Quick Smoke: San Cristobal Clasico

19 Apr 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.”

san-cristobal-clasico

Sometimes I find that the cigars I enjoy the most are the cigars I’ve enjoyed in the past but have neglected for too long. For me the San Cristobal original line surely qualifies. The cigar features everything I enjoy about Jose Pepin Garcia’s blends: rich earth flavors, spice, intensity but also balance. Specifically this robusto demonstrates a medium-full body and flavors that include oak, milk chocolate, black pepper and a hint of coffee. With excellent construction, it will make for an enjoyable hour almost any time of day.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Quick Smoke: Pinar del Rio 1878 Capa Oscura Robusto

18 Apr 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.”

PDR 1878

This dark Robusto (5 x 52) is priced very reasonably—right around the $5 mark—yet it has the presentation of a cigar twice the price. The pigtail cap is gorgeous, as is the clean, oily Habano Oscuro wrapper. More importantly, its taste makes this one hell of a bargain. Once lit, flavors of espresso, roasted nut, cinnamon, and dark chocolate fill out the medium-bodied profile. With excellent combustion, the Pinar del Rio 1878 Capa Oscura Robusto is a joy to smoke and a great choice for a solid everyday cigar that won’t break the bank.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 426

17 Apr 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.

Pappy Cigars1) Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigars started shipping this week from Drew Estate. Available exclusively at the Pappy & Co. website, the cigars pay homage to one of the rarest, most sought-after bourbons in the world. “This historic cigar features Kentucky-seed, Kentucky-grown tobacco that was fire-cured and then barrel-fermented,” reads a Drew Estate press release. “The blend includes a barrel-fermented ‘tapa negra’-style wrapper over a Mexican San Andrés base wrapper, as well as aged Nicaraguan filler tobaccos.” Two sizes are available: Robusto (5.25 x 52, $130 for a box of 10) and Toro (6 x 54, $150). Drew Estate President Michael Cellucci said, “We are excited to bring the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigar to market with the barrel-fermented wrapper, something that has never been featured on a premium cigar in this way.”

2) Virginia-based 262 Cigars is launching a Lancero size (7 x 38, $8.10) in its Allegiance blend. This is the third Lancero offering from 262, which also offers the size in its Paradigm and Revere lines. Allegiance is marketed as a mild- to medium-bodied cigar with a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and a filler blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos. “The Allegiance name, while stirring many connotations for many people, is 262’s official ‘line in the sand’ campaign” against tobacco taxes, bans, and regulations.

3) The Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA) is a smaller (more limited than the IPCPR) association of cigar retailers which is holding its annual meetings in the Dominican Republic this week. One of the benefits of membership is access to exclusive TAA  sizes or blends that can only be ordered at the annual show. This year, TAA members have offerings from 13 cigar makers to choose from, including an exclusive Padrón 1964 and a brand new La Flor Dominicana blend, among others.

4) Inside the Industry: A few years ago Viaje announced it was going to be exclusively producing small-batch cigars, but the company recently announced that its Exclusivo blend would be a regular production cigar available in three sizes. Gran Habano announced the release of the next edition of its S.T.K. lines; the Miami-made Mas Paz uses dual Ecuadorian Connecticut and Nicaraguan Habano wrappers, a Nicaraguan Habano binder, and Nicaraguan fillers in three sizes: Lancero (7.5 x 40), Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46), and Rolo (6 x 54).

5) Deal of the Week: This sampler features five cigars, free shipping included, for just $26. Included are one each of La Gloria Cubana Retro Especiale Taino, Perdomo Champagne Noir Super Toro, Curivari Selección Privada Diplomaticos, Kristoff Maduro Torpedo, and La Flor Dominicana Colorado Oscuro #3.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Drew Estate

Commentary: Moving Forward in a New Era of U.S.-Cuban Relations

16 Apr 2015

castro-obama

At this point there isn’t much doubt that we are seeing a new era in relations between Cuba and the United States. I was reminded of this when I received the latest issue of Cigar Aficionado featuring “Welcome to Cuba” on the cover, and a nearly 40-page guide (not including the over 20 pages of ads) written for Americans visiting Cuba.

After President Obama’s recent executive order making legal travel to Cuba easier (and making it legal for visitors to import $100 worth of Cuban cigars), he attended the Organization of American States meeting last week and even had a photo-op and chat with Raúl Castro. Obama’s handshake meeting with the head of the Cuban regime was followed up this week with a recommendation to Congress that Cuba be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Despite Cuban cigars not being legal in the United States for half a century, Cuba’s influence on American cigar culture is indisputable. It is impossible to smoke a premium cigar today sold in the United States that doesn’t have a direct or indirect connection to a Cuban.

Make no mistake, much of that influence is because many Cubans had to flee the brutal communist revolution during and after which many lost virtually all of what they had and found themselves having to start over in a foreign country. Out of that, the premium cigar industry began to grow independent of Cuba, but under the deep influence of Cubans living abroad.

So how do we reconcile that history with an evolving relationship with an island country just 90 miles from Florida?

My own view is there is nothing wrong with embracing a new era of Cuban-American relations. The embargo hasn’t succeeded in toppling the most repressive aspects of the Castro regime. Maybe a new policy can have better results.

But we should not move forward with a blind spot about the deep flaws of the Cuban government. Nor should we pretend those flaws are just a thing of the past. (Read this article from last year for a picture of what Cuba is like for most Cubans.)

It may be time to normalize relations with Cuba, just like we have with many other governments that have poor records when it comes to human rights, and we should hope more interactions with Americans will lead to more freedom for the Cuban people. We just shouldn’t do so naively thinking that the new era has come because the Cuban government has fundamentally changed, but rather with hope that someday soon change will come to Cuba.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Whitehouse.gov

Cigar Review: Fleur de la Reine Maduro Cinq

15 Apr 2015

So far this year I’ve reviewed three smokes from United Cigar: Atabey Ritos, an expensive cigar that’s complex and nuanced; Garofalo Robusto, a mild-mannered stick that’s affordable, flavorful, and satisfying; and Byron Serie Siglo XX Londinenses, a $30 specimen that’s memorable (it should be at that price) and harmonious.

Fleur de la ReineToday my sights are set on Fleur de la Reine, a line that’s intended to be “rich and bold in flavor and strength.” The recipe includes a Dominican binder and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua. Two wrapper varieties are available: Natural (Ecuadorian Sumatra) and Maduro (Connecticut Broadleaf). Both iterations are crafted in four sizes: Quatre (4.875 x 52), Cinq (5.5 x 54), Six (5.875 x 60), and Sept (7 x 58).

The Fleur de la Reine Maduro Cinq retails for about $6.50. At first glance, the band colors and design make it hard to not think of La Gloria Cubana (I can’t say for sure if this was done intentionally). Beneath the band, it’s a rough-looking cigar with abundant imperfections on the wrapper, plenty of lumps, and some garish seams. The feel is incredibly firm, and the foot shows a pretty tight cross-section of tobaccos. The pre-light notes are reminiscent of dark chocolate and coffee.

The initial flavor is sweet with loads of cocoa, caramel, and cream, all offset by a gentle black pepper spice and some earthiness. I can also taste black cherry and roasted cashew. Leather comes and goes, and is most prevalent on the finish.

Surprisingly, after about an inch, the flavor really mellows out, leaving behind a soft, sweet profile that reminds me of marshmallow. The cigar is still enjoyable, though not as much as the kickoff. Then, at the midway point, the flavor fortunately ramps up again, and the finish is characterized by a slight increase in spice, though the overall effect is still sweet.

Construction is good throughout. The burn line requires a few touch-ups here and there, but is otherwise well-behaved. The draw is clear, the ash solid, and the smoke production average.

Fleur de la Reine Maduro Cinq is a good choice if you’re looking for an experience that’s high on sweetness and low on strength, and the asking price is fair. In my book it earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: XIKAR PuroTemp Wireless Hygrometer System

14 Apr 2015

xikar-puro-temp-duo

Who among us hasn’t, at least at some point, worried about humidity and their cigars?

Some become obsessive about maintaining conditions, some opt to simply gauge it by feel and instinct, and many fall somewhere in the middle.

I confess I probably am closer to the first category, though more by necessity than temperament.

Florida’s extreme heat makes a cooled humidor almost a necessity. And extraordinarily high humidity levels also can play havoc with humidor conditions. I’m sure many of you in other parts of the country have dramatic weather conditions to contend with as well.

For me, this has meant lots of futzing through the years with ways and means to keep my cigars in shape. The latest: the Xikar PuroTemp Wireless Hygrometer System.

Here are the basics:

There’s a base unit, with stand, that displays the time and, from up to three remote sensors, temperature and relative humidity readings from inside the humidor. The base can also be programmed to beep a warning when temperatures or humidity levels rise or fall to selected points. A button allows you to select displays from each remote unit. The package comes with one sensor, and sensors also are sold individually.

Unlike most better thermometer/hygrometer units, there’s no way to adjust the readings on these. According to Xikar, the company opted instead to invest the time and attention necessary in the factory to get the temperature and humidity settings correct from the start.

It is important to recognize that the wireless technology isn’t WiFi. You can’t interface with a smartphone or computer, so there’s no way to automatically chart the readings over time.

I’ve been using and evaluating my PuroTemp system for about three months and, overall, I’ve found it to perform as advertised. The one caveat occurred about a week or so after I got it home. That was when the connections between the base and the remotes began to drop frequently and then fail to reconnect for a long time, if ever.

I contacted Xikar, and they had no qualms about honoring the lifetime warranty and had me ship the components to Kansas City, Mo. About a week later, I heard from Xikar’s Ken Dolinger, who’d supplied me with information earlier as I prepared this review.

“It was tested by our head engineer, he found that your sensors are working great but something was wrong with your base unit,” Dolinger emailed. “So I will be sending your sensors back and a new base unit.”

Since getting the new base, I’ve experienced no problems.

I tested the unit in numerous ways, including remotes side-by-side in my filled Avallo Cooled 1200 cabinet humidor; remotes individually and together in a sealed container with a 69% Boveda pack; and remotes together and individually in a desktop humidor without cigars and several 69% Boveda packs.

Continue Reading…

Cigar Review: My Father Limited Edition 2012

13 Apr 2015

In November 2012, Don José “Pepín” Garcia, his son Jaime, his daughter Janny, and Pete Johnson of Tatuaje descended upon Illinois for an event at Casa de Montecristo.

My Father Limited Edition 2012This wasn’t just any event, as you can probably imagine from the attendees. The quartet was helping introduce the My Father Limited Edition 2012, the single-vitola, ultra-premium follow-up to the 2011 and 2010 Limited Edition cigars. (Each of the 24,000 Limited Edition 2010 cigars were actually personally rolled and bunched by Don Pepín and Jaime; but that’s not the case for the 2011 or 2012 iterations.)

Only 30,000 Limited Edition 2012 cigars were made, all of them packaged in boxes of 12 that sold for $240 (or $20 per cigar). Crafted at My Father Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua, the blend features an Ecuadorian Habano Criollo wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. There’s some Pelo de Oro tobacco present, which has a reputation for being incredibly hard to grow given its vulnerability to disease.

The Limited Edition 2012 is a stately-looking cigar with two ornate bands, each adorned with plenty of shiny gold coloring and intricate fonts. Measuring 6.5 inches long with a ring gauge of 52, the toro has a considerably oily exterior with a few thin veins and a clean, well-executed cap. The foot exudes pre-light notes of milk chocolate, coffee, and dried fruit.

After taking note of the smooth cold draw and establishing an even light, I find a balanced, medium-bodied profile of espresso, cream, bread, green raisin, and vanilla. The smoke is dry and woody with a slightly chalky texture. As it progresses, I anticipate more intensity and fuller flavors, but the only major change is the introduction of an earthy note that reminds me of mushroom.

Construction is absolutely flawless (and, frankly, it should be; a $20 cigar with anything less than perfect combustion qualities would be a crime). Both of the toros I smoked for this review exhibited clear draws, good smoke production, straight burns, and solid gray ashes. Also, fortunately, both of the large bands can be removed easily without damaging the wrapper.

The My Father Limited Edition 2012 is a complex, enjoyable—albeit restrained—specimen that I’d fire up again if given the chance. Whether or not it’s worth $20 is a completely different (and personal) question. I can’t help but think of all the outstanding smokes that cost half as much, many of which have more of a wow factor in the flavor department. With this particular cigar I feel like you’re really paying for the My Father name and the decorative packaging. If you’re a Pepín fan, though, and if you’re looking for something with subtlety and an aura of elegance, this is the cigar for you. I award it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys