Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 405

31 Oct 2014

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.

65th Anniversary1) This week, industry veteran and well-traveled personality José Blanco—formerly of La Aurora and Joya de Nicaragua—celebrated his 65th birthday. He is commemorating the occasion with a new cigar, launched by his relatively new, independent cigar operation called Las Cumbres Tobacco. Produced by Jochy Blanco (José’s cousin) at Tabacalera La Palma in the Dominican Republic, the blend will be featured in one format called Perfecto Elégance (5.75 x 55), and it will retail for $14 at brick-and-mortar locations only. A Dominican puro, Señorial by José Blanco 65th Anniversary will sport a Piloto Cubano wrapper from La Canela.

2) La Palina has hired Bob Moreno as vice president of sales. He officially starts on November 1. “Bob Moreno comes to La Palina from E.P. Carrillo, where he was the vice president of sales and marketing,” reads a La Palina press release. “Before joining EPC, Bob was the director of marketing for Xikar, had a successful career in publishing, and a distinguished 22-year career as an executive with the Coca-Cola Company. ‘With his industry knowledge, diverse background, and professional sales experience, Bob Moreno will be a valuable asset to La Palina,’ says Bill Paley. ‘He is driven, passionate and committed. We welcome Bob to the La Palina family.’”

3) Inside the industry: Emilio Cigars officially released “Mia Dora” this week. The line is produced by AJ Fernandez in Esteli, Nicaragua and features an Habano wrapper and Nicaraguan filler and binder. It is being released in three sizes: a Robusto and Toro, which come in 21 count boxes, and the Coronita which comes in a 40 count box. The boxes are embossed in gold, while the cigar bands feature a theme dedicated to the town of Ascoli Piceno in Italy, birthplace of the ancestors of the love of Emilio owner Gary Griffith’s life, Dora.

4) Deal of the Week: Looking for a sampler of excellent cigars? Each of these samplers includes free shipping. Our favorite picks include: 10 cigars from My Father for $50, eight cigars from EP Carrillo for $40, five cigars from Drew Estate for $30 and five Liga Privada and Undercrown cigars for $40.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Las Cumbres Tobacco

Drew Estate

Cigar Spirits: Templeton Rye

30 Oct 2014

Here’s a late addition to my two-part StogieGuys.com A-Z Guide to Rye Whiskey: Templeton Rye. Templeton, like many ryes on the market, is distilled at the the Indiana distillery formerly known as LDI, now known as MGPI (it’s also their stock ticker). templeton-rye-sq

templeton-ryeBut as we’ve explored in our series on rye, just because the rye has the same source doesn’t mean it tastes the same. Templeton, bottled in Templeton, Iowa, at 80-proof, sells for around $40 a bottle.

Templeton was one of the first to tap into the LDI rye, and for a while it was a bit of a mystery where the rye was made. A marketing story about being made from the recipe that was preferred by Al Capone got the brand in a bit of hot water, but it has since taken steps to clarify that, while inspired by an Iowa-made whiskey enjoyed by Al Capone, the current product is distilled in Indiana.

Controversy aside, what’s most important is how the whiskey tastes. And this one tastes good.

The color is a light caramel and the nose is an inviting combination of sweetness, tropical fruit, and spice. Think bananas foster with lots and lots of cinnamon.

On the palate, Templeton has a lush mouthfeel. It features toffee, wintergreen, dates, and a little oak. The finish is clean with a minty element.

It definitely shares the basic profile of most LDI ryes, but each takes on its own character. For Templeton, I was somewhat surprised at the intensity it keeps, despite being bottled at only 80-proof, the lowest proof a straight rye can legally be.

The combination of sweetness and spice screams out for a Cameroon-wrapped cigar. My three favorites right now in that category are the Fuente Hemingway, La Flor Dominicana Cameroon Cabinet, and the Nirvana by Drew Estate.

With so many excellent ryes out there, including so many from the same distillery source, it’s hard to recommend one over the other. All of them are tasty, and each has its own distinct character. Templeton, while a few bucks more than some of the others, is worth checking out. Rye fans will each have their own preferences, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend picking up a bottle of Templeton to decide for yourself.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 2010 Gran Robusto

29 Oct 2014

About two years ago, Gran Habano—the Florida-based operation of the Rico family—added two new blends to its Gran Reserva series: Gran Reserva #3 2009 and Gran Reserva #5 2010. They joined the original Gran Reserva, which was the Gran Reserva #3 2008.

Gran Reserva 2010Made at Gran Habano’s GR Tabaqueras Unidas factory in Danlí, Honduras, all the cigars in the Gran Reserva series are produced in limited quantities. In the case of the Gran Reserva #5 2010, production was limited to 1,200 boxes of each of the 5 sizes, for a total of 6,000 boxes of 20 cigars (120,000 individual cigars). But at the time of publication of this review, there are still plenty of Gran Reserva #5 2010 cigars to be had.

Blended by George A. Rico, the Gran Reserva #5 2010 blend consists of a Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper from 2005, a Nicaraguan Habano binder from 2005, and filler tobaccos from Jalapa. It is offered in the following formats for about $6 to $9 per cigar: Imperiales (6 x 60), Czar (6 x 66), Grandioso (7 x 70), Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46), and Gran Robusto (6 x 54).

Slipping the Gran Robusto out of its cedar sleeve (which covers almost the entire cigar up to the golden band), I find a thick, heavy, dense cigar with a neat cap and a tight cross-section of tobaccos at the foot. The veins are thin and minimal, and the surface is oily with moderate tooth. The cold draw is smooth and the pre-light aroma reminds me of milk chocolate and sweet hay.

According to Gran Habano, the Gran Reserva #5 2010 blend is sold as a “remarkably smooth, earthy, and spicy smoke accompanied by notes of sweet wood and espresso.” Upon setting an even light, I encounter a spicy profile of cedar and black pepper with background notes of coffee and leather. Quickly, a creamy peanut taste also enters the equation, which adds nice balance.

Into the midway point and the final third, little changes in terms of profile, save for a slight increase in intensity at the very end. For me, frankly, that’s a bit of a disappointment. This is a large, slow-burning cigar. More complexity and more variation in taste would go a long way towards better capturing my attention.

Still, with solid construction, a pleasant flavor, and sweet, aromatic resting smoke, the Gran Reserva #5 2010 Gran Robusto is a solid cigar at a fair price. That earns it three stogies out of five. I just can’t help but wonder how the blend would fare in a thinner format.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Cigar Review: Señor Rio Diamanté

28 Oct 2014

These days almost anyone can have their own cigar line, if they have the cash and a name to put on the band. Such cigars can be excellent or lousy, mostly depending (I suspect) on the degree to which the brand owner knows and cares about insisting on a quality product.senor-rio-diamante-sq Selecting a good partner to make the cigar for you helps too, I’m sure.

senor-rio-diamanteSo I really didn’t know what to expect when I was offered samples of Señor Rio cigars, two cigar blends from the owners of the Señor Rio tequila line. In the introduction email I received, Señor Rio co-owner Jonathan Gach said his direct enjoyment of cigars goes back to the late 1970s, plus even longer if you count enjoying the aroma of the cigars his father smoked.

Further emails revealed he had traveled to Nicaragua and worked with A.J. Fernandez on his two cigars: Señor Rio Añejo and Señor Rio Diamanté, the latter of which I’m reviewing here.

The Diamanté blend has Nicaraguan binder and filler from Estelí, Ometepe, and Condega, wrapped in a medium-brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The dual bands surround a fun-sized (5 x 40), box-pressed smoke. It’s a quirky size for introducing a blend, but it works. It’s available for $7.99 at Total Wine shops around the country, as well as a growing number of other cigar retailers.

The well-constructed cigar has an easy draw that reveals an interesting combination of medium-bodied flavors. There are bready notes, a slight habanero spice, and coffee flavors, along with a unique, crisp, almost belt pepper taste.

There’s not much variation in flavor as the cigar progresses, as it maintains its medium- to full-bodied profile. The finish is long as the flavor coats the roof of the mouth.

I paired one cigar up with a sample of the Señor Rio 2 Year Añejo tequila. I wouldn’t say the cigar pairs better with the tequila than, say, a fine bourbon or whiskey, but it is a nice combination. (The tequila itself if very smooth with oak, citrus, and melon flavors.)

I started out saying I didn’t know what to expect from this cigar. Having smoked four of them, I’m impressed with the blend Señor Rio ended up with for Diamanté, no doubt in small part by choosing to work with A.J. Fernandez. It earns the Señor Rio Diamanté a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Padrón 2000 Natural

27 Oct 2014

They aren’t sexy. They aren’t limited. They aren’t new. Heck, they aren’t even expensive. But the core Padrón line of cigars—often referred to as the “Thousands Series” or the “Classic Series”—is not to be overlooked. If fact, if you’re searching for everyday smokes that are high-quality, consistent, readily available, and don’t break the bank, the original Padrón cigars are a great place to start.

Padron 2000 NaturalLike many cigar smokers, when you think of Padrón, you likely think of the 50-year-old company’s incredible résumé of accolades (way too many to mention here) and acclaimed super-premium offerings like the Anniversary Series (both 1926 and 1964) and Family Reserve.

But don’t forget the original Padrón line, which includes fifteen vitolas that are available in either Natural or Maduro formats. (By the way, with similar wrapper shades and no distinguishing markings, it’s really hard to tell a Natural from a Maduro without holding two next to each other.) Each is comprised of Cuban-seed Nicaraguan tobacco that’s sun-grown and aged for two-and-a-half years.

The robusto-sized 2000 Natural sports an oily, somewhat grainy Nicaraguan wrapper that’s not without its imperfections. I often find the caps of these cigars to be sloppily applied, and one of the three samples I smoked for this review (the one pictured, in fact) came with a tear in the wrapper above the band. Few have criticized the Thousands Series smokes for being too handsome.

That said, when you remove the Padrón 2000 Natural from its cellophane, the pungent pre-light aroma is more than enough to render the robusto enticing. The foot seems to ooze a pungent fragrance of earth, hay, and cocoa. It’s enough to make me salivate.

Whereas the 2000 Maduro is characterized by espresso, cocoa, raisin, and dark chocolate, the 2000 Natural tastes more of dry wood, black pepper, and peanut. The edges round out and the texture becomes creamier at the midway point. In the final third, I find a fuller-bodied, more leathery texture. But dry wood and cream are still at the core.

Construction is absolutely perfect throughout. Despite any aesthetic flaws, every 2000 Natural (5 x 50) I’ve smoked has a straight burn line, a solid gray ash, and just the right amount of resistance on the draw. Smoke production is above average.

This may not be the most complex cigar on the market, but the quality Padrón delivers for the reasonable asking price of $5-6 is striking. To me, that’s sexy. So the 2000 Natural is worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Mister Anderson (Saints & Sinners 2014)

26 Oct 2014

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.”tat-sns-mr-anderson-sq

tat-sns-mr-anderson

Mister Anderson is precisely the type of cigar you might expect in the cigar pack from Saints & Sinners (the private club built around the Tatuaje). It’s a little mysterious, but definitely good. It probably refers to John Anderson of Draper’s cigar shop in Washington, but there’s a little Matrix vibe going on too. I had one from another S&S cigar pack a few years ago, but that was much smaller than the large box pressed-size of this edition. The cigar itself is full-bodied, earthy, and gritty with some spice and excellent sweetness. If you can get your hands on one, it’s a fantastic treat.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Nirvana Toro

25 Oct 2014

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.”IMG_3778 - Version 2San-Lotano-Oval-Conn-sq

Nirvana Toro

I can’t peer into the future to see how (or if) Swisher International’s recent purchase of Drew Estate will change the Drew Estate portfolio of cigars. But one potential clue about future blends might be found in the Nirvana series, a five-vitola blend crafted by Drew Estate for Royal Gold Cigars (the premium cigar division of Swisher International). The blend was introduced earlier this year—months before rumors of an acquisition began to circle—with a Cameroon wrapper around a Mexican binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. My colleague loves this cigar, and I can’t disagree. Cinnamon spice, graham cracker, coffee with creamer, and a typical Cameroon sweetness all play a role in making this Toro (6 x 52) a well-balanced, complex, enjoyable smoke. Construction is top-notch, too. My only complaint is the price, which clocks in at $11.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys