1st Annual C.A.T.S Cigar Festival

1st Annual C.A.T.S Cigar Festival

What is C.A.T.S? Discover what it means and how you can help support our warriors! Enjoy a video recap from the first annual C.A.T.S. festival.

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Voyages into the Unusual with Hendrick’s Gin

Voyages into the Unusual with Hendrick’s Gin

Hendrick’s Society of the Unusual boasts the most peculiar and curious events for the cocktail consumer. Delicious libations may be found all around for your imbibing pleasure and there is an adventure at every corner. If you are fortunate to find yourself able to attend the Voyages Into The Unusual, you most certainly do not want to miss it!

These unusual events occur once a year in select cities. To be invited to the event, you’ll want to sign up for the Society of the Unusual, a complementary newsletter that will inform you of any fun events you will most certainly wish to attend. The video above walks you through the lively experience of the event which occurred most recently in Houston. Each location is a bit different, so there will always be surprises.

Creative cocktails are available everywhere, along with the recipes. In fact, it isn’t uncommon to be standing around when perhaps a cocktail book will be given to you from the most unexpected characters or locations (say for instance, what you thought was just an average clock on the wall). Each city will have its own unique Traveling Punch which consists of fresh local ingredients to that city and season. A very special thank you to Hendrick’s Brand Ambassador, Mark Stoddard, for introducing us to the Traveling Punch and showing us how it is made. Our local punch this year in Houston was a most refreshing one, and I’ve already made some to enjoy by the pool with friends. For your convenience, I’ve included the recipe below:

Hendrick’s Traveling Punch, Houston

1 part Hendrick’s Gin
1/4 part creme de mure
3/4 part lemon juice
1 part blackberry sage tea*
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1/4 part simple syrup
1 part chilled soda water

1 ice block
1 sage leaf
1 blackberry
1 lemon wheel

Combine ingredients, except for soda water, in a punch bowl and add ice. Stir and top with soda and garnish.

*Republic of Tea 1 bag per 16 parts then chill

Thank you to everyone from William Grant & Sons for the wonderful hospitality and for creating such an unusual event!

hendricks gin traveling punch

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The Balvenie 17 Year DoubleWood Single Malt Whisky

The Balvenie 17 Year DoubleWood Single Malt Whisky

William Grant & Sons celebrated the launch of the new Balvenie 17 year DoubleWood Single Malt Whisky recently in Houston. The occasion was celebrated in grand style as whisky enthusiasts gathered together to have their first taste of this new spirit.

The Balvenie 12 year DoubleWood has been a long-time personal favorite of mine, especially when it comes to pairing cigars. I’ve often found that regardless of my mood, this whisky works extremely well with cigars from a mild to full bodied range, and particularly well with the medium bodied styles. The maturation in American Oak and Sherry cask finishing gives the spirit much depth and a great number of characteristics that a cigar can play into without compromising either element.

When the Balvenie 17 year was announced to be a DoubleWood, needless to say they had my attention.

“It has been a real pleasure to create the DoubleWood 17 Year Old, and I am delighted with the way it has turned out, as I hope Balvenie enthusiasts will be,” said Malt Master David Stewart. “Wherever I travel in the world, DoubleWood 12 Year Old is the expression that people are most likely to have enjoyed. It is also one of the whiskies I am most proud of when I look back over my 50 years at the distillery, which is why it has been so exciting to create this new older version.”

The Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood is an expertly proportioned single malt with distinctive rich vanilla oak, honeyed sweetness and layers of spices. On the nose, it is elegant and complex with oak, vanilla, honey and a hint of green apple. To taste, it is sweet with dried fruits, sherbet spice, toasted almonds and cinnamon, layered with a richness of creamy toffee notes and traces of oak and deep vanilla.”

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I walked into the event knowing nothing about the 17 year other than the double cask finishing. I wanted my first taste to not have anything previously attached. I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect or what I thought I would want to see.

As I placed my nose a short distance above the glass, let it move away then return, and then finally take that first sip I found much surprise. My first reaction was that it was sweeter perhaps than I expected but then I began to explore it further. The green apple, as much as it is a hint is a very distinctive hint and one I must say I connected with and enjoyed. Most prominent were notes of rich vanilla and dried fruits and honey.

This is a very lovely whisky and I’m quite curious to see how it pairs with cigars. Chip Hight of Hight Cigars was present at the event and the more I think of it, I think I may just have to have a Hight Primitivo with the Balvenie 17 year DoubleWood as a first experiment. I think they will work well together as the whisky has much to offer and much to be discovered. The right cigar can often make you taste notes that were otherwise too subtle in a spirit, just as a spirit can do the same to a cigar.

Have you had your first taste of the Balvenie 17 year DoubleWood yet?


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Quesada Oktoberfest + Buffalo Bayou Brewery

Quesada Oktoberfest + Buffalo Bayou Brewery

Ever since last year when I had my first Oktoberfest cigar from Quesada, I find myself looking forward for its release each fall. The Oktoberfest is a beautiful cigar with a blend that works very well on its own, however was made with the intention of being paired with an Oktoberfest style beer. The whole concept embraces the fun and happy spirit of the cigar smoker, and reveals to us the personality behind Quesada. They are people you would definitely want to have a beer with, as well as a cigar!

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Though intended to be paired with an Oktoberfest beer, typically lagers, we decided to embrace the fun and invite Buffalo Bayou Brewery to create a beer just for the launch of this cigar. Rassul from Buffalo Bayou answered the call with not just one, but two delicious beers for us to enjoy with our cigars.

Buffalo Bayou 1836

The 1836 is a malt-forward copper ale with a nice slight bite to the finish. The slight hop adds some interest without being dominating to the beer or cigar. What’s special about this one? For the launch, this particular keg was aged in cedar. Yes, like the cedar found in a cigar box. Like I said, fun!

Buffalo Bayou Smoke on the Bayou

Smoke on the Bayou is a beer that can only be created locally in Houston. The malt was smoked at three local Houston BBQ restaurantes: Beaver’s, Goode Company, and Rockwell’s Tavern. The smoked malts were then blended and used to create this beautiful and strong scotch ale (9% ABV). The smoke is more subtle in flavor than you may expect, and the sweetness of this scotch style ale stands at the front playing well with the cigar in this pairing.

Craft beer drinkers and cigar smokers can both appreciate an event like this. Smiles were everywhere as we all imbibed in our passions.

The Oktoberfest line was released with more vitolas available this year. One in particular, and to my excitement, was a limited release 6×49 “Kaiser Ludwig” cigar. Not only a smaller ring gauge which is a first in the line, but also a box pressed cigar. In my experience, the smaller ring gauges tend to have a more intense representation of the flavors. I’ve enjoyed the blend in all the Oktoberfest vitolas I have smoked, however now the Ludwig matches the tastes I like with my preference of size.

I want to thank Stogies for hosting such a wonderful event, Quesada for including us in the launch, and Buffalo Bayou Brewery for making this truly a one of a kind event we will all remember!

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Rocky Mountain Cigar Fesival 2012

Rocky Mountain Cigar Fesival 2012

The Smoker Friendly Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival in Boulder, Colorado is an event not to be missed! Last year I had an amazing time and was excited to return. This year, the bar was raised with more cigars, more manufacturers, more local craft beer and spirits, new and exclusive VIP options, and even people celebrating a day of leisurely cigar smoking together, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains.

The focus is definitely about the cigar community. Cigar smokers and manufacturers alike enjoy conversations, great beers and spirits, delicious food and of course- fine cigars. The weather is perfect and the scenery is beautiful. There are plenty of places to sit, talk, and eat, and plenty of booths to visit. It is a fully packed and entertaining day that no one wants to have end. In fact, once the Festival is “over” the party continues with an after-party mega herf sponsored by Drew Estate. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Mark your calendars for next year’s Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival: August 24th, 2013!

Visit www.rmcigarfestival.com for more information and sign up to receive an email reminder of the upcoming date.


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Non-Stop to Kyoto: The Art of Japanese Whisky

Non-Stop to Kyoto: The Art of Japanese Whisky

During the Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, I accepted an invitation from Neyah White of Suntory Whisky to escape and experience a glimpse into the legendary bars of Kyoto. From nearly unobtainable Japansese whiskies to exemplary hospitality, not a single detail was overlooked.

Throughout this visit every taste, smell, bite, and sound was of beauty. Kyoto, I am told, is more laid back. Though the setting is very welcoming and relaxing, the whiskies, hospitality, and available knowledge is of the highest level. Hosts Neyah White and Gardner Dunn tend bar while Michelin star chef Lincoln Carson designs tastes to pair with your spirits. As each whisky or whisky cocktail is presented to you, Neyah and Gardner educate you on the details of each spirit for the fullest experience possible. I invite you now to walk with me as I did through “Non-Stop to Kyoto” at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail with Suntory Whisky.

Yamazaki 25yr Hakushu 25 yr and Hibiki Japanese Whisky

Yamazaki 1984 Japanese Whisky

Before entering the bar, you wait at the elevator and see some very special whiskies on display. In particular, you see a box of the Yamazaki 25 yr, Hakushu 25 yr, and a bottle of Hibiki 12 yr. You peak behind the display to find a box of the Yamazaki 1984 single malt whisky and smile.

The elevator door opens and takes you to your destination. Upon exiting the elevator, you walk into a dark room decorated with lights guiding you to the bar’s entrance. The light welcomes you in as you take in your surroundings.

Suntory Japanese Whisky

Entrance into Non-Stop to Kyoto

Non-Stop to Kyoto at Tales of the Cocktail

Then there’s the whiskies- oh the whiskies.

Rare Japanese Whiskies from Suntory

Hibiki Japanese Whisky from Suntory

Rare Hibiki Japanese Whiskies from Suntory

Rare Yamazaki Japanese Whiskies from Suntory

Rare Hakushu Japanese Whiskies from Suntory

I had the great fortune of tasting some truly rare and delicious whiskies, but alas the 25 year Hakushu, Yamazaki, and 30 year Hibiki still remain unobtainable for now. As these bottles flirt from across the room, a very special treat is presented at each table. Any whisky geek or anorak will especially appreciate this. I must say not only was it fun on its own, but it heavily impacted what my palate recognizes in each spirit.

Non-Stop to Kyoto presented by Suntory

Blend your own whisky from Suntory

Ah, the science of taste. In each of these test tubes is a taste of the following individual selections: American Oak, Spanish Oak, Japanese Oak, Smoky Malt, Chita Grain, and Vatted Malt. You are given a glass and a beaker along with the optional ice cubes and water. You can nose and taste each of these selections individually, however you are instructed to play and create your own blend. The beaker allows you to measure accurate pours and control how much of each ingredient you are adding to your glass. You can add as many or as few as you like. Not only is this a customized experience, but familiarizing yourself with each of the individual selections allows you to better acknowledge the influences in your favorite whiskies.

While you play with the various tastes you can create, another tasting opportunity arrives. A dram of the Yamazaki Puncheon and Bourbon Barrel whiskies are presented. Having just tasted the American Oak on its own, you can immediately see the difference in taste it makes. The Puncheon is bottled at a higher strength of 48% and is matured in large 480 litre puncheon casks, giving it a slower maturation than the normal 230 litre cask. The Bourbon Barrel is a limited edition available to the UK market and was aged entirely in first fill bourbon barrels.

Non-Stop to Kyoto

Suntory Ice and Whiskies

Red Velvet Chocolate with Tobacco Shards

As you are enjoying your tasting, pairings are served to match each of the different styles available. You have savory, fruity, sweet and rich bites to keep your palate engaged and entertained. Above are two of my favorites: a frozen banana ball which paired brilliantly with one of my tasting experiments, and a red velvet chocolate treat complete with tobacco shards. Yes, tobacco, because it goes oh so beautifully with whisky. I adored the inclusion and use of this ingredient.

Looking around the room, Gardner began carving ice for those who would like an ice ball for their spirit. Cocktails were also provided as an option. And because literally not a detail was missed- our water for this visit was shipped from Japan for the ultimate experience!

Gardner Dunn carving ice at Non-Stop to Kyoto

Gardner Dunn carving ice at Non-Stop to Kyoto

Suntory Mineral Water from Japan

Thank you Neyah White, Gardner Dunn, Lincoln Carson, and everyone from Suntory for this wonderful passport to Kyoto. This was an experience I will treasure greatly.

Please find more photos in the slideshow below:

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