Deep in flavor. Deep in your mind.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Macanudo Cafe Seleccion - Cigar Review

Prologue:
11:49AM
Being in a funk as of late, I decided it was time to lighten up a tad. I opted for this Macanudo Cafe offering with that alone in mind. Not wanting to be bored, I figured the Mexican binder would safeguard against all that with the tobacco's usual nuances -- if not complexities.

I have noted near ad nauseum and possibly beyond, that certain cigars beg solitude smoking, as do others beg the company of friends. Here is another profile distinction to ponder: does a smoke make you push the brim of your hat down over yer eyes, or back on your head? I generally prefer ones that drag my brim down over my eyes.

I'm hoping this one pushes my hat back and lets some sunshine in.

The Cigar:
Macanudo Cafe Seleccion
Connecticut Shade wrapper
Mexican binder/Dominican filler
5 1/2 x 50 Robusto
Pre-light:
A nose of grassy hay, light floral perhaps chamomile or feint apple on the wrapper. At the open foot, all that and heartier, with a note of airy leather on a light caramel backing.

A cold pull is green herbal with a delicate cinnamon hint. A creaminess lingers but is light and delicate -- sweet, but not sugary. It feels odd to be at the onset of autumn, holding spring in my smoke-hole.

The mechanics of the pull are on the somewhat tighter side of medium but not in any sort of problematic way.

The packing joins the pull on the tighter side of medium and is not completely even throughout, as there are a few squishy parts. A vein at the foot threatens to bum the burn for the first five minutes or so, and seams are noticeable throughout. Again, not terribly problematic, but definitely rustic. I’ll not go as far as to say rough-hewn.

Light:
toasting the foot let loose some white bread and un-roasted nut scents. The first pull was grassy and again springlike with floral notes and a nice light toastiness. The finish is that of hay and sun-filled meadow. The second pull is an introduction of sweet spices and honey. Not heavy spices, nor sickly sweet honey. Very nice. A retro-hale adds a white pepper to balance a further deepening of honey. The balance is nice on the palate and longer than expected.

The burn is not laser even, but not either requiring of a touch-up. I’ll readdress post vein. The ash is white and flaky and piling up hurriedly. The smoke output is robust and very pleasing with traces of softwood and new leather.

We’re safely into

Act I:
The honey deepens its floral notes as the stick heats up. Too, the white pepper builds. A saltiness develops on my palate and is nice as a counterbalance to the sweetness, but not entirely needed, as the white pepper was already employed for that gig. Balance remains, but in a more complex manner -- not a complaint, to be clear.

The tang of dry white wine is setting in. The floral notes have matured into delineated tart fruits and a very light floral honey that tastes like May -- the month, not the woman. There is some earthiness that reminds me of a field of dandelions like the one at the opening of the Little House on the Prairie TV show. I don’t get much earthiness or nuttiness or pepper at this point. White bread comes in and out, but even when in, it remains far back.

The finish is a tangy floral almost to the point of tart, but not unpleasing. There are white wine and a certain grassy hay saltiness that lingers to the next pull.

Mild to barely medium body that brings to mind a frail woman in a floral dress. Maybe her name is May. If it is, she has a larger lingering presence than her willowy limbs would lead ya to believe. The strength of May is akin to her month’s end. Lamb, not lion -- definitely not baaa--aaa-aaad. Okay, I’ll stop.

The burn has mostly corrected itself. I’ve not clumped off yet, but it is an unattractive mess, destined for my lap and/or shirt. I assume the burn will wholly be fixed when the ash does, well, ash…

...and there it goes at around an inch. Very light, powdery, and all over my Levi’s.

Act II:
The complexities -- some were fleeting and we now have a floral, nearing herbal front with a trace of light honey. Behind that is grassy hay with a recurring pale nut flavor. A tangy white wine joins in on the finish and is chased by a salty note. Still, it lasts long and well into the next draw. As the second act goes forward, the salt arrives sooner and with greater impact. Still mellow, still smooth. Still very much a brunch offering that would work well with a glass of lemonade or yard work.

Burn remains straight enough. all else re: construction and combustion hold. The burn has mayhap slowed a tad.

The white pepper joins back now and sticks to my tongue, all flavors stay true to previous drivel and there is a somewhat deepening all around that lends to a creamy mouth-feel. We’ve reached nearly a definite medium profile.

See ya in

Act III:
It strikes me that there is a certain old-world grizzle to this offering that I usually find only in a fuller-bodied specimen. This is a Jack Lemmon old age, not a Walter Matthau. Lemon? I believe I detect a slight lemongrass…

An almost medium honey note whose flowers have now been adorned with heartier blooms. A certain caramel has joined in with the bread which is now lightly toasted. The pepper remains white but warms a bit more, and there is some aging of the wood. White wine remains the same and saltiness has dialed back.

There’s a bit of a touch-up of the burn which is required but evens nicely and I’m guessing I’ll just leave ya alone now and enjoy another ten minutes or so.

At the end of the final act, there is a somewhat inconsistent draw and pepper which bites a bit sour. The wrapper threatens to unwrap, as well. Too, the strength is elevated to a dead center medium.

Pairings:
Lemonade. A quite dry sherry. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. A sunlit garden.
Notes:
A longer smoke than I had guesstimated. Light to light-medium profile but with no shortage of interesting notes and transitions perhaps not complex, but far from boring. Nuanced. A very nice br/l/unch stick that will serve to recharge your day.

Final Grade: C+ B-
(A firm B if this is your preferred thing.)
That said, it did deliver what I was looking for. B-

Prologue:
12:53PM
[redacted]

Milk Toast Recipe

I make often mention of Milk Toast, and my eating thereof. I'm just as oft surprised at how many of you have no idea what Milk Toast actually is. I figured I'd fill ya in.

Firstly, 

The Benefits of Milk Toast
* Yummy
* Filling
* Cheap
* Healthy enough
* Good for weak guts, like mine.
* A palate cleansing and gut bracing pre-cigar feast.


A visual depiction of your list of ingredients.
A Written List of Ingredients
* Whole Milk 1C
* Butter 1TBS
* AP Flour 2TBS
* Kosher Salt (Pinch)
* White Bread (As desired)

A quick note re: bread -- I recommend white bread, plain English Muffin, or plain bagel (as photographed here) to insure the dish's palate-cleansing purposes. 

Instructions
*Toast bread in advance. Burn it. Let it cool.
* Place remaining ingredients in pot and whisk over a med. heat.
* At first bubble, yer done.
* Pour over toast in pasta-type bowl, preferably.
* Eat.
* Smoke cigar.
Bon appetit!
This has been fun, and I do hope ya agree. Now that I've shared with you my signature Milk Toast dish, tune in next time when we explore another favorite of mine -- Beans and Cabbage.

That's right, gentlepersons, next up we'll be moving on from filling up to emptying out -- as in any room you happen into.

EDITOR'S NOTE
5/9/16
I have decided to delve, gentlepersons, further into my love of Milk Toast. Please to consider this the base recipe. Extravagant spinning-offs of this will ensue periodically. #RazzleDazzle #FoodieFriday

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Interview w/ Dion Giolito of Illusione Cigars



Kaplowitz: I was originally turned on to your brand in my desperate search for a double claro/candela thing. The cigar shop I found myself in at the time had only your 88 in their entire inventory. Why has the green stick fallen so out of favor these days? Especially when you consider they were the norm of generations past.

Dion Giolito: It was a very popular wrapper in the 40s and 50s. When I got in the business in the early 90s, it was still very popular in my area with the old-timers. I really can't answer why the candela wrapper has fallen out of fad, at least in the premium hand rolled market. It is still very prevalent in the mass-market arena.

Kap: Why did you decide to embrace this style of wrapper? Where there any issues in doing so along the way?

DG: I liked the wrapper because of it's olde tyme mystique and flavor.

The story I always tell is that when I was working for another shop before going out on my own, I would sell a ton of candela Berings, Nat Ciccos etc. I would see these old cats shuffle into the store with the the betting sheets and papers rolled under an arm of their frumpy tweed jackets. They'd buy them by the handfuls, then shuffle back out the door, and that’s precisely what they did, "shuffle." We even named one of our customers "The Shuffler."

Anyways, I always thought it ironic how they'd come in day after day from betting the ponies downtown, or wherever. They'd bet practically every last dime on horses, but would rather walk a couple of miles than spend the fifty cents on bus fare. I kinda dug their gambling, lush-life style. When I was in a position to make a candela cigar, I did it. Not that there weren't candelas in the market already like Fuente, and Macanudo Jade, etc., but because I could do it, and I wanted to.
Kap: I’ve said before there is sizzle and there is steak. Your sizzle (branding) definitely does set you apart. By the way, I entered “eatshit” as my password on your site, my apologies and please to pardon my French. How do you go about delivering the steak, sir?

DG: It's amazing that you hacked the true password the first time. Delivering the steak? I dunno. there's a whole bunch of reasons, I guess. Listening to yourself, listening to others, listening to the tobacco, trusting your own instincts, filtering all of the bullshit that's constantly going on around you, putting something together that you can believe in that others can as well, having access to superior tobacco, a good team on the back end of the business, as well as the front end, and finally, being able to comfortably say the word "no."

There's a whole bunch of other shit too.

Kap: I often hear it asked what a person’s favorite cigar might be. I find error in this approach, so I’ll fine-tune: who is currently your favorite blender? Why?

DG: Henke [Hendrik Kelner]. He's the best. Love or hate Davidoff, he has mastered Dominican tobacco production, fermentation and blending. There are others in the DR as well that are very good, but he's the man. I've never been a big fan of DR tobacco, but Henke's techniques make me a fan of his tobacco.

The way he blends to the Olfactory, to the stimulation of the palate, amongst other techniques. When around tobacco, It's always my goal to look for specific, and intrinsic characteristics in the leaf to produce physical, censorial, and psychological results.

Kap: Beyond the blend itself, do you perceive a certain pairing or atmosphere when you put on your mad scientist labcoat, or is your mind decidedly upon stick alone?

DG: My mind is always on the tobacco. People can and will pair cigars with whatever they like.

Kap: What are some of your own favorite pairings? What ambiance do you prefer to surround yourself with as you experience a cigar?

DG: I'm not really into "pairing."

I'm into enjoying a cigar with whatever, I really don't get into melding my cigar experience with my liquid experience. It's always about the cigar whether it's water, Dr. Pepper or Bruichladdich - makes no difference to me. As far as ambiance, I dunno because I generally always enjoy a cigar.

Cigars don't really create moments for me.

Kap: Shifting away then from external enjoyments, what is the one characteristic, inherent in a cigar, that could make or break your enjoyment thereof?

DG: Under-fermented, aggressive tobacco that drills a hole through the middle of your tongue.

Kap: Are you really as odd as you’d like me to believe?

DG: Maybe? Probably? Odd is relative to the company you keep. If you're surrounded by other unique and odd individuals, then you wind up feeling quite normal, I'm sure.

Kap: What’s next, sir?

DG: Selling out in the most grotesque way - lol. Riding and Shining. Making it a point to never return to the business like so many others in this industry have after selling. This is something that I've had a hard time wrapping my head around as to why. Passion? Ego? Boredom? Whatever.
A very big thank you to Mr. Giolito, whom I feel looks quite unlike a trout. Check out the Illusione website post haste. Remember, gentlepersons, "eatshit"

Saturday, August 29, 2015

On #SotL, Huge Ring Gauges, & the Correlation Drawn

Some time ago, I was asked how I feel about the sister of the leaf (#SotL) yin to the #B(rother)otL yang. Personally, I have always used the female oriented hashtag, but to he honest -- not out of any particular sense of altruism. I want to be seen. Recognized. Loved. DONATEd to (look to your somewhat immediate right -- yellow button -- says DONATE).

This question got me thinking, however. An Orthodox congregation (think Catholic Church) saw to my Brooklyn, NY Bar Mitzvah. Fast forward some decades and I am now a member of a Reconstructionist congregation (Think Unitarian Church -- perhaps AA meeting) in Oregon. Orthodox women cannot even sit alongside men in the shul. My current Rabbi is female. See the dichotomy?

Would it strike you as off-putting if I were to tell you that for a small second, I found it off-putting when my new lady Rabbi handled the Torah scrolls? Over-coming conditioning is a tough task.

Are these brazen females brazenly impeding upon a man’s world? Let's evaluate the root of that question and immediately find that ours is a castle build on sand. Simply, this is not a man's world. At least not biologically. Sadly, it is very much a man's world socially and politically, but we see now that all that is build on falsehood. Over-coming conditioning is a tough task -- especially when a particular segment of a population is so fully entrenched in the comfort of this very conditioning.
I can hear ya, sirs. "The cigar world is a gentleman's club." I wholeheartedly agree. The other day, at a cigar shop, I was cut in front of in line by a "gentleman" in basketball shorts and backward baseball cap who was fresh off of proudly butchering every cigar name that was not English. Is that a gentleman?

There too existed in the shop on that day, a representative of the phenomenon of the sharp-suited, fedora wearing female who hearkens back to the legendary female Blues singers of 1920s Harlem. I would posit these women (in a knowingly dangerous blanket statement) of being superior gentlepersons to the fella I just made mention of.

In short, I’d rather a fedora wearing man tailored suit wearing lady light up next to me, than a dude in a pair of b-ball shorts and backward cap flinging his Christopher Columbus all over the bless-ed place. Show the leaf some respect, dig?

I’d rather anything over a kid with wet milk from his mommy's tit on his chin pretending to be Rush Limbaugh. I believe there is a rite of passage at play in the cigar lifestyle. It is age oriented, and I refuse to hear claims of "it's not the age, it's the experience." Neuroscience will tell you that a brain is not fully developed until the mid 20s and I ain't a baby-sitter.

Authenticity. Give me authenticity along with that respect. That -- is what a cigar is, and then, what a cigar warrants. Please don't try to talk me into the fact that white privilege laziness insofar as attire and attitude might be either authentic or offering of some relativism form of respect. Feh.

I could care less about your gender and/or sexuality. Just thought I'd squeeze that in...
Big, fat, zaftik ring gauges -- that’s the craze -- Some as much a an honest inch thick. Why do you find yourself reading this? I'll hopefully explain soon enough.

When pressed as to why this style of cigar is preferred, mere cosmetic reasons are oft expressed. Guys, a lot of them, seemingly like a big fat ... cigar in their smoke-hole. Sexual connotations aside, I prefer a Lancero. Something in way of a Pantella. A chef’s offering over an all you can eat homespun buffet replete with instant taters. You simply get more of the best characteristics. ie: the wrapper, craftsmanship. A cooler sip of a smoke. Less of a bum rush. Plus the added bonus of not appearing to onlookers as does the man who drives an over-sized truck, revving its engine incessantly.

I won’t have my appendages dictate to me the size of cigar I choose. Chicks dig my ten inch personality no matter what I might opt to puff.

Also cited is the weird connection between bigger gauges and more robust smoke. Big Smoke. Flavor Country. ROBUST. Firstly, there is no true correlation between size and body/flavor/strength. Secondly, an awful lot of smokers are doing it wrong, and by "it" I mean "smoking." I have seen a good deal of self proclaimed full body lovers become medium body lovers once they get the hang of retro-haling, or at the least, letting smoke linger in their yaps long enough to drift upward toward sinuses.

Can I throwback to #SOTL? Gosh I do hope so.
Guys who find a woman smoking a cigar to be crazy sexy -- might I recommend transsexual pornography?

The woman in Shul should not distract you from G-d, as the woman in the cigar shop should not distract you from your phallus cigar enjoyment. There is a Straight Pride image floating around the Internet for some time now -- a spin-off of the Gay Pride rainbow. A "rainbow" of black, white ---- and grey, is depicted. The grey is transsexual pornography, gentlepersons! It's a booming business, too.

In that grey too falls a blind admiration of over-sized cigar offerings. A cigar is never just a cigar. Especially, Siggy, when you smoke twenny a day even as your jaw falls off yer face in assorted sized chunks.

I do, at last, feel as though I've kept you long enough. I'll wrap it up by again stating the importance of authenticity and respect. I too will note that men will always be the majority in our circles. We won. We won by default, in much the same way women won the war on crocheting -- sheer predisposition.

When you win, the trick is to act as if you've won many times before. No need for celebration or for tantrums. In the parlance of our times, "You got this."

I have, finally, decided to do away with both the S and the B and use #OTL. Of the Leaf -- a magazine which refuses to return my messages. Oy.

Friday, August 28, 2015

From the Desk of

KAPLOWITZ

This morning I awoke to:




I now await my good pal and artist Greg Donchatz to eat up the rest of his chili and send over another image or two. I'll add them here, as well.

If you need a guy handy with the illustrating and designing, give Donchatz a holler.

His blog
His Twitter

Tell 'em Kap sent ya.

*EDIT*

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Further on Each of the Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette VII

7. Offer thy pal a smoke or smoketh not before him.
A cigar is offered both graciously as well as silently via gesturing.
Gentlepersons, I am here to bring sad news, indeed -- common courtesy is a door nail dead as is common sense. We'll linger further on the former, not the later, for the rest of this brief dalliance.

This, the seventh commandment is greatly self-explanatory and I will refuse to be as rudimentary as to offer up a why in its defense. I will, however, offer up some points which will pertain to etiquette:

The proper way to offer a cigar is silently. It is performed simply with an outstretched offering.
The offering shall be on par at the least, with the one destined for your own smoke-hole.
If denied, you must then ask permission prior to your own cigar. 
You do not have a thing in the whole wide world to say re: your pal's response.
Assorted et cetera:
One never, ever asks another for a cigar. We are not, gentlepersons, bumming cigarettes. If someone were to ask you, I would recommend replying negatively and throwing a solidly constructed piece of furniture through a window, then following it out post haste. All bets are off, and every man, for himself, good and kind sir and/or madam. Once escaped -- never return.

We, prior or post offering, do not offer preemptive comment either negatively, or positively, of the cigar or cigars being offered.

Don't ever light a cigar for another person. It would just be weird. Imagine. 

Price is never discussed. When pressed, clearly state it was a gift and you cannot politely tell. Suggest the schlep "Google it." Use the quite legit cop-out of "prices vary." Too, "modest" or a similar response is nice enough.

You cannot chime in along the way with 'helpful hints' as to how s/he might better or more properly enjoy the cigar you have given. You have no further ownership of the cigar, and most likely never had ownership over the person in question. If they ask, offer advice.
Please consider reading my The Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette in their entirety HERE. I believe it to be well worth yer time.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Further on Each of the Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette VI

6. Thou shalt not covet thine neighbor's stick.
Long to smoke the stick in your hand. You will find immeasurable satisfaction beyond smoke, there.
This is not to say I wish of you to delude yourself into believing you'd not swap your Quorum for a Montecristo. This is to say make the most of what you have, because let's face it -- even a Montecristo offering won't scratch that itch if you don't learn this particular lesson.

A cigar, for our non-pycoanalyctical purposes, is far more than simply a cigar. A cigar is a meditation steeped in ritual. It is too a lifestyle which incorporates no short supply of other lifestyles. What if I were to tell you that you cannot fully enjoy a cigar if you do not know about the worlds of adult beverages, coffee, and (to a lesser yet greater extent in my personal belief), ambiance?

That's correct, kiddos. Kap's talking pairings again. As always, as a method of greater enjoyment.

Let's play scientist. Light up a stogie -- any stogie -- and pull up some techno music. I dare you to enjoy that stick. Youtube an old re-run of Designing Women. Same stick -- you liking that smoking experience, kind gentleperson -- best of luck with that. Now we see how writ large this Cigar Lifestyle truly is indeed.

For chrissakes, I almost left ya hanging there. Quick, put on some Tom Waits. He's the Tawny Port Wine of audio cigar pairings. Quite hard to mismatch a cigar with either of those fine offerings. Visual entertainment? Three Stooges.

Much of pairing is so simplistic as to be innate. Do what you like with what you like. However, don't mistake individual likes for pairings. I like sardines. I like a peanut butter. I know I would not like a peanut butter and sardine sammich. I've actually tried that. Poverty is a female dog and craft beer does not pair with any cigar.

But peanut butter... have a spoonful the next time you go green while pulling a stick above your weight limit. It'll fix ya up better than a pinch of sugar and taste twice as nice. I'm talking the sugar whipped Skippy variety, not the precious natural crappola.

Where as I? ...

... Pairings.

To be embraced with a cigar:
1. Well- roasted/brewed coffee of a medium or greater roast.
2. Whisk(e)y because I won't even try to convince you otherwise. Do attempt an Oloroso sherry, though.
3. Chocolate. Try milkier varieties with milder stogies and match the darkness of the wrapper through the spectrum.
4. Fortified (desert) wines (see sherry). Manischewitz.

atmospheric pairings:
A. Jazz with a floral cigar.
B. American Songbook with anything.
C. A baseball game on the radio.
D. Back and white era films.

NOT to be embraced with a cigar:
Beer.
Electronica music.
In-laws.
Sardines.
My homeless drunk lawn guy with one remaining and failing kidney who just now interrupted me mid writing this and mid smoking the nub of a Casa de Garcia.

I suppose I simply ask for you to be present of your surroundings during your smoke. Failing this, there exists not a cigar which can hope to be good enough. You will be doomed to forever longing and eternally coveting.

If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.

And send my lawn guy some good thoughts.

L'chaim and gracious thanks for reading my ramblings. You can read all the Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette HERE, and I do so wish ya would.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

El Rey del Mundo: Robusto Larga -- Cigar Review

Prologue:
5:09pm
White tissue paper, pig-tailed on each end, with the cigar band set over top. That’s a certain thing that will at the very least catch an otherwise wayward eye. I bite and hand the clerk my change purse, I’m known for my change purse around those parts. It has attached to it a key fob card which gives me back a halfpenny in reward for every million point eight dollars spent. On certain in-store selections. An absolutely amazing amount of restrictions apply.

I digress.

Gentlepersons, I implore you to get a change purse. I carry only 3 things on my person: a Schrade Old Timer pocket knife, a handkerchief, and said change purse. I ain’t never been caught with my pants down -- in any situation which required pants up, at any rate.

Nevertheless, I have

The Cigar:
El Rey del Mundo
Robusto Larga
Connecticut Broadleaf Oscuro wrapper
Honduran binder/filler
Parejo Robusto 5 x 54

* * * * * * * * * * * * 


Pre-light:
Doing away with the Charmin, I now am looking at a rather veiny, toothy thing with lovely age crystals forming on it. The coloring is quite mottled, however, and the whole darned affair is so rough around the edges, that so help me Hashem, I fart.

I am put in mind of the slovenly and oh so much more vulgar brother of an Romeo y Julieta Medallas de oro 1875 Reserve. This fella is from back before today’s cautious manners were invented.

The nose on this thing is surprisingly minimal. How’s about it has the smell of an old leather chair that sat for decades in a cigar lounge and is now sitting in the summer sun, left outside to “air.” Been out for a while now...

There is deep tobacco (natch) but too a surprisingly minty floral backing when sniffed at its foot.

The jig threatens to be up almost immediately with the construction of the cap requiring of me the assistance of ye olde Mighty Mite pocket knife. I am beginning to have my doubts that we’ll arrive at our destination prior to our wheels falling off. It seems to want to shatter in my hands...

I sip at my sherry to steady my fragile nerves.

A grassy hay cold pull and I am again surprised. A thrill a minute thus far, this stick.
I too note that the packing is firm+ side of medium and not entirely even...cue ominous music…

I actually, ya might wanna just keep it playing throughout. I fire up the Dark Cabaret of The Tiger Lillies and soldier on.

Before I forget: if anyone has a lead on a free - cheap accordion, shoot me a line. Also: lessons.

Light:
Toasting the foot lets loose wood and toast smells. Picture a fella dumping a loaf of bread from oven onto butcher block. That. Now picture it in a dark room with no ventilation.

The light itself is fine, but the stick feels so rigid as to be brittle.

The first warm pull shows dark tobacco, the second adds a flake or two of black pepper. The third pull is a retro-hale that does not offer much more.

The burn is even enough yet not to be confused with exact and I’ll watch to see if it will correct itself in

Act I:
There is a less than hearty feel to the smoke. I would not say wispy, but neither is it robust. It fails to fill my yap to its brim. The ash is dense and white and stacks up quickly. There perhaps looms on the palate’s horizon a red fruity syrup hint. The finish for now is long and kind and simply dark tobacco. The burn does, in fact, right itself.

Distant red fruits remain distant and a baking chocolate is even further behind them. There is a flinty earthiness taking unfortunate hold.

Nice burn. Good ash. Rigid construction. Medium pull but near wispy draw. Dark tobacco. Black pepper, especially on the retro-hale. Hints of red fruit syrups and baking chocolate appear to always be right around the next corner.

The ash, without warning, and as ungentlemanly and gruff as you’d expect, clumps onto my keyboard and shows more powder than I’d suspected.

Act II:
It’s a nice enough offering, sure. All hints beyond dark tobacco are now hiding around a couple of corners and have too disappeared o’er the horizon.

The rigidity eases a bit and now comes back, oh so close, the baking chocolate…

All nods to construction seem well done and the pull of smoke to my smoke-hole has improved.

There is now a dark, very dark, chocolate in the output smoke and a near tangy baking on my palate. It lingers there, too, on a long finish. Black peppers are splittsville, daddy-o. Quite nice.

Act III:
This is not a long smoke. This is not a slow smoke. This smoke does feel like one you spend much of your time chasing down. The notes all seem just out of reach until well into the second half. Perhaps it is a learning experience. An slow and earned introduction into the black arts, and I ain't talkin' Maya Angelou.

This smoke again has ashed off unexpectedly and an inch of mainly powder rests on my new Dr. Martens.

Baking chocolate on the buds and on the mouth-feel finish. Dark chocolate on the schnoz. These jockey with the dark tobacco for the forefront. Construction does not break, but heats and bends. A serviceable chew develops, to my pleasant surprise. A dark dried plum comes in now, mainly on the finish. A finish that lingers in its complexities at near full until the next pull.

I likey. To be honest, I couldn’t tell ya exactly why. I feel as though I have been invited to sit at the adult’s table and while being unable to partake in the conversation -- I still immensely enjoy listening. I am no nascent smoker. This leads me to believe there is a hidden and almost occult knowledge within this Obscuro wrapper.

I look for hints of Evil Eye shenanigans. “Kein Ayin Hara.” Spit thrice.

At the very end, there is a salty molasses flavor that feels of old world, perhaps even olde worlde. I sit back and ready myself for the Sabbath Queen. Her magic is even older and better. I 'spose.

Another clump of ash falls and hits my other foot with a health dose of powdery symmetry and I think of how the roots of the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life do match its crown.

There is magic afoot.

* * * * * * * * * * * * 

Notes:
This King of the World offering does without trying what Illusione tries so hard to do.

Pairings:
A Dark Cabaret atmosphere. Murmurs. Hushed voices of a hurried nature. Amontillado will allow all these to take form on the stage.

Epilogue:
6:00 thereabouts
I shall quite well like another, sir. Simply throw it down the rabbit hole for me to chase.

Editorial note:
No images yet, kiddies. Go blame Blogger for not fixing my uploading/formatting woes/issues. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Valentia San Andres - Cigar Review

Prologue:
I'm expecting a big smoke. Stomach's full. Let's do this. 

LET'S DO THIS


The Cigar:
Valentia Cigars - San Andres
Negro San Andres Mexican Maduro wrapper
Peruvian Viso binder
Ligero/Dominican Republic/Nicaragua Viso filler
6 x 56 Grand Toro

Pre-light:
The band is affixed and then some. The Schrade Old Timer is employed with a surgeon’s precision, and we are free to move on from there after noting that Valentia’s choice of design looks better suited for a motorcycle company of some sort.

My sniffer sniffs quite a dose of heavy hardwood, dark dark tobacco, and an almost sort of canned red fruit in heavy syrup.

Fairly toothy and well-oiled, the wrapper is free from major flaws, yet it remains rustic a la veins, not seams. The packing is tight end of medium and very even. The head is quite firm and square and does not lend itself readily to a bite. Again the Mighty Mite is employed. This time with a sturgeon’s precision. I have seen pictures of sturgeon and their pointy nose things. I imagine they can be quite precise.

I digress.

The cold pull is almost purely cinnamon with a far off backing of accompanying sweet spices of nutmeg and possibly cardamom. On a late summer, fall-like evening such as this, pumpkin spices come to mind.

Light:
Toasting the foot lets loose a healthy helping of hardwood. The first warm pull is of this hardwood and the finish is of deep tobacco and warm sweet spice bite. Quite deep and quite warm for so early into this offering and I thank the stars for the Taco Bell resting in my gut.

The light is a tad stubborn, but comes along well enough. A bit like a car sans power steering. The draw too is a bit tight, so I open it up by cutting off a tad more of the head. I am greeted kindly for my bissell finaglings. A mouthful of sweet spices is joined with black pepper and a finish similar to that of a strong coffee’s, sets up shop on my palate.

The burn is even but for one hiccup of a spot which burns wildly faster than the rest. I shall allow it to fix itself in the

1/3:
This is not the kick in the pants I was expecting when I read this offering’s profile. Much room is left here in which for nuances to appear. I await their arrivals. Holding their places, in the by and by, is an almost dusty mottling of what might be yet to come into delineation.

Thus far there is dark sweet spices of the aforementioned notes and a deep tobacco that while toting glimpses of depth, too lack a certain strength -- a certain complexity. The burn straightens some, and I straighten the rest. A slight cream begins to take form, particularly on the retro-hale.

The ash piles up slow and thick. The smoke output is heavy and kind to the nose with hardwood notes and rich tobacco. If this offering must flirt with being one-dimensional, at least it’s a nice enough dimension.

My main complaint here is that while the pull is not tight, it is quite wispy -- like sucking through a straw with a crack in it. This makes me somewhat less hopeful that the cigar will open up and show me something more.

The cinnamon has mottled into the sweet spices and now the sweet spices, in turn, are threatening to mottle into the dustiness. The construction is loosening as it warms, but also not breaking in. I stand by my previous power steering analogy.

We shall see. I would like to eat my words in the

2/3:
The ash has yet to clump off or show one iota of an intent at doing so. Unfortunately, the dusty haze has officially swallowed the lone remaining sweet spice note. I am left with a deep tobacco abyss.

“... for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” Nietzsche

That gaze back at me would find more nothingness, I’m afraid, than Heidegger would know what to make of. Thus ends our philosophy course. I gave you all As -- not you, Valentia. Not you.

I flick the ash at a hefty length and it clumps hard and solid into the dirt around my roses.

Let’s talk about the importance of focusing on blending more than marketing. Let’s too touch on sizzle being good, but steak being all the better. Finally, let’s talk about a singular rather depressing dimension, imagine if you will, where I am only ever sitting on my porch smoking a cigar and not being favored by a harem of redheads with creamy breasts and full lips.

Sigh.

3/3:
I had paired this Mexican ode of a stogie with the aforementioned Taco Bell. I shall now sip freely from my Diet Pepsi and focus on external pairings. Tom Waits and the vaudevillian Dark Cabaret would be too much here -- and big band too foreign in this context. I think Tejano but then I glance at my new shirt. A white textured dress shirt. A sharp dressed man.

ZZ Top.

I have decided to fiesta, mi amigos. I have decided too, that the cigar does not always take center stage in a proper pairing. I will stop writing soon. I have just eaten the worm in a South Texas dive with a row of Harleys out front and a puddle of standing water just off the left side of the bar.

I left my Valentia in an ashtray somewhere. I forget where. I forget where.

Nota Final: Si minuso
(Now kiss me under the mesa, senorita.)

Epilogue:
(Now kiss me under the mesa, senorita.)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Estilo Cubano - Cigar Review

Prologue:
5:43pm

I was walking my mini dachshund Ruby Vondella around the block. As too was a neighbor walking their Great Dane around the block. No matter which way I tried to evade -- the big dumb beast and his dog would follow. I was cornered on the corner and ducked into a bike path, looking over my shoulder to wish them a very fine day.

I looked down and there it was. A five dollar bill. 

My first thought was to spend it on scratch-offs, then I thought about

The Cigar:
Estilo Cubano
Ventura Cigar Co.
Nicaraguan Viso Habano wrapper
Honduran Seco Habano binder
Ligero Habano Blend via Costa Rica & Nicaragua filler
Rabo de Cochino Pigtail head
Pre-light:
Fairly visible seams. Quite dark, natch. Oily and toothy to the feel. Packed very firm and evenly. Smells of dark chocolate with a back of sweet spices. Deep, but not very, tobacco.

I lop off the Piggie with my trusty Schrade Old Timer Mighty Mite. That’s about all you’ve gotta do, to the uninitiated. Perhaps, too, poke a hole through the head. A cold pull is sweet warm spice and moderately dark chocolate. I am reminded that cinnamon and chocolate are a traditional Mexican pairing -- one of which I find no complaint in.

The pull is sweet and spicy and chocolate and indicative of an upper medium strength.

Light:
The foot toasts very willingly but not as an inferno. First warm pull is a dark tobacco. There is a struggle for it to get going, there is a tight draw that does not allow an abundance of smoke immediately through. There is a certain wispiness with flinty and peaty notes, neither of which I care for. An airy saltiness. I taste neither chocolate nor cinnamon in any meaningful way and am somewhat nonplussed.

I don’t fully feel as we’ve entered the

1/3:
But the amount of pulls I’ve taken declare we indeed have.

I go looking in the retro-hale and find a simplistic black pepper. If you’re keeping score at home, we have a not enough tobacco and a black pepper bite -- but a somewhat toothless one, at that. This stogie just does not want to get going thus far.

Today’s word is “wispy.” There is barely taste enough for me to discuss, and I know my stuff, good sirs. Not just anyone can have a blog, you know.
The ash packs on well, but exhibits more flaky edges than Nathan Lane in a modestly subdued suit.

Thus far, I missed my guess, as I’d now rate this cigar a wimpy medium. A brunch offering. As such, I’d pair it only with coffee -- whatever ya got. Cream and sugar. Please do not get feces-faced at brunch, my dear gentlepersons.

Where is the Nicaraguan? Where is the Habano? I absentmindedly flick the ash into my mint plant at about an inch of flakiness yet oiliness.

At the end of the first third, a retro-hale gives a bit of red pepper and cinnamon. The smoke output is improving, but not into my smoke-hole. The air around me is a sharp almost mechanical spice that is sweet only due to not being sour. Or is it sour due to not being sweet?

A tin bite is left on my palate alongside not enough of any of the aforementioned flavor or nose notes.

2/3:
This is so peculiar. Too, it looks enough like a pretzel left too long in the oven -- I fire up The Peculiar Pretzelmen. It works, because there is not enough cigar to pair with either poorly, or well.

At five bucks from my own pocket -- feh. Double feh, that I had to hoof it a mile each way to the cigar shop. There is no hint at this developing into much more and only the dark cabaret on my free Pandora account can save me now.

“Who’s that knocking at the door?” Ask The Peculiar Pretzelmen.
“Not Sally.” I say, “she was born with no arms, poor thing.”

Final Grade: Incomplete (crappola construction)
There it sits in my tray.

[I am simply glad that first fleuron worked. Attempting two was just greedy.
Please imagine Blogger allowed me that greediness once more HERE.]

Epilogue:

Sometime from now --

Okay, the burn was even. When it wasn’t it was self-correcting. I simply did not want to leave you with as bad a taste in your yap as I have currently still lingering in my own.

I had hoped the fiver was from the wallet of the Great Dane owner's wallet. Now, I fear it was. I had this coming! I had incited the Evil Eye! I have no one to blame but ... I'll find someone.

"Kein ayin hara."  I say and spit thrice. The bad taste remains...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fratello Cigars - Review

Prologue:
6:40PM

You say “Nicaraguan small batch boutique cigar.”
I say “How high?”
You say “About seven bucks.”

Unless you have a pal like I do over at Cigar Reserve, who has taken to spoiling me. Many thanks again, and please Dear Reader, to peruse their fine selection.

I smoke tonight’s offering in a solitary reminiscing of friends from years ago. The nicest friends are the ones who disappear from view for years -- but ne’er from your heart. Always, it’s a treat upon their return and too, it saves a load on most year’s Christmas shopping.

I smoke tonight’s offering as autumn hints at my porch. I smoke tonight’s offering in thermal undies. One of the treats of the Pacific Northwest is that for 11 months of the year, thermals are a definite possibility.

Let’s get us some warmth...

The Cigar:
Fratello Cigars
Nicaraguan Habano wrapper
Ecuadoran Sumatra binder
Nicaragua & Peruvian fillers
5 ½ x 52 Robusto sized

Pre-light:
Nutty nose with a good note of cinnamon upon a leathery back. Pack is soft end of medium and not entirely even. This offering has a rather rustic appearance, but well maintained. A garden of assorted ornamental grasses left on casual display -- not me “forgetting” to mow my yard for a few weeks.

Appearance-wise, it’s most striking and memorable feature is the near newly-minted iconic design of its band. It brings to mind the art deco slumming of diners and bowling alleys of that era. I’m totally alright with that conjuring.

[I would place an image HERE of the band, would Blogger fix their technical issues.]

A cold pull puts on display a lively and warm cinnamon, with a deep coffee brew, frothed milk atop.

Light:
The light itself performed with ease, because as I like to say, cigars are flammable.

Toasting the foot let loose a bouquet of hardwoods and leathers. A first warmed pull indicates spices both sweet and peppery and a second pull adds to that the inherent sweet headiness of Nicaragua.

The head of the cigar turns an apt reddish hue when wettened by my smoke-hole. The draw nice and smooth, as too is the burn. The ash has already now shown itself quite dense and I believe it is safe to say we are in the

1/3:
Chocolate comes in as we kick off and since the coffee and cream stay, I am tempted to say mocha, but it is a more layered affair than that, with the balances of peppery bite adding to the overall maturity. There is a complex blend at play here which makes hard to delineate. It settles on the palate to an almost umami sensation of layered savoriness that leaves me wanting to pair this stick with a chunk of barely cooked cow.

This leads me to believe that it is a smoke that while medium-bodied undoubtedly, would work well with a Merlot. Although I’d recommend jumping up to a nice Tawny Port (as I oft do but in this case I would say break out the Cockburn). I’d also deem it well deserved of a Vintage Port.

At the end of the first third, a deep sweetness, a thin yet bold molasses sets in. It is thinned not by lack of quality, but additions of cinnamon and milder leather notes. The tobacco stays clearly recognizable as dark yet with enough light to let through these nuances. A very, very nice blending, here.

2/3:
I believe one could smoke this sucker down to a nub and keep intact every bit of ash. Alas, that is not my kink. I flick a couple of puffs into the second third. I am not the showy sort, as excuse me, I must theatrically dab my forehead with my big and bold white handkerchief.

The molasses intensifies here, as does its counter-balance and we are on the threshold of full-bodied and hold all my calls.

I have discussed prior the difference between solitary and collective smokes -- hide away alone with this treat, good gentlepersons.

The smoke output is moderate and peppery, but warm and not aggressively so. Mahogany paneling and a leather chair -- notes which appear within -- would work wonderfully as ambiance. As would a solemn quiet, with smatterings of self-told fart jokes on the back of devilish sweet spiced cinnamon notes.

Does anyone know a good Limerick?
Some Dark Cabaret is in order and works so very well in the background.

Halfway through the stick, a herbal note comes in the shadow of a headier earthiness.

(Crap, the wife is on the porch. She brought out the five year old. I love them dearly, but they pair here as well as -- well -- I cannot think of a pairing on par with this terribleness.

“Bedtime!” Junior yells.
“Bedtime!” I back him up like a Pip to his Glady Knight.)

Whew.

3/3:
This stick is consistent and all notes there since its dawn, too appear come dusk. There is simply a warm night of deeper notes looming here at the first sign of a setting sun. Too, the sun is setting through the trees beyond my porch and Giraffe Cat, named so by my son, sidles up to my leg and sighs.

The stray that stayed. I find a bond there between the fluffy tailed tabby and myself. I almost pet him. I just might, but it’s nicer this way.

[imagine an image -- a fleuron]


Notes:
This stogie has made me a failure as a critic. I have nothing bad to share with you as per its performance and/or manufacture. Keep this cigar in mind come my birthday, and my birthday occurs often -- just ask a bunch of Dennys waitresses, they’ll tell ya. Or don’t. I’d hate to risk my free Grand Slam(s).

I’ll squeeze in here that a lovely chew is also involved in this cigar.

Pairings: 
A cup of Mysore nugget coffee = friggin’ divine. The aforementioned Ports. A cow. Solitude.

Final Grade: A+

Epilogue:
Lost track:of timePM
Leave me alone already. 

Although that sentiment should maybe be saved for my eventual epitaph; many a smoke and many a rekindled friendship from now.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Jose Blanco Senorial Cigar Review

Prologue:
8:ish-pm

Each cigar requires a celebration or a trial, however mundane whichever may be. I look over at the Dollar Store shopping bag next to me on my porch. Wayfarer shades (get yerself a pair of cheap sunglasses), a clear glass coffee mug, and sherry glass. Three bucks. Nice haul. It makes up for a lousy Thrift Shop haul yesterday. I will not pay twenty bucks for a pair of jeans someone else farted in -- I don’t care what the label says.

That’s really all I got for this slot, fellas. Hope it was enough for you. Ya picky bastards. Tell ya what, before I let you piss me off even further, let’s jump into

The Cigar:
Las Cumbres Tabaco
(Jose Blanco)
SeƱorial Cigars
Habano Ecuador wrapper
Nicaragua, Esteli binder
Dominican Piloto Cubano Dominican Corojo filler
Toro Bravo 6 x 54

[fleuron, would Blogger fix my account]


Pre-light:
Very heavy nose of deep molasses and dark chocolate notes. A Case could be made for leather, red clay, and wood secondary notes to be a strong as the primary notes of many a cigar. This sucker’s got a nose like Jimmy Durante.

The packing is even and moderate. The wrapper feels exquisite -- not oily, but well-oiled. Smooth as a baby’s bottom and has a certain elegance I’m certain I failed at translating via the baby bottom comparison. There are veins but delicately so and seams are not a thought. I find myself fondling the thing as I sit on my porch and type. The cigar, I mean.

Let’s not forget the band. A lovely and traditional thing. After a few views at newer school offerings, this is like coming home again -- to my grandfather’s house. This I say with joy.

[picture of band, would Blogger fix my account]

A cold pull highlights first the wonderful texture of the stick. Simply, it feels nice in my smoke-hole. It then fills my palate with a surprising lively vanilla cream note that is among the stronger cold notes I’ve lately experienced. Held up in the sinuses, there is a hint at cedar, and once dropping to the palate, it lingers in sweet vanilla cream in a very long fashion. At the end of the finish molasses, dark chocolate, and red clay return. Un-mottled and, again surprisingly, much delineated.

Quite the impressive cold draw. Since I got ‘em, I might as well smoke ‘em.

Let us --

Light:
Molasses and nuttiness are immediate upon the easy light. Toasting the footer was not a stubborn nor aggressive affair. The flavors straight through to finish is a warm version of the cold draw. I could use some more spices to carry off the cream, and I type that, a white pepper appears upon the horizon.

The pepper is quite visible on a retro-hale and it moderates the sweet finish very well. The wood is rearing up in cozy fashion as we are now, fair to say, into the

1/3:
As it heats, a hearty white bread toast is becoming a factor. This is much more of a subdued, a restrained, affair than I’d predicted.

The draw is on the tight side, which may lend a hand to this restraint -- but it does not seem stifled, instead, it seems well-heeled.

The output of smoke is the heavy side of medium and perhaps a bit beyond, but very kind and woodsy with a nice dollop of cream. It brings a ski lodge to mind and I wonder how this would pair with a cup of hot cocoa. With scotch in it. Pardon. Scotch with hot cocoa in it.

The ash is piling on thick and the burn, even. Very nice, but I am hoping the draw loosens. I feel a bit like I’m driving a Porsche, unable to leave second gear.

A walnut note comes to play now, with an oily finish that allows it a nice role in the finish. It’s a long and full finish that lasts until the next pull. It is a variation on the theme of inherent natural sweetnesses -- as am I.

The main taste is of wood and molasses carried on bread. A sandwich fit for any king other than Elvis. A mild black pepper is in the sinuses only and drops to the palate as a dark yet un-challenging and cozy tobacco.

The burn is very slow and I, sirs and madams, am quite alright with that. As all flavors listed herein come to play at their seemingly appointed times. I feel as though I am watching a well-trained ensemble cast giving a tour de force performance.

An inch of ash clumps off suddenly and my thrift shop new to me black dress shirt now is full of character. Although it was the very moment I put it on, I must admit.

2/3:
The draw has not tightened, but too has not loosened and I employ a toothpick to poke into the head. It frees it up substantially and now we shall see what this baby got. I search for music and although not my first choice today, I feel that this offering begs some big band.

Yes, Tommy Dorsey, I get sentimental over you, as well. The notes remain consistent and I already long for another. A terrific smoke. I’ll allow you to imagine “Moonlight Serenade” playing us into the

3/3:
A bulge then crack appears midway down the remainder of the stick, but does not interfere with the smoke. I am surprised as Donald Trump in a windstorm, however.

Molasses takes center stage now and it is a white pepper, albeit bold, which backs it. Earthiness and walnuts remain as a supporting cast and leather appears here and there.

A lovely smoke, but like all mainly sweet offerings, a bit laborious at its end and the stiff pull adds to that. I could have used a bit more crispness, but as I stated: lovely. Some aid in avoiding the sweet muck.

Toward the finale, there are sweet spices of warmed cinnamon and nutmeg to cap yer night.

[a second fleuron, would Blogger fix my account]


Notes:
It is quite ashy. That simply gives the wifey something to tend to. I kid, I kid because my wife would kill me if I did not.

A Corojo offering as restrained as you might see in some time. This restraint allows the positive: a well displayed set of nuances. Too, negative: sweetness was allowed to roam unbridled a bit more than I’d preferred.

There are solitary smokes and there is this smoke. This smoke begs a poker game among pals. This would move the final third from the brink of tedious to a lovely extension of the evening with good conversation and, hopefully, hot hands.
I wonder if the brilliance of this blend is a burden too heavy to bear throughout. A weight akin to talking theoretical physics with Leonard Susskind. The cushioning of genius via the common man might speak to why this offering would like a poker night gathering. Foie Gras in a metal lunch pail might prove a rose by any other name --

Pairings:
Oxymoron aside, a full-bodied Ethiopian (coffee) would play well. Cognac. Cognac would play better. A sherry would, as well -- try an oloroso -- employ a drier one toward the final third. The nuttiness is there for depth.

Final Grade: B
(A very high grade for a bulge and tear affair replete with tight draw. Construction was an issue, surprisingly.)

Epilogue:
10:12pm
I’m tired and have just enough time for a snoot full of Sherry before the Golden Girls come on television. Ta, yo.
_____________
Special thanks and gratitude in abundance to Cigar Reserve. Please to go peruse their fine selection of premium cigars and cedar spills.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Caldwell Cigar Co. Blind Man's Bluff - (P)review

Prologue:
9:somethingPM
As usual, we shall along the way here, meander through the topic of pairings. I’m as of yet unsure if we will do that in a heavy-handed titled segment, or simply in passing. I don’t try to squeeze these write-ups into neat and pre-planned boxes. Nevertheless, when next we discuss pairings, it will be limited, for the most part, to beverages.

Now, I will begin by discussing atmosphere, or the pairing of a cigar with a proper physical setting. Ambiance. This offering was paired in its final third by a very old friend whom I hadn’t spoke to in many a moon. It is no accident that she shares the surname of this cigar.

The final third, the long and short of it, was the stogie’s finest -- and said stogie had nada to do with it.

“What are you in for?” One inmate asks another.
The second inmate pulls the harmonica from his mouth and replies, “Atmosphere.”

My advice to you, gentlepersons, is to pay as much attention to your environment as to your cigar, as to your beverage. Thus placing yourself all the closer to Nirvana in the meditation that is a good smoke. What is the importance of a good smoke? I will reiterate meditation and add ritual. What is the importance of meditation and of ritual? To flex the muscles of our imagined free will.

At long last, and to begin: speaking of good smokes, a big thank you to Cigar Reserve for

The Cigar:
Caldwell Cigar Co.
Blind Man’s Bluff
Ecuadorian Habano wrapper
Honduran Criollo binder
San Vincente Viso & Honduran Criollo Ligero filler
Robusto 5x50 sized
Pre-light:
A chocolate mint nose. Mint? Come again? [That’s what she said.] This surprises me, as I was expecting heavy and given (de)light. A cold pull indicates some further mint and a heavier walnut taste. When pulled up into my sinuses, there is cedar.

The pack is quite firm and completely uniform. The wrapper is toothy and rugged to the feel yet there are minimal veins and nary a seam to be spotted. Rough, but not rough-hewn.

The band is a magical thing which evokes in one’s mind Tom Waits and his career long loving tribute to Vaudevillian times and energies.

Light:
The stick could easily be lit on toasting the foot. Very combustible, this. Some red pepper on first pull, nothing intimidating -- simply eye-opening in a “good morning,” not “gotcha!” sense. Cocoa, very dark, on the second and third pull. There is none left on the palate, however, since it is quickly whisked away by hot pepper spices and a cedar remains only the briefest of brieflies. Clean. Almost to the extent of the waiter who takes your plate before you finish the meal.

The burn is uneven to the point that I shall fight my Jewish (s)mothering instincts and see if it first wants to right itself. Nothing egregious, simply a tad beyond meddling and as mentioned, quite combustible.


1/3:
The smoke output is heavy and dark with no shortage of bite. Smoke this puppy, and no one will allow it to go unnoticed. Nor will your throat. The mouth has a rigid physical feel, yet the draw is easy. The burn shows a desire to learn, so I employ a light with which to tutor it. It now is quite even.

The ash piles up and it stacks well enough but shows a hint of ashiness.

The mint is hiding now in all but the slightest of hushes. I taste mainly the Criollo binder with its very nice homage to Cuba and some of the cigar world’s oldest roots via notes of baking chocolate, cedar, and roasted nuts -- but sadly not the warm and gentle bread or usual inherent sweetness. I won’t yet say that this offering is somewhat one dimensional. I will say that thus far, I find it flat.

2/3:
The ash clumps off only a tad powdery but heavy nonetheless. I even out the burn and the combustion of the cigar is again noted.

A retro-hale comes with a certain toasted bread but the balance seems off, as it fails to fully engage or to linger and warm the palate. The finish is red and black pepper that ends in cedar and is of a shorter length than the body of the smoke would indicate.

That said, it continues to warm and to flex and I have greater hopes for the

3/3:
Not a lot to touch base on here, sadly. Some mottling of remaining flavors of cedar, walnuts, hint of baking chocolate. A nice enough smoke. An occasional and somewhat out of context mintiness on the tail end of cocoa -- falling and failing to achieve a rich enough chocolate. A simplistic finish that does not develop beyond its primary notes.

Perhaps I expected too much.

Notes:
If you liked this, you’ll love a Camacho. If you’re looking to save a few shekels, I would recommend a Room 101(L)

Pairings: 
A Tawny Port is an easy bet, as it always is. Perhaps a sweet digestif (dessert) Madeira. Maybe a cup of Brazilian bean coffee with its dry and spicy notes and renowned lingering palate.

Final Grade: C+ a serviceable stick I simply hoped more of.

I wasn’t gonna, but alas: It put the “Boo” in “Boutique.” You can trust me when I say this, because I put the “Yay” in “Sommelier.”


Epilogue:
10:somethingPM
Nothing to do with the stogie -- nothing that’s make sense to any reader other than one -- “Same with me.”

I shall firstly digress.

A good enough stick made better by a lovely night.

Then I shall take my leave.


[Apologies yet again for formatting ills and typographical errors. It has become exceedingly difficult to use this account and Blogger shows no interest in addressing these concerns.]

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Room 101 HN #615 - Cigar Review

Prologue:
3:36pm

This Fairbanks Sherry. This penicillin. They are conspiring in me to make my stomach gurgle loudly. I figure it’s time for porch and stogie. I wouldn’t know, if pressed, why I figure that, but heck …

… been a heckuva week. I won’t even delve, I will however, puff.

The Cigar:
Room 101
HN #615
Criollo 98 natural wrapper
Brazil Mata Fina binder
Dominican/ Honduras filler
7 x 48 sized

Well, if it’s good enough for Guy Fieri and Busta Rhymes, it’s certainly good enough for… I seem to have lost my train of thought. Let’s start this one mo’ gin’ -- ready, set, go! --

Like any offering wholly representative of Camacho, Room 101 are purportedly bold and spicy and also when you visit their website -- apparently a manufacturer of some sort of Kustom Kulture bling something. Chazerai. Chazerai as far as the eye can see.

I don’t like the Low Brow art influenced cigar wrapper which is designed, obviously, to look better on merchandise, than on a cigar band. I don’t like any departure from tradition. I am a fuddy-duddy, you see. Will this stogie breathe new life into my depression-era, vaudevillian personae? If I damn well let it, I suppose.

Note: there is a tab on the company site that is labeled “Cigars.” It seems broken. I feces ya not, gentlepersons.

Let us just see shall we?
Prelight:
Sweet spices behind vanilla cream notes. On the cold pull there is some pepper mixes of white, some black and some little red. Perhaps a cinnamon hint -- candied, like a Red Hot from my misspent Brooklyn youth. I cuffed them by the box from a bodega ran by a midget -- but this is about the cigar and not about me.

Construction is somewhat soft but even. The cosmetics seem a tad on the rough-hewn side, but too seem done purposefully so. This only serves, though, to clash with the image of the stogie as new old school whateverness. Or perhaps it is the purposeful left rust of a rat rod.

Light:
Simple 'nuff combustion that yields immediately, quite the bite. There is a certain little sweetness, too, seeming to me like the frothed milk of an espresso drink. There are rich coffee notes here, as well -- so we’ll go with that for now. On the third puff, a cedar pokes through the bite. It is not an unpleasant bite -- but it is most definitely there.

1/3:
Let’s start the first third on a retro-hale: spicy but quite nice. There is enough of a balance and I feel I am at a cabin in the woods, burning cedar in the den and why am I sitting so close to the fireplace? Meh, too comfy to move and the air is sweet. The black pepper approaches undeniable prominence, but it is well done and while not of my typical fare -- thus far it is enjoyable.

A stogie which will keep you on yer toes, and knock you simultaneously on yer derriere. A job for Doc Martens and tight jeans.

The ash is piling on tightly and the burn is even enough and rectifies itself almost entirely before I can flick my Bic.

Undeniable sweetnesses of vanilla and cream are well-muted in comparison but intermingle with the spicy notes while both surround the dark coffee milk-frothed middle. I do find myself rather enjoying this offering.

The smoke output is substantial and mainly sweet. The draw is the loose end of medium

2/3:
At the onset here, I was forced to retouch the light a tad, after the ash dropped off in a very firm clump. Too, Ruby barked at me to brew some coffee and add a teaspoon of sugar. I was apparently buzzed. I am always the last to know. However, she is a Dachshund and I’ll be damned if I allow a German to give me orders.

Oh, fine. I will, but just this once.

To note -- the peppers have simmered down much to my surprise and Ruby’s relief. That is not to say this is not remaining a quite flavorful affair. This is to say that I recommend this stick post-meal and mid-dry sherry. I feel a dry sherry would sit well in the middle with that rich, dark coffee. Allowing the swirls to play about it nicely. Allowing too the bite.

The burn is now near razor edge and accumulating another thick pile of ash. A nice chew is forming and my palate remains crisp and delineated with spices both sweet and peppery. The finish is medium-length and gone well before the next pull.

The slim ring gauge insures a warm yet not hot draw through which I can appreciate the subtleties. I feel a wider offering might tell a different tale, as wider offerings are prone to do -- in cigars as well as in other spheres.

This is a cigar which announces its presence with well-tuned authority and once your attention is granted it, said attention is kept through lovely nuances and minglings of a stick with a well higher price tag.

(Through no fault but my own schedule, Ron Burgundy saying “Milk was a poor choice,” rings in my ears as the midday sun hits my porch hot, and this is a sun-downer smoke.)

Ruby has begun slurping from my mug and I cannot help but feel her guidance was self-serving. Such a good dog. Such an even better German..

3/3:
The ash clumps off and the even burn remains. Too, a bit of bite returns. This time with a heady cedar note.

This cigar is an almost purely Brazilian experience now, with all the Mata Fina characteristics predominately displayed after the passing of the second and shorter wave of peppers. The Criollo wrapper nicely contains this but also allows it to freely roam. I taste a backing of the Honduran filler, as well, with its heavy earthiness.

All transitions have been quite nice and smooth enough, and avoid being mottled.

Speaking of finishes, which I wasn’t for a bit but am now again, the final third was fully spiced cedar. Sharply clean and very short.

Notes:
While I find fault in Room 101’s merchandising and marketing -- that is entirely subjective. Objectively, I find nothing at all wrong with the crafting of this cigar and would have paid well more to have enjoyed it. As long as the more did not interfere with my sherry budget.

For all its spice and the boldness which that entails, it never became irritating to my palate. For all its inherent sweetnesses, it never lingered sickly there. I would much highly recommend this stogie.
Final Grade: B+ (subjective aesthetics would have granted an A).

Epilogue:
5:05pm or so

I forgot all about my lousy toothache and swollen gums. Now I must walk my caffeinated pooch. She has much to bark at and to urinate on.

[I raced the clock on this one. Forgive me please, any typographical errors. My account here is experiencing some technical difficulties as of late, which force me to post in a hurry to avoid Error Code interruptions.]

Saturday, August 08, 2015

An Interview w/ Brian M. Kurland of Cigar Reserve

I had the recent opportunity to pull President of Cigar Reserve, Mr. Brian M. Kurland, aside just long enough to answer a few questions prior to his diving passionately back into his fine cigar and cedar work. 

[You can check out Mr. Kurland's wares by clicking the above link or HERE.
Too, you can read my review of Cigar Reserve's Cedar Spills by clicking HERE.
I do, however, please wish you'd read on prior to doing so. ]
Kaplowitz: First off, sir, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions. It is much and greatly appreciated.

Brian M. Kurland: Hey Kap, thank you for the opportunity to interview with you.

Your company, Cigar Reserve, has a large focus on the manufacture of Cedar Spills. Might we start with a little history behind spills, and the allure they held over you? In other words, why spills, Brian?

Spills have been a concept and tradition in the cigar industry for over a hundred years. Before everyone was in a hurry and people actually took the time to enjoy their cigar, they would use a long strip of cedar to light their cigar. This would allow them to not get any unnatural by-products from other lighters or candles. Also, allowed for a long light that allowed them to toast their cigar without rush.
Why me? I started smoking cigars seriously when I was 18 years old but, didn't have the money or time to invest in the hobby. So, the few times I did get to enjoy a cigar with my hard earned money I wanted to get the most out of the experience. So, I would take the cedar sheets, strip them and use to light my cigars. After doing this a while, I couldn't light up any other way. Whenever I used a normal lighter or torch I could taste the chemicals and harsh charring from the torch lighter.

Another offering of Cigar Reserve is its Cigars of the Month Club. I’ll let you delve more into what that is, but preliminarily here, it is a monthly sampler of rare, premium, and vintage cigars sent out to all members of the club. This makes me wonder, what do you personally look for in the creation or approval of your samplers? Are you thinking of pairings? Themes? What is the process there?

We have a small board of so-called "cigar experts" that pick the 5 cigars each month. They try to find 5 cigars completely different from each other. We don't have monthly themes or give off what we can't sell. We simply choose 5 incredibly awesome cigars that we feel our patrons need to try. We actually lose a good deal of money with the cigars of the month club, but it is still our baby and is a linchpin to our cigar business side of Cigar Reserve.

I noticed on your site that you sell empty cigar boxes. Do you have any memorable re-purposing stories (positive, less positive, or downright silly) that you’d care to share?

I hear a few crazy stories from time to time of what people make with the cigar boxes. Normally its the usual cigar box guitar or jewelry box. But, I have seen a life-sized robot made from them and some serious amplifiers. One loyal customer bought 300 boxes from us and lined all his walls in his man-cave with cigar box lids. It looked great!

Allow me the purely metaphysical question of: why cigars, man? Too, when did you know you were a “cigar guy?”

Unfortunately, at a young age my body made it very clear alcohol was not a good fit for me. So, to wind-down from those long days or celebratory moments I would fire up a cigar. Cigars have been a part of so many memories and times in my life it's now more of a religion/passage then a hobby. God, family/friends, fly fishing and cigars.

What is your favorite cigar situation? I’m speaking pairings, here. I’m also going beyond the palate and into the mood. For instance -- my pairing is a lounge in a casino in earshot of a craps table, Three Stooges on TV, dark chocolate, nice enough snoot full of brandy, a well brewed cup of joe, and a cigar that is akin to how I like my women -- big, sweet, and not exactly mild. Set an atmosphere for me, sir...
You definitely ask the best interview questions I've ever been asked! This is a good one. It's hard to think of just one, because I find it's based on my mood. One mood I enjoy is sitting around a poker table with good friends, cigars and good music playing in the background. Another mood I love is the solace mood...where I get into my man-cave, kick my feet up, fire up a cigars and just watch TV. With a demanding travel schedule and 2 young kids, time by myself to collect my thoughts is perfect.

Now that we've set the mood writ large -- let’s unplug, strip down. What is the one thing a cigar needs, inherent to itself, to bring you satisfaction. In other words -- what, in your opinion, is the single most important characteristic of a good cigar?

In my eyes the most important characteristic is how it's rolled (i.e. draw). You can have the best cigar in the world, but if the draw isn't right, you lose all the characteristics of the cigar. Second, is the aging of the tobacco. If the cigar is too young it's too harsh and too old it has nothing left in the tank. I like them aged specifically to the cigar and what it needs. Some cigars are great off the shelf, some are better with a few more months or years in the humidor.

What are your goals, both short and long term, for your Cigar Reserve brand?

The short term goal is to conquer the cigar industry in the Spanish Cedar department. We are close and already one of the largest domestic importers of Spanish Cedar to the US. Second, I would like to see everyone use cedar spills to light their cigars. I can almost hear cigars scream in agony as they are getting 2000 degree char-burn flame scorching the flavor and taste out of it. Let's save humanity and our cigars, but lighting the tradition and natural way. (i.e. Smoke Naturally)
Also, one day we would like to build our own cigar line. We will only do this if we feel we can make a superior cigar with the best tobaccos and blenders.

Now that I have your eyes on the future, allow me to pitch you an idea guaranteed to make us millions. I keep one tool handy at all my cigar smoking times -- the simple yet noble toothpick. It serves to unplug a faultily rolled stogie, to clean my teeth in case a lady decides to pay an unexpected visit, and also to save my fingertips from burning at a nub’s end. (I skewer the nub and hold it via the pick.) -- Cedar toothpicks. Think, sir, of the possibilities. When shall we begin production? 

Let's do it! Thank you very much Noah, for the great questions and your cool candor. 

Cool? I am, and shall continue to be, the other side of the pillow within the cigar lifestyle world. Thanks again, Brian, for your time.
Visit Cigar Reserve by clicking HERE.
Read my review of their Cedar Spills by clicking HERE.


[Italicised, mine. Natch.]

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

FROM THE DESK OF: Kaplowitz

Hello,

This is still quite a young blog. Its growth thus far has been beyond my expectations, and for that, I thank you all. After years of forcing words into cyber-space shape, I simply and as organically as possible started blogging about things I like. The internet version of writing about what you know. See, you really don't need to know anything any longer, you simply need to like it well enough to Google it a few times.

From these, the wilds of my mind, cigars came to the forefront and stayed there. Now, I have decided to add (somewhat less organically) to the mix the topics of coffee and of wine, namely fortified wine. I do this securely viewing myself as a "cigar guy." What I mean by this is that, for the foreseeable, the newest two topics are mere and wonderful accompaniments of the first. To say it another way, this blog could easily live on as a cigar blog. It would not last a New York minute as a wine and/or coffee blog.

Think pairings.
'Nuff.
I do so hope you continue to enjoy and hopefully support this here lil blog right here. Please click HERE for free ways to do so. Now seems a time for growth. 

Best,
Kap

Monday, August 03, 2015

Rubbing Two Nickels Together: pairing on a dime vol. 1

Remember what I said HERE re: pairings, monies, and whatnots? If you'd rather skip that link to a well written and thought-provoking post -- here are the Cliff Notes. Way to really nail that C, Magna Cum Quietly.

"A true connoisseur can walk you by a bodega and impress you with its offerings and his or her pairings. What palate is required to dole out of deep pockets at trendy spots?" Me.
Tuesday (it's Monday evening as I type this) is the second anniversary of my son's death. Last night, after being weepy all day, I knew I needed to sleep. I forgot how. I stood over my couch (my wife makes an OK living and allows me to crash there) and went dumb.

I should probably take off my shoes first, I thought -- and continued to stand there motionless. It was midnight and the Golden Girls were on. I realized I needed to change the channel in order to see them. Find the remote! I blurted out my epiphany and my motion was regained enough to do so and strip down and go horizontal. Ruby, my dachshund, kept me in place with her chin and chest pinning my shoulder to the cushion.

I was asleep after two of Sophia's Italian curses and one of her picture its...

I awoke feeling better, but always on the prowl for betterer, I rubbed two nickels together and walked the mile to my local market to see Apu. With payday always just around the next corner, I scooped up my pairing:

The Cigar:
Hugo Cassar
Sumatra Wrapper
Nicaraguan Blend Binder/Filler
Churchill
$2.50

The Wine:
Christian Brothers
Tawny Port
Napa Valley product
(note the lack of Port'o' on the label)
19% ABV
$5.79

The Scratch-off Ticket:
5X The Cash
$1.00 (not a winner)

"Thank you, please come again." Apu and me, we like to pretend I have a darn choice. Cute, that.
I should mention a couple of things here. 

Port and cigars go back as far as pork and beans -- or more aptly, fish and chips -- but we'll get to that in a jiff and a half. I am well aware, and well tired of, the knee-jerk reaction of pairing a stogie with a spirit. Yawn. Also, not always as proper as many folks seem to believe. I too am aware proper (un-fortified wines) cannot stand up to most cigars. 

Please, please, pretty ol' please, don't get me started on the new-fangled monstrosity of pairing cigars with craft beers. To each his own does not fly in the face of atrocity. We are speaking separate spectrum, kind gentlepersons.

But Port (of the Tawny variety, in particular). The world's most popular fortified wine (the Port, not the Tawny), now we're talking.

Fish and chips: The English, while at war with France, still wanted their bloody wine fix, gov'nah. So they went to Portugal and fortified their offerings with brandy in order to make the longer journey home. Too, it bears mentioning that the double claro is still en vogue across the pond -- as it 'twas back then. So we are speaking of light-bodied cigars.

Tawny is a heady port, the tenets of which -- if'n you will, and I did -- include firstly and logistically, their far longer shelf life, as compared to the bottle-aged Vintage Ports. Nextly, the tawny variety does not require decanting. Thirdly, and this is a bit of a cheat on my part -- they are notoriously easy to pair. So we have here a more user-friendly fortified wine.

This Cassar stick has a rather definitive hay quality... in the interest of time, HERE is a link to my full review.
Dipping, Swishing, Sipping
If that was a question I asked of myself -- the answer I would return is yes. Of all these affirmative responses, "dipping" will most likely raise the most ire from self-described true cigar smokers. However, my fish and chip friends of yesteryear did it in spades. You see, dipping your cigar in your adult beverage was an excellent way of re-humidifying your de-humidified smoke, seeing as personal humidors weren't quite a thing yet. It too adds a nice flavor to a decidedly non-complex stick.

Swishing, as we are well into a rudimentary primer, is what sommeliers do to not get, pardon thrice my Francois, shit-faced. You get all the palate and finish notes you would with a swig. You just get more before you hit the floor... or cement porch, as is my case. I'm no lightweight -- I simply prefer a meandering marathon to a straight as an arrow sprint. I prefer to savor. Too, I am not a fan of sweating whilst clothed. 

Sipping: uh...we got this one, right?
I will do a full write-up of the Christian Brothers Tawny Port offering shortly and link it back to HERE, when I do. I can, however, preliminarily say that its characteristics are sweet, thick, and cheap -- the same characteristics which I look for in mah wiminz.

I suppose I'll say I served it 'chilled' as I did not first heat it. Heating a tawny is supposed to raise it to a workable alternative to Cognac. Which Cognac, which tawny, and who it was that said this, is unknown. Nevertheless, this CB bottle bore notes of canned (syrupy) red fruit, higher-priced drugstore chocolate and spiced apples with a long, sweet spice finish. Did I mention long? It was, but mainly kind. 
"That's great, but how was the pairing?"

Nice, disembodied, typed voice. Nice enough. Each was made better by the other -- most notably did the Port aid the cigar in distracting the palate from the overly hay notes and by wetting it all down a tad. Less, the hay of the Hugo Cassar dried the syrupy finish from the Christian Brothers palate.

Blowing smoke into the wine offered a nice effect that added a deeper earthiness to the fluid. Too, the chocolate of the port seemed to bring out some of the dormant cocoa from the stogie, although mostly in a semi-sweet earthiness. It was all very nice enough and together, both were better than apart. 

I'd call that a win/win, from my spot lying on the cement porch, anyways. I missed the latest Blue Moon...perhaps I'll lay in wait for the next -- beat the crowds, I always say.

L'chaim!