Archive | March, 2009

Stogie Reviews: Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial (Cuban)

31 Mar 2009

If you’re not familiar with this particular stick, maybe you’ll remember the Edición Limitada 2004. That renowned and elusive cigar helped elevate the status of Hoyo de Monterrey, a Cuban brand that generally takes a backseat to more familiar names from the forbidden island.

Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial (Cuban)The Epicure Especial sprung from its predecessor’s popularity and was launched in 2008 at the Festival de los Habanos (along with the H. Upmann Mágnum 50). Specifics are hard to come by but, from what I can tell, it’s supposed to be based on the Edición Limitada 2004 blend.

Now dubbed “the flagship of the Epicure line,” the five and a half inch by 50 ring gauge frame is said to be in line with today’s vitola preferences. The appearance is simply masterful, save for one large vein that resembles a Frankenstein scar on one of the two samples I smoked for this review.

Oily and soft to the touch, the russet-colored wrapper gives off pre-light aromas of sweet hay and coffee. Then, after toasting the foot, the Epicure Especial begins with a graham cracker spice, some honey, and plenty of earth tones—a flavor profile that’s milder than anticipated but not without a pepper-like aftertaste.

As an unexpected bonus, a touch of sweet caramel fades in and out after the midway point. It isn’t hard to notice this Cuban’s complexity. And while balance is also a virtue it captures well, at times (most notably when the frequency of puffs is increased) the taste can run a tad salty. This interplay between the base flavors, the sweet caramel, and the salt continues until the cigar is too small to hold.

If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll likely have to touch up the Epicure Especial’s burn once or twice to keep things even and running smoothly. Don’t expect any trouble from the ash or the draw, though.

Perhaps it’s cliché to say a new cigar “needs some time” before it comes into its own. But even though this is a fine, noble smoke today, something about the flavor leads me to believe it will be slightly better tomorrow. So I plan to patiently age the rest of my stash with hopes that it will gain some of the nuance and floral notes that have made the Epicure No. 2 so outstanding.

Any cigar that sells for $260-280 per box of 25 is worth the wait. I’ll be sure to let you know how my experiment turns out. For now, the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Reviews: Punch Pita EMS

30 Mar 2009

With a strained economy (and that’s probably putting it gently), there seems to be a rush to identify that rare gem of a cigar that delivers great flavor at a price point that won’t break the bank. The Punch Pita EMS, which sells for under $4 per stick and often under $3 each if purchased by the box of 25, is a prime candidate for such a value smoke.

Punch Pita EMSI used to fire up this particular cigar regularly when I hit the golf course, but for some reason I hadn’t had one in years until I smoked a few for this review. Perhaps that’s because, when I’ve reached for a Punch, it has been for one of the brand’s newer (and slightly more expensive) lines, like the Rare Corojo or Gran Puro.

Unlike those blends, this six and 1/8 inch by 50 ring gauge toro features only the simple, classic Punch band that is so instantly recognizable. It surrounds a reddish Colorado brown Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, a Connecticut binder, and a three-country filler with tobacco from the Dominican, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

The wrapper is smooth with only a few light-colered veins. Like just about every stick made by General Cigar, this one is firm and well-constructed. Pre-light the Pita has a sweet cedar aroma.

The flavor starts off earthy with a distinct almond nut taste. There is little of the peppery spice that gives Punch its traditional “punch.” That lack of spice didn’t bother me a bit, but I could have done without the bitterness that drifted in and out, becoming particularly noticeable towards the end.

The draw has just the right amount of resistance and the gray ash is sturdy. Curiously, while one of the samples went out with zero warning only an inch into the smoke, this proved to be an amomoly among the samples I smoked, so I’m willing to discount is as a fluke.

While you’re not going to mistake this cigar for the complexity of some of General’s higher-end offerings like the La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Miami we recently reviewed, it fits the bill for a good, reasonably priced smoke. It has a consistently pleasant flavor, good construction, and classic Punch looks. That combination earns the Punch Pita EMS a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: CAO Black Gothic

29 Mar 2009

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

CAO Black Gothic

While this torpedo-sized vitola (6 x 52) from CAO’s Black line isn’t as oily or complex as the Bengal, it still offers above average construction and a mild- to medium-bodied flavor profile of pepper, clove, and creamy butter. That’s ultimately why this toasty creation—complete with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua—is easy to recommend. Expect to pay around $5-6 for a cedar-wrapped single at your local B&M.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Maroma Robusto

28 Mar 2009

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

This mixed filler cheapie is a Famous house brand that runs a good deal under $2, even by the five-pack. Made by Nestor Plasencia with a natural wrapper and Honduran and Nicaraguan filler, it’s one of the lumpiest cigars I’ve ever held. For the first half inch or so, this “Cuban sandwich” was an OK mild cigar. But before the halfway point it had turned so sour it was unsmokable. I’ve had only one (part of a bonus when I ordered something else) and won’t be having more.

Verdict = Sell.

George E

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CXXXIV

27 Mar 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.

No Smoking On Beach1) Not content with their state’s already egregious policies towards tobacco, California State Senators are toying with a new bill that would criminalize smoking in state parks and beaches. The law would hit violators with a $250 fine for lighting up outside. But some politicians fear the State Parks Department doesn’t have the resources to enforce such a ban.

2) A measure to exempt cigar bars from Nebraska’s smoking ban, which already passed an will go into effect in June, is working its way through the state legislature. Anti-tobacco lawmakers are mounting a defense, though, one of whom claimed that if “we open the door to cigar bars…pretty soon we don’t have a smoking ban.”

3) Inside the Industry: Don Pepin Garcia and Nestor Miranda have teamed up to make a Twentieth Anniversary cigar to be released under the Nestor Miranda Special Selection label. The cigar, available in one size (7 x 56) with either a Habano Rosado or Habano Oscuro wrapper, is packed in boxes of 20. Shipments will hit select stores on April 1 (click here for photos).

4) Around the Blogs: Stogie Review smokes a Rocky Patel Cuban Blend Maduro. Keepers of the Flame lights up a Blue Label. Her Humidor smokes an Ambos Mundos. Cigar Command fires up an LFD Double Ligero Chisel. Cigar Inspector checks out a Tesa Havanitas Lancero.

5) Deal of the Week: There’s less than one week until the SCHIP cigar tax hike goes into effect on April 1, so take advantage of this deal before the prices jump. Here are over a dozen themed five-packs, at least a few of which are sure to please any cigar connoisseur. Included are fivers featuring smokes from Don Pepin, Rocky Patel, Gurkha, Padilla, Oliva, CAO, and others. Grab them today before it’s too late.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Commentary: How Low Do You Go?

26 Mar 2009

While I’d argue smoking cigars is more of an art than a science, over the years we’ve tried to provide you with dozens of tips to enhance your enjoyment. I hope you’ll take a moment to peruse our archives for everything from fixing an uneven burn and cigar auctions to winning the war on mold and establishing a good light.

Cigar AshtrayMy quick observations today, however, are far more subjective. I don’t claim to have the answer because, more than likely, there is no one good solution. If anything, I’m hoping to open a dialogue in which I would encourage you all to participate.

The topic, simply stated, is as follows: At what point do you stop smoking a cigar?

I realize this may sound like a silly question. But I ask because I’ve heard and witnessed a variety of different answers. For example, a number of enthusiasts, including at least one well-known cigar blogger, usually set down a cigar before it reaches the band. Here’s what our friend Jerry Cruz of Stogie Review told me via email yesterday:

“I normally (70% of the time) only smoke to the band. It has to do with my style of smoking…It’s not so much that I smoke too fast, but more that I keep the cigar in my mouth the whole time. I don’t put it down in an ashtray to rest. So you can imagine how saturated the end can get from my saliva. When I approach the band I know I’m coming close to the part that is just soured/harsh by my saliva and it isn’t really fair to judge a cigar at that point, due to my style of smoking. Its odd…I know.”

To each his own. Jerry employs a unique style that seems to work for him.

Still others practice the polar opposite, resolutely smoking each stick down to the nub. Smokers from this school know the best time to quit is a few minutes after your fingers start burning because they’re too close to the encroaching flame.

I, like most cigar enthusiasts, fall somewhere between these two camps, allowing the cigar and the situation to dictate when it’s best for me to set down my stogie. Some cigars, namely those that perform poorly or develop an unpleasant taste in the final third, deserve a premature death. Others merit a long, drawn-out goodbye, especially those that improve as they progress.

While the “play it by year” approach works well for me, only you can determine what’s best for you. So, before you leave today, please share your strategy with Stogie Guys readers: How low do you go?

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Reviews: Château Real Belicoso Favorita

25 Mar 2009

Released a couple of years ago as Drew Estate moved to expand its identification beyond its trademark infused, non-traditional cigars, the Chateâu Real natural line offers a pleasant, mild experience.

Château Real Belicoso Favorita1Patrick A reviewed this same cigar a year and a half ago, and I’ve recently smoked a few of the various vitolas—though none of the maduros—and found them consistent in taste and construction.

The prelight aroma is grassy, the initial taste a little tangy. After that, it settles into a comfortable mild cigar with thick smoke that’s steady from beginning to the end, where it turned a bit bitter.

There’s something of an odd room aroma I can’t quite put my finger on, but it’s not as strange as the burn. I don’t know if it’s the rolling, tobacco selection, or insufficient filler, but the center of the coal doesn’t appear to combust fully. It’s most apparent in the tapped off ash, where the center is a different shade. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to affect the overall burn line down the cigar, which is straight and reasonable.

When it comes to information about the cigar, Drew Estate’s website isn’t particularly informative. It refers to the wrapper as simply “Connecticut.” Other sources say it’s grown in Ecuador. The rest of the stick is just called a “balanced blend of well-aged Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos… ” Again, other sources call those two the filler and cite the binder as San Andreas Negro Oscuro from Mexico.

Prices on singles run from roughly $6 to $7. I paid about $6.50 for the Belicoso Favorita, a six inch by 50 ring gauge stick. Not a bargain, but not overpriced either—if you enjoy mild cigars.

For me, the Chateâu Real Belicoso Favorita is an OK cigar for a change. As such, I rate it three and a half out of five stogies.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys