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theScotchlife

Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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December 2011

Bootlegger 21 Vodka

Cigars and Scotch are naturally found in the same places in this world, but when in Davidoff of Geneva’s cigar store off Madison Avenyue the unexpected pleasure of free mixed drinks entered into the cigar lounge. After enjoying a Vodka and OJ I went outside to see what Vodka line had showed up. The Vodka was called Bootlegger 21 and was a new product out of New York. The representative is one of the partners in the upstart and was eager to tell how the Vodka had come about and where they are in entering the market. Now I know what you are thinking, vodka is vodka. And to a certain measure I agree with you. The big difference with this Bootlegger vodka is the process of how it was made. This is the closest thing to what I’d call a craft vodka. Their research led them to some very old methods on how Vodka is made and more specifically distilled. Their research, which includes old Russian techniques, involves the use of charcoal filtering which evidently is much slower and more expensive than modern methods. The product though is amazing. This vodka truly has no burn at all. And it has great natural mouth-feel which is something that is usually done with adding oils to the finished product to achieve.

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I particularly find this branding interesting since my father was a bootlegger in Georgia back in the 1950’s. I really believe this is a must try vodka! Enjoy!

Cigar shopping in NYC, Davidoff of Geneva and Nat Sherman International

You can find a Chinese restaurant or bagel place on any corner in New York City it seems. Block after block there are certain goods and foods that are ubiquitous. What you wont’ find everywhere is a cigar shop! During my stay for the Big Smoke in NYC 2011 I wanted to¬† hit a few cigar shops if possible. First on my list was the Nat Sherman store at 12 East 42nd Street near Bryant Park. Though Nat Sherman is not enjoying the frenzy surrounding many brands today, largely due to boutique blenders, they have recently developed new blends based off extensive experimentation and trials in a fairly condensed amount of time. What has come out is a new direction of flavor for Nat Sherman and one that it hopes customers will embrace obviously. Aside from the new line they have brought in many other lines of cigars that they traditionally did not sell. With the gentlemanly attitude, superior service and great location, I think they have a winning combination. I have not smoked the Nat’s I picked up due to a sinus meltdown/cold that is killing me and would ruin any good smoke. I hope to smoke it before Christmas, but who knows. The tobacconists there were very kind and Juan spent a good amount of time with me talking about various cigar issues and blends. I’m always appreciative of an informed staff!

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After my time there I walked back through the park, unfortunately the politicians of New York City have exercised ridiculous judgement and banned anyone from smoking in NYC parks. I would have loved to fire up a cigar and stroll some park ground but I was sequestered to the sidewalks.

After picking up some “meat on a stick” from a sidewalk vendor I found my way over to 515 Madison Avenue where I found the Davidoff of Geneva store. They have quite the Davidoff line, if that is your thing, but also have many other blends and brands. I spent some time with the buyer for the store and he steered me to a couple of new products that I had not tried. Like a good tobacconist, he also steered me away from some that he thought I would not find pleasing. This is saying a lot considering he actually bought them and then dissuaded me from buying them. It’s not that the one I had picked up was bad, but once he explained the characteristics of it I agreed that it was not what I was in the mood for.

So I hung out in the lounge there for a good two hours and made some very good conversation with some New Yorkers and one gentleman from Kentucky. It’s a very nice lounge that faces the street. The air filtration system is so good I believe there was at one time a dozen people in there and you were never bothered with a haze of smoke.

As luck would have it, there was a cigar representative from Room 101 cigars with a sample pack and swag. They also had a lovely young lady there to help present their products. Of course I do not pass up the opportunity to get the picture.

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With the sample pack I bought I got a free shirt and a pre-release sample of their “One Shot, One Kill” cigar that will most likely be out soon. I have smoked that, it is a small cigar that has good strength and a medium + body. I look forward to smoking my way through their line.

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All in all, I seriously enjoyed my time at these two cigar shops. I wish I had more time because I had a couple of more shops on my list which I will find next time I’m up in NYC.

Cigar Aficianado’s NYC Big Smoke 2011

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New York, city of angles? A short and satisfying trip from DC to NYC via I-95 revealed a few things.A major wreck on the turnpike can turn a four-hour trip into a seven one. Two star hotels can be efficient and practical, and offer just what you need, maybe just not when you want it. Cigar events are sinfully fun, as is Hogs and Heifers in West Village. People watching in NYC is just damn hard to beat, as is the low-priced coffee and bagel from the street vendors. And most of all, there are a lot of fun people in NYC, aside from the cab drivers.

Angles, yes, not a misprint but an obvious play on LA’s Angels (which is not to be confused with Victoria Secrets show which of course is in NYC). In my self-portrait I was channeling Man in a Bowler hat, notice, Apple icon in my face, sans hat. Anyhow, walk through the city…. notice all of the right angles, then walk through the city, angles, everywhere, massive rectangular structures so rigid and cast shadows of the same. Streets composed of a grid system, again, angles. Window panes, angles. Ok, so maybe you’ve noticed.

So the reason for this trip was the Cigar Aficionados Big Smoke at Pier 92. For 3 hours over 2,000 cigar lovers impatiently strolled through the rope lines to pick up a free cigar from over 20 cigar manufacturers from central America with most headquartered in the U.S. No Cubans of course, and I honestly don’t care that there are none present because the current state of cigars coming from central and south America are amazing. Aside from the cigar companies you had accessories and other things that interest this crowd like Guinness, Conundrum wine and Ardbeg! Ardbeg was my favorite of course, I did imbibe the Guinness and wine because, who passes on free booze? Not me.

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Like last year, the big lines to wait in were the Alec Bradley line, the A. Fuente line (yes, Carlito was there) and the mother of all lines, Rocky Patel. Along with the celebrity status of the aforementioned gentlemen, America’s Mayor Rudy Guiliani showed up and patiently shook hands and took pictures with throngs of fans. No, he isn’t in office, but he will always be the Mayor of NY to me. Noticeably absent, well, its hard to notice because there are just so many people there! But there is a noticeable absence of women. My friend Michelle came with me because as she puts it, “where else in NY do you see this many men!” Michelle is among the subset of beautiful women in NYC who have too few options in dating, and are victims of their success in business. So ladies of NYC, if you don’t mind cigar smoke and have $240 for the event ticket, you might want to start making plans now! Having Michelle with me gives me unexpected recognition, hey, that dude has a chick with him! After spending some time with Michelle’s friends in the West Village, I’m hoping for at least two more women in my company in 2012, which will make me look like a rockstar!

After the event Michelle and I went to the West Village area for drinks and conversation. I can’t remember all of the bars we hopped to but seriously enjoyed my time at Hogs and Heifers. Remember Coyote Ugly,the actual bar is in the Meat Packing district and is called Hogs and Heifers. It was a Wednesday night, when we opened the door it was just as you would expect it, crowded with slightly inebriated people and bra wearing bartenders screaming at the crowd with megaphones. In a word, perfect! Michelle had hesitation bringing me there, at which I said, you obviously don’t know me! I love dive bars, it’s just an environment that graphic design and quirky chalk boards can’t top. I also love Pabst Blue Ribbon! Yes, I do like it and have drank it before it was fashionable to do so.

Overall, the trip was fast but intensely fun, the cigar event is maddening because the sheer numbers of people and it is a little disconcerting if you are seeking to be educated about a brand or product. I do wish that some of the smaller boutique cigar makers could break into the event but giving away that many cigars is probably a non-starter for boutiques. All in all, the event was worth the trip to NYC and having good friends who live there exponentially enrich the experience. I’m going to write more on that soon, I took the opportunity of being in the city to spend some time at Nat Sherman’s store and Davidoff’s of Geneva’s new store and had a blast at both of them.

See you next year in NYC for the 2013 event!

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