Archive | October, 2013

Cigar Spirits: Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Gingerbread Beer Finished Bourbon

31 Oct 2013

I remember having my first pumpkin beer in college, Shipyard Punpkinhead. Back then, it was a Halloween novelty. There weren’t that many and there were only (it seemed) far fewer that could be found at any given beer store.

bowman-gingerbreadToday pumpkin beers have exploded. My local grocery store has half a dozen in stock, and there are no fewer than a few dozen at my local beer and wine shop. Pumpkin pie (which more adequately describes most pumpkin beers than just “pumpkin”) is a perfect flavor for beer for autumn nights, when the temperature is crisp and we celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Gingerbread Beer Finished Bourbon, however, is the first such attempt I’ve seen to take the concept into bourbon. No, gingerbread and pumpkin aren’t exactly the same thing, but they share many similar characteristics: sweetness, cinnamon spice, nutmeg, and an association with autumn.

Founded in 1935, Bowman is Virginia’s preeminent bourbon distillery. Now based in Fredericksburg, the distillery is owned by Sazerac, which also owns the world-renowned Bufallo Trace Distilery in Kentucky. Reportedly, much (if not all) of what Bowman makes is distilled twice, first at Buffalo Trace before being shipped to Bowman where it is then distilled a second time on-site before being aged in Fredericksburg.

Bowman makes a number of different lines including Virginia Gentleman, Bowman Brothers (small batch, 90-proof), John J. Bowman (single barrel, 100-proof), and Abraham Bowman, which is released in small batches of limited edition whiskey, the latest being its Gingerbread Beer Finished Bourbon.

To make this unique bourbon, Bowman sent used bourbon barrels to the Hardywood Brewery in Richmond, Virginia, where they were used to age the brewery’s Gingerbread Stout. After that the barrels were sent back to Bowman, who used it to finish bourbon that had already been aged for eight years. After three months in the used gingerbread beer barrels, Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Gingerbread Beer Finished Bourbon was bottled at 90-proof.

The result is a bright, copper-colored spirit not dissimilar to the their small batch variety. On the nose you pick up slight hints of the gingerbread beer finish with clove and vanilla.

On the palate, the special finish becomes more apparent. It features a lush mouthfeel with classic vanilla and oak, combined with dashes of nutmeg, bread, and fall spices. The finish is notably short, though the spices linger a bit longer.

I can’t help but wonder if this wouldn’t be even better at a slightly higher proof (100 or even a bit higher?) as it’s a touch thin. Still, it’s an enjoyable spirit that subtlety shows off just enough of its unique finish. It’s perfect for this time of year, though—like pumpkin beer—I’m not sure I’d want to drink it year-round.

I’d recommend a medium-bodied cigar with plenty of Honduran tobacco as a pairing; something that has both spice and balance. Try the Room 101 Namakubi Ecuador, Sencillo Platinum, or Camacho Connecticut.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Ventura Psyko Seven Robusto

30 Oct 2013

Talk about an attention-grabbing presentation. Psyko Seven from the Ventura Cigar Co. comes enveloped in a white prescription form enticing you to “medicate your mind” with this six-country blend of tobaccos. It’s signed by “El Diablo Blanco.”

Psyko Seven RobustoListed on the form are the tobaccos that comprise Psyko Seven: Dominican Hybrid, Nicaraguan Ligero, Mexican Sumatra, Peruvian Pelo de Oro Viso, Honduran Holancha Seca, and Pennsylvanian Ligero. Underneath is a smaller, traditionally sized white band with Ventura’s trademark “V” cutout.

Like Project 805, Psyko Seven was launched at last summer’s IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas and is aimed at serving “the new generation of cigar smoker out there.” It bills itself as a mild- to medium-bodied experience “with distinct transitions.” Four vitolas are available, all made by Henke Kelner in the Dominican Republic: Robusto (5.5 x 50), Toro (6.25 x 48), Gordito (4 x 58), and Gordo (6 x 60).

Beneath its two white bands, the Robusto has a beautiful, moderately oily Cuban-seed Dominican wrapper that has a yellowish hue to it. You have to pay close attention to see the seams in the exterior leaf. The foot gives off only faint notes of hay, syrup, and cinnamon.

After a single wooden match, a bready profile emerges with notes of cream, almond, and oak. The body leans toward the mild end of the spectrum. What the Psyko Seven lacks in power it makes up in balance and uniqueness. The Robusto is captivating enough to maintain my attention throughout its duration, and it does so with depth and a toasty texture that isn’t too common. But I do not find any distinct transitions.

The cigar’s physical properties are superb. Expect an even burn, a stable ash, a smooth draw, and good smoke production with each puff. The resting smoke has a sweet gingerbread-like aroma that enhances the overall experience.

This is the best cigar I’ve had from the Ventura Cigar Co. to date, and one I’d like to try in other sizes. The asking price of $7 for the Robusto is more than fair. Whether you like the marketing angle or not, the quality of Psyko Seven can’t be denied. It earns an excellent rating of four stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Cigar Halloween Costumes

29 Oct 2013

Like it or not, Halloween is just two days away. Looking to pull together a last-minute costume? Want to smoke a cigar while you hand out candy to trick-or-treaters? (This is acceptable if you offer their dad a cigar.) We’re here to help. In an effort to make trick-or-treating a lot more tolerable, we’ve updated a list we first put out in 2007 of costume ideas, each that will let you smoke a cigar as part of the costume:

1. Winston Churchill. One time when informed by his host, the King of Saudi Arabia, that drinks would not be offered because of his religion, Churchill responded: “My religion prescribed as an absolute sacred ritual smoking cigars and drinking alcohol before, after, and, if need be, during all meals and the intervals between them.” Plus he beat the Nazis in World War II.

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s no longer The Governator, but his movie characters always made better costumes anyway, and many of his famous characters smoked cigars. (Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer of Predator is highly recommended if you have the guns to pull it off.)

3. Groucho Marx. Sure, it’s a little dated, but this American comedy icon loved his stogies.

4. Mark Twain. America’s cigar-smoking author.

5. Scarface. Say hello to my little friend.

6. Bill Clinton. The president who got into trouble with cigars.

7. Mike Ditka. Da Coach. See photo of Patrick A from a few years ago. (Also, Grill Class doesn’t exist on any airline yet… Why?)

8. Ernest Hemingway. The famous author loved his cigars. And his rum. (No doubt he’s a world famous boozer.)

9. A cigar-chomping communist Cuban. Fidel Castro or his murderous sidekick Che Guevara will do.

12. Al Capone. Capone was known for his enjoyment of cigars, booze, and women. Just don’t get syphilis.

Got a costume idea that we missed? Let us know in the comments.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Options for the Cold-Weather Smoker

28 Oct 2013

Aside from our sunshine-advantaged friends in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and the like, winter is a tough time for cigar smokers in the U.S. Unfortunately, winter is coming fast.

Winter SmokingHumidors will require extra attention to keep from becoming too arid. Shipping cigars will become a riskier endeavor. And, worst of all, the wrath of government-imposed smoking bans will hit the hardest as aficionados clamor for rare indoor refuges from the cold.

In the not-too-distant past, back when I was living in Northern Virginia, there was no statewide smoking ban. This freedom resulted in options. Many bars, restaurants, etc. on their own accord were either completely smoke-free or not welcoming of cigars. I always respected that. But I also appreciated the less-numerous venues that catered to cigar smokers. In the winter, they became havens to escape the cold.

What a novel system. People who wanted to smoke or be around smoke could. People who wanted a smoke-free environment could have that, too. Isn’t choice great?

Nowadays, Virginia’s statewide ban prevents the market from dictating the availability of smoke-friendly locales. My current home of Chicago is no different. And chances are, wherever you happen to be reading this from, your national or local government is imposing laws that prevent business owners from catering to your needs. As I see it, your options for the cold winter months are as follows:

Tough it out and smoke outside.
— Severely limit your smoking to fewer cigars and/or smaller cigars.
— Purchase a paid membership at a club that allows indoor smoking.
— Smoke at a tobacconist (cigars you purchased at said tobacconist).
— Equip some portion of your home for smoking.

I’ve done the latter, though I still regret the fact that I had to do the latter. I lament that gone are the days when you could cozy up to the bar at a steakhouse for an after-dinner smoke. I hang my head because I know there are destinations in my neighborhood that would allow cigar smoking if the government didn’t prevent them from doing so. I assume you share these concerns.

So what are your plans for the winter?

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Cupido Tuxedo Churchill

27 Oct 2013

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

I’ve had this maudro-wrapped Churchill (7 x 52) sitting in my humidor for nearly five years. Time has mellowed the cigar, but it hasn’t changed the flawless construction. The result is a balanced, medium-bodied combination of cocoa, cafe-au-lait, and cedar. Sadly, I’m not sure that this cigar is still made, but if you come across one, it is likely to please. And if you have one with five years of age on it, go ahead and smoke it. While age has treated it well, I don’t expect that more age will produce much added benefit.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Asylum 13 Fifty

26 Oct 2013

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Asylum 13 Fifty

Launched in the summer of 2012 by Tom Lazuka and Christian Eiroa, Asylum Cigars now boasts several lines, including Asylum, Asylum 13 (which is apparently the best-seller), The Ogre, and Schizo. Asylum 13 is a Nicaraguan puro with a clean, oily Habano wrapper. It comes in three sizes including Fifty (5 x 50), which is priced favorably at $5 for a single. The robusto-sized smoke has a full-bodied, aggressively spicy profile of that quickly transitions into a creamier, more balanced flavor of red pepper, dry wood, cashew, and leather. Don’t let the transition fool you, though. In all, the Asylum 13 Fifty packs a big punch. It also packs big quality for the money, making it an easy recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 355

25 Oct 2013

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

FDA1) As we’ve written for years, the looming threat of regulation of premium cigars by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is the greatest danger facing cigar rights. That danger has “moved into the next phase,” it was reported this week by the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR). “Recently, the proposed rule on regulating cigars has moved from the Department of Health & Human Services to the Office of Management & Budget for review,” says IPCPR. “This agency will analyze the rule and work to determine the economic impact on the industry, before releasing it for public comment… [the rule is expected] to be released before the end of November.” While this may sound like a lot of Washington insider jargon, the bottom line is the federal government is getting closer to regulating cigars. Such regulation is expected to deplete cigar innovation, render limited edition smokes more difficult to produce, stifle cigar advertising, and impose burdensome testing requirements on cigar makers.

2) Inside the Industry: The Litto Gomez Diez Small Batch V has been announced for a December release. A Dominican puro, it will have hand-selected tobaccos from the 2007 crop at La Canela. A single size (6.75 x 52) will be sold for $19 per cigar. Also new from La Flor Dominicana this fall are L-Granú and Mysterioso, both slated for sale starting in November. L-Granú (6 x 64) will retail for $8.50 and be the largest ring gauge LFD has ever produced. Mysterioso (7 x 55) will be a Connecticut-Broadleaf-wrapped perfecto and cost $19.

3) The Cigar Family Charitable Foundation’s annual benefit has changed its name and location. With Saks Fifth Avenue leaving Tampa, the Fuente and Newman charity took up a jazz theme. Previously Saks & Cigars, it is now Sax & Cigars at The Westin. The date is Nov. 21 and the cost is $75. You can get information here.

4) Deal of the Week: Caskers is an email newsletter that finds you quality spirits and gets them delivered to your door (in more states than anywhere else we’ve come across). Sign up here for access to their store and for the latest craft spirit offerings, including hard-to-find single malt and bourbon whiskey.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: FDA