Tip: Pairing New Years Champagne with a Fine Cigar

28 Dec 2020

A decade ago, I offered some tips on pairing cigars with champagne. With New Years Eve on Thursday, here’s an update (including a decade worth of additional experience).

Pairing brown liquor with cigars is the more obvious choice, but champagne (or other sparkling wines) can go surprisingly well with a smoke. Not to mention the celebratory nature of the bubbly. To enhance your champagne and cigar enjoyment, here are a few basic tips:

Save the top-dollar champagne.

Champagne can be fantastic, but unless you have unlimited funds, the vintage Dom Pérignon should be held back if you’re smoking a cigar. You pay a price for the champagne name (meaning it’s from the Champagne region of France). There are plenty of good champagne-style sparkling wines that can be had for a more reasonable cost. Spending $50 or $100 on brand-name French bubbly will probably be a waste (considering you’re going to lose some of the complexities due to your cigar). Very pleasant Spanish cava, in particular, can be had for a fraction of the price.

Stick with mild cigars.

Champagne doesn’t have the heft of rum, whiskey, or even beer or coffee. The best champagnes are the most subtle, so the same subtlety is needed in the cigar you pair with your sparkling wine. Stick with mild cigars that have balance. Too often Connecticut-wrapped cigars feature bitterness, so look for those with age and balance. Extra-aged Cubans can be a great pairing, and a special mention is deserved for the Illusione Epernay, which is named after the Champagne region and was blended with a champagne pairing in mind.

Age your cigars and your champagne.

Smoking a cigar with champagne calls for a cigar that is smooth, mild, complex, and subtle, all of which can be the result of aging a cigar. Some cigars just lose their flavor with age, so be careful. But others are enhanced by months or years of aging properly in a humidor. Some of the same things happen to aged champagne which, while not for everyone, loses some of its bubbly crispness but adds creaminess and depth along the lines of a well-aged white burgundy. Usually you pay extra for vintage champagne. But if you can get some of those same qualities by just putting aside a good champagne and waiting, don’t be afraid to give it a try. (Not long ago I had some non-vintage Champagne Tattinger with a decade of age, and the result was very impressive.)


Patrick S

photo credit: Wikipedia

Cigar Review: Tatuaje The Chuck

11 Nov 2020

The Monster Series from Pete Johnson’s Tatuaje Cigars has been around almost as long as this website—which, in cigar years, is pretty much an eternity. It started in 2008 with The Frank and wrapped up in 2019 with a dual Halloween-timed releases for The Tiff and The Chuck.

In between, many of Johnson’s favorite characters from the horror genre were celebrated, including The Bride, The Drac, The Face, The Hyde, The Jekyll, The JV13, The Krueger, The Michael, The Mummy, and The Wolfman. This annual Halloween release (13 in total) constituted arguably the most sought-after, longest-running, most collectable series of limited production creations in the world of boutique cigars.

Scarcity was certainly a factor at play. Traditionally, Johnson only produced 666 “dress boxes” of 13 cigars for that year’s Monster Series release, with only 13 “unlucky” retailers getting the bulk of the boxes to sell. The 2019 release of The Chuck and The Tiff, however, saw some notable differences. For one, there were two releases, and the two dress boxes interlock to form one Child’s Play-inspired collectable piece. Also, Johnson doubled the unlucky retailers to 26 each receiving 13 dress boxes of both cigars (with another 328 boxes of each cigar sold to other retailers).

Of note: The release of The Chuck and The Tiff in the preceding paragraph relates to the full Monster Series production, not offshoot Tatuaje Monster sizes like Little Monsters, Pudgy Monsters, Skinny Monsters, Skinny Monsters Cazadores, or Skinny Monsters Lancero. Both The Chuck and The Tiff made appearances across all of these other formats, except Little Monsters.

If all this is confusing—and it’s OK to admit it is—here’s the bottom line: In 2019, Tatuaje launched its last two full cigars in the Monster Series: The Tiff (5.9 x 52, $13, 31,000 total cigars) and The Chuck (5.9 x 52, $13, 31,000 total cigars).

Today I’m reviewing The Chuck, which was made at My Father Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. (In contrast, The Tiff has an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos.) It’s a well-formed, firm cigar with an oily, dark chocolate-colored wrapper that’s not without a few large veins. The cold draw is smooth, and the pre-light aroma at the foot is reminiscent of green raisin, hay, and cereals.

The Chuck starts with a burst of both red and black pepper spice along with some heavy notes of earth and leather. The texture is dry and bready. The Habano wrapper clearly takes center stage. The spice dials back after about a quarter-inch, and that leaves room for some subtle sweetness to come through.

Heading into the midway point, the spice remains yet continues to fade. Here, I would classify both the strength and body as medium. Leather and cereals make up the core with some nice additions like roasted peanut, raisin, and black coffee. The final third is more of the same but with even less spice.

Across the three samples I smoked for this review, construction was both consistent and admirable. The burn line requires a few touch-ups along the way, the draw is smooth, and the smoke production is adequate. The ash tends to be fairly flaky, though, and is prone to fall off prematurely.

It’s impossible to smoke The Chuck and not compare it to other cigars in Tatuaje’s Moster Series. Looking back on my reviews, it seems my favorites were The Mummy and The Jekyll (probably in that order). I also loved Boris, though Johnson says this release doesn’t officially count as part of the Monster Series. In any event, while The Chuck is a fine cigar, I would not put it in the same class as my favorites from the series, and have settled on a respectable score 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

Tips: Five Cold-Weather Drinks to Pair with Cigars

28 Oct 2020

Summer is in the rear-view mirror. With autumn’s arrival, temperatures are be dropping. And if you’re smoking cigars outdoors, you may be looking for a drink pairing that works with the season. Here are five suggestions:

Single Malt Scotch — It is exceedingly rare that I drink scotch when the temperature is warm, but this time of year I find myself pouring scotch to pair with a cigar more often. Depending on your taste, peaty scotch or sherried single malt whiskey both have unexplained warming qualities. Some of my favorites (Laphroaig PX Cask, Ardbeg Uigeadail) are actually both sherried and peated.

Hot Toddy — A classic that can be made with scotch (save the single malt, use a blend), bourbon, brandy, or even mezcal. It’s simple to make. Just add sugar, lemon, and cloves to boiling water and your spirit. Hot toddies pair well with Connecticut-wrapped cigars.

Stonewall Jackson — An American classic consisting of hot cider and bourbon (but rye, Tennessee whiskey, or even spiced rum fill in nicely). As I’ve written before, it’s a late fall drink that pairs with stronger cigars, like the 601 Green or Fausto.

Hot Buttered Rum — Serially underrated (especially by those who have never tried it but think butter in a drink is just weird), hot buttered rum is a little more complicated to make than other hot cocktails. After you make it a few times, though, you’ll find it’s really not too difficult. Drink yours with a medium-bodied Honduran or Nicaraguan cigar, or anytime you are outdoors and it is snowing.

Coffee — Still a classic, coffee (in its many forms) is a perfect pairing for cigars. Coffee in the morning with a mild cigar is a great pairing, same for a Cuban coffee in the afternoon or evening. If you don’t want caffeine late at night give decaf a try. (My bias against decaf stopped me from drinking it for years, but lately I’ve found some excellent decaf roasts from a local coffee shop.)

–Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Mi Querida Triqui Traca No. 648

15 Oct 2020

The story of Triqui Traca starts with Mi Querida, the sophomore cigar line from Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT). Launched in the summer of 2016, Mi Querida was (and is) crafted at the Nicaragua American Cigars S.A. (NACSA) factory in Estelí by Raul Disla, under direction from Saka, with a blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos surrounded by a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.

Three summers later, in 2019, an offshoot called Mi Querida Triqui Traca was announced. The phrase mi querida translates to “my dearest,” but in Nicaragua the phrase is most often used to describe a secret mistress; triqui traca is another Nicaraguan term, this one used to describe fireworks that are bound together to form a long string of fuses and ignited in the streets to mark special occasions and holidays.

Triqui Traca is “arguably our boldest cigar released to date,” said Saka in a June 2019 press release. “At its core, it remains our quintessential Mi Querida blend with its earthy, sweet Broadleaf notes, but with the incorporation of a couple refinements.” Those refinements include the addition of a “high-octane” Dominican ligero leaf, and the replacement of the “traditional Connecticut Broadleaf mediums” used for Mi Querida wrappers with a “rarer No. 1 dark corona leaf.” As a result, Triqui Traca retains the “inherent sweet loam and chocolate characteristics” from Mi Querida, yet it “delivers a significantly heavier smoking experience,” says Saka.

There are four Triqui Traca vitolas available: No. 552 (5 x 52, 20-count box), No. 648 (6 x 48, 20-count box), No. 652 (6 x 52, 20-count box), and No. 764 (7 x 64, 10-count box). These are easily distinguished from Mi Querida by their understated yet beautiful red-and-gold bands (Mi Querida sports identical bands, but the background color is blue).

I sampled two Triqui Tracas in the No. 648 format ($11.75) for this review. Both are notably firm to the touch to the point where there is almost no give when lightly squeezed. They also both have toothy, slightly reddish, mouth-wateringly textured surfaces with significant oils and an almost crystallized appearance—especially when viewed in sunlight. The foot exudes a musty aroma with some sweet hints of raisin.

The cold draw is smooth, notwithstanding the cigar’s firmness. Once an even light is established, I find a balanced, full-bodied, dense profile with notes of rich cocoa, espresso, musty earth, cereals, and cayenne heat. The texture is powdery—it’s hard to smoke this cigar without thinking about cocoa powder—and I would be remiss if I did not mention the nicotine intensity, which is typically something I don’t notice, even in strong cigars. Here, it’s noticeable but not overbearing.

I also can’t stress enough how heavy the overall taste is. This is a palate-coating cigar that lays a thick blanket of flavor that will drown out almost any beverage. As far as pairings go, I would suggest sipping neat a smoky Islay whiskey like Laphroaig, Ardbeg, or Lagavulin.

Construction is masterful. Expect generous smoke production, a straight burn that requires no touch-ups, a smooth draw, and a white ash that holds very well off the foot.

To date, my favorite DDT cigars are the Sobremesa Cervantes Fino and the Muestra de Saka Nacatamale. The Mi Querida Triqui Traca No. 648 is not quite on that level, but it’s close—and that earns it an exemplary rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Wunder|Lust Gran Toro

28 Sep 2020

Two of the best cigars I smoked in 2013 were Abaddon and Ouroboros, both of which are exclusives made by Skip Martin’s RoMa Craft Tobac for Blue Havana, a Chicago tobacconist. So when I read that Martin said, “in a lot of ways, [Abaddon and Ouroboros are] like the American version of the Wunder|Lust,” I knew I had to get my hands on some.

That’s easier said than done. Wunder|Lust, introduced in 2016, is made for—and exclusive to—retailers in Germany (the German prefix wunder means “wonder,” and the name also plays off the concept of wanderlust). But when I recently found a stateside RoMa sampler that included several Wunder|Lust cigars, I jumped at the chance.

Made at the NicaSueño factory in Estelí, the Wunder|Lust recipe includes a Brazilian mata fina wrapper, an Indonesian besuki binder, and undisclosed filler. There are five sizes, each packaged in boxes of 40: Robusto, Petit Belicoso, Gran Corona, Fiorella, and Gran Toro.

The later measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 52 and, depending on the exchange rate, retails for just under $11 (€9.25 in Germany). It has a handsome, understated light blue band over a white ring. Underneath is an oily wrapper with a well-executed cap and a firm feel throughout. While there are a couple prominent veins creating some minor wrinkles and lumps, there’s not enough to merit calling the cigar rustic. Once the cap is clipped, the cold draw is moderately stiff. At the foot, the pre-light notes remind me of cinnamon raisin bread.

After establishing an even light with a few wooden matches, I find a dry, medium-bodied introductory profile with bready, oaky notes and a white pepper spice. Background flavors include espresso and cinnamon.

As the first third turns into the second, RoMa Craft devotees who are used to Nicaraguan power might be surprised as the cigar retreats a bit in terms of strength. There is no retreat in taste, though. The aforementioned flavors still shine through but are now accented by subtle, Cuban-esque floral notes. This makes for a delightful, incredibly tasty experience, and one that remains largely unchanged until the finale.

The physical properties—while not perfect—in no way interfere with my enjoyment of the Gran Toro. The burn requires no touch-ups or relights, but it is also prone to some uneven meandering. The white ash holds firm off the foot, the draw is smooth, and the smoke production is about average.

I will resist the temptation to compare and contrast this with Abaddon or Ouroboros. My memory—and a re-read of the reviews I wrote seven years ago—seem to suggest this is a very different cigar, though one that’s equally enjoyable for different reasons. I’m a fan, and I’m glad I went out of my way to procure some Wunder|Lust; I suggest you do the same. The Wunder|Lust Gran Toro is worthy of a rating of four 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: Partagas Serie P No. 2 (Cuban)

19 Sep 2020

A couple times each week 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 had this Cuban tubo in my humidor for at least five years. That time has served it well. The Partagas Serie P No. 2 (6.1 x 52) features notes of earth, coffee bean, cinnamon, nutmeg, cream, and toast. It’s medium-bodied with a balanced profile. While the foot was slightly frayed when removed from the tubo, it still demonstrated excellent construction with an even burn and sturdy ash.

Verdict = Buy.

–Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sobremesa Brûlée Gordo

17 Sep 2020

When the Brûlée offshoot of the Sobremesa blend was introduced in 2019 by Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT), rumors began to swirl that the cap was sweetened. In addition to denying this allegation, Saka used his marketing genius to recently release a “Saka’s Taste For U’rself” sampler, or—in a thinly veiled jab at his detractors—“STFU.” Every cigar in the five-pack is the original Brûlée blend in the Toro format. But the catch is, some are unadulterated, some have sweetened caps, and one is double-sweetened.

Saka will take to Facebook Live on October 1 to reveal which are which. In the meantime, today I am reviewing the Sobremesa Brûlée in its pure form, specifically in the Gordo vitola. The cigars examined were obtained at my own expense and not part of the STFU sampler.

As with his other blends, Saka was very forthcoming about his motivations in crafting Sobremesa Brûlée, and the tobaccos he used to carry out this vision (I wish more cigar makers were this transparent). “Sobremesa Brûlée is a recreation of the milder, shade-wrapped ligas of my early years,” he wrote in a DTT press release. “Somewhere over the last three decades, many of the classic shade cigars have become wispy, uninspiring, and rather dull to my palate. I wanted to share with others the way I remember these blonde cigars being.” He went on to write that he does not “understand the recent trend of making strong Connecticut Shade cigars… To me this seems like an oxymoron and a fundamental lack of appreciation of the enchanting characteristics and nuances of shade-grown, Connecticut-seed tobaccos. In Brûlée, I embraced this shade capa and dedicated myself to showcasing its mild, sweet, and nutty nature.”

What makes Brûlée a Sobremesa? The recipe is a variation on the core Sobremesa blend “in which the Pennsylvania-seed ligero has been removed, the Condega seco has been increased, and the wrapper is replaced with a top-shelf grade of BW Ecuador Connecticut Shade leaf.” The binder remains a Matacapan negro de Temporal leaf from Mexico.

Originally, three Brûlée sizes were available, each ranging in price from $12.45 to $13.95: Robusto (5.25 x 52), Toro (6 x 52), and Gordo (6.25 x 60). A Double Corona (7 x 54) was added this year, along with a new limited edition variation called Brûlée Blue that (uncharacteristically, for Saka) has an undisclosed blend.

When you slide the Brûlée Toro out of its cellophane, the first thing you notice is the nearly flawless, golden-colored, silky wrapper that’s affixed to the binder in such a way that the seams are barely noticeable. Veins are few and far-between and razor-thin.

The pre-light notes at the foot are classic Connecticut Shade: sweet hay, almond, buttery oak, and sawdust. And the packing of tobacco is stiff, especially for a cigar with such a wide girth.

Speaking of girth, I appreciate Saka employing a rounded pyramid cap for this vitola. That helps limit the awkwardness that usually accompanies smoking a 60-ring gauge cigar. Once this cap is clipped, I find a smooth cold draw with—yes—a fair amount of sweetness on the lips. While I take Saka at his word that nothing artificial is at play here, I can certainly see why many people believe otherwise. To me, the sensation reminds me of rum cake, almond cookie, and cognac.

Sobremesa Brûlée is marketed as “a milder, even smoother adaptation of the Sobremesa blend that does not sacrifice its wonderfully complex flavors or aromas.” At the outset, the smoke production is low despite the smooth draw, which I attribute to the Gordo’s generous dimensions. Drawing more aggressively than I might otherwise be inclined highlights the core flavors, which include brown sugar, oak, butter, graham cracker, toast, and white pepper. The texture is bready and the body is mild-to-medium. It should be noted the ever-present sweetness on the lips likely makes a big impression on my interpretation of the flavor.

The core flavors remain consistent throughout, the exception being a ramp-up in intensity in the second third, and another in the final third. That said, one important change is the draw, which opens considerably after the first third and heralds a much-improved rate of smoke production. The other physical attributes are exemplary, especially for such a large cigar. The burn is straight requiring no touch-ups, and the ash holds firm off the foot.

The Sobremesa Brûlée Gordo takes a full two hours to smoke. Whether you think it is sweetened or not (again, Saka is insistent it is not, and I am inclined to believe him), that’s a big commitment with any cigar, and the reward must be either (1) phenomenal flavor that holds your attention or (2) several notable changes in flavor along the way. This cigar has the former. Connecticut Shade fans are bound to love it, and those who typically avoid this wrapper type are likely to find this to be an exception to the rule.

I suspect I will enjoy any of the other sizes more—perhaps considerably more. In the case of the Gordo, I’m still a fan in spite of the size, and have settled on a very admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys