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Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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Events

La Gloria Cubana Cigar event with Master roller Leo Peraza

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Master Roller for La Gloria Cubana

La Gloria Cubana is a brand readily available in most stores and at least in my mind is a brand of cigars that is a lot less about flash and more about consistency. I have smoked a hand full or two through the years and while I’ve always thought them to be a decent cigar I can’t say that I’ve had a tendency towards them, this may have changed with this recent events offerings. The event was held at Cigar Town in Reston, VA, an excellent cigar shop in Northern Virginia. http://kickashcigars.com/

I had a very nice talk with the General Cigar reps that accompanied Leo and since Leo doesn’t speak English my conversation was limited to the reps (have got to get my Spanish back!). I’m not so sure if it’s the lack of offerings in the line or if their marketing just doesn’t connect, but I pretty much think of all Gloria products as maduro and non-maduro. I have a few series R’s and have had the N’s and so I purchased the new Artesanos Retro Especiale which is a new blend and breed with a Connecticut seed wrapper grown in Honduras in order to achieve a new cigar experience. It also has a unique binder of a Nicaraguan and Mexican leaf that adds the uniqueness that boutique cigar lovers are looking for these days. I was able to smoke this cigar the other day around noon (didn’t get to finish of course) and it was a very nice tasting cigar.

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Feliz Navidad!

It is not a heavy cigar (Artesanos Retro Especiale), it’s more of a medium-ish in strength but does deliver some nuances that an enthusiast will appreciate. The more I get to learn about cigars and follow industry news you get the appreciation that a cigar is not as simple as a bunch of leaves rolled up. A blender, these days, is trying to deliver strength and taste. These two seem to be hard to corral into a cigar. Taste is something that is quite subjective also, so there is no guarantee that everyone will appreciate what a blender is doing. I liked this cigar and am glad I have another one. The other product I purchased was a La Gloria Cubana figurado that was rolled special for the holiday season. I took a picture but due to being outside and dark, the image is horrible. I think you can only find this for a limited time. Look at the red band, that is quite different and may lead you to it. In short, it was a very nice smoke, maybe a medium to full in strength and very tasty! If you catch this rolling event somewhere you should be able to happen upon one.

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This event is was very beneficial for myself. I have not just a new understanding of what the La Gloria Cubana brand is about but more importantly a new curiosity about its products and I will be trying more of their products. I did get a special Artesanos de Tabaqueros cigar from the General Cigar rep and will be trying it soon. It is quite unique, two different wrappers on it, very unique not only in type but color and should be an interesting challenge to my palate.

Although thought of as a good value cigar, I think this brand has the potential to move up in my world, in at least my mind, as a must-try brand.

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!

The Macallan tasting event at Ibiza

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On a blistery cool evening in DC The Macallan put on a tasting at Ibiza which is best described as a night club that is in a more distant area than most events around the nations capital. It was too my surprise that these tastings had multiple times on the evening but that went into disbelief when I saw how large this event was. The setting itself screamed “nightlife” and you were just wondering when a DJ was going to pop out, Macallan poured and a mob dance break out.

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Instead of the DJ there were multiple servers swimming around with trays of tasting glasses and a stage set up with a large LED screen and Iconic looking bottles of Macallan lined up. Then out popped the DJ, er, well Martin Daraz actually. Now having seen Martin before at work, I knew that the right guy was sent to a large crowd that was probably hoping the DJ would show up. Martin is highly entertaining and extremely well informed. I actually wish more large brand distillers could follow Macallan’s lead. This was a very well done event and I think everyone went away knowing, as many do, how well Macallan products taste and are presented.

There wasn’t anything presented at this event that I wasn’t familiar with but because of the well execution and sheer entertainment value of Martin I left with a smile on my face. If you have not had The Macallan products, which I don’t know how you could avoid such a task, you owe it to yourself to try out their 12 year offering which is quite ubiquitous. The Macallan is one of those rare products that although found almost anywhere you go, is always worth the pour.

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Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza Washington DC 2011

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It's gotta taste good, right? If Dewar's could make their product taste better, they wouldn't have to find beautiful girls!

The annual event of the Single Malt Scotch Whisky Extravaganza was held on October 13 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC and as most of these events there was an abundance of booze, food, and giveaways. I’ve taken awhile to write about this event but the most exciting thing about this event for myself was that I actually won something! One of the raffle winnings was a box of Siglo cigars and somehow out of hundreds of entrants I actually won it! This made me happy on two counts, free cigars, good, and it actually helps defray the cost of going, better!

If you have never been to one of these large events I would encourage you to go. It is a great place to see that there is a LOT more scotch whisky out in the market than what you typically see in your local store and if you are like me and spend most of your time in Virginia (an alcohol controlled State “ABC”) you are not use to a lot of variety. I typically run through the Washington DC stores to find the non-typical offerings and offerings even from well-known brands that do not make it to ABC stores.

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The evening actually started out with an hour with the brand reps which actually was more collegiate upstaging by one another and friendly insults at each other. What sticks out in my mind from the Q&A session was the importance of selecting casks for distillers. If you don’t know, most all of the taste that your favorite scotch has is due to the wood cask it is placed in. This is more tricky for scotch than bourbon because you are using a spent bourbon or other whiskey cask to entrust your distilled liquid to.

After this the doors were opened and the multitude was sent in to mob the tables where the reps stood by. This is not my favorite thing. Partly because there is far more people than there is time for the reps to address and often you have uninformed reps helping out. Even if you know a lot about scotch it is quite dizzying to sample each table and then remember which offering from which brand you actually enjoyed. I would encourage you to bring something to write with and a small piece of paper, trying to record it on your iphone is quite time consuming. The event give you a Tour Journal but I find it large and cumbersome fighting through the crowds. I like to take pictures of offerings that I really find interesting.

Here are a couple of pics of some of the offerings I found interesting.

I really have enjoyed the limited Tomatin expressions that I have been able to try.
The packaging was done special for a shop. I really liked it.


If you have not tried Jura products, you must! Their  youngest offerings are excellent also.

This is a new Bowmore, like most of the line, I approve!

There were many I did not get pictures of because the crowds were just overwhelming! I’d like to make mention of Glen Grant’s 10 year which is a great “first” scotch and their 16 year old will be liked by the more experienced scotch drinker. The Scotch Malt Whisk Society bottlings were of course very good and probably were the best offerings there.

One of the freebies given were two cigars from Altadis U.S.A. and they were the VegaFina brand which is a light to medium cigar and I actually enjoyed it. The other was a H.Upmann Sun Grown that is medium-ish and I really didn’t find any satisfaction in it.

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