Quick Smoke: Warped Cigars Flor de Valle Gran Valle

2 Aug 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.flor-de-valle-sq

Flor-de-valle

This Nicaraguan puro is made for Warped Cigars at Casa Fernandez (TABSA) from 100% Aganorsa tobacco. The Gran Valle is a 5.5 inch by 50 RG robusto extra which is made with a Cuban triple cap and entubado-style bunching of the filler. It starts out with a burst of salty and savory flavors but settles into medium-bodied smoke with coffee notes and just a hint of sweetness. Construction was flawless with a perfect draw and razor-straight burn that produces sturdy ash and thick smoke. From start to finish, this cigar impressed me.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Quick Smoke: Oliva Serie V Special V Figurado

1 Aug 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

seriev-fig

I’ve long enjoyed Oliva Serie V cigars, but I hadn’t smoked this exquisite vitola until recently. Quite simply, I think the figurado is the best of the line. From the first light of the tip, when it explodes with pepper, to the leathery, sweet end, it’s a terrific cigar. Smooth, powerful, tasty, complex, typical first-rate Oliva performance. The tapered body—6 x 60 at its largest—seems to focus the flavors. At a bit over $10, it is truly worth every penny, and more.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Oliva

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 441

31 Jul 2015

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.

220px-Tom_Emmer_official_portrait_114th_Congress1) While any efforts to repeal the Cuban embargo (which includes a ban on the import and sale of Cuban cigars except for a small allowance for licensed visitors to Cuba) will face stiff resistance in Congress, two developments this week show growing support for further changes in Cuban-American relations. In Congress, Republican Representative Tom Emmer (pictured) of Minnesota introduced a bill to end the longstanding embargo. Emmer cited a recent trip to Cuba for his position and stated “This isn’t about the Cuban government—it’s about people on the street looking for more opportunity and to improve their quality of life.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also publicly called for ending the embargo.

2) The controversial Obamacare legislation makes it illegal for health insurance companies to charge individuals different prices based on health risks, except for tobacco users who can be charged 50% more. For cigarette smokers, who tend to have lower incomes, that’s enough to threaten the affordability of health insurance. But there is some news that could eliminate that issue for many cigar smokers . As Jacob Grier explains, an entry to the Federal Register about interpretation of the Obamacare legislation defines “tobacco use” as use of tobacco on average of four or more times per week within no longer than the past six months. This interpretation will exempt the vast majority of cigar smokers who smoke fewer than four days a week from the discriminatory higher premiums.

3) Inside the Industry: At the recent IPCPR Trade Show, Ashton displayed a new limited release blend to the San Cristobal line called the San Cristobal Ovation. Ovation comes in one size and is made at the My Father Cigars factory with a blend featuring a San Andrés Oscuro wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler.

4) Deal of the Week: Camacho fans should check out this Meet Your Maker Camacho sampler. Just $32 (free shipping included) gets you a selection of six Camacho cigars, including the new American Barrel Aged blend.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Congress

First Smoke: Montecristo Espada Estoque

30 Jul 2015

First Smoke is a new series of Quick Smoke reviews each evaluating a single pre-release cigar. Like the Quick Smokes we publish each Saturday and Sunday, each First Smoke is not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

monte-espada-estoque

As a follow-up to last year’s all-Nicaraguan Montecristo Espada line, Altadis USA announced the limited Montecristo Espada Estoque at this year’s IPCPR Trade Show. The one-size blend (6 x 50 torpedo) is made by the Plasencia Family in Nicaragua and only 5,000 boxes of 10 will be made. The cigar uses a 2013 Jalapa wrapper, a 2002 Criollo Jalapa binder, and three filler tobaccos from Esteli (Corojo 2009), Ometepe (Criollo 2013) and Condega (Criollo 2013).

Once lit, the cigar has a notably sweet edge, along with a nice balance of coffee bean, earth, baking spices, and leather notes. It starts off medium- to full-bodied, although towards the second half it develops a gritty edge as it ramps up to full-bodied with some black pepper on the finish. Despite a slightly jagged burn line, construction was good with a firm draw and sturdy ash. While I found the first half more enjoyable than the more one-dimensional second half, the Estoque ($14.50) is an interesting cigar that is worlds away from the Dominican Montecristos that most Americans are familiar with.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Cigar Tip: Trying to Taste More

29 Jul 2015

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Perhaps no topic generates more interest among new smokers—and many long-timers—than the question of how to detect flavors in cigars.

“Isn’t it all just tobacco?” is a typical inquiry.

Well, yes, it is all tobacco. But you can say the same for a lot of other things we experience with our taste buds. They’re all apples, for example, but a Granny Smith has a vastly different texture and taste than does a Golden Delicious. Or, it’s all wood, though who would confuse the aroma of Aromatic Red Cedar with American White Oak.

Opening your mind—and, consequently, your nose and taste buds—to the potential of discovery is, I believe, the first step to expanding what you perceive in your cigars.

There are any number of ways to do that. You can explore flavor wheels, fill out tasting sheets, sniff spices in the cabinet, and take numerous other approaches to improve your palate. And they’re probably all worth trying.

One caution, though: While exploring tasting processes in other areas, such as wine, spirits, or coffee, bear in mind that they’re often done with several examples simultaneously. Few of us smoke more than one cigar at a time.

My goal here is to provide some context for your approach, and to broaden your viewpoint as you explore cigar aromas and flavors.

Don’t look for exact matches. Think more of what you taste as suggesting a flavor, not replicating it.

1. Concentrate at first on common flavors, such as coffee with a maduro, pepper with a Nicaraguan puro, or grass with a Connecticut wrapper.

2. Try to focus on smell as well, since that’s a significant component of taste.

3. Roll the smoke around in your mouth before you exhale to increase the exposure to your taste buds.

4. Don’t try too hard. Everyone’s senses differ, and our perceptions are not always the same. Some have a higher developed capacity of taste, while others don’t. It’s not a contest to see who can pick out kala jeera or fennel pollen.

If you pay attention and note what you detect, I can almost guarantee you’ll find yourself discovering more and more with each cigar.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon

28 Jul 2015

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The Elijah Craig brand, made by Heaven Hill distillery, is a perfect example of both the reality and the myth surrounding the bourbon shortage that seems to make national news every few months. That the regular 12-year-old small batch version is consistently on shelves demonstrates that, at least for the largest distilleries (Heaven Hill also makes Evan Williams and a host of other bourbons), their standard release versions don’t seem to be suffering too much from the aforementioned shortage.

However, more limited offerings, especially older ones, is where the shortage is most evident. Only a few years ago I could walk into a Virginia state liquor store and grab an Elijah Craig 18-year single barrel bourbon for around $45. That release has since been discontinued and instead 20- to 23-year-old versions of Elijah Craig were released that can run over $200, if you can find them. (Elijah Craig 18 is supposed to be introduced soon, but with an expected price many times what it was only a few years ago.)

Although only a 12-year bourbon, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is another example of the booming market for high-end limited release bourbon. A few years ago Heaven Hill began releasing barrel proof versions of the 12-year bourbon and now a small offering hits stores about three times a year. The suggested price is $50 but, depending on the store, you may see it selling for twice that much.

Each of the eight (and counting) batches is bottled unfiltered at its natural barrel-proof which varies from 128 (the release I sampled for this article) to over 140. I’ve tried a handful of the releases and while there are some variations, they share the most fundamental characteristics.

Even the 128-proof version is a beast with a strong nose full of wood, spice, and clove with notes of citrus. On the palate the high proof is very apparent, with charred wood, spice, vanilla, more clove, black pepper, and dry chocolate. I highly recommend a few drops of water in this, which eliminates the sharpness but leaves behind all the full flavors of this powerhouse. The finish is long and woody.

The appeal of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is easy to see: Barrel proof bourbons are increasingly in demand, 12 Year barrel proof bourbons are few and far between, and none besides Elijah Craig can be found for $50. Still, I don’t recommend it unless you are certain you like barrel proof bourbons because there isn’t much subtle or gentle about Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.

As for pairings, rich, robust, earthy cigars are needed to stand up to the strong flavors of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. I’d particularly recommend the Tatuaje Havana Verocu, RoMa Craft Cromagnon, or Drew Estate Liga Privada.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Las Cumbres Tabaco Señorial Paco Robusto

27 Jul 2015

In August 2013, Joya de Nicaragua announced José Blanco, the company’s senior vice president, had stepped down and would be leaving Estelí for “his roots in the Dominican Republic.” While Blanco’s two-year contract with the oldest cigar maker in Nicaragua was not renewed, he left behind his eponymous, critically acclaimed CyB cigar line (formerly Cuenca y Blanco). Some speculated CyB’s sales never lived up to expectations—notwithstanding virtually unanimous praise from the online cigar community.

Paco RobustoA man like Blanco could not be expected to leave the premium cigar industry behind. After all, Blanco is a longtime industry veteran and roving cigar ambassador who is well known for his tasting seminars and extensive travel to cigar shops. (Before joining Joya, he spent 29 years at La Aurora.)

So it sparked little surprise—and considerable fanfare—when Blanco announced the creation of Las Cumbres Tabaco in February 2014. The new venture, which translates to “summits of tobacco,” runs out of the Dominican Republic and includes a partnership with Tabacalera Palma, operated by Blanco’s cousin, Jochi Blanco, in Tamboril, Santiago.

The first Las Cumbres blend was officially launched June 2014. Called Señorial (Spanish for “lordly”), it boasts a Habano Ecuardor wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder from Estelí, and Dominican filler tobaccos of the Piloto Cubano and Corojo varieties. Marketed as “full-bodied and truly full-flavored,” it is offered in 5 sizes that retail for $7 to $11: Corona Gorda No. 5 (5.5 x 46), Paco Robusto (5.25 x 52), Toro Bravo (6 x 54), Le Grand (6 x 60), and Belicoso No. 2 (6.25 x 52).

Some sticks just feel like they’re going to smoke perfectly when you hold them. The Paco Robusto is one of those cigars. It has a solid weight and a firm cross-section of tobaccos visible at the foot. The cap clips easily to reveal a smooth pre-light draw, and the oily wrapper has a silky texture.

Once lit, pre-light notes of syrup and cinnamon transition to a complex, medium-bodied profile of graham cracker, black pepper, creamy nut, and molasses. Dried fruit—maybe apricot?—also makes an appearance. The finish is long and spicy with cinnamon and more pepper.

At the midway point and beyond, the smoke remains bountiful and cool, and the flavors intensify to approach the medium- to full-bodied end of the spectrum. All the while the combustion qualities are superb, including a straight burn line, solid ash, clear draw, and good smoke production.

Señorial is the kind of blend that makes you want to expect more from cigars. And its the kind of cigar that makes you want to light up another as soon as it’s finished. It delivers handsomely in the departments of flavor, balance, complexity, and construction. As I smoke the Paco Robusto, I find myself wondering what more I could want—and I find myself struggling to find a flaw or weakness, struggling to identify some need that isn’t satisfied. Kudos to José Blanco. This is an outstanding way to spend $7 and an experience worthy of a rare rating of five stogies out of five.

[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