All posts in “Home Desk”

The Best Upgrades to Your Cheap, Disposable Pens Are Surprisingly Affordable

There are three inevitabilities we will experience during our time on this mortal coil: we are born, we will die, and sometime in between, we will use a BIC Cristal pen. The company claims to have sold over 100 billion of dirt-cheap pen since the design launched in 1950.

Despite its humble price, the Cristal is a bonafide design icon. The pen is on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art and was revolutionary for its time. The hexagonal shape, modeled after a wooden pencil, provided better grip and wouldn’t roll from a tabletop. And assuming you could hold on to one long enough to be concerned about it running out of ink, the transparent fuselage easily showed the user how much ink was left inside. Few manage such a feat. This is the downfall of the BIC Cristal.

Cheap, disposable pens can bring out a lot of bad habits. We lose them, we chew on them and we toss them in the trash without a second thought. This is before considering that the cheap pen, while plenty useful, isn’t all that special to write with.

Enter, the moderate upgrade. We’re not talking three-figure Montblanc’s and gold-nibbed Parkers. There is a whole world of high-end ballpoints under the $20 mark. A fair bit more than a $3 package of BIC Cristals, for sure, but between their high-quality builds and refillable cartridges, they’ll last you eons longer. These are the best upgrades to your cheap pen collection.

OHTO Horizon

OHTO was established in Japan in 1929 and started making ballpoints 20 years later, so even if you haven’t heard of it, know it isn’t a spring chicken when it comes to the writing utensil game. OHTO’s well-known for making fine-tipped writers (including the absurdly slim Minimo), and the Horizon is no different coming stock with a 0.7mm tip and cartridge nestled in its sleek, aluminum barrel. Better still is the fact that the pen will take a multitude of cartridge refills, including Pilot’s Hi-Tec-C, revered among pen nerds for its smooth, consistent writing action and needle-thin tip.

Caran d’Ache 849

The Caran d’Ache 849 shares the BIC Cristal’s hexagonal fuselage, which gives it a similarly comfortable grip, but the aluminum construction is more durable and more satisfying to hold than the BIC’s cheap plastic. The overall effect is sleek, and since the 849 is Caran d’Ache’s mainstay products — it was introduced in 1969 — there are endless colors and finishes to choose from. One of the calling cards of the 849 is its stainless-steel “Goliath” cartridge, which the brand claims is good for 8,000 meters, or nearly five miles of writing line.

Pilot Metropolitan

Pilot’s Metropolitain is better known as an entry-level fountain pen, but it comes in a ballpoint guise, too. The body is thick and round, not all dissimilar from something you’d expect to see on an ‘80s executive’s desk, but the variety of monochrome matte finishes makes it look and feel more appropriate for the 21st century. The body is made from brass so it’s weighty; a good thing if you tend to write with a heavy hand.

Fisher Space Pen

You don’t need to be a certifiable pen dork to know the story of the Fisher Space Pen: developed in the 1960s, it was designed to write in zero gravity for astronauts. You’ll never go to space, but it’s nice to know that if Elon Musk’s idea for a moon colony pans out (it won’t) that at the very least you can write with it in any situation, in any orientation, on any surface. That makes it particularly suitable for EDC types who find themselves jotting notes anywhere that isn’t a flat desktop.

Kaweco Classic Sport Ballpoint

Like the Metropolitan, Kaweco’s Classic Sport is well known as a cheap fountain pen, but the ballpoint version is not to be slept on. Like it’s nibbed brethren, the fuselage is thick, hexagonal and made from a thick, durable plastic. Yes, it lacks the metallic composition of other pens on this list, but it allows for a girthy body without excessive weight and means you can opt for a clear variant if you appreciate the transparency of the BIC Cristal. It will also accommodate a massive amount of refills — Jet Pen, for instance, lists a whopping 77 cartridges that are compatible.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The Best Barrel-Finished Bourbons, Ryes and Scotches You Can Buy

Beyond Oak

The Best Barrel-Finished Bourbons, Ryes and Scotches You Can Buy


Making whiskey is closer to designing clothes than building the new iPhone. The whiskey of today is more varied, more plentiful and likely of a higher quality than it has ever been, but it is still whiskey. The years-long process required to create whiskey means innovation comes slow, but when distilleries latch on to something new, they go all-in.

In recent years, that something new is barrel finishing, the practice of dumping mature whiskey into new barrels for a short period of time with the intent of imbuing the whiskey with touches of something different. The technique is not unique to one type of whiskey or one type of distiller (though it is somewhat more popular with craft distillers) and mashbill, maturation and barrel type matching is essentially endless. But, like any experiment, not all turn out for the better. From rum to Syrah to orange curaçao, here are recent examples that hit the mark.

Chivas Regal Mizunara

Mizunara oak grows at half the pace and covers much less ground than its American or French counterparts, and it’s much more porous (and therefore prone to leaking). This adds up to an extremely expensive barrel (in 2018, Wine Enthusiast reported a single barrel costs more than $6,000). Chivas’ scotch finished for a few months in Mizunara is still predominantly scotch, but its hints of coconut and sandalwood only come from one place.

High West Yippee Ki-Yay

High West makes weird whiskey. The Utah distillery uses rye whiskeys from two to 16 years of age in this blend, and finished the whole batch in former vermouth and Syrah barrels. There is nothing on the liquor store shelf to compare it to.

Bellemeade Honey Cask Bourbon

The San Francisco World Spirits Competition’s “Best Special Barrel-Finished Bourbon” of 2019 is a pun. In distilling patois, the honey barrel is a cask of whiskey so perfectly balanced in age and location in a rickhouse that it is the platonic ideal of a whiskey barrel. Bellemeade’s Honey Cask Bourbon takes it literally, finishing its barrel strength bourbon in casks used to store honey.

Blood Oath Pact No. 5

Created by a food scientist with more than 20 years of whiskey blending experience, Blood Oath releases, called “Pacts,” are all different and all put a premium on barrel finishing. The fifth pact is a blend of 13-year-old bourbon, 11-year-old wheated bourbon and 8-year-old bourbon finished in Caribbean rum barrels. Expect something a bit sweeter than you’re used to.

Sagamore Spirit Port Finish Rye Whiskey

Port-finished whiskeys are more common than most barrel finishes, but this one is easily the most talked about of late. Winner of a few “Best Rye Whiskey” awards, Sagamore Spirit’s ported rye leans heavily into the jam, plum-like qualities of a good port while its spicy rye base still cuts through.

WhistlePig The Boss Hog, Spirit of Mauve

WhistlePig’s Boss Hog series is the Canadian rye whiskey sourcing masters highest-end whiskey. A 13-year-old straight rye finished in ex-Calvados barrels. Calvados, a pear or apple brandy distilled from cider, is best known for its flavors attachment to the land it’s produced on. The result in this case is a mature, easy-sipping rye with a swell of apple on the nose.

Parker’s Heritage Collection 12th Edition

This won’t be easy to find. Heaven Hill Distillery’s Parker’s whiskey releases annually and usually sells out shortly after, but if you’re able to track down last year’s release, you’re in for a treat. Classic Kentucky bourbon finished in former Orange Curaçao barrels, this is about as strange a barrel finish as you’ll find. Expect an enormous citrusy pop with a slightly bitter followthrough.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

These Pots and Pans Were Designed to Teach You How to Cook

Cookware brand Equal Parts isn’t trying to make peak performance cooking equipment. It doesn’t want to be a direct-to-consumer All-Clad and it doesn’t make a big deal of how much money you save buying directly from them. Instead, Equal Parts, the first brand under the Pattern umbrella, makes pots, pans and kitchen gear for people who don’t know the difference between a sauté pan and a skillet.

Pattern co-founder and chief creative officer Emmett Shine and Equal Parts general manager Tyler Sgro started with a simple task: create a cookware company that got people who aren’t cooking into the kitchen.

“Not a lot of people actually know what poaching is versus frying, searing, blanching and so on. If you didn’t grow up in a kitchen, those things are intimidating,” Shine said. “What does the home cook want? What’s something they’re actually going to use?”

The culmination of years of research, data collecting and testing, Equal Parts’ beginner-friendly cookware collections are here.

Equal Parts murdered-out “Big Pan” in action.

Sgro and Shine say every feature is tied to pain point with traditional cookware. The cookware is aluminum because it’s lighter and heats faster than steel, and it’s coated in a ceramic mixture that cleans up easily and heats evenly. Everything from the pots and pans to the mixing bowls are designed to nest, making cabinet space less of an issue, and every item is dishwasher-safe. Even the vocabulary is edited for simplicity — “big pan” instead of sauté pan, “small pot” in place of saucier.

The brand even goes as far as offering an 8-week text-based “coaching” package with every cookware set. Buyers can text coaches cooking-related questions seven days a week, from simple recipe queries to custom meal advice based on what ingredients are on hand.

“Our intention was not to be another pro-sumer brand, it was to focus on the millions and millions of young adults in America who have worked hard, live in a space that’s not as big as they’d like and have less skill in the kitchen than they’d prefer,” Shine said.

Equal Parts products are available in sets starting at $249. Sets may include anything from a few pieces of ceramic-coated aluminum cookware or an entire kitchen suite.

Why Every Kitchen Absolutely Needs a Vacuum Sealer

In the last five years, Jimmy Papadopolous has earned an Eater Chef of the Year award in Chicago, a Zagat ’30 Under 30′ designation and various ‘Best New Restaurant’ awards for his 2017 opening of Bellemore in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Papadopolous describes the restaurant, a temple of dark woods, woven cane chairs and brass, as “artistic American.” From $30 whetstones to $2,000 vacuum sealers, here are four things he couldn’t cook without.

Japanese Water Stones

“I have long built my knife kit over my career to where it is. Collecting one of the most important and basic tools to great cooking; a knife. Right behind having a knife, the second most important thing is keeping it sharp. I like sharpening my knives to the point of being able to shave the hair off the back of my hand with a single stroke — a feat that wouldn’t be as easily attainable without the technique and skill that comes from mastering Japanese water Stones.

Polyscience Immersion Circulator

“I cannot stress enough how convenient, precise and how much these machines shrink the margin of human error in professional and home kitchens alike. An absolute must in my kitchen.”

Vita Prep Blender

“They literally can turn a brick to dust. Well, I have never tried to powder a brick in one so, not literally. But they are amazingly versatile. From silky purées, to powders, to emulsifications, my kitchen could not function without one.”

Minipack Vacuum Sealer

“One of the best inventions ever. Vacuum sealers have become complete commonplace in professional kitchens — I could not picture our kitchen functioning without one. From cooking sous vide to tight storage of all prepared food products, a vacuum sealer is an absolute essential.”

More Chef-Approved Kitchen Gear

From a lava stone molcajete to a disposable thermometer to a very, very old-school pasta maker, these four professional chefs reflect on the gear they couldn’t do their jobs without. Read the Story

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Four Years in the Making, This Minimalist Pen Is the First of Its Kind

Grovemade CEO and co-founder Ken Tomita takes no issue with cheap pens — he appreciates Pilot G-2s and Muji gel pens as much as the next guy; but in Tomita’s vision of the perfect workspace, disposable pens felt out of place. After four years of starting, iterating, giving up and starting over, Tomita and team made their own replacement. The Grovemade Desk Pen, a pen meant to stay put in one spot, is here.

The pen is available in a matte black finished aluminum or a heavier, glossier brass and start at $50. The two said the idea of a desk pen — a pen that’s left on a desk for display, notetaking, signing documents and so on — hadn’t dawned upon them until they looked through the results of a customer survey that asked past customers to send photos of their workspaces in.

Tomita said the photos were full of put-together workspaces and not-so-nice pens. “You know how there are these nice t-shirts now that cost like $70 and last five times as long? It’s kind of a leap until you’ve gone to that level and realize what you’re missing out on. I’ve never had a nice pen before the one we made,” he said.

The Grovemade Desk Pen in ceramic-coated aluminum.

The final product is a weighty, twist-action pen made from billets of aluminum or brass run through a Swiss Screw Machine. It features a satisfying snap when the action completes and the pen tip is in place, and three facets that provide a better grip and ensure it can’t roll off the desk. Also to ensure it doesn’t roll off the desk, pens can be purchased with pen stands made of the same material as the pen, with hardwood inlays and a cork base. Plus, the pen insert itself is a Schmidt Rollerball P8126, a refill well known in pen geekdom.

Tomita recognizes his pen is never going to be the one pen for all people — he says that’s an impossible task to place on a designer. Instead, it’s a minimal, idiosyncratic take on a bygone category. They’re available now starting at $50.

Chef-Approved Kitchen Tools: A Whole Hog Roaster, Mexican Beer & More

Rick Ortiz is the chef and owner of Antique Taco, a three-location string of Mexican restaurants in Chicago, Illinois. Ortiz’s background, like his restaurant, is a deep mix of high- and low-brow sensibility — the chef worked at two Michelin-starred Relais Sainte Victoires and in the kitchens of Chicago’s Soldier Field. These are four of his favorite pieces of cooking gear.

La Caja China Roaster

“I love my Caja China. It took some time and some pointers to get it right, but I continue to learn more and more of its many uses. It is great for cooking for family and friends in your backyard or at outdoor events. We’ve cooked cochinita pibil low and slow and turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner. I like to use the exposed hot charcoal or wood embers on top for direct cooking a pot of frijoles charros or posole. Be sure to add the grill grate attachment to cook your favorite Vegetables. I love it for elotes with spicy mayo, grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of ground champulines (grasshoppers).”

Hedley & Bennett Aprons

“I’m also obsessed with my Hedley & Bennett Aprons. I have quite a few. They are comfortable and hold up to the wear and tear of the kitchen or just make you feel fresh. I have one for each season and for different types of work. I have a few brighter and lighter Hedley’s for the spring and summer when I am cooking carne asada or seafood over a hot grill, and darker heavier thread Hedley’s for the fall and winter when we are making hot caldos and smoking meats.”

Three-Pack of Tongs

“The tool I use most frequently are my tongs. Small, medium and long should do the trick. I use small tongs for garnishing, medium tongs for serving vegetables and proteins and long tongs for cooking over high heat. If you have a hot pot with handles and one side towel you can use your tongs to hold the other handle. You can use your tongs to spread out the hot charcoal and wood. If you use your tongs enough they eventually become an extension of yourself.”

5 Rabbit Beer

“My favorite ingredient is beer. Not just any beer but 5 Rabbit Beer. 5 Rabbit is an artisan latino cerveceria in Bedford Park, Illinois. I like to use it in my Marinades and for finishing sauces and beans. The 5 Lizard Cerveza helps make a great brine for chicken cooked asado style and their Xicago is great for rounding out beans and guisados. Enjoy one or two while you cook. It makes everything taste better.”

More Chef-Approved Kitchen Gear

From a lava stone molcajete to a disposable thermometer to a very, very old-school pasta maker, these four professional chefs reflect on the gear they couldn’t do their jobs without. Read the Story

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Everything You Need to Know About Fall’s Most Hyped Bourbon Releases

Fall is whiskey season. Not just for drinking, but for new whiskey releases, too. From September to November, the biggest bourbon makers in the world have made fall whiskey’s unofficial drop season. Here’s what you need to know about Autumn’s five most hunted-down bourbons.

How to Score Bottles

Short of paying inflated secondary market prices, there are no sure things in the search for any of the whiskeys below. These methods are used to increase odds, not guarantee you a bottle.

Get on the List: Many liquor stores receiving higher-end, allocated whiskeys dole out the bottles they get using a raffle method. It may not be as exciting as finding a choice bottle collecting dust at the back of a shelf, but a score is a score.

Location, Location, Location: Liquor stores in population centers are more likely to get both coveted whiskey and huge crowds. Stores out in the boonies have less foot traffic and are allocated less of the good stuff in turn. In whiskey hunting, the edge of suburbia is fertile ground — where stores receive the bottles you’re looking for, and the odds you’re the only person on the premise who knows what to look for improve (marginally).

Buy More Whiskey: Being a good customer is the simple and sagely advice of all experienced whiskey collectors. You give your business to a store over a period of time, befriending managers and employees, and the odds of a store clerk throwing you a bone increase exponentially.

The Bottles

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Release Date: September 2
Retail Price: $100
Street Price $500+

Birthday Bourbon marks the beginning of bourbon hunting season. According to Campbell Brown, it was launched in 2002 as a means for the brand to re-establish itself as a premier whiskey making operation. Its timing couldn’t have been better. In the coming years, the bourbon market erupted, and Birthday Bourbon became a flagbearer for the ultra-premiumization of the category. It has continued to fly off shelves since.

The Backup Bottle: Old Forester Prohibition Style
Birthday Bourbon is higher proof and more mature than standard Old Forester’s, but it’s still made with the brand’s standard mashbill. That description could just as easily apply to Old Forester’s well-reviewed, widely available Prohibition Style. You can find Prohibition Style for $60 to $70 in liquor stores nationwide.

Parker’s Heritage Collection

Release Date: September
Retail Price: $150
Street Price Varies by release, $350+
Named after the late, legendary Master Distiller Parker Beam, Parker’s Heritage Collection is Heaven Hill’s most experimental line of whiskey. Released annually, the only consistency from year-to-year is that there is no consistency. Past bottles have been filled with straight wheat whiskey, 24-year-old Bottled-in-Bond whiskey, curaçao-finished bourbon and other weirdness. Each release is hunted to retail extinction.

This year’s Parker’s sticks to the status quo of not having any semblance of a status quo. It’s a rye whiskey aged for eight years and nine months made with Heaven Hill’s standard rye mashbill — the same it uses to make its Rittenhouse and Pikesville ryes — and it will retail at its usual $150. But where most Heaven Hill products (and most whiskey in general) is aged in Level 3 char barrels, the new Parker’s rests in Level 5 char barrels. Expect a spicy, woody, smokey, vanilla-heavy whiskey.

The Backup Bottle: Heaven Hill Pikesville Rye
Get one of Heaven Hill Distillery’s other ryes. Pikesville is a couple of years younger, proofed a little higher and made with the same mashbill. Bonus points for those who get both and drink side-by-side.

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

Release Date: October
Retail Price: $99 a bottle
Street Price $300 to $1,000
The dream haul. Its hype levels exceeded only by only the likes of Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace’s annual bottle drop is perhaps the most-awarded collection of booze in the world. Comprised of the staggeringly high proof George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller (which shares a mashbill with another whiskey on this list), Eagle Rare 17-Year and a pair of older Sazerac ryes. Finding bottles in stores in hard enough; finding bottles at retail prices is virtually impossible. The most valuable of the lot are generally the George T. Stagg and William Larue Weller.

The Backup Bottles: Stagg Jr., Weller 12, Sazerac Rye
Seeing as the Antique Collection houses a number of bottles, there are a few backups. Stagg Jr. is a worthy alternative to George T. Stagg and isn’t too much of a chore in most states. William Larue Weller’s legendary wheated mashbill can be found in any bottle of Weller, but Weller 12-year is probably the closest (or the newly released Weller Full Proof). Sazerac’s standard, slept-on rye remains one of the best values in all of whiskey.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch

Release Date: September
Retail Price: $140
Street Price $300+
It gets less mainstream coverage than others on the list, but it’s no less revered by those in the know. Every bottle is a little different, with Master Distiller Brent Elliott and team tinkering with aging and Four Roses’ trademark dual-mashbill, variable yeast whiskey making process (it’s not as confusing as it sounds). It’s particularly popular with Four Roses completionists for very obvious reasons.

The Backup Bottle: Four Roses Small Batch Select
Released this year, Four Roses Small Batch Select mirrors many of the Limited Edition’s charm. It’s higher proof than most of the brand’s offerings, it’s non-chill filtered and it shares much of the same recipe. Find it for $55 to $65 in most states.

Pappy Van Winkle Collection

Release Date: October
Retail Price: $60 to $270
Street Price $1,000 to $3,000
What more is there to say? The poster bottles for the most ridiculous parts of the bourbon boom are, perhaps more than any other whiskey, known within and without bourbon collecting circles. Every piece and parcel of Van Winkle mythology has been dissected and analyzed, but one truth remains: finding any of the bottle in the Van Winkle lineup at or near retail price necessitates purchasing. Its price, while painful, is reflective of its status as the sole über-limited bourbon to break into the mainstream. Pappy is a grail for more than just whiskey nerds.

The Backup Bottle: Weller 12
Those who fail to find it in the wild often opt for a whiskey made with the same exact recipe — Weller. Both made with the same wheated mashbill at Buffalo Trace’s Frankfort, Kentucky distillery, Weller’s rise to prominence is one of Pappy’s aftershocks. Weller 12’s lower proofing makes it the best candidate to replicate the sweet, low-burn of the most sought after whiskey in the US.
Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The Right Way to Drink Rare Craft Beer at Your Next Bottle Share

Good beer with good friends. That’s the goal of every bottle share, a small gathering to drink rare, unique or hard-to-acquire beers best saved for “that special occasion.” But bad manners and an eagerness to try too much, too quick, can make even the best beer taste off. Which is why we sat down with Benjamin Pratt, cofounder of As Is, one of New York City’s top craft beer bars, who shared his tips for hosting a bottle share, the right way. Here’s everything you need to know before you break out the bottle opener.

Keep the group small.

When coming up with the invite list, keep it under 10 people. “The goal should be a group small enough that the share can actually be conversational and educational,” Pratt says, “not just a free-for-all to try as many beers as possible. Some of the best shares I’ve been to have been with three or four other friends who have great taste and interest in beer.”

Less is more.

Ask every friend that’s attending to bring something, and be clear with the expectations. According to Pratt, two larger format bottles per person is the standard rule of thumb. “When we’ve had shares at the bar and people have shown up with too much beer, there is a superficial pressure to blow through bottles and not actually be able to appreciate the beers,” he says.

From Left to Right: Allagash Brewing Company Nancy, Grimm Ales Camoufleur, New Belgium La Folie Grand Reserve PX, Backacre Sour Golden Ale, American Solera House Couture, Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio, Oxbow Brewing Co. First Fruits, Fermentery Form Fooz, Grimm Ales Eternal Now and Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic Bio.

People want grails, not fails.

Part of the ethos of a bottle share is to share rare beer, so don’t just go down to your grocery store and buy whatever you can find on the shelf last-minute. Pratt says, “Bring bottles that you’ve either been holding onto for a special occasion or that are not normally available wherever you are.”

It’s not a bad idea to set a theme like, say, focusing on specific styles that age well — sours and dark beer. “The point is for people to be able to try something they have never heard of or have always wanted to try,” Pratt says.

Go slow. Stop early.

If each person brings two larger bottles, that means there are two larger bottles per person to drink. You shouldn’t feel pressured to finish everything or open every single bottle. “In my experience, these things are extended drinking sessions that usually result in a slow, creeping drunkenness,” Pratt says. “It’s good to keep in mind that you don’t have to drink every ounce of everything.” If someone doesn’t love a beer, it’s totally acceptable for them to take a few sips and move on — as a host, make sure they know that.

Sequence matters.

If you’re not armed with the knowledge, designate someone to facilitate the order things are being opened. “This way things can be tasted in series and comparisons can be drawn and maybe something can even be learned,” Pratt says. It also helps avoid multiple bottles being opened all at once. Just remember: never open someone’s bottle without their permission. How would you feel?

So does the glass.

Not everyone has two dozen tulip sampler glasses just sitting around for bottle shares, nor is it feasible in terms of storage if you’re a city-dweller in a small apartment. That being said, using full-size pint glasses is far from ideal, as everyone won’t be getting full pours and shaker pints are not “going to heighten your sensitivity to what is put in front of you,” Pratt says. If you don’t want to invest in reusable tasters, Tossware offers plastic cups used by top-notch festivals that won’t affect the taste or aroma of beer.

Food and water are musts.

Just like any other party, you want to give people food options and the ability to hydrate. As Pratt says, “Eat food, drink water, be an adult.” Just make sure whatever food you’re providing isn’t going to take away from everyone’s ability to taste the beers. Items like cheeses, bread, chips, pretzels and meats are all good middle-of-the-road choices.

The Complete Buying Guide to Weber Grills: Every Model Explained

It was the early 1950s, the brazier grill was king and George Stephen was not impressed. Braziers lacked lids, leaving food exposed to rain and flooding the coalbed with oxygen, creating uncontrollably hot fires. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Stephen, a salesman for Weber Brothers Metal Works, was filling out orders for buoys from the Coast Guard and Chicago Yacht Club when it hit him — he needed a lid. He cut a buoy into two half-spheres, added legs and punched holes in the top and bottom for airflow. The Weber Kettle was born.

Weber’s original kettle remains its most popular grill today, but in the 60-plus years since its invention, the company has expanded. The Weber name is stamped on propane gas grills, smokers, electric grills and portable grills. There are sub-products under each category, each at different price points, and all with different features. Here’s everything you need to know about the most famous name in grilling.

Charcoal Grills

Original Kettle

Sizes Available: 18-inch, 22-inch, 26-inch

The OG Weber’s shape has been more or less the same since 1956, and beyond small component updates, it is effectively the exact grill Stephen set out to make — sturdy and weather-proof with manageable airflow and a reasonable price. It comes with Weber’s standard One-Touch cleaning system, an aluminum ash catch and a pair of solid wheels to move around with.

Original Kettle Premium

Models Available: 22-inch, 26-inch

The middle-tier kettle is exactly the same as the Original, but adds three useful features: a built-in lid thermometer, hinged grates and a removable ash catch. The lid thermometer is useful for longer cooks, when the lid will remain on the kettle for longer stretches (high-heat cooks rarely use the lid or keep it on for more than a minute or two). The hinged grate allows you to lift part of the grate up to add more fuel without having to pull the entire thing out. A removable ash catch is great for those of us who would like to avoid ash-covered finger nails. Plus, it’s the only kettle that comes in different colors.

Master-Touch Kettle

The most-premium of the kettles adds Gourmet BBQ System grates (the middle is hinged, so you can pull it out to refuel the center of the fire), a warming rack and char-baskets. It has all the features from the Original and Premium kettles. Sadly, it only comes in black.

Smokey Mountain Smoker

Models Available: 14-inch, 18-inch, 22-inch

The pill-shaped Smokey Mountain drops the coalbed down a foot or two, adds a door to throw new coals on and comes with a porcelain-enameled water rack to keep things nice and humid. If you want food closer to the fire, there’s a grate beneath the top grate for charring.

Performer

Models Available: 22-Inch, 22-Inch Premium, 22-Inch Deluxe

The Performer adds a prep table, cooking timer and gas-fired charcoal starter to the standard kettle grill. It comes in a standard, premium and deluxe setup, the difference being a slightly larger prep table, the addition of a charcoal storage chamber and, at the highest level, an electric charcoal starter.

Ranch Kettle

The Ranch kettle comes in one size and it’s absolutely enormous. Easily the largest of Weber’s kettle-shaped grills, the Ranch is overkill for all but Weber brand loyalists that need to make more than 40 burgers at a time.

Summit (Charcoal)

Models Available: Summit Charcoal Grill, Summit Charcoal Grilling Center

The aptly named Summit series is Weber charcoal grilling taken to its peak. It has every premium feature available on a Weber grill in its toolkit, including, but not limited to: gas-fired charcoal ignition, one-touch cleaning, double-walled lid and bowl, hinged grill grates, temperature gauges, timers and more. Weber grilling nirvana, basically.

Gas Grills

Spirit

Models Available: E210 Two-Burner, E310 Three-Burner, E210 Two-Burner (Natural Gas), E310 Three-Burner (Natural Gas)

All Weber gas grills use a version of the brand’s GS4 grilling system, which includes an ignition system with a 10-year warranty, upgrades fuel tubes for improved heat distribution and “flavorizer” bars that catch grease before it causes flare-ups. The Spirit is the most affordable of Weber’s trio of gas grills. It comes with prep tables, side hooks and all-terrain wheels. Plus, you can get it in a few different color and size combinations.

Genesis

Models Available: Various color, size, storage and fuel source options

The Genesis series takes the basics from the Spirit grills and throws a few more features in. Namely, a side table burner, heating rack and porcelain-enameled steel body. Upgrading from the Spirit to the Genesis can be boiled down to one question: do you plan on grilling individual dishes or full meals? If the answer is the latter, go with the Genesis.

Summit (Gas)

Models Available: E470 Four-Burner, E470 Four-Burner (Natural Gas), E670 Six-Burner, E670 Six-Burner (Natural Gas)

Like the charcoal version of the Summit, the gas model is as feature-rich as it gets. It carries everything from the Genesis and adds burners, BTUs and some very handy automatic lights on the hood for nighttime grilling.

button]Buy Now: $TK[/button]

Portable Grills

Smokey Joe

Models Available: 14-Inch Standard, 14-Inch Premium

Miniaturized classics. While still not small enough to fit in a day pack, it makes for the perfect city-living, can-only-grill-in-the-park grill. It’s got Weber’s charcoal-standard ash catch at the base and airflow dampers on the lid (there aren’t any on the base, sadly). The main difference between the standard and more premium models is a home for the lid; the premium model (about $10 more expensive) has a hinge that holds the lid when not in use. Its 14-inch grill space is enough to fit about five burgers.

Jumbo Joe

Models Available: 18-Inch

The Jumbo Joe is just a larger Smokey Joe. It adds another four inches of grill space, which means eight burgers instead of five.

Go-Anywhere


Weber takes a stab at making a portable, charcoal grill outside its spherical comfort zone. The legs cleverly fold onto the lid and make it a bit more towable, it’s still Weber, which means it’s still heavy (14 pounds) and awkward to carry far. It’s big enough for six burgers (or about three steaks). Use it for car camping.

Q-Series

Models Available: Q1000, Q1200, 2000, Q2200, Q1400 (Electric), Q2400 (Electric), Q3200 (Natural Gas, non-portable)

The Q-Series comes in propane, electric and natural gas options at a variety of BTU levels. Its body is rust-proof cast aluminum and its grates are enameled cast iron. There are a few models under the Q line, but prices generally only climb with higher power levels and for options that come with fold-out side tables. It also comes in way more colors than most Weber grills.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The Best Kitchen Deals of Amazon Prime Day 2019

Prime Day brings thousands of discounts on everything from Segways to Seiko watches, but for many shoppers, no category has more value than the kitchen. So far, we’ve seen record savings on Instant Pots, Vitamix blenders and fancy sous vide machines — here are the best kitchen and cooking deals of Amazone Prime Day 2019. (Be sure to check back tomorrow for even more of our favorite culinary discounts.)

This Entire Lodge Set Is Cheaper Than a Lot of Cast-Iron Skillets

Lodge’s four-piece cast iron set is for those who’ve caught the cast iron bug but lack the wallet. Discounted by 25 percent for Prime Day, the set includes Lodge’s standard 10.25-inch skillet, a Dutch oven and a griddle, all for $70. That’s cheaper than any single, standard-sized skillet from boutique cast-iron cookware brands launched in the last few years. The whole set is made in Lodge’s South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, facility and comes pre-seasoned with vegetable oil.

Want to Cook Better Steak? Buy One of These Discounted Sous Vide Tools

There are two names you need to know if you’re in the market for a sous vide circulator: ChefSteps and Anova. During Prime Day, both brands’ best offerings are on sale.

The difference between the two comes down to control preference. The Joule from ChefSteps is operated entirely through a smartphone app with thousands of recipes and customization options built-in, whereas Anova’s Nano circulator is controlled via a six-button interface on the top of the machine. Both prices match all-time lows on Amazon (Anova’s 35 percent discount is applied once the product is in your cart).

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You Can Get a $100 Instant Pot for Just $56 Right Now

Are you finally ready for an Instant Pot? You picked the right day. Amazon Prime Day has brought the price of the 6-quart Duo model down to just $56.

The Duo does everything that made the Instant Pot famous in the first place: pressure cook, slow cook, steam and sautee. Unlike the newer and more-premium Ultra and Max models, it doesn’t have an LCD display or a few more fringe preset cooking modes. But you can still expect a whole pile of presets for specific foods like chili, yogurt, soup and so on.

Here’s a Rare Chance to Score a Vitamix Blender on the Cheap

Vitamix has long set the bar for high-performance blending with its 5200 model leading the way. The brand’s flagship blender since 2007 features variable speed control, a large 64-ounce container and aircraft-grade stainless steel blades.

For buyers wary of the 5200’s high price tag — the model retails for $450 — it can do more than mix protein powder with almond milk. When cranked, friction from the blades creates enough heat to bring cold soups to serving temperature.

Even sweeter: the Vitamix 5200 is going for just $280 on Prime Day — good for its lowest price ever.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The 3 Best New Coffee Roasts to Try This Month

Seasonality is everything in coffee. So when it comes to choosing the best beans to brew at home, our recommendation is simple: just look to what’s new. Here, three fresh batches from some of the country’s best roasters — Merit, Huckleberry and Blueprint.

Merit Nano Genji

One of the first harvests from a brand new coffee washing station in the heart of Ethiopian coffee country, Merit’s latest is a lightly sweet, bright and floral tribute to coffee’s most-loved origin. Best brewed pour-over.

Origin: Jimma Zone, Ethiopia
Roast Level: Light-Medium

Huckleberry Burundi Gitwe

In her first year on the competitive coffee roasting circuit, Huckleberry’s head roaster Shelby Williamson took America’s top prize: the U.S. Roasting Championship. This new bag, a Trade exclusive, grows for years on Gitwe, a mountain in Africa’s Eastern Rift range before harvest. The roaster’s tasting notes include peach, graham cracker and tangerine.

Origin: Muramvya Province, Burundi
Roast Level: Light-Medium

Blueprint Gamatui Community

The best way to understand the enormous effect processing has on beans is to try a coffee that’s undergone natural processing. Grown on the slopes of Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda, Blueprint’s just-harvested medium roast is the perfect place to start. The beans boast huge sugar and acid content, making for a fruit bomb of a bag (Trade describes it as “deeply reminiscent of your favorite berry-flavored cereal”). The beans are harvested from three coffee plant varietals, including SL34, one of the best plants for coffee quality in the world.

Origin: Kapchorwa, Uganda
Roast Level: Medium

3 Must-Buy Bourbons, A VR System You’ll Actually Want and Last Minute Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

In this episode of This Week In Gear: Tucker Bowe reveals the all-new Oculus Quest VR gaming system; Oren Hartov recounts a trip to Switzerland to study the history of the iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watch collection; and Will Price philosophizes about – and samples – what makes three specific bourbons his “unicorn” bottles. Plus, our writers weigh in with one solid Mother’s Day gift idea each and J.D. DiGiovanni unveils Just Get This, Gear Patrol’s new one-stop shop for top product recommendations in every category.

This episode of This Week In Gear is presented by Flipboard, where quality content from the world’s best publishers and storytellers of every type is discovered.

Featured Products

Oculus Quest VR Gaming System

Oculus Quest is an all-new, all-in-one VR gaming system. It’s the big brother to the Oculus Go, which is best used for watching videos and live events. Set up the Quest with an app, and everything else is self-contained. Quest comes in two storage sizes: 64GB ($399) and 128GB ($499) and is avaialable now for pre-order.

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Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Collection

Designed and engineered in the early 20th Century to protect watches worn by British officers while playing polo, the Reverso Collection dates back to 1931. The body of a Reverso can be flipped 180 degrees. Original Reversos featured a metal caseback on the side opposite the watch face; contemporary versions may feature a second face like the one shown in this episode.

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is next Sunday, May 12. That means you have ample time to shop for a great gift. These are the products our individual experts recommend, but if you want a more complete guide check out The 60+ Best Mother’s Day Gifts of 2019 now.

Featured Suggestions:
ARROW 5 Minute Beauty Kit ($16)
Opinel No10 Corkscrew Folding Knife ($35)
Rancourt & Co Lily Camp-moc ($210)
Sonos One Speaker ($199)
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

Just Get This: Our Top Product Recommendations, All In One Place

Just Get This is Gear Patrol’s comprehensive list of the most noteworthy products on the market right now. If you’re in the market for a product and want a top-level recommendation, look no further. For quick and convenient access, check out the main website navigation for a link.

Three Bourbon Favorites

Staff Writer Will Price has a philosophy when choosing bourbons: among other criteria, a bottle must be accessible and affordable, but also special. These three bourbons qualify and then some: Elijah Craig Small Batch, Knob Creek Single Barrel and Heaven Hill 6-Year-Old Green Label.

Watch Now: This Week In Gear, Episode 4

In last week’s episode: Tanner Bowden reviews the all-new, magnet-construction Leatherman Free; Josh Condon rock-crawls in Jeep’s latest concept trucks; Will Price demonstrates Vermicular’s waterless cooking appliance; and Jack Seemer reveals the ultra low-cal now IPA from Dogfish Head. Also in this episode: Meg Lappe gives a one-minute rundown of the JaxJox KettleBellConnect. Watch Now

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here. In some instances, brands have provided access to, or loans of, the products included in this episode.

Four Roses’s First Mainline Whiskey in 12 Years Riffs on a Cult Favorite Bourbon

After 12 years of nothing new but limited editions and one-offs, Small Batch Select is joining Four Roses’s small and highly praised permanent collection, and it has a lot in common with one of the brand’s most coveted drops ever.

According to Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliot, the brand wanted the new expression’s flavor profile to mirror that of its domineering 130th Anniversary Small Batch — a bottle that earned the title “World’s Best Bourbon” from the World Whiskies Awards. Thanks to Four Roses’ unique approach to recipes, bourbon blending and penchant for total transparency, we know this isn’t just smart marketing.

Where most distilleries select a mashbill and start distilling, Four Roses reaches into its toolbox of recipes. Each of the 10 recipes appears as a four-letter code that clues you into what the stuff is — the first letter tells you it’s made in Kentucky, the second tells you the mashbill, the third tells you it’s straight whiskey and the fourth tells you the specific yeast strain. (If you’re confused, Four Roses has a handy explainer on its website.)

Small Batch Select’s predecessor, the 130th Anniversary bottle, features OBSV, OBSF, OESV, OESK recipes. Small Batch Select is a blend of six Four Roses recipes, including every one of those found in the award-winning bottle — OBSV, OBSK, OBSF, OESV, OESK and OESF. Both bottles are cut to similar proofs, too, with Small Batch Select at 104 and the 130th at 108 (Small Batch Select has the highest proof of any mainline Four Roses).

From there, differences emerge. If you’re able to find the 130th Anniversary bottle, it can run you more than $500 — Go Bourbon is reporting Small Batch Select will run you between $50 and $60 and will eventually become.

Small Batch Select is also a non-chill-filtered bourbon, meaning it isn’t subjected to filtration processes that remove some residual fat and protein compounds in the juice (sort of like a natural wine). The effects of non-chill filtration are controversial — some say it’s just murkier bourbon, others say it gives the whiskey a more rounded mouthfeel. Elliot says it’s mostly a matter of preference. Finally, Small Batch Select is a mixture of six- and seven-year-old bourbon, significantly lower age statements than its pricey relative.

Four Roses says Small Batch Select is available now at the Lawrenceville, Kentucky distillery and will roll out to Kentucky, New York, California, Texas and Georgia soon in the coming weeks. Elliot also confirmed that the bottle will be pushed nationwide over the next couple years. No information on pricingn is available yet.

The Best Bourbon Whiskeys You Can Buy

Everything you ever wanted to know about America’s favorite brown spirit, including, of course, the best bottles you can actually buy. Read the Story

Watch Now: An Oven for Pizza Idiots, the 2019 BMW X7 & More

In this episode of This Week In Gear: Eric Yang and Will Price test Breville’s countertop pizza oven, Henry Phillips discusses the $5K Leica Q2 and Nick Caruso raves about the all-new BMW X7. Also in this episode, a Bryan Campbell reviews the Honda Talon side-by-side – in 30 seconds – and AJ Powell explains why the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds are the last thing he bought.

This episode of This Week In Gear is presented by Crown & Caliber: the convenient online marketplace for pre-owned luxury watches. Visit crownandcaliber.com/gearpatrol to get $175 towards any watch purchase until May 31st.

Featured Products

Breville the Smart Oven® Pizzaiolo

“This thing is fuckin’ awesome at what it does. It works for the pizza idiot to the pizza savant.”

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Leica Q2

“All the improvements feel iterative, deliberate and genuinely helpful to the end user. The Q was my general price-no-object recommendation for a great camera for basically everyone. The Q2 takes that place no problem.”

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2019 BMW X7

The X7 very well may be everything great about BMW, fully realized.

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Honda Talon SxS

“Add an exciting application of DCT technology and it’s fair to say that while the Talon 1000R and 1000X aren’t necessarily game changers, they’ve sure as hell raised the bar.”

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Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless Earbuds

“I believe the Momentum earbuds could replace each headphone in my current rotation — including my Bowers & Wilkins P5 on-ear headphones.”

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Watch This Week In Gear, Episode One: We Review the All-New Porsche 911, Apple Airpods & More

Welcome to the premiere episode of Gear Patrol’s first video series: This Week In Gear, the ultimate news show for gear enthusiasts.

As the definitive executive briefing on what’s new in product culture, every week we’ll be talking shop about the latest and best gear, from outdoor & fitness, automotive and tech to home, style, grooming and watches. Hosted by Editor-in-Chief Eric Yang, every episode will feature insights from Gear Patrol staff experts as well as field tests, interviews, buying advice and beyond.

In this episode of This Week In Gear: Nick Caruso gives a rundown of the all-new 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S; Tanner Bowden introduces The James Brand Ellis multitool; Jacob Sotak explains just how hugely advanced the Orvis H3 fly rod is; and Tucker Bowe describes what’s new in Apple’s second-generation AirPods. Also in this episode, a lightning-round Q&A with Staff Writer Meg Lappe.

This episode of This Week In Gear is presented by Crown & Caliber: the convenient online marketplace for pre-owned luxury watches. Visit crownandcaliber.com/gearpatrol to get $175 towards any watch purchase until May 31st.

Featured Products

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S

Porsche’s all-new 911 is, as expected, a tremendous performer.

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The James Brand ‘The Ellis’

The brand’s first multi-tool is a gorgeous shot across the Swiss Army Knife’s bow.

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Orvis Helios 3D 8-Weight 9′ Fly Rod

“Without a doubt, the most scientifically accurate rod ever produced.”

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Apple AirPods with Wireless Charging Case

The second-generation earbuds feature incremental tweaks, which means they’re still great.

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Dark-Roasted Coffee Could Be the Comeback Story of 2019

Like craft beer before it, Third Wave coffee is riddled with stereotypes. The caricature of the beer snob is a close relative of the coffee snob — snooty, dismissive and weirdly righteous. You’ll remember, too, that the craft beer community of yesteryear held fast to its belief that certain beers were beneath them — such as lagers — until some of America’s best brewers decided they weren’t. Craft coffee’s version of the lager saga is darkly roasted coffee, and now it looks like it might get off that high horse, too.

Meet “The Classics,” Trade Coffee’s new monthly coffee subscription. Built for the person who wants to get into coffee, new subscription nets you two bags of dark-roasted, specialty-grade coffee beans per month ($25 total).

“I think the thing about darker roasts is that they’re inherently a bit nostalgic,” said Erika Vonnie, director of coffee at Trade. “For the most part, that’s how coffee was roasted in America for a very long time. In the past, specialty roasters have leaned on lighter roasts, but they tend to be so far removed from what people know about coffee that it makes the transition from Folgers to specialty especially difficult.”

This idea mirrors the prediction of specialty coffee consultant and entrepreneur, James Hoffmann. In a video predicting coffee trends in the new year, Hoffmann spoke to the specialty coffee industry’s traditional stance against dark roasts: “We’ve pushed back pretty hard against [dark roasts] as an industry. We’ve said dark roasting is morally wrong, it destroys the hard work of great producers, and I understand and see that argument. I think we’re going to start to say, ‘If people like dark roasts, why can’t they have good green coffee?’”

By “green” coffee, Hoffman is referring to coffee beans prior to roasting (historically, darker roasts were filled using beans of a lower grade). It doesn’t hurt that that buzzy coffee roasters like LA’s Go Get ‘Em Tiger and Arkansas’s Onyx Coffee Lab are releasing higher-end dark roasts, too.

“You can’t hand someone curious about specialty coffee your super funky, light-roast Gesha and send them off into the sunset,” Vonnie said. “This is about getting coffee in the hands of people who want something that’s great, but still reminds them of coffee they’ve had before.”

The Classics subscription is available through Trade’s site now.

7 High-Proof Bourbon Whiskeys to Drink This Year

A bourbon myth for you, briefly: any 120 proof bourbon is somehow inherently better than your run-of-the-mill 80- or 90-proof stuff.

“There is a falsity that’s in the consumer base that cask strength is better,” says Fred Minnick, a spirits writer and the Editor-in-Chief of Bourbon+ magazine. “What’s really happening is, a lot of people can’t taste flaws at that strength. If they were to cut it with water and get it down to 90 or 80 proof, they would detect notes they wouldn’t necessarily care for.”

Don’t go pouring the strong stuff in your liquor cabinet down the drain, though. High-proof bourbon (it’s called “cask strength” when it’s unwatered, and therefore the same strength it was when it exited the bourbon cask) remains a beautiful spirit.

Weller first bottled a bourbon at “barrel proof” in the 1940s, but it was only 107 proof. The first bottles to breach the 115 mark came from Booker Noe, at Jim Beam, and a less-remembered bourbon from Willet called Noah’s Mill. Those bourbons weren’t just about firepower. They gave drinkers a chance to taste the bourbons like their blenders had, straight out of the barrel; they added a new tool to the bartender’s cocktail kit; and they introduced a new route — albeit a difficult one for distillers and blenders to traverse — to flavors intensified by the higher alcohol content.

Science backs this up. Ethanol, the alcohol in spirits, is an immense flavor enhancer, but its effects on the taste of a drink are not always straightforward. For instance, scientific studies have found that an increase in ethanol content in a spirit tends to decrease the release of aromatic compounds — higher alcohol, less smells. To a point, a well-balanced high-proof bourbon can amplify certain flavors, like caramel, Minnick says. When distillers control the beast, “you get those special bourbons, where the concentration of the flavor notes are much more powerful.”

It’s a fine line to walk for distillers, let alone buyers. The final lesson? Don’t buy high-proof bourbon for high proof’s sake, but prospect carefully and you’ll unlock liquid pleasures beyond the vale. Here are some high-proof bourbons that walk the line beautifully.

Booker’s 2018 04 “Kitchen Table”

The OG: Booker Noe was a visionary in the high-proof world, one of the first to bottle bourbon at cask strength, unwatered. (Booker’s also claims that he coined the term “small batch” when, really, he popularized it.) That bourbon was called “Booker’s True Barrel Bourbon.” Today, every bottle of Booker’s is bottled at barrel proof, and they pack a serious punch — usually, upward of 125 proof.
Proof: 128 (barrel proof)
Age: 6 years, 8 months, 7 days
Tasting Notes: honey, rye, molasses, spice

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve

Juicy Bomb: Also the doing of Booker Noe, Knob Creek comes from the Beam Suntory distillery. It’s aged nine years, just like every other Knob Creek bourbon, which drinkers will find reflected in its classic vanilla and caramel notes. The extra ethanol seems to amplify the sultry caramel flavor without overwhelming the juicy, light citrus that comes from the rye.
Proof: 120
Age: 9 years
Tasting Notes: vanilla and caramel, with a touch of citrus

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Award Winner: Heaven Hill’s ubiquitously distributed gem has won serious awards. Elijah Craig small batch variety has been lauded by Whiskey Advocate, Whiskey Magazine and The Whiskey Bible, while the Barrel Proof version was Whiskey Advocate’s 2017 Whisky of the Year. It’s an incredibly dark bourbon, representative of a serious interaction between bourbon and barrel.
Proof: 131 (barrel proof)
Age: 12 years
Tasting Notes: caramel, butterscotch, spice

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

The People’s Champion: Even the widely accessible bourbons on this list cost upward of $80. Wild Turkey’s version goes for around 50 bucks. It’s been around since 1991, a blend of 6-, 8-, and 12-year-old bourbons. Its spiciness follows with Wild Turkey 101s.
Proof: 118 (barrel proof)
Age: 6 – 12 years
Tasting Notes: spice, rye, pepper, oak

George T Stagg

Dream Bottle: Much like Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. — more on him in a moment — George T. Stagg was not known as a great distiller or blender, but rather a salesman. He’d be happy to see a bourbon with his name on it that goes for upward of $800, if it can be found. But inflated as its price may be, this is truly a dream bottle for collectors, fawned over by experts worldwide: winner of Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible World Whiskey of the year from 2004 to 2006, and second in 2012, it was awarded three golds and three double gold medals by the San Francisco World Spirits Competition from 2006 to 2012.
Proof: 124.9 (barrel proof)
Age: 15 years
Tasting Notes: rye, coffee, fudge, dates, dark berries

Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof

Gentle Giant: Colonel Taylor was a benefactor of sorts for the bourbon industry in the 19th century — first as a banker and then as a modernizer of distilling equipment at what today is Buffalo Trace. The standard E. H. Taylor, Jr. bottle and the small-batch version are both bottled-in-bond without an age statement, which means they are at least four years old; the Barrel Proof version also has no age statement. All three use the distillery’s ubiquitous “mash bill no. 1,” shared with a number of other bottles, including Buffalo Trace and Stagg Jr.; get your hands on all three and you can compare how different barrels and proofs make for drastically different bourbons.
Proof: 125 (barrel proof)
Age: NAS
Tasting Notes: vanilla, citrus, plum

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength

Wheated Winner: There are few barrel-proof bourbons on the market that use wheat rather than rye. When Maker’s Mark Cask Strength was introduced in 2014, it gave wheated bourbon fans their first crack at a reasonably priced, widely available option. The home-run version for high-proof wheated bourbons is William Larue Weller, which is closer to 130 proof, wins loads of awards but it also costs an arm and a leg. Maker’s Mark is bottled at a much lower proof, which helps balance its sweetness, spice and alcohol heat.
Proof: 111.3 (varies)
Age: NAS
Tasting Notes: cherries, cinnamon, vanilla, dark fruit, molasses

The Best Bourbon Whiskeys You Can Buy

Everything you ever wanted to know about America’s favorite brown spirit, including, of course, the best bottles you can actually buy. Read the Story

These Are the 5 Best American Whiskeys, According to More Than 50 Experts

Only five American whiskeys were won golds at this year’s International Spirit Challenge, most of which are surprisingly available. The 23rd year of the competition, which wrapped earlier this week, featured its usual rigorous blind tasting judging process as well as entrants from more than 70 countries around the world (they judge far more than just whiskey). These five award winners took home the highest honor for individual bottles and, for the most part, can be found at spirits stores nationwide.

Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

This is not the 10-year variety of Eagle Rare’s first award. It’s not even its 10th or 20th. Going back to its gold in the very same competition in 2003, this Buffalo Trace umbrella brand’s bottle has been storming spirit competitions since it first landed on the scene. Eagle Rare 10-year took gold in the Straight Bourbon 10 years old and under category, one of three American whiskeys to do so.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength

“This is Maker’s Mark Bourbon in all its glory.” That’s how the brand describes its award-winning high proof bourbon. Since its released a few years back, the cask strength bottle has raked in a consistent flow of excellent reviews and is fairly available nationwide. The Maker’s Mark bottle was another American whiskey winner in the Straight Bourbon 10 years old and under subcategory.

Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The only American whiskey to steal a gold in the Single Barrel Bourbon category is another distiller in Buffalo Trace’s portfolio, and is similarly used to taking home big time awards — best bourbon whiskey multiple times over at the International Whisky competition and best bourbon at the World Whiskies Awards. This bottle will run you $100 or more and has a long, tobacco-laden finish.

Kentucky Owl Rye #1

The gold for American Straight Rye Whiskey went to a semi-expected favorite. Kentucky Owl’s #1 Rye Whiskey release was the highest scoring whiskey in Whiskey Advocate’s summer 2018 archives, where it was described about as complex as can be: “Long, rounded notes of caramel, cinnamon roll, taffy, butterscotch, brisket burnt ends, nutmeg, Jamaican jerk, plum pudding, ginger, light sassafras, root beer, roasted marshmallow, cotton candy, orange peel, raw honey, and pie crust.”

1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The last of the gold Straight Bourbon 10 years old and under winners is a different bottle from the same distillery that claimed Best Bourbon Whiskey at the World Whiskies Awards earlier this year (for the second year in a row, mind you). Its Small Batch variation is more affordable, lower proof and has been pulling golds, double golds and “bests” since 2010.

The 12 Best Cigars to Smoke in 2018

To novices, smoking a cigar can be more intimidating than fun. This definitive guide to the best cigars of 2018 covers everything you need to know before you buy your next cigar, including basic etiquette, know-how and a breakdown of best cigars across different price points and flavor profiles.

Prefer to skip directly to the picks? Click here.

The Short List

Best Cigar for Beginners: Nat Sherman Sterling Series

An approachable, balanced, and affordable cigar with fantastic construction. A prime example of the pleasant nuance of a Connecticut wrapper.
Tasting Notes: Connecticut wrappers impart a creamy, buttery flavor, with notes of cocoa, wood, and toasted bread. This cigar in particular is the perfect pairing with a cup of coffee.
Filler: Dominican
Binder: Dominican
Wrapper: Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut
Price: $132+, box of 10

Best Cigar for the Money: Davidoff White Label Short Perfecto

The quality of the tobacco here is extremely high, and it’s a benchmark of construction. It’s smaller than other Davidoff cigars, meaning it won’t won’t break the bank, and it is an excellent example of a mild-bodied cigar that’s still rich and complex.
Tasting Notes: Starts with hay and buttery smoke, transitioning into earthiness and even a touch of pepper spice in its final third.
Filler: Dominican Republic
Binder: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut
Price: $18+

Best Cigar for Special Occasions: Illusione Epernay

This box-pressed cigar was designed to cater to the European profile — it’s milder than many Americans prefer — and it was named for the famous Champagne region. Just like a bottle of bubbly, it might be best saved for special celebratory moments.
Tasting Notes: Distinct floral notes give way to honey, coffee and cedar.
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Corojo, Nicaragua
Price: $230+, box of 25

The Best Bourbon Whiskeys You Can Buy in 2018

Everything you ever wanted to know about America’s favorite brown spirit, including, of course, the best bottles you can actually buy. Read the Story

Introduction

T

o novices, smoking a cigar — hell, just venturing into a local cigar store to buy one — can feel more daunting than fun. The mechanics of properly smoking one (how to draw without inhaling?) don’t come naturally. Faux pas (when to ash the thing?) abound. And then there’s the basic question of which cigar, in a room stuffed with boxes of the things, to buy.

You’re not imagining it: cigar smoking is full of tradition, ritual and enigma. The good news, says Pierre Rogers, is that cigar smokers form a natural, welcoming community — acolytes not just to the rolled leaf, but to lighting them up together.

Cigar smoking is full of tradition, ritual and enigma. The good news is that cigar smokers form a natural, welcoming community.

Community is Rogers’s purview. He’s the founder of PuroTrader, the world’s largest peer-to-peer cigar trading platform, hosted in an online service that also includes community-created cigar ratings, forums and blog posts. Rogers created the service as a searchable e-humidor for collectors after discovering that someone had stolen a single cigar out of a prized box he’d been saving for over a decade. “Initially, we set out to create a way for every collector for free to build an online humidor — a way to catalog their own collection, take notes on each cigar, and then make it searchable. You could log on and look at anybody’s humidor, anywhere in the world. The inevitable conclusion to that was, ‘You got something I want — how do we make that happen?’” he says.

The service’s soul rests upon this shared community. “It’s the best community in the world,” Rogers says. “No offense to wine guys or Scotch guys. But to my knowledge, cigar guys are the only guys in the world that do cigar bombs” — when a random stranger sends the greatest cigars they can get ahold of, with the expectation only of “paying it forward” to the next unwitting smoker. “If anybody’s ever been out smoking cigars, there’s a good chance they’ve met some random stranger, and there’s a good chance that person has just straight up given them a random cigar. It’s happened to me a ton of times. You don’t saunter up to the bar and someone hands you a Macallan 21. But with cigars, it happens commonly.”

So while curious amateurs can certainly learn the hobby on their own, there’s a great chance their local cigar shop is full of resident smokers willing to help out — and, barring that, they can be found online with a few strokes of the keyboard. It won’t take long to immerse themselves in all of the other great things about cigar smoking: the craftsmanship of the cigar itself, more authentic conversation, and even what Rogers calls the “forced meditation” that comes with taking the time to sit down and take some deep, slow draws of fragrant smoke.

Still, a baseline of knowledge will help you focus on those pleasures and making new friends, rather than discerning the difference between a V cut and a straight cut. So I asked Rogers to give me a rundown of cigar etiquette and basic knowledge, along with the cigars he loves most, across a range of prices and through the common categories of mild-, medium-, and full-bodied. Consider them a good starting place to figure out what you like and don’t like.

Cigar Terms to Know

Wrapper: The single leaf that literally wraps the outside of the cigar. It imparts around 60 percent of the cigar’s final flavors. Its flavors have to do with its country of origin, the way it’s grown (in the sun or shaded) and the type of tobacco plant. Different examples include Connecticut, maduro, claro and oscuro.

Filler: The innermost leaves rolled within a cigar, almost always a blend of different types of leaves.

Binder: The tobacco that helps hold a cigar together. It must be the strongest leaf in a cigar, but also imparts flavor.

Ring Gauge: The diameter of a cigar, measured by sixty-fourths of an inch. The bigger the ring gauge, the bigger the diameter.

Head/Cap: The end of a cigar that is cut and put in your mouth. Make sure not to cut off the entire cap, which will unravel the wrapper.

Foot: The end of a cigar that is lit. Smell this end before lighting to get a whiff of all the tobacco inside.

Strength and Body: Are not the same. The strength of a cigar has to do with how powerfully its nicotine affects the smoker; the body has to do with the impact of the cigar’s flavors in the mouth, its mouthfeel, and its overall richness.

A cigar’s wrapper imparts around 60 percent of the cigar’s final flavors. Its flavors have to do with its country of origin, the way it’s grown (in the sun or shaded), and the type of tobacco plant.

How to Smoke a Cigar

Step 1: Cut the cigar.

“Before you light it, you’ve got to cut it. The trick with a cut is when you look at any cigar, any shape, you can see where the roller has rolled an extra cap line between the wrapper of the cigar and head of the cigar. When you cut, you want to cut just above that line. You’re only removing the cap. You’re not cutting into the wrapper. If you cut into the wrapper, i.e. you cut a little too much off of the top, it will start to unravel and fall apart in your mouth. There are several different kinds of cuts: A straight cut is the classic way to do it.” — Pierre Rogers

Step 2. Toast the foot.

“[Use] a match or a butane lighter. You want to use the heat, not the flame. You want the cigar to be a quarter inch to an inch above the flame, and you want to toast the foot of that cigar. Rotate the cigar and toast. You should be literally toasting it. Browning just the edges, just barely. Don’t get any char or flame on the wrapper. — Pierre Rogers

Step 3: Draw and rotate.

“Once it’s evenly toasted, still using just the heat, draw and rotate. That should only take a moment to light it if you’ve properly toasted it, since the cigar is primed to make that happen. The different types of tobacco in there are meant to be smoked in a linear fashion; you don’t want a third of the bottom to be lit, because then you’re only tasting that one piece, and destroying the profile. Another obvious but overlooked tip: when using a match to light, let the head burn off, and only use the stick of wood to light the cigar. Allow the sulfur head to dissipate, because you don’t want to pull any of that into the cigar.” — Pierre Rogers

Step 4: Keep the cherry cool.

“One of my tips about maximizing the enjoyment of any cigar, cheap or expensive, new or old, is to keep the cherry cooler. You do that by taking long, slow, easy draws on the cigar. Don’t take short pulls where you heat up that cherry. That’s a way to create acidity, acridness, and a burnt carbon taste. — Pierre Rogers

Step 5: Taste the cigar.

“Allow the smoke to come into your palate from the tip of your tongue, front to back and side to side. You don’t want to push all that smoke out too rapidly. Just gently exhale the smoke. Obviously, with cigars, you’re not inhaling. It’s just for the flavor. So think about how that flavor hits your tongue. Start with the basic ones. Is it salty? Sweet? Bitter? Sour? Those are basics. We tend to all agree on those things. — Pierre Rogers

Step 6: Ash the Cigar

“The best way to do it is a light touch on the bottashtray ash tray, and roll the cigar to let the ash fall off. The real reason you do it is to control the temperature of the cherry, the lit part. You want to keep it well lit but cool. There’s a perfect ratio. If you don’t smoke your cigar fast enough, because there are no additives in a cigar, it’ll go out. The cherry gets too cool. However if you start puffing away on it, and the cherry becomes really bright, it becomes bitter and acrid, and you don’t want that. So there’s this balance that you’re always trying to strike between keeping your cherry fully lit but as cool as possible.” — Pierre Rogers

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Best Mild Cigars


“A mild cigar is similar to a great cup of coffee with a touch of half and half in it,” Rogers says. “It’s warm and rich, but it’s also soft and very approachable.” According to him, the best examples come from the Dominican Republic; they also tend to have a Connecticut wrapper, which is golden and light in color. “The flavor tends to be very subtle and soft,” Rogers says. “No sharp edges, no bitterness. Something that on a fresh palate with nothing in your stomach you can really enjoy, and it won’t disrupt your day. That’s what a great mild cigar is to me.”

Nat Sherman Sterling Series

Most Approachable Mild Cigar: An approachable, balanced, and affordable cigar with fantastic construction. “They do a great job with all the finesse that goes into it — the branding, packaging, and the nuance of the cigar itself — and at a very reasonable price point,” Rogers says. It’s a prime example of the pleasant nuance of a Connecticut wrapper.
Tasting Notes: Connecticut wrappers impart a creamy, buttery flavor, with notes of cocoa, wood, and toasted bread. This cigar in particular is the perfect pairing with a cup of coffee.
Filler: Dominican
Binder: Dominican
Wrapper: Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut
Price: $132+, box of 10

Davidoff White Label Short Perfecto

Best Short Smoke: “Davidoff is the Mercedes-Benz of cigars,” Rogers says. That means high quality — at a high price. The quality of the tobacco inside is extremely high, and it’s a benchmark of construction. But this smaller cigar won’t break the bank, and it is an excellent example of a mild-bodied cigar that’s still rich and complex.
Tasting Notes: It starts with hay and buttery smoke, transitioning into earthiness and even a touch of pepper spice in its final third.
Filler: Dominican Republic
Binder: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut
Price: $18+

Foundation Highclere Castle

Best Mild Yet Complex Blend: Nicholas Melillo, the founder of Foundation Cigar Company, hails from “the great state of Connecticut.” That means he has a great appreciation for the light-colored wrapper that bears the Connecticut name, and the creamy smoke it produces. The Highclere Castle uses Nicaraguan filler and Brazilian binder to add complexity to the mild flavors.
Tasting Notes: Creamy, with pepper, citrus, and leather.
Filler: Nicaragua
Binder: Brazil
Wrapper: Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut
Price: $216+, box of 20

Best Medium Cigars


An increase in the body of the cigar has a lot to do with with how its smoke feels in your mouth. “Is there an oiliness there? A richness?” Rogers asks. “Wine people call it mouthfeel, and it’s no different with cigars.” Medium cigars are what most people end up smoking — they’re a great middle ground. “It provides enough strength that can be paired nicely with everything from a coffee to a bourbon. Flavors tend to be richer, the mouthfeel warmer and oilier. The smoke tends to be denser and richer,” Rogers says.

Illusione Epernay

Best Box-Pressed Cigar: “This is a fantastic box pressed cigar,” Rogers says, indicating its squared-off shape from quite literally being pressed into a box. It was designed to cater to the favored European profile — milder than Americans prefer — and named for the famous Champagne region. And just like a bottle of bubbly, it might be best saved for special celebratory moments.
Tasting Notes: Distinct floral notes give way to honey, coffee and cedar.
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Corojo, Nicaragua
Price: $230+, box of 25

Tatuaje Tattoo Series

Best Spicy Cigar: Founder Pete Johnson and master blender Don ‘Pepin’ Garcia are well respected for making cigars that consistently receive high scores from reviewers. The secret may be “Cuban-esque” flavors, stemming from Cuban-seed Nicaraguan-grown tobacco.
Tasting Notes: More spice and pepper than other medium-bodied cigars, though it also features cocoa, sweet cream and cedar notes.
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Habano, Ecuador
Price: $146+, box of 50

Camacho BG Meyer Gigantes

Best Big Stick: Part of a bolder series of cigars made by Camacho, the Gigantes is a play on the 6-inch by 54-inch cigar format, with a large ring gauge. But bigger cigars aren’t necessarily more intense: a larger size means more airflow and less density of the tobacco.
Tasting Notes: Grassy and earthy, with subtle spice, mocha, woodiness, and a berry sweetness.
Binder: Brazil
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Habano,
Price: $33+, pack of five

Padron 1926 Series

Best Mellow Smoke: Padron is a beloved cigar-making institution, founded by Jose Orlando Padron, a Cuban refugee living in Miami, in 1964. The 1926 series is their most limited, and the natural wrapper version (as opposed to the darker, pungent maduro) is a mellow, smooth smoke.
Tasting Notes: Caramel sweetness, a cedar-y tang, and notes of black and cayenne pepper.
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Natural, Nicaragua
Price: $56+, pack of four

Ashton ESG

Most Balanced Smoke: While Ashton is generally thought of as an entry-level cigar, the ESG (Estate Sun Grown) jacks up the price tag. “Because of that high cost, it doesn’t get fair press,” Rogers says. Its sun-grown wrapper (as opposed to the more common shade-grown) creates a more oily, pungent leaf.
Tasting Notes: Oily nuts, leather, earth and cedar, with a light, creamy smoke.
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Sun-grown, Dominican Republic
Price: $20+

Best Full-Bodied Cigars


Full-bodied cigars can go in a few different directions, particularly, becoming spicy. “You can have a few different kinds of spice,” Rogers says. “A white pepper, black pepper, or even a cayenne pepper.” Those larger flavors can hold their own against a steak dinner or a peaty Scotch. “But the key here remains balance. Strength is not flavor. When you smoke that cigar, you want the palate to be full of flavor. Rich, complex. That’s what makes a great full cigar — not the strength,” Rogers says.

Arturo Fuente Anejo

Best Cognac Barrel-Aged Cigar: In 1998, the OpusX’s downfall was to cigar smokers’ benefit: After Hurricane Georges created a shortage of wrapper tobacco, the brand switched to Connecticut broadleaf maduro wrapper aged in Cognac barrels, and the Anejo was born. The OpusX returned, of course, but the Anejo stuck around, treasured for the sweetness that wrapper layered atop the spicy, robust binder and filler.
Tasting Notes: Cognac, oily sweetness, butter and nuts.
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf aged in Cognac barrels, America
Price: $10+

Padron Series 3000 Maduro

Best Maduro Cigar: Padron grows its own maduro wrappers rather than sourcing them, then wraps them around long-aged Nicaraguan binder and filler. The result is one of the most balanced full-bodied cigars around.
Tasting Notes: A “barnyard” earthiness that gives way to cocoa sweetness and oily nuttiness.
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Price: $7+

Ashton VSG

Best Affordable Full-Bodied Cigar: This is Rogers’s pick for an affordable, full-bodied cigar, with plenty of flavor and solid construction despite Ashton’s entry-level price. Its bold flavors are thanks in part to a sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper that’s oily and rich.
Tasting Notes: Cedar, espresso, and dark chocolate.
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Sun-grown, Ecuador
Price: $12+

Fuente Fuente OpusX

Best Collector’s Cigar: When it was released in 1995, the OpusX proved that Dominican-grown, Cuban-seed tobacco could be the best in the industry. Ever since its release, it’s been considered one of the best full-bodied cigars on the market, and is a collector’s favorite.
Tasting Notes: Cayenne pepper and leather.
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Dominican Republic
Price: $13+

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5 Travel Essentials Tumi’s Creative Director Doesn’t Leave Home Without

For frequent flyers, travel is simply endured. And those that do it best know how to dodge (or at least limit) its negatives — jet lag, loud children, lost luggage, boredom. Victor Sanz, Creative Director for Tumi, has made dampening the blow of these trials his trade.

The products he designs are simple in form but absurdly specific. Tumi’s luggage makes use of tracking software in case your bag is lost or stolen, a patented (and very proprietary) ballistic nylon material, a zipper redesigned to make jams all but eliminated, the exclusive use of one of the world’s strongest thermoplastics and more. Tumi and Sanz aim to make luxury not for luxury’s sake, but for utility and longevity.

On top of being involved in every step of product design and development, Sanz, as you’d guess, does a fair bit of traveling himself. Here’s the gear he doesn’t leave home without.

Pilot Razor Point II Pen & Tombow ABT Paint Markers



“I tend to shop at different levels and I don’t limit myself to only high fashion or what’s of the moment. Over the years I’ve been editing my kit and I found that these two tools have become the easiest and quickest for me.”

Moleskine Sketchbook



“It’s always by my side. I’m constantly getting inspired and it becomes my diary, notebook, and place to keep my ideas.”

Apple AirPods



“I aim to carry as little as possible when I travel without sacrificing the tools I need. [AirPods] are very convenient and take up such little space — perfect for when I’m on the go. Music is also integral to my creative process so being able to be on the go without wires is key.”

Persol Foldable Sunglasses



“They are timelessly chic and fantastic for traveling. Also, jet lag is a real thing and having a good pair of shades always seems to assist with recovery.”

TUMI International Carry-On (in Silver)



“When I’m not traveling with a new prototype or design, our 19 Degree International Aluminum Carry-On has become a staple in my travel routine. It never fails me.”