Cigar Review: Romeo San Andrés Toro

19 Mar 2018

Earlier this month, Altadis unveiled the latest in the seemingly never-ending expansion of its highly visible Romeo y Julieta brand. This one is Romeo San Andrés, a collaboration between Rafael Nodal and A.J. Fernandez that adheres to the modern packaging of the Romeo line that was launched about six years ago (and, later, Romeo Añejo and Romeo 505 Nicaragua).

“This elegant cigar, crafted in Estelí, Nicaragua, brings today’s connoisseurs a contemporary take on the rich and robust profiles of the Romeo y Julieta collection,” reads a press release. “This exceptional premium offering employs an aged San Andrés wrapper, considered one of the most flavorful leaves used in today’s premium cigar market.”

In addition to the dark, Mexican wrapper, Romeo San Andrés sports a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. It comes in four sizes that range in price from $9.35 to $9.85: Robusto (5 x 50), Pirámides (6.1 x 52), Short Magnum (5.5 x 60), and Toro (6 x 54).

The latter is a firm, dense, handsome cigar with ultra-thin veins and smooth seams. At the foot, I find mouth-watering pre-light notes of dark chocolate and espresso bean. Once the rough cap is clipped, the cold draw is effortless.

The Toro starts full-bodied and strong with a hearty dose of black pepper spice, espresso, and leather. Background notes of dried fruits (fig and apricot, namely) add balance.

After only a quarter of an inch, there is a noticeable transition. As the spice begins to fade, flavors of cream and roasted cashew emerge. Here, I’d downgrade the body to medium, though the strength remains quite full.

At the midway point and thereafter, there is less and less spice. In its place, there are notes of café au lait, warm tobacco sweetness, earth, leather, and some rustic grit.

All the while, construction is impeccable. The straight burn requires zero touch-ups along the way, the draw is clear, the smoke production voluminous, and the gray ash holds exceptionally well off the foot.

San Andrés can be a polarizing wrapper. I know cigar enthusiasts who love it, and those who dislike it. If you’re in the former camp, give the Romeo San Andrés a try. It’s a very respectable San Andrés specimen and, in my estimation, worthy of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Palina Classic Lancero

18 Mar 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.”

Often overlooked in La Palina’s now-expansive portfolio is the La Palina Classic. The line has been updated with three wrapper varieties (Rosado, Maduro, and Connecticut) in three sizes each (Robusto, Toro, Lonsdale) made at General Cigar Dominicana. Today, though, I’m smoking the orginal Classic blend in a Lancero size ($8), which was made at PDR Cigars with a Brazilian Habano wrapper, Ecuadorian binder, and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The cigar features balanced, medium-bodied, roasted notes: coffee, cream, milk chocolate, cashews, and light cedar. Lanceros have a tendency for finicky construction, but this one was razor straight from start to finish.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Oliva Gilberto Reserva Toro

17 Mar 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.”

This cigar is another in Oliva’s budget presentations, going for about $5 each by the box of 20. It’s got an Indonesian Sumatra wrapper with an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan filler. My first impression was a not-too-pleasant mineral/medicinal taste, which backed off a bit but never fully went away as I later encountered some spice and a little leather. It burned OK, but smoke production was average at best. I like a lot of Oliva’s cigars, but this Toro (6 x 50) didn’t live up to others I’ve smoked.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Economic Issues Await Raúl Castro’s Successor, Villiger Opens Dominican Lounge, and More

16 Mar 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 570th in the series.

1) Cuba experienced its lowest voter turnout on Sunday in any election since the communist government initiated an electoral system 42 years ago. “Sunday’s elections were for provincial councils and the 605 candidates for the 605 seats on the national legislature. There were no contested seats,” reports the Miami Herald. “The candidates were selected by the Candidates Commissions, made up of government officials and members of pro-government organizations.” In addition to over 17% of voters not participating in the election at all, nearly a fifth of those who did vote “did not fill in the ‘all candidates’ box on the ballots, defying government and official media calls for a ‘united’ vote.” President Raúl Castro (pictured above, at right) is expected to step down in April, bringing an end to the Castro family’s six-decade reign. Many expect First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel (pictured above, at left) to take his place and inherit an extremely challenging economic situation. “The island’s economy is stumbling amid vanishing support from its principal benefactor, Venezuela, and the souring of relations with the U.S.,” reports Bloomberg. “And Cubans are increasingly unhappy with health care, education, and basic living conditions, the underpinnings of the communist social contract.” While Diaz-Canel has promised a more responsive government, “few Cubans on Sunday expected Diaz-Canel to bring about immediate or dramatic reform. The vice president has long been seen as Castro’s hand-picked successor, and he has consistently emphasized maintaining continuity in Cuba’s single-party political system and centrally planned economy,” reports CTV News.

2) Villiger has opened its first lounge in the Americas at the ABAM Cigar Factory (manufacturer of all Dominican-made Villiger cigars) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. According to a press release, other Villiger lounges may be coming to additional “key markets” as part of “the next evolution” for the Switzerland-based company. “We at Villiger Cigars look forward to entertaining members of the media, friends, and colleagues at the Villiger Lounge at the ABAM Factory,” said Rene Castañeda, president of Villiger Cigars North America. ABAM Factory tours, which will include seven cigars and drinks in the lounge, “will commence in the near future.”

3) Since before first president (and distiller) George Washington served as a general in American Revolutionary War, the United States has been making distilled spirits. Now every state has at least one distillery. This article lists the oldest active distillery in each state, from craft distilling companies that have sprung up in the past decade or so to those that have been at it for well over a century.

4) Inside the Industry: A new limited edition from Mombacho is set to ship to retailers in May. Called Cosecha 2013 Edición Unica, the pigtail-capped, single-vitola line (6 x 52) features Nicaraguan tobaccos from the 2013 harvest that were rolled in 2014. Only 7,000 cigars were made, each with a retail price of $21.95. The 2013 Edición Unica is differentiated from the 2012 release, which used different Criollo and Corojo seeds.

5) From the Archives: Cigar companies have been known to push their green candela-wrapped offerings around St. Patrick’s Day (which, in case you aren’t paying attention, is tomorrow). In this article, we run through some favorites so you know what to pick up if you are of the once-a-year candela-smoking variety.

6) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, Davidoff, Cohiba, Crowned Heads, RoMa Craft, and more. Free shipping is included on any purchase. If you really want to stock up, add promo code “GBP20D” at checkout to knock $20 off an order of $150 or more.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Reuters / Villiger

Cigar Review: La Gloria Cubana Colección Reserva Robusto

14 Mar 2018

Collaborations are nothing new in the cigar industry. In fact, some very large brands are the result of collaborations between a brand owner and an otherwise unaffiliated factory. While the La Gloria Cubana Colecction Reserva is also a collaboration (between La Gloria Cubana and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr.’s Tabacalera La Alianza S.A.), it’s hardly the first time Perez-Carrillo has been associated with La Gloria Cubana.

The non-Cuban version of La Gloria Cubana was made for years by Perez-Carrillo, who gained prominence as one of the original boutique cigar makers in the 1990s. In 1999, the brand, along with El Credito Cigar Co., was sold to General Cigar’s parent company.

Perez-Carrillo stayed with General for another decade until he left to start his own family-controlled company and established the Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. factory in Santiago’s Zona Franca. La Alianza is just minutes away from the General Cigar Dominicana factory, also in Zona Franca, which is the current home of La Gloria Cubana. (General Cigar has La Gloria Cubana cigars made in a separate El Credito area inside the facility to keep some production techniques distinct from other brands.)

Colección Reserva isn’t even the first collaboration between General Cigar and Perez-Carrillo in recent years. That would be the limited edition Re+United from a few years back. And the commercial relationship goes back even further than that. (I recall seeing EPC boxes being made at the General Cigar box factory back in 2011.)

La Gloria Cubana Colección Reserva is made at La Alianza, as opposed to General Cigar Dominicana (where Re+United was produced). It is distributed by General Cigar which, by most accounts, is the largest importer of handmade cigars in the United States.

The cigar has an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It is packaged in 20-count boxes in 3 sizes: the Robusto I smoked (5 x 54), a Torpedo (6 x 54), and a Churchill-sized Presidente (7.5 x 54).

The Robusto features woodsy notes along with with leather and salted roast cashew. There’s a slight red pepper spice that lingers on the inside of your lips and also some nice sweetness (berries and dates), especially in the middle third of the cigar.

It’s a medium- to full-bodied smoke with a lingering tannic finish. Nicely textured smoke coats the palate like a fine powder.

The Robusto has a relatively loose draw and spongy feel, but construction doesn’t suffer any ill effects. The ash holds firm for at least a full inch and the burn is straight on all three samples I smoked.

In addition to enjoyable flavors and solid construction, the price ($7.59) makes this an impressive offering. If the same cigar were made for Crowned Heads (also a La Alianza customer) would it not have earned more buzz?

No matter the answer, if this is the future of collaboration in the cigar industry, sign me up. Full, complex flavors, good construction, and a fair price earn La Gloria Cubana Colección Reserva Robusto a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Stolen Smoked Rum

12 Mar 2018

One of the more interesting, unique rums on the market is Smoked Rum from Stolen Spirits, “the world’s first smoked rum.” It is “the result of an artisanal approach fueled by the desire to reinvent the rum category.” It also doesn’t taste like any other rum you’ve had.

An 84-proof (42% alcohol by volume) 750 ml. bottle sells for about $30. Since Stolen Smoked Rum is basically in a category of its own, I figure it’s best to hear the background straight from the horse’s mouth:

“We start with a column-distilled rum from Trinidad, made from locally sourced sugar cane and molasses. The rum is then aged for up to two years in used American oak whiskey barrels. Capturing the essence of a fresh brewed cup of joe, we infuse the rum using re-fractionated Colombian Arabica coffee, wholly distilled from same-day roasted beans. The warm, roasted flavor is complemented by the creamy sweetness and velvety texture of premium Madagascan vanilla beans and Moroccan fenugreek. The rum is rounded off with notes of American hardwood, acquired through a smoking process called pyrolysis—the burning of hardwood in the absence of oxygen.”

The result is a deep copper-colored spirit with an attention-grabbing nose of charred firewood, molasses, barbecue sauce, milk chocolate, butterscotch, and candied pecans.

Once sipped neat, a smoky mesquite flavor is instantly recognizable and pretty damn dominant. When they say “smoked,” they mean it; this rum has all the subtlety of a massive bonfire. Some of the background notes remind me of barbeque chips, caramel corn, coffee, vanilla, oak, and char.

The finish is medium in length, warm, and sharply focused on the tip of the tongue. The most pronounced notes include cayenne heat, coffee, and molasses.

I would agree with those who have claimed Stolen Smoked Rum tastes more like a smoky coffee liqueur than a rum. And in that regard it’s likely a divisive, love-it-or-hate-it spirit. For me, it’s more appetizing and better-balanced when mixed with Diet Coke—as opposed to enjoying it neat. Fortunately, the affordable price point doesn’t preclude mixing.

Whatever the serving style, conventional wisdom would suggest pairing this spirit with a full-bodied smoke. But I’m going to suggest the opposite approach. In my experience, you’re better off going with a creamy, milder cigar to help offset the heavy-handed flavors of smoke, barbecue, and coffee. I had good experiences with Undercrown Shade, Pinar del Rio 1878 Cubano Especial Capa Natural, and Artisan’s Selection.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: S.T.K. Black Dahlia by George Rico Robusto

11 Mar 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.”

This Honduran-made Robusto (5 x 52) features a Nicaraguan Corojo Shade wrapper, “Habano and Nicaragua” binder, and Habano, Nicaraguan Cubita, Colombia, and Costa Rican filler tobaccos. The well-constructed cigar (very form to the touch, but with an excellent draw) features a slightly greenish-tan wrapper and retails for around $9. It creates a balanced combination of coffee, cedar, cream, and some slight pepper spice. Gran Habano’s marketing materials call this a full-bodied cigar, but I found it to be more medium. I also found it to be enjoyable.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys