Cigars or Bourbon? I say both!

If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go.

Mark Twain

My name is Bryan. Bourbon is just my thing.

State of distillation: Florida

Rick house: Tampa

Floor: 33614

Taste profile: Forward, a good kick in the mouth, with subtle hints of citrus, cut to the chase, and good laughs.

My name is Bryan Brantley. In 2016, my bourbon love affair began, or as some may call it, my date of distillation. Bourbon is unique as we all know, yet most of us didn’t start by drinking bourbon. We usually picked up another cheap spirit and called it a day. This is what makes bourbon so beautiful. We all end up here. Bourbon is meant to be a spirit we enjoy in brotherhood (or sisterhood – shoutout to the bourbon women!). Enter my goal: to bring more people together over this brown water that is so cherished.

As I embark on this blog journey I encourage all of you to try something new. After all, that is how it all begins. For those who may not be familiar, I will post weekly bourbon reviews and suggestions of what is available at different price ranges. Once a month I will dive into my favorite pour and smoke pairing during that time. I will also post pictures of what I find along the way.

I want to personally thank Scott for inviting me to join the Cigar Hawk blog. I am roughly a year into the cigar game but thoroughly enjoy my humidor being full. As the Hawk himself would say, “Long ashes, and full glasses!” Cheers everyone!

The tricky topic of “pairings”

One of the most common things I get asked when I ask about new content and things people would like to see more of is pairings. Cigars and spirits, cigars and wine, cigars and foods, etc. This is not only one of the most requested topics but it is by far the hardest topic to do. Simply by the sheer numbers of combinations that are available to us I would venture to say would be in the billions. Which, when you consider it, is a very good problem to have! If we only had 5 cigars and 10 spirits to pick from, it would be no problem.

I will be the first to admit that the topic is one that really appeals to me as I love to try new things but the overwhelming number of options make it a challenge I am not sure I want to tackle. Not only that, it is also highly subjective. Much like cigar reviews, it comes down to each individual. You may find certain flavors and notes that I simply just don’t get. Lord knows I read reviews and wonder what the hell is this person smoking because I have never gotten Lucky Charms Marshmellows covered in Dr. Pepper in my cigar profile…ever. Not even smoking an Acid.

My other thought about this topic is that I am honest enough to admit that my palate is not well rounded enough, IMO, to do the topic a lot of justice. Not saying that I wouldn’t be willing to give it a shot but just know that it may not be of much value. Again, a super subjective topic. I have done bourbon tastings and cigar tastings with friends and rarely to we all agree on the notes and flavors. While we may find some common undertones and primary notes, the subtle differences varies greatly across the group.

Another thing to consider with pairings is your own personal range and likes. As someone with a heavy palate that really enjoys medium rare steaks, red wine, bourbon and maduro cigars as my go to options I am going to have a real challenge doing pairings on things like Connecticut’s with white wine, beer or vodka. While those may make for some absolute dynamic pairings, I am not sure I would be able to enjoy them.

I have a ton of respect for people like James Brown of Black Label Trading Company and Black Works Studio that was heavy in the wine industry and has trained his palate as a sommelier. I believe this is what makes him so successful as a cigar blender. That is someone who I think would provide some serious pairing options because of his experience.

Another thing that plays a HUGE factor in creating perfect pairings has nothing at all to do with taste. It has everything to do with experiences. I can remember one of my most favorable pairings was something I rarely even drink and when I do, the first few sips are terrible. I was at a work conference in Scottsdale, AZ with my now current boss (we had just met for the first time) and he found out I was a cigar guy. He was a scotch guy. I am not. I am a bourbon fan but scotch has not been favorable to me. I gave him a cigar and he purchased us a Lagavulin. For those that know, or don’t, this is like drinking campfire smoke from the heavy peat. Drinking it now, it takes me a few sips to ease into it and I wonder what the hell was so different about it from what I remembered. What I remembered was that drink, in AZ, paired with a Padron 1964 maduro and the atmosphere and conversation was one of the best experiences I have had, making it one of the most memorable pairings in my recollection.

To sort of wrap this up a bit, my suggestion is to try different things, take notes on each. Write down pros/cons, likes/dislikes of the cigar you are smoking and whatever you are pairing it with. As you experiment I think you will find trends and patterns in the flavors and profiles of things you like and you don’t. If you have a cigar that you absolutely love and a wine or spirit that you absolutely love, try pairing them if you don’t already. I have done that in the past and have been really disappointed in the findings. Sometimes the flavor combinations actually overpower or work against each other. Once you have put together a solid list of 5 or so choices, switch them up. Try a cigar you had more pros than cons and pair them with a drink you maybe had more cons that pros and see if anything changes. It’s a super challenging and fun thing to do. Keep making tweaks and changes to your pairings until you lock one down that you absolutely enjoy. Then start all over. Lol. That is the game and that is what makes it such a fun and interesting topic, Variety is the spice of life and we are blessed to be able to sample so many different things. Stop smoking the same cigars you always have, stop being the “I’m a XYZ man/woman, I only drink this or smoke that”. Life is too short to be narrow minded. If you have some favorite pairings, please feel free to comment and share.

Thanks for reading and following. Make sure you share this article with friends and follow us on Social Media. Until next time, #LongAshesFullGlasses

Blanton's Black (Japan)

It’s Monday Hawks! We all know what that means! That’s right, an excuse to have a glass of whiskey and a fine smoke to help relax from the beginning of the week. This week we take a look at our second installment of the Blanton’s series. Today is all about taking it Japanese, with Blanton’s Black!

Blanton’s Black and Red are distilled in Kentucky with the rest of the Blanton’s labels, but only distributed to the Japanese market. Even in Japan these two are harder to find. I spent a whole week in Tokyo and was only able to find two bottles of the Black and none of the Red. I got lucky a couple of weeks ago and won a raffle for a bottle of the Red.

So let’s dive right in to this delicious bottle of rare and forbidden juice.

Blanton’s Black comes with a minimum of 8 years aged, unlike the regular Blanton’s the US gets. The regular Blanton’s doesn’t come with any kind of age statement, but it’s speculated that it’s 6 years minimum.

The mash bill on this bourbon is Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #2, which has the higher rye content. However, BT doesn’t disclose the exact mash bill.

ABV on this variation of Blanton’s is 80 proof. The Red is 93 proof, just like the original. The Black, however is slightly watered down to help bourbon drinkers that don’t want the heat of the higher proof pours.

The color of this fine juice is a golden dark brown.

This bourbon is not particularly expensive at about 30-40 dollars USD in Japan. However, on the secondary market these bottles are like gold. Running somewhere between 200-300 dollars.

The nose on this bourbon is stunning. Floral notes with cherry and apple on the front, with caramel, vanilla, and oak on the back end.

The taste is smooth. A very easy drinker. Little to no burn on the tongue. Fruit and sweet on the front of the tongue make way for the oak of the 8 year aged juice. The oak is not overpowering, but it’s definitely noticeable.

The finish on this bottle was medium at best. It doesn’t linger. It’s tasty and makes a great sipping drink.

My final thoughts on this bourbon are that it’s great! One of my favorites! However, for the price on the secondary, it’s just not worth it. If you happen to be in Japan and find it, buy a bunch. I personally wouldn’t pay what people are asking for this bottle.

An interesting side note- Blanton’s in the US and Japan comes in the standard 750ml bottles. Blanton’s released to European market only come in 700ml bottles.

Blanton’s Black (Japan)

It’s Monday Hawks! We all know what that means! That’s right, an excuse to have a glass of whiskey and a fine smoke to help relax from the beginning of the week. This week we take a look at our second installment of the Blanton’s series. Today is all about taking it Japanese, with Blanton’s Black!

Blanton’s Black and Red are distilled in Kentucky with the rest of the Blanton’s labels, but only distributed to the Japanese market. Even in Japan these two are harder to find. I spent a whole week in Tokyo and was only able to find two bottles of the Black and none of the Red. I got lucky a couple of weeks ago and won a raffle for a bottle of the Red.

So let’s dive right in to this delicious bottle of rare and forbidden juice.

Blanton’s Black comes with a minimum of 8 years aged, unlike the regular Blanton’s the US gets. The regular Blanton’s doesn’t come with any kind of age statement, but it’s speculated that it’s 6 years minimum.

The mash bill on this bourbon is Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #2, which has the higher rye content. However, BT doesn’t disclose the exact mash bill.

ABV on this variation of Blanton’s is 80 proof. The Red is 93 proof, just like the original. The Black, however is slightly watered down to help bourbon drinkers that don’t want the heat of the higher proof pours.

The color of this fine juice is a golden dark brown.

This bourbon is not particularly expensive at about 30-40 dollars USD in Japan. However, on the secondary market these bottles are like gold. Running somewhere between 200-300 dollars.

The nose on this bourbon is stunning. Floral notes with cherry and apple on the front, with caramel, vanilla, and oak on the back end.

The taste is smooth. A very easy drinker. Little to no burn on the tongue. Fruit and sweet on the front of the tongue make way for the oak of the 8 year aged juice. The oak is not overpowering, but it’s definitely noticeable.

The finish on this bottle was medium at best. It doesn’t linger. It’s tasty and makes a great sipping drink.

My final thoughts on this bourbon are that it’s great! One of my favorites! However, for the price on the secondary, it’s just not worth it. If you happen to be in Japan and find it, buy a bunch. I personally wouldn’t pay what people are asking for this bottle.

An interesting side note- Blanton’s in the US and Japan comes in the standard 750ml bottles. Blanton’s released to European market only come in 700ml bottles.

#Blantons #blantonsblack #japanese #bourbon #whiskey #Buffalotracedistillery #Traficante #spirits #cigarhawk

Blanton’s Single Barrel

It’s whiskey Wednesday Hawks, and boy I’m excited for this one. Starting today and for the next few weeks I will be reviewing the Blanton’s bourbon line. A little background on Blanton’s bourbon…It comes from the Buffalo Trace distillery and was made by Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee in honor of Colonel Albert B. Blanton, who was previously a Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace. We will start this week off with the original Blanton’s Single Barrel bourbon, and then continue with the Gold, Special Reserve, Black, and Straight From The Barrel editions. There are obviously a few of the releases that I have left out, however I still haven’t had the luxury of getting my hands on any of these. They include the, Red, Silver, and various France releases.

Each bottle of Blanton’s is noticeable from a distance, due to its grenade shaped bottle, and horse and jockey on top. Each of the toppers has become collectable in its own way, as each of them has a different letter on it that spells B-L-A-N-T-O-N-S once you’ve collected all of them. Specialty companies have even made topper displays, such as the one pictured.

The mash bill on this bourbon is Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #2, which has the higher rye content. However, BT doesn’t disclose the exact mash bill.

ABV on this variation of Blanton’s is 93 proof. More than enough to get the job done, if you know what I mean.

The color sits at a dark amber with hints of red and burgundy.

At 49 to 65 dollars a bottle, Blanton’s is not the cheapest pour on the shelf, but it’s not insane either. The biggest issue you will have with this bourbon is finding a bottle. Not even 10 years ago I remember going in the store outside of Fort Campbell and literally wiping dust off bottles of Blanton’s. You could have found it anywhere at any time. Fast forward to present day and the bourbon boom is in full swing. I have now only been able to find three bottles of regular Blanton’s in two years, and two of those were behind the counter and I had to ask. Thankfully I have built up somewhat of a relationship with my local ABC employees.

The nose on this bourbon is great and one of the best I’ve nosed. Notes of citrus, clove, nutmeg, all spice and raisin. The spicy smell from the rye is not extremely overpowering, but reminds me of the holidays.

The taste is similar to the nose. It’s well balanced with citrus, spice, and vanilla notes. There is a sweeter caramel and toffee taste on the front, and a spicy cinnamon taste on the back.

The finish on this bottle was medium to long. Oak, toasted marshmallow and nutmeg wrap this pour up in a nice package.

My final thoughts on this bourbon are that if you can find a bottle of Blanton’s, give it a try. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite bourbon, but it’s in my top 20 for sure. It’s definitely a great bourbon for parties and conversation starters. The bottle is cool, and I’ve seen a ton of crafty ways to reuse the bottles.

I didn’t require ice or water with this bourbon and tasted it using my Glencarin glass.

#Traficante #Blantons #Buffalotracedistillery #CigarHawkBrand #Zosworld #ZotheBourbonBro #whiskey #bourbon #singlebarrel #Whiskeywednesday

Blanton's Single Barrel

It’s whiskey Wednesday Hawks, and boy I’m excited for this one. Starting today and for the next few weeks I will be reviewing the Blanton’s bourbon line. A little background on Blanton’s bourbon…It comes from the Buffalo Trace distillery and was made by Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee in honor of Colonel Albert B. Blanton, who was previously a Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace. We will start this week off with the original Blanton’s Single Barrel bourbon, and then continue with the Gold, Special Reserve, Black, and Straight From The Barrel editions. There are obviously a few of the releases that I have left out, however I still haven’t had the luxury of getting my hands on any of these. They include the, Red, Silver, and various France releases.

Each bottle of Blanton’s is noticeable from a distance, due to its grenade shaped bottle, and horse and jockey on top. Each of the toppers has become collectable in its own way, as each of them has a different letter on it that spells B-L-A-N-T-O-N-S once you’ve collected all of them. Specialty companies have even made topper displays, such as the one pictured.

The mash bill on this bourbon is Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #2, which has the higher rye content. However, BT doesn’t disclose the exact mash bill.

ABV on this variation of Blanton’s is 93 proof. More than enough to get the job done, if you know what I mean.

The color sits at a dark amber with hints of red and burgundy.

At 49 to 65 dollars a bottle, Blanton’s is not the cheapest pour on the shelf, but it’s not insane either. The biggest issue you will have with this bourbon is finding a bottle. Not even 10 years ago I remember going in the store outside of Fort Campbell and literally wiping dust off bottles of Blanton’s. You could have found it anywhere at any time. Fast forward to present day and the bourbon boom is in full swing. I have now only been able to find three bottles of regular Blanton’s in two years, and two of those were behind the counter and I had to ask. Thankfully I have built up somewhat of a relationship with my local ABC employees.

The nose on this bourbon is great and one of the best I’ve nosed. Notes of citrus, clove, nutmeg, all spice and raisin. The spicy smell from the rye is not extremely overpowering, but reminds me of the holidays.

The taste is similar to the nose. It’s well balanced with citrus, spice, and vanilla notes. There is a sweeter caramel and toffee taste on the front, and a spicy cinnamon taste on the back.

The finish on this bottle was medium to long. Oak, toasted marshmallow and nutmeg wrap this pour up in a nice package.

My final thoughts on this bourbon are that if you can find a bottle of Blanton’s, give it a try. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite bourbon, but it’s in my top 20 for sure. It’s definitely a great bourbon for parties and conversation starters. The bottle is cool, and I’ve seen a ton of crafty ways to reuse the bottles.

I didn’t require ice or water with this bourbon and tasted it using my Glencarin glass.

Beginner Bourbon Series Part 3…Eagle Rare

Happy Whiskey Wednesday my smokey brothers and sisters of the leaf! As I post this I am getting ready to board a plane to Europe for mine and the wife’s belated honeymoon.

So in part 4 of our beginner’s bourbon series, we take a look at another one of my all time favorites. Eagle Rare!

Another masterpiece from the Buffalo Trace distillery, Eagle Rare not only offers an amazing tasting juice, but a pretty cool wine style bottle to go along with it.

Eagle Rare is a 10 year aged bourbon, that up until a few years ago was branded as a single barrel. However, with the increasing demand in good bourbon, Buffalo Trace was forced to go from hand bottling Eagle Rare to using a bottling system. Buffalo Trace had announced dropping the single barrel listing from the label due to the possibility that a bottle could technically get a drop or two from a different barrel.

Mash bill- 75% Corn, 10% Rye, 15% Malted Barley. It uses Buffalo Trace’s mash bill # 1, the same as Buffalo Trace bourbon.

ABV- 90 proof

Price- 28-36 dollars. 34.99 here in NC, but you can find the half gallon bottles for 60 and save a few bucks.

You just have to figure out where to store that beast.

Color- A honey amber color that looks as perfect as a color can get.

Nosing- I instantly pick up charred oak and citrus. As though someone was squeezing fresh tangerines right on the fire while the barrels were toasted. Upon my second nosing, I get hints of vanilla, and dark chocolate.

Taste- oaky, sweet, and very little spice. I tasted dried fruit and raisins. It’s not super complex and none of the flavors really “pop” out. Hints of caramel and marshmallow can also be detected.

Finish- I find the finish on Eagle Rare to be medium, even though most would say it’s short. Toasted toffee and cream come to mine while swirling this around on the tongue. For a 90 proof bourbon, there is very little burn or alcohol aftertaste.

Final Thoughts- I mean what can I say, I love the stuff. It’s one of my go to daily drinks. It won’t break the bank, and it’s easy on the palate. This was another one of the juices that got me to fall in love with bourbon. I never have less than three bottles of this in my home bar at any given time. This is also one I would highly recommend as a dessert bourbon.

Even though I used my Norlan to do the nosing and tasting, I took the pictures in my new rocks glasses that I had my family crest engraved on.

I didn’t add any water or ice to this bourbon, because it was already incredibly smooth and easy to drink.

Beginners Bourbon Series…Larceny

It’s Whiskey Wednesday my fellow hawks!

So my plan is to do a review every Wednesday (since I’m probably enjoying a drink myself).

I’m going to start with five of what I consider to be beginner bourbons. The ones you let your friends try when you’re trying to bring them to the dark side!

Remember hawks, enjoying bourbon is no different than enjoying cigars, it’s completely subjective. So what I smell or taste, may not be what you smell or taste.

Hopefully everyone enjoys the reviews

Larceny Bourbon review

Larceny is a 6-12 year, no age statement bourbon from Heaven Hill Distillery.

The mashbill- 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley

Price- 19-30 dollars, but I paid 24 in NC on sale (29 regular price)

Color- Honey/Light Carmel

Nosing- At first the nose on this heavy corn bourbon was nothing but alcohol. I have experienced this with other bourbons before, so I let this one set for about a minute. After letting it sit, I picked up all the typical bourbon smells of vanilla, caramel, and oak, but was able to pick up honey, cherries, and dried fruit.

Tasting- I really pick up the honey, corn, and sweet notes. It almost taste creamy, as the vanilla and caramel hits your tongue. The bourbon has very little spice and isn’t very complex. Very little heat or burn for a 92 proof whiskey.

Finish- creamy, sweet, almost a orange flavor, but doesn’t last very long.

Conclusion- This is by far my favorite bourbon to send new whiskey drinkers to. It’s soft, subtle, and won’t kill your tongue. It has tons of sweetness bc of the high corn and wheat content, which makes it a smooth drinker, at a great price point. Because it is not overly complex, beginners won’t have a hard time picking up the main flavors.

I didn’t see the need to try this one with a drop or two of water, or ice. It was smooth from start to finish without any assistance.

I did this review over two days. One without a cigar, and then today with a Foundry Time Flies. They paired nicely together, however the cigar did seem to over power the bourbon just a little.

** I want to thank my buddy Gonzo for doing this review. I look forward to more reviews as we expand on the content featured here. Please feel free to leave comments, questions and suggestions. Until next time…Long ashes and full glasses.

Changes on the way…Stay tuned

As we continue to expand and grow I have decided to bring on some help. If you are not yet a member of our Facebook group, hit us up and join the club. I will be bringing on reviews from other people to keep content coming. I am also working with a couple of people to bring in reviews of craft beer and spirits (mainly whiskey/bourbon). My goal is to bring as much content to you as possible and keep thing interesting.

If you have any suggestions on content you would like to see, please feel free to reach out here and let me know. I look forward to what’s next and I hope you will keep up the support.

Thanks for the support! Long ashes and full glasses friends!

A trip to the Amazon…

I saw the CAO Amazon Basin a few months back and I was super hesitant to pick one up. For me personally, CAO has been asleep at the wheel in terms of new blends and creations. They have some cigars that I enjoy but to truly say they have cigars that I just keep going back to, no. They have been in need of something new and different for some time in my opinion. Regardless, I did pick one up and had it in my humidor for probably 3 months or so now. I decided to review it today and I am regretting my previous decisions now.

Let’s take a look at the CAO Amazon Basin

Blend Profile:

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra

Binder: Nicaraguan

Filler: Brazilian  Amazon Braganca 40% and Nicaraguan

Size: 6 x 52 Toro

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This cigar is produced by CAO and General Cigar company and because this tobacco is very rare, it is only produced every 3 years. Only 5,000 lbs (roughly) of the Braganca tobacco was purchased so this is a very limited production cigar.

Appearance: This is a rugged, dark brown, oily, toothy cigar with nice veins and tight seams. It is bumpy in spots but is firm with no soft spots anywhere. There are braided strands of tobacco that form the “band” around the cigar. They are on there pretty tight so removing them may become a chore. This is a rustic looking stick with a lot of character.

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Pre-Light: I pick up notes of hay, earth, pepper, sweet cedar wood and dried fruit. From the foot I pick up hay, cedar, pepper and earth. Using a V-cutter, the cold draw is smooth with a little bit of resistance. I get notes of hay, slightly floral or grassy notes, leather, and a slight citrus twist. This is a really intriguing combo. Not what I expected.

1st Third: Using matches to kick things off and we are good and toasted, I get a flavor overload and I struggle to figure out what the hell is going on. So many different things hitting my taste buds from every angle. I can definitely pick out sweet cedar, mesquite wood, leather, cocoa, and a grassy maybe basil like spice undertone. As I get into it a bit further, I pick up coffee bean, a woodsy blend of different woods (mostly oak, cedar and mesquite), some citrus notes and earth. This is a super complex blend with a overload of combos. The draw is a little resistant but not bad, the burn is a bit wavy but of no concern. Lots of smoke coming off of this cigar. I am really blown away by the flavor combinations and complexity. Not at all what I expected. I want to put it down but struggle as I try unsuccessfully to pinpoint each different flavor.

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2nd Third: As I make the transition into the halfway mark, the blend changes a bit and I get more black pepper, some grassy notes, hay, earth and cedar. Still very good but not nearly as complex as it first started. It is a very intriguing blend profile and I am still trying to nail down certain things. The draw and burn remain the same. I did touch it up once mainly to straighten out the burn that got a bit out of line. It is very gusty outside today so that isn’t helping. The ash does not hold on past a half inch or so. The wind could be effecting it but twice it dropped on me pretty quickly.

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Final Third: Moving into the last third, things change up a bit again. There is a bit more spice and red pepper towards the back end. It is still very woodsy and notes of cocoa blend nicely with the wood and grassy notes. As I make my way towards the end of this cigar, I am deeply regretting not picking up more of these. 3 years is a long time for a new release and I could have used a box of these to get me through. I tried with no success to remove the braided tobacco band so I used a razor blade to cut through them and extend the life of this smoke a bit.

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Final Thoughts: I really had no expectations from this cigar going in. As stated, CAO has not really been on my radar over the past couple of years. I was hopefully but cautious and man was I shocked when I put flame to foot. The complexity of this cigar really blew my mind. I could not really pinpoint any one exact thing before another flavor begged for attention. I would have loved for the profile of the first third to carry through the entire cigar as it was my favorite third but the rest was solid. I was not disappointed by this cigar at all. As stated I am on the hunt for more so if anyone comes across some they want to part with or let me know, I would appreciate it greatly.

I forgot to mention in the review but this was a solid medium strength, full flavored cigar. It was smooth, flavorful, performed well and at the end I was left wanting more. You can never go wrong with that. I would certainly smoke more if I can get my hands on them. If you can find them, grab em!

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Pairing and time: As always, when I try a cigar for the first time I always drink water. I would pair this cigar with a bourbon, or scotch. The woodsy profile would really compliment the wood in a bourbon like Woodford Reserve. I would be very interested in pairing this with a nice glass of Lagavulin. Total time with this stick was right over 2 hours.

So there you have it. I wish I had done this review sooner and grabbed more. Keep this one on your radar for the next release. If they keep things the same or close, I will grab a box for sure. I am always open to donations or trades if you find some. Lol.

Working on something Warped and an interview with a beautiful SOTL that will be released soon. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace!

Mixing pleasure with business…Arizona

So I had the opportunity this week to travel to Phoenix/Scottsdale to speak and be part of a panel at a work conference. It was a really nice honor to be selected and after a long day of travel, I arrived in paradise. I was fortunate enough for my wife to travel and meet me there and combine some vacation days in after the conference. Coming from Pa and getting to Az after the cold we have been having was certainly a blessing. Being from the south, I am a lot more partial to warm than cold.

I arrived at the airport Tuesday (3 hour time difference made for a long day) and my wife instructed me to meet her at the rental car center. Off to the shuttle I go to arrive to a bright red, Camaro convertible SS with 4k miles! Now I would never own this car, but as a rental for the week in the desert, oh hell yes I will! Off to the JW Marriot to check into our room. This place is simply majestic. Set at the foot of the mountains, this is an oasis of scenery and upscale living. This was proven later with the clientele for the restaurant and seeing the exotic car show in the parking lot. Super friendly staff, super clean and the food was great.

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Being a cigar guy obviously high on my priority of things to see and do was to visit local shops. Unfortunately for me, that didn’t work out exactly like I planned but…I did bring cigars and I did get to visit 2 local spots. Smoke and Joe (cigars and coffee, well done) and Ford on Fifth. For those of you that are on Instagram and Twitter you probably know FTB_Melanie and FTB_Anthony Cantelmo, Ford on Fifth is their shop. More to come on that.

After a successful conference on Wed and a wonderful fully catered dinner in the garden, I found a fellow cigar aficionado and he presented me with the offer of, you bring the cigars and I will buy the drinks. You sir have a deal! I enjoyed a Padron 1926 Maduro and a nice bourbon and he a Balmoral Anejo XO and scotch. After trying the Lagavulin he was having, I decided I needed to have some of that as well. That was my first time with that and I was not disappointed. Super smokey and a great pairing with the Padron I was having.

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Thursday was an early start and 5 hour drive up to Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ. WOW! I can’t begin to describe in words how breathtaking the scenery was there. Pics are nice but can’t even come close to the real life experience. After a long day of hiking, tours and moments of deep thought, we drove the 5 hours back, convertible top down, music cranked and cruising through some beautiful desert landscape.

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Friday was open to whatever so we went to some local spots to sight-see and do the tourist thing. As we were driving, my wonderful wife noticed Smoke and Joe and asked if I wanted to stop, I almost flipped the car doing a u turn to get there. Lol. Ok Not really but yes I did indeed want to stop. What a cool place. I should have gotten pictures but with jet lagged, time change, busy schedule and overall drag assing that was going on, I just wanted to smoke. My wife was kind enough to replace my Padron 1926 Maduro and bought me 2 house blends and the Full Metal Jacket cigar. Got to love it when the wife takes such great care of you! We sat outside and I enjoyed a L’atelier Limited Edition while talking with the owner for a few minutes. He is a pilot with Southwest and opened the cigar lounge. Nice selection, the lady at the counter was super friendly, the private lounge seemed very nice and the coffee bar was a nice touch.

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After that nice break, it was off to do some more sightseeing and photos. We found ourselves near Ford on Fifth so I decided to stop in and see if Anthony was around. He was not so I was a little bummed about that but no fear, the guy working at the time (I did not catch his name) was more than helpful in pointing me to the long time eluded Deliverance Nocturne that I have been searching for. Score! I picked up some of those and a Mi Querida from Steve Saka and Dunbarton Tobacco. Steve was there on Tuesday night and unfortunately I missed him. I hoped to make it back later that evening to have a smoke but that didn’t play out. Ford on Fifth has some history behind it and has a small lounge and a nice humidor with a nice selection and a outdoor sitting area in the front.

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We headed out to our next adventure which was a sunset electric bike tour through the desert. What a cool concept and oh what a trip! The trails were a fun challenge, the views were terrific, the knowledge about the plants, desert, area etc was super interesting. A side from a brief encounter with a very large and very pissed off rattlesnake, we had a great trip. I highly recommend taking the tour if you ever visit. Hit me up and I will get you the info. Our tour guide was great and did a great job of getting video and photos on top of a great tour.

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We tried out a place called the Wild Thaiger we saw on Diners, Drivein’s and Dives for dinner. Very good Thai food and worth checking out. After a full week and an early start on Saturday of travel, sadly it was time to put Az behind us for now.

I say for now because my wife and I truly fell in love with the state. It is certainly on the top of our list for places to move. If I can make that work in the future, I certainly will do so. Until then, we will have to rely on photos and memories. If you have never been there, I highly recommend it. I know this isn’t that much about cigars but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. Feel free to drop comments or suggestions.

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Its not a cigar…its a 1502. Blue Sapphire review

“Global Premium Cigars is a tobacco company Proudly Nicaraguan, which owns the most renown and prestigious brand 1502. Truly a Nicaraguan treasure.

In our Premium brand 1502, you will find three tobacco lines with the highest quality, where the sowing process, harvest, curing, aging and selection of each tobacco leaf is our major concern. It takes more than five years from the time of its sowing until the time you can enjoy one of our fine cigars; this is why patience is one of our greatest virtues in the art of tobacco production.

In our brand 1502, you will find three lines totally different from each other, being 1502 Emerald the “Fina Fuerte” (Fine Strong), 1502 Ruby of medium strength and 1502 Black Gold with strongest character. Three spectacular bindings that exclaim the Nicaraguan flavor, which will delight at all times and will make an unforgettable experience. So Why 1502? When Christopher Columbus discovered Nicaragua in 1502, he not only discovered a paradise land where natives with their rich cultures lived, he also discovered a new world full of riches.”  (Taken from their website.)

I was unfamiliar with 1502 in the sense that I had not tried any of their cigars until the past few months. I purchased the Emerald, Rudy, Black Gold, and Blue Sapphire. I tried all of them with the exception of the Blue Sapphire in a short amount of time and I can say that 1502 makes a great cigar.

I let the Sapphire age a few months in the humidor and I finally decided it was time. Looking at it, it is a beautifully constructed cigar that is completely Nicaraguan. Wrapper, Binder and Filler are all Nicaraguan which I found very intriguing. Unlike the other 1502’s the Blue Sapphire is not a box pressed stick.  It is a 6×52 Toro Gordo and retails for around $13. It is nice dark brown which really makes the beautiful blue and silver band stand out. There are some medium veins and I pick up faint notes of earth, straw and cocoa from the foot.

I decided to try a new cut with this one. I used a v-cutter and made 2 cuts making the X cut. It worked out well and the draw was open with a touch of resistance. The cold draw produces notes of earth and cocoa. I used a match to start and touched it up with a dual flame torch.

The first draw provided woodsy, earthy and cocoa notes. I picked up a little pepper but overall the flavor was nice and medium in strength. As I moved into it a bit, the wood and pepper picked up a bit and made for a nice mixture. This wasn’t something I picked up on the cold draw so it was a nice surprise.The burn line was uneven in places but evened out in time and the ash held for about 1 inch but was prone to dropping off without much notice.

As I moved into the second third, it was very much consistent with the first third of this cigar. The burn and draw were great. Moving into the final third, the flavor really revealed itself.

The final third produced a combination of woods (maybe cedar and oak) with a nice pepper, earth, and a subtle cocoa. The pepper and wood really take over through the final third making this more of a medium-full strength.  As I closed in on the 1 hour 50 minute mark, this cigar ends with a nice woodsy cedar, cocoa and pepper. 20161218_151829-011

Overall this was not a very complex blend with a ton of crazy changing flavor profiles as you transition from third to third. It stays relatively consistent with some subtle back and forth from the cedar/oak taking the forefront to the cocoa/earth moving up with a subtle pepper in the background. I thought it was a solid cigar with a nice flavor and a medium to medium-full strength. I would smoke this cigar again. The price point of this cigar makes it hard to be a box worthy or rotational cigar for me. I think beginners could transition into this cigar pretty easily and more experienced smokers would enjoy it for what it is. A medium to medium-full Nicaraguan cigar.

I paired this cigar with water for the first half and Angels Envy bourbon for the final third which really brought out the pepper in the bourbon and the cigar. As a fan of spice, I enjoyed the pairing.

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As the man Enrique Sánchez says, “Relax and Enjoy” this cigar and let me know what you think. Drop your comments, reviews and thoughts here. Be sure to follow us here and on social media. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses. Peace.

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