Gentleman Ranker

“…Sings a Gentleman of England, cleanly bred, machinely crammed, and a trooper of the Empress, if you please…”
~Rudyard Kipling, Gentleman Rankers

Gentleman Ranker Logo

The fact that I served in the US Army and spent a significant portion of that career deployed overseas should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me or reads this blog. I have published posts in the past that have mentioned this, and others that have decried the idea that military service is no longer fashionable – more to the point (or, rather, an actionable objective) the military is no longer associated with what is fashionable, or glamorous. More often than not, military veterans are represented as vulgar, bearded, boisterous, and full of bravado rather than the determined, thoughtful, and skilled professionals that I know them to be. These days in order to show pride in one’s military service or combat experience, a veteran is limited to a t-shirt covered in skulls, or an oICM Imageperator hat with a Velcro flag on it. I wanted to change that.

I have started a brand called Gentleman Ranker to help give veteran professionals more options when it comes to showing their pride in service and experience. To begin, I designed a series of NATO watch bands in the colors of the Iraqi Campaign Medal – of which I, myself and many of my friends, are veterans.

 

Military service used to be quite fashionable – the first Airborne wings were solid silver and made by Tiffany’s & Company. Brooks Brothers started off tailoring officers’ uniforms in NYC in 1818. Burberry’s iconic Trench Coat was originally quite literally designed for WWI soldiers fighting in the trenches. I was looking for a way to bring that back – in a similar way that the British military does with their regimental ties, lapel pins, and formal traditions. Inspired by the British Guards Division NATO watch strap (noticeably worn by many people who never served in the British military, but also, and with more pride, by those in the Guards).

I am trying to achieve this with Gentleman Ranker. Our first offer is the Iraqi Campaign watch band, but hopefully soon, with the support of other veterans and military members who also want a more subtle, classy way to show their service, we can expand to other campaigns (I already have requests for the Afghan Campaign and the GWOT service/expeditionary) and other forms of apparel.

I have set up an Amazon storefront in order to start selling these, and hopefully there is enough of an interest to expand from there. Please see my link below to take a look.

Gentleman Ranker – Iraqi Campaign Watch Band

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Bird Dog Kentucky Bourbon

Bird Dog Kentucky Bourbon

This is a new bourbon for me – and since I like to try new things and maintain new experiences, that gives it an automatic plus in my book.

With Bird Dog, the color is a deep, soft amber in the bottle, but lightens up considerably to a spun gold or straw once it is poured.

The color is telling on the nose, with a sweet aroma of heavy grains and hay or straw, with a distinct note of sour mash.

The flavor is light, and airy, without a lot of the heavy molasses that is common with many straight Kentucky bourbons. There is a smooth, soft, grainy caramel flavor to Bird Dog, with some significant, but mild heat. The burn is certainly there on the finish, but not in any way unpleasant. Overall, very good.

The finish has a bit of a numbing tingle, with a lingering flavor of straw and soft caramel at the end. It leaves you wanting another sip to start the process all over again.

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Casa Cuba Cigar Review

Casa Cuba – robusto

Dominican Republic

The pre-light feel and aroma of the Casa Cuba is soft and oily, with a bit of a give to it. Smells of aged tobacco, leather, and soft earth.

The Casa Cuba Lights up easily with no runs and an easy draw. Even the first few pulls give a good volume of rich smoke. The flavor comes out immediately as smooth and velvety, with notes of soft woods and leather. The aroma augments the wood flavor with sandalwood and even some floral hints.

There is a smooth, even, overall burn that doesn’t allow runs. This is a sign of a well rolled cigar, and while common enough in premium tobaccos, a good roll still gets notice.

The overall experience is nice, mild, but with a full flavor and rich smoke that I enjoyed immensely. This is one of a batch that I received from a distributor, so I cannot speak as to the retail price, but it is one that I will pay attention to and look out for the next time I am in a lounge.

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Notes on the BREXIT

I wish I could say that I saw this coming, but I truthfully did not. I feel for the British people, and I understand where they are coming from, but I did not think that the vote would swing toward an exit. Were I a British citizen, I would likely have cast my ballot in the exit camp, and many of my British friends and associates agree (though not all, by any means) but it certainly caught me by surprise.

I have never been much of a fan of the European Union. The lack of a national monetary policy is an issue for me, and the recent troubles in Greece, Portugal, and Spain have all gone to show this as a valid point. Britain, in truth, has never been a full-fledged partner on the financial side in choosing to keep the Pound sterling, and for good reason. This exit vote just goes to further break from a broken system.

Furthermore I feel that the cultural differences are too great to form an actually united Europe. There are comparisons to the United States as a union of independent states, but these are grasping comparisons, at best, and in my mind are immediately negated by the cultural similarities that the 13 American colonies shared when they became the United States, and then proceeded to develop as the expanded. Europe has no real way to do this.

There is a long political and economic analysis that I could do on this subject, but I doubt that such an article would be too terribly interesting to my readers, and they are likely already inundated by such information on their current news feeds (meaning actual news, not Facebook) instead I will just say that I am somewhat shocked by the exit vote. I support the British exit (no matter what it might be doing right now to my investment accounts) and I think that in the long term this will be a good move for the UK, but I didn’t see it happening like this, and at this point (if I did, then it wouldn’t have had nearly the aforementioned negative impact.)

From the standpoint of this Gentleman and Scholar, tip o’ the hat to the British nationalists. You’ve decided that it isn’t ideal to have your cultural, financial, and foreign policies controlled and influenced by a far away, out of touch government across the water. No real surprise there. Cheers!

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Plans for the Future

So here I am again, with an unacceptably long hiatus between now and my last post, and a considerable about of time between that one and the one before it. I enjoy writing. I enjoy the subjects that I choose to write on for this blog, and I enjoy having it as part of my life, but I need to find a way to coordinate it all. I drink wine, but often it is with the amicable company that comes with a good bottle, and therefore do not feel like excusing myself to make notes on the nose, body, and flavor profile. I dress every morning for work, and often in the tailored slacks, sport coats, and brooks brothers polos that I post on Instagram and look at approvingly any time I window shop. I don’t, however, make up a story about each outfit in order to have something to write about… it is just something that I do as part of my life. I smoke cigars, but like with wine, I rarely do so alone. I am often surrounded by friends, peers, associates, and outstanding people of character. While I enjoy the smoke, and often carry on a lively conversation about it with my company, I am very seldom willing to tear myself away to put pen to paper and record my thoughts. This, of course, is something that I need to change, but I am not willing to surrender the parts of this lifestyle that make it enjoyable just to do that. If I did, then really, what is the point?

In light of this, I find myself posting to my Instagram account more often than anything else – even twitter (which I keep promising to use more often) and a big part of this might be my follower base on that medium and the instant gratification and feedback that I receive. It keeps things interesting, but at the same time, it is here, on the actual blog, where I can get my opinions and thoughts across – and hopefully someone reads them. My social media accounts associated with this blog are, of course, linked here, but I don’t know how many people who like a picture actually take the time to read an article associated with it. It is probably not many.

I don’t know what kind of changes I can make in order to differentiate this blog from others, or to force myself to put more information on it, but I can do what I can to try and make them. In the future look for shorter, more specialized posts, but I am running the razors edge between an easy read and good writing. I’d like to focus on more gentlemanly and scholarly issues than the more esoteric and vanity inducing quick posts on fashion or wine (though I will still do those posts too) and I will try to integrate pictures and images more often into what I do – if for no other reason to coordinate across social media and my established blog.

I would also be interested in other ways to monetize what I am doing here – affiliate marketing of course, but also I might look into my own accessory sales or self-published ebooks. Hopefully this doesn’t get too much of an eye roll from my readers, but a few extra dollars a month would be certainly good motivation to contine with the writing that I enjoy, and to force myself to put pen to paper more often. I’d just like to start seeing something for the effort.

What are your thoughts on any of this? I am open to opinions, suggestions, or feedback of any kind. Thanks again!

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Sterling Vineyards 2013 Cabernet

Sterling Vineyards

Sterling Vineyards – Vintner’s Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Sterling Vineyards is a brand that I have heard quite a bit about, but have not yet tried. Based in Calistoga, California, Sterling Vineyards is in Diageo’s portfolio of wines, and something of an underrated gem, in my opinion, overshadowed by its better known brands.

The Sterling Vintner’s Collection Cabernet opens with a deep, heavy aroma of black cherry and blackberry. The nose lightens as it breaths, but becomes more complex.

The color and clarity are a full, rich red. There is no sediment that I found, and the legs show a slow, think run that alludes to a higher than usual alcohol content (13.9% ABV), and full, smooth mouthfeel.

The flavor opens fruitier than many cabernets, but with a thick berry flavor and just a touch of tart cherry on the end. This rounds out into a smooth, rich taste as you sip it, leaving you with a sweet flavor of blackberry and a finish of licorice and currant.

As a cabernet lover, this wine is quite respectable. It is smooth and pleasant, full without being heavy, and overall very nice. I’d rate the Vintner’s Cabernet as a 6+, and will look to purchase again.

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Let it Breath – Clos du Bois 2013 Cabernet

Clos du Bois – 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

There are a very few wines that I truly allow to breath and air the way that they ought to in order to get the fullest extent of their flavor. I say this in full candor, and not because I am somehow ignorant of the charms of fully aerated wine, but rather because I enjoy wine too much, and I am typically not nearly patient enough to actually stand by and allow a wine to open up the way that it properly should.

When I pop a cork, I am ready to partake. That is all that there is to it. By the second or third glass, often the wine has breathed sufficiently to achieve the appropriate levels of nuance and flavor that it is known for. I am also, by this time, more receptive to the intricacies of what I am drinking.

In another completely candid moment, I very seldom see the marginal difference in an hour of opening up as being worth an hour without wine. Sometimes the wine is significantly better after it breaths, sometimes it is not. In my favorite wines I know this time table and adjust my drinking accordingly, but in new wines, it is something of a hit or miss, and in truth I enjoy some of the subtleness that builds up as I sip.

I mention all of this as something of a lead in towards my current review – the Clos du Bois 2013 Cabernet.

Never have I enjoyed a wine that has had such a marked difference between when it is freshly opened and when it is finally finished. My first glass, quite literally, left a bad taste in my mouth. I pulled the cork and began to sip after an admittedly shortened interval, and was greeted with a sour, doleful flavor that was nothing like what I have come to expect from my beloved Cabernet grape. This was something of a cross between a pinot noir (with none of its smoothness) a merlot (though without the hearty body) and a beaujolais nouveau – which has no redeeming quality that would recommend it. To say I was disappointed is something of an understatement. I winced my way through the glass only as an accompaniment to the meal I was having, and then only because I needed something wet.

I am, however, not one to waste alcohol, and as Lisa Birnbach will tell you, thrift and frugality are hallmarks of prep-dom, so I corked the bottle and resigned myself to finishing it off the next day. I am glad that I did.

What was once sour, harsh, and raw, became smooth, sweet, and overall quite pleasant.

The body didn’t improve, but was never all that much of an issue to begin with. The nose gave off the dark fruit and cherry aromas that I have come to enjoy from a cabernet. The flavor, however, opened up and blossomed. It was sweet, without any saccharin tones like some hypersweet wines tend to display. It was smooth and round, with a good mouth feel, and had a lingering softness with just a touch of tannin on the back end.

This was not an outstanding wine, by any means, and I don’t mean to compare it to the Monte De Oro’s, Beringers, or J. Lohr’s that I use as benchmarks for excellent but affordable wines, but it was quite good. If the price is right, then I would certainly purchase it again – if for no other reason than to allow it to once again open up and show its true colors.

Overall rating 6… maybe a 6+

CDB_2013_CabernetSauvignon_California_lowRes

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Out with the Old, In with the New

Out with the Old, in with the New

This is not one of those “New Year, New Me” posts… nor is it a listing of goals or accomplishments that I made in 2015 or plan to make in 2016.

2015 was a fairly typical year – as far as a year can really be typical anyway. I hit a few goals, to include some major achievements. I made a lot of mistakes, and hope that I learned from them. I made a few people happy, and I am quite sure that I angered a few more. Long ago I discovered that people who say that they live with no regrets don’t take nearly enough risks, because yes, I have regrets. I second guess myself, and rightly so. This is how you improve, but you cannot let it shake your decisiveness or confidence.

With 2015 behind me, I am looking forward to 2016 with determined anticipation. There are a lot of things I want to get done, and I hope that I have the fortitude to see them all through. One of the things that I would like to do is write more. I say this a lot, and I really do need to make a concerted effort to put pen to paper more often.

I understand that this post is intentionally vague, and that is done with the intent not to be rude or mysterious, but rather to avoid being condescending, garish, arrogant, or viewed as anything other than a man with flaws, drive, and occasionally unrealistic expectations of himself.

I will be moving ahead this new year, and I hope that you will be too. Cheers!

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Drew Estate Undercrown

Drew Estate Undercrown


This is a cigar that I have reviewed several times and I am fond of. I don’t want to go back through my old posts to see if I have written on it before for a number of reasons – one of which is that it is always good to get a second review, which you can then compare to old notes and see how your palette is developing.

Using matches rather than butane, this was not the easiest to light, but that might have had something to do with it being slightly plugged, and I cut it a second time to get a decent draw. Plugging happens with even the best rolled cigars, and while sometimes frustrating, I don’t think that I will let it shape my opinion on the Undercrown as a whole.

Once the cigar was lit and the draw was taken care of, the smoke was a joy to behold. There was a high volume or rich, velvety smoke that was well worth the effort to get out. Because of the draw, I wouldn’t fully call the cigar smooth, but the flavor certainly was.

Medium bodied, but not intense, the Undercrown certainly requires focus. There are more subtle flavors at play in this cigar, rather than the overpowering leather or oak that one often associates with a smoke of this caliber. There are some floral and honey notes, along with a hint of mocha that I really enjoyed.

The sweet spot is definitely in the middle of the cigar, but each section has its own nuances and none are anything but enjoyable. There is no harsh aftertaste, and the burn remains even and well-formed throughout the smoke.

This is a big cigar, but not huge, and a slow smoke. I was puffing for well over an hour, but enjoyed every minute of it.

Once again, I remember why I like Drew Estate cigars, and the Undercrown in particular. Do yourself a favor and try one out.

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The Military Used to be so Fashionable. What Happened?

Brooks Brothers Officer's UniformThe military used to be so fashionable. What happened? I’m not being sarcastic either. Brooks Brothers was tailoring uniforms for officers long before they made a suit for the President. Burberry’s ubiquitous trench coat was first made for the British Army during World War I. The first jump wings given to American Paratroopers were sterling silver and made by Tiffany’s & Co. Military service was a respected, fashionable vocation. Service during a time of war or emergency was not only encouraged, it was expected. It was seen as one’s duty.

Admittedly less prevalent the United States than in British society (where military service has long had a burberry_trench_coat_ww1connection with the nobility and stylish classes) in Victorian and Edwardian England former or retired soldiers carried their martial affiliations like the badges of honor that they are. Regimental lapel pins, swagger sticks, rep ties, and regimental plaid pocket squares were all regular accouterments. What jewelry was worn by men of the day was adorned and influenced by their military service: Regimental crests on
flasks, buttons, belt buckles, or a pocket watch. Even calling cards of the day showed a veteran’s rank or regiment. It was not pretentious or showy; it was simply pride of service. It was not even meant to be recognized or acknowledged by the general public, but it brought a knowing nod and instant bond with a fellow veteran.

In the US, by contrast, military service was thought of more as a duty – a solemn obligation to a country that has given us the freedoms to prosper and grow. It was thought of as a given, or foregone conclusion that healthy young men would go into the military whenever their country had need of their service, without the associated trappings of nobility or status. This was the militia concept that has  far more an association with America than it does with other countries. We are a free people, we are not subjects, and, as such, we are expected to fight for our freedoms.

These days the popular attire for veterans seems relegated to Affliction or Tapout T-shirts and tan Velcro “cool guy” hats. Viking beards may be great for the field, but they don’t score us any points in polite society. – The general response from veterans to this is that they don’t want to be in polite society. We’re door kickers, snake eaters, and face shooters. Why would we want to wear a suit and sip cocktails at an art gallery or have constructive conversations with out of touch liberals? Quite simply, because there is more to life, and more to our role as soldiers or veterans than what is directly required to slay the enemies of our nation.

The title of this blog is The Gentleman and Scholar. I post about fashion, wine, cigars, whiskey, and other things that a modern gentleman should know about. But a large part of the original role of a gentleman was soldierly bearing and a certain amount of swagger that said he is not one to be trifled with. We might think of a well-dressed man as a fop or a dandy, but not too terribly long ago, call him that and you would have found yourself facing pistols at dawn or sabers at sunset. Warriors of the past were not always paid as well as they are today (as crazy as it sounds given the poverty of most of our armed forces) and on top of that, many were expected to field their own weapons, equipment, and uniforms. They had to be gentlemen in order to fight. They had to be fashionable, well off, and even stylish, because if they weren’t then they couldn’t afford to train themselves or their sons, put them into the field, or survive a battle. The concept of a gentleman soldier is not a new one, and nor does it only apply to an aristocratic officer class. Service brought immediate honor and dignity – far more than laborers or tradesmen could claim. What sets us apart, even today, is a willingness to do what others do not, the courage to face down the hard, the challenging, and the dangerous. We thrive on risk – and have the tenacity and skill to see those risks through to success. We need more gentleman soldiers – veterans who take their service and do not rest on it, holding all others in contempt, but leverage it into something more, and something greater.

Battle of Rocroi

I am still serving in the military, but wear a suit to work at my day job (okay, maybe khakis and a polo most days, but nice suits more often than body armor) – no matter what else I do with my life, my first and one true profession will always be the profession of arms, and while I am proud to have my service be a defining piece of my character, it is not all that there is to me, and it shouldn’t be the only thing about themselves that veterans recognize and appreciate. If it is, then it is all others will see as well.

The t-shirts with skulls and lightning bolts and machine guns are fine. I wear my regimental shirts too, but mainly to the gym or to the beach… not when I want to be viewed as a professional, or as the gentleman that I am. I wear miniature airborne wings as a lapel pin on my suits. I had regimental crests made into cuff links. I’d like to have the colors of the Iraqi Campaign Medal made into a tie bar. I have a gold watch with the Academy crest on it. These items don’t scream “I am a veteran!” but rather they are classic, understated, subdued, and often only recognized by other veterans. Civilians view them as a unique piece that they often have never seen before. It starts a conversation, and that conversation ought to show them your character. If you dress shabbily, they’ll remember the attire. If you dress impeccably, they’ll remember the man.

Be confident, not cocky. Dress well. Take pride in your service, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you take pride in. Be a gentleman soldier. We need more of them. The military used to be so fashionable. Let’s bring that back.

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