Georges Reserve Cigars

Working from home today while my wife gears up for her job interviews as a result of some successful sorcery, I decided to have a cigar on the deck and take in the nice weather. With a high of 40F out here, it’s practically spring in Pennsylvania. I threw my laptop on the deck and got connected and then went to grab a cigar.

Figuring I would get roped into hanging out with the kids at some points today, I wanted a cigar I could put down and not feel too terribly bad when/if it went out. Opening up the humidor I found a Georges Reserve Churchhill. Looking at the label and remembering I got it from Famous Smoke in a bundle, I figured it was probably a generic stick. I grabbed it, used my trusty knife and lighter to cap it and took a draw. It tasted like tea. Hmmm, the generic crap usually doesn’t taste like tea or have such a nice draw…

The smoke itself was easy, creamy, and had a wonderful depth of flavor. Unlike other cigars in the generic category, it left a bit of spice in my mouth and really had no offensive taste. Dare I say, it was downright good. In fact, it was so good I decided to look it up to see if I could get more.

Turns out they’re made by Olivia and sell for $5 a stick. Oops. That’s why I like them. Cameroon wrapper is almost always a win for me, even if I don’t always like Connecticut filler. That particular filler usually errs on the side of cigarette to me, Virginia especially. I am not huge on American (colonial) tobacco, but this one was really good and has me thinking I might be missing something.

That being said, I smoked it straight through the nub, and the thing just kept getting better. If you can find one for under $5 (or even $7) a stick, give it a smoke.

Magic, Magick, Magi and Me

I’ve been taking notes on what I like and don’t like out of Michael Kraigs Modern Magick while at the same time reading Aaron Leich’s Secrets of Magical Grimoires. Aaron is an anthropologist and Michael Kraig speaks 10 different classical languages. Between the two of them it’s my favorite topics times 10. It’s a wonderful mix of psychology, classical thinking, mysticism and naval gazing. There’s literally enough material here to smoke all the cigars in hell and still have stuff to talk about.

I had written up the daily ritual (which I frankly get into and out of depending on how I feel) and mailed it out to a group of friends interested in this topic.

Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram & Kabbalistic Cross

KC:
Touch forehead – Ah-tah
Point down – Mahl-Koot
Right Shoulder – Vih-Gboo-Rah
Left Shoulder – Vih-Gdoo-lah
Fold Hands – Lih-oh-lahm Ah-men

LBRP – this represents the wheel of the universe:
Face East – Pentagram – Yuh-Heh-Vavh-Heh
South – Pentagram – Ah-doh-nye
West – Pentagram – Eh-hah-yeh
North – Pentagram – Ah-Glah
Carry line into the east, completing the circle.

Before Me: Rah-fay-el (God Heals)
Behind me: Gahb-Ray-El (Gods Stregnth)
Right hand: Mih-chai-el (Who is like God)
Left Hand: Ohr-Ree-El (God’s like or emination)
About me flames the pentagram, within the six rayed star
(About me flames the perfection of the elements, within me shines the light of the true god)

KC…

Middle Pillar
Eh-heh-yah and see the light in the heavens (or crown)
Yud-heh-vahv-heh el-oh-heem – Neck
Yud-heh-vahv-heh el-oh-ah v’dah-aht – chest
Shah-dai El Chai – Genitals
Ah-doh-nye Ha-ahr-etz – feet
(middle piller riff – breathe while sending energy up and down one side of your body, front, back, right, left, wrapping around).

KC, LBRP to close.

This of course generated more confusion than answers and I was asked to provide commentary. Where do we start? Commentary on this sort of thing is entirely personal and even things like godnames are hotly debated from blasphemy to objections on framework and entomology alone.  The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Literally. If it speaks to you and it works, then use it. To wit, you can’t move mountains, you can stack the die. Thusly, the commentary follows with the omission of the adressees:

We recently made prosperity candles. Someone was offered a full time position out of the blue. I got a six figure offer from Comcast which bought me out of ebay. Mostly this is commentary on the difference between Wiccian rituals and how I prefer to do things. This does not mean one way is right and the other way is wrong. The proper way to execute this is a hack – just do it.
Step zero – YOU HAVE SOMETHING THAT WORKS. Wicca occupies low magic territory and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I don’t feel like it’s the best screwdriver in the threads-of-fate drawer, so we make new screwdrivers as they suit us.  I feel like the fundamentals of wicca are flat out wrong – “To the harm of none” simply refuses to acknowledge the zero sum universe. You got that full time position because someone else didn’t, etc.

Alright so the question is “WTF is the daily ritual?” It’s a really long answer.

The problem I have with the wiccian version is you ask any of them the important questions and they have no idea. The important questions are “What is eko eko azarak?” and “who are the guardians of the quarters?” Basically questions about why they’re saying what they are saying – and they don’t know.
If you read The Black Arts, eko eko azarak is flat out bullshit Gerald Gardener came up with:
Sorcery has a tradition of “Barbarous names”. They’re traditionally riffs on godnames. So in most traditional magic which has the angelic name which rules the hour of the day, (http://www.renaissanceastrology.com/planetaryhoursarticle.html) and instead of mars, jupiter, etc you would have either the names of angels of the traditional greek/roman gods. Dee got the brilliant idea to mess around with the form of the name where an angel rules the day, but a variation of the angel name rules the hour (http://www.john007dee.com/1250tutor.html – ANGELORUM BONORUM 49). This is not entirely unheard of in grimiore magic and it serves two purposes – when should you do stuff and if you know which spirit you want to interact with you can chant the names until you’re in the appropriate mental state of focus and intent…
So if you have no idea who you’re addressing with eko eko, you have no idea who rules what where for the quarters. So as not to spoil the ritual for you, it’s still all about intent. If you don’t feel strongly about it, it doesn’t matter.
All of this sounds fucking gay, the bottom line is that we have a microscope which determines how much mystical crap we want to pack into the ritual. It’s not always useful to use an electron microscope to look for tadpoles, is the idea. Traditional heathenry only concerned itself with the phase of the moon. Wicca adds full and dark moons to that. Solomonic magic has the ruler of the day. Renascence magic adds the angel of the hour. If you’re saying “WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS” the answer is “yes”. The candle is green. Money is green. Basil is green. We made the candles on a day when Jupiter was in a waxing position (SEE WHAT I DID THAR?). The moon was waxing…
What does this have ANYTHING to do with the reworked daily ritual? I wanted to come up with something extensible. Basically, idling the car in the driveway. You use the machines of magic without doing magic. Since magic is all about intent, WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING? The idea is to do stuff and observe how we feel, then use the framework for spells, and use the observation about how we feel to validate the operation of the spell.
The reading of the ritual is headers in italics, actions in font, names (or vibrations) in bold. To vibrate a name, you “sing” it per syllable and it’s written phonetically. To do it “correctly” it should feel like your head or heart is ringing. Pick a name and just say it while breathing out, or sing it, until you find a tone and breathing which seems to jive with you.
The Kabbalistic Cross is therefor what we replace eko eko with. It’s the gateway to enter the mystical state and tell our brains ITS TIME FOR MAGIC. (If anyone wants to know, it’s Matthew 6:13 in Hebrew. Why Matthew 6:13? A better question is “Why did Jesus pray?”).
The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is stolen out and out from Crowley (http://hermetic.com/crowley/libers/lib6.html). It does two things – it prepares the space as a “Clean” space and it serves to link us to the divine for part 1. The divine is the sum of the universe. If we subscribe to the idea of the Ain Soph, the unknowable god, the universe was created by his word and therefor we cannot understand him with names or concepts in this universe. To call the names of god in each corner is to acknowledge the sum of creation as the entire universe. The names: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_God_in_Judaism The circle itself represents the zodiac and therefor you’re literally including or excluding forces from your universe when you stand in the circle.
Don’t like it? The guys over at http://www.myoccultcircle.com/ are just sweeping the floor and breathing with each sweep of the broom. So long as the intent is “clean”, that’s about all that’s required.
So then why the names of the angels? In short because the universe defines how we relate to god, the angels are how the universe relates to us. The traditional role of angels is to act as lawyers in the court of god, or the traditional role of spirits is to effect change in forces just out of your control. You could substitute names of familiar spirits, if you wanted, or names of different gods. Frankly this is the part of the ritual I am least comfortable with, and it’s a holdover of the idea that we can’t know god, but we have the authority to command spirits or fates, so what gives us the authority?
Finally the kabbalistic cross again – we’re separating the cleaning from the operation itself.
The middle pillar some people will probably recognize, it’s walking the chakras from yoga. It’s perfectly serviceable as either a prelude to magic or simply filling in the space the heart of the ritual would occupy. Me being an idiot lost where this came from and therefor what the hebrew expands to.
From there, LBRP to close and go.

PA Response to the Monks Raid

Mom always said “You catch more flies with honey” but I always pointed out she beat the living hell out of me the day I tried squirting honey onto a fly for the purposes of safely depositing it outside the house.

I had written the PLCB over the Raid the day I saw it on philly.com.

Basically, I wrote them a nastygram.

In case you’re not familiar with PA law, it’s stupidly draconian. The PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) is a bunch of pricks who use excuses like “bulk buying brings you lower prices”. In actuality since the liquor in the state is effectively taxed at 32%, basement hooch to high end wine is accounted for to the bottle.

And god help you if you’re drinking high end wine, there’s no wine bars in PA because splitting a bottle is technically illegal.

Here’s what I wrote:

To whom it may concern at the PLCB,

WRT: http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20100308_Troopers_raid_popular_bars_for_un licensed_beers_Dozens_of_gallons_seized_aftercitizen_complaint.html

No-one in their right mind believes this was a “citizen complaint”. PA has long since had possibly the worst licensing and distribution system of any state I’d have the pleasure of visiting, and the PLCB is anything but a monopoly. As such no-one believes that any citizen would have both the insight and understanding of how this draconian establishment works enough to report “improperly licensed” beer. More on the point I sincerely doubt given the quality of the average state trooper or PLCB employees language skills that anyone in either of those two establishments would be able to read the barrels or beer names, most of which would be labeled in Belgian German or Flemish.

Even more on the point – it’s been legal for tobacconists to have “house blends” of tobacco, but in reality these tobacconists are selling tobacco purchased under another name. Yet no-one walks into Grandpa’s tobacco shop with state troopers armed to the teeth and says “OH YOUR TOBACCO IS MISLABELED”.

I will also submit a CONTACT THE GOVERNOR form and CC him.

As a result of this action, I’ve created a sign up sheet in my neighborhood to hold a workshop this weekend. This weekend I will teach approximately 17 people to make their own beer.

Sincerely,
Joshua Knarr

Actually the homebrew thing wasn’t nearly that popular, and it’s only got three people. But it’s good to put the fire under them. Also of note, tobacco is regulated similarly to liquor, but given the “declining popularity” the state has decided to tax the living shit out of it while not caring where it comes from. For those really not from the area, PA is the “tax state” for goods, Delaware is impossible to live in since they’re the “tax state” for paychecks, and NJ typically taxes the living hell out of tobacco. As such, we go to NJ for our gas, buy our tobacco in PA, and buy merchandise in Delaware, the home of “tax free shopping” (and god help you if the staties see you crossing state lines with a TV on your roof).

Anyway.

Here’s the letter I got back:

Mr. Knarr,

Please be advised that it is the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, and not the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which enforces the liquor laws in Pennsylvania. Therefore, your e-mail is being forwarded to them for review. Thank you.

OK so lets talk to those guys. I shot them the same mail and….

This is in response to your inquiry regarding the recent raids of three Philadelphia-area bars, conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (“BLCE”), in which the PSP, BLCE apparently confiscated beers that may or may not have been properly registered for sale in Pennsylvania.

The raids in question were conducted by the PSP, BLCE, not the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board(“Board”). The officers involved are employed by the PSP, BLCE and not the Board. The Board and the BLCE are two distinct agencies. Therefore, your inquires should be directed to the PSP, BLCE Harrisburg Headquarters. Their contact number is 717-540-7410.

Ah yes, the great circle jerk of responsibility continues unabated. (Note that the state police and governor simply said “Thank you for contacting us” and included no other response).

Backlash of Latakia

From my last adventure in tobacco flavors, I bought a stupid amount of tobacco from the land of eurotrash.

Latakia continues to be incredibly interesting – everytime I smoke it, it’s something different.

My particular stuff had a heavy “meat” taste fresh from the distributor. It’s been about a month in my various humidor jars, and it’s calmed the meat taste down quite a bit. Reason for that is the jars allow light in, and the light goes a long way towards breaking down the flavors. Just like beer, if anyone was wondering. On cigars the effect isn’t as pronounced since most of the flavor comes from the inside. On pipe tobacco with no casing – any mellowing effect works on the whole bag. Ignoring my pipe set for a month (not by choice) has improved this greatly. The meat has dropped out and the smokeyness comes through.

The best pairing for tobacco is scotch. Bowmore had proved to be absurdly good paired with La Aroma De Cuba cigars. By themselves, Bowmore has almost an offensive peaty taste to it (think Lauphroag without the smoke) but paired with La Aroma De Cuba which tastes like cake batter, and suddenly it’s got raisins, grandma’s cooking, vanilla, icing, nuts and chocolate. I ran out of Bowmore at the beginning of the month (for whatever reason the price went up) and grabbed McClellands speyside. They were out of Islay, and I prefer Islay anything. Speyside is second on the list, then lowland, then highland. But I’m more likely to try a new brand than buy anything but speyside or islay.

The McClellands by itself isn’t impressive. It’s not got the depth of flavor I want, it’s got no oak and no smoke that you can really taste. It’s sort of faded and could comfortably fit into bourbon because it’s not quite as smooth as it could be. However, I grabbed my pouch of “english heavy” (which is heavy on the smoke and meat flavors) and poured a snifter. With ice, if anyone wants to know. Basically the smoke from the tobacco changes the flavor of the scotch (vastly overpowering it) and made the scotch sweet. Honey came through, along with maybe something else sweet (apple? pair? orange?) and fruity. The tobacco, on the other hand, became less smokey the more I had and eventually turned sweet. The lemons normally associated with the end of a pipe were really quite subdued and complimented the scotch well given it’s citrus notes.

Perdomo Lot 23

Good god what the hell.

For all the positive reviews this cigar got, it was only passable in my opinion. This reflects one of the few honest reviews I think someone gave them.

Appearance: Nice wrapper, but what is this a picture of on the band? Pompeii? There’s a house with a mountain in the background but it’s really not terribly attractive. It feels pretty low-fi.

Light: OH GOD THIS IS STRONG TASTING WHAT THE HELL. I’m told there’s a lot of variation in the cigar, but I almost got “chemical” out of it smelling it. There’s no real discernible flavor here.

First Third: Again, no real flavor, just a strong, cedar taste out of it. I felt it was overwhelming, I almost wished it had less woody flavors and the whole thing was subdued. I tried letting it rest but it didn’t improve much.

Second Third: Seems like I get the walnuts people talk about but it’s like astringent walnuts. While the flavor is there, the taste and heat is strong enough it’s not pleasant. I let the cigar rest here and it took some vanilla notes but the whole thing is framed in that strong cedar backdrop which is hard to get over. I feel like if I let it air out, it might be better.

Final Third: It gets really good right before it gets too hot to smoke. Vanilla and cream for maybe three puffs worth.

Verdict: 5/10, this is overpriced at $5/stick MSRP for the quality. Or, if you do like them, store them for a year or two, then hit it up. There’s a lot of potential here once things calm down a bit, but don’t expect it to roll out of the box. Also a quick warning: Since the allure of these cigars is in their construction (all one farm, all one lot of plants, all within the same 10 square feet of one another), they are going to vary quite a bit.

Buying Cigar Seconds

I recently, for $35, got Rocky Patel seconds and La Aurora seconds. I’m actually not sure about the La Aurora ones because the guy at the shop said he didn’t know the SKU, but “that’s where they’re supposed to be!” I’m almost 100% sure they are not la aurora cigars, the size, shape, look and base flavors are all wrong.

OK. Whatever. For the price, I can throw out 2/3rds of them and still be happy.

Both of these happened to be on the dry side, which I take is because they sat out somewhere before they were bundled and sold. This review should also serve as a cautionary tale. And, just because these are seconds from Rocky Patel or La Aurora, please don’t take them as an indication of the common quality of the individual brands. If you’re buying seconds, they should be for a party, or friends, or any other channel where there’s going to be disbursement and you don’t want to shell out $100 for a box. These are “party cigars”, for a party I’ve got planned, but I didn’t want to buy generic crap I knew would be terrible.

The cigars come in a bundle which is tightly wrapped (hence the humidification issues) without humidification device enclosed. I’m told this is standard, but tightly wrapping them drives out the moisture. They also come unlabeled, but the Rocky Patel seconds had the trademark CHOCOLATE scent. I cut up some labels I had laying around to label the cigars. The La Auroras may or may not be seconds. To be frank, I think the SKU was wrong because they don’t really smell or taste like La Auroras. Not even close. The Rocky Patel ones you can tell are RPs from the scent and appearance.

La Aurora Frauds – Starts out tasting like trash the first third, if you let it go slowly this quickly goes really light and sweet, but then quickly turns back into trash for the last third.

Rocky Patel Seconds – Tastes like a Rocky Patel. No major complaints except that the burn is really uneven on the one I tried. The chocolate taste is there, but subdued. In fact, I think I like the seconds more than I like their actual offering because it tastes like… tobacco with chocolate rather than CHOCOLATE. I realize it’s not the effect he was going for.

So, now I’m left with 24 cigars of each I plan on bringing to a party of average quality, the fakie La Auroras need a ton of time in the humidor since they brought the RH down to 60% (probably why it tastes like trash), but the Rocky’s are a good solid choice. (Tossed three for smelling weird). Incidentally I decided to take advantage of the dryness of the LA counterfeits and try dipping. I took some black cherry rum, put a bit into a shotglass, and dipped the tip. The result was a nice cherry taste which later gave way to caramel. Not bad. If these LA fakies don’t improve before the party, they’ll be dippers.

A Friendly Reminder About Tobacco

Reminder: Today is the last day you can buy tobacco products without paying the SCHIP tax.

I, for one, plan on buying them as “collectibles / antiques”. Remember, if you purchase cigar bands as collectibles which happen to have cigars attached, they’re exempt from the tax.

Remember, tobacco within is not for consumption.