Cigar Review: El Galan Dona Nieves Negra Macha

18 Oct 2017

Cuban cigarmaker Felix Mesa created El Galan cigars in 2010 and makes the half dozen El Galan blends in his factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. In an interview last year he explained why he left Cuba and started his own cigar company:

“I am Cuban, 41 years old, son and grandson of the third generation of a humble peasant family from the former province of Las Villas, today called Spiritus Santis in the Cabaiguan town where I was born and grew up in a field called the Purial which is a tobacco region in Cuba. I left Cuba with a dream which could not realize there for the reasons that many know; there you can’t do registration marks, much less sell tobacco and to be able to pay tribute to a family who deserved it as many others to achieve experiences and wisdom in this beautiful tobacco industry.”

El Galan’s Dona Nieves cigar is named after Mesa’s grandmother, who worked in Cuban tobacco fields until she was 86 years old, and clearly remains a strong influence on Mesa. Even the three vitolas – including the box-pressed 5 1/2 inch by 54 ring gauge “Negra Macha” I smoked – are all nicknames for Mesa’s grandma.

The cigar uses an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, around Nicaraguan binder and filler. The cigar isn’t easy to find, but you should be able to find it online for around $6.

The cigar features intense pre-light aromas, including barnyard with light fruit. The cigar is densly packed with a light box-press and a light brown slightly splotchy wrapper.

Once lit, the Dona Nieves produces a complex array of flavors that include: burnt toast, shortbread, cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper and cafe-au-lait. It’s full-flavored and medium-bodied cigar. Construction was excellent with fine construction and a sturdy ash despite a slightly wobbly burn line.

If I’m being honest, I picked up these cigars on a complete whim just because a Nicaraguan-heavy, Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped cigar made by someone Cuban tobacco man sounds a lot like some other cigars I’ve liked over the years (think: early Don Pepin and AJ Fernandez). I’m glad I did.

This is a flavorful, complex, well-made, balanced smoke at a very fair price. If you’re looking for something new to try, check out the El Galan Dona Nieves Negra Macha (since you probably haven’t smoked it yet). It was a pleasant surprise for me and earns four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Black Petit Lancero

16 Oct 2017

In 2010, a Minneapolis-area cigar shop called Tobacco Grove introduced a store-exclusive Tatuaje Black in a Petit Lancero (6 x 38) format. Only 200 boxes of 25 were made for a total production run of 5,000. They sold out almost instantly.

Later, Pete Johnson turned the vitola into a regular release. The only difference between the two cigars—aside from the production numbers, of course—is the Tobacco Grove Petit Lancero had a pigtail cap and a closed foot.

For those unfamiliar with Tatuaje Black, the line was launched in 2007 in a Corona Gorda size that came in ceramic jars. Known as Johnson’s personal blend, some consider this cigar to be one of the best ever made.

But all cigars change over time due to uncontrollable variables. And Don José “Pepin” Garcia-made cigars, including Tatuaje Black, have also changed slightly due to the lawsuit and falling out between Pepin and his former partner Eduardo Fernandez, owner of Aganorsa S.A. and partner in El Rey de Los Habanos. (Blends had to be tweaked when access to Aganorsa tobacco stopped.)

That hasn’t stopped Tatuaje, or Pepin (who makes Tatuaje for Johnson), from putting out excellent cigars. Nor has it prevented the Tatuaje Black from being reissued and expanded. Of all the different Tatuaje formats over the years, though, the Petit Lancero is one of the best.

This wonderful cigar is a mottled, slightly reddish Nicaraguan puro that’s not without its fair share of veins. It is moderately spongy in firmness. The wrinkled, textured wrapper leaf is incredibly oily; it’s almost velvety. The cold draw is smooth. At the foot, pre-light notes include cocoa and molasses.

At the outset, the spice-forward flavor is medium-bodied with well-balanced notes of oak, cinnamon, chocolate, and white pepper. The texture is thick and leathery. After half an inch, the spice recedes a notch to make way for a little sweet cream. The retrohale is occasionally characterized by a flourish of roasted nuts.

At the midway point, the Petit Lancero calms considerably in terms of both body and spice. Then, in the final third, there is a reprise of strength and spice, along with peanut, dark chocolate, and dry cedar. All the while, the construction is excellent. Expect a straight burn line, easy draw, solid white ash, and good smoke production.

It’s hardly a surprise to me that I really like this Tatuaje Black. I love the size—it’s enough to be satisfying without overstaying its welcome, and the narrow ring gauge helps to concentrate the flavors—plus most Johnson/Pepin creations tend to resonate well on my palate (I’m not the only one). This classic-tasting, medium-bodied cigar scores very well due to its ample complexity and harmonious balance. I rate it four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: El Rey del Mundo Maduro Robusto

15 Oct 2017

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.”

El Rey del Mundo is a famous Cuban brand with an often overlooked non-Cuban counterpart. This non-Cuban version was made at the Villazon factory in Honduras for many years, but apparently is now made at STG/General Cigar’s Danlí factory. Made with a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and Honduran binder and filler, the five-inch Robusto has a thick ring gauge of 54. The cigar features black coffee, roasted nuts, sour bread, and cedar. Not overly complex but well-constructed, it’s a good value at around $6.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Cohiba Nicaragua N50

14 Oct 2017

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 robusto-sized (5 x 50) smoke had been resting in one of my humidors for about three years. I enjoyed Cohiba Nicaragua back when it was introduced in 2014. Now, with some age, I find the cigar is considerably better balanced, smoother, and more enjoyable. The earthy core of leather, spice, and coffee is now offset by more pronounced flavors of cream, toffee, and peanut. Expect to pay around $12-13 for this cigar, which features a Honduran Colorado oscuro wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It’s not cheap, but it’s a winner—especially if you can practice some patience.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Jose Oliva in Line to Become Florida House Speaker, BLTC Releases Santa Muerte, and More

13 Oct 2017

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 551st in the series.

1) If Republicans retain control of the Florida House in the 2018 elections, as expected, the next speaker will be Jose Oliva of Oliva Cigars. “The 44-year-old Oliva first came to office in a special, off-year election in 2011 to replace Rep. Steve Bovo (R-Hialeah),” reports the Tampa Bay Times. “He focused quickly on becoming speaker-designate for 2018…” Oliva’s website describes him as a “conservative and ethical leader,” and a “lifelong Republican who possesses a commitment to public service and community involvement.”

2) Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) is launching the second annual release of Santa Muerte today. “Our limited releases tend to be full-bodied with a maduro wrapper, but this one is a medium-bodied cigar with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper,” says BLTC creator James Brown. “It features six filler tobaccos which create a very unique and rich flavor profile. You experience layer upon layer of coffee, malt, spice, and cocoa.” There are two vitolas: Corona Gorda (5.5 x 48, $10) and Short Robusto (4.75 x 52, $10).

3) Basketball all-time great Michael Jordan is known for enjoying cigars, which is why he is set to appear on the cover of an upcoming 25th anniversary issue of Cigar Aficionado. According to Sports Illustrated, in the interview Jordan says these days he “smokes six cigars a day,” a number that happens to equal the number of NBA Championships he won.

4) Inside the Industry: The FDA released additional guidance (PDF here) this week about the prohibition on free samples that was included in the final deeming rule. The document clarifies that while free samples to consumers are prohibited, discounts, coupons, or other offers are legal if there is a cash transaction when the tobacco product is received by the consumer. The document also reiterates that business-to-business free samples are not prohibited as long as they are not in quantities more than is “necessary to achieve a business or market goal.”

5) From the Archives: We’ve reviewed over 1,000 cigars (a number that doesn’t include over 1,000 Quick Smokes), and only a small percentage earned our highest rating. If you browse our archive of five stogie-rated cigars, you’ll probably see some names you might expect. But there are also many that are under-the-radar, plus quite a few that are no longer made or have undergone significant changes.

6) Deal of the Week: One of the most useful cigar accessories any cigar smoker can own is a travel case that will protect your cigars and keep them humidified for a few hours or a few weeks. Buy a five-count for the golf course or an overnight trip, or the larger 15-count size for a more extended trip.

The Stogie Guys

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Commentary: It’s Hard to Break the Rules When There Aren’t Any

11 Oct 2017

One of the great things about smoking cigars is that there are virtually no rules.

Consider for a moment one of the most-asked, most-discussed questions on cigar forums: Cello on or off?

The simple answer: Who cares?

Sure, there are some axioms. Like: Dispose of ashes and butts when you’re finished smoking unless you like the early morning aroma of a 1950s barroom. Or: Don’t bring your own cigars to smoke at a B&M unless you want to display a lack of class and reflect poorly on your upbringing.

But these tend to be more common sense than dictum.

Generally, cigar smoking is an individual activity with each of us free to pursue it as we see fit. Some build vast collections with rare and aged releases, while others simply appreciate an occasional Macanudo. Some are passionate devotees who take trips to fields and factories in their quest for cigar knowledge. Others, though, have little interest beyond lighting up and relaxing.

This lack of rules is, I think, one of the major reasons cigar smoking is a generally egalitarian pastime, attracting participants from nearly every social strata.

This was all sorely stressed during the cigar boom of the mid-1990s when poseurs and affected smokers overran the marketplace. Fortunately, that bubble deflated, taking the air out of those who tried to inject snobbery into the cigar world.

Yes, I know there are still cigar snobs and cigar shops where you’re made to feel a lesser species if you pick up a stick for under $20. Fortunately, though, that’s much the minority among cigar smokers.

And at least part of that seems to be because it’s not nearly as easy to belittle someone or pump up yourself when there are no rules that can be held against those who don’t follow them or are simply unaware they exist.

For me, there’s really only one cigar rule: Enjoy yourself.

George E

photo credit: Creative Commons

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Elencos Don Rubino

9 Oct 2017

Back in 2011, about two years after Ernesto Perez-Carrillo ended his nine-year tenure with General Cigar to establish his own family-operated boutique, he introduced the Elencos Series. This three-vitola line had the same blend as the E.P. Carrillo Edición Limitada 2010, and its production was likewise limited by the availability of the requisite tobaccos.

E.P. Carrillo re-released Elencos at the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show, this time as a regular production line in the company’s Elite series. The blend consists of a Brazilian wrapper, a Dominican binder, and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. (Of note: You may see the binder listed as Ecuadorian elsewhere; this is an error, as confirmed via phone Lissette Perez-Carrillo, Ernesto’s daughter.)

Elencos is Spanish for “cast,” as in the cast of a theatrical production. It is offered in the same three formats as it was in 2011 with prices in the $8.25-9.25 range: Don Rubino (5.25 x 50), Elites (6 x 54), and a figurado called Acto Mayor (6.25 x 52). The first shipments of the line are expected to start arriving at retailers later this month.

As you may have noticed from my pictures, the attractive, intricate band of silver, black, and red says “Elenco,” not “Elencos.” Lissette Perez-Carrillo confirms the name of the line remains “Elencos” and that the bands and boxes are being corrected as such.

I smoked several Don Rubinos for this review. This robusto-sized smoke has a dark, oily wrapper that’s devoid of any large veins or imperfections. It is firm to the touch, yet the cold draw is clear. The pre-light notes are rich and reminiscent of molasses and nougat.

After an even light is established, the profile is incredibly full-bodied right from the get-go. The bold, spicy flavors include espresso, black pepper, cayenne heat, and dark cherry. The texture is thick and syrupy. Then, about a half inch in, the strength pulls back a bit and additional notes of sweet cream and roasted nuts help add balance. Towards the midway point and beyond, the cigar mellows further. It’s still medium- to full-bodied, mind you, but the flavor is more balanced and harmonious, and a thick, syrupy sweetness combines with the roasted nuts to help offset some of the heavy-handed pepper and espresso.

The construction is flawless. The gray ash holds well, the burn line is straight, and the smoke production is excellent.

The Elencos Don Rubino from E.P. Carrillo packs a ton of bold flavor and Nicaraguan strength for just north of $8. I recommend seeking it out, especially if you crave a rather intense experience. In my book, it earns a very solid rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys