Thursday, November 30, 2023

Cappuccino and Wise Man Maduro Lancero

It was a chilly but sunny afternoon when I decided to carry my mid-day treat cappuccino out to the deck to enjoy with a cigar. The fall colors were enchanting and the thinning leaf cover let some sun shine through. 

The Foundation Wise Man Maduro Lancero is a 7 1/2 x 40 well-packed cigar. The Mexican San AndrĂ©s wrapper glistened in the sun. Along with the Nicaraguan binder and fillers, it made for a medium bodied, robust smoke. Notes of espresso, chocolate, and black pepper are predominant. As I've remarked in the past, the lancero shape seems to enhance and concentrate the cigar's flavors when compared with other vitolas of the same blend. I expected the cigar to give me about a one hour smoke. The burn was slow and flawless and after about an hour only half the stick had been consumed. I was enjoying a book while smoking so may have smoked a little slower than usual, but the cigar burn never wavered nor needed touching up.

I was tempted to step inside to prepare another cappuccino but the sun was getting lower in the trees. While it was still another 45 minutes or so until sunset, the temperature was dropping. Still bearable but the remaining sun was providing little in the way of warmth. I smoked for another 30 minutes before putting the cigar down with about a quarter left.

The rich expresso notes of the Foundation Wise Man Maduro Lancero complimented the creamy sweetness of the cappuccino well. I was not thrilled with giving up the smoke so early, but it had served its purpose and provided nearly two hours of pleasure.


Monday, November 27, 2023

Late Night With Basil Hayden Toast and Oliva Serie V

This was the pairing on a rare late night smoke recently. We're typically an "early to bed, early to rise" household. While perusing my whiskey shelf I spied the Basil Hayden Toast bottle sitting in the bottom corner. Its placement was reflective of how long it's been on hand -- the prime spots tend to hold more recent acquisitions. 

Basil Hayden Toast also gets overlooked most weekends due to its low proof, just 80 proof. This time I gravitated to it for that very reason. The aroma is very light, almost nonexistent. With concentration I get hints of caramel and oak. The flavor profile is also mild, but pleasant. Toffee and caramel predominate. There are cinnamon spice and brown sugar notes arriving in the finish, which lingers for a short while.

I went with an old standby for the accompanying cigar. Oliva Serie V is a smoke that I generally have on hand in several vitolas. It works well with both coffee and bourbon. It stands up to higher proof whiskeys, and at the same time doesn't overwhelm the milder ones either. The 6 x 56 Torpedo has an attractive Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with Nicaraguan tobaccos making up the binder and filler. Clipping the sharply pointed cap reveals a firm but open draw. The cigar gives flavors of coffee, creamy chocolate, nuts, and cedar. It's robust but medium bodied. 

The late night pairing was a fine end to the evening. The cigar gave nearly two hours of pleasure. The easy sipping bourbon provided the perfect nightcap. 


Friday, November 24, 2023

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Remembering Blessed Miguel Pro

This was originally posted November 23, 2013, and shared nearly annually on this date. Given the growing anti-religious furor infecting our country, and world, it's worth remembering the heroes of persecution of recent memory.

November 23 is the Feast Day of Blessed Miguel Pro. Born on January 13, 1891, in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Pro was ordained a Jesuit priest in Belgium in 1925. He returned to his home country in 1926, in the midst of that country's Cristeros War. After being falsely accused of an attempted bombing, Father Pro was executed by government forces without trial

Blessed Miguel Pro's final request was to be allowed to pray to his heavenly Father.

After which he refused a blindfold and faced the firing squad bravely, proclaiming ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Father Pro's executioners initially failed at their task, and the deed was finished at point blank range.

I am saddened, but hardly surprised, at the ignorance of the American public regarding the persecution of Catholics, and of the Cristero War that took place in Mexico in 1926 through 1929. Some 250,000 people lost their lives in a persecution that was supported by the government of the United States with both funds and air support. Given the ever-growing intolerance towards Christians, especially Catholics, in the United States, we would do well to remember.

Christ the King, by the intercession of Blessed Miguel Pro, I beg you to answer my prayers. Give me the grace and the strength necessary to follow your heroic example and to live my Catholic faith in spite of all temptations and adversities. Amen.

Images from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving

It just wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving if the holiday didn't kick off with this. It never gets old.

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 20, 2023

Quiet Solitude - Drinking and Smoking

Like many, the majority of my time enjoying cigars and adult beverages occurs either alone or sitting with my wife. Even when I am outside smoking "alone," Colleen is home and we frequently still chat. I've been accused of being an introvert, and that's probably accurate. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy good conversation and company. Cigar smoking especially lends itself well to quiet reflection. 

Recently when Colleen was out with friends for the evening I decided to venture over to the local brewery to enjoy a good beer and sit in the cigar lounge. When I arrived on the clear warm(ish) evening, I was surprised to see the parking lot mostly empty. I filled my mug with a tasty Red Ale and headed over to the cigar shop and selected a Black Works Studio Hyena to light up.

I noticed the lounge had added more seating and looked ready for a crowd. I've been there when the seats were filled and folks were standing around. This time it was empty. I figured it was still early for a Friday for many folks. So I enjoyed the solitude and watched folks trickle in and out of the brewery. 

The Hyena is a 5 1/2 x 46 Corona Gorda. It boasts a Cameroon Maduro wrapper and Ecuadorian binder, with Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos. Bold flavors of espresso, dark chocolate, and black pepper treat the palate. The malty, sweet caramel red ale offered contrasting flavors that still created an exceptional pairing.

The smoke and beer lasted about 45 minutes. It seemed no one was venturing out this evening. I debated a second round, but considered my home turf. If I di say so myself, there's an amazing selection of cigars and whiskey on hand, along with music to enjoy. That option won out. What followed was a couple more hours of pleasurable solitude.


Friday, November 17, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Coffee or Whiskey

It's a problem easily solved with Irish Coffee.

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, November 16, 2023

A Chilly Night Smoke and Sip

Anyone who reads these Musings for any length of time, knows I am no fan of cold weather. It takes me a few weeks to accept and adapt to the season change. After a celebratory dinner recently I was in need of some "digestive" time. And it was cold outside. 

For the evening's chilly repast I grabbed a warm bourbon and a robust smoke -- Horse Soldier Reserve and Black Label Trading Company Viaticum Lancero.

The Horse Soldier Reserve is the distillery's Barrel Strength expression. This is one I enjoy often with a robust cigar. The bourbon is bottled at 124 proof. The nose has dark caramel, sweet maple, along with hint of vanilla and fruit. When sipping I get charred wood, dark fruit, molasses, and a cinnamon like spice. In the finish an interesting fruit note comes up, reminiscent of dark cherries and plums. The 124 proof imparts some heat to mouthfeel, but it is very balanced by the flavor notes, and not overwhelming in the least. Summarize all that to say it's right on target for my flavor preferences.

Black Label Trading Company makes a bunch of full bodied, flavorful smokes. The Viaticum line is a variation of their Last Rites series, with the same tobaccos put together in a  modified blend. It features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Honduran binder from Honduras and fillers of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos.  This lancero is an attractive 6 3/5 x 40 stick. The tobaccos create a robust blend of creamy chocolate, coffee, and cedar. It's full bodied but very balanced. The Viaticum makes a worthy companion to the hefty bourbon flavors.

Sitting under the infrared table lamp, and in front of the portable propane heater, the hour spent with the smoke and drink was quite bearable. I might just survive these cold months.


Monday, November 13, 2023

New Riff Single Barrel (Again) and Viva La Vida Cigars

I've been looking forward to smoking the Artesano del Tobacco Viva La Vida cigar since it arrived in the October Luxury Cigar Club monthly shipment. I've smoked this cigar line produced at the AJ Fernando factory in the past. Both the lancero and toro vitolas have made appearances in these Musings. This time it was the 5 x 54 robusto that I was enjoying. The attractive maduro Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro 2000 wrapper, Nicaraguan Corojo 99 binder, and the Nicaraguan Criollo 98 filler combine to make a flavorful smoke. This is full-bodied smoke with notes of leather, black coffee, pepper and a moderate cinnamon spice. The robusto was no less delectable than the others I've tried.

As the accompaniment for the evening, I poured some New Riff Single Barrel. The New Riff is a high rye bourbon with the expected rye-influenced kick. This particular batch is bottled at a robust 110.3 proof. The spice of the rye is prominent in the nose, along with cinnamon, brown sugar and sweet fruit notes. The proof is noticeable in the mouth giving a nice heat, one that stands up well to the full bodied cigar. The rye spiciness makes itself known more as the liquid rests on the tongue. The spiciness is balanced by some vanilla and cream sweetness. I was very pleasantly surprised by enjoyment of the pairing. This despite a memory of this one being a little more harsh previously. That harsher profile remembered was the reason I chose it for the pairing.

I went back and looked my previous remarks on the New Riff, which pretty well confirmed my memory. Then I noted that the previous tasting had been accompanied by a less than stellar cigar. It so happens that the same cigar has since disappointed on multiple occasions. Maybe that had some effect on my perceptions. This outing, I found the bourbon to be a most agreeable drink.

It's often said that the enjoyment of a particular bourbon, or a cigar, is influenced in no small part by one's mood or the accompanying food or cigar or drink, as the case may be. The more I explore bourbon and cigar pairings, and revisit some of the individual players, the more I experience that. I certainly found this to be true with the New Riff Single Barrel. I look forward to enjoying it again, with yet another cigar.


Friday, November 10, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: It's Soup Weather

It will warm you on the inside too.

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, November 9, 2023

Lunch Hour Range Visit

It's that time of the year when the daytime temperatures can vary by 25° or more from one day to the next. I took advantage of one of the higher end of the spectrum on a recent afternoon to scoot over to the range for some brief trigger time. I only took 100 rounds of ammo with me, a choice I quickly regretted.

During some recent home purging activities, a full box of cardboard USPSA targets was discovered in the basement. I've been out of the IDPA version for some time so this was a fortuitous find. Grabbing one of my metal target bases completed the target supply needs. Using the stand-alone target setup turned out to be a good choice as the breeze at the range would have played havoc with the usual target hung from a rope.

As switch from the usual routine, I skipped the OWB range holster and stuck with my IWB holster for the SIG P320 Compact. Current events illustrate that these are good times to stay fresh on the EDC weapons. 

I spent most of the time simply drawing from under a t-shirt and shooting the target set at 15 yards. Shooting various head/body combinations ate through the 100 rounds pretty quickly. Nonetheless, it was an extremely relaxing time amongst the fall colors in the trees. Not a bad way to spend a "lunch hour."


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Another Cool Evening Smoke

After a long week of activities that did not include a chance to relax with a cigar, I was looking forward to the start of the weekend. I'd been eyeing the CAO Flathead V660 cigars resting in my humidor for a couple months, waiting for the opportunity to enjoy one. The large stick offers nearly a two hour smoke, and though I wasn't sure I'd want to be outside that long, I opted to light one anyway. 

I selected the Michter's Small Batch US*1 Bourbon to go along with the smoke. The Michter's is a 91.4 proof bourbon that provides plenty of flavor return for the lower proof and reasonable price point. There's a pleasing aroma of raisons, cherries, and vanilla. The taste has dark fruit, vanilla, oak, and pepper.  The finish is short with some lingering spice. 

As the name suggests, the Flathead V660 is a 6 x 60 box-pressed stick with an extremely flattened cap at the end. I always use a punch to cut the cap when smoking the Flathead. The large size and flattened shape gives an awkward feel in the hand. A Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper covers an Ecuadorian Connecticut binder and Nicaraguan fillers. The smoke has a rich, semi-sweet chocolate and espresso flavor profile. As I find with many large ring gauge cigars, the draw is wide open, even when using a small punch. This limits smoke production somewhat, but the stick maintained an even burn.

The portable propane heater took the edge off the cool temperature, and I did enjoy the entire two hour smoke. The Michter's and the Flathead providing an enjoyable pairing to wind down the week.

The evenings are cool and the dark comes early but the whiskey is "warm" and the smoke refreshing, so it's still a win.


Monday, November 6, 2023

Halloween Chocolates

The evenings when we walked the neighborhood with our son and friends on Halloween are but memories now. I admit I don't always look forward to jumping up and down to answer the door repeatedly, but most years we participate, remembering the thrill it was for the boy. As a celebration-relevant treat, I poured myself some Maker's Mark Hint O' Chocolate II to enjoy with, of course, the occasional candy bar.

The Hint O' Chocolate is a Virginia ABC pick from 2022. The Private Selection is part of the Maker'sWood Finishing Series that was selected by, or for, VA ABC. Bottled at 107.9 proof, there are fruit and oak aromas to start. Those notes continue to the taste, with the addition of sweet cream to the mix. The "chocolate" comes in late. It's a soft mild chocolate tone that fades pretty quickly. I admit when I first tasted it upon purchase, I was not overly impressed. However, perhaps with better timing, I found it a quite enjoyable sip, if a mild one. 

Unfortunately, I'll have plenty of candy to pair with this and other bourbons for a while. We had NO trick or treaters come to the door this year. We live on a cul-de-sac with just a few homes and the kids these days only seem go to the houses on the main street, and only the ones that bring the candy to them at the end of the driveways. Their loss, my gain.


Friday, November 3, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Time Changes

Thus begins the darkness. Don't forget to set your clocks back.

Time to add some extra lighting on the deck.


Redemption Rum Cask Rye and HVC 10th Anniversary

I called this a “second chance” pairing. Both the Redemption Rum Cask Finish (Batch 003) and the HVC 10th Anniversary cigar I had first tried a few months ago. They were both found disappointing during those initial trials.

Having enjoyed the standard Redemption Rye in the past, I picked up the Rum Cask Finish bottle on a whim this summer. It was a minimal investment, and I've been exploring various "finished" whiskeys of late. The aroma gives off basic rye notes of spice and sweet fruit and caramel. Even at a low 94 proof, I get some alcohol tingle in the nose. The flavor profile is rather uninspiring with initial alcohol sharpness, merging into cinnamon and a sweet mix of brown sugar and molasses. There's a "young" harshness marking the flavor profile. Only in the finish do I detect a note of the rum influence.

I had first smoked the HVC 10th Anniversary last July. At the time I noted repeated burn issues, both uneven burns and difficulty keeping at the burn actually going. I was hoping a few months in the humidor would help. The  6 1/2 x 50 Toro is a Nicaraguan puro with a Nicaragua Jalapa Corojo ‘99 wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and Nicaraguan Corojo ‘99, Corojo 2012, and Criollo ‘98 fillers. 

Upon lighting I get a vanilla blend of earth, nuts, leather, and a bit of cedar. The smoke feels "heavy" and leaves some dryness behind. For a while the burn seems to go along fine. The stick is very light and loosely packed, with some very soft spots near the middle. Eventually the smoke production slows and I am forced to relight. Cleaning off the ash I notice an off-center hollow space in the roll. Relighting seems to take and the burn continues. Despite my initial relief through the first half, the situation stays the same for the rest of the smoke and I am frequently touching up the diminishing burn. That does nothing for the flavor, or my relaxation. I eventually gave up on the cigar with a couple inches left.


Well, these things happen I suppose. I knew going in the selections would both need to redeem themselves. While the flavors of neither were bad per se, they both left a lot to be desired. Perhaps if one or the other had proven exceptional, it would have boosted the other. I still have most of the bottle left, and a few of the cigars on hand. I'll probably give both yet another go at some point. Although not at the same time.


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Afternoon Cappuccino and a Cigar

Sometimes you just need a diversion from gazing at spreadsheets and answering email. On a warm afternoon that could mean heading outside for a coffee and cigar. In the mood for something sweet and and a little decadent, I made a quick cappuccino. 

The accompanying smoke was a Southern Draw Rose of Sharon Desert Rose Londsdale. This limited edition of the Desert Rose is a 6 x 44 lonsdale that features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, a Nicaraguan habano leaf binder, and filler consisting of Honduran Corojo 99 and Dominican Piloto Cubano tobaccos. The wrapper is said to be a bolder version of Ecuadorian Connecticut used in the original Rose of Sharon. I enjoy Southern Draw cigars frequently, but have actually not had the Rose of Sharon so I will accept that untested. What I do know, is this cigar is more robust than I typically expect from Connecticut wrapper, and that's a good thing. The cigar kicked off with a peppery spice, before the addition of creamy bread and earth. Start to finish I found it a flavorful companion to the creamy espresso drink.

It wasn't too long before my "diversion" was interrupted by an urgent request for some data from the salt mine. Thankful for wifi, I was able to continue the afternoon smoke while working on my laptop.