Quick Smoke: Protocol Themis Corona Gorda

18 Aug 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 corona gorda size of the Cubariqueño Cigar Company’s Protocal Themis blend was formerly exclusive to Pennsylvania-based Famous Smoke Shop but earlier this year it became a regular vitola in the line offered to all retailers. Made at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona cigar factory, the cigar’s shiny golden Ecuadorian wrapper surrounds Nicaraguan binder and filler. Ideal combustion qualities reveal a medium-bodied combination of light roast coffee, hay, cream and nutmeg, backed up with a sneaky green and red pepper spice on the finish. Judging from the one I had this is a versatile cigar that could be enjoyed in the morning with a coffee, after dinner with a whiskey, or anytime in between.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Avo Unexpected Passion

16 Aug 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 an Avo fan, I was excited by news of a limited-production line called Unexpected with four blends. There’s little info on the tobaccos used in the four, other than one note per offering. For Passion (6 x 50, $10.50) it’s that one of the leaves is 25 years old. Whatever the composition, Passion nails that trademark Davidoff grassy, mushroom-y profile from start to finish. There are other flavors along the way, like a little pepper and a bit of sweetness. But they play second fiddle. Overall, I found this cigar to be just a little too much of the same thing. I’m interested in trying the other three Unexpected blends, though.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Avo

Cigar Review: Espinosa Alpha Dawg Short Churchill

14 Aug 2019

Even without the name and the black-and-white sketch of cigar maker Erik Espinosa on the box top, this cigar would stand out. The Habano Rosado wrapper is nearly flawless and has a nut-like pre-light aroma.

The profile begins with pepper, befitting the Nicaraguan binder and filler. Performance is excellent: solid burn, tight ash, lots of smoke, and a good draw. It does, however, burn a little fast.

There are quite a few changes along the way. The pepper recedes a bit after the start, giving way to woodsy notes and spice. Other flavors include a honey sweetness, espresso, and leather. Strength is generally in the upper range of medium, tending to increase somewhat as the cigar burns down.

I’ve smoked a box of the Short Churchills and found them very consistent from cigar to cigar.

Alpha Dawg comes in three sizes, all packaged in boxes of 10. The Short Churchills (6 x 48) list for $8.75 each. The two other sizes are a Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46) and Robusto (5 x 50).

The cigar began life as an event-only stick, chosen by attendees from three blends presented a few years ago at an event celebrating cigars from Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. According to Espinosa, demand pushed it into regular production.

I’ve gone on record before about silly cigar names. And I’d have to put Alpha Dawg into that category, though I probably should add an asterisk.

I can’t say I know Espinosa, but I have met and talked with him several times, and he’s an interesting, larger-than-life sort of guy. It’s that personality that makes me believe the name and presentation overall comes with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

The Alpha Dawg is an interesting, satisfying smoke, especially for those who like Nicaraguan tobacco and appreciate subtlety. I recommend the cigar and give it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Charter Oak Maduro Toro

12 Aug 2019

Last month I reviewed the Charter Oak CT Shade, Nicholas Melillo’s attempt at an affordably priced cigar for any time of day. I found it to have a pleasant, straightforward, mild- to medium-bodied profile of cream, white pepper, peanut, and café au lait. The “unchanging, unpretentious” taste, however, tends to overstay its welcome, especially in the large Grande (6 x 60) format. So I settled on an OK score of three stogies out of five and decided I needed to try some of the other sizes.

Before I do that, though, today I am reviewing the Maduro version of Charter Oak. Like the CT Shade, it honors Melillo’s home state of Connecticut. It is named for The Charter Oak, an “unusually large white oak tree growing on Wyllys Hyll in Hartford, Connecticut… from around the 12th or 13th century until it fell during a storm in 1856,” reads a Wikipedia article. “According to tradition, Connecticut’s Royal Charter of 1662 was hidden within the hollow of the tree to thwart its confiscation by the English governor-general. The oak became a symbol of American independence and is commemorated on the Connecticut State Quarter.”

The Foundation Cigar Co. website provides more color: “Charter Oak cigars hail from the same fertile valley in Connecticut that native son and master blender… Nick Melillo was born and raised. [They] feature some of the most prized and sought-after Cuban-seed leaf varieties from the exquisite Estelí and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua.”

The filler may be Nicaraguan, and the binder Habano, but the centerpiece of the blend—the wrapper—is a dark, mottled Connecticut Broadleaf (Charter Oak CT Shade, as you might have guessed, has a golden Connecticut Shade wrapper; it swaps the Habano binder for Sumatra). Five Maduro sizes are available, all made at Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua: Toro (6 x 52), Grande (6 x 60), Lonsdale (6.25 x 46), Petit Corona (4.25 x 42), and Rothschild (4.25 x 50).

The Toro retails for $5.50, which makes it wonderfully affordable. From looks alone, though, you wouldn’t guess this is a value-oriented smoke. The closed foot, seamless wrapper, and handsome cap suggest a higher price point. One exception is the band; while attractive in color and design, it has no raised lettering and a minimalist approach.

After toasting the closed foot and establishing an even burn, pre-light notes of cocoa powder transition to a taste of earth, leather, black coffee, and warm tobacco. The draw is open, and there’s ample black pepper spice on the finish. The texture is gritty and dry. There’s a cherry-like sweetness on the retrohale.

That sweetness comes and goes as the Toro winds its way down, but the other core flavors remain consistent from light to nub. All the while the construction does just fine. The burn isn’t perfect, but it also doesn’t require any touch-ups to stay even. The ash holds pretty well. The draw is smooth. And the smoke production is solid.

Whereas I grew tried of the CT Shade Grande due to the combined effect of an unwavering, simplistic taste and large, thick format, the Maduro Toro is more interesting and more appropriately sized. For the money, it’s a rather nice value. I’d absolutely keep a stash of these on hand for the golf course or a barbecue. That’s ultimately why I’m settling on a score of 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: Avo Limited Edition 2013 The Dominant 13th

11 Aug 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 came across this cigar recently at a local shop and immediately picked it up. While I couldn’t recall details, I did remember thoroughly enjoying one shortly after its release about six years ago. Age has done nothing but improve the Dominant 13th. The beautiful Ecuadorian Habano 2000 wrapper covers a Dominican binder and a variety of Dominican filler leaves and tobacco from Peru. The complex, toro-sized (6 x 52) blend may have lost a bit of strength, but it’s incredibly smooth. Flavors, ranging from black pepper to a subtle sweetness, are balanced and enticing. If you spot a Dominant 13th, don’t hesitate to light up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Davidoff of Geneva

Quick Smoke: Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger

9 Aug 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 stellar creation from RoMa Craft Tobac pairs excellently with a serving of wheated bourbon, a comfortable chair on a summer porch, and a Cubs game on the radio. That was my setup last night, anyways, and it couldn’t have worked out better. As the Cubs pelted the Reds for 12 runs and solidified their lead in the NL Central, I devoured this rustic, toothy, oily cigar that’s stubby in format (4 x 52) and affordable in price (less than $7). You might recall that Aquitaine has the same filler blend (Estelí, Condega, and Pueblo Nuevo) and binder (Cameroon) as CroMagnon. But instead of featuring a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper, Aquitaine has an Ecuadorian Habano Ligero wrapper. That blend results in a rich, leathery smoke with notes of espresso, white pepper, balanced sweetness, and cashew. Construction is stellar. All this renders the Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger an easy cigar to recommend.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Aganorsa Leaf JFR Lunatic Habano Short Robusto

7 Aug 2019

I was recently smoking a JFR Lunatic Short Robusto and trying to explain the name to someone not familiar with it. Turns out it’s not an easy task; not much about it makes sense.

JFR stands for “Just for Retailers” (brick-and-mortar only). But while that was once true, the line is now sold online and in catalogs. “Lunatic” refers to the absurdly large ring gauge sizes (two 60s, one 70, and one 80), but that doesn’t apply to the more traditionally proportioned Short Robusto.

Even “Short Robusto” is a misnomer as the cigar is 4.75 inches long with a ring gauge of 52, a size far more often designated as just “robusto.” (The Aganorsa site says it is 4.25 inches, but my trusty tape measure confirms it is a half inch longer.) Of course, none of that really matters when it comes to whether or not the cigar is worth smoking.

Weighing in favorably on that side is a value-oriented sub $6 price. Made by Aganorsa Leaf (which, up until a spring 2018 re-brand, had been known as Casa Fernandez) at their TABSA factory in Estelí, the cigar features a Nicaraguan Aganorsa binder and filler wrapped in a rustic Ecuadorian habano leaf.

The cigar starts out with a burst of toast and sweetness as you burn through the closed foot. It soon settles into a medium- to full-bodied profile with notes of roast cashews, honey, light oak, cream, and a slightly metallic note on the finish.

While there isn’t much variation after the first few minutes, the consistent notes still comprise a pleasant combination of flavors with plenty of sweetness until the final third. Construction is also impressive with an easy draw and sturdy ash, although one of my three specimens required multiple touch-ups to correct the burn.

It isn’t hard to see why this cigar has garnered favorable reviews, including being featured at number eight on Cigar Aficionado‘s Top 25 list for 2018. The simple fact is, good cigars that cost closer to a Lincoln than a Hamilton are hard to find, even if it isn’t the best offering in the Aganorsa Leaf/Casa Fernandez portfolio.

While value is always appreciated, we don’t factor price into our full reviews. (Everyone’s sensitivity to price is personal, so we let you factor that in yourself.) Still, solid construction and pleasant flavors earn the Aganorsa Leaf JFR Lunatic Habano Short Robusto a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys