Archive | December, 2008

Stogie Commentary: The ‘Cigar Aficionadoization’ of Cigars

30 Dec 2008

Not long ago I heard a radio interview with famous wine critic Robert Parker. Parker’s influence is so great that wines rated above 90 in his Wine Advocate, and particularly above 95, can increase in value many times because of the rating. According to one Bordeaux shipper, “The difference between a score of 85 and 95 [for one wine] was 6 to 7 million Euros” and a “bottle rated 100 can multiply its price fourfold.”

Cigar AficionadoBecause of this extraordinary influence many people have bemoaned what is called the “Parkerization” of wine. Some winemakers, including in the famous Bordeaux region of France, reportedly blend wines to Parker’s palate—which is described as favoring robust, fruit-forward wines. The huge influence wielded by Parker has resulted in stories of him being offered sexual favors of the daughters of two chateau owners, and also being attacked by a winemaker’s dog in response to a poor rating.

With such a singular palate exerting such influence over the wine industry, one can’t help but wonder might there exist a similar “Parkerization” of the cigar industry?

If there is, surely the source of such influence is Cigar Aficionado. By far the most widely read cigar magazine, CA is widely cited as one of the driving forces for the cigar boom of the 1990s that brought premium cigars back into popular culture and drastically increased the number of smokers.

One well-respected industry source told me that he thinks that some cigar makers actually design cigars with the preferences of Cigar Aficionado’s tasters in mind. And there is no doubt an extremely high rating in CA can drastically increase the demand of a cigar. One retailer told me the 95 rating for the Rocky Patel Decade earlier this year led to a serious shortage of the cigar, as consumers scooped up the highly-rated smoke.

But such influence isn’t necessarily bad if it accurately reflects the good and the bad. The problem is that cigars are so subjective. One must wonder if a tasting panel of a handful of people can rate cigars without their personal biases effecting the rating. My own take is that CA seems to place too much value on bold, forward flavors while discounting the subtlety that I believe differentiates the best cigars.

This subjective nature of rating cigars means that it is unwise for someone attribute much to the difference between an 88 and a 90-rated cigar. And quite frankly I’d feel sorry for the person who only smoked 93 and up rated cigars as determined by CA, as they would be missing out on so many fantastic smokes.

So whether reading our reviews, Cigar Aficionado‘s, or any other publication’s ratings, it is important to use the ratings only as guideposts—not gospel. Identifying a truly poor cigar isn’t all that hard, but separating the good from the exceptional is not nearly as easy and is far more subjective. We try and deal with that here at by giving not just a cigar’s name, a sentence or two, and a numerical rating, but by providing the depth that gives an insight into our thinking about the cigar we’re reviewing. (We also attribute every review to a specific writer so, over time, you might learn how a particular reviewer’s palate and tastes corresponds to your own.)

Ultimately, there’s a reason we have a saying around Stogie Guys: “The best cigar is the one you like best.” And to find the cigars you like the best, there’s no substitute for educating yourself about cigars, being willing to try new smokes, and learning not only what you like, but why. Cigar Aficionado may be a piece of that puzzle; making that publication the only piece, however, does the true cigar aficionado a disservice.

Patrick S

photo credit: Cigar Aficionado

Stogie Commentary: Gold Star Smokes (Part III)

29 Dec 2008

It’s been over nine months since the team published a new list of Gold Star Smokes. As you might recall, this special designation celebrates cigars that we feel are worthy of strong recommendations. They don’t necessarily have to be five stogie-rated—just commendable smokes we turn to time and again.

Gold Star SmokesIn our previous two Gold Star Smokes articles, we’ve highlighted cigars like the Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Torpedo, El Rey Del Mundo Robisto Larga, Punch Champion, EO 601 Serie “Green” La Fuerza, Montecristo Petit Edmundo, and the Cuban Crafters Cameroon Robusto. Today we select three more.

Co-Founder & Editor in Chief Patrick A

The Blend 376 Robusto Extra from boutique manufacturer Isla de Cuba is a stunning cigar with an uncanny resemblance to an upscale Padrón. This box-pressed beauty features a full-flavored yet smooth taste of nuts, leather, and coffee and impressive construction. Don’t think twice about picking up this blend of Mexican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan tobaccos for about $7 apiece.

Co-Founder & Publisher Patrick S

Fuente makes some great smokes, including some exceptionally rare ones. My favorite, though, is the King B. This well-proportioned, cedar-wrapped torpedo is the best from Fuente’s impressive, under-appreciated Sun Grown line. With equal parts cedar, sweetness, and spice, it is both full-flavored and exquisitely balanced. And for around $6 each it punches well above its weight class.

Tampa Bureau Chief George E

With a line that seems to encompass an endless array of vitolas, La Gloria Cubana’s Medaille d’Or No. 1 Maduro isn’t the easiest to find. But it’s worth the search. A long, thin cigar, it produces an array of flavors including earth, leather, and coffee. They’re also very reasonably priced; a box of 25 can be found for less than $70.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill (Cuban)

28 Dec 2008

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

I recently had occasion to light up this beauty and was once again stunned by what a magnificently flavorful and balanced cigar this  Cuban is. Its shiny wrapper hides a medium-bodied smoke with coffee, honeycomb, and cedar notes. And like my other experiences with the Short Churchill, the construction was impeccable. Anyway, you probably see where this is going; after all, there is a reason this is one of my all-time favorite cigars.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Gurkha Fuerte Toro

27 Dec 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 assertive Toro had a highly ornate double band wrapped around an oily greenish-brown wrapper. The 6 inch by 52 ring gauge smoke had a predominant flavor of coffee bean and earth with an oaky finish. Unfortunately, it also had a consistent and unpleasant bitterness. Combined with a burn that was uneven and a draw that was a bit too firm, I’m afraid this smoke didn’t make a good first impression with me.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick S

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CXXII

26 Dec 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.

Jeremy Piven1) A cigar wholesaler, several retailers, and a cigar enthusiast are challenging the tobacco ban recently passed in Prince George’s County, Maryland (just outside the District of Columbia). The law bans selling cigars individually and in certain instances even classifies cigars as drug paraphernalia.

2) No surprise to most people, it seems that celebrities like smoking cigars, or at least they like being seen smoking cigars. And from the cigars we can identify from this collection of celebrity stogie pictures, it seems that many enjoy Cuban cigars. The exception being actor Jeremy Piven (right) who appears to be smoking a Padrón 1964 Anniversary.

3) Inside the Industry: Felipe Gregorio has decided to sever ties with Miami Cigar which had signed on to distribute the Dominican company’s cigars only three months ago. The Fuente and Newman families have set the date (July 14-16, 2009) for the 12th Annual Cigar Family Celebration, which features tours of the facilities and of the work done by the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation.

4) Deal of the Week: It’s not too late to take advantage of  these Christmas Specials from Cuban Crafters. Most of our favorites, including J.L. Salazar, La Carolina, Miami Medina, and the CC Cameroon, are on sale. One particularly good deal has a box of the 4.5 stogie-rated Don Kiki Brown Labels available for just $29.99 (down from $90). Get them all here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: TMZ

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas!

24 Dec 2008

From all of us at, we want to wish you a joyous, safe, and cigar-filled Christmas. We’re taking the next few days off to spend time with our families, but we’ll be right back here on December 26 with more reviews, news, commentaries, and tips from the world of cigars.

If you really can’t wait until Friday when we return with our post-Christmas Friday Sampler, you can always subscribe to our twitter feed to get all the latest from

The Stogie Guys

Stogie Spirits: Mount Gay Extra Old

23 Dec 2008

I’ve long been familiar with Mount Gay Eclipse Rum. Mixed with some tonic water, the Mount Gay tonic is a summer favorite of mine, or for that matter any other time that I want a refreshing mixed drink. As a former sailing instructor and college sailor, the brand also holds a special meaning to me given Mount Gay’s longstanding support of the sailing community, where its red caps are ubiquitous.

Mount Gay Extra OldDespite all that, before tasting it for this article I wasn’t all that familiar with the Mount Gay Extra Old, sometimes called Mount Gay Black. Both the Extra Old (XO) and the Eclipse are made in Mount Gay’s Barbados distillery, where rum has been made since at least 1703, making it the longest continually produced brand of rum in the world. While the Eclipse is top notch mixing rum, the Extra Old is more of a sipping rum, best appreciated straight up or on the rocks.

Blended from rums with a range of 12-17 years of age, Mount Gay Extra Old is aged in charred oak barrels, like bourbon. More expensive than the Eclipse, but still quite reasonable compared to the price of other premium spirits, the Mount Gay XO retails for around $35.

The first thing you notice about the Extra Old is its deep copper color. The photo at right (of the newly redesigned bottle and label) doesn’t do justice the brilliant amber hue. Next, I took in the nose, which featured an inviting combination of charred oak (no doubt imparted from the bourbon barrels) and ripe bananas.

The taste starts out with molasses and honeycomb sweetness, lots of oak, a touch of charcoal, and some creamy caramel. But perhaps the most distinguishable feature of the Extra Old was the smooth, long, lingering finish that ends with a peppery burst that creeps up on you. Truly unique, that spicy ending seems to kick in a few seconds after you think the rum’s taste is only a recent memory.

All in all, the XO is a fantastic sipping rum which makes it an excellent choice to pair with a fine cigar. It also strikes me as an extremely versatile spirit to pair with cigars.

A smooth and mild Macanudo gold, a rich Padrón maduro, and a cedary spicy Cameroon-wrapped Fuente Hemingway would all go well. In fact, with perhaps the exception of powerhouse cigars that so overwhelm the palate that the rum’s subtleties will go completely unnoticed, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find bad pairing (unless of course the cigar itself is already unpleasant).

Truth be told, I tend to prefer whiskey to rum when it comes to drinking spirits straight up with cigars. However, the Mount Gay Extra Old is a reminder that fine rum can bring just as much to the table.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys