Friday, June 30, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: It's Bourbon Time

What will I do this weekend?  You needn't ask.

Have a great weekend.


Range Outing

Whenever I drive over to the range it's a bit of a gamble if at least one of the two pistol bays will be open. Last week I was shut out when I got there, and other factors prevented a return attempt. This week my luck was much better. 

This outing was not all that different than previous ones in activity. The 'stand and shoot two shots' rule limit the variety of drills beyond varying distance and aim point. However, there's always the joy of the simple diversion of shooting so it's not all bad. Coincidently I happened to see a video of me shooting at last weekend's IDPA match and, among other faults, noticed a proclivity to not having my gun up and aiming when I arrive at a shooting position. I'll have to work on fixing that in a dry fire movement rather than at the range.

I fired the majority of my shots from the 10 yard line. My intent was concentrating on trigger press, and ease in gathering brass at the end. Various combinations of head and body shots from the draw used up the first 80 rounds fired.

I only load a 2 or 3 magazines with just 10 rounds at a time in order to slow down consumption, and to not fatigue my finger too quickly. Despite that, I started noticing some drift after a bit. So I moved to extra slow drills. I had told myself last weekend I wanted to do bit of practice at longer distance so I hung a fresh target at 35 yards. I only fired 10 rounds at that distance since I was walking down range every 2 shots to check the results. There's still work be done, but all shots made the -1 zone at worse.

Back to 10 yards for a 10 shot round shooting strong hand only. That was followed by 10 weak hand only shots at 7 yards.  

The results were better than I had actually expected. Certainly nothing I generally see in matches, although my SHO shooting has admittedly improved in recent months. A few more outings like this would be a confidence booster at least.

Too soon the fun was over and it was time to pick up brass and return to my day job. Now I begin looking forward to the next outing.


Thursday, June 29, 2023

Afternoon Cocktails and Smokes

One of our regular weekend pleasures during the warmer months is spending a few hours on the deck enjoying the sun and just being outdoors. Our property is wooded so we enjoy an abundance of birds and other wildlife. Sunday is generally a day of relaxation, perhaps after some light yard work. On a recent Sunday afternoon the time included Rye Old Fashioneds while we nibbled some snacks. I also smoked an Oliva Serie V Lancero

The Old Fashioned was made with Sazerac 6 Year Rye and some Backstrap syrup from J.H. Bards Spirit Company. The flavoring syrup is great for a really quick preparation while the cigar is waiting. The Rye add a little extra spice to the sweet drink.

There is no shortage of Oliva Serie V reports in these Musings. It's a ubiquitous cigar in my humidor due to being a consistently well-made and flavorful smoke. I enjoy smoking the occasional Lancero, and the frequency of that pleasure seems to be increasing of late.

The lancero vitola add a touch of elegance, and generally notches up the flavor profile a bit over the more common vitolas. The narrow, long shape does often add some peculiarities to the smoking process, requiring a bit more attention. Often the cost is slightly more than the same cigar in another vitola due to the extra skill and time required to handcraft a well made product.

The Oliva Series V Lancero had none of those added quirks. The burn remained strong and consistent throughout. I was a bit concerned as I had only acquired the cigars the past week. I normally give new additions at least a month in my humidor before lighting up. There were no issues. It's also a quite reasonably priced stick. 

On all fronts, a most enjoyable afternoon.


Wednesday, June 28, 2023

A Patron Saint for Cigar Smokers

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.


Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Saturday Desserts - Pastry, Bourbon, Cigars

While I was enjoying a day of shooting, Colleen was enjoying her love of cooking and baking at home. Hers is a passion of which I am the grateful beneficiary. The day's project was Cardamom Buns. The pastries are flavored with freshly ground cardamom, cinnamon, dark cocoa, black pepper, and sugar and twirled and swirled into a pinwheel. After dinner we enjoyed them still warm from the oven.

Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed mine with a cigar and bourbon. In actuality, I did finish the pastry before lighting up. The Cardamom Buns had a nice golden glaze over the finely spiced pastry. While enjoying the treats, we both noted that they reminded us of some of the pastries we had enjoyed last fall at cafés in Budapest. A tasty treat that invokes memories of a fun trip brings the pleasure full circle.

The bourbon pour for the trio of desserts was Maker's Mark Wood Finishing Series FAE-02. The FAE-02 expression is the fall 2021 release that's part of the distillery's Wood Finishing Series. Spicy oak, caramel, citrus rind, and leather are the predominate notes. When I first opened the bottle in 2021 I thought it a little harsh. However, upon examination a year and a half later, the profile seems a lot more balanced and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Perhaps the sweet pastry, or just a different mood, brightened it up.

The Foundation El Güeqüense Huaco is a cigar I've mentioned very recently. I thought the notes of cocoa, espresso, and creamy chocolate provided a well balanced side to the bourbon, and even a few crumbs of the bun I picked off my plate.

It was an extremely relaxing repast providing refreshment and relaxation after the tiring morning on the range. To my delight, we had another serving heated up and enjoyed after Mass on Sunday with coffee.


Monday, June 26, 2023

Cavalier IDPA June Match

All the week prior to Saturday's IDPA match at Cavalier, the weekend weather forecast was looking ominous. It was expected to be a rainy weekend the followed a rainy week. As luck would have it, the weather on Saturday morning was quite pleasant, if even a bit warm. I squadded with the usual group enjoyed the camaraderie as usual.

Our shooting started with all targets engaged from low cover, which means at least one knee on the ground while shooting. With my well-worn knees, that meant two knees on the ground. The kindly stage designer provided padding for the ground. We faced six targets place around walls and non-threats. The more limber and "long" shooters were able to get by with just some good hard leans, but being less limber than in my younger days, I did resort to a bit of shuffling. Despite that, I was pleased, shocked actually, to finish 8th out of the 39 shooters on that opening stage.

On stage 2 we started facing a single target in the open, and shot it while backing to the first position of cover. Moving across the bay we passed a surprise target exposed around the barrels. After engaging a couple targets through a narrow opening, the shooter retreated up range to shoot from the end of a wall, before advancing to find the final target via a hard lean around the wall. I only dropped one point while shooting on the move past the surprise target. I saw that -1 hole but kept moving, figuring it would take more time to back up and make it up.

The next stage was a quick standards drill with just two targets shot in two strings. String 1 was two shots on a single target, freestyle. The second string required two shots on the other target, using strong hand only. The stage pretty much mirrored the two-shot string shooting I am allowed at my local range. I ended up dropping one point on the SHO shooting for a shot I called as breaking the perf, but the SO deemed outside the perf. Such is the game.

Stage 4 was a moderately simple stage, but one that seemed to inspire a lot of "strategic planning." There were just six targets spread across a mirrored layout on either side. The shooter started at either of the two front fault lines. The basic plan started with engaging two targets before moving downrange. Moving forward there were two more targets found by pieing around the end of a wall. Then by stepping to the center fault line a center target was engaged. This was the mirrored half of a target engaged at the first position. Stepping to the next point of cover exposed the final target. If the shooter began the stage on the opposite side, the moves were the same, but in the opposite direction.

There was much discussion among shooters during the walk through, discussing and debating how to run the stage. From my hearing it seemed like the plans involved more movement. I actually began to think I must have missed something, but no matter how many times I reviewed the course, I couldn't see anything different. The first shooter shot the simple plan and there were many exclamations of surprise over the straightforward plan. It's easy to get caught looking at the trees and missing the forest. I believe that in the end, everyone ran the same pattern, from either side. This was my second best overall stage, though many moved through it faster. 

The next course of fire featured seven targets with varying hard cover and non-threat limitations lined up along the right side of the bay. At the end of that run, there was a low target behind barrels and another that was finally seen at the end behind more barrels. I tried to shoot the stage on the move, slowly, but was having trouble keeping the gun smooth and making good hits, some of which I think had to do with my hands being very sweaty and not keeping the gun well-gripped, so a lot of extra shots were taken. In the end I was three points down, but took a long time to do it. In the response to the good-natured ribbing from my friends, I simply remarked, "I came to shoot so I'm doing a lot of it!"

The last stage took us to a part of the gun range I had never seen. I've shot IDPA at the club for 11 years, and did some USPSA there before that. The PCC side matches, and some USPSA larger matches apparently make use of this very large bay. Getting to it required about an 8 minute walk. As we started I wondered why some shooters were leaving their range bags and carts behind and simply going with the gun and ammo on their person. Now I know, although I tend to carry a lot of "just in on case" stuff and I would probably feel odd leaving it behind.

The setup used was one that some shooters had seen at the previous weekend's USPSA match, with some modification for IDPA. The spread out course of fire started with us seated, and the loaded firearm on a barrel in front of us. There were three targets to engage at the starting position. We moved to the left to shoot two targets from two points of cover. Then moving across to the right, there was first a lone target from cover, before heading to the end. At that point, one could either move up range for a target or continue across to hit two targets. Most shooters went to the end, then finished at the lone target. The two targets engaged from the far right included a far target at 25 yards or so. I was first to go on the stage and shot the two right most target from around the end of the wall, instead of over the low wall. Why? I just don't know. It makes no sense in hindsight. I was six points down, with 4 coming on that far target. I'll have to practice more at 25+ yards.

It so happened that curiosity prevailed in the morning and I had activated the Map My Walk app on my phone upon arriving. The map of the day gave an interesting perspective on the 2.26 miles walked that day.

All the various stops of the morning, parking, registration, safe area, and the shooting bays are distinguishable. The "blobs" in each bay represent mainly to trips to reset the stages after shooters. I cannot be accused of not helping to paste targets!

It was a morning of fun and interesting stages, and socializing with good folks. Overall I was very pleased with my performance, and have no big regrets. Another interesting aspect of the match was that 26 of of the 39 shooters were shooting Carry Optics. Only six of us "dinosaurs" were shooting Stock Service Pistols (SSP).  It seems iron sights and stock pistols are no longer in fashion. I often remark that iron sights are the stick shift of the gun world. I suspect I'll be forced into CO some day, if not for the cool factor, certainly by aging vision.


Friday, June 23, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Weekend Forecast

It goes without saying.

That's one forecast sure to be accurate.


A New Bourbon Cultivates A New Cigar Smoker

It's not unusual to hear stories about a special whiskey or bourbon that "converts" a drinker to the spirit. There's often an "introductory bottle" kept by aficionados to offer a new drinker. But I had not heard of a bourbon that would help help someone discover the joys of cigar smoking. Until I saw it happen.

We have a good friend of the family with whom we frequently enjoy good food and beverage. It also was this friend who introduced me to scotch many years ago. Since my tastes turned more to bourbon, I've in turn introduced him to that particular spirit. He is an occasional pipe smoker, but had no interest in cigars.

During a visit a few weeks ago, I offered him a taste of the Old Elk Cigar Cut Bourbon that I had recently picked up. The new expression from Old Elk is a blend of bourbons finished in sherry, armagnac, port and cognac casks. The new blend is said to be designed to pair with a fine cigar. While we were enjoying the drink, my friend remarked, "If you found a cigar to pair with this, I'd have a cigar.

Challenge accepted! Although pairing cigars and bourbon is generally not too hard, I decided to give it serious thought. This could be a "make or break" deal. One evening I was enjoying a Rocky Patel LB1 when inspiration struck. Although I was pairing it with a different whiskey at the time, the LB1 hit me as the perfect candidate.

The Rocky Patel LB1 is a medium bodied smoke with easy notes of coffee, cedar, earthiness, with just a touch of spice. There's a muted sweetness in the finish. It's flavorful enough to be interesting and would stand up to the sweet aspect of the bourbon. It would not be too bold for the new smoker, and at the same time flavorful enough to keep the interest going. The 5 1/2" x 50 Robusto size would be perfect.

A few weeks later we sat down to enjoy the cigar and bourbon.  Needless to say it was a hit. I now have new smoking companion. We've since enjoyed a different cigar and bourbon pairing. Since we frequently get together for food and drink, I suspect cigars will also be a regular thing. All thanks to a good bourbon.


Thursday, June 22, 2023

Whither Summer?

Science tells us that summer began for us on June 21 at 5:13 AM EDT.  The thermostat on the wall said otherwise. Cool, windy, and rainy conditions greeted the morning and remained throughout the day.

Despite it being the longest day of the year, though we never saw the sun, it was necessary to fire up the supplemental heat. That provided warmth on the outside, while the John J. Bowman Single Barrel and a Tatualje T110 Tuxtla took care warming my insides. Needs must as they say.


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Morning Range Time

It's a been a few weeks since I escaped to the range for trigger time diversions. I drove to the park last week, but found no open bays and had to leave unfulfilled. With daily rain predicted for the week, Tuesday morning offered a brief opportunity before the expected afternoon rain. Fortunately my schedule supported heading out before lunch. 

When I went to the safe to retrieve the firearm, my old SIG P226 was looking out at me and seemed to be begging for attention. So I grabbed it as well, along with the appropriate magazines. It would be interesting to shoot the DA/SA pistol after several years of shooting the P320 double action (DAO) design exclusively.

The skies threatened rain and I thought perhaps that would keep range attendance down, but when I arrived the rifle range and one pistol bay were already occupied. I grabbed the second pistol location, just in time, and I saw several vehicles drive in and exit soon afterwards, their turn to be disappointed in finding no open bays. The bay was muddy from the previous day's rain but useable.

I started out with the P226. I had reverted the sights on that gun to the stock SIG Night Sights a while back, and the big fat front post was a shock after using narrow fiber optics sights for so long. Despite the post covering a large target area, even at 10 yards, surprisingly I had no issues with it or the double to single action trigger press. Granted I was shooting slowly, but the resulting tight grouping was pleasing to see.

After a short bit, I switched to the P320 that I planned to shoot at this weekend's IDPA match. But I also gave thought to mixing it up and shooting the P226 this weekend, fat sights and all. I just may do that later this summer.

The rest of the time was spent in a mixture of shots at the 10, 15 and 25 yard positions. The two closer distances included head shots in the mix. I'm still trying to get more consistency dialed in, especially when rapidly moving from body to head. 

Alas, before my container of ammo had run out I received an urgent message from a team member who was having anxiety over some configuration changes I requested from the group. A screen share was in order so I finished shooting and packed for home. At least that was of benefit for another shooter who arrived and was able to claim the bay I was leaving.


Monday, June 19, 2023

Father’s Day Breakfast - For Dinner

Due to other commitments out of the area, Sunday’s Father’s Day celebrations were muted. However, after those other things were done, there was time for a dinner treat. My choice for this dinner was breakfast! We knew of a 24 hour diner in the area, which meant they served a 24 hour breakfast!

I’d been looking forward to this all day. Sunny side up eggs, scrapple, grits, and toast. I enjoyed all the social media posts from friends of burgers and steaks, but I was in no way disappointed in my dinner!

And we located a superb ice cream parlor. So, dessert too!


Father's Day Padrón and Knob Creek

We had "other than Father's Day" plans for Sunday, scheduled by a group we will travel with this fall. So my main Father's Day treat was had on Saturday. The first order of business for the day though was a visit to the hardware store for some screen door parts and plants to brighten the deck, and the subsequent chores that trip facilitated. It was late afternoon when we settled in to enjoy drinks and conversation.

Side thought: Why do so many organizations think nothing of scheduling non-related events or meetings on Father's Day? To do so on Mother's Day is generally unthinkable.

Colleen asked for an Old Fashioned which I prepared using Four Roses Single Barrel this time. The celebratory cigar had been decided upon in advance -- Padrón Family Reserve No. 45 Maduro. My bourbon selection required careful perusing of the shelves, before I finally picked the Knob Creek 12 Year Bourbon

The Padrón cigar was an indulgence well worth the price of admission. The 6" x 52 Nicaraguan puro features a chocolate brown, toothy wrapper. The cigar has an extreme box-pressed shape with very sharp corners. Even the three bands when removed kept their rectangular shape. This particular stick seemed be a looser pack than usual but the cigar kept a razor sharp burn line and stayed well lit through its entirety. Indeed I enjoyed it right down to the finger-threatening nub, after about 70 minutes of smoking time.

Padrón Family Reserve Maduro is a full-strength, full-bodied cigar. It kicks off with hefty spice, but that's quickly moderated by the rich notes of creamy chocolate, espresso, and caramel sweetness.  My sinuses rarely ever detect the flavors in the retrohale which so many cigar reviewers seem to prize. This was one of the few cigars that I have ever detected any spice in the retrohale. The flavors remain rich and consistent, with that underlying pepper spice remaining, but no bitterness, right to the end. 

The bottle of Knob Creek 12 Year Bourbon was one I happened to see at a VA ABC allocated drop last year. I've enjoyed it often. At 100 proof it's easy to sip and full of bourbon goodness. It certainly made a fitting pairing for the cigar. Rich notes of oak, vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon great the palate. The flavor profile is creamy with little heat and a long mouth coating finish. I found myself taking repeated sips at a quick pace as it was such an enjoyable libation. Of course the cigar was long enough to support a refill of my glass.

Besides the aforementioned Old Fashioned Colleen was enjoying, our celebration included homemade Orange Rosemary Shortbreads. These were one of the treats Colleen prepared for a gathering of friends a couple nights prior. Sadly there were only a couple left to enjoy. The savory citrus delights, traditionally served with afternoon tea, made an exceptional partnership with the bourbon, both served neat and as a cocktail. 

The afternoon weather could not have been anymore pleasant. The temperature in the mid-80's, low humidity, and a slight breeze had us sitting on the deck well past finishing both the cigar and the drinks. Enjoying the late afternoon and evening with a fine cigar, good drink, and the company of the woman who made me a father, was the perfect way to celebrate the occasion.


Saturday, June 17, 2023

A Weather Delay, Green River Bourbon, & Tatuaje Cigar

The Father's Day weekend got off to an odd start. Well, maybe not so odd for Virginia. Windy and cloudy most of the morning, before the sun actually appeared mid-afternoon. That meant it was time to squeeze in cutting the grass. That overdue chore done, and dinner consumed, it was time to think about the evening's entertainment. Then . . . 

The sky darkened, the wind howled, and the house was pelted by hail. Half inch hail, and lots of it. The storm went on for about 20 minutes, after which I discovered the furniture on the screen porch was all wet due to the blowing rain. Fortunately the love seat along the house had been covered with pillows, and while they were wet, they protected the seat cushions. After dumping the water from an ashtray I was in business.

I looked in the humidor for a larger cigar since I was planning a longer, relaxing evening and picked the Tatuaje Avion 13 Broadleaf Double Perfecto. The  6 7/8" x 52 stick would give a couple hours of pleasure. The Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler creates delightful notes of sweet chocolate, coffee, later adding a bit of cocoa mild pepper. I've had these cigars in my humidor for a couple years and there's still one left. It's worthy of restocking.

The Green River Kentucky Bourbon was a picked up in Maryland a few weeks ago. I saw it on the shelf and recollected hearing the name, but knew nothing about it. The $36.99 price tag made it an easy chance to take. According to the distillery, the 90 proof bourbon is aged a minimum of five years.  The flavor profile is pretty much what is to be expected in a classic bourbon -- caramel, oak, some brown sugar, all well-balanced.  There's a bit of spice heat on the tongue but it fades quickly and is not felt in the swallow.

This is a truly enjoyable bourbon. It's an easy sipper, it's flavorful, with enough body to be interesting. The price point makes it suitable as an everyday sipper, but it should not be relegated to the bottom shelf. I don't have too many under $40 bourbons on my shelves, and Green River proves good whiskey does not have to be expensive. The distillery is one of the oldest in Kentucky. It was renovated and brought back to life in 2014 after being abandoned for years. This is a brand I'll keep an eye out for when next shopping out of state. I don't expect this bottle to be around here long.


Friday, June 16, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Father's Day Weekend

Also known as "dad will grill dinner" day.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads. 


Thursday, June 15, 2023

Why Peanuts Dance in Beer

A Brazilian researcher at Germany's Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich became fascinated by peanuts "dancing" beer and decided to put his skills to work solving the mystery. 

Luiz Pereira led a team of researchers in Germany, Britain, and France who examined how roasted, shelled peanuts fared in a lager-style beer,
Because the peanuts are denser than the beer, they first sink down to the bottom of the glass.

Then each peanut becomes what is called a "nucleation site". Hundreds of tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide form on their surface, acting as buoys to drag them upwards.

"The bubbles prefer to form on the peanuts rather than on the glass walls," explained Pereira, a researcher at Germany's Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

When the bubbles reach the surface, they burst.

The peanuts then dive down before being propelled up again by freshly formed bubbles, in a dance that continues until the carbon dioxide runs out—or someone interrupts by drinking the beer.

Pereira says the research will continue as the scientists "play with the characteristics of different peanuts and different beers."  Great work if you can get it!

See "Scientists explain why peanuts 'dance' when dropped in beer" for more on the science behind dancing peanuts.


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Bourbon and Our Flag

It's a great day to be an American. Officially it's Flag Day, the day we celebrate our Nation's flag and all it represents. Unofficially, it's National Bourbon Day, the day we celebrate a truly American beverage. It's a pairing made in America.

On June 14, 1777 the Continental Congress resolved "That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."  Our first flag has evolved over time to the one we proudly fly today with 13 stripes and 50 stars. It's the most striking of any Nation's flag in my opinion. Many misguided people in the US today claim our flag is a racist or oppressive symbol. Ironically, a majority of those making those accusations, would hardly be as free, if even allowed to live, under the governments they so ignorantly wish to emulate. 

National Bourbon Day came later. It was on May 4, 1964 that Congress proclaimed Bourbon to be Congress declares bourbon a “distinctive product of the United States.” I am not sure when the holiday was proclaimed, nor how the day came to be celebrated on June 14. Tradition, or legend, holds that May 4 was the first time bourbon was distilled, but who would really know? It most likely had more to do with distillery marketing than history. There is certainly an argument that could be be made for joining it with Flag Day given its connection to our Nation.

So fly the flag and enjoy a sip of bourbon today, and be thankful for both.


Tuesday, June 13, 2023

It's Time for a Cigar and a Beer

Most of my cigar enjoyment on weekends is carried out with the accompaniment of a good bourbon. This Saturday I had the desire to enjoy a refreshing beer instead. Our dinner the evening before included delicious steamed, spiced shrimp. I had picked up some Hardywood Pils from Hardywood Park Brewery to go along with that treat. There were still a few bottles left so I broke them out with a Rocky Patel Aged Limited and Rare (ALR) Second Edition in the Bala vitola.

It's no secret that I am a Rocky Patel fan, further evidenced but the abundance of Rocky Patel branded accessories on my deck. The ALR 2nd Edition is one at the top of my list. The Bala vitola was a special edition created to fill a limited edition humidor of 100 cigars released by Rocky Patel. I was able to acquire a few of the smokes at a local Rocky Patel event, attended by Rocky and Nish Patel, last winter.

The Bala is a 5 3/4" x (approximately) 58 Perfecto with a soft box-press. The cigar has a mostly closed foot and narrows towards the cap end. As with all the ALR Second Edition smokes, the Bala features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, a Honduran binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua. The cigar is packaged in a shiny embossed gold band. There's also a very large band for marketing covering almost the entire cigar, which was removed prior to any pictures.

The A.L.R. Second Edition kicks off with a pepper kick that mellows with time. Flavorful notes of espresso and cocoa follow, with a touch of sweetness in the finish. The cigar has excellent construction and the burn razor sharp.

With the cigar lit, I cracked open the Pilsner. The Hardywood Pils pours a bright golden yellow with a thick fluffy head. The German-Style Pilsner has a crisp, moderately bitter profile. Grassiness, caramel sweetness, and a hint of pepper all join in for an excellent, classic Pilsner profile. 

The cigar and beer pairing was very enjoyable, and I was compelled to open another bottle of the Hardwood brew. I've also made a note to pick up more to have on hand as a refreshing libation this summer.


Monday, June 12, 2023

Opening the 'My Cigar Pack' May Package

A few years ago, I subscribed to the My Cigar Pack monthly shipment. I opted for the full bodied profile selection offered at the time. The subscription makeup was later simplified from three options to two, offering a Mild - Medium choice and a Medium - Full choice for the five cigars sent each month. Initially that was fine as as I enjoy a range from medium to full, depending on the circumstances. After a few months I decided to pause the subscription for a bit and pick it up later. This was for several reasons -- I had an abundance of cigars on hand from many sources, winter was approaching when opportunities for smoking would decrease, and a few of the selections I received had ventured into the mild flavor spectrum, which generally I do not enjoy. After a short time, the subscription faded from my mind.

Fast forward to May of this year. My Cigar Club sent out a reminder that I had a paused subscription, and alerting me that they were changing their backend systems. I would need to resume or cancel the subscription. Now reminded, I opted to resume for a bit to see what new cigars would come. It's always fun to try something new out of the blue.

The May package finally arrived this week and it was opened with much anticipation. The five cigars are sealed in a humidified bag with a Boveda pack, packed in a well cushioned box. The package also included a six page booklet describing the cigars, as well as the selections that were included in other subscription offerings.

The shipment elicited excitement yet some let down. The selection is great and I look forward to enjoying all of them. Sadly three of the five are not new to me, even though they are all cigars I do enjoy. The first one out of the pack was the Crowned Heads Le Carême, a cigar I smoke frequently in a variety of vitolas. Then there's the Crown Heads Las Calaveras LE 2022. I've enjoyed the Las Calaveras series each year when they are released, the 2022 release included. Also included was the Black Works Studio NBK, another one I pick up often. The final two selections, Black Trading Company Santa Muerta and a My Cigar Pack exclusive Quantum Habano are indeed new to my humidor. 

As far as the quality of the cigars included, there is nothing to be disappointed about whatsoever. I can attest from experience that at least three of the smokes are excellent. The value of cigars received exceeds the cost of the subscription easily. My anticipation was in the adventure of something new that I might not pick to try. Of course, that's perhaps not a fair metric on my part given the variety of smokes I regularly seek out. No worries, these will definitely be enjoyed. Now I'll eagerly look forward to what shows up in my mailbox next month.


Sunday, June 11, 2023

Comments Found. Logic Missing.

Wow. Sunday morning while enjoying my coffee on the deck, I was clicking around the comments section of the Blogger admin page. I brought up the spam section in the comments page and there I saw one of my own replies to a reader's comment. "That's odd," I thought, especially since I commented as the logged in owner of these Musings. I get an email anytime someone comments, at least that's what is configured in the settings. The more I scrolled through pages and pages of "spam" comments, I came across more of the same. Most of the spam comments are indeed spam, but I saw a lot my own replies, and even a bunch of comments from friends -- all awaiting release.

It's logic only a Google engineer would understand. Why they send an email stating a comment been posted, but make no mention that they randomly held it for moderation or flagged it as spam? Or why would my own comments to my posts would require moderation -- by me!?!

I've released a bunch of those mis-flagged comments, but I also finally deleted all the old stuff. I'll pay closer attention going forward. My apologies to those who took the time to comment, but never saw their comments posted.


Friday, June 9, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Spending Priorities

The struggle is real.  And at the same time, it's no struggle at all.

I hope your decisions are easy this weekend.


Crowned Heads Le Carême Pastelitos 2023 Limited Edition

The Le Carême from by Crowned Heads is one of my favorite smokes. I always have it in the humidor, and currently I've got three different vitolas on hand. The Le Carême Pastelitos 2023 Limited Edition 2023 is the latest addition to that lineup.

This is a unique shape for the blend. Not only is it a short 4" x 54 robusto, the cigar is round, rather than the box press most usually seen. There is an also a decorative pigtail end cap. The limited Belicosos Finos is a somewhat annual round torpedo I've mused on previously. Like all the Le Carême, Pastelitos features a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper with an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and fillers from Nicaragua. 

The pre-release marketing noted the Pastelitos has a short smoke suitable for those cold winter smoking sessions. The cigars did not ship to retailers until April. I've smoked two since they arrived, but I will surely have plenty left come next winter. I placed an online order pre-release last February for a five pack, and then at the end of March placed the same order, forgetting I had an order already waiting. It was a nice surprise when I received two shipping notices on the same day in April!

The Pastelitos flavor profile is similar to the other in the line. It's that medium body and creamy, sweet notes, with a touch of cedar that makes it pair so with bourbon or coffee. The smoking time was around 40 minutes.

For the aforementioned bourbon pairing, I grabbed the bottle of Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch. This is a  tame five year bourbon that comes in at 88 proof. There's a mild balanced flavor profile with raisins, brown sugar, and charred wood. The finish as a touch of heat and lingers, more so than expected in the low proof. 

I'll try to resist, and leave the remaining Pastelitos to rest in my humidor until next winter when I am desiring of a quick 30-45 minute smoke. Should I fail, you'll read about it here. 


Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Wild Turkey Rare Breed and El Güegüense

This was my consolation after returning home from shooting on Saturday. It had been a long day, with some disappointment, so I retired for a languorous evening on the deck with a large cigar and a classic bourbon pour, or two. 

Wild Turkey Rare Breed is a ubiquitous bourbon that readily available. At approximately $50 a bottle, it's a good value at 116.8 proof. There's no age statement on the bottle, but the Wild Turkey website lists it as a blend of 6, 8, and 12-year-old bourbons. The bourbon kicks off with some sweet notes, caramel, and a hint of citrus fruit. A good bit of spiciness then heats up the mouth, but is never overpowering. The bourbon warmth lingers a bit. I recently attended a bourbon, cigar, and smoked meat charity fundraiser when I recommended the Rare Breed to a number of gentlemen present who were not familiar with the array of bourbons offered. The suggestion was enjoyed by all but one friend who found it too hot. (In fact, his rejection inspired my choice this evening as I needed to doublecheck myself!)

The Foundation El Elgüegüense selection was from a five pack I obtained a while back. I've smoked this blend in both the Robusto and Lancero vitolas. This 6" x 56 Toro Huaco was a size I don't recall smoking previously. When I was placing the order I must have focused on the word "Toro" in the label and didn't look at the details. Toro can mean anything, but generally they tend to be around 6" in length, with an average range gauge of 48 - 52. For this evening the heftier cigar was a fit.  The Nicaraguan puro has a Corojo 99 wrapper and binder, and the binder is a blend of Corojo 99 and Criollo 98 tobaccos. 

This particular stick had a small amount of give to the pack, with an airy draw that I did touch up a few times when the smoke seemed to be slowing. The burn line stayed pretty even. The flavorful cigar brings a pleasurable blend of cocoa, espresso, and nuts. A creamy chocolate mixed with pepper joins in as well. In any vitola, El Elgüegüense does not disappoint.

After the nearly two hour smoke, and the flavorful bourbon, I was sufficiently "consoled" 'after the day of shooting and travel.


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Sanner's Lake IDPA Match

After a restless night due to the previous day's injury, I arose early to head to Lexington Park, MD to shoot the monthly Sanner's Lake IDPA match. I picked up my traveling companions mid-way and continued on the trip in good company. Fortunately the injury only revealed itself strongly when enter and exiting the car, but had minimal effect on mobility while shooting.

One of the attraction of this match, besides the courses of fire, is that they efficiently run 50-60 shooters through six stages in about 2 1/2 hours. It's still a long day with the approximately 2 hour drive each way, plus the fun stops to shop for whiskey and to eat lunch.

As usual, the stages were interesting and enjoyed with a friendly and fun group of shooters. This was the first time I had shot the Full Size SIG P320 in a match for a couple years. I had to constantly remind myself I had 15 rounds allowed per magazine, thus 16 rounds when starting with a loaded gun, per SSP division rules, as opposed to the 10 allowed in CCP that I had been shooting. This especially came in to play on the couple stages that had an exact 16 round minimum shot count. That meant added pressure for a "perfect" stage with no make up shots and no reloading. 

The first stage we shot started facing up range center stage. Eight targets, from three shooting positions, all requiring two hits each, except the last which need two hits on the body and one to the head -- something to remembered at the end. I was two points down for the stage.

Next up was another eight target stage involving weaving around walls, before heading down range to engage four quick targets behind some barrels. It was another good stage finished with just three points down.

The third course our squad shot was a Standards exercise involving SHO and WHO shooting. It started with the gun downloaded to six rounds. The symmetrical stage had three targets on each side, two of them partially covered by non-threat targets. I was actually very pleased with the results on this stages I finished with three points down -- 1 while SHO, and 2 shooting WHO, and placed 2nd in my division. 

Our next stage started with the shooter seated on a stool facing up range. Shooting positions with a variety of target distances and availability followed. Though I enjoyed the stage very much, I found I had miscalled a head shot, mistaking a loose paster for a bullet hole, along with a another miss on a far target. 

The day was warming up now, but still quite pleasant as we moved on to our next to last stage. Here, after shooting a few targets around cover, we advanced downrange engaging surprise targets in the open as we passed. Shooting while moving towards the back gave the opportunity for some quick shooting action. However one had to be attentive, as there was actually four surprise targets, one of which was a non-threat. The repairs on that target revealed that a few previous shooters had been lulled into engaging it. Sadly it turned out one of my first shots from cover had gone through the edge of the barrel before striking the target, counting as a miss. Often one can hear when a round strikes one of the plastic barrel, but this one I had missed noting. On the bright side, I was told that my two shots on the further target could be covered with one paster. Small wins.

Finally, the last stage of the day. We started seated behind a table centered on the stage. Two barrels were placde in front of the table, with the unload gun on one and all magazines on the second. After retrieving the firearm and ammo, and moving between and opening in the wall, there was a target on either side to be engaged in the open. The shooter then moved either left or right along a wall of barrels. From both sides there were matching arrays of two steel poppers, and two paper targets to be engaged. This was the stage where my brain disengaged, and a lack of proper stage prep showed. The center array of targets needed a hard lean around each end of the wall to shoot one half of the pair. I totally forgot to shoot those center two targets! This meant 20 points down for the misses, plus the two PE's for not engaging the targets. That put a dark cast over the morning. Fortunately it was the last stage, and I didn't have that weighing on my mind for the entire match.

Admittedly, and perhaps not surprising, I beat myself up for a bit afterwards. However, it is part of the game. As a friend is fond of saying, "it's not like I was going to win the Lexus anyway." I also came to realize as I put together my thoughts on the match and the day, the majority of the match was not a disappointment. Much of the day I found some improvements gained even from the recent limited practice time, also noting that many of the points down were due to competition induced rushing, giving me some match-specific adjustments to be made in the future. 

After the match, our trio headed to the local purveyor of adult beverages, my goal specifically to hunt for interesting bourbons not available under the limitations of Virginia's government monopoly. This trip did not result in anything especially rare, but I did add a couple of new bottles to my shelves to enjoy in the future.

Our excursions always include a stop for lunch after shooting. The trip we ventured slightly off the route to visit a local BBQ restaurant. There isn't much that smoked meat won't make better, and this stop was particularly satisfying. I suspect it may be added to our list of regular stops.

Despite a few disappointments, the day was exceptionally pleasant. The drive on rural roads on a bright day, challenging shooting, tasty food, and most importantly, the company of good friends, all combined to make for a remarkably enjoyable day.


Monday, June 5, 2023

Bourbon and Cigar Pain Reliever

I was looking forward to a relaxing Friday evening, but first I had to repair the blade drive belt on the lawn tractor, and then mow the grass. After about an hour, much of which was spent trying to recall the correct route of the serpentine belt, the fix was done. But not before I stretched or twisted my back in such a way to suffer a very painful muscle pull in my side. My body doesn't flex like it did when I was younger! Riding the mower afterwards was an exercise in suffering. Offer it up they say.

The evening was spent in much discomfort. However, the bourbon and cigar did provide some alleviation. I poured some of the Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond I had picked up a few weeks ago, along with a Powstanie Habano

The Powstanie in both the Habano and Broadleaf blends make frequent appearances on these Musings. I had the pleasure of meeting brand owner Mike Szczepankiewicz a couple weeks ago at Hogshead Cigar Lounge when he made the worldwide release of the two cigars in a new Corona Gorda vitola. The Robusto being enjoyed was one of the party favors from that evening. The Habano wrapper covers an Indonesian binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers. There's a mild spice blended with creamy chocolate and woody notes. The medium bodied smoke goes well with a smooth bourbon.

The Henry McKenna 10 Year BiB is a bourbon I don't get to enjoy as frequently as in years past. It used to be an inexpensive $25-$30 bottle. The bourbon won Best in Show Whiskey at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, that combined with the general boom in bourbon popularity has caused the price to double, if not more. In addition, the Virginia ABC labeled it an "allocated" bourbon, and as such is only available at their random drops. The artificially manipulated supply as a store and typically sells out in the first rush of shoppers after the announcement.  I find it a nice, well-balanced, 100 proof bourbon with a classic caramel, oak, and vanilla sweetness.

Despite the attempt at relaxation, the night was restless. I was also shooting in the morning and would deal with some lingering pain for that. That's a story for later.


Saturday, June 3, 2023

Afternoon Range Trip

This week's trip to the range got off to a false start. I arrived at the range and started unloading my gear. That's when I realized I had neglected to pack the range box that held the supplies needed to hang the targets --staplers, binder clips, etc. I drove back home, grabbed what I needed, and hoped the range would still be clear. I was in luck, only one of the two bays was occupied.

I spent about an hour working on simple drills with one and two shot strings, per the limits imposed by the range rules. I did force myself to shoot a bunch of strong hand and weak hand only drills. I also shot a lot of 25 yard shots. All shooting this day was to the IDPA practice target.

It was a fun afternoon of trigger time and I enjoyed just being at the range. Building some consistency in trigger control and sight alignment is always a good thing, especially relating it to the distance at which I was shooting. Overall it was a satisfying exercise.

Now, if only IDPA matches involved no timer, no cover, no movement, nobody watching... But they wouldn't be very much fun would they?


Friday, June 2, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Shopping Self Control

When it comes to buying cigars and bourbon, sometimes my impulse is greater than my common sense.

But is that really a bad thing? Enjoy the weekend.


Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Bride and Frankenstein

I've been enjoying reading the classic work Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Admittedly, my most vivid recollection of the Frankenstein tale is of the Mel Brooks movie Young Frankenstein. A comedic comedy that never gets old, the movie is not the classic story penned by Shelley.

On a recent evening, I grabbed a cigar from my humidor to enjoy while reading on the deck. Coincidently, I was drawn to one of the few remaining cigars I have from the 2021 Tatuaje Monster Mash Series release. The cigar I happened to grab was the vitola called Bride. The Tatuaje Bride is named in reference to the character from the 1935 film, Bride of Frankenstein, based on the character created by Shelley. What could be a better pairing?

The Monster Mash Bride is a 5 5/8 x 49 with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper covering Nicaraguan binder and filler. The medium bodied smoke has enjoyable notes of coffee, cream, and hint of sweet fruit. 

Shelley's Frankenstein never finished his creation of the bride. But she lived on in the movies, and now provides inspiration for an enjoyable cigars.