Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pilgrim Spring Beer Tapping


On the day the spring officially started (at least according to the calendar as the weather was nice and mild on this day), the Pilgrim brewery released their spring beer which is also called their Easter beer. It's a Weizenbock with approx. 8 % of alcohol. It was on tap during the event and I tried and liked it! Another splendid beer! I also took the chance to try the Imperial Stout which has been released a few days before, also a very good and easy drinkable beer. According to Martin Wartmann "it's not a typical Imperial Stout, it could be also called a Baltic Porter". However you name it, it's tasty, but that's just my opinion.

Due to the very good weather with sunshine, a blue sky and very mild temperatures the place in front of the brewery was full with visitors. I met there with some friends, enjoyed the tasty Easter beer and smoked a fantastic Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona from 1996. A good combo and definitely a nice afternoon.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

03/18 - All clocks on Islaytime


It's again time for another whisky tasting with a bunch of cigar guys. And it's also the starting point of the annual springtime whisky madness because in April we'll go again to the Whiskyfair in Limburg, a visit that'll be combined with another whisky dinner too... additionally we'll have another whisky dinner evening at my home that has been postponed due to my sickness back in February.

Before I start with more details let me just have a look in the past: I started with those tastings back in April 2009, so approx. 7 years ago, not sure if the people would be really interested. In the meantime it's the 14th event and we'd a lot of fun, good cigars and even better whiskys!

In preparation of Reto's and my trip to Islay in July (I'm sure this will be a helluva trip!) I decided for Islay as the topic of the evening and I'm sure that I found an interesting range:
  • Bruichladdich 10yo. from the 70s: we already had a comparable one, this is another bottling back from those glorious days
  • Bruichladdich Golder Still (1984): a golden bottle from a golden time, an amazing whisky in my books
  • Bowmore 1996 - 2012, Small Club: bottled by the SSMC with a special private label, not much to say about it beside the fact that I never had a bad whisky from this bottler, an outstanding Bowmore, it pushed away the cigar!
  • Caol Ila 1984 bottled for G&M Italy: a very nice (but fragile) Caol Ila from the early 80s, unfortunately diluted to 43 %
  • Laphroaig 2006 - 2012, Small Club: young, restless and wild, another fantastic bottling from the SSMC, also with a special private label, went very well with the last third of the cigar
  • Port Charlotte Local Barley: a so called "Standard" but it's definitely more than standard quality, the perfect match: finished the cigar with a glass of this one.

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Which cigar to choose for those whiskys? Honestly I totally forgot about it until Urs Portmann called me a few days before the tasting and asked which cigar I have in mind... at this point it was nothing! But the choice was easy: it needs to be something strong, pronounced earthy flavors wouldn't be to bad, some citrus aromas... why not. Where do you end up when you think about that? Correct: Bolivar Petit Corona! I think that is exactly what everybody had in mind after reading my thoughts... Another option would've been the Bolivar Especial No. 2 which has been released as a Regional Edition for Germany a few years back. Not easy to find nowadays, already among the white whales for many people. Maybe a good choice for a tasting with some really exclusive whiskys which also ask for an exclusive cigar.






Some people may think now that this cigar is too short for a tasting with 6 different whiskys but honestly I've to disagree (on the other hand I'm pretty sure that it'll be too short for some of us!). Ok, at least for my personal point of view. I don't smoke very fast, due to this I end up sometimes smoking a Petit Corona sized cigar for 90 minutes. So... if you smoke slow, give the required attention also to the whiskys... this size should be fine. And there's a positive side effect: the cigar will get stronger towards the end, so will do the whiskys, at least no. 5 and 6. In this case they should be on eye level with each other and believe me: the last two whiskys went very well with the last third of this fantastic Bolivar Petit Corona.
 
This year (at least whiskywise) seems to be under the sign of Islay: we'd this tasting with an Islay topic. Soon we (Alex, Reto and myself) will visit the Whiskyfair in Limburg and will join a Bruichladding Tasting event there. Reto and myself will go to Islay to visit probably Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich or Ardbeg by doing an extended tour at each distillery. And last but not least the topic for the next whisky tasting is also fixed: it'll be Ardbeg! And there'll be some more than just ordinary standards!




Monday, March 14, 2016

The two C - coffee and cigar


Coffee and cigar - a combo that goes together very well. As I wrote a lot about cigars on this blog over the last years I wanna focus first a little bit on the other C, the coffee...



The first mentioning and recognizing of coffee goes back to the year 850 where it was a guy in nowadays Ethopia who discovered the vitalizing power of that wonderful fruit. It should another approx. 800 years before it came to Europe. Even though the original root is in Africa, most of the coffee that we drink now is grown in South America: Brasil, Columbia, Guatemala but some still comes also from Ethopia and Angola. To be precise it has to be mentioned that those countries grow the Arabica, the Robusto comes from countries like Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Uganda and Ivory Coast.

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An important step of the coffee production is the roasting which gives the coffee beans their distinctive taste. Just around a corner from my home there is a roastery which is family-run now in the third generation, luckily I know them and due to this I was able to have an insight view behind the scenes of the traditional craftsmanship that they are doing at Cretti.





Everything's still very traditional here: old machinery from the former owner and still the metal bowl where the coffee beans are roasted over an open fire. In the older days it's a wood fire, nowadays it's gas or oil fired but the key is the bowl itself as this method gives a very characteristic taste to the coffee. Another key component is the roasting time: time is money therefore a lot of big roasters try to shorten the roasting time as much as possible. This ends up with a lot of acids in the coffee, a taste that you will never have when buying a Cretti coffee. Roasting time is more than one hour which gives the coffee a strong and intensive taste but it mellows down the acidity on the other hand.

At Cretti a lot of things are done manually. Filling the metal bowl with the beans, checking the quality of the roasting during the process by checking the color, pouring them out on a perforated metal sheet and raking them while they're cooling. All those steps end up in a handcrafted quality product.

In the meantime their coffee is the standard in my machine even though I try some different stuff from time to time... I also use their relatively new capsules in the Nespresso machine that we've in the office, as this coffee is definitely much better than all that Nespresso stuff.






Let's go the tasting of the coffee and the combos with the cigars.

First in the row, an Ethopian coffee called Caffe TO.MO.CA that a colleague from work brought me from a business trip to Addis Abeba, Ethopia. A very dark roasting with a very intensive smell. The beans are dark and after a while you can see a decent oiliness on them. Let's grind and brew it, I'm curious for the taste.

Tastewise this coffee is definitely on the rich and earthy side. Dark caramel, nougat and leather combined with some toasted notes and hints of lemon grass, no acid aroma. The cigar to combined with it should be of the same kind and what would be better than one of those Bolivar Petit Coronas from 1998. They also have that characteristic citrus note on strong earthy base... the combo of those two was just a intensification of flavors. I really liked it and can definitely recommend it!



The second coffee I tried is the one I have in my daily use, the Espresso from Cretti. Due to the roasting time of more than one hour this coffee also has non of that acidic taste that you can find in many standard coffees. This one is also very rich and earthy but not as intensive as the Caffe TO MO CA. The profile consists of smoky, malty and woody flavors added by decent notes of tobacco. I paired this coffee with a Punch Exquisitos from the mid 80s. The aromas of dark coffee and earthiness (added by some spicy notes) of the cigar complimented very well the flavor of the espresso and it's just a consequence to take a second one to enlongen the pleasure...



The list of possible combos could be continued and I'm sure that there would be lots of good pairings but I think the conclusion can be also drawn now: cigars and coffee go together very well, try it and I'm sure that you'll find some really great combos!

Saturday, March 05, 2016

02/27 - Night in the museum St. Gallen


The city of St. Gallen has some really nice museums... enjoy the pix that I took during our visit... and don't let you mislead by the title... we didn't stay there over night, I just thought that it's a good one...

Museum of Nature

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Museum of (Modern) Art --> some seem to have a different view of the definition of art...






Museum of History and Culture