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.