Quick Smoke: Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary Connoisseur

15 Feb 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.”

This week I had the opportunity to visit the cigar shop and headquarters of PG Cigars in McLean, Virginia. (If you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend a visit; I’d venture to guess the small, somewhat cramped stripmall storefront has more cigars for sale that have been aged 20 years or more than anywhere else in the country.) Among other items, I picked up a 25th Anniversary Connoisseur (6 x 52), a gorgeous, delicious smoke that was released in 2015 to commemorate—you guessed it—the company’s 25th anniversary. Like most PG offerings, the Connoisseur is not an inexpensive specimen. It costs about $20. But you get an amazing, well-constructed, harmonious experience. Raisin bread, oak, cedar, mushroom, and salt all combine to yield an elegant, unique flavor. When I reviewed this cigar nearly three years ago, I awarded it our highest rating. I don’t feel any differently today.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Smoke Two Cigars at Once

13 Feb 2019

[Many cigar enthusiasts eventually come to a point where they go from being someone who enjoys cigars without thinking about it too much, to someone who enjoys cigars and wants to know why they enjoy one cigar or another. For that person, I recommend a suggestion we first made eight years ago: “Develop Your Palate by Smoking Two Cigars at Once” (which is as true today as when we first published it).]

Developing your palate for tasting cigars comes down mostly to one thing: smoking lots of cigars and paying close attention to the flavors you notice. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to accelerate the learning curve.

For one, you can make sure your palate is clean. Sure, a neat scotch or a good rum on the rocks may be my preferred drink pairings, but there is no substitute for for some sparkling water when I want to make sure I’m picking up the full spectrum of flavors in a cigar.

An excellent, but less traditional, way to improve your ability to pick up nuances in cigar flavors is to light up two at the same time. By that I obviously don’t mean drawing on two cigars at once, but rather lighting up two and alternating tastes to pick up differences and similarities. The concept is standard in wine, where multiple similar wines are sampled either vertically (the same wine in different vintages) or horizontally (where multiple wines of the same vintage and type are sampled). The results can be striking. By tasting similar wines, it becomes easier to focus on the nuances and subtle differences.

The same holds true for cigars. The best way to taste multiple cigars is by smoking similar cigars. (Like tasting a champagne against a full bordeaux, you’re not likely to learn much by tasting a mild Connecticut-wrapped cigar against a full-bodied Nicaraguan puro.)

Light up a full-bodied Nicaraguan cigar and you’re likely to pick up the same general flavors: earth, spice, maybe leather or cedar. However, light up two different full-bodied Nicaraguans (as I recently did in the photo above) and you’ll notice more specifics, such as the type of spice (sweeter cinnamon versus black pepper). Secondary flavors, like cocoa, coffee, and clove will also begin to stand out.

As long as you continue to keep your palate clean, you’ll be amazed at what flavors you can “discover” in a cigar when searching for differences between two cigars that smoked alone would be described in very similar terms. Plus, alternating between two cigars forces you to smoke each slowly, which will also help you notice the distinct qualities of each (smoking too quickly will overheat the tobacco and taint the flavor).

You certainly wouldn’t want to smoke most of your cigars this way, because the fun of cigars is relaxing and reflecting, not having to worry about keeping multiple cigars lit or concentrating on the small details of the flavors. Still, if every so often you smoke two (or more) at once to exercise your palate, I think you’ll find it easier to enjoy all the depth and complexity that fine cigars have to offer.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Epicure

11 Feb 2019

When I started smoking cigars, the Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur was my first real go-to smoke. I went through lots of them. I was captivated by the smooth, creamy texture and strength that seemed ideally suitable for my palate. Some years later, in 2006, I reviewed the Excalibur Epicure and gave it four stogies.

In that review, I remarked that I could remember the first one I smoked. I still do. It was at Signature Cigars in Rockville, Maryland. Although I’d had other cigars, this was the one that really made an impression and let me know smoking cigars could be something special.

I think it was recently enjoying the Tatuaje Verocú that got me to thinking about other cigars I hadn’t had in a while. So I bought a five-pack of Epicures, a robusto (5.25 x 50). They retail these days for a little under $8, but I picked them up online for under $3 each. Quite a bargain.

At first glance, Excalibur looked exactly as I remembered with a smooth, golden brown Connecticut shade wrapper. When I lit one up, I felt I could have been back in that Maryland cigar lounge.

The tasty blend of Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan filler inside a Connecticut Broadleaf binder hit the spot. It started with a bit of pepper mixed with sweetness. For a few more puffs, the pepper increased then faded as I tasted some wood and coffee.

There weren’t a lot of changes, but that was by no means a negative, as the Excalibur was satisfying from beginning to end. Each of those I’ve smoked burned evenly, produced lots of smoke, and had an excellent draw.

When Excalibur was introduced in the early 1990s, it was designed to be a bit less powerful than the regular Hoyo do Monterrey line. It was a hit during the cigar boom and continues to sell.

These days there are 18 vitolas, including Natural and Maduro. They range in size from a 3-inch miniature to the 7.25-inch No. 1.

I recommended them before. I recommend them again. Excalibur is a fine cigar still worthy of four stogies.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Alonso Menendez Connecticut Corona

10 Feb 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 smoked my first Alonso Menendez in Brazil in 2003. It would be a few years before I saw the brand again, when Alonso Menendez (and Dona Flor) were brought to the U.S. market. Legal issues and other challenges meant Alonso Menendez was pulled from the market for a time before being introduced again around 2012. This Alonso Menendez blend features plenty of Mata Fina tobacco (for which Brazil is known) and a Connecticut wrapper (though the origin of that wrapper is unclear). The result is a well-constructed, medium-bodied cigar with notes of coffee, toasted walnuts, cream, and light spice.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Diesel Whiskey Row Robusto

8 Feb 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.”

In May 2018, General Cigar announced a partnership between A.J. Fernandez, the Diesel cigar brand, and Rabbit Hole Bourbon. Those entities teamed up to create Whiskey Row, a new cigar line featuring bourbon barrel-aged binder leaves from a “proprietary process” developed by Fernandez. This concept was “brought to life in 2016 when Rabbit Hole Bourbon barrels arrived at Tabalacera A.J. Fernandez in Esteli, Nicaragua,” reads a press release. “A.J. placed the Mexican San Andrés binder in the bourbon barrels in a special configuration. The tobacco was left to rest inside the barrels, and the amount of air inside was controlled at regular intervals to ensure the bourbon flavors were imparted evenly.” In addition to this binder, Diesel Whiskey Row includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper aged for five years and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos aged for five to eight years. The Robusto (5.5 x 52) retails for $7.49. It isn’t bourbon-y, per se, but instead features hearty, heavy leather notes with white pepper, black coffee, and dry earth. In my book, I can’t enthusiastically recommend this; frankly, unless you’re a huge fan of leather notes, it’s just OK.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Aroma de Cuba Noblesse Regency

6 Feb 2019

La Aroma de Cuba was first relaunched in 2003 by Ashton, which secured the rights to the old Cuban trademark. Back then, the line was made at the Flor de Copan factory in Honduras. But starting in 2008, Ashton partnered with Pepin to revamp the line.

The first Pepin-made La Aroma was the Edición Especials, introduced at the 2008 IPCPR Trade Show, with the revamped regular La Aroma blend debuting the following year. In 2010 came the Mi Amor line extension, followed by the Mi Amor Reserva in 2012.

We’ve reviewed every blend in the line (including the pre-Pepin original), except for the newest, the Noblesse, which debuted in 2014. Over the years, Ashton has added two new sizes to the blend, which is produced each year in limited quantities.

Like the others it’s made at Pepin’s My Father Cigars factory in Nicaragua. For this review I smoked the Regency, the robusto-sized (5.5 x 50) follow-up to the debut Toro size. Far from the discount origins of the line, it’s a premium-priced offering that will run around $13 per cigar.

The cigar features an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper around dual Nicaraguan Habano and Criollo binders. The aged filler tobaccos reportedly use tobacco from the Garcia family’s farms in Estelí, Jalapa, and Namanji.

The cigar starts out with roasted cashew, cedar, and leather notes. There’s plenty of spice with white pepper and cayenne, and a finish that includes wood and slight citrus peel.

This is a full-flavored cigar with plenty of spice. Smoked slowly and it will show some balance, but when rushed, even a little, it quickly develops slightly sour notes. The draw was overly tight on one of the samples I smoked, but otherwise the combustion was solid, if not excellent.

I’ve been a big fan of La Aroma de Cuba over the years, but I have a hard time recommending the Noblesse over the earlier and more affordable blends in the line. Still, the Noblesse Regency is a solid and enjoyable offering that earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XXVIII)

4 Feb 2019

What do Jim Mora, the Middle East, Mexico, and all 50 U.S. governors have in common? They’re all in this edition of Random Thoughts from the Humidor.

Excess Humidity?!?

I had to chuckle when I read my colleague’s piece last week about using Liberty cannisters to rid himself of excess humidity. Immediately, my internal monologue took on the voice of former Colts head coach Jim Mora talking about the playoffs. “Excess humidity? Don’t talk about—excess humidity?! You kidding me? Excess humidity?!” George may be warm and cozy down in Florida, but up here in Chicago I can assure you excess humidity is not a concern. Not in the winter months, anyhow. One day last week, the high—the high—in Chicago was -14. Including windchill, it was more like -40. Suffice to say, since cold air can hold less water vapor than warm air, my cigar storage problem is exactly the opposite of George’s right now. I have the anecdotal evidence to back it up. I use Boveda packs to maintain the relative humidity levels within my humidors at home. In the summer, I can go three months or more before needing to replace the packs; in the winter, I’m lucky if they last half as long. Perhaps you have the same experience. Is there any way for George to send his excess humidity up north?

Two New Regional Cubans Launch

Saint Luis Rey Herfing (5.5 x 54, $17) was introduced last week in Cyprus as a Regional Edition for the Middle East. Only 7,500 boxes of 10 have been made. Meanwhile, in Mexico, the Punch Duke becomes the first Regional Edition for the country that’s not an Edmundo Dantes. It has the same dimensions as the Saint Luis Rey Herfing (5.5 x 54), but retails for double the price—$35. Only 6,000 boxes have been made. The three preceding Regional Editions in Mexico were Edmundo Dantes El Conde 109 (2007), Edmundo Dantes Conde 54 (2011), and the Edmundo Dantes Conde Belicoso (2016). If you’re traveling abroad, keep your eyes open for these smokes as they’ll surely be very difficult to find in the U.S.

Dear Governors…

On Friday, Cigar Rights of America (CRA) sent a letter to each of the country’s 50 governors “alerting them to the state impact of federal regulation of premium handmade cigars.” In CRA’s own words: “Given the potential consequences of these regulations on production and consumption as well as the direct ability to shut down small businesses across the country, CRA felt compelled to alert the governors of the fiscal impact on state OTP tax collections and the potential for job losses and business closures in their states. The letter implores the governors to encourage their state congressional delegation to support legislative efforts to protect the industry.” You can see a complete copy of the letter here.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys