Cigar Fashion Blog

Fri

24

Mar

2017

Are You A Serious Cigar Smoker?

For the serious smoker only
Smoke And Ash Cigar Shirt Pockets

By BillieBLVD 

 

Can you be a serious cigar smoker if you don't have a humidor (exceptions will be made for those that cannot yet afford one)? Furthermore what about a lighter or cutter? In other words, if you are serious about cigars you are also serious about tools and accessories.  Your humidor must be maintained at the right temperature and humidity. You lighter must use a high quality butane to prevent bad taste and light the cigar properly.  The cutter must be sharp or the head of the cigar could be ruined and diminish the draw.  The accessories of a cigar smoker reflect our passion for the leaf and now the same applies to fashion.  

 

If you are a serious cigar smoker you need a Leaf&Barrel cigar shirt. Are you still carrying your cigars in a zip lock bag, two finger, or herf?  Are you also carrying a wallet, car keys, mobile phone, bill fold, lighter, and cutter?  That's a bit much. 

 

You can do better!

 

Where there is passion there is fashion and the most passionate people that I know are cigar smokers. Much like sport enthusiasts that don the clothing of their favorite teams and bikers that wear biker gear while riding, cigar smokers now have fashion made to enhance the cigar smoking experience.  

 

Leave the zip lock bag at home, walk into the lounge wearing your Leaf&Barrel cigar shirt, select one of the cigars and enjoy.  The pockets are designed with individual slots that prevent the cigars from rubbing against each other.  Their also made with fabric that does not breath which will keep your cigars fresh and there's a front pocket to hold your cedar spills.  

 

This is a shirt made for smoking!

 

**All Leaf&Barrel shirts made in America from Japanese woven cotton.  

 

BillieBLVD for www.leaf-and-barrel.com 

 

 

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Mon

20

Mar

2017

Why We Love Cigars

BillieBLVD Smoking A Partagas Serie D in Tokyo
BillieBLVD Smoking A Partagas Serie D in Tokyo

By BillieBLVD 

 

So I took the democratic (small D) route and decided to open up a Facebook discussion on we we love cigars.  I stated clearly that I would also post the responses that I thought were the the best (all below).  I will limit the posts to 25 but before that I want to lay out why I love cigars.

 

Firstly, there is no one single reason thus it's more like a confluence of reasons, here are a few. I like cigars because of all the effort that goes into the production process.  Its extremely extensive while I could rattle off an array of integral processes I will leave it to you to investigate.  Secondly, I love the flavors and the complexity of cigars.  An elite cigar will always taste good, it will also have to burn and draw well but the real designation of an elite cigar will come from its complexity.  Complexity, which is defined by subtle flavor profile changes from the first to the last third, completely transform the experience.  Lastly, I love cigars because of how they relax me.  I call it smoking the moment. Without further ado here 25 comments I thought were pretty dam good.

John Dodge For the peace the prosperity and the genuine relaxation that they bring to my life

 

Sean Taugher I love the fact that a lawyer, and a gas station attendant can smoke together and find common ground.

 

Cowboy-michael Mayer Smoking a cigar takes me away from everyday life and cigar smoking brings people together I just love cigars

 

David Harper A stick forces relaxation, reflection and at the same time is both visual art and art for the palate.

 

Don Diego The unexplainable bond that draws men and women together from every walk of life where - if just for an hour or two - we can put the troubles and worries of the world at bay while giving ourselves a level of indulgence and luxury that is nearly impossible to recreate

 

Kevin Flowers Because smoking cigars is fly, and I do fly shit!

 

Ronald McCoy when you indulge in a great stick, and dram.....no matter what all is going on in your life, nothing matters for that hour, or hour and a half your enjoying your treat. Genuine relaxtion, that many enjoy, and many don't get.

 

Maria Warren It's a meditation that drives straight down to a change on the spiritual level that I can best described as Euphoria.

 

Rob Lofton Cigar smoking unites generations and transcends time.From The pauper to the prince the time smoking a cigar is the same incredible

 

L Nathaniel Harris Because it relaxes me when I need yo relieve stress. Plus it is all natural!

 

Ylka Renee Morales Smoking a cigar for me is the best short term remedy for relieving stress. From the first moment your buds get a taste of that pure tobacco, your brain releases endorphins throughout the body that act like a natural opioid high which instantly relaxes the mood. Over the years,, with each cigar, I have become addicted to continuing to seek a better high than before.

 

Grayson Malone It's my moment of solitude when I need to escape from the same hum drum of life. Ron Perlman said it best. "Some people meditate I smoke cigars"

 

Puro Pete Smoking a cigar brings people together. We don't focus on race, political views, or personal opinions. All we focus on is that cigar and the fellowship that comes with it.

 

Ski Wyro As Rudyard Kipling said, "A woman is a woman but a cigar is a damn good smoke."

 

Lenessa Terry It's one of the only things that can hold my attention longer than an hour and provide a sense of relaxation at the same time. I enjoy the smell, the taste, the process and the element of fellowship a cigar can bring in a diverse social environment.

 

Erjan J Fortson We love cigars because psychotherapy is far too expensive.

 

Jacob Ontiveros The best thing about a cigar is the journey. We all start as a novice and perfect our palettes and attention to details. What atmosphere we prefer to what spirit we enjoy to pair. From the master who selects and blends the perfect tobaccos, and the artisan who rolls each fine stick. It can be that no matter where we are what we are doing. When we light up, we are all interconnected and part of the same small and proud community. When we smoke be that alone or with great company we can loose ourselves. Drift afar deep into pure thought and imagination. To a place of bliss and pure inspiration. In today's fast paced world moments like this are few and fleeting.

 

Jessica Hutson Cigars do two things for me. 1. They are mediation. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat until calm. 2. Forced social interaction. Turn off the TV and light a cigar. You are guaranteed a period of conversation or comfortable silence.

 

Ty Johnson It's a Melo feeling, almost like serenity. A cigar with a glass of cognac what's that saying it doesn't get any better than rhis.

 

Kevin Atwood The truth is nothing is more relaxing then sitting back, relaxing with your thoughts and smoking a good cigar. The whole experience from selecting the cigar for your mood, the cut, the light and then the first draw. It allows you to simplify everything and slow down for that simple moment in a world that moves too fast.

 

Taven Johnson When I first started in this business I asked my grandfather what defines a great cigar and he told me that a cigar is not only a true handcrafted artisan product but one of the last remaining affordable luxuries available. That a single Cigar is touched by over 300 individual skilled craftsmen (on average) as each cigar goes thru an intensive 12 to 18 step totally handmade process completely natural & 100% agricultural/horticultural in nature all while being totally dependent on the climate and weather conditions each year. That it can take as long as 3 to 5 years to make a super premium A grade cigar, however when it reaches America the average retail price is normally only $5 to $12 a piece. With Even the super exquisite rare and hard to find a limited editions not being much over $30 in most cases. So for something that touches all five senses; the look, the touch, the taste, the feel, the aroma and the great conversations you hear and have while smoking a cigar, makes Cigars truly one of the last affordable luxuries and it brings people of all ethnicities, races, and creeds together in the enjoyment and fellowship of a great smoke. The cigars listed below in our portfolio that we are blessed and honored enough to represent are the epitome and true definition of great cigars and legendary manufacturers. please let us know if we can serve you in anyway it is our great privilege and pleasure to do so thank you all for your continued support.

 

Adrian Spath I was 20 years old when I smoked my first cigar. In the Army and stationed in Panama. They called me "Boy Scout" because I didn't swear, drink, smoke, or chase women. After a serous military engagement (all I can say) I was not that "clean cut midwest boy" anymore. I was on the beach trying to wrap my head around what I'd done and seen. An old man was selling cigars on the beach, and I decided to try one. I told the man I'd never smoked before and he handed me a mild Cuban Special and a box of wooden matches. I went down to the beach and smoked that cigar and watched the sunset on the ocean. Smoking that cigar I could feel a wave of calm come over me. That night, that beach, and that cigar (along with a bottle of rum) represents a "pivot point" in my life. Even all these years later, when I smoke a mild and sweet cigar, sometimes that memory returns and I am that 20 year old corporal sitting on a rock on the beach in Panama.

 

Shawana Isaac One of the best things about a cigar is that moment. My appreciation requires me to be fully present in that moment; a "stop and smell the roses" experience.

 

Robyn Parsons It brings people of all race and class together as one brotherhood/sisterhood under one affordable pleasure, hobby, luxury... even if for just an hour we come together to clear our minds, inspire conversations, and enjoy simplicity of an otherwise complex handcrafted cigar.

 

William Lopez Guevara Cigars connect us to the earth, they embrace us to the people who labor them and they create indelible experiences with love ones and help us make new friends.

 

 

BillieBLVD for www.leaf-and-barrel.com 

 

 

1 Comments

Thu

16

Mar

2017

Cigar Lounge Arguments

Conversations and arguments while smoking a cigar
Conversations and arguments while smoking a cigar

By BillieBLVD 

 

I love cigars. and I love to argue; therefore, I love to argue while smoking a cigar.  I am not referring to raising my voice or anything remotely hostile but something more akin to a simple verbal exchange of opposing positions which in many cases is a positive learning experience.  However, there are instances where people are arguing for a point of view that they have absorbed from a source they have selected that agrees with their preexisting perspective.  In other words, many of us are looking for information to back up our bullshit. 

 

Often when I am about to engage in a debate at the cigar lounge I will ask my protagonist if he or she has considered the possibility of being wrong.  If yes, I like to ask for a list of scenarios whereby you can you be proved wrong.  In other words, what fundamental variable[s] in your logical equation cannot be removed if your argument is to remain true.  This is not a trick or some attempt to off put my nemesis instead it serves to establish rules and remind us of our imperfection that we may be incorrect or that this may be a teachable moment.

 

The most mind blowing experiences for me have been the moments where I had to acknowledge that my most strongly held beliefs are inconsistent with reality.  The daylight between perception and reality should be narrow and the more narrow the more anchored we are in objective truth.  I am willing to hear any perspective but I grow weary of any statement or position based on bullshit with no appreciation for the fundamentals of reason.

 

So the next time that you are enjoying a glass of whiskey or smoking a cigar with a worthy arguer be sure to ask him/her how can you be proven wrong or have you studied any arguments against your position.  If the answer is no then just walk away.  You are engaging in an argument with an idiot.  I will conclude with the following arguements; flavored cigars are shit, R Kelly is a pedofile, Trump is a demogue, the Earth is not flat, and Wu Tang Clan ain't nothing to fuck with.  I will argue these points till the cows come home. 

 

 

BillieBLVD for www.leaf-and-barrel.com 

 

 

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Tue

14

Mar

2017

Cigar Smoker's Equality

Diverse Gentlemen Smoking A Cigar
Diverse Gentlemen Smoking A Cigar

By BillieBLVD 

 

 

One of my favorite movies is The Big Lebowski (I chuckle at just the thought any scene).  When it comes to comedy, irony, and a host of other great qualities this is a piece of cinematic Americana that stands the test of time.  One line in the movie always stuck with me for some weird reason that I do not want to understand.  It's the part where the Dude, Jeff Bridges, is reminiscing on his stolen rug and in doing so he mentioned that “it (the rug) brought the room together”.  That simple statement left an indelible mark on me.  I began the 19 year task constantly looking for parallels whereby one centerpiece brings many otherwise disparate things together in harmony.  You already know where I am going with this.  

 

Cigars are a huge part of bringing people together from a  multitude of different origins, economic strata, educational levels, professions, and beliefs.  A cigar lounge is emblematic of a demilitarized zone stripping away meaningless designations thus allowing ideas to flow and our “humanness” to thrive.  Name another venue where a doctor, brick mason, barber, policewoman and a politician can mingle.  There they are trapped for the duration of the first, second, and last third of a cigar more than often paired with a spirit.  They puff, take in the ambience of the room, share lighters and cutters, walk the humidor, recommend cigars, and shake hands with the owners or other members.  They all acknowledge decorum and unspoken rules, they stare into each other eyes while talking, and all the while simultaneously rubbing off on each other some fundamental aspect that allows us to know each other a little better.

 

Don’t get me wrong there are more than a handful of cigar lounge violators but they are a statistical minority only serving to allow us civilized folk to coalesce deeper.  You may ask why.  Why is it that cigars have such an effect on people?  The answer is simple.  Cigars are the art of relaxation (the proverbial letting down of one’s hair).  They are a mechanism to slow down the world and who wants to slow down time beside an asshole.  Cigars and lounges are a means of gathering one’s thoughts and reflecting on the day while planning for tomorrow.  With that as the backdrop it's hard to mess it all up.  

 

BillieBLVD for www.leaf-and-barrel.com 

 

 

0 Comments

Thu

09

Mar

2017

Women That Drink Whiskey

Women and Whiskey
Women and Whiskey

By BillieBLVD 

 

The only thing better than a woman that smokes cigars is a woman that smokes cigars and drinks whisky while smoking cigars.  I have the pleasure of having a wife that falls into this category; however, my wife is more of a wine drinker than whisky.  The article below delves into the topic with more depth.

 

How Women Savor Their Whisky

Written By Richard Guzman for Los Angeles Daily News

 

For Alexis Rhone Fancher, it started as an act of rebellion against her parents.

For Lisa Segal, it’s about bonding with friends, and for Kim Ohanneson it was simply love at first sip.“I instantly fell in love,” Ohanneson says, recalling the first time she tried whiskey about 20 years ago when a friend offered her a Macallan single malt scotch.“It was the complexity and a richness that just said, ‘This is my drink,’ ” she says after taking a sip from a glass of Laphroaig single malt 10-year-old scotch.Whiskey is also the drink of choice for Fancher and Segal, who are sitting with Ohanneson at a table in a downtown L.A. restaurant on a recent rainy Friday night.

 

“When I go out, I drink whiskey — and why do I drink whiskey? I drink whiskey because I like the taste of it. I can savor a whiskey,” Segal says, jokingly describing herself as a promiscuous drinker because she can’t decide which is her favorite whiskey. Fancher, who says she first sneaked a taste of the liquor at the age of 14, knows what she likes. “I like single malts, and I like Japanese whiskey, which really is scotch, but you can’t call it scotch because it’s not made in Scotland,” she says with authority. The women are part of a rapidly growing club that’s looking to dispel stereotypes about what women like to drink — or that whiskey is somehow for men only. “I pretty much don’t drink anything else but whiskey, neat,” says Ohanneson, the L.A. chapter president of Women Who Whiskey, which is marking its one-year anniversary this month. First launched in New York in 2011 by whiskey enthusiast Julia Ritz Toffoli, the women-only whiskey club was started to connect like-minded women who at the time stood out for drinking whiskey. “I would talk to women, and we would have the same conversation over and over, which was, ‘I like whiskey, but why is that so strange for people — why is it hard for men to understand that we like whiskey?’ ” Toffoli said. Members of the club attend whiskey events every month that often include trips to distilleries or tastings led by experts or brand representatives who discuss flavor profiles and different kinds of whiskeys. “For me, it’s such an amazing experience to meet so many different types of women who are united by their love of this one thing, but who have totally different backgrounds and experiences coming into it,” Toffoli said. The events not only unite women who love the drink but also makes them more confident whiskey drinkers, members of the L.A. chapter say. “I feel strong when I drink whiskey. I feel feminine in this very unexpected way,” Segal says, noting that yes, there are still some men who do a double take when she orders a whiskey. Since its launch, the club has grown into an organization that boasts 23 chapters across the United States and internationally and claims to have about 10,000 total members. The year-old L.A. chapter is one of the biggest with about 2,400 registered members who attend the largely women-only events.  And the fast growth of the club both nationally and locally doesn’t surprise the members, since it’s reflective of the overall renaissance of whiskey as well as the appeal the drink has for women, whose contributions to the liquor go beyond just tossing back a few. “Women have always been an integral part of making whiskey,” said Fred Minnick, a Kentucky-based writer whose penned three books about whiskey including “Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey.” Minnick notes that women have worked in fermentation rooms, as distillers and marketers throughout whiskey’s history. “In American whiskey, one of the most dominant whiskey brands out there, Maker’s Mark, the name and the red dripping wax on the bottle were all designed by Margie Samuels, and she co-owned the brand,” he said.

 

But women haven’t always been big whiskey drinkers.

 

In the late 1950s, for example, women only made up about 5 percent of liquor purchases, Minnick noted.In the 1990s about 15 percent of whiskey drinkers where women.Today, however, women represent about 37 percent of whiskey drinkers in the U.S., according to Minnick’s research.“We’re in a time where people no longer want flavorless products. They want to taste what they’re drinking,” Minnick said.And for the members of Women Who Whiskey, it’s also about who they’re tasting it with. 

 

“I have these very intimate, close feelings about drinking scotch that are really associated with women friends. It’s just always been that way for me,” Segal says while having drinks with Ohanneson and Fancher.

 

If you want to join Women Who Whiskey go to www.womenwhowhiskey.club or www.facebook.com/WomenWhoWhiskeyLA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mon

06

Mar

2017

Cigar Fashion in New York

Cigar Fashion www.leaf-and-barrel.com
Wine and Gingham Cigar Shirt at the Cigar Inn NYC

By BillieBLVD 

 

Its Saturday night and there is no other place that I would rather be than the Cigar Inn on 2nd Ave between 53rd and 54th St NYC.  I decided to wear one of my favorite cigar shirts, the Leaf&Barrel Wine and Gingham, and to compliment the colors of the shirt I wore dark navy blue slim fit Brooks Brother chinos, a pair of Double Monk-strap British Tan Cap toe shoes, and a matching British tan Ferragamo belt.  To top it off I decided to err on the side of contrast with a orange brown wool Fedora (seen in the bottom right of the photo).

 

Before I stop in I opted to buy a bottle of Michter's Straight Rye Bourbon at "You and Me Wine and Spirits" on the corner of 54th and 2nd Ave.  Its the perfect place to buy a bottle before walking in the lounge (only 50 feet away) due to a vast selection of spirits in all price ranges. 

 

Since switching owners a about 2 years ago the Cigar Inn (now referred to as Casa De Montecristo) has changed for the better aesthetically and the prices of the cigars are more buyer friendly.  I was surprised to see that the new BYOB policy now requires a purchase of two cigars (fair enough). I started with a AVO Heritage (slowly becoming one of my favorite cigars) and ended the night with a Ashton VSG (Virgin Sun Grown). 

 

On this special night I am joining a friend that just returned from Cuba and he had the kindness to bring back one of my favorite cigars, the Hoyo De Monterrey Epicure #2 and a bottle of Havana Rum. Can it get and better?  I think not. We discussed the particulars of his trip to Cuba, updated ourselves on family status, and veered off into how to make the best roasted chicken.   

 

We ended the night at the Brooklyn Diner on 57th street and ordered two of the best dam Chicken Pot Pies you can ever taste (seriously, do not be aforesaid to copy every step of this wonderful night). I told him that nights like these are the best of times. Rum, bourbon, Cuban cigars, good conversation, great food, the cheerful banter of friendship, New York City in the backdrop, and good heath.

 

Night like these define what life is all about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 Comments

Fri

03

Mar

2017

Cuban Cigar Sales Are Rising

Trinidad, My Second Favorite Cuban Brand
Limited Editions Trinidad Cigars

By BillieBLVD 

 

Although sales from most luxury goods are down Cuban cigars sales are up by 5%. Why?  There's a lot of daylight between the passion people have for cigars and other luxury goods like shoes and jewelry and its that very difference that is fueling the entire cigar industry (passion).  Furthermore, Americans are visiting Cuba in droves which is driving the sale of Cuban cigars through the roof but soon the thrill of a taboo product will dwindle as Americans discover that the cigars they have always had available to them were just as good or better than the forbidden fruit they have mythologized. 

 

See the original article here

 

HAVANA – Sales of Cuba's legendary cigars rose 5% last year to $445 million, defying stagnation in the global luxury goods market, manufacturer Habanos SA said on Monday at the opening of the Caribbean island's annual cigar festival.

Habanos, which makes brands including Cohiba, Monte Cristo and Romeo y Julieta, said it expects moderate sales growth this year as it continues to tap the Middle East, Asia and other new markets. "We are quite happy we were able to grow during a year that was in truth quite challenging," Vice President of Development Javier Terrés told Reuters after holding a news conference hazy with smoke as journalists puffed on complimentary cigars. Cuba's monopoly cigar company was kicking off the festival that attracts wealthy tobacco aficionados and retailers from around the world for five days of extravagant parties and tours of plantations and factories. Habanos dominates the global market for hand-rolled, premium cigars except in the United States (US) due to Washington's half-century trade embargo against Cuba. The United States is the world's biggest cigar market. American enthusiasts have had slightly better access to Cuban cigars since former President Barack Obama two years ago unveiled a Cuba policy aiming to normalize relations. Last October, the Obama administration removed limits on the amount of cigars American travelers could bring home. Terrés said this made little difference to overall sales but it would help brand recognition in the US. Wholesale shipments there would require the US Congress to lift the embargo, a move that looks uncertain under President Donald Trump, who has threatened to reverse the detente. Still, better US-Cuban relations have helped stoke a boom in tourism, which in turn has lifted cigar sales in Cuba, according to Habanos. The number of visitors to the island rose 13% last year. "Our sales in Cuba are directly related to tourism, and in effect, sales in Cuba have grown," Terrés said. Habanos said its traditional European markets had remained stable last year, while there was growth in emerging markets like the Middle East and Pacific Asia. Meanwhile, female smokers remain a largely untapped market for Habanos, Terrés said. The company is working on it but has learned that producing smaller, milder versions of its classic cigars is not the answer. "Actually, women want to smoke big cigars and enjoy them like a man," he said, adding it was important to draw in women with specific promotional events.

 

See the original article here

0 Comments

Wed

22

Feb

2017

2016 Limited Edition Cuban Cigars

Trinidad, My Second Favorite Cuban Brand
Limited Editions Trinidad Cigars

By BillieBLVD 

 

The 2016 Limited Editions from Habanos S.A. are here but the most significant aspect of this news is that for the first time in over half a century Americans can purchase them, for the first time we are not limited by the amount we can buy, and for the first time we can go to Cuba with little or no restrictions.  I have smoked many Cuban cigars and have published many reviews and pairings of Cuban cigars and Cuban rum but there is nothing like visiting the island and experiencing the people that produce these wonderful pairing partners.  A proud people with a rich history that have persevered oppression on a level that would've broken the backs of many.

 

Last Friday I had the pleasure of entertaining a friend as we painted the town red with our wives.  Wonderful dinner, hand crafted cigars, and artisan cocktails from Jimenez tobacco.  After the fun we said goodbye; they were on the way to the airport to catch a flight to Cuba.  The world is changing and this cigar connoisseur is willing to change with it. See you in Havana.

Billie B

 

Article From Prensa Latina

 

Habanos S.A Limited Editions 2016 Go To Market 

 

Havana, Feb 20 (Prensa Latina) International corporation Habanos S.A. informed today about the distribution of its Limited Editions 2016 corresponding to Trinidad Topes, Montecristo Dantes and Romeo and Juliet Capuletos, a novelty for the Premium cigar market. Limited Editions of Habanos are very much appreciated and awaited every year by cigar aficionados, said the official note.  These proposals are characterized for its bands which are not in the regular assortmnent of the brand's portfolio and are distinguished by a meticulous selection of all its leaves -cover, filling and cape-. The tobacco leaves are matured for no less than two years. The cover that dresses these cigars come from the upper leaves of the plant of covered tobacco plants,l another of the characteristics identifying them, as it accustoms to be darker than the cover of the bands of the regular brand assortment. In the case of Topes (vine or diameter of 56 by 125 millimeters long) of Trinidad, it is the first band introduced with that measurement in the portfolio of the brand. Trinidad Topes is an habano that allows a taste of that Brand in an innovative format appreciated by those who like gross calibres and strength from mild to middle, explains the tasting note. In the case of Montecristo Dantes (diameter of 48 by 167 millimeters long) is a cigar of gross to medium caliber, elegant format and strength from medium to strong. Experts also insist this is the first Hermoso (vine 48) presented by Montecristo. This Limited Edition is presented in a special case of 10 units.

For its part, Romeo and Juliet Capuletos (vine 53 by 153 millimeters long) is the other Limited Edition 2016. This band is unique in the Brand and is characterized by an intense and complex flavor, assure the specialists. All these habano cigars of the Limited Editiions were rolled by hand with long filling and leaves originated iun the zone of Vuelta Abajo in the westernmost region of Cuba, Pinar del Rio, the most famous of the tobacco crop.

 

See the original article here

0 Comments

Mon

13

Feb

2017

Passion Needs Fashion

Cigar Fashion www.leaf-and-barrel.com
White Knight Cigar Shirt

By BillieBLVD 

 

Where there is passion there is fashion. It's a phrase that I am glad to coin as uniquely my own; however, its only real because it is universal. You indeed feel the same way whether you know it or not. For example, football fans don the garments of their respective teams, golfers have a look that is conducive to the environment and manner in which the sport is played, and bikers have clothing that will protect them in the event of a fall from a motor bike.  No matter which of these groups you subscribe to, one thing is sure, your passion is proclaimed by your fashion.  

 

Cigar smokers happen to be one of the most if not "the most" passionate group of people on the planet.  They read about cigars, smoke them in lounges with fellow smokers, they watch youtube channels like ThePuroMaduroChannel for hours on end.  They go on tours to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.  Why?  It’s not just good to smoke a cigar they want to understand its every aspect.  They age cigars for years in humidors that maintain their preferred humidity and temperature.  Passion indeed but they do not have a specific design aesthetic for clothing UNTIL NOW!!

 

The Leaf&Barrel cigar shirt is designed to look good, really good, but the shirt reflects the passion of a cigar smoker in its utility.  There are multitudes of shirts that are made with quality materials and sewn by the best seamstresses one can employ but how can a shirt enhance the cigar smoking experience?  How can the shirt allow the smoker to become one with the cigar?  A cigar shirt would have to feel good on the skin with high quality cotton, the collar would have to maintain its form as the smoker falls into the leather couch of a cigar lounge, the colors would have to cover the most conservative to the most flamboyant cigar smoker’s personal sense of style, but none of this is implicitly meaningful to the smoking experience.  

 

A cigar cannot be enjoyed if its construction is compromised.  For example, a break in the wrapper ruins the draw and burn of a cigar thus severely impacting the flavor profile. Cigars are fragile and they need to be carried in the most careful manner possible which is usually done with a leather case.  The case is rigid and helps to maintain moisture but with today’s slimmer fitting clothing a large leather case cannot be carried comfortably especially when you are already carring a wallet, a set of keys, and a mobile phone.  

 

The Leaf&Barrel cigar shirt features a pocket consisting of three individual cylinders designed to hold three cigars of any conventional ring gauge.  Once the cigar is in the pocket its surrounded by a non-breathing material that maintains the freshness of a cigar.  The pockets are hidden but they allow the world to see three pristine cigars.  The shirt says to the world I am a proud cigar smoker, a man of style, and I am man comfortable in his own skin.   

 

Billie B

0 Comments

Fri

10

Feb

2017

Plume or Mold?

A Cigar Covered With Mold or Is It Plume
A Cigar Covered With Mold or Is It Plume

By BillieBLVD

 

 

 

Perusing Instagram or any cigar blog you'll eventually run across a plume vs mold argument.  Its usually posted by someone scared of what they just saw in the humidor.  They wonder is this cigar safe?  I must go to the elders of the village and find out the nature of this evil taking over my cigar.  Will it spread to the other cigars in my humidor?  If I smoke it will it kill me?

 

Fortunately there are only two possible explanations for that strange stuff you your cigar, its either plume or mold, but how can you tell?  Firstly, lets explain what they are.  Plume comes from aging the cigar to the point that the oils start to pierce through all layers (wrapper, binder, filler) of the cigar and leave dusty looking deposits.  Many would-be aficionados will claim that this is the result of a humidor that is too humid and too warm but I disagree.  For me its a sign that the cigar is ready to smoke with the right amount of maturity.  On the other hand, mold is a fungus that grows in spores and can be very dangerous.  Its usually yellow, green, or blue-ish and grows in clusters.  Unlike plume molds does not spread uniformly; instead,  it grows in clusters.

 

The best way to determine the difference between mold and plume is to first try and blow it off.  If it blows off it is definitely plume.  The second test is to try and rub it off.  If it comes off easy its plume but if it sticks it is almost always mold.  Lastly, plume will usually take place along the entire body of the cigar and not in one area.  

 

Billie B

2 Comments

Tue

07

Feb

2017

A True Cigar Pairing

How to pair a cigar with a spirit
Lagavulin Distillers Edition Paired With a Cohiba Behike

By BillieBLVD

 

 

If the wine or spirit has been properly selected to fit the body and flavor profile of the cigar you will certain experience a synergy.  

 

This happens when the terroir of the spirit is perfectly balanced with the thrust of the cigar and the flavors compliment the intricate complexity of the wrapper, binder, and filler.

 

During the first third of the cigar pairing you should have some idea of how well you have paired the cigar and spirt. If all is going well, once you enter the early stages of the last third be sure to blow the smoke into the glass (be liberal and take a deep pull).  Put your hand over the top of the glass to trap the smoke so that the flavors absorb into the spirit or wine with a few swirls.  Remove your hand and let the smoke hover over the surface for a minute then slowly sip it.  You should be able to detect the most prevalent flavors of the cigar intertwined with the spirit.  

 

This is not some silly trick to look cool or some pretentious act of snobbery; instead, its requisite to complete the cigar pairing.  Remember that in a cigar pairing you are not just smoking anything and combining it with any drink.  You are strategically searching for a harmonious mingling of complex flavors that embody the land they were produced in and from processes that have been cultivated for hundreds of years.  Take it serious and go beyond a smoke and a sip.

 

Billie B

0 Comments

Tue

07

Feb

2017

Yamazaki Paired With Bolivar

1 Comments

Thu

02

Feb

2017

ATTENTION: Cigar Lounge Owners!

The cigar smoking experience is everything
Cigar Lounge Owners, Remember what you do

By BillieBLVD

 

ATTENTION: Cigar Lounge Owners

 

If you have been smoking cigars for over a decade you are probably a cigar and a half a day smoker and you probably enjoy a glass of wine or brown hued spirit along with it (it can get costly). Unless you’re a millionaire you have most likely found a cigar that you can enjoy daily without breaking the bank.  This means that you have the good sense to purchase your cigars online. Why? Don’t be silly--the price!  You can buy a box of cigars for 90 bucks that means you are spending 4.50 per cigar and you can smoke that cigar in the comfort of your home. Meanwhile, a cigar purchased at your local tobacconist is at least 10 to 15 bucks. Which brings me to the topic of this article.

 

Cigar smokers pay a premium to cigar lounges for the experience.  We pay for the cleanliness (clean ashtrays, clean floor, clean seats & bathrooms); the quality of the cigars (a decent collection of the full spectrum of flavor profiles, proper arrangement, high end to low end); a well maintained humidor (69 to 70 percent humidity and Fahrenheit, with rules against smoking inside the humidor and how not to handle a cigar); a peaceful environment free of assholes (enforce rules against loud antics, racist comments, vulgar language etc.); and an experience that does not include senseless charges. For example, I know a tobacconist that will sell you a cigar, drink your Scotch, and then charge you for a glass and a cork fee. Freeloading POS does not have the decency to waive the fee after drinking on a smoker’s dime.  I know another owner that charges 2 bucks for a bottle of water which is fine but when a client brings in five new customers that each spend $50 to $70 bucks a piece but on the way out you gently detain him and shake him down for a bottle of water you look like an ass.

 

The point is this.  Remember what your value proposition truly is. You are in the cigar selling business via the experience. You provide an experience and in turn cigar smokers buy a stick and tell their friends.   We can smoke at home, we can smoke at a friend’s home, or we can smoke at a lounge that will provide the proper environment to smoke a cigar.

 

0 Comments

Mon

30

Jan

2017

Lancero, My Favorite Vitola

The ideal dimensions for a cigar
Cuban Cohiba Lancero

By BillieBLVD

 

In the 90’s the most popular vitola was the robusto with an average five inch body and a 50 ring gauge.  The great thing about the robusto is that it gives you an ideal representation of the blend in that the wrapper, binder, and filler are given equal footing.  This begs the question, should I ever want anything other than a robusto to experience the cigar’s overall blend and flavor profile. The answer is simple. Yes! 

 

Every cigar consists of a wrapper, binder, and filler and their value in terms of cost is consistent with the same order.  The wrapper is the most expensive component of the blend and the filler is the least (note to all 7x70 lovers).  I am sure that there is some obscure exception to the rule (for the trolls out there) but generally, like 99.99% of the time, this is the case.  Why?  The wrapper has the most impact on the blend.  Case and point, you have many cigars that have an identical filler and binder; however, the cigar is given another name just because it has a different wrapper.  This is because the wrapper is responsible for up to 60% of the flavor profile.

 

Enter the lancero.  Unlike the robusto the lancero shuns an equal representation of the blend by up-playing the wrapper and down-playing the filler and binder.  Furthermore, the sheer physics of the lancero shines a light on the wrapper because the diameter of the cigar is so low (38 to 42 ring gauge).  In other words, with any vitola the wrapper is responsible for most of the cigar's flavor but the lancero amplifies the dynamic.

 

So what makes the wrapper leaf so special? The wrapper has gone through the most extensive fermentation process so it's the most refined.  Furthermore, in order to withstand the fermentation process the leaf used for wrapper is thicker which helps it endure the fermentation process resulting in more flavorful.  Cigar wrapper is also very rare with only 10% being accepted for this coveted spot. The wrapper also has to do one fundamental thing that the binder and filler don’t, it has to look good.  It must be free of any blemishes and present a uniform color free of excessive veins and any unattractive characteristics. In conclusion, the lancero is my favorite vitola because it showcases the best of what any cigar has to offer, the wrapper.

 

0 Comments

Fri

02

Dec

2016

Octomore Paired With Two Saints

0 Comments

Mon

28

Nov

2016

Cigar Culture

BillieBLVD with  Partagas Serie D
Smoking A Partagas in Cancun Mexico

By BillieBLVD

 

Back in the 70's and 80’s I survived an entire stint of public education from K to 12 and during those sessions of exposure to the best and worst of middle and lower class America we learned that culture was a way of life.  You gotta love the simplicity of that statement but what is a “way” and what is a ”life”?  Nowadays the definition has been altered to to mean “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively”. I will use a little bit of each to define or explain cigar culture.

 

Firstly let's dispense with the obvious; how can a culture be associated with a tubular shaped bundle of tobacco that is smoked but not inhaled?  To the unsharpened eye of a nonsmoker this statement may sway you to dismiss the entire idea of a culture but there is no much more below the surface.  

 

The tobacco in a cigar is a product of a very specific environment, terroir, in that the climate, sun exposure, composition of the soil, elevation, minerals in the water, humidity, and wind all contribute to the characteristics of the tobacco’s flavor and body.  In addition, considering all the aforementioned aspects of the environment one also has to recognise that a cigar consists of a wrapper, binder, and filler that may or may not come from multiple regions. Each region represents an array of characteristics that leave an indelible footprint.  You would be remiss to overlook that each region has different people, blenders, and farmers.  They all have different processes, levels of expertise, sophistication, and tradition.  

 

Blenders enter the fray with an amorphous vision of a flavor profile, intensity, and body adding even more complexity.  They strive for uniqueness and more importantly balance to make sure that each component of the cigar contributes to a synergistic outcome.  Lastly, cigar rollers, which I call artists, enter the equation.  Rollers are the most significant contributors to the overall experience because no matter how well the farmer and blender perform their respective duties the roller can construct a cigar that’s too tight or too loose,  The cigar may burn too fast or slow or worst it could burn uneven which will ruin the coalescence of the wrapper, binder, and filler.

 

Any given cigar will be constructed in different vitolas that will alter the flavor of the cigar based on how the components are featured (e.g. a smaller diameter showcases more wrapper influence and a larger diameter showcases more filler and binder in the flavor profile). Either one of these aspects can produce defects that will severely impact the cigar smoking experience. It's absolutely mind boggling how many different tangible and intangible inputs produce the end product, the cigar.   The maturity of this process took hundreds of years to achieve starting with Taino, native Cubans, who later encountered European explorers.

 

Once a cigar is made it has to be smoked.  A completely new set of processes, facilities, and market forces take hold.  A cigar has to be stored at the proper humidity and temperature, it has to be cut or punched with a utensil of both artistic sophistication and great specificity. Then a smoker must be provided with an environment that will not affect how the cigar burns. The chairs have to be comfortable and designed not to absorb the cumulative aroma of cigar smoke, the ventilation system has to bring in new air and filter the air from multiple cigar smokers out of the lounge, ashtrays have to rotated so as not to clutter the scene and ruin the cigar smoking experience.  The lighting, furniture, and ambience of the cigar lounge all contribute to the experience.  I say all this to underline “intellectual achievement” and complexity of cigar smoking.  The multitude of information published on the subject is ample evidence of how much its appreciated.  It's a culture.

 

2 Comments

Wed

16

Nov

2016

Bolivar Paired With Red Zinfandel

0 Comments

Tue

15

Nov

2016

Cuban Cigar...So What!

Romeo Y Julieta Habana
Cuban Cigar

By BillieBLVD

 

A cigar is not a better cigar just because it is a Cuban in fact a Cuban cigar may be the best indicator of poor construction and mildness to a fault.  In fact, I subscribe to the idea that Cuba has been left behind while the American palate evolved to bold and spicy flavors from surrounding regions that have been given dominion over the US market.  All that said I will submit to you that when a Cuban cigar is on its A game its unbeatable.  In the article below the author sites other reasons we may want to shy away from Cubans. 

 

Monica Collier for Times Daily

 

 In 1962, just hours before signing the trade embargo against Cuban leader Fidel Castro, President John F. Kennedy made a mad dash to secure 1,000 of his favorite Cuban cigars. At least, that’s how the story goes.

After five decades of prohibition, in December 2014, the Obama administration started taking steps to normalize diplomatic trade relations with Cuba. Limits have been lifted on bringing cigars from Cuba to the U.S. for personal use.

But before there is a stampede to buy Cuban cigars, some retailers warn aficionados not to expect too much by way of taste.

Brady Liles, tobacconist at The Cigar Room in Florence, said Cuban cigars, which have been shrouded as a forbidden luxury, simply don’t live up to the hype. Most modern cigar consumers are looking for complex flavor, something Cuban cigars do not provide.

“When you look at a Puro cigar from Cuba, it’s difficult for them to get as much diversity as Central American countries,” Liles said. “In Central America, they can pull from other countries — even from Ecuador, Sumatra and Indonesia — they pull tobacco from all over the place. Cuba doesn’t do that.”

 

Liles said blending tobacco from different regions leads to endless flavor possibilities. He said every region has its own unique process and combining tobacco creates diverse products.

 

“There are so many different ways to do it to give you many variances of flavor,” he said. “There are so many cigars that have been released to the market the past 10 years. In the past three years, there have been about 2,000 new blends introduced to the market.”

Donald Waddell, who owns The Cigar Room, said when most people think of Cuba, they think of cigars. After more than 50 years of Cuban cigars being out of reach, Waddell said there is some anticipation as laws change.

 

“A lot of folks who come in are looking forward to it,” Waddell said. “The real cigar guys, the ones who have their Nicaraguans and Dominicans they already smoke and have smoked for the past 30 or 40 years, are saying they don’t care. They already have what they like.”

 

Waddell said compared to Nicaraguan, Dominican and Honduran cigars, the lack of complexity in Cuban tobacco affects the flavor.

“There’s complexity in other regions,” he said. “In Cuba, they keep their tobacco Cuban because they make more money.”

Waddell said the current cigar industry in countries other than Cuba has an open recipe.

 

“You have people who are in their 80s and have spent their whole lives doing this,” Waddell said. “It’s remarkable to see how these men and women are able to take a skewer of tobacco and pick from it to make a recipe. They’re able to pick and choose tobacco from different regions and make something new and different.”

 

Unfortunately, Waddell said, Cuban cigars don’t have an open recipe because they’re picking tobacco from the same region in Cuba.

“When it’s all about the cigar and not about how much money you can make, a blender can create a certain taste,” he said. “They’ll go wherever they have to go to get that tobacco. If they’re in Nicaragua, they won’t say, which Nicaraguan tobacco can I use to make this taste a certain way? Maybe they’ll buy Sumatran tobacco to add to their Nicaraguan tobacco to make a blend. It’s all about the blend.”

 

Liles said not only does complexity of taste fall short in Cuban cigars, the quality is lacking because the country lags behind in techniques.

“Both Don and I have been to Nicaragua to tour the Perdomo facility,” he said. “Nick Perdomo, the owner of that company, personally walked us through. He gives his workers what they need to be successful. He sends them to school to study agriculture. They haul in fertilizers to replenish the soil, which is one thing Cuba has never been able to do. Many of the fields in Cuba are sandy from lack of nutrients.”

 

Liles said he had an eye-opening experience three years ago at the anniversary celebration of The Cigar Room in Madison. He said they had all brought some sort of Cuban cigar. Their national sales representative for Perdomo cigars was there and saw what they were doing. He laughed at them.

 

“He told us a story about Nick Perdomo’s grandfather,” Liles said. “He was a leader in one of the oldest cigar factories in Cuba. To leave Cuba and come to America was a big deal, you had to win a lottery, which was having your name drawn. He won the lottery but the country realized what an asset they were losing and changed its mind. They went to detain him and he fought. They shot him in the leg and put him in Cuban prison for five or six years. Finally, he was able to come to the United States and make cigars again.”

 

Liles said after telling the story, the sales representative told them if they wanted to go ahead and light their Cuban cigars, that was fine with him.

 

“He said it’s one thing to smoke a cigar that makes you happy and you enjoy it,” Liles said. “But, why would you support a country that did that?”

Liles said Perdomo is their most popular brand and is a household name for The Cigar Room clientele. He said hearing the story changed his perspective on Cuban cigars.

 

“Do we really want to go back to supporting the oppression of people under a dictator?” he asked. 

monica.collier@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5725. Twitter @TD_mcollier.

 

1 Comments

Tue

08

Nov

2016

Largest Single Malt Selection In Manhattan

By BillieBLVD

 

I patronize many bars in the Manhattan are for cocktails but there is one bar that owns the largest single malt selection in NYC, Keens Steakhouse. 

 

Author Gary Walther for Forbes Magazine

 

Online, it’s Keens Steakhouse, but on the awning it’s Keens Chophouse. (No apostrophe, please.)

 

This is just one of the quirks that make this venerable Manhattan meat-eater’s sanctuary on West 36th Street so endearing. It was opened independently in 1885, when the area was part of the theatre district, but before that it was part of The Lamb’s Club, an actor hangout.

Open the heavy wooden door and you’re entering the palpable past–dining rooms of wood-panelled, perpetual dusk courtesy of the frosted glass windows, and of ceilings decorated wall-to-wall with the largest collection of churchwarden pipes in the world. These hard-clay, thin-stemmed, small-bowled implements–you’ve seen them in Dutch paintings–were allegedly the remedy for driving away “evil homourse of the brain.” They’re a remnant of the days when men would leave their favorite warden pipe at their favorite inn. Keens once had a Pipe Club of more than 90,000 members, among them Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Will Rogers, Billy Rose, Grace Moore, Albert Einstein, George M. Cohan, J.P. Morgan, Stanford White, John Barrymore, David Belasco, Adlai Stevenson, General Douglas MacArthur and “Buffalo Bill” Cody. But today we’re not here to speak of smoke, but of smoky. Meaning the Keens single-malt scotch list, which at 308 different labels, “plus 10 downstairs that we’re holding back,” says the suave Brandon Falzone, one of the list’s two keepers, is the largest at any restaurant in Manhattan.

 

The list requires a triptych menu, and is divided into the traditional single-malt genres (Highland, Highland-Speyside, Lowland, Islay, Island, and Campbeltown, plus “Single Malts From Unexpected Places” such as Texas, India, Japan, and Virginia.) The bottles themselves form a grandstand behind the tin-ceilinged bar, with more decks below the sightline. The collection was started in the 1980s by owner George Schwarz as a way of making Keens stand out at a time when the neighborhood was going south. (It’s now going north.) What you get at Keens is access to a single-malt museum, with some bottles that are endangered species. “The industry is changing,” says James Conley, a 17-year-veteran and the list’s senior curator as it were, referring to the fact that distilleries are now increasingly making scotch ready to drink now–”non-aged and less use of sherry barrels, all geared toward Millenials,” he says. He offers the heavily peated Octomoor as an example of a single-malt that lives up to novice preconceptions.

 

What you want to go for at Keens are the single-malts from distilleries deceased, signified by an asterisk that means “going, going”, but that live on here for now (Brora 35 Years, for example). The fun part of the menu is to pin the tail on the donkey–point to something and ask Brandon or James to explain your shot in the dark. I went for the Ledaig 10-Year-Old from the Isle of Mull, and it lived up to Brandon’s precis (“lightly smoked, fleet on the palate”). As for this duo’s personal favorites, Conley characterizes the MacAllan 25-Year-Old ($174) as “a little piece of Nirvana”, but also cites the Highland Park 18 ($22, from the Orkneys) and the Caol Ila 15 ($22, from Islay) as value stand-outs. As for Brandon, he’s a Springbank man, and suggests the Cask Strength 16-Year Local Barley ($30), an example of the new single-malt locavore trend, making the scotch from barley locally grown.

But then, don’t ask for advice. Act the part. Order the Mortlach Rare Old ($24), the Mortlach 18-Year-Old ($46), or the Clynelish James MacArthur ($20, aged 12 years on Bourbon casks and another ‘going, going’ scotch). Says Conley, “I’d take you for a connoisseur.”

 

 Written By Gary Walther for Forbes Magazine

Sat

05

Nov

2016

My Favorite Cuban Cigar

Purchased in London in 11/2015
Eclusivo Gran Britana by Bolivar

By BillieBLVD

 

 

I'm an avid fan of Cuban cigars and my favorite brand  is Bolivar.  Most Cubans are mild to a fault such that my mainstay cigars are usually Dominican or Nicaraguan with an exception of a few Mexican and Honduran sticks.  Why?  Because like any organism that must survive in an isolated ecosystem I have evolved via the forces of natural selection imposed by the Cuban embargo.

 

The embargo has altered my palate by limiting my selection of cigars to the spicy intensity of non-Cuban cigars.  While our fellow brothers of the leaf across the pond indulged in various Cuban brands we were smoking Padrons, Crowned Heads, Espinozas, Roma Crafts, Tataujes, Illusiones, and the like.  These brands battled for dominance in the biggest cigar market on the planet.  Victors emerged all the while forever changing what an elite cigar meant to an American aficionado. 

 

But what about Cubans?  They remained the same without even catching on to the big ring gauge trend or the dreaded flavor cigar delusion.  In that isolation Cuban cigars maintained their mild character but one brand stood alone, my favorite, Bolivar.

 

Bolivar in my not so humble opinion is the most intense Cuban on the market but its not just a spice rocket.  Its elegant, flavorful, and complex. Changes to the Cuban embargo are emblematic of species that were separated by environmental barriers for millennia and once the barriers cease to exist the once isolated species begin to engage in reproduction and evolve again.  

 

Obama removed the limitations of his relaxed $100 rule which will result in more Cubans between the fingers of US aficionados but will this change the American palate or change the Cuban cigar profile. May be both will change but my favorite Cuban is already perfect for a full bodied cigar lover with a penchant for Cuban cigars.  

 

BillieBLVD

1 Comments

Wed

02

Nov

2016

16,000 Pounds for 50 Year Old Bowmore

Do you have 16k for an Islay single malt?
50 Year OId Bowmore

By BillieBLVD

 

Ok, if you don't know that I love Islay malt then you just met me and being that we are now nice and chummy please know that I am a Islay single malt disciple (one step up from a fanatic).  Bowmore is not as smoky as I like but I like it nonetheless.  The real question is this; is it worth 16k.  I doubt it but I can dream can't I? 

 

From the Article: 

BOWMORE UNVEILS £16K 50 YO WHISKY

Launched on 1 November, just 159 bottles of Black Bowmore 50 Year Old the limited expression have been produced, having spent 50 years maturing in cask, making it the most aged expression of the Black Bowmore series.

The Islay single malt has been matured in first-fill Oloroso Sherry casks, which have imparted a “deep, black pearl darkness to the colour of the whisky”, with notes of tropical fruit, honeyed black truffle and the signature peat smokiness of Bowmore.

“This last cask of Black Bowmore® to be rediscovered not only demonstrates the unparalleled depth and quality of our single malts but cements Bowmore® as one of the world’s leading whiskies,” said distillery manager David Turner, who’s Grandfather worked on the original bottling over 50 years ago.

Black Bowmore was first distilled on 5 November 1964 at the Bowmore distillery on Islay and after four releases, the first in 1993 and the fourth in 2007, one last cask was rediscovered in the corner of Bowmore’s No.1 Vaults – the oldest Scotch maturation warehouse.

This final bottling is presented in a bespoke handmade cabinet and carries an RRP of £16,000 a bottle, available at select whisky specialists.

 

BillieBLVD

0 Comments

Mon

17

Oct

2016

Cuban Cigars and Rum for All;My 10 Predictions

A real Cuban cigar pairing
Havanna Rum and Partagas Serie D #D

By BillieBLVD

 

Last Friday we were told that Obama is going to allow cigars smokers to do the unthinkable, we can now bring home as much Cuban rum and cigars we can carry. This is a huge deal and the momentum will eventually reach your cigar lounge and here are my predictions for the near future;

 

  1. Many people will get to smoke their first Cuban cigar and many of them will be disappointed, especially at the construction and the lack of maturity.  The plugged draws, tannins, and ammonia notes will stun would-be aficionados.
  2. The price of Cuban cigars is going to shock many smokers but the lure of the forbidden fruit will force them to try a Cuban at least once.  Subsequently many smokers are going to be so upset that they will never pony up 30 bucks for a Cuban cigar when a Padron is only 25 bucks. 
  3. In a nanosecond cigar posers will state that they are strictly Cuban cigars only.  
  4. The proliferation of fakes will inundate the market and many will not know the difference.  They will be in a state of bliss due to ignorance but eventually they will have to give up. Be on the lookout for 70 ring gauge Cubans which will be 99% fake.
  5. Cigar lounges will get a shot on the arm with new patrons seeking the forbidden fruit.  Once the hype dissipates they will resort to an ACID (this is not a diss to the candy cigar lovers). 
  6. Rum aficionados will be the true winners because unlike cigars Cuban rum is truly exceptional but its not the absolute best just because its Cuban (try some Ron Zacapa or Don Q for proof of that). 
  7. The spike in new sales will erode the quality assurance process and the performance of Cuban cigars, which is already horrible, will get worse as the production process is stressed to the hilt.
  8. Cigar aficionados will come to the understanding that the Nicaraguan, Dominican, Mexican, and Honduran cigars they were already smoking are just as good if not better than the Cubans they have been denied for so long. 
  9. The unknown Cuban brands from small farms will slowly get a lot of attention with superior quality and a more attractive price than the likes of Cohiba and Montecristo.
  10. Sales of current brands will decrease for a short while until the market starts reach an equilibrium.  In other words, smokers will more along the experience curve and dispel the myth of unequivocal Cuban cigar superiority.  That being said I will repeat that when a Cuban cigar is on its A game it's almost unbeatable but just because a cigar is Cuban does not mean that it's good.

 

BillieBLVD

0 Comments

Thu

29

Sep

2016

The Perfect Cigar Cocktail

A Proper Cigar Cocktail
The Manhattan With Blantons Bourbon

By BillieBLVD

 

 

When it comes to cigar pairings it's rare that I go for a cocktail over a glass of Merlot, single malt, or bourbon.  Why?  The cigar is pure and I often feel that the pairing partner should be just as pure.  For example, a cigar is made of tobacco only, its aged naturally, and rolled by artist.  On the same note the aforementioned spirits are made and produced naturally as well.  Cocktails have a tendency to throw a monkey wrench into the entire machinery of the pairing.  I know that sounds like the rantings of a snob but so what.  At my age I know what I like and I know why and I am sick of not expressing it for fear of offending members of the thin skinned nation.  

 

I like authenticity, but when it comes to a cigar pairing there are some worthy compromises especially when it comes to one of my favorites cocktails, The Manhattan.  I will not get into the weeds of its origins (there are loads of reading on that) instead I will focus on the synergy of this beloved classic as it relates to a cigar.  

 

A cigar needs to borrow sweetness from its pairing partner at a bare minimum and the temperature once served should only be slightly chilled (never ever never should ice enter the equation).  The pairing partner should also balance with the body of the cigar in that a powerful full bodied cigar may need a medium to full pairing partner or the clash will kill the synergy.  The Manhattan offers all of that especially when served neat with a high quality rye whiskey, bourbon, or single malt.  The sweet vermouth is a smooth base, the bitters animate the sweetness, and the bourbon is where the magic happens.

 

I prefer a powerhouse bourbon in the form of Blanton's or Booker's.  Both have ample uniqueness and thrust with the perfect amount of flavorful elements.  Make sure that its served neat and enjoy. 

 

BillieBLVD

2 Comments

Tue

27

Sep

2016

Saying Good Bye To Cigar Season

My favorite place to smoke
My Cigar Garden

By BillieBLVD

 

If you live in the Northeast then you know that our beloved cigar season is coming to a close.  While there are a few good days left they are most certainly outnumbered by the snow and sleet filled days that will be coming our way very soon.

 

I recently had a last gathering in my cigar garden pictured on the left.  I sent out a few messages late Friday and to my surprise on Saturday I had about 20 close friends show up and we had a great time.  Cigars and whiskey, food and music, and the cheerful banter of friends.  These are the best of times.  As the years pass these moments will be forever trapped in my mind.  This is what life is all about.  

 

I can still taste the BBQ, hear the music and the laughter of friends in the backyard.  The dogs running freely, a gentle breeze, and the smell of fresh cut grass.  Summer will be missed dearly.

 

So its time to embrace the changing of the seasons, look forward to the crackling of burning wood in the fireplace, and family time during the holidays. Humidors will have to be re-calibrated for extra humidity as the heated house starts to dry out the stash. More cigars will be smoked indoors providing great conversations and times to remember.  

 

Good Bye Cigar Season 2016.  There will never be another and I hope to have about 50 more before I check out.

 

BillieBLVD

0 Comments

Tue

20

Sep

2016

Lagavulin's Anniversary Dram

One of Islay's best turns 200
Lagavulin 200th Anniversary Whiskies

By BillieBLVD

 

There are many different offerings from Islay that are worthy of any whisky aficionado's admiration but few are so steeped in tradition and myth as one of Islay's best distilleries, Lagavulin.  Lagavulin goes too far back to mention but not so far that we cannot praise its 200th birthday.  I have always felt that Lagavulin's niche was elegance and balance when compared to its peers but I cannot wait to try these drams to contrast with other Islay greats.  Read more below.......

 

From Forbes

 

Authored by Nick Passmore

 

“An exceptionally fine whisky.”

That’s not my observation, nor the invention of the Marketing Department at Diageo , Lagavulin’s owner, but the judgement of the first ever whisky journalist, Alfred Bernard, on Lagavulin’s 8-year-old single malt when he visited Islay in 1887.

 

Nobody’s quite sure when production started at Lagavulin but it was certainly going on by 1816 so when the marketing people at Diageo, ever on the lookout for a promotional opportunity, decided to release a  200th-anniversary limited edition, they decided to resurrect the Bernard story and make the whisky an eight-year-old. And, not to miss out on the highly lucrative bling! end of the market, added a 25-year-old.

 

Pricing: 8-year-old is $65 and the 25 $1,200.

 

Not as medicinal as its neighbor Laphroaig, nor as hugely peated as its other neighbor, Ardbeg, the regular release 16-year-old is quintessential Lagavulin sweetness followed by a long-lived bonfire smokiness on the finish. However, these two special releases are very different.

0 Comments

Fri

09

Sep

2016

Octomore: The King Of Peat

The essence of Isay
Octomore from Laddie

By BillieBLVD

 

Outside of church no two things are created equal.  As with cars the same is true of Scotch in that a station wagon and a Ferrari are both considered to be automobiles but no one worth their own salt would prefer the former.   The very same analogy applies to Octomore and every other Scotch (yes, even Lagavulin and Laphroaig).  Am I biased?  Hell yeah.  I love Islay Scotch but not just for the peat, the salt, the briny flavors, or a medicinal notes.  I like distinction and flare. This is a Scotch after my own heart.  If I died and were reincarnated as a Scotch I would want to be Octomore.

 

Check the box on this being the most peat flavored Scotch that you have ever tried but don't let that fool you into thinking that this is one trick pony.  This dram is almost 130 proof, its complex, sweet, and somehow smooth.  The packaging is exquisite and the bottle is frosted which adds a nice touch to the deep amber tones of its contents.  

 

When nosing this nectar the senses become animated.  You're forced to anticipate the flavor because you have never smelled anything like it.  I will be pairing this with a Two Saints cigar from Felix Assouline, one of my new favorite cigar brands.  The video will be uploaded soon. 

 

Happy Friday.  

 

 

BillieBLVD

0 Comments

Thu

11

Aug

2016

Felix Assouline Cigars

http://felixassouline.com/
Felix Assouline Ego Cigar Line

By BillieBLVD

 

The first time I smoked a Felix Assouline cigar I was so taken aback that I immediately contacted him and asked "why have I never heard of you".  In this business it's hard to keep a good cigar a secret and to my surprise Felix had a good answer to the question.  

 

His brand of cigars was primarily featured in France in association with a luxury line of cigar accessories.  Felix's operation is respected because of its vertical integration in that all of the essential aspects of production are controlled in house.  Most cigar makers outsource various aspects of the operation so that they can focus on other areas while also controlling cost.  That's what separates Felix from the competition.  Meticulous control over the production of his passion.

 

I will be featuring a number of various pairings with Felix's line that will be published via PuroMaduro.com and the PuroMaduroChannel on YouTube.  The first will be published Friday morning 8/12 at 9am. 

 

If you are looking for a complex cigar with balance and unique tastes then look no further.  Visit http://felixassouline.com/ for more information

 

BillieBLVD

3 Comments

Fri

22

Jul

2016

Controlling My Inner Snob

www.leaf-and-barrel.com
BilleBLVD wearing the Wine and Gingham Cigarshirt

By BillieBLVD

 

I have a voice in my head that cannot be controlled.  The snobbish voice haunts me as some unsuspecting novice smoker walks into a cigar lounge and heads over to a specific selection of candy cigars.  These cigars are very different from premium handmade long filler cigars because they are flavored, oh I'm sorry, they are infused with some mysterious ingredients (this is the shit that put the FDA on our trail).  These infused cigars have to be quarantined so as not to infect other normal/traditional cigars with their bullshit additives. The voice wants me to hate this flavored shit stick smoker or at least inform him that he is upsetting the cigar gods that will bring peril to his destiny.  

 

The voice continues to scour the room looking for more things to criticize under the guise of people watching but more like people judging. There he is.  Another rube pouring peach flavored whiskey and lighting a 8x80 cigar. The voice in my head begs me to take an ash tray and bash his skull to a pulp.  How dare he attempt to desecrate this holy place with that toxin. Deep breaths Bille, deep breaths.....

 

This voice is filled with humor and reactionary violence.  I hate it but I love to hate it.  It's a gift in that its the voice of passion and respect for the culture but its a curse that makes me feel guilty of being an extreme snob.  Oh well, its the voice in the back of my head that no one knows about except me and anyone reading this post.  What a minute?  Is that asshole over there sharing a cigar with another man.  It never stops..........

 

BillieBLVD

1 Comments

Mon

20

Jun

2016

Cigars Don't Make You A Tough Guy

www.leaf-and-barrel.com
BilleBLVD wearing the Blue Truth Cigar Shirt

By BillieBLVD

 

 

We have all seen the memes with statements like "if your boyfriend doesn't smoke cigars then your boyfriend is your girlfriend" and then there is the ever famous "real men smoke cigars".  On one hand I get it; I remember smoking cigars as a young man to mimic the neighborhood gangsters until I got bit by the bug. But even the gangsters were doing it for the love of the leaf they were already tough and needed no image boosters.  

 

I talk to a lot of cigar smokers that really believe that smoking cigars is a manly tough guy activity, but how does that explain the massive increase in women that are lighting up cigars across the country. Might they be attempting to tap into our manly perspective? No, they just enjoy a good smoke with a glass of wine, whiskey, or brandy.

 

And what does the macho cigar smoker mentality bequeath to the culture of cigars?  I think its one of the key drivers of big ring gauge cigars.  These are cigars that are loaded with filler, which happens to be the cheapest component in constructing a cigar.  Every time I see someone light up a 7x70 I ask them why do you like large cigars and more often the answer is that they like the feel of a big cigar. Now everyone can have their own opinion so here's mine.  Cigars are about the smoke experience and not the feel of the ring gauge between your fingers.  Cigars are about smoke quality, taste, and complexity and not the diameter of the vitola.  Just admit it!  You feel more manly and tough with a big tubular shaped brown object with veins  sliding between your fingers into your mouth (just kidding but really).

 

Men and women of all ages, nationalities, and economic strata enjoy cigars.  Its not a manly activity. Its more of a means of slowing down the world, reflecting on the day, planning the future, and enjoying the company of other smokers.  This is not something you do while burning down villages and taking the women. Cigar lovers have complex requirements for enjoying a cigar. For example, we like to make sure that we are smoking in places that have good ventilation, plush leather chairs, and overall comfortable surroundings.  We like to spend thousands on humidors, lighters, cutters, cigars, whiskey, carrying cases, and cigar shirts.  None of this is particularly manly or tough.  In fact I think its more metro-sexual than it is tough and I am perfectly comfortable with that.   Lastly, I am a 260 pound man with 19 inch arms and a 400 pound bench press and a beautiful wife who also smokes cigars. 

 

BillieBLVD

0 Comments

Wed

15

Jun

2016

Conspiracy

I Smell a Rat
FDA Option 1 Conspiracy

By BillieBLVD

 

 

I remember my father telling me that just because I am paranoid it doesn't mean that two people are not following me.  Its almost like when a republican says if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it just might be a duck.  

 

The FDA is proposing legislation that will prevent new entrants (mostly boutique cigar makers) to the cigar market making it almost impossible to compete with establishment brands.  The FDA originally singled out flavored cigars and stated they will be banned but for some mysterious reason they pulled back.  Flavored cigars will stay on the market but only the big boys will be able to sell the highest selling genre of cigars on the market. The FDA's legislation will also raise the price on establishment cigars that no longer have to compete with smaller and more agile boutique blends with higher quality and better price points. Furthermore, blends that were introduced to the market before February 2007 are not subject to the FDA's lengthy approval process making it easier for them to achieve economies of scale.

 

There is nothing in the legislation that does not point to a conspiracy that benefits establishment tobacco companies.  The duck is quacking and walking. 

 

BillieBlVD

Happy Father's Day 

 

1 Comments

Mon

06

Jun

2016

Perfect Gift For Dad

Cigar Fashion Now Cigar Fashion Forever
Wine and Gingham Cigar Shirt From Leaf&Barrel

By BillieBLVD

 

There is no better gift for the cigar smoker/ father in your life than a Leaf&Barrel cigar shirt.  This cigar shirt will hold and protect up to 3 cigars and because its made of a non-breathing material the cigars will remain fresh. All shirts are made of Japanese woven cotton, featuring hidden collar stay support, custom colored buttons, vibrant colors that pop, and accents that demand attention.  When it comes to cigars the Leaf&Barrel cigar shirt ts the one gift your father needs but does not have.

 

As a father I have always welcomed that one day of the year when I can tell my family to leave me alone (not that I don't love you but its MY TIME) and let me smoke my cigar in peace.  Of course I will allow my wife and children to dine with me and sing my praises but that's it.  Its time for daddy to retreat to the man cave and reflect on my plans for the future whilst smoking an aged Cuban and drinking some naturally flavored vintage brown liquid. 

 

BillieBlVD

Happy Father's Day 

 

0 Comments

Sun

05

Jun

2016

FDA Enablers

Fight for your right
The amount of signatures gathered from 5/11 to 6/5

By BillieBLVD

 

As I type this on a rainy Sunday morning I cannot deny my anger for those that claim to love cigars and those that claim to abhor tyranny.   If we love cigar culture, the banter of fellow smokers, and the splendor of the overall cigar experience how can we idly rest on our laurels as the FDA chokes the life blood of the cigar industry.  Oh you think life blood is a strong word? Remember that the life blood of any industry is innovation. Cut off innovation and you take away newness (seasonal blends, limited batches of tobacco), silence the voice of change (incremental changes to the modern palate) , and ensure the interest of the establishment (big tobacco companies and distributors).  The FDA will make it impossible to innovate by making it too expensive to bring new cigar blends to market; additionally, they refuse to articulate the approval process which makes the process both expensive and murky.  But the FDA is not able to do it without the inaction of the very audience that will be impacted by the draconian legislation they propose.

 

The image to the left represents the paltry 23, 286 people that have signed the petition to keep the conversation alive which gives us time to fight.  We can shame the lies and poke holes in their feeble arguments but that can only happen if we fight.  We need 76,714 more signatures in 5 more days.  I fear that we will not come close.   So before you post a picture of a cigar with you gun or knife please take the time to sign.  We are not asking you to take to the streets just click, enter your email, and confirm your email.  If you love cigars like you claim then do something!

 

 

 Read more here

 

1 Comments

Fri

27

May

2016

The Zenith Cohiba Watch

Celebrating 50 Years
Zenith Cohiba Watch

By BillieBLVD

 

 If I have typed it a thousand times.  "Where there is passion there is fashion" and what group of people are more passionate than cigar smokers. Zenith has upped the ante with a special celebratory watch for Cohiba.  It borrows the hues of tobacco and plays off the classic Cohiba trademark with gold accents emblematic of the Behike label.  

 

Directly from hautetime.com

 

 A purveyor of some of the world’s finest Cuban cigars, Cohiba is collaborating with Zenith watches for a limited edition of the El Primero Chronograph 1969 that features a number of design aesthetics influenced by the prestigious cigar maker.

 

Created to honor the cigar brand’s 50th anniversary, The El Primero Chronograph 1969 Cohiba features a deep havana brown dial with a number of motifs representative of the famous Cuban brand. The famous profile of aboriginal chief Taino, the manufacture’s emblem, appears alongside the Zenith and Cohiba logos. The piece’s legendary movement is housed inside an elegant 42 mm rose gold case. The watch’s caseback is engraved with Cohiba’s 50th anniversary logo and reveals an oscilating weight  with the “Côtes de Genève”. At 11 o’clock, the famous opening of the dial reveals the palpitations of the automatic El Primero 4061 chronograph movement.

 

 Read more here

 

0 Comments

Fri

20

May

2016

World Whiskey Day Instructions

Instructions for Great Whiskey Cocktails
World Whiskey Day

By BillieBLVD

 

 

If you are going to have a day for every stupid reason under the sun then we might as well add some value with a World Whiskey Day. This year it will on 5/20 so if you missed it then you need to catch up.  

 

I have personally found the attached article to be a perfect list of instructions for a proper World Whiskey Day celebration. 

 

 

Directly from www.hungryforever.com

 

Started by Blair Bowman in 2012, World Whiskey Day is the one day to properly celebrate and enjoy drinking whiskey from different parts of the world and meet other whiskey enthusiasts in your city or country. The third Saturday of May will forever be known as World Whiskey Day.

 

As they say on the website, “World Whiskey Day is all about making whiskey fun and enjoyable. It’s not about being exclusive or prescriptive. You can drink it however you enjoy it (ice, water, mixer – whatever works for you). We want to be all inclusive and that means any kind of whisky/whiskey from anywhere in the world.”

 

 Read more here

 

2 Comments

Fri

13

May

2016

FDA Regulation....Where Did It Come From?

The FDA is a lost cause
FDA Fools Designed to Annoy

By BillieBLVD

 

How did we get here? It did not happen overnight and there are drivers?  Is the government just in it to ruin our fun? Are cigars that much of a threat to the public that the fed had to step in and do something to save us?  The answer is no!  They want to score political points by acting like the protectors of teens and young adults.  I know what you are saying “PROVE IT”

 

No one ever started a joke with the line "a teen walks into a cigar lounge".  Why?  You already know. Cigar smokers are mostly 30 to 60 year old men with an increasing female presence but what about the audience for the new products that have entered the market? They call them cigars but some are machine made, some are flavored and machine made, and some are hand rolled using premium long filler and mysterious infusion processes.  Some are not even cigars.  They are more like digital nicotine delivery mechanisms (ecigs).  Are they for men and women that love traditional or shall I say "real" cigars or are they more aligned to kids, new cigar smokers that have not acquired the taste of a puro, non-cigar smokers that just want nicotine, or are they made for the person that only has 1 dollar for a cigar. The answer is yes to all and the people that buy them are young adults and teens.  The FDA and elected government officials want to be the protectors of this impressionable group and if they have to ruin the cigar industry to do it then so be it. 

 

In 2009 premium cigars were excluded from option one like legislation because cigars are very different from ecigs, machine made shit sticks, flavored cigars, infused cigars, blunt wrappers, and cigarettes.  Remember that cigar smokers always wanted their own lane and it was easy to justify the clear distinction because premium cigars are too expensive for teenagers and they are an aquired taste.  They had an adult distinction about them and they were marketed to adults.  Cigar smokers are an esoteric group with the money to dole out for a $800 humidor, $100 lighter, $100 cutter, and $200 box of cigars that are stored in pristine condition to age over time. In other words, they are nasty to most people and financially out of the reach of most kids and that was a good thing.  But then came ecigs which were outside the reach of preexsiting legislation so there was no federal law stating that you have to be 18 to buy ecigs (parents of teens started sending letters to the nanny state immediately).  All other forms of tobacco have laws that are already on the books stating that consumers have to be 18 years of age at the point of sale.  

 

Then came the deluge of machine made flavored cigars sold at gas stations and bodegas, which caused a spike in teen smoking (more angry letters).  This was the start of the end. The confluence of ecigs with no federal law to prevent teens from purchasing them and the spike in teen smoking caught the eyes of state and federal legislatures but then the ecig companies lobbied to be treated as cigars and won (here begins the slippery slope).  

 

So now we have been bundled into the same basket with ecigs, machine made cigars, machine made flavored cigars, and hand rolled infused cigars (one big bundle).  Then the distinctions were further diminished by premium long filler hand rolled cigars that were "infused" with ingredients that were not approved by the FDA.  Traditionally, no one ever needed to submit new blends for premium cigars to the FDA because it was natural tobacco with no chemicals or artificial flavors.  But once ecigs, machine made flavored cigars, and premium infused cigars were bundled together under the same law which mostly benefited all except for handmade premium cigar smokers they were forever joined at the hip because treating them different in the past allowed ecigs to escape oppressive legislation.  

 

So parents are complaining that their children are smoking flavored cigars, using machine made flavored cigars for marijuana, and smoking ecigs and nothing can be done because the laws that righteously protected traditional cigars shielded the makers of shit sticks and ecigs.  Though bundled with these other products  Cigar Rights of America kept outlining the distinctions between traditional cigars and the rest.  Traditional cigar smokers average a 2 or 3 cigars a week, the cigars are free of unnatural ingredients, they are naturally fermented, hand rolled, and financially out of the reach of teenagers.  Once bundled together we are now subject to the same FDA legislation.  That is where we are now!

2 Comments

Fri

13

May

2016

Cohiba Lancero Paired With Christo Lot Number 2

0 Comments

Thu

28

Apr

2016

Dominican Dominance vs. Nicaragua's Rise

DR vs Nicaragua
A Clear Picture of Dominance and a Future Threat

By BillieBLVD

 

The chart on the left from Cigar Aficionado makes it obvious that Dominican cigars dominate the US market. Over the last 5 years they have imported a whopping 505 million cigars. That is a phenomenal number of stoogies and the numbers keep climbing; however, one cannot help but notice that Nicaragua is closing the gap. every year. 

 

A closer look at the numbers will clearly show that Nicaragua has increased its imports every year to the tune of 17 million when you compare 2011 to 2015 (the chart to the left excludes the 2015 numbers) while DR only increased by 11.4 for the same comparison.  The five year difference is also coupled with a decrease in the delta between DR and Nicaragua in all years from 2011 to 2015. In 2012 DR imported over 30 million more cigars than Nicaragua; however, in 2013 the difference was only 10.7 million, in 2014 it was 8.6 and the current difference is 6.8.  In other words Nicaragua is cutting into DR's market share every year by 2 million and at this rate they will be even in 3 years.   

 

From Cigar Aficionado

 

The United States imported 315 million premium cigars in 2015, which is an increase of 2.3 percent over 2014. This percentage amounted to an uptick of 7 million smokes. While it may not be statistically large, the increase shows 2015 as a positive year.

 

According to the yearly report from the Cigar Association of America, the Dominican Republic still remains the largest supplier of premium cigars to the United States, followed by Nicaragua as a close second. The difference is a margin of 6.8 million cigars between the two countries, or 5.4 percent. Although Nicaragua experienced a dramatic spike in exports from 2012 to 2013, it has stayed relatively even since.

 

"The U.S. premium cigar market is healthy and stable," said Javier Estades, president of Tabacalera USA. "Today's adult consumer, more than ever, demands well-made cigars with a unique concept. Lately, we're seeing that adult consumers are becoming more selective and moving towards higher-end cigars with complex and rich smoking profiles."

 

The three major cigar-producing countries—the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras—were all slightly up in 2015. 

 

Read on

 

 

0 Comments

Mon

25

Apr

2016

Rye & Bourbon | Can You Tell The Difference?

The difference between rye and bourbon is the ingredients
Can You Taste the Difference Between Rye and Bourbon

By BillieBLVD

 

Can you tell the difference between rye whisky and bourbon whisky?  Well I can but according to this report most people cannot.  This does not surprise me in the least. 

 

From medicaldaily.com

 

Everyone knows an alcohol snob — someone who claims that they can make a perfect cocktail, that the only wine worth drinking is expensive, or that they can tell easily tell apart two very similar brands of liquor. A new study from Drexel University, however, suggests the average person can’t tell the difference between two types of whiskey: rye and bourbon.

 

Dr. Jacob Lahne, a food scientist and assistant professor in the center for hospitality and sport management, found Americans were more likely to sort alcohols by brand rather than type of whiskey when given a blind taste test. Legally, the only difference between rye and bourbon is their mash bill, or the materials each one requires for fermentation. Rye is made with — you guessed it — a majority of rye, while bourbon is fermented with a mash that is mostly corn. Apart from this difference, the stylistic and legal requirements for the two alcohols are identical. Something as little as a two percent change in mash bill could change bourbon to a rye, or vice versa. 

 

Read on

 

 

0 Comments

Thu

21

Apr

2016

Pairing Tea with Whisky

Pairing Tea With Whisky
Expanding your pairing horizons with premium tea and whisky

By BillieBLVD

 

OK I will go right ahead and level set.  I have heard of pairing cigars with tea and certainly I have paired many cigars with whiskey but I have never paired whisky with tea.  Apparently the practice is so wide spread that a special tea has been made specifically to be paired with whisky.  My horizons are expanding everyday. 

 

Benjamin and Blum – Whisky and Tea pairing – article by Yunhan Fang

 

Growing up in China, I saw many times people mixing cheap and sweet green tea soft drinks with Chivas Regal at late-night Karaoke or lively dinner parties, so that the harmonious and joyful gathering wouldn’t be interrupted by the overly mature and somehow solitary characteristics of whisky.

 

Therefore, when I received an invitation from Benjamin & Blum for a whisky and tea pairing  I was confused, curious and also struck by a little bit of nostalgia. However, the address on the invitation was at The Royal Automobile Club, one of London’s finest private member lounges, which was nothing like the dim and tumultuous 24-hour Karaoke compartments of China.

 

Arriving at the luxuriously decorated and slightly dark main hall of The Royal Automobile Club, I am led, by the founder of Benjamin & Blum, Paul Benjamin, and his advisor, to the lift which took us up to the small and meeting room-like venue. The first things I notice on the table are two glass bottles decorated with hundreds of golden diamond-shaped pixels. Through the highly polished glass, champaign-coloured liquid releases a gentle and soothing beam; the colour of the liquid in one bottle is slightly darker than the other. I immediately recognize that the contents of these bottles are the protagonists of today’s tasting session.

 

Four years ago, Paul started his own food company in London. Produced in a workshop in New Forest, the company’s first, and currently only, product is a luxury bottled tea collection, including Darjeeling Bai Mu Dan (White Peony) tea and Connoisseur’s Oolong. The tea has been brewed, cooled down, mixed with a little starflower honey and Valencia orange juice, filtered and hand-poured into bottles. The flavour of the tea has been specifically composed to be enjoyed together with high-end whiskies.

 

Benjamin & Blum’s unusual way of selling tea has really intrigued me, so after we sit down, I start to throw questions to Paul, a passionate lawyer-turned food entrepreneur; he answers them with ardour. “I was in a whisky bar in Tokyo and wanted to try something different,” he says when I ask about the inspiration behind the company’s first product. “The bartender suggested that I try whisky with tea. I did and thought that it was a brilliant combination; it worked really well. ” He then came back to London and, after some research, he realised that the trend of mixing tea with whisky was quite popular here in the 19th century, a time when Paul’s two great grandfathers Marcus Benjamin and Friedrich Blum were both luxury food and drink suppliers, based respectively in Berlin and Vienna. Paul inherited their passion for food; combining this with his new-found passion for pairing tea with spirits, he sought out the samples of the finest tea leaves from top growers. He sat down with a team of experts and experimented endlessly to discover which types of tea taste best with whisky.

 

Read on

 

 

1 Comments

Wed

13

Apr

2016

Partagas 2014 Edicion Limitada Paired With Hibiki Japanese Harmony

Japanese Whisky Paired With a Cuban Cigar
Whisky Advocate's #1 Japanese Whisky of 2015 Paired With Partagas 2014 Limited Edition

By BillieBLVD

 

As of right now I am the reigning King of Cuban cigar and Japanese whiskey pairings because as I have done it more than most.  Here are the following; Yamazaki paired with Bolivar, Namakubi paired with Hakushu, Hoyo de Monterrey paired with Hibiki 12, and now Partagas 2014 Edicion Limitada (not to mention the other Japanese whisky and non-Cuban cigar pairings).  Why do I love pairing Cubans with Japanese whisky?  The answer is simple, terroir.

 

Terroir is everything if you understand that flavors should have a home while so many flavors are completely homeless (go to your local tobacconist and you can easily observe the traffic going to the flavored cigar humidor and as patrons open bottles of peach pie flavored whiskey). Cuban cigars are a direct result of Cuba which is special due to its volcanic soil, elevation, sun exposure, people, and water content.  The Japanese whisky has the advantage of meticulous manufacturing which is a hallmark of Japanese culture, the water streams used by the Japanese distilleries are protected by the government, and the Mizunara oak barrels used to age the whiskey.  Together it's enough distinctive flavor to please me but it's more than that.  

 

Read on

 

 

0 Comments