Quick Smoke: Dunhill Heritage Robusto

23 Jun 2018

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.”

In 2015, the year of its debut, this box-pressed cigar earned a spot on Cigar Aficionado’s best-of list. It isn’t hard to see why. The Dunhill Heritage Robusto (5 x 50) has excellent combustion properties with a full-bodied, oily profile of roasted peanut, coffee bean, leather, and cinnamon. It sports an Ecuadorian wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Honduras. While Dunhill—a storied, historic brand owned by British American Tobacco and distributed in the U.S. by General Cigar—is exiting the cigar and pipe business, you can still find this cigar if you keep your eyes open. Expect to pay around $6-7, and expect to be impressed.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Court Ruling Could End Tax-Free Online Sales, Nat Sherman Gets a Facelift, BLTC Announces Sindustry, and More

22 Jun 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 584th in the series.

1) In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted states the authority to require online retailers to collect sales taxes—a major shift in policy that could provide a boost to brick-and-mortar cigar retailers and eliminate internet and catalog tax-free shopping options for cigar consumers. “States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping,” reports the New York Times. “On Thursday, the court overruled that ruling, Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, which had said that the Constitution bars states from requiring businesses to collect sales taxes unless they have a substantial connection to the state.”

2) Nat Sherman has unveiled a new strategy for branding and packaging. While the blends themselves will remain unchanged, the New Jersey-based company’s premium cigars will be organized into three categories—Metropolitan, Timeless, and Epoca—and all will receive a facelift. Metropolitan will include the current Metropolitan Connecticut, Maduro, and Habano lines; Timeless (pictured above) will include Prestige (formerly Timeless Dominican), Supreme (formerly Timeless Nicaraguan), Sterling, and Panamericana; and Epoca, an old brand that was reintroduced in 2014, will continue to stand alone. “This realignment of our cigar brands offers a clearer picture of how our collection of products fits together,” said Michael Herklots, vice president of retail and brand development. The new packaging will debut at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas next month.

3) Black Label Trading Company (BLTC) has announced the second annual release of Sindustry, a San Andrés-wrapped cigar made at the company’s Fabrica Oveja Negra factory in Estelí. Three sizes—Robusto, Toro, and Lancero—will sell in the $10-$10.50 range. “This vintage of Sindustry is the perfect balance between strength and flavor,” said BLTC creator James Brown. “Sindustry is one of my personal favorite cigars, and I’m very excited about this release hitting retailers.” BLTC also this week announced Ligero Hawaii, a single-vitola, Pennsylvania Broadleaf-wrapped cigar that will be exclusive to R. Field Wine Co. in Honolulu starting on July 6.

4) Random Read: Bob Dylan has a line of whiskey, and it might actually be pretty good.

5) Inside the Industry: Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT) formally announced the debut of the long-anticipated Sin Compromiso, a “series of ultra-premium handmade cigars” set to be released in August. According to DTT founder Steve Saka, “Sin Compromiso is the result of over three years of experimental black tobacco harvests in Mexico, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, and the culmination of my experiences as a cigar blender. The marquee’s name translates to ‘no compromise,’ and that is the exact approach I took when creating this cigar.” The line will debut in five sizes: Selección No. 2 Torpedo (6 x 52), Selección No. 5 Parejo (6 x 54), Selección No. 7 Parejo (7 x 56), Selección Intrépido (5.63 x 46), and Selección Espada Estoque (7 x 44). The soft-pressed, sleeved in Spanish cedar cigars will retail in the $15.95-$18.45 range and are packed in 13-count matte lacquered boxes.

6) From the Archives: The FDA is reconsidering its regulation of cigars (more on that soon), which makes this article on studies about the health effects of cigars particularly important.

7) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the July box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr / Nat Sherman / Facebook

Cigar Spirits: Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Barrel Strength Rye & Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye

20 Jun 2018

Today we look at two new Kentucky ryes, both bottled at barrel proof. Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Barrel Strength Rye was introduced year, and Knob Creek’s new barrel-strength rye offering has just arrived in stores in the past month. Both retail for about $70.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Strength Rye is the brand’s standard US-1 rye with a couple twists: After the regular maturation period, it is re-barreled in a custom barrel made with wood that’s air-cured for 24 months then toasted for additional aging. Toasted barrels, if you are wondering, are more gently fired than charred barrels. (Charred barrels give whiskey more dark coloring and naturally filter out some of the harshness of unaged spirits, but that isn’t necessary when, as is the case here, the whiskey has already extensively aged in charred barrels.)

Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye is a limited release (the bottle says “Limited Release 2018,” so perhaps it will become an annual offering) of Knob Creek’s rye aged for nine years and bottled at barrel-proof. It’s a step up in proof from the regular release, which is 100-proof, and in age (the regular release doesn’t carry an age statement but is believed to be in the five- to six-year-old range). The barrels were selected from Beam’s warehouse A, its oldest and most storied barrel rickhouse.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Barrel Strength Rye (111.4-proof)
Color: Dark walnut brown.
Nose: Allspice, toasted coconut, cedar, and ethanol heat.
Palate: Lots of sweetness with spice (think a cinnamon roll with Red Hots on top), burnt caramel, and candied dates.
Finish: Silky vanilla and pepper that lingers on the palate as the heat fades away.

Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye (119.6-proof)
Color: Deep amber.
Nose: Burnt sugar, oak, leather, and orange peel.
Palate: Caramel and buttered toast with hints of cherry and baking spices.
Finish: Long and sweet with caramel and wood spice.

Both are hearty, full-flavored ryes that pair well with full-bodied cigars. Think Nicaraguan-dominant blends like the Muestra de Saka Nacatamale, Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu, Drew Estate Liga Privada Único Serie Velvet Rat, Joya de Nicaragua Antaño, or Davidoff Nicaragua Box Pressed.

It’s a testament to the popularity of rye that even at $70 both of these feel fairly priced. (Frankly, when I first heard of the Knob Creek Rye, I expected a price in the triple digits.) Knob Creek is more classic and I presonaly prefer it slightly, but Michter’s is more unique and also enjoyable. Both are not for everyone, but I’m glad I bought a bottle of each, and I’d probably pick up another bottle of the Knob Creek.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Villiger San’Doro Maduro Toro

18 Jun 2018

About a month ago, Villiger unveiled a new 7,500-square-foot factory in Bahia, Brazil. Called Villiger Do Brasil, the facility makes Villiger puros for both the U.S. market (San’Doro Maduro) and the European market (Celebration and Corrida). More Brazilian cigars are expected from Villiger in the future, though I’m not sure they will all be puros.

Villiger has been making cigars in Brazil since the 1970s. This newer, bigger factory (30 rollers, with the capacity to add 20 more), however, signals a redoubled commitment to the country and its tobaccos. Villiger Do Brasil—along with the recent relocation of U.S. corporate headquarters to the Miami area—is further evidence of Villiger’s interest in expanding its presence in the premium cigar market (Villiger is a major player in the machine-made realm).

My colleague reviewed the Villiger San’Doro Maduro Toro a couple years ago, finding it to be well-constructed, tasty, and balanced. The cigar I’m reviewing today is the same in makeup—a Mata Fina wrapper, Mata Norte binder, and Mata Fina and Mata Norte filler—but this one is made at Villiger Do Brasil.

The single-vitola blend is presented in a Toro (6 x 50) format and retails for about $8.50—a price that is, as far as I can tell, unchanged since the cigar was introduced in 2015. The Toro’s dark, toothy exterior is complemented by dual bands of gold, green, and red. The cap is a bit sloppy, but it clips just fine to reveal a tight cold draw.

I find pre-light notes of cherry, cocoa powder, and molasses at the foot. After setting an even light, the sweet cherry shines through in the flavor, accented by leather, coffee, and roasted cashew. There is a bit of cayenne heat in the background, as well as a subdued cedar spice and a damp, musty taste that’s difficult to describe.

Towards the midway point, the medium-bodied profile enters a phase that can best be characterized as natural tobacco sweetness. The individual flavors, put plainly, seem to be rounded off. The taste stays in this ballpark until the finale, which has a reprise of cherry and coffee.

I sampled three Toros for this review. Each had a tight draw resulting in a low volume of smoke production. I found this to be both frustrating and intrusive, though two of the three seemed to open up a bit at the midway point. The burn line was always straight, and the ash held well off the foot.

Some may read this and conclude my samples were stored in conditions featuring excessive relative humidity. After receiving my five-pack in the mail from Villiger, though, I stored the cigars in one of my closely monitored humidors for a month.

I will let the remaining two San’Doro Maduro Toros rest for awhile before giving this cigar another try. I’ll be sure to post an update when I smoke another, probably in six months or so. For now, I would be remiss if I scored this Villiger cigar any higher than two stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Nica Libre 25th Anniversary Silver Corona

17 Jun 2018

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.”

The catalog favorite Nica Libre has always been a discount cigar with an emphasis on its Nicaraguan pedigree. Lately, the line has expanded, including with this 25th Anniversary Silver offering (25 years since the sovereign post-revolution war, not of the Nica Libre brand) made by A.J. Fernandez. I can’t remember the last time I smoked a cigar with this much in-your-face spice right from the beginning. The Nicaraguan puro is dominated by cayenne and black pepper notes, backed up by black coffee and oak flavors. It’s a bit unbalanced, but if you crave spice this is for you.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Atabey Ritos

16 Jun 2018

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.”

Here’s an elegant, well-made cigar with a price tag that will make you cringe. The current retail price for the Atabey Ritos (6.1 x 55) is $33. Yikes. Is it elegantly packaged with a tasteful, Behike-like presentation? Yes. Is the construction nothing short of flawless? Yes. And what of the flavor? It is complex, balanced, bready in texture, and mild- to medium-bodied with notes ranging from cream and oak to white pepper and roasted cashew. If money is no object, by all means; you will not be disappointed, unless you’re expecting a full-bodied flavor-bomb.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Nicaraguan Crisis Escalates to Nationwide Strike, Drew Estate Releases Five Flying Pigs, and More

15 Jun 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 583rd in the series.

1) The tumultuous situation in Nicaragua—spurred by President Daniel Ortega’s April 18 proclamation of social security reforms, including decreased benefits and higher taxes—took a new turn yesterday, as many working Nicaraguans participated in a nationwide strike. “Streets were deserted in cities and towns as banks and supermarkets, gas stations and corner stores were closed. Few people ventured out during the 24-hour stoppage,” reports Reuters. “Police officers with assault rifles lined the largely empty main streets of the capital Managua. The strike, organized by university students, farmers, and business owners, was the latest tactic by a loose national alliance formed to dislodge the president.” Nicaragua is the largest importer of premium cigars into the U.S. market. The widespread protests have taken their toll on the industry as roadblocks have severely hampered transportation and shipments. Sadly, many lives have been lost as well. “Nearly 150 have been killed and hundreds injured in eight weeks of clashes between pro-Ortega forces and protesters armed with rocks, slings, and homemade mortars.”

2) Drew Estate has released shipments of five Liga Privada and Undercrown Flying Pigs to retailers, including the Liga Privada No. 9, T52, Undercrown, Undercrown Shade, and Undercrown Sungrown. The unique format is nearly 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 60 and includes a tapered foot and a tapered pigtail cap. The Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 will sell for $181.20 per 12-count box (2,500 boxes made); the Undercrown Flying Pigs will sell for $152.64 per 12-count box (2,500 boxes made). “As president of Drew Estate, it brings me great pride to report that our production floor’s passion, and painstaking dedication to detail, remains as strong today as the day we began as a little fabriquita,” said Jonathan Drew. “All of us at Drew Estate wish to dedicate this release collection to all the fathers who give us the wisdom and love to fly high everyday.”

3) Random Read: Why an Irish whiskey shortage, years in the making, may soon be upon us.

4) Inside the Industry: The cigar industry lost Eric Hanson on June 8. The founder of Hammer + Sickle cigars passed away at just 45 years old. Hanson created Hammer + Sickle cigars in 2010, as a complement to Hammer + Sickle vodka, which he also owned. We interviewed Hanson about his Second Growth brand here.

5) From the Archives: Want to become adept at aging cigars? Check out our 2008 interview with Doc Stogie.

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the July box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr / Drew Estate