Cigar Review: L’Atelier Imports La Mission 1999

25 Sep 2017

L’Atelier Imports was established about five years ago by Pete Johnson (of Tatuaje fame, of course) and several other partners to make “consumer price-conscious cigars.” The L’Atelier portfolio includes Surrogates, El Suelo, Trocadéro, L’Atelier Maduro, the original L’Atelier core line, and La Mission.

La Mission debuted in 2015 as a tribute to Château La Mission Haut-Brion, a French winery of which Johnson is apparently a huge fan. While the winery is not connected to L’Atelier Imports in any way business-wise—and while Johnson even makes his own wines elsewhere (you can read a bit about that in this New York Times article)—this cigar line is named for Château La Mission Haut-Brion, and its vitolas commemorate specific vintages.

There are seven La Mission formats listed on the L’Atelier website, each packaged in 18-count boxes and (with the exception of the torpedo) adorned with a pigtail cap: 1955 (6.75 x 44), 1959 (4.75 x 52), 1982 (6.1 x 52, torpedo), 1989 (5.6 x 54), 1999 (5.6 x 46), 2003 (6.25 x 48), and 2009 (6.5 x 56). The blend recipe includes a dark Mexican San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Included is some Sancti Spíritus tobacco, which is a cross between Criollo and Pelo d’Oro that’s grown in Ecuador and featured in many L’Atelier cigars.

La Mission 1999 retails in the $8-9 range and is characterized by a soft (almost oval) press. Its intricate band of cream, red, gold, and black gives the cigar a regal appearance despite the thick, toothy, rustic wrapper. The foot exhibits pungent pre-light notes of cocoa powder and barnyard. While firm in the hand, the cigar has an effortless cold draw once the cap is clipped.

The initial profile is bold and full-bodied with a hearty dose of espresso, black pepper spice, dry oak, and cayenne heat. As it progresses, a smooth, earthy core emerges that has significantly less grit than I’ve come to expect from many other San Andrés-wrapped cigars. Into the midway point, the body mellows slightly to the medium- to full-bodied range with secondary flavors of dark chocolate, sweet cream, and black cherry. The texture is chalky. The final third, while cool, is characterized by a reprise of intensity with a focus on black pepper and espresso.

Put simply, La Mission 1999 smokes majestically. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cigar with superior construction. Expect an easy draw, ample smoke production, a straight burn line, and a finely layered white ash that holds very well off the foot.

L’Atelier boasts a portfolio of fine cigars of which virtually any outfit in the industry would be proud to call its own. Yet La Mission 1999 may be the best L’Atelier to date. I would even encourage those who are typically put off by San Andrés (I know you’re out there) to give this standout specimen a try. It is a shining example of the depth, balance, and richness that can be achieved when the Mexican wrapper is blended properly. For that, it earns an outstanding rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Quick Smoke: Paul Garmirian Soiree Belicoso

24 Sep 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.”

It’s not widely known, but when PG was creating a cigar to celebrate its 15th Anniversary, the decision came down to two final blends. The runner-up became the PG Soiree. Although I think they made the correct decision, the Soiree is also a very fine cigar. It starts out with intense black pepper and wood spice and soon develops an almost maple sweetness to go along with dry oak, hay, and some mushroom-y funk. Not as balanced as the the PG 15th Anniversary cigar, but a blast of enjoyable medium- to full-bodied flavors with flawless combustion.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Dunhill Heritage Robusto

23 Sep 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.”

Earlier this year, we learned Dunhill—a storied, historic brand owned by British American Tobacco and distributed in the U.S. by General Cigar—is planning to exit the cigar and pipe business. A quick online search suggests there are still plenty of Dunhill Heritage cigars to be had, however. The Honduras-made Heritage debuted in 2015 with a recipe including an Ecuadorian wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Honduras. The Robusto (5 x 50) is box-pressed and solidly constructed with mouth-watering pre-light notes of dark chocolate and peanuts. The full-bodied profile is oily in texture with coffee, roasted nuts, cinnamon, and leather. While the list price is a little over $10 (a good value, given this cigar’s quality), it can now be found in the $6-7 range, which makes it an easy recommendation. Pick these up while you can; I may grab myself a whole box.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: IPCPR CEO to Depart, Drew Estate Cigar Theft, Whiskey for Charity and More

22 Sep 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 548th in the series.

1) The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) has announced chief executive officer Mark Pursell will be stepping down on October 15. Pursell has held the position for a little over three years. Previously, he served as senior vice president at the National Association of Home Builders. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity IPCPR provided me,” said Pursell in a press release. “It has been a challenging period for the entire industry, and I’m proud of the organization’s work to lead the way forward. There are many challenges remaining. IPCPR has the right leadership and staff to face the future.” During Pursell’s tenure, IPCPR relocated its headquarters from Georgia to Washington, D.C. IPCPR was founded in 1933 and bills itself as the “oldest, largest and most active trade association representing and assisting retailers of premium tobacco products and their suppliers.”

2) On Wednesday, Drew Estate issued an email alert about a significant cigar theft: “On August 8, 2015, a truck containing a full load of Drew Estate premium handmade cigars was stolen in the greater Miami area. An active investigation into this theft is ongoing and involves numerous law enforcement entities. The specific cigars stolen include Tabak Especial Dulce Robusto and Undercrown Shade Belicoso. If anyone becomes aware of these cigars being offered for sale by non-Drew Estate authorized suppliers or being offered for sale by any suppliers at below wholesale list price, please inform Drew Estate immediately by calling Glenn Wolfson at (786) 581-1800.”

3) One of the rarest whiskeys, Booker’s Rye, is being released to benefit two charities helping those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The company announced it is selling the last 276 bottles of the highly praised whiskey for the suggested retail price of $299 and donating all proceeds. (Nowadays, a bottle from the earlier release can fetch $800 or so.) The company said the two charities—Feeding America and Operation BBQ Relief—were chosen “because of the shared connection between the food and beverage industries and the impact each organization makes in providing nourishment to those affected by tragedy.”

4) Golfing and cigars go together. And while golfing with buddies is great, don’t under-estimate the joys of golfing alone, says author Ethan Epstein: “There are distinct benefits, besides the Zen-like solitude I achieve, to solo-play, as well: I feel less guilty when I cheat and pick up my ball to give it a better lie after a bad hit, for example. But that’s not really that important, because let’s be honest: Like all golfers, I play better when nobody​—​save for the deer who hang out at my regular Rock Creek Park Golf Course​—​is watching. Honest!”

5) From the Archives: Miami isn’t the only Florida city that can claim a long and storied cigar history. Tampa, after all, is betowed with the Cigar City nickname. Back in 2011, we interviewed Lisa Figueredo, founder of Cigar City Magazine.

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, wine, workout gear, coffee kits, exclusive cigars, and more) delivered for just $45. You can skip or purchase every month. Sign up here and you will be eligible for the October box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: IPCPR

Cigar Review: Montecristo Churchill Añejado (Cuban)

20 Sep 2017

You have to hand it to the Cuban government. For a communist regime ostensibly dedicated to the tradition of Marxism-Leninism, they sure let their state-run cigar company embrace capitalism and profit maximization.

The Añejados line, introduced in 2015, is a profit-seeking solution to the common complaint that Cuban cigars are frequently under-aged. Rather than address the issue across the board by better aging tobacco before cigars are rolled, Habanos created the limited Añejados line to feature cigars aged at least five years after they are rolled, then priced accordingly.

This Montecristo Churchill was the second variety introduced in the line (after a Romeo y Julieta Pirámide) in 2015. I bought two while in France last month where they cost around $22 U.S. apiece.

Both of my Montecristo Churchill Añejados exhibited good construction. Wrapped in a medium brown wrapper with a little shine, the Churchill (7 x 47) is firm to the touch. As it progresses, the draw gets a bit on the tight side, although it’s not overly problematic. The ash is notably sturdy, with one cigar holding for a full two inches before I decided not to tempt fate any further.

Pre-light, flavors are graham cracker and sawdust. Once lit, the profile starts with musty bread with cinnamon notes, soon followed by a cacophony of flavors both good and bad.

Most prevalent is a traditional combination of cedar and oak with leather and coffee notes. There are also Davidoff-esque mushroom notes and a metallic finish that hits the tip of the tongue. It’s a complex and sometimes discordant flavor profile.

Needles to say, there’s a lot going on throughout the two-hour smoke. Perhaps some of this is the result of over-humidification (Paris cigar shops tend to keep their humidity levels too high), but two months in my humidor didn’t result in much change.

Instead of aging tobacco more in bales prior to rolling, the Añejado series is aged for at least five years in cedar bins after rolling. I suspect that strategy benefits the cigar’s construction, though I wish more of the aging would take place prior to rolling where it could be better targeted to the specific type of tobacco.

Price is a serious drawback to this cigar, which doesn’t taste under-aged but does feature an unusual mixture of flavors. That combination earns the Montecristo Churchill Añejado a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Cigars and the Common Cold

18 Sep 2017

[Editor’s Note: The following commentary first appeared at StogieGuys.com on April 7, 2010. Since the author is currently suffering from a head cold, and since he’s not feeling well enough to smoke, he thought today would be a good day to revisit the topic. Conveniently, re-posting an old article would also get him out of having to write anything new for the day. He figures if you’ve been publishing for overa decade, you deserve a little break now and then. By the way, take note of two specific cigars that get mentioned below; in the author’s eyes, at least, they really date this article.]

Some call it a sinus infection. Others call it the common cold. The medical community recognizes it as a “viral upper respiratory tract infection.” No matter what the name, the symptoms are usually the same: runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, mild fatigue, and possibly a fever. And, like the summertime blues, there ain’t no cure.

The average adult experiences two to four colds per year. I got my first (and hopefully last) case of the 2010 cold this weekend. In typical fashion, it came overnight with a scratchy throat, stuffed up my nose for a few days, and left just as quickly as it arrived. No big deal, but enough to cause me to cancel a few weekend activities.

One activity I cut back on while sick is cigar smoking. I’m not really concerned that cigars will prolong the cold’s duration (although doctors say smokers tend to have longer colds—but then again, doctors say a lot of things). I just find cigar smoking a lot less enjoyable when my throat is sore or my nose is clogged.

I’d never attempt to review a cigar when my nose—the best cigar tasting instrument I have—is out of whack. Recently, though, I conducted an experiment. I fired up a Rocky Patel Vintage ’90 Toro to see if I could identify the flavors I normally associate with this cigar (cocoa, spicy wood, etc.). I couldn’t.

Not even close. I could have been smoking pretty much anything and it would have tasted like chalky, billowy air. As expected, this was a reminder of the huge role our sense of smell plays in cigar tasting and how important it is to routinely smoke through the nose.

Aside from being an impediment to appreciating premium tobacco, my cold also reminded me that I’m far from addicted to tobacco. I went a solid five days without smoking (and I’ve gone much longer under different circumstances, like when I was training for a marathon). Never once did I experience cravings, headaches, nausea, anxiety, or other symptoms common to those trying to quit cigarettes. Sure, I missed not being able to thoroughly enjoy a cigar. But it wasn’t an epic battle to lay off the leaf for awhile.

Now I’m feeling much better. I took my nose for a test drive with a 601 Red and everything seems to be back to normal. Health permitting, I’m looking forward to catching up on some new reviews and Quick Smokes in the weeks to come.

The next time I get a cold, I’ll probably get lots of sleep, drink lots of fluids, and avoid cigars—at least expensive ones. I suggest you do the same.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Rocky Patel Fifteenth Anniversary Toro

17 Sep 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.”

When this line was released in 2010, it constituted a major advancement for Rocky Patel among many smokers who previously hadn’t given his cigars much consideration. Clearly a premium smoke, this box-pressed blend of Nicaraguan binder and filler under an Ecuadorian wrapper is rich with a little spice and notes of dark coffee bean and chocolate. While I prefer Rocky’s Twentieth Anniversary, I highly recommend the silver-banded Fifteenth.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys