Archive | August, 2009

Stogie Commentary: It Takes a Worried Man…

24 Aug 2009

If I were the worrying kind, I might be concerned about the future of cigars. No, not because of all the restrictive laws and rising taxes and health scares. While those are all serious threats, I’m more anxious about the fact that cigars seem to be everywhere these days.

Cigar Bubble?I can hardly pick up a magazine without having the smiling face of Avo Uvezian look back at me or seeing a Macanudo smoker wistfully thinking about his pickup. And I’m certainly not just talking about cigar magazines.

The other day, while waiting to get my hair cut, I was thumbing through Popular Mechanics and there, big as life, was a Punch ad. I can’t remember the last time I thumbed through any magazine with a significant male audience without seeing at least one cigar ad.

I also recently ran across two photos of cigar smokers in one day’s newspaper. A few nights later, I noticed a character—not even a villain—in a TV series casually smoking a cigar.

What’s wrong with all that? Well, premium cigar smokers are obviously a small crowd in the grand scheme of things, and manufacturers need to work at getting more people to join the party. I would surely agree with that.

Heck, I think everybody should smoke good cigars. Those who don’t, quite simply, don’t know what they’re missing. Those who do are better people for it.

But could this be the beginning of a cigar bubble? Not like the past “boom” that was fed and then killed by lousy cigars. But the kind of overexposure that leads public opinion to quickly turn on something or someone, be it Paris Hilton or disco.

Maybe, though, this is where all the smoking opponents are doing us a favor. With it now nearly impossible to smoke anywhere you can be seen, perhaps I’m overestimating the danger of exposure, much less overexposure.

So, I think I’ll just light up and relax. Where’s that copy of Popular Mechanics?

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Montecristo 75th Aniversario Robusto

23 Aug 2009

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

monte75

Released two weeks ago at the annual IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans, this new extension of the non-Cuban Montecristo brand celebrates the storied cigar’s 75th anniversary. The new stick, which will retail for upwards of $15, has an inviting, deep brown, oily wrapper. Once lit, you’re greeted with a combination of cocoa, chocolate, and earth. The cigar’s medium-bodied and well-balanced flavors remind me of another limited Montecristo, the highly-rated Montecristo Cabinet Selección. With excellent construction properties, it’s a fine smoke worth trying, even if the price gives you some pause.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

Quick Smoke: VegaFina Corona

22 Aug 2009

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

VegaFina Corona

This slender Altadis-made cigar (5.75 x 43) features top-quality construction. The taste, however, leaves much to be desired. Save for some notes of sweet hay and grass, I didn’t get anything out of this Ecuadorian Connecticut shade-wrapped stick. Sure, the VegaFina Corona only costs about $2-4 apiece. But you’d be better off spending twice as much for more flavor.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CLV

21 Aug 2009

As we have 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.

Illinois Casinos Hit by Smoking Ban1) It was revealed this week by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis that Illinois’ smoking ban, enacted in January 2008, is responsible for a 22% decline in business among the Prairie State’s nine casinos. That amounts to $400 million lost in revenue and another $200 million lost in tax payments last year. “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Chris McCalla, legislative director for the IPCPR. “Businesses everywhere are suffering from the economic downturn while those in Illinois have the added impact of this contemptuous legislated smoking ban.” McCalla criticized anti-smoking organizations for dismissing the economic impact of bans.

2) Inside the Industry: La Aurora’s 100 Años brand is coming to an end with the release of 15,000 lanceros (which will be featured in an upcoming quick smoke or review here on StogieGuys.com). Joya de Nicaragua is known for creating full flavored smokes, but the new Antaño Dark Corojo, released last week at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans, is reported to be the most intense smoke yet.

3) Around the Blogs: Keepers of the Flame sparks a Pinar del Rio Classic. Stogie Review tries the Padilla Dominus Petrus. Cigar Command fires up a Nub Maduro. Velvet Cigar smokes the Felipe Gregorio Moroccan Series Essaoura 40/60.

4) Deal of the Week: This “Full Bodied Sampler” includes some fine (you guessed it!) full-bodied smokes. Included for just $50 are two each from La Gloria Cubana Serie R, Don Pepin Garcia Cuban Classic, EO 601 “Red” Habano, Perdomo Lot 23, and Rocky Patel Vintage 1992. Grab yours here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Reviews: Brioso Robusto

20 Aug 2009

The trend at this year’s IPCPR Trade Show, if there was just one, was affordable smokes, and Brioso certainly fits that bill. The blend was introduced by General Cigar at this year’s showin New Orleans and will be available soon for around $3-4.

BriosoAs explained to us at the convention, General Cigar took many measures keep this cigar in that affordable price range, including giving their blenders a mandate to keep the cigar under $4. While they were careful to say that Brioso isn’t a “bundle cigar,” it does come in a display case, rather than a box, which can then be refilled with unboxed (some might call them bundled) smokes. The name, we were told, was picked from the many unused names that General Cigar owns; it means “lively and spirited” in Spanish.

As for the cigar itself, it features a Honduran Jamastran wrapper, a  Connecticut habano binder, and a blend of Dominican, Nicaraguan,  and four types of Mexican filler tobacco. The wrapper, framed by a rather simple band, has a slightly dry appearance, but its deep brown color is inviting.

Once lit, Brioso has a combination of earth and warm tobacco flavors. It is rather simplistic and medium-bodied. Occasionally the cigar has a somewhat unpleasant damp flavor that detracts from the otherwise enjoyable, if uncomplicated, profile.

As I’ve come to expect from General Cigar’s products, the construction is superb. The draw has just the right amount of resistance, the burn is even, and the ash is stable enough to last an inch at a time.

All it all, Brioso is a cigar that will compete nicely with similarly priced sticks. But if your expectations are too high you’ll be disappointed. I suspect company representatives would admit that you won’t be mistaking Brioso for the deep powerful flavors of a Punch or even the complexity of La Gloria Cubana (both also made by General Cigar).

Still, Brioso is serviceable cigar at a good price that I’d be glad to smoke on the golf course, or give to a friend who doesn’t yet have the palate to fully enjoy something with more complexity.  In the end, that combination earns the Brioso Robusto three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Reviews: Por Larrañaga Panetela (Cuban)

19 Aug 2009

One of the “second tier” Cuban cigar brands, Por Larrañaga doesn’t get the acclaim or attention given to Montecristo, Cohiba, or Romeo y Julieta.

Por LarranagaBut sometimes finding that under-the-radar gem can be even more rewarding. And given it’s easy-on-the-wallet price of under $4, this small five inch by 37 ring gauge Panetela certainly has the makings of an undervalued find.

The little stick features a veiny golden wrapper that isn’t particularly pretty—we both experienced small breaks and tears. With a slight box-press, nearly complete lack of pre-light aroma, and a somewhat spongy feel, it doesn’t appear to have been rolled by an expert, and it doesn’t inspire particularly high expectations.

Once lit, a slightly leathery start soon becomes a a consistent mixture of oak and cream. As you would expect from a small smoke, it’s not terribly complex. But it’s still pleasantly surprising. The flavors are rich and smooth, even if the smoke is on the mild side.

While the appearance leads you to think construction might be an issue, there are no major flaws. The ash is somewhat unstable, a function partially of the cigar’s small width, but the draw is easy and the burn admirably straight.

Ultimately, the JFK size of this cigar makes it perfect for a cup of coffee or a short break. Por Larrañaga has been produced continuously since 1834, making it the longest running Cuban brand still in production.

If they keep making impressive, affordable gems like the Por Larrañaga Panetela, we hope that run continues for centuries to come. For that, this Cuban earns a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S & George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Spirits: Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year Old Rum

18 Aug 2009

Some would say Zaya runs an unnecessary risk by declaring itself “the world’s finest sipping rum.” That’s a lot of live up to. Fortunately, from this rum-lover’s perspective, I don’t think their claim is all that outlandish.

Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Yr. OldZaya’s Gran Reserva 12 Year Old is hand-blended with 3-5 rums, five times distilled, and aged in white oak barrels for no less than 12 years. The result is an impressive, complex product that has earned notable industry accolades. Zaya was awarded gold at this year’s Ministry of Rum tasting in Miami, as well as double gold at the 2007 Spirit Competition in San Francisco.

Initially a product of Guatemala, the company recently relocated their operations to Trinidad “to provide a plentiful supply of Zaya Rum without compromising on quality or taste,” according to a spokesperson. Apparently Trinidad was a natural fit given the island’s history of outstanding rum production.

Zaya’s bottle, handsomely adorned with a wicker neck, shows off the 12 Year Old’s rich ruby color. The leggy pour takes on more of an amber hue as it hits the glass, then the nose opens considerably to reveal bright aromas of honey, walnut, and vanilla.

The taste, rounded nicely with a slash of water or a few ice cubes, displays a crisp interplay between sweetness and spice. While syrup and oak are at the forefront, notes of coconut, cinnamon butter, and peanut brittle add depth. The finish is long yet subdued with a gentle heat and a spicy tingle. True to its slogan, Zaya is dangerously easy to sip.

The overall effect is as balanced and complex as any rum I’ve tried in this price range. So, with an MSRP of $34.99 per 750 ml. bottle (80 proof), Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year Old is approachable in both taste and price.

A great rum like this pairs well with most sticks, but I think the most complementary cigars run in the mild- to medium-bodied range and lack much sweetness. Try the Camacho Connecticut, Isla de Cuba Classic, or the Cuban Crafters Cubano Claro on for size. I trust you’ll be pleased.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys