Cigar Tip: Five Green Cigars for St. Patrick’s Day

17 Mar 2020

I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of green-colored candela cigars. For the most part, I smoke them for the same reason I drink green beer: Because it’s fun once a year. That’s why, even in light of events that mean not many of us are enjoying big St. Patrick’s Day parties, I’m updating our list of St. Patrick’s Day smokes.

It’s not that candela cigars are bad. It’s just that I’ve yet to find a candela that’s better than the same blend with a traditional wrapper (and the cigars below are no exception). That’s probably why candela cigars make up a fraction of one percent of the premium cigar market, and a proportional percentage of my cigar purchases.

And yet it wasn’t always that way. Green candela wrappers were once very popular with American cigar smokers. So much so that candela wrapper leafs—which go through a special quick and hot fermentation process that locks in the green color—were once known as “American Market Selection,” as opposed to more traditional brown “English Market Selection” wrappers.

If you’re thinking about trying a candela, St. Patrick’s Day is as good a time to take the plunge. To that end, here’s a quick rundown of some of the green cigars available:

Black Market Filthy Hooligan by Alec Bradley — First released last year, it’s back with a wrapper that’s a year older. It features the same blend as the regular Black Market (Panamanian and Honduran filler with a Sumatra binder) coupled with a candela wrapper. If you like the regular Black Market cigar, this is your best bet.

Illusione Candela — Illusione makes it’s original blend (Nicaraguan binder and filler) with candela in a few sizes. Back in 2011 when it first came out, we found the 88 size to be a pleasant smoke with tea and plenty of sweet flavors, and lacking the bitterness that sometimes characterizes candela cigars.

Viaje WLP St. Patrick’s Day — I smoked a few of the 2012 edition, which features the brightest candela wrapper I’ve ever seen, and found that it equaled the Illusione as my favorite candela. It also has the brightest green wrapper of the bunch.

Don Tomás Candela — My colleague reviewed this candela with some skepticism when the company claimed it was the result of three bales of candela wrappers that had been “lost” for 18 years. Ultimately, though, he found it to be a “respectable” smoke with enjoyable flavors, even if it wasn’t destined to be a regular in his rotation.

Fuente 8-5-8 Candela — Fuente’s regular line is known for smooth, mild flavors produced by Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. I smoked one of these with a candela wrapper a few years back and recall just that: a mild, balanced smoke with a hint of classic grassy candela flavors.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Punch Chop Suey

27 Feb 2020

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.”

Last year Punch released the Rothchild-sized Egg Roll. This month, in celebration of the Year of the Rat, General Cigar launched Chop Suey, a lancero (7 x 37) with a shaggy foot that sports an Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper around Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos. It retails for the affordable price of $5.49 and is available in 25-count “takeout-style” boxes (3,650 were made, for a total run of 91,250 cigars). Construction is solid, a testament to the work at the General Cigar Dominicana factory in Santiago. The flavor is leathery and fairly complex for a cigar in this price range. Notes include dry oak, melon, white pepper, and a gentle cedar spice. The aftertaste is characterized by a soft cayenne heat. Join me in celebrating Punch’s decision to introduce a limited edition lancero that won’t break the bank; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: RoMa Craft CroMagnon EMH “Don Bosco” Limited Edition

25 Feb 2020

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 limited edition CroMagnon EMH “Don Bosco” is made for the Northern Virginia-based Old Virginia Tobacco Co. The cigar features a barber poll dual wrapper with Ecuadorian Connecticut candela and U.S.-grown Connecticut Broadleaf, which surrounds the standard CroMagnon blend (Cameroon binder and Nicaraguan filler). The large robusto-shaped EMH features full-bodied flavors of rich earth and roast nuts with black and green peppercorn spice. The $10 cigar is well-constructed with an open draw and even burn. It’s strongly recommended if you can find one.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Coming to Terms with Winter

17 Feb 2020

Think you love cigars? Let’s put your adoration to the test. Go out and smoke a cigar in the cold. And, no, I don’t mean 40 degrees. I said cold. Let’s put it at 20 degrees or less (not including windchill). Bundle up, plant yourself in a chair with a cup of hot (not for long) coffee, and fire up a smoke. If you’re sitting still—and if you’re not cheating with, say, a heat lamp or something—I bet you won’t be able to get through a toro. Maybe not even a robusto or a corona.

At some point in the process, you’ll find yourself pondering the futility of the exercise. Isn’t the whole idea behind cigars to enjoy yourself? How can you fully appreciate the enticing aromas, delicious flavors, and handmade craftsmanship when your core bodily processes are shutting down and frostbite is trying to take hold of exposed skin? How can you revel in the complexities of the profile—which surely includes anise, cream soda, and pencil shavings—as your shivering turns into slowed, shallow breathing and, eventually, total loss of consciousness?

Maybe you never have to ask yourself these questions. Perhaps you live somewhere where it never gets legitimately cold, at least not for a whole season. Or, if you do, perhaps you can smoke inside your home. Or there’s a good lounge nearby with decent hours. Or perhaps you commute via car and don’t mind smoking in your vehicle (side note: smoking a cigar while driving is not all it’s cracked up to be).

I used to have a cigar room in my condo in the city.. Now I have a bunch of kids and a house in the suburbs.

 

Personally, I live in Chicago. Winter can be rough, and this one is no exception. I have three small children and no place to smoke inside my home. There are a few lounges nearby, but the hours typically don’t work for me (it’s usually 10:30 PM or later by the time the kids are all asleep, the dishes are done, etc.). And, while I’m often on the “L” or on my way to an airport in an Uber, I’m rarely in my own car. So where and when do I smoke, you may ask?

Honestly, I smoke much, much less in the winter. I really don’t have a choice. It may not be fashionable for a member of the online cigar media to admit this, but it’s true nonetheless.

When I do smoke, it’s usually one of two things: (1) I’ve gotten permission from the wife to be at a lounge for a couple hours, which is a welcome respite that will have to be repaid in some (often painful) way, or (2) I’m traveling for work someplace warm and/or there’s a late-hours lounge nearby.

I write this not to ask for your sympathy (I don’t deserve any, and I’m not complaining) but to share a few unintended consequences of my wintertime lull in cigar smoking. First, when you smoke less, you enjoy the cigars you do smoke more. The law of diminishing returns is absolutely at play here. If you smoke cigar after cigar after cigar, the next one won’t be nearly as enjoyable. Anyone who’s ever gone on a cigar rampage—or taken a leave of absence—would probably back this up.

Second, having fewer opportunities to smoke results in a renewed focus on deciding what to smoke. Time is more precious, and the cost of making a bad decision is higher. In the winter, I’m likelier to turn to old favorites and shun new experiences. Any new cigar that gets selected is often the result of a fair amount of review-reading—or, at least, much more research than would be required in the summer.

Finally, less time to smoke should mean more time for something else. In my case, the inability to smoke as often as I would like has not extinguished my passion for cigars. So I’ve been catching up on cigar-related reading (both mainstream publications and, yes, other websites), making some purchases, organizing my inventory, and keeping the humidors functioning properly (which is no small task this time of year).

I guess you could say I’ve come to terms with a seasonal approach to cigar enjoyment. That being said, where the f*#k is spring, and when will it get here?

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Rhum J.M. V.S.O.P.

10 Feb 2020

Rum is available in a wide variety of styles. The lack of strict rules (like those of bourbon, rye, single malt, etc…) make rum a Wild West, for both better and worse. Pure Bahamian rums, funky Jamaican rums, sugar-added dark rums, distilled in pot stills or column stills or both, spiced rums, aged in the tropics or Europe… they’re all rum, as long as they are distilled from one form or another of sugar.

Rhum agricole is the style associated with French Caribbean islands. It is distilled from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, rather than the more frequently used molasses. Rhum J.M. is made in Martinique, and the V.S.O.P. offering is “created by aging rhum 3 years in re-charred bourbon barrels and finishing the rhum an additional year in lightly toasted new American oak barrels and finally reduced to 43% ABV with pure volcanic spring water from Habitation Bellevue.”

The $50 bottle (750 ml.) features a spirit that is light amber in color with a nose of fresh popcorn, red berries, and baking spices. Flavors include butterscotch, fresh sugar cane, custard, rubber, and banana.

It has a notably velvety mouthfeel and excellent balance. The finish is long and rich with nougat and candied apple sweetness.

I suppose you could use it in cocktail (I’m sure it would be excellent in a daiquiri) but, honestly, that would be a waste of a spirit that is best enjoyed neat. It’s a fine example of aged rhum agricole, worth seeking out (it can be a little tricky to find) for all fans of aged rum, especially for those looking to go beyond the molasses-derived offerings that usually make up the higher end of most run bars’ offerings.

Pair it with a balanced medium-bodied cigar. Suggested pairings include Cabaiguan, Davidoff Colorado Claro, El Güegüense, and the Cuban Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: George Dickel Bottled in Bond 13 Year Old Whisky

30 Jan 2020

Introduced in the last year, George Dickel Bottled in Bond caught my attention for having an attribute few new bourbon offerings have: the possibility of being an excellent value. As the popularity of bourbon has spiked, so have prices.

Some of the best values from five years ago have either dropped their aged statements (so they can include younger whiskey), raised prices, become highly allocated and impossible to find, or have been discontinued. All of which is a long run-up to saying a new 13-year-old bourbon for under $40 is not the type of thing you see every day. (Side note: Tennessee whiskey produced by both Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel meets the legal definition of straight bourbon even if you won’t find the word on the bottle; the key addition to the process that sets Tennessee whiskey apart is the Lincoln County Process, where the spirit is filtered through charcoal.)

Bottled-in-bond whiskey means the spirit must fit a few qualities. It must all be distilled at the same distillery during the same season (January-June or July-December), must be aged in a federally bonded warehouse for four years, and must be bottled at 100-proof or higher.

Distilled at George Dickel’s Cascade Hollow Distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee, this mahogany-colored, 13-year-old bottled-in-bond whiskey was distilled in the fall of 2005 with a mash bill of 84% corn, 10% rye, and 6% malted barley. It was bottled in the spring of 2019 at 50% ABV (100-proof).

The nose is full of peanuts and roast corn. On the palate there’s powdered chocolate, dried corn, candied citrus, and vanilla. The finish has ginger and clove with a lingering, velvety mouthfeel.

This is, without a doubt, an an excellent bourbon that probably could have been sold for more. But I think long-term it’s a good strategy for George Dickel, which is always in the shadow of its Tennessee neighbor Jack Daniel’s. Reminding consumers of their quality with an eye-catching value only serves to make people more likely to check out their other offerings (which are themselves solid and underrated) in the future.

Despite being 100-proof, it’s not overly strong, even when tasted neat. Pair it with a medium-bodied cigar like the Bolivar Royal Corona, Tatuaje Black, or Davidoff Colorado Claro.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: El Galan Campestre Habano Toro

16 Jan 2020

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 first wrote up this cigar when it was just a bundle smoke made by Felix Mesa of the largely unknown El Galan Cigars. Today, Mesa is the man tasked with heading up Fuente’s new Nicaraguan operations. The Toro sports a Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It costs around $30 for a bundle of 20. The specimen I’m smoking is a sample with nearly two years of age. Despite a foot that initially frayed when lit, construction is largely solid, including an ash that’s surprisingly solid for a bundle smoke. Flavors are medium-bodied with balanced notes of coffee, wood, and earth. I’m not sure age has improved this cigar, but it hasn’t made it any worse, either.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys