Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Still Austin Single Barrel Cask Strength

During our recent trip to St. Louis, I stopped by a Total Wine to shop for distilled spirits and Still Austin Whiskey was at the top of my list. It's a brand that's been on my wishlist for some time. I had read online Total Wine was the only St. Louis seller. I didn't verify that by shopping around, as the Total Wine had more than enough selection to fill my needs. The seemingly endless shelves of interesting bourbon and other whiskey was a sight to behold compared to the pathetically poorly selection at VA ABC stores.

As we were buying a number of bottles of desired spirits, I limited myself to one Still Austin, selecting the Single Barrel Cask Strength. I finally had a chance to crack it open on a recent evening. The bourbon is a very bright and dark amber color in the glass. Strong brown sugar and dark fruit notes emenate from the glass. I am reminded of sherry in a way. There's a hint of the 116 proof in the nose. 

The first taste on the palate is warm and tingly. The heat is quickly moderated by flavorful notes of raison, plum, caramel, molasses, cinnamon, and maple. The profile is complex and richly satisfying. The flavors coat the mouth and linger for an extended time. 

The Still Austin Single Barrel Cask Strength belies its two year age statement. So often, I find bourbons in the two to three year age range simply come across as unfinished and unpolished. Not so with the Still Austin product. It has the richness and maturity one might expect from a more mature age statement.

I initially spent some time tasting the whiskey from a Glencairn glass to get an impression of the full profile. This led me to select a full bodied cigar to go along with it — the Southern Draw Kudzu Axil Lancero.

The Southern Draw Kudzu Axil Lancero has been in my humidor for close to a year now. The 6 1/2 x 40 stick features a small pigtail cap and closed foot. A dark brown Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper holds Nicaraguan Ometepe binder and Nicaraguan fillers.

The full bodied cigar starts off with cinnamon and black pepper. The spice notes are soon joined by leather and wood. In juxtaposition to the spice, there's also a creaminess to the smoke. I found the cigar and bourbon to be quite complimentary.

The evening air as I smoked on the porch was thick with humidity. The sky was cloudy and intermittent rain added to the heaviness of the air. My glass stayed coated with moisture. The cigar burn suffered a bit as it took on the moisture of the air. Attentiveness was required to keep a strong burn going. Still, it was a pleasant 80 minutes of smoking and sipping despite the less than agreeable weather.


Friday, July 19, 2024

Five O'Clock Friday: To Whiskey or Not To Whiskey

The choice is easy.

Have a great weekend. Stay safe.

(Meme makers don't proofread. It's humorous nonetheless.)


Thursday, July 18, 2024

A Brief Stop in Frankfort, KY

We spent the first week of July in St. Louis, MO attending a convention unrelated to my bourbon and cigar interests. Driving from Virginia by way of an overnight in Frankfort, Kentucky, we arrived after closing time for the local distilleries. We did enjoy dinner and a few drinks at Bourbon on Main in downtown Frankfort before retiring for an early morning start on the next leg of our trip. After an appetizer of Deviled Eggs and a cocktail, we enjoyed robust dinner of Kentucky Hot Chicken Strips and fries. I had a pour of E.H. Taylor, Jr. Straight Rye with my dinner. Never having tried the rye from this producer, I was curious. I found it enjoyable, not as much as the bourbons from Eh.H Taylor.

Returning home to Virginia by the same route, we again stopped overnight in Frankfort, KY. This time we planned to do some local sightseeing in the morning before continuing our journey.

Upon checking in to the hotel, we noticed there was a Big Boy restaurant next door. We walked over to it for a nostalgic dinner. Of course, a double decker smash burger with crinkle cut fries made up the enjoyable, even if not heart healthy, dinner.

Returning to the hotel I poured a bit of bourbon from my travel flask and sat down to plan the next morning's adventure.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is located in Frankfort. It's one of the few local distilleries open for visitors on a Monday. There were a few other sights nearby we wanted to see as well. The Buffalo Trace visitor center offers three bourbons on a daily basis; Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Traveller Whiskey, and Sazerac Rye Whiskey. They also offer a rotation of four brands, with one selection being offered each day; Weller Special Reserve, Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor Small Batch, or Blanton’s Single Barrel. The daily offerings, and stock status are posted in the morning on the Buffalo Trace website

I was hoping that E. H. Taylor would be the pick of the day. Alas, it was not. Blanton's Single Barrel got the nod that day. The distillery opens at 9:00AM. Arriving around 8:20AM we joined a line of about 100 fans.

The distillery rules state that a person may buy just one bottle of each variety on the limited list within a 90 period. Apparently some folks did not check the website before arriving in the morning. When one of the guides announced the picked of the day a number of folks left the line since they happened to be in "Blanton's jail" already.

The first stop is to have or ages verified. Our driver's licenses were scanned, and we were issued wrist bands tied to our ID. This process both confirms a legal age for any tasting, and serves as the monitoring system for the limited purchases. 

We did not have time for a tour on this trip, so we went right into the gift shop. After perusing the many shelves of Blanton's, we each selected a bottle that contained needed topper letters, we continued shopping. We left with new glassware, a bar mat, t-shirts, and some miniatures of Buffalo Trace for fun. The bottles of Buffalo Trace are not bound by limited purchases, unlike in Virginia, but we passed on them. The car was extremely packed and I do have several backup bottles on hand. I saw visitors stocking up with carts full of that popular, and reasonably priced bourbon. I also saw one person being denied his purchase of Blanton's when the cashier scanned his wrist band and noted he had already purchased a bottle within 90 days.

We had not planned to do any tasting this trip, but the lines at the tasting bars were short so we opted to indulge. It just 10:00AM, but the pours were small. We enjoyed a guided tasting for just the two of us before getting back on the road.

On the outbound leg of the trip, we noted a few other stops in Frankfort we wanted to make. The first was a Frank Lloyd Wright house. The Reverend Jesse R. Zeigler Residence is a private home in a quiet neighborhood. We made brief stop to take photos. I am sure the residents are used to it.

I also wanted to see the Daniel Boone Monument in a local cemetery. After a winding drive around the large, old cemetery we finally came upon the monument. I had in my mind that this was the grave of Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca. I later learned that Rebecca is indeed buried there. However there is controversy over the final resting place of her husband.

Apparently when the cemetery first opened, the remains of the couple were meant to be transferred to the new cemetery from the original resting place in Missouri. It later arose that the body buried next to Rebecca, and presumed to be Daniel, may in fact be another person. It is said that when Daniel died years after Rebecca, he was actually buried at her feet due to space availability. So it may be some other person under the monument, while Daniel Boone remains back in the Missouri site. A historical mystery that remains yet unresolved.

While in the cemetery we saw signs for the Kentucky Memorial for the Unborn. We made a brief stop to offer our prayers and respects.

After these stops, we continued our journey towards home. Stops for lunch, dinner, and stretching, made for a long day of travel. The trip was enjoyable and we saw many old friends gathered in St. Louis. We also caught up a cousin we had not seen in 25+ years for lunch. We already are thinking about when we will return to "Bourbon Country" for a longer, planned tour.


Monday, July 15, 2024

Sunday Cocktail: Paper Moon, With Noble Cigars Act Two

They keep telling us that we're experiencing an "extreme heat advisory." My response is, we're in Virginia, and it's July. Not to be daunted, we still headed out to the deck on Sunday afternoon, as we often do, for cocktails, snacks, and for me, a cigar.

During our recent travels we had picked up a bottle of Benedictine. For some reason it's harder to get in our area, most of the ABC stores stocking only the Benedictine & Brandy DOM. So we looked for a suitable cocktail to make use of it. The Paper Plane came immediately to mind.

The Paper Plane is a classic and easy to make drink, just four ingredient in equal parts. Add 0.75 oz. of bourbon, 0.75 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice, 0.75 oz. Amaro Nonino, and 0.75 oz. Aperol to a shaker and shake briefly over ice. The drink is strained and poured (typically) into a coupe glass. We prefer the rocks glass for most of pour drinks, so that's what we used. An orange peel is added for a garnish. Another advantage of the Paper Plane as a summer drink is that it's chilled, but not served ice. That minimizes dilution and the amount of condensation on the glass. And it's amazingly refreshing! Random meats, crackers, and nuts made up the hors d’oeuvres part of the table. 

The Noble Cigars is a relatively new cigar maker, founded in 2022 and based in Florida. They currently have two cigars, both rolled in Dominican Republic. The Noble Cigars Act Two has been in my humidor about 5 weeks before smoking. Would that be enough time? Let's see . . .

The 6 x 52 Toro is cloaked in a smooth, dark brown Mexican San Andrés wrapper. The innards are listed as simply Dominican. The Noble website describes the cigar as a full-bodied “Doble Ligero." Upon lighting, I get a warm black and chili pepper note right out of the gate. I can feel it on the retrohale as well. The poignant point is it's not harsh, just flavorful. As the cigar warmed, dark fruit, caramel, and chocolate all join the party. All the while, a fun chili note lingers in the background. Chili pepper and chocolate anyone? 

The burn on the Noble Cigars Act Two is near perfect, "stacking dimes" is how I've heard this performance described. Even with a break to make another batch of drinks, and long breaks to snack, the cigar never went out.

It's a pleasant experience when I try a totally unknown cigar, and get blown away. I got an enjoyable 90+ minute smoke from the cigar. That was just the right amount of time in the still, humid mid-day heat of the deck. Not even a breeze stirred to carry away the copious smoke.

I purchased a  5-pack of these smokes from Luxury Cigar Club, the only online retailer I've found. There are no listed retailers within 300 miles. At this writing, LCC is out of stock, but I have put in my address to be notified when that changes. 


Thursday, July 11, 2024

A (Very) Hot Smoking Time

We were on the road for eleven days to end June and begin July. There were many fun times while we engaged in other interests, but sadly no opportunity for enjoying a cigar. We did make a brief pass through Frankfort, KY, which included a stop at the Buffalo Trace Distiller to shop and do a morning tasting.

After a long day spent catching up on things around the house upon our return, I was looking forward to relaxing with a cigar. Alas, we're in the midst of a summer extreme heat wave, and the screen porch was hovering over 100°. I noticed after dinner that the thermometer needle had dropped below the 100° mark. Close enough.

Grabbing a Foundation Aksum from my travel humidor, I turned on the fans and tried to make the best of it. (I traveled with cigars, just didn't get to smoke them.)

The Foundation Aksum is a 5 x 50 Robusto cloaked in a very dark Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper leaf. The binder is Connecticut broadleaf and the filler tobaccos hail from the Jalapa and Estelí regions in Nicaragua. The cigar is a bold, full bodied smoke with rich notes of sweet espresso and dark chocolate predominating. Black pepper, and dark cherry and raison notes blended throughout. This is the same cigar previously released as Foundation Metapa. A trademark issue prompted the rebranding.

After getting settled and adjusted to the heat, I poured the remaining bit of Wilderness Trail Bourbon from my travel flask. (I also traveled with bourbon, but didn't need to pour from the flanked often since other sipping opportunities did abound.)

Wilderness Trail is a wheated bourbon. The distillery releases in small batches of 18 barrels, after 5-6 years of aging. Strong aromas of vanilla and caramel waft from the glass. There's a pleasing oak presence which joins the vanilla and caramel. A hefty dose of cinnamon and pepper spiciness rounds out the finish. That spicy heat makes a flavorful match for the robust cigar.

Perhaps some less "hot" flavor choices for the pairing may have been better for the very warm temperature. Still, the one hour break was welcome and enjoyable.


Thursday, July 4, 2024

Independence Day

A thought for today.

For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.
— Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman on the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, 24 June 1826.

This ending to Jefferson's last letter is worth remembering today.


Friday, June 28, 2024

Summer Coffee and Smoke

This week, I finally got around to planting a couple of trees we acquired about a month ago. They should have been put in the ground right away but I had to wait for a back issue to be (mostly) mitigated. They are finally in the ground, in the midst of an extreme heat wave. Time will tell how well they do.  

After that morning chore, I retired to the screen porch, with a Caldwell Lost & Found Cream Machine. Despite the heat, I also had a cup of cappuccino. We often enjoy a cappuccino in the afternoon. It's a faux pas to order cappuccino in the afternoon in Italy, but in this house, the rules don't apply. 

The Cream Machine had been hiding in the humidor since July of 2023. The light brown 6 1/4 x 52 Toro is wrapped with Ecuadoran Brazilian-seed Arapiraca tobacco. The rest of the blend is Dominican, consisting of a Dominican Piloto binder, with Dominican Piloto, Dominican HVA and Dominican Habano fillers. The cigar is hefty but has an open draw when cut. As suspected, the flavor profile started off mild, with creamy peanut and graham cracker notes. There's a hint of white pepper and cheddar. Through most of the smoke the flavor was consistent and the cigar burned well. I was enjoying the pairing with the creamy cappuccino.

In the last third of the Cream Machine, it started developing a bitter note. Interestingly the ash became very flaky at the same time, and started leaving a bit of a mess in my lap and chair. Could be I was smoking too fast or perhaps just the nature of that particular stick. The flavor was not unpleasant, but also a significant twist that I did not find as enjoyable. Overall the experience, coupled with the relaxation, made for a delightful afternoon repast. 


Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Celebrating the Eve of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

One of the oldest celebrations in the Catholic Church, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist was June 24. Traditionally, a bonfire marked the eve of the Saint's birthday. For our part, we decided to enjoy a small commemoration with a fire, food, cigars, and drink.

We were joined for our celebration by a good priest friend, the evening starting out with a delicious slow cooked pork dinner. Afterwards we retired to the back yard for the main event. I grabbed a couple of the newly redesigned Wise Man Maduro selections from Foundation Cigars. We poured The Macallan Edition No.1 Scotch, and Colleen set out a selection of cheeses and salami to nibble on.

The fire was small, in deference to the high temperatures outdoors, and sat further back from the fire pit than usual. Still, it was warm! 

Foundation Cigars recently released a redesigned Wise Man line. The Wise Man Maduro and Wise Man Corojo. The older El Güegüense and Wise Man Maduro lines were discontinued. The new cigars are made at the My Father Cigars factory, another change. The previous lines were produced by the Aganorsa team

The 6 x 52 Toro has a dark reddish, Mexican San Andrés wrapper. Two Nicaraguan binders from Nicaragua Estelí and Jalapa regions, with a mix of fillers from Estelí, Condega and Jalapa.

The Wise Man Maduro was an excellent smoke. The cigars had been resting in my humidor for 6 weeks. I prefer a little longer rest for new arrivals but they performed wonderfully. The medium to full bodied smoke had hints of toasted nuts, earth, and sweet chocolate. There was a pleasing cedar spice throughout. At the cigar progressed, there was an occasional increased tasted of the spice, but the flavors remained in balance. Smoke production was thick with a creamy mouthfeel. The cigar was quite enjoyable and I suspect with just a bit more resting time, the spice notes would even out.

Afterwards, we cooled off inside with some chocolate icebox pie. All in all, a feast fitting to celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist, the last and greatest prophet.


Monday, June 24, 2024

Sagamore Spirit Sherry Finish Rye, CAO V660, and the Heat!

Our heat advisory reached its peak over the weekend, but that didn't stop my enjoyment life's simple pleasures. While the wall thermometer read 98° on Friday evening, the "official" temperature was a mere 94°. It's all in your attitude and perspective really. To my mind, outside is preferred over inside, especially when I can add a cigar to the mix.

A CAO Flathead V660 and some Sagamore Spirit Sherry Finish Rye, enjoyed with multiple large glasses of ice water, was the order of the evening.

The CAO Flathead V660 is a cigar I had not explored in a while, though I've had some resting in my humidor since last August. It's a big cigar and as such requires some devoted time to enjoy in its full measure. The 6 x 60 box-pressed dark chocolate hued Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper covers an Ecuadorian Connecticut binder and Nicaraguan fillers. The flavor profile offers rich, semi-sweet chocolate, and espresso notes. The cap of the V660 is quite flat and I always use a punch to open it, rather than attempting a standard straight cut. Despite its heft, the cigar has a wide open draw. I have used a V cutter on one in the past and found the draw too open for my preferences.

The Sagamore Spirit Reserve Series Sherry Finish Rye goes especially well with a full bodied cigar. This is a 4-year old straight rye whiskey which is further aged for 18 months in PX Sherry casks, and bottled at 106 proof. The rye is a brilliant a deep burnt orange color. Aromas of figs, cherries, and raisons greet the nose, foretelling the flavors to come. Upon lighting an immediate hit of cinnamon spice starts things off. A dark sherry impression soon arrives, joining the dark fruit notes. The sherry finished rye is quite flavorful with just a hint of alcohol in the smooth finish. I've had this bottle for about two years, and after this outing there is only a small amount remaining. I chose not to finish it off, just to be able to savor one more pour, probably in the near future.

A couple of cooling fans moderated the heat on the porch ever so slightly. Despite the temperature, I experienced an enjoyable evening, watching the occasional firefly showing off, while enjoying a two hour smoke and sip.


Saturday, June 22, 2024

Weekend Beer Math

In case anyone asks  . . . 

Enjoy the weekend. And stay cool


Friday, June 21, 2024

From One Year to the Next

On the first full day of summer last year, I was lamenting the need to fire up the propane heater to enjoy a cigar on the deck. 

This year, the wall thermometer tells me that today's evening repast will require no such preparations. I do expect it may cool slightly when the sun sets and I'm fully ensconced outside with a cigar and bourbon, and some new blues coming from the outdoor speaker.

Truth be told, I prefer the present weather to the previous year's.

Happy Friday.


Thursday, June 20, 2024

Summer Kickoff

After what seemed like a long wet spring, summer officially arrived on Thursday. And in typical Virginia fashion, the season arrived in a heat wave. I always welcome the warm weather nonetheless. Though technically summer officially arrives at exactly 4:51 p.m. EDT, this is interestingly the earliest summer solstice since June 20, 1796, when George Washington was president.

After I set out the morning lawn sprinklers, I poured a cup of coffee and sat down with a little Sagrado Feito Connecticut. 

The Sagrado Feito Connecticut is a 5 x 38 Petite Corona. Part of the May Luxury Cigar Club mailing, it's been in my humidor just about 5 weeks. The rustic looking Connecticut wrapper hides Dominican binder and fillers. The tobaccos are said to be aged before rolling, but that's as specific information as I've found.

After taking a couple cuts from the pointed cap, I found the pointed tip was still a little small for comfortable smoking, but the draw was wide open so I left it there. The first quarter of the cigar required constant effort to maintain a good light, but when the small cigar was lit, it produced plenty of smoke. As the cigar progressed, the burn improved significantly. 

The flavors were sweet but mild, with nuts and cedar predominating. Near the end a splash of white pepper made an appearance. I've smoked only one cigar from Sagrado previously, the Sagrado Lilith Petite Corona. That cigar I found superior to the Feito, and an exceptional coffee accompaniment. This one was less impressive, though a morning coffee and cigar is always an enjoyable moment.


Monday, June 17, 2024

A Big Smoke for Friday: El Septimo Empress of Sheba

It took me most of Friday to decide on my evening selections. I guess that's the problem with having a wide selection on hand. I picked up this El Septimo Empress of Sheba about a month ago, when shopping for some celebratory cigars. The 6 x 60 Gordo is part of El Septimo's Emperor Collection. The Emperor Collection is dedicated to history's most sovereign rulers. The deep brown maduro wrapper of the Empress of Sheba glistens behind the decorative gold and blue bands.

El Septimo is characteristically unrevealing on the details of the blend. When I asked to cigar shop proprietor about the blend, he simply responded, "You got me." The cigar looked enticing so I took a chance on one.  

The El Septimo Empress Empress Sheba has been resting in my humidor for just a month. That's the minimum time I prefer to keep new additions before they are smoke, though I am not always as patient as I plan. I decided to use a punch to open the cap and found I loose, open draw, right near the edge of my preference.

The initial flavor that hit me was a moderate white pepper. That was soon joined by a creamy dark chocolate and nut blend. Smoke production was copious. Chocolate and espresso came to the forefront through the bulk of the cigar. Occasionally another smack of white pepper would mix things up a bit.

The large cigar fell right in the medium bodied range. In the second half, I felt a bit of strength come through, however the flavor profile changed little throughout the smoke. It did have the feel of well-aged tobacco, though I have no info to confirm that. The burn was a bit faster than I expected, ending at around 90 minutes. Overall an enjoyable, though unexceptional smoke, if a bit on the pricey side.

I enjoyed a couple pours of one of my go-to sippers, Four Roses Small Batch Select. There isn't too much to be said about it that I haven't already said in previous Musings. This Four Roses bourbon is crafted from a blend of six of the Four Roses mash bills and is bottled at 104 proof. The profile is filled with sweet, dark fruit, vanilla and oak, with just a touch of spice. It's a moderately priced bourbon that pairs well with cigars, fruits, and cheese. Just the thing for weekends in these parts.


Friday, June 14, 2024

Flag Day and National Bourbon Day - What a Combo!

June 14 is filled with truly "Made in America" celebrations. Today is Flag Day, the day we celebrate our Nation's flag and all it represents. On the same day we also mark National Bourbon Day, the day we celebrate an "official" American beverage. 

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

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

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

Fun fact: Viewing the American flag leads to higher brain function.


Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Creation of the Beer Fridge

It begins here.

And finishes in the basement or garage. That's where the majority of its existence will be.


Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Sunday Wine, Hors d'Oeuvres, and a Cigar

Aah. . . Sunday afternoon. Even in retirement, Sunday's remain special. Mass in the morning, then a nice breakfast/lunch, followed by reading, and piddling around the house or yard. There was a time when Sunday afternoon also included a visit to one of our favorite local pubs for drinks and light food before dinner. Now it we are more likely to spend the late afternoon on the deck, with of course, drinks and light food, with the added bonus that I can also enjoy a cigar.

This past Sunday afternoon I had an urge for wine instead of beer or bourbon. It just seemed right for the sunny afternoon. I selected a bottle of Rebellion "Commonwealth" red wine. The local wine is from the Rebellion Bourbon Bar in Fredericksburg. Rebellion offers a house stave pick of Maker's Mark bourbon. When they receive the bourbon, they also receive the barrel it was aged in. Rebellion work with a local vintner to produce a red wine aged for 8 months in the barrels.

My wine knowledge is generally limited to liking a wine, or not. I do favor full bodied reds. The bourbon barrel aged wine is semi-dry with sweet dark berry fruit notes. It is low in tannins with no bitterness. I didn't find any distinctive or different notes, outside of a very pleasantly drinking wine.  And, one that happened to pair quite nicely with the La Paline Black Label cigar I chose to enjoy.

The La Palina Black Label is a 6 x 50 Toro. The cigar has not spent much time in my humidor as I just picked it up last week when visiting the cigar lounge. However I was most interested in trying it out, and it just looked like it would pair well. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

The cigar uses a Brazilian Bahiano wrapper, which encases a double binder of Dominican and Nicaraguan leaves, as well as filler tobaccos from those two countries as well. The Black Label kicks off black pepper spice, along with hints of cocoa and roasted nuts. As the smoke progressed the cocoa shifted to more of a sweet dark chocolate. The cigar provides a full bodied smoke, although it is not harsh at all and should be approachable by most smokers. I enjoyed a 90 minute smoke with no burn issues.

I had high hopes for the pairing, and I was not disappointed. The two flavor profiles were complimentary, like a classic red wine and chocolate pairing.


Monday, June 10, 2024

Friday Evening - A Cigar, A Rye, and New Music

I'd been looking forward to revisiting the Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye, and finally did pull it down from the shelf on Friday evening. I also grabbed a Rocky Patel The Edge 20th Anniversary to smoke along with the rye on a pleasantly warm and low humidity evening. This sort of weather doesn't last long in Virginia.

Batch 2 of Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye was released in the fall of 2022. The mash bill is 95 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley and bottled at moderate 105 proof. The #1 char barrels used for the cigar blend were smoked over tobacco leaves.

The aroma is light in the rocks glass, but a rye spice and a hint smoke come through. The rye spiciness is forward in the sip. Tobacco and citrus notes come through after the initial spice. A caramel and tobacco smoke presence coats the palate in a lingering finish. Taking a sip of water clears the spice and helps the tobacco smoke come through. I enjoyed the Buzzard's Roost Cigar Rye. It's not the typical cognac - port - wine finish of other "cigar blends" but makes a quite pleasant pairing for the cigar.

The Rocky Patel Edge 20th Anniversary is a smoke I've enjoyed often. This particular 5 1/2" X 50 Robusto has been resting in the humidor for a year. The 20th Anniversary was introduced by Rocky Patel in 2022 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Edge series. The stick has a 10 year aged Ecuador Sumatra wrapper, a Honduran Broadleaf binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Panama. The chocolate brown, silky wrapper gives evokes a classic HERSHEY'S Chocolate Bar. The medium bodied smoke delights with rich notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and nuts. The flavor was consistent throughout the smoke, which was just fine with me as it was pairing with the rye most beautifully.

The Friday evening was made even more enjoyable with some new music from a favorite artist. I'd been looking forward to Joanne Shaw Taylor's new blues album to be released. As Friday was the release date, it got a couple play throughs in the course of this evening.


Sunday, June 9, 2024

Sunday Humor

A laugh for your Sunday morning.

A preacher was delivering a temperance sermon one hot Sunday afternoon. With great exposition, he said, “If I had all the beer in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.”

With greater conviction, he banged his fist on the pulpit; “And if I had all the wine in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.”

Finally, he said, “And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.”

Sensing he delivered a powerful sermon, he whipped his brow and sat down.

The choirmaster, with shock on his face, looked over the congregation, stood very cautiously, and announced with a wry smile, “For our closing song, let us sing Hymn #365: “Shall We Gather at the River?”

This laugh courtesy of OldNFO


Friday, June 7, 2024

Relaxing at the Cigar Lounge

I decided to go over to the cigar lounge to enjoy an afternoon of smoking inside for a change. Feeling free from any interruptions from my (former) employer, I sat down with a Aganorsa Leaf La Validación Habano. 

The lounge was pretty empty in the early weekday afternoon. Instead of conversation, I spent the time reading. (Kindle app on my phone for the win.) The Aganorsa Leaf La Validación Habano is a cigar I've not tried previously. This 6 1/4 x 52 Toro is smoothly wrapped in an Ecuador Habano leaf, with Nicaraguan binder and fillers. The double gold-accented, colorful bands make for a showy presentation. 

The first few puffs are a robust black pepper wake up. The smoke quickly gets slightly more balanced with the addition of leather and some sweet chocolate. As I smoked I occasionally detected nuts and a dry earthiness. The cigar kept its full bodied and spicy personality throughout. The burn was even and slow, giving a full two hours of enjoyment.

In a bit of irony, I received a text message from my old boss. It was not unwelcome though, as we had also developed a non-work related friendship. He also recently left the company and was just checking in to chat. That was certainly more preferred than a work interruption. 


Wednesday, June 5, 2024

AVO Unexpected Celebration and Courage & Conviction Double Cask Reserve

I don't try to age cigars for long periods in general. The oldest cigars in my humidor are around five years old. Most are two years old or less. "Smoke 'em if you got 'em" I say. There was one AVO Unexpected Celebration in there from my purchase in August 2019.

When the AVO Unexpected line was released it was touted as a new line of specially crafted cigars. In reality the cigars appear to be rebranded prior releases. The Celebration is the same as the AVO XO. Probably not the best PR that AVO could do, but that marketing technique is probably not unique to them.

The Celebration is rolled with an Ecuadoran wrapper, and binder and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic. The cigars were aged for six years before being released. So I'll see what 10 years of aging bring.

This cigar was about the same as I remember. Mild, with sweet chocolate and cedar. Probably the last time I smoked the AVO Celebration was the fall of 2020. I recall it was a smooth, mild cigar, that went well with my morning coffee. This time I decided to pair an American Single Malt Whisky that I had never tasted. I had an airplane bottle Courage & Conviction Double Cask Reserve from Virginia Distilling on hand. I had grabbed the bottle to try out the whiskey before investing in a larger bottle. 

The Double Cask Reserve consists of a blend of 50% Bourbon cask aged, 25% Sherry cask, and 25% Cuvée cask aged whisky. (Whisky is the distiller's preferred spelling.) The flavor made me think of a scotch or irish whisky. It had a mild flavor, with hints of hay, oak, with a hint of pepper and fruit sweetness. The 96 proof was easy on the palate. 

I enjoyed the Courage & Conviction Double Cask Reserve quite a bit. It was well-matched with the cigar's profile. I lamented not having a bit more than the little 50 ml bottle. Coincidently about the same time I was preparing to enjoying this pour, a friend messaged me about the Px Sherry finish Courage & Conviction he was enjoying. It would appear I need look for some more offerings in this lineup.


Monday, June 3, 2024

El Septimo Sacred Arts Collection Da Vinci

For an afternoon smoke recently I grabbed an El Septimo Sacred Arts Collection Da Vinci. This was one of the "special" cigars I picked up recently as I prepared for the great relaxing (aka, retirement.) It hasn't been in the humidor long, but I was anxious to try it out.

The Da Vinci is part of the Sacred Arts Collection by El Septimo. The 7 1/2 x 40 Lancero has a dark chocolate maduro wrapper. The wrapper leaf is toothy with a slightly dry look, though it did not feel dry.

The cigar had a tighter draw than I prefer, which it retained throughout the 95 minute smoke. I had to retouch the bun a couple times when the smoke production wavered. The smoke was dry and earthy, with bit of cedar and black pepper. The spice was joined by cocoa and nuts as the smoke progressed. It was a medium bodied smoke that I enjoyed despite the extra effort required for the draw.

For the sunny afternoon smoke, I paired the El Septimo Sacred Arts Collection Da Vinci with a couple glasses of beer. I started with a leftover Lights Out Holiday Ale from Blue Mountain Brewery. The malty, slightly spiced beer proved a good match. I followed it with a malty Smithwick's Irish Red Ale. Again, the malt rich beer prove a nice compliment to the El Septimo. A pleasant afternoon all around.


Saturday, June 1, 2024

Retirement, Padrón, and Little Book Chapter 6

After a life of chasing a paycheck, twenty-five years of it spent at one company, I am done. Now we can truly get on with enjoying life and the rewards of a successful career. I had been thinking about a starting pairing for the occasion, and even picked up some "special" cigars as options with which to celebrate. I opted to start the next phase with a Padrón 1926 Serie No. 1 Maduro. Perusing my whiskey selections, the Little Book Chapter 6 "To The Finish" struck me as a fitting first toast drink.

The Padrón 1926 Serie No. 1 was a two and a half hour pleasurable and flavorful smoke. I began that time deleting all  the work-related apps from my phone. After that, the evening was spent relaxing, knowing there were to be no more emails from work, no more Slack messages, and no more phone calls to interrupt the peace. 


Thursday, May 30, 2024

Your Bourbon Has Been "Discarded"

I was excited for the bottle of a newly released bourbon to arrive in time for the weekend. But alas.

Is this the UPS version of a "Thank you" card?

The shipper was very responsive and issued an immediate refund of the charge. I am now taking my chance on a reorder.


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Almond Old Fashioned and Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut

After the enjoyable Perdomo the previous day, I was reminded of the Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut that's been in my humidor since August 2019. I decided it was high time to smoke it. To complete the pairing I mixed up a couple Almond Old Fashioned cocktails to enjoy for our "traditional" Sunday Cocktails on the Deck.

Almond Old Fashioned
  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 oz. Amaretto
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Mix the ingredients over a large ice rock. 
Express an orange peel over the top and add as a garnish.

The cocktail is sweet but at the same time has a balanced bitterness. I used Laws Four Grain Bourbon which I think adds a touch of sweet citrus to the mix. 

The Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut Epicure is a 6" x 56 Toro. It boasts an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper which was aged for eight years and then spent another eight months aging in bourbon barrels. The binder and fillers hail from Nicaragua.

Despite nearly five years of life in the humidor and jostling from adding and removing cigars, the Perdomo stick was in excellent shape. It was still quite pliable and undamaged. The medium-bodied smoke is buttery, with sweet honey and citrus notes. There's a mild cedar spice in the background throughout the smoke. The cigar burned evenly and without issue. When I came back to it after being inside to mix another round of cocktails the cigar was still fully lit and required no touchups at any point.

The Almond Old Fashioned and Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut cigar each complicated the other quite well.


Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Vixen Red Ale and Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Sun Grown

I spent Saturday morning finally getting around to potting up some plants for the deck that had been waiting for my attention for a while. Afterwards, it was time to sit and enjoy the plants and the warm sun. A Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Sun Grown, a local Red Ale, and a "book" was the order of the Memorial weekend Saturday afternoon.

The Old Bust Head Vixen Irish Style Red Ale is a very nice ale, rich in malt with a hint of hop bitterness. It's one I seek out when shopping for Irish Ales in the Spring. This lone bottle was found in the back of the refrigerator, left since last year. It was still in fine condition.

The Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Sun Grown in the 5 x 54 Robusto proved a most satisfying accompaniment. The cigar spent just four weeks resting in my humidor but the smoke was near flawless. The cigar features a milk chocolate colored Nicaraguan Sun Grown wrapper over Nicaraguan binders and fillers. This wrapper leaves were aged for 6 years, followed by an additional 10 months aging in used bourbon barrels. 

The 10th Anniversary Sun Grown is a medium to full bodied cigar. Starting off with sweet caramel and cedar, the smoke is thick and full. As it progresses, caramel, molasses, and coffee join the mix. The spice morphs to a light black pepper. This is a very flavorful smoke. My only disappointment being that it's been so long since I've picked up a supply to have on hand.

I generally prefer to use the Kindle for reading when smoking. It's easy to manage with one hand, and any ashes dropped on the screen can be easily blown off. Sitting on the deck, reading with a good beer and cigar was a most enjoyable way to pass the time. 


Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day

As we begin the unofficial start of Summer, it is necessary to take a moment to pray for those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. We may choose to celebrate the holiday with food, drink, fun and friends, but must do so remembering the reason behind it. Without the sacrifice of our fallen heroes this great country, and indeed the world, would be a much different and lesser place.

It is those sacrifices that helped to preserve the freedoms we value and enjoy today. As we pause to remember our lost heroes, may we also vow to be steadfast in our opposition of those who wish to destroy that which has been so hard won.

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." -- John 15:13

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Woodford Reserve Double Oak With My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT

It's been a busy week around the house, filled with contractors doing work, interspersed by medical appointments, and other necessary business. I was looking forward to some down time with much anticipation. There's been a bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon sitting on my shelf since a friend gifted it to me at Christmas. It was high time to open it. I selected an El Centurion  H-2K-CT by My Father Cigars to enjoy with the smooth Double Oaked.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is one of those libations that I like to keep around. It's a great bourbon to serve to both the new bourbon drinker and the experienced aficionado. I don't believe I've run across someone who does not enjoy it. 

The nose has a pleasing sweet aspect of vanilla and corn. As expected moderate oakiness is present. Sipping coats the palate with rich impressions of sweet vanilla, caramel, oak, and dark fruit. The flavors are robust but not harsh or overwhelming. There's a mild heat of pepper in the finish to top off the enjoyment. There's a reason Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is a staple of many home and restaurant selections. The price tag isn't bad either.

My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT  is a cigar I've paired with success to a variety of libations in the past -- bourbon, stout, wine. The 6 x 52 Toro has a rounded box-press shape with an oily, caramel colored H-2K-CT Connecticut wrapper. The H-2K-CT leaf is Cuban-seed strain of tobacco grown in open sunlight and cultivated in the Connecticut River Valley. The binder and fillers are Nicaraguan. 

This cigar has been resting in my humidor for about 10 months now. The medium bodied smoke comes across as creamy, with a mild pepper warmth. The flavor profile is complex, with vanilla, nuts, caramel, roasted coffee, and dark fruit note detected. The cigar is consistent from start to finish with no transitions over the 90 minute smoking time.

I enjoyed the time spent on the deck with the drink and cigar. The down time was used to reflect on a too long list of friends who have coincidently all passed in the past two months. In addition, this was the kickoff of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. It was time to pause and give thanks to all of those who gave their lives defending the liberty that allows me to sit and enjoy some of my favorite pastimes in safety and freedom. May we never forget their sacrifices, or allow them to have been in vain.


Sunday, May 19, 2024

Liga Privada H99 - An Early Retirement Gift to Myself

With retirement just a couple weeks away, I was looking to treat myself to an early retirement splurge. Hogsheads Cigar lounge held a Drew Estate event last Friday evening, which provided the perfect opportunity to indulge myself. 

The evening featured most, if not all, of the extensive Drew Estate lineup, but the "main event" was showcasing the new Liga Privada H99. Along with the regular vitolas the line cigar, the event-only Corona Doble was available for sale as well. I had decided prior to arriving I was going to treat myself to a box of 24.

The purchase of this special box qualified me for slew of H99-themed swag to go along with it. A glass ashtray, Xikar cutter, keychain, a cigar rest, and a selection of free cigars, were all added to my bag. The hardware will be added to my shelf of other themed cigar accoutrements to make appearances as demanded.

I spent the evening at the lounge enjoying fun conversation and smoking a couple other Drew Estate cigars. I didn't win ay of the raffles of the evening, but I had my prize. I'll let the H99 cigars rest in my humidor for as long as I can resist. I am looking forward to enjoying it soon though -- and I'll have plenty of time to do that.