Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XXVIII)

12 Dec 2018

In the 28th edition of our Random Thoughts from the Humidor series, I talk cocktails, calvados, and the FDA.

The Islay Daiquiri

Here’s a winter cocktail that may sound strange but is actually quite enjoyable. When you think of daiquiris, you think of tropical islands. Not peaty Islay whiskey. Yet, recently, I’ve found myself enjoying this Islay twist on a classic drink. The smoky, salty scotch is magical with the citrus, similar to a margarita made with a smoky mezcal. Simply swap in 10 year Ardbeg or Laphroaig for rum in your favorite daiquiri recipe.

No progress at the FDA?

By pressing the pause button on the Obama FDA’s cigar regulations, new leadership at the FDA was welcomed by many in the handmade cigar industry. Nearly two years later, it is time to look at the new regime’s policy. This article argues recent FDA moves signal a dangerous future for adults who choose to smoke cigars: “[T]hese moves may pave the way for even more radical regulations that would, in essence, make it illegal to sell the combustible tobacco products favored by cigarette and cigar smokers throughout the United States.” What is clear is that Scott Gottlieb’s reign at the FDA may have different priorities from the Obama Administration, but different isn’t necessarily significantly better.

Is Calvados the Next Big Thing?

I’ve been exploring calvados lately. I’m liking what I’m tasting. The apple (and sometimes pear) brandy from Normandy combines some of the best elements of cognac, wine, and whiskey. Terroir matters, oak barrel aging is important, and both large and small producers develop their own distinct styles. Give it a try. If you have any favorites, let us know.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Cigars and the Common Cold

10 Dec 2018

[Editor’s Note: The following commentary first appeared at StogieGuys.com on April 7, 2010. Since the author is currently suffering from a head cold, and since he’s not feeling well enough to smoke, he thought today would be a good day to revisit the topic. Conveniently, re-posting an old article would also get him out of having to write anything new for the day. He figures if you’ve been publishing for overa decade, you deserve a little break now and then. By the way, take note of two specific cigars that get mentioned below; in the author’s eyes, at least, they really date this article.]

Some call it a sinus infection. Others call it the common cold. The medical community recognizes it as a “viral upper respiratory tract infection.” No matter what the name, the symptoms are usually the same: runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, mild fatigue, and possibly a fever. And, like the summertime blues, there ain’t no cure.

The average adult experiences two to four colds per year. I got my first (and hopefully last) case of the 2010 cold this weekend. In typical fashion, it came overnight with a scratchy throat, stuffed up my nose for a few days, and left just as quickly as it arrived. No big deal, but enough to cause me to cancel a few weekend activities.

One activity I cut back on while sick is cigar smoking. I’m not really concerned that cigars will prolong the cold’s duration (although doctors say smokers tend to have longer colds—but then again, doctors say a lot of things). I just find cigar smoking a lot less enjoyable when my throat is sore or my nose is clogged.

I’d never attempt to review a cigar when my nose—the best cigar tasting instrument I have—is out of whack. Recently, though, I conducted an experiment. I fired up a Rocky Patel Vintage ’90 Toro to see if I could identify the flavors I normally associate with this cigar (cocoa, spicy wood, etc.). I couldn’t.

Not even close. I could have been smoking pretty much anything and it would have tasted like chalky, billowy air. As expected, this was a reminder of the huge role our sense of smell plays in cigar tasting and how important it is to routinely smoke through the nose.

Aside from being an impediment to appreciating premium tobacco, my cold also reminded me that I’m far from addicted to tobacco. I went a solid five days without smoking (and I’ve gone much longer under different circumstances, like when I was training for a marathon). Never once did I experience cravings, headaches, nausea, anxiety, or other symptoms common to those trying to quit cigarettes. Sure, I missed not being able to thoroughly enjoy a cigar. But it wasn’t an epic battle to lay off the leaf for awhile.

Now I’m feeling much better. I took my nose for a test drive with a 601 Red and everything seems to be back to normal. Health permitting, I’m looking forward to catching up on some new reviews and Quick Smokes in the weeks to come.

The next time I get a cold, I’ll probably get lots of sleep, drink lots of fluids, and avoid cigars—at least expensive ones. I suggest you do the same.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Camacho American Barrel Aged Robusto

9 Dec 2018

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.”

Broadleaf wrapper, bourbon barrels, and Honduran corojo. What’s not to like? In 2015, Camacho added the American Barrel Aged line as part of its new Camacho’s Master Built Series. The blend employs an American-grown Broadleaf wrapper, binder, and filler, with Camacho’s go-to Honduran Corojo. The $11 Robusto (5 x 50) is bold and full-flavored with charred wood, leather, black coffee, and spice. It is well-constructed, but dry notes highlight a lack of balance and slight harshness.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: JFR Lunatic Habano Short Titan

7 Dec 2018

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.”

Just a few puffs into this cigar, I almost put it down. That’s a step I rarely take, but the Lunatic was so rough and harsh it was hard to imagine working my way farther down its fat frame. Fortunately, I didn’t give up. And the cigar, one of a budget line introduced several years ago by Aganorsa, did improve. Slightly. Also on the positive side, it performed well, though as is typical of big ring gauge cigars, several lighter touch-ups were necessary. Overall, though, I found the Lunatic to be an unsatisfying cigar with little to recommend it.

Verdict = Sell.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Roll Out Your Lists

5 Dec 2018

To death and taxes as the certainties of life, I think it’s time to add the best-of list. And since we’re cigar smokers, it’s lists of those for which we’re getting ready as year’s end nears.

There are certainly enough lists to keep us busy. Magazines, blogs, podcasts, shops—seemingly almost everyone who lit a cigar compiles a list.

(We don’t do a best-of list at StogieGuys.com. We do look back over our year’s reviews and highlight the cigars we rated highly. Our annual retrospective will appear later this month.)

The 800-lb. gorilla of the tally trade is, of course, Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25. Landing at the number one spot immediately catapults a cigar to stardom, creates shortages, and can leave a long-term impact on the brand owner.

Inaugurated in 2004, Cigar Aficionado’s list was once a singular event when the print edition rolled off the presses. Now, it is a weeks-long reveal with online fanfare. Others, such as Cigar Journal, also go the online rollout route.

About as common as the lists themselves are complaints. This one doesn’t do this, that one does that, why don’t they consider this, why would they consider that. And on and on and on.

Let’s be honest. No one is going to put together a list of nearly anything without some disagreement. But for kvetchers, Cigar Aficionado certainly seems to be the top target.

A couple of the primary complaints are that they don’t limit the selection to the year’s new releases and that the judges lean too heavily in favor of stronger cigars. Then there is the allegation that they’re influenced in their reviews by advertising, a charge that, to my knowledge, has never been supported by any evidence.

Cigar Aficionado has become more open about its process. The magazine has been more transparent about the ranking procedures, even having executive editor David Savona appear on podcasts to talk about it.

Personally, I have no significant complaints about any of the lists. I look forward to them. I’m always curious to see what other smokers think. Best-of lists also introduce me to cigars with which I’m unfamiliar and frequently prompt me to try some I haven’t had.

How about you? Do you pay attention to the lists? Any lists you particularly value and seek out?

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo La Pesadilla

3 Dec 2018

When you think of Joya de Nicaragua, likely the first thing to come to mind is a storied firm—the oldest cigar maker in Nicaragua, to be more precise—that has built its reputation on bold, full-bodied Nicaraguan puros. For me, the Joya line that immediately jumps to mind is Antaño Dark Corojo.

Antaño Dark Corojo was the first Joya I ever smoked. It would be safe to say it played a big role in shaping my perception of what a Nicaraguan cigar should be. These days, I’ve smoked enough Antaño Dark Corojos to know that the proper setting for this cigar is after a large meal, in the evening, paired with a nice sipping rum or a neat bourbon. This is the best way to enjoy what Joya calls “the embodiment of the Nicaraguan power cigar.”

Antaño Dark Corojo is a Nicaragua puro with a mottled Corojo Oscuro wrapper. It comes in six sizes: Azarosa (4.5 x 52), La Pesadilla (4.75 x 60), Peligroso (5 x 44), El Martillo (5.5 x 54), La Niveladora (6 x 52), and Poderoso (6 x 54). For this review, I smoked several in the format called La Pesadilla, which is Spanish for “the nightmare.”

That’s a fitting name for a dark, powerful cigar that could be mistaken for an enormous rifle round. This stubby, belicoso-shaped smoke is slightly spongy to the touch and not without a few large veins and several surface imperfections. Much of the wrapper is hidden beneath bands of black and gold. At the foot, I find pre-light notes of green raisin and cocoa. The cold draw is effortless.

I typically prefer to use wooden matches but, with La Pesadilla’s 60-ring gauge foot, I opt for a torch. Once underway, I find a spicy, full-bodied profile with hearty notes of espresso, black pepper, dark chocolate, and cashew. The texture is leathery. Smoking through the nose helps bring out the creamy cashew and also some raisin.

Despite its obvious strength, La Pesadilla verges on medium- to full-bodied, whereas the other (thinner) Antaño Dark Corojo vitolas are decidedly full. This won’t come as a shock to those who understand that thicker cigars tend to have somewhat dialed-back strength, whereas thinner cigars tend to be more concentrated and more potent.

The combustion properties are solid throughout, including a clear draw, straight burn line, and good smoke production. My only complaint is a minor one: The ash tends to be a bit flaky.

La Pesadilla may not be a nightmare, but it’s no stroll in the park, either, and should be approached with a bit of caution. Those bold enough to give it a try will find a flavorful, surprisingly balanced, well-constructed cigar that will consistently deliver.

When bought by the box of 20, you can pay under $6 (and maybe even under $5) apiece for the Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo La Pesadilla. That’s a deal for a tasty treat 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: Laranja Reserva Corona Gorda

2 Dec 2018

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.”

laranja

Espinosa introduced the Laranja line in 2014 and it quickly garnered favorable reviews. The cigar has an orange-brown Brazilian wrapper (hence “laranja,” which is Portuguese for orange) around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. I’m smoking the Corona Gorda size (5.6 x 46), which sells for about $10. It features dry spice, wood, paper, slight sweetness, and a hint of citrus. It’s medium-bodied and well-balanced with excellent construction. It’s the best offering yet from Espinosa and certainly worth seeking out.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys