Thursday, February 29, 2024

Southern Draw Kudzu Axil Lancero

All the social media things reminded me that Tuesday, February 27 was "National Cigar Day." On February 27th, 1883 Oscar Hammerstein I recieved a patent for an automated cigar rolling machine. While our preference is for hand-rolled cigars, Hammerstien changed the cigar industry with some 80 cigar related patents. As an aside Oscar Hammerstein I was the grandfather of Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II, of the famous Rogers & Hammerstein duo. 

Not that I needed an excuse, I decided to mark the occasion with a cigar after dinner. Circumstances had precluded enjoying a smoke for the last couple of weeks, so it was a double celebration.  I selected a Southern Draw Kudzu Axil Lancero to enjoy on the warm evening.

The Southern Draw Kudzu Axil Lancero is a 6 1/2 x 40 Lancero with a small pigtail cap and closed foot. The dark brown wrapper is Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro. A Nicaraguan Ometepe binder and Nicaraguan fillers complete the picture. This cigar has been resting in my humidor for five months. 

Upon lighting, a rush of cinnamon and black pepper flashes across my palate. That was not unexpected as I've smoked other Southern Draw Kudzu vitolas in the past, though it was a bit of a shock. As when taking the first sip of a strong whiskey, my taste buds soon acclimated and I settled in for the robust and flavorful smoke. 

As the stick progressed, the spiciness was joined by leather and wood. As the burn moved into the second half of the cigar, a dry oak began to predominate. The spices were also balanced by the addition of a hint of creaminess. The cigar's strength was medium to strong and I concentrated on moderating my smoking speed.

The burn was slow and even, with copious smoke production. After about 75 minutes, I needed to move on to another activity. Disappointingly, I estimated there was probably another 30-40 minutes left on the cigar. I was not expecting to get that long of a smoke. Relunctantly I set the cigar down, telling myself next time I would allow for more smoking time. I do have more of these delicious cigars in my humidor so that's a consolation.


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Feast of Saint Gabriel Possenti

Today, February 27, is the Feast Day of St. Gabriel Possenti.

Legend holds that Gabriel Possenti was a Catholic seminarian in Isola del Gran Sasso, Italy. In 1860 he is said to have used his skills with the pistol to drive off a band of marauding soldiers who were terrorizing the town. Possenti faced the troublemakers after grabbing revolvers from two soldiers. As they laughed at the young student, he took aim and accurately shot a lizard that was running across the road. Impressed, the soldiers left the town, escorted by the seminarian, who had become the hero of the town.

Like many Saints, there's an unclear line between the facts of the Saint's life and the tradition associated with him. However, this story about Gabriel Possenti has led to him being promoted as the Patron Saint of Handgunners. The St. Gabriel Possenti Society was created for the purpose of promoting the Saint's cause. The society promoted the study of the historical, philosophical and theological bases for the doctrine of self-defense. Sadly, the founder of the group died in 2017 and it appears the organization is no longer active.

A few years ago, our parish was presented with a relic of St. Gabriel Possenti, under the title St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. It was an exciting moment when I saw the blurb announcing the displayed relic in our weekly bulletin. Since then, I've enjoyed sharing the story of Gabriel Possenti with many parishioners. I dare say most of our Catholic friends who also enjoy the shooting sports are now familiar with the Saint and his story.

In another interesting "coincidence," my Virginia Concealed Handgun permit was originally issued on February 27, the Feast Day of the Patron Saint of Handgunners!

St. Gabriel Possenti ora pro nobis!

Today would be a great day to hit the range. If that's not possible, perhaps I'll buy some extra ammo instead, if I can find any for sale at a reasonable price.


Friday, February 16, 2024

Five O'Clock Friday: A Lenten Sacrifice

An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers.

The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone.

An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more.

This happens yet again.

The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering about the Man Who Orders Three Beers.

Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. "I don't mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?"

'Tis odd, isn't it?" the man replies, "You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond."

The bartender and the whole town was pleased with this answer, and soon the Man Who Orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.

Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening - he orders only two beers. The word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers.

The next day, the bartender says to the man, "Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all..."

The man ponders this for a moment, then replies, "You'll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well... It's just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent."


Thursday, February 15, 2024

Amendola Family Cigars West Side Story The Blade

It's a constant theme around here of late -- will there remain a bit of sunshine to enjoy at the end of the work day? On a recent cool evening while the sun set, a new cigar, the Amendola West Side Story, provided a pleasant opportunity to enjoy the sunset with a smoke.

Amendola West Side Story is a new line, announced in 2023, consisting of two varieties. This vitola, named The Blade, is a 6 x 53 torpedo that uses a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper over an Indonesian binder. The filler tobaccos hail from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. This cigar was included in the January Luxury Cigar Club mailing, so has been resting just over four weeks. 

It's a well-rolled cigar with sharp cap. Upon lighting the Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper influence stands out. I've only smoked a few cigars using that wrapper, but it's distinctive. The flavor is a spicy, rich toast, cocoa, and coffee combination with an underlying sweetness. The cigar is full flavored and left hint of pepper in the back of my palate. 

The draw was on the looser side and I did a couple minor touch ups, but otherwise the performance was fine. Perhaps a bit more time in the humidor would have made it even smoother. The mocha coffee was a balanced and flavorful match up.

As is often the case with the Luxury Cigar Club shipments, the Amendola cigar was previously unknown to me. And it did not disappoint. That's one of the main benefits to me of the monthly three cigar shipment.


Monday, February 12, 2024

Rocky Patel Disciple and Old Forester 1910

The days are getting longer. Ever so slowly, but it's beginning to be noticeable. It's nice to start the evening smoke with a bit of sunlight still available. I kicked off the weekend with a Rocky Patel Disciple paired with some Old Forester 1910 Old Fine Whisky. (Old Forester uses the Old World spelling without the 'e'.)

Old Forester is "double oaked" bourbon. The whiskey undergoes a second barreling in a heavily charred barrel. The technique is said to have originated after a warehouse fire in 1910 when bourbon was moved into charred barrels from the fire. The 93 proof bourbon has rich, caramel and vanilla aroma. There's a hint of smoke but it's surprisingly faint. The aroma is easily noticeable from the side table even as I light my cigar.

Sipping the bourbon it's apparent why the fairly new bottle is nearly empty. This was indeed a bottle kill evening. My palate is treated to more rich flavors of caramel and vanilla. A touch of tobacco and cocoa make it into the mix. The finish is mildly spicy and sweet. Oh, I do wish there was more to be poured.

The Rocky Patel Disciple is a cigar I've enjoyed on many occasions since its 2021 release, in both Robusto and Toro vitolas. This 6 x 50 Toro has been resting for about four months in the humidor. In what seems like a break from the usual Rocky Patel release, the cigar is not box-pressed, a switch I appreciate.

The cigar initially sports a large superfluous band that covers much of the length, in addition to the usual cigar band nearer to the cap. Fortunately the large covering slides right off, and makes a handy prop for the cigar.

The cigar is wrapped in a dark San Andrés wrapper leaf.  The wrapper encases binder and fillers tobaccos from Nicaragua. The Disciple is a medium to full bodied, richly flavored smoke. Notes of espresso and cocoa come first. Black pepper and raisons follow. The burn line was sharp and smoke production was plentiful for the entire 90 minute smoke. Unfortunately the second band suffered from excessive glue and was removed in pieces. A small bit of wrapper leaf tore away but it did not affect performance. Oddly, I've experienced this issue with each of the Disciples I've smoked.

By the time the cigar, and the bourbon, was finished the temperature had only dropped to 58°. The evening was extremely pleasant, especially with the added pleasure of not having to run the propane heater. 


Sunday, February 11, 2024

Sunday Morning Thoughts: Just Live

Sometimes we need a simple reminder.

Collected online, from where or when I remember not.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Saint José Sánchez del Río

Today, February 10, is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint José Sánchez del Río. On this date in 1928, this 14 year old boy was killed by Mexican troops for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith during the Cristero War. The story of this period of Catholic persecution led by Mexican President Calles was told in the movie "For Greater Glory." The young martyr was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005, and later canonized by Pope Francis on October 16, 2016.

The Saint's story is one with which few American Catholics are familiar. That is a tragedy in its own right. Though they might not know the Saint's story, many Americans are no doubt familiar with his face. The picture, shown below, of the young boy with Cristeros fighters is one we often see hanging in Mexican restaurants throughout the United States, among other old photos. Probably not too many diners know that a Saint and fighter for religious freedom is looking down at them while they eat.

After José was captured by government forces fighting the Cristero, he was forced to witness the torture and execution of fellow Catholic countrymen, yet he never wavered in his faithful resolve. He was himself was tortured and urged to shout "Death to Christ the King" with the promise his suffering would be over. On the day of his torturous execution, the soldiers cut the soles of his feet and he was made to walk barefooted to the grave they had dug for him. He was repeatedly stabbed with bayonets as he made his way to the place of his martyrdom.

Even after he had been shot he continued to cry out "¡Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long live Christ the King!") The commander of the soldiers was so furious that he was able to resist the government barbarism, he finally shot the boy in the head. As he died he is said to have drawn a cross on the ground with his own blood as a final act of defiance.

During the Cristeros War many Catholics were killed by the Mexican government for their faith. This tragic part of recent history is pointedly ignored by the history books in both the United States and Mexico. It is a story that needs to be told and learned by all free people.

Saint José Sánchez del Río is truly a Saint for our times. His faithfulness in the face of torture and death should be a model for all of us. I pray we can be as strong when our own persecution comes.

Blessed José Sánchez del Río, Pray For Us!

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Casa 1910 Revolutionary Edition Cuchillo Parado and a Cocktail

A sunny afternoon and moderately warm temperature allowed for an unexpected return to our tradition of Sunday afternoon cocktails on the deck. I decided to mix up a slight variation on the Cranberry Citrus Cocktail we enjoyed over the holidays. We didn't have any cranberry simple syrup made up, or fresh cranberries, but we did have some cranberry juice on hand. I had also recently restocked the Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon that we enjoy so much for cocktails. The rosemary and cranberry garnish was skipped, but the drinks actually were still quite tasty and refreshing.

Colleen put together a cheese, fruit, and cracker platter to go along with the cocktails while I searched for a cigar.

I came across a Casa 1910 Revolutionary Edition Cuchillo Parado that had been resting since last June. It actually took me a few minutes to remember what the cigar was, the band not being very informative. Finally placing the cigar, I recall it had not been a stellar smoke prior, but I felt I'd give it another chance, at least for a few minutes.

To review, the Casa 1910 Revolutionary Edition has a San Andrés Sumatra wrapper, with San Andrés grown tobaccos also making up the binder and filler. It's an all Mexican tobacco blend. The wrapper was aged for five years and the rolled cigar then aged for five to six months. The previous example I smoked developed a somewhat bitter and yeasty taste that was not overly compelling. As I lit this stick, I got a blend of straw, and bread, along with a hint of pepper. The burn line remained even but the ash was flaky. I didn't notice the funky sourness I got before, but the cigar still tasted somewhat dull and straw-like.

The "winter" cocktail was enjoyable. I can see revisiting it in warmer weather as well, perhaps with a bit of ginger ale to add some refreshing bubbles. The cigar is not one I am a fan of although it does get some favorable reviews online. It was not unpleasant per se, but just isn't a cigar that fits my preferences. Nonetheless, I still opted to smoke most of the cigar, while enjoying a couple of the tasty cocktails. The pleasant weather and relaxing conversion with my wife added to the joy of the afternoon.


Monday, February 5, 2024

Tumblin' Dice 8 Year Rye and Rocky Patel 10th Anniversary

I ordered this bottle of Tumblin' Dice 8 Year Single Barrel Rye truly on a whim. The email promoting the Seelbach's pick intrigued me, exactly why I don't recall now. I decided to do a "fresh crack Friday" and open it to kick off the weekend. I turns out that my spur of the moment purchase was a worthy one.

The barrel proof rye from Proof and Wood brands comes in at a respectable 116.2 proof. With an eight year age statement, the sourced whiskey has a mash bill of 95% rye and 5% barley. The label notes it was barreled on December 12, 2014 and bottled June 9, 2023. 

The rye pours a bright reddish brown with thick legs that coat the sides of the glencairn. The aroma gives off citrus and vanilla tones, with some sweet caramel. The first notes upon sipping include citrus peel and vanilla. Those divert into creamy sweetness and oak. The finish leaves some pepper and spice, along with the oak. It's a rather pleasant pour.

After a bit of tasting, I retired to the screen porch to enjoy the rye with a cigar. For this evening I selected a Rocky Patel The Edge 20th Anniversary Edition. The cigar has been resting in my humidor for seven months.

The Rocky Patel 20th Anniversary was introduced in 2022 to mark the 20th anniversary of The Edge line from Rocky Patel. The line has grown to a number of blends and sizes and is marketed as a budget line. The celebratory 20th Anniversary features a 10 year aged Ecuador Sumatra wrapper, a Honduran Broadleaf binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Panama. This one is a 5 1/2" X 50 Robusto. The medium bodied smoke has rich notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and nuts. I do enjoy the 20th Anniversary more so than the various "standard" Edge versions I've had.

The espresso and slight sweetness of the cigar paired well with the spicy rye. I found myself frequently tasting both right after the other, rather than letting the flavor of one rest on my palate before bringing in the next. As such, my cigar smoked a little faster than usual, and the glass needed refilling a couple times. The pairing was so enjoyable the cigar was smoke down to a very tiny, but not hot, nub that I held onto with the tips of my fingers. Good to the last drop as they say.


Saturday, February 3, 2024

Quesada and Coffee

Colleen asked me on a recent evening if she should make dinner a little early so I could enjoy a cigar on the deck with the last bit of sunshine. Not long after that I was outside with a Quesada Oktoberfest 10th Anniversary and a steaming mug of black coffee. The sun would soon set, and I enjoyed those last light remnants with the cigar, coffee, and a book.

The Quesada Oktoberfest is an annual release from the company. This one was a special 10th anniversary edition from 2021. It had been resting in the humidor for over two years.

Quesada Oktoberfest 10th Anniversary 'Das Boot' vitola is a 6 x 52 torpedo featuring an oily Mexican San Andrés wrapper, and a Dominican binder as well as Dominican fillers. While Quesada's annual Oktoberfest release is said to be designed to be paired with a Märzen-style beer, a style of beer I truly enjoy, I have previously also paired it with stout, whiskey, and coffee.

The cigar had sweet undertones, along with woody and earthly notes. There is a pleasing espresso bitterness that comes into play as the smoke processes. This stick was the last of my stock. Well-aged after two plus years in the humidor, it smoked extremely well and the flavors were melded into a balanced smoke.

All in all, a quite pleasant evening repast.


Friday, February 2, 2024

Five O'Clock Friday: The Company of a Good Cigar

Welcome to the weekend.

After a week of coworker interactions, I'm ready for some solitude.

Image purloined from the Old Virginia Tobacco Facebook page.


Thursday, February 1, 2024

St. Brigid of Ireland

February 1 is the Feast Day of St. Brigid of Ireland, one of our family's favorite Saints. The quote below has long been attributed to St. Brigid.
"I'd Like A Great Lake Of Beer For The King Of Kings. I Would Like To Be Watching Heaven's Family Drinking It Through All Eternity."
Our family has long had an affection for this great Saint. She is a revered Saint in Ireland, second in popularity only to St. Patrick. Her legendary association with miracles involving beer often overshadows her deeds of charity and compassion. Brigid is believed to have been born in 451, and she died in 524 or 525. The Abbey she founded in County Kildare in the 5th century was destroyed in the 12th century.

Beyond her prayer for a "great lake of beer" this revered Saint had other interesting connections with the beverage. According to tradition, Brigid was working in a leper colony when they ran out of beer. Since beer was an important source of safe liquid refreshment and nourishment, this was indeed a serious issue. Brigid is said to have changed her bath water into beer to nourish the lepers and visiting clerics. In another miracle attributed to St. Brigid, she provided beer to 18 churches for an entire Easter season, all from a single barrel of beer in her convent.
St. Brigid Statue, Knock Shrine, County Mayo, Ireland

St. Brigid, ora pro nobis!