Archive | June, 2009

Stogie News: Cigar Makers Talk New Releases

30 Jun 2009

This past Saturday I attended Cigar Expo, an event put on by Famous Smoke Shop, an Easton, Pennsylvania-based retailer with a thriving online and mail-order operation. Around 600 cigar enthusiasts attended to enjoy plentiful amounts of cigars, beer, food, and good company.

cigar expoParticipants had the chance to talk to some of the biggest names in the business, many of whom were on hand to personally distribute their smokes. And when they weren’t talking to consumers, more than a few opened up to me with some nuggets about what we can expect in the coming months.

Jorge Padrón, for example, gave me the inside scoop on the upcoming Family Reserve release. While the details are still being worked out, he expects the blend to be ready by September 8, the anniversary of the company’s founding. The plan is to release one blend annually in one size every September thereafter.

Additionally, José and Jaime Garcia of Don Pepin Garcia cigars said they’ve been busy setting up their Nicaraguan factory, but they’re also putting out an expansion to the My Father line. Jaime was excited about the new Tobacco Baez SF, which consists of 70% long-filler and 30% short-filler to provide consumers with a lower price point of $3 per cigar.

Charlie Toraño told me that the contents of the 50th Anniversary will be revealed soon as the line rolls out. The Solomon size, which is featured in the Exodus sampler, won’t be part of the regular line.

Eddie Ortega of EO Brands gave me some details about the company’s upcoming new releases: the Cubao Maduro and the Murcielago. The Cubao Maduro will feature a similar blend to the original Cubao line, this time with an Ecuadorian broadleaf maduro wrapper. The Murcielago contains a blend of Nicaraguan and Mexican tobaccos.

George A. Rico, maker of G.A.R. cigars and also the popular Gran Habano line, is releasing the G.A.R. Vanguard, a Nicaraguan puro that uses plenty of ligero tobacco. Also on the agenda is a new limited size (6 x 66) of of his Gran Habano Corojo No. 5 blend called the “Czar,” and a Gran Habano No. 5 Double Maduro featuring a San Andreas wrapper that is due out in November. Additionally, the Gran Habano 3 Siglos line is being rebranded as the Gran Habano 3SL in response to trademark issues due to Altadis’ new Siglo cigar.

Alan Rubin (pictured above) of Alec Bradley Cigars talked about his many new releases, including the SCR, Family Blend, Vice Pressed, and Mudial. Rubin seemed most excited about the Family Blend, which was originally created as a personal blend for his father. He described the new line as a “Cuban-style” cigar that can be smoked anytime of the day, and will only be available at retailers who host Alec Bradley events.

While Rocky Patel wasn’t in attendance, his representative did give me some juicy news about what the cigar superstar is working on. One blend, called “Patel Brothers,” is being crafted with his brother Nimesh. Also on the horizon is a 12th Anniversary cigar.

Gene Arganese told me that Arganese would be releasing a CL/ML double wrap cigar, based on the CL3 and ML3 lines. He also said that he and others in the industry were concerned about the recent fire in the Picas factory in the Dominican Republic, which makes cigar boxes for a number of companies, including Arganese.

Nick Perdomo said Perdomo Cigars will be releasing a tubo version of its 10th Anniversary Champagne smoke and a Grand Cru Connecticut. He also had the quote of the day when he described the government as his “biggest competitor” during a discussion about the challenges that face the cigar industry.

Finally, I also heard that Oliva will be releasing Cain in August, a triple-fremented all-ligero cigar; Kristoff is coming out with a Sumatara-wrapped line; and Flor de Gonzalez is preparing to release the Obay Fuerte, which features an Ecuadorian habano wrapper and Nicaraguan filler and binder tobaccos.

And while other cigar makers were more tight-lipped about their up-and-coming projects, they hinted at big releases for the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans. Rest assured that will be on hand to cover the event.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Reviews: Cruzado Marios

29 Jun 2009

Cruzado MariosDion Giolito produces two of my favorite lines: Illusione and Cruzado. The latter, launched in 2008, is a criollo ’98 blend with one component of corojo 2006. This contrats Illusione, which is a corojo blend with one component of criollo.

All six of the Cruzado vitolas are relatively narrow with ring gauges ranging from 44 and 48. This approach is unique in a marketplace where wide girths seem to be the norm.

The Cruzado Marios (7 x 47) includes a criollo rosado claro wrapper. Right out of the box, this Nicaraguan puro smells earthy and leathery.

It sports a flawless triple pigtail cap. And, on both of the samples I smoked for this review, I noticed some moderately sized veins, which impart a rustic appearance that matches the band and box.

The cap clips easily and the pre-light draw is perfect. The first few puffs offer up some nice mild spice—earth and leather with a hint of chocolate on the finish. Definitely more toned down that Illusione, probably a result of the higher criollo-to-corojo ratio and the decision to use viso tobacco instead of ligero in the filler.

About one inch in, this Churchill-shaped cigar starts to mellow. The predominant taste is leather as the spice fades.

The ash is gray and flakey, holding firmly until the inch-and-a-half mark when I dumped it into the ashtray instead of tapping the foot. The profile changes again about a third of the way through with a sharp spice, less leather, and more earth. Then, down the home stretch, the spice fades and leather becomes dominant again.

While the burn becomes ragged at the halfway mark and requires a touch-up, this flaw may have more to do with the windy conditions than the cigar’s construction. One fault that I cannot excuse, however, is the fact that the band is adhered too tightly to the wrapper, rendering its removal impossible without causing a small tear. Fortunately this doesn’t impact the smoking experience.

At around $9 apiece, the Cruzado Marios is an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours and competes very nicely with other cigars this price range. For that, it earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick M

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Avo 787 Perfecto

28 Jun 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 sharp-looking Perfecto (5.875 x 50) is a pleasure to look at and to smoke. It’s medium-bodied with plenty of sweetness and excellent balance. It developed into a creamy cigar with rich roasted nut flavors. The construction is also impressive. At $15 it might be pricey, but if you’re looking for a dependable cigar for a special occasion, this just might be the smoke for you.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

Quick Smoke: Nub Connecticut 354

27 Jun 2009

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

Nub Connecticut 354

Looking for something to spice up my Thursday lunch break, I picked up this stubby (3.75 x 54) Sam Leccia creation from a local B&M. It featured many of the flavors that you’d expect from an Ecuadorian Connecticut-wrapped stick, including cream, hay, and roasted nuts. But, likely due to its shorter format and Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, it smokes a little hotter and bolder than anticipated. With solid physical properties and an agreeable price  (I paid $4.50), the Connecticut 354 is a good choice when you need a 40-minute afternoon fix.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CXLVII

26 Jun 2009

As we’ve done since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. We call ‘em Friday Samplers. Enjoy.

Hav-a-Tampa1) Tampa, known as “Cigar City,” will lose another stogie factory this summer, albeit one that produces machine-made sticks. Tobacco giant Altadis recently announced plans to close the plant, which employs nearly 500 workers and makes Hav-A-Tampa cigars. An Altadis official told the St. Petersburg Times that the SCHIP tax hike had been particularly hard on the business. The cigars will continue to be produced at a company plant in Puerto Rico. Late last year, Altadis closed a smaller facility in Selma, Alabama.

2) As some Golden Staters dread local laws that criminalize outdoor smoking in parks, dining areas, and other “public” spaces, Solona Beach this week joined the list of cities in San Diego County that ban “patio smoking.” The move, according to one politician, “is part of a city-wide ‘Go Green’ effort.” In related news, California was recently ranked an abysmal 47th in a Mercatus Center at George Mason University study that ranks the 50 states by personal and economic freedom.

3) Inside the Industry: CAO Cigars is giving away a custom-made motorcycle made by Sucker Punch Sally’s here. Only nine months after its purcase of Camacho Cigars, Davidoff has agreed to purchase Cusano, maker of the Cusano and Cuvée lines. Oliva is introducing the new White Label Connecticut Reserve.

4) Around the Blogs: Stogie Review reviews the HC Series by Xikar. Cigar Inspector inspects the Ramón Allones Specially Selected. Stogie Fresh checks out the Los Blancos Criollo. Keepers of the Flame lights up a Zino Platinum Scepter. Matt torches a Cohiba Siglo I. Velvet Cigar tries a Hemingway Short Story Maduro.

5) Deal of the Week: Like Rocky Patel Cigars? Then you’ll love this “Limited Edition Rocky Patel Sampler.” It includes ten of the best smokes that made Rocky into an industry superstar, including the Decade, Vintage 1992 and 1990, Olde World Reserve, and more—all for under $50. Grab yours here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Commentary: My Top Five Cigar Pet Peeves

25 Jun 2009

The art of smoking cigars is all about enjoyment, relaxation, and taking a much-needed break from an otherwise hectic day. That and tasting delicious, delicious tobacco. At least that’s why I consider myself a cigar enthusiast.

Complaint DepartmentMaybe you ride the stogie train for completely different reasons. But pretty much nobody smokes cigars in order to get pissed off. Despite that, and as my colleague pointed out in April, there are a number of industry nuisances (aside from smoking bans and tobacco taxes) that need to be addressed. So I begrudgingly submit to you my top five cigar pet peeves:

1. So-called “super-premiums” with poor construction. When I spend $10 or more on a single, I expect top-notch physical properties. Anything less than a sturdy ash, a clear draw, and a sharp burn is disappointing—no matter how fantastic the flavors might be. An expensive stick that smokes poorly is like a Porsche with bad steering alignment.

2. Polarization towards industry superstars and popular brands. Cigar consumers and publications alike tend to gravitate towards towering figures like Don Pepin Garcia and Rocky Patel. Perhaps deservedly so. But it irks me when enthusiasts use this fascination as an excuse to ignore B&M house blends and boutique creations—especially since uncovering an underappreciated gem can be so rewarding (and not to mention easier on your wallet).

3. Expensive cigar gadgets that under-perform. We all need cutters, lighters, and other accessories to keep puffing away. And even though we’ve written about well-made options that won’t break the bank, sometimes—depending on income, preference, or occasion—it may be appropriate to shell out good money for top-of-the-line wares. Nothing’s worse, though, than when a $100+ lighter stops working well before your sub-$5 Ronson.

4. Insufficient information on cigar websites and boxes. Since each manufacturer has various lines, shapes, sizes, and wrappers, and since the name of each individual stogie is rarely printed on its label, knowing exactly what you’re smoking can be difficult. Is it too much to ask to have the complete cigar name printed on boxes? Is it too difficult for producers to keep comprehensive and updated catalogs of their blends on their websites? I’d rather not have to bring a pen and paper with me every time I visit my local tobacconist.

5. Inconsistency. In a perfect world, where all cigars are stored in ideal conditions, each stick of the same blend and vitola would taste and perform similarly. It’s frustrating when you try a stick, like it, and buy a whole box only to have your new purchases smoke completely differently. While I realize there are many variables (some of which—like the weather—are out of cigar manufacturers’ control), inconsistencies make finding and maintaining a supply of what you like all the more difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Despite these pet peeves, smoking cigars is still one of the most enjoyable activities around. Perhaps it’s telling that my biggest complaint is often that I don’t have enough time to engage in this hobby as I’d like. So I guess I could keep listing off gripes but, with all the great cigars out there, who’d listen?

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Spirits: Firefly Vodka Spiked Palmer

24 Jun 2009

With summer officially here, I find myself skipping the straight scotch and bourbon on the rocks for more refreshing mixed drinks to pair with a cigar.  One such libation is the Firefly Spiked Palmer, made with Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka.

FireflyFirefly is a unique drink that is taking the Southeast by storm.  Made on Wadmalaw Island, 30 miles south of Charleston in South Carolina, it is distilled four times and infused with tea from a plantation only a few miles from the distillery. Then, to get that distinctive sweet tea taste, they blend it with Louisiana sugar cane.

The result is a vodka that tastes like a stiff sweet tea and packs a serious punch at 70 proof.  That combination of flavor and strength makes it a great candidate for a mixed drink.

Perhaps the simplest and most popular Firefly mixed drink is the Firefly Spiked Palmer, an alcoholic take on the classic Arnold Palmer. To make one, simply mix one part Firefly with one part lemonade over ice. I found that Newman’s Own Lemonade works well because it has just enough sweetness, but really any lemonade would probably get the job done.

The result is a drink that tastes dangerously like just sweet tea with a spash of lemonade, meaning you could easily drink a few too many of these.

As for cigars, you’ll need something to stand up to all that sweetness. I’ve found bold maduros, like the CAO Brazilia, Arganese ML3, or EO 601 “Blue”, do the trick.

No matter what cigar you choose, I think you’ll enjoy changing things up a bit with the Firefly Spiked Palmer. While it’s a far cry from more traditional cigar pairings like scotch, bourbon, or cognac, it’s a refreshing change of pace during these warm summer months.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys