Cigar Review: Cornelius & Anthony Meridian Robusto

22 Mar 2017

MerdianWhile you may have encountered the Cornelius & Anthony Meridian in the past, don’t confuse it with this cigar. That’s because the company scrapped the original iteration that debuted in 2015 and replaced it with something new while keeping the name.

That something is a medium-strength smoke with an Ecuadorian wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and filler tobaccos from both Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. They’re rolled at Erik Espinoza’s La Zona Factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

For this review, I smoked the Robusto, a 5-inch stick with a ring gauge of 52 and a $9.25 MSRP. The line also features a Gordo (6 x 60), Toro (6 x 50), and Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46). All come in 20-count boxes illustrated in the bygone art style that’s become something of a Cornelius & Anthony trademark. Another familiar touch is the use of a secondary band with the cigar’s name.

The Meridian starts with quite a bit of power that tapers off after about a half-inch, maintaining a medium strength level for the remainder of the experience. The finish is pleasing and lingers a little before dissipating.

My first taste impression is of rich wood mixed with a little tobacco sweetness. A pleasant combination. As the strength wanes as a moderate spice enters the mix. From start to finish, the flavors weave in and out of each other, making for an interesting journey.

Combustion performance was excellent in all of those I sampled. Lots of smoke, straight burn, and an excellent draw.

I’ve enjoyed quite a few Cornelius & Anthony cigars, and the new Meridian is no exception. It’s a cigar I think will appeal to almost all smokers regardless of their level of experience. I rate the Cornelius & Anthony Meridian Robusto four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Commentary: Take Time to Smoke, Take Time While Smoking

20 Mar 2017

Cigar Watch Time

It’s incredibly cliché but, let’s face it, there just aren’t enough hours in a day—especially if you’re a cigar enthusiast. Between work, commutes, kids, errands, three square meals, taxes, and all the other responsibilities us grown-ups shoulder, how exactly is a human supposed to set aside an hour (more reasonably, 90 minutes) to enjoy some premium tobacco?

The older I get, the harder it gets to find the time. Not only do the days, weeks, months, and years seem to get shorter, but there’s just so much more going on in my life. My job is more demanding. I travel more frequently. And, most importantly, I’m now responsible for the upbringing of two small people I helped make. I would imagine many of you can relate to this (albeit blessed) conundrum.

But we must find the time. We must smoke cigars, even if it means waking up 90 minutes earlier and/or staying up 90 minutes later. We must overcome obstacles like temperature, smoking bans, and—the hardest hurdle of all—the finite number of minutes in each day.

I need my regularly scheduled cigar. Not because I’m addicted to the leaf (unlike cigarettes, I don’t know one cigar smoker who has a physiological dependency on cigars), but because I need to unwind. I need some quiet moments when I can kick my feet up and relish in the aromas, flavors, sights, and sounds of an impeccably made cigar.

I notice many people choose to pair up cigar smoking with another activity, be it golf, driving, walking, or whatever. Some are probably just trying to cram a cigar or two into their busy schedules; others might proactively prefer to not make the cigar the centerpiece of any given experience. Personally, I’ve always found the best way to get the most out of a cigar is to put the rest of the world on hold and just sit down and smoke. Finding the time to do so is the tricky part.

Speaking of time, be sure to take your time while you smoke. Smoke slowly. Cigar enjoyment is not a race, and there’s no prize for finishing first.

Besides, in order to “cook” the tobacco at the right temperature, you should try to limit your puffs to a reasonable pace. When you puff you’re caramelizing the sugars in the tobacco to bring out the flavors. If you puff too often, the temperature will rise, the tobacco will cook too fast, and the smoke may get hot and harsh.

I find this is especially true with full-bodied smokes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone sucking down a ligero-laden cigar like it’s going out of style. I can’t imagine that’s enjoyable. Most things, cigar smoking included, aren’t nearly as pleasant if rushed.

My advice? Carve out some time to smoke a fine cigar and, when you do, make the most of the experience by taking your time.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Curivari Buenaventura Picadores P 52

19 Mar 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.”

curivari-buenaventura-picador - 1 (1)

When I’m asked about cigars that provide bang for the buck, I frequently cite Buenaventura by Curivari, a Nicaraguan puro that can be picked up for around $40 for a box of 10. That approachable price would seem to make the blend an unlikely candidate for a mixed-filler version, but here it is: Buenaventura Picadores, featuring the same blend and selling for $30 or less a box. The flavors are similar to the original long-filler version: medium-bodied with coffee, woody spice, and light earth. There are some indications of the use of picadura (scrap cuttings) tobaccos in the construction, including lumpiness under the wrapper, a flaky ash, a wavy burn line, and a little bit of loose tobacco after clipping the head. Given the reasonably-priced original version, I’d probably save the Picadores version for the golf course or mowing the lawn (if I had one). But its hard to argue with the solid flavors this cigar produces for the price.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: A.J. Fernandez Mayimbe Robusto

18 Mar 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.”

Mayimbe

This Mayimbe Robusto had been resting in one of my humidors for about three years before I fired it up the other night. It’s the same vitola my colleague reviewed in 2014 and I later took for a test drive in 2015. It was impressive then, and I think it’s even better today. This Nicaraguan is from A.J. Fernandez—a fixture of the industry who rode a wave of catalog/online sales to cigar stardom. It originally ran about $14 but today can be found in the $10 to $12 range, perhaps less, especially if bought by the box of 10. That makes the Mayimbe Robusto (5 x 56) an easy recommendation. It sports exquisite construction with notes ranging from coffee and cayenne to cinnamon and dry wood. Age has added delightful flavors of sweet cream and roasted nuts. The satisfying, complex profile is the product of a blend that includes a Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper around tobaccos from Nicaragua and Honduras. Reacquaint yourself with Mayimbe if, like me, you haven’t had one in a while.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Mayor Implores OMB to Reconsider FDA Regs, Ybor City, Cuban Embargo, and More

17 Mar 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 522nd in the series.

Mayor Regalado

1) Tomás Regalado (pictured above), mayor of Miami, this week sent a letter to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, imploring the agency to reconsider FDA regulation of cigars in light of “the new administration and its own regulatory review and reconsideration process.” An email alert from Cigar Rights of America applauds Mayor Regalado for the letter, which calls for a comprehensive economic impact analysis, as well as a reexamination of “option two,” which would exempt premium cigars from the regulation. The letter can be read in its entirety here. Some interesting statistics found in the letter include the following: Florida is headquarters of over 40 corporations in the premium cigar industry; Florida is home to at least 232 small businesses reliant upon the premium cigar industry; and Miami considers itself the base of operations for the industry, with services ranging from shipping, trucking, bonded storage, etc.

2) The Washington Post asks: What does the future hold for historic Ybor City’s cigar culture? “Yet even with all cigar connoisseurship happening up and down Seventh Avenue, it was hard to ignore that Ybor City—a National Historic Landmark District—had seen better days. In the early 20th century, Tampa had been the undisputed cigar capital of the world, outproducing even Havana. In its heyday, the city had more than 150 factories, employing about 10,000 workers, and rolling more than 500 million cigars each year. Now, beyond the small storefront producers still rolling premium handmade cigars, only one large cigar factory remains.”

3) In last month’s “Question of the Month” (which admittedly ran significantly longer than a month), we asked readers to select the answer that best describes their position on the U.S. embargo of Cuba. “The embargo was right when it was enacted, but now is the time to end it” was the top answer with 36% of the vote. It was followed by “the embargo should be phased out, but only if Cuba meets tangible benchmarks towards freedom and democracy” (30%); “the embargo never should have been enacted” (19%); and “the embargo should be kept in place until Cuba adopts full freedom and democracy” (15%). Be sure to weigh in on this month’s question by voting in the sidebar to the right. And feel free to contact us if you’ve got a good suggestion for a future StogieGuys.com reader poll.

4) Inside the Industry: Steve Saka reported on Facebook on Tuesday that he received the first shipment of Umbagog, a paper-bundled cigar with a Broadleaf wrapper deemed too “ugly” to be used for his more premium Mi Querida line. The sizes being shipped are Corona Gorda (6 x 48, $6.45), Robusto Plus (5 x 52, $6.45), Toro Toro (6 x 52, $6.95), and Gordo Gordo (6 x 56, $7.45). “For us, [Umbagog is] not a profit center, but a cash recovery product to make efficient use of the Broadleaf,” wrote Saka. “In my perfect world, all of the wrapper coming out of my pilons would be perfect and none of these would exist.” Umbagog will be appearing at about 35 retailers nationwide; a preliminary list of retailers can be found here.

5) From the Archives: This was our most-read article last year: our groundbreaking piece about how the FDA misleads the public it is supposed to serve, especially when it comes to handmade cigars and youth smoking.

6) Deal of the Week: The cigars are a mystery, but you do get a lot of them. They’re all name brands, not house brands or no-name bundles, and they come for less than $3 per cigar. These Grab Bags tend to sell out fast, so if you need to fill up your humidor on the cheap, act quickly.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Miami Herald

Cigar News: Cigar Trade Groups Back Trump’s Pick to Head FDA

15 Mar 2017

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On Friday, numerous news reports indicated President Trump intends to nominate Scott Gottlieb to head the FDA. Gottlieb, a doctor, worked at the FDA during President George W. Bush’s administration in deputy roles and is a fellow with the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Since the FDA was granted authority to regulate tobacco in 2009, and in 2014 moved to exercise its authority to regulate cigars, the position of FDA commissioner has taken increasing importance to the handmade cigar industry. Opponents of Gottlieb are expected to highlight his ties to the the pharmaceutical industry, though his criticisms of the FDA’s oversight of tobacco are also likely to become an issue during his confirmation hearings.

Gottlieb has been critical of the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco products. In a Forbes.com article, he wrote the following regarding the “faustian” bargain behind FDA cigar regulation:

It always seemed a naïve aspiration—that FDA would ever sanction such products—and even more uncertain that the anti-tobacco crowd would let this paradigm advance. Now, each side’s ambitions (and the law’s spirit) are being tested.

The tobacco industry’s critics are trying to impede a critical first step that FDA must take in creating that new regulatory architecture. The ability to fulfill all of the law’s goals is on the line.

Proponents of the legislation, after all, admittedly supported it as a vehicle to squeeze tobacco firms under the weight of FDA regulation. Their stated aim was always the dismantling these firms.

In an Associated Press article about the bill that authorized the FDA to regulate tobacco products, Gottlieb was quoted criticizing the bill as undermining the FDA’s primary mission: “I believe it’s going to gut the agency’s resources and distract it from its core mission.”

Specifically on cigars, a New York Post op-ed by Gottlieb regarding FDA cigar regulation and its potential impact on the 2012 election has recieved much attention. In it, he wrote:

About 85,000 Americans work in the premium-cigar business, according to the industry’s main trade group. Many of these jobs would be in jeopardy if the FDA’s regulations went forward. About 75 percent of the domestic importers and producers of cigars are located in Florida, where it’s a $2 billion-a-year industry…

Whatever the FDA does, the fight reveals a broader trend of expanding the scope of regulation to cover areas never envisioned by Congress.

Regulators often prefer to enlarge their jurisdiction rather than tend to their chief obligations. Agencies like the FDA thus divert their attention from important but basic duties.

For example, that 2009 tobacco law was crafted as a way to cut down on underage use of cigarettes. It was, in many respects, a forward-looking measure—envisioning that traditional cigarette makers would gradually transition to developing and marketing smokeless-tobacco products that don’t pose the same health hazards as cigarettes.

But the FDA has been loath to accept that alternative tobacco products could pose a lower health risk than cigarettes. Under the law, it should be examining the relative hazards, rather than spending its energies seeking to expand its powers.

In part because of his writings on FDA tobacco regulations, cigar industry groups have already come out in support of Gottlieb. “We think it’s a very good choice that the president made,” said Craig Williamson, president of the Cigar Association of America, which represents cigar manufacturers.

An IPCPR spokesman praised the pick: “We’re very encouraged by the nomination of Dr. Gottlieb. His past statements and articles show he recognizes the difference between premium cigars and other cigar products, and we’re looking forward to having a productive dialogue with him… should he be approved.”

Glynn Loope, executive director of the Cigar Rights of America, also praised the nomination: “CRA is certainly pleased that the president’s administration is moving swiftly to place new management at the FDA. We hope Dr. Gottlieb brings an air of objectivity and balance to the agency. His previous op-ed piece that addressed the role of premium and large cigars in the regulatory process clearly indicates that he has a working knowledge of our issues, and as to why they should be treated differently.”

“2017 is a critical turning point with Congress and the administration, and these new appointments present a unique opportunity to have discussions and to facilitate actions that can work toward protecting the premium cigar industry from the proposed regulations that can clearly have a detrimental impact on this artisan industry that does not deserve the treatment that has been advanced by the FDA,” Loope continued.

Patrick S

photo credits: Scott-Gottlieb.com

Cigar Review: Arturo Fuente Solaris

13 Mar 2017

Solaris

Years ago, Florida-based retailer Smoke Inn launched the Microblend Series, a program that commissions custom, limited edition blends from top manufacturers. “The Microblend Series not only represents my love and passion for fine cigars but the appreciation and fellowship for the cigar manufacturers that were so amazing to work with on each release,” said Abe Dababneh, owner of Smoke Inn.

Arturo Fuente SolarisToday, the series includes Tatuaje’s Anarchy and Apocalypse, My Father’s El Hijo, Padrón’s 1964 Anniversary SI-15, Quesada’s Oktoberfest Dunkel, Room 101’s Big Delicious, Drew Estate’s Pope of Greenwich Village, and 601’s La Bomba Bunker Buster. One of the earlier additions—and one of the few from the collection I hadn’t smoked, until recently—was Solaris from Arturo Fuente.

“For this Microblend installment, Smoke Inn played no part in the creation of the size or blend,” says the Smoke Inn website. “When Dababneh approached Fuente about making a Microblend, they decided this would be a perfect project for a small batch of cigars made over six years ago. Carlos Fuente Sr. had produced a small batch of belicoso cigars made from Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper that was uniquely light in its complexion. The cigars sat and aged for over six years.”

Solaris has a light brown, slightly reddish, clean wrapper beneath a classic Fuente band of red, gold, and green and a secondary band denoting the Solaris name. It clocks in at 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 49. The well-constructed belicoso cap clips easily to reveal an ultra-clear cold draw. The pre-light notes are incredibly faint, even at the foot; only the slightest hints of sweet hay are evident.

Smoke Inn describes the Solaris experience as follows: “When smoked, we found the flavor mellow yet complex. One could definitely taste the quintessential Fuente flavor profile behind the elegantly aged smoke.” My experience was not dissimilar. I would describe the profile as balanced, bready, medium-bodied, classic, and Cubanesque. Flavors range from sweet cream, roasted nuts, hay, toast, and warm tobacco. There is minimal spice. A pesky sourness can creep in randomly, but this taste can be limited by taking your time between puffs.

As Solaris progresses to the midway point and beyond, the texture takes on a more syrupy character and the intensity ramps up a bit—though, in my opinion, never moves out of the medium-bodied range. The sweetness and nuttiness are awesome at times, difficult to detect at others. All the while the construction is impeccable. The smoke production is high, the ash holds firm, the draw is clear, and the burn is straight.

Solaris sells for $44.75 for a 5-pack or, while not currently available, $89.50 per 10-pack. That means the per-cigar price is $8.95 apiece. That’s a great value, especially if you’d appreciate a classic-tasting, well-constructed, finely balanced, medium-bodied cigar with a profile that will remind you of other fine Fuente smokes. That’s why I’m awarding the Arturo Fuente Solaris an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys