Deep in flavor. Deep in your mind.

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

5. Thou shalt not looketh down at any hand-rolled cigar.
Each roller has a soul, as does each smoker, as does each hand-rolled stogie, as do you.
There is truthfully not much to elaborate upon here. We all know I am a big believer in the idea(l) that the enjoyment of cigars and their connected lifestyle et ceteras must occur in egalitarian form and forums.

I'll add here quickly, however, that a true "connoisseur" knows no price tag. Quite the opposite, really. I'd be hard pressed to find anything more tragically gauche and ill-informed than connecting the value of a thing to its cost. We can't all be wealthy, but we can all be aficionados -- even of canned meats.

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?
[I oft warn nascent smokers to not fall prey to the belief that cheap stogies are beginner cigars. A $2.75 Casa de Garcia will prove nigh impossible to smoke through for many a new or potential enthusiast.]

There is no small touch of divinity inherent in our humanity. Too, it is in our creations -- be it cigars, fortified wines up to and including brandies and their kings - Cognacs, chocolate, coffee, and Spam. It is our job -- our one thing -- as Curly from City Slickers simplified Kierkegaard, to find it ...and too to revel in it.

Please note the above et cetera. All but Spam, at least, will make their presence known at this blog in short and due time. Okay -- maybe occasionally Spam.
Please to peruse my Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar etiquette in their entirety HERE
I do feel you'll be all the better for having done so.

"Zog Nit Keyn Mol" A Quick Note on Casa de Garcia Stogies

I have two (2) guilty pleasures:
1. The final season of Roseanne.
2. Casa de Garcia stogies.
I now realize there are many others...but for the sake of argument, sure, two.

I am in the final third of a House of Gary (CdG) as I type. It is a connecticut wrapped Churchill offering. To get this far, to get this far -- to get this far...
I was a scrawny eleven year-old whose dad, two years earlier had, at long last, sat me down for "the talk." It was not the birds and bees talk. Instead, it was a talk in regards as to why he could no longer continue to coach my Little League baseball squad. His Parkinson's Disease had worsened.

In those two years, he had begun to unravel physically. It was hard to separate fully what was the illness and what was the side-effects of the medications. What was clear, and painfully so, was the unravelling.

We could no longer rely on his ability to use Brooklyn's public transportation, so Dad purchased a 1973 Plymouth Duster. I was born in 1975. 

I was a scrawny eleven year-old, but I repeat myself.

That me is sitting next to Dad, and Dad is driving up the side of a Catskill mountain. I am shotgun. The road winds sharply uphill and I look out my side window to see nothing but sheer cliff drop-off. The Duster is over-heating and my dad is skillfully nursing it along by blasting the heater. It is summer.

Too, the power steering is non-existent. I am unsure if the Duster is equipped with power steering or not -- but either way, we seem to have none. I get a little scared. I taste a little puke. Then, I look over, and Dad is healthy. He isn't rigid, nor is he trembling. He is nursing the car through the Borscht Belt and he is singing bawdy sounding Yiddish tunes. I am safe.
I get to the final third of each House of Gary offering the same way Dad got his '73 Duster safely Upstate and to G-d awful kosher pizza. I nurse.

I massage out faulty rollings. I toothpick clear plugs. I say a little prayer the whole gig don't go ka-plooey. I later found out that Dad did some a' that.

I sing what I recall of those bawdy sounding Yiddish tunes, and Dad is with me -- over a decade and a half after his body found eternal relief. All the while, I do not hear the first shovel of dirt, which I ceremoniously let fall on his pine box casket.

Cigars, even cheap stogies -- especially, it seems, cheap stogies -- sure do take a fella places.

"Zog Nit Keyn Mol."

A Quick Note on Breathing & Tasting

I figured I'd write a quick post, as I take a break from my shameless attempts at procuring free cigars, chocolate, brandy/sherry, coffee, et cetera. I'm on a shoestring here, don't judge. Plus, I'm good for it.
Ya know what else I'm good for? Advice. My advice is so good, it's oft sought. Oft 'nuff, anyways. A certain piece of advice I'm oft sought for is something along the lines of nascent smokers asking various forms of how they might taste more from their cigars.

I cannot teach palate any more than charisma -- though I do admit to having my share of each. I have been a chef, I have been a comic, there have been overlappings.

Remember that Ted Williams was a terrible batting instructor. I do have one simple bit of advice in getting more taste out of your stogie that I was astounded, quite frankly, needed said --

Breathe.

I ain't even talking retro-haling here. I am talking friggin' breathe. As in allow the smoke into your smoke-hole and allow it to sit there sans the holding of your breath. How many times must I equate cigar smoking with meditation? In meditation, as in smoking, 90% of it is half mental -- thanks, Yogi. Man, I find me in a baseball mood.

How many folks are smoking cigars and tasting nothing whilest holding their breathes, blue-faced? One is too many. Get the good stuff up into your sinuses, gentlepersons.

You know when you're a kid and you have to take medicine and it tastes terrible, so your mom tells you to hold your nose? Me either, but it is indeed a thing.
Remember what Eddie Vedder famously said, "Stay with me. Just breathe."

If it helps, you can also recall the wise words of Kurt Cobain, "wihds89isq, kd=jqn2no@ iojdsnhk 28n *&mmm." ...

Although I fail to see any help there, personally.


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

4. Thou shalt not lighteth before asking permission unless thou art alone.
Be nice. Privilege is not nice.
In today's near vehemently anti-smoker world, it is best to give no one the opportunity to look even further down their snooty snouts at we, Brothers and Sisters of the Leaf. True, there is much to be said for a "screw you, I'll do what I want," mentality -- at the end of the day, we are social animals and must learn to live in accordance with that truth. Also, no one is asking you to bow before a queen.

An important thing to bear in mind is that you are straddling the fine line between asking and notifying. Before that, however, you are in no way expected to listen to some layman (or even professional) schpiel regarding the medical hazards of tobacco use.

Allow me now to digress. Here, take a fleuron --
Asking versus Alerting:
We are being nice. We are saying, "Mind if I smoke?" They very well might mind. Perhaps, they might even be made aware of the possibility of minding elsewhere -- dependant upon the scenario and who of the lot of you arrived first to said scenario. If they do mind, then you two have a thing to work out. Let's enter negotiations as adults. Or, retreat out of their airspace. Whichever --

If you wish to look at it in hawk or in dove terms, is up to you. I beseech you, however, to give no one usable fodder to aid them in inciting further anti-smoking/er sentiment. 

We have seen the variances that occur from asking and telling, and can furthermore imagine any infinite numbers of in-betweens. What of this one, however:

Asking Permission When Alone
Smoking is no small part ritual and perhaps more so, meditation. This would be the metaphysical ritual. This would be, too, metaphysical meditation. This would be an announcement of intent.

You are asking everyone and no one. 

We are asking the universe. We are too ignoring the universe. The deep ritual which leads to deeper meditation has the end game of both saluting and turning our backs to, the universe. You are simply, again, announcing intent. Many rituals, many more meditations, begin in this way. I ask that you try this tact. 

I also ask that you don't bother me with the results. I'm not result oriented -- I'm more an "idea guy."

[Bear in mind that this commandment is the one which supplies you the most rope with which to hang yourself -- and too to bring smokers, as a whole, with you to the gallows.] 

Gentlepersons, as always, thank you ever so kindly and respectfully for reading.
You can, and furthermore should, read The Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette 
in their gloriously sage entirety HERE.

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

3. Biteth thee tips of thine stogies and useth not cutting implementations.
The cap is a separate piece which comes off when nibbled wetly. Cutters cause damage.
A Brief Lesson in Cigar Anatomy:
The cap of a cigar is a separate bit of leaf entirely, from the body, or wrapper, of the cigar. It is fastened in its place by a flour/water (usually) mixture. Not stickier than that, regardless of methodology. It is meant to come off. Wet it in your mouth and nibble allowingly. 

I believe that the word "bite" has scared off some. Do not maul -- allow.You will be doing far less damage than many a cutter. I'm looking at you, V-cutter gentlepersons. How far must you insist on cutting into the wrapper, into the meat of the stogie, when 'none' is a viable option?
Too, this helps add to the sensory exploration on said stogie. taste it. Let it linger. Take cold pulls along the languid way. Unless yer a Hindu or something -- you're only here once. Enjoy the journey. Let it unwrap in your juices, man.

It's always good, too, to avoid unnecessary accouterments which both weigh you down, and threaten to label you a poseur. Things do have a tendency to own us, as much -- at the least -- as do we own them.

[I wrote more about this HERE.]

A lone caveat does exist. A schmatta I will sell you for five-dollars, s&h included.
You can, and furthermore should, read The Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette in their gloriously sage entirety HERE.

El Rey del Mundo - Cigar Review

Prologue:
1:55pm

I am freshly returned home from Synagogue and prepared fully for the 9th of Av (lack of) festivities. Solemn is the word of the day. All other days: bird.

I am dedicating this post to the memories of my son Henry Kaplowitz, and my father Herbert Kaplowitz. Please feel free to dedicate your reading of this post to the memories of those you have loved and will continue to love onward into and through eternity.

The Cigar:
El Rey del Mundo
El Secreto del Rio Jagua
Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Maduro
Honduras binder & filler
Parejo shaped 7.25 x 47 Corona Inmensa
Pre-light: 
El Rey del Mundo translates, of course, to a whale's vagina. No. That ain't right. It actually translates to the wonderfully humble, "The King of the World." At one time, these cigars actually were. In that the brand was considered the greatest in the world, circa mid-late 1800s and as far as expense and prestige.

The brand of Rey del Mundo I have in front of me now, however, does not share those well-lauded roots, per se -- like Punch, there is a Cuban company, and a non-cuban company which goes by the Rey del Mundo name. This stick I'm speaking of currently is an offering by way of Honduras via the Villazon family.

Most and most easily notable is the rather creamy complexion this stick has, as compared to the majority of other Maduros I've seen. Construction wise, it's a loose and mostly even pack with somewhat heavy veins and imperfect seams. Somewhat rough hewn, but not terrible and well in keeping with character and not character flaw.

To the nose, there is simply and rather elegantly, tobacco of the honduran variety with its innate sweetness.

The footer band is a nice touch and the style of the cigar band proper is both regal and nearly self-effacing all at once -- it's pure genius. Faux class, whether meaning to be, or not. Best band I've seen in many a moon.
There is a bump/blemish up by the head, we'll see how that plays out. A cold pull offers a light palate of natural sweet notes and cocoa so light it might be vanilla.

Light:
The light is splendid and I am down to my last two cedar spills. Razor edge even burn out of the gate. First couple few pulls show nutty oils, good amounts of cream, and traces of vanilla. Somewhat of a warm leather nose with a surprisingly light fruit honey dew to the finish. It's a long finish, at that, and a pleasantly dainty one.

1/3:
Fruity. Fruity and, again given the Maduro factor, surprisingly light. There is body here, however, carried on a sweet spice note. The general consensus here is medium to full, but I'd say well over to and into, medium. Between the fruit and cinnamon nutmeg notes, I am put in mind of harvest. So far, this smoke is as easy and forgiving as your Thanksgiving elastic waistband pants. Why do you insist on doing that to yourself?

The ash piles up well packed and a tad on the flaky side (San Fransisco) of town (Bay Bridge).

The wrapper, which I am convinced is far more Connecticut shade than is Maduro, is showing some potential issues by way of a light crack near the stick's final third midriff.

Well into the first third, and with the second right around the corner, Predominant notes are sweet spices and a now heavier red fruit. These are backed in leather and roasted macadamia flavors. The finish calls for a snifter of cognac.

The smoke output is pleasantly sweet but not of a tremendous volume, and is at risk of my calling it wispy.

The draw tightens, not loosens, as we heat fully and a sour note --  red grapefruit -- appears as we cruise, gentlepersons, into the
2/3:
I meet the second third on a hurried trip to the tray, as I clump off for the first time in rather powdery fashion. I retouch the burn and it evens out well enough. The red grapefruit lays long on the finish and I don't know how I feel about that. The more complex sweet spices have muted or abandoned. The roasted macadamia is still somewhat there and I am popping them in my mouth, one at a time, as I carry them in a baseball mitt. Look at me! I'm a quirky little leaguer Right Fielder (Left Out). Sunflower seeds are so last century.

What once yelled for cognac seems gone, but I'd still like a snifter full of the stuff. The wrapper is well cracked now, but the damage seems under control and superficial. My good friend Mr. Toothpick pays a visit and brings with him a more full draw as I grab him and stuff one of his pointy ends down the stogie.

At the end of the second third, the fruit notes have went from sour to dried and the remaining notes of sweet spices have become earthy and somewhat dark. Finally, the honduran tobacco takes center stage and baker's chocolate appears with a hint of well-brewed coffee.

All told a very nice, if not entirely smooth, evolution into depth. A cigar not overwhelmed by its Maduro bent. Too, a very nice chew is developing.
3/3:
The crack stretches a bit but I ain't never been afraid.

Well into the final third now and not much has changed since the end of the second. Barring the unforeseeable -- which by definition, I do not see -- Ima ride this out and talk to ya inn a bit...

Notes:
3:15pm (-ish)

"5.25%? OK."
"I think the ham's still good."
"I do."
-- Other times I should have been afraid.

Man was that a rush. The stick really came apart at the end, and I got to feeling like Indy running from that huge rolling boulder.

Call me Indy, 'cuz I made it. Barely.

At the end of the day, this El Rey del Mundo stick strikes me as a jack-of-all-trades -- master of none. 

Pairings: 
Cognac through the first half, well worn fedora for the second. Bullwhip optional throughout. Coffee wasn't it, man.

Final Grade: C+

Epilogue:
The sun is setting, I'm getting set to eat a light meal in preparation of fasting on the morrow. All the best to you all, my friends.

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

2. Removeth thine cigar band prior to lighting
We are not here to flaunt our bemoan our lot in life. We are here for the buzz.
A cigar's band speaks and lends nothing at all to the quality of the cigar it adorns (hello, Gurkha). It is completely superfluous and contributes, too, nothing to your actual smoking enjoyment. This is why a cigar's band is so important. It operates in the rarified air of sophistication and mood-setting which the French call a certain savoir fare -- and what my dad called a certain subway fare. In short, now that I've went long...

We are talking the sizzle and not the steak. We are talking showin', not blowin'. We are talking here about man not living on bread alone, gentlepersons.

We are also tempering all this now, with talking about keeping all this schtick under yer hat.

Ambience. Mood. This is what a cigar band brings to the table. I have smoked quite (almost embarrassingly so) expensive cigars and I have smoked (almost embarrassingly so) ItsABoys paid for with a pockets of coin. I have quickly removed the labels of both these and all points in-between.

Why? ...

Because it is gauche to project, and worse yet flaunt, my failures and/or successes in the faces of others. It's my own darn business -- and yours is yours. We meet here, we Brothers and Sisters of the Leaf, not to succumb to some hierarchy but instead to celebrate our brethren on the commonest of grounds from where sprout the leaves we so adore. Also, we're here to get a buzz.

So enjoy your cigar band. Note your cigar band. Remove your cigar band. It has already set its tone, thus done its job -- don't insist on making the superfluous even more superfluous. That's just silly. 

A final note as to logistics:
There are varying levels of apologists who knowingly transgress upon this commandment. From extremist to wishy-washy, the main to camps are:

"It will destroy the cigar!!!"
These are the extremist fundamentalists. These too are the dum dums. When you remove the band, bear in mind that you are not the Incredible Hulk. You are at this point in time, Bruce Banner. Bruce Banner not smash. Bruce Banner pays attention to what he is doing in a non-ham-fisted sort of manner. 

Bruce Banner also realizes that the cigar band is not attached to the cigar, but instead it is attached to itself at its ends, by a little dab of sticky. Your Cohiba's band is not Crazy Glued to the wrapper of your Cohiba, for instance.

"I only smoke with the band on long enough to melt the glue."
- Imbeciles

I mean if you're gonna transgress upon common courtesy and etiquette, at least do so like a mensch and not a fagalah. Go all in on your tragically bourgeoisie ways. 

Best, though, to be a gent.
You can, and furthermore should, read the Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette HERE

[edit/addendum 6/7/17]
If excess glue doth invade unto the top-leaf, allow the cigar to heat up. It'll loosen.

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

1. Thou shalt not speaketh with a cigar in thy mouth.
This is just rude, obnoxious, and indicative of posery as well as a severe oral fixation.
Allow me to please first preface this with: a good chew is an important thing for a stogie to offer. Most of my cigar reviews mention this, and if they don't, by all means feel free to assume my grading on such is neutral. I will mention bad, I will mention good. Too, this is objective and not subjective -- so be ever at the ready with your salt grains.

There are enjoyable nuances to cigar smoking that are to be just that -- nuances. Subtleties. Some as solitary as a Zen meditation. The band of a cigar, for instance, is for your enjoyment. Not for the sake of flaunting to others your fortunes and/or misfortunes at any given moment in time.

Throw into that category, the chew -- and by extension, holding a cigar in your smoke-hole. Especially when addressing a fellow human being. 

"Nooking for thomething thpethial?" The cigar shop clerk said to me from behind the cigar case and too, through the cigar in his mouth (poser). "There'th a thmoking loungth in the back. Thofa is empty, too."

I wondered as to his brother, the one I imagine who worked at a delicatessen; serving folks ham by the pound as he chomped on a sub, grinder, or hero (dependant upon your geography). 

"The Baked Virginia Ham is excellent," he'd say from out behind projectiles of ham spittle. He'd then burp real loud and say, "Would ya like a pound of it?"

Remove from your mouth your cigar and/or ham sammich when the mere possibility exists of speaking to someone. Unless, of course, you are J. Jonah Jameson putting the screws to that Parker kid by underpaying him for his photos. See? You cringed there, no?

Place your stogie down in a tray, or hold it -- not as you'd hold a cigarette, for Moses' sake -- and address the person before you with all of the aplomb they deserve. Hint: they deserve all the aplomb you believe that is due yourself. 

I have not been back to said shop which will remain, forever and always, nameleth.
Please be so kind and civil as to peruse the other remainder of the Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette by clicking HERE. Such a mensch. 

Ten Things You Mightn't Have Known About Larry

In a career which somewhat dictated itself, as we shall soon see, Larry Fine was born Louis Feinberg in 1902 South Philly. The "middle stooge" in all the Three Stooges incarnations, "Porcupine" occupied the demanding and sometimes awkward position of a comedic trio's straight-man, or in his case middle man --with the utmost of skill and grace.
Often reacting instead of acting, his presence set a near perfect pacing which allowed a gag its dimension and the needed steam to climax properly. He equally played surprise at, and instigation of, what we now recognize as the high art of Stoogery

“Growing up, first you watched Curly, then Moe, and then your eyes got to Larry. He’s the reactor, the most vulnerable. Five to fourteen, Curly; fourteen to twenty-one, Moe. Anyone out of college, if you’re not looking at Larry you don’t have a good brain.” - Peter Farrelly

With his craftsman precision and anchoring longevity, he could easily be seen as perhaps the most important cog in the Stooges wheel, funny that -- since --

1. Larry almost never became a Stooge.
He at first turned down Ted Healy's offer to join the Stooges, then billed as “Ted Healy and his Three Southern Gentlemen." He quickly changed his mind when Mr. Mann, the club owner who hosted Larry's violin and two gal song and dance gig, committed suicide following being shut down due to serving up a prohibition era drink to an undercover cop.

His reason to being hesitant? Shemp was too funny

Healy offered $90 a week plus an additional $10 if he grew his hair out "all frizzy*."

2. Larry was a professional violinist.
A Vaudevillian song and dance man, really. As a youth in his father's jewelry store, he accidentally almost drank the acid from a gold test kit. His father caught him in time to slap it out of his hand, but it splashed his left arm, severely injuring it. Here, we see the famously easy-going Mr. Fine allow life to take the lead. The violin was a good way to fine tune his injured wing.

3. Larry was a prize fighter.
Another excellent form of exercise is pugilism. Under the nom de ring of Kid Roth, Larry fought (and won) one professional lightweight bout. His father, opposed to Larry's fisticuff antics, put an end to them quite quickly. As far as public displays, at least.
4. Larry was a Stooge three years before Moe.
Moe Howard signed on with Ted Healy three years after Larry. It was Moe who completed the soon to be famous trio -- not who began it.

5. Larry never appeared in a film without Moe.
Unlike Shemp, Larry never sought a solo limelight. There are two examples (Three Loan Wolves to name one) that show, with no disrespect intended, that he was no lead. If one were then relegated to follow -- I'd imagine there is no need to look elsewhere.

6. Larry took it like a champ.
"It" being abuse. According to his brother, Larry developed a callus on one side of his face from being slapped by Moe lo, those many years.

Too, he took a fountain pen into his skull and, in "Three Little Sew and Sews" (1939), hung the highest of the three by piano wire whilst portraying angels.
 7."I'm a victim of circumstance" 
(which was used by Curly on occasion as well). More reacting than acting, sure and soitenly. A career he allowed to guide itself, yes. Most importantly, and as displayed in this famous line of his, is his uncanny ability to find depth in apparently shallow lines. Curly, a time or two, had borrowed this line -- note the difference there for yourself.

He had the ability to turn "Yeah." into a belly laugh guffaw of a punchline. Please see: Who Done It? for that particular and hilarious framed pictures to craniums instance.

8. Larry was a flake ... erm ... a colorful character.
Larry's let fate decide, easiest of easy-going character exhibited itself beyond his stage and screen career. He had the business sense and frugality of a drunken sailor. Sadly, he was also a barely in control gambler (ponies and gin rummy). Too, a soft touch -- he often gave money to fellow actors and friends who were hard up, never asking to be repaid.

Due to his money hemorrhaging ways and his long time wife Mabel's dislike for keeping house, their family lived in Atlantic City and Los Angeles hotels for many years. Larry didn't become a homeowner until the late 1940s. He then purchased one in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, California.

Moe actually acted as Larry's de facto accountant, as he did too with Curly. Saving both from the brinks of bankruptcy a time or two.

Director Charles Lamont recalled, "Larry was a nut. He was the kind of guy who always said anything. He was a yapper."

9. Larry is a piece of art.
Literally... well, more literally than you might imagine. A large mural of the famed middle man appears on a wall at intersection of Third and South Streets, currently housing Jon’s Bar and Grill, near Larry's birthplace. At the suggestion of Philadelphia Weekly and its fine readership, the site was dedicated on October 26th 1999. Artist David McShane’s mural originally showcased Larry with his trademarked dazed appearance. Some six years later, McShane repainted a less dazed yet too infinitely less hinged Fine playing a violin.

10. Larry met a very similar fate to Curly.
In 1965, the Three Stooges launched a new show, aptly titled, "The New Three Stooges." The show was a blend of live and cartoon short segments. The boys saw their ages catch up with them, however, and filming took more of a toll than was comfortable. Larry soon displayed early signs of a stroke (several smaller strokes) that would soon enough end his life. In particular, he exhibited often troubles with the proper delivery of lines -- something long his forte. 

He, along with Moe and Curly Joe were at work on a new television series, "Kook's Tour" in January of 1970 when Larry suffered a massive and debilitating stroke, which paralyzed the left side of his body. He was moved to the entertainment industry retirement community of Motion Picture Country House in Woodland Hills, LA, where he resided his five remaining years, confined to a wheelchair.

His partially paralyzed state aside, Fine was known to entertain the other patients and also was able to complete his autobiography "Stroke of Luck." Moe visited his Porcupine regularly, and closely succeeded him in death, mere months later. Mr. Fine shuffled off to cosmic Buffalo aged 72, on January 24th 1975. 


============

* There is another take on this story wherein Larry was offered the additional ten to 'throw away his fiddle.' This is questionable for two reasons:

1. It is according to Moe (Larry tells the 'frizzy' tale) during a 1973 TV interview on The Mike Douglas Show. At this time, Moe seems to be a bit unpredictable and apologetic with his information. He also told many reporters watered down versions of the violence on set. He would pretend-twist Curly Joe's ear to display how no one was ever hurt, which flies in the face of what we now know. This was a period in time when viewers were becoming sensitive to the violence portrayed by the trio. Moe was playing Moe -- protecting and steering the Stooges careers.

2. Larry didn't throw away his fiddle, as he appeared several times with it -- he also cashed the extra saw buck. Nuff.

Oliva Serie G Maduro - Cigar Review

Prologue: 
7:26pm 

The sun sets on another Sabbath. I watch it play with the leaves on the trees across from my porch at the park. In the dappled shade, bums snuggle in for the night. G-d bless Eugene, Oregon. I wish I could bless it as does G-d -- from afar. Nonetheless...

The Cigar:
Oliva Serie G
Connecticut broadleaf, Maduro wrapper
Habano-seed Nicaraguan binder/filler
Churchill 7 x 50 size (box pressed)

Pre-light:
Macadamia and cocoa butter nose with a sweet tobacco back. The wrapper is firm and oily and smooth as compared to some other lesser Maduro offerings. Small veins which are few and far between and seams that seem seamless. The color is dark and rich and the cigar has a very nice overall feel to it.

A cold pull displays a darker than expected and dare I say succulent tobacco. Toasted macadamia is forefront on the cold pull palate.

Though box pressed, the corners are somewhat rounded.

All in all, I'm genuinely excited for the

Light: 
The light goes off without a hitch, because as I've stated previously, cigars are indeed flammable. In all serious, however, the affair is that of ease -- even given my now famously windy porch. 

The burn is off to a even start and the first couple-few pulls highlight a deepening nutty oil, quite a chocolate nose, and a pleasant finish of well-brewed coffee. It plays rather sensually, really.

1/3:
The corners of the box pressed Oliva were rounded at its onset and seem to be getting more rounded. The once firm pack is indeed loosening.

Flavor notes stay the same and warm as they toast. Nice. Very nice.

The ash is thick and oily and the output of smoke is within the high-end of average. It is dense and it is macadamia.

I notice a somewhat inconsistent draw, we'll see how that plays out. For now all else is even keeled and laid back. A cigar that seems to smoke itself and too, to beg for Brandy.

A dried fruity red plum comes to the finish.

Chocolate, fruit, nuts -- it's high end trail mix, gentlepersons! I'm fine with that, as long as I don't have to hike. Because I will do no such thing, sir and/or madame.

An exceptionally smooth and easy stick. Although not without balls, as I've oft critiqued Oliva. Total enjoyment. Let's see what awaits us in the 

2/3:
I flick off the well-pact ash at around two inches. I stubbornly resisted for some time and now I even the burn. It responds well and easily. I back off a tad in hopes of slowing the experience by not pulling like a fiend.

My lone complaint is lack of buzz, but the peaceful easy feeling is a good enough trade by something resembling quite far.

This Oliva is a batting Practice pitcher. Straight down the middle -- no change of speed, no movement. We have been macadamia, chocolate, coffee, with hint of dried heavy fruit throughout. Even when a new flavor note is added, it is somewhat telegraphed. This is no complaint. This is a well planned cigar. 

The draw has loosened to an average pull.

Ricardo Montalban should be narrating this cigar. Does anyone else hear Chet Baker, softly and in the background?

Fully heated notes that dance together in lusciously slow steps. Macadamia and chocolate. Coffee and rich red fruit no longer of the dried variety. The finish is long and welcome and the inherent sweetness of all involved. I notice the output has grown in fruitiness.

Too, the stick is now fully round.

3/3:
We begin with a touching up of the burn that is so responsive I feel it might have happened on its lonesome, had I simply waited. I begin to water my roses and somewhat hesitate to place the stick in my tray. Its feel is genuinely welcoming. Parting is such sweet... Screw it, the roses can wait.

Mid 3/3 there is a coming around of cedar that is, while quick, not at all abrupt. With its onset comes a comfy buzz and upon its departure, the stick reverts to inherently sweet Nicaraguan right down to the toothpick. A smooth nutty oil and cocoa finish prevails. 

8:47pm

Notes:
I wonder if I were in another type of mood, would this stick strike me as boring. I think not. I think there is enough warming and maturing which take place. I think, too, that the inherent deepness here is not indicative of a boredom. Just an easy, peaceful feeling that'll last a good ninety minutes and offer a solid near 20 minutes of buzz-strength from its general low-end of medium bodied classification.

It is a slow, warm and comfortable evolution of a cigar.

Pairings: 
Brandy and Cool Jazz. Sunglasses, even at night, kiddo.

Final Grade: A

Epilogue:
This will go down as the stogie which made me an Oliva believer. I get it now, guys, never dare a smoker to smoke a smoke. Easy like a Sunday morning, and everything (but the Sabbath) should be a Sunday morning.

Ten Things You Mightn't Have Known About Shemp

To further, if not your appreciation, then your knowledge of Shemp -- the oft marginalized Stooge, I have decided to entrust to you these tidbits of glimpses into the eldest Horwitz Brother.
Shall we shtart at the very first beginning? It is a very good place to shtart, after all. 

1. Why "Shemp?" 
Born Samuel Horwitz in New York City on March 11th 1895, he adopted the moniker "Shemp,"  as his nom de stage on account of his mother's thick Latvik accent. "Sam" came out "Shemp" when she called his name. A momma's boy at heart, perhaps, but charmingly so and possibly in keeping with our second tidbit...

2. Shemp was a bed-wetter. 
Or at least he was for long enough to get out of serving in WWI. This "issue" was discovered very shortly after his being drafted and found him being sent home two weeks thereafter. Some film historians question this as being anything more than a soggy rouse to get out of combat. Personally, I feel it's perfectly in keeping with his character profile, which as we'll soon see, is riddled with phobias. Perhaps his accidents were simply of the happy useful variety.

I have long said that Shemp has layers. Some of those layers were near undoubtedly waterproof plastic and placed under his fitted bed sheets.

3. Shemp Entertained in Blackface.
Along with his little brother and future Boss Stooge, Moe, Shemp donned the infamous Minstrel Show attire in an act dubbed "Howard and Howard: A Study In Black." Such fine vaudevillians they were, they concurrently worked with a rival troupe, sans Blackface.
4. Shemp was the most successful solo Stooge.
The original Stooge lineup was Moe, Larry, and Shemp -- until Shemp had it up to his frazzled bangs with Ted Healy mercilessly taunting him and his many phobias.

When he did strike out on his own, he quickly found work in many Hollywood shorts and feature films. He gigged within Fatty Arbuckle's final turns and appeared in Jimmy Stewart's first screen appearance in a 1934 comedy short. He also had a running gig as Knobby Walsh, Joe Palooka's boxing manager. He also paired with Lon Chaney, Jr, as a somewhat bastardized version of Abbott and Costello in "San Antonio Rose" (1941). Finally, for the sake of briefness, he lent his comedic mugging to Charlie Chan in the Thin Man murder mysteries. 

To threaten that aforementioned briefness, I'll add that Shemp was also capable of serious role-play, as was the case in 1942's "Pittsburgh" in which he shared screen time with Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne.

5. Shemp was a Phobic.
He was afraid of: 
Water - He toted galoshes everywhere, always. 
Heights - & I don't mean high ones. It did not take much.
Driving/riding (in) cars - On account of his witnessing a car wreck as a kid, says Moe. 
Planes too were a no-go - Trains were it, man.
Dogs - Except for his own Collie, Wags.
It's no surprise that he was known to jump at every noise. No telling if said noise had to be actual.

6. Shemp shared the stage with baseball great Honus Wagner.
In 1919, Shemp and Moe appeared in a very rare movie short called "Spring Fever,"  Sadly and like too many silent films, this one has been cuffed by the bandit of all bandits, time.

7. Shemp's "era" as a Stooge is known to have been risque.
With Curly suffering a stroke in '46, Shemp entered back into the Stooge fold and made 70 more films with Moe and Larry. These films constitute the Shemp Era and the trio's offerings became known to be slightly more adult-themed (Shemp and Christine McIntyre had some great chemistry), as well as more heavily banter-driven.
I personally have stated my belief that some of Shemp's work has lost its luster today, because we no longer recognize his naughty envelope pushing as, well, naughty envelop pushing. Think Lenny Bruce -- his act which gained him fame as well as arrest in his own time, would be quite the mainstream performance now. Too, bear in mind far less time has passed since Mr. Bruce's bits, than has since Shemp's.

8. Shemp was voted "The Ugliest Man in Hollywood."
This was a concocted publicity stunt. Still, it must have stung, one would imagine. This puts me in mind of Curly shearing his beloved locks for the purpose of Stoogery -- Babe never really got OK with it. It bugged him always.
"I'm hideous," Shemp told reporters.

9. Shemp's death was as calm as his life wasn't.
On Nov. 23th [22nd, editor] 1955 Shemp played the ponies during the day and attended the prize fights at night. After these good and usual festivities, he was sitting in the back of a car with his cohorts, smoking a cigar and joking. Suddenly, he slumped over -- dead of a cerebral hemorrhage. Out went the light.

For a man ruled by fear, Shemp Howard had an easy go at life's biggest one and the probable metaphysical root of all the others. All accounts stated that he died with a smile on his ugly mug.
10. Fake shemp.
Here's a quirky legacy: Columbia had The Three Stooges on the hook for eight comedy shorts in 1956, but only half were in the can at the untimely time of Shemp's death. To fulfill contractual obligations, Jules White strung together four more shorts by reusing old footage of Shemp and filming new connecting scenes with a stand-in -- long time Stooge character actor Joe Palma, seen mostly from the back. Using this same tact, and it's been used widely, is now officially called "Fake Shemp."

Not. Awkward. Viewing. At. All --
From "Commotion in the Ocean" (1956)
Moe: I wonder what became of that Shemp?
Larry: You know, he went on deck to scout out some food.
Moe: Oh, yeah. That's right.

Oy.

The Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette

And too did the Maduro wrapper causeth thee cat to speaketh to me and it did speaketh these Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette thusly:

Meow is the time to listen spake the fat tabby. (Yet too, hath I come to realize it was inded my Dachshund Ruby Vondella coming to me in a varied form.)
1. Thou shalt not speaketh with a cigar in thy mouth.
This is just rude, obnoxious, and indicative of posery as well as a severe oral fixation.

2. Removeth thine cigar band prior to lighting
We are not here to flaunt our bemoan our lot in life. We are here for the buzz.

3. Biteth thee tips of thine stogies and useth not cutting implementations.
The cap is a separate piece which comes off when nibbled wetly. Cutters (may) cause damage.

4. Thou shalt not lighteth before asking permission unless thou art alone.
Be nice. Privilege is not nice.

5. Thou shalt not looketh down at any hand-rolled cigar.
Each roller has a soul, as does each smoker, as does each hand-rolled stogie, as do you.

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.

7. Offer thy pal a smoke or smoketh not before him.
A cigar is offered both graciously as well as silently via gesturing.

8. You shall have no other accesories than a simple toothpick.
& wooden matches/spills. A tooth pick is an unplugger and a nub holder.
(& a schmatta I will sell you for five-dollars, s&h included.)

9. Thou shalt not starteth and stoppeth a stogie.
Procure the proper sized stogie for the proper sized allotment of time.

10. Be neither pretentious in the growing of your ash, nor flicketh too often.
Your character is on display here. Be not showy nor nervous.

Lest I shall smacketh you, n00b.
"Gay ga zinta hate" concludeth the cat.

Each of these commandments will have a posting all their own 
and eventually all above will be linked to that posting.

Each of these commandments are not writ in stone.
They are writ on yer computer screen.

Perdomo Fresco Cigar Review

I am staring down the barrel of a gun. The barrel has a 52 gauge and is eight inches long. It is wrapped in Maduro leaf. I might not be feeling lucky, punk -- but I'm feeling full. An early stogie following a slightly larger than modest ham sammich supper. I am ready for

The Cigar:
Perdomo Fresco
Maduro Wrapper
Nicaraguan filler/binder
Gigante Presidente size

Pre-light: Nose full of cocoa, cumin, black pepper spices, all dark.

The pack is firm and even, the wrap shows some possibly excess vein and has the Maduro thicker, rougher feel.

A cold draw tells me this is set to be the spiciest meat-a-ball I've had in some time.

Light: The light is nice 'n' easy. It seems to want to be toasted, but not so much as to be seen impetuous and/or over-dry. The first pull shows off black pepper spices and cumin. I can't say I get anything else -- including tobacco. My lips get rough and burn.

The smoke it gives off is red peppery. The finish is long lived and quite pleasant, actually. It consists of a mellowing of the involved flavors. My eyes burn. Must be my allergies.

I'm being tested, I feel. Dared to smoke this stick.

On the third pull or so, a nuttines seems to be trying to break through. However, she stays off the porch and inside, watching Shark Week with our four year-old.
1/3: The draw is not easy, but offers a nice amount of smoke. The ash is flaky, but packed tight and not completely without oil. As the stick warms, the oil of the wrapper comes to life.

The burn is even and in the slower thirds of speed.

This stogie is not friendly to my gentle nostrils. The draw firms up a bit more and I begin to worry about sucking out my fillings, then I remember I have none -- no dental insurance. I would not say, thus far, that it both mellows as it heats, as much as it tightens and you simply inhale less.

Peppers go to my tongue, which feels like a piece of cotton thrown into a frying pan. I'm about 20 minutes in and have smoked, at the very most, 3/4" down. I'm glad I started early. I've been pulling far on the frequent side, too. Which brings me to the doubly surprising realization that I must like the taste, and that the nicotine content -- full belly aside -- might be lacking.

An inch into it now and the red and black peppers are muting and the cumin has taken its leave. The burn continues evenly, but the ash has suddenly lilted hard to one side. It shortly falls off in one completely unexpected clump and lends no small amount of character to my shirt, jeans, and right shoe. Charmed, I'm sure.

I don't feel as though I'm smoking a Maduro. I do feel as though I lasted through the rough opening rounds against "Iron" Mike Tyson, and now it's any one's fight.

The smoke barely fills my mouth and tastes only vaguely of black pepper spices. More vague, still, of tobacco or purpose.

2/3: It is February 10th 1990. I'm in the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. I am about to upset a lot of people. People get upset when they lose wagered moolah.

The cigar is strong in spurts but laborious always. I think I'll smoke a Casa de Garcia in a few hours. if it proves to be a late night.

The pack loosens unevenly and suddenly, there is smoke everywhere.

3/3: wherein the wrapper cracks and quickly becomes a wrapper in name only. It attempts more peppers, but succeeds in bitter bite, only. I feel it is sizing up my ear with its teeth...

Pairings: Ear muffs, not accepting a challenge from #1 contender, Evander Holyfield, and cheap coffee -- cold and black. I mean if'n you wanna play up this sad stick by method of comparison.

Final Grade: F+
Epilogue: I sweep the ash from my porch into my roses, break apart its nub and sprinkle that in there, too.

The Three Stooges in Pardon My Scotch (1935)

Moe Howard
Larry Fine
Curly Howard

Nat Carr as Mr. Martin
James C. Morton as J.T. Walton

Directed by Del Lord
Story/Screenplay by Andrew Bennison
Produced by Jules White
Cinematography by George Meeham
Film Editing by James Sweeney
Johnny Kascier as Moe's stunt double (uncredited)
Do you know that some people review machine rolled stogies in serious fashion? It would seem that my sarcasm might be lost on that endeavor, so I light my Garcia y Vega hot turd, and instead embark on this here review right here of Pardon My Scotch, a 1935 short made just four months after Prohibition was repealed. Timely. Almost as so as You Nazy Spy! but not quite -- humsover, I just might be partial.

In this early Three Stooges offering, the ninth short the trio had ordered by Columbia, we start with any intro of our merry three as house painters with a decade's of experience and one can only imagine the half score of oil and flat painted, lead based, carnage. 

It's the final hours before repeal and the Scotch shipment has be waylaid. Jones (an uncredited Al Thompson) is a drugstore soda jerk in the red, who hopes to become a barman in the black, but how? The distributor is no help -- cue The Three Stooges and their trademarked concoction gag.

Hold that cue.
Curly as the Super Stooge is in full effect and on brilliant display. Like a knuckleballer, you can tell right away when he's on his game. His nuanced mannerisms atop his overt ones are key, together with his high-water length and backward bib overalls are all floating like a boozing butterfly, from mound to plate. 

"Let's see, the door goes on the right..." is a classic bit that serves this short so well, as to elevate it to "next-level" Stooge status. Adding to the folkloric feel here is the infamous scene wherein Curly saws the table out from  under Moe. The apparent expected outcome was for Moe to fall straight through, but as you can see, the cookie failed to crumble that way. Instead, he cringe-worthingly falls all wrong and breaks three ribs in the blameless process. 

Tough guy Moe gets to his feet, gathers bruised and broken aplomb, delivers the line and the slaps, then passes out from the pain. Production was halted, while he was taken to the hospital. Too, production finished on time, as a standing testament to Moe that Mick Foley would thumb up with toothless grin. 

I think it's be appropriate now, that we should all take a moment to remember Johnny Kascier. As a Moe stand-in of long standing, he really shone here, albeit in uncredited fashion -- all the more notable, that.

Another item to note is that the rib-breaking footage is used again in 1943's Dizzy Detectives.
Onward here, we find that the feces rolls both ways, as on up the hill booze distributor J.T. (James C. Walton) can't get his hands on any hooch to distribute. Then, as luck would have it, a customer (Mr. Martin played by Nat Carr) staggers in on a down day, looking for a quick pick-me-up -- and I don't mean a derrick. With nothing readily on-hand, Moe Larry, and Curly concoct. Vintage Stooge running gag alert.

The resulting concoction explodes the mercury from a thermometer after it melts away a wicker chair turned melee strainer. "That stuff had teeth in it." Says a duly impressed Moe. Seconds later, the brew blows the hat off Mr. Martin. "Where'd you get this Scotch?" And they're all in business. 50/50, and I can't help but wonder if our boys split their 50 three ways, or if there's an even...oh, whatever. Something tells me to not sweat the small stuff here.

The remainder of this short is an absolute assault to the tender senses I own, surrounding proper table manners and social etiquette. But first a Fan Dance done in Kilts...

"No, we're from Lock Jaw," Corrects Curly and we, sirs, are off to the races. Races which include an homage to their friend Charlie Chaplin's fork dance put on by the Super Stooge, and Larry becoming the seemingly living embodiment of every Vaudevillian effort there ever was. It all breaks down into an Animal House and ends with most of the dinner off the table and on guests.

It's time to save the evening, with the aid of the piss de resistance, a sampling of Breath of Heather Scotch from our somehow Scotch trio, one of whom, Larry -- toasts "Ver derharget!" which is Yiddish for "drop dead." I almost plotzed.

Speaking of knuckleballs, although we haven't for a bit, get a load a Moe's pineapple! Vintage Del Lord direction. A moment on Del Lord, if I might and I might: he is credited with setting the course for our comedic trio, in a very fast yet somewhat surreal and loose manner of directing. Interestingly, his feature film efforts were of the melodrama variety.
Oh, the tapped oak barrel explodes in a frothy disaster and the evening is a shambles akin to a circa 1990s Ibiza foam party. Foam parties actually date back to the American '30s and specifically a 1932 short of non Stoogery called "A Rhapsody in Black and White" which starred Louis Armstrong and was directed by Aubrey Scott. I wonder -- are our boys being cutting edge once again?

All told and even including a notable bit of broken rib anecdote and cutting edge of current event humor, I don't list this among the classic shorts as some do. I feel it lacks a bit of subtle grace and, like a fine bottle of Manischewitz, must age a bit prior to the unscrewing. It's enjoyable, nonetheless -- both Pardon My Scotch, and Manischewiz handled by fast hands -- just not a classic, per se.

According to www.threestooges.net, this short has a slap happy 17 slaps but no other variety of stoogery slap-stick. (eye-pokes, et al.) I'd count for myself, but my ribs hurt from thinking of poor Moe. I can't help but wonder if Pardon My Scotch feels a bit heavier on account of both these things. Remember how horrifying a scene, Moe trapped in the door while a saw went by his face, was? If film had a finish a la stogies and booze, this turn would linger heavily on the palate. Dizzyingly so, really, re: looking through sawed out floors from on high.

Who Done it?, for the sake of comparison, this short is not. Thankfully, however, it ain't Three Loan Wolves, neither.

Final Grade: B+

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Whiskey Review

It's noon thirty, but I woke up early -- so it's practically equivalent to 5 o'clock (somewhere). Time for a whisk(e)y tasting, sirs.

[image missing for I drunk it]

Knob Creek Bourbon attempts at a hearkening back to of pre-prohibition times. This is accomplished most notably by it being bottled at a true to that era 100 proof, and also in it being a nine year barrel inhabitant, the lengthiest aging of any of the other small batch offerings.

That's the nuts and bolts of this homage to a point in time. The facade, or veneer of which, is found in the name itself, which is Honest Abe's self-proclaimed locale of his "First recollection." The label visually bears an aged quality, and is tastefully rustic, as to not offend the white collars amongst their potential buyers. Did that sound cynical?

If not then, I will now: there is a vast 100 year period of time the trend hungry marketing of Knob Creek hopes to cover in the blink of an eye. (From Lincoln in diapers, to flappers in jazz clubs.) I'd consider that to be vulgar and lazy marketing, but I'm also passing 12:30pm off as at least 5pm, so I shall digress.
“This [Knob Creek] is bourbon the way it used to be. The way it was meant to be." - Booker Noe, who seemingly remains unwilling to clarify any particular era. Crap. I'm looking up at a fleuron -- I must have already digressed.

Like the mensch I am, I pour a snootful of the stuff into a mason jar and begin on

The Drink:
Knob Creek
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
100 Proof
Aged 9 years
Occupation: Rail Splitter

Color:
It (rail)splits the middle here, being at the middle of middle, and I'm surprised at this -- as I was expecting a more robustly full visage akin to a hearty Civil War soldier with creased facial lines at the ripe old age of too young. I have seen both darker and younger bourbons.

The legs, too, were a surprise. Spindly things are they -- not at all indicative of the 100 proof.

Visually, I rate it a feh and do hope this is all made up for in the

Aroma:
Here lies the robust side of Knob Creek, and voluptuously so. It is a heady affair of oak (natch), a sweet vanilla which settles to warm honey citrus as it sits, and resonating in the back is a dried fruit note of dark plum or prune. This heavy handed nod to a stronger point in time comes complete with the nicety of a virtual lack of any nasal burn. My first decent surprise here in dirt floor Hodginville, Kentucky y'all. Did I say that right? Y'all.

Negatively, there is a lack of spice to see to the abundant sweetness -- a lack of balance. This is attributable to the length of cask time, and the therefore soaking up of that essence. Still, I'm a balance kinda guy. I mean, who likes bending over to tie their shoes, and falling over onto their face? My red-cheeked uncle, that's who.

On the bright side, as it sits, cedar notes appear and I get the feeling of cigar box in my schnoz. This feeling comes with wood paneling and over stuffed leather chairs. We are almost mature. Here, pull my finger.

Drats.

Taste:
We're not talking smooth, but we ain't talking burn either. Or not much of one -- a flame nibbles at the tip of my tongue from a somewhat safe distance and departs quickly. It's a very sweet fire with no nuance and a severe lack of maturity for a nine year-old. This fourth grader still longs for kindergarten naps and finger-painting.

There are honey vanilla tendencies that are overpowered by somehow immaturely sweet, sweet yet not luxuriously viscous oak. Prior to finish, there is a caramelized red fruit hint. None are too readily detectable over the sweetness. The lack of warmth gets me, no leathery or toasted grain notes, so to speak. No grounding. No earth.

The tooth of Knob Creek is on par with its visual cues. It's a thinner feel that doesn't coat the tongue as much or for as long as I'd like. It doesn't necessarily fail here, but it doesn't necessarily deliver, either.

In short, it feels cheap.


Finish:
The finish goes from sweet with a hint of orange, to sweet with a hint of simple pepper that borders on metallic, then mellows to vanilla spice and this vanilla spice lives on into warm, nutty oils that very well might be the highlight of this brief affair.

Other than the brief metallic hiccup, this is a very good finish, indeed.


Notes:
A child who doesn't act its age is made to sit in a corner. I cannot recommend this offering over its bottling company's flagship Jim Beam. It's not worthy of its higher price point.

That said, it is serviceable, and Jim Beam might appear as sophomoric gauche to arrive with at a dinner party. My advice would be to either skip the dinner party, or be aware that there are cheaper and  better bourbons all just as readily available.

At home, choose Jim over Knob, if that's your thing.

This won't offend, but again, for its cost, it should have a more lofty goal that that. Knob Creek is more a step up in price, than in quality. Have a placed a fine enough point on that yet?

Final Grade: C+

Illusione 88 Candela - Cigar Review

"We don't get a lot of calls for Candelas here." Said the guy running the cigar shop from behind the cigar showcase from out behind the cigar stuffed in his smoke-hole. I get it, I thought. You appreciate cigars, sir.

He went on, "I think we only have one, but not the Fuente." (I had asked after the Fuente double claro I reviewed here.) "Have you tried Illusione? They're out of Reno. Weird, huh?"

"No more weird than the fact I'm outta Oregon." I mumble and embark upon this Illusione 88, a stick with a price tag that would cover a near 3 days of my beloved House of Gary (Casa de Garcia). Let's not hold that against it. Until I factor that into the final grade, at least.

Now, my friends, my Romans, my Countrymen --

The Cigar:
Illusione 88
Candela wrapper
Nicaraguan Puro (binder/filler)
Robusto size

Pre-light:
Fantastic material yet an apparent dinky handling thereof. Let me 'splain. The cigar band, though minimalist, classy, and reminiscent of Yankee pinstripes -- is affixed crookedly and needs a fix. The Candela is like buttah in my fingahs. Buttah, I say -- but the roll has left a large enough lack of filler to have sunk inward to the point it's almost a flute. I place the stick in my mouth and put my finger over the dip, and blow through the cap. I laugh. I stop laughing when I think of the price. This, however, is not the final grade portion, as promised above -- and I shall digress, replete with fleuron.
The pack is loose and uneven, the dip, man. The divot. There is two, a smaller one an inch away from the momma one. Potholes. I notice a tiny third...

To the nose, I get the grassy floral of the Candela. Too, the sweet darkness of the Nicaraguan. This will need to be a deftly crafted balancing act, methinks. For Illusione to handle. My part is easy to handle. All's I do is -- cold draw first -- salty notes prevail. All I do, is... 

Light:
The light is easy and the first pull is predominantly salty with a flint nose and tinny mouth. The second and third pulls add macadamia to the mix and we are off onto the

1/3:
It's macadamia nut jumping to the lead out of the gate. Some toasty nose is also in the race, and I've decided that's enough with the horse racing schtick. The cigar feels warmed already and has loosened up its already loose self.

The burn is uneven and does not lend itself to correction. The ash, feathery. I look at the stogie the wrong way and it clumps off at a half inch.

New notes of cardamom and honey join in the macadamia nut farm. A hint of white chocolate I attribute to the Nicaraguan guts begins to rear. My word, I'm a sucker for a green stick. There's a saltiness that comes on at the very end of the medium-length finish. It drops from the nose to palate and cleanses both quite nicely.

The burn remains incorrigible and I'm attempting now to see it as charming rapscallion-ry. It's a fast and warm burn. The warms plays at white chocolate yet seems to want to deepen to cocoa.

2/3:
The nose is salty. The taste is an unlying white chocolate with a touch of honey that lingers in a finish of nice length and is whisked away when the salty nose drops to the palate. There is a coming and going, too, of floral notes. That is my definitive right now update, as the second third begins. 

Also, the burn has slowed and has learned to see the reason in my Djeep retouchings.

All is the same as we head into the final third, although honey peeks through a tad more.

3/3:
Starts with a crack in the wrapper as if the Nicaraguan machismo is more than the somewhat fagalah Candela cares to grapple to confinement.

"From limestone earth, the grass grows." The green stick tells me in its best Yoda. 

Still at the start of 3/3, there is whatever the heck Yoda said, and there is salt. I would like more tobacco in the form of the hinted at Wonder bread-in-toaster, but I'm okay with this experience. The honey finish is nice and it is nice because of the salt not allowing it to linger too long. 

The tear grows and more sprout and I've decided to pull until I can'ts pulls no mo'. The end is nigh. Carpe diem. #YOLO

"Old and frail, I may be. A strength I hide," foreshadows the stogie. The sun is setting behind a tulip tree, I slump in my resin porch chair, relaxed but poised. I sip, not gulp, at my chamomile tea. my body says relaxed, my eyes say crazy.

The danger never comes. Yoda falls asleep drooling, I don't even know why I bother making mention of him. I decide that some Piedmont Blues would go well with the remainder. The cracking candela will limit that remainder.

The ending comes warm and floral, each brought on nicely by the chamomile pairing. The salt leaves with the honey at the last couple of pulls.

Pairings:
Piedmont Blues, Chamomile, a white rum would have been good to have around. My after smoke peanut butter sandwich was strangely dee-lish.

Final Grade: B-
Epilogue:
My wife sticks her head out onto the porch. "Did you get into my chamomile?"
"Yes. I'm also wearing your panties." I say.
"Candela?" She asks.
"Candela." I say.
"Why two mugs?" She asks.
"Wanted my own, I did." A mostly unconscious Yoda explains.

Everyday Brand Sun Grown Ecuadorian - Cigar Review

It wasn't too long ago that Ecuadorian wrappers were all the craze.

Geographically, they are the only wrapper grown in South America (strictly speaking). Sitting right at the Equator in a style unlike Honduras, The Dominican Republic, Cameroon, Indonesia, and Nicaragua -- for the Equadorian climate is a different and quite cloudy thing entirely. This cloudiness causes the leaf to pick up, and cling hard to, extra sun.

There are also 30 some odd active volcanoes in the country's borders -- ash makes for great fertilizer. The stick in my hand lays claim to all this, and is manufactured in Tampa, Florida, USofA. It's an Everyday, both in lint-filled pocket budget-sense and in its brand name, let's now look more into

The Cigar:
Everyday Brand Cigar
Sun Grown Ecuadorian wrapper
Dominican, Ecuadorian, Nicaraguan filler
"Homogenized Leaf" binder
Churchill size

Pre-light:
WTF is homogenized leaf? Is something you might be asking yourself. Well, it's scrap. The nasty lil bits of finer stogies which hit the cutting room floor and are artisanal finagled with the aid of flour and water into well, suitable tobacco leaf. "Suitable" being decreed in an occasionally liberal judgement. Most of the time, you'll find HLT in machined cigars. These tell me they are hand rolled.

Back to the above mentioned stogie at hand:

Very veiny in appearance and packed so unevenly as to disturb its shape, I go back in my mind through other decisions I've made... Wagering on Goldencents in big races, driving a Ford Escort, purchasing a Polo shirt...

To the touch the stogie is oily and rich. To the nose I sniff latte and a certain nutty trace. The cold draw showcases a very hard pull and -- dust? I'm not being funny here. Am I funny anywhere? I actually coughed. Let's try again.

The inherent nuttiness of the Ecuadorian wrapper prevails here, backed with a too inherent creamy note. Not bad. I should note that "Sun Grown" is normally a way to denote a fuller body. It is also somewhat of a vaguery.

Light:
An easy enough light puts forth a somewhat bitter black pepper to my palate. The draw is not easy, and it's only at the third pull that I get a sense of latte. The nut is gone (she won't be home from work until later this evening), unless the bitters are roughly hewn almond notes.

Crushed red pepper flakes appear so clearly that my mind associates it with the Brooklyn Pizza of my misspent youth. Red Pepper flakes in a dirty shaker next to grated parmesan -- the only two acceptable toppings of that place and time.

1/3: 
The burst of red pepper somehow seems to have ushered out the bitter black pepper, and that's agreeable. Still, there remains a tinny and almost salty backing. Nuttiness seems always just around the corner...then the next...then the next. I get the feeling that this wrapper is being betrayed by its insides. I get the feeling I am chasing ghosts.

This is oft the case, a popular wrapper being put out with inferior guts. We shall see. It's not wholly unpleasant, but at this point -- it is most definitely a swing and a miss. There are hints at cream and a vague nutty note, but that is all wrapper. I do believe these guts are gutless. 

On that note, the ash clumps off in a dry surprise and I am doing laundry tonight. I sip my iced coffee and shoo the cat away. Let's see what heck breaks loose when we warm into the

2/3:
A rather flinty taste has taken over and the cream, she languishes. The draw has either become harder, or I've grown tired of my labor "Let my people go!" I yell toward sky, over clenched fist. The wispy smoke plays well for the camera. It tickles the nose like cartoon pepper.

My hopes for a decent chew seem all but dashed, as the uneven packing is extra firm by the stogie's head (hard draw, natch).

Black pepper reemerges in its bitter not palate cleansing sense, and I water my roses. They're getting scorched like an Irish lass in this July heatwave.

I must say, that as uneven as the packing is, the stick burns quite and almost inexplicably, evenly. The slow burn does not compensate for the bitter flint finish that won't finish. Nor does it make up for the loss of oil that has led to dryness in the Ecuadorian wrapper. A bulge and a divot appear roughly 1/2 way down.

I pour another mason jar of joe. I contemplate my navel, and the hot earwax taste in my smoke-hole. I contemplate Frederick Douglass on this Fourth of July, and his famous speech thereof. It was either he or Will Smith, and this stogie is already enough of a disappointment.

I have been taken to interesting places by lesser smokes, although that pizzeria was a neat vacation. I depress the hernia in the Sun Grown in hopes of saving the stick's dignity. I'd hate to see it in a truss, or left undone in my tray. My surgical precision and skillfully handled Djeep save the day and on lives this stogie. But to what end? We'll see in the

3/3:
Why did I first now think to wipe down my resin seat with my handkerchief? Apologies for my barbarism, dear reader.

Ahem.

With a newly unblemished wrapper, nutty notes and cream come to play. Some sweet spices fill my snout. The output of smoke increases, but does not improve in quality. An occasional bite rears its peppery head. I swirl a mouthful of smoke, and there are times when an examined life is not worth living. Take that, Socrates. Ya old goat.

The burn goes completely awry at the mid 3/3 and I'm resigned to letting its wheels fall off. Hell, they're already too loose.

The Sabbath and the stogie race to their ends, as the sun goes down into the trees. My drunk neighbor is two doors down, lighting fireworks. When is the day of his Fourth of July, I wonder...

Pairings: 
Iced coffee worked well enough, as would have a cheap red wine somewhere under Merlot.

Thoughts:
One pound of nice in a five pound bag.

Final Grade: C-
A Somewhat Lengthy Epilogue

My friend Eric pays a visit. He is homeless and he is drunk. I'm inside making him a plate of food and listening to him talk to my son from over my white picket fence I can barely keep.

"You see that flag?" He points to his bicycle trailer. "That's the American Flag." Says Eric. "It's on there always."

My son doesn't answer.

I come out with a ham sandwich with side of pretzels and chips. A can of beans and tuna, each for later. I hug Eric.

He stands there by his bike, across the street from my house and watches me and my kid. I go back across and hug him again. Shake his hand. His eyes tear up. I run back to my son and Eric stays a bit longer. Watching us.

I wonder as to the date of his Fourth of July.

It's the heaviest Fourth in some time. Some weight is too much for a mere stogie to lift.