Tag Archives: bourbon

Do You Know Your Whiskey? Every Man Should Know These 10

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Most of you probably enjoy a few fingers of whiskey from time to time.  If not, it is never too late to start, responsibly of course! Personally, few things are as enjoyable for me as sipping on a nice whiskey while smoking a good cigar.  Doing both of those things doesn’t happen often but when it does I really try to enjoy it and soak up the experience.

There was a time when I was pretty uneducated in the different types of whiskeys and there is a decent chance some of you might be as well so I thought we would discuss it in some detail.  I am sure most of you know that Scotch, is indeed, a whiskey.  You probably also know that bourbon doesn’t have to come from Kentucky to be bourbon (although scotch does need to be made in Scotland to be scotch.)

Once you get past those basics the amount of diversity found in whiskey can be a bit confusing.  If you are like me, you have no doubt pretended to know the difference between rye whiskey and single malt scotch when out with your buddies.

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Here is a quick review of the basics

Scotch
Distilled from a mash of water, yeast, and malted barley and aged in oak barrels for at least three years.  Scotch can be one of two types. It can be a blend of whiskey from different distilleries or it can be made by just one distillery.  If it is made by one distillery it is called “single malt.”  As mentioned above, in order to earn the name scotch, it must be made in Scotland.  If you are looking for a good blend you can try Johnnie Walker Blue.  However, if you have been paying attention then you know single malt is all the rage these days.

Like anything that is “the rage” it tends to drive prices up so be careful what you pick up.  Just because it is expensive doesn’t guarantee quality.  A reasonably priced single malt is the Balvenie Double Wood 12 Year.  You can usually find it for around $50.

Bourbon
Typically made from corn and aged in new oak barrels.  While Kentucky still has the reputation for making some of the best 6a00d8341d4d7c53ef0111683a7f04970c-500wibourbon in the world, there are a ton of small craft distilleries that make excellent bourbon.  I like bourbon because it still is a great value.  I am a huge fan of Makers Mark which you can get for $20 – $30 a bottle.  Blanton’s Bourbon Single Barrel is also good, starting at around $40/bottle.

Rye
Similar to bourbon, except of course that it is made mostly with rye and not corn.  Rye whiskey’s popularity took a dive after the Prohibition Era but in recent years has made a comeback.  I am not a big fan of rye whiskey but I am told that Sazerac makes a good one for about $27.  If you want something a little more serious in the rye category you can check out Woodford Reserve for about $40 per bottle.

Now that we have that covered let’s talk about 10 of the very best whiskeys out there.  Some of the prices aren’t for the faint of heart but I promise you these are all amazing.

Elijah Craig Bourbon.  Every year Heaven Hill releases a special limited edition bottling of this wonderful whiskey.  It is aged 20 years and takes on some amazing and robust flavors. $175

The Macallan 15.  Just last weekend I had the chance to enjoy a few fingers of this amazing single malt scotch.  You will find notes of rich chocolate, with a hint of orange, rose, cinnamon and raisin.  Pair it with a nice cigar and you can’t go wrong.  $110 – $130 per bottle.

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Highland Park 18 Year Old.  Another single malt scotch many people consider this the best in the world (not sure I agree but it is certainly good.) You will find notes of oak (duh!), smoke and sweetness in this whiskey. $120.

Spice Tree.  Some of the snobbier whiskey drinkers turn their noses up to blended scotch.  Don’t be like them.  Compass Box makes a great one that includes notes of spices and vanilla.  $60.

Lagavulin Single Malt 16 Year Old. This classic single malt starts smoky but ends with vanilla and caramel notes with a dry finish. $70.

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Redbreast 12 Year Old. We can’t leave off our Irish friends of course!  This is an excellent Irish whiskey that many people consider the only Irish whiskey worth drinking.  You will find strong notes of dark fruit. The finish is long and creamy with custard and spice.  Order online and you can find this between $40 – $50 a bottle.

Four Roses Single Barrel. Yes, yes I know.  Pappy Van Winkle tends to be the single barrel of choice these days.  Avoid the trendy pick and stick with Four Roses. This one also has dark fruit notes with a sweet cocoa, maple and spicy finish. $50.

Lot No. 40 Canadian.  If you can’t leave off Irish whiskey than you certainly can’t forget our neighbors to the north.  This is considered the best Canadian whiskey out there.  I don’t drink enough to say one way or the other on this one.  This is strong rye whiskey that has won many awards. $60

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Yamazaki Single Malt 18 Year Old.  Japanese whiskey is one of the most underrated whiskeys out there.  If you are looking to try something new I highly recommend this.  A few years ago someone gave me a bottle of this for free because they didn’t think it would be any good (they never even tried it!)  Lucky for me.  It combines wonderful flavors of apple and smoke.  This one can be expensive but I have found it for as little as $200 bottle.

Which whiskeys have we left off the list?  Tell us in the comments!

Tell us if you agree or not!

 

 

 

Man-sentials: How to Choose a Good Cigar

Winston Churchill Smoking a Cigar

I have come a long way since I first let up my first cigar at the tender age of 15.  Although technically a Swisher Sweet should never, ever be classified as a “cigar” by any stretch of the imagination.  When you are underage and have a limited budget you must make due with what you can get your hands on (Kids don’t smoke it is bad for you!)  My friend Greg and I also smoked several other disgusting type of “cigars” when I was in my early 20’s and still a very poor college student.

Then thankfully one day they opened a classy cigar shop in the Mall of America with the whole built in humidor and everything!  It was awesome!  Once I had finally tasted the real comfort of a good ole cigar it was no looking back from there!  Being a man I stubbornly refused to learn how to pick out a good cigar by asking or reading up on the subject so what follows is good solid advice from The Art of Manliness on picking out a good smoke.

Now personally, I don’t smoke cigar’s often.  I mean they are still bad for you of course.  However, I certainly enjoy lighting up while out on the course, out at a BBQ or while sipping a nice scotch or bourbon with a group of similarly situated gents.  I don’t recommend you smoke them frequently and certainly not daily.  I used to work with a group of guys who would smoke cigars every day on their way to work. Which by the way, smoking a cigar in the tight confines of your vehicle is about as “unmanly” as it gets.  Have you ever smelled someone who smokes a cigar daily?  E gads! It is absolutely the worst.  I hated anytime I had to have a meeting in their office, especially if it was in the morning when the stale smell of cigar was still clinging to their clothes.  Anyway, sorry… I digress.

Nothing screams manly more than kicking back, relaxing and enjoying the pleasure of smoking a solid stogie with friends.  With no further ado here is some advice on picking out a solid cigar.   However, when in doubt ask your local tobacconist  they are there to help you!

There was once a time when a man with a cigar in his mouth was held in high regard; a time when a young man toasted farewell to adolescence by igniting the end of a cigar that “just happened” to slip out of his father’s humidor. A time where the arrival of a man’s progeny was celebrated with cigars in the hospital’s waiting room.  A time when one could find a guillotine right alongside a man’s trusty pocketknife.

A 21-year-old Winston Churchill, on a quest to prove his manliness, ventured to the island of Cuba. It was in Cuba where Churchill began his love affair with the cigar. He described cigars as part of his “rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite; smoke cigars and drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them.” Churchill was so renowned for his cigar habit that a cigar of especially large magnitude still carries his name today: The Churchill cigar.

There can certainly be some intimidation when you first walk into a well-stocked cigar humidor. How can you possibly tell the difference between a Montecristo and an Ashton? Does it matter if this “Romeo y Julieta” came from the Dominican Republic and not Cuba? (why yes, it does). Fear not. After reading these quick tips on choosing a quality cigar, you’ll have an idea on how to pick a quality cigar. You’ll also be left wondering why you ever thought picking up a pack of Swisher Sweets from the gas station was a good idea.

Anatomy of a Cigar

Cigar

The head: This is the end you put in your mouth. It’s sealed off and will require cutting; a guillotine is preferred to reduce the chance of smashing the cigar; however, a sharp knife will do. But for the love of God, do not use your teeth!31KkJf+saSL._SY300_

The foot: This is the side that you light.

The filler: A nice, consistent blend of dried and fermented tobacco.

The wrapper: The outside of the cigar. It varies in color from light to dark. A lot of the cigar’s flavor comes from this outer layer.

Choosing a Cigar

Now that you know your head from your foot, we can move onto choosing a cigar.  Check out a local cigar club.  They’ll likely have a well-stocked humidor and a knowledgeable tobacconist who will guide you through the selection.  When you arrive at the cigar club, you’ll walk into a humidor full of cigars. Humidors help maintain an optimal level of moisture inside the tobacco.  If it’s too humid, the tobacco will rot. If it’s not humid enough, the cigars will dry out and lose their flavor and aroma.

If this is your first time smoking a cigar, stay away from the higher-priced ones since, at this point, you won’t be able to truly savor the distinguishing elements of an expensive cigar. Besides, price isn’t the most most important factor in choosing a cigar. There are plenty of cheaper cigars out there that hold top ratings from major cigar publications.

While price isn’t that important when selecting a cigar, cigar construction and tobacco quality are. The cigar’s construction determines how smooth and even the draw is when you smoke it.  You can test the construction of a cigar by rolling it between the thumb and index finger of your hand. As you do this, make sure the cigar’s outside doesn’t have any lumps. Also check that the body is not too soft or void of filling. You want the cigar to have a nice even consistency and fill. A rough texture or any other mark of bad construction means a less smooth draw when you inhale.  With a well constructed cigar, the ash will maintain the shape of the cigar as it is smoked.

The second important factor when buying a cigar is the tobacco’s quality.  You typically can’t determine tobacco quality simply by looking at the outside of the cigar.  So how do you know which brands use good quality tobacco? It’s mainly based on reputation. Ask the tobacconist or your friends for recommendations on cigars that use quality tobacco. It’s usually a safe bet to go with larger brands. The big cigar brands tend to use higher quality tobacco in their cigars because they usually have first dibs on the quality stuff. In your quest to find cigars that use quality tobacco, just remember to purchase one cigar at a time instead of buying boxes. You don’t want to be left with a box of crummy cigars you’ll never smoke.

Now before you go running off to your local cigar club, let me first answer a question that typically comes up from those who want to learn more about cigars.

The Cuban Debate:  Are Cuban Cigars Really Better?

Cuban Cigars

I must first preface my answer by saying this: if you live in the U.S., don’t even bother trying to buy a Cuban cigar locally.  Because of a 1962 embargo against Cuba, Cuban cigars are not allowed in the U.S. (legally, at least). But because Cuban cigars are so desirable, a large counterfeit industry has popped up in the United States.  If someone says they have some Cuban cigars for sale, steer clear. It’s probably a fake and will leave your mouth tasting like charcoal when you smoke it.

You’ll also find clever Cuban immigrants rolling cigars claiming that since they themselves are Cuban, the cigars can be sold as “Cuban cigars.”  A clever scam, but a scam nonetheless. If you really want to smoke a Cuban cigar, you’ll either have to head north to Canada or south to Mexico.

Now to answer the original question: Yes, Cuban cigars are indeed better. Cuban cigars are highly regulated by the Cuban government and are held to a very high standard.  They’re also constructed by some of the most skilled cigar rollers in the world.  The “torcedores,” as they are referred to in Spanish, have been rolling cigars their entire lives, often learning the skill from family members who passed the knowledge on from generation to generation. The skill these workers employ ensures a consistent fill for the cigar every time.  The flavor of a Cuban cigar tends to be extremely overpowering to someone not acquainted with cigars.  They are much more full and smoky compared to their Dominican counterparts that tend have a more peppery and spiced flavor.

It All Comes Down to Personal Preference

The cigar-smoking experience is very personal. Everyone has different tastes, so make sure to try a few different varieties in order to discover your cigar of choice. It’s similar to finding your favorite beer. You probably didn’t know it was your favorite until you experimented with some different variations: more hops, less wheat, maybe some orange zest. But when you finally found your favorite beer, you knew it was the one. Cigars are going to be the exact same way.