Cigar Review: Muestra de Saka Nacatamale

11 Dec 2017

“A muestra is the vision of the ligador and torcedor realized, it is the promise of a new experience and possibly the key to financial success for the fabrica,” says Steve Saka, founder and Master Ligador of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. “Muestras are hoarded and coveted by not only their makers, but by the cigar smokers who seek to catch a glimpse into the cigar maker’s soul within their smoke.”

In its young history, Dunbarton has amassed acclaim from seasoned cigar devotees that is as well-deserved as it is widespread. Sought-after brands like Sobremesa and Mi Querida are virtually universally praised by cigar veterans who trek to meet Saka at retailer events and hang on his every Facebook post. So when Saka introduces a “muestra,” you have to take notice.

Nacatamale is the second muestra from Dunbarton. It was announced in July and is intended to be “considerably more robust” than its predecessor, Exclusivo. It is made in the “old farm” style, meaning all the filler tobaccos are from a single operation (in this case, an undisclosed farm in Jalapa, Nicaragua).

Nacatamale (6 x 48) comes flawlessly presented in an individual wooden coffin. I paid over $20 for mine (including insane tobacco taxes here in Chicago; the MSRP is $15.95). Inside is a gorgeous, beautifully constructed cigar with a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. It has tight seams, a firm feel, thin veins, and a smooth cold draw. The pre-light notes remind me of green raisin with milk chocolate and cinnamon.

After setting an even light with a wooden match, a spicy, bold, well-balanced introductory flavor emerges that reminds me of cayenne heat, dark chocolate, black coffee, and sweet nougat. The medium- to full-bodied profile steps off the accelerator as the midway point approaches. Here, hints of cinnamon, cedar, cream, and leather play a more active role, and the spice is more subdued. The finale witnesses a reprise of spice with notes of black pepper, dry oak, espresso, cedar, and a frothy, marshmallowy sweetness at the fore.

As you would expect from Saka (and any cigar at this price point), the combustion properties are sublime. The burn line stays straight and true from light to nub with torch touch-ups completely unnecessary. In addition, the draw is smooth, the ash holds firm, and the smoke production is outstanding.

What makes Nacatamale so outstanding—and, yes, it is absolutely outstanding—is not any individual flavor. This cigar is a great example of how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. The overall balance, complexity, and harmony is simply on point. That Saka handicapped himself by relegating the entire filler recipe to one farm and still composed a symphony of deliciousness… well, that’s head-scratching. Pony up and grab one of these while you still can. Any rating besides five stogies out of five would be inappropriate.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here. A list of other five stogie-rated cigars can be found here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Quick Smoke: Punch Gran Puro Pico Bonito

10 Dec 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 year Punch added the Gran Puro Nicaragua line, but today I’m smoking the original Punch Gran Puro, which is made with 100% Honduran tobaccos. The well-constructed cigar produces a nice combination of leather, hickory, pepper, and a subtle gingerbread sweetness. The Punch brand as a whole, and this blend in particular, have always offered up good value for the price, and this toro is no exception.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Pinar del Rio 1878 Cubano Especial Capa Natural Robusto

9 Dec 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.”

Let’s cut to the chase: This is one of the tastiest mild cigars I’ve smoked. The blend—Dominican and Nicaraguan filler under an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper and Dominican Criollo ’98 binder—kicks in a little spice to keep it interesting along with wood and an occasional touch of sweetness. I found virtually none of the grassy component often common with Connecticut Shade tobacco. But full disclosure: This cigar has been in my humidor for a couple of years and I can’t say how that might have affected it since I hadn’t smoked one previously. The Robusto (5 x 52) from Pinar del Rio is a bargain, available online at just a bit over $5 a stick.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Royal Agio Ends U.S. Distribution Agreement with Drew Estate, H. Upmann Robustos Añejados Announced, and More

8 Dec 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 557th in the series.

1) Royal Agio Cigars and Drew Estate are expected to terminate part of their distribution agreement on Monday, December 18. “The two companies joined forces globally on April 1, 2014 with Drew Estate distributing Royal Agio Cigars’ products in the United States, and Royal Agio distributing Drew Estate products in key European markets, such as Holland, France, Belgium and Germany,” reads a press release. Going forward, while Royal Agio will continue to distribute Drew Estate in Europe, Drew Estate will no longer distribute Royal Agio in the U.S.—Royal Agio will now manage its own U.S. distribution. The move signals Royal Agio’s “strengthening commitment to the U.S. market,” which is underscored by the opening of its new U.S headquarters in Bradenton, Florida. “We are grateful for the enthusiastic support and significant contributions made on behalf of the Drew Estate organization that have helped improve distribution and awareness for our premium cigar brands over the past three and a half years,” said George Margioukla, President of Royal Agio U.S.A. “Thanks in large part to these efforts, Royal Agio Cigars is now in a position to strengthen our U.S. presence and enhance direct support for our highly-valued trade partners and consumers.” The Royal Agio portfolio includes the premium handmade Balmoral brand, as well as two cigarillo brands: Mehari’s and Panter.

2) Habanos, S.A. has announced H. Upmann Robustos Añejados (4.9 x 50)—a new Cuban cigar that has been aged for five to eight years—will be available at international retailers in the coming weeks. It “does not exist in the standard portfolio of the [H. Upmann] brand,” but instead joins four other Cuban cigars in the Añejados portfolio: Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados, Montecristo Churchill, Partagás Corona Gorda Añejados, and the Hoyo de Monterrey Hermosos No. 4.

3) Inside the Industry: The cigar industry lost a legend this week when José Orlando Padrón passed away. If you’re looking for more information about his life, his memoir is for sale with proceeds going to the Padrón’s charitable foundation. Also, check out this 2006 New York Times profile and this interview from 1998.

4) From the Archives: One of the first cigars we ever gave a top rating to (way back in 2006) was the Padrón Serie 1926 No. 6.

5) 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: Royal Agio Cigars

Commentary: José Orlando Padrón, RIP

6 Dec 2017

Yesterday, José Orlando Padrón, scion of the Padrón family of cigar makers, passed away at the age of 91 surrounded by his family. In many ways, his life was the quintessential Cuban-American cigar success story.

Born into a Cuban family with long ties to tobacco, Padrón left Cuba after his family’s farms were taken following the Castro revolution. He eventually ended up in Miami where he worked as a carpenter (using a now famous hammer given to him by a friend) to raise $600, which he used to start making cigars in 1964.

From those modest beginnings he founded a cigar company, now run by his descendants, that is known worldwide for its classic, handmade Nicaraguan cigars. The company moved into Nicaragua long before the country became a powerhouse for cigar making, and weathered the political upheaval of the Sandinista Revolution along the way.

I’ve met his son Jorge, who has run the day-to-day operations of the company for awhile now, but, if I ever met José Orlando Padrón, I don’t remember it. If I did, it was at a cigar trade show where I briefly would have shaken his hand and told him how much I’ve enjoyed his cigars over the years. (Then I probably would have stepped away so the next person in line could shake his hand and tell him the same thing.)

But what’s great about cigars is you needn’t have met a cigar maker to have a personal connection with him/her. My connection with José Orlando Padrón goes back nearly two decades to when I first started smoking cigars.

I don’t remember exactly what my first cigar was, but I’m certain it was either a Padrón or a CAO, probably based on either the recommendation of a cigar shop owner or a rating in Cigar Aficionado. And I can say with confidence I’ve smoked at least one Padrón every year since then, thanks to José Orlando Padrón.

Padrón Cigars makes excellent cigars at all price points. I frequently recommend their classic, affordable regular line to new cigar smokers. Many times, I’ve turned to their more premium cigars (particularly the 1926 line) to celebrate a special occasion.

Over the years, guided by José Orlando Padrón’s leadership, Padrón Cigars has cut its own path. While many companies pushed new releases every year, Padrón focused on its core offerings, often going many years without anything new. The result has been a core offering that hasn’t declined in quality or importance despite minimal changes in over a decade.

Leaders set the tone for the success or failures that follow. José Orlando Padrón undoubtedly set Padrón on its course for success and, in many ways, the successes of the cigar industry as a whole. For that we all owe José Orlando Padrón a debt of gratitude.

Patrick S

photo credit: Padrón Cigars

Cigar Review: La Aurora ADN Dominicano Toro

4 Dec 2017

About four years ago, Cigar Aficionado published an article entitled “Strange Leaves” about how some cigar makers are looking to non-standard tobaccos to create distinctive blends. One of the tobaccos highlighted is Andullo, which has a longstanding Dominican heritage and is typically used as a pipe or chewing tobacco.

“Andullo is created by taking cured tobacco leaves, wrapping them tightly in palm tree pods with rope, and hanging them to ferment for a period of two years,” reads the article. “The process turns the tobacco into dark, hard logs resembling big sausages… Andullo is made, not grown. It’s the process that makes the tobacco distinctive, not the seed variety or its growing conditions.”

Leave it to La Aurora, the oldest cigar maker in the Dominican Republic, to incorporate this uniquely Dominican tobacco into one of its blends. The new line—called ADN Dominicano—debuted earlier this year at the 2017 ProCigar Festival. Originally, it was only going to be sold within the Dominican Republic. Before the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show, however, La Aurora and its distributor, Miami Cigar & Co., decided to make it available in the U.S. market.

ADN Dominicano sports a Dominican wrapper from the Cibao Valley, a Cameroon binder, and filler tobaccos from Pennsylvania, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, including one whole Andullo filler leaf. There are four ADN Dominicano vitolas, each retailing in the $7.25 to $9.25 range: Robusto (5 x 50), Churchill (7 x 47), Gran Toro (6 x 58), and Toro (5.75 x 54). Each is adorned with a slightly toothy, moderately oily wrapper that has several large veins, as well as a Dominican flag-themed band that includes the familiar La Aurora lion. The Toro is firm to the touch with pre-light notes of molasses. The cold draw is effortless.

The initial profile is medium-bodied with core flavors of earth, leather, cereals, and some tangy, zingy sweetness that reminds me of barbecue sauce. The finish on the palate is clean with hints of lingering spice and gentle heat. Beyond these impressions, however, there is a noticeable lack of complexity that, at times, strikes me as papery and a little bland, notwithstanding the aforementioned spice and body.

As the Toro approaches the midway point, some welcome changes begin to take shape. The overall flavor gets a boost of balance and depth with the arrival of a creamy sweetness. In addition, a taste reminiscent of walnuts emerges and, while the spice seems to recede a bit, the body begins to approach the medium- to medium-full range. The final third is characterized by dense earth, bread, warm tobacco, and black pepper.

Throughout, the combustion properties can be slightly frustrating. While the smoke production is good and the draw is clear, the flaky ash tends to fall off the foot haphazardly, and the wavering burn line requires a number of touch-ups to stay even.

The star of ADN Dominicano is intended to be Andullo yet, tasting the cigar as a complete blend with its many components, it’s hard to say exactly what role that tobacco leaf plays. I would relish the opportunity to smoke Andullo on its own in order to define its attributes.

On the whole, the ADN Dominicano Toro does not live up to the standards I’ve come to expect from La Aurora in terms of either flavor, balance, or construction. That’s ultimately why I am rating this cigar only two and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Curivari Reserva Limitada Classica Epicure

3 Dec 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.”

I rarely get to enjoy this indulgence, but a cigar in the morning with a good cup of coffee and the newspaper is a great way to spend an hour or so on Saturday or Sunday. Recently, on an uncharacteristically warm December day, I fired up a Curivari Reserva Limitada Classica Epicure (4.5 x 52). The Nicarguan puro features a dark, oily wrapper and a band that’s reminiscent of the Cuban Partagas Series D. The short robusto starts out with a blast of oak and chocolate and background notes of shortbread cookies and hints of black pepper spice. With excellent combustion producing a solid gray ash, this is a strong recommendation considering its sub-$6 price tag.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys