Cigar Review: Villiger San’Doro Maduro Toro

27 Jul 2016

For quite some time, Villiger, a big player in the machine-made cigar realm, has been attempting to gain a foothold in the premium, hand-rolled market.

VilligerAnd it hasn’t focused solely on sticks on the shelves. The 128-year-old Swiss-based firm blew up its North American operation, named a new president, ended a brief relationship with Sutliff Tobacco, and relocated its U.S. corporate headquarters to suburban Miami. (Hopefully, Villigar will get its “coming soon” website up and running.)

On the tobacco front, Villiger has introduced cigars, such as Trill and Cabareté, that didn’t feature the Villiger name. And it’s tried with cigars that do, like the Villiger San’Doro.

The three-cigar San’Doro line was introduced at last year’s International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers show and began shipping late in 2015. The maduro comes in a single vitola, a 6×50 toro, with an $8.50 price tag. It’s a Brazilian puro that’s also rolled in Villiger’s factory there. (The other two San’Doro lines — Claro and Colorado — are produced for Villiger by Oliva in Nicaragua.)

In a June interview with Cigar Snob, Villiger North America president Rene Castaneda said 2016 production for each of the lines will be about 25,000 for U.S. sales, with a focus on Florida, California and the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania market.

The San’Doro Maduro features a mata fina wrapper, mata norte binder and mata fina and mata norte filler. I smoked three samples, which were sent to me by Villiger.

The cigar makes a strong first impression, with an oily wrapper and a heavy feel. That denseness made me wary of a tight draw, but that proved not to be the case. The cigars did, however, start with fairly airy smoke that gradually gained substance.

It also burned very slowly, making the 6-inch smoke last as long as most cigars an inch or more in length.

Villiger promotes the maduro as the strongest of the San’Doro lines. I’d put it as medium strength and body.

There are many of the typical maduro flavors, such as coffee and chocolate. It also has a pleasant mix of sweetness and a little spice, with some nuttiness and some wood and leather. The flavors mix and mingle throughout, keeping it interesting along the way.

If you haven’t tried a Villiger cigar, this is a good place to start. I rate the San’Doro Maduro four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Cigar Review: Yaxel Ortiz Y.O. Toro

25 Jul 2016

YO Pic 1

About a month ago, right after LeBron James delivered the Cleveland Cavaliers their first title in the franchise’s 46-year history, pictures and video began to surface of the NBA Finals MVP with a cigar. Since it wasn’t easy to discern the band, I recall seeing some speculation on social media about what cigar LeBron had chosen to celebrate. Several people seemed quite certain it was a Hoyo.

YO ToroThe cigar brand was later correctly identified as Y.O. by Yaxel Ortiz. I think it’s safe to say this choice caught many people by surprise. Even many of those who are regular smokers and enthusiastic readers and followers of the world of cigars had never heard of the brand. How it got on LeBron’s radar—or how the cigar in question made its way to him—is not known.

An employee of Cousin’s Cigar, a five-location tobacconist in the Cleveland area, sent me a handful of Yaxel Ortiz Y.O. Toros, along with information about the brand. Yaxel Ortiz, for instance, has been working with tobacco for a quarter century and has been making cigars in the U.S. for years. Recently, he opened his own factory in Estelí called The Best Cigars S.A. It is there his first Nicaraguan-made cigar is crafted.

Y.O. has been on the market for about nine months and is available at about 30 stores across 9 states. Its recipe includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Four sizes are available, each of which is affordably priced: Robusto (5 x 50, $5.20), Torpedo (6.5 x 52, $6.50), Churchill (7 x 50, $6.50), and Toro (6 x 52, $5.90).

Beneath the glossy band of black and gold that was the subject of much speculation and head-scratching is a silky, oily, slightly reddish wrapper with thin veins and moderate tooth. The several Toros I smoked for this review all had a few lumps here and there, along with a spongy feel. At the foot, the sweet pre-light notes are reminiscent of mocha and caramel.

On the palate, after an even light is established, medium- to full-bodied flavors of black pepper, coffee, and dark chocolate waste no time introducing themselves. The texture is thick and leathery, and there is a little cayenne heat on the finish. After a quarter inch, the intensity fades a bit, a retreat that paves the way for some creaminess and sweetness to enter the equation.

The midway point is lighter on spice and flatter in character with oak, creamy nougat, and bread. Now decidedly medium-bodied, the texture is less leathery and chalkier. The finale witnesses a reprise of some of the initial intensity.

Despite the cigar’s sponginess—which, in my experience, can often portend construction issues—the Toro exhibits excellent combustion properties. Each of my samples had a straight burn, solid ash, smooth draw, and above-average smoke production.

One would think LeBron wouldn’t need to concern himself with cost, especially when selecting a celebratory smoke for one of the greatest accomplishments in his storied career. You and I, on the other hand, are likely in a different boat. So the price points across the Y.O. range are certainly welcome and highly appreciated. As far as the Toro is concerned, it won’t knock your socks off with flavor or complexity. But it will deliver a consistently enjoyable experience that’s worthy of a solid rating of three 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)

24 Jul 2016

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.”

Serie P No. 2

I’ve had this Cuban puro resting in a tube in my humidor for at least a few years. With all the new non-Cuban cigars being introduced this week at the IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas, I decided to check out a Cuban that is anything but new. (Of course, if the cigar could legally be sold in the U.S., it would not be grandfathered as exempt because it was not sold or marketed in the U.S. in 2007.) This pirámide is medium-bodied with a typical Cuban profile with cedar, leather, roasted nuts, and just a bit of woody spice. Although he foot of the cigar has been a little beat up by the metal tube (something I’ve seen before from these) construction was generally without incident.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: H. Upmann Ingot The Banker Private Holding

23 Jul 2016

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.”

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This limited edition from Altadis is a standout, far from the stereotype of cigars from an industry’s giant. It’s rich, complex, and nicely balanced with a Criollo ’98 wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. Issued in a single size (6 x 54) with 4,500 eight-count boxes shaped like gold bars, the single-stick MSRP is $9.25. I did experience some minor meandering burn issues and a flaky ash, but the spicy, sweet, and shifting flavors more than made up for it.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 489

22 Jul 2016

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.

Swamp Thang

1) Announcements of new cigar releases continue to roll out at what seems like a record pace in advance of what might be the most important IPCPR Trade Show in history. On Wednesday, we learned Drew Estate is launching candela-wrapped line extensions called Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang and Swamp Rat. “This thing should not be, and it’s a deeply disturbing yet pleasing smoke,” reads a press release. “Deep in the swamps it is lurking, waiting to be discovered. By pairing this deliciously sweet candela wrapper with the smoky and tasty Kentucky Fire Cured tobaccos, an eerie mystery has been revealed for a unique and powerful experience.” Three new cigars will be sold in ten-count paper bundles for $7.50 to $8.75: Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang Toro (6 x 52), Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang Rat (6 x 46), and Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang Robusto (5 x 54). “We continue to demonstrate our leadership in the fire-cured tobacco segment, making history as the first company to blend candela and Kentucky Fire Cured tobaccos in the premium segment,” said Jonathan Drew.

2) Recluse has introduced the Amadeus Corojo Reserva, Amadeus Rosado, and OTG Connecticut. The former features a “very special Corojo wrapper that we have been holding onto for years” around Dominican, Sumatran, and Mexican filler tobaccos. The Recluse Amadeus Rosado boasts “the finest Ecuadorian Rosado wrapper available on the market” with Dominican, Pennsylvanian, and Mexican fillers. Recluse president Scott Weeks calls the blend “one of the most complex cigars we have ever made.” Finally, OTG Connecticut is an expansion of the original OTG Maduro blend, which was the very first blend Recluse offered to the U.S. market. It sports a Grade A Connecticut Shade wrapper around Dominican and Sumatran fillers. All three will be sold in 14 sizes with prices ranging from $5.95 for the Petit Corona (4 x 42) to $11.95 for the Kanu #3 (8 x 58).

3) Inside the Industry: La Flor Dominicana has announced a smaller “Petite” size of La Nox, its blend using a dark Brazilian wrapper, Mexican binder, and Nicaraguan filler. Viva Republica is adding Art of War, a new blend made at La Aurora with a stalk-cut Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over a binder of Ecuadorian Sumatra surrounding Colombian, Dominican, and Nicaraguan filler. Sindicato is set to resurrect the Particulares brand, a Nicaraguan puro made by Casa Fernandez to be sold in five sizes with prices ranging from $7.50 to $10 per cigar.

4) From the Archives: With the next IPCPR Cigar Trade Show set to open in imminently, it is interesting to look back at last year’s show to see how much has changed, or hasn’t. In a wrap-up from last year’s show, we noted a few key observations, including decreased attendance, numerous exhibitors, cautious optimism (now seemingly somewhat myopic) about the FDA, and increased discussion about evolving Cuban-U.S. relations.

5) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items delivered to your door for just $55. Past boxes include barbecue accessories, shaving kits, everything you need to make great coffee, and exclusive cigars from E.P. Carrillo paired with custom accessories. You can select a box each month or skip the month entirely. Click here to sign up today.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Drew Estate

News: FDA Cigar Regulations Already Disrupting Handmade Cigar Industry

20 Jul 2016

FDA-cigars-large

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations covering the cigar industry don’t take effect until August, but the impact on cigars is already apparent. The regulations, which have already prompted two lawsuits against the agency (a long-planned lawsuit by the CRA, IPCPR, and CAA was filed last week), threaten to stifle the introduction of new cigars, plus the continued sale of any cigar introduced after February 15, 2007.

With the annual IPCPR Trade Show set to start next week, cigar makers are already announcing new cigars at a record pace, with plenty more expected next week. The reason is clear, as cigars introduced after August 8 will have to wait for FDA pre-approval before being marketed or sold in the United States, while those on the market before that date can be sold for two years without needing pre-approval.

Exact details of the pre-approval process are still unknown, which only fuels the urgency of getting new products to market. Most industry sources hope cigars will be approved as “substantially equivalent” to a product on the market prior to the February 2007 date, but even that standard may be difficult and costly to establish.

According to the FDA’s final rule, the agency estimates it will take 300 hours for each Substantial Equivalence (SE) report, which works out to two months of time for one full-time employee. Industry sources believe the cost of each SE report would likely be even greater than the FDA’s estimate, possibly $100,000 or more.

Those estimates are per SE report, and the FDA requires pre-approval for every tobacco product. This would likely include every new cigar size and packaging combination. For example, if a cigar is sold in 10-count and 20-count boxes, each would need a separate approval. Presumably, so would samplers created by the manufacturer, and potentially even samplers created and sold by retailers.

Needless to say, those costs are prohibitive for small cigar brands for whom a large volume vitola may only sell tens of thousands of units in a year. By introducing lines now ahead of the August 8 deadline, those small manufacturers buy themselves 18 months before they have to decide whether to submit them to the FDA for approval.

By then, cigar makers will have a better picture of the costs and requirements of achieving FDA approval, so they can decide if seeking approval makes economic sense, or if they will be forced to withdraw cigars from the market by August 2018 (after which cigars introduced after February 2007 can no longer be sold unless they have begun seeking FDA approval).

Unfortunately, this means many of the new cigars being rushed out before the deadline are living on borrowed time. While the results of the lawsuits could change the FDA regulations, such lawsuits are always difficult to win. In the meantime, while there will be a lot of excitement over the next two weeks as numerous cigars are announced, the devastating effects of FDA regulation on the handmade cigar market are already showing.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Cornelius & Anthony Daddy Mac Gordo

18 Jul 2016

Daddy MacFor its latest release, Cornelius & Anthony has turned up the heat.

Daddy Mac, named for founder Steven Bailey’s father, is a three-country blend produced at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Nicaragua.

It makes a nice first impression, with a barnyard aroma on the pre-light wrapper, which is an oily Brazilian Habano. The binder is Ecuadorian and the filler tobaccos are from Nicaragua.

The cigar starts with a pleasing burst of pepper. Then, about an inch in, it begins to mix with wood, leather, and sweetness. While the pepper never backs completely away, it stays in the background until about the final third, when it amps up again.

The Brazilian wrapper seems to add a little something extra to the Nicaraguan tobacco.

The Daddy Mac is decidedly stronger than the Cornelius line I smoked previously. I’d rank the Daddy Mac as a full-strength, full-flavor blend.

Daddy Mac comes in four sizes: Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $8.50), Robusto (5 x 52, $9), Toro (6 x 50, $10), and Gordo (6 x 60, $11). Cornelius & Anthony supplied me with two samples of each vitola, and I smoked them all.

Each one performed excellently, with draw, burn, and smoke production first-rate. According to Courtney Smith, Cornelius & Anthony’s director of brand development, the four sizes were blended to have the “same/similar profile,” though she added that ring gauges do account for some differences.

I was surprised to find my favorite was the massive Gordo, a larger cigar than I usually smoke. While I enjoyed all four Daddy Mac vitolas, for my taste, the Gordo was smoother and more balanced than the others. The smaller smokes were just a bit sharper, the flavors not quite as rounded.

Cornelius & Anthony seems to be expanding its reach at a pretty good clip, so don’t be surprised if you spot its cigars at your local B&M. When you do, I recommend Daddy Mac. I give the Gordo four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys