The Rodrigo Box


George Rodrigo of Rodrigo Cigars has released a sampler box, 5 cigars of his own blend. George was kind enough to send me one of these samplers and I’m going to review them one by one here. When all 5 are finished, I will link the separate reviews into this post.

Alas none of these cigars is for sale! George sent these samplers out to his customers for feedback. He tells me he will look into producing one or two that his customers like best.

Here are the reviews. Along with the link I’m going to put my bottom line!

  1. Arapiraca Ecuador Claro (not very good).
  2. Sumatra Ecuador Piramide (fantastic!!!)
  3. San Andreas Mexican Robusto (good but not fantastic)
  4. Habana, Dominican Puro (lots of Dominican twang if you like it)
  5. Corojo Fino, Dominican Puro (good but not fantastic)

That’s it, I have completed the Rodrigo Box! 4 out of 5 cigars had perfect construction! All of them were slow smokers lasting a long time. A great experience. Appreciate George sending these to me.

Why Smoke Cigars

Picture of me blowing smoke


I get asked this question a lot, of course by people who do not smoke cigars. Even cigarette smokers do not “get it”, though pipe smokers mostly do. In trying to answer this question here, that is where I live on the once flower-powered central California coast, I find the answer that elicits the most comprehension is one that compares cigars to wines. They have a lot in common.

Why to people become wine aficionados (technically known as oenophiles)? Well, of course there is alcohol which makes you high, but people who take their wine seriously are not drinking to get drunk. If they were, there are far cheaper wines and of course beers, than the ones they are getting from specialty liquor stores, tasting rooms, and wine clubs. The same is true for cigars. There are lots and lots of cheap, machine rolled cigars having plenty of nicotine. If a smoker is looking for that, there are easier and less expensive ways to get it than by smoking more expensive, hand made, boutique cigars. In both cases, something more is going on.

Wine comes from grapes, a natural product grown on vines in fields. Cigars are made from tobacco, another natural product grown in fields. Grapes are crushed and filtered. Cigar leaf is hung in airy barns to “cure” which is to dry them a bit. Grape juice is fermented into new wine, more or less of the sugars in the grape juice are converted into alcohol. The new wine is then put into barrels under climate controlled conditions to age. It is in this step that all of the various flavor compounds one tastes in wines are produced as the wood of the barrels, the little bit of air that gets through the wood, and time itself works its magic creating hundreds of different molecules that were never present in the original grape juice. The barrel aging can take from one to several years. After curing, cigar leaf is fermented. This is a different sort of fermentation than for wine. No alcohol is produced, but sugars and many other compounds in the tobacco leaf are turned into many many other compounds, potentially hundreds of them. Wine fermentation is a short process, a few days. Most of wine’s flavor compounds are produced in the aging step. Cigar fermentation takes place in big cubical piles called pilons and takes not days but months. Most of tobacco’s flavor compounds are produced in this step as are, alas, most of its carcinogenic compounds.

After barrel aging some wines are bottled, but just as frequently, aged wine from various barrels is blended with wine from other barrels. These wine in these additional barrels might be of a different age, type of grape, or both. The blends are then further aged in barrels to allow their different components to meld and produce yet more flavor compounds. Cigar leaf is taken from the pilons, sorted, and rolled into cigars by combining leaf types in various blends. Sometimes before this step it is left to age in big bales for months and in rare cases years. Rolled and blended cigars are then left for a few months (again sometimes years) in climate controlled rooms where there various tobaccos further meld their flavors.

Lots of parallels here. Vintners decide how to blend their wines to achieve various flavor profiles. Much of the time they do not know exactly how they will come out, but as long as the results are complex and taste good they succeed. The cigar world has its own version of the vintner, the blend designer who decides what proportion of what sort of leaf goes into a finished cigar. Like the vintner, they do not always know exactly how things will come out, but as long as they achieve a good tasting product with a complex flavor profile, they have succeeded. So both wines and cigars have many things in parallel, and enjoying a finely crafted cigar is much like enjoying a well made wine and the parallels do not end there, for of course besides flavors there are the aromas of both. Wine flavors are described in terms of fruits, sweetness, tannins, and flavor products of the barrel, oak, other wines, even sometimes “tobacco flavors”. Cigar flavors can range in many directions from sweet nuttiness, to vegetal, leathers, chocolate, coffee, fruit and many more. As with the wines, these are not full on flavors. A wine doesn’t taste like cherry juice, but rather might carry hints of cherry. Similarly, a cigar doesn’t taste like a mouth full of roasted mushroom or pecan, but only suggest hints of such flavors.

Besides the creation of cigars and wine there are a other parallels. Cigar smokers often buy boxes of cigars. Some are smoked soon after purchase and some are put away in humidors for months or even years. As cigars age in appropriate conditions (see my humidification articles)  their flavors continue to evolve and enjoying those changes is very much a part of the cigar smoking hobby. Oenophiles buy cases of a favorite wine and store bottles in climate controlled conditions opening a bottle every few months to see how they are coming along. Like cigars in a good humidor, wines continue to evolve in their closed bottles. There is some luck and judgement involved in this. Not every wine ages well for years and the same is true for cigars. But this is much less the case for whiskeys and rums.  A sealed bottle of whiskey sitting in reasonable conditions (mostly not too hot or cold) will taste pretty much the same when opened a year or even 5 years down the line. I suppose there is some evolution of flavor over many years, but I do not know of any whiskey/rum drinkers who put cases of their favorites away for decades.

Of course there are also aspects of cigar smoking that have no parallel in wine drinking and those would have mostly to do with construction. After all pouring one wine into a glass is pretty much like pouring any other wine into a glass, but cigars have to be elaborately and (one hopes) expertly constructed so that they deliver their flavors without being clogged or burning unevenly. An ounce of wine is an ounce of wine, but two different cigars of exactly the same size and shape can deliver the goods over widely varying times. I have some 4″ cigars that smoke as long as some 5″ cigars and that doesn’t mean either is bad, only that how the cigar is constructed and the types of tobacco used make for those differences. Similarly, most wines are blended to finish up in the bottle at 12% alcohol by volume. By contrast, depending on the tobacco used the amount of nicotine delivered by a cigar can vary greatly.

So no, the parallels between wine and cigar appreciation are not exact, but there are enough of them so that any wine aficionado should be well able to understand why it is that people who know, enjoy cigars! Once the parallels are understood, the reasons for smoking cigars are as similar and varied as reasons for enjoying wine. One builds up an expertise in the subject from pure experience. It is a hobby and as such relaxing. Then of course there are the pleasures of the aromas and flavors. It’s all in what you like, and what you like grows with experience. The Next time someone asks why you smoke cigars, tell them about wine!

Rum Review: Foursquare 2004 and Port Cask Finish

Rum Review: Foursquare 2004 and Port Cask Finish

As in some other paired reviews done here, these two rums share a family resemblance. They are from the same Foursquare distillery in Barbados. It is possible that the family resemblance stems from the same feed stock and stills. What distinguishes these is the aging process and also the final ABV. The 2004 is offered at 59% ABV and spends 11 years in American Bourbon casks. The Port Cask comes in at 40% ABV. It spends 3 years in bourbon casks and then another 6 in barrels previously used to age Spanish Port. At least one other review of these points out that both rums are unadulterated (no added sugar) and the port barrels used for the Port Cask started out dry, without any port sloshing around. Both are “honest rums” whose distinct flavors and aromas come from the genuine care taken in distillation and aging under conditions conducive to their exceptional development.

foursquarepcprisma-jpg  First opened was the “Port Cask”. The label here, as with that of the 2004, is one of the nicer I’ve seen; not for art’s sake, but for the information it conveys about the rum including its age, barrel number, and a firm declaration that nothing has been added to this rum. A heavy wax seal concealed a metal screw cap.

Pouring, it is a medium dark amber shading to red. Swirled it produced tiny tiny beads that take forever to form into legs of varying thickness that slowly at first, and then more quickly drop into the liquid. Aroma is marvelous. There is so much in here. Just a little alcohol, fruit like apricot, orange, grape, raisin, and banana. There is a little vanilla, brown sugar, and a little burnt caramel. There is even a hint of funkiness like the dominant note in Pusser’s or Appleton 12, but it is barely there. None of these is overwhelming they all seem balanced and available to the nose. The smell is sweet, I almost didn’t want to taste it for fear of spoiling the effect.

But I did take a sip. My first impression was “Wow! This might be the finest rum I’ve ever had!” Some days and a few glasses later I remain convinced of it. This doesn’t mean it will replace some of my best cigar pairing libations like the Dos Maderas 5+5, Barbancourt 5-Star, or my Mocambo 20 year, but as goes the quality and sophistication of the drink I think this one takes the prize at least if you like a fairly dry spirit. Like the aromas, there are a lot of flavors in this one, but they all come with a light touch that lets you tease them out one by one. Both bright and dark fruit are present as is a little burnt brown sugar and vanilla. There is a hint of coffee too. The funk I thought I sensed on the nose does not appear on the palate. The rum is slightly creamy and most interesting of all, despite the dry notes up front there is a distinct fruit-sugary sweetness on the long aftertaste. How do they do that? The swallow is smooth but with a little more fire than I find in most of my 40% ABV rums and this effect is probably due to the absence of added sugar.

foursquareallcomposite-jpg  I opened the 2004 a few days after the Port Cask and have had a few glasses. A bottle identical to that of the Port Cask, same style label, and same metal screw cap — though this time without the thick wax seal. Color in the glass is almost the same as the Port Cask, perhaps a slight shade lighter. That difference must be the port casks because the 2004 offering is aged two more years for a total of 11 in bourbon’d oak. Swirled in the glass the rum makes fast but thick legs that quickly coalesce as they run. The aroma is a little thin carrying hints of caramel and brown sugar, vanilla and perhaps raisen. Some sharpness of alcohol comes through but surprisingly lightly considering the ABV, a nod to the aging time.

At 59% ABV this is a kick-ass rum. Other reviews tell me that this is not an “overproof” rum, but a genuine from-the-cask bottling the blender thought worked well at this ABV. As high in alcohol as it is, this rum can be sipped neat. One can feel the smoothness of the aged spirit even as one also notices the fire that comes up as you swallow it. That it can be sipped this way is a testament to its fine pedigree. Even at full strength it has a little creaminess and there are flavors melded into the alcohol but they are hard for me to tease out. Of all my spirits this is the only one I’ve discovered that stands up to added water without tasting like a diluted spirit. I found that about 1/4 teaspoon in a dram (1.5 oz) glass not only cuts the heat (only a bit) but enhances flavors. In particular, I get apricot, green grape, raisen, vanilla, and caramelized brown sugar in the flavors once a little water goes in. I remind myself to try this rum with an ice cube on the next warm day around here.

A quick calculation tells me that my 0.25 t-spoon brings the ABV down by only 3%. Not much but it makes a big difference in the flavors that come out of the rum.

As goes cigars I have nothing much to report. I’ve had only a few glasses of each of these bottles now and so paired them with but a few cigars. So far nothing stands up and shouts “great pairing” at me, but of course all the combinations have been enjoyable.

Neither of these rums will appeal to you if you like the sweeter stuff, even the moderately sweeter stuff. Both are dry up front with a tickle of sweetness. The Port Cask is distinctly sweet in its aftertaste, while the 2004 is less so but adding some water brings the sweetness out. Even undiluted it avoids the bitterness that comes up at the end of a swallow for some rums.

In my rum journey I have transitioned very far from the sweeter offerings I enjoyed early on (Atlantico, Papa’s Pilar, Diplomatico R.E. and others) to much drier rums. These two from Foursquare are exceptionally good. I think the flavors in the Port Cask are a little more fulfilling, but the 2004 is a grand example of superb refinement in rum. At roughly $40 the Port Cask is exceptional. At $70 the 2004 is of course more expensive, and more subtle version of the Port Cask.


Cigar Review: Rodrigo Corona Project


You have no doubt noticed I’ve smoked a lot of cigars from George Rodriguez of Rodrigo Cigars! I think I stumbled on George about a year ago while looking for “Leaf by Oscar” lanceros. George usually has them in all 3 or 4 of their wrappers (I’ve bought bundles of the maduro, Corojo, and Sumatra) and he often has them at a generous discount. Indeed, his frequent discounts (and always free shipping on orders of $50 or more) have kept me coming back to his online store, and now besides the Leafs and several boxes of Padilla Reserva San Andres, I’ve been smoking his “house blends”. He did a clever thing sometime back, he sent me a free sampler of 5 of his experimental blends. One of those cigars was fantastic, one of the best I’ve ever smoked (see my review of the collection here), three were pretty good, and one not so much. None of those blends are in production, but the samples did tell me that George knows how to blend a good cigar.

The “Corona Project” is George’s top of the line production house blend. It comes at a top of the line retail price of $9.50/stick, but I got mine for $7.75 thanks to being on his mailing list and seeing one of those frequent discounts come along. I’ve also reviewed George’s Fortaleza Absoluto also good and retailing at around the $7 mark before any discount.

This is a classic corona, 6″x43 with a pigtail cap and closed foot. The filler is an all ligero blend of Dominican Criollo 98, Corojo, and HVA (Honduran maybe?). The binder is Sumatra Ecuador, and the wrapper a maduro broadleaf US Connecticut! Each cigar is aged for a year before release.

The cold aroma of the cigar is dominated by manure and barnyard, but there is something unusual here, a sort of smokey aroma I remember from unlit black Latakia pipe tobacco. I haven’t smoked a pipe in 30 years, but the aroma of that tobacco is very distinct and it came back to me immediately. Cold taste is a little salty with hay and flower notes. Construction seems great. I can trace the wrapper seam and there are some veins. The pack is firm and very even. This is not a super dense cigar but it isn’t lightly packed either.

On initial light the cigar is only mildly peppered. By the last couple of inches, the pepper is dominant, especially in the retrohale. Flavors flit in and out throughout the stick. There is a sweet woodiness, leather, hay from time to time, lots of roasted nut and sometimes a sweet mintiness. The retrohale is particularly rich in the nut aromas, sweet flowers, and some warm baking spices like nutmeg. Draw was perfect all the way along and never needs any correction. I did do a minor burn touch up once in a while, but I do that a lot anyway. Smoke output is great. I’ve smoked three of these now and they have all been consistent. I smoked each down to the last 1/2 inch with smoke time being about 80 minutes. This is a nice slow burning stick.

Is the stick worth a $9.50 retail price? Let me put it this way. If Illusione, Tatuaje, or Roma Craft released this same blend at this price I think they would have a big hit and we would all be raving about it. But competing with many other very fine cigars at this price point is going to be tough for a house blend. There are a lot of great cigars in the $9-$10 retail range that are much better known! George’s ace-in-the-hole are his frequent discounts, so as always I recommend getting on his mailing list and watching for those to come along.

I’ve paired this stick with coffee, a dark rum, and my Elijah Craig bourbon. All go very well.

Cigar Review: Rodrigo Fortaleza Absoluto


A rodrigocigars.com house blend, but George does seem to have a talent for blending. Not that everything is great (see my review of a set of experimental blends he sent me). But I’ve had two of his production house blends now and they’re both very good. This review is of the first of those two blends, the Fortaleza (the blend) Absoluto (the vitola).

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra

Binder: Dominican

Filler: Dominican, Peruvian

Vitola: Classic Corona, 5.5″x43

Cold smell: Manure, barnyard, and something sweet like clove or allspice

Construction very nice. Pack and roll is all even, few visible seams, no veins, draw just right.

The cigar begins with noticeable pepper along with a sweet woodiness, barnyard, and salt. Reminds me a lot of the Asylum Nyctophylia. After a while there is a little leather, cedar, and some sweet sort of mintyness. After a while the draw gets a little tight as the tobacco expands behind the coal. My draw tool takes care of the problem, but I have to re use it a few times along the smoke as this kind of plugging up happens every half inch or so. Smoke is rich, and strongly flavored, Smoke output stays dense throughout, there is a lot of pepper on the retrohale.

In the second third more mint, leather, warm spice, salt and pepper and behind it all a strong sort of rough tobacco flavor, lots of roast vegetal and burning hay notes. Burn is very even and slow. No corrections needed well into the last third.

As the cigar crosses into the last third all the flavor notes are still there, but the pepper comes up more to the front along with hay, especially on the retrohale. I get a brown sugar sort of sweetness but that might be coming up from the Elijah Craig bourbon I’m pairing with this smoke and working very well with it. It does seem that a sweet rich bourbon like this one goes better with this strongly flavored cigar than most of my rums, though of those, the tobacco notes of the Dos Maderas rums work well too.

I have to make my first and only burn correction at about 2″. The cigar stays a solid medium throughout maybe pushing into the full side of medium in the last third. I have smoked 3 of these so far, they have all been good. For $7 regular price this isn’t a bad cigar, but take off 10% or 15% for one of George’s monthly discounts and it becomes a really good and flavorful cigar for the price. I very much recommend getting on George’s mailing list at rodrigocigars.com. His discounts come along once a month or so and he carries a few premium blends (like Leaf, Padilla, and more) at reasonable prices.

I reviewed some of George’s creations over here in the Rodrigo Box, but none of those are available, very limited editions. These Fontalezas are production cigars and so usually available.

Truth and Truthmaking


I recently finished an interesting book of modern philosophy on the subject of my title called “Truth and Truth-Making” (2014), a collection of essays from the 1980’s to 2013 edited by E. J. Lowe and A. Rami. The basic idea reflected in all of these ideas is that “truth” is something born by propositions, and that what gives propositions this property is something in the world independent of human mind. Generally speaking this idea makes sense but there are a few complications because we can find examples of propositions that seem true but do not seem to be connected to anything in the world independent of mind. Various solutions to this come to mind, the simplest of which allow of several kinds (as in categories) of truth-makers some of which are independent of mind, while others are themselves constructs of mind.

So truth here gets little attention which goes, rather, to the relation between truth-bearers (propositions) and truth-makers, something besides the structure of the proposition itself (if applicable) and [mostly] independent of mind, that make the propositions true. Most of the work in this arena is focused on what sorts of things “in the world” are or can be truth-makers, and in exactly what the relation between true propositions and their truth-makers consists. Truth-making, in turn, is a new twist on once popular “correspondence theories” of truth. If “the sky is blue today” is made true by there being a cloudless (unbefouled by pollution) sky above us today, then the proposition is true because its content corresponds to the color of the sky and the color of the sky likewise corresponds to the semantic content of the proposition.

It isn’t clear that this symmetry makes sense. It isn’t obvious that the color of the sky (which after all takes no notice of us) corresponds in any but the most trivial sense (because we say so) to the semantic content of a mental construct. The idea behind the truth-maker idea was that the relation is asymmetrical. The proposition “bears truth” because of the color of the sky (is made true by it), but the proposition, while true, does not make the sky blue. More precisely, the relation is non-symmetrical because the fact of the sky’s color has no particular relation at all to the proposition made true by it.

Propositions having to do with the state of the material world are therefore made true (or not) by the state of the material world. This then excludes “analytic truths” like “bachelors are unmarried men” which is made true by the definition of ‘bachelor’. When we speak of “the state of the material world” (and therefore “synthetic propositions”) we speak of something we call “facts”. Facts can be about various sorts of material states. That “water is H2O” is a proposition made true by a state of the world that has been a fact since recombination 340,000 years after the big bang, and will presumably remain true (subject to the evolution of natural law) for billions of years to come. By contrast, that “Mars, Earth, and the sun aligned on April 8, 2014” is made true by the fact of an alignment on that date, while the proposition that Mars, Earth, and the sun align approximately every 778 days is made true by the relation between the orbits of Earth and Mars, a state of affairs made true by those orbits since the stabilization of planetary orbits some 4 billion years ago. In each one of these cases, it is some fact that makes the proposition true. This can be restated as the proposition “expressing a fact”. Substances and processes entangled with the physical world can all be construed as facts. “John exists” is a fact if John is in the world at the time of the utterance. “There exists a John” is a fact if any person (or perhaps animal) named John exists.

Truth makers are of minimal and maximal sorts. The maximal types are typically less interesting because they are less specific. The examples given above are minimal truth makers. The state of the whole universe at any given moment is the maximal truth maker for all the facts of the universe in that moment. As such it doesn’t tell us very much. In the most maximal sense, all physical phenomena, even individually, are made true by the state of the entire universe. Every fact is “made true” by those phenomena that belong to it alone, and also by the universe as a whole. Truth-makers are not mutually exclusive. Most often they are nested together, the more minimal inside the more maximal. Notice that it isn’t merely the existence of the universe that makes every true proposition true, but the form of its existence, the way things (which might have been otherwise) actually are. The alignment of Earth and Mars with the sun [roughly] every 778 days is not made true merely by the existence of planetary orbits, but by the specific relation between the orbits of Earth and Mars.

A fact always involves some arrangement of physical substances and processes. In the temporal dimension, facts are “real” in the present. Some facts come into existence (for example that Caesar was assassinated) and then remain true forever more. Caesar was murdered over 2000 years ago, but that he was murdered is still true today. Other facts come to be, remain true for a time, and then cease to be facts. That Matthew is 12 years old was a fact for a year many years past, but is no longer a fact. It remains a fact however that Matthew was once 12 years old. There are not two facts here only two expressions of the same fact viewed in different temporal perspectives. The totality of facts in the universe consists of the past, the history of the universe, and such facts as are made actual, physical arrangements, brought into being in the present in a process of dynamic evolution.

There are philosophers who would say that while facts perhaps were reified in the past, they are real only now, that is in the present. The past is no longer real though it was real. There is only the present, and in the present there are facts that, among other things, can be records (in the present) of events in the past. Either view may be used to connect contingent propositions, facts of history that might have been otherwise, to their truth-makers in physical states-of-affairs. The proposition that “Caesar was assassinated” is made true either by that event more than two thousand years ago, or by present records of that event. That there are such present records is explained by the event’s occurrence in the past plus the further fact that the event was recorded, and the recording has survived to the present. Either way some arrangement of the physical is involved.

What are we to make of the proposition: “more often than not it is better to tell the truth than to lie”. If this is true, something of what we might mean is that the physical out workings of truth telling are on the whole better and those of lying worse most of the time. The qualifier is necessary because there are certainly situations, specific potential arrangements of substances and processes (for example Nazis searching for Jews hidden in your basement) in which it seems that lying results (one is to hope) in far better outcomes. Both the propositions “Often it is better to tell the truth” and “sometimes it is better to lie” can both be true now, in the present, when most realists agree, truth-makers must exist if they exist at all. Significantly, the “better outcomes” referred to are not yet facts. If the proposition bears truth it is because a future corresponds to it, a future having no facticity whatsoever in the present. The truth-maker for this sort of proposition cannot be a physical state-of-affairs because such a state of affairs has not yet occurred. It isn’t yet real.

A more traditional view of truth, one often connected to theism for ontological reasons I discuss in a moment, is that truth is one of a family of universals called “values”, the other members of this family being beauty and goodness. One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, why modern philosophy has mostly abandoned an examination of truth as such and turned to talk of truth-making and truth-makers is because values, being entirely entities of the mind are both unavailable to third-party investigation (there is no objective accounting for taste in beauty for example) and in addition do not seem amenable to logical clarification (witness the multiplicity of moral theories).

In modern philosophy, where “value talk” is allowed, it is generally assumed that the three values (truth, beauty, and goodness), in addition to being experienced in mind, are also (and merely) “inventions of the mind”. Of course this is controversial. Just how it is that they are inventions, and what they mean for us as rational beings with individual purposes is the core of the modern debate if it is debated at all. But on one side of this debate are those who point out that in the end values can only mean something consistent and universal (that is for all minds) if they are not mere inventions, but come from somewhere. Mind, rather than being an inventor of values, is a detector of values.

It is this conception that leads in the end to some concept of God or proxy for God because human mind, at least, has not been able to grasp any other concept that would reify them! Science does not find these values in its examination of the material world as such. If one says “values come from the gods” (small ‘g’) one has to ask the question “who made the gods and how is it they have such power?”. If values are the result of “a force” (perhaps panpsychism) unsupported by deism or theism, one has to wonder how that quality arises from physics alone and how it comes to be that values are detected specifically and only by persons and not animals who, after all, might have quite sophisticated minds?

Philosophers have been seeking ways to ground values as something more than “mere inventions” but without resorting to theism for a long time. None of the proposed alternatives is without serious problems. One way or another, the only stopping point to the issues raised by the problems ends up being an infinite, personal, and purposeful God who’s character qualities are reflected to human minds by the values. The values constitute our sensitivity (such as it is) to God’s character. Much of this path (and the reason only humans detect values) is covered in two of my books and various other articles in this blog. Here I want to focus on the relation between truth qua value and truth in the modern idea of a property of propositions made so by something in the world.

It will be helpful to summarize what is common to all three values supposing them to be in some sense qualities of God detected by human mind. One supposes God (should he exist) must have qualities. God is said to be spirit and the human detection of values, it is traditionally supposed, is the sum and substance of what we, as limited beings made of meat in a finite universe of purposeless mechanism, can sense of those qualities.

We cannot say what spirit is only that what we can know of it is encompassed by our capacity for values detection. Our detection capacity is not to be taken as the totality of the quality of God’s spirit but only a minimal contact in the same sense as dipping one’s toe into the Pacific Ocean is contact with that ocean. It is precisely that minimal contact necessary and sufficient to qualify us for person-hood (see my “Why Personality“)! Nor should we assume the human capacity to detect values is the best that can be managed in the universe, even among creatures made of meat. It might well be that there are other meat-based creatures in the universe who by the properties of their biology have a natively-richer appreciation for the nature of the same three values. Be that as it may, our own, human, capacity to detect them is what we have, and we must grow our appreciation from our biological starting point as our alien betters must begin from theirs.

Beauty is value as it is detected in the physical world itself. When we use the word ‘beautiful’ literally, we are typically talking about some arrangement of substances we are able to perceive with our physical senses. Goodness is value detected in the acts of persons; value detected in personality as reflected in its actions. It is the acts of persons (and by extension the agents of those acts; the persons themselves) that are good. We might impute goodness to the acts of animals, but animals do not act “for reasons of values”, but only from the constraints of their biology. Goodness reflected in animal actions comes out to fitness, and the goodness (now a metaphor) for fitness, is something recognized only in human mind. This can be seen even more clearly as concerns the state-of-the universe. We might say “it is good that the fine structure constant is what it is or we would not exist”. Here we clearly mean that the fine structure constant’s value is fit for life in the universe as we find it. Clearly it is ourselves, that is human beings, who impute goodness to this measure of fitness. Truth is value not only perceived in mind (as all must be) but as concerns the content (for example beliefs) and judgments of mind. Propositions, after all, are products of mind, and notably products of human mind. As concerns beauty and goodness philosophers have quibbled over the dividing line between humans and animals, but I don’t know of anyone who takes seriously the notion that animals entertain propositions.

The values, being as it were detectable signals of God’s qualities, must be related to one another and must, like the relation between quantum mechanics and general relativity in the physical universe, end up being consistent with one another. Self-consistency, an absolute lack of self-contradiction, must be a quality of an infinite God. The values cannot be inconsistent with one another as they are recognized in their different domains any more than two extant physical phenomenon can be mutually contradictory.

That value propositions have any truth value is controversial in philosophy today, but their truth value is easily accommodated by their relation not to physical states-of-affairs, but to values taken to be qualities of God detectable by human mind. It is in some ways unfortunate that the word ‘truth’ is employed in its meaning as a value, and its being the quality of a proposition. For now I will call the value sense Truth with a capital ‘T’ and the propositional quality truth small ‘t’. So it happens that some sorts of propositions bear truth by their relation to Truth rather than to states-of-affairs. Remember that a truth-maker must be independent of the subjectivity of individual mind. If the values are merely invented in subjective experience they cannot be truth-makers because there is no guarantee that we do not each experience completely different qualities of them. But if value is detected by mind then it is possible for value to serve in the role of truth-maker. Although it is detected only by mind and thus subject to some individual distortion it has, nevertheless, enough shared quality across minds (human minds) to serve as a connection between the proposition and something outside the proposition-conceiving mind.

What does it mean to say that there is a connection between a proposition in mind and Truth conceived as a value detected in mind? As a value, Truth represents or stands for (to the limits of our capacity to detect) some quality of God. To be connected to a value is to be aligned (however incompletely or imperfectly) in some sense with some quality of God. Since God is unified and all his qualities perfectly compliment one another, it amounts to being aligned to some degree with God over-all. This is equally true for beauty and goodness as it is for truth. But as concerns truth the alignment specifically concerns mind and so to the subject matter of propositions, as beauty is to arrangements of particulars in the world (which are also states-of-affairs but truth-making does not preclude there being multiple truth-makers in certain circumstances), and goodness to the acts of persons which also, as it happens bring about various states-of-affairs.

As concerns facts, truth and Truth can come apart. “ISIS has murdered many innocent people” is true on most accounts, but its truth (small ‘t’) does not appear to have anything of goodness or beauty in it. If it is related to God at all it is only indirectly though its connection to a fact. If God exists, then all facts are related to him in a trivial sense because everything must be subsumed under God if he is God though this does not mean that he is personally responsible for them. Actual history has this relation while fantasy history does not. But the truth of a proposition made true by a fact need not have anything good or beautiful about it and its relation to Truth (capital ‘T’) is limited to its being made true by a fact whose actuality is subsumed by him. God apparently permits (at least for a time) much that contravenes his personal will. But Truth conceived as “quality of God” and truth as a property of propositions are not entirely unrelated. In an earlier essay (Process, Substance, Time, and Space) I introduced E. J. Lowe’s “Four Category Ontology”. It will be useful to review that here as it is a structure that works well to explicate the part values play in truth making.

Kind/Type ————- Attributes


Objects ————- Modes/Tropes

Kinds –> Characterized by Attributes, instantiated by objects
Objects –> Characterized by Modes, instantiated by kinds
Attributes –> Exemplified by Objects

We begin with a square. The top two corners are universals, the bottom two particulars. In the lower left corner are “individual substances” normally taken to be material and abstract things of the world both natural and artifactual. Particular planets, stars, dogs, trees, chairs, statues, people, sets and propositions can all serve as particulars. In Lowe’s view there are no “bare particulars”; every one of these objects (concrete or abstract) is a member of one or more “kinds” or “classes” (the upper left corner). My dog, for example is a member of the class “dogs” and also “animals”. Most classes nest wholly within super-classes (like dogs and animals) but this is not always so. A statue made of clay and one made of bronze are both kinds of statues, but one belongs also to the class of bronze artifactual objects while the other belongs to clay artifactual objects. The kinds instantiate global universals (upper right corner) which Lowe calls “attributes”. These globals include such abstract concepts as “color”, “shape”, “size”, “mass”. Taking color as a universal attribute, it is instantiated in classes like “red things”, “blue things”, etc. The last corner (lower right) are individual “modes” (Lowe’s preferred term) or “tropes” As with the classes, these also instantiate universal attributes, but this time as a “particular red”, or a “particular shape”. In turn, the modes are instantiated in the individual substances (back to the lower left corner). An apple has a particular shade of redness, a particular size, and a particular roundness. Particular sets have their members.

There exists a diagonal connection of “exemplification” between the lower left and upper right corners. Particulars exemplify attributes but they do so indirectly. The direct relations are only those represented by the sides of the square. Attributes are instantiated in kinds and modes, while these two are instantiated in particulars; individual substances. In Lowe’s view, only the individual substances “exist” in the sense of being objects in the physical universe. Kinds, attributes, and modes are real only insofar as they are instantiated (the Attributes via their instantiation of kinds and modes) in individual particulars. The class “unicorns” doesn’t exist if there aren’t any unicorns, and the likewise the mode of a size or shape of unicorn horn. There are no uninstantiated kinds, attributes, or modes. Lowe was a realist. Attributes exist (though not as substances) because they are instantiated through classes and modes in real particulars. The classes or kinds are abstractions exemplified by particulars, but the modes are not abstractions. They are real because they inhere in the particulars that instantiate them.

In Lowe’s view, it is the modes that establish most facts (the particular redness of an individual apple, the specific characteristic of Earth’s orbit around the sun) and thus ground the truths of propositions. But there are exceptions. Existence is not taken to be a property like a color or shape. “The [particular] apple exists” is made true by the apple itself, the particular, while “mammals are animals” is made true by the relation between the class (kind) “mammal” and the kind “animal”, in this case that the former is wholely subsumed by the latter.

Values, taken as a whole, i.e., the “qualities of God” to which our minds are sensitive belong to the attributes. These in turn are instantiated in three classes, beauty, goodness, and Truth, and also in modes corresponding to particulars that are beautiful, good, or True. A particular sunset and a particular rose are both beautiful. Each is an instantiation of the class “beauty” and each has its own particular mode or beauty trope. Individual acts are good likewise by being examples of the class and in having their own modes. What about Truth? In contemporary philosophy, truth is taken to be instantiated in (a property of) propositions, that is particular individual propositions. As a group, they are members of the class of propositions and each of the true propositions instantiates some specific “truth mode”. It is here in the particularity of the modes that the truth makers for value propositions are mostly to be located.

The modes ground value propositions in the same way that they ground propositions pertaining to the physical world. But in the case of values, the classes (Truth, beauty, and goodness) are not related in the same way as “animals” are related to “mammals”. They are each a distinct class, beauty being value reflected (to appropriately sensitive minds) in the material world, goodness reflected in the acts of persons, and truth in propositions or statements generally. “There is truth” is not grounded in a particular truth as was the case with existence, but in the presence of the class, while “truth is good” is not grounded in the class as was the case with “mammals are animals” but in the collective universal attribute values.

Classes, attributes, and modes can all have internal relations. Relations between modes often serve as truth makers for propositions about the world. The Earth’s “orbital mode” and Mars’ “orbital mode” are related such that they line up (with the sun) every 778 days. The proposition “Earth and Mars align with the sun every 778 days” is made true by the relation between their two orbital modes. One of the powerful features of Lowe’s ontological scheme is that it fits such different sorts (kinds) of particulars as chairs, statues, and propositions. Using this scheme we can see that truth as a property of propositions and Truth as a quality of God are related in that the truth of a proposition has to do with the modes instantiated by it. In the example above, they are the modes of two orbits and that these two modes are modes of orbits in the actual universe.

Lowe’s ontological scheme thus proves very flexible as concerns both propositions about the physical world and values. As concerns Truth (and truth), both fit nicely in the scheme while the scheme itself connects them or relates them as modes instantiating different universal attributes, the universal “history of the universe” and the universal “qualities of God”.


A Tale of Two Bourbons


I haven’t had a lot of experience with bourbon. I’ve had dozens of rums over some 5+ years, but I’ve only had experience with three bourbons, a small batch Four Roses of which I had 1 glass (was good, but apart from its sweetness I don’t remember it much). Then there are these two pictured, a Henry McKenna 10 year single barrel, and Elijah Craig small batch, both produced by the Heaven Hill Distillery Company headquartered in Bardstown Kentucky. Production happens in Louisville KY at the company’s Bernheim distillery. Wikipedia tells me this company is the seventh largest whiskey supplier in the U.S., and has the second largest holdings of bourbon in the world! It is the largest independent family-owned producer of whiskey in the U.S. My McKenna bottle has a bottle number (2099) and barreling date (10-6-05) on its label.

I don’t really know how to describe and review bourbons as compared to rums as I’ve had so little experience with them. Both of these are similar in color (the H.M. is a little lighter), a medium amber much like a 5-10 year old rum. Swirled in the glass they both produce thin legs, the E.J. a little thicker than the H.M. but the latter’s legs run more slowly. On the nose there is a little alcohol, and they are not as fruity as many rums, but the E.J. has a deep brown sugar aroma, while the H.M. is lighter in sugar notes with a bit more alcohol and scents I cannot place on the nose. The E.J. is 47% ABV and the H.M. 50% so not much difference there.

As for flavor, the H.M. has some kind of ripe fruitiness I cannot identify. I can identify a sort of smokey flavor. The E.C. has a family resemblance (perhaps something “bourbony” that I just don’t understand yet), but it is definitely sweeter than the H.M. That sweetness obscures its smokiness but it is still there. The H.M. has a cleaner less layered flavor while the E.J. is much richer with warm notes I cannot quite identify other than its sweetness. Both seem to be very good bourbons. The after taste of the E.J. is a little longer and much sweeter than the H.M. Neither ever becomes bitter. I don’t know for sure, but I think I did pretty well for my first two bourbon selections. Would love to hear comments from my readers who have had some experience with these and others like them.

The cigar by the way is a Cinco Maduro made from 5 different maduro leaves -yes, even in the filler. These were developed by a guy who calls himself “Island Jim” and is the same guy responsible for the very delicious “Leaf by Oscar” blends. According to the story these were I.J.’s first blend. He ordered 200 cigars for himself, but the factory made a mistake and made 200 bundles! I.J. took what he could afford and the rest were left in an aging room at a Rocky Patel factory for decade or more until they were rediscovered by accident! They are very good, rich, sweet with complex flavor layering like the E.C. bourbon!  I do not know if there are any left, but mine came from Rodrigo Cigars, so you might look them up and see if there are some still for sale.

Rum Review: Dos Maderas

Rum Review: Dos Maderas


Here we have a pair of Spanish rums that go together like siblings, but in this case not nearly as closely related as the Rons del Barrilitos I reviewed previously. These two are more like distant cousins. To my palate, that they are related at all is only because they both begin with a blend of Guyana and Barbados rums. From the marketing literature, it isn’t clear if the distillates are blended first and then aged or aged separately for the first 5 years in bourbon (charred oak I presume) casks somewhere between Guyana and Barbados! Really I wish the marketing people would say more! In either case, the first number in the rum’s name, the ‘5’ refers to these first 5 years. “Dos Maderas” means “Two Boards”. Perhaps this a reference to barrel staves from two kinds of barrels?

The rum is then shipped to Spain where it is blended (if it hadn’t been already) and aged for a further 3 (5+3) or 5 (5+5) years in casks that once contained the company’s 20-year-aged “Dos Cortados” (“Two Cuts”, I suspect the grape) sherry. I’ve never had Dos Cortados, but I’d certainly give it a try. One website claims the 5+5 rum is then aged an additional 2 years in “extra old” sherry casks. Why then they do not call it 5+7 or 5+5+2 I wouldn’t know.

But to get to the heart of the matter, these are both good rums. To my palate they are not at all alike.


First the 5+3. 40% ABV
Sugar: No results shown on the sugar test page. Doesn’t seem like there is sugar added.
Color: On the light side of a “medium amber”, not quite yellow — the color difference can be most clearly seen in the last picture at the bottom.
Legs: When swirled forms fast medium legs.
Aroma: Lots of notes in this, mostly brighter fruits. Apricot and orange dominate. There is banana, some alcohol but no varnish notes. I don’t get much molasses or sugar from this, no dark notes at all except some white oak in the background.
Flavors: Only a touch sweet, this is a dry rum. Reminds me immediately of English Harbour. Very smooth, but enough heat to be noticed rises up in the finish. The finish is short and a little flat. Not bitter, but not sweet either. Lightly creamy, with some butter, and a note of maple sap. Not the syrup you buy for pancakes, but a rawer sap from which it’s made. I think there is some oak in this too laying quietly under everything else. Interesting that I don’t taste any of those aroma fruits on my tongue, but they still come through the nose when you take a swallow.


Next the 5+5. 40% ABV
Sugar: One test shows 36g/l which is on the higher side, but in the end the sweetness is well cut.
Color: On the darker side of a “medium amber”. Brown, some red, no yellow.
Legs: Swirling, very slow, start out many tiny fingers that slowly coalesce into thick legs.
Aroma: Raisin dominates, some alcohol, no varnish. Tobacco, burnt brown sugar (treacle), milk chocolate, and a very smokey charred oak.
Flavors: Creamy, much sweeter than the younger rum, but not very sweet. Charred oak comes through as does the raisin and tobacco. A long sweet finish with chocolate in it, coffee and the unmistakable taste of a good sherry. This is a far more complex rum than the 5+3, sweeter and layered with much more flavor, especially on the darker side. The tobacco and coffee compensate perfectly for the rum’s sweetness leaving no bitterness. Nicely done for my palate!


Both are great rums actually. If you like a lighter, less sweet, youthful but not young, rum, the 5+3 is an excellent choice and as I noted, very similar to English Harbour for about the same price. the DM is a tad less sweet and creamy compared to the EH. On the other side if you are looking for a sweeter rum that isn’t at all “very sweet”, the 5+5 is superb and not too expensive at around $45 here in California. In particular if you like a good sherry (I do, is the only wine I ever care to pair with cigars) you will enjoy the DM 5+5.

Drink up me hearties! And don’t forget to enjoy a good cigar while you’re at it!