Merced County Times Newspaper
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Gwen Hagaman

Whiskey, cigars, Victorian charm — all in Merced

Good friends Jonathon Nguyen and Eric Garibay drove down from Turlock to enjoy the Taste America “Whiskey & Cigars” event on Saturday evening, Dec. 8, at the elegant Bear Creek Inn.

“We came to Merced because it was a fun opportunity to try some whiskeys we haven’t had before,” Nguyen said. “We really enjoy whiskey.”

Their favorite?

  1. Riley Bourbon.

Guests enjoyed light hors d’hoevres and music by local guitarist Donnie Maghoney. And in addition to the tastings, each guest could enjoy two whiskey cocktails.

“I enjoy preparing recipes for the spirits we serve at our events,” said Stephanie Zuniga of Taste America. “For tonight I mixed Larcendy Bourbon with Gingerale and a twist of Lemon, and Bullet 95 Rye with Agave Nectar, Apple Pie Spices and lots of love,”

Whiskeys tasted included: Cowboy Little Barrel, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, Glenmorangie 10 Years Scotch, Old Camp Whiskey, Bullleit 95 Rye Whiskey, Glenfiddich 12 Years Scotch, J. Riley Bourbon, Jameson Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey, Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Bourbon, Bird Dog Blackberry Flavored Whiskey, and John E. Fitzgerald Larceny Kentucky Bourbon.

Mike Siegel of Merced’s Cigar Monkey brought a selection of fine cigars that paired well with the whiskeys. “If you are tasting Larceny, for example, I would suggest the CAO Pilón from Nicaragua or the Kristoff Maduro from Dominican Republic,” he explained.

Tom Trinidad of Merced picked the CAO Pilón to enjoy. “Any time I can enjoy whiskey and a cigar, it’s a good night,” he said.

Guests seemed to agree that it was pleasant to have a few adult only events in Merced. “We have so many young families that a lot of Merced events are aimed at kids,” Siegel explained. “We don’t want to forget about our grown-ups.”

This was the third event for start-up Taste America. Event Director Lenes Hopkins-Chery said, “We enjoy creating tasting events and concerts that benefit local charities. We incorporate socializing, networking and philanthropy into a fun social experience.”

Taste America is currently supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Merced County and the Wounded Warrior Project. In January they will hold a wine event and in February a rum, gin and vodka experience. For more information check their Facebook Page or website at:, or call (209) 718-3900.

For more information about Cigar Monkey visit their store at 1716 Canal Street in downtown Merced or call (209) 384-7473. And for more information about the Bear Creek Inn stop in at 575 W. North Bear Creek Drive, visit them online at:, or call (209) 723-3991.