SEE YA!

29 12 2011

Last year I promised to write a blog a week every week for a year – accomplished.  I hope to never make as stupid a commitment as that again.  To volunteer to perform the exact same task one day every week for a year?  No way!

This year I will try to do something different once a week, every week, and absolutely NOT blog about it.  One day I might have breakfast at a greasy dive; one day maybe visit a homeless man at the Vietnam Memorial Park and talk;  buy flowers for Laura for absolutely no reason;  go into the Apple Store and NOT buy anything.   It really doesn’t matter what I choose to do – just one thing completely different every week.   Fix a few things around the house and then hire a professional to fix whatever I screwed up.  But don’t worry, you’re not going to have to read about it anywhere any longer.

Some things bear repeating – blogs do not fall into that category.  Who knows, I might actually learn something.  At least I won’t be blathering away at a keyboard while the world passes by outside my window.  And you won’t be compelled to watch through the window while nothing happens.  Thanks!  John

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52nd Post This Year

28 12 2011

WordPress sent me an email this morning asking me to respond to a number of questions regarding my commitment to blog once a week in 2011.  They asked how my blog has changed over the course of a year (not at all); whether I am ready to commit to a blog post a day in 2012 (hell, no); and a number of other questions prompting me to consider my future in the blogging universe (virtually none).

Despair, Inc. (a website everyone should have on their “favorites” lists) has this quote about blogging:

“Never Before Have So Many People With So Little To Say Said So Much To So Few”

I have now fulfilled my commitment to write a blog for every week of the year, which was a sort of New Years’ Resolution from last year.  Tomorrow will be my last blog and will briefly (I promise) describe my New Years Resolution for 2012, which is a very direct result of what I have truly learned from my experience with WordPress this past year.  ‘Nuff said!





Cigar Thoughts 4

4 03 2011

How the Master Blender Determines Flavor

Based on popular demand, as well as a few threats, this will likely be my final Cigar based blog. I may drop in a few comments at a later date on extraordinary sticks that I have stumbled upon, but this information has been Basic Training for afficionados, and boring as hell for people who could care less about anything cigar related. Without further ado, here are my final meanderings on the subject.

The flavor and strength of tobacco grown in different soil will gain its characteristics from the genetic signature of the soil. A master blender will use their knowledge of the different tobaccos at their disposal and will set out to create a cigar masterpiece by blending several different tobaccos. The master blender will usually start out with an idea of the type of cigar they want to blend. Perhaps they want a full-bodied cigar with more spice and less sweetness. Or maybe they want a medium-bodied blend that has a lot of sweetness and shows more complexity. Whatever the case, they will choose from their stores of tobacco to achieve their goal.

As the master blender works with the different tobaccos, he or she may end up using 3-5 different tobacco types (and sometimes more) in the filler blend. The strength, body and flavor characteristics of these different tobaccos will determine the extent to which the wrapper tobacco will contribute to the flavor of the cigar. The filler blend must be matched with the wrapper and binder leaves and the talented master blender can control the contribution of the wrapper and filler to the overall flavor of the finished cigar.

If a cigar maker wants more strength in a cigar, their recipe will favor fuller-bodied, stronger, and more flavorful tobacco varietals and will favor higher priming leaves. To create a lighter bodied blend, the master blender will favor lighter tobacco types and will use a higher percentage of lower priming leaves.
A filler blend with more body, strength and/or flavor will compete with the wrapper in terms of its contribution to the overall flavor of the cigar. On the other hand, a mild filler blend will compete less with the wrapper tobacco. A wrapper that is stronger and fuller in body and flavor will assert its flavor characteristics over a light to medium bodied filler blend.

I am going to enjoy a “God of Fire” cigar now – I am tired of trying to convert neophytes. Experiment at your own leisure and time – it is much more fun than trying to write something remotely interesting every week. From here on, if you have an interest in anything “cigar” oriented, please just call Tom at Fidel’s. He has forgotten more in the last two hours than I will know in a lifetime of cigar smoking.





Cigar Thoughts 3

25 02 2011

How Leaf Placement Affects Flavor

Leaf placement is another factor that will determine how much a wrapper (or filler blend) will impact the overall flavor in a cigar. Tobacco plants are harvested in stages called primings. Each priming removes 2 leaves starting at the bottom of the plant and each priming is separated by approximately 1 week. There are typically 5-8 priming’s on a tobacco plant (depending on the tobacco variety). Therefore it will take approximately 5-8 weeks for the priming process to reach completion.

The uppermost leaves of the tobacco plant, the corona and ligero, are primed last. Because they have remained on the plant longer, the leaves have faced harsher weather conditions of direct sunlight, wind, and other elements, and have been nourished longer by the stalk. As a result, they are thicker and contain more oleoresins and possess a stronger flavor. The viso, or mid-level leaves of the plant, contain tobacco of medium-full strength and flavor. Viso tobacco strikes a balance between flavor and burn characteristics and is very useful in providing both a good-tasting and good-burning cigar. The lower primings of the plant, the seco and volado contain tobacco that is lighter in flavor and strength. This tobacco possesses great burning characteristics and provides the bulk of the combustion qualities in your cigar.

If more of the filler blend in a cigar is comprised of leaves from the top of the plant, then that will reduce the effect of the wrapper on overall flavor. But if the cigar blend uses more tobacco from the lower part of the plant (i.e., seco and volado), this will allow the wrapper to assert itself more. Conversely, if the wrapper comes from the higher primings of the plant, it will have a greater impact on the overall flavor, compared to a wrapper from the lower part of the plant.

For more information about cigars and their manufacture, check out the website at Fidel’s in Westport – Tom Foster is the owner, and a great guy!





Cigar Thoughts 2

18 02 2011

How Tobacco Varietal Affects Flavor

When a master blender constructs a cigar blend, they work with different tobacco varietals from different countries. They manipulate these tobaccos in much the same way as a winemaker uses different grape varietals to produce a fine wine. The properties of these tobaccos have been determined by the seed, soil, and climate, as well as by the curing, fermentation and aging processes.

Tobacco flavor starts with the genetic characteristics of the tobacco varietal. Different tobacco types have different properties with respect to body, flavor and strength. Common tobacco varietals include: Habano, Connecticut Shade, Cameroon, Corojo, Piloto Cubano, Broadleaf, and many more. Nowadays, tobacco growers are experimenting and forming many hybrid tobaccos by crossing common varietals and crossing them again with other hybrids. As a result, there are an unlimited number of tobacco types that can be produced and used in a cigar blend. Unfortunately, there is no way to give a generic profile of the flavor, body, strength and aroma characteristics of each tobacco varietal or hybrid because it is the combination of the seed, soil and climate conditions that will produce the distinctive characteristics of the tobacco. Thus, planting the same seed in different countries will yield different results. Furthermore, planting the same seeds in different regions within the same country and/or different farms within the same region can also produce a tobacco with different flavor characteristics. Add to this, the different methods for curing and fermentation and the differing lengths to which the tobaccos can be aged and you come up with myriad possibilities for flavor characteristics within a tobacco type.

Master blenders will acquaint themselves with the characteristics of each type of tobacco from each harvest year. During the curing and fermentation stages, they can learn about the tobacco characteristics by the look, feel and aroma of the tobacco. The master blender will touch the leaves to feel for thickness and the amount of stickiness (i.e., a measure of the density of oleoresins). They will smell the leaves and even burn through a leaf to perceive the aromas. Often they will construct “puros,” or small cigars of just one tobacco type that they will smoke and keep notes on the characteristics. This allows them to focus on that particular tobacco type without the flavors being “tainted” by the effects of the other leaves in a typical cigar blend.
Fidel’s in Kansas City (Tom Foster) is a great resourse for further questions about cigars.





Cigar Thoughts

11 02 2011

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah – it’s a stinky habit – but it is addictive on more than just a nicotine level. It is a relaxing way to download and play with new iPad apps. A quiet day watching news and sports – listening to opinions on everything from education reform to the importance of the Kardashian’s in modern culture (none).

The “cigar” blogs are shared articles from Cigar Aficionado that begin to relate why this unhealthy, expensive, and obnoxious habit is so appealing. If this topic does not appeal to you, I don’t blame you – but I am not reaching out to justify myself. One of the beauties of smoking a cigar is there is no real need to justify your behavior.

If we had based our early cigar purchases solely on the reviews in Cigar Aficionado, we may never have started smoking cigars. All their highly rated cigars seem to be nicotine powerhouses with the potential to level any newbie cigar smoker. To understand why this is so, we must remember that the reviewers at Cigar Aficionado smoke cigars all day and night and have built up a tremendous tolerance to nicotine. Additionally, strong tobacco tends to have a more intense flavor and today’s cigar makers are pushing the envelope on both these fronts. There now seems to be a competition among cigar makers to create the strongest, most flavorful cigars possible. This has resulted in cigars of extraordinary flavor but of unprecedented strength (nicotine levels). Seasoned cigar smokers can appreciate this level of cigar making and the resultant positive reviews reflect this appreciation. But smoking super strong cigars on a regular basis can sometimes feel like work.

The key is to experiment – much like learning to appreciate great wine. Did you try a heavily oaked Chardonnay or a Cabernet with hearty tannin overtones when you started trying to develop your wine palate? If so, you might have decided to stay with Boone’s Farm for life. Some wines are just a little overwhelming for a novice. The same holds true for cigars.

I am not recommending that anyone start drinking and smoking, just commenting that if you do choose to try these things, approach with caution. I have moved beyond any alcoholic drinks for personal reasons – but I love espresso in my dark roast coffee and full bodied cigars every day.

Life is a rich experience, and yeah, yeah, yeah – it can be pretty stinky.

For more information about cigars, contact Tom Foster at Fidel’s in Kansas City. Friendly and extremely knowledgeable!