Quick Smoke: Partagas Serie P No. 2 (Cuban)

19 Sep 2020

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.”

I’ve had this Cuban tubo in mu humidor for at least five years and the time has served the cigar well. The Partagas Serie P No. 2 (6.1 x 52) features notes of earth, coffee bean, cinnamon, nutmeg, cream and toast. It’s a medium-bodied cigar that features a balanced profile. While the foot was slightly frayed when removed from the tubo, it still demonstrated excellent construction with an even burn and sturdy ash.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sobremesa Brûlée Gordo

17 Sep 2020

When the Brûlée offshoot of the Sobremesa blend was introduced in 2019 by Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT), rumors began to swirl that the cap was sweetened. In addition to denying this allegation, Saka used his marketing genius to recently release a “Saka’s Taste For U’rself” sampler, or—in a thinly veiled jab at his detractors—“STFU.” Every cigar in the five-pack is the original Brûlée blend in the Toro format. But the catch is, some are unadulterated, some have sweetened caps, and one is double-sweetened.

Saka will take to Facebook Live on October 1 to reveal which are which. In the meantime, today I am reviewing the Sobremesa Brûlée in its pure form, specifically in the Gordo vitola. The cigars examined were obtained at my own expense and not part of the STFU sampler.

As with his other blends, Saka was very forthcoming about his motivations in crafting Sobremesa Brûlée, and the tobaccos he used to carry out this vision (I wish more cigar makers were this transparent). “Sobremesa Brûlée is a recreation of the milder, shade-wrapped ligas of my early years,” he wrote in a DTT press release. “Somewhere over the last three decades, many of the classic shade cigars have become wispy, uninspiring, and rather dull to my palate. I wanted to share with others the way I remember these blonde cigars being.” He went on to write that he does not “understand the recent trend of making strong Connecticut Shade cigars… To me this seems like an oxymoron and a fundamental lack of appreciation of the enchanting characteristics and nuances of shade-grown, Connecticut-seed tobaccos. In Brûlée, I embraced this shade capa and dedicated myself to showcasing its mild, sweet, and nutty nature.”

What makes Brûlée a Sobremesa? The recipe is a variation on the core Sobremesa blend “in which the Pennsylvania-seed ligero has been removed, the Condega seco has been increased, and the wrapper is replaced with a top-shelf grade of BW Ecuador Connecticut Shade leaf.” The binder remains a Matacapan negro de Temporal leaf from Mexico.

Originally, three Brûlée sizes were available, each ranging in price from $12.45 to $13.95: Robusto (5.25 x 52), Toro (6 x 52), and Gordo (6.25 x 60). A Double Corona (7 x 54) was added this year, along with a new limited edition variation called Brûlée Blue that (uncharacteristically, for Saka) has an undisclosed blend.

When you slide the Brûlée Toro out of its cellophane, the first thing you notice is the nearly flawless, golden-colored, silky wrapper that’s affixed to the binder in such a way that the seams are barely noticeable. Veins are few and far-between and razor-thin.

The pre-light notes at the foot are classic Connecticut Shade: sweet hay, almond, buttery oak, and sawdust. And the packing of tobacco is stiff, especially for a cigar with such a wide girth.

Speaking of girth, I appreciate Saka employing a rounded pyramid cap for this vitola. That helps limit the awkwardness that usually accompanies smoking a 60-ring gauge cigar. Once this cap is clipped, I find a smooth cold draw with—yes—a fair amount of sweetness on the lips. While I take Saka at his word that nothing artificial is at play here, I can certainly see why many people believe otherwise. To me, the sensation reminds me of rum cake, almond cookie, and cognac.

Sobremesa Brûlée is marketed as “a milder, even smoother adaptation of the Sobremesa blend that does not sacrifice its wonderfully complex flavors or aromas.” At the outset, the smoke production is low despite the smooth draw, which I attribute to the Gordo’s generous dimensions. Drawing more aggressively than I might otherwise be inclined highlights the core flavors, which include brown sugar, oak, butter, graham cracker, toast, and white pepper. The texture is bready and the body is mild-to-medium. It should be noted the ever-present sweetness on the lips likely makes a big impression on my interpretation of the flavor.

The core flavors remain consistent throughout, the exception being a ramp-up in intensity in the second third, and another in the final third. That said, one important change is the draw, which opens considerably after the first third and heralds a much-improved rate of smoke production. The other physical attributes are exemplary, especially for such a large cigar. The burn is straight requiring no touch-ups, and the ash holds firm off the foot.

The Sobremesa Brûlée Gordo takes a full two hours to smoke. Whether you think it is sweetened or not (again, Saka is insistent it is not, and I am inclined to believe him), that’s a big commitment with any cigar, and the reward must be either (1) phenomenal flavor that holds your attention or (2) several notable changes in flavor along the way. This cigar has the former. Connecticut Shade fans are bound to love it, and those who typically avoid this wrapper type are likely to find this to be an exception to the rule.

I suspect I will enjoy any of the other sizes more—perhaps considerably more. In the case of the Gordo, I’m still a fan in spite of the size, and have settled on a very admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Polpetta

8 Sep 2020

At the end of 2019—back when the world was a much different place—Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT) announced a new event-only line called Polpetta (Italian for “meatball”). The key there is “event-only.” It’s challenging to stick to that strategy in a year when COIVD-19 effectively brought in-person cigar events to a screeching halt.

Flash forward to July 16, 2020. Smoke Inn, a Florida-based retailer with a robust e-commerce presence, hosted a “Saka’s Smorgasbord” online event, which featured a conversation between Saka and Smoke Inn chief Abe Dababneh, as well as special deals on Dunbarton samplers. And, just as if the event had been conducted in-person, certain purchases included a varying number of Polpetta cigars.

I jumped at what was likely my only chance to secure some Polpettas and made an online purchase of a sampler. Today I am reviewing the cigar after sampling two specimens.

Saka describes this small (4 x 48) parejo as “utilizing the long leaf table trimmings from three of our current ligas.” He wrote on Facebook: “If this concept sounds familiar, it is. I have done it a few times in the past and we are now producing enough Broadleaf cigars to make it viable from a production point of view at DTT.”

In addition to “meatball” being “the perfect moniker for this tasty treat,” it should be noted meatballs have a special place in Saka’s heart—and evidently he’s quite good at making them. Twice he has won the “Meatball Showdown” event held at Two Guys Smoke Shop in his home state of New Hampshire.

The cigar includes a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around a Mexican San Andrés binder. The filler is comprised of the aforementioned “table trimmings” from Saka’s Mi Querida, Mi Querida Triqui Traca, and Umbagog lines.

Seemingly everything Steve Saka touches turns to gold these days. Yet Polpetta doesn’t have the look of a winner. It’s rough around the edges—literally. I realize Broadleaf makes for a thick wrapper, but here the seams stick out to the point they are prone to peel, crack, and nearly unravel. The cap isn’t pretty, either.

When you get a “table trimmings” cigar, though, you’re more interested in a high flavor-to-cost ratio, not necessarily aesthetics. In terms of flavor, the outset is an interesting, bready mix of raisin, cocoa, espresso, white pepper, and earth. The mouthfeel is dry and oaky. After the first inch or so, the rest of the cigar is characterized by periods where the taste seems to stall—low intensity, papery, dry—and periods when the notes from the beginning shine through.

In terms of physical properties, I have no complaints. The draw is smooth, the ash holds well off the foot, the burn is straight, and the smoke production is average.

That said, it’s clear to me the highlight of the sampler I purchased (notwithstanding my motivations) is not the two Polpettas that were thrown in, but rather the ten other DTT cigars, including vitolas of Sobremesa, Mi Querida, Mi Querida Triqui Traca, and Umbagog. While Polpetta is not a bad cigar by any means, I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to seek out. In my book, it earns three stogies out of five—which makes it the lowest-rated DTT cigar on this site.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Ardbeg Wee Beastie Single Malt Scotch Whisky

3 Sep 2020

Ardbeg’s profile has always been bold and brash, and in many ways the announcement of its new Wee Beastie offering is following in that tradition. At a time when many new single malts are dropping age statements due to a lack of desirable double-digit age statements, a new offering that loudly proclaims it is “just” five years old is the quintessential zig when everyone else is zagging.

Deemed the “rawest, smokiest Ardbeg ever”—which says something for a brand known for raw, smoky, peaty offerings—it is matured in ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks and non chill-filtered at 47.4% ABV. At around $45, depending on where you are, it is priced to be tried as one of the least expensive, age-stated, single malt scotch whiskies (certainly one of the most affordable new age-stated offerings in recent years).

The result is a pale, light straw-colored single malt. Those who identify deep, rich color as evidence of quality whiskey aren’t likely to be impressed, but Ardbeg’s other offerings, which also present unadulterated color, show this can be meaningless. The nose features barbecue smoke, raw alcohol, tart apples, and hints of mint, pear, and tar.

The palate is more of the same: a vibrant combination of saltwater, ash, tar, gingerbread, white pepper, and malty sugar cookies. The finish is long and bright with fudge, salted caramel, soot, and more malty sweetness.

No one will mistake Ardbeg Wee Beastie for a significantly-aged single malt, but it boasts a lot to enjoy. The intense flavors are tamed by the subtle sherry notes, while the smokiness and brine never let you forget its age.

As far as cigar pairings go, it needs a full-bodied smoke. The PG Series III (pictured) my colleague recently extolled certainly fits the bill. Other ideal parings include Padrón Serie 1926, Ramón Allones (Cuban), and the Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection.

Ultimately, this whiskey certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you like smokey, peaty single malts—think Ardbeg’s older expressions, Lagavulin, or Laphroaig—this young, raw expression of Ardbeg is worth a try.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: My Father La Gran Oferta Robusto

20 Aug 2020

From time to time we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Made at My Father’s factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, La Gran Oferta employs tobaccos from the company’s Nicaraguan farms and features an oily Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper. It produces loads of smoke and medium- to full-bodied flavors. Construction is flawless, with a sturdy gray ash. Notes include toast, black coffee, earth, and roast nuts. It’s not my favorite My Father Cigars regular offering, but it is still worth checking out.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Paul Garmirian Gourmet III Short Robusto

18 Aug 2020

A rarity among today’s manufacturers, PG Cigars maintains a singular, unwavering mission: to blend and age classic-tasting cigars to meet the most discriminating of palates. That’s what they’ve been doing since the company launched in 1990. And, if you peruse our reviews archive—which includes full reviews of over a dozen PG smokes—you’ll see my colleagues and I agree PG executes on its mission exceptionally well.

PG’s dedication to traditionalism and disdain for slick marketing and gimmickry—documented in our Cigar Insider with Paul and Kevork Garmirian 12 years ago—hasn’t prevented this McLean, Virginia-based boutique from launching new lines from time to time. Such was the case when, in 2005, they celebrated their debut with a 15th Anniversary. Five and ten years later, respectively, 20th and 25th Anniversary lines would appear. All of these cigars were (and are) wonderful.

Another five years has passed, and that means another anniversary celebration is in order. That’s good news for anyone who enjoys fine cigars. This time, though, rather than simply calling the new line “30th Anniversary,” they’ve adopted the “Gourmet Series III” name. When asked why, Kevork told me the recipe is a combination of the Gourmet Series and the 25th Anniversary. “The blend was so smooth, balanced, and well-rounded, I thought it belonged as a part of the Gourmet Series,” he said.

The Garmirians crafted this cigar in partnership with master blender Eladio Diaz. It is not a limited edition, but rather a permanent addition to the PG portfolio. The recipe includes an Ecuadorian wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. Three sizes are available, each packaged in boxes of 25: Connoisseur (6 x 52, $17.90), Short Robusto (4.5 x 52, $15.90), and Bombones Extra (3.5 x 46, $13). The line officially launched July 10.

Some cigars have the kind of pungent, unmistakable pre-light aroma that ensures a memorable experience is to follow. This is one of them. I smoked several Short Robustos for this review, and each had a wonderful fragrance at the foot that I can best describe as intense earthy mustiness. Other attributes that help this cigar make a good first impression include a smooth, oily wrapper, a well-executed cap, and a consistently firm packing of tobacco with no soft spots. The secondary band denoting “30th” (flanked by the years 1990 and 2020) is the singular indication this is Gourmet Series III. The original Gourmet Series, released in 1990, has no secondary band. Neither does Gourmet Series II, which offered more strength and a nuttier profile. The Series III is “richer yet, made available by access to darker and oilier wrappers,” according to PG. It has a “rich, full flavor” with a “medium to full body.”

After an even light is established, the Short Robusto kicks off with an as-advertised medium- to full-bodied profile of musty earth, dry oak, creamy cashew, espresso, and a bit of red pepper spice. Like the 25th Anniversary, the texture is bready, and our previous description of “raisin bread” for that wonderful cigar seems applicable here, too.

There are few changes from light to nub. That said, the Short Robusto’s consistency is not a liability since the core flavors are so impeccably balanced, harmonious, and interesting. The sweetness of the raisin bread pairs well off the spiciness of the espresso and cayenne notes. The creaminess of the cashew adds depth to the dryness of the oak. And all the while that distinctive musty, earthy note that’s so prevalent across the best PG cigars is there to remind you why you’ve paid nearly $16.

The physical attributes are outstanding, as well. Expect a straight burn, smooth draw, firm ash, and generous smoke production.

In all, the Gourmet III is an exceptionally well done blend—perhaps one of the best ever from PG, which is saying an awful lot. And I think the Short Robusto is the showcase of the line. The Connoisseur is a bit milder, and the Bombones Extra is a bit stronger. While both are great cigars, the Short Robusto hits the Goldilocks Zone. This one is just right in all the right ways, and I’d be remiss without awarding it a rare and heralded five stogies out of five rating.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here. A list of other five stogie-rated cigars can be found here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Diesel Delirium

6 Aug 2020

Last spring, a new, limited edition cigar called Diesel Hair of the Dog emerged as a favorite go-to smoke of mine. This was a surprise since—while I have the utmost respect for A.J. Fernandez as a cigar maker—the Diesel brand had thus far been, in my opinion, hit-or-miss.

But Hair of the Dog hit my palate in all the right places. It was a delicious, well-balanced, toro-sized smoke with a light press and flavors including cashew, white pepper, toast, cinnamon, and licorice. Perhaps out of step with the Diesel name, it was subtle and medium-bodied.

This spring, a new limited edition Diesel was launched, also only in a toro (6 x 52) format. But that’s about where the similarities between Hair of the Dog and Delirium end. Delirium is marketed as “the boldest Diesel blend to date.” Handmade at Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez in Estelí, the powerful Delirium recipe calls for an Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper, a Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and a blend of Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, some from the volcanic island of Ometepe. A fair amount of ligero is employed.

You may recall Ometepe, which rises out of Lake Nicaragua, is home to tobacco production that’s exclusive to General Cigar. Like Hair of the Dog, Delirium is a production with General, which helps guarantee a wide release, even with the limited-edition production ceiling. Only 5,000 boxes of 10 were made for a total production run of 50,000 cigars.

Delirium sports two bands of black, bronze, and maroon, with the foot band making clear this is a “2020 Limited Edition.” The dark Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper is uniform in color (milk chocolate) with tight seams and few noticeable veins. The firmness is slightly spongy, and the foot exudes pre-light notes of earth, cocoa, and peanut.

If I were to smoke this cigar in the morning or afternoon, I might arrive at the conclusion it is too strong (in terms of nicotine content) and too bold in flavor. But the several samples I examined for this review were all in the evening and with a full stomach. In this setting, the phrase “highly satisfying” comes to mind. While Delirium is full-bodied and powerful from the get-go, it’s more than a mere nicotine sledgehammer. There are awesome flavors here, including leather, nutmeg, black pepper, espresso, charred oak, and roasted peanut.

Construction is superb. From light to nub, the burn is straight, the ash holds well off the foot, the draw is clear, and the smoke production is agreeable.

If the Delirium name sounds a oddly familiar, keep in mind this isn’t the first Diesel Delirium. The original was introduced in 2014 by Cigars International and was only briefly on the market. (Diesel started as a catalog brand sold through Cigars International before releasing the Grind blend in 2017, which was just for tobacconists; other B&M blends followed, including Whiskey Row and Sherry Cask.)

As far as I’m concerned, the two limited editions released in 2019 and 2020—Hair of the Dog and Delirium, respectively—constitute the cream of the Diesel crop. Like the former, the Diesel Delirium earns an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys