Beer/Cigar Reviews – Headless Gentleman, Storm King Nitro, JNV Connecticut and Marrero Fuerte Gran Toro

Welcome to another edition of my beer and cigar reviews where we take a look at some notable (and other not-so-notable) products. Let’s just get right to it! We’ll start with the beer reviews as we always do:

Headless Gentleman

This is a pumpkin ale hailing from Strange Land Brewery in Austin, TX. It comes in at a fairly heavy for the style 8.9% ABV and an unspecified IBU or gravity rating.

Had on tap at Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger House in Dallas, TX. Surprisingly dark pour for the style – a very deep red amber color; not unlike some porters. Nose consisted of notes of caramel, pumpkin and nutmeg. Palate follows the nose almost exactly but with the addition of a creamy note – think almost like pumpkin pie topped with whip cream. Spicy, warming finish. Smooth and easy drinking; very pleasing.

Though not the most intense pumpkin beer I’ve had, it was pleasant enough and I did enjoy it. I’d drink it again. Rating: 4/5.

Storm King Stout Nitro

Storm King is an American imperial stout hailing from Victory Brewing Company in Downington, Pennsylvania. It weighs in at 9.1% ABV and an unspecified IBU or gravity rating.

Had on nitro tap at Goodfriend. Pitch black pour with the typical creamy nitro head; the head appeared a creamy brown color and laces the glass like crazy. Aromas fairly one-dimensional consisting of pine, alcohol and a bit of coffee. Similar flavor profile too – dominated by a bitter espresso note and a piney finish. Maybe a hint of dark chocolate under it. Thick body with smooth carbonation and nitro mouthfeel; but the excessive bitterness made it a bit hard to drink.

I normally like this style but this one really missed the mark for me. I found it plain, dry and bitter. Part of it might be the nitro, but otherwise I didn’t really enjoy this one too much. Rating: 2/5.

JNV Connecticut 

I’m reviewing two different vitolas of this blend as an example of how ring gauge can have some affect but mainly I was just really hoping to like this cigar because it’s such a good value for money (as well as the rest of the previously reviewed JNV line) but unfortunately it was like a typical Connecticut experience for me.

Torpedo (7″ x 54RG)

One snip with the Cuban Crafters Perfect Cutter was all that was required to get a very open draw. Mild draw flavors of a subtle sweet cream. The finish and retrohale ramp up to mild/medium and bring in a zingy wood and a straight tobacco – kind of your typical Connecticut experience.

This stayed consistent start to finish, ending at 45 minutes for a very fast burn; not too unusual for a Connecticut. No nicotine strength. Great construction with a razor-sharp burn.

Lancero (7.5″ x 38RG)

First light revealed a perfect draw producing ample medium bodied smoke. Save for slightly more intense flavors the core blend was exactly the same as the Torpedo – a slight creaminess, straight tobacco and a zingy wood on the nose. This is a prime example of how the wrapper contributes so much of the flavor to the cigar and how ring gauge can affect the intensity of the smoke.

Perfect construction with razor sharp burn as above, but a very fast 35 minute burn time.

Honestly, if you’re a Connecticut lover I imagine these would be right up your alley, alas I’m just not. To me Connecticuts are just too mild and plain for my liking; I tend to prefer something with more substance and complexity. As such, please take the following ratings with a grain of salt: Torpedo 2/5 and Lancero 2.5/5.

Marrero Fuerte Gran Toro

The Fuerte in Gran Toro is a 6.5″ x 54RG box pressed offering from Marrero Cigars. Mad in Costa Rica, this cigar features an Ecuadorian Oscuro Habano wrapper over Ecuadorian binder and Costa Rican long fillers.

The first light revealed a very loose draw producing voluminous, thick, medium bodied smoke. Flavors of a smooth earthiness and a sweet creamy note. A balanced but not overbearing black pepper bite on the retrohale.

Getting into the first third the body flavors ramp up to medium/full and the earth moves more toward a leather, which mixes well with the cream. Also entering the mix are a medium roast coffee and a fleeting hint of cocoa. The pepper gradually dies down and is replaced by a metallic twang on the finish and nose.

The 2nd third remains more the same but the sweetness morphs more toward a caramel. The last third takes on a very heavy earth and leather, dropping the sweetness and bringing in a red pepper (as opposed to black), and joining it is a bright, aromatic pine on the retrohale. Ending at 1 hour 35 minutes for an impressive burn time, probably just right too – the strength matches the body at a medium/full in the end; resulting in a pretty serious buzz.

Construction was very good with a good burn line. The burn wasn’t totally razor sharp and did require a couple of small corrections but I won’t fault it for that – this is to be expected from very dark, thick wrappers on larger ring gauges.

This cigar was amazing. It was bold, complex and transitional and packs a punch. For about $8.50/stick this is a great bang for your buck compared to what you’re getting. Rating: 4.75/5.

That’s a wrap. Hope you enjoyed.

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Just a little aside – about 10 new followers in the past 24 hours. Maybe I should pose shirtless in nothing more than Davy Dukes more often? LMAO!!! Yeah, sure.

Also, these “aside” posts make me miss Xanga even more. Their pulse system was way better than WordPress’s asides.

Inked Autist Style – Davy Dukes (The Complete Guide)

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So my love of vintage style short shorts is no secret from anyone who knows me or knows of me. Laugh if you must but it is what I love for reasons I don’t even quite fully understand. Maybe it does have to do with being an autist – in my experience with fellow autists we seem to go more for comfort than what’s trendy and we tend to be bothered by a lot of various types of clothing, but I’d be lying if there wasn’t a certain element of vanity in my choice of lower half wear.

Nonetheless, in 2017 it can be hard to source short shorts for us dudes (I really was born too late I think). Blokes down under have Stubbies in plentiful supply as well as various styles of rugby shorts, and I do have some of those in my closet but they are hard to source here. Running shorts are of course in plentiful supply but for everyday wear they aren’t very practical with their lack of pockets of any kind.

Alas, that’s when I took a play out of the book of The Dukes of Hazzard. Old used up jeans will always be in plentiful supply and can be had cheaply from any thrift shop. And they are perfect for modifying into shorts. After a few trials and experiments I’ve practically perfected the art of cutting a pair of “Davy” Dukes – a term I coined as a male equivalent of the ever famous Daisy Dukes. I will say there are some nuances that make it different and somewhat more difficult to cut than the Daisy variety but it can be done, and I am here to tell you how to do that.

First things first, you need to start with the right type of jeans. Avoid loose fit or baggy jeans. Not only are they extremely loose in the leg but also the crotch. Men’s pants naturally have more room in the crotch to compensate for the male anatomy but even so there are different levels of this. I’d also advise staying away from skinny jeans as they could have the extreme opposite problem. Regular fit jeans would be preferred but I’ve successfully altered relaxed fit as well, albeit with a little more compensation that we will talk about later. Of course inseam length matters not since it’ll be hacked off anyway.

So with the right pair of jeans in hand, now we need to gauge length. Ideally you have a pair of running shorts or something you like the length of to gauge. Put the jeans on and then put those on over them and place a sticker or a mark of some kind to tell you where to cut. Otherwise you can measure the waist to the bottom of the outer leg, assuming you want them to sit on the same height on your waist. If all else fails you can go blindly but start conservative and trim as needed to get to where you want. In my opinion, they should be as short as possible while still covering your ass but you could maybe tease with a little cheek if you want.

Now here’s the tricky part. Remember where I said men’s pants have a roomier crotch? You have to compensate for this. If you just cut straight across you’ll cut the crotch off entirely. As such, as you near the crotch you’ll want to follow the contour of it. When you are finished, lying flat your Davy Dukes will look almost like boyshort style underwear. The degree of taper required will vary based on the fit and make of jeans but will always be there. See these two examples:

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But when you put them on your anatomy will fill them out and you’ll have a small, but definite inner inseam:

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Once you’re done here then you can do any extra slight trimming needed to even up the legs or remove some longer sections. It just depends on how anal you are about that kind of thing.

The last decision you have to make is how to deal with the front pockets. I personally leave them as is as to me they add character and retain their functionality but you can if you wish cut them flush with the leg and sew them so they don’t stick out. It’s a matter of what you wish to do.

That’s all there really is to it. As you wear and wash them for the first time they’ll develop a fringe. Once you get that, you might consider putting in a horizontal stitch to hold the fabric together. I’m no good at that kind of thing so I avoid excess unraveling by hand washing and air drying my Davy Dukes. Doing this will cause less unraveling and prolong their life.

That’s really all there is to it! Pair them with your favorite T-shirt or sleeveless shirt, or wear them alone without a shirt on the beach or at a pool as a cover for your Speedo (I don’t care what anyone says, nothing beats a Speedo for maximum comfort and mobility while swimming). Above all, enjoy the breeze on your thighs that can only be found with short shorts and stay cool. Long shorts serve no purpose. So why wear them?

A couple of examples (sorry for the poor image quality; I had to do a video recording with my webcam to catch these poses – and yes, this is my first time posing shirtless in decades; I’m still a touch pudgy but that’s OK):

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Oh, and if anyone tries to judge you for what you’re wearing, this is what you do:

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Embrace something different and don’t be afraid to tell society where to stick it. Make yourself a pair of Davy Dukes; you might just enjoy it (and no, you don’t have to be Autistic to rock the look; I promise!).

So what did you think of this guide? Are you a Davy Dukes loving man or are you dating or married to one? Let me know what you think.

Beer/Cigar Reviews: Firestone Helldorado, Prairie Christmas Bomb!, Marrero Tico and JNV Maduro Box Press

Welcome to another edition of my beer and cigar reviews where we take a look at some notable (and not-so-notable) beers and cigars I’ve enjoyed (or maybe not enjoyed) in recent days. Let’s just jump right in shall we?

Firestone Helldorado

This beer from Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles, California is a self-labeled “Blonde Barleywine.” It weighs in at a heavy 12.8% ABV and 24 IBU, which is a low IBU number for the style but don’t let that fool you; it’s full of flavor nonetheless.

Had on tap at Flying Saucer in Garland, TX. Pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with a slightly off-white head that sticks around and laces the glass like crazy. Alcohol astringency hits the nose straight away followed by a hint of banana and citrus. Thick, rich flavors of honey, vanilla, banana and blood orange. Finishes with a delicate piney hop note and a bit of a tart pineapple. Very warming on the way down, but without the alcohol harshness. Thick bodied with medium carbonation. Smooth going down, easy to drink but definitely a sipping beer.

The color defies what is typically though of as barleywine but this beer has a unique character all its own that is very satisfying and rich in taste nonetheless. I challenge you to try this beer; as the saying goes “don’t judge a book by its cover. Rating: 4.5/5.

Christmas Bomb!

This beer is a variant of Bomb! by Prairie Artisan Ales in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is their Bomb! aged on cinnamon, vanilla, coffee, cocoa nibs and, common with the regular variant, ancho chili peppers. It weighs in at a rib-sticking 13% ABV but with an unspecified IBU or gravity rating.

Also had on tap from Flying Saucer in Garland, TX. Pours jet black with a thin ring of brown head that sticks around. Aromas of chocolate, plum, chili peppers, vanilla and a hint of cinnamon. Flavors follow the nose exactly with a fairly heavy cinnamon spice and vanilla as the star of the show. This is supported by the mildly spicy ancho chili peppers, dark chocolate, black coffee and a touch of sweet vanilla. The finish is warming and smoky. Heavy on the palate with low carbonation, this beer is damn near chuggable.

This beer is bold, complex and festive as a Christmas/winter beer should be. This is a prime example of why winter beers tend to be my favorites. Definitely a must try. Rating: 5/5.

And now for today’s cigar picks:

Marrero Tico

This 5″ x 52R Robusto sized stick with a closed foot and pigtail cap from Costa Rica features an Ecuadorian Rosado Habano wrapper over Ecuadorian binder and Costa Rican long fillers.

First light revealed a rather snug draw with minimal smoke output. Mild/medium bodied flavors consisting of a creamy nuttiness with a metallic finish. A slight cedar note was present on the retrohale.

Into the first third the draw opens up but is still slightly snug. Smoke output increases a lot bringing the body up to a medium with the same flavors as the first light but entering a tinge of unsweetened vanilla. This flavor profile remained consistent to the final puff at 50 minutes where the smoke started going hot and acrid. No detectable nicotine strength.

Good construction with a razor-sharp burn start to finish. This was a smooth, easy smoke, albeit a bit milder than my personal preference. This would be a good early morning or mid-day smoke with a nice coffee. Rating: 3.5/5.

JNV Maduro Box Press

Yet another JNV review, this Maduro wrapped Dominican cigar comes in at a 6.5″ x 54RG Box Pressed “Toro Plus” sized stick.

The first light revealed a perfect draw with plentiful thick, chewy medium/full bodied smoke. Flavors were earthy and creamy with a nice pepper retrohale that was not overbearing. A sweet milk chocolate joins the draw flavors after the first few puffs.

Getting into the first third this profile remained largely the same but also bringing in a nice salted caramel into the draw while the pepper tapers off somewhat but is still present. The 2nd third is more of the same but a delicious medium-roast coffee joins the mix. The last third goes very heavy on the earth and coffee while dropping the chocolate and creamy notes and brings in an aromatic oak on the retrohale. Ending at 1 hour 40 minutes for an impressive burn time and bringing in a medium nicotine strength.

Very good construction with a good burn that only required a minor correction at about the halfway point (typical of larger ring gauge Maduro cigars so I won’t fault it for this). The ash was fairly short but that could have been attributed to the wind.

All in all, yet another solid offering from JNV. In the $5-ish dollar price range, good luck finding anything better than these. I know I keep singing their praises but they truly are a revelation in the cigar world. Pair this with the Christmas Bomb! listed above, a strong coffee, rum or smooth Speyside Scotch for best results. Rating: 4.5/5.

That concludes another series of reviews. Please chime in with your thoughts if you’ve had any of the above.

Tattoo Topic Tuesday: Numbing Cream/Gel/Spray

This is definitely a contentious topic within the tattoo community, but something I wanted to weigh in on because of my use of these products in the past as well as in my upcoming color procedure on my ribs.

There are the old, crusty, die-hard tattoo canvases and artists who are stuck with this toxic mindset that a tattoo must be as painful as possible because you have to “earn” your tattoo. Now, obviously that has a glimmer of truth – tattoos are painful because of how they are applied, but the concept that one has to endure excruciating pain to “earn” it is totally false. As far as I’m concerned we don’t earn our tattoos by enduring pain, we earn them by working our asses off to pay for them (nobody said tattoos were cheap and good ones sure aren’t).

Sorry, but this is the 21st century. Tattooing is a much “softer and kinder art form” (quote legendary tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle) than it was in decades and centuries past. The reality is that we all have different pain tolerances and different bodies so what someone finds as “no big deal” another person might find excruciating. I’m one such person. My pain tolerance is pathetic. I think it’s probably an autism-induced hypersensitivity (much like my increased hearing – don’t whisper shit about me across the road at a busy intersection because I will hear you). Does that mean I shouldn’t have tattoos, and especially ones that are meaningful to me?

Of course, 7 tattoos later I don’t think that’s the case at all, for me or anyone. If a symbol is so meaningful to you that you would permanently etch it into your dermis, then you should do whatever you have to in order to make that a reality, even if that means the use of numbing products. It’s OK. These big, bad macho attitudes of “tattoos have to hurt” belong in the historical garbage bin along with toxic hypermasculinity, gender roles, homophobia/transphobia and a whole host of other shit we should have evolved past by now (but unfortunately have not completely). I’d actively avoid any tattoo artist who outright says you have to “earn” your tattoo – I’d see that as a red flag that they’re the type who will really dig into you and make you hurt more than necessary. Unfortunately such artists do exist, including some “big name” artists.

Now, depending on your pain tolerance and where you’ll be getting the tattoo you might not need it at all. On my shoulders and calves I didn’t really need it – those places were tolerable without it. That was little more than a cat scratch type feeling. Wrists were kind of OK because they were small pieces. I was OK on my ribs during the line work but once the black fill on the silhouette started that really ramped up – that was some of the worst pain I’d ever felt (that is, before I got sprayed with Vasocaine). As such, I think line work on the ribs is the max out of my personal tolerance level (yes, shading/color packing needles are more painful than lining needles as they have to impact the skin harder to penetrate due to having a larger surface area – more needle points).

So, now that we’ve established that it is totally acceptable (in my view anyway, and in the view of most tattoo artists I’ve talked to) to use numbing products, what are some things I’ve personally tried and how well did they work? EMLA was good, but I had to have it smuggled in (it’s Rx only in the US whereas it’s OTC everywhere else; go figure; stupid). Hush gel was OK but didn’t last long and it burns like hell when you apply it (it’s menthol based). Vasocaine is a great fast-acting sprayable product for the middle of a session but it’s ineffective on unbroken skin so ineffective at the start of the session. Some swear by Dr. Numb but it’s quite pricey. I’m going to try NumbFast for my rib color procedure (5% lidocaine) and will report back on its efficacy.

Now, I will say if you choose to use numbing products, please have reasonable expectations of its efficacy. If you’re expecting a completely pain-free tattoo you’ve gone off the deep end. It’s not that effective. It will take a considerable amount of the edge off but that’s about it – enough so that the pain you are left feeling will be little more than a mild irritation. Also, please be sure to follow the directions exactly when applying. Numbing creams are not like hydrocortisone or anything like that – you do not rub them in. You apply a thick layer, smear it over the area and cover with saran wrap to sit for at least an hour prior to the procedure.

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as totally removing the pain, but there is such a thing as making it tolerable. If you have an unusually low pain tolerance or are getting tattooed in a sensitive area, numbing products can help you get through your tattoo with a minimum of distress. In my view, there is no shame in using them and anyone who says otherwise is just being an arrogant snob. Ignore them. You do what you need to do to get a tattoo that’s meaningful to you (even if that meaning is “because it looks cool”) and looks good on your canvas.

What are your experiences with tattoo numbing products? Please share them.

Song Lyric Sunday 11/12/17 – I Love You But I’m Lost

So our theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is apology/sorry. Well OK. The first song that came to mind was this one (which I’d already shared in a post prior, but not on a SLS) so now I’m sharing it for SLS.

For me, this is almost an apology of “I love you, but…” kind of way. In a way it’s apologetic in nature due to that, so this is what I’m using. I’ve been just DYING to share this one on SLS, so finally I get to share it.

So here then is “I Love You But I’m Lost,” an October 2017 song (yes, released just a month ago!!!) by none other than the duo from Bath, England known as Tears for Fears (written/composed by Roland Orzabal):

Lost in the maze of the back streets I struggled
Fighting my way through a whole lot of trouble
Too many people were talking without moving their mouths

So many days so many nights ever wonder
By the lies that have stolen my thunder
In the haze of my mind all the wires were crossed

I love you but I’m lost

From a flame to the spark of an ember
To a fire on the 5th of November
We escaped from the light now we count the cost

I love you but I’m lost
I love you but I’m lost

Look at the marks on your arms all the colours
How you like to make them pay
These are the reasons why your life is not quite what it was

In a dream at the edge of a river
Where we swam where I watched you shiver
Came to life in my arms and then turned to dust

I love you but I’m lost

From a flame to the spark of an ember
To a fire on the 5th of November
We escaped from the light now we count the cost

I love you but I’m lost
I love you but I’m lost

All we needed was some time (x4)

I love you but I’m lost (x7)
Source: https://tearsandkooksintl.com/2017/10/14/lyrics-i-love-you-but-im-lost/

I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks after all. After 40 years in the limelight, Roland and Curt are still getting it done. Their voices have aged quite a bit, obviously, but there’s no denying the musical and lyrical composition are still very much Tears for Fears. To me, this reminds me of Pale Shelter (the chord progression is exactly the same) and borrowing some elements from songs like “Elemental,” “Start of the Breakdown” and “Break It Down Again.”

Anyway, hope you enjoyed!

Cigar Topic: Gluten-Free Pairing Options and JNV Habano Box Press Review

So a gluten-sensitive friend of mine made a comment along the lines of “you always make drink recommendations with your cigars, do you have an gluten free recommendations?”

Actually yes I do. I myself tolerate gluten just fine (obvious as I drink copious amounts of beer and whiskeys of different kinds) but I know several people are in fact intolerant to gluten so I think it’s only fair I list some gluten-free options to enjoy with your cigars.

Of course, coffee goes without saying. For me, I love a nice breakfast blend/light roast coffee in the morning to go along with a mild/medium bodied cigar to get me into the day and awaken my palate. If I get the opportunity to have a lunch break cigar I’ll go with a darker roast coffee and something more toward the medium side of the spectrum without being too much. A nice espresso would go great with a full-bodied cigar. I’m hesitant to recommend Bailey’s Irish Cream if you want some alcohol with your coffee because although it’s claimed to be GF it is made from the distillation of gluten containing grains, so depending on your level of sensitivity you might or might not react.

Some also like hot tea with cigars, which is not something I’m into myself but it can be nice with a milder cigar in the morning.

Red wine is very nice with a fuller bodied, dark, Maduro cigar that would either feature notes of cocoa or meaty notes. I’ve also found red wine to go well with Rosado Habano wrapped cigars but find it does overpower Connecticut and the lighter/milder shades. In a similar vein, I know many people love brandy (distilled wine) with cigars, but I’m not a brandy person so I can’t remark on that.

As far as liquors, I really like rum with cigars as it’s a very versatile pairing. A smoother, not-so-intense rum such as a Flor de Cana goes absolutely beautifully with a variety of different cigars. I know some people love vodka with cigars but I have to admit I’m not a vodka person at all. I suppose you could also try tequila if you’re into that but I don’t know how that would pair.

Concerning various GF beers (most notably sorghum-based beers but also some traditionally brewed beers with the addition of something like Clarity-Ferm), it might be worth a try but admittedly I haven’t had many of those and the ones I did have I found damn near unpalatable.

Anyway, those are just some suggestions. I suggest you try one or all of the above and see what you like. The number one thing to remember about cigar smoking is that it’s an enjoyment rather than feeding a fix, and anything you can do to increase your enjoyment of a cigar is a good thing.

With that, let’s close out this post with a cigar review and some suggested gluten-free pairings.

JNV Habano Box Press

Continuing our theme, this cigar in the JNV line features Dominican tobacco and is a 6″ x 54RG Box Pressed Toro vitola.

First light revealed a perfect draw producing good volume of medium bodied smoke. Flavors of salted nuts and unsweetened cream on the draw followed by a leather and a bit of pepper on the retrohale.

This profile remained largely the same into the first third, but bringing in a tinge of a natural sweetness, with everything blended together very nicely. Into the 2nd third the flavor is mostly the same but the cream and nuts are punctuated at times by a fleeting bright pineapple note. The final third features a fairly big shift, dropping the pepper entirely and with the leather taking on more of an oak on the retrohale while the draw takes on a flavor of a medium-roast coffee as the body ramps up slightly to medium/full. The smoke starts going too hot for my taste at 1 hour 10 minutes for a good burn time for the size and bringing in a subtle mild/medium nicotine strength.

Great construction throughout with a straight enough burn that only required one minor correction at about the 2/3rds point. Ash holds on about an inch and a half at a time.

Yet another great offering from JNV and at the same great price as the rest of the line. You really do get a lot of bang for your buck. The great flavors combined with the great price means this cigar gets a very favorable 4.5/5 rating. Pair this cigar with coffee, red wine, rum or a dry hard cider along the lines of Ace Joker for best results.