Archive for August, 2010

Alta Gracia Irish CreamThe hype:A wee bit of Irish goodness!  Alta Gracia means “High Grace.” Appropriately so because these little cigarillos are heavenly little smokes. Made in Ireland – the land of Saints & Scholars (not to mention Jameson, Guinness and Riverdance) – Alta Gracia cigars are one of a kind ’in-betweener’ smokes. They burn a tad hot toward the end but all the while exude a creamy tobacco flavor with a naturally sweet finish. Choose between Natural or Irish Crème and savor Alta Gracia’s smoothness. Perfect for a 10 minute smoke….besides, at under 40 cents apiece it’s hard to go wrong.”

The review: I bought a few boxes of these from my friends at Cigars International last year and they’ve been waiting patiently in the humidor for me. Just arrived home from a trip to Europe and the UK, looking for a quick smoke made me think of these little cigarillos.

I like having cigarillos on hand for a quick smoke when I don’t have the time to devote to enjoying a full-size cigar. I am often disappointed by little cigars because they tend to burn too hot or they have faux flavourings that can overwhelm the natural tobacco flavor and aroma. These little cigarillos appear to be very well made and are rolled in the traditional ‘cigarillo’ shape.

Prelight aroma is very pleasant; there is definitely a hint of whiskey, along with the grassy tobacco aroma of a well-cured cigar. I never did smell these when originally purchased so their aroma could also be a product of 12+ months of maturation in my well-stocked cedar humidor.

Lighting this cigarillo is easy with a torch lighter and it would light without problems if you just had a bic or a matchbook. The initial smoke smells very pleasant and hearkens to mild cigars like Ashton. First puff is mild and well-rounded without the bite that I would expect from a little stick like this.

It took me no more than 15 minutes to “slowly” puff this little beauty. Smoke aroma remained very pleasant and smelling it on my hands & clothing was not harsh or acrid at all. I was careful to slowly puff this one since I didn’t want to overheat it. It did get warmer towards the final third, but taking a moment to stop and let it relax was enough to get it under control.

A very enjoyable smoke and definitely one to keep on hand for a ‘quickie’.

After a hectic week in the UK, we rode the chunnel to France and enjoyed some fantastic culinary adventures. One place we visited was the Michel Cluizel chocolate boutique. Michel Cluizel chocolatier is a shop definitely worth visiting in Paris. A family-owned business since 1948, The Cluizel family fabricates their chocolate art at a small plant in Normandy and sell to the public at boutiques in Paris, New York, and Riyad.

Their artisinal craft is unparalleled, and it is very evident when shopping in their boutique that they’re proud of the product and it’s heritage.

As a cigar afficionado, I’m drawn to the strong flavor and aroma of dark chocolate. My biggest frustration with dark chocolate has always been finding one that has the right balance of cacao, alkalinity and sugar. My favorite has always been Cadbury’s Bournville, but I have now tasted something better…Michel Cluizel’s Noir au Cafe.

Noir au Cafe is touted as “Ground arabicas from Brazil and selected cocoas are blended in a deep chocMichael Cluizel - Noir au Cafeolate – coffee harmony: A superb balance of strengths and flavours“. The 100g bar is beautifully packaged in gold-colored  foil and cradled in a cardboard box that assures you that this is good quality chocolate. My friend translated the packaging to reveal that it is pure cocoa with bourbon vanilla and contains no soys or lecithin. The ingredients list is simple:

  • Cocoas
  • Cane Sugar
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Coffee Beans

The aroma is very inviting, with hints of espresso and cocoa. The chocolate is uniform in color without blooming or blemish.

Breaking a piece is easy, and it immediately coats the palate in chocolaty goodness. The chocolate is smooth without being plastic and has no graininess. There is a delightful balance of cocoa fat and sweetness, offset by the coffee to stimulate both bitter and sweet sensors at the same time, making it absolutely delicious! The 2nd,3rd,4th, and 5th pieces were just as great.I stopped at 5 because my “friends” had polished off the rest of the bar! I really liked the fact that there was a pleasant espresso aftertaste without the off-tasting bitterness you get from so many other dark chocolates.

I spent way too many Euros in this shop, but everything was simply scrumptious.

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