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.