Archive | October, 2008

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CXXIV

31 Oct 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) Happy Halloween from all of us at While we can’t recommend a cigar to pair with all the Snickers and Sweet Tarts you’ll be choking down, we can suggest you take a look at our list of the top 15 cigar-friendly costumes.

2) By a tally of 185 to 3, the United Nations condemned America’s embargo on Cuba for the 17th consecutive year on Wednesday. An LA Times editorial agues that the embargo’s continuation is “astonishing” because U.S. sanctions “only strengthen the Castro regime, which can blame all of the country’s problems on Washington rather than addressing their true cause—Havana’s misguided economic policies.”

3) Cigar Rights of America is urging Bostonians and concerned cigar enthusiasts across the country to contact Mayor Thomas Menino. On November 13, his city bureaucrats are aiming to enact “sweeping tobacco restrictions that include banning [cigar] bars” and “smoking on outdoor patios at restaurants and other businesses.”

4) Inside the Industry: Select retailers will be receiving Tatuaje’s Halloween-inspired creation, “The Frank,” a monster (7.6 x 49) with a greenish broadleaf wrapper made by Don Pepin Garcia. La Flor Dominicana is redoing its bands, dropping the flower graphic for a gold script “LFD.”

5) Around the Blogs: Cigar Jack smokes a Trilogy Corojo. Keepers of the Flame lights up a La Herencia. Stogie Review lights up a Ramón Allones Specially Selected. Matt reviews a Toraño Casa Toraño. Velvet Cigar tries a Rocky Patel Autumn Collection.

6) Deal of the Week: After two enthusiastic reviews of the new Cuban Crafters Medina 1959, we were excited to see this deal. Boxes of all sizes of this highly-rated cigar are on sale. Plus, if you’re not ready to go for the whole box, a variety of five-packs are available. Grab yours here while the deal lasts.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Reviews: Ramón Allones Small Club Corona (Cuban)

30 Oct 2008

A few nights ago, Washington was witness to the sort of howling, chilling wind that can make a butane torch flame shiver and bend. This stark reminder that winter is rapidly approaching had me reaching into my humidor for a petite stick that wouldn’t require me to be outside for hours.

It wasn’t long before I stumbled across a Ramón Allones Small Club Corona, a Cuban that I’ve often turned to when time is short and temperatures are low. Considered a good companion cigar for seasoned smokers, this 4.3 inch by 42 ring gauge stogie has a reputation for packing lots of flavor into a quick format. Other reviewers have noted tastes ranging from nuts and dried fruit to herbs and wood.

I was actually surprised to find so much info on the web because Ramón Allones is definitely one of Cuba’s lesser-known trademarks. That’s one reason the brand’s cigars are affordable, at least by Habanos’ standards. You can find the Small Club Corona for $5-8, and most boxes of 25 for $115-130.

The Ramón Allones legend, however, is far bigger than its name. While others claim to be the first, I’ve heard the brand—founded in 1837—was the first to have colorful lithographs for box art, the first to utilize bands on cigars, and the first to package cigars in the “8-9-8” style.

Enough history. As I used my V-cutter to establish a moderate draw from the cap, I noticed the thin cigar’s bland band, undistinguished wrapper leaf, and lack of prelight aromas don’t make for a terrific first impression. There’s also something awry about the Small Club Corona’s inconsistent shape.

The cigar improves dramatically once you fire it up. I found a dry, cedar taste with some spice that builds to include notes of black coffee and cashews. Fairly strong, definitely full on flavor. If you make a habit of smoking down to the nub, however, you may be disappointed with the last half inch; it is characterized by a bitterness that’s hardly enjoyable.

While the Small Club Corona burns evenly, it does possess some odd combustion traits. The mascara is obnoxiously pronounced and protruding, and the foot becomes more cone-shaped than one would expect once the stable ash is tapped. But neither quirk adversely interferes with the smoking experience.

This cigar costs more than I’d like to spend on something of its size, even for a Cuban, and it’s no match for the exquisite Specially Selected vitola. Still, I find myself occasionally turning to it for its big taste and 30-minute format—particularly this time of year. That’s why give the Ramón Allones Small Club Corona three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Editorial: Vote for Cigar Rights

29 Oct 2008

There are, of course, many issues at stake in the election, and we probably won’t be voting solely on cigar-related policies. But that doesn’t mean cigar issues aren’t an important factor in who gets our vote. So here’s our take on who we think cigar smokers can trust to defend their rights.

As detailed in Monday’s article on Obama and McCain, neither candidate offers a particularly impressive agenda. When push comes to shove, we suppose McCain is marginally better on cigar issues as a whole, but not in a particularly meaningful way.

Not to mention that his record suggests he is likely to flip-flop on tobacco issues (after all, he spent a decade trying to jack up taxes on cigarettes before only recently opposing such a hike). So while the pragmatist in us says a begrudging vote for McCain, the idealist says there must be a better choice. And there is.

Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr agrees with us on every important issue: taxes, regulation, smoking bans, trade, and Cuban sanctions. His position can be summed up with this quote: “Washington should leave smokers and other tobacco users alone.” Here, here!

And he’s a cigar smoker too, even talking about smoking cigars with Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report. All that makes it a real shame that he hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected. Still, maybe a vote for Barr would help send a message that we smokers are tired of being mistreated by Washington.

But, in our opinion, far more important than who you support for president is who you support in your state and local races. These elections are easier for individual voters to impact, and this is the level where smoking bans are being passed at an alarming rate. By researching which candidates are for or against smoking bans and then getting involved, you can be an important factor.

Tell your cigar smoking friends which candidate is an ally of smokers’ rights and which is an enemy. Also, call up the campaigns to thank the good ones, as well as let the bad ones know that the smoking issue is why you won’t be supporting them. We suggest you do this year-round but, not surprisingly, politicians are likely to be most responsive to the views of their constituents just before an election.

Be your vote national or local in scope, we encourage you—our cigar smoking brethren—to put in a little effort and make sure your voice is heard. Only then can we expect the loathsome, self-interested politicians and bureaucrats at the federal, state, and local levels to heed our warning to respect our rights.

Patrick A & Patrick S

photo credit: BobBarr2008

Stogie Reviews: Old Henry Robusto

28 Oct 2008

Often underappreciated and commonly misunderstood, so-called “house brands” can range from underpriced gems to outright duds. Old Henry from Holt’s Cigar Company falls somewhere between those two extremes.

The brand boasts a fair amount of credibility because it’s made by none other than industry superstar Don Pepin Garcia. According to Holt’s, “Pepin outdid himself in creating this masterpiece and for the price you won’t find a better, tastier cigar on the market.”

The classically sized Robusto (5 x 50) sells for $104 for a box of 25 or $26 for a five-pack—not exactly what I’d call value prices. But, given the Nicaraguan puro’s blender, expectations are certain to exceed those of the average house brand stick.

Named in memory of a “beautiful pooch with champion features and a great personality,” Old Henry features a lusterless corojo wrapper that radiates sweet chocolate notes. I experienced some moderate post-cut cracking in two of the three Robustos I smoked for this review. Each was densely packed with tobacco but drew cleanly.

While most expect a burst of pepper when they light up a Pepin creation, this cigar starts at a jog pace instead of a full-on sprint. I found a predominantly earthy flavor with hints of clove, leather, and peppercorn, all of which is best when cocoa wafts in and out.

There are no major changes between the beginning, middle, and end of this 50-minute smoke. Despite this, the medium-bodied taste—aptly described by my colleague as “flavorful yet well-balanced” in a February Quick Smoke—had little trouble holding my interest.

With even burns and white ashes that held strong for an inch and a half, my three Robustos outperformed those of other online reviewers who noted construction flaws. Maybe I just got a good batch.

Even so, I wouldn’t count Old Henry as one of Pepin’s towering achievements. If you’re into corojo tobacco, though, and if you enjoy a smoke with your afternoon coffee (the best way to experience this cigar, in my opinion) you may want to pick a few up. For delivering on balance but not quite living up to my expectations given the Pepin connection and the intoxicating prelight aromas, I give the Old Henry Robusto a fair three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Fact Sheet: Obama and McCain on Cigar Issues

27 Oct 2008

In a week and one day, millions of Americans will head to the polls to vote for the next leader of the free world. Both major candidates are former cigarette smokers: Republican John McCain smoked two packs a day until he quit three decades ago, while Democrat Barack Obama admitted having a cigarette as recently as this summer despite “quitting” early last year.

But being a former smoker (or even a current one) doesn’t make a politician good when it comes to taking positions that affect cigar smokers. Below are four areas where the next president could have a major impact on stogie enthusiasts with a look at the positions held by McCain and Obama in each area.

Tobacco Taxes

Industry insiders say a massive tobacco tax, such as the one proposed in the so-called SCHIP bill, is the most immediate threat to the cigar industry. This year only President Bush’s veto stopped what would have been a 256% increase in cigar taxes, meaning an increase of up to $3 per cigar. Obama clearly favors funding programs with tobacco taxes. He voted for the SCHIP cigar tax increase and has pledged to sign the bill into law. His campaign calls the senator “an ardent supporter of SCHIP.”

McCain’s position on tobacco taxes has been far less clear. He voted against versions of the SCHIP bill with the tobacco tax increase and has criticized the tax, taking the position that “it makes no sense to encourage people to live healthier…while making the government even more dependent on having people smoke.” However, McCain has a long history of advocating for tobacco taxes, specifically on cigarettes. Only a year ago he was quoted as saying, “I still regret we did not succeed” when asked about past efforts to increase cigarette taxes by $1.10 per pack.

Smoking Bans

Smoking bans have traditionally been a matter for state and local governments. Still, a national smoking ban (for so-called “public places” like restarants and bars) remains a possibility.  McCain’s views on this issue are not entirely clear, but he did not join fellow Republican Mike Huckabee in promising to sign a natinoal smoking ban.

Meanwhile, Obama seemed to indicate support for a national smoking ban but seemed to prefer keeping bans a state issue. In a New Hampshire debate, Obama told the audience, “If we can’t provide these kinds of protections at the local level, which would be my preference, I would be supportive of a national law.”


As we’ve written before, Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco has the potential to be very damaging for cigar smokers. John McCain has been a advocate for regulating tobacco under the FDA since the mid-1990s when he co-sponsored a bill to that effect.  Indeed, the issue has been called “one of the most significant efforts of his congressional career.” In the past year, however, critics of McCain claim he has backed away from that position, despite the fact that he remains a co-sponsor of the FDA bill. The Arizona senator has continued to criticize the portrayal of smoking by Hollywood, perhaps indicating that he still would favor FDA regulation if it didn’t include increased tobacco taxes.

Obama is also a co-sponsor of the bill to regulate tobacco through the FDA. Anti-tobacco advocates say FDA regulation of tobacco is “inevitable” under a McCain or Obama presidency.


Trade policies might not initially appear to be an area of interest. But since virtually every handmade cigar is either rolled in other countries or rolled in the U.S. with tobacco from foreign countries, reducing barriers to trade is vital to preserve and increase cigar smokers’ access to a wide variety of cigars at reasonable prices. There are two major policies where trade most effects cigar consumers: (1) the Cuban embargo/trade sanctions currently makes some of the world’s highest-regarded cigars illegal for Americans; and (2) the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement eliminates or lowers trade barriers with cigar-producing countries such as the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

McCain has “typically voted in support of sanctions on Cuba” and demanded free elections before the embargo is lifted. Obama seems more open to changing the U.S. policy toward Cuba, “calling for travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban-Americans to be lifted” and expressing that “he would engage in bilateral talks with Cuba to send the message that the United States is willing to normalize relations with Cuba upon evidence of a democratic opening.”

Obama opposes CAFTA and voted against it. On his website, you’ll find an article titled “Why I Oppose CAFTA,” citing labor concerns and the loss of American jobs. McCain voted for CAFTA and consistently supported similar trade agreements.

Patrick S

photo credit: AGORAVOX

Quick Smoke: Gurkha Black Puro Torpedo

26 Oct 2008

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

The Gurkha Black Puro Torpedo (6.5 x 53) features an attractive black wrapper and dual silver and black bands. The cigar is noticeably soft on one side, but that does not seem to affect the draw, which was easy, or the burn, which is even with a solid ash. Flavor wise, I found a toasty smoke with cocoa and cedar. The finish was a bit dry. Overall not a bad smoke, but it just seemed uninspired.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

Quick Smoke: Camacho Corojo Monarca Maduro

25 Oct 2008

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

For the first third or so, this dark five inch by 50 ring gauge smoke might have passed for a Pepin Garcia creation—lots of spice, lots of kick. But after grabbing attention in an un-maduro-like way, the Monarca mellowed out into a smooth, well-blended cigar with many of the coffee and sweet tobacco tastes often associated with maduros. It also maintained strength without overpowering nicotine. At $6, this Jamastran Valley-grown cigar was most enjoyable.

Verdict = Buy.

George E