Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cigar Review - Tabacalera Falto Reserva Especial Tres Luises

Decided to go to hang out with my main cigar man Isy at Uptown Cigar today. I was originally going to have something super-duper special to share with you today but it got pushed off until Friday. So, a self-pity cigar was in order. I perused the massive selection Luis from Tabacalera Falto sent me and decided on the R.E. Tres Luises. The cigar is dubbed after the long tradition of Mr. Falto's family of naming their sons Luis. That's pretty cool, I can dig on that. Also, since it was the cigar store I completely forgot to bring my camera (sorry, I'll get better at it) so no pics.

The cigar is a petite belicoso size and I nipped a bit of the torpedo off with my cutter. I checked the cigar for sponginess by ever so gently squeezing it and the foot of the wrapper cracked. Ruh roh, Raggy. I decided to let it slide and light her up. I toasted the foot and then gave her some flame and immediately the burn went to crap. I dunno if it was the humidity but the wrapper burned lightning fast and soon left the cigar canoed. I fixed it and went on with the cigar.

I'd break it up into segments but there'd be no point. The cigar was pretty static throughout. It had leather and nuts for the 3/4ths I smoked, along with the intriguing taste of clean malt, like in a good scotch. The draw was nice, not plugged and drew smooth, it was just kinda one dimensional. It wasn't a bad cigar, per se, just didn't evolve much like the first cigar of Luis' I tried. Would I recommend it? Yeah, I guess. I found it just on the cusp of medium so it'd be nice cigar in the morning when I can't handle a lot of change or too heavy of a smoke, but I feel it lacks complexity. Pat (my friend) pretty much echoed the same sentiment. I dropped one off to Isy so I'll see what he thinks and post it on here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Peace Tea Imported Ceylon - Wednesday, Dec. 30th

I've also done reviews of the Green Tea, the Razzleberry, and the Sweet Tea. Since they're linked for your convenience, I'm pretty sure you have to read them now. Besides, the other ones have my interpretations of the can art. 

I love iced tea. I love tea in general but iced tea is an especially fond portion of my beverage consumption. I am, by blood, almost half Scottish so a good deal is also something I'm especially fond of finding. Enter canned iced tea. Arizona puts out about 20,000 kinds of canned iced tea (including the Arnie Palmer, the greatest beverage in the world) in a huge 23 fl. oz. can. All for a whopping buck. $1. One greenback, one smackeroo.

Needless to say, they rank high on my list of Awesome Quaffables.

However, one thing that bothers me about Arizona is they love to use HFCS, or high-fructose corn syrup. It's not that I don't like drinking it because I'm afraid it's bad for me and it'll make me fat (I'm a beverage reviewer and I'm already fat), it's mainly because I don't like the mouth-feel it gives beverages and, honestly, HFCS is generally just too damn sweet. So, while walking through the grocery store I saw a beloved 23 oz., $1 can of tea and I reached for it. But it wasn't Arizona. It was a company called Peace Tea.

As you can see above, the artwork on the can is pretty cool. There's a hand giving a peace sign (obligatory) as well as a guy that looks like Merlin, an Indian chick, a guy in the background that looks like an Oompa Loompa wearing a red chef's hat, a cow, and Clark Kent at 50 off in the far corner. I'm gonna hedge my bets on this is supposed to be the local people of Ceylon. For the record, I want to live there if it means living near Merlin and a neon-blue cow. Anyway, the tea itself is pretty good. The color isn't thin and watery looking, it's thick and rich like a good brewed tea. The smell itself is pretty muted but it smells like a black tea (albeit not a very fine one). But the best part of this beverage is that it's made with real, honest-to-goodness cane sugar. Om nom nom! This tea comes so close to perfection I can almost taste it. Almost. The first sip is glorious: ice cold, perfectly brewed tea with the fresh sweetness of real sugar and just a hint of citrus bite from citric acid. Then the last bit hits. This sickly sweet, chemical-like sweetness.


The last ingredient in this tea is made with my bane of manufactured sweetners: sucralose. You know this by its brand name of Splenda. I hate Splenda solely because the first taste of Splenda dupes you into thinking its sugar, then the aftertaste is like the baby of HFCS and a gallon of methanol. It's this sickly sweet artificial taste that kills it. And this tea doesn't have a lot of it, but just enough to piss me off to levels I've never been to before in my life. If it didn't have the sucralose in it, I would just start funneling this into my body as quick as I could buy cans. But Captain Splenda has to come in and give me a big 'ole "Screw you, buddy" and then leave me with a can of tea that could have been so very perfect.

So, yeah. This is a thinly veiled rant against manufactured sweeteners. I hate them and my degree is probably responsible for creating them. Sweet-N-Low, Splenda, Nutrasweet...they all need to burn. HFCS needs to be dropped into the deepest mineshafts the world has. Plain brown sugar or agave syrup are the best things to sweeten things with, bar none. Oh, and maple syrup. That stuff is great.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cigar Review - Tabacalera Falto Prominente Gran Reserve Especial

Today's cigar market has many, many big names in it. Fuente, Rocky Patel, Drew Estates, etc. There are so many big names that the smaller, more boutique names never really make it to the limelight. And, something I've found, is that they've got as good (or better) product than the big guys. And they're consistently good. Rocky Patel puts out about two new cigar brands a day. Pepin, once really small, now seems to be doing that too. Some of them are hit, some are miss. I've found that if a boutique company has an on cigar...they're usually all on. I've been really getting into the more boutique cigars lately and Twitter has been a blessing for finding the smaller tabacaleras. So...about a week and a half ago I contacted Mr. Luis Falto concerning his line of Falto cigars. Since most places are so small, their distribution isn't well known so I asked Luis where I could find his cigars in NY. Much to my chagrin, they AREN'T in NY (edit: except Davidoff in NYC). But what does Luis offer to do? Send a "few samples" out to me.

I oblige.

Yeah...a "few" was a gross understatement. The man is generous to no end. A big box, fresh from Puerto Rico, showed up at my house today and his plethora of samples were within. I was giddy like a schoolgirl. Normally I don't like to smoke cigars "straight off the truck" but this little bastard of a perfecto called to me with a siren's song I couldn't resist. It was deliciously alluring. Despite the bitter cold outside...I ventured. And I'm glad I did.

Here she is, a little zeppelin of tastiness. The wrapper itself is slightly vein-y with a rather large vein running horizontal down the cigar.

The pre-light draw as all cocoa and hazelnuts. It was kinda like a tobacco version of Nutella. Ommy nommy nom nom. How does that NOT sound awesome. Sorry about the picture quality, I spent the entire time fighting my camera. Just don't venture into full-view on these pictures. They look like ass.

Lighting it and the first few puffs were chocolate, hazelnut, and clean tobacco. This continued on through the first quarter.

See that ash? Yeah, it wouldn't give up. I sneezed twice and it still had a death grip on the cigar. Reaching the middle the flavor evolved. The chocolate went away and was replaced by worn leather and a slight sage-like spice. Very nice stuff. Unfortunately, even though two sneezes didn't shake it me moving a foot to the left did and that beautiful ash fell two feet into those bushes below. It made me a pretty sad panda.

The third quarter saw the tobacco evolving again. The sage-spice came alive and evolved into a spiciness. It turned bitter but I'm going to attribute this to me puffing like a freight train pulling into the station. Choo choo! The ash itself showed some remarkable things. If you'll note, the ash in the center of the cigar was a beautiful snow white, which was ringed by a denser mottled gray ash. Not sure why the center was snow white but it was kinda pretty, even though it probably lacked minerals in the tobacco. Edit: this is probably due to the variety of Dominican tobaccos used. I've never seen a white ash before but Luis said that it's probably due to the broad range of growing areas and their mineral nuances.

Yeah, I legit can't lie to you. This cigar was pretty bad-ass, especially for being right off the truck. The flavor was complex and deep, the construction was flawless with a razor sharp burn (even in the relatively stiff wind I didn't need to touch it up at all). Best of all, the size is pretty much exactly what I love. I highly recommend trying one, if not multiples.

Stay tuned for more from Tabacalera Falto, Ltd. He sent a LOT of samples.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Little Jonathan 2006 Merlot - Sunday, Dec. 27th

My friend, Ryan, is a curious creature. His liquor purchases aren't based on excellent reviews, good reviews, or any review at all. He purchases liquor and wine not by word of mouth advertising, print/television advertising, or any advertising at all. No, Ryan purchases his alcohol based on novelty value. One of his stand-by wines is the Red Zeppelin which he originally bought due to the label. One of his favorite wines are what he affectionately calls "baseball wines", which proudly feature pictures of baseball players on it and classy names as "Schilling Schardonnay" and "Wakefield CaberKnuckle". The first time he ever listened to a recommendation was when I said that the Georgia Moon Corn whiskey will taste like...well...corn. He liked that.

It is rare that I get alcohol based on sheer novelty value. However, when a bottle of Little Jonathan 2006 Merlot showed up at my door (courtesy of the Last Word PR firm, for full disclosure purposes), I was thrilled by sheer novelty value alone. It was Little Jonathan wine. If you can't guess by the title of this post, this can be colloquially shortened to "L'il Jon". Yeah, the rapper. If you don't know who this is, let me refresh your memory:

Did you know that L'il Jon has a wine? I didn't. The better question is: is it worth drinking?

My answer - YEAH! Here are the notes:

The nose is full and luscious. First pour after opening was heavy on a smoked meat and pepper smell, almost like peppered jerky. Om nom nom. It had notes of chocolate and, oddly enough, green apple. Cooked red fruits were there too, like a cherry pie sans crust.

The taste was sweet on the forefront than expected. It is mellow and smooth, with hints of raspberry and light but pleasant sulfur that balances a rather strong flavor of honey. Letting it breath brings out the cooked fruit flavor from the nose.

This...surprisingly...was a pretty decent wine. I won't lie, I wasn't expecting it to be good but its quite decent. Not overly complex and I don't think it would age well beyond more than a few years but fresh it's pretty damn good. I'd drink it with a medium-rare steak. I'd also drink it with L'il Jon too.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cigar Review - Liga Privada No. 9 "The Flying Pig"

Oh that fat little porker of a smoke. Stopped into Uptown Cigar today for a quick smoke and, lo and behold, the No. 9 L.P. "Flying Pig" was in stock. A short fat little mother with a curly-cue pigtail it seemed like just the right thing to smoke. Unfortunately, no pics (I'm pretty bad at remembering the camera) so just a written review will have to do:

Clipped the pigtail off with the Palio. Pre-light draw was dark chocolate and clean tobacco. Toasted the foot then lit her up. First few puffs had a campfire smokiness to it which mellowed out into strong cedar and car leather. First quarter didn't change from this. Second quarter started to develop the cocoa from the pre-light and a stronger leather flavor. Cedar became more pronounced and in stronger quantity. Third quarter the cedar faded and left a touch of leather, a slight maduro sweetness, and dark chocolate. Throughout the cigar there was a baseline ligero spiciness in it that never wavered. I herfed it down to almost the band before I let her go.

The construction on that sucker was goddamn flawless. No touch-ups required even though I thought it would burn like crap due to the tapering perfecto shape. It burned clean and smooth but a bit slow and the ash did not quit until I put the thing in the ashtray. Even then it didn't give up until I kinda knocked it off with my finger. My friend, Pat, who I smoked with also smoked a Piloting Porker said that he liked it but would like to see it in a natural wrapper as well. The cigar tasted pretty damn good. A few moments of harshness but overall it was a smooth and mellow full-bodied cigar. My only real complaint? I'd like to see the same blend in a thinner ring gauge smoke. The perfecto shape was entertaining as hell and it did keep the smoke cool but I prefer my cigars a bit thinner for the Rochester winters. If they had a perfecto in a thinner ring gauge (this was probably 58ish at max, so maybe 50-52ish but the same size), I'd consider this box worthy. It's expensive in NY, I won't lie to you, but I'd consider it.

Berkshire Brewing Company HolidAle - The Christmas Quaff

Ah, quite a prosperous and merry Christmas has passed once again. Santa deposited a heavy treasure trove at the In With Bacchus abode this holiday. I managed to walk away with a variety of goodies to keep me entertained: an Ithaca Arms 20 gauge shotgun, an Orvis beginners fly fishing setup, a knitting kit, a "grow your own herb" kit, and a variety of pirate beer glasses and Zippos. It was also excellent to hang out with the family and dogs and eat some food that isn't served to me with a frown by an ice cream scoop. By the way, spiral ham is awesome.

I decided to cap the evening off with an excellent bottle of barleywine that I picked up in my travels to Massachusetts. As referenced in an earlier blog post, the pilgrimage to Stockbridge/Great Barrington took place on the 23 and I picked up some sweet brewskies from a local package store there. Package store is a great name for a liquor store. It makes you sound more like a functioning adult. "I gotta go to the liquor store" makes you sound like an alcoholic. "I gotta go to the package store" makes you sound like you're going to UPS. Distinctly more positive. Anyway, I picked up my traditional bottle of BBC Holidale Barleywine. Thar be notes:

Pours a nut brown/deep ruby with a finger of off-white head. Extremely heavy lacing down the glass that took about five minutes to wash off once I was done.

Smells of peaches, sweet malts, and (oddly enough) blue cotton candy. That's pretty much the best way to describe that smell. Definitely not a bad thing. I love that rotgut crap. Floral hop fragrance is there but clouded by the malts in the forefront.

Tastes sweet (ha-dur). Fresh baked rye bread, plum, molasses, fresh cream butter, raisins, brown sugar. Touch of bittering hops give it balance. Finish is long and crammed with dark fruits and molasses. Kinda like a fruit cake.

Oh, fruitcake. Right. Who here doesn't like fruitcake? Let's see some hands. Ok, you guys who don't like fruitcake. Fuck you. That's right, I said it. Fruitcake is delicious and, contrary to the Pee-Wee Herman Christmas Special, has more than just a construction purpose. Clapton dark rum soaked fruitcake is great. If you don't want 'em, email me. I'll eat 'em and give you a hearty pat on the back.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cigar Review - Cain Maduro Robusto (5 x 50)

Ahh, nothing like a good cigar. I've decided at this point to put up cigar reviews on here because, if I don't, I'll forget them myself. I've been smoking cigars since I turned 18 and my first cigar was an Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature. I'm no slouch. I didn't start off with the Dutchies or the Swishers. I kicked this shit into high gear right off the bat. I typically smoke medium-full (more full) bodied cigars, preferably in a maduro wrapper. My favorites are the Edge Maduro Torpedo and the La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Chiselito. Now that you've got a bit of info on my tastes, today's review is the Cain Maduro Robusto. I'd heard excellent things about it from both websites and my fine tobacconist: the ever wonderful Uptown Cigar Company. Really, Isy is a great guy and he puts up with me on a damn near weekly basis so he has the patience of a saint. If you ever need anything, call them and they can probably get it.

Utterly incorrigible shameless plug aside, the notes (sorry, no pics, I was too busy smoking):

I've been digging the punch over the guillotine cutter lately. I can taste the cigar better and I think it doesn't accumulate as much nicotine so I punched the bastard with the house puncher. Pre-light draw was slightly tight but nice and spicy. The Cain is a triple ligero (filler, binder, wrapper) so I expected this thing to be the equivalent of a right hook to the mouth. Lighting it and giving it a few puffs surprised the hell out of me, actually. It had spice, true, but it had this sweetness and gentle leather as well. It was very, very smooth for 100% ligero. I do have to admit that the cigar looked like complete and utter shit though. It was heavily speckled and vein-y but it smoked pretty well. I didn't think it evolved a whole lot but it was nice and spicy with that underlying sweetness, leather, and a bit of nuts in there to boot. Granted, I'm no professional at this but I found it to be a pretty decent cigar. My only problem was that, even smoking it in the store, it tunneled like it cured world hunger. The wrapper just would not burn at all so I had to correct it three or four times during the smoke. But each time it didn't get that foul relight taste at all, just straight and smooth.

So, in conclusion, for $8~ish (NY price), this is a humdinger of a cigar. Sweet but spicy, nice leather and nuts, cheap price, and strong enough for me, I'd buy it again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tactical. Nuclear. Penguin.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Furious Cupping and the Harney and Sons Ti Quan Yin

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I've been swamped with end-of-semester work. Also, I've been furiously and unabashedly cupping tea to submit my reviews to Since I've been slacking quite a bit, I figured I'd put up some images for you to enjoy. Some delicious Bamboo Yi Wu Pu erh from Norbu Tea Company (after about 4 steeps):

Some equally as delicious Jasmin Silver Tips from We Are Tea:

And finally some Kaze Sencha from Boulder Tea:

As promised, my final review of the Harney and Sons Ti Quan Yin, pictured below:

Brew 1: color of pale yellow (above). Smell was earthy and...hoppy...very flowery as well. Taste is wet earth, peach, and fresh cut lawn.

Brew 2: same color. Smell is more pungent. Smells of apricot/peach and fruit sweetness. Jasmine. Oxidized and deep. Tastes peach, green grass. Has a sweet/sour quality to it like a good lemonade.

A quite nice oolong. The peach was unexpected but pleasant. My mom loves the shit out of this so it's always available in the house and that makes me pretty glad. So, yeah. Still going to be busy for the next few weeks, so posting will be sporadic but I'll do my best to do an update at least a few times.

By the it just me or does the title of this post sound like a total bad-ass band name?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Woooo, tea time!

While my actual birthday was uneventfully boring, the birthday celebration was definitely not. Mainly because I got some kung-fu tea action going on. I had needed something to properly cup my tea (as my Krispy Kreme mug with jury-rigged teapot strainer in it wasn't cutting it). So, for my b-day, my parents got me a Harney and Sons tasting set, fresh from their store in Millerton. Here she be:

Look at her. Ain't she a beaut? Made in Sri Lanka of white porcelain, it holds one perfect cup of tea. But, in order to make a perfect cup of tea, one needs appropriately hot water. Before this momentous occasion I had been using water from either a coffee maker or a stove fifty feet from my room. In a kitchen that smells like vomit and failure. Yuck. So...using some spare cash I had in the form of an Amazon gift certificate, I bought myself a Zojirushi 3L hot water pot. Thar she blows:

Yeah, it's really nice. My only problem is you can't just set it to heat to any of the lower temps (140, 175, 190) straight away but rather you have to let it boil and then cool. Not a fast process. Regardless, it does make a fine cuppa. Seen here is the American Tea Room Genmaimatcha I have to review for Teaviews.

All in all, this little setup will make my life significantly easier. Oh, and I can cup tea quicker. And boy howdy, do I love tasting tea.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lhasa Beer - Saturday, Dec. 5th

I am, at heart, a philanthropic man. I may come across as a bitter and jaded alcoholic but deep down I really care about people. You can think of me like Marv from Sin City. Tough and grizzled on the outside, a big pushover on the inside. Normally my favorite philanthropic event is stuffing about $10 worth of change into the Salvation Army buckets over the course of the Christmas season. It's not much but I do my best. However, it came to my attention the other day that there is a way for me to do my favorite thing in the world (drink) while doing my good deed for the week. This comes in the form of Lhasa Beer.

I kinda love Tibet by extension. Frankly, they are the home of some of the coolest people in the world: Tibetan monks. My home being rather close to Woodstock, NY, I've met and talked to my fair share of Tibetan monks. They are...unequivocally...the most awesome people in the world. I'd love to have a cup of tea and chat with them. They're really kind, generous, and interesting people. The stories about where they came from before they went to religion are often tumultuous but in the end they always come to find peace within themselves. And, fuck, even if there are only a few of them in the country, I HAVE to love them. And from what I've heard, the Tibetan people are cool as shit and have to deal with a lot of crap. So I feel for them.

Lhasa beer is a way to help out Tibetans and cop a sweet buzz. The main man, James Casilio, was kind enough to send me two bottles to review and here she be. A pilsner/pale ale like beer brewed in Tibet and imported, 10% of all proceeds from its sale go right back to Tibetan charities. This. Is. Amazing. And, to's a pretty good beer too:

Pours a crystal clear, golden color with a one finger, snow white head. The color is really gorgeous; a very rich, deep molten gold color.

The aroma of pale malt and hops peeks through. Not very complex but pleasant. Slightly floral, like a springtime garden, with a nice waft of a hoppy spiciness to it as well.

The taste is rich honey followed by bitter pine. The spiciness in the nose pulls through, like cardamom and black pepper. It isn't as balanced between the bitter hops and malt as I'd like, but its really thirst quenching. The more I think about it, this is like a pils/ESB kinda beer. Extremely refreshing and highly quaffable. And it's a damn good cause.

So, in short: request this beer. It is a very solid beer (brewed with Tibetan barley and spring water and Saaz hops) and not only is it easy to drink and tasty, it donates to a good cause to boot. Go buy it.