Cigar Spirits: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Canadian Whisky

1 Dec 2015


Being named “Whisky of the Year” is a kind of a big deal. But it was an even bigger deal when Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, a Canadian whiskey, was selected for the honor in the just-released version of Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible.

Predictably, this blew the mind of many scotch and bourbon fans who tend to look down at simple low-proof Canadian whiskey. Not to mention the low price ($26-35) and wide availability of Northern Harvest Rye compared to the kinds of collectible, super rare whiskies that many consider to be the best of the best (I’m looking at you, Pappy).

With all that in mind, I decided to try Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye to decide for myself if it is the best whiskey ever, or the most overrated. More likely I’d find it somewhere in between.

The 95-proof spirit features a light straw color and a nose with fresh banana bread, light wood, and spice. The palate is very smooth and balanced (smoother than you’d expect from 90-proof) with wood, baking spices, and a toned-down dill flavor similar to what you might find from Bulleit Rye. The finish is short and sweet.

First, let me be clear about what Northern Harvest isn’t. It isn’t the best whiskey I’ve had in the past year (or even month). It isn’t the best rye, either. It isn’t even the best Canadian Whiskey for my taste preferences (I prefer Lot 40, which features similar flavors but with more intensity.)

That said, not being “the best” doesn’t make it bad. In fact, it has a lot going for it. It’s pleasant, balanced, smooth, approachable, and affordable.

There’s a theory that Murray chose this as his Whiskey of the Year to bring awareness to a well-made, widely distributed Canadian whiskey; a nudge of sorts for drinkers to check out what Canada has to offer, and also to prompt Canadian whiskey makers to unleash their potential. (You could say naming a Japanese whiskey Whisky of the Year last year did similar things for Japanese single malt.) Not to mention, by forgoing a rare single malt or bourbon, this year’s Whisky of the Year is something you’ll actually be able to find on shelves.

Pair it with a mild- to medium-bodied cigar so the balanced flavors don’t get overwhelmed. Try a Mexican San Andrés-wrapped maduro like the Illusione *R* Rothchildes. A good $4 cigar and a fine sub-$30 whiskey… What’s not to like about that?

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Cigar Review: Nat Sherman 85th Anniversary

30 Nov 2015

85thNat Sherman, long a storied New York name in tobacco, began reasserting itself nationally a few years ago when Michael Herklots was hired away from Davidoff’s Big Apple operation.

Soon, the Timeless series was introduced and that was the beginning of a new chapter in company history. It generated critical and commercial success and other new lines followed.

Then, last year, the company released another hit, a limited edition stick in honor of the company president’s birthday: the $19 Joel Sherman 75th Celebration.

So, when it was announced this year would be marked with another limited edition, anticipation was high for the Nat Sherman 85th Anniversary.

The 6.5-inch toro gordo has a 54 ring gauge and is rolled at the Quesada factory, which has produced other Nat Sherman cigars. The wrapper is Dominican, and the filler and binder are from Nicaragua. It’s limited to 25,000 sticks and also carries a $19 price tag.

Aesthetically, it’s a lovely cigar, with a rich, dark wrapper and classy double bands. Performance in those I’ve smoked (I bought a five-pack) has also been excellent. The draw is nearly perfect, with just the right resistance as thick, rich smoke pours from the cigar. The burn line is straight, the ash tight. Strength is about medium.

It’s in the taste that I found the 85th Anniversary to be somewhat of a letdown. It begins with a heavy, earthy taste and pretty much stays that way throughout. I found very little else along the way. There was very little development or complexity.

If the flavor profile is one that you enjoy, you’ll like this cigar. Otherwise, I think you’re likely to be a little disappointed, as was I. As such—and especially taking the hefty price tag into account—I rate the Nat Sherman 85th Anniversary just three stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Pudgy Monster Wolf

29 Nov 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 Wolfman was one of the best Tatuaje Monster Series cigars, and the Pudgy Monster version (5.5 x 52) doesn’t fall far from the tree. The combination of a box press on the torpedo and an unfinished foot creates an airy draw, but it doesn’t impact construction or the flavors. Spice, wood, and leather dominate, but there’s also roasted notes and a hint of cola. With interesting, full flavors, this is a cigar worth seeking out, and fortunately, with a bit of searching, you can still get your hands on this smoke.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Sobremesa El Americano

28 Nov 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.”

Sobremesa El Americano

It has only been a few weeks since I reviewed Sobremesa, the debut blend from Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. But I couldn’t resist the temptation to light up another. Plus, I was eager to see how the blend would perform in a different vitola. This time I decided to try El Americano (6 x 52), a toro that, like the Cervantes Fino, boasts an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper, a Mexican binder, and a filler blend of Pennsylvania Broadleaf Ligero with four different Nicaraguan tobaccos. The taste is balanced and complex with a syrupy texture and hints of dark cherry, spices, coffee, and some cocoa sweetness. It’s not unlike the Cervantes Fino—which is definitely a good thing—though perhaps the overall impact is a little less full-bodied. With an MSRP of $12.45, this is not an inexpensive smoke, but it’s one that’s worth every penny and teeming with rich flavor.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Happy Thanksgiving!

26 Nov 2015

Thanksgiving will be taking November 26 and 27 off to enjoy that most American of holidays: Thanksgiving. (We will return on Saturday for our regularly scheduled daily coverage of the world of cigars.) Known for food, family, friends, and football, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to enjoy a fine smoke. Have a safe and happy holiday!

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Have a Happy Thanksgiving… with Cigars (2015)

25 Nov 2015

With football on the TV, turkey in your stomach, and family gathered, Thanksgiving is a great day to enjoy a fine cigar (or several). So, as we have for the previous eight years, today the team tells you what cigars we’ll be firing up after our big meals.

Patrick A: After the big meal, I’m not sure if I’ll be in the mood for some strong black coffee or a dram of full-bodied bourbon poured neat. Probably both, I suppose, and probably in that order. Either way, I think the Neanderthal SPG will be an excellent pairing choice—not to mention a bold smoke for a sure-to-be-full stomach. This Mexican San Andrés-wrapped power-bomb from Skip Martin’s RoMa Craft Tobac is loaded with all the pepper, oak, and espresso I’ll be craving. I look forward to celebrating my favorite holiday with Neanderthal’s intensity and strength, as well as its significant dose of nicotine to get the metabolism moving.

Patrick S: Spending Thanksgiving with family is great, but it does make smoking a post-dinner cigar less convenient. I’ll probably just pop onto the back deck with a whiskey sometime after dessert and  hope it isn’t too chilly. For that reason, I’m planning on sticking with one of my favorite smaller format cigars, the Illusione Epernay Le Petit. The small (4.5 x 44) petite corona shouldn’t last more than 45 minutes, but if the 100+ previous Le Petits I’ve smoked are any indication, the ligero-free Nicaraguan puro will feature a balanced combination of coffee, wood, and creamy notes in the mild to medium range. That should be just right before joining the family inside to watch the conclusion of the Turkey Day football showdowns. Of course, if it isn’t too chilly out, I’ll follow it up with a second, more full-bodied cigar and stream the game on my phone.

George E: Our plans for Thanksgiving are somewhat unsettled, and so is my cigar smoking. I’ll undoubtedly fire one up sometime during the holiday, but when and where I’m not sure. A lot depends on the dining schedule. If we eat at home, I’ll likely smoke on the deck (the forecast is near perfect here in Florida) and my choice will be Nick Melillo’s El Güegüense Robusto. I have smoked only one Robusto, but it was among the best new cigars I’ve had this year—a spicy, strong, smooth Nicaraguan puro. If we go out, I may traipse to the nearby cigar shop afterward to light up and watch a little football. Since I haven’t been there in nearly two months, I’m sure there will be many new offerings to tempt me. If so, I’ll let you know what I had.

Previous cigars the team designated as Thanksgiving smokes include:


Not a bad list, eh? If you’re so inclined, feel free to let us know what you’ll be smoking tomorrow in the comments below. And be sure to have a safe and joyous Thanksgiving.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Spirits: Tariquet Armagnac XO & Millesime 1993

24 Nov 2015


I’ll admit to being far less familiar with brandy as I am whiskey. And yet, when dabbling in brandy, I find myself drawn to Armagnac, as opposed to its better known sibling, Cognac.

Both are made by distilling wine from each region (Cognac from the area surrounding the French town of Cognac, and Armagnac from the Armagnac region in Gascony, which is in the southwest France) and then aging it in oak barrels, often for extended periods of time. But there are key differences between the two that give each its own character.

Cognac tends to be more corporate with a few big name producers, while Armagnac has smaller, family-controlled producers. Traditionally, cognac is distilled twice in pot stills, while Armagnac is distilled only once in a column still. Armagnac fans will tell you the single distillation leaves the spirit with more complexity and character.

Today, I’m exploring two expressions from Tariquet, a well-known Armagnac producer from the Bas-Armagnac subregion (one of three Armagnac geographical classifications). The company relies mostly on a combination of Ugni-blanc (60%) and Baco (40%) grapes, two of the ten grape varietals permitted for Armagnac production.

Tariquet XO Bas-Armagnac ($60)

Aged for 12-15 years (longer than the required 6+ years for the XO designation), Tariquet’s XO (80-proof) expression is light copper in color with a nose that features oak, almonds, and toasted coconut. There are full flavors on the palate with wood, fruit cake, and chocolate followed by a warm spicy finish.

Tariquet Millesime 1993 Bas-Armagnac ($90)

Distilled in 1993 and bottled in 2010, this vintage offering (90.4-proof) features a golden straw color and a nose that is bright with candied orange, honey, and nougat notes. On the palate there is vanilla, soft oak, pie crust, and citrus. The finish on this refined but powerful Armagnac is long and rich with dates and butterscotch.

Both are enjoyable in their own way. The extra age of the 1993 manifests itself as sophisticated, complex, and elegant. The XO is grittier with more wood and spice, but both are worth the extra cost versus the VSOP Tariquet, which is the only expression I was familiar with before this article.

These spirits also make for natural pairings with a fine cigar. The XO calls for woodier, spicier smokes like the Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey or a Dominican Fuente Opus X. For the Vintage 1993, I’d suggest balanced, nuanced cigars like the Cohiba Behike or Nicaraguan Illusione Epernay.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys