Archive | January, 2009

Guest Quick Smoke: Oliveros Eight Zero Robusto

31 Jan 2009

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar. The following is a Guest Quick Smoke, submitted by a reader. If you’d like to submit your own for publication, please contact us.

This Robusto has a beautiful and toothy Honduran habano wrapper. Construction is good and the initial flavors offer up some woodiness and spice. As the smoke progresses, the spice mellows and some creaminess emerges along with a hint of sweetness on the finish. The burn is perfect from start to finish and the flavors are complex. With a price of just over $7, this is definitely worth a try.

Verdict = Buy.

-Submitted by Patrick Mize of Gainesville, FL

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CXXVI

30 Jan 2009

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 items of interest. We call ‘em Friday Samplers. Enjoy.

1) By an almost party-line vote of 66 to 32, the Senate approved the contentious SCHIP legislation this morning. The large cigar tax cap increased from the House version of 40 cents per stick to 40.26 cents. Obama is expected to sign the final bill into law as early as next week.

Cigar Aficionado2) With its faux typewritten February cover lines addressed to President Obama, Cigar Aficionado garnered some major publicity this week when The New York Times took note. After discussing the magazine’s Cuba coverage, the reporter got in a light-hearted zinger. First she asked executive editor Gordon Mott if he was worried about alienating some readers, then whether he was worried about “boring some readers.” For the record, Mott said he wasn’t.

3) The Dallas City Council’s attempt to prohibit certain stores from selling “loose” cigars hit a snag on Wednesday. The proposed law, allegedly intended to curb drug use, was delayed pending further research.

4) A cigar-friendly brother of the leaf is seeking higher office. Kendrick Meek, a Democratic representative from Miami, has declared his candidacy for the Senate seat now held by retiring Republican Mel Martinez. Meek was featured last year in Cigar Aficionado and was cited by the cigar industry as being helpful in the fight to push down proposed taxes in SCHIP legislation.

5) Inside the Industry: Rocky Patel is releasing a new Nicaraguan puro called the Havana Corojo. Tatuaje will now be distributed by J. Garcia International, headed by the son of Don Pepin Garcia. Many Super Bowl parties in Tampa will be featuring cigars,  including Altadis’ new Trinidad Habana Reserve. A new Toraño Tribute, the first since 2004, is now available at select retailers.

6) Around the Blogs: Doc Stogie has an ambitious petition that urges cigar manufacturers to divulge detailed information about their products. Cigar Inspector is giving away CAO five-packs to comment-happy readers.

7) Deal of the Week: If you like Padilla cigars, then you’ll want to check out this Padilla Limited Batch Sampler. It features 15 sticks for under $4 apiece: 5 top-rated Padilla Miamis, 5 Padilla 1968s, and 5 Padilla Achilles. Grab yours here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: The New York Times

Stogie Reviews: La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Miami Artesanitos

29 Jan 2009

With Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s recent announcement that he plans to start a new business with his family, the Artesano de Miami blend may be his last creation as an employee of the General Cigar Co. We’re sure the famed cigar maker and longtime head of La Gloria Cubana will be missed—especially since his latest concoction is one of his best.

La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Miami Artesanitos Before it was introduced at the IPCPR Trade Show last July, it allegedly took six years and 50 different blends to complete Artesanos de Miami. Perez-Carrillo then personally selected ten Cuban expatriates to roll the cigar in the El Credito factory in Little Havana, Miami.

His persistence seems to have paid off; for what it’s worth, the blend was honored with the 9th slot in Cigar Aficionado’s Best Cigars of the Year. That ranking, along with a limited production of only 250,000 cigars, is why several retailers are out of stock of the Elegante vitola, CA’s favorite size.

There are four other vitolas in the Artesanos de Miami catalogue, each of which has never been offered by La Gloria Cubana before. With its rustic habano-seed Nicaraguan wrapper and compact format, we were particularly intrigued by the 5 inch by 46 ring gauge Artesanitos.

This blend of an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan longfillers starts with a powerful woodsy spice. After a quarter inch, several of the Artesanitos we sampled followed with a burst of intense bitterness that prevails for two to three minutes. This slight irregularity leads us to believe the cigar has aging potential. Either way, once the bitterness is gone the taste is more balanced with notes of cedar, nut, and spice.

That classic Nicaraguan flavor mellows at the halfway point. It was about here that we agreed the Artesanos de Miami blend is a cigar smoker’s cigar—plenty of nuance and character.

Between the two of us, we burned through almost half a box of Artesanitos for this review. We’re happy to say the combustion qualities are superb and consistent.

At $180 for a box of 25 or $8 for a single, this little darling is no cheap date. As we’ve explained, however, the return on your investment will be substantial—especially in light of Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s imminent departure from General. We give the La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Miami Artesanitos four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A & Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Reviews: Paul Garmirian Gourmet No. 2 ’92

28 Jan 2009

We’ve written about Paul Garmirian cigars in the past, but the cigar that is the subject of this review can’t be found in even the limited number of stores that carry PGs. As Paul and Kevork Garmirian told us during our video Cigar Insider, they often make specially aged cigars only available in limited quantities at their headquarters in McLean, Virginia.

pggourmet92By providing the same cigar with varying amounts of aging, PG gives smokers the rare opportunity to truly examine to effects of time.  To encourage this, they sell the latest cigars at the same price as the ones that have been aging in their warehouse for years—around $8 in the case of this Gourmet Series No. 2 circa 1992.

The wrapper on this little 4 and 3/4 inch by 48 ring gauge No. 2 is dry to the touch. The color is a medium Colorado brown, covered in plenty of plume from 16 years of box aging.

And it’s important to note that although the cigar was originally boxed in 1992, the tobacco is certainly a few years older than that, especially the wrapper. In our discussion with Garmirian, he repeatedly told us how his philosophy of cigar making was never to rush the process. Even before rolling the tobacco is a few years old.

After lighting, one is greeted with a predominantly cedar flavor mixed with leather and a woody spice. It quickly becomes clear that there is something else going on in this mild-medium smoke. It is a flavor we couldn’t quite put our finger on, but it seems to have some herbal or floral notes.

Construction is superb during this 35-minute smoke with an even burn, easy draw, and—most notably—an abundant amount of smoke. The aroma is especially pleasant. After the midway point, the flavor profile changes slightly and becomes more mellow. The cedary spice fades only to be replaced with more pronounced leather flavors.

Overall, this is an impressive smoke: a balanced, complex, and subtle cigar that serves as a testament to the wonderful effects of aging.  Though it’s unlikely to be an everyday cigar due to price and scarcity, we would certainly suggest picking one up if you are fortunate enough to visit the PG headquarters in the suburbs of our nation’s capital. The PG Gourmet Series No. 2 (1992) earns a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A & Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Spirits: Jameson Irish Whiskey 12 Year Old

27 Jan 2009

While both spirits work well year-round, I tend to think of rum as the supreme summertime drink and whiskey as more suitable for the cold winter months. Maybe that’s why, since November, I’ve been exploring the various blends of my favorite, most reliable Irish whiskey: Jameson.

Jameson 12 Year Old ReserveThe 12 Year Old blend is a fine choice if you want to venture away from the traditional recipe but don’t want to break the bank. One of four blends in Jameson’s Reserve line, it has a suggested retail of $35 per 750 ml. bottle—a price that, in my opinion, indicates this whiskey is undervalued.

The 12 Year Old Special Reserve, according to Jameson, is “matured for a minimum of 12 years in oloroso sherry and bourbon casks.” The blend was originally dubbed “1780” to honor the year the Jameson Distillery was established.

After peeling away the burgundy foil from the classic green bottle, I was greeted with a corked top. This nice touch, which you’ll also find on the pricier Gold Reserve, is a simple yet underappreciated pleasure.

The amber pour is strikingly similar to the original blend, if not with a slightly more golden hue. Laying the two whiskeys side-by-side, I also noticed similar legs.

You won’t really discover any significant differences, in fact, until you take in the 12 Year Old’s aroma. There’s less of an alcohol tinge on the nose. And while you’ll find similar notes of honey and oak, there’s also a richer, syrupy scent with traces of fruit and leather.

The balanced, complex flavor profile of warm almond, peach, and oak is simply heavenly as it slowly fades into spice. Full-bodied yet mellow. An ice cube or two will bring out more taste and round off some of the edges. The smooth finish goes on for days. Where the original blend is gentle and sweet, 12 Year Old is savory and comforting.

Unlike Jameson’s traditional recipe, feel free to couple this spirit with more powerful smokes. Particularly good pairings include La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero, Isla de Cuba Aged Maduro, Cubao, and the Montecriso Petit Edmundo.

As you might have guessed, my verdict is this premium sprit serves as an exciting reminder that you don’t have to spend a fortune for a respectable whiskey. But Jameson 12 Year Old is much more than respectable; it’s downright sublime.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie News: Legislative Update, Rocky Patel on Cigar Taxes

26 Jan 2009

[Updated at 3pm Eastern with a response from Altadis USA.]

In a late addition to our last Friday Sampler, we reported the latest Senate version of SCHIP includes slightly higher cigar taxes than previously reported. Here are some other important updates on the cigar legislation front:

Rocky Patel: SCHIP Divides Handmade, Machine-Made Cigar Makers

This weekend spoke with cigar maker Rocky Patel for an interview that will be published in full here in the near future. One thing Rocky made clear is that, when it comes to SCHIP’s tobacco taxes, the different tax rates for premium handmade cigars and inexpensive machine-made cigars make it difficult to tell friend from foe.

Rocky Patel on TaxesAccording to Patel, some cigar producers that make both handmade and machine-made cigars, including industry giant Altadis, were willing to accept higher taxes on handmade cigars if it meant lower taxes on their cheaper, higher-volume, machine-made cigars. In his exclusive interview, Patel indicated a tax cap of 20 cents per large cigar or less (as opposed to the currently proposed 40.27 cents) would have been possible if not for resistance from those who sell machine-made cigars.

“The problem here is that in raising the revenue that Congress wants, they make 4.7 billion machine-made cigars, we make 300 million handmade premium cigars,” the famed cigar maker told “So every time they pay an extra penny, it saves us a lot of money on the amount of cap that we pay on the handmade side. But they weren’t willing to go up a couple pennies so we could go down to twenty [cents per cigar].”

This issue is part of the reason why Patel strongly supports Cigar Rights of America, which he says will look out exclusively for the interests of premium handmade cigar smokers.

UPDATE: Janelle Rosenfeld, vice president of marketing premium cigars and corp. communications for Altadis USA, took issue with the way her company’s role in fighting taxes on premium cigars was portrayed by Mr. Patel.

“Unlike Mr. Patel, Altadis USA is the largest manufacturer of premium cigars and owns and operates its own cigar factories including the largest hand-made cigar factory in the world. We, in fact, have a much larger vested interest in the tax and cap than Mr. Patel. For him to suggest otherwise is inaccurate,” she said. “Altadis USA takes great pride in our quality premium cigars and is committed to our premium cigar retailers and consumers at every turn.” Rosenfeld also said that Altadis and other tradegroups had been instrumental in lowering the tax cap from its initially proposed amount of $10 to its current form of 40.27 cents.

FDA Regulation Coming with Exemption For Cigars

Likely to soon come up again in Congress—and likely to become law this time—is a proposal to regulate tobacco under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the controversial plan hasn’t generated as much opposition in the cigar world as the SCHIP bill. That’s because its fairly far-reaching provisions, from prohibitions on adding flavors to restrictions on advertising and new brands, center almost exclusively on cigarettes.

Chris McCalla, Legislative Director for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, recently told that cigars and pipe tobacco would not be subject to those sorts of FDA restrictions without further extensive action that isn’t expected any time soon. And while imposition of strict FDA regulation on cigars could be devastating to premium handmade cigars, some say it’s unlikely such action will ever happen.

Pipe Tobacco Versus Roll Your Own

Speaking of pipe tobacco, you may have wondered, as we have, about the SCHIP provision to boost the per pound federal tax on pipe tobacco from $1.0969 to $2.8311, while roll-your-own tobacco is increased from $1.0969 to a staggering $24.78 (creating a tenfold difference between RYO and pipe tobacco). What the heck makes tobacco RYO so different from pipe tobacco? Well, it turns out the answer is not much.

Federal definitions are vague, and right now it doesn’t matter because tax rates are the same. But when there’s change, what’s to stop RYO makers from just labeling their product pipe tobacco? According to a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, they don’t have an answer. “This is an issue that we recognize as being problematic should the legislation pass,” he said. When it does, the first thing the bureau will do is study the issue to see about tightening up those definitions.

Patrick S & George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Navarro Tri-Color Robusto

25 Jan 2009

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

Navarro Tri-Color Robusto

I’m not sure how this firm Robusto ended up in my humidor, but I wish I would have left it there. Made by Nestor Plasencia and sold by Thompson, this eye- grabbing Nicaraguan puro includes three different wrapper leaves—Connecticut shade, habana 98, and maduro—around long fillers and sungrown binders. Sure, you can pick up this stick for under $2; I just can’t see why you’d want to given its hollow, bitter taste.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys