Archive | August, 2006

Stogie Reviews: Onyx Vintage ’97 Epicure

21 Aug 2006

On Saturday night I found myself at Shelly’s Back Room, a cigar bar located a stone’s throw from the White House. The room’s luxurious furniture, impressive array of high definition plasma televisions, and wide selection of bourbons and rums make Shelly’s the ideal DC locale for a relaxing evening smoke.

While the bar wields an extensive assortment of cigars, I didn’t come empty-handed. After all, I had been meaning to try the Onyx Vintage ’97 Epicure ever since it became JR Cigar’s “Cherry Pick of the Month.”

This 4 and ½ by 50 ring gauge stogie is a medium-bodied maduro with a rich, dark brown Mexican wrapper and a Connecticut Broadleaf binder. And its smooth surface and two black bands make this box-pressed stick quite pleasing to the eye.

After puncturing the head with my fingernails and fumbling to establish a proper light, I quickly found that the flavors were anything but subtle. The well-aged blend of Nicaraguan, Peruvian, and Brazilian fillers coupled with a 1997 San Andreas leaf produced savory nut and wood notes – most noticeably toasted almond. While the tastes remained unchanged throughout the second and finishing phases, they were so complex and enjoyable I never lost interest in the cigar.

Unfortunately, the construction left much to be desired. Although the edges retained an even burn, the middle of the filler burned much too slowly during this hour-long smoke, leaving an awkward conical point protruding from the foot where a gentle curved end should be. Sadly, I found myself routinely working damage control with my matches. It’s also worth pointing out that the draw was not as easy as I would have liked – especially for such a thick stick.

Overall, this cigar hit a hole-in-one on flavor, but was not up to par on construction. I give the Onyx Vintage ’97 Epicure three and ½ out of five stogies.

Patrick A


Stogie Guys Friday Sampler VI

18 Aug 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) Ah, even more Draconian smoking bans out of the vast socialist empire that is the Golden State. While there is no viable scientific evidence proving secondhand smoke is dangerous indoors, the City of San Diego yesterday made lighting up on its parks and beaches illegal.

2) For only the sixth time in 27 years, Macanudo announced it produced a crop worthy of vintage designation. Made from Connecticut Shade wrappers grown six years ago, the Macanudo Vintage 2000 line will hit tobacconists in late October and will be available in four sizes for $13 to $15 apiece.

3) As California embarrassingly leads the union in squelching smokers’ rights, there may be signs of hope emerging from Texas. A federal judge yesterday began weighing the legality of Austin’s smoking ban, a law that “has economically devastated many bars, live music venues, and pool halls, as well as their bartenders who have lost as much as half their tip income.” Indicating the case has merits, the judge issued a preliminary injunction for the plaintiffs.

4) On June 15, we told you about Mel Smith, a British actor who was barred from smoking a cigar onstage while he portrayed Winston Churchill due to a government-imposed ban on smoking in public places. We discussed the tragic irony of the situation:

Hitler’s beliefs about tobacco were nearly identical to that of today’s anti-smoking zealots, and he even advocated for the same public policy measures.

Well, in a recent Cigar Aficionado article, Smith was reported as quipping, “It would have delighted Adolf Hitler. [He], as you know, was anti-smoking. You couldn’t smoke at Adolf Hitler’s dining table, so he’d be pleased, wouldn’t he?”

The Stogie Guys


Stogie Reviews: CAO Criollo Pato

17 Aug 2006

I received two of these CAO Criollo Patos (4 7/8 inches by 50 ring gauge) in samplers and decided that, after nearly two months of aging, I should give them a try. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

This robusto had a lovely silky brown wrapper, with only a few small veins. It had a firm feel but was not too dense. The understated light brown band matched the wrapper’s color and made it an attractive cigar in the humidor (where bands are typically in bold contrast to the cigars they surround). Adding to this cigar’s uniqueness, and a sign of its high quality construction, was a pigtail on the cap.

Unlit, the stogie had a pleasant cedar aroma. I cut it with my double guillotine and gave it a proper light after toasting the edges, but nothing could prepare me for the ride it was about to give my taste buds.

After starting out with a powerful burst of pepper with hints of licorice, reminiscent of a Partagas Black, the cigar quickly mellowed to reveal creamy toffee flavors. At about the halfway point the flavor shifted again, dropping its sweet edge to become slightly bitter.

Accompanying this new, more bitter flavor was an almost metallic twang that, for some strange reason, reminded me of drinking PBR out of an aluminium can. But even this rare sensation would fade away as the creamy toffee flavors – only this time more muted – returned for the home stretch as I smoked down to the nub.

The cigar produced a very cool smoke and white ash that came off with a gentle tap or two. The light smoke was so sweet it could only offend the most militant anti-smoking activist. After catching a slight uneven burn early, it required very little in the way of touch-ups.

I would not recommend smoking this cigar when you are going to be easily distracted. Its complexity requires one’s complete attention to be properly enjoyed. However, if you have an hour to devote to the CAO Criollo Pato, you will probably find it well worth the time and effort.

For such surprising complexity and solid construction, I give the CAO Criollo Pato a rating of four out of five stogies.

Patrick S


Stogie Tip: Cigar Auctions

16 Aug 2006

In the past, we have directed our readers to great deals for quality cigars at bargain prices. Today, we’re going to share a few tips on finding bargain cigars on your own.

These days, instead of ordering cigars from catalogs with fixed prices, many people turn to cigar auctions to buy cigars in eBay-style markets. While not every item is going to offer you substantial savings, if you look patiently and don’t get caught up in bidding wars you can find some real bargains on good cigars.

While there are other auction sites, I’ve been using JR Auctions and CigarBid. Both work in mostly the same way.

JR Auctions is run by JR Cigars (obviously), while CigarBid is run by Cigar International. This is important because one of the first things you should do is check at what price they sell the item you are bidding on in their non-auction section. JR allows you to combine shipping between auction and non-auction items so there is never any reason to pay more. CigarBid orders cannot be combined with Cigar International orders, but the savings from combined shipping (usually just a few bucks) rarely justify spending more than CI’s retail price.

Despite this, cigar forums are filled with stories of people who get caught up trying to outbid someone for an auction item and end up paying too much. So I recommend deciding early how much you are willing to pay, setting auto-bid (where you enter the maximum amount and then allow the site to raise your bid as necessary) and then simply waiting…You may win, you may lose, but you’ll never overpay.

Finally, I highly recommend the 5 packs that CigarBid offers. If you have a cigar you really want to try, often a single stogie isn’t enough to decide if you really like it, but a full box is too large of an investment. Five packs let you really get to know a cigar, including determining its consistency. Just last week I grabbed two 5-packs (Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 and 1992) together for less than what Cigar International would have charged me for just one of them.

Now go out and fill up your humidor! Just don’t out-bid the Stogie Guys.

Patrick S


Five Out of Five Stogies? Again?!?

15 Aug 2006

As you know, gave two cigars a heralded five out of five stogies in recent reviews: the Davidoff Grand Cru No. 3 and the Cuban Cohiba Siglo V. These reviews generated a windstorm response from Stogie Guys Nation in the form of comments and emails—even lengthy discussions (or, rather, debates) on other websites.

So we thought it would be worthwhile to refute the notion that the prized five out of five stogies rating should be reserved only for sticks which have already received elite status in the cigar community.

First of all, it’s worth repeating that our reviews are measured by a much different ratings system than those of other leading cigar reviewers. We believe an individual’s cigar preference cannot and should not be measured by exact numbers, and therefore decided to implement a much simpler metric. You can read all about this on the About Our Ratings System page.

There, we describe what various ratings are supposed to mean in straightforward, sans-jargon terms. You will see we denote five out of five stogies as such:

These cigars are truly an occasion. We recommend you give these babies your full and undivided attention. If not, you’d better be at a wedding or some other significant celebration.

So, you see, five out of five stogies doesn’t necessarily mean the cigar is perfect. It just means we found the stick so enjoyable, we recommend you save it for special events. After all, you can go to any cigar magazine or any other cigar website on the planet to find an exact number rating (if that’s really what you seek) for any given cigar.

Finally, one of the main criticisms we received is that readers just didn’t think the aforementioned cigars were worthy of five out of five status. If you had these cigars (or any others we review) and came to different conclusions, that’s fine. Leave us a comment or contact us and explain why. We love this feedback; it’s one of the reasons we started the site in the first place.

But please don’t tell us just because a certain cigar hasn’t received elite notoriety amongst cigar aficionados that it isn’t worthy of our praise. One of the other main reasons we started this site was to offer well-formulated rebuttal to the status quo.

That said, thank you, Stogie Guys Nation, for your feedback. We appreciate your loyal readership and value your varied opinions.

One final note: Remember that the best cigar is the cigar you like the best.

Patrick A


Stogie Tip: Smoke Through The Nose

14 Aug 2006

On July 31, I told you about a private cigar tasting we attended with Mike Copperman at Bethesda Tobacco. In that post, I said 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, and (3) have a human cigar encyclopedia at your disposal.

While you can revisit that post to study the geography of the human tongue and how it relates to cigar tasting, you most often won’t have a human stogie information bank at your side. But – in order to further your understanding and appreciation of cigars – I’d like to share with you how to smoke through the nose. It’s a relatively simple strategy to maximize the flavors you’ll get from each stick and, no, it’s not inhaling.

First, take a decent puff from a properly-lit stogie. Not surprisingly, your mouth will fill up with delicious smoke. Good. Next, slowly release about 80 to 90 percent of that smoke by gently blowing out.

After that, close your lips, trapping the remaining smoke in your mouth. This time, instead of releasing, literally swallow the smoke (as you would any food or beverage). Then, with your mouth still closed, blow out through your nose. If you see smoke, congratulations…you’ve just smoked through your nose.

Why go to all the trouble? Well, let me answer that question with a question: Ever notice you can’t taste food when you have a cold? That’s because flavor information can’t make it to the odor receptors in your nose.

Our noses can tell the difference between many different tastes, but our tongues can only detect a few flavors: bitter, sour, salty, and sweet. Only about 10 to 20 percent of flavor information comes from our tongue. Smoking through the nose, therefore, will allow you to detect flavors and aromas on the palate you otherwise wouldn’t be able to by just smelling cigar smoke.

Now you certainly shouldn’t do this on every puff – once or twice per cigar should do the trick. Just give it a try and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Happy smoking!

Note to our readers: As you probably already noticed, the picture to the right has no relation to this particular post. I just had some trouble finding a good image and thought a hot Asian chick smoking a cigar wouldn’t be a bad choice. Sue me.

-Patrick A


Stogie Guys Friday Sampler V

11 Aug 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) “Sanctimonious killjoys are sweet on banning pleasure.” Now that’s a great headline. Unfortunately, you need a subscription to the Ottawa Citizen (they have newspapers in Canada?!) to read the rest, but since it’s about cigar bans, we think we’d probably agree.

2) Mail order cigar buyers beware: The Senate is considering a bill to ban the U.S. Postal Service from delivering cigarettes. Next up… cigars?

3) Dominican officials incinerated 7,000 boxes of counterfeits this week. They destroyed more than 100,000 false cigars including Cohiba, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, Davidoff, Partagas, Punch, Gloria Cubana, Macanudo and others.

4) And speaking of fake stogies… Congrats to Walt from StogieReview who gave the answer we were looking for in yesterday’s contest. He pointed out that the Cohiba only had one row of white squares while the genuine article should have two or three rows.

-The Stogie Guys