.H. Bards. And of course the standard Luxardo cherry. For the twist, I added a slice of the bourbon peaches prepared recently. I also substituted 1/2 ounce of the 2 ounces of bourbon with the Bulleit bourbon syrup that the peaches had been soaking in.

The peach influence was minimal but did give the drink a slightly sweet fruit note. The first version I made used only the peach slice without the bourbon substitute. The result told me the peach-flavored bourbon had the bigger affect on the flavor. In any event, the peach slice made a tasty treat at the finish of the drink.

For this afternoon smoke I selected an Oliva Serie V Lancero. I've posted numerous times about the cigar line. It remains a favorite. I've been purchasing more and more lanceros frequently of late. I find them especially enjoyable with morning coffee or afternoon drinks. It's an elegant vitola to the eye and in the hand. The flavors are typically somewhat enhanced. I was once given good-natured ribbing in a cigar lounge for my "girly cigar" by a friend, who later in the evening had selected a lancero as well. "It looked fun," he explained. Yes, it is.


Monday, September 4, 2023

Jefferson's Aged At Sea and Le Carême Pastelitos

I finally gave in and finished off the last pour of the Jeffferson's Ocean Aged at Sea Bourbon bottle. I had been nursing this release, Voyage 13, as some of the more recent editions, or voyages, appear to have undergone shorter excursions. 

Whether that impression is true or not, the flavors of this one have grown on me. I wasn't as keen on the bottle when I picked it up a few years ago, but after time, it was quite enjoyable. A 90 proof bourbon with notes of brown sugar, caramel, and espresso. Those flavors linger in a long finish, which seems less briny than it did originally. Alas, it's gone now. That not all bad, as a new bottle of something will soon fill it's space on the shelf.

I also succumbed to another of my Le Carême Pastelitos 2023 Limited Edition 2023. I tell myself I am going to save these short smokes for the winter. So far, unsuccessfully. They are also perfect for a quick break, and a small sip of whiskey.

The short 4 x 54 robusto has a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper with an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and fillers from Nicaragua. The Le Carême, in many vitolas and special releases, is one of my favorite smokes. It works with a wide variety of beverages, and there's a size for every smoking situation. There's not much to say that hasn't been said in these Musings already.

The small pour of bourbon and a quick smoke mad a perfect interlude between dinner and late dessert on a warm summer evening.


Friday, September 1, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: It's Time For Solutions

All problems are solvable.

Have a great weekend.


Foundation Olmec Maduro With Maker's Mark 46 Cask Strength

This turned out to be an exceptional pairing. Foundation Cigars Olmec is a newer release from the company. I've had some resting in the humidor for about three weeks and finally could not resist them any longer. The 5 x 50 Robusto has a very dark chocolate San Andrés maduro wrapper. It's nearly black in appearance. The binder and fillers are Nicaraguan. The filler tobaccos are said to be baled and aged for three years after fermentation. The wrapper leaves undergo a low temperature slow fermentation process preserve the oil content and enhance their flavor. It's a very attractive cigar. The gold outlined lettering over black on the band made getting a good photograph difficult. Even just looking at it my eyes couldn't quite get it in focus.

I punched the cap with my new PerfecPunch and Stand™ from PerfecCigar Solutions. This thing makes a nice cut -- I'll have more in a future review. The draw on the cigar was free flowing and produced copious amounts of smoke for the entire duration. I initially felt the cigar might be slightly under packed, but I got an even slow burn and an hour plus smoke from the small cigar. The flavor hit with an initial pepper blast, though it was not overwhelming or unpleasant. Other flavor notes quickly rolled in. Rich espresso and charred meat were the main impressions. Some sweet molasses and dark chocolate made appearances as well. The cigar remained full bodied throughout and never developed any bitterness even smoked down to a hot nub.

Maker's Mark 46 Cask Strength is one that I hadn't been able to find in Virginia for some time. The stores got inventory last May and I had rushed out to grab a bottle. That bottle soon got hidden on the shelf until recently I spied the unbroken wax on top peaking out. Upon remembering that bottle, I knew it had to be enjoyed with the Olmec.

The label is marked Batch 23-02 and 110.1 proof. The liquid inside pours a bright copper orange and immediately releases scents of caramel, cinnamon, and raisons. I think the higher proof contributes to the aromatics being wafted about. The alcohol can be detected on the nose, but it does not burn. 

The flavor of the cask strength bourbon hits the palate full on. It's a sweet mix of brown sugar, caramel, cinnamon, and sweet fruit. There's a "Kentucky hug" going down, but it warms, not burns. I'm struck by the richness of the bourbon. It's powerful though quite palatable. I grabbed a bottle of the standard Maker's 46 to compare. This is the bourbon most often used for cooking and baking in our home. I found it interesting that the flavor lines were comparable, but now all ramped up to a fuller level. Not simply stronger, but richer and brighter. 

Maker's Mark created some confusion when they redid the labels on their products. The No. 46 has always been "finished with ten French oak staves." However, the distiller now prominently displays "French Oak" in gold on the front of the label. I've seen some enthusiasts mistaking it for a new bourbon. It's still the same delicious whiskey it's always been.

The Foundation Olmec and Maker's Mark 46 Cask Strength combination was extremely enjoyable. The two full flavor profiles each manage to stand up to the other. Combining either the bourbon or the cigar with a milder partner would be a disservice and a waste of the milder partner. The Cask Strength 46 is already a regular (when I can find it) on my shelves. I suspect the Olmec will be a humidor regular.


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Bourbon Peaches

It should come as no surprise that random bourbon related recipes show up frequently among my online readings. An article about whiskey peaches showed up recently, on the same day Colleen happened to bring home a batch of fresh peaches from the local farmers market. I decided to claim a few for my own purposes. The directions I found are simple.
Fill containers with pitted, pealed, and slice peaches
Over medium heat, dissolve 1/2 cup of sugar in 1/3 cup water
Remove from heat and whisk 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and approximately 2 1/2 cups bourbon 
Fill jars with bourbon solution until peaches are covered
Top off with bourbon as needed and refrigerate
The listed amounts were for two 24 ounce containers. I filled two 12 ounce jars using three peaches and halved the recipe using the same relative proportions. I used Bulleit Bourbon and naturally treated myself to a sip or two.

After a few days the peaches were well soaked and very tasty. The now peach flavored bourbon juice was quite good as well. We added the finished peaches to some homemade spiced shortbread with whipped cream. This made an enjoyable dessert.

I am very much looking forward to topping some vanilla ice cream with the bourbon peaches. I also will be trying the peach slices as a garnish in an Old Fashioned. In addition the flavored bourbon in the jar can be used for some flavorful summer drinks. It will make a sweet addition to both a cocktail and fresh brewed ice tea. Of course, the peaches are good by themselves, straight from the jar.


Monday, August 28, 2023

Maker's Mark BRT-01 and My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT Pairing

I saw a meme recently that stated "The night before a day off is better than the actual day off." I am not sure about that, but that doesn't mean I don't look forward to Friday evening as much as I do the weekend. Leading up to Friday, my anticipation level was high. Early in the day I had already decided on what the cigar and bourbon pairing would be for the evening. I had even queued up the "albums" I planned to enjoy while smoking. 

I received some My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT cigars just a couple weeks ago. They haven't been resting all that long, but they looked too enticing to ignore any longer. The cigar's description made me confident it would pair well with some Maker's Mark BRT-01. 

My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT selected is a box-pressed 6 x 52 Toro. It sports an oily, caramel colored H-2K-CT Connecticut wrapper, which gives the cigar its name. It's said to be a Cuban-seed strain of tobacco grown in open sunlight and cultivated in the Connecticut River Valley. The binder and fillers are Nicaraguan. The decorative bands and ribbon covering the cigar provide a decorative touch, and just happen to be color coordinated with the bourbon label.

The 90 minute smoke had a pretty consistent flavor throughout. I expected a pepper kick as is so often found with My Father cigars. I found the pepper level to be quite moderate. The flavor had a creamy aspect to it. Vanilla, nuts, caramel, roasted coffee, and a dark fruit note combined for a flavorful smoke. The El Centurion does not disappoint.

The Maker's Mark BRT-01 is one of the 2022 Wood Finishing series releases. The aroma of the amber liquid has baking spices and caramel. Sipping reveals warm notes cinnamon, vanilla, and a fruit sweetness. It makes me think of a freshly embarked apple and peach pie. This is a rich and flavorful drink. The 110 proof makes itself known, but it's not obnoxious about it.

The BRT-01 and Centurion H-2K-CT pairing worked out as well, if not better, than I anticipated. It was a long smoke on a hot and humid evening. However, the somewhat oppressive weather was made quite bearable by the enjoyable flavor combo. 

For those interested, the evening's music included Tinsley Ellis' "Devil May Care" and Walter Trout's "Ride" albums.


Friday, August 25, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Follow Your Dreams

I've been dreaming of the weekend all week. 

Dreams do come true.


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Plasencia Reserva and Sagamore Spirit Sherry Finish Rye

Most of my cigar smoking is solitary. A good cigar and bourbon is my ideal way to wind down and loose the stress of the day. It's also certainly more convenient than driving to a cigar lounge. Of course, enjoying alcoholic beverages is easier when there's no driving involved. While we have frequent house guests, few of them enjoy cigars. 

When a friend does come for the express purpose of smoking and drinking, I usually start out with a small exploratory tasting to decide what to pour. (I'm a believer in sticking with a single choice for an evening, rather that jumping around to different pours.) For a recent occasion, a friend and I settled on Sagamore Spirit Sherry Finish Rye. I find sherry and port finished whiskeys to be very complimentary to most cigars. I selected a Plasencia Reserva Original for our enjoyment. Colleen brought out cheese, crackers, nuts, and grapes to snack on. She's a rye fan, so she joined us on the deck as well. 

Sagamore Spirit is carrying on the Maryland Rye tradition that started before, and resumed after Prohibition. I always think of Pikesville Rye when I think Maryland Rye, but that is now produced in Kentucky by Heaven Hill Distillery. Sagamore Spirit comes from Baltimore's Inner Harbor area, though they do employ sourced distillates. 

This expression consists of a blend of four year old rye that is aged for 18 months in PX Sherry casks. The rye appears a deep burnt orange color in the glass. Aromas of dark fruit like figs, cherries, and raisons greet the nose. The opening sip brings a quick hit of cinnamon. That quickly subsides as the sherry influence on the rye comes to the forefront. The dark sherry flavors come through, with a hint of citrus and rye spice. The 106 proof is evident but not harsh or all-encompassing. I truly like this one and will be sad to see the bottle emptied, which may happen over a shorter timeline than planned. 

The Plasencia Reserva is made with all Nicaraguan tobaccos. The cigar is medium bodied with a rich flavor profile that compliments the sherry influenced rye very well. Espresso, cedar, pepper, dark cherry notes, and some sweet toasted bread combine for an enjoyable pairing. 

The rich flavor of the rye and the cigar prepared us quite well for the BBQ rib dinner that followed.


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

J. H. Bards Port Barrel Finished Bourbon

As mentioned previously, we picked up this J. H. Bards Port Barrel Finished Bourbon during a recent visit to the distillery. I bought the bottle, untasted, on a whim. Well, technically we had been given a taste, but we were drinking pineapple rich Painkillers at the time, so the flavor of the bourbon taster was pretty well overshadowed.

The limited release bourbon is made with four year old bourbon that was further aged in port barrels from the local Beliveau Farms Winery. The aroma is muted and soft, with some sweet notes over the bourbon. At just 80 proof, the bourbon is light on the palate. There's a sweet fruit touch added to the oak and vanilla. The finish is short with some lingering sweetness. Overall, I found the drink to be on the mild side, while still being enjoyable. 

With my initial taste of the bourbon before choosing a cigar told me to pick something on the milder side of the spectrum. I chose the Perdomo Twentieth Anniversary Sun Grown. The cigar is a 5 x 56 stick with a soft box press. It uses all Nicaraguan tobaccos in the blend. The wrapper leaves were aged for over 6 years, and then aged in bourbon barrels for another 14 months. The cigar gives off rich but not overwhelming notes of sweet cream, oak, and cocoa, all touched with a hint of pepper and cedar spice. This cigar is one I frequently pair with ales, and made a good match for the mild flavors of the bourbon.

The pairing was an enjoyable, low key combination. The port finished bourbon would probably not stand up to a more boldly flavored cigar. However, it does also seem like a suitable late evening sipper to be enjoyed alone, without accompaniment.


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

When There's Cigar Lounge at the Brewery

It's been quite a while since I spent an evening sipping good beer and enjoying a cigar at the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge located onsite at 1781 Brewery and Wilderness Run Vineyards. Having beer, wine, and cigars all in one spot makes an excellent outing, but still I most often enjoy my cigars in the convenience of my home. It makes partaking in a few drinks easier as well. I did venture out on a recent weekend evening for a change of scenery.

I enjoy the beers at 1781, especially their porters, dunkleweizens, and stouts. They are well-done, fresh, and pair up very well with cigars. On this evening I selected the Belsnickel Dunkleweizen. This is a low, 4.7% ABV dark wheat beer. The bready wheat and malt flavor has a good balance of sweet and bitter that pairs well with a cigar.

Speaking of old friends, as I was perusing the walk-in humidor I spied a box of La Flor Dominica La Box. I haven't smoked on of these in several years. The La Now is a 6 1/2 x 50 toro with a very dark, oily Brazilian wrapper. Under the beautiful wrapper lies a Mexican San Andrés binder and Dominican fillers. The flavor profile is rich with cocoa, espresso, and sweet nuts. While there's a strong bitter espresso component, it's balanced with a creamy sweetness. It's a full bodied and robust cigar. 

The La Nox and the Belsnickel paired very well. The cool mid 70° temperature, clear night, and friendly conversations added to the fun. Hopefully, there will be more such outings as we move into fall weather in the next couple months.


Monday, August 21, 2023

Feast of Saint Pius X

Repost: I recently mused that Saint Pope Pius X was a fitting patron for cigar smokers. Today, August 21, is this Saint's Feast Day, so I am republishing that post.

Originally published June 28, 2023.

I was perusing the endless internet recently, questioning if there was a Patron Saint dedicated to cigar smoking. I found plenty of information related holy persons who smoked. Catherine de Ricci is referenced as the Patron Saint of the sick people, tobacco, and pipe makers, but no reason is given. Close but no cigar. 

Then I came across a story about Pope Saint Pius X. This is from a reader's letter published by Cigar Aficionado,
Reading of his [Pius X] defense of cigars as not being a vice, I was reminded of a story that a cigar smoking priest of the Diocese of Tulsa, who is now in training for the Vatican diplomatic corps, told me. When he was a seminarian in Rome, he learned that Pius X, who was the pope from 1903 to 1914, called a bishop onto the carpet to reprimand him for his scandalous misbehavior with wine, women and song, and to correct his wrongs patiently.

The pope offered the errant bishop a cigar from the papal humidor on his desk. The bishop declined the offer with the protestation, "I do not have that vice, Your Holiness," to which His Holiness replied, "If cigars were a vice, I would not offer you one, for you have quite enough vices already."

There is no way to verify if the story related is true, or simply an interesting urban legend. However, it is known that Pius X kept a cigar humidor on his desk in the Vatican. (Smoking was allowed in the Holy See until 2002 when John Paul II banned the activity.) Saint Pius X's cigar habit did not keep him from being elevated to sainthood, even if it may not be the reasoning behind it. There is little doubt in my mind that the relaxation provided helped him deal with the stress of his position.

Pope Pius X
It's easy to imagine a cigar in that hand

It's my opinion that Saint Pius X is worthy of invoking by cigar smokers. His feast day is August 21. 

BTW, Regina Cigars offers a Pius X Maduro Selection cigar. I've not tried it yet.


Friday, August 18, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Coping With the Demands of Life

It's what the weekends are made for.


Morning Coffee and Cigar in "The Office"

Even working from home can be a drag if you are stuck inside, staring at a laptop. When the weather is pleasant it's get more bearable. I was sitting outside after the morning walk, enjoying my coffee before before going inside the start the work day. Then I thought, "Why go inside?

I refreshed my coffee, grabbed my laptop, and lit up an Oliva Serie V. The Serie V is one of my favorite smokes with coffee. Since I prefer beverages that are more sweet than bitter when smoking and I generally drink my coffee black, the cigar options are more limited. However the Serie V always works.

The 5 x 50 Robusto provided an enjoyable treat while I worked my way through the overnight emails and reports. A scheduled late morning call ended the time on the porch a little too early. Still it was a wholly satisfying way to kick off the day.