Quick Smoke: Nica Libre 25th Anniversary Silver Corona

17 Jun 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.”

The catalog favorite Nica Libre has always been a discount cigar with an emphasis on its Nicaraguan pedigree. Lately, the line has expanded, including with this 25th Anniversary Silver offering (25 years since the sovereign post-revolution war, not of the Nica Libre brand) made by A.J. Fernandez. I can’t remember the last time I smoked a cigar with this much in-your-face spice right from the beginning. The Nicaraguan puro is dominated by cayenne and black pepper notes, backed up by black coffee and oak flavors. It’s a bit unbalanced, but if you crave spice this is for you.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Atabey Ritos

16 Jun 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.”

Here’s an elegant, well-made cigar with a price tag that will make you cringe. The current retail price for the Atabey Ritos (6.1 x 55) is $33. Yikes. Is it elegantly packaged with a tasteful, Behike-like presentation? Yes. Is the construction nothing short of flawless? Yes. And what of the flavor? It is complex, balanced, bready in texture, and mild- to medium-bodied with notes ranging from cream and oak to white pepper and roasted cashew. If money is no object, by all means; you will not be disappointed, unless you’re expecting a full-bodied flavor-bomb.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Nicaraguan Crisis Escalates to Nationwide Strike, Drew Estate Releases Five Flying Pigs, and More

15 Jun 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 583rd in the series.

1) The tumultuous situation in Nicaragua—spurred by President Daniel Ortega’s April 18 proclamation of social security reforms, including decreased benefits and higher taxes—took a new turn yesterday, as many working Nicaraguans participated in a nationwide strike. “Streets were deserted in cities and towns as banks and supermarkets, gas stations and corner stores were closed. Few people ventured out during the 24-hour stoppage,” reports Reuters. “Police officers with assault rifles lined the largely empty main streets of the capital Managua. The strike, organized by university students, farmers, and business owners, was the latest tactic by a loose national alliance formed to dislodge the president.” Nicaragua is the largest importer of premium cigars into the U.S. market. The widespread protests have taken their toll on the industry as roadblocks have severely hampered transportation and shipments. Sadly, many lives have been lost as well. “Nearly 150 have been killed and hundreds injured in eight weeks of clashes between pro-Ortega forces and protesters armed with rocks, slings, and homemade mortars.”

2) Drew Estate has released shipments of five Liga Privada and Undercrown Flying Pigs to retailers, including the Liga Privada No. 9, T52, Undercrown, Undercrown Shade, and Undercrown Sungrown. The unique format is nearly 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 60 and includes a tapered foot and a tapered pigtail cap. The Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 will sell for $181.20 per 12-count box (2,500 boxes made); the Undercrown Flying Pigs will sell for $152.64 per 12-count box (2,500 boxes made). “As president of Drew Estate, it brings me great pride to report that our production floor’s passion, and painstaking dedication to detail, remains as strong today as the day we began as a little fabriquita,” said Jonathan Drew. “All of us at Drew Estate wish to dedicate this release collection to all the fathers who give us the wisdom and love to fly high everyday.”

3) Random Read: Why an Irish whiskey shortage, years in the making, may soon be upon us.

4) Inside the Industry: The cigar industry lost Eric Hanson on June 8. The founder of Hammer + Sickle cigars passed away at just 45 years old. Hanson created Hammer + Sickle cigars in 2010, as a complement to Hammer + Sickle vodka, which he also owned. We interviewed Hanson about his Second Growth brand here.

5) From the Archives: Want to become adept at aging cigars? Check out our 2008 interview with Doc Stogie.

6) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the July box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr / Drew Estate

Cigar Review: Casa Fernandez Miami Corojo Robusto

14 Jun 2018

Not many years ago, your average well-informed cigar smoker probably had never heard of Aganorsa tobacco. Today, there’s a good chance they have and, if they haven’t, they’ve almost certainly smoked Aganorsa tobacco, which is widely used by many of the largest cigar makers.

Aganorsa S.A. started in 1997 when Cuban-born American businessman Eduardo Fernandez began purchasing land in Nicaragua to grow tobacco, including fields once owned by Ncaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. Prior to the Sandinista revolution, Somoza was part owner of the Joya de Nicaragua factory (dictators don’t pick their lands because they aren’t some of the finest available). Fernandez, who quickly began expanding his growing operations, staffed his fields with Cuban agronomists.

Fernandez soon began expanding to cigar making with the purchase of Tropical Tobacco and later by establishing, with José “Pepín” García, El Rey de los Habanos in Miami and another facility in Nicaragua. (The two split ways acrimoniously in 2010 with a lawsuit that ended in a settlement.) Today, Fernandez runs the Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) (Nicaragua), and Casa Fernandez Miami (USA) factories where he makes cigars for his Casa Fernanedez brands and others, including Illusione and Warped (which is co-owned by Fernandez’s son, Max).

While Aganorsa tobacco is still supplied to numerous cigar makers in Nicaragua and elsewhere, the brand remains closely associated with Casa Fernandez, which uses the tobaccos almost exclusively. Earlier this year, Casa Fernandez was officially moved under the Aganorsa Leaf banner.

The Casa Fernandez Miami Aganorsa Leaf Corojo is a Nicaraguan puro made in Miami with an Aganorsa Corojo wrapper around Aganorsa binder and filler. The cigar comes in three sizes: Robusto (5 x 52), Toro (6.5 x 52), and Torpedo (6.25 x 52).

The Robusto features a slightly mottled Colorado brown wrapper. The slightly rounded, box-pressed cigar features two bands (one denoting Casa Fernandez Miami and another advertising Aganorsa Leaf), plus a black ribbon around the foot. The primary band was changed along the way to make “Miami” more prominent.

Once lit, the cigar features cafe-au-lait, bread, cashew, and light oak. It has only the slightest wood spice (though pepper is prominent when retro-haled), but it is a medium- to full-bodied smoke with excellent balance. The flavors coat the palate creating a long, velvety finish.

The flavors are consistent throughout, with a slight increase in strength towards the final third. Construction was excellent on all three Robustos I smoked, with an easy draw, even burn, and sturdy ash.

I’ve largely been impressed by Casa Fernandez cigars, but I’ll admit to being a bit confused by the line. At times, it’s challenging to discern the differences between their various offerings. For example, what appears to be the exact same Casa Fernandez Corojo has also been made in Nicaragua, but that cigar is still sold on some websites side-by-side with the Miami. Perhaps the new Aganorsa Leaf branding will soon clear up these differences.

The Casa Fernandez Miami Corojo Robusto retails for $110 for box of 15, but the truth is you can find it for quite a bit less. For the $60 I paid for the box (perhaps that confusion I spoke of creates a buying opportunity), it is a real bargain.

This Miami-made Nicaraguan puro is the type of cigar most appreciated by veteran fans of Nicaraguan smokes. With enjoyable flavors and excellent balance, the Casa Fernandez Miami Corojo Robusto earns a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Cigar Enthusiasts Could Benefit from a Little More Talking

11 Jun 2018

They’re commonly called shelf-talkers. Those little cards or stickers you see so often on store shelves to entice you to buy the highlighted product.

They’re ubiquitous in grocery stores, omnipresent in wine shops, and in many other retail outlets. In cigar stores, though, not so much.

Of course, some cigar manufacturers provide them, and some retailers display them. But I don’t believe they are nearly as common as they should be.

When you’re looking through a humidor hoping to find something you’ve never encountered or a cigar you’ve heard of but haven’t tried, wouldn’t it be helpful to quickly see the basics? By that, I’m referring primarily to the tobaccos used, although we know more would be better.

I find it interesting that tobacco information is regularly included in the descriptions of online and catalog offerings, even if it is sometimes incorrect. Does it make sense that customers have less access to such material when they’re in a store devoted to cigars?

Now, I know some will say you should ask the retailer. And that can work if you are focusing on only one or two cigars, and the staffer you talk to knows the answers. On the other hand, if you’re someone like me who can spend a lot of time looking, considering, and generally doing a Hamlet imitation before choosing a cigar, all that asking isn’t feasible.

More often than not, the alternative is to look up the cigar on a mobile device and try to find what you’re looking for. Personally, I hate spending time doing this, knowing that so many manufacturers’ websites aren’t up to date and information on other sites sometimes conflicts.

I’m aware, too, that some manufacturers don’t want to reveal much of anything to their customers. Cigar fans have been pushing this boulder up the hill for years without, sadly, much success. I wonder whether some of this is a holdover from years past when cigar smokers tended to buy the same brand and size again and again. When that was the case, supplying more information likely seemed superfluous.

Perhaps if shelf-talkers became commonplace in cigar shops, reluctant companies would feel more pressure to go along.

It’s also possible that store owners fear their humidors could end up looking like the shelves at the local dollar store. It’s not for nothing that another name for shelf-talkers is shelf-screamers. And then there are the ones that move. They’re shelf-wobblers.

I think it is quite possible to have shelf-talkers that are discreet and informative. Check out the Sindicato example above. Wouldn’t it be nice if at least that was readily available for every cigar?

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Kilo Robusto

10 Jun 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.”

Kilo has been a passion project of Barry Stein since he joined Miami Cigar. The original cigar was produced while Barry was at Miami, but the second edition I’m smoking was released in 2015 under the United Cigar Group, owned by Dave Garofalo of Two Guys Smoke Shop. This edition is made at Noel Rojas’ Aroma de Jalapa Factory (home of Guayacan Cigars) using an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. The full-bodied cigar starts with creamy flavors followed by oak, earth, milk chocolate, and coffee notes. It’s certainly full-bodied, but with integrated flavors and sufficient balance. It’s unclear whether Kilo is still being made, but if it isn’t that’s a shame because it’s an excellent cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: S.T.K. Black Dahlia by George Rico

9 Jun 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.”

This offering from Gran Habano features a multi-nation blend, a beautifully ornate band, and a distinctive flavor profile. It’s that profile that will make or break the Black Dahlia for most smokers. For me, it starts with a predominance of biting grassy, hay notes and a long finish. Progressing along the 5-inch, 52-ring gauge frame wrapped in shade-grown Nicaraguan Corojo leaf, nuts and charred wood mix with the predominant, somewhat acerbic, taste. Overall, though, this isn’t a complex creation. It’s also not a cigar I’d want to smoke all the time. But for a change of pace it’s an interesting, different experience. You’ll only know if you feel the same by lighting one up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys