Sunday, January 1, 2017

This... Is CNN.

I'm not going to lie... I can't stand Don Lemon.

But this might be a new low for CNN... might be.

First, dude gets his ear pierced (Despite Kathy Griffin's chant of "nipple, nipple, nipple") and then proceeds to just get wasted on live television.

This is news. This is CNN:



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull Cigar Review

La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull Cigar Review

The La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull cigar is a bit of a unicorn.

Nobody (that I knew) had ever heard of it before about a week ago.

Then, Cigar Aficionado put the cigar on the map by naming it the #1 cigar of 2016 in their annual rankings. Now, it's nearly impossible to find and everybody who is anybody in the cigar world is trying to get their paws on one if they haven't had the privilege.

I was lucky enough to stumble into the Andalusian Bull cigar over the holiday break and thought I'd share my thoughts as I worked my way through the 6.5" x 54 whopper.

Pre-Light

LFD Andalusian Bull cigar with a lighterThe Andalusian Bull is a beauty of a cigar. While not as dark and charming as many of the more visually appealing cigars, the real attractiveness with this cigar comes in the hand feel. My wife would kill me if she read this but it's kind of the like the girl in college that doesn't have a pretty face but once the lights are off all of her curves are in the right place. The salomon shape is a little intimidating, truth be told.

The stick is solid in the hand and feels like a brick - stuffed full of tobacco. Double banded, the green and gold colors on the band are fairly unique and should allow this cigar to stick out well among the noise at most brick and mortar cigar shops.

The salomon shape is easy to cut as well. I snipped about a tenth of an inch from the cap and took a cold draw. Nearly flawless with just a touch of tension. Definitely some notes of cedar right off the bat on the cold draw.

Cigar Specs:

Origin: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Corojo
Reported Strength: Medium to Full
Blender: Litto Gomez
Smoking Conditions: Outdoors on a covered, partially enclosed porch. Minimal wind, 55-degrees.

Andalusian Bull - First Third

The La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull cigar on a handrail

Upon lighting the LFD Andalusian Bull, I was immediately hit with earthy flavors. Sort of a damp but not really a dusky note hit me right away. That subsided relatively quickly and gave way to what I would call a dark chocolate / cocoa type note.

So far, very enjoyable with a bit of sweetness that hinted at citrus but didn't quite get to the realm of orange or grapefruit for me. Just sort of a melange feeling.

I was surprised by the smoke output - there wasn't much. A lot of guys love a cigar that gives off a ton of smoke. This cigar isn't it if that's your thing. I don't know if this does it justice, but this slow-mo video will show you the amount of smoke coming off the foot.

video

Lucky for me, I don't really care about filling my mouth with a ton of smoke. I've smoked cigars with far less smoke output but if you're a fan of Diesels and some of the big smokers, you'll be disappointed with this aspect of the cigar.

Second Third

There is a pronounced transition - even for my simpleton palate - once you enter the second stage of this cigar. Things get a little lighter and the body falls out a little bit.

After a couple draws at this stage a creaminess hit me. At first, I couldn't place it but then it hit me hard: Caramel. Smooth, creamy, delicious caramel. It's glorious. Absolutely glorious. 

Sadly, the caramel doesn't last as a primary note for long. But the smoke does start to pick up a little bit at about the half way point of the cigar. At this point, I'm about an hour in to the smoking experience. This cigar is a bit of a marathon. :)

About an hour and a half in I start to pick up the traditional Dominican dank, tanginess that I associate with so many Dominican cigars. It's not as pronounced and unenjoyable as I'm used to and doesn't last long --- but it's there. It subsides into a similar experience to the first third with some cedar and cocoa notes leading the way.

Final Third of the Andalusian Bull

Andalusian Bull cigar band

I'm getting a little more pronounced cedar as we work our way into the final third of the cigar. There's a sweetness that comes along with it. I wouldn't call it a caramel this time though --- something else, I can't quite touch it.

The smoke output remains pretty decent in this third as well. Perhaps my first-third of low smoke was an anomaly.

Truth be told, I expected this cigar to come full circle and bring me back to the same flavors I experienced in the first-third. It didn't but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

Total smoke time for this cigar was about 2:05 for me. I could have gone even longer, I suspect. I nubbed it out and didn't put in a ton of effort. Overall, this is an excellent cigar but after two-hours, the sun had gone down and I got cold. I suffer for cigars but only to a certain point!

In summary, I'd definitely smoke this again and once we're back into the warmer months - this is a can't miss cigar. While pricey - $15-$20 per stick - it's easily one of the better cigars of the year and I think Cigar Aficionado was justified to include this on their Top 25 cigar list.

Post-Script: What's an Andalusian Bull?


Being a gringo, I had to look it up. The matador on the cigar band is a clue and a good one but I was curious to know more details.

In a nutshell, an Andalusian Bull is a bull from the southern coast of Spain. Andalusia is a region that's comprised of about 34,000 square miles and includes at least one city you might have heard of - Seville. So, I'd imagine the matador on the band means the bull is tied to bullfighting and all that history in Spain that I'm not familiar with. (Litto Gomez, the creator of the cigar was born in Spain).

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Sobremesa Short Churchill Cigar Review

With some crazy, unseasonably warm weather to kick off Christmas weekend - I couldn't resist but to get out and try one of my favorite blends in a new vitola - the Sobremesa Short Churchill.

Pre-light of Sobremesa Short Churchill

Sobremesa was the debut blend from Steve Saka's venture, Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. Saka is pretty much a living legend in cigar circles. He is perhaps known most for his time at Drew Estate where he is credited with bringing some of the most popular cigars among American aficionados to market like the Liga Privada No. 9 and others.

The Pre-Light

It's tough not to like the classy look and feel of the Sobremesa Short Churchill cigar. With a Ecuadorian Habano Grade 1 dark rosado wrapper, it's medium toned in color and quite elegant.  At 4.75" with a 48 ring gauge, this isn't a large cigar but it feels deceptively thick in the hand to me. Typical notes pre-light include cedar and given my affinity for the Corona (Cervantes Fino) I was curious what the slightly more husky Short Churchill would deliver.

The cigar itself is comprised of tobacco from four countries - Nicaragua, Ecuador, the United States and Mexico (binder). 

First Third - Sobremesa Short Churchill

Sobremesa Short Churchill cigar review
I had no problems lighting up the stick and the draw was incredibly smooth - something I've come to expect from Dunbarton's line-up. There's something about these cigars that make them feel like a true premium --- it's tough to explain but when the draw provides just the amount right of resistence, there's a certain polish that comes with the experience. It's sort of like driving a luxury sedan versus a Kia... not that I have much experience with luxury automobiles.

The cigar itself started off fairly mild to medium bodied in terms of strength. Saka himself told the Cigar news site Halfwheel that the Short Churchill format actually was re-blended because of it's unique dimensions:

"Rather than just regard it as a 'gotta do it' and just produce it, I decided to take the opportunity to revisit the liga and tweak it specifically for this short plump format. Although it remains true to the core blend, it is slightly increased in the strength department which I find extremely palatable."

In the first third there were notes of cedar and what I would classify as cocoa. While other reviewers also found subtle nutty notes - I wasn't able to pick these up. There is a creaminess to the blend which I may have confused with the cocoa.

Second Third - Picking Up the Flavor

About an inch and a half in, the notes started to really pick up along with the body of the cigar. I don't consider myself a brilliant cigar mind or perfect palate but this was where the Short Churchill departed from the Sobremesa's other vitolas. 

The construction quality remained consistently good, no surprise given the performance I've seen with the others in this blend. All of Dunbarton's cigars are produced at the Joya de Nicaragua facility in Nicaragua.

If you're a guy that's into ash - no issues there either. Pretty sturdy and noted about an inch and a half of ash before it fell off. This is during a walking smoke too so the jarring of my footsteps generally keeps ash shorter than if you're relaxing with a stick.

Final Third - Consistent to the Finish

In my opinion the profile stayed pretty consistent from the second-third to the finish. The increased intensity remained in place. Some report notes of cherry that creep in as you make your way to the foot - I couldn't find that fruity note. But the cocoa remained pleasant and overall, the draw remained fantastic. 

While a lot of smokers will appreciate the bolder flavor profile - I honestly enjoy the more mild Sobremesa formats to this stronger Short Churchill. For money money, the Cervantes Fino and Churchill are hands-down the best of the Sobremesa blend. That said, the Churchill is still a very good cigar and for the $7-$10, you could do a lot worse. It's one I'd definitely smoke again.

Have a good Christmas!


Friday, November 18, 2016

Millennial Internation

Won't you give your $2990 per month to keep Declan on his gluten free diet?


Monday, October 24, 2016

Maryland Stadium - Venue Review


Frankly, I thought all that Under Armour money would be put to better use.

About a half hour outside of Washington, D.C. (give or take an hour or two for traffic), the University of Maryland in College Park is a new member to the Big Ten Conference. For the first conference game against my beloved Golden Gophers, I met up with a group of friends to check out Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium and their campus as the Gophers worked their way toward a 31-10 victory.

Pre-Game Tailgate

There are a number of open and available tailgate lots all over campus. We bought our tailgating passes from the University of Maryland and paid about $20 for the parking spot. There's no need to arrive early. In fact, we got to the tailgate lot about 8 a.m. and were among the first to arrive for a noon kick-off.

What struck us most about the tailgate situation at Maryland was the laid out list of rules that included a weak attempt to draw a line between "partying" and "tailgating". It seems music is a big problem at Maryland. If you have music, that means you're crossing the line between a party and tailgate which could get you in trouble. Although, I must admit, I didn't see anyone actually asked to turn their music down.

Overall, the fans were cordial but this didn't feel like a major football environment out in the tailgate lots. After trips to some of the less-impressive Big Ten football programs like Indiana - I'd put Maryland in the bottom tier, right next to Northwestern and far behind the rest of the conference.

From our tailgating spot, it was only about a 10 minute walk to the stadium.
Restrooms were another struggle. We set-up our tailgate next to the "Engineering Fields" that are very close to the University's Visitors Center. Until 9 a.m., there were no restrooms available and even the portable toilets in view were locked up --- which seemed to sort of defeat the purpose of portable toilets.

Traffic wasn't a problem on our way in. As I mentioned, the game day atmosphere wasn't really in full effect until much closer to kick-off.

Getting Into Maryland Stadium

Maryland Stadium holds just over 51,000 fans at capacity and with a 3-2 Minnesota team coming to town, we didn't expect it to be a sell-out. While a college town, College Park doesn't appear to be a college football town. (We're told to come back during basketball season).

The walk from the tailgate lots was pleasant on a warm autumn day. The campus was well-maintained and there were no safety issues in terms of sketchy folks around the stadium.

One thing that stood out was that as we walked toward the stadium, we saw a ton of students walking the opposite direction. It was bizarre. In fact, we had to re-check Google Maps because we thought maybe we'd taken a wrong turn along the way. It turns out, students at Maryland just don't really care about football.

We did encounter a bit of a bottleneck at the southwest entrance to Maryland stadium when trying to enter.


We didn't anticipate a 15-minute or so wait at the gate to get through security and to our seats. Not a huge deal but we probably should have planned for it. Because of the delay, we missed the opening kick-off and anthem.

Inside - The Game

Our seats were located in the southwest corner of the stadium behind the Minnesota bench on about the 10 yard line (Section 3). We were situated about 25 rows up from the field and had great sight-lines with no real issues in that regard.

When looking for tickets (we paid $25/each on Stubhub), we had some worries that seats closer to the field might have some serious obstructions because of a lack of elevation. Seats were cheap, even in the second and third rows from the field and we figured we should avoid them.

It turns out, we might have been misguided - here's a look from about the tenth row:


The whole environment inside was ok at the start of the game but the fanbase almost felt distracted. The student section was ok but not exactly rowdy and the rest of the fans kind of seemed irritated that they were expected to put up with a football game that afternoon. 

Our seats were located close to the end zone opposite the student section and University of Maryland Marching Band. The band was pretty loud - loud enough that we could clearly hear them. At some stadiums, that's actually a big issue --- the band plays but is basically inaudible from the far reaches of the stadium.

Fans were very nice to us as visitors - don't get me wrong. It just seemed like they weren't really "die-hard" fans of the Terrapins. Which, might be understandable given the program's mediocre history of performance.

Of course, you might want to bring a book:

Probably the worst college football fan east of the Mississippi

Concessions were reasonably priced but I'm told I missed the boat on the really interesting local fare. Behind the visitors section, concessions largely offered the types of things you'd expect with no real deviation - hotdogs, chips, soda, beer. (Yes, they serve beer inside Maryland Stadium). 

I'm told that on the other side of the stadium - likely where the bigger money boosters sit - they do have some more interesting concession offerings. Stuff like crab cakes and the sort of items you'd expect that close to the coast.

Wrap-Up of the Trip

Overall, the trip was a C and would've been much worse if Minnesota had lost. The atmosphere inside Maryland Stadium wasn't worth the effort of getting there. That said, as a Minnesota fan living in Tennessee, I'll probably return the next time they play here as D.C. is an easy flight and tickets to the game itself were pretty reasonable.

If you go - be sure to check out the home-sideline concession options (unlike me) and if you insist on getting to the tailgate lots before 9 a.m., be sure to go to the bathroom before you arrive!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Your Powder Matters

I thought this was a pretty interesting guide. I'm not the chemist that a lot of my reloading friends are but pretty cool nonetheless.

That's Vihtavuori Powder on the left-hand side versus the slower burning Hodgdon Powder on the right. It's interesting to see the real-time burn rates. Obviously, inside an ammo cartridge you don't get to see the combustion that you can see in this example. I'm curious if the pressure inside a cartridge plays a role in how it burns though. I would assume with limited oxygen that would play a role in how the fire eats fuel.

Widener's has some more neat images in their smokeless powder guide. If you're curious about reloading (and with the election ammo rush in full swing, who isn't?) it's worth 10 minutes to check out.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Venue Review - The Bowl at Sugar HIll

The Bowl at Sugar Hill - Third Eye Blind peforming
The Bowl at Sugar Hill on Sept. 3, 2016.
I'd never heard of Sugar Hill, Georgia until recently. About 40 minutes northeast of Atlanta, my wife and I spotted the mostly popular in the 1990's band, Third Eye Blind was playing over Labor Day weekend and we made the trip south to check it out.


Map showing the bowl at sugar hill relative to atlanta

The Bowl at Sugar Hill is located immediately behind Sugar Hill's City Hall building and all indications are it is run by the City of Sugar Hill, which may be where this concert went wrong, but I'll get to that in a moment.

The Bowl at Sugar Hill

As we pulled into Sugar Hill, we mistakenly stopped at an ATM expecting to need cash to park. However, that wasn't an issued. Without too much trouble, we quickly spotted a spot in a city parking lot that offered room for free. We were off to a good start.

As we walked past what appeared to be a brand new, golden guttered city hall building my wife was delighted seeing all the people lounging with coolers, blankets, etc. It was a nice little vibe. Obviously not a resident myself, you could get the sense that these events could play a role in building a community feeling. Also, the fact that you could carry-in your own alcohol may also explain why everyone seemed to know everyone else so well!

Outside the "Bowl" there were about a half dozen vendors set-up with a couple food trucks with the standard sort of fare. We didn't eat at the show but can attest that The Diner at Sugar Hill is worthy of the top spot it occupies on Trip Advisor for restaurants in the area.

Grandstand at the Bowl at Sugar Hill
The grandstand at the Bowl in Sugar Hill

We had reserved tickets that were about 5 rows from the stage. There are various levels of grassy terrace in the primary grandstand. For the show, they line what my wife jokingly referred to as "wedding chairs" for seating. Not necessarily uncomfortable and the set-up seemed just fine for something like this.

Who Sucked Out The Feelin'?

After an opening band that my wife and I agreed must have just been crowned king of the Sugar Hill High School's talent show the previous week (I didn't catch their name but thought they said something like "Cock Guard" --- which is probably not correct) there was about a half-hour pause while the stage was remade for the main event.

Then, Third Eye Blind took the stage and the night got weird.
Third Eye Blind frontman Steven Jenkins at The Bowl at Sugar Hill
Third Eye Blind's Steven Jenkins.
As lead singer Steven Jenkins started singing, it was as if his microphone hadn't been turned on. No lyrics, no  real sounds coming from it. Eventually, it started to play over the house speakers at faint levels but it was clear either we were all being pranked by Jenkins or something was messed up.

The band never explained exactly what was wrong. They simply played their first song (minus any audible lyrics) and then quietly left the stage.

Moments later, the band would re-emerge as Jenkins explained there were some technical issues that caused the problem and could continue to wreak havoc on their set. Paraphrasing Jenkins, it could happen at any moment and could impact just about everything they used to make music. (I'm no audio expert but I wonder if it wasn't a board issue of some kind).

Near the end of Third Eye Blind's set.

Throughout the night, the band clearly ran into technical issues at a few different points but to their credit they took it all in stride. At one point, Jenkins came on stage with just a guitar and performed a few songs. They're not a negative lot so Jenkins put on a mostly happy face and even seemed to poke fun at some of the culture of pop music today.

"There are no synthesizers, we're not a DJ band," Jenkins joked at one point.

All-in-all, I'd estimate the band played for just shy of an hour and a half. I'm not sure if Sugar Hill has any sort of noise ordinances in place that would have prevented them from going longer. 

Wrap-Up & Video

Of course, it was frustrating to have set-aside a holiday weekend to take in a show that was hit by technical issues that clearly sucked the energy out of the concert. We'd seen Third Eye Blind less than a year before at the Tennessee Theatre. Plainly, the bar was set high and my wife was delighted by the show in our hometown. 

In this latest case, the show was alright but the false-start clearly detracted from the overall experience. You can get a taste of what we experienced with the video below that highlights about a minute of what appeared to be technical glitch-free goodness.

video