Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Bourbon Peaches

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

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

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


Monday, August 28, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, August 25, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Follow Your Dreams

I've been dreaming of the weekend all week. 

Dreams do come true.


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Plasencia Reserva and Sagamore Spirit Sherry Finish Rye

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

J. H. Bards Port Barrel Finished Bourbon

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

When There's Cigar Lounge at the Brewery

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

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

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

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


Monday, August 21, 2023

Feast of Saint Pius X

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

Originally published June 28, 2023.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, August 18, 2023

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

It's what the weekends are made for.


Morning Coffee and Cigar in "The Office"

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

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

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


Thursday, August 17, 2023

George Remus Bourbon

Once every month or two, I join some friends to travel into Maryland to shoot an IDPA match. Afterwards we shop for distilled beverages, and enjoy a lunch somewhere. We've shopped at the same liquor store for for the past decade or so. We enjoyed a good relationship with the owner, who would order special requests, and even gift glassware occasionally. The store had a small but interesting and varying bourbon selection, and most of the time I found bourbons I couldn't find in Virginia, or bottles at a lower price. The establishment has since changed ownership, and the new staff is not as knowledgeable about bourbon, but we still stop by to look for new goodies.

Even if I don't find anything especially exciting, I'll pick up a bottle of something different, to maintain or build on the relationship. Often these purchases are of bottles I am unfamiliar with but look interesting. Such was the case with this George Remus Bourbon recently acquired.

George Remus is the "house" brand for Midwest Grain Products in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. MGP is a producer of distillate and aged whiskey that is provided to dozens of non-distilling producers, both large and small. Many popular brands source their whiskey from MGP which they then blend and finish for their own labels. Obviously MGP does it right, or it wouldn't be such a popular and consistent source for so many brands. They seem to be especially prevalent as a rye whiskey source. 

George Remus Bourbon is a blend of high rye bourbons aged at least four years, and bottled at 94 proof. The deep amber liquid gives aromas of vanilla, cherry, and caramel. It's mild but pleasant. Sipping reveals more of the same, with the addition of more baking spices indicative of the high rye content. The rye spice lingers late in the finish, and even seems to build afterwards. The flavor was never hot, and vanilla and spice hangs around until the next sip.

I found this to be quite an enjoyable bourbon. It's flavorful, easy to drink neat, but I also believe it will work very well for cooking and cocktails as well.


Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Knob Creek Single Barrel Select Rye and BLTC La Madonna Negra

This pairing was made of two things I had been looking forward to trying out, so I decided to have both new additions together. The cigar had been sitting in my humidor for about six weeks, while the rye had been waiting just a week or so.

Black Label Trading Company La Madonna Negra was released recently to celebrate the company's 10th anniversary. I do enjoy BLTC cigars, and had preordered some of these from Luxury Cigar Club. Allowing the humidor time before lighting up was a test of patience.

The Knob Creek Barrel Select Rye is a VA ABC selection. It was released as part of a VA ABC picks release that happened a couple weeks ago on a Saturday morning. These events typically generate long lines of fans queuing up hours before the stores open, hoping to be one of the fortunate ones to purchase a single bottle of something. The actual stock in the individual stores is not announced until the evening before. Exhibiting their usual level of competency, VA ABC failed at posting the information for this drop until midday on Saturday. For my part, I went shooting instead. Interestingly, even the following morning, many of the stores still showed inventory of the releases from the day before. It appears Virginia bourbon fans may be tiring of treated like Pavlov's dog and being enticed to leap to the state's "bell." 

Since the Rye pick was one of the few in the list I was interested in, I stopped by my local store to grabb a bottle. The selection has a barrel date of June 12, 2016. Based on the pick date, it looks like about a 6.5 year aged rye, with a proof of 115. The rye is fairly mild on the nose, with faint cocoa, vanilla, citrus, and spice. However, it really begins to shine in the sipping. I get the expected rye spice, but at a moderate level. Butterscotch, cocoa, along with some spice and nuttiness join it. I found it well balanced, with neither the rye nor the proof taking the lead roll. I take a chance on many bottles I purchase with little foreknowledge. Sometimes I am disappointed, other times most pleased. This was the latter and a purchase I am happy I made.

After some initial tasting of the Knob Creek Select Rye, it was time to cut and light the La Madonna Negra. The Black Label Trading Company anniversary cigar was released in four vitolas. I smoked the 5 1/4 x 50 Robusto. A Connecticut broadleaf wrapper covers an Ecuadorian habano binder and fillers from Nicaragua and Pennsylvania. The cigar shows off with a dark chocolate wrapper and decorative band. Immediately I am struck by the heft of the stick. A few gentles squeezes reveals this thing is packed. It's hard with no give whatsoever and almost feels like a hard rubber prop cigar.

After punching to cap, the draw is very tight but I decided to give it a go as it was. After a few minutes, I accepted that remedial action was necessary and grabbed my PerfecDraw tool. The first insertion brought out a small half inch piece of stem, which did nothing to help the draw. I repeatedly, and very carefully, continued inserting the tool to increased depths. I brought out nothing further except small bits of tobacco. Eventually the entire length of the tool was put through the cigar with only minor improvement. Never before have I used the PerfecDraw to such an extent.

With a slightly improved draw, I was at last getting some smoke and flavor. The flavor is a blend of dark chocolate, espresso, dark cherries. Some pepper and cedar sits in the background. The cigar is not as bold as I expected, coming from Black Label Trading Company. I am not sure if that's the intent, or a factor of the tight draw. The burn was even and never went out, but I did apply a flame to it occasionally when it wavered and threatened to go out. In the last third or so, the draw opened up a bit, but never got to what seemed like its full potential. I will look forward to smoking more of the cigars after they've rested for more time in the humidor. As this is a new release, I suspect the shipments went out from resellers nearly fresh off the shipping trucks.

The cigar finished, I poured myself a wee bit more of the Knob Creek. I will certainly be enjoying this bottle -- while it lasts.


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Regina Cigars Misericordia

We had a long day of traveling to run errands out of town recently. As some consolation we treated ourselves to a large, late lunch before heading home. When I sat down to consider a cigar that evening I was still feeling full, and also tired. As such, I opted to forego the distilled spirit with my smoke. As a flavorful diversion to plain water I opted for a Sparkling Ice Orange Mango sparkling water.

I dug deep in the humidor for the 4+ year old Regina Cigars Miseriacodia. I don't often smoke Connecticut wrapper cigars, but I was in the mood for mildness. I hoped the flavored water would not be overpowering as an accompaniment.

Regina Cigars is a Catholic owned company that uses cigars as a way to support its mission of helping children and orphanages around the world. Most recently they have been providing support to orphanages in Honduras. The cigars are decorated with colorful bands depicting religious artwork. 

The 6 x 50 Misericordia features a light brown Honduran Connecticut wrapper. The rest of the blend is unspecified. What is noted on the website is that the blend was created by Christian Eiroa, owner of C.L.E. and Asylum cigar companies. The mild to medium bodied cigar has creamy sweet notes with a mild citrusy fruit hint. There was just enough citrus bite to keep it interesting. I smoked the cigar down to a short nub before setting it down. I never once touched up or corrected the burn and the smoke never heated up despite my relatively fast smoking. The ash was extremely solid and I only knocked it off after a couple inches out of fear it would drop in my lap or on my book. 

Pairing with the flavored water worked out quite well. The flavor of the beverage is mild and not overly sweet. The citrus aspects of the cigar and beverage complimented each other well.

The large band on this blend features an image from The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Batoni. 


Monday, August 14, 2023

Remembering the Martyrs of Otranto

August 14 is the Feast Day of the Martyrs of Otranto. These faithful Christians were victims of muslim brutality and conquest in the Italian city of Otranto in 1480. Two days prior, on August 11, the town, which had been under siege for two weeks, was finally overrun by the Ottoman invaders. Subsequently, all men in the town over the age of 50 were slaughtered, and women and children under 15 were sent away into slavery. The leader of the invaders, Pasha Ament ordered over 800 surviving Christian men brought before him and commanded them to convert to islam or face death. The faithful refused to cave in to his barbarous demands.

One of the men came forth and spoke in a manner that we should all pray we could emulate,
My brothers, until today we have fought in defense of our country, to save our lives, and for our lords; now it is time that we fight to save our souls for our Lord, so that having died on the cross for us, it is good that we should die for him, standing firm and constant in the faith, and with this earthly death we shall win eternal life and the glory of martyrs.
Angered and frustratesd that they would not renounce their faith, Pasha Ament ordered all the men killed. On August 14, 1480, the prisoners were brought to a nearby hill and beheaded, while their families and friends were mercessly forced to watch. According to tradition, the body of the first victim, Antonio Primaldo, refused to fall over until the entire group had been executed. The destruction of the town complete, and its population decimated, the moslem invaders continued their march toward Rome.

A year later, in October 1481, the bodies of the martyrs were found to be uncorrupted and moved to the Otranto cathedral. On December 14, 1771, Pope Clement XIV beatified these brave men. On May 12, 2013 their cause for Sainthood was completed when Pope Francis declared the Martyrs of Otranto to be among the Saints in Heaven.

Martyrs of Otranto, Ora pro nobis!

Relics of the Otranto Martyrs

The war on Christianity continues to this day. Not only from the scimitar in the Middle East, but with increasing frequency right here at home due to the actions of our own government. Today as we remember these brave men pray we remain as strong in our own wars against the minions of Satan.

Also see "How the 800 Martyrs of Otranto Saved Rome" for more on the martyrs and their place in the history of Christendom.

John J. Bowman With Crowned Heads Le Pâsittier

The liquid piece of this pairing is an old favorite bourbon, John J. Bowman Single Barrel, from Fredericksburg's own A. Smith Bowman Distillery. Surprisingly it doesn't get many mentions here, despite being regularly poured. The cigar for the evening was a new one for me, Crowned Heads Le Pâtissier No. 50

The John J. Bowman Bourbon comes in at 100 proof, which is right at my sweet spot for an easy sipping bourbon. (Though I truly enjoy high proof whiskies, especially with a strong cigar.) The bourbon is very aromatic with notes of honey, vanilla, sweet bread, and a light fruit hint. Sipping brings out oak, vanilla, dark fruit, caramel, and a bit of spice. The flavors coat the palate with a lingering creamy oak and spice. It's a near perfect bourbon in my opinion, and at a wallet-friendly $40, has a permanent spot on the shelf, as well as a backup bottle or two in the pantry.

The Crowned Heads Le Pâtissier was intitially an exclusive release for the 2021 PCA Convention & Trade Show. The line is now a regular production, in four vitolas. The one smoked here is short robusto designated as No. 50. The 4 3/8 x 50 stick has a dark oily Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and fillers from Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The cigar comes right out of the gate with full flavors of dark chocolate, coffee, and black pepper. The full flavors stayed right to the end, with an occasional charred wood addition. The cigar burned well, and remained cool throughout. I only put it down when it was too short hold.

The Crowned Heads cigar maintained a bold flavor profile but the Bowman bourbon held its own with just enough spice bourbon flavors. The pairing was enjoyable and offered a pleasant end to the evening.


Friday, August 11, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Hey, Bartender There's A Big Bug In My Beer

Some music to kick off the weekend.

 May your glass have only beer this weekend.


Major Victory for Cigar Rights

Cigar Rights of America sent the following press release on Wednesday. This is a huge victory against government overreach.
Premium Cigars Score A Victory As Federal Court Rules Against FDA 

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to exempt premium cigars from tobacco regulations that the Agency put in place in 2016. This ruling, which follows nearly seven years of litigation, is a historic victory for the industry and a significant pushback against arbitrary FDA regulation. 

Cigar Rights of America (CRA), which funded and led the successful challenge, argued that the inclusion of premium cigars in a 2016 “Deeming” rule by FDA was fundamentally misguided and based on unsound science. In its appearance before the court on May 23, 2022, CRA demonstrated that the Agency had failed to demonstrate a public health rationale and improperly rejected a previously considered option to exempt the category. 

On July 5th of last year, Judge Mehta agreed, ruling that the inclusion of premium cigars was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. Specifically, Judge Mehta found that FDA ignored scientific evidence on the use of premium cigars that CRA submitted and “instead of addressing the relevant data before it, the agency resorted to a common refrain to obscure the issue.”

Since that time, the industry has eagerly awaited today’s official announcement by the court that establishes a federal definition for premium cigars, allowing their exemption. The ruling effectively brings much-needed regulatory relief to the entire industry. 

Robert Levin, president of CRA, stated upon learning of Mehta’s ruling, “today is a monumental day in the history of the premium cigar industry.” Levin continued, “The court’s ruling is further testament to the years-long effort by the CRA legislative and legal teams to give voice to our long-held belief that premium cigars should never have been regulated by FDA in the first place.”
This ruling is the end of a 7 year fight. (Although the government could decide to start it all over.) Judge Judge Mehta ruled that the Agency had acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” and ordered that premium cigars be immediately removed from FDA’s power entirely. This power grab by the FDA threatened the livelihood of thousands of small businesses, intruded into the private lives of millions of cigar enthusiasts, and would have decimated the economies of untold towns and people in cigar producing countries. And it was all based on falsehoods, bad science, and obfuscation. Fortunately the courts were able to see through this power grab by unelected bureaucrats.

You can read the decision by Judge Mehta striking down all FDA regulation of premium cigars here.

If you enjoy hand rolled cigars, you should be a member of Cigar Rights of America.


Thursday, August 10, 2023

J. H. Bards Spirits Company

The J. H. Bards Spirits Company in Pulaski County, VA is a regular stop whenever we visit the Blacksburg area. The micro-distillery opened in 2020 as the result of mutual love of bourbon by two Blacksburg natives. They are currently producing a line of bourbons and rye, as well as a vodka.

J. H. Bards operates a small tasting room and retail shop where you can enjoy a drink or two and pick up merchandise and spirits. Besides their regular line up, limited release whiskies are also available at times. Per VA ABC regulation, the tasting room can only serve a maximum of 3 ounces of spirits to an individual per day. This limits your options to one flight of three 1/2 ounce samples and a cocktail, or two cocktails. There is also a maximum of four spirits that may be sampled, so ordering two flights for more variety is not permitted. Sometimes I think the State Revenuers just make this stuff up on a whim. 

We will typically enjoy a couple mid-afternoon cocktails at the tasting room before heading out for dinner. Their smoked Old Fashioned made with rye and a house prepared cherry is a favorite. Even though I am quite fond of my own Old Fashioned recipe, I've been converted into keeping their Blackstrap Old Fashioned Syrup on hand. The J. H. Bards Rye is often my choice for my home Old Fashioned as well.

We diversified a bit this last trip and decided to try one of the summer drink recipes offered, their interpretation of a Painkiller. This one is made with bourbon instead of the classic rum, nutmeg, and pineapple coconut syrup. We found the Painkiller very tasty and refreshing, but we still switched back to our favorite Old Fashioned for our second round.

Each time we've visited one of the owners, Jayson or Jason, has been doing the serving in the tasting room. They are very knowledgeable about whiskey and the Blacksburg area in general and we've had some enjoyable conversations.

After our drinks I picked up more of the Blackstrap syrup and a replacement for my recently emptied bottle of rye. Also available this time was a limited release finished bourbon made in collaboration with the local Beliveau Farm Winery. It's a four year bourbon aged in port barrels from the winery. I decided to bring a bottle home and look forward reporting on it in the future. 

When visiting the New River Valley region, I suggest adding J. H. Bards to your itinerary.


Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Casa 1910 Revolutionary Edition Cuchillo Parado

I've smoked many cigars that sport a Mexican San Andrés wrapper. It's a widely popular leaf and one of my favorites. I've also seen cigars that use Mexican leaves as an ingredient. However, I don't recall smoking an all-Mexican leaf cigar. I was very interested in trying out the Casa 1910 Revolutionary Edition I received as part of a My Cigar Pack monthly shipment. 

The Casa 1910 Revolutionary Edition line boasts a San Andrés Sumatra wrapper, with San Andrés grown tobaccos also making up the binder and filler. The wrapper was aged for five years and the rolled cigar then aged for five to six months. The stick smoked was a 5 x 50 vitola, which Casa 1910 calls Cuchillo Parado. The Casa 1910 cigar company takes its name from the year of the Mexican Revolution. 

The cigar is a dark tan color, oily and a bit rough in places. I noted an interesting wet straw aroma that was not unpleasant but it gave me pause. Upon lighting I was hit with a rush of pepper along with some woody smoke and bread flavors. As the smoke progresses the peppery spice remains, and I begin to pick up some sweeter cream notes that moderated the sharpness. I was admiring the seemingly solid ash when it suddenly dropped, which happened to me several times. Near the end of the smoke, the flavors took on more a bitter aspect which was layered over the peppery, smoke, and sweetness. 

Overall, I enjoyed the Casa 1910 Revolutionary Edition Cuchillo Parado quite a bit. The end minutes of the hour long smoke were not as pleasant, but did not inspire me to end it early. I was sipping only water as I smoked and read. I had the thought that I'd like to try the cigar with some bourbon as well. As it turns out, My Cigar Pack, without explanation when asked, shipped my June mailing twice. So I do have another one to smoke in the future. (Despite this unintended benefit, the double shipping, and the subsequent double charge, led me to cancel that particular subscription.)


Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Afternoon Cocktails and a Cigar

Sunday afternoon cocktails, and a cigar, on the deck are a pleasure we look forward to on many weekends during the warmer weather. It's a great time to talk, reminisce about the week past, plan for the week to come, and also just sit and relax. This past weekend was warm and humid, so we looked for a refreshing summer-suitable libation. What resulted was a bit of an experiment using a recipe found online. Some Sparking Ice Mango Orange carbonated water, Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon, bitters, and an orange peel made a refreshing concoction. The Four Roses is one of my favorite bourbons for cocktails. Of course, I always have suitable single "rocks" of ice at the ready. I initially used a few splashes of orange bitters in the drink. While not bad, the drink seemed somewhat flat in flavor. When I made a second round, I switched to Angostura Bitters. A bit of bitterness to balance the sweet of the sparkling water was just the touch needed. We added some veggies, humus, and tzatziki to the table and we were all set!

For my accompanying cigar, I grabbed an Eiroa The First Twenty Years Colorado. The 6 x 54 soft box pressed stick has an Honduran Colorado wrapper, and Honduran binder and fillers. This particular example was in poor shape. The cap was loose for about half the circumference. I used some PerfectRepair to glue it back in place, which led to a short delay in lighting while the pectin dried. Once I removed the tissue paper foot band, I saw a few cracks in the last quarter of the cigar, which I also touched up. Sadly when the band was removed a bit later, I also need to glue the wrapper back in place as it seemed only the band was holding it in place. I did purchase this cigar from an online "warehouse" seller, something I do infrequently, and I suspect mishandling as the culprit behind the damages. I have another in my humidor, which appears to be in better shape, at least judging by the portion of the cigar visible.

Initial repairs completed it was time to finally light up and enjoy. Initial flavors reminded me of a lightly toasted sweet bread. There's a bit of cinnamon spice in there as well. The flavor profile was pretty consistent for the entirety of the smoke. The latter half did pick up just a hint of pepper. 

It was sunny for most of our afternoon, despite being serenaded by the rumble of thunder far off in the distance. About the time we began discussing going inside for dinner, the rain sprinkles appeared but did not devleoped into heavier rain until much later in the evening.


Monday, August 7, 2023

Cigars And Bourbon On The Road

We took a long weekend trip to Blacksburg, VA recently to relax, do a little bit of hiking, and of course overindulge a bit on food and drink. Blackburg is one of our favorite "close by" vacations. During the summer, when VA Tech is not in session and the 30,000 students are not present, it still has some of that small town feel.

We had no set plans for the four days, only general intentions, so finding an evening or two to sit down with a smoke was not difficult. The weather for being outside was pleasant even though it was the first time this summer the area had reached 90°! We heard many of the town folk remarking on the hot temperatures, but we found it a nice respite, the low 90° daytime highs still being 9 - 12° degree cooler than we've experienced at home of late.

I bring along cigars and the necessary accoutrements anytime I travel. Often there is no opportunity for that pleasure, but it's good to be prepared. Hotels these days are notoriously anti-smoking, even outside. At one place we stay regularly, the prohibition is well signed, nonetheless I've spotted ashtrays and evidence of both cigars and cigarettes. 

After the afternoon drive and a big dinner I escaped to an out of the way patio with my travel ashtray and an Oliva Serie V. The Serie V is one of my go-to smokes. The creamy chocolate and cedar notes of the cigar goes well with coffee, bourbon, and even beer. On this evening, feeling satiated from the meal at a local restaurant and brewery, my chosen pairing of water was the perfect finish to the day.

On another evening, after a day of distillery and brewery visits, we settled onto the patio to enjoy the cool evening air while I smoked and sipped. This time I brought along a flask filled with Woodford Reserve Double Oak to go along with a Rocky Patel Hamlet Tabaquero

The Woodford Reserve was selected for travel since it's a bourbon that pairs well with most any smoke. The smooth, sweet oak flavor touched with some fruit and vanilla is always pleasing.

When it was announced last year that Hamlet Paredes was leaving Rocky Patel, the company stated that the Tabaquero line was being discontinued. As the Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes is another favorite of mine, I immediately acquired a box of the cigar in the 6 x 52 Toro size. The Tabaquero blend uses a San Andrés wrapper, a Nicaraguan filler, along with a San Andrés and Brazilian Mata Fina double binders. The creamy sweetness, milk chocolate, cedar, earth, and oak flavor blend is always pleasurable. I've been rationing my supply, saving them for special-ish occasions, but I won't hold them for an extremely long time as I like the flavor profile just it is now.

It was a very refreshing mini vacation. It's fun to get away, but also nice now to be back on our regular eating and sleeping schedules, for a few weeks anyway. 


Friday, August 4, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: I Don't Need Dessert

Happy Friday. 

I frequently feel that way myself. But then again, a good bourbon is a fitting dessert in itself.


Weekly Range Practice

After a period of wildfire smoke filled skies, which was followed by days of high temperatures, we've finally enjoyed a few days of temperatures in the low to mid 80's. That made this week's practice outing at the range all the more pleasant.

Tbe setup looked much the same as previously, but the drills were directed a bit differently. I started right off shooting from 15 yards. Hanging both an IDPA practice target and the color and shapes target, I started out shooting a series of single and double shots to the center -0 zone. The focus was on acquiring sights quickly with minimal gun adjustment and bouncing. Then repeat the same routine using the slightly small diamond and square shapes. All strings started from the draw. I shot accurately, but still desire to make less correction when acquiring that first sight picture.

Following that fresh paper was hung and the two targets were spread further apart in order to practice transitions. Several magazines were expended going from a smaller color zone on the first target over to the IDPA. I then reversed the process going from the larger -0 zone to a smaller spot on the other paper. Body to head transitions on the IDPA target followed. Trying to repeat some bits often seen in matches, double shots to the head were worked on.

Remembering I just have to "do it," I finished the practice with SHO and WHO shooting.

It felt good to do more directed skill-building drills, within the context of the two-shot range restrictions. I have a notebook of nearly 100 different pistol skill building drills that I will look through for more ideas too add more variety.

I've been fortunate to have been able to get out to the range to practice regulate the past couple months. After months of few matches, and no practice, I was seeing the effects. Just shooting with some regularity benefits both the act of shooting and increases the motivation to do it even more. That all leads to enjoying more.


Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Padrón 1964 Anniversary and Weller 107

This was a pairing I enjoyed very much. Neither the Padrón 1964 Anniversary nor the Weller Antique 107 are new experiences, though I am not sure if I've had them together. They are however, both top of the line in my book.

Sometimes I will pull a whiskey off the shelf, then select a cigar. Other times the order is reversed. The prep time for a smoking session is often extended as I go back and forth with the decision. In this instance I made my cigar choice for the evening first then grabbed the bourbon. Why? No specific reason, just an inspiration.

The Padrón 1964 Anniversary comes in two "flavors," with either sun-grown natural or maduro wrappers. This was the sun grown version. The 6" x 52 box pressed stick features an extremely elongated and pointed cap. The box press has well defined edges. Upon cutting, the draw is right on and remained so throughout the smoking time. This is product created by skilled hands. The medium bodied all Nicaraguan stick has delightful hazelnut and cedar notes. There's an added sweet chocolate and honey aspect that completes the finish.

Weller Antique 107 is an allocated bourbon in Virginia and as such is difficult to obtain outside the overpriced secondary market. This bottle I have been nursing since January 2022 and harks back to a time that VA ABC would randomly add allocated stock to store shelves without announcements. If you heard about something in time, you could get it. This was before they started the announced "drops" that merely created a stampede to selected stores.

The aroma of the wheated bourbon is noticeable as I'm pouring. I sense dark fruit, topped with caramel and vanilla, and then sprinkled with cinnamon. I get hungry for dessert as I inhale. The flavor profile is spicy, but not hot. The cinnamon continues when sipping, as does the sweetness of vanilla and oak. The moderate 107 proof not all that noticeable on the palate or the finish. I find myself taking sips closely followed by a puff on the cigar. Or am I following the cigar with the bourbon?

I think I said this recently, even though I don't smoke Padrón cigars frequently, it's always a pleasure when I do. At least they are readily available. In contrast, I think I'll need to continue to nurse this bottle of Weller for as long as I can.


Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Old Book: Guide to Cigars

A family member gave me this book recently. She found it in the bargain bin of a used bookstore and thought I'd enjoy it. Titled International Connoisseur's Guide To Cigars, the guide by Jane Resnick was published in 1996. To many of us, 1996 was "the other day," but was actually some 17 years ago!

The guide explores the world of cigar smoking from how a cigar is made, to cutting, lighting, and smoking. It goes on to explore a wide range of topics such as how and when to smoke, famous people (of the time) who smoked, as well as figures throughout history known to have enjoyed tobacco. The material is often covered in a simplistic "bird's eye" view, and is somewhat dated. There are even listings, obviously no longer accurate, of places one can enjoy a cigar in public. Oh, if only the listed venues still existed, and not the copious laws that now widely prohibit the practice. The age of the book provided an especially interesting historical view. 

A little a over a third of the book is devoted a sampling of specific brands of the day. Each page features a photo and a listing of some of the brand's offerings. Given the date of publication many of the illustrated cigars are Cuban, and many are no longer available. As an added interest, there are pages devoted to both the original Cuban company and also non-Cuban brands of the same name. These companies were founded by Cuban expatriates in places such as the Dominican Republic and Honduras after Castro nationalized the industry in Cuba. Often times those brands are featured on facing pages.

The whole section was very interesting despite, or perhaps because of many of the featured companies are no longer in existence. I also had a chuckle at the photos used for a couple of the Cuban brands. The illustrations were complete with cracks in the wrapper. 

The books was compiled in the time before the proliferation of handmade cigars produced outside of Cuba. It provides a fascinating perspective from a different time in history and how cigars played a role.