Archive | February, 2009

Quick Smoke: Wango Tango Slickie

28 Feb 2009

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

Wango Tango Slickie

As Darryl Lieser told us, the name for this Isla de Cuba blend “was conceived as something that was fun, edgy, and reminiscent of the good times.” And that’s pretty much the way this five and a half inch by 50 ring gauge perfecto smokes. Expect top-notch construction and flavors of leather, nut, and cocoa. With a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and binder, as well as a four-country filler blend, this slow-burning $6 smoke is a great way to spend 90 minutes.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CXXX

27 Feb 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.

Cuban Cigar Factory1) Even Cuban cigars aren’t immune to today’s global recession. This week Habanos, S.A. reported a 3 percent drop in 2008 sales to $390 million. A Habanos official said the downturn reflects falling demand for luxury items amid overall economic anxieties and warned that 2009 could be a “very complicated” year for manufacturers.

2) New Mexico politicians are pushing a bill that would expand their statewide smoking ban to cars with children present. Fines for violators would range from $100-300—the same amount the state tickets business owners for allowing their patrons to light up indoors.

3) Inside the Industry: Daily Cigar Deal was launched on Monday, a new website offering “an incredible deal” on different cigars every day. Montecristos were provided to all the participants in the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament. Along with Cuban cigars, premium non-Cubans were also down in 2008, although the decline was mostly due to decreased Dominican imports as Nicaraguan and Honduran numbers were up.

4) Around the Blogs: Keepers of the Flame reviews the Cruzado Dantes. Cigar Jack looks at the Punch Election. Stogie Review lights up a Rocky Patel Winter Collection. Matt fires up a Cuban Hoyo. Cigar Spy smokes an Oliva Master Blend.

5) Deal of the Week: This Cuban Blender Sampler features five cigars each from two former top Cuban blenders: Don Pepin and Avelina Lara. Included are five Don Pepin Garcia Blue Labels and five Graycliff 1966 PGs, all for just under $40. Grab yours here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Reviews: Paul Garmirian Gourmet Belicoso Fino ’91

26 Feb 2009

The year was 1991. Operation Desert Storm began, the Soviet Union officially came to an end, Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their first NBA title, and the two Belicoso Finos I smoked for this review were completed and boxed.

Paul Garmirian Gourmet Belicoso Fino (1991) It won’t surprise you, given the fact that I was eight years old at the time, to learn that I didn’t age this delicacy myself. As my colleague and I wrote in our review of a 1992 Gourmet No. 2, PG offers specially aged cigars in limited quantities at their headquarters in McLean, Virginia. So, unfortunately, you won’t be able to track down this stick even at the limited B&Ms that carry PG products.

That’s a shame because an 18-year-old cigar (the tobacco is certainly a few years older) that was created by an industry traditionalist and pioneer is a real treat. It also serves as a testament to the patience, quality, and care PG prides itself on to make cigars that look, taste, and feel like pre-Castro Cubans.

The first thing I noticed about this Dominican is the unique cap atop the Ecuador-grown Connecticut shade wrapper. I also couldn’t help admiring the matured Colorado-colored leaf; its dry wrinkles have the look of an antique map.

The initial taste is more aggressive than you’d anticipate, especially given the subtle prelight notes of wood, straw, and a touch of honey. The medium-bodied profile includes flavors of tobacco, steak, cereals, and onion, as well as a unique aftertaste that’s difficult to describe but similar to a Davidoff Gran Cru.

While I could tell you about all the other flavors I identified—including roasted nuts, ginger, and some floral notes—that wouldn’t do this masterpiece justice. You’ll have to make a trip to McLean to try this seriously aged cigar and experience its complexity and balance for yourself.

With laudable construction, this cigar’s only drawback is its $14.50 price tag. But that only amounts to a little over 80 cents per year since it was boxed—not a bad deal considering the value it affords in taste. That’s why, for the 1991 edition of the Paul Garmirian Gourmet Belicoso Fino, I’m fully confident in imparting a rare rating of five stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Reviews: Camacho Diploma Diploma Maduro

25 Feb 2009

Camacho Diploma Diploma MaduroAs a big fan of the regular Camacho Corojo line, I was excited to review a cigar from one of the Honduras-based company’s ultra premium blends. Unfortunately, my recent experience with three sticks from the Diploma line—a “monster cigar comprised of the finest authentic corojo crop”—left me disappointed.

Also the name of a vitola in the blend, the Diploma features corojo binder and filler tobaccos and, in this case, comes wrapped with a dark and oily maduro wrapper. It’s a classically sized robusto at five inches with a 50 ring gauge, and the three I smoked for this review were very similar across-the-board.

Prelight I found a rich tobacco aroma with a little hint of cocoa. The cigar feels overly soft and spongy from top to bottom and the bunch of tobacco at the foot looks loose. Not exactly what you expect from an $8 cigar.

It lights easily and the initial burn is razor sharp. The draw is too easy for my taste, sort of like drawing air through a straw with no resistance at all. The taste offers up lots of leather with a hint of cocoa on the finish.

At about the one inch mark, the burn starts to go ragged and eventually demands a correction from the torch. Then, at about the halfway point, the leather and cocoa fade and are replaced by woodiness and spice that remain until the end.

All three Diplomas suffered from the same construction and burn flaws and overall the experience was underwhelming. While the flavors were enjoyable they weren’t overly complex, and once the burn problems started they continued through the majority of the smoke. I expect better construction and a little more complexity from the flavors for the money. For that, this high-end offering from Camacho earns only two stogies out of five.

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

Patrick M

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Commentary: Cigars Should Embrace the Wine Model

24 Feb 2009

With the economy putting a strain on disposable income, I suspect cigar makers are going to find it increasingly difficult to sell pricey sticks at the rates they’re used to. Sure, the truly magnificent cigars will always find a home. But as for the endless stream of “premium” and “ultra-premium” cigars, manufacturers are going to have to offer cigar enthusiasts more if we’re expected to dish out that much on a regular basis.

wine cigarsFortunately, that model already exists. Perhaps not surprisingly (because many aspects of cigar culture are already borrowed from wine) that model is wine. The popular ratings systems we’re accustomed to were adapted from wine ratings, as was much of the terminology that we use to describe how cigars taste and smell.

Here are three ways the cigar industry, and particularly “premium” and “ultra-premium” cigar makers, would benefit from being more like the wine industry:

Embrace Vintages

When it comes to wines, particularly the best (with the exception of champagne), there is no escaping the fact that wines vary from year to year. While wineries strive to consistently make good products, changes in climate yield changes in grapes over time.

The same is true of tobacco. Yet most cigar makers pretend their creations made from tobacco from varied seasonal conditions will end up tasting identical. All this despite the fact that many consumers are sophisticated enough to realize that, like wine, the high quality tobacco that makes up premium cigars won’t be identical in taste from year to year.

Better Labeling

While far from universal, wine makers are much more forthcoming with information about their products. Vintages, origins, breakdowns of the blend—all are regularly found on bottles of wine, and making some some or all of that information available to consumers would greatly benefit the cigar industry, too.

Wine is as much identified by the varietals of grapes (such as pinot noir or shiraz) as by the region or vineyard. But the types of tobacco (and in what proportions) are rarely disclosed by cigar makers. Pulling back the curtain of cigar blending may seem like a risk, but I think the increased information will make more smokers into connoisseurs. And as they understand the complexity of today’s finest cigars, they will grow more likely to shell out money for the finest blends.

Embrace Aging

Some wines are made to drink soon after production and some need years or even decades before they are at their best. Aging cigars certainly isn’t unheard of. Many top collectors and connoisseurs patiently age their smokes despite an unspoken hostility by much of the cigar industry.

Like the difference between vintages, cigar makers often pretend that their cigars are at their best from day one. But we’ve all experienced cigars that need six months or more before they reach their peak and others that benefit from years of aging to fine-tune their subtleties and complexities. If cigars embrace the fact that not every cigar will be at its peak immediately upon release, I think they’ll find that many smokers will welcome their frankness and reward them by purchasing more of the best premium cigars for extended aging.

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Reviews: Cupido Tuxedo Churchill

23 Feb 2009

Regular readers will recall that Cuban Crafters, one of our favorite boutique manufacturers, has a knack for turning out excellent cigars that won’t put a dent in your wallet. The relatively newly released Cupido Tuxedo is a departure from that model—in price not excellence.

Cuban Crafters Cupido Tuxedo ChurchillRanked atop the boutique world in 1999 and 2000 before a hiatus, this Cupido Tuxedo incarnation is Cuban Crafters’ take on a super-premium maduro. Unlike the Estelí-made J.L. Salazar, Don Kiki (Brown and White), La Carolina, Cabinet Selection, and Cameroon blends, this line is handmade in the Dominican Republic by Cuban torcedores.

Tuxedo bears no resemblance to the criollo-wrapped Cupido line (of which the Corto viotla remains one of the best sub-$3 cigar experiences I’ve ever had). With a naturally cured habano maduro wrapper and a Dominican and Nicaraguan long-leaf ligero binder and filler, the Tuxedo looks more elegant and powerful.

Each signed and numbered cedar chest of 25 Churchills sells for $180 and prominently features a “Puff the Magic” slogan. Fairly oily with plenty of toothy texture, these seven inch by 52 ring gauge cigars are firm with no soft spots.

The expertly applied cap makes for a clean and easy cut. Once lit, rich prelight notes transition into a hearty taste of coffee beans with a little sugar. The first inch includes a unique sour finish that sets up the taste buds for the sweetness that follows. From there, the flavor wavers from cocoa and coffee to leather, pepper, and cedar.

Of particular interest is that, across the dozen Churchills we smoked for this review, several—those that we smoked immediately after receiving them—had brief periods of biting bitterness. But a few weeks in the humidor completely cured that flaw and improved the taste dramatically.

Regarding physical properties, the draw is good (especially for a cigar of this length) and the burn is exceptional. Don’t let the white ash build off the foot too long, though, or you’ll end up with a lapful.

In the end, while the price isn’t nearly as friendly as other Cuban Crafters creations, we enjoyed this cigar immensely. Given the complex, well-balanced flavors and the obvious quality of craftsmanship, we give the Cupido Tuxedo Churchill four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A & George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Artisan’s Selection by PG No. 2

22 Feb 2009

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

Made by pre-cigar boom legend Paul Garmirian, this toro (6 x 50) is about as affordable as PG creations get. Sold for around $150 per box, this Connecticut shade-wrapped stogie is oily and rustic with a few veins. It starts off with an initial burst of grass that soon fades into a woody smoke with a hint of anise and excellent balance. As I’ve come to expect from PG, the construction is virtually flawless. Overall, a fine smoke that provides the subtlety and balance of of PG at a more reasonable price point. It pairs perfectly with a well-made Gibson.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S