21 December 2011

Notable Quote

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer."
- Frank Zappa, musician.

22 September 2011

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT: 2011 Honeygo Craft Beer Festival

If you enjoy real craft beer, good food, live music, and a fun social atmosphere then the Honeygo Craft Beer Festival is definitely for you.  I have been friends with the gang at Honeygo Wine & Spirits for a few years now and they are a great bunch.  Honeygo is a very beer-centric store and each year they hold a craft beer fest which has gotten bigger each time.  This year promises to be the best yet and will be held outdoors beneath a party tent because it continues to outgrow its venues.

Currently there are 17 breweries scheduled to attend and each are bringing whatever they want for your unlimited sampling pleasure, nearly all of which is going to be on tap.  Just remember to be responsible, it only takes one jerk to ruin everyones good time.  All the food you can eat will be provided by Liberatore's which is an upscale Italian restaurant known for their very good food.  The event will be held rain or shine at the Honeygo Village Center located at 5004 Honeygo Center Drive, Perry Hall, Maryland 21128 on Sunday, October 09, 2011 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Tickets are $30 in advance, designated driver tickets are $10 which covers all your food and soft drinks.  Proceeds from this event benefit the Saint Stephens School.

I realize that many of you who follow my site or the other websites and publications I write for are not from my area, but if you are in Maryland or the surrounding area I highly recommend you come.  I attend many of these types of events and I can say without hesitation that this is one of the best.  I look forward to it all year, it's always a great time.  For more information you can contact them at 410-529-5500 / www.honeygowines.com.  I hope to see you there, CHEERS!

23 August 2011

CIGAR REVIEW: Tatuaje - La Verite, Vintage 2008

Another fine cigar sent to me from Tobacconist University is the Tatuaje - La Verite, Vintage 2008.  La Verite, a 7 x 47 Churchill vitolla, is a Nicaraguan Habano puro made for Tatuaje by Jaime Garcia at My Father Cigars, S.A. with all of the tobacco coming from a single farm in Esteli, Nicaragua known as, "La Estrella" which means, "The Star."  Nicaraguan Habano is a traditional Cuban seed varietal popular for its individual traits as well as for hybridization.  According to Pete Johnson, owner of Tatuaje, when he tried the La Estrella crop of Nic-Habano which was grown in 2007 and harvested in 2008, he realized that it would be great to make a puro cigar from.  There is also a Vintage 2009 which is made with 45% Nicaraguan Habano, 40% criollo '98, and 15% pelo de oro.  These two can be differentiated by a 2008 or 2009 printed in the center of the band.  As of this writing, I have not smoked the Vintage 2009.

Pre-light inspection revealed a silky, slightly oily capa with decent teeth and a triple capped head.  Its color I place somewhere between colorado rosado and colorado maduro.  The aroma was of sweet tobacco with perhaps cedar notes and a somewhat lighter sweetness at the foot.  It squeezed well with no signs of flaws or defects.  I made a straight cut with a double guillotine and tested the draw which was good with slight resistance.  A buttery-like taste / sensation presented on the tip of my tongue at first but soon turned to a slight spice and after a few more test draws, a mild spiciness developed at the back of my throat.

The Verite lit easily and evenly with a soft flame lighter and had a smooth draw following which a mild to moderate spice developed along both sides of the tongue and in the back of the throat while a creaminess was present on other parts of the tongue and the roof of the mouth.  As it burned  it produced a very light gray, almost white ash with some darker highlights which dropped off between 1.25" to 1.5" in length.  About 3/4" in a mild spicy tingle developed in the center of the tongue and overall the first half remained a consistent, moderately spicy smoke.  As the second half progressed, the spice seemed to mellow a bit but remained the dominant trait without much complexity.  Even with the mellowing though, I wasn't able to retro-exhale throughout the entire smoke.  It continued to burn evenly and required no touch-ups or re-lights all the way to the nub.

No big surprise, another fine cigar from Tatuaje.  If you haven't had the opportunity to meet Pete Johnson yet, I can tell you that he is dedicated to his craft and takes pride in the cigars he puts out.  He spends a lot of time on the road at brick & mortar tobacconists meeting and greeting his customers and will take the time to speak with you.  That's how I met him some years ago.  I can't say that I know him, just that I met him and he didn't just shake hands and try to sell his product, he took the time to really speak with me about all manor of things.  If your local tobacconist is having a Tatuaje event and Pete is going to be there, I recommend you go.  You will probably walk out with a fist full of Tatuajes.  Also, if you enjoy a medium body, "Cuban style" cigar and are interested in trying the La Verite for yourself, and again I recommend you do, be aware that they are "strictly allocated to appointed authorized retailers only" so they won't be available everywhere.  I look forward to smoking the Vintage 2009 and comparing the two.

01 March 2011

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT: Maryland Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival


The 4th annual Maryland Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival is coming soon.  There were a few hick ups in getting it scheduled this year but everything seems to be squared away now.  Some friends and I go every year and it is always a great time.  There will be over 60 craft beers, 40 bourbons, and lots of good food.  Tickets are still on sale for both Friday evening, 18:00 - 22:00 and Saturday afternoon, 14:00 - 18:00 with VIP tickets still available that get you in at 12:00.  Unlike some festivals and tastings, there are no coupons or limits on what you can have, this is all you care to taste.  Just be responsible!  Check out their website at www.beerandbourbon.com.  By supporting these kinds of events, you help ensure their continued existence.

Hope to see you there.

CIGAR REVIEW: Casa Magna - Colorado

The latest of the cigars sent to me for review by Tobacconist University President Jorge Armenteros, is the Casa Magna - Colorado.  The vitolla he sent was the 5-1/2 x 52 robusto, which if it matters to you was voted the #1 cigar of 2008 by Cigar Aficionado.  The colorado robusto is the result of a joint effort by Manuel Quesada, who has been making cigars since 1974 (and whose family has been in the business since the 19th century I understand), and Nestor Plascencia, the largest grower of Nicaraguan tobacco and owner of the Segovia Cigar Factory in Esteli, Nicragua.  The colorado, so named for the color of its capa, is a Nicaraguan puro made from Nicaraguan grown - Cuban seed tobacco harvested from the Esteli and Jalapa growing regions, which is then rolled at Segovia and distributed in boxes of 27.  One of the most remarkable things about this cigar is not the great reviews or high marks it has received from others, but that it did so while costing around $6.00 each!  As someone who is always on the look-out for a great every day cigar, I was looking forward to smoking this one to say the least, so I settled back on the aft-deck and made the most of a sunny, mild, February afternoon.

The Casa Magna's pre-light inspection revealed a capa which I place at colorado rosado in color, deserving of its name.  It was slightly toothy, but flawless, which gave it a bit of a rugged look that I liked as well.  The squeeze was great with no soft or hard spots and was very firm all over, indicating a well packed cigar.  The foot was interesting with a visible swirl of light and dark tobaccos clearly visible in the bunch.  The pre-light aroma was dominated by sweet tobacco with maybe slightly earthy notes present as well.  Because of how well packed it was, I made a straight cut with a double-guillotine because using a punch-cutter on a cigar with a heavy bunch can make it difficult to draw and sometimes cause tarriness at the head.  After cutting, the cap held together perfectly without any fraying or annoying tobacco fragments which like to get into your mouth.  I then tested the pre-light draw which was firm and even and had what I though was a "hay-like" taste.

The Casa Magna lit evenly and easily with a soft-flame lighter and produced plenty of blue smoke from the draw.  As the first 1/3 progressed it produced a fairly dark grey ash which was crisp and strong.  I accidentally knocked a corner off early on and it still held on for almost 1-1/2 inches before finally dropping off.  I didn't detect any particular flavor notes in the first 1/3 other than that of full-bodied tobacco which was very consistent.  Around half-way a slight spicy tingle developed all around the tip of the tongue, which as I continued to smoke into the second half, moved to the sides.  Throughout the middle-third I thought I detected occasional ground coffee notes but couldn't be sure as they were very subtle and short-lived.  In the final 1/3 it seemed to have a slight astringent quality and perhaps some slight woody notes from time to time as well.  Throughout the entirety of the smoke, the burn remained even and consistent and needed no touch-ups or re-lights with the over-all flavor remaining very consistent, although it didn't lend itself to retro-exhalation.  If you read my reviews or study cigars you know that isn't a negative comment at all, it's just something I like to do to get the most out of any smoke.

How do I define an "every day cigar?"  Well, there are some cigars that are so complex and flavorful that when you smoke them you want to relax and enjoy every moment of the experience.  There are some you may reserve for only special occasions.  Then there are those that you want to be able to smoke whenever you feel like it.  Perhaps while working or golfing or while driving or maybe just when you can steal a peaceful moment.  For me at least, these cigars still have to be handmade, premium quality cigars but are such that they don't require my full time and attention and have a price that doesn't make me pause.  In a nutshell, it is a premium cigar that I can afford to smoke as I please.  For this review I smoked two on two different days and had the same results.  The Casa Magna was a pleasant smoke all the way through, had no problems, and was consistent from stem to stern.  I smoked them down to the nubs and they never built up any tar, began to fray, or developed any unpleasant taste.  The Casa Magna - Colorado is definitely going on my list of every day cigars.