31 May 2009

BEER REVIEW: Dogfish Head - World-Wide Stout

Wow, clear the decks for action with this one. It is very strong, very complex, and dare I say - unique. Aside from being 18% ABV / 70 IBU (that's right I said 18% ABV so be prepared for a buzz), it is brewed with a very large amount of barley. Credit goes to Dogfish Head for continually pushing the limits. They originally released this one in 1999 but I first had it at a tasting event in 2009. It is very complex in aroma and taste with a very distinct roasted character, so much so that while this may sound funny to some, my first perception of its aroma was that it reminded me of smoked bacon.

Be advised, this beer is not for the faint of heart or casual connoisseur, the flavor is bold and there is a lot going on in there. Some people even find it a little difficult to finish a whole bottle, even though it is only a 12 ounce size. Dogfish describes it as being like a Port and recommends enjoying it from a snifter; I wouldn't really compare it to Port though as they tend to be on the sweeter side and that is not how I would describe this brew. Due to the high ABV you are going to pay a relatively high price per bottle but if you consider yourself a real connoisseur of the dark side, or just want to try something really different, give it a go.

30 May 2009

MAIL CALL: What Is Bourbon?

Bourbon is a uniquely American whiskey made from corn, its name coming from Bourbon County, Kentucky.  On 04 May 1964 the United States Congress recognized bourbon as being, "a distinctive product of the United States".  It is defined by the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, 27 CFR 5, which states that in order to be called bourbon it must:
  • Be made from at least 51% corn
  • Distilled to not more than 160 proof
  • Aged in new white oak barrels, the inside of which are charred
  • Not barreled at greater than 125 proof
  • Be aged at least two years in order to be called Straight Bourbon
  • If the age is displayed on the label, it must be the age of the youngest bourbon in the barrel (applies to mixed / batch bourbons)
As the bourbon ages, the barrel expands and contracts with the weather and the seasons causing the bourbon to move back and forth through the char and the wood.  This is where it obtains its flavor, aroma, and color, in return giving up the "angel's share."  As with all things, there are the good and the not so good but remember what I always say, taste is subjective.  Some bourbons are not aged for very long and mixed with several other barrels.  Others are blended in order to obtain a consistent flavor.  As you climb the quality ladder, you reach the small batch (only a few high quality bourbons blended to obtain certain characteristics) and ultimately the single barrel bourbons (one very high quality bourbon from one barrel only).  These are to be drank straight (neat is my preference), not mixed with anything else.

29 May 2009

BEER REVIEW: Mikkeller's - Black Hole Stout

I tried a new imperial stout today (new to me anyway), Black hole Stout brewed with coffee by the Danish brewery Mikkeller. It was very dark with a chocolaty-brown head and a very nice, sweet, malty nose. It had a very dominant bitter-chocolate taste that carried on throughout. After a few sips though, I did detect notes of black coffee. Eventually the bitterness might border on the overwhelming for some but if you are into craft beers, especially the dark side like me, its definitely worth trying. It is 13.1% ABV according to the label but I read a review that claimed it is actually 14%, but what's .9%??? The alcohol content was not at all overbearing though and I enjoyed this beer.

28 May 2009

BEER REVIEW: Avery Brewing Co. -The Czar Imperial Stout

For those of you who really enjoy an imperial stout, this is a great one. I recently had the opportunity to try THE CZAR Imperial Stout from the Avery Brewing Company. Right away you can see the pitch-black color which develops into a nice, thick brown head. Even when held up to a light, this brew could not be seen through. It has a very pleasant and complex nose with several different notes, some obvious, others you have to hunt for. I spent several minutes just enjoying the aroma. The central aroma that I detected was what I think is sweet molasses. The first sip did not disappoint, the flavor was complex and pleasant. Be advised, this a strong one, expect to feel a slight euphoria after drinking this one

23 May 2009


I took the opportunity today to try the next in the new XIKAR HC SERIES, the Criollo. It is made with a Nicaraguan Shade Grown Criollo wrapper, Nicaraguan Sun Grown Corojo binder, and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. It had a slightly toothy, attractive brown wrapper which I would put somewhere around a Colorado-Rosado with a very pleasant aroma. I made a punch cut and tested the draw which was excellent. Another easy light and even burn with nice smoke and ash color. The ash held on until approximately half way through again and fell off on its own with traces of the veins evident in the ash. The flavor started off smooth and progressed into a mild to medium spiciness throughout. All in all a consistent, enjoyable medium-bodied smoke.

Memorial Day

I wish all Americans a happy, healthy, and safe Memorial Day.  Regardless of your politics or other beliefs, please take a moment to reflect upon and appreciate all that it means to be an American and to remember that great men and women have and continue to sacrifice their lives upon the Alter of Freedom so that we can all be here today.

The Captain 

21 May 2009

CIGAR REVIEW - NEW RELEASE: New Cigar Line: Xikar- HC Series

I recently became the owner of the first box in the United States of a new line of cigars developed by XIKAR and Jesus Fuego. XIKAR (manufacturers of some of the finest luxury tobacco accoutrements on the market) and Jesus Fuego (world famous Master Blender) have combined their skill and “love of the leaf” to create a new line of cigars called the XIKAR HC SERIES (Havana Collection).
There are three different cigars in this collection to choose from; Connecticut Shade, Criollo, and Habano Colorado which are currently available in the following vitolas:
Lonsdale (6 x 46)
Robusto (5 x 50)
Belicoso (6 x 52)
Toro (6.5 x 52)
Churchill (7 x 48) Habano Colorado only
Petite Corona (4.5 x 44) Habano Colorado only
The topic of this review will be the Connecticut Shade. According to XIKAR, it took five years to achieve the final blend of this cigar, which is “slightly stronger than the average Connecticut Shade cigar, while staying true to the character of a Connecticut.” It is made with an Equadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper, Sumatran binder, and Mexican, Costa Rican, and Nicaraguan fillers.
The claro wrapper was very attractive with a smooth and silky feel and no visible flaws. The body was appropriately firm with no soft spots and a very pleasant, slightly sweet aroma. I made a straight cut using a pair of XIKAR scissors and then tested the draw, which was excellent. It was very obvious already that this was an exceptionally well-made cigar. No surprises there…
The cigar lit effortlessly and burned without any problems. I did not have to re-light or burn the wrapper a single time. It started off very smooth and left a pleasant taste on the lips. The smoke was attractive with a nice bluish-grey color. The ash, which had a nice color as well, was firm and dense and held on until the cigar was half-way through before falling off on its own, another indication of quality. These smoking qualities remained exceptional throughout; however, as it progressed it began to develop a sort of bitter, unpleasant taste, which hung in the middle of the tongue. This taste kept up completely through the finish and remained for approximately 30 – 45 minutes after I had finished smoking. This surprised me because XIKAR and Jesus Fuego equal high quality so other factors must be taken into account. Could that cigar have been a fluke; had I eaten or drank something earlier which either lingered or altered the pH in my mouth; was it the environment (I was in a cigar club where many people were all smoking different selections at the same time)? It required a second and a third smoke on different days under more controlled conditions.
The second and third time the bitter, unpleasant taste was not present but all the exceptional qualities were. Once again a smooth start followed by a creamy mouth-feel. Part way through some spiciness was detected on the back of the tongue. As the cigar progressed, there was a little more spiciness, which continued on to a slightly peppery finish.
As stated by XIKAR, it was a little stronger than what you would expect from a traditional Connecticut Shade but not at all in an unpleasant way. While it wasn’t exactly what I prefer, it is important to remember that taste is highly subjective. A friend of mine who is a highly respected tobacconist thought it was great. The quality of this cigar was undeniable and I look forward to smoking the Criollo and the Habano Colorado so stand by. Overall, I would say it was a mild to medium cigar and an enjoyable smoke.
I wish you Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
The Captain