Quick Smoke: A.J. Fernandez Habano Enclave Robusto

20 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.”

With a flawless Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and a partially covered foot, this cigar makes a great first impression. This entry also features something of an unusual combination for A.J. Fernandez: a Cameroon binder covers his Nicaraguan filler. It’s a medium-strength cigar with lots of flavor, including cedar and nuts. The Robusto (5 x 52) retails for around $7. I would have liked greater smoke production and a little better burn, but, overall, this is an enjoyable cigar and worthy of a recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Boveda Launches Smart Sensor, CHIP Showdown Won’t Affect Cigar Taxes, Alec Bradley Partners with Rabbit Air, and More

19 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 563rd in the series.

1) Boveda, the Minnesota-based “global leader in two-way humidity control,” has introduced what it is calling “the best innovation for premium cigars since the invention of Boveda.” The new Boveda Smart Sensor will sync up your humidor’s humidity and temperature levels with an app on your phone or tablet. After a two-point calibration is completed, the device will be accurate within +/- 1.5% relative humidity, and the app can be customized to alert you to humidity or temperature changes exceeding a user-defined threshold of acceptability. The Smart Sensor is currently available at Boveda.com and retails for about $40, or $50 if you also want four large humidification packets and a calibration kit. Check back at StogieGuys.com in the coming weeks as we are currently testing the device for a full product review.

2) One of the sticking points in the current last-minute budget negotiations in Washington is the extent to which any deal will include funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program is funded largely by tobacco taxes, including a 40-cent-per-cigar tax on handmade cigars. Although the program’s “funding” would expire if a deal isn’t struck, the tax on tobacco remains whether or not a deal is struck and signed by the president.

3) Inside the Industry: On Monday, Alec Bradley Cigar Co. announced a new partnership with Rabbit Air to distribute “customized Alec Bradley/Rabbit Air co-branded air purifiers.” The SPA-700A model, for example, covers 700 square feet and will retail for about $520; the SPA-780A covers 815 square feet and will retail for about $620. The California-based Rabbit Air is “a leader in the air purifying industry, and its MinusA2 Ultra Quiet Air Purifier is the cigar industry standard for wall-mounted smoke-eating units,” according to a press release. “Our mutually beneficial relationship with Rabbit Air is a no-brainer,” said Jonathan Lipson, Alec Bradley’s director of sales and marketing. “Together, we have the opportunity to positively affect brick and mortar tobacconists. Not only will they have the opportunity to use and display the units, tobacconists will also have the ability to sell the units to the end consumer.”

4) From the Archives: Winter is tough on cigar humidity, but if you think your humidity may be off, the first thing to check is the accuracy of your hygrometer (especially if you are using the spring-loaded hygrometers that come in most humidors). For that, you’ll need to perform the simple but extremely useful salt calibration test.

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

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Boveda

Cigar Review: Illusione La Gran Classe Rex

17 Jan 2018

In 2012, Dion Giolito introduced La Grand Classe as a small-batch exclusive for his Fumare store in Reno, Nevada. The project appeared short-lived, with only one follow up, La Grand Classe Rex, which appeared in 2013.

Then, at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show, Giolito, who also owns the Illusione brand, announced La Grand Classe Rex was returning as part of an Illusione-branded La Grand Classe line.

The cigars feature a reddish-brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It measures 4.9 inches long with a ring gauge of 40 and sells for $5.50 per cigar. It comes un-banded in gold foil bundles of 25.

Flavors include roasted cashews, dry earth, and light leather in a medium- to full-bodied blend. The profile also features cinnamon and nutmeg spice, which starts out light and builds after the midway point.

It’s a balanced cigar that provides surprising nuance in such a small vitola. The draw and burn are excellent, although keep in mind that the ash produced by small ring gauge cigars has a tendency to fall off unexpectedly.

If you’re looking for a smaller cigar to enjoy this winter (because you don’t have the time or warmth for something longer) this is one to try. For providing pleasing flavors and excellent value, Illusione La Gran Classe Rex earns a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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

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