Archive | July, 2006

Stogie Exclusive: Davidoff Tasting with Mike Copperman

31 Jul 2006

For those of you who haven’t yet been lucky enough to meet him, Mike Copperman is a cigar god amongst men. This pleasant and approachable tobacconist at Bethesda Tobacco has more passion and knowledge about stogies in his little finger than I have in my entire body. On Saturday morning, he was generous enough to invite Patrick and me to his store for a private Davidoff tasting.

As expected, we got some wonderful cigars and tons of invaluable knowledge out of the experience…But we also got so much more.

After four cups of coffee, one bagel, and a sixty minute commute, Patrick and I rolled into Bethesda Tobacco at 10:30 AM on Saturday. The building is a tiny, two-story dwelling that is as unassuming as it is charismatic. The front patio is dotted with deck furniture sitting in the shade of tropical banana trees. A lone neon sign glowing through the main window simply reads, “Cigars”.

Mike welcomed us with a smile and led us to a lounge on the second floor. This small stogie haven – complete with leather chairs, a television, a huge humidor, and jaded windows fogged by decades of smoke – would be our refuge for the next two hours.

The session consisted of us tasting three different Davidoff cigars, each one comprised entirely of one tobacco blend – Olor, San Vicente, and Piloto Cubano. After each sampling, Patrick and I gave the cigar a rating based on sweetness, saltiness, acidity, and bitterness. With a lot of help from Mike, and a trusty palate diagram of the human tongue, we correctly identified the Olor blend as mostly salty (removes saliva from the mouth), the San Vicente blend as mostly acidic (adds saliva to the mouth), and the Piloto Cubano blend as bitter and sweet.

It’s amazing how refined your palate can be if you (1) pay attention to the geography of your tongue, (2) smoke through the nose (no, it’s not inhaling, Stogie Tip forthcoming), and (3) have a human cigar encyclopedia at your disposal.

Next, Mike presented us with the fourth cigar – the highly acclaimed Davidoff Gran Cru No. 3. This robust smoke is a special blend of the three aforementioned stogies we had just sampled. The five inch by 43 ring gauge smoke is a noble cigar: smooth and well-refined with a wonderful flavor curve that balances evenly amongst the palate.

While we smoked, Mike was nice enough to share some fantastic tips with us. For example, did you know that in order to get maximum flavor out of each cigar you should only take about two puffs per minute?

You see, tobacco leaves are harvested to create starch so the leaf can produce sugar. When you smoke a cigar, the sugar is caramelized. Much like a master chef cooks a soufflé, you must “cook” the cigar at the right temperature. Taking about two puffs a minute will keep the foot at 494° F, the optimum temperature for experiencing maximum flavors.

But the best tip Mike shared with us is much less technical. He explained that the greatest sense one needs in order to enjoy cigars is not on the tongue or in the nose…It’s between the ears. In other words, the more you know about tobacco and cigar composition, the better tools you have with which to appreciate each smoke.

Overall, the whole tasting was a tremendous experience. I will remember the morning of Saturday, July 29 for many years to come.

I highly recommend Stogie Guys in the DC area make the trip to Bethesda when they can (a Thursday, August 3 Ashton BBQ would be a great introductory event). Take some time to peruse their selection, mingle with friendly regulars (who always come out in good numbers), and – of course – meet Mike Copperman.

Also, for those DC Stogie Guys who are interested in setting up a private tasting of your own with Mike, visit Bethesda Tobacco online and contact Mike.

-Patrick A


Stogie Guys Friday Sampler III

28 Jul 2006

In our ongoing effort to make as entertaining and reader-friendly as possible, each Friday we’ll post a sampler of quick cigar news and stogie-related snippets to tide you over for the weekend. We call ‘em Friday Samplers. Enjoy.

1) Over the past few months, we’ve been getting emails inquiring about the long-awaited release of the Ashton Estate Sun Grown, or ESG. Well, the wait is over. We have received word that a 7 inches by 49 ring gauge parejo called the Ashton ESG 20 Year Salute is hitting retailers near you today. With a suggested retail price of $18, this line is the first in a series of ESGs that will be released over the course of the next five years – culminating in Ashton’s 25th anniversary in 2010.

2) We don’t really like politicians, but any candidate who makes this entrance gets some serious respect from the Stogie Guys:

[Kinky Friedman] digs into his vest pocket, which is stuffed with Cuban cigars—fat Montecristo No. 2’s, the same kind Fidel used to smoke. “It’s gonna be a long day, so I came prepared,” Friedman declares and lights up, oblivious to the barrage of no smoking signs plastered on the nearby fuel tanks.

3) Thanks to it’s well-aged 1977 Cameroon wrapper, you may recall the release of Partagas 150 ten years ago. I don’t – I was 13. But I will remember this: In August, Partagas is releasing its 160 line. Made from the same batch of wrappers (now 29 years old), the cigars will sell for $18 to $30 each.

4) Finally, you can chalk one up for the good guys! It may be Fitchburg, Wisconsin (you haven’t heard of it either?), but it’s still good to see that common sense prevailed. The city council overwhelmingly sent a proposed smoking ban up in smoke.

-The Stogie Guys


Stogie Reviews: Gurkha Connecticut Reserve Robusto #4

26 Jul 2006

In our last Friday Sampler we told you about a deal that included eight name-brand cigars and a humidor for just $15. Never ones to talk the talk without walking the walk, today’s Stogie Review is the Gurkha Gurkha Connecticut Reserve Robusto #4, one of the eight cigars included in that heavily discounted deal.

Having never had a Gurkha before, I was looking forward to this review based on the excellent reputation that Gurkha has built up. Unfortunately I would be a little disappointed by this toro shaped “robusto” (6″ x 50 ring gauge).

The cigar had an attractive Connecticut wrapper, except for two strange black blemishes. I clipped it with the double guillotine and gave it a proper light with some wooden matches.

After a few nice puffs I decided that, given I was smoking on my front porch, I saw no need for the band, which would only get in the way once I got to the very end of the cigar. (For more on removing the band see here.) This proved to be a big mistake.

Almost instantly after removing the band, this thin shade grown Connecticut wrapper curled up exposing the grayish-brown binder. I repaired the wrapper as best I could using the magical glue-like powers of saliva, but the result was very crude: Part of the wrapper had fallen off completely while other parts were out of place, leaving binder exposed. Likely due to these construction issues, multiple touch-ups were required.

Aside from these major problems, I very much enjoyed the cigar. It had a mild to medium creamy caramel flavor with slight nutty tastes. It reminded me a little of the Romeo y Julieta Vintage (a stogie that’s rated very highly). The flavor was consistent all the way through, and the Gurkha had a nice easy draw.

Unfortunately, the awful construction cast a dark shadow over all of this cigar’s positive characteristics. (I’m hopeful that the other one of these that I have in my humidor proves this poor construction is an abberation.) Had the cigar held together it could have been a three and 1/2 or even a four stogie cigar. Instead, it only gets two out of five stogies.

[Attention DC Area Stogie Guys: Bethesda Tobacco is having a La Flor Dominicana event today from 5-9. We won’t might will be in attendance, but so feel free to let us know how the event was join us. Also, we’ve confirmed what Jerry from Stogie Review told us, that free BBQ and drinks will be provided, and there is a buy three get one free special!]

-Patrick S


Stogie Tip: Sixty is the New Fifty-Four

25 Jul 2006

As any Stogie Guy should know, when it comes to cigars, thicker isn’t necessarily better. Each year, nonetheless, stogies get fatter and fatter…and this alarming trend towards quantity from quality is taking root in the cigar world with lightning speed.

Not a decade ago, a 60 ring gauge cigar (that’s 60/64 of an inch in diameter) was a tobacconist’s anomaly. Up until the cigar boom of the 1990s, America’s most popular size was the manageable and elegant 42 ring gauge lonsdale (or vitola). Wrote Jordan Russin of Cigar Aficionado in 2002:

American smokers moved away from traditionally popular sizes in search of thicker cigars with more complexity and cooler smoke. By the early 1990s, the robusto was the country’s most popular size, and thinner cigars had begun to be relegated to the back of the cigar-smoking consciousness.

Today, thick cigars are even more popular. Cigar Aficionado’s RTDA Blog Day 3 reports that this year’s convention is inundated with fat sticks. The Maxx by Alec Bradley has a new 60 ring smoke called The Freak. And CAO has one of the thickest ever made – a 96 ring Brazilia-Italia (they cut it down from a 137 ring gauge). That’s just obscene! Couple these introductions with Lars Tetens’ new 60 ring Gorilla Fingers, and you could argue 60 is the new 54.

But before we jump headfirst on the thicker-is-better bandwagon, let’s not forget some oft-overlooked vital facts. Fat cigars are awkward in the hand and tragically uncomfortable in the mouth. And these mammoths tend to burn so cool they are often difficult to keep lit. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, their behemoth size actually tempers most of their flavors.

Case in point: Remember that the best tobacco on any cigar is the wrapper. By choosing thinner cigars (like the 40-46 ring gauged coronas, lonsdales, and Cuban corona gordas), you get more wrapper in relation to filler. While these cigars typically burn a bit hotter than their fat counterparts, you get richer, fuller, and more pronounced flavors. Simply put, a smaller smoke can deliver a taste experience that is often lost in the girth of larger cigars. Also, thin cigars peak much quicker, delivering their flavor without the long wait that many thick stogies require.

So while the entire cigar world plunges into a trendy fascination with fatness, I’m encouraging Stogie Guys Nation to plunge with caution. Like Pogs, it’s only a phase. Much like women, thick ones can be a lot of fun from time to time, but let’s not forget how flavorful and classically-beautiful a thin one can be.

-Patrick A


Stogie Guys Friday Sampler II

21 Jul 2006

In our ongoing effort to make as entertaining and reader-friendly as possible, each Friday we’ll post a sampler of quick cigar news and stogie-related snippets to tide you over for the weekend. We call ‘em Friday Samplers. Enjoy.

1) We’re not so sure about spending $195 on a shirt, but if you want to drop that kind of bank on a button-down why not get one made to carry your stogies? Thomas Pink is introducing a shirt with a split front pocket for a cigar: “The smaller section features an immaculate box pleat that can expand to hold cigars in a variety of lengths and girths. However, when empty, the cigar pocket sits perfectly flat to the chest. The secondary pocket can also be used for lighters or cutters.”

2) Habanos S.A., the international marketing and distribution arm for Cuban stogies in Havana, recently announced Cohibas will be available next year in a maduro wrapper. Strangely enough, the company stresses that Cohiba maduro wrappers will be produced through a natural fermentation process – and that most other maduro wrappers are developed artificially (which is false). Someone should tell Habanos they don’t need to lie to get Stogie Guys interested in new Cohiba products.

3) Following a hospitality industry trend set by Westin and Disney, all Marriott hotels in the U.S. and Canada will be smoke-free by September. The new policy covers all Marriott brands, including the Ritz-Carlton, Fairfield Inn, Courtyard, and Residence Inn.

4) Once again we found a special unadvertised deal that we feel obliged to pass on to our readers. This time for a mere $15 (that’s $180 less than the cigar shirt) you get eight premium cigars AND a 20-cigar humidor. Here’s the link.

-The Stogie Guys


Stogie Reviews: Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Maduro

20 Jul 2006

The other day a friend dropped by with two Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Maduros to see if I wanted to sit outside and partake. I wasn’t planning on having a stogie that night, but how could I resist such a generous offer?

After removing the cedar sleeve, the Chateau Fuente’s deep brown maduro wrapper made a good first impression. The wrapper was free of large veins and a bit bumpy, but that’s to be expected because this stogie was firmer than most. Quite frankly, given that it measured only four and 1/2 inches (and a 50 ring), I’m glad it was firm because otherwise it might have been too quick of a smoke. (It ended up taking well over 45 minutes.)

Once lit, the stogie burned slowly and evenly and, while not easy, the draw was not at all difficult. The cigar produced an average amount of smoke and the gray ash held nicely for an inch until a soft tap knocked it off.

This cigar was a combination of toast and spicy flavors, with subtle hints of pepper and even less clove. These flavors held throughout with little variation, and the stogie left a slightly sweet flavor on the lips.

Overall this is a fine medium flavored cigar. Maduro-only smokers might find it lacks complexity, but for primarily natural stogie smokers who are looking to mix it up a bit, this little guy will come up big.

The Chateau Fuente Maduro receives a solid 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stogies.

-Patrick S


Stogie Tip: Proper Cigar Etiquette

19 Jul 2006

Just like any other fantastic hobby (it’s not a habit), cigar smoking should be more relaxing than cumbersome. But there are a few rules you should follow in order to respect your fellow man and, more importantly, get the most out of your experience. Since I’ve already shared with you my tips on cutting and lighting stogies, I think now is a great time to discuss proper cigar etiquette.

1) Where to smoke. It goes without saying that if you’re on your own property, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. But – if you’re like me – most of your stogies are smoked outside your personal realm and in the presence of other Americans. If you’re at a friend’s place, it never hurts to ask. That’s the considerate thing to do, whether your outdoors enjoying a barbeque or indoors enjoying a game of Parcheesi. Nine times out of ten when you’re outside, cigar smoking will be OK (just make sure there’s an ash tray around so you’re not sullying your friend’s deck, patio, plants, etc.). Conversely, nine times out of ten when you’re inside, smoking will be off limits. Just make sure to abide by your gracious host’s wishes, whatever they may be.

Now if you happen to be out at an establishment – not covered by a Draconian smoking ban – and you witness patrons smoking cigarettes, but you’re not sure if cigars are allowed (say, at Grumpy’s in Baltimore with a bunch of your buddies on Saturday night after you violently and seriously stubbed your toe in a drunken stupor on the way to the bar) it’s best to ask one of the establishment’s employees. In my case, Grumpy’s had no policy against cigars – so I lit up a La Rosa Cubana. Some patrons may bitch and moan (even people smoking cigarettes, which I can’t understand), but too bad for them. You’re well within your rights to completely ignore their objections. Just like private residences, when you’re at a private establishment it’s necessary to abide by the owner’s policies.

2) When to ash. First off, let me once again reiterate that you must ash in an ashtray. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen cigar smokers ash on floors, in potted plants – even in toilets. Tisk, tisk.

That being said, when to ash is a much more convoluted topic. Any Stogie Guy will tell you that letting the ash build up at the foot of your cigar is a good thing – it cools the smoke thereby increasing the flavor of the stogie. But if you let the ash grow too long, it can fall at an unexpected and inconvenient time. My advice is this: If you’re somewhere falling ash won’t be a big problem (say, on a golf course), go ahead and let it accumulate for an inch or so. But if you’re at a fancy cocktail party standing on a $15,000 Persian rug, ash early and ash often.

3) When to take off the band. While some say it’s showy and impolite to leave the band on your cigar, I couldn’t disagree more. In my experience, leaving the band on is a great conversation starter that helps cigar aficionados meet one another.

If you do decide to remove the cigar band, make sure you let the cigar heat up before taking it off. The heat from the foot will help loosen the glue that holds the band on. It’s also important to note that taking the band off some brands of Cuban cigars (even after heating), like the Montecristo, is very difficult and can result in damage to the cigar wrapper. So in my personal opinion, keep the band on as long as you like – just don’t smoke it.

Follow these simple steps and your next stogie experience will be even more pleasant. If you have any additional tips of your own, please feel free to leave a comment. Happy smoking!

-Patrick A