Quick Smoke: La Galera 1936 Box Pressed Chaveta

22 Mar 2019

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.”

Since seemingly no one in the cigar industry can resist commemorating an anniversary, it’s no surprise that the La Galera 1936 Box Pressed was introduced in 2016 to celebrate 80 years since the Blanco family opened its factory in the Dominican Republic. With an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Dominican binder, and Dominican Piloto Cubano and Criollo ’98 filler, I thought the Robusto (5 x 50, $7.50) offered promise. But it began with a bit of harshness and didn’t begin to smooth out until roughly the midpoint, when I picked up light spice and earthiness. The harshness returned in the final third. Construction was fine, with a solid burn and good draw.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Ardbeg Drum Committee Release (2019)

20 Mar 2019

As whisky grows in popularity, limited edition whisky releases grow even faster. You’d be hard-pressed to go a week or two without multiple new bourbons, ryes, or single malts being announced.

Increasingly, I don’t bother trying to track down these limited releases. The price and/or rarity makes it not worth it, with only a few exceptions: either because they are reliably good for the money, or because something about the offering is particularly interesting.

The latter is the case for Ardbeg Drum Committee Release. Each year, Ardbeg puts out two variations of their annual releases that is a unique twist on Ardbeg’s peat-forward style. (The Committee Release is a higher ABV offering that is more limited, while a standard issue release is priced slightly lower and bottled at a more traditional ABV, usually around 90%.)

Given my appreciation for Ardbeg’s Uigeadail (a high-proof release that shows off the results of Ardbeg’s peat in sherry casks), I was particularly interested in Drum, which for the first time put Ardbeg Single Malt into American rum casks (reportedly rum casks from the Guyana distillery where El Dorado is made).

This year’s Ardbeg Committee Release ($120) weighs in at 52% ABV. Exact aging details aren’t disclosed except that the whisky is aged in ex-bourbon casks for a period before secondary aging in rum casks. The resulting sprit is pale in color and slightly murky in appearance.

The nose is a hint of what’s to come with light smoke, brown banana peel, and red hot candies. The palate is a classic Ardbeg peaty profile (gritty smoke and petrol) with added lavender, anise, pear, and hints of pineapple. The finish is long and complex with pine smoke, cinnamon, lemon, and leather.

It’s a complex offering that shows off a subtle complexity from the rum barrel finish. Frankly, while I enjoyed it, I was hoping the rum element would be a little more prominent, but that is more because of my affinity towards single malts that combine peat and sweet (more traditionally from sherry casks).

For fans of the entire Ardbeg line, this (or the forthcoming $100 non-Committee Drum release) is an offering worth seeking out. For those just dabbling in Ardbeg’s offerings, I’d recommend trying Uigeadail and Corryvreckan, which are both more complex and more affordable ($70-80).

Like most peaty single malts, a mild cigar will get lost next to Drum, so stick with something more flavorful. I particularly enjoyed the My Father and Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary paired with the Ardbeg Drum Committee Release.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Curivari Café 52

18 Mar 2019

For years, my colleague has praised the Buenaventura line by Curivari as not only an excellent smoke, but an excellent value. The cigars—which sport a classic, Cubanesque presentation and have been wellreviewed at StogieGuys.com on numerous occasions—also retail at a very refreshing price point. To this day, when people ask me to recommend an inexpensive cigar that punches above its weight, Buenaventura is usually on the short list.

Still, Curivari doesn’t seem to receive the attention it deserves. Perhaps this is due to its (seemingly purposeful) low profile. In stark contrast to many other boutique brands that employ social media to create a personal connection to between their customers and cigar makers or owners, Curivari’s owner—Andreas Throuvalis—operates behind the scenes, rendering the brand almost faceless.

And Curivari’s spartan website doesn’t help matters. There, you won’t find much more background info than this: “In all our cigars, we use only the traditional Cuban cigar making process with authentic Cuban Criollo and Corojo seed grown in Nicaragua…. Curivari cigars are made with 100% Cuban-seed Nicaraguan tobacco. We blend for a classic Cuban flavor profile that we enjoy, not with focus on strength, but more looking for flavor and aroma in a right balance. All cigars are finished with a triple-cap.”

The Curivari Café line is described as “medium- to full-bodied… with lots of coffee and cocoa undertones.” It is offered in three sizes: Petit Café (4.5 x 42), 60 (5.5 x 58), and 52 (5 x 52).

The 52 retails for $8.25. This Nicaraguan puro boasts soft notes of hay and cedar at the unlit foot. It is spongy to the touch with moderate oils on its smooth, seamless surface and an understated band of sepia and gold. Notably, the filler and binder extend a bit beyond the wrapper. The cold draw is easy with a hint of oaky sweetness on the lips.

After an even light is established, the initial puffs are salty, dry, and loaded with spicy cedar and cinnamon. The spice, while still present, backs off quickly, leaving behind notes of café au lait, cocoa powder, and a little cashew.

But one characteristic of the profile that doesn’t recede is the dryness. The Curivari Café consistently hits my palate in a dry, salty way. For this reason, when it comes to pairing, I’d recommend a citrusy cocktail with a bit of sweetness, as opposed to coffee or a neat finger of bourbon or scotch. Some, including the folks at Curivari, will disagree with this; they call the Café line “a perfect compliment [sic] for coffee.”

Throughout, the burn line is less than stellar, and several touch-ups are needed to keep things even. Every other aspect of combustion, however, is admirable. The gray ash holds pretty well off the foot, the draw is clear, and the smoke production is generous.

The final third of the Curivari Café 52 isn’t much different than the rest. Expect cedar spice, cocoa, some cinnamon, coffee, and dry earth. The next time I try this robusto I may sample it with a limoncello gin martini, a citrus rye and ginger, or simply a Cuba libre. On its own with nothing but water, it earns three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Caldwell Long Live the King The Heater

17 Mar 2019

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.”

This corona (5.75 x 46) employs Dominican Corojo wrapper and binder tobaccos around Peruvian Pelo de Oro and Nicaraguan Habana Ligero filler. The medium- to full-bodied cigar has notes of dried dates, oak, black pepper, coffee, and leather. For $9, you get a well-constructed cigar full of complex flavors.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Caldwell Cigars IG

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Unico Serie Nasty Fritas

15 Mar 2019

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.”

Last summer, Drew Estate unveiled three smaller vitolas for Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 lines—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,” read a press release dated from July 2018. “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.” Nasty Fritas is a “conical vitola” measuring just shy of 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 52 at its widest point. It is sold in 50-count boxes for $325, or $6.50 per cigar, and features a pigtail cap and closed foot. The burn line is a bit temperamental, but the flavors—cocoa, coffee, and the hints of sweet grassiness that are (to me, at least) synonymous with Liga—are enough to merit a recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: My Father Connecticut Robusto

13 Mar 2019

Few brands have earned the across-the-board high ratings as My Father Cigars. Launched in 2008, My Father is owned by the Garcia family and showcases the cigar blending skills of Don José “Pepin” Garcia and his son, Jaime Garcia.

In 2014, the brand announced a new addition, its first-ever cigar featuring a Connecticut wrapper. My Father Connecticut (or “Edition CT”) features a Connecticut-seed Ecuadorian wrapper. The Nicaraguan binder and filler it surrounds are grown on the Garcia family’s farms.

My Father Connecticut comes in four sizes: Robusto (5.25 x 52), Toro (6.5 x 54), Toro Gordo (6 x 60), and Corona Gorda (6 x 48). I smoked three of the Robustos, which retail for around $8 each.

The tan wrapper with few visible veins surrounds a cigar that is neither overly firm, nor particularly spongy. The draw is open and the cigar’s combustion qualities are superb, with a even burn and ash that easily holds for an inch.

The cigar features a combination of leather, hay, butter, hints of fresh clipped grass, and a white pepper spice. As it progresses, the spice fades as wood and earth notes become more prominent in the complex, medium-bodied profile. Coffee, cinnamon, and cedar spice linger on the finish.

My Father Connecticut is another well-made addition to the My Father portfolio, though its occasionally unbalanced flavors lack the sophistication and complexity of many of the My Father blends that came before and after. Hardly your grandfather’s mild, bland Connecticut-wrapped cigar, the My Father Connecticut Robusto earns a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Coming to Terms with Winter

11 Mar 2019

Think you love cigars? Let’s put your adoration to the test. Go out and smoke a cigar in the cold. And, no, I don’t mean 40 degrees. I said cold. Let’s put it at 20 degrees or less (not including windchill). Bundle up, plant yourself in a chair with a cup of hot (not for long) coffee, and fire up a smoke. If you’re sitting still—and if you’re not cheating with, say, a heat lamp or something—I bet you won’t be able to get through a toro. Maybe not even a robusto or a corona.

At some point in the process, you’ll find yourself pondering the futility of the exercise. Isn’t the whole idea behind cigars to enjoy yourself? How can you fully appreciate the enticing aromas, delicious flavors, and handmade craftsmanship when your core bodily processes are shutting down and frostbite is trying to take hold of exposed skin? How can you revel in the complexities of the profile—which surely includes anise, cream soda, and pencil shavings—as your shivering turns into slowed, shallow breathing and, eventually, total loss of consciousness?

Maybe you never have to ask yourself these questions. Perhaps you live somewhere where it never gets legitimately cold, at least not for a whole season. Or, if you do, perhaps you can smoke inside your home. Or there’s a good lounge nearby with decent hours. Or perhaps you commute via car and don’t mind smoking in your vehicle (side note: smoking a cigar while driving is not all it’s cracked up to be).

I used to have a cigar room in my condo in the city.. Now I have a bunch of kids and a house in the suburbs.

 

Personally, I live in Chicago. Winter can be rough, and this one is no exception. I have three small children and no place to smoke inside my home. There are a few lounges nearby, but the hours typically don’t work for me (it’s usually 10:30 PM or later by the time the kids are all asleep, the dishes are done, etc.). And, while I’m often on the “L” or on my way to an airport in an Uber, I’m rarely in my own car. So where and when do I smoke, you may ask?

Honestly, I smoke much, much less in the winter. I really don’t have a choice. It may not be fashionable for a member of the online cigar media to admit this, but it’s true nonetheless.

When I do smoke, it’s usually one of two things: (1) I’ve gotten permission from the wife to be at a lounge for a couple hours, which is a welcome respite that will have to be repaid in some (often painful) way, or (2) I’m traveling for work someplace warm and/or there’s a late-hours lounge nearby.

I write this not to ask for your sympathy (I don’t deserve any, and I’m not complaining) but to share a few unintended consequences of my wintertime lull in cigar smoking. First, when you smoke less, you enjoy the cigars you do smoke more. The law of diminishing returns is absolutely at play here. If you smoke cigar after cigar after cigar, the next one won’t be nearly as enjoyable. Anyone who’s ever gone on a cigar rampage—or taken a leave of absence—would probably back this up.

Second, having fewer opportunities to smoke results in a renewed focus on deciding what to smoke. Time is more precious, and the cost of making a bad decision is higher. In the winter, I’m likelier to turn to old favorites and shun new experiences. Any new cigar that gets selected is often the result of a fair amount of review-reading—or, at least, much more research than would be required in the summer.

Finally, less time to smoke should mean more time for something else. In my case, the inability to smoke as often as I would like has not extinguished my passion for cigars. So I’ve been catching up on cigar-related reading (both mainstream publications and, yes, other websites), making some purchases, organizing my inventory, and keeping the humidors functioning properly (which is no small task this time of year).

I guess you could say I’ve come to terms with a seasonal approach to cigar enjoyment. That being said, where the f*#k is spring, and when will it get here?

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys