Cigar Review: Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger

20 Nov 2017

Baby, it’s cold outside. For those of us not lucky enough to be living in a tropical climate in the winter, November—with its diminishing humidity and plummeting temperatures—is a stark reminder that this time of year is not the most accommodating for cigars. It isn’t terribly accommodating for cigar smokers, either. Thanks to government-imposed smoking bans, thousands of decent cigar enthusiasts will be thrust into the cold and out of private restaurants and bars that otherwise would have welcomed them with open arms.

One strategy for beating the winter-time blues is to limit your exposure to the elements by smoking shorter cigars. And if you’re looking to pack a mighty punch into a stout format, one excellent option is the Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger from RoMa Craft Tobac.

By now, RoMa Craft—brought to you by Mike Rosales (the “Ro”) and Skip Martin (the “Ma)—needs no introduction. After all, the operation may be small with limited production, but it’s undoubtedly making some of the world’s best cigars. The lineup includes CroMagnon, Intemperance (EC XVIII and BA XXI), and Aquitaine.

Aquitaine has the same filler blend (Estelí, Condega, and Pueblo Nuevo) and binder (Cameroon) as CroMagnon. But instead of featuring a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper, Aquitaine has an Ecuadorian Habano Ligero wrapper. “This eighth and ninth priming Ligero leaf is thick, oily, and has amazing texture,” according to RoMa.

The Knuckle Dragger (4 x 52) retails for $6.25 and sports a wrapper that’s rustic, toothy, and oily. It is on the firm side and the pre-light notes remind me of dried apricot and cereals. The nicely executed cap, even when only barely pierced, conceals a smooth cold draw.

Right out of the gate, the flavor is bold with a rich, leathery texture on the palate. Introductory notes include leather, white pepper spice, espresso bean, and a bit of a cayenne heat in the back of the throat. A wonderful sweetness, likely a product of the Cameroon binder, adds a touch of cream to balance the blend.

Towards the midway point, the body ramps up from medium- to full-bodied to full-blown full. There’s a hearty nicotine kick. Notes of roasted cashew join the profile. From there, the flavor remains largely unchanged to the nub, save for an increase in spice and heat down the home stretch. All the while, construction is exquisite. Expect a solid ash, even burn, and good smoke production.

RoMa Craft has built its well-deserved reputation on quality, consistency, and great bang for the buck. The Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger lives up to these virtuous characteristics, and it does so in a winter-friendly format that delivers a ton of flavor in a relatively short time span. In my book, it’s worthy of a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Quick Smoke: Illusione Fume d’Amour Concepcions

19 Nov 2017

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.”

Concepcions is the corona gorda version of Illusione’s Fume d’Amour line, which debuted at the 2014 IPCPR Trade Show. The Nicaraguan puro demonstrates medium-bodied flavors that have made this a popular line: cream, cedar, roasted cashews, and light pepper spice. Construction is flawless. I’ve enjoyed all the Fume d’Amour vitolas, but this might be my favorite.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Natural (Smoke Inn Exclusive)

18 Nov 2017

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.”

This Padrón Serie 1964 vitola is exclusive to Florida retailer Smoke Inn. It retails for about $12 and is presented in a small, winter-friendly format (4 x 50). Construction is sublime, and the flavor profile includes notes of cream, almond, cedar, cocoa, and vanilla. About five months have passed since I reviewed it in June, and I can’t really detect any discernible changes. That’s OK in my book, though, as this Nicaraguan puro was unsurprisingly wonderful from the get-go.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Altadis Teams Up with Crowned Heads, New Davidoff Lounge in West Palm Beach, and More

17 Nov 2017

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 556th in the series.

1) Cigar giant Altadis U.S.A. has partnered with Nashville-based boutique outfit Crowned Heads to announce Montecristo Ciudad de Música, a new cigar line that celebrates the “lively spirit of Nashville.” The blend recipe includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. “The challenge for us was in taking such an iconic brand as Montecristo and putting our fingerprints on it all the while respecting the tradition and legacy that’s existed in the Montecristo brand since 1935,” said Crowned Heads co-founder Jon Huber. The four sizes—Robusto, Corona Gorda, Sublime, and Piramide—are expected to be available later this year and will retail in the $11.95-$16 range (Piramide will be exclusive to Casa de Montecristo locations). Production is 25,000 cigars in each size for a total run of 100,000.

2) Raising taxes on tobacco creates a black market. That’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise that New York City, with nearly $5 of local and state tax per pack of cigarettes (on top of significant federal taxes), is now the “cigarette smuggling capital of the nation” according to a report by the Tax Foundation.

3) Whiskey is popular here in the U.S. and overseas, and thieves in France took notice. This week the popular Maison du Whisky in Paris was broken into, with the bandits walking away with 69 bottles valued at nearly $800,000, including one bottle valued at over $200,000.

4) Inside the Industry: Today is the grand opening of the new Davidoff Lounge at Smoke Inn in West Palm Beach, Florida. The 14,000 square foot space features “Asian-inspired modern design, with industrial touches,” according to a press release. “Tobacco barns and traditions of the Dominican Republic influence a palette of natural materials, structure, and warm décor—a design delivering a balance of varying materials and architectural features to create a sanctuary of luxury for cigar aficionados to enjoy.” Abe Dababneh of Smoke Inn posted the following to Facebook on Wednesday: “By far the longest project I have ever been involved in finally comes to an end. I dedicate this shop to all the amazing patrons who have embraced our [West Palm Beach] location for the past 17 years! I hope this new store makes for many, many more years of great memories to come. Don’t miss our grand opening celebration… Incredible deals all day and complimentary hors d’ oeuvres and champagne from 6-9 PM.”

5) From the Archives: For almost a decade, we’ve shared what we plan to smoke after Thanksgiving. Here’s a list of our nearly 30 past selections. Be on the lookout for our 2017 Thanksgiving cigar selections next week.

6) Deal of the Week: Here are 100 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, CAO, My Father, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, and more. Free shipping is included on any purchase. If you really want to stock up, add promo code “GBP20D” at checkout to knock $20 off an order of $150 or more.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Altadis / Crowned Heads

Cigar Review: Macanudo Inspirado Black Robusto

15 Nov 2017

Macanudo is one of the most popular cigars in America, and the mild Macanudo Cafe and Gold blends (both of which feature the classic green and white band) are most closely identified with the brand. That popularity shapes the brand’s identity.

The upside is the reputation makes Macanudo green label cigars a go-to for mild cigar smokers who know they will get exactly what they want. The commercial challenge for has been expanding that successful reputation beyond mild offerings, especially as tastes for many cigar smokers have tended toward fuller-bodied profiles.

Macanudo’s Inspirado line first debuted in 2004 for international markets; it wasn’t available in the U.S. until 2014. Keep in mind, unlike in the U.S.—where General Cigar/STG also owns the rights to the Partagas, Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey, and other trademarks that originated in Cuba—the Cuban government still controls those marks overseas, meaning Macanudo is far and away the best known brand owned by STG outside the United States. This may account for why Macnudo Inspirado was pushed elsewhere.

Since its U.S. debut in 2014, Inspirado seems to have been building an identity as a sub-brand of Macanudo, with a focus on more flavor than Macanudo has traditionally been identified with. In addition to the Orange-banded original Inspirado, the Black and White lines were added to the portfolio earlier this year. (Previously, there had been an online/catalog-only Inspirado Black line, which featured Orange lettering, but that blend is different from the full release Macanudo Black that debuted this year.)

Inspirado Black uses an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and Estelí filler surrounded by a dark, nearly jet black Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. Rather than priming and curing the wrapper tobacco in the traditional manner, which is leaf by leaf, Inspirado uses stalk-cured Broadleaf tobacco.

In stalk-curing, which has become more common for Connecticut Habano wrapper, the entire plant is cut and the entire plant, leaves, and stalk cure together. The process takes longer but can produce a more flavorful wrapper leaf as the nutrients from the stalk continue to migrate to the leaves during curing.

Inspirado Black comes in three sizes: Churchill, Toro, and Robusto. I smoked three Robustos (4.9 x 48), which sell for $7 each. After pre-light notes featuring raisins, I lit the Robusto to find a unique combination of flavors with mole (unsweetened chocolate, smoked paprika, red pepper), bread, cream, dried fruit, and oak char. Those flavors, which combine for full-bodied flavors, coat the palate with an almost velvet-like mouthfeel.

The cigar produces thick, aromatic smoke. Except for the strength building slightly, there’s little variation from start to finish, except for a slight sourness that’s evident towards the final third. It’s a complex cigar that’s far from traditional Connecticut Broadleaf flavors.

One of the samples I smoked had a notably soft spot, but showed no ill-effects, as all three had excellent combustion qualities including a sturdy, dense light gray ash, even burn, and firm, not overly tight, draw.

Since the introduction of the Macanudo Cru Royale and Macanudo 1968, the view of Macanudo as a purely mild cigar line has been outdated, even as the reputation has persisted. The Inspirado line in general, and the Inspirado Black in particular, should fully put the mild myth to rest.

There is a lot to like about the Inspirado Black. With unique, complex, full-bodied flavors and excellent construction, the Macanudo Inspirado Black Robusto earns a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Turning to a Friend

13 Nov 2017

I am more than ready to bid goodbye to 2017.

Perhaps you had a good year. I certainly hope so. For me, though, it was a pretty poor twelve months filled with stress. And anxiety, tension, strain, or any other similar descriptor you’d like to use.

I’m not complaining. Well, maybe I am a little bit. But I try not to forget that I have much to be thankful for, and that I’m in a better position than many others.

Nonetheless, that’s a difficult mindset to focus on when you’re watching TV meteorologists charting Hurricane Irma’s path to your doorstep. Or recuperating from hours-long surgery. Or dealing with 2017’s other lousy events I won’t bore you with. (But I will tell you Irma eventually took a different path, inflicting no more damage on us than a few downed tree limbs and a day-long power outage. Also, the surgery was elective, not life-saving. I seem to have made it through the other incidents as well.)

Through it all, I turned to cigars as one would a trusted friend.

Tobacco foes focus on the addictive properties of nicotine, the dangers of disease, and the evils of big tobacco. As has written many times, though, these risks are all pretty minimal when it comes to premium cigars.

And all but ignored in their attacks are the beneficial aspects afforded many cigar smokers. Quiet time. Relaxation. Stress reduction. Pleasure. Just looking forward to having a cigar helped.

I don’t even recall what I lit up most of the time. Usually, I turned to one of my standbys, like something from Don José “Pepin” Garcia or a Perdomo Lot 23. The truth is, though, that what I was smoking didn’t really matter too much.

That’s because what I got was far more than a smoke. It was a time to relax and recharge. Whether I was sitting on the deck listening to music, watching a baseball game on my iPad, or simply staring off into the distance, the time I spent with a cigar was like an oasis.

Yes, I’m sure I could have made it through 2017 without cigars. But I’m also sure it would have been a much rougher trip.

So, here’s to a better New Year coming. And cigars to help us celebrate the good times and help us through the bad times.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Kristoff Criollo Torpedo

12 Nov 2017

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.”

The Honduran Criollo wrapper on this 6.25-inch torpedo from Kristoff presents a lovely floral pre-light aroma. I didn’t, however, find that when smoking it. Those flavors were more light spice, nuts, and a little woodiness. The one I smoked had a damaged foot (note to manufacturers: cellophane helps), which I assume happened during shipping. After getting past that, it was a pleasant, slow-burning cigar with lots of smoke and medium strength from its Dominican and Nicaraguan filler.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys