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

Changes, Updates and Contest

When I started out doing this blog awhile back I really had no idea how I or the blog would be received. After all I am just a guy that enjoys cigars and decided to start doing reviews. Little did I know the response would be overwhelmingly positive and it has really taken off for me. I want to take a second to say “thank you” to all of you that follow me, share my reviews and my social media content etc. Without you, none of this takes place. To the cigar companies that have reached out to me, supported me and helped me along the way, it’s because of you that I do this. I am always amazed when I am contacted about doing feature pieces on a business or company or to do a review.

It has always, and will continue to be, my number one goal to provide my honest, PERSONAL opinion about a product. I am not going to absolutely love every single cigar I smoke. If that happens then you know this is all BS and it doesn’t matter. That said, I will never slander or destroy someones work simply because it wasn’t the cigar for me. I encourage anyone that read blogs, reviews, media releases, etc, to never fall into the trap of allowing ratings and popularity to guide your decision to try new cigars and products. What I have found is that what I don’t like, others may love. I would say that if you do base your decision on a cigar you read about here or other places, is to have the review at the ready when you smoke it and compare what is written to what you experience. From there you can quickly determine if your taste fall in line with the reviewer and you will know after a few times of doing this where to base your opinion. I have read reviews from people that have a huge following in the business and my palate and their’s are on totally different planets because I get nothing in the sense of what they are describing to me. Does that mean they are wrong? No, it means they experience things differently and that is what this is all about. So if you see a really high or not so high rating on a cigar, take the time to explore others thoughts and see why it is rated like it is, but above all, keep an open mind.

So with all of this said, I have been told that “success brings change” and that is certainly true. So it is time for some change here as well. In order for this blog to continue to grow and gain some traction in the realm of cigar reviews that matter, I feel it is only right to move towards a rating system. We all know that just about every site out there has a points or letter system assigned to a cigar review. I plan to move towards that as well but I am looking for some help. More to come on that later down the page.

I will be basing my review points on a number of things.

Appearance/Construction: The look and feel of the cigar. Wrapper quality, veins, seams, caps, artwork, etc. This is rated at a max of 15 points.

Performance: Draw, burn quality, is it too hot, does it burn to quick, does it require touch ups, etc. This is a big one for me because I don’t care how good a cigar is if I struggle to keep it lit, or if I have to suck my cheeks inside out to get anything from it. This is rated at a max of 30 points.

Flavor: Simple right? Not really. Liking the flavor of something or not is easy to say. But if we are being honest and fair shouldn’t there be more to it? Yes. Complexity of the blend, or not, consistency, transitions, huge swing in flavors, bitterness, does the blend flow well together, is it one dimensional, etc. This is rated at a max of 25 points.

Overall Experience: Summing all of this up into a total experience. Did I enjoy my time with this cigar? A lot of factors come into play with this one. I will always pair a first tie smoke/review with water so that it is a true reflection of the cigar itself and no outside influence. I have always done my reviews in a place where I am the only one smoking and it is not tainted my other lingering elements. For me, this is the truest representation of the product. Being in a lounge with other people smoking has effected my cigar experience before and you cannot be 100% truthful when you are reviewing a new stick and your buddy just lit up a Drew Estate Acid next to you. Let’s be honest here. While I absolutely love the aroma of said Acid cigar, it really takes over when I am trying to smoke a Padron 1964.

These point totals will add up to a total score with 100 being the highest obviously. Where I need your help is taking those point categories and pairing them in a way that continues with the Cigar Hawk theme. So basically, something that rates 1 97-100 is in a class on it’s own called “__________” and so on for the following:

100 – 97:

96 – 93:

92 – 87:

86 – 83:

82 or under:

Thinking Birds of Prey, or something around that thought process. Leave your comments and suggestions here and if I pick your suggestion, I will message you for your address.

I have some new companies reaching out to me so look forward to more things to get posted and reviewed soon. I have an event with the Master Steve Saka coming up this week that I am looking forward to, new reviews I am working on. A new pairing review coming up with the Protocol and Layne Coffee collaboration coming soon.

Again, Thanks to all of you for the continued support and following. I am open to new ideas, things you want to see, reviews you want to read, topics about cigars in general, topics outside of cigars, whatever. I am looking to start doing some joint reviews with a couple of people soon. We have discussed it a little but just haven’t really moved forward.

Don’t forget to drop your comments on the rating system here and social media. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses! Peace.

Aging Room Cigars… Solera

So today we take a look at a new cigar for me. I have seen Aging Room Cigars around different places but never really made it onto my radar. I’m not exactly sure why.

“We are not producing cigars for everyone.  We are introducing new blends for educated consumers that are looking for cigars with complexity and character.”

Rafael Nodal (Taken from the Aging Room Website)

The Solera method of aging has been used for centuries in the making of wine, sherry, rum and brandy.  Now, for the first time, we are using the Solera system by combining different vintages of tobacco at different stages of the aging process to obtain a fuller flavor and more complex cigar. (Credit AgingRoom.com)

Aging Room has taken the position on a full boutique blend company and when you learn more about them, they have some highly rated cigars in their portfolio. The Aging Room M356 was in the Top 25 Cigars in 2011 and the F55 Concerto was the Number 2 cigar in 2013 by Cigar Aficionado.

I picked up this cigar on the recommendation of my trusted friend Sean at Famous Smoke Shop. For $7.50 I figured why not. So let’s jump right in and see what we come up with.

Blend Profile:

Wrapper: Dominican Sun Grown

Filler: Dominican Habano

Binder: Dominican Habano

Size: Fantastico 5.6 x 54

Appearance: Medium brown with small veins and tight seams. This is a very full cigar with some weight to it. It is very firm with no soft spots. I am hoping it is not too full and leads to a split or crack in the wrapper. The 2 bright yellow bands really stand out. One covers most of the cigar with the word SOLERA running horizontal down the cigar. The second band has Aging Room on it. Open foot with a pigtail cap.

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Pre-Light: After removing the large band, I pick up notes of pepper, wood, and a unique sweetness that I cannot really pinpoint. The foot offers more of the same with a earthy, sweet, pepper and cedar. It is an interesting combination that is really intriguing. I hope I pick up some of these notes once I light it.

Cold Draw: I picked up notes of dry hay or straw, pepper and earth after using my V-cut to open the pigtail cap.

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First Third: I used a dual flame torch to kick things off because the wind is ridiculous today. Temps are great for early April in Pa and the sun is shining bright but the wind is crazy! Once I get things toasted nicely I pull in a nice open draw with a little bit of resistance and I get a citrus like bitterness mixed with strong cedar wood and a mix of what I can only describe as dried fruit and cocoa. This is a complex smoke. I am getting a lot of smoke off of this cigar. Every now and then I get brief hints of black pepper added to the mix. The ash is super flaky and is blowing all over everything. As I move more into the first inch or so, this is a good medium strength, complex cigar. A very nice smooth blend that keeps you coming back to it.

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Second Third: Making the transition into the half way mark I get more of a woodsy blend, cedar and maybe oak mixed with a sweet almost mocha like note. Unfortunately the wrapper did split on me but other than not looking great, it smoked just fine and burned with no issues. The flaky ash issue continued and with the wind it is swirling all around me. I wouldn’t want this happening in a social setting for sure but for me at home on my back deck, it’s not a big deal.

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Final Third: Moving in to the last third, I get more of a woodsy, charred, nutty blend. It is a different smoke that what I first started with but it has been an enjoyable, complex blend throughout. I am not a big fan of huge flavor changes or transitions but this one works. It has remained a medium strength stick throughout. The draw has remained open and produces a lot of smoke. The burn has been a bit off but with the winds we are having today, it is to be expected. No touch ups were really needed other than to straighten out what the wind is messing with even with a split wrapper.

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Final Thoughts: I really didn’t know what to expect from this cigar or Aging Room. It started out very sweet, borderline infused but not quite, then moved into a woodsy cedar and finished with a charred nutty blend. There is a subtle sweetness and some pepper that appear here and there. Overall this was a complex, enjoyable smoke. I had some wrapper issues and the flaky ash was a bit annoying but overall, I really liked this cigar. At the price point around $7.50, I would certainly smoke it again. I think it would be a great cigar for beginners to advanced smokers. It is mild enough but complex enough to hold your interest. This is a great morning cigar to pair with a cup of coffee or easy after dinner smoke.

Pairing: I paired this with water as always when I try a cigar for the first time. I am boring I know, but I do things the same way for a reason. It gives me the truest representation of the cigar as a stand alone without any foreign flavors added into the mix. I would pair this with coffee, red wine, and probably a easy sipping bourbon like Angels Envy Port or Rum blend.

I picked this one up at Famous Smoke Shop (https://www.famous-smoke.com)like I said. As always, my man Sean didn’t steer me wrong. The crew there take great care of me and know what I like. Tyler, Sean, Allie and Nicole are truly great at what they do. They are also great people so that always makes the experience fun.

I hoped you enjoyed the review. Feel free to drop some comments, thoughts, or your own review here. I love to hear what other people thought of it. Until next time, Long ashes and Full glasses friends. Peace!

“The purpose of this review is to provide a true, honest opinion based on my own experience. I am under no obligation to provide favorable feedback for this product and receive no compensation for doing so. This cigar was purchased by me, for my own enjoyment.”

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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Road trip…Nashville and Louisville

So Monday we returned home from a 1700 + mile road trip from Pa, to Nashville, Louisville and back with a stop at the legendary Leaf and Bean in Pittsburg. It was a quick trip but it was packed with things to do. After working all day Thursday we finally hit the road around 6 pm and drove all night and arrived in Nashville around 7 am. Just in time for breakfast and then a stop off at Crowned Heads headquarters to meet Jon Huber. Because of scheduling we couldn’t hang out for long but it was nice to finally meet the man behind some of my favorite cigars. I was able to score a new hoodie and a couple of great samplers! Next was a stop off at Smokers Abby to pick up some Crowned Heads Tennessee Waltz (FINALLY!!!!), the new Oscar Habano, and a couple of Viaje Honey and Hand Grenades. This is a great local shop with mainly boutique brands, a nice humidor and lounge. I highly recommend stopping in if you are in the area. After that it was full blown tourist mode. The Johnny Cash museum, all the bars and stores on Broadway, The Ryman Auditorium (incredible amount of history in that place and we also got to attend The Grand Ole Opry in the Ryman which was awesome), local bus tour of the area, Music Row and more. We found another local lounge called Primings Cigar Bar and Lounge. Another nice humidor, the best Old Fashion I have ever had, great bar, super friendly and attentive staff and a really nice house blend cigar. If you have never been to Nashville and you like country music or history I recommend taking a trip. I am not a new country music fan, personally I think this new bro country garbage has ruined the genre. I think much of the “talent” shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breathe as the true legends of the music. Moving on…

The Tennessee Waltz is a cigar that was made by Crowned Heads and sells exclusively in the companies home state (some online retailers do have them). If it reminds you of another cigar, it’s for good reason. Made in the My Father’s Cigar factory this cigar is 5 1/2 X 52 with a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and Nicaraguan fillers.

Right off the bat this cigar smells of barnyard (hay) with notes of cocoa and pepper. It is a very rustic looking stick with a dark brown color with lots of veins and the orange ribbon on the foot. As I light it, first with a match and then touched up with a dual torch, I am met with black pepper and a woodsy cedar (maybe) with some leather and nuts. As I moved towards the second third, the spice leveled off because of the sweet cocoa that appeared.

Into the second third and it moves into a cocoa and nuttiness.There is still some spice but its a nice combination. It isn’t super complex but the blend is very nice. The draw, ash, and smoke production are still great.

As I move into the final third, the spice makes a comeback but the woodsy, leather, earthy notes even it out nicely to finish out this cigar. It remains a solid medium bodied smoke for me. I have read reviews that stated it became tart or bitter into the last third. I did not experience that with this one.

Overall the Tennessee Waltz was a solid medium bodied, flavorful cigar with great construction, even burn, perfect draw, not super complex but consistent throughout the entire smoke. I enjoyed this cigar a lot and would recommend it to anyone. For me, it is a box worthy cigar and I will certainly smoke it again. Total time was right at 1 hour 40 minutes.

After Nashville we took the 2 hour drive to Louisville and stopped in at Four Roses Bourbon distillery for a tour and tasting and then over to Woodford Reserve for another tasting (we got there too late to tour). The next morning I realized that our hotel was literally a couple blocks from Angel’s Envy bourbon so we had to stop in. They recently re-opened their distillery and we didn’t have reservations for the tour but still scored a nice bottle and shirt. Overall I would say it was a busy, but very nice getaway. It helps that I came home with new cigars and 3 bottles of really nice bourbon.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my review. Please drop your comments and reviews here. Take a few minutes and click on the links below.

Up next, the Oscar goes to….. Check back and find out.

Peace!

Please visit: http://www.crownedheads.com/cigars/

http://smokersabbey.squarespace.com/

http://www.primingscigar.com/

 

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