Cigar Review: Black Label Trading Company Killer Bee Connecticut

24 Jun 2019

Nearly four years ago, James Brown, creator of Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC), announced a new “small-batch cigar line” called Black Works Studio. “Part of the motivation for opening our own factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra, was to experiment and develop unique blends highlighting Nicaraguan tobacco,” said Brown. “Black Works Studio (BLK WKS) is my first opportunity to use our factory as my playground. Blending cigars is my passion and I ended up with several blends and ideas on the shelf [so] the time was right to launch a new brand.”

The three original BLK WKS cigars were Killer Bee (4.5 x 46), an Ecuador Maduro-wrapped petite corona; Rorschach (5 x 38), an Ecuador Habano-wrapped petite panatela; and NBK (6 x 46), an Ecuador Habano Oscuro-wrapped corona larga. Green Hornet, a stronger follow-up to the Killer Bee that’s distinguished by its Candela closed foot, was added a year later in 2016. All of these were offered in addition to BLTC’s core lines, which include Lawless, Royalty, Redemption, Benediction, Salvation, and Last Rites.

More recently, in November 2018, BLTC announced an offshoot to the Killer Bee: Killer Bee Connecticut. This cigar “was blended with the original Killer Bee, so I’m very excited to finally have it released as an addition to the Killer Bee line and the BLK WKS portfolio,” said Brown in a press release. “With similar profiles to the Killer Bee, it may not be what you expect from a typical Connecticut cigar. The Connecticut wrapper gives an added creaminess and changes up the spice components quite a bit.”

The Killer Bee Connecticut recipe calls for Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, a Nicaraguan Habano binder, and a Connecticut wrapper with an Ecuador maduro “swirl cap.” It is offered in a single size (4.5 x 46, $10).

I smoked three Killer Bee Connecticuts for this review. Put simply—and not unlike the original Killer Bee—this gorgeous cigar admirably showcases the craftsmanship at Fabrica Oveja Negra. The bee-like stripes help the cigar stand out on any retailer shelf, and the metallic, honey-combed band of gray, black, and gold adds a nice touch as well. At the foot, the pre-light notes include classic Connecticut aromas of sweet hay, sawdust, and almond.

Whereas the Killer Bee is bold, powerful, and full-bodied with flavors of burnt caramel, black pepper, char, and syrup, the Killer Bee Connecticut is—predictably—more dialed-back. That said, it never falls into the trap of tasting like “just another Connecticut.” It boasts considerable pepper spice from the outset, along with well-balanced notes of oak, butter, and a bit of cinnamon.

Into the midway point and beyond, the spice falls off but the core flavors (save for pepper) remain the same. And that’s just fine in my book. The taste is highly enjoyable and complex, and the small, compact format means it doesn’t overstay its welcome. All the while construction is impeccable. The white ash holds well off the foot, the draw is smooth, the smoke production is generous, and the burn line requires zero touch-ups.

For my palate, the original Killer Bee is, well, a killer. It’s a highly concentrated flavor-bomb that demands to be smoked with a full stomach. The Killer Bee Connecticut, though, is a more balanced, nuanced smoke that’s suitable for almost any occasion. For that, I’m awarding it a very admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: H. Upmann Legacy Toro

23 Jun 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.”

UpmannLegacyToro

My colleague reviewed this release from Altadis when it was introduced. From the one I smoked recently, I largely agree with his conclusion that the H. Upmann Legacy is “a solid smoke at a fair price.” I found the Ecuadorian Sumatra-wrapped Toro to be medium-bodied with woody, roasted, and salted notes, and a little spice. It’s not a tremendously complex cigar, but it provides pleasant enough flavors and nearly flawless construction.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Plascencia Alma del Campo Guajiro

21 Jun 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.”

As one of the industry’s leading tobacco growers and manufacturers, it seems only natural that the Plascencia family would want its name on a high-end cigar. It introduced the still-expanding Alma series a few years ago to do just that. The Alma del Campo, a Nicaraguan puro, makes a near-perfect first impression. The wrapper is vein-free, smooth, and gives off an enticing mint aroma before lighting. The Guajiro vitola (5.5 x 54) runs about $16. It begins with a thick, meaty flavor and deep, rich smoke. Some spice and nuts come fairly quickly to the fore. Other notes include pepper and a touch of cinnamon. All are nicely balanced. Construction is excellent, strength is medium, and the the finish is long. I thoroughly enjoyed the Guajiro. The cost, though, is likely to limit my future pleasure. But when you’re looking for a luxe cigar, this is one line not to ignore.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Rediscover the Cigars You Used to Smoke

19 Jun 2019

Here’s an easy suggestion for anyone who has been smoking handmade cigars for more than a few years: Revisit those that were your favorites but you don’t smoke as often anymore.

If you’re like many cigar smokers (including me), there were certain cigars you used to smoke frequently that you just don’t anymore. You probably haven’t even thought much about why they aren’t in your regular rotation anymore. They just aren’t.

There are lots of good reasons why you no longer smoke certain cigars. Maybe your tastes have evolved. Maybe the blends have changed. Maybe your cigar budget changed.

All those are true for me. But this year I decided to make an effort to smoke more of the cigars that were go-to smokes back when I really got into cigars well over a decade ago. The results are interesting.

Some were disappointing, or at least not as good as I remembered. Despite my colleague’s recent high praise, I found the Gurkha Regent underwhelming. The Rocky Patel 1992, a cigar I often cited as a favorite back in 2005, was pleasant but not as interesting as I remembered. Same for the Maria Mancini, which was the first box I purchased nearly 20 years ago.

Others have stood the test of time. Joya de Nicaragua Antano 1970 is still an excellent full-bodied smoke. The Ashton Classic remains a well-made, mild smoke, even if that profile isn’t one I turn to as often. CAO Brazilia, another go-to from long ago, is still enjoyable, even if it isn’t as full-bodied as I thought it was at the time.

In other words, the result of my exploration of the cigars I used to smoke is a mixed bag. But the exercise was thoroughly enjoyable. Some I plan to smoke more often, others I’ll probably leave alone.

Your experiences may vary, but revisiting cigars from your past is a fun, interesting exercise. Go ahead and try it out and let us know how it goes.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Southern Draw Cedrus The Hogan Belicoso Fino

18 Jun 2019

If you’re here for a cigar with a dominant flavor of cedar, let me stop you before you go any further. This cigar line from Southern Draw celebrates Cedrus Libani, the Lebanese Cedar that’s often used to make cigar boxes. As far as I can tell, it is not intended to suggest the cigar has a cedar-forward taste. That’s good because—spoiler alert—it doesn’t.

Southern Draw introduced Cedrus last summer as the Austin-based company’s fifth regular-production line. In addition to honoring a tree varietal, the single-vitola blend also commemorates Phil and Shelly Hogan, who Southern Draw founder Robert Holt cites for their valuable support of his company. (Further complicating matters—or, if you prefer, tying it all together—is the fact that there is a form of the Western Red Cedar called “Hogan.”)

Cedrus, like all Southern Draw creations, is made at Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A. in Estelí. Its recipe includes a “late harvest” Besuki wrapper from the Jember region of Java, Indonesia. “Our family was blessed to source this rarely available, top-quality wrapper, with its rich brown color, distinct ‘green chili’ spice flavors, and herbal aromas that are attributed from being expertly air-cured followed by a multi-stage fermentation process,” said Holt in a press release. The binder is a Habano 2000 leaf from Nicaragua (grown under cloth), and the filler tobaccos are also Nicaraguan.

Last week, Southern Draw announced new box-pressed vitolas to join the Belicoso Fino (5.5 x 52). They include a Robusto (5.5 x 54), Toro (6 x 52), and Gordo (6.5 x 60). For 2019, 50,000 of each have been produced. Per-cigar prices range from $11.99 to $12.99. Southern Draw’s website hints at a Lancero and a Perfecto due out in 2020.

To date, the only size I’ve had a chance to acquire and sample is the original Belicoso Fino. I smoked three for this review. The box-pressed Cedrus Belicoso Fino is adorned with dual bands of green and gold, the second of which proclaims, “Soli Deo Gloria” (Latin for “Glory to God Alone”). Beneath is a dark, smooth, moderately oily wrapper leaf with thin veins. The sharply pointed cap clips easily to reveal a cold draw with just a bit of resistance.

At the foot, the pre-light notes are mouth-watering and pungent. You won’t have to try hard to notice a musty, earthy aroma with hints of nuttiness and chocolate.

Once lit, the initial profile is dry, earthy, and spicy. Individual flavors include oak, black pepper, cinnamon, earth, and clove. Then, after about an inch, the spice recedes just as quickly as it arrived, leaving behind an earthier taste devoid of cinnamon and replacing black pepper with white pepper.

The next transition is characterized by somewhat of a return to spice—though this time it isn’t black pepper but a medley of baking spices. Still, the overall profile is medium-bodied with a slightly chalky texture. The cigar remains in this state until the finale. Throughout, the physical properties are admirable, including a straight burn. The gray ash has a tendency to fall off prematurely, however.

Robert Holt calls Cedrus Southern Draw’s “most distinguished-tasting cigar.” I will admit this is my first experience with the brand, so I cannot speak to how it compares with his other lines. That said, I like this cigar enough to commit to trying the others in short order, and I will report back as I am able. For now, the Southern Draw Cedrus The Hogan Belicoso Fino 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

Quick Smoke: La Flor Dominicana Suave Maceo

16 Jun 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 don’t think I’ve smoked this blend from La Flor Dominicana since it was called the Premium line. (That was two names ago; it was briefly renamed “La Flor Dominicana Light” in 2012.) Long associated with fuller-bodied, ligero-heavy offerings, the truth is Litto Gomez and La Flor Dominicana started off with milder offerings, including this cigar, which features a pale golden Connecticut Shade wrapper and Dominican filler tobaccos. This robusto emphasizes balance and mildness, though it does have honey sweetness with cream, subtle cut grass, and light cedar. It’s not my preferred flavor profile, but it’s a flawlessly constructed example of a premium, mild-bodied cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Brazilian Maduro Toro Especial

14 Jun 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.”

The intense pre-light floral aroma from this cigar’s Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper is a quick tipoff that it isn’t a typical maduro. And that plays out from beginning to end. There’s not a lot of the usual coffee, chocolate, or cocoa frequently associated with other maduros. The Brazilian Maduro Toro (6 x 52, $9.68) opens with a shot of pepper that yields to notes of light spice, some sweetness, and leather in a smooth, well-balanced blend. Strength is firmly in the medium range. It burns slowly, produces lots of smoke, and has an excellent draw. With a Connecticut Broadleaf binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, you might expect more complexity, but I found it to be a fairly straightforward smoke. That’s not a criticism; I thoroughly enjoyed what it presented. This addition to Drew Estate’s Herrera Estelí line was introduced last year. It comes in five sizes, all in boxes of 25. I suggest you pick one up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys