Cigar Review: Agio Balmoral Añejo XO Rothschild Masivo

2 Sep 2015

You could be forgiven for not being familiar with Royal Agio Cigars. But while the Netherlands-based company may not be a major player in the U.S. market (at least not yet), Agio has a huge presence internationally and has recently achieved the milestone of over 800 million cigars sold in a single year. That’s a lot of cigars.

Balmoral XO Rothschild MasivoAgio, which was founded in 1904 by Jacques Wintermans, has recently partnered with Drew Estate to bring its cigars to the American market. The Agio portfolio includes the Balmoral Añejo 18, which had a successful launch in 2014, limited by the rarity of the 18-year-old Arapiraca wrapper.

This year, Agio introduced Añejo XO, which is made in the Dominican Republic using well-aged tobaccos. The wrapper is Brazilian sun-grown, the binder Dominican, and the filler is a three-country blend from Brazil, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. The new blend was on display at Drew Estate’s elaborate booth at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans this summer. It is expected to be made available at a couple-hundred tobacconists nationwide.

Añejo XO is offered in three vitolas: Rothschild Masivo ($9.90), Mk52 ($10.95), and Petit Robusto FT ($8.50). The Rothschild Masivo measures 5 inches long with a generous ring gauge of 55. Kudos to Agio for including the name of the vitola on the foot band, though I don’t think there’s any way to confuse the three sizes; the Mk52 is a torpedo, and the “FT” in the Petit Robusto’s name refers to its “flag tail.”

The Rothschild Masivo is an oily specimen with a few prominent veins, a reddish hue, and a nicely applied triple-cap. The foot shows a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos and exudes pre-light notes of damp wood and leather. The cold draw is stiff with the wrapper imparting a slight sweetness on the lips.

Right from the outset, the Añejo XO boasts a big, bold flavor of earth, raisin, black pepper spice, and rich espresso. The background note reminds me of black cherry. Full-bodied and strong, each puff coats the palate with thick smoke, and the aftertaste is formidable with a considerable concentration of spice on the tip of the tongue. There are few changes in flavor from light to nub.

Construction leaves a little to be desired given the burn line—which requires a few touch-ups along the way to stay even—and the moderately tight draw. But the ash holds firm off the foot and the smoke production is solid.

The Rothschild Masivo is a heavy-handed, blunt-force instrument with plenty of power and an interesting interplay between spice, earthy richness, and fruity sweetness. I’d recommend giving it a try on a full stomach after a large meal with a complementary beverage, preferably a sweet sipping rum. 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

Drew Estate

Cigar Review: L’Atelier Imports Surrogates Cracker Crumbs

1 Sep 2015

One cigar I constantly find myself in search of is an inexpensive, small cigar that isn’t small on flavor. It’s a tall order since the small size limits the number of filler leaves and the ratios between them that can be used.

surrogates-cracker-crumbsAnother challenge small cigars face is that consumers don’t want to pay full price for what they perceive as half a smoke. That poses a challenge since although less filler tobacco is needed, the labor required is nearly identical to a larger cigar.

One savings cigar makers can get when making a smaller cigar like this, is that the wrapper can come from a second cut of each half leaf. Normally, a wrapper leaf (which is by far the most expensive tobacco in the cigar) is de-veined, which splits it in two parts, then each half is used as wrapper for one cigar. However, if the leaf is large enough, there may be enough left after the wrapper is trimmed to roll a second smaller cigar.

Whether that’s what L’Atelier Imports is doing or not, I can’t be certain, but it seems likely that’s taking place in the four small cigars L’Atelier introduced in 2014. Each—L’Atelier, El Suelo, Trocedero, and Surrogates—comes in a 4.5-inch, by 38-ring gauge size, which is then sold in soft 5-packs that retail for $15 each.

The Surrogates version is called Cracker Crumbs, and is a pint-sized version of the large Animal Cracker blend. It features a dark Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos.

Once lit, I find oak and bready flavors with a hint of leather. There are also slightly tanic notes that, at times, create a slight sourness, though that largely fades toward the final third.

Construction is notably excellent, especially the ash, which holds for nearly an inch before gently being tapped off. It’s not supremely complex, but there’s enough there to make for an enjoyable 20-30 minutes. (It should be noted that if you smoke slowly this will last far longer, and the flavors benefit when you do.)

That makes the Cracker Crumbs perfect for a variety of times when you don’t have time for a larger smoke, like a short walk or drive, or maybe a lunch break. In terms of value and construction, there’s a lot to like about the Surrogates Cracker Crumbs, and even though the size does limit its complexity, it still earns a solid three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: CRA’s New Page Helps Keep Smokers Informed

31 Aug 2015

If you want more cigar news, reviews, and reports, Cigar Rights of America has created a new page to help you out.

CRA LogoThe lobbying group’s Cigar Media Center offers links to online sites, audio programs, and advertising partners in print and on TV.

“It kind of puts it all in one spot for cigar enthusiasts,” said CRA executive director J. Glynn Loope.

The organizations represented on the page and the CRA have a symbiotic relationship, one that’s intended to drive online traffic to all involved. Making the selections for those to include, Loope added, was a fairly straightforward task. The online sites have links to CRA, while those under Audio Links and Advertising Partners provide complementary advertising for CRA.

“We didn’t choose them, really they chose us by being supportive of CRA,” Loope said.

The page went up in mid-August and almost immediately attracted attention. Loope said one site that had been overlooked got in touch and was quickly added to the page, as were several others that were intrigued by the concept and wanted in.

One thing the Cigar Media Center highlights is just how many sources there are for cigar news. They range from a slick magazine like Cigar Aficionado and the nationally syndicated Cigar Dave radio show to a Philadelphia area local-access cable television program.

But blogs, podcasts, and online sites comprise by far the largest category on the page. They range from sites like StogieGuys.com and Stogie Review to the Half Ashed podcast and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers’ publication, Smokeshop. More will, undoubtedly, be added.

Check it out. I think almost anyone will find at least a site or two they hadn’t seen before. I know I did.

George E

photo credit: Cigar Rights of America

Quick Smoke: La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Belicoso

30 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.

ladc-ma-belicoso

Even before Ashton transitioned its La Aroma de Cuba blend from Plasencia to Pepin, I felt the line was a bit under-appreciated. That feeling has only been strengthened by the subsequent additions to the line, including the Mi Amor, which uses a Mexican wrapper. The cigar produces thick, rich smoke with dark earth and chocolate flavors in abundance. It is medium- to full-bodied and is expertly constructed. Even as someone who, as a whole, isn’t a big fan of blends featuring Mexican wrappers, I find this to be a very enjoyable smoke.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Avo Classic No. 2

29 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.

Avo Classic 2

Davidoff recently made some major changes to its Avo brand, including price reductions, price protections, new packaging, and the elimination of the Maduro and Signature lines. The Avo Classic line may look different, but the new iteration has the same Connecticut-seed, sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper and Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. The toro-sized No. 2 (6 x 50, $9) features the familiar musty, mushroomy notes that are typical of Hendrik Kelner creations, along with white pepper spice, cream, and macadamia nut. Construction isn’t perfect—the spongy smoke has a meandering burn line and a flaky ash—but the balanced, interesting taste is more than enough to earn my recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 445

28 Aug 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.

Cuban Trade Embargo1) Fortune recently published an article about how a potential end to the trade embargo with Cuba might impact Cuban cigar prices. “Habanos… may be betting increased demand could drive up global prices on Cuban cigars in general. A sharp increase in purchases coming from the U.S. would be met by the country’s limited hand manufacturing capacity of about 150 million a year, which is about 1% of the world market. Basic economics and high demand for fixed supply could suggest rising prices.” On the other hand, “there is a question of whether Cuban cigars are as superior as memory and myth suggest. Experts often prefer them, but there can be quality control problems and some in the business say Cuban cigars are overrated. If that’s true, wider availability could actually hurt pricing.”

2) Please join us in congratulating Stephen S. from Woodbury, Connecticut, as the winner of our latest StogieGuys.com newsletter giveaway. Stephen has won a Boveda Acrylic Humidor along with some Boveda humidification packs simply for being registered for our newsletter. If you’d like to receive exclusive insights from the StogieGuys.com editors and be eligible to win future prizes, you can sign up for the free email newsletter here.

3) Inside the Industry: Paul Joyal’s Ocean State Cigars is adding a 4.25″ x 41 petit corona size to its J Grotto Silk line, which utilizes an Ecuadorian wrapper around dual Indonesian and Honduran-grown Criollo 98 binders and Honduran and Nicaraguan filler.

4) Deal of the Week: My Father cigar fans should check out this deal from Cigar Place. Just $50 lands you six cigars – two each of the original My Father blend, My Father Le Bijou and My Father Connecticut, all in a belicoso size – plus a lighter, cutter and My Father ashtray in your choice of blue or red.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

First Smoke: PDR Flores y Rodriguez Connecticut Valley Reserve

27 Aug 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.fyr-cvr-robusto-sq

fyr-cvr-robusto

At the Pinar del Rio booth this year at the IPCPR Trade Show, the focus was on this new super-premium offering. I’m a fan of Connecticut Broadleaf, so I’ve seen a lot of them, and in terms of dark, oily wrappers, few are as impressive as this seven-year-old wrapper. It surrounds dual binders from Nicaragua and Ecuador and filler consisting of Dominican Corojo and Nicaraguan Criollo. The cigar comes in four sizes (priced $16-19) and I smoked the Robusto (5 x 52).

The cigar starts off with slightly grassy notes, but soon settles into a more interesting combination of sourdough bread, light spice, and oak. It’s medium-bodied and well-balanced. Construction is excellent from the first draw to the final ash. Given the price, I wouldn’t rush out and buy a box of 15 when it is released later this fall. But fans of cigars with Connecticut Broadleaf wrappers shouldn’t hesitate to pick one up at their local shop.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys