Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Wild Turkey Rare Breed and El Güegüense

This was my consolation after returning home from shooting on Saturday. It had been a long day, with some disappointment, so I retired for a languorous evening on the deck with a large cigar and a classic bourbon pour, or two. 

Wild Turkey Rare Breed is a ubiquitous bourbon that readily available. At approximately $50 a bottle, it's a good value at 116.8 proof. There's no age statement on the bottle, but the Wild Turkey website lists it as a blend of 6, 8, and 12-year-old bourbons. The bourbon kicks off with some sweet notes, caramel, and a hint of citrus fruit. A good bit of spiciness then heats up the mouth, but is never overpowering. The bourbon warmth lingers a bit. I recently attended a bourbon, cigar, and smoked meat charity fundraiser when I recommended the Rare Breed to a number of gentlemen present who were not familiar with the array of bourbons offered. The suggestion was enjoyed by all but one friend who found it too hot. (In fact, his rejection inspired my choice this evening as I needed to doublecheck myself!)

The Foundation El Elgüegüense selection was from a five pack I obtained a while back. I've smoked this blend in both the Robusto and Lancero vitolas. This 6" x 56 Toro Huaco was a size I don't recall smoking previously. When I was placing the order I must have focused on the word "Toro" in the label and didn't look at the details. Toro can mean anything, but generally they tend to be around 6" in length, with an average range gauge of 48 - 52. For this evening the heftier cigar was a fit.  The Nicaraguan puro has a Corojo 99 wrapper and binder, and the binder is a blend of Corojo 99 and Criollo 98 tobaccos. 

This particular stick had a small amount of give to the pack, with an airy draw that I did touch up a few times when the smoke seemed to be slowing. The burn line stayed pretty even. The flavorful cigar brings a pleasurable blend of cocoa, espresso, and nuts. A creamy chocolate mixed with pepper joins in as well. In any vitola, El Elgüegüense does not disappoint.

After the nearly two hour smoke, and the flavorful bourbon, I was sufficiently "consoled" 'after the day of shooting and travel.


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Sanner's Lake IDPA Match

After a restless night due to the previous day's injury, I arose early to head to Lexington Park, MD to shoot the monthly Sanner's Lake IDPA match. I picked up my traveling companions mid-way and continued on the trip in good company. Fortunately the injury only revealed itself strongly when enter and exiting the car, but had minimal effect on mobility while shooting.

One of the attraction of this match, besides the courses of fire, is that they efficiently run 50-60 shooters through six stages in about 2 1/2 hours. It's still a long day with the approximately 2 hour drive each way, plus the fun stops to shop for whiskey and to eat lunch.

As usual, the stages were interesting and enjoyed with a friendly and fun group of shooters. This was the first time I had shot the Full Size SIG P320 in a match for a couple years. I had to constantly remind myself I had 15 rounds allowed per magazine, thus 16 rounds when starting with a loaded gun, per SSP division rules, as opposed to the 10 allowed in CCP that I had been shooting. This especially came in to play on the couple stages that had an exact 16 round minimum shot count. That meant added pressure for a "perfect" stage with no make up shots and no reloading. 

The first stage we shot started facing up range center stage. Eight targets, from three shooting positions, all requiring two hits each, except the last which need two hits on the body and one to the head -- something to remembered at the end. I was two points down for the stage.

Next up was another eight target stage involving weaving around walls, before heading down range to engage four quick targets behind some barrels. It was another good stage finished with just three points down.

The third course our squad shot was a Standards exercise involving SHO and WHO shooting. It started with the gun downloaded to six rounds. The symmetrical stage had three targets on each side, two of them partially covered by non-threat targets. I was actually very pleased with the results on this stages I finished with three points down -- 1 while SHO, and 2 shooting WHO, and placed 2nd in my division. 

Our next stage started with the shooter seated on a stool facing up range. Shooting positions with a variety of target distances and availability followed. Though I enjoyed the stage very much, I found I had miscalled a head shot, mistaking a loose paster for a bullet hole, along with a another miss on a far target. 

The day was warming up now, but still quite pleasant as we moved on to our next to last stage. Here, after shooting a few targets around cover, we advanced downrange engaging surprise targets in the open as we passed. Shooting while moving towards the back gave the opportunity for some quick shooting action. However one had to be attentive, as there was actually four surprise targets, one of which was a non-threat. The repairs on that target revealed that a few previous shooters had been lulled into engaging it. Sadly it turned out one of my first shots from cover had gone through the edge of the barrel before striking the target, counting as a miss. Often one can hear when a round strikes one of the plastic barrel, but this one I had missed noting. On the bright side, I was told that my two shots on the further target could be covered with one paster. Small wins.

Finally, the last stage of the day. We started seated behind a table centered on the stage. Two barrels were placde in front of the table, with the unload gun on one and all magazines on the second. After retrieving the firearm and ammo, and moving between and opening in the wall, there was a target on either side to be engaged in the open. The shooter then moved either left or right along a wall of barrels. From both sides there were matching arrays of two steel poppers, and two paper targets to be engaged. This was the stage where my brain disengaged, and a lack of proper stage prep showed. The center array of targets needed a hard lean around each end of the wall to shoot one half of the pair. I totally forgot to shoot those center two targets! This meant 20 points down for the misses, plus the two PE's for not engaging the targets. That put a dark cast over the morning. Fortunately it was the last stage, and I didn't have that weighing on my mind for the entire match.

Admittedly, and perhaps not surprising, I beat myself up for a bit afterwards. However, it is part of the game. As a friend is fond of saying, "it's not like I was going to win the Lexus anyway." I also came to realize as I put together my thoughts on the match and the day, the majority of the match was not a disappointment. Much of the day I found some improvements gained even from the recent limited practice time, also noting that many of the points down were due to competition induced rushing, giving me some match-specific adjustments to be made in the future. 

After the match, our trio headed to the local purveyor of adult beverages, my goal specifically to hunt for interesting bourbons not available under the limitations of Virginia's government monopoly. This trip did not result in anything especially rare, but I did add a couple of new bottles to my shelves to enjoy in the future.

Our excursions always include a stop for lunch after shooting. The trip we ventured slightly off the route to visit a local BBQ restaurant. There isn't much that smoked meat won't make better, and this stop was particularly satisfying. I suspect it may be added to our list of regular stops.

Despite a few disappointments, the day was exceptionally pleasant. The drive on rural roads on a bright day, challenging shooting, tasty food, and most importantly, the company of good friends, all combined to make for a remarkably enjoyable day.


Monday, June 5, 2023

Bourbon and Cigar Pain Reliever

I was looking forward to a relaxing Friday evening, but first I had to repair the blade drive belt on the lawn tractor, and then mow the grass. After about an hour, much of which was spent trying to recall the correct route of the serpentine belt, the fix was done. But not before I stretched or twisted my back in such a way to suffer a very painful muscle pull in my side. My body doesn't flex like it did when I was younger! Riding the mower afterwards was an exercise in suffering. Offer it up they say.

The evening was spent in much discomfort. However, the bourbon and cigar did provide some alleviation. I poured some of the Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond I had picked up a few weeks ago, along with a Powstanie Habano

The Powstanie in both the Habano and Broadleaf blends make frequent appearances on these Musings. I had the pleasure of meeting brand owner Mike Szczepankiewicz a couple weeks ago at Hogshead Cigar Lounge when he made the worldwide release of the two cigars in a new Corona Gorda vitola. The Robusto being enjoyed was one of the party favors from that evening. The Habano wrapper covers an Indonesian binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers. There's a mild spice blended with creamy chocolate and woody notes. The medium bodied smoke goes well with a smooth bourbon.

The Henry McKenna 10 Year BiB is a bourbon I don't get to enjoy as frequently as in years past. It used to be an inexpensive $25-$30 bottle. The bourbon won Best in Show Whiskey at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, that combined with the general boom in bourbon popularity has caused the price to double, if not more. In addition, the Virginia ABC labeled it an "allocated" bourbon, and as such is only available at their random drops. The artificially manipulated supply as a store and typically sells out in the first rush of shoppers after the announcement.  I find it a nice, well-balanced, 100 proof bourbon with a classic caramel, oak, and vanilla sweetness.

Despite the attempt at relaxation, the night was restless. I was also shooting in the morning and would deal with some lingering pain for that. That's a story for later.


Saturday, June 3, 2023

Afternoon Range Trip

This week's trip to the range got off to a false start. I arrived at the range and started unloading my gear. That's when I realized I had neglected to pack the range box that held the supplies needed to hang the targets --staplers, binder clips, etc. I drove back home, grabbed what I needed, and hoped the range would sill be clear. I was in luck, only one of the two bays was occupied.

I spent about an hour working on simple drills with one and two shot strings, per the limits imposed by the range rules. I did force myself to shoot a bunch of strong hand and weak hand only drills. I also shot a lot of 25 yard shots. All shooting this day was to the IDPA practice target.

It was a fun afternoon of trigger time and I enjoyed just being at the range. Building some consistency in trigger control and sight alignment is always a good thing, especially relating it to the distance at which I was shooting. Overall it was a satisfying exercise.

Now, if only IDPA matches involved no timer, no cover, no movement, nobody watching... But they wouldn't be very much fun would they?


Friday, June 2, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Shopping Self Control

When it comes to buying cigars and bourbon, sometimes my impulse is greater than my common sense.

But is that really a bad thing? Enjoy the weekend.


Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Bride and Frankenstein

I've been enjoying reading the classic work Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Admittedly, my most vivid recollection of the Frankenstein tale is of the Mel Brooks movie Young Frankenstein. A comedic comedy that never gets old, the movie is not the classic story penned by Shelley.

On a recent evening, I grabbed a cigar from my humidor to enjoy while reading on the deck. Coincidently, I was drawn to one of the few remaining cigars I have from the 2021 Tatuaje Monster Mash Series release. The cigar I happened to grab was the vitola called Bride. The Tatuaje Bride is named in reference to the character from the 1935 film, Bride of Frankenstein, based on the character created by Shelley. What could be a better pairing?

The Monster Mash Bride is a 5 5/8 x 49 with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper covering Nicaraguan binder and filler. The medium bodied smoke has enjoyable notes of coffee, cream, and hint of sweet fruit. 

Shelley's Frankenstein never finished his creation of the bride. But she lived on in the movies, and now provides inspiration for an enjoyable cigars.


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Sunday Cocktails and Smoke

Midway through the Memorial Day weekend, found us in our usual place -- on the deck enjoying the weather. After Mass and a late breakfast, I brewed a pot of French press coffee, and headed outside to enjoy the limited sunshine and spend some time with a good book. Rain threatened and the temperature cooled, while the breeze picked up, and we soon moved into the screened porch. And then it was time for cocktails. 

The libation of choice was a Bufala Negra cocktail. There are several variations of this flavorful bourbon cocktail online, but the one I've saved is simple. 

- 4 basil leaves               
- 1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar               
- 1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
- Ice for mixing, serving                
- 1 1/2 ounces bourbon               
- 1 1/2 ounces chilled ginger ale

In a cocktail shaker, muddle 3 of the basil leaves with the balsamic vinegar and simple syrup. Add ice and the bourbon and shake well. Strain the drink into an ice-filled rocks glass, stir in the ginger ale and garnish with the remaining basil leaf. Enjoy.

For the bourbon portion I used John J. Bowman Single Barrel from the A. Smith Bowman Distillery right here in Fredericksburg, VA. And naturally, a single large cube of ice in the glass.

I chose a Casa Magna Colorado Robusto to enjoy with the drink. The deep red Nicaraguan maduro wrapper holds Nicaraguan binder and filler. The cigar was listed as the 2008 Cigar Afficianado Cigar of the Year though I had never had it prior. The reddish-brown wrapper and gold label make an attractive presentation.

Sadly, I found the smoke to be fairly bland. There was no richness of flavors. I remarked to Colleen that I just wasn't getting a whole lot out of it. Even well after my drink was finished and I was sipping water, the flavor profile never really broke out. Mild leather, wood, and some sweetness, not much more. I did find a few online reviews that confirmed my experience with the Casa Magna Colorado being a one dimensional smoke. 

Despite the relatively uninteresting cigar, the afternoon was quite pleasant and time well-spent enjoying the outdoors.


Monday, May 29, 2023

More Range Time

I love the Spring days when it's warm but not yet humid, and the sun is bright but it's not scorching. On such afternoons the range beckons. And I try to answer, as I did right before the holiday weekend.

For this particular range trip, I brought along two different target options to create some variety in the "stand and shoot." In addition to the usual paper IDPA practice target, I used the "colors and shapes" target that offers mixed shapes in different sizes to varying exercises. All shooting was done with the Full Size SIG P320. I expect to focus on practice and match shooting with this gun for the upcoming months.

My outing started out shooting at both 10 and 15 yards to the IDPA target. I mostly focused on getting the gun on target from the draw quickly and consistently, shooting body shot or head shot pairs, or pairs with transitions between both. This was followed by 7 and 10 yards shot to different parts of the color target. Besides followups to the same target spot, I chose many different two shot transitions between different size shapes. The session finished up by shooting from one target to the other. Sometimes moving from large to small, other times from a smaller target area to a larger, all the while keeping in mind the range's two-shot string limit.

The 90 minute outing was a nice diversion from the work day. I also felt it was beneficial trigger time, even if limited in options.