Archive | August, 2008

Quick Smoke: Don Tomás Sun Grown Gigante

31 Aug 2008

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

With a firm ash, an even burn, and a bargain price of $105-118 per box of 25, this Honduran puro is hard not to recommend. The 6 inch by 60 ring gauge Gigante is well-balanced and satisfying, encompassing notes of dry wood, clove, and smooth spice. I’d purchase this again in a heartbeat, not so much as a stand-alone smoke, but as an excellent accompaniment to a round of 18 holes or, as Cigar Jack says, a friendly barbeque.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Reyes Family Classic Bronco

30 Aug 2008

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

This thick 6 inch, 56 ring gauge toro was given to me by Carlos Diez, the energetic new President of Reyes Family Cigars (known until recently as the Puros Indios cigar company) at the IPCPR Trade Show. It has a lightly colored Ecuador Sumatra wrapper with a Ecuador Sumatra binder and filler from four different countries (Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Nicaragua). Once lit, I found the same buttery toast flavor that I noticed when I tried a robusto from this line in Las Vegas. The finish was cedary with a slightly soapy bitterness—something that was absent from the robusto. Construction was good as well. The cigar was pleasant, but I can’t help feeling that it will be better with more age.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CXV

29 Aug 2008

In our ongoing effort to make as entertaining and informative as possible, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other snippets of interest. We call ‘em Friday Samplers. Enjoy.

1) Last Thursday I shared an article with you out of Charleston, West Virginia, about a group of bar owners who united and protested their county’s smoking ban. In keeping with the theme of outright defying oppressive laws, check out this news item about a bar that’s actively ignoring Iowa’s statewide smoking ban—a bar that’s right across the street from a police station.

2) All this talk about Obama and McCain got you bored out of your cigar-loving mind? Let Stephen Colbert lighten things up with this interview of Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr (pictured smoking a cigar), who talks about having a cigar with Al Gore.

3) Inside the Industry: A survey by the Association for Women Cigar Smokers finds that, on average, female cigar smokers smoke 3-5 cigars per month, with one in five smoking at least one cigar a day (download the full results here.) We regret to report that Daniel Miranda, director of marketing for Miami Cigar & Co., passed away at 38 after a three-year fight with brain cancer.

4) Around the Blogs: Stogie Review reviews the Illusione f9. Her Humidor lights up a Tabacos Baez Monarcas. Keepers of the Flame smokes the Colombian Gold. Cigar Jack torches up a Kristoff Criollo. Cigar Inspector recaps the Hoyo de Monterrey.

5) Deal of the Week: Cuban Crafters has some great specials for Labor Day weekend. Included are deals on the J.L. Salazar, Cuban Crafters Cameroon, Cabinet Selection, and Don Kiki White. See all the deals here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Robert Stacey McCain

Stogie Tips: A Good Beginning

28 Aug 2008

Taking up cigars is exciting. So much to enjoy, so much to explore. But it can also be an intimidating time, what with all the new lingo, aficionados, and a seemingly endless range of options.

If you’re a new smoker, my first recommendation is to take a deep breath (before lighting up) and just relax. This is, after all, cigar smoking. Not rocket science, brain surgery, or even changing the oil in your car. About the worst thing that’s likely to happen is you’ll mess up a cigar or two, and while that might be a shame, it’s certainly not a crime.

From time to time, Stogie Guys will specifically address new cigar smokers. And, who knows, maybe a grizzled vet or two will stumble across something new as well. Here’s our first round of tips:

Get a Little Salty: You need to make sure your hygrometer is properly calibrated to monitor the humidity level where your cigars are stored. There’s really only one way: the salt calibration test. Everything you need to know to perform this simple, effective operation is here.

Light Right: Wonder if you’re clipping and lighting your cigar correctly? Let Doc Stogie entertain and enlighten you with his demonstration of the proper techniques at Stogie Fresh TV, and also read our tip on choosing the proper cutting tool.

Talk is Cheap: You probably have a great cigar resource nearby: the owner of your local B&M. The next time you stop by strike up a conversation. It’s a particularly good time now because you can ask what’s new from IPCPR. Describe what you like and ask for recommendations. A good owner can greatly increase your knowledge and enjoyment.

Caveat Smoker: Sooner of later, nearly every cigar smoker is presented with the “opportunity” to buy Cuban cigars. Warning: They are almost unquestionably counterfeits. Back in 2006, Patrick S. detailed how you can avoid getting stung.

Fancy or Plain: There’s nothing wrong with expensive lighters, high-priced cutters, and other upscale cigar accouterments. If you like them, go for it. But sometimes you can get Porsche performance at Hyundai prices. Read Patrick A.’s take on a terrific butane torch lighter for under $3.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Commentary: Is the Cuban Cigar Hype Justified?

27 Aug 2008

Over 335 million premium cigars were imported to the United States in 2007, most from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Every time I see that figure—which is up about 8% from 2006—I wonder how many more entered American soil under the radar of Uncle Sam.

The amount of “black market” cigars in this country has to be astronomical given the U.S. government’s hypocritical trade embargo against Cuba. Just think of how many enthusiasts you know who have stashes of Cubans, or ponder all the websites that sell outlawed sticks to Americans, or consider how poorly U.S. Customs examines each bag coming in from a foreign country. Since these activities aren’t accurately documented—at least not publicly—coming up with a solid figure isn’t easy.

Let’s just say a lot of Cubans are imported annually, and let’s just assume you’ve smoked at least several. What I’d like to know is, generally speaking, how do Cuban cigars stack up to their Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan counterparts?

Make no mistake about it, Castro’s oppressed island nation produces some fine stogies, from the Partagas Serie D No. 4 and the RyJ Short Churchill to the Cohiba Siglo VI and the Monte Petit Edmundo. We’ve published 15 full reviews of various Cubans here at since our founding in May 2006—and we’ve reviewed over 200 others from a myriad of other countries.

Our average rating on the Cubans we’ve examined is just over four stogies out of five, above the total overall average of about three and a half stogies. But take that with a grain of salt; we’ve never been big fans of bringing numbers into cigars.

I personally question whether all the Cuban cigar hype—and the excessive prices that come with black market goods—is justified. I think many of us give sub-par Cubans a pass simply because we’re not supposed to smoke them. The forbidden factor unquestionably makes them more attractive.

Also, don’t forget that we live in a golden age of cigars with countless non-Cubans that are nothing short of exceptional. Those of you who “only smoke Cubans” (I’ve seen this many times in correspondence with readers in Europe) are seriously missing out. Seriously.

After thinking on this broad, esoteric subject for many months, my conclusion is this: The world’s finest non-Cuban cigars can stand up to most of Cuba’s best, but the world’s standard stogies are no match for Cuba’s average. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my pseudo-hypothesis in the comments below.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Spirits: Chimay Trappist Ales

26 Aug 2008

Like cigars themselves, pairing a spirit with a cigar is part science, part art. So while I’m as big a fan as anyone of pairing a fine cigar with scotch, bourbon, or rum, some of the most interesting pairings have been the result of a little more experimenting.

In my opinion, beer often doesn’t get a fair shake as a pairing with cigars. Perhaps this is because many Americans think of the watery, unflavorful beers that we see marketed on television, overlooking the many hand-crafted, flavorful beers that are widely available to consumers.

Like Sam Adams and Ommegang Ale, which have been the subject of previous Stogie Spirits articles, the Trappist beers of the Chimay Brewery are flavorful hand-crafted beers with flavors that seem more like fine wines. You won’t find Chimay in an aluminum can; instead, it comes in a 75cl bottle, the same size as a standard wine bottle, capped with a champagne-style cork.

Chimay has three main lines of beer, all produced in the Scourmont Abbey in the Belgian municipality of Chimay, where beer has been made since 1863. Here’s an overview of the three varieties of Chimay, and some suggestions of cigars to pair them with:

Chimay Rouge Première

Available for $9 a bottle, the Première is a copper-colored, top fermented ale. It features muted fruit and nut flavors with underlying unfinished barley. That wheaty flavor would go well with a creamy mild cigar like a Macanudo Gold or an Ashton Classic.

Chimay Blanche Cinq Cents

This golden ale is a “tripel” ale, bottled at 8% alcohol at $10 per bottle. Despite its strength, it is a dry, refreshing beer with orange and lemon citrus flavors. The beer is slightly cloudy in color and extraordinarily aromatic. The crisp citrus flavors go well with a peppery cigar like the Don Pepin Garcia Cuban Classic, or with the spicy sweetness of a Cameroon wrapper.

Chimay Bleue Grande Réserve

This copper brown beer is considered to be the “classic” Chimay ale. It’s also the strongest at 9% alcohol ($11 per 75cl bottle). It has a creamy head with fruit and nut flavors and a slightly bitter taste. Reportedly, it can benefit greatly from cellaring for a few years. With all the fruit and nut flavors, it pairs well with a criollo cigar like the CAO Criollo or the Don Kiki Brown Label.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Reviews: Vegas de Fonseca Petite

25 Aug 2008

I picked up this 4.25 inch stick when I was looking for a short smoke and thought I should try something new. I’ve never been a fan of Fonseca, finding them bland and uninteresting. But I’d read that this line, introduced some years back, was bolder and tastier. Coupled with my affection for Cameroon wrappers, there seemed to be good potential.

According to MATASA’s website, it’s actually grown in the African nation, too. Aging in palm bark is supposed to add to the taste. The company lists the filler as a mix of Dominican and Nicaraguan ligero, with the binder U.S. Connecticut broadleaf. Cigar Aficionado ranked the somewhat larger Sobrinos vitola 14th on its list of the best 25 cigars in 2004.

From the start, the 40 ring gauge perfecto looked flawless. The wrapper, the roll, the prelight draw—all appeared excellent. The cap clipped easily and the light was nearly instantaneous.

Unfortunately, when I was smoking it, I didn’t find a lot to distinguish this cigar from the regular Fonseca. It was a little stronger and a little tastier, but nothing to write home about. The wrapper, in particular, did not seem to have the distinguishing Cameroon spice and flavor.

I paid only $3.30, so it wasn’t much of a disappointment. But I can only give this Vegas de Fonseca three out of five stogies.

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

George E

photo credit: Famous