I really don't need cigars, per se. I want cigars, this is true. I had been meaning to try Illusione cigars for the longest time but nowhere in the lower Hudson Valley carries them. This makes me a sad panda. The only place that carries them is Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe. That's right, shoppe. The extra "pe" means quality and refinement. Except they let myself and my friend Pat in there. Not a good call on the refinement part.
Situated in Colonie, this small-ish looking store packs a wallop. They originally were in an even smaller retail space the last time I went (they have since moved to a more spacious area) and, let me tell you, their humidor is huge. You could rent beds in that mamma jamma. The woman there was extremely helpful and tolerant of me doing the happy dance. I pretty much was doing a happy dance and squealing like a very happy piggy. Their humidor is a smorgasbord of stogies. They had oodles and oodles of Illusiones (save for the culebra which NO ONE HAS). They had every cigar made by General Cigar or at least 90% of them. Strong lines of Perdomo, Alec Bradley, C.A.O., Tatuaje, and Rocky Patel. They had the Room 101 cigars blended by Camacho for Matt Booth but I couldn't afford them after greedily cramming Illusiones into my meaty mitts, so I'll have to go back for them. What a shame...
Here's the haul:
This is the only picture of cigars I have. I kinda blanked out and forgot every defining quality of my existence in that humidor, so I forgot to take pictures. Sorry I'm bad at this. From left to right, we have the mj12, Eperney Le Elegance, the mk, Eperney Le Petit, and the 68 "Bombone". It was expensive (this was about $50) so that's all I bought. I guess I'll have to return to get the other stuff. What a pity...
This would be a worthy trip in it's own right but, honestly, we spent all of about 25 minutes in the cigar store. We didn't even smoke there. Why? Well, we had other business to attend to. Namely a distillery tour. Harvest Spirits, LLC. has been making (according to quite a few) some exceedingly fine spirits at the Golden Harvest Farm in Valatie, NY. What a coincidence! It was only about 20 minutes away from the cigar store. And they were distilling today. Don't mind if I do. We got to the farm and went inside to the tiny farm stand. I was pretty sure this was where the distillery was but the farm stand only had apples, donuts, and cider. I felt kinda odd asking "where's the booze" but I did, only to find out it was around the corner in the back building. We meandered through the snow to the glory that is their distillery. The signs for the distillery were a rather moot point if you got within 30 feet of the building because the air hung heavy with the smell of sweet apples and heavy, heavy hooch. It smelled like victory in apple form. We entered the rather large distillery building to be greeted by a woman busy labeling bottles of Core Vodka. The sales guy/distiller, Collin, offered to give us a short tour and do a tasting with us. The tour was brief and general but I didn't mind. I was slackjawed at their still set-up. Here are some pics. First are the cider fermentation tanks:
Here she is, the Harvest Spirits pride and joy - their German 5-stage column still:
Finally, their rectifying/condensing column. Oddly enough, it was just a straight up copper column and it didn't look like it was jacketed with a condensing water jacket/cuff:I believe Collin said that the still had 39 stages in total, with 5 on the distillation column and 34/35 on the rectifier. Ain't she a beauty? She and her masters make some damn fine spirit as well. The tasting started with their Core Vodka, distilled 3 times from an apple cider they ferment in the tanks shown above. It was quite nice and exactly what I was hoping for. Let me explain.
One thing that I hate about today's vodka is how it's distilled ninety times and then sextuple filtered through activated charcoal made from the logs of Abraham Lincoln's log cabin (or, if you're Dan Akroyd, Herkimer Diamonds). Honestly, if you want your vodka to not have a taste, just buy lab ethanol. Vodka SHOULD have a taste. It shouldn't be a thin, overfiltered and overdistilled drink that you just pour down your throat. It should be thicker and rich, with a consistency and flavor. Core Vodka has this. The nose is a butterscotch and the vodka itself is incredibly smooth with faint notes of crisp fall apples and a slight buttery taste and mouthfeel. An excellent vodka. They also make something they call "pearvados", a calvados made of a distilled pear slurry. We managed to try this not just from the bottle but from a char #2 new American Oak cask that they're aging some "super pearvados". The bottled version, cut to 80 proof, has some pear sweetness and flavor but also an odd mustiness that I found strange. The barrel proof one was a lot better, with that mustiness very muted but with strong pear and peppery spice, along with rich but not overwhelming oak. Collin said that they'll be bottling the Super Pearvados at cask strength which, I feel, is an excellent and wise choice. He also said that the bottling would be pretty soon as they didn't want it to get too "oaky" which I also agree with. The sample we tried was 2 months aged and it had a nice light oak edge to it. I'd hazard a few more months and she'll be sitting pretty.
Finally was the Cornelius Applejack, the real reason I came to Harvest Spirits. You know my love of apples and apple cider. I drink a lot of it. You also know of my penchant for bourbon as well. Their Cornelius is distilled from their cider and aged in ex-Woodford Reserve barrels. Oh man, it is great. So great it warranted a bottle purchase. The price was a touch high ($40) but it was worth every penny. They've already sold out of two barrels worth and I got bottle #203 from batch 3. So hop to it if you want a bottle of this nectar of life. I'll have a more formal tasting of it later this week.
Yeah. Good day.