Quick Smoke: Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Legend Conqueror

18 Jan 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.”

I found this smoke in the corner of one of my humidors, and there’s no telling how long it hid there unnoticed. Perhaps since 2008, the year this blend was introduced as a fuller-bodied version of the original Excalibur line. Setting fire to the Connecticut-wrapped Legend yields a tasty, well-built cigar that goes well with sipping rum. The Conqueror’s (6.25 x 54) profile of seared steak, black pepper, and woody spice pairs perfectly with a sweet spirit, and its superior combustion properties only add to the enjoyment. Expect a 120-minute smoke that’s more complex than your average bold cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A


photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Menorval XO Tres Vieux and Morin Hors d’Age 15 Years Calvados

16 Jan 2019

Ahead of both bourbon or rye, you could make the argument that apple brandy is the original American spirit. It turns out Johnny Appleseed, whose story you likely heard in grade school, was planting apples that were likely good for little except turning into apple cider, brandy or applejack (which is created by mixing brandy-neutral grain spirits).

But apple brandy was hardly an American invention. For at least 400 years, the Normandy region of has been distilling apples (sometimes along with pears) into calvados brandy. Today I’m tasting two calvados brandies, both aged for at least 15 years.

Menorval XO Tres Vieux Calvados

Details: Aged more than 15 years in oak casks. Bottled at 40% ABV. $41 per bottle.

Nose: Pear, baking spices, and brown sugar.

Palate: Honey, walnut, brioche, and leather.

Finish: Soft and long with pie crust, leather, and oak.

Calvados Morin Hors d’Age 15 Years

Details: Aged in 200-year-old casks for 15 year calvados, this one bottled at 42% ABV. $55 per bottle.

Nose: Fresh tart apple, tannins, and oak.

Palate: Floral notes with clove, sandlewood, citrus, and sherry.

Finish: Oak, sour apple, and spice.

Both of these brandies showcase why I’ve become a fan of of calvados. While very different, each showcases both the fruit and wood from age. The Morin is more full-bodied and fruit-forward, while the Menorval is more restrained with softer fruit flavors and more wood influence.

I’m not sure either calvados could stand up to a full-bodied cigar without being overpowered, but a well-balanced medium-bodied cigar is an excellent pairing. Recommended cigars include the Illusione Rothchildes CT, Paul Garmirian Reserva ExclusivaTatuaje Black, and Davidoff Colorado Claro.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: Tampa Looks at Protecting Historic Cigar Factories

14 Jan 2019

Tampa, which calls itself “Cigar City” for its long-ago role as the hub of the industry in the U.S., may again consider officially protecting the historic factories that remain.

Designating the old facilities as historic landmarks, which restricts some changes, was rejected a few years ago. Many of the two-dozen or so remaining buildings still dot Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood, which is also home to numerous cigar shops, small rolling operations, and a giant annual cigar festival.

The only full-fledged factory still operating is J.C. Newman’s (pictured above). Others sit empty or have been converted to different uses. Some already have the historic designation.

New interest in the factories was spurred recently when the city said it had ordered a halt to remodeling work on the Santaella Cigar Factory building because of permit issues. One city councilman told the Tampa Bay Times that it was important to protect the old factories: “They are the castles of our neighborhood.”

According to the Times, Tampa council members considered the historic landmark designation in 2006 but were dissuaded by owners who viewed it as a potential restriction of their property rights.

The Santaella is a three-story building constructed in 1904, one of more than 200 cigar factories that operated at one time in Ybor City. Babe Ruth was said to stop by Santaella for cigars when the Yankees held spring training in the area.

In recent years, the building has been home to local artists. It was sold last year, and the permit flap flared as the new owner was renovating.

We’ve written about Tampa’s cigar history in the past, including a 2015 piece that included a reference to a terrific resource, Tom Ufer’s seminal guide to the factories in Ybor City. If you don’t find live links at Tom’s site, be sure to check back; he recently told me he’s working to restore much of the great information he compiled.

George E

photo credit: J.C. Newman

Quick Smoke: La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Churchill Especiales Oscuro

13 Jan 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.”

La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Churchill Especiales Oscuro

With an incredibly oily wrapper, the Double Ligero Especiales has been a hidden gem in the La Flor Dominicana portfolio for years. The cigar (7 x 48) features a sun-grown Ecuadorian Oscuro wrapper with a pigtail cap around Dominican binder and filler. The pre-light notes are rich with toasted oak and dried fruit. Once lit, I find graphite, wood, unsweetened chocolate, and earth. It’s medium- to full-bodied with lots going on. A classic, powerful, Dominican filler-driven blend, the La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Churchill Especiales Oscuro is worth revisiting.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Cornelius & Anthony Cornelius Toro

11 Jan 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.”

I’ve smoked quite a few Cornelius Toros since I first reviewed it in 2016. It’s a remarkably consistent cigar, from the looks of its light-brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper to the opening puffs of sweetness that are followed by some spice and nuts. The Cornelius burns slowly and smokes smoothly. I thoroughly enjoyed the latest one, and I think most smokers will, too.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Cornelius & Anthony

News: New Congress Means Renewed Effort to Exempt Cigars from FDA Regulations

9 Jan 2019


Every two years, a flurry of new bills are introduced in Congress and, as has been the case every two years since 2011, a bill was again introduced in the Senate to protect handmade cigars from damaging Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

Senate Bill 9, the “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2019,” was introduced January 3, 2019, by Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Five Senators signed on as original co-sponsors: Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Joni Ernst (R-IA).

In the previous Congress, Florida Senator Bill Nelson introduced the legislation, while longtime-supporter Rubio had been an original co-sponsor who supported the bill from its initial introduction. The change takes place after Nelson, a Democrat, was defeated in November by then Republican Governor Rick Scott.

Although Scott is not one of the original co-sponsors, as governor he did send a letter to the FDA Commissioner opposing FDA regulation of handmade cigars. A later report claimed Scott personally lobbied Vice President Mike Pence about the issue of how FDA regulations would be applied to cigars already on the market. The discussion was revealed in a report that noted that Swisher, which now owns Drew Estate, had made significant contributions to Scott’s campaign.

Other past supporters who were defeated in November include Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN), though many others were re-elected. Cigar industry groups will now have to build support for the legislation in both the Senate and House.

According to Congress.gov, a companion House bill has not yet been introduced to protect handmade cigars from the FDA. Florida Republican Bill Posey, who easily won re-election in November, has traditionally introduced that bill.

Despite the House changing hands in the 2018 elections, most previous supporters of the bill survived re-election. The cigar industry did lose some champions, including Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who retired after being a longtime advocate for cigar rights.

Trump-appointed FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was initially seen by many as a positive change when it came to FDA policies towards cigars compared to the Obama FDA. However, despite delaying the implementation of some cigar regulations, some experts worry his subsequent actions are step towards a stealth ban on tobacco products, including cigars.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Diesel d. 10th Robusto

7 Jan 2019

I can’t help it. When I think “Diesel,” I think “catalog cigar.” Back when I was single living in an apartment in Northern Virginia, I can remember leafing through thick catalogs mailed to me by Cigars International, each page making its case for whatever disposable income I had (which wasn’t very much at all). I spent many hours longingly studying the photos and descriptions of all the tasty treats. To me, those catalogs were “cigar porn” long before the phrase became a hashtag on social media.

I must have seen enough ads for Diesel because, on more than one occasion, I ponied up for some Unholy Cocktails. “Some liken a fine cigar to a harmonious symphony,” I wrote of the Unholy Cocktail in 2010. “To me, [it’s] more like a ZZ Top song—unpolished, familiar, simplistic, repetitious, and somewhat heavy. But it’s also catchy. And the price rocks. Boxes of 30 sell for just under $100, rendering the Unholy Cocktail a smart buy if you’re looking for a cheap full-bodied torpedo.”

Diesel debuted as an exclusive to Cigars International and Cigar.com in 2009. That makes 2019 the tenth anniversary of the brand. And everyone knows no industry loves its anniversaries more than the cigar industry; no milestone is wasted without a commemorative cigar.

In keeping with tradition, master cigar maker A.J. Fernandez recently added the Diesel d. 10th to the Diesel portfolio—which, over the years, has expanded to include Diesel Unlimited, Unlimited Maduro, Whiskey Row, Rage, Uncut, Delirium S.E., and Wicked. The three-vitola d. 10th is offered in a Short Robusto (4.5 x 52), Torpedo (6 x 54), and Robusto (5.5 x 52).

The latter retails for $115 for a box of 20, or $45 for a 5-pack. Those friendly prices are in keeping with the Diesel value proposition, just like the assurance of a full-bodied experience is in keeping with the Diesel reputation. “100% full-bodied, 100% full-flavored, and 100% Diesel,” reads the copy at Cigars International.

The d. 10th recipe calls for an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. The Robusto is, put simply, menacing. It’s toothy, firm, rustic, and black. At the foot, I find pre-light notes reminiscent of cocoa and green raisin. The cold draw is clear.

This is not one of those cigars that eases in to its strength. The Robusto is full-flavored from the get-go with tastes ranging from black pepper, espresso, cedar, oak, and a bit of cayenne heat on the lips. Smoking through the nose serves to amplify the intensity and bring out a few additional sensations, including roasted cashew, char, and natural tobacco sweetness.

Just as I’m about to write off the d. 10th as too much power for power’s sake, it backs off the accelerator around the one-third mark. Here, the notes of cashew become more pronounced, and the creaminess comes through more clearly. Even so, I would characterize the body as on the high end of medium, verging on full. It remains this way until the final third, which is characterized by a reprise of power, power, and more power.

I burned my way through a five-pack for this review. Each Robusto exhibited exemplary construction, including a straight burn line that requires zero touch-ups along the way, a solid gray ash, clear draw, and voluminous smoke production.

Anyone who has been following the Diesel brand won’t be surprised to hear the d. 10th is powerful and cost-effective. It packs a lot of punch for your dollar. It’s also not going to wow anyone with its complexity or nuance. In my book, that earns a score of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys