Quick Smoke: Crowned Heads Las Calaveras EL 2015 LC52

4 Jul 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.”

The second annual release of this limited edition—sporting an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper instead of last year’s Habano Oscuro over Nicaraguan filler and binder—seems certain to be another hit for Crowned Heads. I found it to be a deep, complex smoke with a great finish reminiscent of cigars of yesteryear. It’s immensely satisfying, especially in this 6-inch, 52-ring gauge format. I was a fan of the 2014 and like this one even more. With only 90,000 coming out of My Father Cigars, these will surely be snapped up quickly. Make sure you’re among the lucky smokers.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Drew Estate

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 437

3 Jul 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.

Cuban Flag1) This week the U.S. and Cuba moved to formally restore diplomatic relations, including the re-establishment of embassies in Washington and Havana. While President Obama had already issued an executive order making legal travel to Cuba easier—and had already removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism—the announcement on Wednesday represents the biggest change in a generation with respect to U.S.-Cuban relations. Obama also called on Congress to end the trade embargo. Currently, legal visitors to Cuba are allowed to bring up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars back to the U.S.; an outright end to the embargo, however, would unquestionably herald drastic, long-lasting changes for the cigar industry, as well as present new challenges and opportunities.

2) Not content with the current state of New York City’s restrictive tobacco regulations—including raising the minimum tobacco purchase age to 21 and banning smoking in virtually all workplaces, restaurants, bars, parks, and beaches—Mayor Bill de Blasio has private homes in his sights. “The administration is planning to select and pay four health-advocacy groups $9,000 apiece to pressure landlords and developers to prohibit smoking in their apartment complexes so neighboring tenants don’t inhale secondhand smoke,” according to the New York Post. “That means smokers would be barred from lighting up in one of their last sanctuaries: their own living quarters… City health officials emphasized the initiative is voluntary—at least for now.”

3) Inside the Industry: Following the opening of its own Fabrica Oveja Negra factory in Nicaragua earlier this year, Black Label Trading Co. has announced a price drop in its five core lines: Royalty, Benediction, Lawless, Salvation, Redemption, and Last Rites. Drew Estate announced the second annual Barnsmoker in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on October 3, where attendees will receive a selection of mostly Kentucky Fire Cured cigars by Drew Estate, including the unreleased Kentucky Fire Cured Yard Bird.

4) Deal of the Week: Smoke Inn is taking orders for its Tatuaje Anarchy 2015 exclusive cigar that is part of its Microblend Series. All orders, available in 15-count boxes ($149) and 5-packs ($50), will ship on July 13. The cigar is expected to be in high demand so don’t be surprised if it sells out someday soon.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Commentary: Prediction for IPCPR 2015 — $10 Cigars

2 Jul 2015

Ten-dollar-cigars

The annual International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show opens just two weeks from tomorrow in New Orleans. Many new cigars that will debut at the show have already been announced, with even more to come in the next two weeks.

Looking at the trends among new cigars is always interesting because it tells you the answer to this question: What do cigar makers think cigar smokers will buy? Many cigar makers are very passionate about their craft, but they are still businessmen (and women) and, ultimately, the idea is to make cigars that will sell.

Steve Saka, formerly of Drew Estate, who will be launching his new cigar venture called Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, recently kicked off a discussion about the trends expected at the show with a question on Facebook about what cigar smokers want to see, and what they expect to see.

My colleague responded to the latter question with the following: “More San Andrés, less Conn. Broadleaf. More thick cigars, but also a few lanceros too. More cigars packaged in 5- or 10-count boxes, rather than 20+.”

In terms of the cigars we’ll see, I agree. But I would add another prediction, this one about price: Get ready for lots of cigars with a retail price of $10 or more.

This prediction isn’t about what cigar makers think cigar consumers want (although the trend towards higher-priced cigars has been going for a while now) but rather a reaction to the pending FDA regulation of cigars.

As we’ve explained, under the regulations which may go into effect any day now, every new cigar will be subject to FDA pre-approval before it can be brought to market. The only possible exception is under “Option 2″ of the proposed regulation which calls for an exemption for cigars with a retail price of $10 or more. (Although, I’ve spoken with people familiar with the federal rulemaking process who say a small change to that number could be implemented without the need for an additional comment period, such as a change from a retail price limit to an equivalent wholesale price of, for example, $5.)

Still, right now the best hope of escaping a costly and time-consuming FDA pre-approval process—assuming most cigars could get through it at all before going bankrupt—is to set your retail price at $10. It’s as natural as it is depressing, and it will especially impact cigars that might otherwise sell for a few dollars under the $10 cap.

So while other new cigar trends, whether we like them or not, are a natural response to what consumers want and what cigar makers can make with the tobacco they have available, maybe the most distinctive trend from the 2015 IPCPR Trade Show will be overpriced cigars. Not because cigar makers want to gouge their customers; because of the inevitable response to FDA regulations that haven’t yet gone into effect.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Davidoff Escurio Robusto (Pre-Release)

1 Jul 2015

In 2013, Davidoff launched a new line that was a stark departure for a brand so inextricably linked to the Dominican Republic: Davidoff Nicaragua, as it was (and is) called, a Nicaraguan puro crafted by Hendrik “Henke” Kelner.

Escurio Robusto“[Davidoff Nicaragua] is a major step for Davidoff to expand to a new territory,” said CEO Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard at the time. “Davidoff’s mission is to bring aficionados delightful experiences regardless of territory.” For some, these statements hinted to further Davidoff expansion beyond its Dominican base.

Sure enough, this year Davidoff will be expanding to Brazil with a new line called Escurio. Escurio is intended to deliver “intense, spicy, sweet palate stimulation, coupled with the signature Davidoff refinement and sophistication.” It boasts an Ecuadorian Habano-seed wrapper, a Brazilian Cubra binder, and a filler blend that includes Mata Fina and Cubra tobaccos from Brazil paired with Dominican leaves.

Three Escurio sizes will make their debut at next month’s industry trade show: Petit Robusto (3.25 x 50, $8.50), Robusto (4.5 x 54, $15.90), and Gran Toro (5.5 x 58, $17.90). Each vitola will be sold in packs of 4 and 12.

Like Davidoff Nicaragua, Escurio sports a black Davidoff band, as well as a secondary band to denote the blend. Underneath is an oily, slightly reddish exterior leaf with a wrinkled texture and a plethora of thin veins. The pre-light notes at the foot are heavy on cocoa and sweet hay.

At the outset, the Escurio Robusto is airy, almost papery, with a very loose draw and tons of smoke production. Background notes consist of black pepper spice and espresso. After about a quarter of an inch, though, the cigar becomes more flavorful with a taste reminiscent of sweet cream, oak, dark chocolate, coffee, and natural tobacco. The resting smoke is particularly interesting, sweet, and mouth-watering.

Until the nub, the Robusto is silky—a sensation that’s offset by intense spice and red pepper. Construction-wise, the ash holds firm and the burn, while it meanders, is not an issue.

While the sizes are unfortunate—I’d prefer to see some narrower ring gauges—and the price points are intimidating, the Davidoff Escurio has much to offer in the way of flavor. Notably, it adds significant diversification to the Davidoff portfolio. I find it worthy of an admirable rating 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

Cigar Spirits: I.W. Harper 15 Year Straight Kentucky Bourbon

30 Jun 2015

IW-harper-15

If Americans suddenly doubled their demand for vodka it would take the vodka makers only months, or at most a year or two, to increase their supply to match the new demand. Not so for bourbon. When the public suddenly wants more well-aged bourbon, increasing distilling capacity today won’t do anything to change supply for a decade.

The formula is simple: Want 15-year-old bourbon? It has to rest in barrels for at least 15 years. Which makes the introduction of I.W. Harper 15 Year somewhat remarkable. This particular offering is new, but the brand certainly isn’t, something I covered in my write-up of the non-age statement version of the I.W. Harper:

I.W. Harper has an interesting and complex story. Originally introduced in 1879, the brand was discontinued in the U.S. market around 1990 but continued to thrive in the Japanese market. I.W. Harper is owned by Diageo, the largest spirits company in the world, but a company that has a long, though often puzzling, history in the American bourbon market.  Currently, Diageo’s American whiskey portfolio consists of George Dickel, Bulleit, and the Orphan Barrel series.

This bourbon was distilled at the New Bernheim distillery, which is currently owned by Heaven Hill, owner of Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, and many other brands. The mashbill used is 86% corn, 6% rye (a very low rye percentage), and 8% barley and it is bottled at 86-proof. Suggested retail price is $75 a bottle, although you might see it anywhere from $60-90 in a throwback decanter-style bottle that is certainly eye-catching.

Inside is a bronze-colored bourbon with a nose of vanilla, cotton candy, brown sugar, and fresh corn. It starts out light on the palate with lots of sweetness, apples, and a little creaminess, but it also shows a bigger, thick woody edge. The finish is long with more oak and spice.

The low rye content of the I.W. Harper 15, combined with the relatively low 86-proof, creates a soft, complex, finessed bourbon, especially given the age. It pairs well with a mild cigar. Think a creamy Connecticut Shade.

Good, old bourbon is increasingly hard to find at a reasonable price, and the I.W. Harper fits that description. In addition, it would make an excellent gift. The seasoned bourbon drinker will appreciate the juice, but a more novice bourbon fan can still appreciate the fancy bottle and relatively old age (which, rightly or wrongly, is often seen as a indicator of quality).

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Nestor Miranda Collection One Life Edition Danno Habano

29 Jun 2015

One Life DannoThis is one enjoyable cigar. The kind you light up, sit back, and savor. The Danno Habano is one of three 2015 limited editions commemorating Nestor Miranda’s late son, Daniel, that are hitting store shelves.

Each of Miami Cigar & Co.’s Danno cigars has been special since they debuted in 2009. This is certainly among the best I have had. I’d rate the strength on the upper end of medium, with deep, rich flavors that shift several times along the 7-inch, 56-ring gauge frame.

The Habano wrapper was grown in Nicaragua and is nearly flawless, with a small pigtail cap at the head. The filler comes from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil. All three of this year’s Danno editions use a Nicaraguan Criollo ’98 binder. MSRP is $12.

The other two Dannos feature variations on the filler blend and sport different wrappers, one an Ecuadorian Connecticut and the other a Broadleaf Maduro. They’re rolled at Pepin Garcia’s My Father Cigars factory in Nicaragua.

With only 1,000 boxes of each of the three blends produced, these will likely be difficult to find. In fact, Nestor Miranda had a six-shop East Coast tour in June to introduce the cigars and that undoubtedly put a dent in the inventory.

I smoked two for this review, both provided by Miami Cigar. The Danno Habano kicks off with pepper and cedar, joined by a sweetness that lingers into the second third. There, a toasty flavor comes on, with the pepper and cedar receding. In the final third, I picked up graham cracker as the pepper came back, smoothed out by tobacco sweetness.

The flavors are balanced, and the finish is silky. There’s no doubt concentration will pay off in what you experience with this complex cigar.

Construction generally was good, though the second one I smoked developed a small tunnel about halfway down that took a few minutes to run through and necessitated several relights. The white ash was incredibly tight, holding on both for nearly half the smoke before I tapped off.

I give the Danno Habano a high rating of four and a half stogies.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Montecristo Petite Edmundo

28 Jun 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

Montecristo-Petit-Edmundo

When it first came out, the Petite Edmundo was one of my favorite Cuban smokes, although later boxes proved to be less consistent. This particular stick had been resting in my humidor for the better part of three years, so it should hardly suffer from the ill-effects of under-aged tobacco, as Cubans sometimes do. It was well-constructed with notes of roast pecan, hay, coffee, sweetness (especially towards the second half), and intense cedar. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I still remember enjoying the Petit Edmundos seven or eight years ago better. Still, with proper age, this Cuban is quite tasty.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys