Cigar Review: Mi Querida Triqui Traca No. 648

15 Oct 2020

The story of Triqui Traca starts with Mi Querida, the sophomore cigar line from Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT). Launched in the summer of 2016, Mi Querida was (and is) crafted at the Nicaragua American Cigars S.A. (NACSA) factory in Estelí by Raul Disla, under direction from Saka, with a blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos surrounded by a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.

Three summers later, in 2019, an offshoot called Mi Querida Triqui Traca was announced. The phrase mi querida translates to “my dearest,” but in Nicaragua the phrase is most often used to describe a secret mistress; triqui traca is another Nicaraguan term, this one used to describe fireworks that are bound together to form a long string of fuses and ignited in the streets to mark special occasions and holidays.

Triqui Traca is “arguably our boldest cigar released to date,” said Saka in a June 2019 press release. “At its core, it remains our quintessential Mi Querida blend with its earthy, sweet Broadleaf notes, but with the incorporation of a couple refinements.” Those refinements include the addition of a “high-octane” Dominican ligero leaf, and the replacement of the “traditional Connecticut Broadleaf mediums” used for Mi Querida wrappers with a “rarer No. 1 dark corona leaf.” As a result, Triqui Traca retains the “inherent sweet loam and chocolate characteristics” from Mi Querida, yet it “delivers a significantly heavier smoking experience,” says Saka.

There are four Triqui Traca vitolas available: No. 552 (5 x 52, 20-count box), No. 648 (6 x 48, 20-count box), No. 652 (6 x 52, 20-count box), and No. 764 (7 x 64, 10-count box). These are easily distinguished from Mi Querida by their understated yet beautiful red-and-gold bands (Mi Querida sports identical bands, but the background color is blue).

I sampled two Triqui Tracas in the No. 648 format ($11.75) for this review. Both are notably firm to the touch to the point where there is almost no give when lightly squeezed. They also both have toothy, slightly reddish, mouth-wateringly textured surfaces with significant oils and an almost crystallized appearance—especially when viewed in sunlight. The foot exudes a musty aroma with some sweet hints of raisin.

The cold draw is smooth, notwithstanding the cigar’s firmness. Once an even light is established, I find a balanced, full-bodied, dense profile with notes of rich cocoa, espresso, musty earth, cereals, and cayenne heat. The texture is powdery—it’s hard to smoke this cigar without thinking about cocoa powder—and I would be remiss if I did not mention the nicotine intensity, which is typically something I don’t notice, even in strong cigars. Here, it’s noticeable but not overbearing.

I also can’t stress enough how heavy the overall taste is. This is a palate-coating cigar that lays a thick blanket of flavor that will drown out almost any beverage. As far as pairings go, I would suggest sipping neat a smoky Islay whiskey like Laphroaig, Ardbeg, or Lagavulin.

Construction is masterful. Expect generous smoke production, a straight burn that requires no touch-ups, a smooth draw, and a white ash that holds very well off the foot.

To date, my favorite DDT cigars are the Sobremesa Cervantes Fino and the Muestra de Saka Nacatamale. The Mi Querida Triqui Traca No. 648 is not quite on that level, but it’s close—and that earns it an exemplary rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Wunder|Lust Gran Toro

28 Sep 2020

Two of the best cigars I smoked in 2013 were Abaddon and Ouroboros, both of which are exclusives made by Skip Martin’s RoMa Craft Tobac for Blue Havana, a Chicago tobacconist. So when I read that Martin said, “in a lot of ways, [Abaddon and Ouroboros are] like the American version of the Wunder|Lust,” I knew I had to get my hands on some.

That’s easier said than done. Wunder|Lust, introduced in 2016, is made for—and exclusive to—retailers in Germany (the German prefix wunder means “wonder,” and the name also plays off the concept of wanderlust). But when I recently found a stateside RoMa sampler that included several Wunder|Lust cigars, I jumped at the chance.

Made at the NicaSueño factory in Estelí, the Wunder|Lust recipe includes a Brazilian mata fina wrapper, an Indonesian besuki binder, and undisclosed filler. There are five sizes, each packaged in boxes of 40: Robusto, Petit Belicoso, Gran Corona, Fiorella, and Gran Toro.

The later measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 52 and, depending on the exchange rate, retails for just under $11 (€9.25 in Germany). It has a handsome, understated light blue band over a white ring. Underneath is an oily wrapper with a well-executed cap and a firm feel throughout. While there are a couple prominent veins creating some minor wrinkles and lumps, there’s not enough to merit calling the cigar rustic. Once the cap is clipped, the cold draw is moderately stiff. At the foot, the pre-light notes remind me of cinnamon raisin bread.

After establishing an even light with a few wooden matches, I find a dry, medium-bodied introductory profile with bready, oaky notes and a white pepper spice. Background flavors include espresso and cinnamon.

As the first third turns into the second, RoMa Craft devotees who are used to Nicaraguan power might be surprised as the cigar retreats a bit in terms of strength. There is no retreat in taste, though. The aforementioned flavors still shine through but are now accented by subtle, Cuban-esque floral notes. This makes for a delightful, incredibly tasty experience, and one that remains largely unchanged until the finale.

The physical properties—while not perfect—in no way interfere with my enjoyment of the Gran Toro. The burn requires no touch-ups or relights, but it is also prone to some uneven meandering. The white ash holds firm off the foot, the draw is smooth, and the smoke production is about average.

I will resist the temptation to compare and contrast this with Abaddon or Ouroboros. My memory—and a re-read of the reviews I wrote seven years ago—seem to suggest this is a very different cigar, though one that’s equally enjoyable for different reasons. I’m a fan, and I’m glad I went out of my way to procure some Wunder|Lust; I suggest you do the same. The Wunder|Lust Gran Toro is worthy of a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Partagas Serie P No. 2 (Cuban)

19 Sep 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’ve had this Cuban tubo in my humidor for at least five years. That time has served it well. The Partagas Serie P No. 2 (6.1 x 52) features notes of earth, coffee bean, cinnamon, nutmeg, cream, and toast. It’s medium-bodied with a balanced profile. While the foot was slightly frayed when removed from the tubo, it still demonstrated excellent construction with an even burn and sturdy ash.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sobremesa Brûlée Gordo

17 Sep 2020

When the Brûlée offshoot of the Sobremesa blend was introduced in 2019 by Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT), rumors began to swirl that the cap was sweetened. In addition to denying this allegation, Saka used his marketing genius to recently release a “Saka’s Taste For U’rself” sampler, or—in a thinly veiled jab at his detractors—“STFU.” Every cigar in the five-pack is the original Brûlée blend in the Toro format. But the catch is, some are unadulterated, some have sweetened caps, and one is double-sweetened.

Saka will take to Facebook Live on October 1 to reveal which are which. In the meantime, today I am reviewing the Sobremesa Brûlée in its pure form, specifically in the Gordo vitola. The cigars examined were obtained at my own expense and not part of the STFU sampler.

As with his other blends, Saka was very forthcoming about his motivations in crafting Sobremesa Brûlée, and the tobaccos he used to carry out this vision (I wish more cigar makers were this transparent). “Sobremesa Brûlée is a recreation of the milder, shade-wrapped ligas of my early years,” he wrote in a DTT press release. “Somewhere over the last three decades, many of the classic shade cigars have become wispy, uninspiring, and rather dull to my palate. I wanted to share with others the way I remember these blonde cigars being.” He went on to write that he does not “understand the recent trend of making strong Connecticut Shade cigars… To me this seems like an oxymoron and a fundamental lack of appreciation of the enchanting characteristics and nuances of shade-grown, Connecticut-seed tobaccos. In Brûlée, I embraced this shade capa and dedicated myself to showcasing its mild, sweet, and nutty nature.”

What makes Brûlée a Sobremesa? The recipe is a variation on the core Sobremesa blend “in which the Pennsylvania-seed ligero has been removed, the Condega seco has been increased, and the wrapper is replaced with a top-shelf grade of BW Ecuador Connecticut Shade leaf.” The binder remains a Matacapan negro de Temporal leaf from Mexico.

Originally, three Brûlée sizes were available, each ranging in price from $12.45 to $13.95: Robusto (5.25 x 52), Toro (6 x 52), and Gordo (6.25 x 60). A Double Corona (7 x 54) was added this year, along with a new limited edition variation called Brûlée Blue that (uncharacteristically, for Saka) has an undisclosed blend.

When you slide the Brûlée Toro out of its cellophane, the first thing you notice is the nearly flawless, golden-colored, silky wrapper that’s affixed to the binder in such a way that the seams are barely noticeable. Veins are few and far-between and razor-thin.

The pre-light notes at the foot are classic Connecticut Shade: sweet hay, almond, buttery oak, and sawdust. And the packing of tobacco is stiff, especially for a cigar with such a wide girth.

Speaking of girth, I appreciate Saka employing a rounded pyramid cap for this vitola. That helps limit the awkwardness that usually accompanies smoking a 60-ring gauge cigar. Once this cap is clipped, I find a smooth cold draw with—yes—a fair amount of sweetness on the lips. While I take Saka at his word that nothing artificial is at play here, I can certainly see why many people believe otherwise. To me, the sensation reminds me of rum cake, almond cookie, and cognac.

Sobremesa Brûlée is marketed as “a milder, even smoother adaptation of the Sobremesa blend that does not sacrifice its wonderfully complex flavors or aromas.” At the outset, the smoke production is low despite the smooth draw, which I attribute to the Gordo’s generous dimensions. Drawing more aggressively than I might otherwise be inclined highlights the core flavors, which include brown sugar, oak, butter, graham cracker, toast, and white pepper. The texture is bready and the body is mild-to-medium. It should be noted the ever-present sweetness on the lips likely makes a big impression on my interpretation of the flavor.

The core flavors remain consistent throughout, the exception being a ramp-up in intensity in the second third, and another in the final third. That said, one important change is the draw, which opens considerably after the first third and heralds a much-improved rate of smoke production. The other physical attributes are exemplary, especially for such a large cigar. The burn is straight requiring no touch-ups, and the ash holds firm off the foot.

The Sobremesa Brûlée Gordo takes a full two hours to smoke. Whether you think it is sweetened or not (again, Saka is insistent it is not, and I am inclined to believe him), that’s a big commitment with any cigar, and the reward must be either (1) phenomenal flavor that holds your attention or (2) several notable changes in flavor along the way. This cigar has the former. Connecticut Shade fans are bound to love it, and those who typically avoid this wrapper type are likely to find this to be an exception to the rule.

I suspect I will enjoy any of the other sizes more—perhaps considerably more. In the case of the Gordo, I’m still a fan in spite of the size, and have settled on a very admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Polpetta

8 Sep 2020

At the end of 2019—back when the world was a much different place—Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT) announced a new event-only line called Polpetta (Italian for “meatball”). The key there is “event-only.” It’s challenging to stick to that strategy in a year when COIVD-19 effectively brought in-person cigar events to a screeching halt.

Flash forward to July 16, 2020. Smoke Inn, a Florida-based retailer with a robust e-commerce presence, hosted a “Saka’s Smorgasbord” online event, which featured a conversation between Saka and Smoke Inn chief Abe Dababneh, as well as special deals on Dunbarton samplers. And, just as if the event had been conducted in-person, certain purchases included a varying number of Polpetta cigars.

I jumped at what was likely my only chance to secure some Polpettas and made an online purchase of a sampler. Today I am reviewing the cigar after sampling two specimens.

Saka describes this small (4 x 48) parejo as “utilizing the long leaf table trimmings from three of our current ligas.” He wrote on Facebook: “If this concept sounds familiar, it is. I have done it a few times in the past and we are now producing enough Broadleaf cigars to make it viable from a production point of view at DTT.”

In addition to “meatball” being “the perfect moniker for this tasty treat,” it should be noted meatballs have a special place in Saka’s heart—and evidently he’s quite good at making them. Twice he has won the “Meatball Showdown” event held at Two Guys Smoke Shop in his home state of New Hampshire.

The cigar includes a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around a Mexican San Andrés binder. The filler is comprised of the aforementioned “table trimmings” from Saka’s Mi Querida, Mi Querida Triqui Traca, and Umbagog lines.

Seemingly everything Steve Saka touches turns to gold these days. Yet Polpetta doesn’t have the look of a winner. It’s rough around the edges—literally. I realize Broadleaf makes for a thick wrapper, but here the seams stick out to the point they are prone to peel, crack, and nearly unravel. The cap isn’t pretty, either.

When you get a “table trimmings” cigar, though, you’re more interested in a high flavor-to-cost ratio, not necessarily aesthetics. In terms of flavor, the outset is an interesting, bready mix of raisin, cocoa, espresso, white pepper, and earth. The mouthfeel is dry and oaky. After the first inch or so, the rest of the cigar is characterized by periods where the taste seems to stall—low intensity, papery, dry—and periods when the notes from the beginning shine through.

In terms of physical properties, I have no complaints. The draw is smooth, the ash holds well off the foot, the burn is straight, and the smoke production is average.

That said, it’s clear to me the highlight of the sampler I purchased (notwithstanding my motivations) is not the two Polpettas that were thrown in, but rather the ten other DTT cigars, including vitolas of Sobremesa, Mi Querida, Mi Querida Triqui Traca, and Umbagog. While Polpetta is not a bad cigar by any means, I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to seek out. In my book, it earns three stogies out of five—which makes it the lowest-rated DTT cigar on this site.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Ardbeg Wee Beastie Single Malt Scotch Whisky

3 Sep 2020

Ardbeg’s profile has always been bold and brash, and in many ways the announcement of its new Wee Beastie offering is following in that tradition. At a time when many new single malts are dropping age statements due to a lack of desirable double-digit age statements, a new offering that loudly proclaims it is “just” five years old is the quintessential zig when everyone else is zagging.

Deemed the “rawest, smokiest Ardbeg ever”—which says something for a brand known for raw, smoky, peaty offerings—it is matured in ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks and non chill-filtered at 47.4% ABV. At around $45, depending on where you are, it is priced to be tried as one of the least expensive, age-stated, single malt scotch whiskies (certainly one of the most affordable new age-stated offerings in recent years).

The result is a pale, light straw-colored single malt. Those who identify deep, rich color as evidence of quality whiskey aren’t likely to be impressed, but Ardbeg’s other offerings, which also present unadulterated color, show this can be meaningless. The nose features barbecue smoke, raw alcohol, tart apples, and hints of mint, pear, and tar.

The palate is more of the same: a vibrant combination of saltwater, ash, tar, gingerbread, white pepper, and malty sugar cookies. The finish is long and bright with fudge, salted caramel, soot, and more malty sweetness.

No one will mistake Ardbeg Wee Beastie for a significantly-aged single malt, but it boasts a lot to enjoy. The intense flavors are tamed by the subtle sherry notes, while the smokiness and brine never let you forget its age.

As far as cigar pairings go, it needs a full-bodied smoke. The PG Series III (pictured) my colleague recently extolled certainly fits the bill. Other ideal parings include Padrón Serie 1926, Ramón Allones (Cuban), and the Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection.

Ultimately, this whiskey certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you like smokey, peaty single malts—think Ardbeg’s older expressions, Lagavulin, or Laphroaig—this young, raw expression of Ardbeg is worth a try.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: My Father La Gran Oferta Robusto

20 Aug 2020

From time to time we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Made at My Father’s factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, La Gran Oferta employs tobaccos from the company’s Nicaraguan farms and features an oily Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper. It produces loads of smoke and medium- to full-bodied flavors. Construction is flawless, with a sturdy gray ash. Notes include toast, black coffee, earth, and roast nuts. It’s not my favorite My Father Cigars regular offering, but it is still worth checking out.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys