Cigar Spirits: Hudson Maple Cask Rye Whiskey

28 Jan 2015


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

Drew Estate

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.


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 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


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

Quick Smoke: La Aroma de Cuba El Jefe

24 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.”

I’ve been a fan of La Aroma de Cuba since it was redone a few years ago by Don José “Pepin” Garcia. This large (7 x 58), modestly priced (about $7) cigar was introduced a few years back to cater to the then-emerging trend for big smokes. For me, this size seems to lack the characteristics that make the line enjoyable. El Jefe has low smoke production, muted flavors, and lacks the smooth complexity of its siblings. Try a smaller size to appreciate what La Aroma de Cuba has to offer.

Verdict = Sell.

-George E

photo credit: N/A

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 414

23 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.

IPCPR1) Yesterday, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a smoking ban. But 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 in July. “The ability to smoke in cigar bars, the convention center, and in facilities being used for private events is protected… Your representatives from IPCPR and the Cigar Association of America have been working diligently with the New Orleans City Council on behalf of retailers and manufacturers. Thank you to all IPCPR members who contacted the City Council to voice your concerns regarding the original legislation. With your help, we generated nearly 700 emails to the Councilmembers. Your active participation was critical to our success.”

2) In Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, President Obama called on Congress to end the longstanding trade embargo with Cuba, saying, “We are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.” The next day, the highest level talks between the U.S. and Cuba in decades commenced, with clashes over immigration. Clearly, while a new course for Cuban relations has been set, we are still a long way away from ending the embargo. If you’re looking for a summary of what this all means for cigars, you can revisit our analysis here.

3) Randolph Churchill, great-grandson of Winston Churchill, accepted a lifetime membership in Cigar Rights of America (CRA). “It is difficult to think of my great-grandfather without a cigar,” he said via a CRA press release. “His love for great cigars spanned a lifetime, and he enjoyed them wherever he was, whether at home painting, or on the battlefield. I imagine he would be sad to find his enjoyment of them curtailed by regulation. I am proud to now be called a lifetime member of CRA, and would hope that all who share this noble indulgence can recognize that enjoying a cigar is truly a moment to enjoy one’s own liberty.”

4) Inside the Industry: Puro Sabor, Nicaragua’s annual cigar festival, took place last week with events in Managua and Estelí. At the festival, the Nicaraguan Tobacco Association announced that Juan Ignacio Martínez, executive president of Joya de Nicaragua, will replace the outgoing president and legendary cigar man Nestor Plasencia, who served five years at the head of the organization.

5) Deal of the Week: Fans of My Father Cigars will want to check out this store-exclusive lancero release of the highly-ranked Flor de las Antillas. Made for Stogies World Class Cigars in Houston, use the discount code “SG10” for 10% off your first order, plus land free shipping on all five-pack or box purchases.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: IPCPR

Cigar Review: Señor Rio Añejo

22 Jan 2015

senor-rio-anejoIn October, I wrote about the new Señor Rio Diamanté, introduced by Jalisco International Imports, which owns and distributes Señor Rio tequila. The Diamanté was one of two cigars created by company co-founders Jonathan Gach and Debbie Medina.

Both are cigar smokers, and each created a cigar tailored to their tastes while visiting Nicaragua. The Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped Diamanté was Medina’s selection, while the Añejo was created for Gach’s tastes.

The Señor Rio Añejo has a Mexican wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from the Condega, Estelí, and Pueblo Nuevo regions. Like the Señor Rio Diamanté, the Señor Rio Añejo is made by A.J. Fernandez at his Tabacelera Fernandez factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

The Añejo comes in one size, a box-pressed toro (6 x 52) that sells for $9.99. I smoked four samples provided to me by Jalisco for this review.

From the start, the influence of the Mexican wrapper is evident. There’s dry notes of dark char, oak, and black coffee. As it progresses the flavors become more complex with damp earth, leather, and a slightly syrupy sweetness. There’s also some red pepper notes that hit on the lips.

From start to finish the dryness of this cigar is its most notable trait. The solidly constructed cigar leaves a layer of chalky, dense smoke on the palate.

While not the most balanced cigar, it’s a cigar with a distinct character, which I’ll take every time over a smooth but dull smoke. And the Añejo’s profile does indeed pair well with Señor Rio Añejo tequila, whose sweet honey, light oak, and fruit flavors contrast brightly but nicely.

Señor Rio has created two distinct, interesting cigars. And while I personally prefer the more subtle and complex Diamanté, the Señor Rio Añejo still earns a commendable rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys