September 2008 Archives

brueghel_discovery.jpgOne of my heroes of sartorial splendor, Lord Whimsy, writes in The Affected Provincial's Companion, Vol 1, "[To] equate money with style is in grave error:  Surely money can grant easy passage to exclusive luxuries and rarefied pleasures, but it is by no means the sole path to a life of enchantment."  He then proceeds to advocate thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, and consignment shops as excellent venues for the discovery of sartorial treasures.  What he doesn't mention, however, are the wonderful pieces of surprise artwork that one can sometimes stumble upon.

Recently, for example, a very lucky woman discovered a piece of work by Pieter Brueghel the Younger that ended up being appraised at about €100,000!  The discerning tramp aesthete, I suspect, should hold out for works by Brueghel the Elder, Pieter's more talented father, but perhaps one should simply take what one can find.  In any case, keep your eyes open the next time you're forced to attend an estate sale, for you never know what treasures you may come across!

ayinger_oktober_fest.gifToday we're going to take a look at an excellent Märzenbier, the Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen. For those unfamiliar with the style, a Märzen is typically characterized by a malty body, light or faint hop character, and a palate-cleansing finish that makes it a very drinkable beer beloved by Bavarians and German beer snobs everywhere. In my limited exposure to the style, I find that Ayinger's offering is pretty good, tasty stuff.

This beer has a rather light flavor dominated by strong malts and a full, round mouth feel. The malt is fruity and is complimented by a very mild hop character that I found rather difficult to detect. The nose seems to me to have hints of flowers and bread. The finish is nice and clean. This beer is incredibly drinkable. A fellow taster noticed some esters and coriander flavors, but I couldn't detect any. That might be because I've got a barbaric, unsophisticated palate, but I don't really care. Oktoberfest isn't really about sitting around sipping Märzenbier with a critical mind, it's about drinking vast quantities out of massive one liter mugs and then singing obnoxious Bavarian drinking songs.

In conclusion, this is a great beer. I encourage all of you to give it a try, preferably while wearing lederhosen and courting buxom young German girls. Eins, zwei, g'suffa, baby!

afternoon malt drink
woody cream fruit evening
expel and relax

I recently acquired a BSF Media .22 Air Rifle (made in West Germany, apparently). It fires .22 caliber pellets, and is a heavy, accurate, awesome beast. I spent the afternoon constructing a target holder and backboard from scrap wood, and then firing this German monster at paper targets and the occasional plastic bottle and tin can. It is truly awesome to see how much damage a chunk of lead can do when fired using only air pressure created by a spring.

While I was involved in the preparation for shooting and the shooting itself, I drank a 16oz bottle of Spaten Optimator. This dark, bottom fermented 'Doppel Bock' is quite malty, syrup heavy and sweet, yet it still manages to be an extremely refreshing, drinkable beer. This is a complex man's man's beer, and serves well as a accompaniment to shooting, fishing, eating meat and similar manly pursuits. I recommend drinking this as cold as you can get it, and fast, as the warmer this gets, the sweeter and less refreshing it gets. This stuff is %7.2 alcohol, so you'll only need a couple of the 16oz bombers it comes in to reach that happy place.

 Following the construction, shooting and beer,  I moved on to wine and cigars, choosing a nice bottle of Bodegas Iranzo Temperanillo (2005) organic wine and a nice La Aurora Robusto with a Cameroon wrapper that I acquired recently in my share of a sampler. THIS COMBO KICKED MY ASS. La Aurora RobustoThe cigar was super leafy-woody at the start, but about 1/3 of the way in, it turned to a woody, chocolaty, creamy extravaganza that caused me to smoke it a bit faster than I would recommend (more on this in a minute). It kept an amazing solid ash, with an almost parallel track of leaf lines down each side. The Temperanillo was a gorgeous, fruity, dry red wine with a very drinkable character. I smoked and drank my way through nearly $16 worth of luxury leisure goods in under an hour and paid the price. Once I was done expelling a good portion of the wine (and my dinner) into the bushes behind my house due to smoking a very high nicotine cigar waaay too fast, I realized that even a tobacco fiend like myself has to be careful, some of these cigars are hiding quite a serious amount of nicotine under their innocent looking wrappers. I did go on to finish the bottle of wine, but the last inch or so of the cigar went unsmoked.

When I say tobacco fiend, I'm not sure if you understand what level of fiend I am, so I'll give it to you straight: I went through my backpack the other day, and found: 3 cigars, 4 tins of pipe tobacco, a pouch of rolling tobacco, a tin of Danneman cigarillos (a delightful smoke for when one wants a cigar, but doesn't have the time) and 5 tins (3 distinct kinds) of snuff. The previous list doesn't include the other 2 tins of snuff that I carry in my pants pockets, or the pouch of rolling tobacco that resides in my coat. This is merely the tobacco that I keep with me. I also have a humidor and various stashes of pipe tobacco in my bedroom.

When I say snuff, I'm speaking of nasal snuff, not "chew". As much as I love tobacco, I do draw the line at chewing, drinking or putting it in my ass.

The beer, cigar and wine were all good, and recommended wholeheartedly. Just be careful with that cigar, son, it packs a wallop.

the_dissident.jpgLast night I had the chance to taste the latest from Deschutes Brewery's reserve series, a Flanders-style brown ale called The Dissident.  For those of you who haven't seen this beer, it comes in a lovely dark bottle with a very simple, elegant label and blood-red wax covering the cap.  It's very attractive packaging.  I have not had a lot of exposure to this style of beer.  In fact, aside from The Dissident, the only other Flanders brown I've sampled is Rodenbach.  I've stayed away from them simply because I find the style far too sour to be enjoyable.

My notes from the tasting are littered with things like, "Holy crap, this is sour!"  Indeed, The Dissident packs a tart whallop so potent that you can smell it.  I really want to compare the nose to sour apples or sour cherries, and on the palate I could not really get past the potent acidity to find any other flavors.  As the beer warmed up a little, I started to pick out a few malty notes here and there, but I was pretty much overwhelmed.  I love the bottle, but I'm not sure I would get very excited about trying The Dissident again unless it was paired with some sort of really hearty, strong food that could stand up to its peculiar character.

However, some good came from the tasting.  After The Dissident, we opened up a bottle of Rodenbach to get a good comparison.  Rodenbach is downright drinkable in comparison.  Its level of sourness is high, but seems rather mild next to the Deschutes brew.  I found a whole new level of appreciation for Flanders brown ale this way, and though it still is not climbing to the top of my list, I shan't be afraid to sample it again in the future.
Last night as I was enjoying a cigar and a movie with some friends, I was admonished by one of the chocolatiers of Lillie Belle Farms, who said to me, "Jeff wanted me to tell you hello, and then he wanted me to berate you for not reviewing any chocolate on your new website!"  I was then treated to some delicious samples of a couple of 65% cocao single-origin chocolates so I could start to wrap my brain and taste buds around how exactly to taste chocolate.  It was rather astounding.  The first chocolate was from Madagascar, and had strong fruity notes of apricot and a very long, sweet finish on the back of the palate.  The second was from somewhere in Latin America (I didn't take notes, unfortunately, so I can't remember the exact country) and had a dark, earthy flavor with notes of licorice and a chalky, mid-palate finish.  It was an interesting experience, so indeed I've added a chocolate reviews category, and you should expect to see some articles there in the next week.  We will of course feature Lillie Belle Farms chocolate first.

It's currently Oktoberfest, by the way, and so next week Leisure Nouveau will also focus on German beer reviews!  Do you have a beer to recommend?  If so, please leave us a comment and we'll do our best to get to it.

Finally, we have another special wine offer for you! There is currently a clearance sale at! Save 20% off any 6 or more bottles of clearance sale wines. Enter promotion code BARGAIN at checkout. But you have to hurry, because this offer ends on September 30, 2008!

Fonseca VINTAGE Robusto-bdl Cigars ---- 5-PACKI sat down on the couch to watch an old episode of Star Trek (The Squire of Gothos, if you must know), drink a little tequila, and smoke a Fonseca Vintage Robusto. This is a fine-looking robusto, with a rather lightly veined wrapper and very few defects in its appearance. It lit beautifully, starting out with a hefty dose of spice that soon faded into a very pleasant, easy, mild smoke. I quickly gave up on the tequila, as it overpowered the cigar and left me grasping madly for some control of my tastebuds. However, even with no tequila masking its flavor, the mildness of the Fonseca left much to be desired.

As the cigar burned, I detected a few hints of some astringent fruit and perhaps a few glimpses of cream, but overall it was quite a mild cigar. It burned quickly and smoked well. I accumulated a good two inches of beautiful light grey ash before needing to visit the ashtray, and neither the aroma nor the smoke detracted from Star Trek. As I continued to smoke and the cigar reached the halfway point, I was delighted to find emerging flavors of oak and cedar, though even then, flavors were rather mild. The burn continued to be even and firm.

When there were slightly more than two inches remaining on the cigar, however, something very odd began to happen. I heard a faint hissing, popping sound from the cigar. Puzzled, I held it close to my ear, and sure enough, there it was again! Hiss, pop, hiss. Very strange. I immediately rushed back here to write about it, and in that short amount of time, the cigar went out. I have a two-inch stub of Fonseca Vintage Robusto sitting in my ashtray now. I must say that while this was a rather pleasant, mild, easy cigar to begin with, that odd hissing and popping was disconcerting. My guess would be that this is not typical of these cigars, but it certainly flavored my smoking experience. Even though robustos are shorter cigars, I expected to at least get a full episode of Star Trek out of it. Instead I'm left wondering what's going to happen to Kirk & Co. as they confront yet another all-powerful lunatic beyond human comprehension.


The French Inhale

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When earlier this month I discussed how to begin smoking cigars without accidentally inhaling, I was admonished for neglecting to discuss other smoking tricks, such as the French inhale.  This is a wonderfully classy little stunt that makes men appear dangerously French and women appear dangerously seductive, so it is of course the sort of thing that any person of leisure should learn how to do.  One should never underestimate the importance of appearing French, after all.

For smokers who are not used to inhaling tobacco smoke, this can be a rough trick to try.  Frankly, with all but the mildest of cigars, I cannot handle nor enjoy inhaling the smoke, so typically I use the French inhale when smoking a pipe, whose luxurious tendrils of smoke tend to be gentler on both the nose and the lungs.  One must first master the art of inhaling smoke only into one's mouth, and then proper cheek control is needed.  The smoke must escape your lips at the laziest possible speed, in languid, lethargic clouds.  As this is happening, inhale slowly through your nose.  This takes a little bit of practice, but keep at it.

French inhaling is useful not only for looking exceptionally hip, but also for fully enjoying the flavor of smoke.  When tasting wine or tea, the taster always employs the olfactory faculties just as much as gustation, and this should likewise be the case with cigars, pipe tobacco, and other forms of smoking.  One can either blow the smoke out through one's nose or French inhale it to get a fuller range of flavors.
leafy long smoke this
light happy experience
tasty end to end

La Princesa de Cuba, yes I love thee, I know you came in a sampler, and I may never see you again, but I'll love you always. This wonderful cigar lit well, and smoked well all the way through, retaining it's character, and burning great from light to stub. The character I speak of is tobacco, glorious tobacco. Rather than relate this to tones of fruit and spices, or burning autumn leaves and woody flavors, I must say that the tobacco aspect really came out here. I love good tobacco and this most certainly fits the bill. Because of the well rolled torpedo shape, and strong cap, this is the kind of cigar you can clench in your teeth and puff while doing other things, and not have to worry about anything (except perhaps looking really cool). The ash is solid, I was able to keep 2 inches without even thinking about it. The smoke smelled great, I found myself unconsciously trying to keep a cloud of the wonderful stuff swirling about me for the entire experience. I ended up smoking it to the nub and wishing I had more.

I smoked this while plinking with the BB Gun, and drinking shaken (not stirred) screwdrivers and sherry (separately, not mixed...). The screwdrivers were OK, cheap vodka and juice is very hard to screw up after all. Ah, but the sherry! Erik brought a bottle of Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla. It was very dry, and very drinkable, with a beautiful golden apple color and tasted more like good grappa than the too-sweet cream sherry I have had before. I will have this sherry again, but next time, I will drink it chilled as I'm sure it will be even better that way.

Erik purchased a BB gun of his own for our outing, and his aim improved steadily throughout the 400 some BBs he shot. I've suggested that he set up a range in his back yard, so that in the upcoming Leisure Nouveau Triathlon (walking, drinking and shooting pellet guns), he'll be able to compete with me on the marksmanship parts of the course.  On this plinking expedition we actually brought chairs, and set up a table for the drinks and other supplies. Many evil bottles and cans were rendered impotent by the force of shooting 800 BBs through them. The next day, I realized that I have an actual bruise on my palm from pumping the BB gun somewhere in the range of 1200 pumps. In future outings, I think I will hire a manservant to keep my BB gun pumped, loaded and ready to fire, along with other drink preparation and smoking related duties.

The other night I had the distinct pleasure of sharing a bottle of 720 Wine Cellars 2004 Or'Deaux at a very nice wine bar in Ashland called Liquid Assets. This beautiful red wine from southern Oregon is thick, viscous, and dark, dark red. It opened up very quickly in the glass with a big, rich nose full of bold, dark fruits. Hints of cherry and blackberry tickled my imagination and left my mouth watering before I took my first sip of this delicious stuff.

It was just as I'd expected—a big wine full of confident acids, well-balanced tannins, and forward, aggressive fruits. It rolled around on the tongue with a buxom, luxurious body that left my palate eager for the next sip. This wine is exceptionally drinkable and, in my opinion, a wonderfully Oregonian approach to the Bordeaux style of wine. If you can find this in your area, I'd strongly recommend giving it a try.


Adagio TeasToday I'm going to take a look at Adagio Teas Darjeeling #22, a fairly light and pleasant second-flush black tea. As usual, I cleaned my yixing teapot and filled it with hot water while I prepared the rest of my kit. After the teapot was finished warming, I put the loose tea in there, shook it around, and gave it a big sniff. The leaves smelled strongly of earth and chocolate, with perhaps a slight hint of nori. It was such a rich aroma that I couldn't help but go back for multiple whiffs of its elegant perfume.

I steeped the tea for the suggested five minutes, and then examined the liquor, which was of a very transparent and pale ruby color. It smelled slightly smokey, perhaps a bit tinny with strong hints of a mineral twang. The leaves left in the pot opened up quite beautifully, and only a few small broken pieces made it into my cup. Carefully, I sipped at the hot liquor. There's supposedly a preferred method for tasting tea which involves slurping a tiny spray of the boiling hot liquor into your mouth in such a way as to avoid burning your tongue. I keep trying to do this, but never know if I'm doing it correctly. Regardless, the tea had a roasted flavor with nutty undertones. There is that characteristic Darjeeling minerality to it, but not as overpowering and metallic as other Darjeelings, which in my opinion makes this tea far more drinkable than its brethren from the region.

The final test of a good black tea in my book is how well it holds up to milk and sugar. I therefore doctored my tea, and was dismayed to find out that it held up not well at all. The sugar seemed to overpower most of the subtlety of the liquor, and the milk seems to mellow out all of the roasted flavors and leaves behind just the mineral tones. However, as the cup of tea cooled a bit and the flavors had a chance to mellow out, I've found it to be quite drinkable and enjoyable. Though I am not typically a fan of Darjeeling teas, I feel very comfortable recommending this one as a tea to try out.


CAO Gold RobustoOver the past couple of days, my house has been inundated with cigar shipments. Indeed, my humidor is at capacity. I have had to leave a few old, crappy cigars sitting on top of my tobacco cabinet in hopes that smoke-thirsty passers-by would curiously pick up and smoke a few. It's been rough, I tell you! Rough! To calm my nerves and steady my panic-shaken hands, I brewed myself a very large, strong cup of Keemun and picked up a CAO Gold Robusto that the kind folks at had sent me. This is a beautiful cigar with a Connecticut seed, Honduras-grown wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. The wrapper has slightly more color than some Connecticut seed tobacco, which is nice to see, and it smells full and rich, earthy and leafy. As I prepare to cut, my eyes widen in anticipation and I think I'm actually starting to salivate.

The first puffs of this lovely cigar are easy. It has a good, smooth draw to it, and something about its flavor and aroma fill me with a lovely feeling of nostalgia and longing. I am reminded of my first cigar, my early puffs on a tobacco pipe, and my grandfather. I'm not sure what it is—perhaps it's that I got a rather large snootful of smoke accidentally when I was lighting, and it took me completely by surprise. My eyes watered a bit. As the tears subside and the flavors linger in my mouth, I am reminded of how good life is and how all of my old coworkers (hi Jesse!) are stuck in cubicles without cigars clenched betwixt their tobacco-stained jaws. By now there's a good solid inch of ash on the end of the cigar, and I reach over to try to tap it into my excellent silver art deco ashtray, but it won't budge. Good! I love a solid ash that fights back. I eye it warily, silently challenging it, and puff on.

The citrus notes that I find so common in cigars seem somewhat muted in this guy. The first few puffs had a mild spice that permeated my whole mouth, but that has diminished now and been replaced with agreeable, light notes of cream and toast. Or maybe that's the tea. This cigar, to tell you the truth, has a rather pleasant flavor, but isn't holding up to the tea very well. Perhaps I should be smoking it with water, but I need the tea just as badly, and it's a rare, rare day when I smoke a cigar with water alone. What am I, some kind of cigar hermit? No! Anyhow, as the cigar smokes down further, it becomes more pleasant. The flavor gets richer, rounder, and blends nicely with the sweet aroma that fills the room. The room note on this cigar is lovely.

Finally, down around the 1 inch point, the cigar is becoming a little bitter, and is getting a tad bit too warm for my delicate, manly fingers. I keep thinking about crushing it out in my awesome ashtray, but then keep putting it off. This is a really nice cigar. Easy to smoke, mild in flavor, but not too underpowered like the Perdomo Lot 23 that we reviewed last week. I could handle having an entire box of these, provided there was room enough in my crowded humidor. In conclusion, this has been an excellent cigar and I'd recommend smoking it!

While I'm not all that new to the world of fortified wines, sherry remains something of a mystery to me. From the Andalucía region in southern Spain, it tends to be either very pale or an attractive golden brown in color. The variety of styles is fairly large, and I will admit that my decision to first begin tasting and learning about sherry came partly from my enjoyment of Edgar Allen Poe's famous short story A Cask of Amontillado.

Because of its longer exposure to the air, amontillado is typically a deeper, richer color than a fino or manzanilla, all of which are fermented with the film of yeasty "flor" for which sherries are so well-known. Opening the Hidalgo Clásica Amontillado, I find a very fine-looking wine about the color of amber, or perhaps dark honey. It has a heady nose with an aroma of raisins. It smells smooth and buttery, but also rather hot, which is to be expected. Fortified wines, after all, tend to be rather strong, and this one weighs in at about 17% ABV. The flavor is dry and tart like an apple, but the sugar balances it wonderfully and prevents it from being too cloying like so many ruby ports can be, for instance. It is superbly drinkable.

There's an additional bonus to drinking sherry. It is indeed a fine drink, but it's also remarkably affordable. It's possible to spend less than $20 on a very drinkable and excellent bottle, where you might expect to spend up to twice that on a comparable port. In fact, this particular sherry can frequently be found for right around $10. I'd advise readers to get out there and enjoy sherry now, while all of the other fortified wine people are still stuck on sherry's Portuguese cousin.

I read some excellent news over at the Mutineer Magazine blog, which is that is going to start selling wine! Pretty spiffy, if you ask me. Read more here.

Adagio Teas' Keemun Concerto

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On awaking this morning, I made my way to the kitchen for my customary cup of tea.  Just the other day, a shipment of samples from Adagio Teas had arrived, and I was eager not only for some caffeine but for the aroma and luxurious flavor of Keemun.  Keemun is a Chinese black tea, sometimes called "red tea", and as far as tea production goes, is a relative newcomer, having been introduced in the 19th century. It is typically noted for its rich, smoky aroma and for being used in many English breakfast blends.

The instructions for this particular tea stated to brew it for five minutes, which seemed a bit long. Tea when overbrewed tends to release too much tannic acid, creating a harsh and bitter beverage. But I gave Adagio the benefit of the doubt, and let the tea leaves brew in my little yixing teapot for the prescribed duration. The liquor that emerged was dark, nearly opaque (but that may be because I brew my tea too strong), and fragrant. It smelled of smoke, maybe a hint of tobacco, and some undertones of earth. I savored the aroma for a few minutes before adding a small amount of milk, which is the traditional English way of drinking this particular kind of tea.

The neat thing about Keemun is that when you add a little milk, the aroma takes on a new sort of character. It begins to smell very much like buttered toast. Try it, you'll see. It's a really pleasant smell for those who are fans of this particular tea. And now, finally, it was time for my first sip. Keemun Concerto is not a strongly-flavored tea, which makes it a nice introduction to the world of Keemuns, I suppose. I was able to pick out many of the same flavors I'd smelled before, and, surprisingly, the long steeping did not create any overwhelming tannins. In fact, this tea is remarkably smooth and soft on the palate, perhaps too subtle to be able to hold up to any added sugar, though I plan on trying that next. The smokey Keemun notes are probably the strongest elements of its flavor. If you would like to try out Keemun Concerto for yourself, please click on our affiliate link!

Travel on the cheap

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Travel is something everyone with a leisure based lifestyle should do frequently, but in this climate of expensive airlines and wallet gouging hotels, even short duration stays and travel to the nearest city can be prohibitive. So what can a man of low means and high tastes do to get himself to the nearest worthy destination, with funds left to partake of the many pleasures to be found there? In short, use the greatest leisure tool ever invented, the Internet.

prepare: roll clothing
ride share explore drink couch surf
wake bloody mary

In my upcoming series on cheap travel, I'll be exploring tools and practices for planning and executing a trip, using my upcoming trip to San Francisco as an example.  In my planning article I'll be covering the use of ride sharing for movement, and for rest. I'm probably making planning sound more glorious than it is, as I'm the ultimate anti-planner. Plans are overrated, when you have nothing pressing to get back to. I never would have found that bizarre Asian hooker bar in San Francisco if I had been following a plan, after all.

Sipping in Style

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Without a doubt, the spirit of leisure is somewhere in the realm of, well, spirits.  The word itself invokes images of crystal decanters, pewter goblets, fine stemware, mysterious amber fluids, and seltzer bottles gleaming in firelight.  Leisurely enjoyment of spirits can be enhanced by finding the right glassware, but this can prove to be quite expensive and difficult.

Unless stumbled across in second-hand shops, cut crystal is typically a rather obnoxious expense for the new leisure class, so we are forced to turn to the realm of of lesser glassware, which can still appear quite classy and can be much sturdier.  Matching sets of fine tumblers can enhance the aesthetic appeal of even the most rotten moonshine, and so today we will explore a few alternatives for the tippler on a budget looking to make his bathtub bourbon appear a bit more palatable.

Our first example of good affordable glassware is this finely-shaped lead crystal old fashioned glass. Tumblers like this are perfect containers for a gin and tonic, a scotch and soda, or any other classy afternoon beverage that one might wish to offer a friend. The cut crystal appearance belies its extraordinarily reasonable price, making this a strong contender for a leisurely tumble in a tumbler.

Next we have a decidedly more modern old fashioned glass (a phrase which sounds quite self-contradictory), with smooth sides and a hefty appearance which speaks to the confidence and assertiveness of the drinker. Drinks that might be more appropriate for this glass might be a fine whiskey on the rocks, a single-malt scotch neat, or a measure of rum with a lime twist.

Finally, for the surrealist in all of us, we have this rather lumpy and misshapen old fashioned glass. As far as tumblers go, this certainly has a unique appearance and is likely to draw comments from guests, which one would be encouraged to answer in the most cryptic manner possible, all the while twirling one's absurdly-long handlebar moustache and standing on one leg beneath a cheap Dali print tacked to the wall.

A Punch in the Jaw

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     Jerry folded his arms.  'It's now or never.'
     'You're right.'  Frank looked around vaguely for a clock.  'It always bloody is.'

Punch Gran Puro Santa RitaToday I've decided to pair a Punch Gran Puro Santa Rita with a can of Old Speckled Hen and The Condition of Muzak from The Cornelius Quartet by Michael Moorcock. This turned out to be a magnificent mix, though Jerry Cornelius stories probably seem like they'd be better suited for something hallucinogenic, or at least a glass of absinthe, but what can I say? I'm a rebel. Let's get back to the cigar, though. This cigar was beautiful, with a milk chocolate wrapper of fine Honduran leaf and nice long filler. The band came off nicely without tearing the wrapper at all. It started out magnificent and was a great smoke all the way through. It had a strong, earthy flavor with notes of woody cedar and hints of lemon or some other citrus. There was a good nicotine strength to the thing, and the mouth feel of the smoke was perhaps just a bit lacking. Overall, a wonderful cigar, though.

Combining it with the Old Speckled Hen turned out to be quite inspiring. The earthy notes in the cigar brought out the nutty richness in the ale quite well. The beautiful balance between the flavoring hops and the malt did a terrific job cleansing my palate between puffs on the cigar, and left a pleasant, creamy lingering flavor on the tongue. Together, these two provided a flavorful, enjoyable backdrop against which the surreal adventures of Mr Cornelius could unfold. I cannot recommend this particular combination highly enough; I give the entire experience five stars.

5 stars!
A new cigar smoker is often faced with a stern warning against inhalation of the pungent smoke.  Indeed, for a non-smoker it can be a very unpleasant experience.  There is hope, however, and a very simple technique that one can use to avoid inhaling cigar smoke while working on those important cheek muscles, which are vital for other fancy cigar smoking tricks like blowing smoke rings and scaring away the natives.

The trick is to take a lungful of clean air before putting the cigar to your lips.  Don't strain your lungs to bursting, but make sure they're full enough that you won't be tempted to inhale again.  Next, suck cigar smoke into your mouth using just your cheeks and tongue.  It is very tricky at first, and rarely will you achieve the voluminous billowing clouds of smoke associated with cigars on your first try, but keep at it.  With a little bit of practice, you'll never even have to worry about accidental inhalation, and you can avoid that embarrassing episode of nicotine poisoning which sometimes results from one's first cigar.

Maybe it's time to pick up some cigars right now? Remember that you can get free shipping on orders of $99 or more at by using our affiliate link!

More Treats from Spain

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I recently made a trip to Elements, our local Spanish tapas bar, to sample some of their extensive wine list. Elements focuses on both Oregon and Spanish wines, and being in a rather exotic mood, I decided this time to focus on the latter.

I began with a Borsao 2006 Garnacha, which was perhaps a bit difficult to get into. It needed a lot of agitation to open up, but once it did I was rewarded with a very fruity, crisp grenache that was light on the tannins and sort of peppery. It seemed to me to be full of bold, bright flavors and is certainly worth trying again. It costs less than $15 per bottle.

The next wine, however, was the prize of the evening. The Casa Castillo Monastrell is a beautiful, highly drinkable beverage. It's smooth and buttery, full of dark, forward fruit that completely overshadow the pleasant tannins that lurk in the background. Very drinkable, very recommended, and less than $10 a bottle.

Loyal readers, this is just an announcement to let you know that, thanks to our partnership with, we are able to offer you a code to get one-cent shipping from now until September 12 on orders of $99 or more. Once you're going through checkout, enter ONECENT in the appropriate box, and you should see the special deal.

If you're looking for some good wines to try, look back through our wine reviews for some excellent and affordable ideas, or treat yourself to something special, like a delicious bottle of Veuve Clicquot, or if you're feeling particularly flush, perhaps even a bottle of Dom Perignon.

Perdomo Lot 23 Belicoso Cigars ---- 5-PACKIn the first of our line of pairings, Mr Maujean and I decided to explore the combination of cigars, scotch, and BB guns. We chose Perdomo Lot 23 Belicoso for the cigar, Cutty Sark for the scotch, and an innocent dangling plastic bottle for our target. Knowing the danger of mixing booze and bullets (even tiny BBs), we drowned the scotch in club soda, which was a small mercy considering it's some of the cheapest blended scotch one can buy that's still drinkable. Leisure-lovers take note: cheap scotch mixed with club soda is one of the backbones of classy drinking. It's important to cultivate a taste for this particular beverage.

The Perdomo Lot 23 was a really fine smoke for the value. They have a pleasant, carmel-brown Connecticut wrapper and fine Nicaraguan long filler. The smoke is creamy and easy on the tongue, and my cigar burned quite easily with a good firm ash all the way down to the nub. I was able to keep puffing on it until it threatened to burn my fingers, and I didn't want to give it up. As Mr Maujean mentions in his review, these seem to be really low-nicotine cigars and we had to load up our pipes a bit later just to feel like our day wasn't completely wasted.

The shooting was pretty fun, though perhaps doesn't pair all that well with a cigar. You can't really hold a cigar in your mouth while you shoot, because the smoke gets up your nose and in your eyes. You can't really hold it in a hand, either, as it's awkward and again, there's all that smoke. However, I think back fondly to images of really tough WWII sergeants with stogies gripped betwixt their teeth as they shout orders and rush into battle, and I suspect that shooting and cigars are probably a great combination that just require a bit more practice. As a service to our readers, we promise to try this combination over and over again until we've mastered it.

Some might have noticed my erstwhile colleague's crude challenge to me, and I am now faced with something of a dilemma. As a pacifist, I really don't want to shoot at anybody with anything, but as a gentleman of leisure, I find it difficult to refuse a duel. However, I believe it is proper form for the man accepting the duel to set the terms, so, Mr Maujean, I do accept. But the weapon will not be Airsoft pistols, but a series of Sazeracs. We shall have a battle of the livers!

Perdomo Lot 23

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brown light-veined wrapper
nutty creamy spicy done
mild autumn flavors
Perdomo Lot 23 Belicoso Cigars ---- 5-PACK

This was a very good tasting, nothing short of the smell of gunpowder and the crack of a slug speeding off to kill a defenseless moving target could have made it better. As it was, we shot a BB gun at a plastic bottle hanging in a tree and had a grand time, drinking Cutty Sark  and soda and smoking our Perdomo Lot 23 Belicoso cigars. Erik isn't a good shot, but it won't matter until we start dueling with air soft pistols, at which point I'm going to win (Erik: I challenge you, cur!).

As for the cigar, the nicotine levels were not what I had hoped, and it became necessary to smoke a pipe full of Squadron Leader to complete the evening with the proper nicotine saturation. This cigar was quite a bit milder than I expected it to be, I usually smoke more intense styles. I ended up putting the Perdomo down with about 1.5 inches left on it, due to a long run down one side. Erik however, smoked his down to the nub and had no problems. I imagine the bad burn I experienced had to do with the BB gun involvement. I kept putting the stick down to take my shot, allowing me to actually hit the bottle several times. Trying to fire a rifle with the burning stub of a cigar in your mouth is not recommended, unless, like Erik, you prefer to hit things other than your target.

Affordable European Wines

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When faced with the task of finding good, drinkable wines on a budget, many will encounter apologetic wine experts who quietly usher customers into forgotten corners of the wine store, stacked with dusty old bottles of questionable product from strange corners of the globe.  But such journeys should never be the domain of the new leisure class, for our neighbors on the continent produce a wide array of fine wines that retain excellent European character and are priced at less than $10.  Today, let's take a look at a couple of them.

From France, we have the Laboure Roi Beaujolais Villages St. Armand, a very drinkable wine which is one of the few reds that benefits from a little bit of chilling. Beaujolais are typically quite drinkable, being rather fruity and not overpowering, and at under $10 certainly meets our budgetary considerations.

Next, from Italy we have the Marchesi di Barolo Maraia Barbera di Monferrato from Piedmont. A medium-bodied red that will pair nicely with either an introductory fruit salad or a that thing on the grill that you may have once called a steak, it too comes in at under $10. Piedmont, in northern Italy, is also home to some great stories and expensive wines that you can expect to hear more about from us in the future, so start drinking its wine now. You need to be prepared. The cat has been let out of the bag: cava, or Spanish sparkling wine, is fine and tasty stuff.  It is incredibly affordable and definitely drinkable.  While slightly sweeter than some other styles of sparkling wine, it clacks the cloying nasty tones of such budget favorites as Cook's and Andre.  Though it starts at about twice the price of those stalwarts of swill, the jump in quality is startling.  Today we wish to bring your attention to a couple of the old favorites of the Luxury Nouveau team. Priced at under $10, they are delicious, very drinkable, great for mimosas, and in our humble opinion a finer everyday value than any true champagne.

The first is Cristalino Brut Cava, a wonderfully accessible wine that is readily available for under $9 per bottle. This particular cava has been deemed so drinkable that our tasting staff has been known to drink it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—sometimes all at one sitting. Cristalino Brut was rated 91 by Wine & Spirits, and richly deserves it.

When one becomes bored with Cristalino, one can perhaps turn to Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, another excellent sparkling wine. Perhaps some might say this wine isn't quite as exciting as the previous, but it would be really tough to say. It pairs marvelously with orange juice in a mimosa, which then turns it into the perfect breakfast beverage which can hold its own against whatever questionable concoction is coming off the griddle. This wine can also usually be found for under $9 per bottle.

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