Cigar Review: Tatuaje La Vérité Churchill 2008

7 Jul 2015

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Manchester, New Hampshire, with a few hours to kill before a flight home to Chicago. Fortunately, the new and improved Twins Smoke Shop is just a stone’s throw from the Manchester airport. It boasts a fantastic new lounge and an incredible selection of smokes. Plus, the Granite State has no tobacco tax.

La Verite 2008As I was getting some work done, enjoying a Nica Rustica, and sipping a little rum, proprietor Kurt Kendall (who also owns the 7-20-4 brand) let me know Pete Johnson of Tatuaje would be coming by for an evening event. I made sure to say hello to Pete, but I couldn’t talk much; it was time to head to the airport. However, I did ask Pete if there were any event specials I could cash in on before leaving.

His answer? “Yeah, but Kurt has a box of La Vérité Churchills from 2008 that still have the 2008 price tag on them,” said Pete. “That cigar is smoking incredibly right now.” Partly based on Pete’s recommendation—and partly knowing that La Vérité Churchills from 2008 are very hard to come by (only 30,000 were made)—I bought a box of 10 for $200.

As you may recall, Pete Johnson holds La Vérité (French for “the truth”) in high regard. “La Vérité Vintage,” as he calls it, brings a vintner’s approach to cigar making, employing a wrapper, binder, and filler all grown on the same farm. “Much like a single vineyard wine, La Vérité showcases the soil where the tobacco was grown,” read his website years ago. “The seed varietal varies from year to year based on the crop planted and the tobacco yielded.”

In the case of the 2008 La Vérité, all of the tobacco is from Don José “Pepin” Garcia’s La Estrella farm in Estelí. The Churchill (7 x 47) has an understated band of white, maroon, and gold with a matte, nearly vein-free, milk chocolate-colored wrapper and a perfect cap. The pre-light notes remind me of graham cracker, cocoa, and sweet hay.

Once lit, a mild- to medium-bodied flavor emerges with cream, subtle cedar, peanut, and honey. The balance is wonderful and the texture is bready. The taste is bright and vibrant. The energy is mellow, but there’s energy nonetheless. And the harmonious balance and subtlety render the Churchill highly enjoyable.

The flavor ramps up gradually as the cigar progresses, as does the smoke production (which is a little lacking at first). Graham cracker notes are the highlight of the midway point, with the finale witnessing a slight increase in spice. Throughout, the white ash holds firm, the draw is smooth with just a little resistance, and the burn line remains even.

Due in no small part to the age it has accumulated, the Tatuaje La Vérité Churchill 2008 is an exceptional cigar. It’s worthy 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

Drew Estate

Exclusive News: Drew Estate Prepares to Release Undercrown Shade, Plus New Cigars from La Palina and A.J. Fernendez

6 Jul 2015

undercrown-shade

Drew Estate is poised to release Undercrown Shade, a new line based on the Undercrown blend featuring a No. 1 grade shade-grown Connecticut wrapper.

Here is Drew Estate’s description of the new line, which StogieGuys.com uncovered in the recently distributed 322-page Tobacco Retailer’s Almanac, sent to members of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR):

More than just a wrapper swap, this ‘Crown was a three-year process working from the ground up using the finest blend of well-aged, long leaf tobaccos from our vast holdings in Estelí, Nicaragua. Finished with a No. 1 golden shade wrapper, the most sought-after leaf in the world, Undercrown Shade is a naturally sweet, earthy smoke with satisfying body for any time of day.

The line will be available in boxes of 25 in the same six regular production vitolas as the original Undercrown line:

Belicoso 6 x 52
Corona Doble 7 x 54
Corona 5.38 x 46
Gordito 6 x 60
Gran Toro 6 x 52
Robusto 5 x 54

References to “the most sought-after leaf in the world” and “shade” imply the blend uses a Connecticut-grown wrapper leaf, as opposed to an Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut wrapper, which Drew Estate uses on Herrera Estelí. Ecuadorian wrapper isn’t usually grown under shade netting because of the natural cloud cover that produces a similar leaf without it.

Jonathan Drew hinted on Facebook that a Connecticut shade-grown wrapper project was in the works last August when he wrote: “Historically, Drew Estate has always used the Shade Leaf from Ecuador, but this Connecticut leaf is mad juicy and getting me crazy. I mean like… well… what’s a couple thousand pounds of this juicy leaf going to taste like with a tweaked Undercrown Blend…. Oh wait, maybe a tweaked Rustica… Oh shucks, ima get all kind of flack for this post.”

La Palina Introduces Red Label

Also listed in the Tobacco Retailers Almanac is a previously unannounced La Palina Red Label. The line will comes in four sizes: Gordo (6 x 60), Toro (6 x 50), Robusto (5 x 52), and Petit Lancero (6 x 40). All are listed as shipping in boxes of 20. Although no other details are printed, a recent posting announcing the selections for Cigar Dave’s cigar of the month club reveal more details about the Dominican-made blend, which features a Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Ecuadorian binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler.

AJ Fernandez Enclave

enclave

Although no other details are revealed, we do have artwork (above) to share for the upcoming Enclave cigar by A.J. Fernendez. The ad appears in the Tobacco Retailer’s Almanac. A February article in the publication BayouLife mentioned the project, though the blend was still being tweaked at the time. More details, presumably, will be unveiled between now and the start of the IPCPR Trade Show.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys/Drew Estate/A.J. Fernandez

Quick Smoke: Crowned Heads The Angel’s Anvil Toro

5 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.”

angels-anvil

This year’s Crowned Heads’ exclusive for Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA) retailers is a gorgeous Toro (6 x 52) with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. Said to be a bit stronger than last year’s TAA limited edition, there’s a nice deep, earthy, and nutty beginning that makes some transitions along the way, including a bit of spice and sweetness. I certainly enjoyed The Angel’s Anvil and thought it worth the $10.50 price, but I find several other Crowned Heads offerings to be more impressive smokes.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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

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