Joe Johnson

The Big Smoke 2019

The Big Smoke 2018A few months back Tianhuai Dai, a frequent guest of the show, and I made our way to Las Vegas. There, we attended the annual Big Smoke put on by Cigar Aficionado every November. It was a blast; three days jam-packed with excitement and fun at the nation’s largest retail cigar show. It was two nights and three days of living and breathing our favorite vices, including some of the best fine spirits and wines on the market. Maybe this time next year we’ll have a visit to the IPCPR with more awesome stories and cigars. Check out the video and see some of the faces, the places, and the cigars we enjoyed at the show. Will you join us this year at the Big Smoke?

Mash Bill Breakdown – Lifeblood of Bourbon

Let’s clear the air: the difference between bourbon, scotch, and rye isn’t just about where they’re made. Though Kentucky is famous for bourbon and Scotland is king of scotch, the biggest difference lies in the mash bill and what the distiller does once it’s out of the vat.

The Yogi Berra Rule: How To Hold Your Cigar

In the world of cigar enthusiasts, the “Yogi Berra rule” teaches us all how to hold a cigar, and provides the best reason to remove the cigar band.

Bourbon Delivery: Mail-Order Wonder

Have you ever wished your favorite bourbon could be delivered right to your door? What could be better than the UPS driver arriving with your latest bourbon delivery from Kentucky, fresh from the distillery? According to the Herald-Dispatch, the distillers of Kentucky may soon be able to do just that with a new piece of legislation pending in the Kentucky House.

One of the best parts of my recent trip to Bardstown, Kentucky was the shopping. Being able to buy some of the bottles that are hard to find back home in Chicago was outstanding. The big distilleries chose not to compete with local stores, however, and marked up the bottles significantly. The allure of getting a bottle right from the source was worth the expense, though, and made a great keepsake. We drove back home with a dozen bottles that served as souvenirs or treats for special occasions.

The Breakdown on Bourbon Delivery

If Kentucky joins the other states that allow shipping of liquor to other states, you soon could enjoy the same. On Monday you could want to have a nice bottle of Old Weller, and by Friday it could be in hand. This disruption to the distribution model of liquor could also allow small distilleries to compete. Some, like the Abraham Lincoln Straight Bourbon by Boundary Oak Distillery, are not available from Chicago retailers. As a small, family-owned company, they would now have access to the national market overnight. Bourbon lovers get bourbon delivery and distilleries get new customers; it’s winning all around!

Up next is the debate in the Kentucky House over the original bill. Then, a discussion can start over adding the provisions for interstate bourbon shipments. Hopefully, someday soon, we’ll have access to all of Kentucky’s wonderful spirits! And then the wide-range of products offered from the state can be available everywhere.

Abraham Lincoln Bourbon

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Whether you’re a bourbon or cigar novice or an expert in either, our podcast is here to help you learn more about your passion and where to go next. Follow along with us as we explore the intricacies and nuances of our shared loves.

Published bi-weekly, the crew gets together to discuss spirits, smokes, and more in a group setting. Join our group of friends and drink or smoke along with us!

Cigar Vitola: What You Need To Know

Most people don’t know why cigars come in different shapes and sizes. Even then, they don’t recognize the shape of a cigar on sight. These different varieties, also known as vitolas, are an expression of the master roller’s vision for the final product. A cigar vitola can change the flavor, the burn profile, and even the time to smoke a cigar. This, just through minor tweaks to the shape and length of the cigar. With so many cigar vitola options out there, it can be difficult for beginners to choose the best cigar. I hope to give you some pointers to follow to help you make an informed purchase.

The fact is, cigar shapes can vary with the manufacturer, the brand, and even the series of a cigar. Hell, sometimes there are several cigar vitolas with the same blend. In a big brand, like Davidoff, some of their cigars can come in many different cigar vitola options. At a high level, cigars describe their size in two ways: length and ring gauge. The length of the cigar is usually given in the form of inches. Ring gauge, however, is the diameter of the cigar broken into the 64ths of an inch. Typically, brands do not follow the ‘one sizes fits all’ rule; people choose products based on their experience and preferences.

What do you need to know about cigar shapes

Although the size and shape of the cigar matter a lot, we’ve spoken before in the podcast on how the blend of tobaccos is more of an influence on the strength of flavor. That’s not to say the cigar vitola is unimportant; if anything, it’s a close second in overall impact, but it still holds sway. Chris discussed, in episode one, how the thinner the cigar, the hotter the burn. It’s simple physics: the same air pressure forced through a narrower tube will increase the amount of oxygen pulled over the tobacco and cause the flame to burn hotter. A 70-ring-gauge will pull almost half the amount of oxygen over the tobacco as a 35-ring-gauge cigar; that LaFlor Dominicana Digger will burn colder than the pencil-thin Lancero.

There is also the matter of the wrapper-to-filler ratio in a cigar, and how that influences flavor. In that same episode, we discussed how most of the flavor of a cigar comes from the wrapper; now imagine a cigar where the wrapper is 30% of the tobacco versus a cigar where it is 5% of the tobacco? You can see where having a very thin cigar might impart a vastly different flavor profile to the smoker than a thick cigar because of the lack of filler.

Where Does Cigar Vitola Factor In?

As more and more people begin to smoke cigars, we see the market has a wide range of cigar shapes. Despite the wide variety, the two most dominant shapes remain the Pajero and the Figurado. In the cigar lexicon, a Pajero has straight sides with an open foot and a closed head, which the smoker must cut before lighting up the cigar. They can be round or box-pressed, but usually take the classic form of a cigar: a cylinder, rectangle, or other traditional shape elongated in a tube. The Figurado cigars are not always or exactly a cylinder, usually made with a tapered head, tapered foot, or both!

Varieties of Pajero Cigars

Pajero cigars represent the most common type of cigar shapes that can have a slightly domed or exactly flat head. There are two common types of Pajero cigars: box pressed and Culebra. Below we have highlighted a few essential details about both of them:

Box Pressed Cigars

These cigars have a square shape; around the world, people love their shape and style. They are believed to have a money-saving design for the manufacturer, distributor, retailer, and buyer. Instead of putting them inside a box with the rounded bodies leaving air space between cigars, the box-shaped cigars are crammed and pressed into a geometric shape that cuts air from around the sticks. These cigars gain a square shape due to the applied pressure after or during rolling, and they ensure longer burning time with more consistent flavor.

A stack of box pressed cigars.
A Partagas Culebra with ribbon and label.

Culebra Cigars

Another exotic and classic form of Pajero cigars is Culebra, a very distinctive and unique cigar vitola. The cigar roller braids three different panatela Pajero cigars together after rolling. A well-rolled Culebra is a mark of a master cigar roller, however, as it is challenging to pull off the braid. As the tobacco is under pressure, the braid can tear or destroy the individual cigars in unskilled hands. Once braided, the cigars are traditionally tied together with ribbon at the head and the foot. Sometimes, rollers will also put a label around the full width of the Culebra in the traditional spot near the head.

Varieties of Figurado Cigars

There is a wide range of Figurado cigars, and each one of them finished with a unique shape. Some of the most popular ones are Perfecto, Piramide, Belicoso, and Torpedo. I’ve included a few essential details about all these categories below to help your hunt for cigars:

A bundle of torpedo cigars rolled together

Torpedo Cigars

This term is mostly used to define all types of Figurado cigars; however, they too have a specific shape that makes them stand out in the market. Generally, they are identified from their tapered and sloping head that curves to a point. Because of the curve, they have a tighter draw that pulls less air through the shaft and makes the cigar burn more coolly. This shape can bring a consistent flavor and taste through the entire length of the cigar.

Belicoso Cigars

Many buyers confuse them with Torpedoes, but these cigars have a sharper shape at the head that makes them appear the same as a bullet. Where the torpedo looks like the ones dropped from airplanes or shot from submarines, the Belicoso resembles a bomb or a bullet shape. While the name brings images of fighting and war, by definition, some manufacturers will mislabel a Parejo as a Belicoso because of the short taper.

A lit Belicoso cigar by Joya De Nicaragua
A single Piramide cigar by Macanudo

Piramide Cigars

As the name implies, it is Spanish for Pyramid; and as the structures of old, there is typically a taper from the foot to the head, which ends in a sharp point. Unlike the Torpedo which tapers just the length of the head, a Piramide will usually narrow along the full length of the cigar. Some will start with a broader gauge, like 55-60, at the foot and close to 40-45 by the head. Like others, sometimes manufacturers will label a Piramide as a Torpedo, so be careful when comparing cigars.

Perfecto Cigars

Perfecto cigars are generally observed to have two tapered, usually closed ends. Where the other Figurados will taper at the head, the Perfecto also tapers at the foot to either a closed point or a very narrow-width opening of 10-15 gauge. While a Perfecto may be perfectly symmetrical, there will be a clear head and a clear foot usually delineated by the position of the label. Others, such as the sub-vitola of Salomon, can have a Piramide head and a Belicoso foot.

A Davidoff Perfecto

While this is not an exhaustive list by any means, you can hopefully navigate the wide variety of cigars available online and in stores after reviewing these definitions. There can be hundreds of different variants in length, width, and end caps, but keep in mind that often the choice of a cigar vitola is a deeply personal preference. Find what you like, try out a lot of different shapes and sizes, and learn what you enjoy. While I have occasions where I crave the length and depth of a LaFlor Dominicana Double Ligero Digger at 8.5″ x 60 with a Pajero cap, there are others when I want a good Plasencia Alma Fuerte Sixto II box pressed at 6″ x 60 or an Opus X Belicoso XXX 4 5/8″ x 49.

As always, enjoy your smoke and live your best life. ¡Salud!

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Episode 2 – Wild Turkey In The House

Well, you’ve lasted this far and decided to tune back in for our second episode. I’d ask what the hell is wrong with you, but I think it’s rude to insult your listeners when you’re only two episodes into your brand new podcast. Either way, we’re very excited to dive deeper today into the world of Wild Turkey, and to have you along for the ride! Just one show production notice this time, we do record the show in a cigar lounge we’ve promoted in the show before, and this lounge has a pool table just outside the room where we record. Please excuse the background noise, but remember we record the show in public and there may be some distortion. Thanks for your understanding!

The Bourbons

As we saw the last episode, the room seemed to discount the Wild Turkey 101 at the beginning because of images and memories of frat parties and college hijinks fueled by plastic bottles of the stuff in a misspent youth. However, the group, in the end, tended toward the Wild Turkey 101 as their choice for the episode, and it was pure luck we scheduled our Wild Turkey episode to follow right after! Totally, guys, we swear, this was already planned, being 100 here…and now, as we dive deeper, we can see a little more of Jimmy Russel’s genius at work.

As they all share one mash bill, we also wanted to give that at the macro level below. Glencairns out, everyone, it’s time to drink!

Wild Turkey Mash Bill

Corn Content Indicator

75% Corn

Rye Content Indicator

13% Rye

Barley Content Indicator

12% Malted Barley

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit

Proof: 101
Price: $45-65
Characteristics: Easy, smooth
Rarity: Moderately Available

Note: Our bottle was a store pick from Warehouse Liquors in Chicago (thanks, Gene!) and was aged in Warehouse G, Rick 5.

Tasting Notes

In the beginning, there was good citrus and lime on the nose which was quite refreshing. Had hints of the brown sugar and tart apple pie as we said in the Wild Turkey 101 from Episode 1, very light on ethanol.

Had a good bit more warmth and sweetness in the flavor, with a robust Kentucky Hug at the end of the swallow that had all of us remembering the warmth of homemade apple pie. Cinnamon, tartness, and sweet nuttiness like a nutmeg, just overall deliciousness.

Much sweeter post-cigar, it accentuated the natural sweetness as we smoked and it subdued the other flavors. We had a lot of comparison with the Buffalo Trace in Episode One; none of us seemed to pick the Kentucky Spirit once we began the Davidoff.

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
Russell's Reserve Single Barrel

Russell's Reserve Single Barrel

Proof: 110
Price: $40-50
Characteristics: Gentle and aromatic for the ABV, excellent mouth-feel
Rarity: Generally Available

Tasting Notes

There was more spice on the nose than the Kentucky Spirit, some more cinnamon and caramel and vanilla overall. Despite the increase in ABV, there was also a lack of ethanol on the nose.

The mouthfeel was the most significant difference; it’s very smooth and more complex than the first. Even among the Russell’s Reserve that Chris owns, this was his favorite bottle. Vanilla stood out, caramel, and a good bit of cinnamon. Jason found the vanilla even enhanced as he swirled the bourbon in his Glencairn.

With the cigar, though, it brought a lot more complexity to the flavor which was an improvement overall. There was deeper sweetness and more of the vanilla we detected before, albeit with a deeper apple pie that other reviewers have also identified inside. Some could have been because of the brand and style of the cigar, but it’s a testament to the Wild Turkey brand that the bourbon stood up so well to the chosen smoke.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed (116.8 Proof)

Proof: 116.8
Price: $40-50
Characteristics: Flavorful, with a thick mouth coating
Rarity: Varies on Proof Version

Tasting Notes

On the nose, it was pretty deep and complex, but stronger than the others. More ginger and more savory spice than the sweetness of the other two.

The flavor on the palate continued that same flavor profile of the nose, taking the sweetness of the first two and dulling it for the savory side. Baking spices replaced the citrus notes and added to the bite of this bottle over the first and second. That dark flavor was a hit, though, as it made an interesting contrast to the others.

Post-cigar, the Rare Breed was overpowered by the cigar and ended up ruining the taste for us once we lit up. Chris disagreed, he enjoyed it before and after, but Jason and I were a lot less impressed and had to move this down to our least favorite because of the collapse of the sweetness and the accentuation of the spice to the point of no longer being palatable.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

Overall Bourbon Impressions

The three of us went through the bourbons twice, as per the format of the show: once naked and once with the cigar. There was a lean toward the Russell’s by Joe and Jason before the cigar with the Rare Breed still Chris’s favorite at the beginning of the show. As we tasted, however, it seemed to “wake up” our taste buds and get us more depth to the flavors.

Typical to our experience, everything changed once the cigar started. There was a general preference for the Russell’s Reserve pre-cigar, but the cigar only enhanced that. Jason tended toward the Kentucky Spirit at the start, as did I, but we had a lot of love for the Russell’s which improved considerably once we smoked. The group moved from Kentucky Spirit, Reserve, Rare Breed to Reserve, Rare Breed, Kentucky Spirit.

The Cigar

It wasn’t hard to come up with cigar number two for the show, the brand is now almost synonymous with cigars and the lifestyle of smoking, more so than the country that others think of when they think stogies. Davidoff is best known for their Swiss shop that has been open since 1911, but for the past fifty years they’ve produced their own cigars and have come to dominate the industry while still maintaining their mystique as the penultimate source of high-quality tobacco.

Based on availability at our local store, we opted for the Signature 2000 Anniversario, a subset of the Signature series that celebrates a half-century of Davidoff cigars, but your store should have one or all of the Signature series available. We highly recommend the Corona shape and size for a beginner, like the 2000 offers.

Davidoff Signature 2000 Anniversario

Davidoff Signature 2000 Anniversario

Length: 5″
Ring: 43
Vitola: Corona
Price: $13-15
Rarity: Generally Available 

Tasting Notes

Featuring an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, the binder is a hybrid Ecuadorian Connecticut, and Habano Seco blend over a Dominican Seco filler. The construction of the cigar was terrific, as it never once had an issue for all three of us as we smoked; they lived up to the Davidoff name and brand.

There was some bit of pepper on the flavor, but I pulled some creaminess on the beginning of the smoke that the others didn’t detect until later in the smoke. There was fresh-cut grass and some earthiness on the smoke that made it quite pleasant, as well.

In the end, though, the group had to pan the cigar and found it didn’t live up to the price-to-size ratio for our desires. It was a good smoke, but it didn’t fit the value proposition that we like to see in beginner cigars. Your mileage may vary, but this is maybe a smoke to save until you’ve had more experience.

The Accessories

We’ve used a number of accessories in this episode, both to drink our bourbon but to also enjoy our cigar. Check out the items below:

Small Batch Bourbon, A Perspective

In recent years, a lot happened in the small batch bourbon industry. New distilleries sprouted up, new brands launched, and the demand for Bourbon products has exploded across the United States. However, that increase in demand is not the only reason for such a Bourbon Renaissance. No, one name may have brought a lot of brands to light: MGP.

While some brands will make their liquor all in-house, from distillation to aging to bottling, some opt out of the distillation. Building a still is an expensive endeavor, one that can be fraught with difficulties and start-up costs often beyond the means of new distillers. Enter MGP, an Indiana wholesale distiller that produces the distillate for over fifty different brands around the world. Able to produce the base distillate for a new distillery, they also have warehouses to age their product for sale to brands. This service can cut 8-10 years off the time needed to launch a new brand and give them time to age their future product while still earning income.

Birth of the Renaissance: Small Batch Defined

As this Renaissance has mushroomed, these small brands can market their small batch bourbon because the term is wholly unregulated. Where there were 100 distilleries in the US a mere ten years ago, today there are over 1,400. These new businesses turn to someone like MGP to build their brand while waiting for the needed years to age their product. That can put a major crimp on the term small batch bourbon because you can hardly call it “small batch” if the largest wholesale distiller makes it, can you?

Despite the inherent logical fallacy in calling them small batch bourbon, the law doesn’t cover criteria for the term. Companies like Bulleit, High West, or Templeton can buy from MGP and call them small batch because of their own internal rules. Then again, so can the major players like Beam and Jack Daniels, just by following their internal guidelines for the definition of small batch bourbon.

Some of those definitions are as follows:

Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon

Knob Creek Small BatchIn 1992, Knob Creek launched their small batch bourbon without much fanfare. At that time, high-priced bourbon was not very common in the market, and brand loyalty often won with gimmicks. In the following years, America witnessed a phenomenal increase in the availability of small batch bourbon. The consumers also started to spend much more money buying bourbon.

Knob Creek still maintains its identity as a favorite small batch whiskey in the US market. They offer four different varieties of whiskey – Straight Rye Whiskey, Smoked Maple Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, and Single Barrel Reserve. The Kentucky Straight Bourbon is sweet and bold whereas the Single Barrel Reserve is unblended bourbon.

In 2017, Knob Creek released their 25th Anniversary Bourbon which was the first unfiltered, single barrel bourbon they released. The product retailed for $130 a bottle, with 300 barrels that originated 300 different bourbon versions.

Four Roses Single Barrel and Small Batch Bourbon

Four Roses ages their Bourbon Whiskey for not less than eight years. They make use of new white-oak casks which are charred for the aging of bourbon. The Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon from Four Roses consists of 60% corn, 35% rye and 5% malted barley. By their definition, because there is one single barrel for the bottle, it is small batch by nature.

Four Roses Small Batch BottleThey also market a small batch product that contains four of their ten available mash bills: OBSK, OESK, OBSO, and OESO. While each batch can vary by design, the master distiller has stated the average is 250 barrels per batch. Unlike their single barrel, the age is generally no younger than six years and no older than eight years, bringing an average somewhere in the six-and-a-half year range.

Where many of the other brands on the list have rickhouses of several stories, the distinction they carry is their one-story warehouses. Mixed with their lighter burn on their barrels (between a #3 and a #4), they offer some of the smoothest and most flavorful batches.

Buffalo Trace and E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch Bourbon

EH Taylor Small Batch BottleThe Buffalo Trace Distillery is on the banks of the Kentucky River in Frankfort, Kentucky. They have produced bourbon whiskey for more than two centuries from that site. Today, the Buffalo Trace Distillery makes over a dozen different brands of bourbon and whiskey, including their ever-popular E.H. Taylor, Jr. brand. Named for the father of the bourbon industry, Colonel E.H. Taylor, the brand is in honor of his powerful legacy. Among the varieties of bourbon produced under the brand, the small batch is also bottled-in-bond like we discussed in a previous post.

One distinction for their brand is that the E.H. Taylor bottles are all made from a bourbon barrel aged in Warehouse C, a building built by Colonel Taylor himself in 1881. While they do not mention how many barrels go into a small batch, we assume there are less than one hundred per batch because of the limited number of barrels available to make the blend. Beyond the unknown number of barrels, the bottled-in-bond designation also means the final product has water added to lower the ABV before the bottling process.

Willett Pot Still Reserve

Willett Pot Still Reserve​Probably their most popular small batch bourbon, the Pot Still Reserve from Willett Distillery initially was an expression of other distiller’s whiskey. Until they began distilling in-house again in 2012, Willett purchased distillate from other companies and aged the barrels in-house. Starting in 2014, the Pot Still Reserve changed from a single-barrel to a small batch product, incorporating some in-house distillate. As barrels reach the minimum four year age, more and more in-house distillate will begin to join the batch as they bottle.

Because of the transition from single-barrel to small batch, it brought a new perspective to the product that was missing before the change. However, Willett’s batches are quite small, so keep in mind that no two batches will taste the same. They state they use at most twelve barrels per batch, meaning there can be wild differences between runs.

A Wide World of Single-Barrel Bourbons

There are many more single-barrel and small batch bourbons out there on the market to review; we’d never get them all in just one post. Just keep the basic rule in mind when approaching a small batch bourbon: there are no rules about naming conventions. Small batch can mean 12 barrels, like Willett, or it can mean 250, like Four Roses. By comparison to the industrial-scale distilleries, 250 is a tiny batch; but within the non-industrial producers, there can be a wild fluctuation between definitions. Please be careful, and always enjoy your bourbon responsibly!

Subscribe To Stogies & Mash

Whether you’re a bourbon or cigar novice or an expert in either, our podcast is here to help you learn more about your passion and where to go next. Follow along with us as we explore the intricacies and nuances of our shared loves.

Published bi-weekly, the crew gets together to discuss spirits, smokes, and more in a group setting. Join our group of friends and drink or smoke along with us!

Episode 1 – In The Beginning…Bourbon

Apple Pie. Denim. Bourbon. They’re pretty much interchangeable with the good ‘ole Red, White and Blue and for folks like us there’s no doubt bourbon is the essential American liquor. A variety of whiskey, bourbon takes its name from Bourbon County, Kentucky; you know — the home of thoroughbred horses and Bluegrass. Combine some classic Kentucky music and horse racing with bourbon and we’re there! But, in all honesty, we’d take the bourbon regardless.

And cigars, the most beloved and reviled of bad habits enjoyed by people the world over. There is, after all, precious little middle ground for the stogie; you love ’em or hate ’em. People see the cigar either as fragrant and satisfying and a spur to conversation and the philosophical mind, or they revile it as an odious clump of noxious weeds. If you see them as the latter, please kindly never come back to our website.

Today we launch the inaugural episode of our podcast, an endeavor months in the making for our hosts and supported by our friends and our significant others. Hence our aim is to share the knowledge and experience of our hosts and our friends for the novice or beginner just looking to learn more about bourbon or cigars. From the origins of the first mash bills of the American forefathers of bourbon to the fields where the tobacco plants were grown that go into each of our cigars, our aim is to impart our love and appreciation for our passion to you all.

The Bourbons

Today we sampled three different bourbons from three different distilleries that represent, in our opinion, the best place to start for anyone that wants to begin their bourbon journey. Because of that, they all run about $30 a bottle from a major brand liquor store, and while we have some store pick bottles for our tasting you will experience much of the same flavor and nose that we describe when you buy any bottle off the shelf. Let’s dive in!

Buffalo Trace

Proof: 90
Price: $25-30
Characteristics: Easy, smooth
Rarity: Widely Available

Tasting Notes

On the nose we detected orange, buttery, mild scent and mouth feel. The color was lighter, though there were hints of darker color owing to the age of the bourbon.

The most noticeable flavor was caramel and sugar on the first taste, it was a rather sweet bourbon compared to the other two. The initial tasting included sweet caramel, little brown sugar, oily espresso beans. We compared it to rum for that sweetness, though more indicative of the bourbon family in the underlying flavors.

With the cigar, this fell to third place for all of us. Because of the smoke and the taste of the cigar, there was only sugar and water left in this cigar for us and we felt like it wasn’t a great compliment.


Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond

Proof: 100
Price: $30
Characteristics: Stronger on the nose, smooth drinking
Rarity: Generally Available

Tasting Notes

On the nose it seemed sharper for our tasters than the Buffalo Trace, but that is expected as it is a higher proof. While the nose wasn’t as sweet, there were still subtle notes of nutmeg and sugar in there, which came out more in the tasting.

First we noticed that nutmeg and brown sugar from the nose in the taste, though far less than the Buffalo Trace. Even just 10 proof seemed to set it much higher on the strength meter.

Much sweeter with the cigar, though, and actually tasted closer to the Wild Turkey before the cigar after we’d tasted the cigar. But there was an undertone of spice and smoke that had been more subtle the first time that was much clearer now. We felt the spice was cut, making it a smoother drink than we had in the initial taste.

There’s more on Bottled-in-Bond in our first blog post. Read up, it’s good stuff!

Wild Turkey 101

Proof: 101
Price: $25-25
Characteristics: Smooth, easy to drink
Rarity: Widely Available

Tasting Notes

On the nose it was sweet, but not as sweet as the Buffalo Trace. The nose held butterscotch and toffee, which played through in the tasting itself. Maybe a little raisin, as well, depending on your preference.

The taste had more spice, some underlying notes of pepper with the nuttiness of the Buffalo Trace. We detected the nutmeg and the toffee and butterscotch that we lost in the McKenna. More honey and cereal with a bit of sherry on the palate which made it stand out to our panel.

After the cigar was lit, we found it sweeter than when we first tasted the bourbon. There’s more syrup and brown sugar in the drink and we all had to reassess our overall impressions of this bourbon.


Overall Bourbon Impressions

Our crew tasted through all three bourbons twice, once “naked” before we lit the cigar, and then again after we’ve had the cigar going for a bit. In the end, the panel decided we really enjoyed the Wild Turkey 101 the most with this particular cigar, with the Henry McKenna a very close second. Chris, though, was still a McKenna fan, and held through both tastings with that as his number one pick.

While the Buffalo Trace was not good for us after the cigar, we have to emphasize that it was our number one pick before the cigar was lit up and the first puffs taken. It is the ultimate proof that your palate is greatly affected by the cigar itself; what we once picked as best was now no longer even worth drinking. Keep that in mind on your journey!

The Cigar

We had to dig deep and come up with what cigar we would provide a novice smoker when they show up to smoke with us, and I think we found the very perfect “first” to use for the show. While there are a large number of sticks you can pick up as your first, we highly recommend this common and smooth beginner’s stick: The Ashton Cabinet Series. Based on availability at our local store, we opted for the Churchill #8 of the series, but as a beginner you can opt for something smaller like the Belicoso or the Corono Gorda.


Ashton Cabinet #8

Length: 7″
Ring: 49
Price: $13-15
Rarity: Generally Available 

Tasting Notes

Made with Dominican leaf, this Churchill sized cigar is one of the mildest-but-flavorful sticks we’ve ever smoked. The Connecticut shade wrapper is a light tan that belies the delicious complexity of flavor inside, though that could be our bias for maduros showing through. Excellently constructed, it’s the epitome of the high-quality of Ashton’s entire line of cigars. And it was nice to taste the differences in our bourbons once we smoked the cigar.

ERRATA: I messed up, the wrapper is not grown in Connecticut, I mis-read the description from Ashton’s website. They were missing a comma but it’s on me 100%. We’ll make sure to double-check these facts in the future.

The Accessories

We’ve used a number of accessories in this episode, both to drink our bourbon but to also enjoy our cigar. Check out the items below:

Bourbon and Cigars – Welcome

I get it: bourbon can be a pretty daunting thing to ponder and explore. There’s the sunk cost of the bottles, the high per-pour prices at bars and restaurants, and the “snob tax” of people overthinking their drinks. Cigars are even worse a minefield: the wide variety of brands, the confusing names, styles, and packaging; and let’s not forget the embargo. There are 163 million results in Google for “bourbon,” so it makes you wonder: where can I start? That’s what we’re here to do, to give you the tools you need to explore our two favorite vices together: bourbon and cigars.

Stogies and Mash is a bourbon and cigar blog and podcast for beginners. We teach you where to start with your exploration, first bottles to try or cigars to smoke, and where to source them. Through the progressive growth of our articles, you’ll move from a newbie to an anorak in no time. Within a year, we’ll have you drinking an iron dram with the best of them!

Both Bourbon and Cigars

Sometimes we’ll throw in things about other spirits or wine, but our core goal is to teach you everything we know about bourbon and cigars. In the end, we hope to leave you an expert all on your own. Expect weekly tips, pointers, and histories of both spirits and cigars, along with bi-weekly episodes of our podcast.

The Podcast

The show is a roundtable of our hosts and our guests trying and exploring the very core of bourbon and cigar experiences. Sometimes some current events or politics might slip in, but it’s really just friends enjoying our favorite pastimes. Join us while you listen in and learn something along the way.

Welcome to the world of bourbon and cigars, and the beginning of a life-long passion. I’ve never met someone who’s half-interested in either vice, only those who love them dearly. Together, we’ll get you on board and ready to explore a brave new world on your own. All aboard!

Subscribe To Stogies & Mash

Whether you’re a bourbon or cigar novice or an expert in either, our podcast is here to help you learn more about your passion and where to go next. Follow along with us as we explore the intricacies and nuances of our shared loves.

Published bi-weekly, the crew gets together to discuss spirits, smokes, and more in a group setting. Join our group of friends and drink or smoke along with us!