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Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XXVIII)

12 Dec 2018

In the 28th edition of our Random Thoughts from the Humidor series, I talk cocktails, calvados, and the FDA.

The Islay Daiquiri

Here’s a winter cocktail that may sound strange but is actually quite enjoyable. When you think of daiquiris, you think of tropical islands. Not peaty Islay whiskey. Yet, recently, I’ve found myself enjoying this Islay twist on a classic drink. The smoky, salty scotch is magical with the citrus, similar to a margarita made with a smoky mezcal. Simply swap in 10 year Ardbeg or Laphroaig for rum in your favorite daiquiri recipe.

No progress at the FDA?

By pressing the pause button on the Obama FDA’s cigar regulations, new leadership at the FDA was welcomed by many in the handmade cigar industry. Nearly two years later, it is time to look at the new regime’s policy. This article argues recent FDA moves signal a dangerous future for adults who choose to smoke cigars: “[T]hese moves may pave the way for even more radical regulations that would, in essence, make it illegal to sell the combustible tobacco products favored by cigarette and cigar smokers throughout the United States.” What is clear is that Scott Gottlieb’s reign at the FDA may have different priorities from the Obama Administration, but different isn’t necessarily significantly better.

Is Calvados the Next Big Thing?

I’ve been exploring calvados lately. I’m liking what I’m tasting. The apple (and sometimes pear) brandy from Normandy combines some of the best elements of cognac, wine, and whiskey. Terroir matters, oak barrel aging is important, and both large and small producers develop their own distinct styles. Give it a try. If you have any favorites, let us know.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Camacho American Barrel Aged Robusto

9 Dec 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Broadleaf wrapper, bourbon barrels, and Honduran corojo. What’s not to like? In 2015, Camacho added the American Barrel Aged line as part of its new Camacho’s Master Built Series. The blend employs an American-grown Broadleaf wrapper, binder, and filler, with Camacho’s go-to Honduran Corojo. The $11 Robusto (5 x 50) is bold and full-flavored with charred wood, leather, black coffee, and spice. It is well-constructed, but dry notes highlight a lack of balance and slight harshness.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Laranja Reserva Corona Gorda

2 Dec 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

laranja

Espinosa introduced the Laranja line in 2014 and it quickly garnered favorable reviews. The cigar has an orange-brown Brazilian wrapper (hence “laranja,” which is Portuguese for orange) around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. I’m smoking the Corona Gorda size (5.6 x 46), which sells for about $10. It features dry spice, wood, paper, slight sweetness, and a hint of citrus. It’s medium-bodied and well-balanced with excellent construction. It’s the best offering yet from Espinosa and certainly worth seeking out.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: A 2018 Holiday Whiskey Gift Guide

29 Nov 2018

Haven’t finished your Christmas gift list? StogieGuys.com is here to help with some bourbon, rye, and single malt gift suggestions. Plus, an accessory any whiskey drinker would appreciate.

Lots of people like whiskey, but with so many choices and lots of hype it’s hard to decide what makes the best gift. Prices are going up and whiskeys that were once easy to find are now impossible to find (at least at retail). Fact is, it’s not just ultra-limited whiskeys like Pappy Van Winkle that cannot be found without paying an exorbitant price. Even such staple bourbons as Elmer T. Lee, Weller 12, and Blanton’s are becoming hard to find.

With that in mind, here are suggestions focused on whiskey you can actually find and buy. For each category, we’ve got a suggestion that is value-priced ($20 to $30), something a bit nicer and more expensive ($35 to $60), and a whiskey that, while not too difficult to find, is, for one reason or another, rare or limited.

Bourbon

Value: Buffalo Trace — A standard offering from the maker of Pappy, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, and many more highly sought-after bourbons. It’s delivers a lot of flavor for around $25 that’s excellent neat but not so expensive that you’d cringe if you use it in a cocktail.

Superior: Four Roses Single Barrel or Booker’s Barrel Proof — Two different offerings depending on the recipient. Four Roses Single Barrel ($45) is a rich, spicy offering. Booker’s ($60) is a powerful, full-flavored, barrel-proof offering.

Rare: Rhetoric 25 — The sixth and final edition of the Rhetoric annual release, which started out with the 20-year-old edition and concludes with this year’s 25-year-old release. It shows off the increasing effects of time spent in a bourbon barrel. Intense and perhaps even overly woody for some, this bourbon will be hard to find when it hits retailer shelves later this month at $150.

Rye

Value: Bulleit — Good neat or in cocktails, and made with a mashbill of 95% rye that gives it a distinctive flavor. Supremely affordable ($22), but a rye that can be appreciated by all. (Look for the gift pack with a canvas Lewis bag for crushing ice for your julep.)

Superior: Sazerac — This six-year-old rye is a classic that would be appreciated as a gift by any rye fan who isn’t a snob. It’s got classic floral and spice flavors, all for just $36.

Rare: Angel’s Envy — The rum barrel finish of this rye gives it an exotic, sweet finish. Think rye crossed with Sauternes or oloroso sherry. At $75 to $90, it is a special occasion whiskey, and a generous gift.

Scotch

Value: Monkey Shoulder — Not blended whisky (which uses grain whisky), but a smooth, fruity blend of three single malts. It’s $25 to $30, but it offers the quality of a single malt at half the price.

Superior: Talisker Storm or Glendronach 12 — Talkisker Storm ($50) is smoky and peaty with balance and sweetness. For the peat-adverse drinker, Glendronach 12 ($60) is about as intensely sherried in style as a single malt gets.

Rare: Game of Thrones Limited Edition Single Malts — A new collection of eight single malts from a variety of distilleries features something for every Game of Thrones fan. Just don’t wait too long; they were just released. You’re paying a small premium for the branding, but details suggest they are reasonably priced, at least while you can find them. (We tried the nine-year-old Lagavulin “House of Lannister,” and it was excellent.)

Accessories

Glencairn Whisky Glasses — Any whiskey drinker will appreciate the gold standard in whisky glassware. It is designed to bring out the best in bourbon, rye, and single malt (and also works well with brandy or rum). Even if your recipient already has a few of these, more is always better. A good collection will let them taste side-by-side, or host a tasting with friends.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Umbagog Robusto Plus

18 Nov 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Made by Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, Umbagog is to Mi Quireda as a Bordeax Chateau’s “second wine” is to the winemaker’s top offering. Basically, it’s a similar but more value-conscious blend made by the same experts with the finest components being reserved for the pricier offering. The Robusto Plus (5 x 52) sells for round $7 each in bundles of 10. With a rustic, oily Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, the cigar produces roasted notes with coffee, earth, dark chocolate, and hints of wood and pepper spice. It’s rich and full-bodied, well-constructed and, on top of it all, very reasonably priced.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: San Cristobal Clasico

10 Nov 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

san-cristobal-clasico

Sometimes I find the cigars I enjoy the most are the cigars I’ve enjoyed in the past and have neglected for too long. For me, the San Cristobal original line surely qualifies. The cigar features everything I enjoy about Don José “Pepín” Garcia’s blends: rich earth flavors, spice, intensity, and also balance. Specifically, this robusto demonstrates a medium-full body and flavors that include oak, milk chocolate, black pepper, and a hint of coffee. With excellent construction, it will make for an enjoyable hour almost any time of day.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Papa’s Pilar Bourbon Barrel Finished Dark Rum

8 Nov 2018

Scotch whiskey has long utilized barrel maturation in casks formerly used to age bourbon, sherry, and other types of wine to add complexity and additional flavors to the finished spirit. More recently, other whiskies have gotten in on the cask finishing game, especially bourbon. Consider Angel’s Envy, Belle Meade, 1792, and Issac Bowman, all of which are finished in port barrel casks after a period of traditional aging in new charred barrels.

But whiskey isn’t the only spirit to leverage cask finishes. Rum has been getting into the game, too, including (but hardly limited to) various Foursquare and Papa’s Pilar offerings.

Today we’re trying a new limited offering from Papa’s Pilar Rum. (The brand is named after the boat owned by noted rum enthusiast Ernest Hemingway.) Papa’s Pilar Dark is an 86-proof combination of “solera blended” rums (sourced from Florida, the Caribbean, and Central America) aged up to 24 years and finished in Spanish sherry casks.

The new limited Papa’s Pilar Bourbon Barrel Finished Dark Rum amps that up with an additional round of finishing in bourbon barrels. Bottled at 95-proof, the $45 rum began arriving in select states in October with 2,000 cases made.

The deep mahogany, reddish-brown rum features a fascinatingly unique nose with vanilla bean, custard, nutmeg, figs, and Dr. Pepper. On the palate, the bourbon influence is evident, with oak, honey, candied almonds, and dry sherry. The finish is long with wood tannins and spice cake.

Distinct is the word that most comes to mind when sipping this rum neat. It’s a testament to the art that is blending and barrel management, resulting in a rum that might not be a regular sipper, but certainly is enjoyable as a unique change of pace.

Pair it with a medium-bodied, balanced cigar like the Arturo Fuente King T Rosado Sun Grown, Bolivar Royal Corona, Illusione Epernay, or Paul Garmirian Reserva Exclusiva.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys