Monday, July 31, 2023

Jefferson's Aged at Sea and Rocky Patel The Edge 20th Anniversary

I decided to revisit a bottle I have not pulled off the shelf in a long time. I noticed it was on getting low and was a good candidate for emptying to make room for (too many) new additions. Jeffferson's Aged at Sea Bourbon presents an interesting spin on the aging process. The Aged at Sea bourbons spend six to eight years in oak barrels which are then placed on a ship to travel the ocean for another six months or more. According to the distillery website, the series is up to 24 "voyages" currently. This particular voyage is #13, leaving Baltimore, traveling both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans with stops in the Galapagos, Singapore, Tahiti, Singapore, the UK, Belgium, and France, among others, having crossed the equator four times.

The profile of the 90 proof bourbon includes brown sugar, caramel, and faint espresso notes. Those flavors linger in a long finish. I've had this bottle for several years and noticed that the brine aspect in both the aroma and flavor I detected previously has diminished somewhat.

The Rocky Patel 20th Anniversary is a line introduced last year to mark the 20th anniversary of The Edge line of cigars. The line has grown to a number of blends and sizes and is marketed as a budget line. The celebratory 20th Anniversary is a new blend featuring a 10 year aged Ecuador Sumatra wrapper, a Honduran Broadleaf binder, with filler tobaccos from Honduras and Panama. This one is a 5 1/2" X 50 Robusto. It is a medium bodied smoke with rich notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and nuts. I've smoked a number of these in both the Robusto and Toro sizes, since the release and have always enjoyed them. Even more so than the various "standard" Edge versions I've had.

In the end, I opted not to completely empty the Jefferson's Ocean, saving one more taste for another day.


Friday, July 28, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Be Prepared

Advice from someone who should know.

Source: AZ Quotes


I Got In Some Range Time

After last weekend's disappointing performance at the Cavalier IDPA match, I was anxious to get to the range and sort out some issues. To that end, I was able to get in some quality trigger time.

It was a sunny and warm day as I raised the red range flag to claim my spot. The smaller of the two pistol bays was occupied so I ended up in the larger, but less muddy bay. This bay is wide and deep, but is mostly grass over the gravel which makes finding brass difficult. 

I started out shooting at 10 yards, with the usual mix of body only shots, head shots, and body/head transition pairs, all in sets of 10. I wasn't seeing shots go wide left, but did notice a few starting to drift to the left side of the -0 circle. I put all my focus on that front sight, and also concentrated on my support hand grip. I could see how I was possibly getting a bit sloppy there. and dropping focus as the trigger was pulled. I put up a fresh target and stepped back to 15 hards to repeat the same drills. Again good results, though a few shots were wide or low, but overall satisfactory. 

I decided to test my concentration further by next shooting from 20 yards. I still had a used target up, but was really only concerned with any hits outside the -0 zone. To my delight, no wayward left shots. Of thirty rounds fired, mostly pairs from the draw, 6 fell outside the -0, and those were center but low. I was happy to see better results.

I also forced myself to do some strong hand only shooting. I've been working on that just about every range trip as it comes up frequently in matches. I did not try support hand shooting this time.

About midway through my practice session, a truck pulled up as I was reloading magazines. I figured I'd give up the range for the new arrival. Then I saw the range officer badge, and immediately wondered what I had done wrong! I had heard the person in the other bay shooting faster, with longer strings of fire than I had been doing. It didn't seem overly fast to me, but there's no actual defined standard. Then I realized this was that same person. Well, the rules do state that the definition of rapid fire is up to the range officer on duty. Turns out the gentleman just wanted to chat. We did so for awhile, which gave me a short break anyway.

As I often state, range practice can help, but is no indicator of match performance. I need walls, barrels, and other obstacles, as well as movement. All forbidden here. Nonetheless, I'll hopefully get back to the range another time or two before the next match. Knowing that the capability is still there can only be a boost. Some regular practice can't hurt either.


Thursday, July 27, 2023

Whiskey Wednesday: Barrel Vantage Bourbon and Black Label Bishops Blend

This week's Whiskey Wednesday is brought to us by the letter B. It was unintended but here we are. 

The Bishops Blend Robusto from Black Label Trading Company, was one of my top cigar picks for 2020. It so happens that I still had two from that year tucked away, though number that is now down to one. I've been itching to smoke another for some time and finally gave in to the temptation.

Bishops Blend is an annual limited release. This 2020 edition was created in two sizes, with only 450 boxes of 20 produced in each vitola. The blend is comprised of an Ecuadoran Maduro wrapper, an Ecuador Habano binder, and a mix of Nicaraguan, Connecticut broadleaf, and Pennsylvania broadleaf filler tobaccos. The smoke gives off rich flavors of coffee, cocoa, and some interesting dark fruit notes. There's a bit of pepper in there as well. Despite having rested in my humidor for three years, the flavor is still a flavorful medium to full bodied smoke.

Barrel Bourbon makes their mark on the bourbon market by sourcing, then blending and aging whiskies that have been initially aged in a wide variety of barrels. Vantage is a blend bourbons aged in Mizunara Oak, French Oak, and Toasted American Oak. The whiskies were sourced from distilleries in Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Further details are undisclosed. This bottle is marked at 114.62 proof.

The aroma is a mix of floral and fruit with light oak. There's little evidence of the proof in the nose. The fruit notes continue, along with some cinnamon and a toasted aspect come forward on the palate. The mouthfeel and finish is creamy and buttery with lingering spice. The match up with Bishops Blend is pleasant and well suited.

I've become a fan of the various Barrel blends. The lineup is quite extensive and of limited availability in Virginia. I try to seek them out whenever I can, especially the new annual releases.

Despite the extreme heat warning our area was facing, I still enjoyed the evening repast on the screen porch. The 5" x 48 robusto supplied a 60 minute smoking time which was just right for the outdoor temperature that lingered into the evening.


Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Espresso and Eiroa

A lazy afternoon calls for an elegant cigar and a double espresso. As has been mentioned recently, I've become more enamored with the Lancero cigar vitola of late. The long and slender cigars offer a bit of elegance, and generally a little extra kick in the flavor. Recently I was shopping online looking at different Lancero offerings and came upon the Eiroa Lancero.

The Eiroa Lancero measures 7" x 38 and comes packaged in a tissue paper wrapper hiding most of the cigar. I know it's a marketing thing, but these coverings seem superfluous and serve to mask the natural beauty of the cigar wrapper. But, my forte is not marketing, so what do I know? The Honduran puro has a reddish brown wrapper that features a tiny pigtail on the cap, which I didn't notice until I was cutting it off.

The draw was looser than I prefer. The cigar had a habit of going out with a slightest bit of inattention and I ended up relighting several time. The first few puffs were surprisingly spicy, with the pepper initially shocking my throat and sinuses. A creamy nuttiness joined the mix to buffer the spice a bit. It remained a strongly flavored smoke throughout with an edge of bitterness.

Despite, or maybe because of, the bitter aspect of the cigar, it had no issues standing up the (desired) bitterness of the espresso. I don't add sugar usually to espresso, preferring the strong bitter flavor to the sweet. The treat was a pleasant way to pass a relaxing afternoon.


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

July IDPA at Cavalier

This is something not often seen late July in Virginia . . . low humidity and low temperatures. 

Perhaps the cool weather was the impetus behind the larger than normal crowd for this month's IDPA match at Cavalier Rifle & Pistol Club -- our squad consisted of 18 shooters. 

Most of the stages this day featured plenty of movement, including several that involved backing up while shooting, and most presented many options for shooting. That often also meant lots of discussion during and after the stage brief before shooting the stage. Discussions the went on for too long at times in my opinion. Combined with the larger crowd, it made for a long day, with prolonged interludes between actual shooting.

Stage 1 began with the unloaded firearm on a table mid-stage, and all spare magazines on an adjacent table. After engaging the three open targets in front, the next fault line was slightly back and to the left. The shooter then turned and moved further up range to shoot another target. Advancing from there, two more shooting positions were encountered for a total of eight targets. I finished my first stage 0 points down, getting off to a good start.

Stage 2 had us seated facing up range, with the loaded firearm placed on a barrel at the first shooting position. All spare loading devices were left on another barrel at the next fault line. After retrieving the firearm we engaged the visible targets and moved down range to retrieve any needed magazines and engage the targets as they became visible. Alas, not a lot of joy for me here, with 12 points down and a hit on a non-threat. Sadly, that trend would be repeated at several more stages.

The next course of fire had a simple setup consisting of a long fault line and four targets, two open and two partially blocked by barrels. The first target was shot up close and from retention. After engaging the close target, the partial exposed to the left of the barrel, then the head shot only target, I moved down the line midway to get the tuxedo target behind the right side of the barrel. Four or five shots fired, and most of them sounded like they were hitting a barrel! Despite making both the head shots, I still was 10 points down. I was not shooting very accurately at all, and the fun of shooting was being overtaken by frustration.

Okay, let's try this again. Moving on to Stage 4 we saw a rather complex setup that left a lot of shooters confused. The layout seemed to be a closed course of barrels, walls, and chains with no apparent access to several of the targets. The stage briefing explained that we would need to back out and go around the wall to the up range side of the course stage where we saw the final targets. Even after the explanation there was a frustratingly extended period of discussions on "gaming" the stage.

The brief was actually pretty straightforward once read. The loaded firearm was placed on one barrel with the spare magazines on the nearby barrel, and the shooter was seated on a bench a couple yards back. There was an open target with a non-threat directly on front, and most of the remaining targets were visible with small adjustments from the start point, while some could optionally be shot from the final positions. For two of the final targets minimally the shooter needed to make the circuitous route around the back of the bench and around the wall to the right then advance to a chained off area to shoot the remaining targets. Those last two targets, and any unengaged targets were then shot. The biggest caveat was "muzzle awareness" when making the loop. I shot it with only a slightly better result and heard "down 10" for this stage.

Frustration was still on my mind. In looking at my hits, and as was pointed out by the SO, whatever I was "seeing" had my shots falling directly to the left, in tights groups. I wasn't jerking the trigger to shoot low and left, but it looked like I was sighting to the left.

Stage 5 was another standards type stage. Five targets and three non-threats were lined up 10 yards distant with each requiring one hit. I shot the stage without any makeup shots and was -1. Obviously the issue I've been having is not the gun. Seems to be "the Indian not the arrow" as the expression goes.

To finish the day we made the hike up "the hill" for Stage 6. This was another "running" stage, with lots of walls and many ways to go through the course. Depending on how you went through it different targets had to be shot from different positions due to the shooter being exposed to them. There was again a fair amount of discussion before we actually got to the shooting. And yet again I was 10 points down for the nine targets. 

It was a long but fun day of shooting with good friends. After starting a little after 9:00 AM I was finally in the car to head home at 2:45 PM. I was happy that the temperature never even hit 80° until I was on the way home. While it was not an extraordinary long day, it was longer than typical -- and the ride home was another hour and 20 minutes. 

I was disappointed to have shot so many -1 hits throughout the match. That frustration can easily detract from the fun. Upon review I feel like a lack of applicable practice with few matches to put it into practice doesn't help. I struggled with many of the shots leaning around walls, and was probably thinking too much about the next target. This recent aberration of shooting to the left is frustrating for sure. At least these days, it's just about the fun of shooting and spending the day with good people. Still, better shooting will add to the pleasure. It seems the best solution is to shoot more!


Monday, July 24, 2023

Pasencia Reserva Original, a Hoppy Beer, and a Lost Glass

It's been a rough few months here for our drinkware.  I mentioned previously dropping one of my favorite coffee mugs. Now, a classic beer glass has met its demise, and not without collateral damage.

I had enjoyed a sunny afternoon with a Sierra Nevada Celebration, one from 2020 that had been hiding in the back of the beer fridge. This annual winter release is always anticipated for its fresh hop goodness. They usually don't last long here, but at least the bottle ensured it retained most of its flavor.

The cigar smoked was Plasencia Reserva Original. Being a Nicaraguan puro, (a blend I have been gravitating to of late) I get the expected mash of espresso, cedar, pepper, and dark cherry notes, all softened with some sweet bread. The cigar is medium bodied, but richly flavored. 

I had some trepidation how the cigar and beer would match up, but surprisingly the flavors melded well. This cigar is something one could enjoy in the morning with coffee, or with an after dinner bourbon. And, obviously, a hoppy beer. 

The glassware I used was a promotional glass I had picked up years ago at some "Steal the Glass"event at a local pub. With an easy to hold shape, and embossed with the brewery name on one side, and the Celebration on the other, it makes fun glass to use with a fun beer. (And for added bling in the Instagram shot.) Alas, as I was washing the glass the next day, as I place my hand and sponge into the glass, it shattered. Granted the glass was at least a decade old, but I am always careful to not forcibly shove my hand inside.

The glass was one of a pair, and we've accumulated hundreds of logo glasses over the years, so only a sentimental loss. The sharp edge did make a pretty significant slice on my hand. Actually more of a filet than deep cut. I'll spare you photo of the wound or bloody sink. 

I needed another drink after this.


Friday, July 21, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Stay Healthy With Beer

It's not cheating on your diet if it's nutritious.

Have a guilt-free weekend.


Whiskey Wednesday: Penelope Four Grain Bourbon and Blackbird Quantum Habano

This week's Whiskey Wednesday episode is brought to you a couples days late. Life gets in the way and all that . . .

The evening saw me sitting down to enjoy my break just as a sudden rain storm appeared. Almost without warning the trees started rattling as the heavy rain fell. To my relief not only did the rain fall straight down without blowing into the porch, the temperature rapidly dropped 5 - 7 degrees. It was almost as if it was intended to make the sitting all that more pleasant. Penelope Four Grain Bourbon, a Blackbird Quantum Habano, and book completed the setting.

Penelope Four Grain Bourbon, as the name states, uses four different grains blended in three mash bills, ending up at 75% corn, 15% wheat, 7% rye, and 4% malted barley. The bottle I have sports a 26 month age statement, with the Penelope website claiming 2-3 years of aging. (Labeling requirements default by law to the youngest age included.) The bourbon is a mild 80 proof which makes it an excellent mid-week sipper. 

The pale golden liquid gives off aromas of sweet corn and vanilla. It's a soft aroma and a portent of things to come. Vanilla, oak, butterscotch with just the mildest of heat combine in the sipping. For a young bourbon, it's got a smooth, balanced flavor profile, though very mild and easy. There's a soft, creamy feel in the mouth. Overall, quite pleasant.

The Blackbird Quantum Habano is a My Cigar Pack exclusive made in collaboration with Blackbird Cigar Company that was included in the May monthly subscription. The cigar has a very dark Ecuador Habano wrapper, Mexican binder, with USA and Dominican fillers. Immediately the cigar hits a strong, rich flavor profile. There's dark coffee and wood with some twinge of sweetness. There's an overlying bitterness that makes me think of charred wood or even burnt coffee. I wouldn't describe it as unpleasant, but it is all encompassing. 

The stick started off with a very open draw and copious smoke. About a quarter of the way through after the stick heated up, the draw became constricted and smoke production decreased. I gently squeezed and massaged the area between the band and cap where it felt a little hard, and the cigar opened up full tilt. I only had the one example of the stick, which is often a drawback of the Cigar of the Month subscriptions. I'm somewhat interested in smoking another to see if the flavor experience was the same, but not interested enough to actually order any more.

With the rain quickly passed, and the temperature moderated, I was motivated poor a bit more of the Penelope Bourbon, and enjoy my book a while longer.


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Cigar Scanner App

I confess, I'm a list keeper. Whether it's tracking things I need to do, things I've done, or stuff I have, I've probably made a list. The compact computer we carry in our pocket only serves to fuel that habit. A few years ago I ran across the Cigar Scanner application for my iPhone. It is used to journal both cigars smoked and tracking what's stored in my humidor. The app is supported by Neptune Cigars but the functionality is not limited to purchases from the retailer.

While there are some limitations, discussed later, I find Cigar Scanner to be a useful tool. A while back the app was pulled from the App Store when Apple declared it a threat to the well being of the public. Like most liberal "woke" companies, Apple deems they knew better than their adult users how they should conduct themselves and what legal activities they should participate in. However, in what might be considered an improvement the developers recognized that the iPhone has the ability to convert any web page into an application. When visiting the Cigar Scanner website on an iPhone one is prompted to add Cigar Scanner to the Home Screen. Doing so creates an icon that runs the website as a standalone app. It's actually quite a handy featured for many web-based utilities. Since it's online, the app can be updated by the developer easily and often. It also gives Neptune the ability to provide links to purchase specific cigars directly from links in the app and to advertise promotions.

The My Cigars tab simply shows a running list of cigars smoked. Any cigar is listed just once, so each time it is repeated the entry is updated to the current date. Clicking through to a cigar presents a screen with pictures of the cigar, user ratings, pricing info, a description, and various specifications like manufacturer and leaf stats, all from Neptune's database. There are also places to add personal notes and ratings, as well as smoking time. The pricing information reflects Neptune's price but can be edited as well if you really want to closely track the cost of your hobby. (Sometimes ignorance is bliss.)

The My Humidors tab is where you create lists to track what is in your humidor, with the ability to set up more than one collection if needed. It is here that I get most of my use of Cigar Scanner. All cigars I acquire are added along with the quantity on hand. I have also started tracking where the cigar was purchased in case I happen to want more later. When a cigar is smoked, I reduce the count and also add the entry to My Cigars. I reference the humidor listing frequently since I prefer to give a cigar at least a month, if not more, to rest at "home" before lighting up. Being able to easily check when a cigar was purchased is useful to deter over eagerness.

If a cigar is not found in the Neptune data, it can be added manually. This is a somewhat convoluted process but once figured out is doable. The search screen offers a place to enter the name of the cigar, and if it's not found then shows a link to "Add your cigar." The next screen requires the name to be entered again and then provides a link labeled "Create custom cigars." On the following screen you once again enter the cigar name, along with a required description. There are also pull down menus to enter various other bits of info. A limit is that only a single choice in each stat is selectable. If a cigar has multiple fillers for example, only one of the listed options is useable. As such, and to save time, I simply put all the info I want to save in the description. Clicking "Create" then adds the cigar to your journal.

If you are adding a cigar you've smoked, you are finished. However, if you need to add the new listing to your humidor list there are a few more steps. Selecting the newly added cigar from your journal list will give you the option to then add it to your humidor list. Afterwards you locate the listing on the humidor page and adjust the quantity as needed. The original entry can then be deleted from the journal list if the cigar has not actually been smoked yet. Cigars that are in the database already, even if Neptune doesn't sell them do not require any of these custom steps, and are simply added to any of the lists right from the cigar's description page. Just remember to update any quantity info in the humidor if needed. Cigars that are purchased online from Neptune can be added directly, complete with quantity info, right from the order confirmation page. There is a also a feature to identify a cigar from a picture of the label, but I have had mixed success with that process.

Over the past few years, it seems like more and more cigars are found in the database, even if Neptune doesn't sell them currently. The application is also updated in the background frequently. The lists can be sorted by date, rating, and name. As your lists get longer, scrolling through them can take time as they load. However, there is a Filter by Name feature that can speed it up if you are looking for a specific cigar. Any one time I believe there was a feature to filter other attributes but that is no longer present.

Despite the limitations, I find Cigar Scanner very handy for managing my cigar collection. I am not sure if the convenience of the Home Screen App feature is offered by non-iOS devices, but the web page functionality is the same. 


Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Woodinville Bourbon and E.P. Carrillo Encore Pairing

Sometimes I think I am subconsciously led to pair a cigar and a drink based on aesthetics as much as palate. I wonder if that was the case when I gravitated to the E.P. Carrillo Encore to smoke with the selected bourbon for the evening, Woodinville Straight Bourbon. I had actually tasted the bourbon before selecting the cigar, but in retrospect noticed they looked good together too.

The Woodinville was one of bourbons I've had on my "to try" list for quite a while. I've seen many reviews of the craft distillery and their products are generally well liked. Distribution is limited in Virginia but recently the straight bourbon and rye have shown up in some stores.

Woodinville Whiskey takes the term "craft" seriously. Their grains are all locally sourced, then processed and distilled at their distillery, and then trucked to their storage houses in eastern Washington state. The distillery was awarded “Craft Whiskey of the Year” and “Craft Rye Whiskey of the Year” two years in a row by the American Distilling Institute. 

The straight bourbon comes in at an easy 90 proof, with a sweet fruit and brown sugar aroma. The flavor notes are classic and balanced, with hints of fresh fruit, vanilla, brown sugar, and just a kiss of spice. The mouthfeel is almost creamy, with a short, pleasantly "bourbon" aftertaste. It's quite an enjoyable sipper. At a very reasonable $40 price price point, Woodinville is an everyday drink candidate.

I always like the "old school" bottles used by some producers. The shorter, square bottle of Woodinville, and the craft feel of the label looks good on the shelf.

There are some cigar brands that you just know are going to bring a consistent, prime experience to the table. E.P. Carrillo is one such maker. I don't recall ever having a Carrillo cigar that failed to please. This Encore Majestic selection is a box-pressed 5 3/8" x 52 robusto sized stick, that was selected as Cigar Aficionado's 2018 Cigar of the year.  It's a Nicaraguan puro with tobaccos from three growing regions, Estelí, Condega and Jalapa. The medium body smoke produces consistent flavors of caramel, cedar, a slight sweet candy hint, with a touch of black pepper. The burn was even and strong throughout, requiring not a single touch up. Not only was the color palette a match, but the flavors of the bourbon and the cigar paired up wonderfully.

When it was all said and done, I wished the cigar was just a little larger vitola, and the bourbon glass not empty. But then again, that's generally the case.


Tuesday, July 18, 2023

This Blog Belches Carbon

Hardly a day goes by when we aren't informed that yet another part of life considered by the woke to be racist, or damaging to the climate, or some other imagined offense. Not too surprisingly, even wildfires are deemed both climate damaging AND racist. 

So I wasn't shocked, amused actually, to find out a German "environmentalist" group is warning about the dangers to our health created by blogging.
According to a study by Alexander Wissner-Gross, PhD, physicist at Harvard University and environmental activist, an average website causes about 0.02g (0,0008oz.) of carbon dioxide for each visit. Assuming an average blog gets 15,000 visits a month, it has yearly carbon dioxide emissions of 3,6kg (8lb.). 
Adding to my concern, even this meager blog generated 45,000 visits last month, tripling the alert threshold of the European group.

Thanks to Borepatch for alerting us to the danger.


Monday, July 17, 2023

Sweet Pairings: Angels Envy Rye and Rocky Patel A.L.R. 2

I kicked off my the weekend on the screened porch enjoying a good drink and cigar. So what else is new you ask? You got me, most weekends start that way around here. But repetition does not mean boredom. There's a never ending option for new beverages, cigars, and pairings. 

I had enjoyed a delightful summer meal of spiced steamed shrimp and local corn on the cob. A relaxing dessert drink and smoke was the cap on the day. This night's choice was a Rocky Patel A.L.R 2nd Edition, which is a frequent source of enjoyment for me. And with it, Angels Envy Rye, which was anything but "usual." I found this to be a unique and interesting libation.

Angels Envy finds their niche in finishing aged whiskey using interesting barrels previously holding other beverages. Their standard bourbon is finished in Port barrels. The Angels Envy Rye spends 18 months in Caribbean Rum casks and is bottled at 90 proof. Immediately upon nosing the glass I was struck by memories of Colleen baking gingerbread cookies in the kitchen. Aromas of ginger and molasses come first. Notes of caramel and butterscotch are detected as well. The taste follows suit presenting those same flavors. The influence of the rum casks is strong, and I can almost imagine I'm sipping on a sweet, dark rum. So much so that I found the bottle of Myers rum left over from Christmas baking and poured a taste. Yep, there's rum in that rye. A soft molasses sweetness is left to coat the palate in the finish. Despite the high 95% rye mash bill, there is little of the expected rye spiciness. Angel's Envy Rye is a flavorful dessert in a bottle.

The Rocky Patel A.L.R. (Aged, Limited, Rare) 2nd Edition I selected for this pairing was the 6 1/12" x 52 box-pressed Toro vitola. I chose one of the larger sizes I have in this stick mainly for the long smoke time I was looking for. The 120 minute burn time did not disappoint. 

A Mexican San Andrés wrapper, a Honduran binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua combine to make a very fitting match to the rye. It starts out with a bold pepper kick, which mellows and merges with espresso and cocoa. A touch of sweetness lingers on the tongue in the finish. The whole flavor profile compliments the dark sweetness of the rum influenced rye.

Some pairings work, some pairings excel. This was the latter. Enjoying the approaching dusk, and watching the lightning bugs come out to do their dances added to the experience of a pleasant summer evening.


Sunday, July 16, 2023

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Another Quick Range Trip

I managed to get a late morning escape to the range on Friday. I typically try for mid-week outings, but it didn't work out this week. I timed it just right since as soon as I parked a stream of cars drove in -- 5 minutes later and I would have been shut out.

My plan for the morning was simple draw and shoot -- as required by the range rules. But figured I might as well work on getting that shot, or two, off quickly. I also wanted to try out the new Talon Grips I had put on the gun. The rubber Talon grip previously in place was getting worn and ineffective when my hands were very sweaty at the last match. This time I went with their Pro version which combines the more aggressive granulate texture with the rubber. It seems very secure, but not overly uncomfortable. We'll see next time the match conditions create a suitable test.

My first 60 rounds were done at the 15 yard line. Draw and shoot one or two carefully aimed shots. Repeat. And repeat again. Everything else was shot from 10 yards, drawing and getting off two accurate shots as quickly as possible. Sadly, my shot timer has died so I couldn't take advantage of the random beep start nor record any times. Body only, head only, and body to head transitions, repeated five times for each drill. On the bright side, I fully called those two missed heads shots when they happened.

I finished the quick session with some 10 yard strong hand only shots, followed by support hand only from seven. I wasn't quite as successful as last time, but still hitting about 80% -0 for each while shooting quickly.

Time was limited so I called it a day. Barely had time to break a sweat but it was still enjoyable and a welcome break.


Thursday, July 13, 2023

Whiskey Wednesday: New Riff Bourbon and HVC 10th Anniversary

Here's another edition of "Whiskey Wednesday" for my enjoyment, and yours if you'd like. Since we were out of town last week, the mid-week pleasure was skipped. My work day on Wednesday this week was frequented by trips to the humidor and whiskey shelf mulling over what was to provide the evening's entertainment.

I first selected the HVC 10th Anniversary Toro that has had its 4 week rest in the humidor. Now to the bourbon. Eventually I spied the bottle of New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon I picked up in Maryland last fall.

The HVC 10th Anniversary is a 2021 release marking the first 10 years for the company. I've seen many mentions over the years online, but had never tried it until now. The complex blend of this Nicaraguan puro features a Nicaraguan Corojo 99 wrapper, with a Nicaraguan binder. The filler tobaccos are Aganorsa Corojo ’99 and Criollo ’98 tobaccos, with Corojo 2012, which is a Cuban-seed tobacco. 

Upon lighting I was immediately struck by the copious smoke production. A peppery spice kicked off the experience. That lessened somewhat but its presence remained throughout the smoke. An earthy, creamy, tobacco flavor along with some cedar added to the mix. After the first inch or so, the smoke production decreased noticeably, and the flavors became muted. For the rest of the smoking time, the cigar required double, and even triple puffs to keep the smoke and flavor production up. Despite the extra effort, I did need to apply to flame the cigar numerous times to keep it going. Sadly the cigar also burned very unevenly so the touching up also included trying to keep the burn balanced. It was always the front of the band side that lagged behind. The main body of the ash held on until knocked off, but it did persistently release small bits of ash that floated to my lap and floor. The ash stack was quite disorderly. Perhaps the cigar needed more to rest in my humidor for more than four weeks. I do have several more so will see how they perform in the future. Other than the burn issues, I enjoyed the cigar.

Although I had poured a small "fresh crack" drink of the New Riff last fall, I really did not remember much about it. This pour gave me a sharp kick in sinuses when I stuck my nose to the glass. It was very sharp and almost unpleasant. Subsequent trials were done with less enthusiasm. Sipping I got a mix of caramel, vanilla, citrus, general spiciness, all backed with a slight alcohol burn. Not an unpleasant pour, but I was expecting a bit more from this one as I have enjoyed New Riff bourbons in the past. The reviews I subsequently saw online were mixed for the Single Barrel, which should be expected I suppose. This particular bottle is Barrel #12099, checking in at 110.3 proof. In retrospect, I should have tried a small bit of water to see if that muted some of the bite. Next time perhaps.

Okay, so this mid-week repast was not the most exemplary, but still provided a welcome period of relaxation. This hobby deals with handmade products of leaves, and hand crafted beverages, from plants as well. Variations are to be expected. 

Maybe I'll make #whiskeywednesday a regular thing. At the very least, I don't mind trying, even if the posts are delayed until Thursday.


Monday, July 10, 2023

An Easy End to Vacation

The end of vacation is bittersweet. The thought of going back to the daily grind haunts me at the end. But at the same time, I look forward to eating normally, sleeping in my own bed, and after this trip, enjoying a cigar. We spent the week at a horticultural convention, enjoying conversations and lectures from enthusiasts and jungle-traveling botanists. It was a homecoming of sorts, as it's a world we were very involved in a couple decades ago. We saw many old friends and met new ones. 

But it was also a busy week in a hotel, with events from dawn to late, with no time or place to enjoy a cigar. After spending a lot of Sunday processing all the new acquisitions to our collection, it was finally time to relax with a smoke. I grabbed one of the cigars that had spent the week in the unopened travel humidor I had brought along, Powstanie Habano in the Corona Gorda vitola.

I've mentioned this new vitola for the Powstanie core line previously. Like the Broadleaf version, I find the Habano in Corona Gorda is the near perfect size for a relaxing 60 -75 minute smoke. Larger than a Robusto, but not quite a Toro.

The after dinner smoke provided the perfect transition moment from vacation to work. The cigar was pleasurable as a I contemplated the work week to come, as well as the grass in the yard in desperate need of mowing.


Friday, July 7, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Old Age Remediation

The weekends are for recovery. Happy Friday.

Fortunately bourbon helps too.


Thursday, July 6, 2023

Humidor Thoughts

The proper storage of cigars is a frequent topic of discussion among enthusiast. It's also something that people may fret over too much, especially new smokers. I was telling someone recently about my "custom" setup, and thought I'd share here as well. 

If you're buying a few cigars to smoke in the near term, the plastic bag they came in from the shop, along with a Boveda pack is sufficient and economical. But if the cigars are more than a few in number, more long term protection is required. Plastic storage containers with good seals are a nearly perfect solution and are available in various sizes. In fact, if one searches for "cigar storage" on Amazon, several of these containers are included in the results, along with the more traditional options. For a long while, this was my choice. I still use them for some boxes that don't fit in my "main" humidor.

Eventually I wanted a bit more though. Wooden desktop humidors seemed too unreliable for long term, so I opted for one of the many mid-size "wineadoor" offerings. These electronic storage units typically provide cooling and sometimes heating, and many of the newer models contain built-in humidification systems. A few years ago I purchased a (now discontinued) 250 count NewAir unit. The unit is unobtrusive enough that was deemed okay to keep in the dining room. In the years since, it's undergone several modifications to fit my needs and preferences.

One of the first things I did was replace the two shelves with drawers. The slats on the shelves were oriented across the width of the unit and allowed cigars to roll out when the drawer was opened. The original unit came with an analog hygrometer. Those cheap units are not accurate and serve more as decoration than functionality. An electronic replacement required only minor modification of the opening. A Dremel tool made easy work in the soft Spanish cedar. In the larger space at the bottom, two trays are stacked to add even more storage. 

For humidification, I have 8 60 gram 69% Boveda packs spread out among the shelves. This keeps the humidity between 67% and 69% consistently even with frequent opening of the door, akin to standing in front of the open refrigerator deciding what to eat, or in this case, smoke. How did I come top with 8? Simple, the Boveda are sold in packs of 4.

The biggest "customization" made involves the cooling functionality. I originally kept the unit set to 69°. That's pretty close to an average house setting as well. The unit worked, and though fairly quiet, still had the persistent hum of the fan going. On day I noticed the temperature setting had gone to the default of 64°. I thought maybe I had inadvertently hit the adjustment button, or perhaps we had experienced a brief power outage. I reset it to my preference, and a few days later noticed the same. Again I made the adjustment back. A few days later we were sitting in the living room and heard a beep. I went in search for the source and saw the unit was lowering the temperature setting -- all on its own! Must be a glitch in the circuit board or the push button switch. I unplugged the humidor, and it has been like that for a couple years now. To no ill effect.

The temperature in my house sits at a perfectly acceptable level for the cigars. If you are comfortable, your cigars will likely be as well. The NewAir serves now as a well-sealed environment to maintain the humidity of my cigar collection. No hum from fans, and a moderately attractive piece of furniture.  

Though rated for 250 cigars, that rating represents a tighter stuffing than practical. My collection averages between 100-150 at any time. I find that getting down to 100 or lower makes the humidity slower to adjust and maintain. (Or maybe that's just my justification for buying more.) I buy few full boxes, preferring the variety of buying in singles or 5 packs. (How or why 5 became to standard small pack offering is a mystery to me.)

I keep the plastic containers on hand for the occasional box purchase, until the number of cigars left in gets down to 5 or less. I also frequently keep a few from the box in the humidor for easy access. I often think that if I hear of someone disposing of a non-functioning, but intact unit like mine, I'd attempt to acquire it specifically for box purchases. I actually saw a very inexpensive one for sale online recently but the seller was a couple states away. Naturally, I still dream of a large cabinet humidor someday.


Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Whiskey Wednesday - And a Cigar

The #whiskeywednesday hashtag is commonly used on Instagram. It's one of my favorites to use, since when I do it means I'm marking the midweek with a drink, and typically a cigar. A recent Wednesday indulgence included Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered Bourbon and the Quesada Oktoberfest 10th Anniversary (2021) cigar.

Interestingly, in all of my previous mentions of the Oktoberfest, the cigar was enjoyed with a beer, as the maker reportedly intended, though not always an Oktoberfest style ale. It's an annual release, with the blend specifics and vitola varying. My selection for the evening smoke was motivated by seeing a press release regarding the upcoming 2023 release. After a couple years in the humidor this cigar is smoking wonderfully.

The Smoke Wagon bourbon is one that's been on my wishlist for sometime, and has very limited availability in Virginia. I finally managed to acquire a bottle a couple months ago. The brand comes from the Nevada Distilling Company in Las Vegas. Uncut Unfiltered is released in different batches throughout the year. This particular bottle is batch 173, bottled on March 2, 2023 at 115.9 proof. The profile is rich in oak and maple notes. There's a bit of cinnamon, and some candy sweetness. The heat is there for some interest but not at all harsh. It paired nicely with the ale-themed cigar.

"Whiskey Wednesday" isn't a weekly celebration for me. However, by the time Wednesday rolls around I'm often ready for a bit of diversion and relaxation. 


Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Celebrating And Fighting For Independence

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America 
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

Today, and for many all week, patriotic Americans celebrate our Founding Fathers' wisdom, foresight and bravery in declaring independence from an oppressive government. It's a truly American holiday, made possible by a well-armed, determined, and a citizenry desirous of freedom. The celebration is a reminder to those of us who still stand by those principles enumerated in 1776 that we must continue to both celebrate and defend those ideals.

Celebrating this great gift of freedom means also not ignoring the obvious and immediate threats against it. The land of the free and home of the brave is facing attacks on liberty. Sadly, the immediate threats are increasingly domestic. There is a portion of the population, including many serving in public office, who have become extremely vocal and active in challenging freedom. They demand you speak only words they approve, while they redefine the vocabulary, and even make up new words to support their "science." There is a frightening push to legislate what is considered "free speech" in order to avoid hurting the "feelings" of those who have forsaken emotional maturity. Violence is increasingly a tactic. Beatings of Christians and burning of houses of worship are near daily news. The push to sexualize children reaches into everyday life - schools, libraries, and even craft breweries with their "family friendly" sexually explicit drag shows. These antagonists claim to believe in justice and inclusion, but in actuality they promote only division and separation

Our forefathers were explicit, and those terms remain unchanged. We maintain certain rights which are granted by our Creator. We will not acquiesce to demands to ignore and destroy what had been built over the last 200 years. It only took three percent of the population to break the country free from tyranny the first time. Honest and patriotic Americans are growing weary of the daily attacks and violence.

The light of freedom has not yet been extinguished. There's a growing push for a return to the values outlined in 1776, and later formalized in the Constitution. So this Independence Day, celebrate America. Celebrate freedom. Contemplate what losing it means. And seek to defend and maintain it.

Happy Independence Day!


Monday, July 3, 2023

Saturday Afternoon at the Brewery for Brews and Cigars

The second day of our Independence holiday activity revolved around a visit to 1781 Brewing for afternoon beer and cigars. Arriving shortly after lunch, the crowds were still small and we easily claimed a table under the trees in the garden. Rain threatened a bit later in the afternoon but for now the sky was just hazy and a light breeze blew. The resident roosters provided added entertainment as they prowled about.

It had actually been a long time since we made it to 1781. I'd spent time in the cigar lounge onsite, but even that was last in December. Checking out the menu board, I saw that the selection was as always, lengthy and varied. Colleen opted for the Høst Saison, while the Belsnikel Dunkelweizen tempted me.

Drinks out of the way, it was time to select a cigar to enjoy. I had brought along a Powstanie Broadleaf Corona Gorda and a New World Dorado Robusto. The Powstanie kicked off the afternoon.

Belsniel Dunkelweizen is a dark wheat beer and the style is one I frequently turn to when pairing a beer with a cigar. This version checks in at an afternoon suitable ABV of 4.7%. The soft wheat and malt flavor with very low bitterness was refreshing and made a good pairing for the Powstanie.

The Powstanie line makes a regular appearance in these Musings. Both the Broadleaf and Habano versions, in any vitola, are a favorite. This Corona Gorda is a new 5 1/2" x 46 vitola that made its world debut in May at Fredericksburg's Hogshead Cigar Lounge. The event was attended by brand owner Mike Szczepankiewicz. I was able to enjoy the cigars right at the beginning of their availability, and of course brought some of each size home. The Powstanie Broadleaf features the same broadleaf maduro wrapper, Indonesian binder, fillers of Estelí ligero, Jalapa and Pueblo Nuevo tobaccos as the rest of the line. The usual flavors of creamy chocolate and wood, with a touch of cedar spice complimented the lager quite well. The Corona Gorda vitola is a great addition to the Powstanie line up.

We ended up staying for a second round and the New World Dorado also got its chance to shine with the beer. It performed admirably. Unfortunately the distant thunder was getting closer so we decided to leave before the rain started. I abandoned the cigar with a little over half smoked. Our timing was spot on as the first rain drops began falling as we exited the brewery. In a stroke of good timing, the heavy rain delayed until we arrived home. Despite the weather shortened visit, the afternoon was pleasant and hopefully a prelude to more relaxing summer afternoons spent enjoying good beer and cigars.


Saturday, July 1, 2023

Kicking Off The Holiday

Independence is not officially marked until Tuesday, but for many, the holiday vacations start on the prior weekend. And why not? So many fringe causes get a special month, surely the founding of our Nation deserves more than one day. I get a short "official" vacation rest starting onTuesday, but kicked off the holiday week on Friday evening with, not surprisingly, a good bourbon and cigar.

I've been looking at some of the near empty bottles on my shelf and thinking I should get them emptied to make room for others. The bottle of Eagle Rare Bourbon was the project for the evening. It also seems a fitting label for the holiday. To go along with the sweet beverage, a My Father Le Bijou 1922

Eagle Rare is a ubiquitous bourbon found in many restaurants and home bars. Unfortunately here in Virginia it is on the "allocated" list. Only when random stores have surprise drops, and IF the store has it on hand, and IF you are one of the first 6 -12 customers, and IF you don't want to buy anything else on the allocated list, you are then able to acquire it. Fortunately for me, during our last trip to North Carolina, I found Eagle Rare fully stocked at a state ABC there, sold at MSRP and without limit.

The 10 year old bourbon can be had for under $35 a bottle, which makes it truly a bargain. It's a smooth drinker with oak, dark fruit sweetness, and some spice. Well balanced and easy to sip, it's one I try to keep around, even if that's difficult to do at times.

The My Father Le Bijou 1922 is a 6" X 52 box-pressed torpedo wrapped in a glossy chocolate Nicaraguan Habano wrapper. The binder and fillers are also Nicaraguan. It's a full bodied smoke with rich notes of cocoa and espresso. Mild sweetness and pepper are present for balance, and makes a fine mix with the sweet bourbon. Cigar Aficionado picked this cigar as their #1 of 2015. Magazine rankings and ratings are not necessarily an accurate predictor of how any one person might enjoy a cigar. In this case, for me, the commendation was accurate. The burn was razor sharp and the cigar provided nearly a 2 hour smoke. The flavor profiles of the cigar and the bourbon paired well for a pleasurable repast.

In one small accomplishment, the bottle was emptied over the course of the cigar. As luck would have it, there was a backup in the pantry. That space on the shelf didn't stay empty for long.