Archive | December, 2008

Stogie Reviews: Don Pepin Garcia Series JJ Maduro Belicoso

22 Dec 2008

This is undoubtedly a popular stick among cigar enthusiasts. While researching the two Belicosos I recently smoked, I came across a slew of positive reviews from the online cigar community—and, perhaps less importantly, an 87 for the Serie JJ Maduro in Cigar Aficionado.

Don Pepin Garcia Serie JJ Maduro BelicosoSo, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say I went into this Nicaraguan puro with high hopes. It’s best to start cigar reviews with a clean slate and no preconceptions; the mind, however, can’t easily trick itself. Maybe that’s why I found the 5.7 inch by 52 ring gauge Belicoso pleasurable but slightly disappointing.

This popular blend is the result of the combined efforts of José Don Pepin Garcia and his son Jaime (hence the “JJ”). Also known as the White Label, the Serie JJ Maduro has a clean broadleaf maduro corojo wrapper and attractive, cream-colored double bands. Careful observers may notice some black patches scattered about the already dark wrapper leaf.

After clipping away the rounded point with my double guillotine, I noticed a clear prelight draw and a hearty aroma of clove and dark chocolate. The smoke starts in the traditional Pepin way with full flavors of dry wood, leather, and black pepper spice. No surprise there. As the taste mellows to a more creamy profile after the midway point, the spice fades and a maduro sweetness creeps in before a reprise of pepper completes the journey.

Pepin reportedly has these cigars handmade in Miami to maintain quality control. I found that odd, especially since my two Belicosos required constant torch touch-ups to maintain an even burn and stay lit. The ash is also on the flaky side.

I must conclude, therefore, in spite of its physical flaws, this cigar’s popularity is due to its striking array of full, transforming flavors. Fair enough. But I was expecting a little more from a cigar that commands a price of about $215 per box of 24 or $50 per 5-pack. Conflicted, I give the Don Pepin Garcia Serie JJ Maduro Belicoso three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Nub Cameroon 358

21 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.

Like everyone else who pays attention to cigars, I’ve been inundated with Nub PR. But, until recently, I hadn’t smoked one. I’m not overly fond of large ring sizes and, while I don’t doubt the sincerity, I do doubt the “Nub Theory.” So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I lit up the Nub Cameroon. The answer: an OK cigar, but one I’d rank far behind others, such as Fuente and Cuban Crafters. I plan to try other Nubs; maybe I’ll be more impressed. On this one, though, the closest thing to a “sweet spot” that I saw was the $4 price.

Verdict = Sell.

George E

Quick Smoke: Alonso Menendez Robusto

20 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.

Alonso Menendez Robusto

This Brazilian puro rested in my humidor for over two years before I recently fired it up. I remember loving this Robusto (5 x 52) when I had hefty stash—long before Dona Flor changed the band to give it a more colorful appeal—but this last Alonso Menendez performed even better. The delectable mata fina tobacco gives the cigar a taste akin to moist chocolate cake with hints of spice and cream. And time seems to have worked some magic, vastly improving the cigar’s physical properties. Hands down, the Alonso Menendez Robusto is one of the best cigar experiences I’ve had in the past few months.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CXXI

19 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.

New York Gov. David Paterson1) It was revealed this week that New York Gov. David Paterson (pictured at right) is pushing to increase the Empire State’s cigar tax by 47%. His far-reaching proposal to close the state budget gap also includes tax hikes for everything from taxi rides and movie tickets to massages and digital music downloads.

2) The counterfeit Cuban story that just won’t die was making headlines again on Wednesday. A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Jose Penton, a Florida man who was charged with “selling counterfeit Cubans under trademarks registered in the United States after Fidel Castro took power.” You may remember that Altadis controversially worked hand-in-hand with Miami-Dade police to obtain the conviction.

3) Inside the Industry: The IPCPR reports that the proposed Michigan smoking ban has been stopped, at least through the end of the year. Habanos continues to add new packaging for its famous Cuban brands, including new boxes of ten- and three-packs for Partagas. Club Macanudo, General Cigar’s cigar lounge on New York’s Upper East Side, is now open for lunch.

4) Around the Blogs: Stogie Review reviews John Stark’s Dominican Legend. Keepers of the Flame gives an aging report on the 601 Green. Cigar Inspector inspects the Cohiba Siglo I. Velvet Cigar lights up a Cugine by Arganese.

5) Deal of the Week: Last call on Christmas specials: Cuban Crafters has some top notch deals here, including many of our favorites (J.L. Salazar, La Carolina, Miami Medina, and Cameroon). Meanwhile, Tinderbox has  all sorts of deals for the holidays, and promises your cigars will arrive before Christmas.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Reviews: Cuvée Blanc Toro

18 Dec 2008

Cigars and wine are often paired, seen as complementary expressions of high style, good taste, and sophistication. So it’s no surprise when a cigar maker, in this case Cusano, goes one step further and appropriates a wine term.

“Cuvée,” with its French origins, is often used by vintners to designate a special lot, particularly with Champagne. For its part, Cusano says it uses only a very select portion of the tobacco harvest for these cigars.

Getting straight information on this cigar is a little difficult. You’d assume Cuvée’s website would be the definitive source. But in one place it describes the Blanc as “shade-grown Connecticut and Peruvian tobaccos.” In another spot, the binder and filler are listed as Dominican. Similarly, the Cuvée site says the wrapper is U.S.-grown Connecticut; other sources say it is Ecuadorian.

The Blanc, which features four vitolas, is one of four Cuvée lines. The Toro—a six inch stick with a 54 ring gauge—is one of four Blanc sizes. It runs about $7 per stick. Physically, this example was first-rate.

The wrapper was smooth, the draw and burn excellent, and the smoke production copious. As you might expect, the Blanc is a mild cigar. The flavors were smooth and sometimes sweet. They tended to run toward grass, hay, and a little bit of nuts.

Overall, the Cuvée Blanc is pleasant and worth trying if you like mild cigars. But don’t be surprised if it fails to make a big impression. I think it simply lacks the complexity and subtlety that separate the OK from the excellent.

All things considered, I rate the Cuvée Blanc Toro three and a half out of five stogies.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Insider: Heather’s Got Her Shop

17 Dec 2008

Few cigar merchants have generated more long-range interest in an unopened shop than Heather Waibel Haddad. For those who follow cigar blogs, podcasts, and boards, Heather is a friendly and familiar voice who has been pursuing her cigar dream for a few years. From her early anti-tax efforts in California to an online cigar operation in Texas, she recently took the next step with her Fumée Cigar Lounge in Cedar Park right outside Austin.

Nearly a year ago, we caught up with Heather for a lengthy cigar insider interview. Now that her shop is up and running, we thought you might like to know a little bit about what looks like a great place to enjoy a good cigar any time you’re in the Lone Star capital.

Stogie Guys: How are you getting the word out in the area that you are open and ready for business?

Heather Waibel Haddad: We are trying lots of things, from flyers in the neighborhood behind our store to more creative things like to join groups and invite them to have their meetings at our lounge. As a result, we’ve organized a bike night with a large group here in Austin. We’re also doing some traditional print ads, and have partnered with a local cigar group to have a poker night here.

SG: Since Austin’s a major university town, are you making any special efforts to reach younger smokers?

HWH: We are not, for two reasons. The first is that we are pretty far from the university. I’d say 40 minutes in traffic. The second is that we tried that strategy once. I did a cigar seminar for a fraternity and they snickered every time I said the words “long,” “big,” or “hard,” so I decided never to do that again.

SG: Another hallmark of Austin is live music. Do you have plans to try to tap into that scene to draw customers?

HWH: We are looking into having some acoustic stuff on special occasions, like our New Year’s Eve party. But our space is only 2,000 sq. ft. and a lot of hard surfaces; anything that requires an amp would just be too much. I’m thinking guitar, piano, maybe even strings, would work here.

SG: Looking at the photos on your website, the shop looks like a terrific place to enjoy a smoke. What about the Fumée Cigar Lounge sets it apart from other shops in the Austin area?

HWH: The primary thing is that we have a large lounge. There are four main competitors here in Austin. Two of them have only a couple of chairs, and the other two are very expensive private lounges. Our lounge is open to the public. We are also the only cigar shop in all of the Austin area that serves beverages. We are selling espresso, whole leaf teas, and non-alcoholic drinks until we get our liquor license.

SG: Is the shop going to affect your online sales operation, or will you do both?

HWH: It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The shop has really helped our online store because we have a lot more inventory now. As a result we’re seeing more activity online, and that’s paying the bills for the retail store right now.

Many thanks to Heather for taking the time to give us the update.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Contest Winner: What Do Cigar Rights Mean to You?

16 Dec 2008

All of us at are pleased to announce that Mike Kitsen of East Lansing, Michigan, has won our “What Do Cigar Rights Mean to You?” contest. Mike will receive the Ultimate Rocky Patel Cigar Rights Sampler, which includes a dozen of Rocky’s finest cigars, three punch cutters, and Rocky’s new five-torch Diplomat table lighter—all generously furnished by the Duque Cigar Company.

While we received many outstanding contest entries, we think Mike’s comment succinctly and accurately touched on the most important aspects of cigar rights. Here’s what he had to say on November 25:

[Cigar rights mean] the ability to: (1) enjoy a cigar in an establishment that allows cigar smoking, without the interference of government; (2) buy a cigar without being hit with an industry and consumer crippling tax; and (3) smoke in my home or on my property without the fear of big brother’s watchful eye or prying neighbors who are irrationally fearful that traces of smoke may encroach upon their property and give them cancer. And for businesses, it means the ability to make an honest living, selling a legal product, and having the right to permit people to smoke or not (so long as the choice is that of the owner and not the government).

Upon learning of his triumph in the contest, Mike wrote to us: “Out of so many great ‘Cigar Rights’ entries, I am glad to hear I won because cigar rights is a very meaningful topic to me, especially in today’s ever increasing anti-smoking world. It’s fitting that such a meaningful topic comes with a phenomenal gift from and the Duque Cigar Company. Thank you for such an on-point topic, and keep up the fantastic work, guys.”

Picking a winner from the many outstanding entries was no easy task. But we hope you will join us in congratulating Mike for his well-deserved victory.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys