Sunday, January 03, 2016

Ramon Allones Reserve Corona Gorda
Aged 6 years and 9 months

New Year's Day was a blast. We gathered with friends at Steve & Diane Laster's house for bloody mary drinks and a breakfast of stuffed cabbage, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and hog jaw bacon. There were SEC bowl games on the television. I followed this feast with a nearly 7-year old Ramon Allones and a glass of 20-year Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

This cigar was older than my son (now in 1st grade) and it came from the now-defunct Villazon factory where Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey, ERDM, Bolivar, Belinda, and Flor de A. Allones used to be rolled.

The cellophane was dark yellow. Prelight aroma was rich and earthy. I spotted a fair amount of tooth on the wrapper.

I wrote back in 2009:  "just a hair shy of full-bodied; burn well; loose draw; lots of earth and gentle spice, as opposed to pepper spice."

Like the best cigars, this one had mellowed noticeably over time. It started mild for the first quarter, then picked up some subtle spice, tipping over into medium bodied by the finish line.  Pepper spice was definitely present now. The draw was perfect, no longer loose. It did require a touch-up about the halfway point.

The tastes and aromas were richer than they used to be.  The nose and aftertaste were certainly longer. 

As a side note, on Jan 2 I also smoked a very noteworthy Mi Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor at the Liberty Bowl. It had a dark sun-grown wrapper just covered in tooth. I unfortunately paired it with cheap well liquor from the pre-game barbecue buffet, but all ended well... these two cigars were a great treat and a great way to start 2016!

Friday, January 01, 2016

State of the Humidor - New Year's 2016

New cigars to try in 2016: 
  1. Mi Barrio (this brand has been revived!)
  2. 5 Vegas Miami (I want to try the new blend by George Rico of Gran Habano Cigars)

Last cigar of 2015: Henry Clay Honduran Grandes.  Smoked while watching the Clemson-Oklahoma college football semifinal game on New Year's Eve; paired with Monkey 47, a high-end gin from the Black Forest in Germany.

First cigar of 2016: Ramon Allones Reserve Corona Gorda.  Aged 6 years, nine months in my Lost Sticks tray. I sat this down to rest before my son was born.  Paired with Pappy Van Winkle 20-year bourbon.

New cigars I tried in 2015 -- would purchase again: Oliva Serie V Melanio, La Aroma de Cuba, Rocky Patel Prohibition (natural), Ashton VSG, Honduran Factory Corojo, Gran Habano 'VL', Padron 1964

New cigars I tried in 2015 -- would not purchase again: PdR Small Batch Black Corojo, Rocky Patel Prohibition (maduro), Jesus Fuego Corojo Oscuro, Cuba Libre One, Te Amo World Selection Series Cuban Style

Humidor contents:
  • Consuegra Governor #16
  • Henry Clay Honduran Grandes
  • Maria Mancini Magic Mountain
  • La Gloria Cubana Double Corona (made at Miami factory)
  • Omar Ortez Originals Belicoso
  • Gran Habano Vintage 2002 Churchill
  • 5 Vegas High Primings Box Pressed
  • 5 Vegas Cask Strength Toro
  • JR Alternative - Rocky Patel Edge
  • CAO Extreme
  • Inferno by Oliva
  • Mi Barrio
  • La Flor de A. Allones Maximo

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A quick revisit of some cigars previously reviewed but that I have not tried in years...

Consuegra Double Corona (Honduran version)

I have been smoking my way through a bundle of consuegras, the first time in about 10 years. These are the original Honduran blend, with Honduran wrappers and binders and a fill of DR, Nicaraguan, and Honduran tobaccos.  They are seconds to Hoyo de Monterrey, Punch, Bolivar, Flor de A. Allones, and El Rey del Mundo.

As expected, they are all over the map.  Some have smoked and tasted like their name-brand counterparts, excellent smokes all around.  Others have had construction and burn issues.  Taste has been consistently medium-to-full bodied with moderate spice. Several have burned very quickly while a few have lasted an hour or more.

JR Alternatives-Rocky Patel Edge Toro

Several years ago these were rumored to be made at the same factory as the "real" Rocky Patel Edge.  They still taste like I remember.  This bundle has a year of aging.  Excellent cigars that taste just like I remember the originals. Better than the RP Edge Counterfeits sold by Cigars International.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Padron 1964 Anniversary Series

Size: 6 x 52 (Belicoso)
Tobacco: Nicaraguan Puro
Price: $20

My 40th birthday turned out to be a lot of fun.  We began at Steve’s house with a glass of Wild Turkey 17 Year.  Smooth, but not a whisky any of us would recommend in the future.

We drove to the Madison Hotel in downtown Memphis for drinks at the rooftop bar.  It was an unseasonably warm night for December, and we had the roof all to ourselves. Two glasses of Talisker and a breathtaking view of the bridge and the Mississippi River.

Dinner at Itta Beena over the B.B. King Blues Club. The Spanish wine was superb.  I ordered the salmon, but should have gone with the lamb.

I wish could have appreciated the nuances of this cigar more fully.  But by the time Steve bought me this Padron 1964, I was already five drinks in.  There was a time when that would have been no big deal.  However, since I lost 30 pounds earlier this year, I just cannot hold the strong stuff like I used to.  I was hardly fit to walk the streets.

Even so, this was a phenomenal cigar. Flawless construction and burn.  Creamy smoke that seemed to dance in your mouth. It began with earthy oak flavors, then ever-so-gradually picked up spice and pepper. By the end, it was almost like a strong corojo with hints of fruit.

I will definitely try this cigar again, hopefully next time with a clearer head.

By the way, Michelle and I ended the night back at the Madison Hotel, then headed to Brother Juniper’s for breakfast the next morning. I had the “Lamb and the Garden Omelet”, which is an omelet stuffed with lamb, feta cheese, mozzarella, spinach, and tomatoes.  
Gran Habano 'VL' Maduro
Size: 6.1 x 52 (Belicoso)
Wrapper: Habano Oscuro
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras
Price: $8

I smoked this cigar during the first half of the 2015 SEC Championship Game.  A group of us were gathered at Shaun’s house to award the annual SEC Pick ‘Em trophy (an engraved flask) to Rick Hall. 

Alabama 29, Florida 15.  It was the first time in 17 years a team won back-to-straight conference titles. Roll Tide!

The cigar was tasty with deep coffee flavors and a sweet-tangy aroma.  It was a cold windy day, which is the best time to enjoy a heavy maduro. Unfortunately, the burn that day was horrible with a spiraling canoe that I just could not correct. It might have been the weather, but my victory cigar (a La Gloria Cubana Miami) did not have this problem.

Due to the poor construction, I will probably not try this cigar again.

Monday, November 30, 2015

I am in mourning tonight.  It is time to replenish my aging humidor with a few new boxes. I was all set to order two boxes of 5 Vegas High Primings, my absolute favorite "budget" cigar, only to discover the line has been discontinued. Just my luck!

On to tonight's review....

Te Amo World Selection Series Cuban Style
Size: 6 x 54
Wrapper: Central America (criollo)
Binder San Andres, Mexico criollo
Filler: Central American criollo
Price: $5.13

So, this purchase was just an out-and-out mistake on my part.  I have always heard about Te-Amo being made from Mexican tobacco.  I periodically come across articles that talk about how Mexican cigars are cheap and widely disdained, but in reality Te Amo cigars are actually pretty good.  They have a loyal, almost cult following among cigar smokers. I bought this box thinking I would like to try them for myself.

I should have read this fine print.  The World Selection Series was an attempt to showcase the craftsmanship of Te Amo using tobacco from more traditional countries like Honduras and Nicaragua. These cigars were rolled in Mexico, but only the binders are actually Mexican tobacco.

There was a Honduran cigar, a Nicaraguan cigar, a Dominican cigar, and a "Cuban Style" cigar made from unnamed Central American tobaccos.

2 or 3 cigars from this box were very good, with a unique pre-light bouquet (almost sweet) and a nutty medium-bodied taste.   Most of them suffered from an extremely tight draw and dead, soft spots near the head.  One cigar had a putrid aroma that I could not explain (my friends did not actually realize it was my cigar, and they spent a half hour searching their garage to find out what small furry animal had died!).

Would not try again.
Cuba Libre One Churchill
Size: 7 x 52
Wrapper: Honduras ligero
Binder: Nicaragua & Costa Rica
Filler: Nicaragua & Honduras 
Price: $3.50

I got taken in by the larger-than-life Cigars International copy on this cigar:

  • Made by Nestor Plasencia
  • "An ultra-bold, mega-flavorful super-premium" 
  •  "A traditional and Cuban-esque blend with some punch and zest you won't soon forget.​"


This is just a low-end maduro stick.  Medium body.  Decent construction.  Nothing distinctive or even much enjoyable about it.
Honduran Factory Corojo Belicoso
Size: 6 x 60
Wrapper: Costa Rica / Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Honduras
Filler: Dominican/Honduras/Nicaraguan
Price: $1.72

Made by Nestor Plasencia.  Sold in naked wheels of 50.  Can easily be found for $1/stick on JR Cigars auction site.  Earthy flavors, medium profile.  Smoke fast with a very loose draw.  They are tasty for the price. Construction is lacking, but so what? If one burns bad, just chunk it and grab another one.

Jesus Fuego Corojo Oscuro
Size: 7 x 50
Wrapper: Ecuador - Habano Corojo Oscuro
Filler: Nicaragua
Origin: Rolled in Honduras
Price: $6.50 (store), $2.26 (online)

A beautiful cigar.  Dark reddish wrapper, spicy prelight aroma. Blast of pepper on the tongue when you first light it, then mellows out into a medium-full profile.

Unfortunately, most of the cigars in my bundle were plagued with soft spots, flaky ash, and inconsistent burn issues.  Poor construction all around.  Will not purchase again.

Monday, June 08, 2015

5 Vegas Limitada 2008  -- 7 years old

I purchased a 5-pack of this cigar in December 2008, smoked the next-to-last one 29 months later... now I pulled the fifth and final one out of the Lost Sticks Tray after 6 1/2 years.  It had improved greatly with age.  The wrapper was a very shiny, glossy mottled brown with a light smattering of tooth all up and down the shaft.  Strong prelight grassy aromas.  The flavor had deepened to a rich maduro-like spice.  It was strong on the front tip of the tongue, but the smoke hit the  back of the throat  with mellow resonant earth tones.  Highly enjoyable paired with Citadelle Gin over ice on the first hot day of summer.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ashton VSG Figurado
Size: 4.3 x 60
Tobacco: Dominican
Wrapper: Ecuador Sun Grown
Price: $12.50

I got this cigar for free at Burning Desires cigar lounge in Lakeland, TN.  This is the next-to-top-of-the-line from Ashton.  It is spicy and full-bodied but not as pricey or earth-shattering as the ESG. Burned slow and cool, but I prefer figurados with longer length.  It paired very well with three glasses of Belle Meade single barrel bourbon on Steve's back deck.
Rocky Patel Prohibition
Size: 6.2 x 52 (toro)
Binder/Filler: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Mexico (natural), Connecticut Broadleaf (maduro)
Price: $9

Burning Desires cigar lounge in Lakeland, TN hosted a Rocky Patel event a few weeks ago to celebrate the launch of this new cigar.  I was not able to attend the festivities, but I did find 10 minutes to drop in, talk to Nimish (Rocky’s cousin?), and purchase some of these new cigars for myself, Steve, and Shaun. 

With the name “Prohibition,” Rocky is trying to send a message:  just as the federal government’s ban on alcohol during Prohibition was a complete failure, the FDA’s attack on premium cigars will have a similar outcome.  Cleverly, the cigars are shipped in glass jars reminiscent of moonshine bootleggers.

I was a big fan of the natural cigars, with a spicy San Andreas wrapper from Mexico.  Slow-burning, full-bodied and spicy on the tongue.  They paired well two weeks in a row with Willet’s rye whiskey and Belle Meade bourbon.

I smoked the maduro last Saturday.  It was the warmest day in the past 3 months (50 degrees), but still chillier than I would have liked. The wrapper was covered with tooth from head to toe, and had a very appealing pungent prelight aroma.  However, it turned out to be less spicy and too coffee-like.  Like most rocky Patels (Edge, Vintage, etc.), the maduros just seem to lack spice, complexity, and flavor.  They are strong but usually one-dimensional and boring. Definitely a step down from the natural.

Mi Aroma de Cuba
Size: 5.7 x 48
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $8

Last Saturday night, in the frigid cold, Shaun, Steve, and I wandered down to Burning Desires cigar lounge on Hwy 64 for a cigar and poker game.  They can’t legally sponsor gambling in Tennessee, so the entry fee is that you must buy $25 worth of Ashton cigars, and in return you get $5000 in chips.  The winner cannot get paid in real money, so instead he gets an ashtray, a shirt, or 2 Ashton cigars; 2nd place gets a single Ashton cigar.  For my entry fee I bought this Mi Aroma de Cuba toro with a tantalizing yellowed cellophane sleeve, along with a San Cristobal and a Mi Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor.  There were only four people playing this night, and I came in 2nd place (damn you, Steve Laster, with your pocket pair of 9’s and your blasted heart flush on the river!), and I used it to grab a nub-sized Ashton VSG figurado. 

Mi Aroma de Cuba is blended by ’Don Pepin’ Garcia in Nicaragua.  The wrapper was a sort of dark shade of camel brown, with just a hint of tooth.  I didn’t notice any veins or variations of color in the leaf.  I don’t know how old this one was, but it was not medium to full bodied as advertised.  It was medium all the way; the only spice was a very short-lived burst of black pepper upon first light. I was disappointed in this, as I wanted something stronger, but I couldn’t complain about the smooth taste or the lingering, rich aftertaste.  I am guessing this cigar must have had to been aging for at least two years.

It was slow burning, easy going.  Flawless construction.  Flavors were mature, but not complex.  I wish I had been able to get a larger ring gauge, as I suspect the flavors might have benefited from more draw. 

Bottom line:  This was not as strong, full, or peppery as the Mi Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor.  I would definitely smoke again, but this wasn’t quite up to my expectations for a Pepin blend. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pinar del Rio Small Batch Black Corojo Torpedo
Size: 6.5 x 52
Wrapper: Dominican Corojo
Filler: Dominican Corojo and Dominican Criollo 98
Price: $8

I took a gamble on these cigars because I love the Sun Grown Habano so much-- and the Classico and Oscuro weren't bad either!  Of course, I probably should have heeded my own oft-used advice: beware small batch cigars and liquors; if it was really any good, they'd make more of them.

The cigar is loosely rolled, very light and airy in the hand, although it doesn't burn as fast as you might expect.  Medium to full, but with a slightly acidic taste.  These were over a year old, so age wasn't the problem.  Just a decent but not great taste...

I smoked the first one during 2014 SEC Championship Game (which Bama won 42-13. Roll Tide!)
Unfortunately, I smoked the second one during the Sugar Bowl, when Bama was ousted from the playoffs by Ohio State.

Subsequent cigars over a three month period have reinforced my first impressions.  The best corojo cigars have a unique sweet and tangy taste; the worst taste like soap. This one falls in the middle of that spectrum; the flavors are thin, vaguely bitter, and acidic.  This is not a PdR brand I would try again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado
Size: 6.5 x 52
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $15

This cigar was rated the #1 in the world in 2014, according Cigar Aficionado.  Sure, these annual rankings come with a boatload of disclaimers, most notably that no non-Cuban cigar has ever been ranked that didn’t first buy advertising in the magazine, but it is the still the closest thing the industry has to The Oscars.

Last Friday, with our wives off to a church retreat, Shaun, Steve, and I found a babysitter and went to dinner at Emerald Thai, where I had a sumptuous dish of shredded steak and cucumbers with a mouth-watering (and tongue-burning) array of spices from Northern Thailand. Afterwards, we headed to the Burning Desire lounge for a cigar and several surreptitious shots of Old Bardstown Estate Bottled bourbon from a flask.

This cigar was expertly rolled, no construction issues at all.  The outer leaf was a lighter shade of brown than I expected from the photo in CA, and it was a sort of mottled color on the bottom of the cigar.  There was no prelight aroma, which also surprised me. 

However, once lit, there was no mistaking the punch in this cigar.  Very little pepper, but a lot of deep, rich tastes of leather and oak.  It was a slow burning cigar, with a lingering finish on the tongue that kept building in intensity.  It was a combination of: the great taste of a Don Kiki Brown at its peak, combined with the strength of 5 Vegas Cask Strength and the lean finish of La Flor de A. Allones.

To make the experience even more pleasant, I had a great liquor pairing.  Old Bardstown was one of the two original recipes of the Willet family in Kentucky, and I found this bourbon to be smooth with under-notes of honey.  It was the perfect complement of sweet to offset the bold, heavy, unrelenting taste of the cigar.  Even so, by the end, the cigar was so strong my heart was racing and my stomach threatened to turn over.  I am out of practice for a smoke this powerful!

This was a great cigar!  Will definitely try again in the future. 
State of the Humidor (written on Jan 7, 2015)

This year, I had to curtail my cigar enjoyment to once a week. My doctor says I need to lose weight and get my blood sugar under control to avoid developing diabetes later in life.  Turns out there is a strong link between cigarette smoking and blood sugar levels.  I don’t know if cigars are also a contributing factor (I doubt it), but cutting back seemed like the prudent thing to do this year. 
My new motto is going to be “Smoke less, but smoke better!”
Here's the 2015 State of the Humidor:
New cigars to try in 2015:
  1. Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado (Cigar Aficionado #1 cigar of 2014)
  2. Jesus Fuego Corojo Oscuro
  3. Henry Clay Honduran
Last cigar of 2014:
  • CI Legends-White Label (Camacho) -- at The Deuce’s New Years Eve party, while watching an impromptu knife throwing contest – Paired with Teacher’s Highland Cream
First cigar of 2015:
  • Xikar HC Maduro -- while watching the Sugar Bowl (Bama vs. Ohio State) at Steve Laster's house -- Paired with Belle Meade 9-year bourbon.
New cigars I tried in 2014 -- would purchase again:

  • Xikar HC Maduro
  • Pinar del Rio Oscuro
  • Joya de Nicaragua Antano Dark Corojo 
  • Pinar del Rio Seleccion 2010
  • 5 Vegas Relic
  • 5 Vegas High Primings
  • Perdomo Habano Corojo
  • Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Legend
New cigars I tried in 2014 -- still on the fence:
  • Pinar Del Rio Small Batch Black Corojo (review coming soon!)
  • Pinar del Rio Classico (maybe just needs more aging?)
  • La Perla Habano Morado (inconsistency, construction issues)
  • Oliveros Sun Grown (decided to age an extra year)
New cigars I tried in 2014 -- would not purchase again:  
  • LegendArio
  • 5 Vegas Limitada 2011
  • Partagas 1845
Here is an approximate listing of my humidor contents:
  • Oliveros Sun Grown Churchill (10)
  • Pinar Del Rio Small Batch Black Corojo (4)
  • Legends Series-Camacho (2)
  • J. Fuego Corojo Oscuro (20)
  • Man O War 2nds Robusto (15)
  • Honduran Factory Corojos
  • Pinar del Rio Habano Sun Grown Double Corona (20)
  • Consuegra Governor #16 (25)
  • Henry Clay Honduran Grandes (20)
  • Mario Mancini Magic Mountain (20)
  • Te-Amo World Selection Series Cuban Style (20)
  • Cuba Libre One Churchill (20)
  • La Gloria Cubana Miami Double Corona (20)
  • Omar Ortex Originals Belicoso (60)
  • 5 Vegas High Primings Box Pressed (20)
  • 5 Vegas Cask Strength Toro (20)
I also have 27 cigars in the Lost Sticks Cemetery, the top tray of my large humidor. I save the last cigar from each box and put it in this tray for long-term aging.  I have 8 cigars that are now over 5 years old: 
  1. 5 Vegas Limitada 2008
  2. 5 Vegas Miami Toro
  3. La Flor de Murias Epicure
  4. Omar Ortex Original Belicoso
  5. Ramon Allones Reserve Corona Gorda
  6. Gurkha Master Select Churchill
  7. Perdomo Slow Aged Glorioso (2)
One final note:  I have been enjoying a box of Legends White Label (Camacho) the past few weeks, a nice hearty cigar that gets better at lower humidity levels.  Unfortunately, I am very bummed to learn that CI has discontinued them.  For my money, this is the best Camacho line on the market.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

La Perla Habano Morado Belicoso
Size: 6.2 x 52
Wrapper: African Cameroon
Binder/Filler: Nicaraguan
Price:  $9.50

I have conflicted feelings about this cigar, and really the whole brand.  I first discovered LPH Black Pearl in 2006.  I tried the Cobre first—didn’t like the first one, but really enjoyed the second. Next came the Rojo.  My review at the time praised the flavors but noted my frustration with construction issues.  For many years thereafter, La Perla Habana disappeared from the online cigar sites, but I still ran across them from time to time at brick and mortar shops for around $10 each.  About two years ago, all of a sudden, they were back on Cigars International and CigarBid at ridiculously low prices. I grabbed a box of these 93-rated Morados for less than $2 per stick.

After a year of aging, they have been a mixed bag. The best cigars in the box have developed a nice faint toothiness on the wrapper.  These cigars have a pungent pre-light aroma of oak and pepper.  Once you light up, you get an initial blast of pepper (like a Pepin black label) followed by nuts (like a Gran Habano #3) with that special tangy Cameroon under-note. Some of these cigars, the ones with the toothy wrappers, stay on the full side of medium-full; others lose the pepper spice altogether and then slip into a rather nondescript medium body. 

Some cigars burn straight and true, while others draw tight and require frequent touch-ups.  I’ve noticed about half these cigars seem to have been rolled too tight, especially under the band.  Cigars with this problem tend to dry out between the cap and the band, meaning they burn fast and hot at the foot, but the draw is still not loose enough. 

This cigar pairs well with anCnoc 12-year old single malt, a light-body scotch with pronounced lemon citrus flavors.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pinar del Rio Classico Torpedo
Size: 6.5 x 52
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut
Filler: Nicaraguan and Dominican
Price: $5.80

According to internet copy, this is supposed to be a “smooth, creamy” cigar that is “a few notches above most Connecticuts in body”.  That’s not what I tasted.  I smoked two  of these on vacation.  They had strong, nutty flavors (vaguely reminiscent of a Cuban Crafters Medina 1959 Miami Edition).  It was a surprising medium-full body,  a little on the full side.  There was a touch of harshness, though, that I did not like and it made me think this cigar would benefit from additional aging.  I put my last one in the Lost Sticks Tray to see what happens to it in a few years.  I think I will be in for a treat in 2018.

Pinar del Rio Oscuro Torpedo
Size: 6.5 x 52
Wrapper: Brazilian Oscuro
Filler: Nicaraguan and Dominican
Price: $6.40

Pinar del Rio cigars are manufactured in the La Fabrica factory, owned and operated by Abe Flores and Juan Rodriquez, in the Dominican Republic. This factory also produces several other brands such as Devils Weed, Don Leoncio, Flor de Cesar, and Top Shelf Signature Select White Label.

I had three of these cigars from a sampler pack I bought in July 2013.  I shared two of them with my brothers-in-law on vacation in Baneberry, TN.  We smoked them the first night by the pool.  It featured a dark, glossy brown wrapper (but in no way do I suspect it might be dyed).  Flavors were decidedly grassy, which is the death knell of many cigars in my opinion, but they worked ok on this one.  It was a mild-to-medium cigar (more to the mild side) but it featured a loose, creamy draw with just a hint of pepper spice on the tongue and in the nasal cavity.  Very smooth, flavorful, not overly complex but  kept me interested.  Burned for two hours, at least. 

I came away impressed and wishing I had a couple more to try. Paired well with Belle Meade bourbon over ice (but doesn’t everything?).
LegendArio Toro
Size: 6.0 x 50
Tobacco: Honduran puro
Price: $6.48

This is a lower-end budget cigar by Camacho.  I have no idea where or when I got this, but it has been in my humidor since 2012 at least.  I have been studiously avoiding it because it is such an unnatural shade of pitch black I assume it must be dyed maduro. Earlier this week, I finally put it out of its misery, smoking it on the pool deck sans alcohol or drink of any kind.

The wrapper was brittle to the touch and cracked easily.  It had a promising earthy prelight aroma, but it turned out to be extremely bland.  It was so mild and bland I had trouble identifying any flavors at all.  Draw was loose, but I couldn’t classify it as either “creamy” or “smooth”.  I considered pitching it several times, just out of boredom, but I stayed with it until the end. 

Mostly it was just utterly forgettable. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Joya de Nicaragua Antano Dark Corojo Azarosa
Size: 4.5 x 52 (rothschild)
Tobacco: Nicaraguan puro
Price: $10

There's a new cigar lounge in Lakeland, and this was their first major event.  I smoked a JdN Antano Dark Corojo and got to shake hands with Dr. Alejandro Ernesto Martínez Cuenca.  

Cuenca is well-known in the cigar industry as the man who saved Joya de Nicaragua.  JdN had been moved to Honduras in the 1980's when the Reagan administration's embargo of Nicaraguan goods made it illegal to export their cigars to the U.S.  The JdN trademark had also been sold during the many years of political turmoil.  Cuenca had been the Minister of Foreign Trade for the Sandinista government during the Sandinista Revolution; he bought the company in 1994 after the war ended, reestablished the trademark, and moved operations back to his homeland.  Now JdN cigars are very well respected by smokers all over the world.    

Unfortunately, Cuenca was an hour late getting to the event and it just so happened he came in a few minutes before I had to leave to pick up takeout supper next door at Emerald Thai.  I missed out on some very generous swag bags and free stogies.  But I shook the doctor's hand and that was neat.

The cigar itself was much like the Antano 1970.  It featured a dry, soft wrapper with few veins.  Prelight aroma was woody and grassy.  It tasted very strong without being spicy.  Smooth with a loose draw, and a decent finish on the palate.  It did not have any of the sweet or fruit-tang flavors I associate with corojo wrappers, but neither did it taste much like a traditional maduro.  I wish I could have paired it with something better to drink that Diet Coke, but the store doesn't have a license to sell alcohol.

Like my review of the Antano 1970, I would say this cigar was very enjoyable, I would smoke another one, but I probably wouldn't pay $10 for it. For that price, it didn't quite live up to expectation.
Fourth of July Weekend 2014

Over the four-day weekend I selected three cigars from my Lost Sticks tray to see how they fared after some aging.  Each of these cigars was older than my youngest son.

Thursday night - 

Gran Habano #5 Pyramid (5 years, 4 months)
Paired with Jameson Select Reserve
Smoked with Steve and Shaun on my back porch

Wow, wow, wow... The difference in this cigar was apparent as soon as I freed it from the yellowed cellophane.  The wrapper was glossy and shiny, literally glistening with oils.  Prelight aroma was still strong.  Overall strength had abated somewhat.  The signature pepper-and-spice flavors were still very much present.  The "sweet flavors" and "lingering tart" finish I described in my 2007 review had metamorphosed into something altogether different.  This cigar now had the richest, deepest, strongest finish of any cigar I've ever encountered.  It was like my mouth was coated with a thick coat of tobacco goodness.  The closest cigar I can compare it to is the Cuban Cohiba, only bolder and better.  The draw was easy but not too loose.  Construction was good; the cigar only needed a single touch up over 90 minutes.  

Friday night - 

Gran Habano #1 Robusto (5 years, 10 months)
Paired with Thomas H. Handy Sazarec Rye on ice
Smoked with Steve and Shaun on Steve's back porch

When I reviewed this cigar in 2009, I described it as "a very light, airy cigar that is slightly sweet on the tongue but slightly bitter on the finish".  Well, no more.  This cigar, too, benefited from age.

The cellophane sleeve was faintly yellowed, and this cigar had a toasty, pungent prelight aroma.  Whereas the GH #5 Corojo sported a glistening, oily wrapper after five years, this Connecticut wrapper had grown very dry to the touch and wrinkled.  The first thing I noticed upon lighting it was a burst of pepper that had definitely not be there six years ago.  This lasted for a good 10 minutes before it subsided into a decidedly mild-medium taste profile, but still heavier and more flavorful than it used to be.  There was no touch of sweetness anymore. The best improvement was clouds and clouds of thick, creamy, white smoke on every puff.  This was a remarkable improvement for what had been a very average cigar.

Saturday night - 
Sol Cubano Cuban Cabinet Toro (5 years, 4 months)
Jameson Irish Whisky, standing in the pool on an unseasonably cool night

Much like the Gran Habano from Thursday night, this Sol Cubano Cuban Cabinet also mellowed, replacing some of its original strength with richer but less potent flavors.  There was just a trace of pepper that stood out in my nasal cavity but not on my tongue. This particular cigar did not develop any tooth.  Draw was pleasant, and burn was ok.  It produced a speckled black-and-white ash. 

No doubt the Sol Cubanos benefitted from their five year nap, but not as much as the other two cigars.  Why is this? 

Perhaps I can speculate that, as a general rule, very strong cigars benefit the most from extra age; it allows them to add flavor, and the corresponding loss of strength is not detrimental because they were overly strong to begin with.  Mild cigars can also benefit; the loss of strength and spice is barely noticeable, if at all, because there was precious little to begin with, and aging them fosters richer, creamier tastes.  If there is any latent spice in a mild leaf, aging may also allow that develop a little more.  Medium and medium-full cigars benefit the least from extra aging because the improvement of the flavor is offset by a losses in body, strength, and spice that significantly alter the fundamental profile of the cigar.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Oliveros Sun Grown Reserve Churchill
Size: 7 x 48
Wrapper: Nicaragua 
Filler:  Nicaragua
Price: $5.75

Boutique Blends Cigars is rapidly making a name for itself.  Swag Puro Dominicano was named No. 1 Best Buy Cigar of 2011 by Cigar Insider.  Aging Room Small Batch M356 was Cigar Insider’s highest rated cigar of 2011 and one of Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 Cigars of 2011. Now, they seem to be the makers of Oliveros Sun Grown as well. I don't know how long Boutique Blends has been making this blend, but I do know the Oliveros brand name has been around a long time.  I had an Oliveros 1927 in 2007 (Bob Arnold gave me one during a poker game).  It was a buck-a-stick deal from some internet site, and it was perfect to be a second-stogie-at-the-poker-table type of smoke. 

This sun grown version is much better. It features a red-hued wrapper with the rich prelight aroma of fermenting apples. There is a significant burst of spice at the beginning, along with a slightly sweet taste.  It's hard to describe, but this cigar always seems to skirt the line between that dense,dank, flavorful yeasty sweetness and an edge of bitterness.  It may be the cigars are a tad wet (they were aged a year at 74% RH, and they've only been in my "ready to smoke" humidor at 65% RH for a few weeks), or it may just be its normal flavor profile. 

Construction has been nearly flawless.  They cigars burn ninety minutes to sometimes two hours.  Recommend to pair with Ardmore scotch or Belle Meade bourbon.  (anCnoc is too tart; Islay malts are too complex).  

These cigars are tasty and strong and full-bodied, but still I have been somewhat disappointed that they are essentially one-note wonders. Other online reviews describe a multitude of shifting flavors, but mine have all been consistently single-minded from start to finish.

Update 7/23/14:  I wrote the above review 20 days ago after having smoked the first two cigars out of a box.  Frankly I have become less and less enchanted with each cigar I've tried.  The harshness is always there, and it always bothers me.  The flavors are good, but they become abrasive after a while... always strength but without spice.  This is sort of like a 5 Vegas Cask Strength, except the Oliveros doesn't have the smoothness or the complexity of flavors.  I've decided to put the rest of this box back down for aging another year.  I really think this one has a lot of potential, but it has to mellow out some.
Pinar del Rio Seleccion 2010
(also referred to as Seleccion Reserva Limitada)
Size: 6.5 x 52 (torpedo)
Wrapper: Broadleaf Pennsylvania maduro
Filler: Dominican/Nicaraguan
Price: $5.85

I got a couple of these cigars as part of a PdR sampler a year ago.  I enjoy the Pindar del Rio Habano Sun Grown so much, I thought I should give some of their other blends a try. 

I lit up this cigar two nights ago, with exactly 360 days aging in my humidor.  I paired it with a glass of Belle Meade bourbon.  At first, I thought this cigar might be a barber pole because I noticed the wrapper at the head was very dark, but very light at the foot.  I discovered, though, this was simply a variation of color within a single leaf.  (This made me feel comfortable I was getting a traditional maduro created during curing, rather than a tobacco leaf dyed with vegetable dye.)

I caught subtle hints of cocoa and pepper, but very little of the coffee flavor so often detected in a maduro.  The most noticeable aspect of the cigar was a pronounced creaminess.  The draw was thinner than I like.  Burn was generally good, but I had to touch it up twice to correct a canoe (This was forgivable since a rainstorm moved into the backyard about halfway through, so the stogie was contending with humidity and wind.)

It reminded me of a different cigar but at first I couldn't place what it was.  Then it came to me: Onyx Reserve.  I haven't had an Onyx Reserve since 2003 that I can recall, but this seemed very similar to what I remember. 

This wasn't my favorite taste profile, but it was a good enough cigar I would try another one.

Monday, June 16, 2014

E. P. Carrillo CORE Predelictos
Wrapper: Ecuadoran Sumatra
Filler: Dominican/Nicaraguan
Size: 6.1 x 52 (pyramid)
Price:  $8.20

The E.P. Carrillo CORE Encantos (robusto) was one of my favorite cigars from the Big Smoke in Las Vegas in 2012, but somehow I never got around to reviewing it on this blog.  No matter, I picked up a 10-pack (no box) of the torpedoes in July 2013 and then smoked the first one Saturday night after my son's birthday party.  Steve Laster and I sat by the pool for a few hours performing a taste test between Auchentoshan 12 and Auchentoshan American Oak single malt expressions.  Peter Hartz joined us, but he preferred Jack Daniels Fire with no cigar.

This is a beautiful cigar with a dark, smooth wrapper.  It is medium-full in body with lots of pepper.  In terms of spiciness, it reminded me of a CAO Black, but it had a more pronounced finish and aftertaste.  In terms of flavor, it brought to mind a For de A. Allones (lean, leathery), but E. P. Carillo lacked the heavy earth taste; it was more woody. 

Hands down, this was a great cigar. 

I didn't realize it until later, but this cigar was named for its maker Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, who founded La Gloria Cubana.  After he sold LGC, he went into business for himself under the E.P. Carrillo moniker.  CORE is their base (medium) cigar line.  They also have a mild version (New Wave Connecticut), a full version (Cardinal), a sun grown line (E-Stunner), and high ring gauge line (INCH, with gauges of 60 and higher). 

Update 6/20/14:  Since last Saturday night when I constructed this review, I smoked several of these in a short span of time:  Tuesday night on on the back deck with Shaun; Wednesday while reading the first half of The Wrong Quarry by Max Allan Collins; and yet another at the drive-in watching a Jimmy Buffet concert being simulcast around the nation.  I've noticed some inconsistency in the amount of spice from cigar to cigar--usually this is medium-full body, but one cigar in particular came across as very potent and strong.  Some cigars have tooth on the wrapper, while others are very smooth.  Construction has been uniformly good. 

5 Vegas Relic

5 Vegas Relic
Tobacco: Dominican Republic puro
Size: 5.75 x 54 (perfecto)
Price:  $4.16

I picked up a 5-pack of 5 Vegas Relics in Feb 2012 along with another box purchase.  I aged them a year, then smoked them at odd times when I didn't have a lot of time (they burn fast) but wanted something very spicy.    They feature a toothy Corojo wrapper around a blend of Dominican-grown long-leaf ligeros combined (according to the website) with a single leaf of 12-year-old Dominican tobacco.  It features a medium body, but very strong in flavor.  This cigar tastes better than its stronger cousin (the Cask Strength) and is on par or perhaps even a little better than High Primings.

The perfecto shape is a little hard to get used to at first, and that's perhaps why I gravitate to the High Primings, plus these are a little more expensive, but it's worth it.