A Pipe Smoker’s Inquiry

A Few of My Favorite Things – 2017 Edition  

Favorite Things opening Pic

As we approach the finale of 2017, it makes sense to take time and reflect back on the things that brought us both joy and happiness over the course of 2017.  Although it may be easy to allow the negative, less than desirable, events to creep into our memories, I would rather reflect back on the things that helped ease the way through 2017.  There truly is no method to this madness, rather, just a list of things that I have enjoyed over the past 365 days.  I hope you enjoy this catalog of favorites and if you haven’t experienced the items discussed below, give them a try.  You never know how they may influence and even support you through 2018.

Favorite Beer of 2017

MadTree Lift

Madtree Lift Beer Can pic

I was introduced to this beer at a small Cincinnati, Ohio bar in July of this past year.  A group of friends and myself attended the Incubus 8 concert and decided to pre-game at a local hang out.  With the heat of summer in its prime, I was craving a pilsner/kolsch style beer.  The bartender inquired if I had ever tried MadTree Lift.  I replied no, and he smiled, left, and returned with what I classify as a piece of heaven on Earth.  From that moment on MadTree Lift has been my go to beer of choice.  Creamy and crisp with innocent hop notes and tastes of citrus and wheat, Lift is truly a choice you won’t regret.

Favorite Bourbon of 2017

Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve

Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve Pic

Being a native Kentuckian, bourbon runs in my veins and has simply become an everyday part of life.  It truly is second nature to most of my family, friends, and acquaintances.  Similar to cigars, I am always on the hunt for that perfect bourbon.  This year there were several contenders for top bourbon, however, in the end Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve came out the winner. With a nose showing notes of vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, and candy the smell alone is worth the $40 price tag.  Tastes are rich and sweet, mimicking the profile found on the nose with an added maple syrup characteristic.  Tasters will easily note the 120 proof, however, the bourbon is well balanced and the heat of the alcohol is in no way overpowering.  If available in your area pick up a bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve and enjoy with your favorite cigar or pipe tobacco.

Favorite Wine of 2017

Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir

Au Bon Climate 2015 Pic

No, not all of my favorite things in 2017 were alcohol related, but I figured I would let the best go first.  Aside from beer and bourbon I highly enjoy wine.  Without a doubt, I am the furthest thing from being a master sommelier, however, I do enjoy tasting and pairing wines and typically try 15 – 20 new wines every year.  The front runner this year was the Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir.  Being produced in the Santa Maria Valley of California, this wine is bold and vibrant displaying a smooth balanced taste of plum, sweet berries, chocolate and earth.  At $25 a bottle this wine is worth a try by those who can appreciate a quality handmade adult beverage.

Favorite Board Game of 2017

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition

D&D 5e Player's Handbook Pic

Yes, it may seem extremely nerdy to play board games, further, admit that my favorite of the year was Dungeons and Dragons 5e.  However, this game system is truly a ton of fun if you enjoy adventure and role playing.  I actually started playing D&D back in high school under the 3.5 system but my real-life adventure to college meant my D&D days were put on hold.  Fast forward 15 years, 3 degrees, 4 children, 1 spouse, and a mortgage later, and we have my restart into Dungeons and Dragons with the most recent 5th edition rules.  I currently DM for two different groups, that convene once a month to play, and have been doing so since December 2016.  Cheers to friends, fun, games, and lots of laughs with a little D&D 5e!

Favorite Book of 2017

Finders Keepers by: Stephen King

Finders Keeps Cover Pic

I’m a sucker for a good fiction novel, the only problem is finding one that doesn’t a.) turn into a sappy soap opera love story, b.) have a predictable outcome, and c.) lose momentum during the story.  Finders Keepers certainly avoids all three of these issues while maintaining a constant crescendo of suspense and surprise.  I am not a huge Stephen King fan but must admit that he created a brilliant piece of work in Finders Keepers.  This novel is the second in the Mr. Mercedes collection, however, having not read the first or last books in the series, I was still able to completely understand the story while relating to each character’s background.  Be warned, if you dare to give this book a read, clear your schedule because you won’t want to put it down.

Favorite Music Album of 2017

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (2017)

Chris T and Brad M Album Picture

I was first introduced to this album through the Pipes Magazine Radio Show as Brian Levine showcased the duo during the weekly music segment.  With my roots being grounded in bluegrass music, and jazz holding a close place to my heart, this album proved to be an absolute perfect balance of each musical genre.  Both Chris and Brad have work together flawlessly to create a musical masterpiece that reflects a rich bluegrass heritage while interweaving unpredictable jazz functionality.  This album is sure to keep your ears busy while helping your mind relax.

Favorite TV Show of 2017

Game of Thrones Season 7

Game of Thrones Season 7 Pic

Let’s be honest, if you haven’t been participating in the Game of Thrones rave, you are truly missing out.  From the beginning the show has been action packed, gruesome, and unpredictable.  With season seven premiering this past year, many Game of Thrones junkies, like myself, are preparing ourselves for the final season which is set to debut in 2019.  I must admit, however, that this past season (seven) has been my least favorite thus far.  Although still a damn great show, those who have followed the show religiously can easily note that the original creator and author of the book series, George R. R. Martin, has stopped writing the show episodes.  Martin was famously known for his impulsive demise of characters and sudden plot twist, which is one of the many reasons the show is enjoyable to watch.  This past season presented ample opportunities for major characters to meet their end, but they didn’t.  Is it because the viewership has grown too fond of the main appeals, I don’t know, but I hope the eighth and final season brings back the capricious suspense that hooked so many people to the show in the first place.  Winter is coming, I hope you are ready!

Well that does it.  Thank you for taking the time to read through a few of my favorite things this past year.  I hope you have enjoyed my list and feel free to post a comment sharing some of your thoughts or favorites from 2017.  Stay tuned as I will be posting both my Top 5 Pipe Tobaccos and Top 5 Cigars of 2017 in the coming weeks.  As always, be well and cheers!

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

Cigar Review

Cohiba Siglo IV   

Cohiba Siglo IV #1

Happy December!  It’s hard to believe that 2017 is coming to a close.  However, with ends there are also beginnings, and although 2017 wasn’t a bad year for me, there may be plenty of others who can’t wait for 2018 to begin.  With the winter season moving in, the opportunity for cigar smoking is quickly fading until spring.  Not to say I don’t smoke cigars in the winter.  On the contrary, I still manage to brave the cold for an occasional stogie.  Truth be told, I prefer smoking a pipe in the wintertime over cigar smoking.  There is something ‘inner warming’ about smoking a pipe in the snow that offers me personal comfort and joy.

Anyway, I managed to get in a review of the Cohiba Siglo IV during one of the warmer transitional days this past week.  Becoming commercially available in 1994, the Habanos Cohiba Siglo range is one of the most popular lines in the Habanos S.A. portfolio. The current Siglo lineup consist of the following six sizes:

Siglo I – 40 x 4

Siglo II – 42 x 5.1

Siglo III – 42 x 6.1

Siglo IV – 46 x 5.6

Siglo V – 43 x 6.7

Siglo VI – 52 x 5.9

For more information on the Cohiba brand please visit the Habanos S.A. website at http://www.habanos.com/en/?age-verified=eb6ac93e0a or the Cuban Cigar Website at https://www.cubancigarwebsite.com/brand/cohiba

 

On to the review….

 

Cohiba Siglo IV Attributes

Size: Corona Gorda

Length: 5.6

Ring Gauge: 46

Wrapper: Cuba

Binder: Cuba

Filler: Cuba

Country: Cuba

Price: $23.50 USD

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 10.40.58 PM

Pre-light Inspection: This gorgeous looking cigar sports a golden tan, silky wrapper that is smooth to the touch with few visible veins.  The solid roll showed a jam-packed foot with no soft spots detected on the pinch.  Cigar head had a perfectly crafted triple seam cap.  No obvious pre-light aroma, however, the tight cold draw produced notes of chili pepper spice and a rich creamy sweetness.

Tasting Notes and Performance:  This cigar can essentially be summed up as rich, creamy, and smooth.  Sweet notes of vanilla, yeasty bread, chocolate, nougat, cedar, leather and spice are detected throughout the smoking experience.  Burn was a touch wavy and did require a few touch-ups throughout, however, no relights were needed.  Draw was on the firm side, but the cigar still produced a wonderful thick white smoke categorizing the cigar as medium bodied.  The finish of the cigar did show a little harshness with tarry notes easily found on the palate but time and aging should easily mellow out these issues.

Overall Impressions:  This is absolutely everything I want and expect in a quality cigar.  A glorious smoking experience and although on the pricey side for most aficionados, in my opinion it’s well worth it.  If you are able to purchase a box (or two) of these do so.  I highly recommend them and am confident you will not be disappointed in your investment.  I understand there is a lot of disagreement about whether Cuban cigars are truly the best in the world, but let me be the first to make a stance in saying if Cuba continues to turn out quality sticks like the Cohiba Siglo IV, they will forever remain the king of the quickly expanding cigar scene.  My verdict, buy them up if you can!

Cigar score:

5 Cigar Boxes

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

Pipe Tobacco Review

L.J. Peretti Thanksgiving Day

IMG_4046

Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the U.S. who are celebrating with family, friends, and good food.  Although easily overshadowed by both Halloween and Christmas, Thanksgiving has always been one of my personal favorites when it comes to holidays.

Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, the L.J. Peretti Company has a well-earned reputation in the pipe tobacco world.  With an extensive portfolio of tobacco blends ranging from Burleys and Latakia to Black Cavendish and Virginias, Peretti tobaccos have something to offer every pipe smoker.  To help celebrate the Thanksgiving Day holiday, the L.J. Peretti Company has created its Thanksgiving Day blend using a time-honored formula and unique press method to marry the tobaccos for a special smoking experience.  Being both seasonal and limited in availability, the Thanksgiving Day blend has become a staple for many pipe smokers during the Thanksgiving season. For more information on the L.J. Peretti Company and their tobacco offerings visit their website at: http://www.ljperetti.com

Info & Overview

Brand: L.J. Peretti

Category: Aromatic

Blend Components: Burley, Virginia

Flavorings: Fruit, Citrus, Rum

Cut Type: Krumble Kake

Available Packaging: 4 oz. cake

Price: $20.00 USD

 

On to the review…

 

From the Tin: When looking for visual examples of tobacco blending masterpieces, the L.J. Peretti Thanksgiving Day cake is certainly nothing short of perfection.  This visually appealing cake has wonderful aromas of dried fruits, alcohol, hay, straw, and herbs.  The cake is easily torn apart for ease of rubbing out and packing.  The moister level of the tobacco is spot on and requires little to no drying time before packing and smoking.

Tasting Notes:  Over the past week and a half I have smoked several bowls of the 2017 Thanksgiving Day blend.  The best way to summarize the experience, no matter what type of pipe used (i.e., briar, cob, meerschaum) is unique.  The primary aroma of the blend is a mix of a musty perfume anise mixed with an herbal/floral spice.  Tastes consists of sweet alcohol, fruits, nuts, cloves, and mild cocoa.  The blend burns well and is mild to medium in both body and strength.

Overall Impression:  In all honesty, I have mixed emotions with this blend.  Although I have had several enjoyable bowls, mostly in cobs, each time I smoke this blend in one of my briar pipes it’s just ok.  Going back to my original description above, this blend is best summarized as unique.  I’m glad I get to enjoy it during this special time of year, but it is not a blend I will smoke on a regular or consistent basis.  In fact, I will probably have plenty left for Thanksgiving 2018.  No doubt, the presentation and history of this blend is worth giving it a try, but the end result was less than desirable for my own palate.  Maybe I will revisit the 2017 Thanksgiving Day blend next Thanksgiving.  Who knows how a year in a jar will affect this tobacco?  For only time will tell.

Tobacco Score:

3 Pipes

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

Smoke Stories No. 1

Wood Gnomes

Unique creatures they are.  But you would be too if you lived inside trees.  Have you ever wondered how the trees get their bark?  Yep, wood gnomes.  In fact, it acts as one of their many defenses against the threatening forces attempting to overrun their kingdoms of blissful harmony.  If a tree is bustling and healthy, you can bet a fully established society of wood gnomes are hard at work within.  If a tree has lost its life, well, the gnomes have moved on.  Could be due to an evil overthrow of the colony.  Maybe, a diplomatic choice.  Nobody truly knows why wood gnomes abandon their trees, but it is a guarantee they won’t be found if that tree is death bound.

One may be intrigued to understand the threats that constantly assault a colony of wood gnomes living in a tree.  Well, I am here to tell you that several disasters befall these innocent creatures that work hard to ensure humanity’s well-being.  Although many don’t believe it when I tell them, I once had the rare joy of meeting a wood gnome.  To say it was a pleasant experience would be shortcutting the occurrence as I was able to learn much about their ways and purpose in life.  I very distinctly remember his name, Sir Noreek Mapleshaper.  Very short, just half the size of a newborn hedgehog, with dirty tan clothing and a tiny redcap coving a head of grey hair, Sir Mapleshaper was not the least bit hesitant after I was able to capture him.  In fact, through our conversation, I was able to ascertain that wood gnomes are well aware of us humans and our behaviors (just FYI, they are not fond of us cutting down trees for what they believe are ‘insignificant personal needs’) and not the least bit scared of our kind.

Wood Gnome

Over the course of a cool but sunny autumn afternoon with Sir Mapleshaper, I was able to learn much about the life of wood gnomes.  For instance, wood gnomes live to be around 600 years old.  They, just like us, have families and live in a hierarchal government setting, but when asked about taxes, Sir Mapleshaper just laughed stating in a somewhat high pitched slurred Irish accent “when everyone cares about the well-being of each other, the need for forced payment to help get simple things accomplished, that everyone will benefit from, is no longer necessary.”  I couldn’t argue with him on that philosophy.  Going back to our beginning conversation of threats to wood gnomes, Sir Mapleshaper shared that the major dangers to his kind are termites, squirrels, raccoons, weather, and pesky children who pull bark off the trunks of their trees.  However, you’ll be most intriguing to know that the highpoint of our meeting came when I lit my pipe.  Come to find out, wood gnomes also enjoy smoking pipes.  They prefer tiny clay pipes full of their homemade pipe weed blends, which I humbly had the opportunity of trying (don’t worry, you are not missing out on anything….it is quite disgusting with tastes of sawdust and mulch).  They prefer clay pipes, as the use of briar could be considered an insult to some of their kin.  But please do not misinterpret what I’m saying.  Sir Mapleshaper made it very clear that the use of briar for making pipes was not considered an insignificant human waste as previously discussed.

As the afternoon wisped away in clouds of captivating conversation and pipe smoke, I gained a humble gratefulness for this tiny but vastly significant species.  Although I had not previously known wood gnomes existed, my new-found appreciation and respect for this tiny but meaningful creature was all but superficial.  As I currently observe the tree in my own front yard, that at one time was beautiful, full, and lush, slowly wither away and die.  I cannot help but stop and reflect on the once wonderful kingdom established by the wood gnomes that allowed shade, beauty, and love to my family for many years.  Now however, as I smoke my pipe and view the slow passing of this once charming creation, my hope is that those who once inhabited and protected this formidable piece of nature, recognize my gratitude toward their hard work and persistence.  For until we meet again my wood gnome friends, may your pipes be full and bark unblemished.

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

Pipe Tobacco Review

John Aylesbury Dragon Flake

Dragon Flake Picture

Before seeing this blend pop-up on a smokingpipes.com weekly update, I was not familiar with Dragon Flake or the John Aylesbury company.  As I do enjoy a quality aromatic tobacco, the description offered on the Dragon Flake certainly peaked my interest.  From the tobacco reviews website:

“An excellent aromatic flake, consisting of dark and golden Virginias, double-fermented Black Cavendish and a touch of Burley, flavored with the sweetish-sweet notes of maple syrup, caramel, and vanilla.  A gentle smoke flavor with cooling properties.” 

I’m not sure about those “sweetish-sweet notes,” however, everything else sounds quite delightful and it comes in flake form…interesting.  Let’s take a look at the blend breakdown.

Info & Overview

Brand: John Aylesbury

Category: Aromatic

Blend Components: Virginia, Black Cavendish, Burley

Flavorings: Vanilla, Carmel, Maple Syrup

Cut Type: Flake

Available Packaging: 50g tin

Price: $13.52 USD

 

On to the review…

 

From the Tin: Absolutely top-notch presentation from the tin.  Beautiful, thin medium brown flakes with gorgeous light Virginia and Black Cavendish sprinkled throughout.  The aroma from the tin is nothing short of amazing.  Sweet fruits, plums, figs, vanilla, light cocoa, hints of cinnamon spice, and a distant light hay note are all present.  Flakes are a bit moist and do require about 25-30 minutes of dry time.  Once ready, flakes are easily rubbed out, or in my case, folded and stuffed.

Tasting Notes: Let me start by saying this tobacco is truly a treat.  The tobacco burned well delivering a memorizing room note of sweet fruits and vanilla cream, not to mention tasted great.  Flavors noted during the initial opening of the bowl mimicked that of the room note, sweet fruits and vanilla.  Halfway through the bowl, more complex chocolate and wood tastes tingled the palate and added an interesting layer to the profile.  Nicotine level is low and body is mild to medium.  Although this is not a formal ‘Christmas Blend’ it will certainly become one I reach for during the holiday season as it contains a nice cozy/warming characteristic.

Overall Impression: I must be honest in saying Dragon Flake exceeded my expectations.  I approached this tobacco with hesitation as I wasn’t sure an aromatic flake would be able to prove itself worthy.  Time to own up and eat some crow.  This is an outstanding tobacco that I will most certainly include in my rotation going forward.  After multiple bowls of Dragon Flake, I am still entranced by its amazing aroma and tastes.  I do not think this is a tobacco that will cellar well, however, when it’s this good, there’s no need to put it away.  Grab a tin for yourself and enjoy!

Tobacco Score:

4 Pipes

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

A Pipe Smoker’s Inquiry

My Tobacco Cellar: How much is too much?

I started my pipe smoking journey in 2012, thus some may consider me still ‘green’ when it comes to the topic of pipes and pipe tobacco.  However, I have always lived under the mantra that experience isn’t built in the number of years you do something, rather, the number of things you do in those years.  I have met some pipe smokers who have only owned 3 pipes their entire life and have puffed on the same Over the Counter (OTC) blend for 50 years.  This isn’t a bad thing, but does it make them more of a tobacco and pipe smoking expert than the individual who has only smoked a pipe for 5 years, has a 100 + pipe collection, and smokes just about every blend the market has produced.  No.  In fact, they both have an expertise and background that would be helpful to anyone looking to get into the pipe smoking hobby.  I only bring this up because there are indeed individuals on the greater world wide web who would argue otherwise.  If you are one of those individuals please understand….I don’t care what you think.  Anyone who actually knows my background would note that I started smoking a pipe in 2012 but was a cigar smoker long before I ever picked up a pipe.  In fact, I started smoking premium hand rolled cigars in 2006 while still pursing my undergraduate degree in college.  Without a doubt, this was my gateway into pipe smoking and remains a beloved enjoyment of mine.

Pic 1Pic 2

So now comes the big question.  How much is too much?  As a hobby, is there ever a true finite beginning and end?  Furthermore, what qualifies someone as owning too much tobacco?  Maybe there isn’t such a thing, however, I am probably close to owning more than I will smoke in my lifetime.  This reality doesn’t upset me.  In fact, I find it enjoyable that I have so many options to choose from when smoking a pipe.  I like to think of it as similar to dinning out.  I don’t know anyone that likes to have the same meal, from the same restaurant, over and over again.  I would be willing to bet that as time goes on, that meal and venue begin to lose their appeal and wanderlust.  Instead, I prefer not just options, but a buffet of choices when it comes to food and tobacco.

Pic 3Pic 4

If we dig even further into this analogy we could argue that not only are there several buffets to choose from but different options within each of these establishments.  I attribute my excessively large tobacco cellar to my ever changing and somewhat indecisive personality.  I have always liked options, and although it’s healthy to establish a routine, this is a place in my life where exploration is always welcome.  As stated earlier, I don’t claim to be some tobacco aficionado or expert, but I do value exploration and options, hence why I own so many blends.  Therefore, in my opinion, no, there is never an ending to our hobby or a point where you can own too much tobacco.

Pic 5Pic 6

With the constant overreach of federal governments, and frivolous anti-smoking laws, I suggest more people work to stock up your cellars and prepare for the worst.  No, not Armageddon, but when the day comes where we as pipe smokers and tobacco enthusiasts can no longer purchase our beloved leaf, I am confident my own collect will cover my needs until my days on Earth are complete.  So, if you chose to not stock up, sucks for you!  However, you’re always welcome to come share some of my stock.  I don’t think I’ll be running out anytime soon.

Pic 7Pic 8

For more pictures and details of my tobacco collection/cellar, visit my YouTube channel at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz6BRWRb44QouItmvlhDxQQ?view_as=subscriber

Cheers!

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature