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Cigar Spirits: High West Son of Bourye

26 Feb 2015

When you mix straight bourbon whiskey with straight rye whiskey, what do you get? When High West Whiskey out of Park City, Utah, wanted to sell its concoction, they called it “Bourye,” a portmanteau of bourbon and rye.

high-west-bouryeA quick note on terms for American whiskey: Bourye has no legal meaning. Federal regulations have strict definitions about what certain terms mean, so although a combination of straight bourbon whiskeys can still be straight bourbon (and multiple straight ryes still can be called straight rye), a combination of straight rye and straight bourbon cannot be called straight whiskey, even if it is (as High West calls says on the bottle) “a blend of straight whiskies.”

The original Bourye, first released in 2009, combined 10-year-old bourbon, 12-year rye, and 16-year rye (a tweaked Bourye was just released in the past few months). Son of Bourye, as you might expect, is a younger version.

In Son of Bourye, High West takes a five-year-old bourbon (at least five years, the label says), and mingles it with a five-year rye whiskey (the percentage of each isn’t disclosed). Both spirits are sourced from the Lawrenceburg, Indiana, distillery that provides spirits for many whiskey companies that bottle bourbon, and especially rye, that they don’t distill themselves.

Son of Bourye is bottled at 92-proof. It isn’t easy to find, but is not impossible to locate above retail, which is usually between $45 and $50.

The nose is pleasant, although not particularly distinctive with caramel and hints of pine and citrus. On the palate, some of the interplay between the rye and bourbon comes out with honey, oak, and mint spice. Floral notes, clove, and cinnamon also hit the palate. The finish lingers nicely with dried fruit and wood spice.

There are enough subtleties in Son of Bourye that a full-bodied smoke would overpower it. Instead, try a mild or medium cigar like Cabaiguan, Illusione Epernay, or a Cuban Montecristo.

Ultimately, there is a lot to like about Son of Bourye. The blend of straight bourbon and straight rye is a fairly new category of spirits which has emerged as whiskey companies look to provide a new, unique product to a booming market. When compared to other bourbon/rye combinations (like Jefferson’s Chef’s Collaboration, Wild Turkey Forgiven, and the original Bourye) High West’s Son of Bourye measures up quite favorably in terms of the value it provides.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Ezra Zion Honor Series FHK The Truth

24 Feb 2015

In November, I reviewed the Ezra Zion Tantrum P.A., the first Ezra Zion cigar we reviewed. Today I take a look at another recent Ezra Zion blend: the Honor Series FHK.

ezra-zion-fhkFHK, the second in the Ezra Zion Honor Series, was released at the beginning of 2014. The blend is billed by Ezra Zion as its “first true multi-country cigar blend.”

Made at Plasencia’s factory in Nicaragua, FHK uses a Mexican Maduro wrapper around an Indonesian binder. The filler is a combination of Brazilian and Nicaraguan filler.

Only 2,000 FHK boxes are split between the line’s four sizes: Inspired (5.5 x 50) and Truth (7 x 44) sell for $189, or $9 each; and Stature (7 x 54) and Character (6 x 52) sell for $210, or $10 each.

The wrapper is a mottled medium brown color. The cigar starts out with a combination of clove, cinnamon, and malty sweetness. It is medium-bodied with some cedar spice and a light, earthy finish that lingers on the palate.

Ezra Zion describes the FHK blend as “creamy and malty, reminiscent of a craft beer,” and I’m inclined to agree. The body, spice, and sweetness profile remind me of a Scottish ale.

Before I give my assessment of this particular cigar, let me admit a little bias. The flavor of the wrapper is one that doesn’t frequently impress me. While there are good Mexican-wrapped cigars, if you gave me two cigars (one with a Mexican wrapper and one without), knowing nothing else I’d be inclined towards the one without the Mexican wrapper.

That said, the Ezra Zion Honor Series FHK is well-made, balanced, and flavorful. While I much prefer the Tantrum P.A. from Ezra Zion, the FHK Truth still earns a respectable rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Beam Signature Craft Soft Red Wheat Harvest Collection 11 Year Bourbon

19 Feb 2015

The Red Wheat Harvest Collection (or maybe it’s Signature Craft Harvest Collection Red Wheat… it’s not entirely clear) is part of the rapidly expanding Jim Beam Signature Craft line. The name is a mouthful, but it’s actually quite descriptive of the many ways this limited offering differs from your standard-issue Jim Beam.

beam-red-wheat-harvestWhat’s most notable about Red Wheat is the mashbill which, unlike every other Beam bourbon to date, uses wheat instead of rye, along with corn and malt barley. And the 11-year age statement makes it considerably older than every other current Beam offering except its recent 12 Year Signature Craft.

The bronze-colored spirit features a nose full of vanilla, damp oak, and a hint of dried fruit. On the palate there’s a lush creaminess, cookie batter, vanilla, and a hint of red apple. The finish is long with some clove and wood spice.

It’s a got hints of that distinctive Beam yeasty funk, but there’s a lot more going on than just that. There is a soft, delicate edge that adds to the complexity and enjoyability.

It also makes the Red Wheat a versatile bourbon for cigar pairing. All but the strongest cigars would make for an excellent pairing, from a mild Connecticut-wrapped cigar to a medium-full Nicaraguan blend.

It deserves to be tasted neat, as too much water or ice could tame the 90-proof spirit. Really there’s not much to complain about, except maybe the price.

Certainly, $45 for a 375 ml. bottle is very steep. But then when you consider that the only other wheated bourbons with similar age statements (Van Winkle Lot B and Weller 12 Year) are becoming exceedingly difficult to find at retail, the cost isn’t so ridiculous. My recommendation: See if you can try some at a bar before going in on an entire bottle.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Warm Up with These Hot Winter Beverages

17 Feb 2015

temp-cold

If you are, like me, in the ever-increasing part of the country where the temperatures have taken a dive, then maybe you’re looking for a fun way to warm up. And what better way than a warm drink that also packs a little boozy kick? Here are my five favorites:

Hot Toddy — A classic that can be made with scotch whisky (save the single malt, use a blend), bourbon, or even brandy. It’s simple to make. Just add sugar, lemon, and cloves to boiling water and your spirit. (Feel free to swap in honey or cinnamon, or even look for a recipe that uses ginger ale.)

Stonewall Jackson — A simple classic consisting of hot cider and bourbon (but rye, Tennessee whiskey, or even spiced rum fill in nicely). Want to kick this up notch? Add some mulling spices to turn it into mulled cider. Just don’t boil the booze out.

Hot Buttered Rum — Perhaps my favorite of the bunch, hot buttered rum is a little more complicated to make than the above drinks, but you’ll find that it’s really not too difficult. If you want, you can make a batch of the batter ahead of time (it will last in the freezer) or just make it as you go directly into a mug.

Mexican Hot Chocolate — While there are lots of recipes out there, “normal” Mexican hot chocolate is spicy and intense with unsweetened chocolate, cinnamon, and chiles. Adding some tequila kicks it up a notch. While I use something similar to this recipe, I might also add a splash of Cointreau.

Spiked Coffee — There are plenty of variations of the basic coffee (milk and sugar optional) with booze. Coffee or chocolate liqueurs are particularly popular options, although there’s nothing wrong with simply adding whiskey, rum, or brandy. Want a recommendation I picked up traveling in Mexico? Add goat milk caramel (you can buy it from Amazon) to coffee and Kahlua.

-Patrick S

photo credit: AccuWeather

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Robusto

15 Feb 2015

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.”

herrera-esteli

Drew Estate’s Liga Privada gets all the attention, but a strong case could made that Herrera Estelí is the company’s most well-made cigar. The Cuban-esque smoke features roast nuts, cedar, cream, and just a hint of spice. It’s a medium-bodied blend that trades strength for balance and finesse. While Liga is the big, bold Bordeaux, Herrera Estelí is a sophisticated, restrained Burgundy. Depending on the time and place, each can be ideal.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Willett XCF (Exploratory Cask Finish) Rye

12 Feb 2015

To say American whiskey is growing in popularity is an understatement. Over-production and glut of prior decades has been replaced with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for good bourbon and rye (and even quite a bit of well-marketed mediocre whiskey).

willett-xcfBut there’s a catch: One of the key ingredients to good rye or bourbon is age in the barrel, and with the bourbon boom there are limited sources of well-aged whiskey. Even if you can find some aged product (or more likely procured some a few years ago when it was a little easier to come by) what you are buying is likely from the same source as what is already being sold in a different bottle with a different label.

Case in point is the Indiana distillery that uses the same 95% rye recipe to supply straight rye for Redemption, Angel’s Envy, Templeton, Bulleit, Dickel, Old Scout, High West, and others. To that list you can add Willett, although the company did start distilling its own bourbon and rye recently (but so far only a two-year rye has been deemed ready for the market).

So how does a company differentiate itself in this increasingly crowded market? Picking and identifying exceptional barrels is one way Willett built its reputation. Another way is with unique barrel finishes, which is what Willett is trying with it’s Exploratory Cask Finish (XCF).

These days one of my favorite rye whiskeys is the unique and bold Angel’s Envy Rye, finished in rum casks. It’s an interesting twist on the classic rye flavors, with sweetness and tropical spice layered over the distinctive Indiana rye flavors.

That’s why I was eager to try Willett’s XCF version 1.0, which starts with an 8-year-old Indiana rye that’s finished in casks used to make Grand Marnier, although (presumably for trademark reasons) it simply refers to as orange curacao.

The result is a deep gold color rye that has been cut down to 103.4-proof. The distinctive nose features orange peel, pickle brine, and floral spice.

The influence of the orange curacao continues on the palate with plenty of sour orange and clove. The finish is long with plenty of spice that lingers on the roof of the mouth

It’s an interesting combination that starts off intensely unique, even a bit bracing, but very quickly becomes deliciously familiar. It pairs perfectly with a woody, full-bodied Nicaraguan cigar like the RoMaCraft Aquitaine Mode 5 or La Antiguadad.

The only thing that would make me hesitate to recommend the Willett XCF is the price, which runs around $150, if you can find it. (I only procured a bottle because a friend happened to be near the distillery on the day it was released for sale.) That’s pretty steep, even in this overheated market. But if you enjoy Angel’s Envy Rye and want to taste an even more extreme example of cask finishing then XCF is well worth trying.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Opus X Perfection X

8 Feb 2015

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.”opus-x-perfection-x-sq

opus-x-perfection-x

It wasn’t that long ago that paying $10 for a cigar was very unusual. Now a significant number of cigars command double-digit prices, and there’s no doubt that Opus X is part of the reason why. The Dominican puro, also a rarity when the Opus was first introduced, is known as a strong, complex smoke, and this vitola (6.25 x 48) is no exception. It’s dominated by woody spice with plenty of pepper on the finish. Construction is flawless, something you’d expect from a $14 to $20 cigar. Opus X may not be as unique of an offering as it once was, but it is still a very good one.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys