What’s New In The Fire?

“Life is not tried it’s just merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire”20160416_232057_HDR

Yep, you guessed it; I just saw the legendary Garth Brooks, and what a night!  Over 3 1/2 hrs of standing and listening to music from my favorite country artist.  Many thanks to my wife for snagging some great seats.   Now I can die a happy man!!!

But that’s not the only thing that I’ve been passionate about since my last post.  Let me give you an update:

SCOBY – Yes my Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast is almost ready for the next step, and that step is Kombucha.  From a humble beginning(left)

scoby
Before

I am now the proud parent of my first SCOBY (right).

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Now

So today I’ll brew about a gallon of black tea, insert my SCOBY and put my concoction away for another couple of weeks.

These are the nervous moments that each parent faces where you must let go and trust that you’ve done the work to help your child survive and prosper in the “real world”.  Good luck SCOBY!  I look forward many years good results as you mature…

 

 

The Mushroom Harvest – After 8 days of watering and watching, I have mushrooms.   I was surprised at how easy, and fun, these were to grow.   I’ll be cooking with these tomorrow morning as I love to have mushrooms in my scrambled eggs.    I will definitely be adding mushrooms to my herb garden this year.  Yum!

Nice Pairing:  This “Sunday Funday” my buddy Steve and I paired a Rodrigo Boutique Blend G6 with a sip of Captain Morgan Private Stock.   Definitely a nice pairing.   The nuttiness of the G6 was nicely complemented by sweet rum characteristics of the Private Stock.    This combination I would happily recommend to anyone.   The G6 was a 6 x 60 that provided plenty of smoke and a smooth medium bodied flavor throughout.  There was a brief flavor change in the second third where a bit of cinnamon kicked in.    My only complaint was that it did get a bit hot as we smoked it close to the nub, but by that time (1 1/2 hrs) we were fully satisfied with the smoking experience.  Try it!

Until next time:   Live passionately in the Fire!

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Sorry but – MmmmWowPow!

So let me first start with an apology.   In my last post, I promised to talk about my personal whiskey tasting technique, but little did I know that I would stumble upon a cigar that would blow my socks off!!!   Sorry, but I just can’t wait to talk about it.

I’ve been hanging out lately at a new local cigar shop called Stogies, in Powell, Oh.  Hassan and Mike, the proprietors of Stogies have established a comfortable place to hang out, watch TV and20160311_074943_HDR of course, have a cigar.   Props to the folks at Stogies for quickly ramping up their inventory and offering one of the broadest selections of cigars in central Ohio.

During my Wednesday visit, I was in the mood to try something new, so after 15mins of looking, feeling and smelling their wonderful selection, I decided to go with the Ashton Aged Maduro.   MmmmWowPow!  Boy, I didn’t expect that…  This was hands down one of the best cigars that I’ve smoked in a long time.   Right out of the wrapper I was impressed with the flawless construction of this stick.  As I slid the cigar under my nose, the exquisite Maduro fermentation offered a comforting earthiness; Mmmm.     At 6″ x 50 (Toro), the cigar had a great hand feel.  Substantial, yet soft enough in the binder to allow for a comfortable, confident hold.

Now it was time for the lighting.   Wow, it was smooth and flavorful right from the first puff.  Leather, cocoa, earthy flavors abound.  Perfect burn with just the right amount of smoke, for nearly 2 hours this cigar kept me longing for the next puff.  Pow!

My Take:  This medium-bodied, full flavored cigar can be enjoyed by anyone.  It was an awesome flavor bomb, smooth on the retrohale and didn’t leave my head spinning as I left the shop.  There were a couple of subtle flavor changes in the second half, but it never strayed far from it’s Maduro origin.   My pairing for this smoke was black coffee, but I can’t wait to try another one with a nice Zaya or Sherry Cask Finished Whiskey.

At a price of $13.25, most new smokers may pass by the humidor bin, but if you’re wanting to experience something really special, grab one.   In short, I loved it!

Until next time, Smoke Passionately!

 

M.I.A.

Just a quick note to let you know that I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet.   I’ve actually been quite busy on a basement remodel project of our entertainment space.   As usual, my wife comes up with the ideas and I just make it happen.   In a nutshell, I’ve created a pallet wall behind our bar with shadow boxes made from wine crates, added a little lighting and a decorative fireplace unit and voila!   The next step is to finish painting the walls and new trim, replace the flooring and today, install a new projection unit and screen (105″) in the theater area (yay!). I’ll share more pics next week as the room starts to take shape.    It’s going to be a great entertainment space that we’re finally able to reclaim since our youngest child is off to college.

Of course, even though I’ve been busy with construction, I’ve still had some time to indulge in some sinful activities.  Here’s a brief rundown on what I’ve been drinking as well as initial thoughts.   I’ll give a review of most of these spirits at a later date:

  1. Watershed Bourbon – Much improved over original product.   Good neat or as a mixer.  I’ll purchase a bottle.
  2. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye – Very nice!  Good flavors with a nice warmth.  Drink it neat.   I bought a bottle while in Illinois.
  3. High West A Midwinters Nights Dram – Excellent!  Excellent!  My mother-in-law shipped me a bottle from Utah.   This immediately moved to my Top 5 list.  Neat only!
  4. Hochstadter’s Straight Rye Whiskey – Hmmm… Not for me.  Surprising since I really like their Lock Stock & Barrel product.

Tomorrow night it’s Steak and Stogie night at Woodland Cigar.  This time we’ll be enjoying cigars from Olivia and General Cigar, and of course Whiskey.  Always a fun time.   I’ll talk about that sinful event next time.

Till then, Drink Passionately!

Born in a Barn? No Foolin’!

20151121_133135[1]It’s 20 degrees outside, and the forecast is for up to 4 inches of snow tomorrow.  So as I typically the case in my evening routine, I went to my liquor cabinet for a little warmer-upper.   After a little pondering, I decided to commemorate this cold snap by picking something from Ohio’s own snow belt; you guessed it, Cleveland’s own Tom’s Foolery Rye Whiskey.

The distillation methods used by the folks at Tom’s Foolery are really quite interesting, using a grain to bottle approach that even includes the grinding of their grains.   But the real question is whether this whiskey provided the warmth that I was wanting?

Let’s check it out:

Visually, Tom’s Foolery Rye was packaged in a nice looking bottle with a 20160112_092916wax wrapped cork stopper.  The spirit itself although appearing rather thin in texture did leave some lingering legs on the glass.  With a color that was a soothing toasted golden brown, it created a mental image of a warm summers day as opposed to that of a cold winters evening.  But enough with the daydreaming, it was time to take a sip.

Hmmm, I have to say, the nose was somewhere between complex and unusual.  The nose led with a strong astringent, perhaps citrusy quality with a trailing sweetness that made me go hmmmm?

At first taste, I felt a tingle all throughout my mouth, once again rather unusual.  Finally, a  warmth settled into the back of my throat(there it is).  A mild harshness of ethanol was present, most likely a result of the youth of the product as well as the mash bill (70% rye – 30% malt) content.   I anticipated that the mouthfeel would settle down, but it never really did.  Yet, after each sip, I would be left with a sweet taste in my mouth and sometimes followed by an earthiness of an almost mushrooms-like quality.  Hmmmmm.

So I decided to try something a little out of the ordinary for me; I plopped in a sliver of an ice cube.   Sure enough, most of the burn and astringency went away.  Additionally, a hint of cinnamon and malt started to become present.  Ah ha!

My Take:  Although Tom’s Foolery is a relatively new operation, it utilizes some wonderful old-school techniques that speak to the passion of it’s owners, Tom, and Lianne Herbruck.  It’s obvious that Tom’s Foolery Rye Whiskey lacks the age that brings the fantastic character and definition to a whiskey, but I still found it to be very drinkable, and without a doubt, mix worthy.    At around $35 per bottle, it’s worth having one or two in my collection, in support of this passionate micro-distillery.   I look forward to keeping a close eye on the Tom’s Foolery products as they continue to age.

Drink Passionately!

Tom’s Foolery began as a hobby: a barn, a still, and a family with passion for quality and tradition.   Today, we make all our products the same way, by hand, just one-barrel-at-a-time.   Tom’s Foolery is a traditional American distillery where we make great products from scratch and share the experience with friends. “

Legs That Go On Forever

As Winter finally sets in, here in Ohio, after one of the warmest Decembers on record.  Unfortunately,  our ability to have that outdoor evening cigar and whiskey pairing become very limited.  So we’re forced to find comfortable venues for our pairing of sins.  However, even though last night my pairing process was a little disrupted, I was quite pleased with the result.

I started the evening with a visit to a local tobacconists, Stogies of Powell, (more about them on a later post) where I picked up one of my “go-to” cigars.  The Nat Sherman Timeless 652T.

This cigar is touted as Medium-Bodied and Medium Strength, which to me equates to an easy smoke, rich in flavor and a moderate to light amount of nicotine (buzz).    This Nicaraguan Puro (Wrapper, Binder, and Fillers are from Nicaraguan seed) is a great cigar for any occasion where you want a satisfying but not overpowering smoke.

NSherman-652So here’s how it smoked for me:

The box cut was very comfortable in the hand, and the torpedo head gave me plenty of space to make a cut for the most pleasurable draw.  The construction was flawless allowing for a nice even burn with no re-lights or trimming required.

Initial Nose: Smooth and moderately rich

Upon Lighting: Pepper and light spice for the first few puffs

1st 3rd: Smooths right out with almost a creamy smoothness.

2nd 3rd: Slight earthiness lends to a very satisfying experience

Final 3rd: Took it down to the nub.   Remained as smooth as the it was from the start even though I was burning my fingers.

Who should smoke this: The avid cigar smoker typically respects this cigar, yet it’s mild enough that even a novice would enjoy it.

Tonights Pairing:  As earlier stated, tonight’s pairing process was a little disrupted, and since I was soon to meet my wife at a nearby pub for dinner and drinks, I decided to respect my sobriety and pair the cigar with a black coffee,  To some this pairing might sound a bit strange.  If so, I highly recommend you try it.   If not, you understand that a cigar paired with black coffee is quite complementary.  But with fingers scorched from attempting to suck every last bit if goodness out the cigar, it was time to move to the next venue, Prohibition Gastro Lounge where I discovered the 2015 Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey.

As I often do with bartenders that I trust, I said to Hans (my main man at Prohibition), “give me a whiskey that you think is one of the best.”  Without hesitation, he grabbed a bottle of Thomas H. Handy from the top 20160106_172312shelf.  After a lengthy sniff, swirl, and a first sip, all I could say was “WOW – where have you been all my life”?   This limited edition whiskey honors Thomas H. Handy, the proprietor of the Sazarac House in New Orleans, who in the late 1800’s modified the traditional Sazerac cocktail by replacing the cognac with rye whiskey thus creating the first world famous rye cocktail (see recipe below).

This 126.9 proof gem is surprisingly light on the nose, offering slightly sweet yet spicy taste.   At this proof, it, of course, has warmth, however, the warmth just lingered at the back of my throat and never progressed from there.      Then after about 15 20160106_174702minutes of sipping, the glass was illuminated by the bar lights exposing Legs That Go On Forever.   Something more significant in the world of cognac or wines, these legs don’t effect the drinkability of the whiskey, but boy they looked sexy!

My Take:  The award winning 2015 Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey is a must try for those who really appreciate a great rye whiskey.  Novice whiskey drinkers should probably steer clear and save your money until your tastes adjust to the nature of high-proof whiskey, rye’s in particular.  College students, I know you like to feel “grown-up” but stick to Natty Light.  This is not a shooter and deserves the care and patience in drinking that Buffalo Trace put into its distillation.  I’ll, without a doubt, visit this wonderful whiskey again.

Until next time, Pair Sinfully!

The Sazerac Cocktail

Ingredients
2 Old Fashioned glasses
Ice cubes & cold water
2 oz. Rye whiskey
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 sugar cube or 1 tsp superfine sugar
Splash of absinthe or Herbsaint
Lemon twist

 

“Figgy Pudding” – Really???

Many of us love a good whiskey.  More of us are trying to find a good whiskey to love.  No matter which group you fall under, we’re all in search20160104_190107[1] of a whiskey with an interesting (if not complex) nose, tantalizing flavor,  desirable mouthfeel, the right amount of warmth and a finish that invites you back for more.    But with so many whiskeys and so little time (and money) to drink them, often we resort to one or more of the multitude of media forms to find reviews from the “experts”. I’ll be the first to admit that I spend a lot of time researching spirits and cigars depending on my trusted resources to “guide me into the light”.  In fact, maybe that’s why you’re reading this right now…

My question is: Are reviewers helping us make an informed whiskey purchase or are they just muddying the waters?

The other day I came across the following review of Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey in one of my trusted media sources, The Whiskey Wash.

Tasting Notes:

A medium burnt caramel color in the glass, Basil Hayden’s approximately eight years is apparent in its rich color.

Corn bread, menthol, and dark fruit hit first on the nose, followed by figgy pudding, stewed plums, and cinnamon, highlighting a very slight pepper and punch. A spiced, minty, delicate nose to be sure. Baking spice and Christmas scents are present, but do not overwhelm the light body.

The dram is silky, with roasted pear, baked walnut-stuffed apples, and baking spice warming the front of the palate. Neither corn, oak, or char pull Basil Hayden in one particular direction, making for an incredibly balanced drinking experience. A very soft, smooth mouth feel is rounded out by cinnamon and golden raisin. Both complex and balanced, the bourbon’s high rye mash bill doesn’t overwhelm it, rather making for a nuanced flavor profile.

The finish is vegetal, with celery and savory polenta present. A short, not too sweet finish. Again very soft and light.

Now I am in no way attempting to discredit the author, as it’s obvious that he has a pallet that far better trained than mine, but “figgy pudding” – REALLY?

I do pick up the menthol and a hint of sweetness on the nose, but after that, I’m out.   As I read further, I can’t shake this haunting vision of a concoction of mamma’s apple pie, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and catawba grape juice fermenting in a charred oak barrel, hidden in a forgotten corner of her dank basement.   Once I’ve finally dealt with that, where in the world did the vegetables come from?

In my humble opinion, Tasting notes like the ones from the article excerpt, are just too complicated for the average consumer.  In fact, I think the folks at Basil Hayden’s would agree as their own description of their bourbon is as follows:

Aroma – Spice, tea and a hint of peppermint

Taste -Spicy, peppery, honey, light-bodied, gentle bite

Finish – Dry, clean, brief

Ahhh, now I get it and you know what, it sounds like something I would like to drink!

To be frank, I will often enjoy a Basil Hayden’s when I’m in the mood for a lighter bodied bourbon option.   Although the reviewers description is a literary masterpiece, I personally think that the distillers description is spot-on, not to mention, all I really need to know.

 

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Love this pairing!
Finding your go-to whiskeys is a personal journey.   When you consider that the average person has close to 10,000 taste buds and 6 million olfactory receptors, it’s a miracle that any of us agree on what we smell or taste.  My suggestion, Try Lots of Whiskeys; Read the Tasting Notes on the Bottles, then Read Some Independent Reviews.  Now you’re ready to play the “Whats that Taste” game.

Drink Passionately!

In Search of Passion

passion

noun pas·sion \ˈpa-shən\

Simple Definition of passion

  • : a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something

  • : a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way

  • : a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone

Merriam-Webster online dictionary

I am not a whiskey aficionado but there’s no doubt that I’m a whiskey enthusiast.   Hardly a day goes by where I don’t enjoy a nightly dram, and oh how I do love a good whiskey.  Therefore, I can honestly say that I have a passion for whiskeys.

20160106_084351_Pano[1]
Upstairs liquor cabinet.

But is it possible to have more than one passion?   By definition, I see nothing that restricts the number of passions that you can have.  Heck, why have a limit on passions anyway.  That sounds boring… Thus my new blog is born which I’ve affectionately (or should I say passionately) named: Pairing of Two Sins.
Now do I really think drinking whiskey is sinful?  Well there’s no doubt that whiskey fall under the category of many vices that have led some people down a sinful path.  To be totally honest, I can think of a time or two when over indulgence of a vice has influenced me to perform some questionable actions.   Thankfully, my guardian angel has kept watch over me during these times, adjusting my course to one of minimal regret.

Is drinking whiskey a sin?  Well our state governments thinks so and has even put a price tag on it called a “Sin Tax”.   So, as my personal expression of solidarity with state imposed taxes on all things I enjoy, I’ll have to say yes! (besides if I said no I’d have to rename my blog)

So you may be wondering what I’m pairing with my first sin, well i20150611_202132t’s (drum roll…………………….) cigars!   No fair, you peeke20150424_200405[1]d.

Ahhh, it’s a good night when I can sit by the firepit with family and friends and enjoy a good cigar and a glencairn of whiskey.
So I hope you hang with me on this journey as I share my thoughts, feelings, desires and experiences with these (and other) sins.  I encourage your feedback as I open my liquor cabinets and humidors to you in hopes that you too indulge in and enjoy the Pairing of Two Sins.