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theScotchlife

Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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January 2012

‘This Week’s Events Including Draper’s 125th Anniversary & Super Bowl Bash!’

‘This Week’s Events Including Draper’s 125th Anniversary & Super Bowl Bash!’.

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Up in smoke – 1/21/2012

So it’s about time I caught you up to date on some cigars I’ve smoked. I think this covers the majority of them since my last post, ones that I’ve spoken about before I don’t really regurgitate but will give mention to one in this update because you need to try it. If you are looking for all of the official tasting notes of these you can find them on sites more dedicated to cigars, these notes are more or less if I enjoyed them. There are at least two cigars I took pictures of that I will not review because I’ve never seen them in shops and I have no idea how you would find them. On top of that, they just weren’t that good. And at the end, a visual surprise, so let’s get started…..

First up is the H.Upmann 1844 Reserve, it has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and sports a Nicraguan binder and all Dominican filler. From memory I’d say it’s slightly above medium in strength and has mild flavors. I smoked this on the way home I believe, since the picture was taken the car, and all I can say is that it is a middle of the road stogie without much flash. It didn’t leave a strong impression on me as I like nice, flavorful wrappers but can’t say I’ll be picking it up again anytime soon. Cost, around $7. Verdict – It’s ok.

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Now smoking, the Casa Magna Domus Magnus Limitada. I remember this as being another really good Casa Magna cigar, which I don’t think I’ve smoked one I didn’t like. This is a special release under this brand and it is a Nicaraguan (puro) cigar. The wrapper is sungrown in Jalapa and is a medium-full smoke from memory. I really liked this cigar, box pressed, and well constructed. You can really tell when someone spends extra time in the construction of a better than average cigar. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase this one again! Around $10

Verdict – buy the box

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On a recent trip to NYC I stumbled upon a Room 101 event at Davidoff of Geneva. I bought the sampler of their offerings which included a pre-release of One Shot, One Kill, a promising smoke that may come out soon? Anyhow, this Room 101 LTD Conjura Edition is the second I smoked, wasn’t crazy about the previous one but this one (wrote about in the 1/6/2012 post) but this one was slightly better. Again, a medium smoke that had an interesting wrapper that I thought with the great mouthfeel would deliver some amazing flavors, not so much. It’s not that I didn’t like this cigar, I just wasn’t crazy over it. I really admire the artwork and presentation of it but that’s just not enough. Around $9.

Verdict – (shoulder shrugging)

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And now for something completely different. The Alec Bradley line is celebrating a best cigar award from Cigar Aficionado for 2012. Not this cigar, the American Classic Blend, but it is worthy in its own right. This Nicaraguan cigar covered with a Honduran grown Connecticut wrapper is a perfect medium smoke. It is a mellow fellow that does deliver on flavor and will beg to be smoked down. It’s also quite affordable, you can pick up a box for about $100. It would make a great daily smoke and deserves a place in your humidor, if only to fend off the cigar smoocher next door! I have a neighbor who loves cigars but always runs out. He’ll ask, hey, do you have something in there you don’t want. My standard response is, I don’t buy crap! But I wouldn’t feel bad giving out this one because it IS a good smoke but not costing me a whole ton.

Verdict – buy a box!

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Ok, Padon. Any questions? So this isn’t the Anniversary line that is so excellent but the regular line, but there isn’t anything regular about it. It’s a darn good smoke. Medium to full  in strength. Full disclosure – I cut this rather lengthy one into two  because I didn’t have time to smoke the whole thing and knew it. I will do that with a long cigar and enjoy half for lunch and then some on the way home. I really enjoyed this Nicaraguan puro and it just delivers on flavor and construction. A really good smoke!

Verdict – buy it

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Once in a while I pick up a stray cigar that either was released in limited quantity and failed or someone forgot to put it out on display and it finds its way out months or years after it was first released. This Mi Dominicana is a pure Dominican cigar that I picked up by Jose Seijas. I really don’t have any praise for this cigar, it wasn’t bad, wasn’t good either. It was good enough to smoke through but I can’t say go search this one out. It also had a bad habit of mushrooming out while being smoked. Not a huge deal but kind of bush league to me. I’m not sure what I paid for this, but you probably will not run across it. You can pick up a box for around $150 on a popular web-site but you might want to sample before you try.

Verdict – nope

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And now for something special! I attended a La Gloria Cubana event at Cigar Town in Reston,VA and spent some time talking to the General Cigar reps. As I was leaving, I was slipped this dual wrapper stogie. Rather unusual look and the rep told me they don’t really bring these out at events. I was pleased to accept! It is part of their Artesanos de Tabaqueros line. Let’s just call them “fancy” and probably the best tasting of LGC’s that I have had. I have copied the link to their site to do justice to explaining this cigar, it is here http://www.lagloriacigars.com/index.php/cigars/artesanos-de-tabaqueros/

It has two binders, one Ecuadorian Sumatra and a Connecticut shade. I really enjoyed the flavors of this cigar and can’t wait to pick some up, which may take a web-purchase if necessary.

Verdict – Yes! Get sum.

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And now, a repeat offender. I’ve written somewhere before about the Colorado from Casa Magna and this is just a reminder. BUY IT! ’nuff said.

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I really liked the construction of this Vegas 5 cigar. It is rolled in a special fashion, I forget the style name, forgive me. But I think it is a limited edition that came in from Cigar International which I get a monthly shipment from. I like doing it because usually I get something that I may have not picked out for myself. The Vegas 5 line is quite popular and economical. I don’t usually buy them because the marketing, hate to say it, doesn’t quite do it for me. But this is a good smoke! I really enjoyed this one on the way home one day, its medium to full in strength and really does a good job.

Verdict – sure, pick one up!

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Ok, another Matt Booth creation from the Room 101 Namakubi line. I have not been impressed so far with this line, but love the marketing! This stick I pulled out and said, ok, smoke it anyway! Glad I did. This is the best of his line I have had. I think this is a medium cigar that delivers a quality smoke. It is the Connecticut series, which refers to the wrapper. It’s a Dominican/Honduran blend filler with a corojo binder. It runs around $7 I think? I think this has a good potential for a daily smoke.

Verdict – give her a spin!

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So the last cigar for your surprise at the end. This is the San Lotano Maduro box press by A.J. Fernandez. Anything with A.J.’s name on it deserves some attention. This was a great tasting cigar, before you light it! It is a San Andres Valley wrapper that is a treat to the tongue and the Dominican/Nicaraguan filler really delivers. This is a slightly over medium strength cigar that is just pleasing. Smooth and creamy, it was a really good smoke. I really liked the box pressing on it also. If you want a cigar to pair with a quality red wine, like Bordeaux, I’d grab this one.

Verdict – Oh, yes.

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SURPRISE! I took a picture of a cigar magazine, not sure which one, while in a cigar lounge, ran it through Instagram and here is the result. For your viewing pleasure. Sorry girls.

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Glen Grant 16 year aged Single Malt Scotch Whisky

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Intense, ripe orchard fruits, lingering finish….. These are the words imprinted on the bottom label of the lovely bottle of Glen Grant 16. After you drink a lot of whisky (variety, not quantity) particularly scotch, you do see the finer scotch whiskies have a distinctness about them and within their own line each one acts differently. Glen Grant is a newcomer to the States and has a long history with a few owners, originally family, but since the 1970’s corporate ownership has dominated. It is a line of whisky started in 1840 in Rothes, Speyside, Scotland in the UK and was most noted by it’s second owner James Grant who at the ripe age of 25 became its purveyor and visionary. Now corporately owned, it has been introduced into America with a 10 year and a 16 year offering. I tasted both of these at the SMSWA event in Washington D.C. this past fall and really liked them. I thought the 10 to be a great entry or starter scotch for someone and the 16 to be a scotch truly enjoyed by those who imbibe scotch regularly.

Recently I found a bottle of the 16 available in DC. I snatched it up, despite its $70 cost because I am so desperate for variety of scotch and I do remember it being good, $70 good….not so sure, but like I said, desperate for variety.

When nosing this, you do notice a very clean fresh fruit nose. It’s a very bright and cheery nose, quite enjoyable. The affect on the tongue is equally refreshing! Mouthfeel is just right, a bright burst of fruit and alcohol hit you mid-palate but do not overwhelm. I would say this is a very young acting 16 year old. Much like a teenager but fully developed no doubt. I think this same spirit aged a few more years would be incredible. But fruit is forward, and very refreshing in this whisky. I’d say this would be great with strawberries or something tart like kiwi.

The finish is very nice, lingers, and really makes you want more. Being that my relationship with this bottle is new I don’t know quite how to feel about it. I do feel it has a special place though. The more I try it, the more I like it and feel this would, though great now, is strong enough to age at least four more years. I really think I have found a new favorite scotch!

And if you were wondering about cigar pairings, I would not pair this with more than a mild-medium cigar. You really are not going to find a cigar with flavor to match this one so keep it mild so the two do not clash. I’d recommend a smooth Davidoff or Montecristo with this one. If you are paying for this bottle and smoke cigars I’m sure you are not a stranger to those names.

Cheers!

Gordon & Macphail’s single malt scotch whisky

I finally got back to one of my favorite Washington, DC liquor stores, Pearson’s, which is off Wisconsin Avenue. The choices are always fun because they do not stock typical offerings that most stores do, especially the Virginia ABC stores… (where selection sucks)

So I was happy to see among several offerings this Gordon and Macphail’s 10 year single malt. I have enjoyed several of their offerings but never a “standard” like this one. I actually enjoy not knowing which distiller they purchased their product from. This mystery malt sat either in a Speyside warehouse or in Elgin at G&M’s warehouse. Regardless, someone distilled it and G&M claimed it. It’s that simple.

What isn’t simple is the complexity of this dram. It is very nice, balanced, and has great mouth-feel. The fruit that comes off the nose is nice and I rather enjoyed it without water. After adding water a few more notes open up in the nose and as for taste, it smoothed out like a lake in the morning.

The cost of this was exactly 42.99 USD. I believe it to be priced about right (nothing you can do about taxes) and I believe it is distinct enough from the likes of Balvenie and Macallan to set in among your scotch offerings. I would call this a daily drinker but I rather think it special. And so, only a twice or so a week dram. I can always rely on Grant’s as my anytime dram.

You could enjoy a cigar with this, but, I’d reserve this as an aperitif or a dinner dram. I’m not an advocate of drinking great scotch with cigars because inevitably, one will win out and the other will be non-present.

So if you are lucky enough to pick up one of these, I would encourage you, I think it’s worth a try!

Cheers!

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Up In Smoke – 1/9/2012

This update brings you 6 cigars that I smoked recently. The first two are part of Nat Sherman’s Bench collection and can only be found at the flagship store in NYC. I picked up 3 to sample when I was in NYC recently and I’m glad I did. The first one I smoked was labeled “SAM” because that is the gentleman’s name who works at Nat Sherman who really liked this blend. I think I scored one of the last ones (these are limited edition cigars evidently). It was a very mild smoke, it was the first one smoked that day so I enjoyed it for what it was. The second one I smoked was more of a medium smoke and had some very balanced and mature characteristics. You could tell there was some real quality, aged, leafs in this one. While this cigar did not knock me off my feet, I could probably smoke this cigar all day long. For a good write-up on this series please go to this link http://michaelherklots.blogspot.com/2011/11/nat-sherman-bench-collection-has.html

Verdict – Nat Sherman Bench series is worth exploring. Unfortunately you will need to stop by the NYC store on 42nd to get these for now.

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Next up is the Liga Privada offering called the Undercrown. This was developed after the rollers were asked to stop smoking their favorite Liga cigars due to supply concerns. The senior rollers then altered the blend and substituted some leafs that were in larger supply. The result was a product that caught the attention of ownership and ended up being a regular product. A true product of the rollers, not the usual product development crew. I really enjoyed this cigar! It was sitting in my humidor for about a month when I smoked it. The dark San Andres maduro wrapper fools you into thinking it will be a powerful cigar. It is actually a medium smoke with very smooth delivery. I could smoke this cigar every day and you might want to try this one out for a “go-to” cigar if you liked balanced, medium cigars. I smoked the Belicoso which cost around $8.From what I understand, it is all Nicaraguan.

Verdict – Like it, will buy again.

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And now for a kick! Four to be exact, the Four Kicks from Crowned Heads is a Dominican Republic cigar with Nicaraguan and Ecuador tobaccos that delivers a smooth, balanced tasting cigar at full strength. This to me is a unique blend and it offers the cigar smoker who wants the full strength but would perhaps like something more refined or balanced in flavor. I typically like more flavors than this cigar was giving me, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t going to please you.

Verdict – I wouldn’t hesitate to smoke this one and will buy again.

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So this Cohiba extra vigoroso showed up in a monthly shipment that I belong to. The write-up on it promised quite a bit in flavor and I was excited for a full strength cigar with sungrown top leafs from the tobacco plant. The top leafs of the tobacco plant tend to have more flavor due to the chemical reaction received from nutrients travelling up top. There are actually two different leafs blended that are top leafs (they are in the filler) and then they are mixed with a Connecticut binder. So, you can read up on this one if you search for it. This is NOT a cheap cigar, goes for around $12.

Verdict – Pass. Seriously. There are better cigars at cheaper prices. If you want to impress however, have at it. They look nice and the name recognition is undeniable (even though they are not real Cubans).

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1968 was a great year. Not that I remember, but I spent nine months of it developing into a bundle of joy. Though my dad probably did not smoke a cigar, he was a Camel (non-filtered) smoker for most of his life, I can’t help but think of how many dads have smoked a Macanudo cigar in America to celebrate their newborn. To me, Macanudo is the archetype golf cigar. Maybe one smoked after a merger or opening of a new Casino. This 1968 offering has a beautiful San Agustin wrapper and the leafs picked are all aged and smoke smoothly. This is as strong as a Macanudo gets. The cigar was good, but it’s really not my type.

Verdict – buy to impress or to please almost anyone.

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Cookology! A foodies delight in cooking

Last night my wife and I visited the store known as Cookology which is located in Dulles Mall. This mall is located in Northern Virginia, miles from Washington-Dulles International Airport and a few miles from the Nations Capitol. At this venue you will be led by an Executive Chef with multiple years of experience. On our visit we opted for the Steak options which entailed learning how to prepare a Filet Mignon (Wagu beef) with a delicious mashed potato combination of sinful ingredients preceded by a made from scratch blue cheese dressing that is so good  you would almost forget you had a main course.

We started as a group with all the necessary fresh ingredients neatly laid out in bowls before us. Methodically and without confusion or much thought we shuffled through the professional kitchen and used the induction cookers to boil potatoes in two minutes and subsequently sear filets in just minutes also. The mixture of egg, mayo, sugar, etc…. led to a blue cheese dressing to die for! This is the first time I have ever been able to play cook in a professional kitchen and I just loved it! It makes you realize the own limitations of your kitchen at home.

In the end, we dined on our steak, potato and blue cheese wedge salad. Topped off with a Cab Sav from California of course. I hesitate to call myself a foodie. But damn it, I love good food! And this place is just the kind of place where you can gain the appreciation for how really good food comes from really good ingredients.

If you find yourself in the Northern Virginia/DC area, you need to schedule a visit to this place. You will not regret it!

Cheers!

Up In Smoke – Cigar notes for 1/6/2012

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In a better effort to record my thoughts on cigars I have smoked, I have decided to create an “Up in Smoke” post that I will try to push out regularly with a few thoughts on each one, whether I liked, it, basically.

First up is the Room 101 by Camacho. This is a medium cigar and the most interesting thing about it is the unique Semilla wrapper grown exclusively for this project. The filer is a Honduran/Dominican blend with Honduran wrapper. This was a robusto, I think, and goes for around $8.

Verdict – It was ok. Nothing special for my tastes, I will find a medium cigar that I occasionally like the flavors on but this one just didn’t do anything special for me. The wrapper is a unique experience though. It comes across very oily, you notice this immediately. I finished off about 3/4 of this one, I think it got a little stronger towards the end.

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Next up, a Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon. Before I say anything, I think that I just don’t have the taste buds for the cameroon leaf. I have determined this after smoking Rocky Patel’s latest release, the 2003 Cameroon. I tried three of them, I did not finish any of them.

This is a Dominican cigar with an African Cameroon wrapper. It is medium in strength. The robusto runs about $6.

Verdict – I didn’t finish. I just don’t get this cigar and I’m not sure that I’m going to like a Cameroon offering.

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Saved the best for last? You bet your ass! This is the new offering from CAO. CAO has changed hands recently (become part of General Cigar) and due to that there is some talk of some people not caring for this stick before they even saw it. It’s called the OSA Sol which stands for the region Olancho, San Agustin in Honduras which is where the wrapper leaf is grown. The “Sol” stands for sun, meaning it is sun grown (no shade cloth cover). This leaf was developed for this project. The filler is Nicaraguan and Honduran and has a Connecticut Broadleaf binder (which I find interesting). I’m not sure which Lot # this was, but it is an affordable cigar, around $6.

Verdict – I loved it! I really didn’t expect much out of this cigar but it really surprised me. I haven’t had a cigar in a long time that had this much flavor, I seriously burned it to the nub. It’s not often I come across a cigar this full of unique and satisfying flavor, flavor that really comes across your palate. If I needed a box of cigars right now, I’d buy one of these!

Grant’s Family Reserve Blended Scotch Whisky – my thoughts

So you like Scotch do you? Then I imagine you would have no reservation sharing a glass of inexpensive blended scotch whisky?

All kidding aside, I do drink inexpensive blended scotch whisky on occasion! My first whisky that I actually drank on a regular basis was Ballantine. Then I graduated all the way up to Johnny Walker Red. After a few years of drinking blended whiskies I ventured into the single malt world and I admit, I pretty much prefer single malt scotch. The thing about drinking single malt is that I tend to get my head wrapped around the spirit, trying to dissect and figure out what makes it distinguished from another single malt. So there are times when I just don’t want to think, I just want to drink.

Enter Grant’s Family Reserve Blended whisky. I first saw this whisky somewhere, not sure, but it was the only scotch they had. That will probably say something about the establishment! So, hence, not exactly memorable. I could have had Jack Daniels, or some other common whisky but thought I must know what this Grant’s is about. I do remember thinking, not bad, and I’m sure I had a couple and I did not drown it in ice! Since then I’ve learned that this is one of the most popular scotch whiskies in the world! Sold in over 180 countries! And has been around since 1898. In sales I believe it is behind Johnny Walker (Red) and I think Dewar’s. I personally think it is equal to if not better than both of those offerings.

The taste of it is complex but it should, being the result of 25 single malt and grain whiskies, the base being Girvan grain whisky. The tasting notes from the distiller highlight Pear and spring fruits. Ok, like a lot of tasting notes I find, I just nod and say, ok. Sometimes I can totally taste or nose what they are saying, the other 50% of the time I just nod. Though nosing is important and quite enjoyable on some whisky’s, this whisky is for drinking!

As you can guess, this is an affordable scotch! And if you need a house scotch you should try this one out. If you are someone who actually mixes scotch (gasp) with other items then this might be a great staple for you. I have not tried the 12 year and up on this brand because it is not available in my area and I’ve never seen it at a tasting. The Master Blender for Grant’s also, just happens to be, the Master for The Balvenie. Now that should mean something.

As an aside, this is my 100th post! Wow, a lot of typing and wondering if anyone would ever read this stuff! Well, if you are reading this I hope you enjoy!

Cheers!

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Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

Well the first tasting/writing of the new year is a Bourbon, not a Scotch. Occasionally I like to try a bourbon. I don’t usually buy bourbon but when I do I buy Woodford Reserve, so I rely on the mini sized ones at the liqour store which limits my choices. Somehow I caught the attention of Four Roses’ marketing company in NYC and was offered a sample of the single barrel, so I took it! I have to say, receiving a 100ml sample is a hell of a lot nicer than the small stuff you get at the store. It’s really enough to have two separate tastings. I like this option because sometimes, you’re “just not feeling it” when trying a product for the first time and I like to have a solid opinion about something before I write about it. Not because I have some massive readership, which I don’t, but I think it’s the responsible thing to do.

First Tasting – I decided to nose this against Markers Mark, a very popular bourbon, for some comparison. The nose on the two are very different! The MM has that distinctive traditional bourbon smell but with a lot of sweet, syrupy vanilla smell. The Four Roses has a much deeper and complex nose. I like the nose better right off.

I’m tasting this neat, no ice, water, etc….. Wow! Such a nice mouth feel and wonderful tangy spice. Not overly vanilla, more balanced and complex. I really like this! I don’t need to taste this twice to know I like this bourbon!

On the second sip I get more of the traditional bourbon flavors, but they are still subdued and more complex. This would make a great sipping whisky. I don’t think I’d waste this on a mixed drink, its made to be enjoyed “as is” in my opinion.

Well, there you go, I officially “like” Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon and think serious malt folks would enjoy this also! Such a nice way to kick off the new year!

Cheers!

The below came with the press kit:

Four Roses Single Barrel (100 proof)
A premium Single Barrel Bourbon with a taste that begs to be savored again and again. Its
taste is complex, full bodied and surprisingly smooth with a delicate long finish that is
unbelievably mellow. Contains hints of ripe plum and cherry tastes with fruity, spicy
aromas including maple syrup and cocoa. Drink straight up or on the rocks.
Nose: Fruity, spicy, floral, cocoa, maple syrup, moderately woody.
Palate: Hints of ripe plum & cherries, robust, full body, mellow.
Finish: Smooth & delicately long.
Size: 750ml
SRP: $35.99- $39.99

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