Sunday, March 31, 2024

He is risen! Alleluia!

I wish everyone a very blessed and joyous Easter. The culmination of the Liturgical year comes on this holiest of Feasts. By His Resurrection the joy of eternal life -- assuming we don't willingly throw it away -- is His ultimate gift to us.

After 2,000 years, the enduring joy of the Feast of Easter remains.

Happy Easter

Picture credit:

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Rocky Patel Disciple With Peerless Bourbon

After a small Good Friday dinner, I settled in with a good cigar and a wee sip of bourbon to assuage my desire for a filling dessert. I honed in quickly on the Rocky Patel Disciple. The Peerless Small Batch Bourbon was a bottle I grabbed in Florida last fall, but had not explored very much.

The Rocky Patel Disciple is a cigar I've enjoyed many times, in both Robusto and Toro vitolas. This 6 x 50 Toro has been sitting in my humidor since October. Once the large marketing swag is removed, the cigar shows off a chocolate brown San Andrés wrapper leaf. The oily wrapper encases Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Disciple is a medium to full bodied, richly flavored smoke. Initially there are notes of espresso and dark cocoa. Soon black pepper and raisons join the mix. Smoke production seems a bit on the light side, but the flavor is still robust. The burn is even throughout the 75 minute smoke.  

This Peerless Small Batch Bourbon is labeled at 115.4 proof. That's a little higher than some bottles I've seen online, which hover around 110 proof. There is alcohol on the nose, along with cinnamon and sweet caramel. Still, the bourbon has a mild aroma, especially for the proof.

Upon sipping, the caramel remains, along with other sweet notes of butterscotch and brown sugar. A pleasing addition of dark cherry comes in at the end. The finish is soft and short.

Overall, I found the Peerless Small Batch Bourbon to be a pleasing sipper. It was balanced and mellow. I think the higher proof gave it a bit of strength to stand on, but did not seem "proofy" at all. The pairing with the Rocky Patel worked, with the cigar holding the edge. I'll certainly enjoy both again in the future.


Friday, March 29, 2024

A 3:00 thought for Good Friday.

The ancient greyness shifted suddenly and thinned like mist upon the moors before a wind.

An old, old prophet lifted a shining face and said:

“He will be coming soon. The Son of God is dead; He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred all souls. They wondered if they dreamed

save one old man who seemed not even to have heard.

And Moses, standing, hushed them all to ask if any had a welcome song prepared.

If not, would David take the task?

And if they cared could not the three young children sing the Benedicite,

the canticle of praise they made when God kept them from perishing in the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them, stilling Moses’ words.

No one could speak, remembering the first fresh flowers, the little singing birds.

Still others thought of fields new ploughed or apple trees all blossom-boughed.

Or some, the way a dried bed fills with water laughing down green hills.

The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam on bright blue seas.

The one old man who had not stirred remembered home.

And there He was, splendid as the morning sun and fair as only God is fair.

And they, confused with joy, knelt to adore

Seeing that He wore five crimson stars He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung. None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song,

A silent man alone of all that throng found tongue — not any other.

Close to His heart when the embrace was done, old Joseph said,

“How is Your Mother, How is Your Mother, Son?”
-- Sister Mary Ada

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Caldwell Eastern Standard Cream Crush

It was a cool and breezy Sunday afternoon, but the sun was shining. The Caldwell Eastern Standard Cream Crush seemed a good choice to enjoy while sipping a cup of coffee and listening to acoustic blues on the radio.  

Caldwell Eastern Standard Cream Crush is a 7 x48 Lancero with an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper. The wrapper is said to be a hybrid seed offering a fuller bodied smoke than a typical Connecticut Shade cigar. The binder is Indonesian with Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. The light brown wrapper glistens in the sunlight.

Upon light up, I get surprisingly robust citrus and pepper notes. As the cigar processed, the flavor became more creamy, with hints of leather, nuts, and cedar. The cigar is indeed more flavorful than I expected. The cigar was part of a Lancero sampler pack I purchased in August 2023. Not typically one to enjoy many Connecticut Shade cigars, I was curious if I would enjoy this one. But I did. The burn was even but I needed to give it a boost with my torch a few times to keep up the smoke output.

The issue I had with the Cream Crush was the problem removing the smaller band. The overlap was glued so tightly that I had trouble getting a fingernail under the edge. When I could raise a small corner, the tiny bit tore off without unwrapping the band. I could see the wrapper starting a small crack as I worked on the band removal. I finally used the tip of my pocket knife to get a cut in the band to tear it off. As a result of these struggles the wrapper was cracked and lifting off in a couple places. Upon removing the larger band, I could flakes of extra glue hanging off the edges of it. After employing the extra skill needed to roll a Lancero cigar, it's a shame to have a careless bland application detract from the final product.

My coffee had a bit of caramel vanilla flavoring in it. The sweet and bitter flavor profile of the coffee matched well with the cigar. I am also looking forward to the coming, and more consistent, warm weather so the deck time is even more abundant.


Saturday, March 23, 2024

Four Roses Small Batch, Oscar Valladares 2012 Sumatra, and Friday

Friday couldn't come soon enough. Sure, I had a quiet birthday celebration earlier in the week with a few friends, but the week was still long. Friday evening was cool, but not uncomfortable, which made for pleasant sipping and smoking on the screened porch.

For this long-awaited repast I selected the bottle of Four Roses Small Batch Select. As the smoking accompaniment I dug out an Oscar Valladares 2012 Sumatra in Toro that had been in the humidor for a couple of months. Requisite photo done, I grabbed the Kindle for some reading and headed outside.

Four Roses Small Batch Select is made of a blend of six of the ten mash bills used by Four Roses, in various combinations, for its bourbons. The bourbon is bottled at 104 proof. There is a touch of alcohol on the aroma, if you look for it. Mostly it consists of sweet, dark fruit and oak. When sipping, spice notes kick off the flavors. Dark fruit and a vanilla sweetness join in. The bourbon is flavorful and well-balanced. Spices and candied fruit notes linger in the creamy finish. 

Oscar Valladares 2012 is a line of cigars from the same Oscar Valladares the brings us the Leaf by Oscar cigars. The 2012 branding pays homage to the year Oscar Valladares started his cigar company, after decades of working for Rocky Patel and General Cigar. The cigars are made in Honduras.

The Oscar Valladares 2012 Sumatra Toro is a selection from the January Luxury Cigar Club mailing. It is a 6 x 52 box pressed cigar, wrapped in Ecuadorian Sumatra leaf, with Honduran tobaccos used for the binder and filler. The light brown wrapper felt dry in the hand. Cutting the cap revealed a wide open draw, a bit more open than I prefer but useable.

I got a mild spice in the opening puffs. This was soon joined by a sweet blend of honey and molasses, with a creamy butter impression coming in. Smoke production was copious. As the burn progressed and the cigar warmed up, some tobacco notes joined in. However the flavor notes were pretty consistent throughout the 70 minute smoke. I did relight the cigar twice, perhaps from my own inattention caused by intermittent reading and day dreaming.

When I first went out to the deck, I set the propane heater in place, but I did not have to use it. The temperature hovered around 60° and there was no breeze. The smoke was finished before the sun fully set, making for a rather pleasant kick-off to the weekend.


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

It's Time for Irish Whiskey and a Lovely 162 Corona Gorda

We began our "holy day" celebrations with some Irish Whiskey, and for me, a cigar. It was a cloudy but warm enough Friday evening to kick off a St. Patrick weekend of quiet celebration at home. I grabbed the bottle of Powers John's Lane Irish Whiskey to take out to the deck.

This bottle is somewhat special to me. I brought it back from our 2012 trip to Ireland. John's Lane was the first whiskey I had in Ireland, on the recommendation of the pub bartender. While waiting in the Dublin airport this is one of the bottles I grabbed in the Duty Free shop. I didn't actually open it until we had friends over for St. Patrick's Day in 2021.

The Powers John's Lane is a 12 year whiskey produced by the prominent Irish distillery Midleton, who also brings us Redbreast, Jameson, among others. It is a proper Single Pot Still whiskey and comes in at 46% proof. The glass gives off aromas of sweet fruit and caramel. Upon sipping I get a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. I picked up a caramelize banana in the finish, while Colleen found Apricot. Of course plenty of sweet malt and honey was present. The finish allowed the same notes to linger pleasantly on the palate. 

Powers John's Lane is a very pleasant whiskey that makes a great afternoon sipper, as it was here, but also is a delightful dessert beverage.

I selected the Lovely Cigars 162 Churchill to pair with my Irish whiskey. The cigar was part of the December Luxury Cigar Club December mailing. That means it was resting in my humidor for three months. I didn't know what to expect from the Lovely 162, as I had never heard of the brand prior to the Luxury Cigar shipment. Which is of course, one of the things I like about the subscription. There are often new brands to discover.

Lovely Cigars is a Green Bay, Wisconsin company that was founded in was founded in 2019. The name of the company pays tribute to the Ain’t They Lovely brand that produced cigars in Green Bay from the early 1900's until the about 1960. The corona vitola takes the name 162 from a progressive cigar roller union in the Green Bay area. The union offered high wages, sick benefits, and was one of the first to provide maternity benefits.

The Lovely 162 Corona Gorda is a 6 x 50 stick wrapped in an Ecuadorian Habano leaf, with a Sumatran binder and Nicuarguan filler. The milk chocolate colored wrapper has a nice oily sheen. The smoke bring a mild pepper spice along with a creamy chocolate note. The smoke remains smooth and creamy, with balanced flavors of chocolate, mild pepper spice, and a sweet caramel. Overall it was very enjoyable. The burn was even with plentiful smoke through out the hour and forty-five minute smoke.

I don't think I had opened the Powers John's Lane since last the St. Patrick Day. That's regrettable as it's quite pleasant.


Monday, March 18, 2024

La Mission de L’Atelier 1959 and Coffee

Cigars and coffee. While my preferred pairing with a smoke is whiskey, often the situation calls for a non-alcoholic beverage. Many carbonated drinks work well, especially cream sodas in my opinion. I just prefer to limit my soda intake to very rare occasions. 

My preferred coffee flavor is "black." However I do find that often a flavored-style of a caffeine beverage does seem to work better with cigars. Cappuccino is an excellent choice. I also frequently turn to flavorings such as vanilla, caramel, or mocha. Mocha was the random pairing selection to go with the La Mission L'atelier 1959.

L'atelier Imports is a project of Pete Johnson of Tatuaje cigars. The Tatuaje influence is strong in this cigar. I've enjoyed other L'atelier cigars, and they are often referred to as "Tatuaje L'atelier." The La Mission line pays tribute to the Château La Mission Haut-Brion winery in Bordeaux, France. The 1959 represents one of the years the winery received a 100 point rating from wine critic Robert Parker.

La Mission de L’Atelier 1959 is a 4 3/4 x 52 Robusto. The tobaccos used are a Mexican San Andrés wrapper with Nicaraguan binder and fillers. The cap has a prominent pigtail twist. Interestingly, all L'Atelier cigars include a leaf of Sancti Spiritus tobacco. That tobacco is a hybrid of Criollo and Pelo de Oro seed that is grown by the Garcia family of My Father Cigars.

Smelling the cigar before lighting, I was struck by a musty barnyard and hay aroma. Once lit, the cigar kicks off with semi-sweet chocolate joined by prominent pepper. As the cigar progress, the profile gains an earth and leather aspect, but the chocolate and pepper remain. Towards the end, spicy pepper and cedar creep into the forefront. This is definitely a full-bodied cigar. 

The cigar was a little rough looking, with a slightly off center cap that included an extra tab of tobacco. The draw was open and the burn remained even. The cigar did go out once, a result of my own inattention. 

I enjoyed the La Mission de L’Atelier 1959 quite a bit. I did regret that I was not enjoying it with a spicy rye whiskey. Next time for sure.


Sunday, March 17, 2024

Celebrating the Feast of Saint Patrick

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!

It's that time of the year when a Saint revered by many, especially in the Irish-Catholic community, is adopted by people of all descent. As a Catholic of Irish decent, I can find little fault with people bettering themselves. :-)

In 2024, the feast day falls on a Sunday. Therefore, throughout much of the Church the Saint's day loses out to the liturgy for the 5th Sunday in Lent. Since St. Patrick is our parish's patron saint, it's traditionally a "day off" from Lenten obligations, but this year Sunday already grants that option. 

As we typically do, we'll avoid the local pubs on the 17th. I don't drink green beer, and remain confident that neither did St. Patrick. But do as you wish. For my celebration I will stick with a dark Stout or an Irish Red Ale. And surely a wee pour or three of Irish Whiskey will be enjoyed. In our house there is always homemade Irish Soda Bread and Irish Stew served as well. 

While in the midst of your celebrations, try to give thought to the man behind the Feast Day. Whether you accept the traditions associated with St. Patrick's life or not, there can be no denying the good he did. (As much as some of these stories cannot be proven, they cannot be disproven either.) Kidnapped as a young boy and sold into slavery in Ireland, he grew to love the Irish people. Late in his life, he was around 60 at the time, Saint Patrick returned to the Ireland to teach and convert the people he had adopted as his own. Certainly that is worthy of our respect.

Our family has long had a devotion to St. Patrick. That admiration was made all the more tangible when we were blessed to make two pilgrimages to the Emerald Isle, in 2012 and again in 2019. During those visits I was reminded just how much the Irish love Patrick. He's more than just a marketing ploy there.

Odd as it may seem, we actually have to remind people, and pubs, that St. Patrick was a man, not a woman. His name is Patrick, which comes from the Irish, Pádraig. Shorten his name to Paddy if you must. However, we do not celebrate "St. Patty's Day." Patty is a shortened version of Patricia, a girl's name. Feast-related debauchery is one thing, but transgendering our Saint is unacceptable. As much as it pains me, I refuse each year to take advantage of any "holiday discount" from businesses who attempt to lure me with discount codes of "STPATTY" and the like. It's a feeling of satisfaction when I see a local establishment has corrected their marketing after being reminded of this error.

Let's all celebrate the memory of St. Patrick. Enjoy a drink or two and some good food, hopefully with friends. There's nothing wrong with bringing a little revelry into the world, we certainly need it. I like a good party as much as the next guy. And I certainly appreciate a good Irish drinking joke. Drink your green beer if you must. Dress up in silly clothes. (But, remember St. Patrick was a man, not a leprechaun.) Then remember the reason for this feast. Take a moment to honor the man and all the good he did. In our house we'll raise a drink of uisce beatha, "the water of life," and a prayer, to St. Patrick in honor of his deeds and his country.

All the children of Ireland cry out to thee:
Come, O Holy Patrick, and save us!


Thursday, March 14, 2024

A Tease of Spring

There's a meme on social media that says, "It's like Winter leaves the room and then comes back to say, 'And one more thing. . ." Well, Winter left the room for a few days this week and we got a glimpse of the Spring to come. (Yes, Winter is coming back in a few days.)

I took advantage of the 70° temperatures to enjoy some deck therapy with a pour of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, paired with the El Güegüense Toro Huaco from Foundation Cigars.

The El Güegüense has been resting in my humidor for about a year. This Toro Huaco vitola is a hefty 6 x 56 stick. It felt especially large since I've been enjoying a lot of Robusto and Lancero cigars of late. 56 ring gauge is about the largest size cigar I enjoy. I've smoked many 6 x 60, or even 8 1/2 x 60 sticks. But for smoking time, balance in the hand, and comfort smoking, 56 is a good ring gauge. 

This Nicaraguan puro has a Corojo 99 wrapper and binder, and the binder is a blend of Corojo 99 and Criollo 98 tobaccos. The chocolate brown wrapper is somewhat bumpy with the rough inner leaves seemingly trying to escape. Despite a rough appearance, the oily wrapper held everything together and the cigar performed without issue. A blend of cocoa, espresso, sweet chocolate, nuts, accented by a mild pepper spice combined for a complex and flavorful smoke. 

The medium bodied cigar paired quite nicely with the Buffalo Trace Bourbon. I've been nursing my few bottles of Buffalo Trace as it's "allocated" in Virginia. This not truly rare bourbon can only be purchased when the VA ABC announces a random "drop event." And then you don't know where the bottles will show up until you arrive at the store. Adding to the State-generated hype, if one decides to purchase a bottle of Buffalo Trace, no other allocated bottles can be purchased that trip. It's an idiotic system devised by, well, you know. Fortunately, it often available in neighboring states, and online, at or near MSRP. 

Buffalo Trace in the quintessential bourbon. It checks in at 90 proof, and has all the classic notes of caramel, vanilla, and toffee. It's has a sweet but balanced profile that offers an easy-to-sip drink. Buffalo Trace is often dismissed by the bourbon "snobs" but is generally well-received by folks who simply like a good bourbon. The $30 price tag is a bonus as well. (I refuse to pay secondary market prices for any whiskey.)

Now that we are in Daylight Saving Time, I was able to enjoy the after dinner smoke and drink before the sun had even set. That felt good to say the least.


Monday, March 11, 2024

Knuckle Sandwich Maduro With OGD 114

I've been looking forward to trying this one for a while. Back in December I picked up the Espinosa Knuckle Sandwich Habano and Espinosa Knuckle Sandwich Maduro, both in the Robusto vitola.  The Knuckle Sandwhich line is the result a collaboration between chef Guy Fieri and Erik Espinosa. I'm an admitted fan of the boisterous celebrity chef, and hoped the cigars would be representative his personality. Not just another celebrity putting his brand on a product, Fieri is a longtime cigar enthusiast. 

For this outing I selected the Knuckle Sandwich Maduro version. The chocolate hued Ecuadorian Sumatra Maduro wrapper holds Nicaraguan binder and filler. The 5 x 52 cigar is box-pressed.

The cigar blasts out of the gate with a flavorful blend of dark coffee, cocoa, and a bit of white pepper. A dark fruit aspect comes in the finish. The draw was on the looser side, with lots of smoke production. The first third of the cigar seemed to burn really fast. I was seriously enjoying the flavors, and started lamenting the predicted short smoking time. To my delight the burn seemed to slow, especially past the midpoint, and I ended up enjoying a surprising 90 minute smoke from the small cigar.

The ash on the cigar did seem to drop easily in short blocks. On several occasions I ended up with the ash section in my lab. There was also as fair amount of loose ash flakes dropping on a consistent basis. As I became aware of the mess I was much more attentive to keeping the stick over the ashtray on the side table. Other than than, I had no burn issues. Even down to the tiny nub, the smoke remained cool, even when I could no longer hold the cigar between my fingers.

I paired the Knuckle Sandwich with Old Grand-Dad 114. This bourbon seemed to be hard to find in Virginia for a while. When we visited Florida last fall I picked up a bottle. Of course, soon after that I started seeing it again on shelves locally.

Upon pouring, the 114 proof point, along with the high rye mash bill, is immediately evident in the aroma wafting from the glass. The spicy heat is apparent, in the nose, backed by a brown sugar sweetness. The flavor profile follows the pattern with brown sugar and caramel sweetness. A rye and cinnamon spice coats the palate, as well as the warming proof. The finish is long, with the flavorful heat lingering.

Despite the many mentions of spice and heat in the paragraph above, Old Grand-Dad 114 is extremely drinkable. There's no harshness, just a full palate sensation. At an approximately $30 price point, it's a value that should not be passed by,

The Knuckle Sandwich Maduro and Old Grand-Dad pairing made for a delightful combination. Two full bodied flavor sensations together were even better than the parts. Both the bourbon and the cigars are ones I'd gladly keep on hand. I am looking forward to trying out the Knuckle Sandwich Habano counterpart very soon.


Thursday, March 7, 2024

Grenadine Old Fashioned Paired With BLTC La Madonna Negra

More warm weather, means more cocktails and cigars on the deck. As I was perusing the virtual stack of drink recipes I've gathered over time, I came across one for a Grenadine Old Fashioned that sounded interesting.

The recipe calls for 2 ounce of wheated bourbon, 1/4 ounce of grenadine, and bitters. I selected a Wyoming Whiskey Bourbon for the drinks. Stirred over ice and served on a single rock, I garnished with a Luxardo cherry. The 88 proof bourbon was somewhat muted by the sharpness of the grenadine, but still it was a flavorful drink. The Grenadine Old Fashioned isn't as sweet as my normal recipe, but I found it to be a very refreshing drink. Worthy of a second round at least. A platter of sharp Irish cheeses also added to the enjoyment. 

Sometimes I sip a drinking immediately know what cigars I want to smoke. This time I quickly settled on the Black Label Trading Company La Madonna Negra, in the 5 1/4 x 50 Robusto vitola. A dark chocolate colored Connecticut broadleaf wrapper covers an Ecuadorian habano binder and fillers from Nicaragua and Pennsylvania. I recall the smoke having a robust, flavorfully sharp profile that I felt would go well with the sweetly bitter drink.

The cigar has been resting in my humidor for about eight months. Some of the initially smoked sticks had tight draws that required some work to maintain a full smoke output. Not so with this one. The cigar smoked wonderfully and made a delightful pairing for the cocktail.

As noted, the slightly aged cigar burned well and produced a medium to full flavored smoke. The flavor presents a blend of dark chocolate, espresso, and dark cherries. There is some pepper and cedar sitting in the background to add even more interest. 

I quite enjoyed the combination of the drink and cigar flavors. I'm looking forward to trying the cocktail with some different cigars, and of course, the remaining La Madonna Negra cigars I still have on hand.


Monday, March 4, 2024

Cool Evening With Hamlet Tabaquero and Knob Creek Rye

March 1 marked the first day of "meteorological spring." The actual start of spring is still three weeks off, but the days are getting longer and warmer. The bulbs are sprouting in the garden, and the birds in the trees are active. And it's pleasant enough for a smoke on the deck. 

For this evening repast I grabbed one on my favorites, the Rocky Patel Hamlet Tabaquero, accompanied by a bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye.

The Hamlet Tabaquero is from my slowly shrinking stock I purchased in September 2020 upon hearing the line was being discontinued. The 6 x 52 Toro  has a San Andrés wrapper, a Nicaraguan filler, along with San Andrés and Brazilian Mata Fina double binders. The previous ones from this box have had some minor burn issues, but after 16 months of resting, the performance has improved. The balanced flavors of creamy sweetness, milk chocolate, cedar, and oak still present themselves well. With half the box gone, it's getting more difficult to light up one, but I know the flavor will change over time, and they are great right now.

The Knob Creek Single Barrel Select Rye is a VA ABS pick, with a barrel date of June 13, 2016 and a selected date of January 31, 2023. I purchased the bottle in July 2023. The 6 year old rye is bottled at a respectable 115 proof. The nose is deceptively mild with cocoa, vanilla, and citrus. The proof and robust flavor profile truly shines in the sipping. I get a moderate amount of rye spice. Butterscotch, cocoa, along with some cinnamon and nuttiness join in as I roll the rye across my tongue. A spicy heat lingers for a long while in the finish.

The Tabaquero and the high proof Knob Creek Rye made for a flavorsome combination. I was pleased how neither the smoke nor the rye dominated, but instead complimented each other quite well.