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The Stanley Hotel: The Perfect Road Trip

The Stanley Hotel 1This past Christmas, my buddy and I came up with an idea. Get together with a group of friends, and road trip to Estes Park, Colorado. Our reason? To stay at the historic Stanley Hotel.

The building, designed by Freelan Oscar Stanley, opened for business on July 4th, 1909. Many notable dignitaries, musicians, actors and writers have stayed at the Stanley throughout its illustrious history.

Perhaps the most famous guest of them all is Stephen King. In 1974, The ‘Master of Horror’ himself stayed in Room No. 217 with his wife, Tabitha, at a time when the hotel was virtually empty. After a haunting dream that night, King was inspired by an idea that went on to become one of his best-known works – The Shining.

Although many cases of paranormal activity have been reported to have taken place at the Stanley Hotel over the years, the destination hotspot is not all doom-and-gloom. The spot was also featured in the 1994 cult-movie classic Dumb and Dumber. As if this weren't yet another great excuse to pay a visit, did I mention that the hotel also has a well-established whiskey bar? With a GTO 'Pain Killer' packed as my cigar of choice for the night of our arrival, we were ready to head out early on the morning on March 12th.

We left Wyoming at 7AM in order to fully utilize our time at the Stanley Hotel. A little more than 4 hours in, as we made our way closer to Estes Park, the road became a narrow, winding mountain route that slowly climbed to an eventual elevation of 7,600 feet. The stunning rock-faces that surrounded us seemed to pierce the sky. The path opened up, and we soon found ourselves staring up at the hill where the Stanley sat.

We arrived a bit early, and decided to explore the little town that was nestled in the valley, looking for a quick bite to munch. We ended up finding a great place, called The Grubsteak, which offered Yak burgers and delicious Reuben sandwiches. After eating, we spent more time roaming the town before heading back up to the hotel.

We were excited when check-in time finally rolled around, and couldn't wait to see the place. After walking up two flights of steps and opening the main door that led into the lobby, we were greeted by Jess, a friendly face behind the check-in counter, who informed us about everything from the old-style keys (that were used to open the hotel's doors many years ago) to the impressive whiskey bar. Now we're talkin'!

We looked around the rooms that were off of the lobby floor, and took plenty of pictures. I then dropped my stuff off and made my way to the bar, which was located inside the Cascades Restaurant.

The bartender, Ryan, was pouring a scotch flight to the couple sitting next to me when I walked in. When he spotted me taking a seat, he asked me if I wanted to take a look at the menu. Boy, was I ever in for a surprise. I did not expect him to place a book in front of me listing over 900 different types of whiskies inside – 980 to be exact.

The Stanley Hotel 2“Yeah, we're trying to get to 1,000,” Ryan said, beaming with pride.

I couldn't help but think that it wouldn't take much to reach that pinnacle! The menu was broken down into countries and regions, followed by prices. Flipping through the large (and quite overwhelming) list of offerings from all around the world, I was (to say the least) impressed. I ended up going with something new to me – The Glenmorangie Companta.

Companta is one of Glenmorangie’s Private Edition malt whiskies. It was released in 2014. My dram had an exceptional spice to it – the kind of spice that could warm you up on a cold day. The cinnamon mingled harmoniously with the ‘chewy’ tobacco flavors I was also detecting. I was floored by how complex this Scotch was! I picked up some dark cherry on the back half, and was pleased by the long finish. I definitely made the right choice with this one!

After I finished the Companta, I was given a taste of the 18th batch of Wyoming Whiskey to try alongside Ryan and the couple next to me. We all gave our thoughts before I decided to head outside, meet up with some of the other guys, and smoke my GTO ‘Pain Killer’. After I retrieved the cigar from my room, I headed down the staircases that led to the magnificent snow-capped mountain views outside. As it was now nearing sunset time, I couldn't wait to light up and witness the incredible view!

The Stanley Hotel 3Oscar Rodriguez, founder of GTO Dominican Cigars, was kind enough to send me a handful of his brand’s stogies to review. This particular cigar, the ‘Pain Killer’, had a Maduro wrapper that smelled of earth and chocolate. The stick displayed just the right amount of sponginess I look for in a cigar, and was very appealing to the eye.

After toasting the foot, I had no problem lighting up the cigar in a matter of a just few puffs. Tastes of earth and pepper came through initially. And the cigar was very well-balanced. The flavors would oscillate from chocolate and a hint of leather back to a nice peppery aftertaste. Extremely tasty!

All of the GTO offerings are spectacular, including the ‘Gold’ (a perfect after-breakfast stick), the torpedo (with a barber-pole styled wrapper that uses Dominican Maduro as well as U.S. Connecticut Shade Broad-leaf) and the Corojo figurado (not to mention the others in the ‘Pain Killer’ line). If you haven't had a chance to smoke any GTOs, I recommend checking them out!

Finally, we all ended the night by watching The Shining, which plays on Channel 42 in the hotel (on a loop!), before we went to our rooms to get some sleep. At midnight, it occurred to us that we were staying at one of the most haunted places in the country on Friday the 13th! Glad we all lived to tell the tale!

The Stanley Hotel 4

From the rich history of the building to the incredible service (and from the astounding whiskey bar to watching the scenic mountain views under the veil of a delicious smoke), it's safe to say that our road trip to the Stanley Hotel was a most memorable one.

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Steven is a people-person who enjoys visiting lounges across the country, and getting to know the people that make the cigar industry what it is today. From his visits to former speak-easy's under the North End streets of Boston to the smoke-shops in the suburbs of Atlanta, there is a cultural history, and he wants to be there to hear it. Steven is also a regular on 'Cigar Life Radio', voicing his stogie reviews as well as his take on the latest in the industry. He also enjoys Scotch, Bourbon, wine and craft brews.