Thursday, September 28, 2023

St. Wenceslaus, Patron Saint of Brewers

Originally posted September 28, 2012.

Today is the feast day of St. Wenceslaus, who is regarded as a patron Saint of Czech brewers.
St. Wenceslaus, duke of Bohemia, was born about the year 907 at Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). His father was killed in battle when he was young, leaving the kingdom to be ruled by his pagan mother. Wenceslaus was educated by his grandmother, Ludmilla, also a saint. She taught him to be a Christian and to be a good king. She was killed by pagan nobles before she saw him king, but she left him with a deep committment to the Christian faith. 
Throughout his life he preserved his virginity unblemished. As duke he was a father to his subjects, generous toward orphans, widows, and the poor. On his own shoulders he frequently carried wood to the houses of the needy. He often attended the funerals of the poor, ransomed captives, and visited those suffering in prison. He was filled with a deep reverence toward the clergy; with his own hands he sowed the wheat for making altar breads and pressed the grapes for the wine used in the Mass. During winter he would visit the churches barefoot through snow and ice, frequently leaving behind bloody footprints. 
Wenceslaus was eighteen years old when he succeeded his father to the throne. Without regard for the opposition, he worked in close cooperation with the Church to convert his pagan country. He ended the persecution of Christians, built churches and brought back exiled priests. As king he gave an example of a devout life and of great Christian charity, with his people calling him "Good King" of Bohemia. 
His brother Boleslaus, however, turned to paganism. One day he invited Wenceslaus to his house for a banquet. The next morning, on September 28, 929, as Wenceslaus was on the way to Mass, Boleslaus struck him down at the door of the church. Before he died, Wenceslaus forgave his brother and asked God's mercy for his soul. Although he was killed for political reasons, he is listed as a martyr since the dispute arose over his faith. This king, martyred at the age of twenty-two, is the national hero and patron of the Czech Republic. He is the first Slav to be canonized.
According to, the Saint's protection of local hops earned him much regard.
Because Bohemian hops were so valued, Wenceslas ordered the death penalty for anyone caught exporting the cuttings and obviously endeared himself to the local hop growers and brewers. He became the patron saint of Bohemia and Czechoslovakia and his crown became the symbol of nationalism for the Czechs. By extension he became a patron saint of Czech brewers.
King Wenceslaus is the inspiration for the Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslas.

So let's raise a glass of fine beer to the Good King, Saint Wenceslaus.


Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Italy: A Cigar and a Eucharistic Procession

We recently returned from a two week pilgrimage in Italy. Visiting historical and religious sites in Naples, San Giovanni Rotundo, Lanciano, Assisi, Rome, among others was a wonderful and joyful experience. Besides the beautiful churches and amazing history, we also enjoyed great food and drink, and even had time for cigars on occasion. 

Once such smoking occasion was in San Giovanni Rotundo, the home town of Saint Padre Pio. When we stepped outside after dinner I noticed the hotel's outdoor dining area had "Vietato fumare" signs posted -- some of the rare no smoking posters we saw during the entire trip. Our bus driver happened by and we asked him where we could smoke. He looked at us like we were crazy and waved his arms around, stating, "Outside." That was the situation almost everywhere. If an outdoor dinner area didn't have ashtrays on the tables, they'd generally bring you one if asked. 

We opted to stroll and smoke. We had visited San Giovanni Rotundo fourteen years ago, and although the town had grown and expanded exponentially, we still recalled our way around the old original section.

As walked by the Basilica where the Saint had lived, we heard the distinctive sound of a thurible being swung coming from inside the church. We realized a Eucharist Procession was taking place and the people were exiting the building onto the plaza in front. We stopped our stroll and knelt in adoration until the procession reentered the church. Coincidentally, during our first visit to San Giovanni Rotundo 14 years ago, we happened upon a huge procession as well during a festival. 

Although we had enjoyed cigars after some dinners earlier in the trip, I happened to joke to the priest friend with us that this could be the inaugural smoke of our informal Saint Pope Pius X smoking group. We took it as Divine Providence that the procession began as we arrived with our cigars in front the basilica. 

There would be many cigars and other adventures during our trip. Some of those will be the subject of later Musings.


Monday, September 25, 2023

Foundation El Güegüense with an Octoberfest Märzen

Sometimes you just want a big cigar and a beer. The El Güegüense Toro Huaco from Foundation Cigars is a hefty 6 x 56 cigar that fills the bill. It's a great candidate to enjoy on a warm afternoon of sipping beers. The Nicaraguan puro has a Corojo 99 wrapper and binder, and the binder is a blend of Corojo 99 and Criollo 98 tobaccos. A chocolate brown wrapper is somewhat bumpy with the rough inner leaves seemingly trying to escape. Despite a rough appearance, the oily wrapper held everything together and the cigar performed without issue. This is a medium bodied cigar. A blend of cocoa, espresso, sweet chocolate, nuts, accented with along mild pepper spice combined for a complex and flavorful smoke. 

I look forward each fall to the Ocktoberfest beers that many breweries release, even if they do show up in the summer. In especially enjoy the Märzen style beers over the more grain forward "fest beer" versions. Bell's Brewing Octoberfest is one that's generally easy to find.

The beer pours a coppery orange color with a thick and persistent white foamy head. The aroma of caramel and malt great the nose. A malt forward flavor profile is balanced with biscuit and caramel sweetness. It worked quit well with the chocolate and espresso notes in the cigar.

The umlaut accented names in this pairing may have been a coincidence, but in a sense, it was a sign of a pairing made to happen. 


Friday, September 22, 2023

Five O'Clock Friday: Buying Whiskey vs. Drinking Whiskey

The struggle is real.

Time to get to work on that.


A Sweet Pairing - Carrillo Pledge and Barrell Batch #33

For this pairing I pulled down a half empty bottle that's been untouched of late. It's been idle, somewhat because it's not readily available in Virginia, but mostly because I buy more bourbon than I drink. It's actually quite rare to finish off a bottle unless it's a regular mixer. Given the ever shrinking shelf space, I may have to make a concerted effort to reverse that trend.

Barrel Craft Spirits sources whiskeys from around the world, and expertly crafts new blends that are released as new batches, on a regular basis. Batch #33 was released in mid-2022. The bourbon was well-received by bourbon fans almost immediately. The 116.6 proof bourbon is a blend of  5, 6, 7, and 9 year old barrels from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. It carries a 5 year age statement based on the age of the youngest component.

The aroma warms the nose with notes of cinnamon and fruit pie. Sipping brings enhanced baking spices and fruit sweetness into the mix. There's a moderate warmth to the profile but it's balanced by a pleasing sweetness. The flavorful finish is long, coating the tongue with persistent sweet fruit and caramel notes.

I've been enjoying a few different cigars from E.P. Carrillo of late. This time I grabbed a E. P. Carrillo Pledge Prequel. This is a 5 x 50 Robusto wrapped in a US grown Cuban-seed tobacco called Connecticut Habano. The binder hails from Ecuador and the filler tobaccos are Nicaraguan. The soft box pressed stick is adorned with distinctive blue and gold labels. The wrapper leaf is dark chocolate in color and lightly mottled.

The flavor profile runs in the medium to full bodied range. There is some intitial spice and pepper. The main flavors are black coffee, oak and a sweet tobacco flavor. The burn throughout was even giving plenty of flavorful smoke. If we can put any stock in cigar of the year rankings, it should be noted that Cigar Aficionado ranked the Pledge Prequel the #1 cigar of 2020. Thanks to that, this one was very hard to find for a while, but seems to be widely available once again. Despite the popularity, it remains a reasonably priced cigar, with the consistent high quality one expects from E. P. Carrillo.

I enjoyed this pairing. The sweetness left on the palate from the bourbon and the sweet coffee flavors of the cigar were very complimentary. Either one is a delicious treat by itself, and together they are even more delightful.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select With E.P. Carrillo Allegiance

Recently I've been going back through some of the whiskeys on my shelves that have not been opened for a while. Sometimes they are ones that didn't excite me, or I just didn't like, when they were first opened. Others are simply ones that have been overlooked in the crowd. Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

The 375ml bottle was picked up in spring of 2022. I drank a bit, and then it slowly got pushed back and lower on the shelves as new bottles made their way in. Frankly, at this point I didn't recall too much about it. 

The 94 proof whiskey is reminiscent of the classic Jack Daniel's Old No. 7. There's a mild aroma of fresh baked bread, caramel, and a faint alcohol burn in the nose. Upon tasting, the "Tennessee Whiskey" charcoal filtered softness is there as expected. It's a milder, softer profile than the proof number might indicate. Sweet caramel, oak, and butter cookie come to mind. Although I don't have any No. 7 on hand for comparison, and have not tasted it in a while, this strikes me as a slightly enhanced Old No. 7. Of course, that's to be expected as these single barrels are the source of the classic whiskey's blend.

As for the cigar for this weekend afternoon pairing, I grabbed a E. P. Carrillo Allegiance Sidekick. The 5 x 50 stick is covered in a mottled, dark chocolate brown Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper. The cigar has a rustic appearance. The binder and fillers are comprised of Nicaraguan tobaccos. Looking at the cigar I wonder if I have overstepped the whiskey. The smoke starts off with a kick of cedar and pepper. As it warms, the flavor picks up bitter cocoa. It's a gritty, earthy smoke, unlike what the Jack Daniel's presented.

I spent some time taking fast sips of the drink and puffs on the cigar, varying which came first. I was trying to decide how they worked together. It was not a bust, but this was not a star pairing either. I went into the tasting with some apprehension. Sometimes there's just happens to be a cigar I feel like smoking and a whiskey I want to (re)explore, so I go forth nonetheless. The Jack Daniel's did not hit my usual preferences in a whiskey, while the cigar did. In any case, it was an afternoon spent sipping and smoking, so what's not to love?


Monday, September 18, 2023

Gold Leaf Adorned Cavalier Genève BII Viso Jalapa

This unique cigar came in my July Luxury Cigar Club pack. I have been enjoying this subscription for a few months. I usually receive cigars that are unknown to me, be they new or limited releases, or older varieties not sold any longer. The Cavalier Genève BII Viso Jalapa Robusto Gordo was an interesting inclusion, and a brand I was not familiar with. Especially interesting was the 24-karat gold leaf that adorns the wrapper of the Cavalier Genèva cigar.

I found this to be a fairly bold cigar. The Nicarguan Visa Jalapa tobacco used in the wrapper is described as being similar in flavor to ligero tobaccos, the top leaves of the plant which produce the strongest tobacco used in cigar, though slightly milder. The binder and filler tobaccos are Nicaraguan habano. I could certainly detect the presence the bold leaves upon lighting. Dark chocolate, pepper, and a sharp grassy note made for a full flavored smoke. 

The burn on this particular stick required attention through the first two thirds. One side of the cigar burned substantially slower than the other. I wouldn't call it canoeing in the strictest sense, it was not a narrow line going down the side. Imagine one half of the cigar being coated in flame resistant material. This wreaked havoc with my fixation on an even burn. I managed to ignore the lopsided burn until the difference reached 1 1/4 inches or more before touching up. The ash was quite solid and required effort to knock it off when trying to even the burn. Undoubtably this contributed to the short 45 minute burn from the 5 x 54 stick.

I was very interested in seeing how the smoking through the gold lead would be. Fortunately by that point the burn was progressing evenly.

The gold leaf glowed a bit as the burn hit it, but mostly held on and maintained the diamond shape over the ash. I held the nub as long as I could, barely touching it to my lips for the final light draws.

Despite the burn issues I enjoyed the bold smoke offered by the Cavalier Genève BII Viso Jalapa. It's certainly a cigar I would smoke again. I enjoyed this one simply with some carbonated water. If I acquire more in the future, I'm definitely pouring a strongly flavored bourbon to go along with it.


Friday, September 15, 2023