Cigar Spirits: Laphroaig Lore

24 Aug 2016

I generally reach for bourbon or rum in the summer months, while reserving single malt for when the weather cools down. Something about the smokey style of Islay Malts especially, like Laphroaig, are perfect for a chilly evening in the fall or winter.

Laphroaig LoreBut I didn’t want to wait to try the new Lore. Introduced earlier this year, Lore fills the vacancy in the Laphroaig lineup left by the 18-year-old expression, which was discontinued last year. A bottle retails for a hefty $125.

Lore doesn’t carry an age statement but mixes older and newer whisky, described on the Laphroaig website as “a marriage of classical Laphroaig styles and many ages of Laphroaig; some as old as vintage 1993. The marriage draws from the peaty power of Laphroaig with the smoothness of double matured stock finished in European oak hogsheads.”

The result is a totally new Laphroaig from what you might be used to, but one I found extremely enjoyable. The classic smoke and peat provide the background of the whisky but there is whole lot more going on here.

The nose features smoke and seaweed along with pear and shortbread. The palate layers sherried notes of fruit and fudge over brine, spice, and maltiness. The finish is both rich and clean with peat, honey, sugar cookies, and oak.

I understand those who are frustrated by the trend towards NAS (non age statement) whiskies on both sides of the Atlantic. That said, Lore is an example of how a whisky not locked into an age statement can provide plenty of depth and complexity by blending old and new whisky.

Somewhat by chance, I smoked a Cameroon-wrapped cigar while sampling Lore, and I can’t recommend the combination enough, as the light spice of the Cameroon wrapper goes perfectly with the rich peat. Specifically, try La Flor Dominicana Cameroon Cabinet, Arturo Fuente Don Carlos, or Drew Estate Nirvana.

Patrick S

photo credit: Laphroaig

Drew Estate

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Liga Privada No. 9 Toro

22 Aug 2016

Privada

I still think of Drew Estate as a newer cigar company, probably due to its modern marketing, sleek packaging, unique fan base, and urban, non-traditional vibe. How many other cigar outfits have an in-house art studio turning out graffiti and tattoos, or their own social media app? How many other brands have such a dedicated cult following among younger clientele?

LigaBut while Drew Estate lacks the history of industry stalwarts like Arturo Fuente or Joya de Nicaragua, it’s no spring chicken, either. It also can’t be considered among the ranks of small boutique outfits anymore. Drew Estate runs the largest cigar factory in Nicaragua—producing over 10,000 cigars a day—and in 2014 it was acquired by Swisher International, the largest cigar company in the world.

Drew Estate’s size and parent carry some advantages. For example, in the midst of all the FDA malaise, I’ve been thinking a lot about what cigars in my current rotation will still be available in a few years. It’s hard to imagine Swisher will have any trouble coming up with the capital necessary to overcome the yet-to-be-detailed-though-surely-onerous approval process for any Drew Estate cigars that are selling.

Surely they’ll do so for the Liga Privada No. 9 blends, which became available in the summer of 2007—just after the February 2007 exemption deadline. Today, I thought I’d revisit my favorite cigar in that line, the Toro (6 x 52). While I might not have much new to say about a cigar that’s been on the market for nearly a decade, it’s helpful to reexamine old favorites. And, heck, I guess I just wanted an excuse to fire a few Toros up.

By now, we all know the story. Former Drew Estate chief Steve Saka, now owner of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, began work in 2005 on a personal blend for his own enjoyment. After over 50 blends of testing with Jonathan Drew and Nick Melillo (now owner of Foundation Cigar Co.), a final recipe was arrived at: a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper fermented for at least 18 months, a Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua.

Liga production is still limited—a limitation, according to Drew Estate, that’s due to tobacco availability—so the cigars can be tough to find and expensive. When you get your hands on a Toro, though, you’ll find a highly pleasurable, full-bodied cigar with tons of flavor and a fair amount of spice. Leathery in texture, the core tastes include black pepper, cocoa, espresso, cream, and that infectious sweet grassiness that can only be found in certain Drew Estate cigars.

Construction is outstanding, including a straight burn line and a solid white ash. Notably, the draw is incredibly easy and the smoke production is intense—welcome characteristics that have become trademarks of Drew Estate over the years.

You can expect to pay $12 or more for the Toro. While that’s a considerable cost, you can be assured of a solid, consistent, tasty experience. I’ve been smoking this cigar for a long time, and I think the most fitting rating is an exceptional four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: MBombay Habano Gordo

21 Aug 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.”

20160817_025749571_iOS

The five-vitola MBombay Habano line made its debut in 2015, joining several other blends from Mel Shah’s house-brand-turned-national-release. It is made at Tabacos de Costa Rica with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Ecuadorian Criollo binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Peru. The Gordo (6 x 60, $12.50) has a balanced bouquet of flavors ranging from warm tobacco and roasted nuts to cream, caramel, and a gentle woodsy spice. It smokes OK, though the burn line tends to meander and the draw is a tad tight, especially for such a thick cigar. I suspect I will appreciate the other MBombay Habano vitolas considerably more; my enjoyment of this cigar is limited by its excessive girth.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Avo XO Legato

20 Aug 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.”

Avo

This toro-sized (6 x 54) smoke has the kind of salty flavor I sometimes crave, though I think that same saltiness also makes it unsuitable under certain circumstances. Fortunately, I knew what to expect before lighting up and prepared accordingly, keeping myself within arm’s distance of light sipping rum and a glass of cold water. I was rewarded with a satisfying experience: a medium-bodied profile with a salty taste that’s accented by notes of sweet cream, cedar, café au lait, and traces of trademark Davidoff mustiness. Construction was solid (notably, the Legato burns with an ultra-thick mascara). The Avo XO—which features an Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut-seed wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos—may not be for everyone all the time, but it’s a good asset to keep on hand if you know how to use it correctly.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 493

19 Aug 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.

JudgeMehta102715_crop1) The cigar industry can cheer what is the first of hopefully many wins in lawsuits challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco regulations. This week U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta (pictured at right) ruled a tobacco product shouldn’t be considered new—and therefore re-subject to FDA approval—simply because its label changes. “The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed last year by subsidiaries of Imperial Brands, Reynolds American Inc., and Altria Group over FDA guidelines clarifying what changes to a tobacco product require regulatory approval under the 2009 Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products,” reports Reuters. Judge Mehta did find, however, that changing the quantity of cigarettes included in a product does amount to a change that would require the new product to submit to FDA approval. The lawsuit specifically challenged how the Tobacco Control Act was being applied to cigarettes, but has significant implications for how the agency can apply its rules to cigars.

2) On Wednesday, Patrick S was interviewed on KOH 780 AM, a news talk radio station in Reno, Nevada. The conversation, which focused the FDA regulation of cigars, is an excellent resource if you’re looking for the basics and need to get up to speed. You can listen to his segment here (beginning at the 20-minute mark).

3) In partnership with expert tobacconists and mixologists, and in association with Cigar & Spirits magazine, online retailer Famous Smoke Shop has released a new cigar and spirit pairing guide. The interactive tool helps determine recommendations on what cigars to pair with different spirits. Once you get your suggested pairing, there are recommended articles to read, including an article from StogieGuys.com.

4) Inside the Industry: One of the more anticipated new releases from Tatuaje is the Reserva Broadleaf Collection, which consists of 100 cigars, 10 of each size. The collection features Brown Label blends with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. In addition to the six original Brown Label sizes, also included are the Tatuaje Reserva SW, Tatuaje Reserva J21, the new Tatuaje K222, and the Tatuaje Cojonu 2003. The 100-count collection retails for $1,200. As Tatuaje owner Pete Johnson noted to us in an email ahead of the release, to differentiate the original Reserva blends (which use an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper) from the Broadleaf versions, you’ll start to see “Broadleaf” noted on secondary bands.

5) From the Archives: In 10 years, only 53 cigars have earned our highest rating of five out of five stogies. What was the first? The Davidoff Grand Cru No. 3. The review praised the cigar’s “explosion of delicate toasty notes, particularly hints of sweet hay… [with a blend of tobaccos that] yielded a unique, harmonious flavor pleasing to the whole palate.”

6) Deal of the Week: Just $27 will land you this Lucky 7 Sampler. Included are three each of the Alec Bradley American Sun Grown and Oliva Serie O, plus a Punch Gran Puro, and a free cutter thrown in for good measure. Be sure to add the coupon code “stogie” for 10% off.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Wikipedia

Tip: Help a Service Member Enjoy a Good Smoke

17 Aug 2016

The other day an email landed in my inbox from a U.S. Army captain stationed overseas. He wondered if it would be possible to get some cigars for his soldiers.

Troops PhotoCapt. Justin Foster’s unit, whose mission is providing sophisticated communications support, shipped out about three months ago from its home in the Baltimore area.

“I have many soldiers in my 51-man formation that enjoy a great cigar,” he wrote. “I do like to give care packages as much as possible and send nice things out to the soldiers.”

StogieGuys.com has been pushing for cigar donations to the troops for years. Sometimes it’s reminding readers to check out Cigars for Warriors. Sometimes it’s urging you to assist individual units like Capt. Foster’s. And sometimes we suggest you to contribute to a program at your local shop.

Let’s face it, with considerably fewer troops overseas now than there were in the recent past, there’s not as much attention focused on soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines as there was. It’s easy to forget.

But that’s exactly the time they need a boost the most. Their jobs aren’t any easier, their risks any smaller, or their chances to get a good cigar any better.

I asked Capt. Foster if he could send me a photo of some of his troops enjoying a cigar, and he did. They may be sitting at a picnic table, but I don’t think it’s much of a picnic where they are. I’m sure a cigar break is more than welcome.

So, dig into your humidor. I’m sure you can find a few good sticks to send along for inclusion in Capt. Foster’s care packages. The address:

HHC 392ND ESB
CPT Justin Foster
APO AE 09330

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys/Capt. Foster

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Florida Sun Grown Limited Edition Trunk-Pressed Toro

15 Aug 2016

FSG

Earlier this summer, I reviewed the Robusto format of the new Drew Estate Florida Sun Grown line. I mentioned that, in addition to the four Brazilian-wrapped standard vitolas, there is also a Limited Edition Trunk-Pressed Toro with its own unique blend, and that’s the subject of today’s review.

FSG Trunk-Pressed ToroTo bring you back up to speed, two years ago we broke the news that, for the first time since 1977, long-filler cigar tobacco was being grown in Florida. Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of the 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 knew Drew Estate had been selected as Borysiewicz’s partner, it was unclear how the tobacco would be incorporated. In May, we learned it would be used in a blend from Drew Estate aptly called Florida Sun Grown (FSG). Drew Estate Master Blender Willy Herrera paired the Floridian filler tobacco with Nicaraguan leaves, a Mexican binder, and a Brazilian wrapper.

As I mentioned above, however, the Trunk-Pressed Toro (6 x 52) sports a different blend. It has a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Mexican binder, and filler tobaccos from Florida, Nicaragua, and Honduras. It retails for $15 and is packaged in boxes of 10 (the standard four vitolas retail for $11.50 to $15 and come in 20-count boxes).

The FSG Limited Edition Trunk-Pressed Toro has a beautiful exterior leaf that’s dark, moderately oily, slightly reddish, and covered in a network of (mostly) thin veins. The foot exudes pre-light notes of green raisin and cocoa powder. The cold draw is smooth and clear. Just like the standard vitolas, it is adorned by a handsome band of teal, orange, and gold that interestingly makes no mention of Drew Estate, nor does it designate the cigar as a limited edition in any way.

After establishing an even light, I am immediately struck by how much more Mexican-tasting the Trunk-Pressed Toro is than the regular-production Robusto. This is a gritty, dirty cigar with a highly chalky texture. Background notes include espresso, black pepper spice, and a touch of the sweet grassy sensation that’s prevalent in other Broadleaf-wrapped smokes from Drew Estate. Full-bodied from light to nub, the profile picks up some creaminess at the midway point, only to grow spicier and more intense down the home stretch. Cayenne heat fades in and out throughout.

The gentle box-press renders the Toro almost oval in shape, which I find very comfortable and unique. Combustion qualities are superb, including a straight burn line, solid ash, and an easy draw that yields above-average smoke production.

For now, FSG is only available at Corona Cigar stores, or at Corona Cigar’s retail website. However, rumor has it Borysiewicz would like to see FSG go national. If that happens, the exclusivity at Corona Cigar will likely be remembered as a soft launch.

Either way, you need to get your hands on this cigar. It’s expensive yet highly enjoyable and supremely satisfying, especially if you’re not averse to Mexican tobacco. The Florida Sun Grown Limited Edition Trunk-Pressed Toro is a joy to smoke and worthy of an admirable 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