Sunday, April 10, 2022

Fratello and Maker's Mark Bottle Kill

Ah, those bittersweet moments. I was perusing my whiskey cabinet for something to pair with the evening cigar and spied the bottle of Maker's Mark Cask Strength hiding in the back row. As I lifted the bottle I started thinking it was empty. But, lo and behold, there seemed to be one pour left. (How the bottle wasn't finished that last time is a mystery.)

Maker's Mark Cask Strength is a very approachable bourbon even at 110.6 proof. Mild on the nose, upon sipping there are flavors of dark fruit, caramel, and vanilla. There are also vaguely sweet notes of caramel and honey. 

The cigar featured for the evening was a Fratello DMV Maduro Selection in the DC vitola. The December 2020 limited release series features four different cigars representing VA, MD, DC, and PA. The details of the blends were kept secret. While the binder and filler tobaccos are the same in all, four different maduro wrappers finish the cigars.The cigar is a medium bodied smoke with notes of wood and earth. It paired nicely with the selected bourbon.

The pairing was enjoyable if bittersweet. As mentioned the bottle is now empty. Fortunately this is not a hard to find bourbon so is easily replaced. However the cigar was a one-time release, and the last in the humidor, a "cigar box kill" so to speak. But, there are no regrets. Cigars, like bourbon, are meant for enjoyment, not storage.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

At Long Last, Shooting Again

I almost forgot this blog existed. Not really, I just took a long break. I've also been quite inactive in the shooting sports. After some seven months off from any range time, I finally made it to an IDPA match a couple weeks ago. The occasion was the monthly gathering at the Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. That long absence was attributable to family activity conflicts, bad weather, and giving myself some "down time." 

It was unfortunate that some of my friends and usual shooting companions were away at another match that weekend, but I did enjoy seeing many others. The day started off cool and breezy, and essentially stayed that way with only brief instances when the sun broke through the clouds.

For this match I decided to shoot my full size SIG P320 rather than the Compact version I had shot all the previous year. As I prepared for the match, I realized not only had I not shot anything since August 2021, I had not shot this particular gun since November 2020! This could be interesting.

The first stage our squad shot started us seated and then moving to engage targets through two center ports and around walls on either side of the course of fire. As I did my walkthrough I got an uncomfortable feeling that I wasn't confident on my very first shots through the high and narrow port. Once I began shooting, it felt good and I finished the stage just one point down.

We shot the next stage while seated. There were targets to either side, and four targets partially obstructed by barrels or non-threats. The stage was a lot of fun to shoot. Despite the tight shots to targets behind the barrels, I shot the stage -0. Alas, I also received a 3 point PE for failing in my attempt to count to 10, thereby loading an extra round in a magazine. 

Up next was another field course with targets engaged from multiple points of cover. The stage started with the unloaded gun and all magazines placed on a table. After picking up the needed loading devices and the gun, we moved up range to engage targets on either side of the course. Then moving down range, the rest of the targets were shot as they appeared. This was again another -0 stage.

Rounding the corner to the next bay, I was not surprised to find falling steel set up. This bay is typically set up with steel and/or long shots. We began the stage with just 2 rounds loaded in the gun and standing behind two barrels. After engaging one low target to the side, we reloaded and dropped to a kneeling position, then taking aim on the distant steel, followed by two paper targets. The steel was placed at around 20 yards. The two paper targets were about five yards beyond and had the bottom sections removed so they sat low to the ground. It was impossible to see the hits on the target from the shooting line. (I could barely see the targets!) I was pleased to approach the end of the bay and find I had another -0 run.

The day ended with another run around walls and hard leans around cover. After engaging three target in the open from behind a fence, we backed up to shoot from cover. Then there was a choice of directions to finish the course. Most shooters opted to cross the course, engage the target on right side, then come left to shoot at the final cover position. I knew I would be reloading while moving between those last two points of cover, so opted to take the sharp turn around the barrels then move right. I shot this one -0 as well.

Despite my initial nervousness over my long absence, I ended up very pleased with the results. The PE added a bit of frustration, especially after the single point lost in the scoring overall. I finished 3 of 11 in the SSP division. Interestingly the top two "young guys" led the pack by a wide gap, finishing 22-25 or more seconds ahead of the rest of us. 

It was a truly fun morning and felt great to get back to the range. Hopefully, it won't be quite so long before the next outing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

St. Brigid of Ireland

Today is the Feast Day of St. Brigid of Ireland, one of our family's favorite Saints. In a quote traditionally attributed to St. Brigid, she prays...
"I'd Like A Great Lake Of Beer For The King Of Kings. I Would Like To Be Watching Heaven's Family Drinking It Through All Eternity."
Our family has long had an affection for this great Saint. It was during our trip to Ireland a few years ago that I came to realize just how popular she is in that country, second only to St. Patrick it seems. Her legendary association with miracles involving beer often overshadows her deeds of charity and compassion.

Beyond her prayer for a "great lake of beer" this revered Saint has other interesting connections with beer. According to tradition, Brigid was working in a leper colony when they ran out of beer. Since beer was an important source of safe liquid refreshment and nourishment, this was indeed a serious issue. Brigid is said to have changed her bath water into beer to nourish the lepers and visiting clerics. In another miracle attributed to St. Brigid, she provided beer to 18 churches for an entire Easter season, all from a single barrel of beer in her convent.

St. Brigid Statue, Knock Shrine, County Mayo, Ireland

St. Brigid, ora pro nobis! And cheers!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

A Long Smoke and a Fire

For Christmas, Colleen gave me one of those iron kindling splitting stands. A couple days after Christmas, I headed out to my wood pile to try it out. In no time I had reduced a bunch of logs to smaller pieces. Placing the log in the stand and letting the weight of a sledgehammer fall on it sure beats swinging an axe. 

Now that I had all this wood ready to go, it seemed a good time to have a fire. Besides the nice weather, it was still early in the afternoon so there was plenty of time for a longer smoke. I'd been eying the 7 ⅝" x 49 Tatuaje The Frank Redux 1 sticks in my humidor I had not had the time to smoke. I enjoyed one at the lounge at couple months ago so knew it was an 2 + hour smoke. Now was the time.

The Frank Redux is a re-release of the Frank, the first in the Tatuaje Monster Series, originally released on 2008. The hefty stick boasts a USA Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper, with Nicaraguan binder and filler leaves. The medium bodied smoke produces flavors of cedar and chocolate, along with a touch of sweet vanilla and nuts. 

It didn't take long after lighting the cigar to realize it called for a nice bourbon accompaniment. I grabbed the bottle of Elijah Craig Small Batch to fill that void. Though it was early afternoon, I was vacation* after all. The moderate 94 proof provides a well-rounded profile of vanilla, oak, and caramel. A sweet and light warmth lingers in the finish. This is an affordable and satisfying bourbon that I try to keep on hand. (And as the photo reveals, is about due for restocking.)

I've been fortunate this year, during my attempted vacation, that Virginia has experienced relatively warm temperatures. Cool enough for a fire, but not cold enough to be need to huddle too close to the flame. As predicted, the The Frank Redux provided over two hours of pleasure by the fire before it was time to go inside for dinner.

* Vacation: A period of time where the demands of a job are limited to just a few hours a day.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

A New Year

Another year has come and gone. It was pretty much like the one before it. Standby for another one.

I do see some changes coming though. Not much longer will the "pandemic" be the basis for political overreach and profit. The "America is racist and something-phobic" agenda is being exposed. The clouds are gradually being removed from the eyes of even the CNN and MSNBC watchers. Maybe there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

At least the days are getting longer.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Christmases Cold and Warm

It's an old joke that if you don't like the weather in Virginia, wait a few minutes and it will change. It's also true that the weather on a any calendar day can be wildly different from year to year. This is especially true in the winter. (In the summer, you can just expect it to be hot. Period.) White Christmases are rare here, but last year, we were treated to one of those uncommon events. 

Over Christmas 2020 we experienced snow and very cold weather. That didn't stop me from enjoying the Rocky Patel A.L.R. Second Edition shown below. The full experience is recounted in this post

Christmas 2021 was at the complete opposite end of the weather spectrum. The day was sunny, and by the afternoon the temperature hit 71°. That meant smoking on the deck without the need for supplemental heating or winter clothing.

On this most recent Christmas afternoon I chose the new Undercrown 10 Lonsdsale with which to celebrate the day. The Undercrown Maduro is a favorite, and the new Undercrown 10 is a special release to mark the 10th anniversary of the cigar. The Starr Hill Snow Blind Dopplebock is a perennial favorite.

The difference in smoking experiences between the two years was remarkable when it comes to the weather. However, the pleasure of a good cigar is universal no matter the temperature.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

When Are They Open?

I get that not everyone is adept at online marketing and social media. But clearly telling customers when you are open should be pretty simple. And a priority. While researching a local brewery to visit during my vacation, I came across this confusing mess.

First, I checked the brewery website for their hours.

Mon - Tues: Closed

Wed - Thurs: 3pm - 9pm

Fri - Sat: Noon - Midnight

Sunday: Noon - 11pm

Maybe I'll visit on Wednesday or Thursday, I thought. 

Next I looked at their Facebook page and saw a slightly different schedule.

Mon - Tues: Closed

Wed: 3pm - 9pm

Thursday: Closed

Fri - Sat: Noon - Midnight

Sunday: Noon - 11pm

However, Wednesday still looks good. 

Then I started scrolling through the brewery's posts, and saw a post labeled "Winter Hours."

Mon - Tues: 3pm - 8pm

Wed - Thurs: Closed

Fri - Sat: Noon - Midnight

Sunday: Noon - 10pm

So, Wednesday is out? Monday or Tuesday? Which listing is current, and correct?

Maybe I had better call them. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas, Not Cancelled

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." --Dr. Seuss

All through the lead up to this most joyful season, I was often shocked to hear people lamenting that the supply chain issues would "ruin Christmas." I was amazed as various mayors, governors, Fauci, and even the resident of the White House, for the second year, threatened Christmas gatherings. I could only shake my head at the ignorance of those talking, and those believing the pronouncements.

When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.
-- Luke 2: 15-20


Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, August 2010

Christmas is here. The true source of our joy, the Nativity of the Lord, is celebrated beginning today. Despite shipping woes. Despite commercialism. Despite fascist decrees about "shots," and travel and gathering restrictions. This glorious Feast is upon us. And it had nothing to do with the White House Minister of Propaganda claiming "we've saved Christmas."

As I remind people often, the season of Christmas only begins today, December 25. This joyous celebration actually continues until the Feast of Epiphany on January 6. It is disappointing to see the celebrations stop abruptly the day after Christmas, as the lights and decorations suddenly vanish. Surely as Christians we believe the birth of Our Savior is an event worthy of more than a single day of rejoicing. During the troubling times we find ourselves enduring, there seems to be all the more reason to celebrate the joy of the season in its entirety.

However you mark the occasion, may it be spent with family, friends, and good cheer.

Merry Christmas!

Today is born our Savior Christ the Lord.
-- Psalm 96