Quick Smoke: Partagas Serie P No. 2 (Cuban)

31 Jan 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Serie P No. 2

I don’t smoke many Cubans. But there’s been a lot of talk about Cuba lately, and all the media attention got me craving a Habano. Digging through one of my humidors, the first Cuban I came across was a Partagas Serie P No. 2 (6.1 x 52) that had been resting for about three years. Like most other Cubans, it pays to age this pirámide instead of smoking it fresh. If you can invest the time, you’ll be rewarded with a rich, medium-bodied, well-balanced treat of cinnamon, white pepper, nuts, cream, and cedar spice.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 415

30 Jan 2015

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

Rare Lapiz1) Punch Rare Corojo will be back at tobacconists starting February 16, including two new vitolas. The first, El Diablo (6.5 x 66), will be a permanent addition to the annual release. The second, Rare Lapiz (6.75 x 56), will only be available this year, and only to select retailers. “Punch Rare Corojo started the trend of seasonal cigars, and each year we’re pleased with the response to this annual collection,” said Ed McKenna, senior brand manager for Punch. “Given the range of frontmarks and the addition of Rare Lapiz to this year’s lineup, we are confident that Punch Rare Corojo will sell out quickly.” The Rare Corojo blend includes an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, a Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and a filler blend of Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Dominican tobaccos.

2) “Less than a week after New Orleans passed a local law to ban smoking in bars and casinos, some Baton Rouge medical professionals and local leaders are pushing the capital city to strike while the iron’s still hot,” according to The Advocate. The director or Tobacco Free Living, an organization that lobbied for the ban in New Orleans, is on record saying Baton Rouge should be next. Baton Rouge’s mayor is thus far publicly undecided.

3) Inside the Industry: José Blanco’s Señorial announced a distribution deal with House of Horvath to distribute the brand in Canada. Cuban cigar distribution company Habanos recently announced the introduction of Añejados, a limited series of cigars that have already been aged for 5-8 years.

4) Deal of the Week: Have fun with these coupon codes at Cigar Place to score some excellent deals. Our favorites include 20% off Undercrown and Oliva, 15% off Drew Estate MUWAT, and 10% off Ashton VSG. You can also use the promo to score 5% off Tatuaje cigars.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: General Cigar

Commentary: Don’t Lose Sight of Principle in Smoking Ban Fights

29 Jan 2015

The cigar smokers of Nebraska are coming together with national cigar organizations to fix the cigar bar issue in Nebraska. A new bill is moving forward that should address the state law that led a court to eliminate the exemption for cigar bars.

The Nebraska Supreme Court found the exemptions violated the state’s prohibition on special legislation, or laws that are not equally applied in pursuit of the law’s stated goal. The court found that since the law’s goal was to protect employees from secondhand smoke, there was no reason why it shouldn’t also “protect” cigar bar employees.

Now common sense says cigar bar employees are fully aware that they would be working around cigar smoke, plus their job won’t exist very long if a cigar bar can’t let patrons smoke. So it certainly will be a good thing when the Nebraska legislature amends their law so their intention to exempt cigar bars will survive any legal challenges.

Still, I can’t help but feeling that there are lessons to be learned from this episode.

While the result—banning smoking in cigar bars—may have seemed odd, the court wasn’t totally wrong when it said if the only goal of the ban was to protect employees from second hand smoke, then there is no reason for any exemptions. In fact, there’s a level of consistency to a blunt, across-the-board ban.

Once you’ve conceded the premise that government should be protecting workers from making their own decision about whether to work in a place that allows smoke, there isn’t a logical reason for that paternalism to stop when it comes to places whose business model is catering to cigar smokers. If restaurants and bars are included, why not cigar lounges? Why not cigar shops?

It’s important to make a principled stand against smoking bans. After all, they strip adults from making the choice to be around tobacco, which is after all a 100% legal product. If the owner of a furniture store wants to allow smoking, and consumers and workers choose to be there, that should be their right. If that sounds like a dumb idea to you, well that’s what the free market is for: to allow businesses to succeed or fail based on their ability to attract customers.

None of which is to say that exemptions for cigar shops, cigar bars, and other places aren’t important; those exemptions limit the damage done by smoking bans, which can destroy businesses and jobs. But when a smoking ban passes with certain exemptions, remember it isn’t a victory for cigar rights—just slightly less of a defeat.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Hudson Maple Cask Rye Whiskey

28 Jan 2015

hudson-maple-cask-rye

I’ve written before about aging whiskey in small barrels and the theories behind it. Some say it’s a shortcut to make a young whiskey taste like fine, well-aged whiskey, while others say it only makes lousy whiskey. As I’ve stated before, my feeling is the practice mostly produces a different kind of whiskey, very different but not necessarily lesser.

Tuthilltown Distillery, which makes the Hudson line, is certainly a believer in the mini-barrel aging method, as all their products are stored in 3-10 gallon barrels for “less than four years,” though they don’t disclose how much less. (I wrote about their Baby Bourbon and Four Grain Bourbon years ago.) Interestingly, the increasingly common practice of labeling young whiskey “less than four years old” will no longer fly under new federal labeling guidelines, meaning that an actual affirmative age statement will soon be necessary.

For this “limited edition” rye (word is it will become an annual release), Tuthilltown took its Hudson Manhattan Rye and finished it in casks that had previously been used to age maple syrup. The result is a 92-proof finished rye that sells for around $55 for a 375 ml. bottle (half the size of a traditional bottle).

Whether it’s the maple or the mini casks, the Hudson Maple Rye features an inviting rich copper color. The nose definitely has a added hint of maple on top of oak and wood spice.

But on the palate the youth shows. The woodiness is an astringent oak flavor that overwhelms more inviting notes of maple, maltiness, pear, and cocoa. The finish shows more young oak and maple.

I think a Mexican-wrapped cigar is ideal for this rye, as it has a similar quality of full flavor with a slightly harsh edge. The Illusione *R* Rothchildes is an excellent choice, especially with its value price.

Ultimately, it’s hard to recommend Hudson Maple Cask Rye to all but the most committed collector, mostly because the price and the harshness due to its youth. Still, one thing I really appreciate about this whiskey is the natural way Hudson handled adding a maple flavor, at a time when more sketchy, artificial methods of flavoring are becoming increasingly common.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XIX)

27 Jan 2015

In this segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ponder who benefits from the criminalization of cigar bars in Nebraska, cigars blended for specific spirits pairings, and if you might be able to light up at the craps table at this summer’s IPCPR Trade Show.

Cigars

Hope for Cigar Bars in Nebraska?

We’ve been following the story about the criminalization of smoking inside cigar bars in Nebraska for some time. It all started last year when the Nebraska Supreme Court determined the exemption granted to cigar bars was unconstitutional. Now, state lawmakers have drafted a bill to reinstate those exemptions. Frankly, I can’t seem to understand who would be protected by a smoking ban for cigar bars. The employees who choose to work there (assuming the businesses wouldn’t close down)? The patrons who choose to drop in for a cigar? And then I remembered how this whole thing began: Big John’s Billiards, a pool hall in Omaha, didn’t think it was fair to have to comply with the statewide smoking ban if cigar bars didn’t. Personally, I hope the bill to reinstate the exemptions for cigar bars passes. But the bigger question is: Why should the government get to dictate to any private business whether it can provide cigar-friendly accommodations?

Perfect Pairings

Yesterday I reviewed the Dram Cask No. 3 Double Habano Toro from C&C Cigars, a smoke that’s specifically intended to pair with spicier whiskeys. Dram is comprised of four different blends, each built to complement whiskeys of varying strength. This concept isn’t necessarily a first for the cigar industry. The Illusione Epernay, for example, was blended to pair with champagne. But I’m not sure if any previous effort has been as overt in its intent as Dram, or the just-announced Drew Estate Smoking Monk, a Cigars International exclusive that features five blends each designed to be paired with a different type of beer. Given the rising demand for craft spirits (especially whiskey, micro-brew beer, rum, etc.) I wonder if this will develop into more of a trend. It isn’t too hard to imagine a line of cigars blended specifically to pair with certain kinds of wine.

Big Easy Gambling

Last week, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a smoking ban. The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) was quick to point out the new law will not impact its 83rd Trade Show, slated to be held in the Louisiana city this summer, because cigar bars, the convention center, and facilities being used for private events will be protected. However, if you’ve ever been to an IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans, you’ll recall the Harrah’s Casino that’s nearby the convention center can be a popular destination among attendees. Currently, Harrah’s is not exempted from the ban. But it was reported on Monday that efforts are currently underway to allow smoking in half of the casino, and a vote on the proposal could come as early as February 5—presumably in plenty of time for the convention in July.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: Dram Cask No. 3 Double Habano Toro

26 Jan 2015

In ancient Greece, a “dram” was a coin and a unit of measurement. These days, “dram” usually refers to a small amount of spirit poured neat, especially scotch whisky.

Dram Cask 3 ToroCapitalizing on the popularity of whiskey, Orleans Group International and C&C Cigars recently released the Dram cigar brand, “a line crafted to choreograph the flavors of whiskey and cigars,” according to a press release. “Cigar and whiskey aficionados alike will appreciate the depth of each blend’s complementary or contrasting flavors, magnifying the qualities of the cigar and the whiskey.”

Dram is subscribing to the principal that “body is as essential as flavor,” so there are four Dram blends that are intended to pair with different whiskey intensities. Dram Cask No. 1 Double Connecticut is on the bolder end of the mild spectrum and marketed as a complement to light whiskies like Glenmorangie and Balvenie Single Barrel. Cask No. 2 Double Corojo is intended for woody whiskeys like Wild Turkey 101 and Angel’s Envy. Cask No. 3 Double Habano is for spicier spirits like Bulleit Bourbon. And Cask No. 4 Double Binder Connecticut Broadleaf is for smoky, peaty scotches like Laphroaig.

I sampled three Cask No. 3 Double Habano Toros (6 x 54, $9-10) for this review. Each featured a dark Habano wrapper with minimal veins, moderate oils, and bold pre-light notes of dried apricot. The cap clips easily and the cold draw is effortless, imparting a slight earthy spice on the lips.

I would be remiss to sample a cigar that’s built specifically to complement spicy whiskeys without actually enjoying one such whiskey alongside the smoke. Since the Dram marketing materials specifically point to Bulleit Bourbon as the example for Cask No. 3—and since I had a bottle of orange-label Bulleit on hand—I decided to pour myself a dram (or two) for each of my three samples. My conclusion: While most cigars taste pretty damn good with any kind of bourbon, I have to tip my hat; the rich earthiness and spice of Cask No. 3 does indeed taste very fine with the likes of Bulleit.

In fact, even though the cigar tastes quite good on its own, and even though Bulleit is tasty and an excellent value on its own, the two together are greater than the sum of their parts. That said, setting aside the bourbon and focusing completely on the cigar, I find the profile is best characterized by mushroom, raisin, and coffee with a dry, woodsy spice. The texture is leathery and the resting smoke is dense and chocolaty. Construction is consistently outstanding with a straight burn line, solid white ash, and good smoke production.

If the C&C name sounds familiar, you’ll remember C&C’s owner, Joe Chiusano, is the former president of Cusano, a brand that ended up getting purchased by Davidoff in 2009. Since he launched C&C, I’d have to say the Dram Cask No. 3 Double Habano Toro is my favorite blend in the portfolio, and one that’s worthy of three and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Señor Rio Diamanté

25 Jan 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”senor-rio-diamante-sq

senor-rio-diamante-qs

This week I reviewed the Señor Rio Añejo and in the process I also smoked theDiamanté (which I reviewed in October) to compare and contrast the two cigar offerings from Jalisco International Imports. Of the two, Diamanté is the more balanced and well-rounded smoke, while Añejo is bolder and stronger. Diamanté features coffee flavors, bready notes, and a slight pepper spice, all in a small, odd shape (5 x 40). Particularly if you are a fan of A.J. Fernendez’s cigars (he helped blend and make Señor Rio), this is worth picking up.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys