Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 393

1 Aug 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.

Cohiba Nicaragua1) With the 82nd annual IPCPR Trade Show recently concluded in Las Vegas, there are a host of new cigar releases to report on and review. Heck, General Cigar alone launched a bevy of cigars that will soon be arriving on the shelves of a tobacconist near you. They include two CAO blends. CAO Amazon Basin is a small batch, limited edition release made with rare Brazilian tobacco from a remote region in the Amazonian Rainforest. And CAO Colombia is the first cigar to prominently feature Ica Mazinga, a Colombian tobacco from a mountainous region called Montes de Maria. Perhaps chief among General Cigar’s new additions, however, is the Cohiba Nicaragua, the first Cohiba to be blended and handcrafted in Nicaragua. The line will retail in the $10-15 space and continue the recent trend of storied non-Nicaraguan cigars issuing Nicaraguan offshoots to capitalize on the popularity of that country’s tobacco.

2) Since January, it has been illegal to smoke in Boston’s public parks. As the Boston Globe reports, that will make this year’s Freedom Rally rather interesting. “Organizers of the Freedom Rally, a marijuana-centric gathering on the Boston Common, are gearing up to celebrate their 25th consecutive year of bringing together thousands of people to advocate for the legalization of the leafy drug,” reports the Globe. “But for the first time in the history of the annual festival, where event attendees are known to smoke pot, listen to bands, and hear speakers share their knowledge about marijuana policy, police will be out in full force to crack down on scofflaws lighting up in the public park based on a new city ordinance.” Cops say they will be treating the rally’s participants the same as they would treat a cigar smoker in a park: by handing out a $250 fine.

3) Contest: StogieGuys.com readers who register at CigarsFor.Me this week will once again be registered to win a free five-pack of cigars. CigarsFor.me specializes in recommending customers the perfect premium cigars without having to go through endless hours of research. Users simply fill out their quick Palate Profile and instantly they’re shown cigars that they’ll love. It’s fun, easy, and this week you can win free smokes. Click here. Congrats to last week’s winner: Hyland Ford from Oak Hills, California.

4) Inside the Industry: D’Crossier Cigars is adding a limited (24,000 cigar annually) L’Forte blend which comes in four sizes and has a Costa Rican wrapper around Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos. At the recent industry convention, Nomad released its new C-276 blend, which is made at A.J. Fernandez’s Nicaraguan factory from an Oscuro Habano wrapper from Ecuador, and binder and filler from Nicaragua.

5) Deal of the Week: Corona Cigar Co. is featuring new six-pack samplers for just $25. Currently, there are seven choices with various themes including Altadis, Oliva, Connecticut-wrapped cigars, Alec Bradley, and Maduro cigars.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: General Cigar

Drew Estate

Commentary: Watching Cigar Trends

31 Jul 2014

beertasting

Reading the past weekend’s Wall Street Journal, it was difficult not to think about cigars.

No, I saw no stories about tobacco industry consolidation or the potential dangers of possible spreading FDA regulation. But there were thought-provoking revelations about other pursuits that called cigars to mind.

On the cover of the “Off Duty” section was a major piece delving into big changes in the luxury watch market. The new trend is a shift from big, complex watches to what the author called “simpler models… sleek and elegant timepieces that are smaller than a sundial…”

A Montblanc executive is quoted as saying that a few years ago a watch “couldn’t be bigger. The bigger, the louder, the better.” Now, he said, there’s been a turn toward classic, slimmer models.

Doesn’t that bring to mind the 60, 70, 80, and even larger ring gauges of so many recent cigar releases? Will the smoking world experience a shift similar to that of the watch world?

There might be a faint glimmer of one already, with lots of talk these days on some cigar forums and among some highly dedicated smokers about a preference for lanceros. Don’t take it too far, though. Ask just about any retailer or manufacturer, and they’ll tell you lancero sales remain nearly non-existent, while big ring gauges continue to move off the shelves.

Back to the Journal and a few pages further into the section, William Bostwick reported on popular craft beer brewers coping with greater demand and higher output. Some are opening new plants in response.

As they do, they worry about maintaining quality and retaining their small-brewery image. At the granddaddy of craft operations, Sierra Nevada, a manager confessed his respect for industry giants. “Making sure ever bottle tastes the same—that’s hard to do,” he said.

It’s not a stretch to imagine a boutique cigar manufacturer—whose customers would be no more likely to smoke a Macanudo than a Lips of Faith fan would be to hoist a Miller Lite—commenting similarly about General or Altadis.

The article closed with another observation that seems to mirror what’s happening in parts of the cigar industry: Working to keep innovation and experimentation alive as the operations grow.

Both articles were a stark reminder that in every endeavor there’s change. Sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good, but inevitable. Sometimes there are clues if you can spot them.

-George E

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: CLE Plus Robusto

30 Jul 2014

CLEChristian Eiroa may not be as widely known as some other cigar blenders, but he has created an indelible legacy. His Camacho brand helped create the market for strong cigars that now forms a permanent part of the industry, while his Camp Camacho in Honduras was a pioneering effort in the growing trend of cigar tourism to Latin America.

But Eiroa, a young man with a new operation, is anything but a historical figure. These days, he’s putting terrific new cigars on the shelves at a fairly rapid pace. I’ve been strongly impressed by his Eiroa line and other brands in which he’s had a hand, such as Asylum.

Now, I can add CLE Plus to the growing list. CLE, in case you hadn’t guessed, are Eiroa’s initials. His middle name is Luis.

This Honduron puro has been on the market about a year, a presentation standout with a striking thin red band and a nutty, mouth-watering pre-light aroma from its somewhat mottled brown Corojo wrapper.

CLE Plus comes in four sizes. The Robusto—a familiar five inches long with a ring gauge of 50—is the only vitola I’ve smoked, but as I’ve been working my way through a five-pack, it seems to me to be the perfect size for this bold cigar. Large enough for a satisfying experience but not so much cigar that you’ve had too much by the end.

With a bit of spice, deep leather, a little wood, and an occasional touch of sweetness, this is a cigar blended to be sure of what it is and to stay with it. There’s no harshness, no bitterness, and no nicotine bite.

Construction is excellent, with a straight burn, lots of smoke and a great draw. The Robusto runs about $8 per stick.

CLE Plus is, in my estimation, a first-class cigar, perhaps a bit too intense for a new smoker but one that an experienced hand shouldn’t miss. I give it four stogies out of five.

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

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XVIII)

29 Jul 2014

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I examine one of the wonders of cigars, contemplate new releases, and urge action.

cigars-sign

Slow, Steady Burn

It’s easy to ignore the burn of a cigar. After all, that’s what it’s supposed to do, right? But a perfect burn is truly something to behold. I reflected on this the other evening as I was sitting outside and enjoying a My Father. About a quarter of the way in, I became fixated on the absolutely perfect burn. It continued that way right to the end. That’s no simple feat. Combining tobaccos with different burn qualities, thicknesses, moisture levels, and oxygen access to get not only the taste you want but also a consistent, straight burn is the mark of a master at work.

Can New Get Old?

With the recent IPCPR Trade Show just concluding, new cigars are a dominant topic of conversation when smokers gather. Some observers say this year seems to have produced fewer new releases than in the recent past. I can’t say. There are far too many new cigars for me to keep up with them all. But I also can’t help but wonder whether the proliferation of new lines, extensions, limited editions, etc. simply leads to the pie being cut into thinner and thinner slices.

Don’t Leave Your Words Unspoken

The August 8 deadline for submitting your comments to the FDA concerning its proposals to regulate cigars (and other non-cigarette products) is nearly here. If you haven’t sent yours, don’t delay. Just click here. If you need information or suggestions, you’ll find more than a half-dozen pieces explaining the proposals here, and a tip for submitting your comments here. Now is not the time for complacency.

-George E

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Maintaining Proper Humidity with Boveda Two-Way Packs

28 Jul 2014

In a perfect world, I would have one large humidor, preferably a walk-in, with all the cigars easily accessible, sorted by name, and labeled with received dates. It would make aging simpler, humidification easier to monitor, and my whole stash more organized.

Reality is much different. At any given time I have anywhere from five to seven humidors. The variance is explained by the fact that, depending on inventory, I sometimes outfit two large Tupperware containers with Spanish cedar to store spillover smokes. While I’d love to just have one humidor instead of a handful of medium- to small-sized humidors, the five traditional wooden humidors all carry sentimental value (i.e., the one I got for my wedding that’s engraved with the wedding date), so I just can’t bring myself to consolidate.

One challenge with this setup is monitoring the humidification levels of each individual humidor. Each humidor seems to hold humidity differently, and that can make proper maintenance difficult. My solution? Once every so often (more often in the winter, when the natural air humidity is lower) I examine and rotate the cigars in each humidor. I also check to see if the humidification device in each humidor needs to be “recharged.” The whole process can easily take upwards of an hour, sometimes two.

Boveda Pack

So I finally broke down and decided to start using Boveda packs instead of the humidification devices that came with the humidors. In all, since I started using Boveda about a year ago, I’ve found my humidity to be more reliable, and there’s much less effort demanded of me to keep my cigars fresh. (Before I get into the details of my experience, I’d like to point out that Boveda is not a sponsor of StogieGuys.com, and the company did not provide any product for me to review. I’m simply trying to solve a personal humidity control need, and I paid my own money to get the product.)

ChartThe process of ordering Boveda is easy. Simply consult the chart to determine how many packs you’ll need, select your level of relative humidity (62%, 65%, 69%, 72%, 75%, or 84%), and the packs arrive in a few days. It’s preferable to order more packs than you think you’ll need. “It’s impossible for Boveda to over-humidify beyond the RH on the pack,” according to the Boveda website. “That’s why our usage instructions talk about minimums, not maximums. There’s no such thing as using ‘too much.’ More than the minimum will just last longer.”

Once you’ve arranged the packs inside your humidor(s)—feel free to lay them directly on the cigars—you can essentially forget about the hygrometer (which is likely mis-calibrated anyhow) and only worry about changing out your Boveda packs once they’ve dried up. It’s easy to tell when the packs need to be changed because they feel like dry wafers instead of liquid pillows.

When I placed my first Boveda order, I didn’t get enough packs, and most of them dried out after 60 days. In my experience, buying more packs helps drag out the pack life to 90 days. Still, since these packs are $4 apiece, if you need to buy 10 packs every quarter you’re looking at $160 a year just to keep your cigars humidified. That’s a lot of money considering my old method of using distilled water was essentially free, albeit time-consuming.

I generally like Boveda, but haven’t quite come to terms with the cost. So I’m open to suggestions on other, more cost-effective ways to maintain proper humidity without wasting a lot of time. I encourage you to offer suggestions in the comments below.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys / Boveda

Quick Smoke: Crémo Classic Maduro Intrepidus

27 Jul 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.”

Cremo-Classic-Maduro

This cigar’s velvety notes of espresso, marshmallow, dark chocolate, and dry wood leave a lasting impression on the palate. Even more interesting from the Crémo Classic Maduro is the resting smoke, which has a sweet aroma of candied nuts. This blend—a dark Mexican wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos—also performs well in the construction department, exhibiting a straight burn, solid ash, and good draw with ample smoke production. Pick up a toro-sized Intrepidus if you come across one.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Joya Red Toro

26 Jul 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.”joya-red-sq

joya-red-toro

After reading my colleague’s review of the new Joya Red, I was eager to fire up the blend up for myself. The Toro (6 x 52) is impeccably made featuring a shiny wrapper. It’s a tasty medium-bodied cigar with toasty flavors, a hint of creaminess, and a smooth woodiness. It’s very balanced and, as my colleague stated, “Nothing else in the Joya portfolio tastes like this.” It’s a welcome addition to to the Joya brand and an impressive display of the diverse blending capabilities of Joya de Nicaragua without abandoning their core Nicaraguan spirit.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys