Commentary: Five Early Standouts from the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show

18 Jul 2018

Despite a small electrical fire that caused a little damage to some booths by setting off the sprinkler system, and a outbreak of the flu at the host hotel, the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show is in full roar in Las Vegas. While IPCPR occasionally holds the convention, the biggest of the year for handmade cigars, in other cities, any who attended multiple trade shows can tell you the event is at its natural home when it is in Las Vegas.

Like many, we’re still digging through the many press releases and announcements of new cigars, so we reserve the right to add to this list. But here are five new cigars we’re particularly excited to check out when they hit shelves in the coming months:

Illusione OneOff

Actually announced a couple months ago, OneOff is a reboot of a cigar that was popular in early 2000s but faded away only for Illusione owner Dion Giolito to purchase the trademark last year. The eight-vitola line is made at TABSA and, while Giolito is being tight-lipped about the exact blend, given Illusione’s track-record this is a cigar I’m looking forward to.

Drew Estate Liga Privada 10-Year Anniversario

Ten years, ago Drew Estate introduced Liga Privada and completely changed the way cigar smokers thought about Drew Estate, which up until that point had been primarily a maker of infused cigars. As production and demand increased, many (myself included) felt Liga Privada, while still good, was not as exceptional as when it first arrived. Will the 10th Anniversary release of Liga Privada hearken back to the standout days when the brand first burst onto the scene? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Nestor Miranda 75th Anniversary

Nestor Miranda’s Miami Cigar Co. and Don José “Pepin” Garcia have collaborated to make some of my favorite cigars over the years. So Pepin making a Nicaraguan puro for his longtime collaborator Nestor Miranda is something I’m particularly interested in trying. The large, salomon-sized cigar features a Corojo wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. Only 15,000 are scheduled to be made, and I’m looking forward to trying one.

Partagas Legend

Partagas Legend is a tribute to five legendary cigar men who contributed to the Partagas brand: Jaime Partagas, Ramon Cifuentes, Edgar Cullman Sr., Daniel Nunez, and Benji Menendez. The box-pressed cigar uses a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Honduran binder, and Dominican Piloto Cubano filler. The Partagas brand is, in my opinion, too frequently overlooked, but I don’t plan to overlook the Partagas Legend.

Aging Room Puro Cepa

To say Rafael Nodal has been busy lately would be an understatement. In addition to his Aging Room brand, he has joined with Altadis’ Tabacalera USA. We could just as easily have picked the new Montecristo Nicaragua for this final pick, but perhaps more interesting is Aging Room’s new Nicaraguan cigar called Puro Cepa. Made with tobaccos from all four major Nicaraguan growing regions (Ometepe, Jalapa, Condega, and Estelí), it is the rare Nicaraguan puro from Aging Room which has made some very under-the-radar cigars in recent years.

Patrick S

photo credit:  IPCPR

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Interlude Natural Rothschild Jr.

16 Jul 2018

I recently moved from the city to Oak Park, a close suburb of Chicago. The whole process, to say the least, has been stressful and time-consuming. Under normal circumstances, it’s hard enough to find time for a cigar when you’re working full-time and raising two small children (with a third on the way). When you add in the daunting task of unpacking about 75 million boxes… well, you can see where this is going.

I know I’m not the only one with a challenging schedule. Chances are you, too, find it difficult to set aside the requisite time to thoroughly enjoy a fine cigar.

Fortunately, if you need to pack a premium cigar experience into a short amount of time, cigar legend Ernesto Perez-Carrillo has your back. In 2016, he launched Interlude, a line of two different blends, each presented in two time-friendly formats: Carrillitos (4 x 38) and Rothschild Jr. (3.75 x 48).

The Natural version of “Ernesto’s shortest cigar ever made” sports a Connecticut wrapper (same as the New Wave Reserva) around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Maduro boasts a Mexican San Andrés wrapper (same as La Historia) around an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan filler. Given their small size, both were challenging to blend “because the dimensions limit the amount of tobacco that can be used,” Ernesto Perez-Carrillo shared via email. “So the proportions have to be just right to get the flavor profile sought.”

I smoked a handful of cigars in the Interlude Natural Rothschild Jr. format for this review. This cigar is neatly presented in a regal, compact five-pack that retails for $16.25 (or $3.25 per cigar). Unlike the Maduro version—which has a rustic, highly mottled wrapper that’s wrinkled, veiny, and rough around the edges—the Natural has a clean, dry surface. A standard guillotine cut reveals a smooth cold draw. At the foot, I find pre-light notes of honey and graham cracker.

A cigar of this size needs to get off to a fast start. The Natural Rothschild Jr. does just that. The first few puffs are a medium-bodied burst of white pepper, dry oak, and cereals. The texture is bready. A bit of cinnamon spice helps to add balance.

Into the midway point, while the cigar settles a bit in terms of body and spice, the core flavors remain the same. Not much changes in the finale except for an increase in intensity and heat. Throughout, the combustion properties are excellent. The burn line is straight, the smoke production high, and the draw is easy. Notably, the light gray ash holds really well off the foot; on average, I only had to ash once per cigar.

As expected, the Interlude Natural Rothschild Jr. is a solid choice if you’re low on time but high on desire for a premium cigar experience. I’m not rating the Natural version quite as high as the Maduro—which, in my opinion, is more interesting from a flavor perspective—but this cigar still earns an admirable rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Muestra de Saka Exclusivo

15 Jul 2018

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 Nacatamale from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust’s Muestra de Saka portfolio measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 52. It boasts tobaccos from each of Nicaragua’s four major growing regions: Condega, Estelí, Jalapa, and Ometepe. It’s an exquisitely balanced cigar with cinnamon bread, coffee, earth, and pepper. Construction is flawless. Even though I slightly prefer the Nacatamale, the Exclusivo is is an excellent cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: El Titan de Bronze Gold Lonsdale No. 1

14 Jul 2018

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.”

A few months ago, I visited El Titan de Bronze, a factory on Calle Ocho in Miami that’s small in size but big in prestige. El Titan crafts cigars for such clients as Drew Estate, Warped Cigars, La Palina, Cornelius & Anthony, Padilla, El Primer Mundo, Cremo, and many others. Less well known are the operation’s house blends. Gold, for example, sports a Connecticut Shade wrapper around an Ecuadorian binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. As I recall, I paid about $8 for the Gold Lonsdale No. 1 (6.5 x 44). I love the size. The expertly constructed cigar boasts a medium-bodied profile of honey, cinnamon spice, oak, almond, and white pepper with a bready texture.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: IPCPR Trade Show Starts Today, Many New Cigars Announced, and More

13 Jul 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 587th in the series.

1) The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) 86th Annual Convention & International Trade Show begins today at the Las Vegas Convention Center. As you know, this premier, members-only event is where most of this year’s new cigars (and cigar-related accessories) will debut. Exhibitors will spend tens of thousands of dollars to lure retailers to their booths with the hopes of securing orders to stock a local humidor near you. In the coming weeks and months, will be reporting on and reviewing many new cigars to help you make educated choices. A friendly reminder, however: You don’t have to get caught up in the new-release treadmill—especially since lots of older brands will be on sale as retailers look to clear inventory space for new products. In this way, the savvy cigar consumer can take advantage of some great deals on perfectly good cigars that have nothing wrong with them (other than they’re not currently being hyped).

2) This week, leading up to the IPCPR Trade Show, many cigar makers issued press releases proclaiming their latest and greatest. If its media blitz is any indication, Drew Estate plans to make a big splash at the convention. First, the Herrera Estelí brand is expanding and getting a facelift. The Herrera Estelí Brazilian Maduro and Herrera Estelí Miami are launching, each with five sizes. And the existing Herrera Estelí Habano and Herrera Estelí Norteño will be re-branded to make the entire portfolio consistent. “The uniform packaging… has elements of classic Cuban-inspired branding mixed with modern simplicity,” says Master Blender Willy Herrera. Drew Estate is also expected to unveil three smaller vitolas for Liga Privada No. 9 and T52—Corona Viva, Short Panatela, and Petit Corona—plus the Unico Serie Nasty Fritas. “The Nasty Fritas utilizes a Connecticut Broadleaf Oscuro wrapper and a plantation-grown Brazilian Mata Fina binder over Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers,” reads a press release. “Like the Papas Fritas, the Nasty Fritas filler tobacco incorporates leftover tobacco leaves that are short cut through the manufacture of Liga Privada No. 9 and Liga Privada T52 cigars.” Finally, and perhaps most notably, Drew Estate announced Liga Privada H99 Connecticut Corojo, a toro that will retail for $343.92 per box of 24 (additional sizes are planned for future releases). UPDATE: More news from Drew Estate via press release dated today — “Drew Estate announces today Liga Privada 10-Year Aniversario, a cigar that we spared no expense in creating to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Liga Privada… Packaged in ten-count boxes featuring a unique Cola de Pescado head, and Pies Tapado foot, the Liga Privada 10-Year Aniversario Toro is available with an MSRP of $179.00 per box.”

3) Nicaragua-based Antigua Estelí is introducing the Antigua Estelí Segovias, with the cigar set to arrive at retailers in September. The Nicaraguan puro comes with two different wrappers: Nicaraguan Maduro and Habano Oscuro. The blend, which is described as medium- to full-bodied, retails for between $8.99 and $13.99 per cigar.

4) General Cigar is preparing to release Punch Diablo, a new addition to the Punch line billed as “the dark side of Punch.” A video about the cigar reveals it is made by A.J. Fernandez with an Oscuro Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and fillers from Nicaragua and Honduras, including Habano Ligero aged 4-6 years. Three sizes will sell for $7.19 to $8.19 per cigar.

5) Tamboril, Dominican Republic-based El Artista announced the new Cimarron line, consisting of three blends (two for the U.S. and one for the European market). The U.S. blend uses a Mexican wrapper. The binder is Dominican Negrito from El Artista’s Tamboril farms.

6) Inside the Industry: Villiger is set to add a Gordo (6 x 60) size to its Villiger La Vencedora blend. Crux announced the hiring of Roy MacLaren as executive vice president of sales. Quesada announced the revamped Fonseca Classic, a Connecticut Shade-wrapped Dominican line continually produced since 1974.

7) From the Archives: In 2008, covered the IPCPR Trade Show live for the first time. Revisit our coverage here, here, and here.

8) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, Davidoff, My Father, Oliva, and more. Free shipping is included on most purchases. Add promo code “ULYXMAS” at checkout to knock $30 off your order of $150 or more.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: LVCVA / Drew Estate / Antigua Estelí

Cigar Spirits: Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

11 Jul 2018

Let me state upfront I’m inherently skeptical of celebrity-endorsed products. When you feel the need to pay an actor or athlete to sell your cigar or whiskey, this suggests you’re worried the product wouldn’t sell on its own merits.

With that in mind, I had my reservations when I heard about Wild Turkey’s Longbranch Bourbon, a collaboration between Wild Turkey’s “creative director,” the Texan and actor Matthew McConaughey, and longtime bourbon man Eddie Russell. The straight Kentucky bourbon melds Kentucky tradition with a Texas twist: the aged bourbon is filtered through Texas mesquite charcoal.

Yet, further details about the bourbon made me think it may not be the usual, easily-dismissed celebrity product. First off, it’s made by Wild Turkey, which, as far as the major bourbon distillers go, tends to make solid bourbons for the price. Second, it’s got an age statement: eight years, which happens to be the age at which much now-revered Wild Turkey bourbon was bottled. Finally, although the Texas mesquite angle is a new twist, charcoal filtration is an accepted and historic method for bourbon making, as evidenced by Jack Daniels.

That Wild Turkey didn’t price Longbranch excessively also made me rethink my initial skepticism. Around $35 for an eight-year, age-stated Kentucky bourbon is, like it or not, a reasonable price in today’s overheated bourbon market.

The 86-proof Kentucky straight bourbon pours a golden amber color. The nose features vanilla sweetness and cereal grains.

On the palate, Longbranch has ripe apples, toasted oak, and vanilla flavors. The finish is long on the palate with more vanilla and a hint of smokiness that shows off the Texas mesquite influence.

If you have about $40 to pay for a bourbon, I’d prefer Russell’s Reserve 10 Year bourbon to Longbranch, but that doesn’t mean Longbranch isn’t a new and interesting bourbon well worth checking out. It’s flavorful (especially considering its relatively low proof).

It’s an excellent bourbon to pair with a fine cigar. Medium- to full-bodied cigars like the Illusione Holy Lance, Litto Gomez Diez Small Batch, Montecristo Petit Edmundo, or Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Sobremesa will work best.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Gran Habano La Conquista Robusto

9 Jul 2018

Over two years ago, I examined a pre-release sample of the new La Conquista line from Gran Habano. I found the Gran Robusto to be well-constructed but a little flat.

Flash forward to this spring when my colleague favorably wrote about the same cigar. His conclusions prompted me to revisit the blend, this time in the Robusto size.

La Conquista was introduced in 2016. At that time, it had an understated band of black, cream, and gold with a simple image of a cross. Now, the band is larger and considerably more ornate, featuring a depiction of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. It is further accented by a cedar sleeve emblazoned with “La Conquista” and a foot ribbon.

The golden, toothy Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper comes into full view once the cedar is removed. On its surface you’re likely to find at least one thick vein and perhaps some harmless green splotches of discoloration. Otherwise, though, the wrapper is attractive.

At the foot, the Nicaraguan Corojo binder combines with filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Colombia to yield sweet, grassy pre-light notes. The well-executed cap clips cleanly to reveal a smooth cold draw.

After using the cedar sleeve to establish an even light, the Robusto (5 x 52, under $7 when bought by the box of 24) starts with a medium-bodied, spice-forward profile of dry cedar, cinnamon, and cereals. The texture is bready. In the background, I find a pleasing, balanced note of café au lait.

As the Robusto progresses, the bready, cedary core remains while new flavors come and go. They include vanilla bean, oak, cashew, and a fleeting, incredibly sweet, bright taste that reminds me of candied cherries.

All the while, the construction is impeccable. Even under windy conditions I found a straight burn that required no-touch ups, along with an easy draw, solid ash, and good smoke production.

Gran Habano offers two other sizes in the La Conquista portfolio: Gran Robusto (6 x 54) and Imperial (6 x 60).

I’m glad I gave this blend another try. Either my tastes have changed, the difference in format (Gran Robusto vs. Robusto) has a big impact, the tobaccos have been treated differently, or perhaps all three. Whatever the case, I’m awarding the Honduras-made La Conquista Robusto an admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys