Sunday, November 14, 2010

An evening with the Rahr Brewery



COME TO POP'S SAFARI CIGARS AND FINE WINES FOR A DOUBLE EVENT YOU WILL NEVER FORGET!

LOCATED AT:
2929 Morton St, Fort Worth, Texas 76107
817-334-0559
Dear Pop's Customers,

Time is growing short for the Robert Mondavi Wine Dinner on Thursday November 18. We still have 10 seats available. Pop's will feature a delicious prime steak dinner accompanied by four Mondavi Reserve Wines. Each of these fine wines is made in the Mondavi Tradition.

The evenings fare is $100.00 per couple plus gratuity and tax. Included are the wines, dinner, a Champagne reception and live entertainment.

PLEASE RSVP TODAY - 817-334-0559
The Godfather of California Wine
Perfection in a bottle

Event Sponsor
RAHR BEER

For those not attending the Mondavi Wine Dinner Rahr Beer will host a $20.00 cigar and beer pairing.  Noah, from the Rahr Brewery will be here to to talk smoke and beer.  Don't miss this fun for everyone event.  You can take your Rahr Presentation glass home as a gift.


Resident Cigar Expert Bear Duplisea will match cigars with the limited release Winter Warmer now on tap at Pop's. And, when you test drive the Buff Butt. Take the glass home. That's: 2 Beers, 2 Cigars, and Rahr Glass.  ONLY $20!!!


SNEAK PEAK OF PAIRINGS!:
Amber Red:

This brew has a nice light, tan head and caramel nose. The body is filled with a great blend of malt and sweet hops. It is a Vintage and classic-style lager (except it's red), with a crisp smooth finish.



Being paired with:
Partagas no. 6 (thin lonsdale)
- With a great draw, medium body, and smooth-pepper filled flavor, this stogie provides an excellent compliment to the crisp and clean lager. The No. 6 has a plentiful amount of smoke and will make for an excellent cigar experience.

Sancho Panza classico (any size)
- This is a classic cigar, medium body, so it won't overwhelm. It is a box-pressed, hand made smoke with great consistent construction highlighted by solid wood flavorings, pepper and a wonderful non-lingering finish.

For people who want to splurge on their own: La Flor Dominicana Premium Line, Oliva "O" serie, Torano Virtuoso, Ashton Classico; Heritage, or JC NEWMAN Brickhouse.

WINTER WARMER:

This beer has a brilliant dark color with cocoa and malty notes on the nose. CLASSIC RAHR light tan head that is solid and fuller-bodied. It has a smooth, sweet mouth feel and crisp ale-like bite to bring home the finish. Great winter brew!
Being paired with:

Esteban Carreras 187
- With this beer you will need cigars that can go pound for pound with the beer, but you do not want to overwhelm it or counter it. This is a nice med-full bodied smoke, with excellent spice and body. Ash does not hold too long, burn is even though and finish will match the Warmer beautifully.

Perdomo Dynamite
- Again, solid med-full smoke with ample spice, but nothing that will overwhelm. Cool smoke is not lush, but will provide a good match with the nice spicy finish.

Splurge: LFD Air bender, LFD Dbl ligero, Ashton VSG, CAO Brazilia, Brickhouse

Come join us, whether your live far or wide.  Don't miss me in action and remember, there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.

Regards,

Bear

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Cigar: a short reflection of smoke.



"The cigar is the perfect complement to an elegant lifestyle." -George Sand, pseudonym of French writer Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin 


Friends, this may be a concise entry, but believe me when I tell you I spend a lot time reflecting while I smoke.  My father recently asked me what the difference was between smoking a cigarette and smoking a cigar.  The answer to that question is loaded with hours of argument, discussion, research and detail.  Rather than subject him or you to all of it, I have always believed that cigar smoking comes down to one simple great detail: friendship.

As I sit here on a Sunday afternoon at my local cigar lounge, I am surrounded by the reason I took up cigars in the first place.  Cast out in front of me are several tables filled with people all sharing a good smoke on a fine afternoon.  I am the lone gunmen in this crowd, as I am the only person with no present company. 

This is the only time and place that I choose to smoke alone.  I take each Sunday afternoon for myself.  It is an extension of church, a continual time of reflection of my life, the past week, the days ahead, etc. 

But, as I sit here this weekend, a part of this sampling of society's spice rack, I smile.

Everyone is locked in discussion, celebrating life and friendship.

This is why I love cigars.  It brings together a mass array of people for no other purpose but to enjoy one's company. 

Why do I smoke cigars?  This. Now.

I have been accused of being in the moment to a fault, but meant as a complete compliment.  The word apologist has never been used to describe me and probably never will.  The cigar I smoke is a continual celebration of the life I lead, the life I've had and the life that is coming. 

A few moments after this entry will be posted, I will be watching a football game with my brother and dearest friend.  And, you guessed it, we'll be enjoying what will no doubt be a fantastic cigar.

The quality of the smoke is not finite, because of my amazing and snobbish taste, but because of the company that will be kept. 

Few people realize this simple fact: the only bad smoke(s) I've ever and will ever have are in solitary moments.  Note, my use of the word "smoke" in place of "cigar".  Have I had bad cigars with friends?  Oh, you bet.  But, as terrible as the those experiences were to my palate, they can't match the joy I get from the relationships that have been bonded in the ambiance of cigar smoke.

My cigar is not just a symbol of "elegance" or stature, but a beacon of life's most precious treasure.

So, why my cigar? For the moment, I rest my case.

You know how this one ends guys and gals, there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.


Regards,

Bear  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

DOUBLE REVIEW: Ashton ESG? Someone pinch me!

The fellows at Cigarsdirect have done it again.  They have given me two more opportunities (more on the second opportunity later) to review some particularly immaculate cigars:  the Aston ESG series.  I was allowed to sample the 20-year and 22-year vintages and give some opinions and thoughts.



Kevin (right) showing off some of his and colleague's
works at Arts Goggle 2010 in Ft. Worth.
 
It had occurred to me since my arrangement with Cigarsdirect was born, that I was in a pretty unique position.  Not only could I sample the best of their amazing selection, but it seemed almost hypocritical of me to cut my sharing experience short with just words.  Thus, I decided some of my friends and peers to help aid in the reviewing process.

Today, I introduce Kevin McGehee, an amazing glass artist who recently helped found SiNaCa Studios in Ft. Worth, Texas.  Kevin's girlfriend is one of my wife's colleagues and an upstanding gentlemen with some awesome ink.  His description below is a pretty accurate account of how I came to ask him for his help with this Ashton ESG review.

The Ashton ESG series is a tribute to Ashton's amazing success as a line in the last 20+ years in the industry.  Backed by two of the cigar world's two powerhouse personalities (Carlos Fuente, Jr. & Robert Levin), Ashton has become a household name along with the likes of Fuente, Cohiba, and, yes, Davidoff.  The wrapper on this particular blend is incredibly unique, as it has never been used before and the entire blend was concocted by master blender, Fuente, Jr.. 

On with the reviews.

ASHTON ESG 22 YEAR SALUTE 
By Kevin McGehee

Kevin, helping construct a
sunflower made entirely
of hand-blown glass.
A few months ago my girlfriend and I hosted an event at our house. We had a great group of people over and perfect weather as well. The majority of the evening was spent out on the deck playing Catch Phrase. I was already enjoying an Ashton when Bear arrived and inquired what I was smoking. He gave me a knowing nod and joined the crowd. 

Fast forward to the middle of September. I received a call from Bear saying that he remembered the Ashton that I had smoked and if I would be interested in helping him review the Ashton ESG. Without hesitation I agreed. As the designated day drew near I began to wonder what I was about to get myself into. Would I be able to give a good description of my experience? Would I try to over analyze the experience? I usually smoke cigarettes, but that being said I do enjoy a good cigar.

I wanted to provide a good account of my experience with this cigar. I read over Bear’s posts and made a mental outline of what to notice and when to do so. At Bear's suggestion I paired my Ashton ESG 22 Year Salute with a pint of Negro Modelo (an excellent choice any time). With that being said here are my impressions of the next hour and a half of excellence. 

My starting point was the initial inspection of this 6 x 52 crafted greatness. It revealed a rich walnut color, and a wonderfully mild sent with hints of oak and possibly nutmeg and coriander. It had a good solid, but not ridged feel to it as well. So I got to the cutting and lighting of the cigar… I had some nagging questions in the back of my head. I’ve always used a guillotine cutter, but had never taken much consideration to where I cut the cigar. How deep do I cut? I didn’t want to cut so much that the wrapper started to fray. I also didn’t want to have such a small cut that I would end up passing out trying to get a decent draw. I made my choice and thankfully chose well. Lighting up. Yet again, an area of cigar smoking that I really had never given a lot of thought to. Generally my routine would be strike the lighter and give a few puffs to get started. Well thanks to reading Bear’s posts it dawned on me that I was taking the wrong approach. So, I attempted to use just the flame to get things underway. If only it were that easy. I’m not sure if it was a lack of patience, but I wasn’t very successful. In the end, I went back to my normal routine and got it lit. As I would find out through the smoke the Ashton would correct my crappy lighting techniques for me. 

The initial draw was clean and I was able to again distinguish the hints of oak, nutmeg and coriander. I truly enjoyed the flavor that the cigar provided. I picked up the draught Modelo and was wonderfully surprised by the change in its flavor, due to the taste of the Ashton. It went from a “traditional Munich Dunkel Lager” to having a cream ale flavor similar to a Cafferys or a Smithwick. 

For my personal preference this was the perfect sized cigar. It felt good in my hand and its diameter wasn’t overwhelming. As I moved toward the middle of the stogie I took a couple of deeper draws and was greeted with the same flavors as the beginning of my journey. Although, I did notice a slight spicy tingle on the tip of my tongue. 
My best description of this might be a white pepper taste. Pleasant and an interesting surprise. Towards the end of the Ashton I was very pleased that there was no excessive warmth on a deep draw and the flavors maintained themselves very well. 

I found this to be a wonderful smoke from beginning to end. Great consistent flavors and a very forgiving burn even with my tragic lighting technique. Thank you Bear for the opportunity to enjoy a truly great cigar!

Kevin's Rating: 90
Kevin (center) with (from left) Mark and Cliff, two of his partners posing in
front of their finished project.

ASHTON ESG 20 YEAR SALUTE
By Bear

I have had the fortunate opportunity to smoke some Ashton ESG Salutes in the past and have enjoyed each and everyone of them.  The following smoking experience was no different than my previous endeavors.  If one should read anything into that statement, it should start and end with the conclusion that Ashton produces nothing but consistent excellence. 

The cigar felt good in hand and its flawless wrapper had a wonderful bouquet of earth, white pepper, and notes of nutmeg.  The pre-light draw was consistent of the initial bouquet.  I ditched my traditional cool lighting method and went with some matches.  The smell of sulphur stung my nose a little, but it did not harm the palate or scent of the cigar.

The draw on the first few puffs were excellent and proved to be a welcoming kickoff of things to come.  The smoke was cool and plentiful as my palate was coated with nuts, tea, earth and nutmeg.  Although, just as consistent as other Ashtons, the ESG proved to be surprisingly complex. 

I decided to smoke this cigar dry (no beverage accompaniment), as to give an honest virgin review.  With my previous ESG experiences, I had elected to pair the cigar with a variety of different beverages.  I wanted to give an honest effort to make this a unique and new experience. 

Unique it was, as this being my first cigar of the day, I was truly able to savor the fine nuances and quality of this gem to the cigar world.  Fuente, Jr. certainly did an unbelievable job in blending this series.  Although, when you start with leaves from the Chateau de la Fuente farm, it seems difficult, in my experience, to miss in terms of quality product. 

The finish for me was clean, crisp and lingered just the right amount of time.  Pick up a box of these to celebrate a wedding, new baby, or to celebrate a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  Whatever you do, be sure to look them up at Cigarsdirect.com

My Ratings:


Appearance - 10
Pre-light taste- 8
Construction - 10
Draw - 9
Burn - 9
Aroma - 9
Flavor - 8
Balance - 10
Finish- 9

Total Rating: 9.2 

Whenever you smoke an Ashton remember you are in elite company, smoking some of Fuente, Jr.'s finest.  For Kevin and myself, remember, there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.
 
 
Regards.
Bear

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

America's Pastime: My ALDS Experience.

Now, before my cigar followers throw up a fit about another baseball post, I will tell you that cigars played a pivotal roll this particular weekend.

On Tuesday, October 5th, my boss buzzed my office. 

"What are you doing Saturday?" he asked.  "I was planning on working to tell you the truth," I answered, figuring he was casually reminding me to do so.

Boy, was I wrong.

"Want to go to the ball game?"  he asked, probably already knowing the answer.  My response was a combination of disbelief and jubilation.  I reapeated, "The ALDS?!" several times before I went to his office to make sure he wasn't playing a shameles prank or forgot to ask another member of our team if they wanted the tickets first ( I'm the newest member of the office).

I was in awe and overwhelmed by my boss's generousity.  My excitement was very hard to contain.  I usually don't call my wife at work, but this is one of those moments that called for a small infraction of unprofessionalism.  She was equally excited, especially when I asked her to be my guest.

My week reached its high point when my boss handed me the physical tickets.  I held onto them like platinum.

This is the part of the entry where I disappoint some by stating that I have little care for the Texas Rangers.  Don't get me wrong, living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex this baseball season has been exciting, but I honestly do not consider myself a Texas Rangers fan.  However, I hate the Tampa Bay Rays.  I do love cigars that hail from J.C. Newman Cigar Co, which is located there.  But as far as the Rays are concerned, they can stick it.

The new America's Team.
The day came, Saturday, October 9, 2010.  Between the ALDS, the various college football games being played at Cowboys Stadium, the Cotton Bowl, TCU, UNT, and FC Dallas's game it was estimated that at least one-quarter of a million people were watching a live sporting event at some point that day in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. 

My wife and I cheered, ate hot dogs, shared a beer, basked in the sun, and watched in vain as the Rangers could not complete the sweep of the Rays. 

Over the course of the game we met (or came into contact) with some interesting people.

First there were a pair of father & sons, sitting in front of us.  It was a picture that one day I hope to be blessed with.  Except, that these kids were being very obnoxious.  The "awww that's cute" factor wore off rather quickly.  One of the kids had come up with a sign that was very clever at the time.  "SWEEP THE RAYS, CUZ THEY'RE DIRTY!"  Nice, right?  It was extremely clever for his nine year old mind.  However, over the course of nine innings, I heard, "THE RAYS ARE DIRTY!" about 700 times.  The fathers finally wised up and quited them when he shouted, "CARLOS PENA--- YOUR MOM IS DIRTY!"   That was the end of that, eight and half innings too late.
The crowd was electric.

Next, there was George, a sixty-something male sitting behind us with his wife.  As my wife tried to take a photo of us, self-portrait style, George eagerly chimed in, "I'll take a picture for ya!"  As I turned to see Geoge for the first time, I couldn't help but see my future in front of me.  Here was a man, on his feet at baseball game, chewing on an unlit Oliva Serie V belicoso sitting with his wife and grand kids.  I should be so lucky. 

And lastly there was Ricardo, a modest and quiet man about 40 years old.  He also had his son with him.  They also gained amusment from the "dirty kids" in front of us and enjoyed the game.  About the 4th inning, when the Rangers were up 1-0, Ricardo leaned over and asked my wife what we were doing the following day.  No plans.  He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out two tickets for the possible game four for the next day.  He offered them to us- no charge.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  "I'm playing the lottery when we get home," I litterally thought to myself.  This was not just awesome, but also interesting.  Had I been a true fan, I would have yelled, "Put those away, don't jinx this!"
The lone Ray fan at the ballpark...he had fun.

Alas, Ricardo must have, the Rangers fell to the Rays 6-3.  The game tied up in the sixth and the Rangers were kicked into submission in the 8th and 9th innings when the Rays went 7-13 in the last two innings, including two home runs.

We left the stadium sad, but excited that we'd be able to return for Game 4 the following day.  As we sat in the car patiently (wink) waiting for cars to move, my wife suggested I light a cigar.  You don't have to tell me twice and I lit up a wonderful Perdomo Lot 23 robusto.  It took us nearly an hour just to get out of the parking lot, but I had great company and an awesome smoke to keep me sane.

Game 4, came and went with as much excitement and ultimate disappoinment in the home team's demise.  The Rays were victorius once again, this time 5-2.  There would be a Game 5 in Tampa Bay and Cliff Lee would return to the mound.



We'll be back tomorrow.
 
Everyone now knows that Texas went onto win the ALDS and advance to meet the Yankees in their first ALCS, still without winning a home game in the playoffs in their history.  While there was no storybook sweep or fantastic come-from-behind victory, there still was baseball.  Fantastic moments painted in my memory by three of my true loves- my wife, cigars, and baseball.


A very warm thank you goes out to my boss, Andrew, for allowing me this amazing experience.  The joy over the course of those 18 innings could have allowed me to fly.


At Game 4.

So, here's to the Rangers and their first ever ALCS birth, may they beat the Yankees into submission and go on to the glory that this team has earned this season.  To the quote a young Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, "May your feet be swift, may your bats be mighty, and may your balls...be plentiful."

Remember, Ranger fans and all others alike, there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.



Regards,
Bear

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday."- The Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride

Marriage.  A much debated institution.  For centuries there have been discussions, theories, jokes, observations, and selected commentary on one of civilization's most ancient traditions. 

I hate to disappoint some of you, but this entry will not be poking fun of or a proverbial bashing of the joining together of man and wife.  On the contrary, let's look at this as it was originally intended a blessing and celebration of two people joining their lives and families.  I have been married six months, my parents just celebrated 42 years together.

In fact, I'm really not going to tackle the body of marriage as a whole, but rather the beginning.  The wedding.  Weddings are a billion dollar industry.  Between venues to photos to cake, every year Americans spend on average $30,000 which, on average, winds up being a 20 minute ceremony and a 4 hour reception.

Some may say that's ridiculous, some say it's unbelievable, and some would say, "Yeah, that sounds about right."

I told you this wasn't going to be a cynical observation and it won't be.  For those of you that know me, I can be a hopeless romantic and so this entry will be on celebration.

And why not?

Cigars, fine wines, premium liquor, and beer have been the mark of celebration for centuries as well. 

This may actually surprise most of you, but I actually did not smoke at my wedding.  Before?  Of course.  During honeymoon?  Most Def.  However, I did not take a single puff at my wedding reception.  In fact, I don't smoke at many weddings, at least during the course of traditional events.  I prefer to to take part in the traditional events: toasts, cake cutting, dances, etc.  Who wants to miss that?

This past weekend, I was present at the union of James McCombs and Katie Evans.  They are a beautiful couple that I wish nothing but happiness and joy for the rest of their lives.  Many of my cigar comrades were in attendance.  And while many of them were as excited as I was to toast our friends' marriage with a good smoke, they didn't want to miss any of the festivities either. 

"I don't think I'm going to be able to smoke tonight, bro," one friend commented.  "I just don't want to, it would take me away from the wedding too long."

Truly a man of honor.  You see, my friend was not only thinking in the best interests of James, but was giving me respect by saying subconsciously that he didn't want to rush a good smoke and the amount of time it would take to enjoy it.

I took my cue from him, opting to enjoy the celebration on other merits.  I got to enjoy a dance with my wife, a beer with the father of the groom and savor some damn nice cake. 

However, afterwards I invited some friends back to my home, where we toasted with some champagne and lit some great smokes. 

Good times.  Good fellowship.  Great cigars.  A motto worthy of any post-celebratory gathering. 

So, take your time, celebrate, and enjoy the moments as they present themselves.  To my friends, James and Katie, congratulations and may your joined lives be blessed and joyous.

To the rest of you, take note 4 out of 5 dentists recommend that there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best!

Regards,

Bear

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's Only Funny if You Get Caught

"A good Cuban cigar closes the door to the vulgarities of the world."- Franz Liszt


Sometimes I truly wonder what drives people to act as they do. Oh, come on, we have wondered this at one point.

Men: “Why in the hell did he take Maddux out in the 7th, he was pitching beautifully!”

Women: “What the hell was she thinking…those shoes with that outfit?”

See, we’ve all done it. But still, what drives people to act upon foolish, nosey, and negative perceptions, I’ll never know.

I have yet another story that has found a home in the epic journey that has become my quest for the perfect cigar.

I think Liszt got it right, because when most people say, “You’ll laugh about this in the morning,” I usually already am, because I always try to be in good company, with an excellent cigar in hand.

The following story has not been modified, nor has been formatted. The story is real. The people are real. Only nothing has been changed.

“Hey Shawn (my brother), I forgot my lighter in the car,” I said, “Why don’t you come with me, there is a really funny comedian I want you to listen to for second?”

We proceeded outside with cigars in hand. I had brought him an Alec Bradley Select Cabinet Reserve to try out and I selected a La Flor Dominicana Air Bender. We loaded into my car, started it, and lit our cigars as we listened to the CD for a brief moment.

We, of course, vacated my car and proceeded to walk around his home to the backyard amd enjoy our smokes on his patio.

I know that this story may seem terribly dull at this point I beseech you to hold on.

My brother (not blood) lives with his half sister, her husband John and their three boys. Since the boys were already asleep at this point (little boys asleep at 8pm, yeah right) we kept it quiet and left the lights out on the porch. We are enjoying our cigars and good conversation with little want or need of anything.

“HEY!” John shouts, as he bursts outside while blinding us with the patio light. “Are y’all smoking weed out here?” he asks. He barely waits for an answer as he notices the obvious stogies between our fingers.

“Ahh,” we exclaim in response to the light, “No way John.”

John takes off back into the house, obviously upset about something.

As I have stated for the record on other occasions, I do not and have never smoked marijuana. I was pretty sure John knew this. I am well aware that the family is fond of me and I am not about to disrespect a man in his house, especially with young children around. I urge Shawn to go check on things and he leaves me outside to enjoy the warm air and soothing smoke by my lonesome.

A few moments later, Shawn returns with a smirk across his face and a chuckle building in his stomach.

Shawn has heard all of my cigar stories and knows there is a good chance something crazy will happen when I decide to light the end of any vitola.

"I think you may have a story for your blog brewing here," he says matter-of-factly.  "Oh really," I replied.
 
Oh crap, what's going on now.  John and Lisa know we smoke cigars out here.  I don't what them thinking I smoke pot, especially with their kids sleeping 25 feet away.
 
Shawn continues, "Well, the police are on their way. So, put a smile on."  I thought he was joking, but as I realized he really wasn't I'll be honest I felt some relief.  I knew John would obviously not call the cops on us, so it made feel a little better that he was not behind the issue at hand.
 
It turns out that while we were in the car out front there were some overzealous high school kids outside that witnessed us as we lit our cigars in my car.  They thought they saw something that they didn't see.  If my Air Bender was a blunt it could have a set a world record for size I promise.  Clearly these kids how no idea what they were talking about and were trying to play neighborhood crime watch.  While I suppose I can admire the entusiasm, sometimes a little common sense wouldn't hurt anyone. 
 
 
"Where's John?" I asked.  Shawn took a puff from his cigar and stated, "Across the street in his underwear yelling at the neighbors."
 
I couldn't help but laugh.  While weren't guilty of anything, it was nice for cigar smoking to get such a loud defense from someone.  The cops came and went, especially since there was nothing to see.
 
And so, another entry in my cigar adventures came to a close. 
 
Today, I still have this vision in my head of me spread out on  a cop car, handcuffed, puffing on my Airbender, guiltyof nothing but excellent tastes and good coversation.  I am not sure I understand the reaction of those kids, nor the need to take such a dramatic action.  Still, nobody was hurt and the world has kept turning. 
 
I continue to make an honest effort to be smoking a cigar as obnoxiously as possible whenever I return to my brother's home.  A modest hope is that the kids are standing outside to once again witness and be reminded of their obsurdity,  Yeah, I am that guy.  Call me a jerk, a jackass, or just mean, but if I am anything, I am certainly the best.
 
As always folks, keep puffing and remember there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.
 
 
Regards,
Bear

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Atmosphere is everything. Drink up!

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." - Neslon Mandela



The world we find ourselves in today is changing and moving at an unbelievable pace. 

How many of you had an e-mail address 15 years ago? Owned a cell phone ten years ago? An IPOD eight years ago? A facebook account five years ago?  Or a KINDLE/IPAD 1 year ago?


Information is moving at a constant pace.  Ideas are being exchanged instantly across the globe.  One's reputation can be tarnished one minute and absolved the next with a simple posted apology on Twitter.


Who cares, right?


Well, whether you do, or whether you don't really isn't want I want to discuss.  My point is, however you feel in today's fast paced society today, I believe everyone will agree it is beneficial to slow down and take it all in.


I get asked quite a bit, "Bear, what do you enjoy most about cigars?"


That's simple.


I enjoy the lifestyle and the moments it creates.  Don't get me wrong, I believe cigars to be delicious treats and do enjoy a number of other things about them.  However, I love what cigars create and force and individual to do. 


Someone once told me, "Stogies are great, they force you to sit down and have a conversation."  I couldn't agree more.  For centuries, cigars have been a symbol of class, wealth, elegance, dignity, and celebration.  Today, most cigar enthusiasts enjoy the camaraderie it brings with other aficionados. 


A cigar is important, but what and how you pair it with determines a lot about your experience. 


Ambiance is important.  Are you comfortable?  Inside? Outside?  In your car? Is the lighting overpowering?  Is it dark?  Are you alone?  In a large group?  Are you having a drink?  Is it a cocktail?  Is it affecting the cigars flavor?


All of these questions may seem tedious and a bit ridiculous, but whether you know it or not they are already in your head.  Your choice of surroundings is what can often make or break a cigar. 


A friend of mine and also a fan of this blog, Paul, recently commented that he enjoyed when I offered up how my drink paired with a cigar I was reviewing.  And since I find it to be a good decision to pair your favorite cigar with a good beverage, I've decided that will be the topic of discussion for this week's entry.


Before I start, let me hit with some ground rules:
1) Never choose an accompanied beverage solely because you've heard or think it will pair well with a cigar.
    - What I mean is, if you don't like a drink without a cigar, no stogie in the world will make that drink taste
well.
2) Never choose a cigar solely because you've heard or think it will pair well with a certain beverage.
    - The same a rule #1, no drink in the world will change your mind about a cigar.
3) Never dip your cigar into accompanied beverage.
    - I know you saw your grandpa do this.  Trust me, it is a bad idea.  As I have stated in the past, direct contact with your cigar and the liquid will damage the cigar's integrity, construction, and overall flavor.  If you'd like to smoke a flavored cigar (ahem, loser) then there are some available.


Ok, now that the rules are set, here are some opinions and insights into accompanied beverages with your selected cigar.


Beer:
     Beer can be a great partner for your stogie.  I usually would lean towards something with a little more body to hold up and balance out more mild to medium cigars.  Stouts and porters would fall into this category.  A good time for this would be late afternoon or early evening.  I usually enjoy a brew on Sunday afternoons with my cigar.
     Try this: Grab a hefeweizen to counter a spicy, heavily bodied smoke to change your smoking experience into a complex world of great flavor.  It's a meal you've dreamed of, but have never had


Brandy:
     Along with port and cognac, brandy is a very popular after dinner beverage.  So, of course, it would a great choice to accompany your favorite puro.  I find that Brandy really opens up the nose and one's sense of smell, so it goes great with cigars that have a very pleasant bouquet.
     Try this: Let the brandy sit for a bit before you light your cigar or ask your bartender to warm it a bit.  The temperature really brings a lot of flavor from your cigar to the front of your palate.


Bourbon Whiskey:
     This drink can typically be very rich and sweet.  Like brandy, it can open up one's sense of smell, but it usually dominates on taste.  With maple, oak, and vanilla notes dominating a lot of bourbons, it pairs well with  full bodied and spicy stogies.
     Try this: Try not to cut this liquor too much and allow the flavors or your cigar and drink to co-mingle.


Coffee/Espresso:
     This is probably my favorite partner to a good smoke.  Especially after a great meal, coffee and/or espresso goes great with every cigar.  Mild to Full bodied or spicy to sweet, each cigar can benefit alongside a good cup o' joe.
     Try this: Pair a heavy/full bodied/spicy smoke with a cappuccino and enjoy the creaminess mingle with earthy spice. 


Cognac:
     Much like brandy it can really open the nose and pair well with cigars that have an affluent aroma.  I beg you, please do not add ice or anything to cut the cognac.  It kills me when I see this.  Lime, coke, ice or Sprite do not belong in the same glass as cognac, especially when pairing with a cigar.  When too much complexity is added to your personal ambiance it can distract and one part will be a relief for another.
     Try this: Heavy dinner + Cognac + cigar. 


Port:
     I enjoy a great port and find it to be a great balance and partner to a cigar.  Next to coffee I'll go for a port.  I will say this having a port during any part of the day besides late evening is not a good combination.  Just trust me on this one.
     Try this: A tawney port, 10 year+ vintage with your favorite go-to stogie.

Scotch Whiskey:
     An old stand by for centuries and this pairing does not disappoint.  Unlike bourbon, the sweet notes in scotch are usually subdued in favor of good, hardy flavor that really is wonderful in the early evening. 
     Try this: If you enjoy smoking before dinner, grab two fingers of your favorite scotch and mild robusto to open up your palate for supper.

Wine:
     I have very mixed feelings about wine being paired with cigars.  If done, I would prefer a rich, robust red.  I have had white wine with a cigar in warm summer afternoons, but overall I try and stay away from white wine and cigars together.  Even most reds don't pair well.  I'd rather enjoy wine with my meal and then enjoy a cigar with another beverage post eating.
     Try this: Actually, just don't.


Wild Card:
Coke: 
     A lot of sweetness and a certain spiciness can go well with some cigars, in particular heavily bodied smokes. 
     Try this: Give your favorite full flavored stogie a whirl, pairing it with your preferred cola.

As always, I welcome comments and added thoughts.  But, with this entry, I am really looking for some.  I want to know what you enjoy and perhaps add to some of my thoughts.  Keep smoking and remember that there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best!


Regards,

Bear

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to the Classics: A review of the Arturo Fuente Spanish Lonsdale

I am extremely excited about an opportunity presented to me in the past few months. As of direct result of this blog, Cigarsdirect.com has generously brought me on board to sample and review some products on their behalf.


I encourage you to check out their site and help yourself to some awesome deals that they have.

Arturo Fuente is a name that is synonymous with the word cigar. The industry has flourished with the Fuente family producing some of the most sought after cigars in the world. Arturo’s son and grandson (Carlos and Carlos, Jr.) have advanced the craft of cigar making to levels that have inspired creations such as the Hemingway, King B, and, of course, Opus X.

Today, we take a gander at the Spanish Lonsdale Natural. A classic in the Fuente’s family arsenal for some time, it is a fine example of a classic cigar.

Let’s take a look at what appears to be an example of flawless construction. No veins or toothiness to this Connecticut shade wrapper, the pleasant pre-light bouquet is earmarked with dominant cedar and earthy notes. The faint subtle sweetness on the pre-light draw awakened some taste buds that clinched the desire to light the cigar. I cut the tip with my guillotine cutter and sat down to enjoy this smoke with my good friend, Gus.

For a classic like this one, I chose a classic lighting method: matches. While my lighting job was less than desirable, the impeccable construction came through and the burn was remarkably even from beginning to end.

The first third of this cigar was just as consistent as advertised. I’ve smoked Fuentes for years now and admit to have had the Spanish Lonsdale only a few times. In fact, I’ve usually reached for the maduro variety instead. However, this smoke is equally great in flavor, thus far.

The second half is filled with delicious, earthy flavor. The smoke is plentiful and creamy. Gus has taken a few puffs when I am not looking and is equally pleased. The fellows at Cigarsdirect.com have given me a premo smoke to enjoy. I forgot to mention that this lonsdale is a tad thicker gaged than most I tend to smoke. At 6.5 inches and with a 42 gage, it allows the burn to remain even and the smoke to stay cool.

The construction has held up to its intial overview and remains impeccable all the way to the nub.

I have selected a Sam Adams Oktoberfest brew to accompany this stogie as my drink. The robust flavor of the beer, only amplifies the mild, mellow creaminess of this Fuente.

I tend to enjoy more complex smokes a tad more than traditional smokes such as this, but does not disappoint.

The finish does not linger to long, but nonetheless is an enjoyable feel. I’d reach for these as an everyday smoke, or something to enjoy after a Sunday brunch.

My Ratings:
Appearance - 10
Pre-light taste- 7
Construction - 10
Draw - 9
Burn - 10
Aroma - 8
Flavor - 7
Balance - 9
Finish- 7

Total Rating: 8.6

Check out cigarsdirect.com and get yourselves some great smokes and remember guys and gals, there is nothing wrong with knowing you’re the best!

Regards,
Bear

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Proud Moment For This Fan


Lately, I am sure you all have noticed my drift from cigars and my comments on real world events, deaths of famous people, etc.   I anticipate more posts soon that will revolve completely about cigars.  Everyone can look forward to a review I am working on for cigarsdirect.com.  I am also finishing up a piece on maduro leaves, wrappers and cigars.  My next post will more than likely be my re-telling of another tale from this smoker's corner. 

But, today I saw something in the headline that made me smile just a bit.  It has to be obvious what a huge baseball fan I am and that I make no secret that I am proud member of the Red Sox nation.  Through much of my youth and into the early years of adulthood I followed one ball player particularly close: Frank Thomas. 

While my brother worshipped Ken Griffey, Jr. and my father rooted for Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, my guy was Frank.  "The Big Hurt" got my attention as a kid, because he just seemed larger than life.  While that was supported by his 6'5", 250 pound frame, it was much more than that.  He just seemed to enjoy his time on the field more than most. 

In little league, I wore number 35 in honor of him.  While I never did him justice, he was the player I wanted to be the most.  I met him when I was 22 and asked for an autograph like I was ten years younger.  "Mr. Thomas, you've been my hero since I was real little...please sign this baseball for me."  It was not my proudest moment as a man, but for the kid inside it may have been the best day of my life.  Frank, of course, obliged me with a smile and no hesitancy whatsoever.  Not bad for a guy who only had one at-bat that game.  As he signed the ball, I went on and on about his one at-bat that ended in him advancing to first on a base on balls.  You see, Frank hung in for a 19-pitch at-bat.  Not impressed?  Well, Frank had come into the game to try and get something going.  The opposing pitcher and pitched a three-hit game into the 7th inning.  The pitcher had only thrown 78 pitched thus far and looked to be cruising.  He gave up that third hit on a bloop single just before Frank came into pinch hit.

On pitch 97, after Frank had battled off an array of pitches, carefully chosen his spots and swings, he took his base.  On pitch 98 of the evening, the next batter tagged a line drive to the gap scoring both runners.  As Frank slid into home plate I think I was the only who knew those RBIs belonged to him.  He wore down the pitcher at a key juncture in the game and allowed the game to be tied up.  They scored another run that inning to take the lead and after that there wasn't another base runner for either team.

Frank won that game and nobody knew it.  Nobody really cared.  The paper mentioned his name in the re-cap as the tieing run, but that was it.  I knew.

About 18 months later the Mitchell Report came out.  I was scared and deeply saddened by this hit to baseball.  I scanned the list furiously...no Glavine, no Griffey, no Maddux, and finally no Thomas.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  In my mind there had always been no doubt, but still it scared me as a fan. 

And now, today has come. Frank has returned to the city where his career started and blossomed.  The city of Chicago, the south side's White Sox are retiring his number 35 today and will erect a statue in his honor sometime next year.

"It brought back a lot of memories, thinking about teammates and all the great times and bad times," Thomas said. "It just got to me. Emotion caught up. I'm a very, very proud man today, and this was probably was the proudest day of my life."

For this fan, I couldn't be happier, couldn't be more proud.  You were the best Hurt, we'll miss you on the field, but we'll never forget.  I still haven't.  Thanks.

Remember, be like Frank and know that there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.


Regards,

Bear

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT, THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT, THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT"- Russ Hodges, 1951

Bobby Thomson is dead at age 86. 

So many times I listened to a recording of Hodges' historical call as a kid.  Whenever I think of baseball, I think of sunny afternoons, the smell of freshly cut grass, hot dogs with mustard, dirt never feeling dirty, and Bobby Thomson. 

Thomson, circa 1951
For this baseball fan, it never seemed to matter that I wasn't alive for his moment.  It never mattered that if forced to, I probably couldn't pick Thomson out of a crowd.  What mattered was the moment itself. 

"The Shot Heard 'Round the World," is a time traveling moment in history.  While the moment lasted merely seconds, it will continue to exist in our hearts and our children's hearts for all time.  

Thomson referred to himself as an "accidental hero."  In many ways, mostly by his own admission, Thomson felt dwarfed in baseball stature compared to some of his teammates.  After all he was surrounded by future Hall-of-Famers Willie Mays and Monte Irvin.  In fact, not many know that it was Mays who was on-deck during Thomson's famous at-bat.  

Nonetheless, while Mays had "The Catch" and Irvin's legend was staked in the Negro Leagues, it is Thomson who will forever be cemented in baseball lore.  

Over half of a century has passed and "The Flying Scot" still heard cheers on the streets of New York.  Old-timers would call out his name, fathers would tell their sons the tale as he passed them in diners, and Brooklyn still cringes when you mention his name.

A man of great composure and love for the game played 15 seasons with the Giants, Milwaukee Braves, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, and Baltimore Orioles.  The other half of the story, Ralph Branca (the man who threw that now famous pitch to Thomson) would later join forces with him on national tours to describe the moment from both perspectives.  



Thomson and Branca were a part of the "Dodger-Giant War," that existed before both teams moved to the West Coast.  But what was simply a historical rivalry, became legend overnight.  
The passing of this legend brings sorrow to the heart of this writer.  Fortunately, he's in a place where he can run and play again.  There really is something special about heroes.  

So, here's to Bobby Thomson, a humble man, but nonetheless, still one of the best. And there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.  

Regards,


Bear 

  

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Is it really how you play the game?

On April 29, 2010, Robin Laird the best pole vaulter for South Pasadena High School had the moment that every athlete dreams of. If she cleared her next jump, her team would win the meet, League Championship, and beat their rival Monrovia High School. Laird had apparently gone all season long doing everything the same. Stretches, warm-ups, and focusing on her goal: to clear the pole. On April 29th, the moment had come. No matter what, this next jump would be a defining moment for her in athletic career, no matter how short or long.

She cleared the pole with little difficulty and her team erupted in celebration. The 75 people in the stands (hey, it’s high school track) went nuts. South Pasadena had won another league championship thanks in part to the poise and skill of Laird.

You knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you? Monrovia coach Mike Knowles, a 30-year coaching veteran of high school track and field, made a fateful walk over to the official’s table. He pointed to his wrist and pointed to Laird. What Laird had on her wrist was a friendship bracelet, a piece of string, that she had probably worn all season and definitely while she just made that last jump.
Section 3, Article 3 of the National Federation of State High School Associations -- is clear: "Jewelry shall not be worn by contestants." So is the penalty, and in the time it takes to read "the competitor is disqualified from the event," South Pasadena's win was transformed into a 65-62 victory for Monrovia.

So there it is. You can read the story through the link below, but yep there it is.

LINK TO STORY:


I am disgusted by the lack of sportsmanship displayed by a “veteran” teacher. Yes, he is a coach and coaches are hired to win, but sportsmanship needs to come into play at all times. I think South Pasadena coach P.J. Hernandez asked it best, “Coach, you really want it to come down to this?” I, nor Hernandez, nor his team questions the validity of the rule and the judgment that was made, but the way it went down comes into question. Why not say something earlier? Knowles made no secret of the fact that he saw the infraction before the jump as he studied Laird before the jump. Absolute chicken shit! Monrovia should feel cheapened with their championship honors and if I was on that team, I wouldn’t accept any trophy or honor bestowed upon me for an accomplishment I did not earn.

As for Robin Laird, her tears were not out of self pity, but as she claimed later, “I was disappointed that I let down my team and my coach.” Robin, I don’t know how far your skills in this sport will take you, but my modest hope (which means little) is to see you one day on an Olympic stage in the same situation. Of course, the end will be much different, the moment will end with you hoisting your arms with a bright gold medal dangling from your neck.

I take no shame in my proclamation, “There is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.” So, to Laird, Hernandez, and the members of South Pasadena Girls’ Track and Field team I say to you just that. YOU ARE THE CHAMPS! Nobody can take that away from your hearts and minds. To Knowles, my disgust with people like you shows no mercy and knows no bounds. I sincerely hope the stink from your shameful act follows you to the day you die. Upon which your tombstone should read, “Here lies Coach Knowles, we know God will forgive, because everyone else couldn’t.”

Many of my readers are athletes and competitors. Some high school, some college, and some church league, how does this make you feel? I have clearly stated my opinions on the matter, but I am eager to hear yours as well.

As for Robin and her teammmates, there is NOTHING wrong with knowing you are the best!

Regards,

Bear

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Legends Remembered: Wooden & Hopper

This post seems odd in comparison to my past entries, but I wanted to put down some thoughts about the lives of two separate individuals in the wake of their passing.  The only similarities between John Wooden and Dennis Hopper was that they were both politically conservative, found their careers in L.A., and were both men. 


Wooden was nicknamed, much to his chagrin, "The Wizard of Westwood," for his amazing career as the men's head basketball coach for the UCLA Bruins.  He is one of only three men who has been enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and coach.  He led the Bruins to ten national titles, four perfect seasons, and over 600 wins in 27 years. 


He was a man driven by faith and a quest for perfection.  He was once quoted, saying, "I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior." 


UCLA celebrates a day in his honor every year on February 29th.   His legacy has and will continue to stem for lifetimes to come.  He taught his teams the meaning of working together, and he had only three hard-and-fast rules -- no profanity, tardiness or criticizing fellow teammates. 


He lived his life by a small list that his own father gave him upon his elementary school graduation:
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Make each day your masterpiece.
  • Help others.
  • Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  • Make friendship a fine art.
  • Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  • Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.


Over the years, he added three of his own maxims to his credo.
  • Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
  • Flexibility is the key to stability.
  • Be quick, but don't hurry.
Wooden was a man of simple, yet traditional values.  In a 2009 interview, John Wooden described himself politically as a "liberal Democrat," who had voted for some Republican presidential candidates.  Never wanting much for himself, he never made more than $35,000 in on year, and kept his retirement present (a blue Mercedes, given to him by UCLA) until the day of his death, never opting to buy a newer car. 


"He had as little ego as anybody I've ever known. He would never give advice, but he would always give opinions," Jim Harrick recalled, another former head coach of the UCLA Bruins. "I happened to be the coach during the time that went from the short, short pants to what he called the bloomers. He thought that was the worst thing that ever happened to basketball."


Nell, Wooden's wife of 53 years, died of cancer in 1985.  His health permitting, he visited her graveside every month on the 21st.  He took with him a handwritten love letter in hand that he would lay on a pillow that she laid her head on for the length of their marriage.  Besides his son and daughter, Wooden is survived by three grandsons, four granddaughters and 13 great-grandchildren.




It seems strange to most people to mention Dennis Hopper and the word legend in the same sentence.  He was often dwarfed by his co-stars, which to name a few have included James Dean, John Wayne, Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, and Gene Hackman.


His passing, at age 74, seems all too soon.  He was laid to rest in his beloved adopted hometown of Taos, New Mexico.


He was born in the Old West town of Dodge City, Kansas, and much like the gun-slinging legends before him, he set out for his own legacy.  He was one of the pioneers of acting by being one of Lee Strasberg's first students at the Actor's Studios.  He overcame a lengthy battle of addiction to drugs and alcohol to have an amazing career that lasted over half a century and included many on-screen accolades.


What is not well-known is his success and life in the world of other arts. Hopper was a prolific photographer, painter, and sculptor.  His photography is known for portraits from the 1960s. His painting style ranges from abstract impressionism to photorealism and often includes references to his cinematic work and to other artists.


Ostracized by the Hollywood film studios due to his reputation for being a difficult actor, Hopper eventually turned to photography in the 1960s with a camera bought for him by his then-wife, Brooke Hayward. During this period he created the cover art for the Ike & Tina Turner 1966 release River Deep – Mountain High.


Hopper became a noted photographer, and herald writer Terry Southern profiled Hopper in Better Homes and Gardens magazine as an up and coming photographer in 1964.


He began working as a painter, poet, as well as a collector of art during this time as well.  One of the first art works Hopper owned was an early print of Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans bought for a mere $75.


On the Gorillaz album Demon Days, Hopper narrated the song "Fire Coming out of the Monkey's Head."


In May 2009 it was announced that Hopper would be the subject of an upcoming biography by American writer Tom Folsom.  Hopper: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.  The subtitle is a direct reference to the Hunter S. Thompson book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.


He was a noted Republican, often supporting the GOP and its candidates, until 2008.  He threw his support in favor of Barak Obama.  He had said that his reason for not casting his vote republican after over 30 years of doing so, was the selection of Sarah Palin, as John McCain's running-mate.

In March 2010, it was announced that Hopper would be honored with the 2,403rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of Grauman's Theatre.  Surrounded by friends including Nicholson, Viggo Mortensen, David Lynch, Michael Madsen, and family and fans, he attended, weakened by his battle with prostate cancer.

Days after, it was reported that his health diminished even further, weighing less than 100 pounds, and unable to carry on long conversations.  According to his attorney and spokesperson, Hopper was terminally ill and unable to undergo chemotherapy to treat his cancer.

He is survived by five ex-wives, six children, and two grand children.


Two different men.  Two separate lives.  Both remembered for their talents and approach to life.  While each man carried themselves differently, they easily lived a life where they both knew that There is Nothing Wrong with Knowing You're the Best!"


Regards,


Bear