Edradour 10 Year

Read More

What is it about gifted whisky that makes it taste so much better?

I’d like to attribute it to the kindness and thought that goes into it (and don’t get me wrong, that does play into it). But even more than that, I love the thrill of tasting a bottle that I didn’t select myself. Whether the giver selected it because they assumed I’d like the profile, or because it’s one of their old favorites, it always brings to mind a curated experience. It communicates something nonverbally between friends, and translates taste from one person to another. Plus whisky you don’t pay for is just damned good.

So it was with the Edradour 10 Year, a birthday gift from my good friend Venkat. I’ll admit I had never heard of this single malt scotch before, but I was eager to give it a try. The label is rustic though elegant, bringing to mind some of the classic distillery styles that doesn’t capitalize on minimalist pretensions. The color is browned butter and it has a fragrant floral/honey nose.

I poured it with a single large ice cube in my standard style and immediately took a sip to taste the largely undiluted character of the drink. Even in this state it had a smooth, rich caramel flavor cut with just a hint of campfire smoke. The taste lingers, offering just a hint of red apple on the palate.

As the cube melted and the conversation became more relaxed, so too did the flavors. Although I’ll admit that I finished the drink well before the cube melted considerably, it held its character even as it mingled with the water. The only thing that changed was the beverage became more refreshing. I drank it at night, but I could imagine this being the perfect scotch to enjoy with a splash of water after a day of yard work.

Even more impressive from a pairing perspective was its ability to hold up to the Opus X I smoked with it. Normally scotches require a certain amount of peat or smoke to achieve this, but the Edradour 10 didn’t waver despite its sweeter flavor profile.

I’d highly recommend this bottle. Once it’s finished I will seek it out again (assuming I can’t convince Venkat to give me another).

 

Fuente Fuente Opus X – For When You Need to Celebrate

Read More

The Fuente Fuente Opus X came to us all the way from the Arturo Fuente company – specifically, Chateau de la Fuente, a paradisaical-looking spot in the Dominican Republic, where workers roll the cigar leaves by hand. These Fuente workers pioneered the first Dominican wrapper leaves. And with the introduction of the first ever Dominican premium cigar – the Fuente Fuente Opus X – the company shocked the world with the cigar’s quality and deliciousness. The Fuente Fuente Opus X remains one of the most sought-after smokes in the world.

These two Fuente Fuente Opus X’s have been aged for over three years, since the inception of our beloved Cigar & Whiskey community, which we began in December of 2012. And we’re celebrating in this post, y’all. Cigar and Whiskey just hit 40,000 subscribers on Facebook and we have YOU to thank.

Let’s talk about the Opus X.

The wrapper itself indicates that the Fuente estate put a lot of care into this cigar. Rich red, accented with dimmed gold to promote a sort of family crest look, it’s a play off their standard lines of cigars, which are old standbys of C&W themselves. Mineral deposits shone around the surface of the smoke. These deposits, called “bloom,” are condensations of the tobacco oils that occur when the cigar has been left to age in optimal conditions. Stephen takes good care of his coolidor, paying close attention to the temperature (it sits in the back of his closet) and the humidity (assisted by Boveda packs).

It’s a cool night for May. El Nino has tapered off since the winter, and so while in some years our summers begin in March, the days grow hot but cloudy now, and the nights return to a perfect cool. I chopped a smaller cut than usual on the tapered end, toasted the end gently, and the cigar still drew – beautifully. Stephen had started his before me, but as soon as I drew we arrived at the same conclusion –

Spice! Tons of spice that floats in and out across the draw. Salt, pepper and just a hint of capsaicin or red peppers. At the very beginning of its first third, the Opus X gives off something like a very light char on a ribeye steak. It fades completely and quickly, but you’ll definitely notice it.

As the night scrolled by, Steve and I began smelling wheat or something sweet that we couldn’t quite identify, wondering if it made sense to follow up such a char with something sugary. You do that all the time with a steak entrée and a dessert, so not sure why I was so skeptical. But the Opus X definitely segues into something like an old-fashioned breakfast cereal. I tasted a Honey Nut Cheerio in the wheat; Stephen picked up buttered toast with honey, another comparison I appreciated because it kept in mind the char.

Like many cigars, the Opus X mellows out in the last third instead of amping up the drama. The endings of cigars have a structural similarity, when the flavor condenses, the smoke output diminishes, and the quality of the smoke deepens, becoming more syrupy. This is often my favorite part – a good nicotine buzz setting in, the night getting cooler, the conversation at a natural lull. I wrote down, “I feel like I’m being rewarded at the end of this smoke,” and I did. It was hard to put down even has the stick shortened and began burning my fingers.Fuente Fuente Opus X

Get Spooky with the Tatuaje Monster Series: The Jekyll

Read More

Tatuaje Jekyll 1

It’s October in Central Texas. For a good stretch of our friendship, Stephen’s introduced me to the joys of the horror genre (and subgenres), the spooky fun of Halloween, the weird intersection of the cozy fall season and sometimes sheer terror, gruesomeness, and legends. He’s also showed me one of my now-favorite short stories, “An Occurrence on Owl Creek Bridge,” a Twilight Zone-ish tale about a Civil War soldier’s execution and escape. Stephen also hosts a nightly Halloween movie special for each of the 31 days of the month. It’s a special time at Cigar & Whiskey.

So, last week, we set ourselves up for a cigar/grill/porch/dog night with our good friend, Pynes, who has a Big Green Egg, a wonderful family, and two rambunctious dogs. While setting up the grill, we lit up the Tatuaje Monster Series’ Jekyll, which came out in 2014. Stephen has aged these three Jekylls since last October, and Tatuaje releases the follow up cigar, the Mr. Hyde, this year. We will review the Mr. Hyde soon and see about how it reacts and follows up with the Jekyll, but for now, let’s talk about the nicer, kinder, gentler of the two cigars/literary characters.

We lit up. The first third surprised us, with a strange combination of cream and black peppercorn – almost like a potato soup. No bacon or cheese in this cigar, though. The peppercorn would transform into a spicier flavor. As we continued on, the dogs ran around and through our legs, wanting to be petted or thrown to. I engaged with the American Bulldog in a pretty intense fight over a rubber ball that he was pretty passionate about, and the boxer would come up, put his front legs up on the American Bulldog, and try to assist me. The cigar took a pretty good beating, and never went out. Was glad to see that it held up well.

Dog

In the second third, the cream re-emerged with some light brown sugar flavors. Certainly the sweetest aspect of the flavor profile, I’m sure the cigar makers wanted to include these to indicate Dr. Jekyll’s amiable, kind personality. Smoke production stayed constant and plentiful, as you can see below.Stephen Smoke Ring

Soon, though, a coarser, leathery flavor took over, and even the spicy pepper from before melded with other flavors to become more muted. I love a hard cigar buzz, but the flavor was more powerful than the actual effects. I imagine that the Hyde will be much more powerful, potent, and unpredictable.

An unusual flavor, a mercurial flavor profile, with a hint of something more powerful to come – couldn’t ask for a more enjoyable cigar in the Halloween month. Check in soon with us when we confront the Mr. Hyde – we have no idea what is in store. Stay tuned!

The Cigar Goes Southern: Trying out the Fertitta Christeaux Natural

Read More

Fertitta Close Up

We’re always ready for something new at Cigar and Whiskey. This week’s cigar, the Fertitta Christeaux, comes from Shreveport, Louisiana — not the first place you think of when you consider tobacco and cigar production. But it’s a humid, green and leafy state, with a vivid, tumultuous history, and citizens who make an art out of The Good Life. Why the hell not?

It’s unclear where the cigar is actually rolled, though it sports fine Dominican long-leaf filler and a lovely Ecuadorian wrapper. Patrick Fertitta, the owner of the line, apparently researched dozens of cigar options before getting into the business. His diligence shows. At the time of publishing, the cigar company only produces two sticks – the Christeaux Maduro and the Christeaux Natural, both toro-sized with the latter reviewed here – allowing Fertitta to start small and focus on the details.

Stephen and I sat down on the Back Porch to try these out. He took the Maduro and I took the Natural, knowing that I would work my way to the Maduro later if the baseline Connecticut proved tasty. The packaging is simple, and a little old school, with an anthropomorphic alligator that is less cheesy than it sounds. The Natural had good give, and the cigars were sent to us with obvious care.

The Christeaux Natural seemed aged well before I lit it, with a good, grassy smell. The first third tasted pretty damn autumnal, with plenty of grass, wheat, and some cardamom or allspice sprinkled throughout. And it became clear that both Christeauxs offered plenty of smoke, with easy draws. This seems like an obvious marker of a good cigar, but I’m always surprised when it happens — it’s a true joy when the draw stays easy and the smoke comes with no effort whatsoever. The second third grew a little more complex, introducing some cinnamon and a little sweetness with the earlier grassy-spice, but the primary flavors remained constant. So did the burn — even, slow, and easy to maintain.

The final third intensified only a bit. The grass transformed into a woodsier flavor. The sweetness turned into more of a dark brown sugar. The tar around the end of the cigar collected and added a nice charred taste.

For now, it is unclear on where I can purchase this line. Hopefully, the day will come soon, because this was a delightfully easy and enjoyable smoke, with no frills but also no maintenance required. I could talk at length without worrying about tending to the burn or the heat of the cigar. Be on the lookout for the purple and gold gator when it comes your way. The product excuses the fedora on the packaging.

Update: You can pick one of these up directly from fertittacigars.com!

The Tatuaje Verocu: Firecrackers in the Fall

Read More

IMG_3165

Hey guys. Last week I wanted something new, so decided to visit our friends at Pipe World in Austin. Picked out the Tatuaje Verocu, a new Nicaraguan puro stick created at the My Father factory. Let’s get down to brass tacks.

I started at 9:30 in the evening. The summer heat is still around here so I’d poured a huge glass of sweet iced tea. Dark brown and oily, with a good give to it, Pipe World had taken good care of this cigar and I’d been excited to take it to the porch. I toasted it carefully and lit up, enjoying some red pepper and serious heat. The intensity of the heat surprised me – along with the pepper taste, a woodsy, almost charred flavor dominated this first third. Really a hell of a one-two punch, with not a lot of subtlety in between the woodsiness and spice. Along the second third, it mellowed out a little bit, lessening its intense profile but retaining the charred, nearly mesquite taste.

Despite this, the actual temperature of the smoke was not intense at all. I easily blew heavy plumes of smoke, and the draw and maintenance was quite easy. Unfortunately, though I had taken measured puffs, the Tatuaje Verocu went out just before the last third. I relit carefully, wanting to see if there was any nuance in that last bit. There may be in a less defective smoke – I doubt this is the wrapper’s fault. Could well have been a fluke. But as is usual with the tar collecting towards the last third, I didn’t perceive much taste beyond what I began with when I lit it.

The Tatuaje Verocu is a solid smoke, but without a lot of nuance. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a firecracker cigar to begin with, mellowing out just a smidge but remaining the equivalent of a delicious campfire. Normally, the lack of variety would disappoint me, but the Verocu is so direct and intense that I did not mind. A solid smoke from a great line – especially for the price point. Pick it up if you enjoy the smell of burning leaves and fields in the fall.

Stagg Jr.

Read More
Photo Credit: Buffalo Trace Distillery

 

Photo Credit: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Photo Credit: Buffalo Trace Distillery

In the world of bourbon, there are a few names that stand out above the crowd. One of those is George T. Stagg, a pioneer of whiskey who has been associated with some of the finest beverages conceived by man. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a bourbon bearing his name should be held to the highest standards of excellence. When I came across the Stagg Jr. by happenstance, I knew I’d have to put it to the test.

I began unwrapping the bourbon and pouring it neat. The nose was rich and sweet. Swirling it around the glass, it had a perfect amber color and lazily dripped down the edges.

I gave it a sip with no ice to get the pure flavor. I was immediately exposed to hearty cinnamon, brown butter, cloves and dried cherries. The flavors were not subtle, but were absolutely delicious. Still I prefer to take the edge off my whiskeys just a hair, so I dropped a large ice cube in and let it settle.

The ice did the trick, mellowing the Stagg Jr. just enough so that I could more comfortably explore its nuance. I was rewarded with a light caramel flavor that synthesized with the rest, binding them together and making the drink more silky in the process. It was an extremely pleasant experience.

The Stagg Jr. is not the easiest bourbon to find, but if you come across some I’d highly recommend picking up a bottle. I’ll make a brief note that after I drank mine I came across some other reviews stating that it was not particularly good. To each their own, but I’d say you’re missing out if you don’t at least give this one a try.

Cigar Review: The Yellow Rose of Texas

Read More

Yellow Rose of Texas

Hey guys,

Sometimes, when searching for the right product, you just have to own up to the fact that you’re a sucker for packaging. Brands exist to sell you something. As the customer who is in need of a cigar, or a new car, or a different kind of salad dressing because ranch is getting old, I am alright with this exchange. I only ask the marketers, the hacks, the boardrooms and the bullshitters do two things:

  1. refrain from cynicism or condescension in the delivery of your message, and
  2. have at least a little quality in your product to back up what might be stellar bows and ribbons.

That’s how I feel, anyway.

As a Texan, I am at particular risk of being pandered to by companies, organizations and other rackets. Citizens of the state have a peculiar amount and sort of pride (and for good reason). So, some marketers know how to play on our heartstrings. The H.E.B. grocery store chain down here does an excellent job of making their product Texas-specific (What’s up San Antonio?! Va Spurs Va!). So do the fast food chains like Whataburger, Dairy Queen, even though the connection can get pretty tenuous between our history as a republic and a Dude Chicken Sandwich (“That’s what I like about Texas!”)

So Crowned Heads put out this Yellow Rose of Texas line, which arrived in Texas stores only after the company put out the Tennessee Waltz and the Paniolo Especial (Hawaii). Didn’t know that the Yellow Rose was a part of a greater strategy at the time, but I doubt it would have made a difference. The Yellow Rose is both a popular song and motif in our state based (unfortunately) upon a minstrel song from the 1850s. It was brought into wider acceptance after Gene Autry revised the lyrics and transformed it into a cowboy campfire song in the 1930s. The song is playing during Rock Hudson’s diner fight in “Giant,” and Elvis famously covered it in “Viva Las Vegas.” It was a touchstone of LBJ’s vice presidential campaign in 1960, and it’s one of those songs that every Texas kid probably sings at at least one point in his or her life. Point being, there is a strong history behind the Yellow Rose of Texas. Did this Crowned Heads line live up to the legacy?

I’ll be honest and won’t B.S. you. I smoked this cigar a month and a half ago, took no notes, confident that the experience would leave its own mark upon my memory. I can’t remember much at all. I know that the wrapper was dark and promising; the band itself was a simple yellow ribbon, charming in its simplicity. I wondered if Crowned Heads drew upon some kind of influences or traditions regarding the kind of cigars original Texans smoked (the wrapper is a Connecticut broadleaf, with the filler and binders Nicaraguan.) The stick only comes in torpedo form, and the tapered end tends to lead to fraying, which I remember well. Maintenance was a pain. But the flavor? Whether it changed, tasted smoky, rich, flat or stale? Did it engage me, pull me in, affect my senses? Was there even a decent buzz? Did it taste, somehow, like Texas? I just couldn’t tell you. But I am $10 shorter a month and a half later.

Paired with: Mexican Coca Cola

Fall is Here: The CAO Pilon Delivers Us into Autumn

Read More

CAO PILON 2
I haven’t smoked a CAO in a long, long time. The brand used to remind me of my days at the humidor back in 2011, when the CAO Brazilia Gol! boxes sold heavily and the company seemed to double down on its sporty, vibrant image. Usually, I’m more attracted to the classics, and I’m a sucker for good packaging.

The CAO Pilon (“pillar”) has that classic vibe. The name itself suggests stability through the ages, and the packaging features an Old World font and vibe. I sat down with the Pilon several weeks ago, and can’t wait to continue smoking these as we move into the fall. I smoked the 5 x 52, or the Robusto, which came in a habano Ecuadorian wrapper, encasing Nicaraguan binder and filler leaves.

The first third contained some real sweet hay flavors with a little bit of cedar and allspice. It’s a perfect autumnal flavor. I don’t want to smoke a candle, but the flavors made for a light, aromatic, and relaxed smoke. After about fifteen minutes, the second third transformed into smokier spice, more powerful and bolder than what was hinted at in the beginning. The sweet, light hay also turned darker, resulting in a thicker, syrup sort of flavor that tasted a little like applejack or maple. This is how I imagine a cigar geek’s version of a pumpkin spice latte, even though there’s nothing that sweet in this smoke.

The final third of the cigar ended up being the darkest, as usually happens. The syrup from earlier developed into a strong maple flavor, and the sweetness was juxtaposed with very prominent spice. The entire stick smoked evenly with absolutely no maintenance needed. Even when it burned hot, it was so enjoyable that I smoked it until the end.

My only complaint with the Pilon was that it smoked a little tight – no Gandalf-level smoke production here. But that could have simply been the treatment of the cigar beforehand – the Pilon probably just needed a bit more drying out.

Looking forward to this CAO being a good go-to for the fall season. Let us know your favorite fall cigars. I paired this Pilon with a Dr. Pepper Ten, but we are looking forward to autumnal whiskey tastings soon as well. Enjoy!

Whiskey Wednesdays: Kings County Distillery

IMG_1634

Happy Wednesday Dear Readers!

In a slight change of pace, this week our subject is not a particular brew, but rather an entire distillery. Kings County Distillery (KCD) is THE oldest distillery in New York City. That being said, due to absurdly restrictive liquor laws that were just lifted at the beginning of the century, KCD has only been active since 2010. However, they make up for their relative newcoming by invoking the spirit of their surroundings – located in the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard, the amber product of KCD truly reflects the spirit of Monitor and Missouri.

IMG_1636

I had the privilege of touring this fine establishment on a sunny July afternoon, and it was a glorious setting for my first distillery trip north of the Mason-Dixon. Tucked away in a ramshackle industrial park near the Brooklyn Bridge, the red brick appeared as lost to the weeds as Yoda’s home on Dagobah, until I realized that instead of an overgrown green infestation, what surrounded their headquarters was a thriving urban garden complete with music, cornhole, and free ice cream. Lesson learned = looks can be deceiving.

IMG_1632

And what an applicable lesson for the rest of my day at KCD. Inside the 115-year old Navy Paymaster’s House, hosts a modern setup for blending some of the most delicious liquids in the Northeast. What’s this advanced scientific metric the distillery uses you ask? The human palate of course, and you can find the master mixers crafting their brews right in with the barrels; for us whiskey lovers, it’s as artful as being on the bridge at Giverny. Their products are conventional, but reflect courage and competence. KCD uses a good chunk of state-produced ingredients, and their bourbon, while not as complex as older (southern) varieties, is certainly smooth enough to be going on with. Kings County Distillery – come for the novelty, stay for the ambiance, and drink whiskey.

But as always, further research is needed…

IMG_1635