Tonight’s Tasting: Man O’ War Armada and Alcatraz Big House Red Ale

Man O’ War Armada Toro Grande (6″ x 56)

I tried a Man O’ War Ruination a few nights ago that I really liked, so I thought I’d give the Man O’ War Armada a try tonight. I smoked it with no preconceived notions, and only after the review did I check the price and learned that this is a relatively pricey stick.

Speaking of price, the Armada is packaged very nicely, with 32 cigars presented in their own humidor, complete with electronic hydrometer and a humidifier, all for the modest price of $500. If that’s a little too rich, a five-pack is just $100. I don’t know how I came into possession of this beauty, because I certainly didn’t elect for either of those options, but there it was calling to me from the humidor.

But back to my findings before knowing the price. The cigar consists primarily of Nicaraguan tobaccos, so I was bound to like it. It was smooth and flavorful from the first puff, and the construction and burn were perfect. Lots of pepper in the taste. This was a strong cigar, to the point that I felt a little numbing of my lips, but never was it harsh. I did, however, occasionally get a sense of bitterness on the back of my tongue, but not enough to spoil the experience.

My conclusion? If you bought the humidor for your desk and pulled out cigars to smoke to a big deal you just closed, it would be impressive and the cigars would not disappoint. However, I did not enjoy the Armada as much as the Ruination, and the latter is less than half the price. The Man O’ War Armada was a tasty smoke, and I wouldn’t turn one down if offered, but you’d do better to spend the money on two Ruinations instead. The Armada earns an 89 on The Morris Scale.

From Cigars International:

A $500 box of cigars runs counter to every fiber of the deep discounting instinct that runs through CI Nation’s red blood. Many expensive cigars are simply 3-dollar sticks with a 10-dollar bill wrapped around it. But from time to time such a price tag is warranted…. expensive because they’re actually, well, expensive. Extra care, extra long processes and extra steps during production, extra aging and optimum fermentation, extra rare and costly tobaccos and materials. Man O’ War Armada is all that and more. The price is nauseatingly steep, but boy-oh-boy are you getting something special. It’s an enormous chest of 32 cigars – a gorgeous, handcrafted humidor, with all the accoutrements including tray, humidifier, and digital hygrometer. The cigars inside are no ordinary cigars. It’s a special, personal blend of cigar master and Man O’ War maker A.J. Fernandez. A tasty elixir draped in a dark, toothy, Ecuador-Sumatra wrapper leaf and bringing a full-frontal assault of flavor: complexity like you read about, an eruption of Cuban-esque power yet nicely balanced, over-the-top notes of earth, vanilla, coffee, spices, and cedar with a crisp tobacco core. Gloriously full, voluptuous and dense, disarmingly redolent. A super-premium of the first order (red cape sold separately).

Some additional reviews:

     — Tiki Bar Online

     — Cigar Insights

Big House Red Ale by Alcatraz Brewing Co.

I recently attended the second annual ADDs Beer Fest, which is the beer fest to end all beer fests. You are chauffeured to a number of the best local breweries, for unlimited samples and meet and greets by all the brewery operators. If you ever get a chance to get an invite to the ADDs beer fest, jump on it. It was a great group of people.

However, we had to eat, so the itinerary included the Alcatraz Brewing Co., which is a restaurant and brewery. In anticipation, I had purchased a Groupon which entitled me to two growlers. Sneaky me, I thought I’d avail myself of all the samples included in the ADDs Beer Fest, and then get growlers for the two beers I liked most.

Problem was, I wasn’t wowed by any of the beers. I don’t say this lightly, because I am a big proponent of supporting local breweries, but the facts are the facts. I really had to pick the lesser of the evils in order to decide which growlers to get, one of which was the Big House Red Ale.

Tonight I pulled out the growler to drink with a friend, but we soon moved onto better beers with most of the beer still filling the growler. I’m not going to rate it because it probably did sit a little too long since the beer fest, and I want to be fair, but it was still fully carbonated and poured with a big head, so I’m not sure that was a factor. But suffice to say I didn’t like it during the beer fest, and I didn’t like it tonight. The food was good at Alcatraz, but I would never go there for the beer with so many truly fine breweries in Orange County.

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