Quick Smoke: E.P. Carrillo Seleccion Oscuro No. 6

28 May 2016

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.”

EPC-oscuro

E.P. Carrillo Seleccion Oscuro is the first EPC cigar utilize a San Andres Oscuro wrapper. Within the dark leathery wrapper is an Ecuadoran binder and Nicaraguan fillers. The medium-bodied smoke features dark, rich, earthy notes with powdered cocoa, bread and a tiny bit of spice. The Seleccion Oscuro was a bit more spongy than I would have expected, although it didn’t negatively impact combustion at all, noticeably cool smoke. As someone who generally isn’t the biggest fan of San Andres wrapper, it is noteworthy how much I enjoyed this cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 481

27 May 2016

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

FSG Tobacco

1) Two years ago, StogieGuys.com broke the news that, for the first time since 1977, long-filler cigar tobacco was being grown in Florida. Jeff Borysiewicz (pictured above), owner of the Orlando-area Corona Cigar stores and a partner in the Sindicato cigar company, began growing tobacco on land he had purchased—out of love of the leaf, and to avoid paying residential taxes on the land, which is outside Orlando. At the time, while we learned Drew Estate had been selected as Borysiewicz’s partner in the endeavor, it was unclear exactly how the tobacco would be used. This week we learned it will be included in a new blend from Drew Estate aptly called Florida Sun Grown (FSG). The Floridian tobacco joins Nicaraguan leaves as a component of the filler; the binder is Mexican and the wrapper Brazilian. Five vitolas—including a limited edition Trunk-Pressed Toro (6 x 54)—will retail in the $11.50-$15 range. “This has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life,” said Borysiewicz. “Tobacco growing is just as much an art as it is a science, and growing tobacco in this area of Florida was totally uncharted territory. It took a lot of trial and error to get it to where it is today, but we couldn’t be happier with the way it’s smoking.” FSG will be exclusively available at Corona Cigar starting in June.

2) On the heels of thawing relations between Washington and Havana, Cuba’s government has announced the decriminalization of small- to medium-sized private businesses. “Cuban business owners and economic experts said they were hopeful the reform would allow private firms to import wholesale supplies and export products to other countries for the first time, removing a major obstacle to private business growth,” reports ABC news. “While the government offered no immediate further details, the new business categories appear to be the next stage in reforms initiated by President Raúl Castro after he took over from his brother Fidel Castro in 2008.”

3) Inside the Industry: Paul Joyal’s Ocean State Cigars announced the addition of a box-pressed Double Robusto (5.5 x 54) to the J. Grotto Anniversary line. The cigar uses a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, a Dominican Habano binder, and undisclosed “other Central American tobaccos” for the filler. The Anniversary line is blended and manufactured by Phil Zanghi, whose Dominican operation shares factory space with the Reyes family of tobacco producers. The cigar comes in 10-count boxes and sells for $8.50.

4) From the Archives: One user error that rookie cigar smokers often commit is ashing too often. In a tip from three years ago titled “Better Ash, Better Cigar Experience,” we covered this and gave the advice that, while smoking doesn’t need to be a long ash contest, there are scientific reasons why ashing too frequently will negatively impact your enjoyment.

5) Deal of the Week: The latest iteration of the popular Tatuaje Monster Series is the Tatuaje Skinny Monsters. This ten-count sampler ($85) features each of the eight Halloween Monster blends, plus the Chuck and Tiff blends that debuted in the Pudgy Monster sampler in a “skinny” lancero (6 x 38) format.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Drew Estate

Tip: Father’s Day Gift Guide 2016

25 May 2016

Fathers Day Gifts

Father’s Day is less than a month out, and chances are you’re still looking for a gift for pops. If your father happens to enjoy his cigars (or whiskey), here are some suggestions you can have ready for dad to open on June 19th:

Cigars

Giving the gift of cigars is not as easy as it sounds. Personal preferences can be finicky and there are so many cigars to choose from. Ideally, you’re giving him a cigar he wouldn’t usually buy for himself. (Think a Padrón Anniversary or a Fuente Opus X if he usually smokes standard-issue Padróns or Fuentes, respectively.) For more ideas, read our Guide to Giving the Gift of Cigars. One specific suggestion always worth considering is a Cigar Rights of America (CRA) sampler, which includes ten high-end cigars plus a free membership in CRA.

Cigar Accessories

Every cigar enthusiast needs a great table lighter, travel lighter, cutter, ashtray, travel case, humidor, etc. Instead of buying cigars, think about giving the gift of a cigar accessory that can last a lifetime. Many regular cigar smokers I know won’t spring for a nice case or lighter, so it makes the perfect gift. Lately, I’ve really been appreciating this Lotus triple-flame lighter and my Stingray Skin Tampa Fuego case.

Whiskey

There are lots of good bourbons being made these days, but some old standbys are becoming harder and harder to find. Sure, who wouldn’t want a bottle of Pappy as a gift? But the increasingly exorbitant prices you’d pay ($1,000+ for a 20 Year Pappy) make it hard to justify. One good bourbon you can still find with relative ease is the nine-year-old Knob Creek Small Batch (~$32). Full of caramel, oak, and a little spice, it is a bourbon novices and connoisseurs alike can enjoy. For rye fans, the new Pikesville Six Year Rye is a full 110-proof flavor bomb. Any single malt fan would appreciate Glendronach 15 which, although it has been discontinued, can still be found and is the closest thing to Macallan 18 available for under $100.

A Good Book

A good book is always appreciated. If you are looking for a specific recommendation, you could do worse than The Cigar: Moments of Pleasure, an informative and visually appealing coffee table book. In his recent review of the book, my colleague wrote: “Spectacular. That is the only word I can think of to adequately describe this large-format, colorful book that explores every imaginable facet of cigars.”

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Quesada Selección España Beli-Lance (Casa de Montecristo Exclusive)

23 May 2016

Quesada 1

A little over a year ago, it was announced Casa de Montecristo (CDM)—a successful three-location tobacconist in Chicago—would be receiving two exclusive sizes of Quesada’s Selección España blend. These vitolas joined eight other Selección España frontmarks, some of which are regular production, others limited to as few as 600 total cigars.

Quesada 2The two CDM sizes are Fabulosos (7 x 54, $12) and the subject of today’s review, a cross between a belicoso and a lancero called Beli-Lance (7 x 40, $12). CDM received 3,000 of each size from Quesada. Each comes complete with an Ecuadorian Arapiraca wrapper, a Dominican Broadleaf binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

“The Spanish Market has always been dominated by Cuban cigars, but lately high unemployment and the high cost of Cuban cigars has driven the Spanish to search out alternatives,” reads an un-dated explanation on the Quesada website about the origins of the blend’s name, which was likely written around 2010. “To address this new demand, the Quesada family brought Spanish tobacconists to the Dominican Republic to work a cigar exclusively for Spain, and after a week of blending the Quesada España was born.”

Clearly, Selección España is not exclusive to Spain. Quesada’s retailers in the U.S. got a hold of some samples when the cigar was being introduced in 2010, liked them, and ultimately got approval to bring the blend to the American market.

The Beli-Lance from CDM sports a lancero frame topped by a sharply pointed cap. The cap clips uneventfully to yield a clear cold draw, which is somewhat surprising given the thin ring gauge and firm feel. The unique wrapper (Arapiraca is typically grown in Brazil, not Ecuador) is moderately textured and reddish with a few large veins and tight seams.

Once lit, pre-light notes of molasses and hay transition to a woody, meaty profile with hints of oak, char, peppery spice, clove, and leather. The body is medium and the smoke texture is thick and chewy. After a quarter-inch, the spice increases, but traces of sweet cream and roasted nuts fade in and out for some balance. At times, the resting smoke is incredibly aromatic and mouth-watering.

As the Beli-Lance progresses, the draw tends to tighten and the flavors take a turn towards a bitter, somewhat stale, version of their former selves. From the midway point on, I find myself in a struggle to keep the cigar lit while preventing the taste from becoming too hot or too harsh as the foot heats up from my frequent puffs and touch-ups. I was rarely able to regain the pleasant, balanced profile that characterized the beginning.

Notwithstanding the high regard in which many hold Quesada Selección España, I did not have a satisfactory experience with the Beli-Lance, a size I thought I was destined to thoroughly enjoy. All things considered, this cigar earns a disappointing rating of two stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Curivari Buena Ventura BV 500

22 May 2016

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.”

I’ve long touted Curivari Buenaventura as an excellent cigar for the value. The Nicaraguan puro’s understated, classic appearance fits the sub-$5 price tag, but don’t mistake that as an accurate proxy for quality. Excellent construction aids  the delivery of a balanced combination of medium-bodied flavors: cocoa, espresso, cedar, oak, and earth. This reasonably priced gem is a little hard to find but well worth seeking out.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Palina Red Label Toro

21 May 2016

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.”

Red Label Toro

As a longtime fan of La Palina, I was looking forward to trying the Red Label, a line introduced in 2015. I knew it was a lighter complement to the fuller-strength Black Label. It wasn’t the lack of strength that made the biggest impression, though. It was the lack of flavor. For the Toro’s full six inches, about the only thing I experienced was an overwhelming hot, dry, grassy rawness. The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Ecuadorian binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler blend just didn’t suit my palate. Construction, burn, and draw were fine. Overall, however, I found the Red Label to be more of a red flag.

Verdict = Sell.

George E

photo credit: La Palina

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 480

20 May 2016

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

Bianco Boxer

1) The Bianco Boxer is coming to Omar de Frais’ Fratello Cigars. The cigar will start with a soft launch at ten retailers, then roll out nationally in conjunction with the IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas this summer. It will retail for $10 and be offered in a single box-pressed, torpedo-shaped format (6.25 x 52). “Similar to the Fratello Boxer, we modified the filler blend in the Bianco Boxer to highlight a different flavor profile from its Father, the Fratello Bianco,” said de Frias. “One of our goals with The Boxer line is to show our consumers how modifying the ratio of filler tobacco can change the profile in a cigar.” The Bianco Boxer will feature a San Andrés Negro wrapper, Dominican binder, and filler tobaccos from Pennsylvania, Nicaragua, and Peru.

2) Fred Rewey’s Nomad Cigar Co. has released the SA-17, a sister blend to the C-276. It is the seventh full-production Nomad cigar from Tobacalera A.J. Fernandez in Estelí. “I love working with tobacco at A.J. Fernandez’s factory,” said Rewey. “Ask anyone around, he has amassed some of the best-aged, most diverse, quality tobacco. For me, blending is a creative process. It is nice to have that home in Estelí to blend and experiment.” The SA-17 comes complete with a San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Prices on the four vitolas—Robusto (5 x 50), Coronita (5.5 x 46), Toro (6 x 50), and Shorty (4 x 56)—range from $8.50 to $9.75.

3) Inside the Industry: Davidoff is adding a second blend to its successful AVO Syncro brand, which was released last year. The AVO Syncro Fogota will ship next month. The four-size line (MSRP $8.90-$11.90) sports an Ecuadorian Habano 2000 Clara wrapper, San Andrés binder, and fillers tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

4) From the Archives: In light of the recently announced FDA regulations cracking down on cigars, readers might want to revisit a 2010 interview we conducted with Ted King, author of The War on Smokers and the Rise of the Nanny State, which economist and syndicated columnist Walter E. Williams described as “not only a story about the attack on tobacco users, but a story about how decent Americans can be frightened, perhaps duped, into accepting phony science, attacks on private property rights, and rule of law. One need not be a smoker to be alarmed by the underlying hideousness of the anti-tobacco movement.”

5) Deal of the Week: Kiss My Ash Radio and Smoke Inn have unveiled a line of anti-FDA T-shirts so cigar smokers can wear their displeasure with the FDA’s oppressive regulations. The shirts sell for just $12.50 each. Proceeds benefit Cigar Rights of America’s efforts to defend cigar freedom.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Fratello Cigars