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Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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Alec Bradley

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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theScotchlife’s top 3 Scotch Whisky and Cigars picks of 2011

At the end of this year I thought it would be a good time to figure out which products I enjoyed most this year. One of the reasons I started a blog was to chronicle what I was drinking or smoking so that I could reference it later. The problem is I haven’t been able to faithfully chronicle everything. I’d say I’ve missed 25% of what I’ve enjoyed, some of it made it at least to my twitter account @theScotchlife but I would say it caught 98% and it is very hard to read through 1K+ tweets!

So, picking a top 3 of a product to me is very difficult and I would preface this with this may not be the best products by themselves but are elevated by association of an event, or their value.

In the area of Scotch it is quite easy because I spent a weekend in Vegas sampling an array of 40 year plus aged scotch offerings from The Macallan, Bowmore, Dalmore, Glenfarclas, etc…. and the most memorable dram I had was the Bowmore from 1969. Having a dram that is equal in age to ones self is memorable and immensely reflective. It’s hard to figuratively characterize life in a drink, but with that Bowmore from my birth-year, I think it comes awfully close. There is something very special with super-premium aged scotch, it isn’t like your every day scotch, and your life should be as good as it!

So, the #1 is the 1969 Bowmore. I believe it went on sale this year in the U.S., six bottles total if memory serves me correct for around 14K a bottle?

#2 scotch whisky of my year goes to Ardbeg. Yes, I also had this tasty sample from 1974 at the very same Nth show in Vegas and to have an Ardbeg these days from that era is very special. I do enjoy the regular Ardbeg line as well and have Corryvreckan and Uigeadail in-house currently. The ’74 is quite different though, and superior to the current range.

#3 In order to give credit to something that isn’t in the $10K range I would like to give credit to The Balvenie 17 year range of scotch. I have spent some time in acquiring the line, it is difficult since most of it is out of production. My biggest prize came by a friend snagging a bottle of the original Islay Cask in an auction in the UK. This has been replaced by the Peated cask which is good but not as good as the original Islay cask. I would also comment on the rest of the Balvenie line that is available currently, I simply think it is a crowd pleaser from the Doublewood to the Portwood. You just can’t go wrong unless you demand higher alcohol content. I think the flavors should more than make up for it though.

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In the cigar category I think it is even harder! There are so many good cigars out there and the availability of super-aged premiums like scotch are not as readily available to me. On top of it, I’m finding price really does not always mean quality in the cigar world. In fact, the only expensive cigar I’m going to site is the Diamond Crown cigar.

#1 cigar of the year, yes, the Diamond Crown. This is a super-premium cigar and was made to be a cut above the norm. This is typically a $20 cigar so it is not very often I smoke one and there is usually a good reason why I do! You should treat yourself to one of these.

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#2 cigar of the year is…… Alec Bradley’s Tempus (original). I really was taken by the smoothness of this cigar, its complexity and roundness, and price! Yes, this is a sub $10 smoke typically and it is so worth your time and money! It does smoke like a dream and AB seems to be on a roll. I had to mention this cigar because for the value its hard to beat, a good second or “like” this cigar would be a Brick House cigar.

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#3, is, well, this is hard, I have smoked probably no less than 300 different cigars this past year, and after a while, they all seem to cross over each other at some point. I am going to go back to a cigar I smoked a long time ago and wrote glowingly about it, the La Flor Dominicana “double ligero” line. I smoked a large gauge one and I have a thinner, Churchill especial version that I hope to smoke by the new year. This is a BIG smoke and you should enjoy this with a nice steak dinner or big pasta dinner. Just smelling this one is driving me crazy, the spice that comes off of it is really amazing.

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I can’t help but add a little “honorable mention” to Don Pepin Garcia’s blue label as well as Padilla’s Habano. These two I really thought of a lot while comparing cigars this year.

As with any “top” list, there are always some that you wish could mention but I think most people realize that in scotch and cigars there are so many excellent offerings available these days. I think that you will enjoy these, if you haven’t already, and with the exception of the rare scotch offerings you should be able to find them.

I am looking forward to another year and there are so many exciting products coming down the pike, I personally have several new cigars resting in the humidor that I have never tried and I am particularly excited about trying the new Nat Sherman lines. I picked up several cigars at the NYC Big Smoke last month and will be firing them up soon. As far as scotch, I am looking forward to the Balvenie release of TUN 1401 batch 3 in the U.S. and Ardbeg’s Alligator to finally crawl over the pond. I’ve also heard some brand Ambassadors speak of new offerings coming out soon and I am planing on getting out to my local Virginia distilleries this year and explore their products. With any luck I will make it to a good whisky fest this year also.

I hope this year has been a good one for you!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays!

John

Crillio Trio, so what gives about a Crillio Cigar?

Alec Bradley Tempus Terra Novo Natural (5 x 50)
Kristoff Criollo Robusto Natural (5 1/2 x 54)
Perdomo 10th Criollo Robusto Natural (5 x 54)

So recently I was perusing a catalog for an on-line retailer and noticed a sampler pack for a Crillio cigars. I knew I had smoked some with the title but wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. A quick Google search revealed that it was a type of tobacco leaf originally used in Cuba, surprise, and has evolved into a mold resistant leaf. You can find some good information on-line about the leaf but the important thing is it delivers a slightly different flavor than other leafs.

So being intrigued, I bought a sampler, the sampler had two of each of the above cigars so I smoked the first set after letting them sit in the humidor for a couple of weeks. This told me enough, taste wise, that I do like this leaf and combination of fillers that each manufacturer had used though two of them are better than the other.

I have smoked Tempus before and noted somewhere that I really enjoyed it. The Kristoff cigar I had discovered a couple of years ago and really enjoyed their product and presentation so I was excited about trying their crillio cigar. As far as Perdomo, I have had some that I liked and some that i wasn’t so crazy about, that holds true in this selection.

The Kristoff was excellent, though I don’t have any notes jotted down about it, i do remember it being a smooth, tasty cigar that I thoroughly enjoyed, which has been most of my experience with Kristoff cigars. The Tempus I smoked while backstage at a concert with my oldest friend Shawn Mullins after he opened for Judy Collins at Wolftrap Amphitheater in Vienna, VA. Being I do not get to see Shawn often these days it was a special time and for me and the Tempus delivered.

And then, the Perdomo….. The Perdomo starts with a wonderful spice right off the light, then mellows, and then somewhere near the middle, gets, nasty…. well, not entirely nasty but not agreeable to my taste. Then, after your trying to figure out, what the hell does it mean, it mellows out and becomes a very enjoyable smoke. Confused, me too! But it happened with both cigars which leads me to wonder what happened. Was it a transition of leafs? I have no idea, and hopefully one day I will understand what it all means.

So as far as recommending, I would unhesitatingly recommend the Kristoff and Alec Bradley Tempus, but be aware of the Perdomo as having a “spot” of confusion. Maybe a different sized such as a Toro or Churchill would have a better result? Not sure if I will spend my dollars to figure it out.

And as a side, these are cigars I could recommend having a dram of scotch with. They are not overpowering and as long as you are sipping a highland, speyside, or lighter scotch you should be fine. I would be careful around a peaty scotch because I think the taste of the cigar would not overcome the peat.

Cheers!

The Dalmore 12 year and Alec Bradley Harvest Habano

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The other night I grabbed a healthy dram of Dalmore 12yr as opposed to the Gran Reserva (Cigar Malt) that I usually drink and headed downstairs with a Cohiba Puro Dominicana to spend some time talking to a neighbor. I have spent so much of my Dalmore focus on the Gran Reserva that I have not thought about the 12 year as much. While having a great conversation I started to realize how very polished and good the 12 year is and how well it was pairing with this Cohiba.

Tonight I poured another dram or two of the 12yr and headed downstairs with an Alec Bradley Harvest Habano to enjoy. The Dalmore 12 yr offering is so refined and a bit more elegant than the Gran Reserva in color and palate. The jammy fruit of the Gran Reserva is a bit more reserved in the 12 year and doesn’t linger or demand as much of your attention. The 12yr is a really good sipping whisky and I truly do consider it on equal footing as the Gran Reserva and probably a bit more crowd pleasing. Again, I do drink whisky neat unless it is overly high in ABV and then cut it with pure water.

The cigar, AB’s Harvest Habano really scored with me tonight. This cigar impressed me unlike others have in awhile. Its like a fine peace of leather that you want more of. It has a balanced and pleasant smell and the smoke is not offensive. The flavors are subtle but pleasing and it is definitely a cigar that I smoked down to the nub. This is a cigar I will smoke again, because I do have another one, and would jump at a box if given a good deal. You won’t be disappointed.

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