Cigar Review: La Aurora León Jimenes Prestige Churchill

15 Jan 2018

“La Aurora was founded on October 3rd, 1903 by Eduardo León Jimenes, a hard worker who was son and grandson of tobacco growers [who]… decided to go a step further with the creation of a cigar brand,” reads the La Aurora website. “The founder was then 18 years old, inherited some ‘tareas’ of land and, with a reduced roster of six employees, a great enthusiasm, and much effort, began to build his dream.”

La Aurora honored Eduardo León Jimenes and his brother, Herminio León Jimenes (the man who “kept alive the family legacy and tradition when Eduardo died in 1937”) with a cigar brand called León Jimenes. While the line has been around for decades, you could be forgiven if it’s unfamiliar to you. The Connecticut-wrapped blend has enjoyed much better sales in the international market, where smokers, generally speaking, tend to prefer milder smokes.

León Jimenes Prestige was introduced as an offshoot in 2011 with intentions of revitalizing the León Jimenes brand in the U.S. It includes a recipe that’s supposed to be spicier and fuller-bodied than its predecessor (though is by no means built to be a powerhouse): an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper surrounds a Dominican binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Three sizes available in the U.S.: Robusto (5 x 50, $7.20), Corona (5 x 38, $6.20), and Churchill (7 x 47, $8). There are other sizes listed on La Aurora’s website, but these are only for outside the U.S. All are made at the E. León Jimenes Tabacalera factory in the Dominican Republic.

This cigar’s modern-looking band of black, gold, and red makes no mention of the name “Prestige,” though it is easily distinguishable from the original León Jimenes and the Doble Maduro, both of which have red bands.

I smoked several Churchills for this review. This size has a pale, moderately oily wrapper. Thin veins are fairly common at the surface, and don’t be surprised if there’s a thicker vein protruding from the binder. The feel is moderately firm and the cold draw is smooth. At the foot, there are sweet, delicate pre-light notes of hay and grass.

After setting an even light with two wooden matches, a toasty, bready profile emerges with notes of oak, roasted nuts, coffee bean, and vanilla. There’s a fair amount of spice on the finish courtesy of white pepper and cinnamon. Towards the midway point, flavors of cashew, butter, and cream become more prominent. Things ramp up a bit in the final third, but the strength never crosses the mild- to medium-bodied end of the spectrum.

The physical properties are in line with what I’ve come to expect from La Aurora. The burn line is straight with no need for any touch-ups along the way. The draw is clear. The ash holds firm off the foot. And the smoke production is above average.

Put plainly, the León Jimenes Prestige Churchill is an enjoyable, well-made, laid-back cigar with some spice, good balance, and smooth, enjoyable flavors of cream and roasted nuts. For that, it earns three 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: Muestra de Saka Nacatamale

14 Jan 2018

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.”illusione-singulare-2014-sq

Shortly before Christmas, my colleague rated this 6-inch, 48-ring gauge parejo a five out of five stogies, which earned it a spot in our best of 2017 list. I fully endorse that lofty score. Nacatamale features a Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and filler entirely from one farm in the Jalapa region of Nicaragua. The profile is characterized by medium- to full-bodied flavors with cream, wood spice, and leather, all of which come together in a  supremely balanced total package. It burns flawlessly, which you’d expect from a cigar the retails for over $15.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Gianna Natural Robusto

13 Jan 2018

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.”

United Cigar’s La Gianna brand sports Honduran binder and filler tobaccos. There are two different wrapper varieties: Maduro and Natural. The latter has a pale Connecticut Shade wrapper that’s dry and smooth. Once lit, the Robusto’s (5 x 50) faint pre-light notes of hay and molasses transition to a mild, somewhat papery profile of dry oak, butter, and almond. As it progresses, the cigar picks up a little body and adds flavors of cedar spice, toast, and cream. Construction is outstanding. While the Robusto isn’t a bad buy at around $6, it’s a bit too mild, flat, and dry for my liking, which is why I cannot give it a full recommendation. But feel free to give it a try if you’re looking for an inexpensive mild smoke to pair with morning coffee.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: MBombay Classic Torpedo Ships, Unicorn Sightings, Havana Club Rum Wars, and More

12 Jan 2018

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 562nd in the series.

1) This week, MBombay began shipping a new Torpedo vitola as part of its Classic line. The cigar measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 52 and carries a suggested retail price of $11.95. It has an Ecuadorian wrapper and binder around filler tobaccos from Peru, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. “The cigars are aged for more than 14 months (which will be adhered to for future batches as well),” according to a press release. Because of lower production levels and the longer aging process, the only way to get the MBombay Classic Torpedo is in a new five-count MBombay Sample Pack. The pack retails for $45 and includes one each of the following MBombay cigars: Mora Toro, Habano Robusto, Corojo Oscuro Robusto, Gaaja Toro, and Classic Torpedo.

2) Fuel was just added to the fire in the legal battle between the French beverage giant Pernod Ricard—which, in a 50-50 joint venture with the Cuban government, claims to own the one true Havana Club Rum—and the Havana Club made by Bacardi in Puerto Rico. Pernod Ricard has taken issue with a new Bacardi marketing campaign called “Forever Cuban.” But Bacardi continues to claim legitimacy of the brand since it bought the original Havana Club name and recipe from the family that had been producing the rum prior to the company’s nationalization via Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. “Pernod Ricard and the Cuban dictatorship have perpetuated a lie since they began their collusion in 1993, and continue to do so today,” reads a statement from Bacardi. “Our new marketing campaign affirms that, while our rum is now made in Puerto Rico, our heart and soul will be ‘Forever Cuban.’” If this feud sounds familiar, it should. It’s very similar to the legal war being waged by Cuban cigar brands and non-Cuban brands that carry Cuban names (i.e., Cohiba, Montecristo, etc.).

3) Legislators in Alabama are considering a bill that would raise the minimum age requirement for tobacco use, sales, and possession from 19 to 21. “The bill is authored by Rep. Chris Pringle of House District 101, Mobile County,” according to the Opelika-Auburn News. “It is expected to formally be referred to the House of Representatives committee on judiciary.” Federal law requires states to have a minimum age for tobacco of at least 18 years old (which is enforced via the threat of withholding FEMA grants). Currently, 42 states have set a statewide minimum age of 18; 8 have set a statewide minimum age above 18, with 3 at 19 years old (including Alabama) and 5 at 21 years old.

4) Inside the Industry: Steve Saka has been teasing a new Muestra de Saka called Unicorn (6.25 x 60) on Facebook since December 15. It is currently shipping to retailers with a suggested per-cigar price of $100. “I went into this personal project with the concept of what if you did everything physically possible to spend as much money and effort as is humanly possible to make 1,000 ultra-ultra premium handmade cigars,” he said. The result is a custom diademas (Saka had 24 molds made to his specification) made from the very best Broadleaf wrapper and Nicaraguan filler (the tobacco selection process included hand-sorting through over 6,000 pounds of tobacco and selecting the best 1%). Following Exclusivo and Nacatamale, Unicorn is the third Muestra de Saka, which Saka describes as “a line comprised of cigars that allow me to create small-batch, unique blends in the vitola… that I find best represents its blend. It provides a way for me to share my personal love for blending while not having to  try to make it into a big brand.”

5) From the Archives: In addition to excellent flavor, balance, and combustion, the best cigars also feature outstanding texture. So what is texture? We explain, with the help of some experienced cigar makers, in this 2012 article.

6) Deal of the Week: Fancy humidors can be great, but when it comes to functionality and value you’d be hard-pressed to beat an acrylic jar like this one, which is currently on sale for $14 (with free Amazon Prime shipping).

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie GuysSteve Saka

Cigar Review: Cornelius & Anthony Señor Esugars Robusto

10 Jan 2018

 

I approached this cigar with trepidation. I’m a huge Cornelius & Anthony fan. I recently awarded the Aerial robusto five stogies, and I’ve rated others highly as well.

I’m not, however, a fan of Mexican San Andrés tobacco, the leaf used as wrapper on the Señor Esugars line. But there have been a few cigars with San Andrés in the blend that I’ve enjoyed, usually because they haven’t had what I think of as the tobacco’s typical taste.

So, I had to wonder how this would turn out.

The line comes in four sizes, ranging from a Gordo (6 x 60) down to a Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46). The Robusto has an MSRP of $9.75.

Aesthetically, this 5-inch, 52-ring gauge robusto is stunning. The dark wrapper is virtually flawless with a slightly gritty feel. Its pre-light aroma did seem pretty typical of Mexican tobacco.

That was confirmed when I lit it up; along with a bit of spice was the dirt taste I so often associate with San Andrés. As I smoked down, there was also some coffee, nuts, and, occasionally, spice and sweetness. At about the halfway point, the Mexican dominance dropped a few degrees and the flavors became more balanced.

The filler is Nicaraguan and the binder is an undisclosed U.S. leaf. Like other Cornelius & Anthony smokes, they’re rolled in Estelí, Nicaragua, at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory and feature double bands.

And, like other C&A cigars I’ve smoked, Señor Esugars perform flawlessly. The two I tested burned evenly, had excellent draws, and produced lots of smoke.

The cigar’s unusual name has a somewhat winding origin. Brand owner Steven Bailey’s dog is named Oscar, but nicknamed Mr. Sugars. Señor Esugars evolved from that. The cigar box showcases a fine line drawing of Oscar (sporting a derby and holding a cigar lengthwise in his mouth) and a smiling Bailey in the background.

This, for me, is the toughest sort of cigar to review. It’s definitely well made and utilizes quality tobacco. For someone who’s a fan of San Andrés tobacco—and, obviously, lots of folks are, judging by the leaf’s popularity boom in recent years—I think Señor Esugars should definitely be on the try-it list.

But, for my palate, the flavors just aren’t quite there. I rate it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: C&A CigarsStogie Guys

 

Commentary: Cigar Smoking Competitions Are Absurd

8 Jan 2018

Last Wednesday, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal about “competitive slow smokers,” or cigar enthusiasts who compete to keep a cigar lit as long as possible. Yes, that’s a real thing.

At events from “Chicago to Croatia,” these devotees use tactics like “gentle puffs, moist palms, [and] strategic ashing” to prolong their cigar experiences to the point of near impossibility, all with hopes of prizes and recognition within the (apparently) growing community of competitors.

The rules for these competitions seem as simple as they are laughable. After each contestant receives his or her cigar—each five inches in length—they have exactly one minute to cut it any way they like. They then have one minute to light, with no re-lighting allowed thereafter. Contestants may not put their cigars down, nor blow on them. And, according to the article, “competitors must also refrain from talking during the first five minutes to maintain a proper air of decorum.”

Wondering about the world record? Look no further than Tomasz Żołądkiewicz, a cigar smoker from Poland. It is said Mr. Żołądkiewicz made a robusto last three hours and twenty-six minutes. This is “an achievement many in the slow-smoking community speak about with the same awe that others have reserved for the great athletic benchmarks of the past century, like running a mile in under four minutes.” Oh, brother.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard of these competitions before—usually when a once-every-so-often article runs profiling a “winner” of a particular event—but otherwise pay them little attention. But I don’t recall a higher profile news placement than this recent Wall Street Journal piece (and accompanying video). So I feel compelled to share my thoughts on the matter.

As I wrote a decade ago, it’s important to smoke slowly. Cigar enjoyment is not a race, and there is no prize for finishing first. Additionally, in order to “cook” the tobacco at the right temperature, you should try to limit the frequency of your puffs to prevent the smoke from becoming too hot or harsh. When you puff, you’re caramelizing the sugars in the tobacco to bring out the unique flavors; it’s important to not overheat the oven.

That said, personally, I just don’t get these cigar competitions. The very concept seems to run against everything a cigar is trying to achieve—relaxation, enjoyment, flavor, camaraderie with fellow cigar enthusiasts, etc. I look to cigars to help me escape from stress; I’m not expecting to win anything, other than my own enjoyment.

To be clear, I’m not advocating a ban of these voluntary events. If you host, participate in, or enjoy following smoking competitions, be my guest.

But I have a right to call these competitions absurd. And, yes, they are absurd.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Black Petite Lancero

7 Jan 2018

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.”illusione-singulare-2014-sq

Tatuaje-Black

Tatuaje’s Black line, sometimes referred to as Pete Johnson’s personal blend, has come in many shapes and sizes since a 2007 debut limited release of Corona Gordas in ceramic jars. In 2010, a Petit Lancero (6 x 38) format was introduced as a store exclusive with a run of just 5,000 cigars (later it was added as a regular release). In 2016, the line was expanded and, at the same time, the Petit Lancero packaging was updated (with boxes of 20). The Nicaraguan puro is medium-bodied with oak, cream, leather, pepper, and cinnamon spice. The cigar is well-constructed, balanced, and enjoyable, though lately I’ve been finding that this blend actually is best in some of the larger ring gauge formats.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys