Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Cigar Review: Bellas Artes Maduro

Recently I turned 60 years old and decided to go back to where I grew up and look around, been a while sense I had been There. 

I stopped at my sisters house for a few minutes to catch up then headed out to walk the farm. I brought with me a great cigar from A.J. Fernandez, the Bellas Artes Maduro. Fantastic looking cigar with a rich Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper with a nice dark chocolate colored appearance. Nice and smooth with excellent construction. Once cut I set the torch to work and it began perfectly. The art work on the band itself is superb. 

The experience began with a mild spice mix that lasted briefly, about a quarter inch in, then gave way to a tasty mix of fresh turned earth, dark coffee and a mild hint of bitter sweet chocolate. Soon into the smoke, the first third was under way with the dark coffee becoming more of a south Louisiana coffee and chicory flavor with the chocolate darker and reminds me of when I was little and my grandmother giving me a chocolate bar and sharing her big coffee cup. These flavors twirled and moved together in a dance of perfection being wrapped together with hints of smoky wood. 

I was truly enjoying the start of this cigar as I decided to walk down to the creek first at the back of our property. The fence we use to work so hard to keep in shape was rusted and broken in some areas as I stepped over it and onto the sand bar. I sat on a fallen tree for a few minutes looking at the place I spent many summers growing up. When work was done I would head here to swim and have fun. I found what was left of an old swing we use to use and even where we pilled rocks for camp fires. As I walked back to the field, I headed to an old barn and corn crib where we feed cows and stored hay. 

As I walked, the cigar was moving into the second third. The coffee and chicory was clearly bolder. The mild spice that came at the beginning was starting to return but with a hint more of a red pepper zing to it that matched perfectly with the coffee. The chocolate became more of a higher cocoa content reminder and still these flavors continued to enthrall the taste buds with a delightful morphing of predominant placement, and the smoky wood tops them off. 

I walked into the old barn and it was clear it needed work. Two very old square bales of hay remained or what was left of them as well as an old plow. I thought about the cows we feed here and the time spent, loving every minute of it. It was a great way to grow up. Looking in the old corn crib, it smelled of rats, old husks and dirt. I spent many days right here shucking corn, feeding nubbins to the cows, and shelling corn. My father and I would talk, tell jokes and tell me about growing up right. I left there and walked across the fields where we grew hay and corn. Seems like so very long ago, wish many times just to go back for a while in time. 

I said goodbye to my sister and as the cigar was moving into the final third I pulled up and parked at the old house. I did not get out and go in, I just sat for a few minutes looking around. Moving into the final third, the flavors had become bolder with the coffee and chicory still up front but the chocolate had transitioned more of a home made brittle taste with the spice blend and smoky wood switching back and forth in place. Each draw was an experience unto itself as the flavors flowed in waves. Very smooth to smoke. the cigar finished beautifully with the last draw having a touch more spice but the coffee and chicory still up front. I headed back home, thoughts running through my mind, memories of years gone by, and and missing some loved ones. But as someone once said, life goes on. If you have not tried the Bellas Artes Maduro, do not pass it up, its one great smoke.


Peace and Smoke,

Gator

 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Cigar Review: Jacobs Ladder

 The south has had many movies, stories, jokes and some ill thoughts about it for years, but to be honest I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. The people, food, tradition and ways are different than anywhere else and down here we take it to heart. Recently I went to a “Gathering”, something I haven’t done in years. I was invited by a family friend to their place and was told to, “Meet us down in the back.” What that means is not at the house but down way back in the field near the creek. So that afternoon I took beverages and cigars and headed out. When I arrived at his farm the gate was open and you could see several sets of fresh tracks so I followed them to the gathering. Several pickup trucks, of course, where there as well as a couple tractors, and it was clear that a bonfire has been stacked for later. I noticed several coolers and three grills had been readied so I knew this was going to be a very late night. After walking around greeting people I sat with some old friends with a beverage while others where starting grills. The good nature, conversation and smell of the grills where setting in and this was shaping up right.

I pulled a Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder from the travel humi to enjoy. Great looking cigar, with its Broadleaf wrapper nice and dark. Once cut I set torch to work and the cigar lit wonderfully. Upon lighting I was greeted with dark roast coffee like I had in New Orleans for years. With that, a fine mix of cocoa, smoky oak and cayenne spice. This cigar is a mouthwatering treat. Further in, the spice moved back a touch as the wood, cocoa and coffee danced in unison. Excellent.
Someone was cooking steaks as another was cooking ribs, the smells were inviting and here, no matter who you are, you could help yourself to anything. The music began to play and four wheelers were headed to the creek as others sat in lawn chairs or tailgates just enjoying the afternoon. This is country living, where people gather to unwind and enjoy outdoors. Jokes old and new as well as tall tails were being told, as well as good natured ribbing to friends.
The cigar was now well into the second third as the oak and cayenne works in complete perfection and the coffee became more of a dark coffee and chicory affair. The richness of the blend is very clear and very well done. Into the final third the wow factor increased as did the strength. The smoke is thick and bountiful, smooth as velvet. As the cigar came to a close it never lets up on flavor showing its complexity with each puff. Look for these and pick up a few and see what flavors greet you, they are very well done.



Peace and Smoke,
Gator

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Cigar Review: Crowned Heads Court Reserve

Every so often, something special comes along. After all the years in cigars its rare that i am surprised at any new release. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there are not cigars I'm really pleased to see come out, it is just not much surprise. but this year is different. Last weekend I had a project I wanted to work on, some art that I have been meaning to get to. Took a photo in Colorado several years ago of a very old barn and I wanted to get it on paper. Having a day with out pressing matters, I gathered my supplies and set up in my office at home. I took a sheet of parchment paper and attached it to the board and set out the technical pens I love to use. I never draw with out a cigar so for today's work I picked out the new Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII. The band is beautiful, and the Mexican San Andres wrapper has a nice touch of oily sheen to it with its deep rich color. Once cut, the pre light draw gives hints of aged tobacco, nutmeg and a very nice hint of orange zest. This was unexpected and very pleasing.

lighting up, I had to smile because there is no waiting for flavor from this cigar. Right from the start it gives you a bounty of delectable flavors. Spice and peanut brittle combines with the citrus zest producing an elegant smoke. Further into the first third, the aroma is awakening the senses as the peanut brittle morphs into more of an oven parched peanut affair with a mild sweetness reminiscent dark malt. Combine this with the taste of the rich tobacco being emitted and you have a profusion of engaging flavors.
As I was thoroughly enjoying the cigar, I began my work on the project at hand. I began with a 7H pencil lead and carefully laying out the building, framework and environment. Once done, I began with a .13 technical pen, laying in the outlines of each board, post and roofing. 
As I began to start applying texture to the board surfaces of the barn, the cigar was moving well into the second third. The citrus zest was still present as is the parched nuts. The mild sweetness as before mentioned was not as pronounced but yet the taste of the dark malt has enveloped with the parched nuts giving a deep rich smokiness to the cigar. Each draw presents the flavors in an entangled web of combinations, switching placement in manifestation of placement. The citrus zest I mention is captivating due to the fact that its affect upon the savoriness of the blend. It is a perfect match, not over powering but ever present, causing the amplification of the cavalcade of tastes. exquisite to say the least.
Board after board, placing line work and shadows. Creating the appearance of age and wear. Spending time with a magnifying glass as to get each identifying mark accurate on the building. 
Moving into the final third, the flavors have elevated somewhat. More intensity each singularly and unified. A deep smokiness, rich in the essence of the tobacco coated the combination as if drawn by an engineer. An appearance of nutmeg began to show as was first gathered in the pre light which caused the the mix of zest, nuts and now dark wood to be completely pleasing in every aspect.
Finishing this cigar had me wishing for another but here again, work needed to be finished on the drawing at hand.
When this cigar hits the shelves treat yourself to some and see what you gather from it. No ones ever tastes the same things as we are each individual smokers but the great expectation is in the smoking.

Peace and Smoke,
Gator