Archive | October, 2009

Quick Smoke: La Aurora Preferidos Maduro Robusto

31 Oct 2009

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

La Aurora Preferidos Maduro Robusto

This five inch by 50 ring gauge cigar may not be the prettiest stick around, what with its splotchy, somewhat veiny skin. But it sure is a treat to smoke. Pre-light notes of earth and cocoa give way to a balanced profile that’s both peppery and sweet. With oak barrel-aged Cameroon, Brazilian, and Dominican tobaccos, the flavor is smooth and creamy with a medium body of dark chocolate and coffee beans. And the physical properties are befitting a $10 cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CLXV

30 Oct 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.

Cigar Pumpkin1) If you’re still looking for that last-minute Halloween costume, you might consider picking one that incorporates a cigar. For ideas, check out our list of the top 20 cigar-friendly costumes. And, no, we can’t recommend a cigar pairing for Snickers.

2) California is home to some of the most anti-tobacco municipalities in the U.S. In 1990, San Luis Obispo became the first city in the world to criminalize indoor smoking in all “public” places. More recently, politicians in Calabasas made outdoor smoking illegal. Now the Golden State’s largest city, Los Angeles, is tightening the screws. Officials there are moving to ban smoking in and around outdoor dining areas, such as restaurant patios, kiosks, and mobile food trucks.

3) Inside the Industry:  Regarding our October 14 report of rumors of an impending deal involving Pepin, La Aurora, and Miami Cigar & Co., we recently heard the following from a source that wishes to remain anonymous: Not long after reportedly returning from Nicaragua, Guillermo León of La Aurora and Rene Castañeda of Miami Cigar & Company were seen entering Pepin’s El Rey de los Habanos factory in Miami’s Little Havana. Less than an hour later, the two were spotted with Janny Garcia, Pepin’s daughter, and Miami-based cigar writer  and Pepin friend, Gary J. Arzt, at a Mexican restaurant a few blocks away. They were descibed as having what appeared to be a “serious business conversation.”

4) Around the Blogs: Stogie Review lights up a Room 101 by Camacho. Smoking Stogie really enjoys the Cohiba Gran Reserva. Cigar Reviews fires up a Montecristo No. 4. Keepers of the Flame reviews the Padrón 1964. Nice Tight Ash torches a My Father Cedros Deluxe.

5) Deal of the Week: Here’s another special unannounced sale over at Cuban Crafters, which includes price cuts you won’t find from their regular homepage. Deals include a humidor box of Cubano Claros ($89), a box of 25 Cuban Crafters Cabinet Selections ($74), a bundle of Don Kiki Greens ($34), and a box of La Carolina Torpedos ($75). Grab yours here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Reviews: Frank Llaneza 1961 Cuban Corona

29 Oct 2009

Even though Frank Llaneza was born into the industry, he is undoubtedly a cigar legend in his own right. And now Altadis is honoring his half century of entrepreneurship and innovation with a new blend.

Frank Llaneza 1961 Cuban CoronaLlaneza, who grew up sweeping floors at his father’s modest Ybor City outfit, is best known for expanding Villazon & Co. by establishing factories in Central America in the early 1960s. He was a pioneer in Honduras immediately following the Cuban embargo, which is why many consider Llaneza to be “the godfather of Honduran cigars.” Decades later, in 1996, he sold Villazon to General Cigar Holdings Inc. for millions.

According to press materials circulated at the IPCPR Trade Show in August, “now he has put his name on a cigar that embodies the perfect balance between his genius and passion.” The blend, made at the Altadis USA factory in Nicaragua, recognizes a man who “has been growing superior tobacco and creating cigars of exceptional pedigree since 1961.”

The Frank Llaneza 1961 features a filler blend of Nicaraguan and Dominican leaves, a Nicaraguan binder, and a dark Ecuadorian criollo ’98 wrapper. Notes of milk chocolate and coffee permeate the toothy surface right out of the cellophane.

With a suggested retail price of $7 apiece, the oily, firm Cuban Corona frontmark measures five and five-eighths inches with a ring gauge of 46. The absence of imperfections serves as evidence of an expert torcedor and quality tobacco.

After lighting the narrow foot with a couple wooden matches and studying the first few puffs, I find a balanced, medium-bodied profile of savory meat, nuts, butter, and cereals. A gentle spice on the lips adds depth. The aftertaste is decidedly smooth and leathery.

As the white, sandy ash works its way towards the middle of the cigar, the flavor remains surprisingly consistent. Here, I discover that the quicker I smoke, the meatier the cigar becomes. And since I enjoy the subtler tastes of the Frank Llaneza 1961 more than the charred steak characteristics at the forefront, I decide to slow down.

That strategy works well through the final third, which is a bit bolder than the rest of the cigar. All the while the combustion qualities—including a slow, even burn, a fairly solid ash, and a good draw—are reliable.

On the whole, I wouldn’t be surprised if this young limited release develops nicely over the coming months and years. It would be a good candidate for my regular golf course rotation if it were easier to find and priced a bit lower. Regardless, cigar enthusiasts who enjoy rich, meaty profiles should definitely check out the Frank Llaneza 1961 Cuban Corona. I give it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie News: Cohiba Creator Avelino Lara Passes Away

28 Oct 2009

Legendary cigar maker Avelino Lara died yesterday due to complications from thyroid cancer. Once Fidel Castro’s personal roller, Lara was famous for his creations at the El Laguito Factory outside of Havana, where he crafted some of of the most famous Cuban cigars, including the Cohiba brand.

laraBorn in Havana on March 20, 1921, Lara worked in the cigar business all his life. He trained and mastered the art of a torcedor at a young age. After decades of working in the Cuban cigar industry, including having a hand in some of the best-known blends ever created, Lara retired in 1996, in part because he was unhappy with government interference in cigar making.

Lara couldn’t keep away from cigars for long. He eventually moved to Nassau to roll cigars at Graycliff Restaurant. His cigars soon became a success, and Lara then teamed up with Enrico Garzaroli to create and distribute Graycliff Cigars.

“With Avelino we had the idea of creating a cigar to sell in the restaurant to fuel my passion of finding the perfect cigar to complement our 5-star dining experience,” said Enrico Garzaroli, chairman and founder of the Graycliff Cigar Company. “With him we created the award winning Graycliff Original blend, beating some of Avelino’s former Cuban cigar creations in blind tastings. He had a passion for his art that no one can replicate.”

Although Lara retired from Graycliff a few years ago and returned to his native Havana, he was still involved with the company product line, sampling new cigar blends and suggesting modifications.

“Avelino will be sorely missed. Even though he was no longer present in the rolling room each day, the torcedores continue to refer to his passion, knowledge, and his constant testing of their skills,” said Paolo Garzaroli, president and co-founder of Graycliff. “I will personally miss his dedication to our company, his drive for perfection, and his many wisdoms which he shared with me.” Lara’s son, Abel, continues to make cigars for Graycliff.

Patrick S

photo credit: Graycliff

Stogie Commentary: Protecting Our Cigars from the FDA

27 Oct 2009

When first signed into law, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of tobacco seemed by many to be a distant threat to cigars. The apparent consensus was that the bill was targeting cigarettes and, if it any threat to handmade premium cigars existed, it would be many years before the impact would be felt.

Lately, however, cigar makers who would be most impacted, along with retailers and consumers, have started to recognize the serious and immediate threat that FDA oversight poses to handmade cigars.

This was brought to a head when, nearly simultaneously, reports started surfacing that the FDA was sending agents into cigar shops to investigate the need for further regulations, and that a House Committee was investigating “flavored” cigars. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that has been warning about FDA regulation the entire time the bill was being considered and being signed into law.

Part of the confusion over the impact of the FDA bill—called “The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” by its proponents—is that the bill does two different things which at first glance seem somewhat in conflict. First, the legislation authorizes the FDA to regulate all tobacco, with the only major restriction being that the FDA cannot create an outright prohibition on tobacco products without an additional act of Congress. Second, the bill instructs the FDA to use that authorization to regulate cigarettes, including a ban on flavored cigarettes (except for menthol).

While focusing on the second provision of the bill, many in the cigar industry failed to recognize that by authorizing FDA regulation of any tobacco products, the bill now puts the fate of the handmade cigar industry in the hands of unelected FDA bureaucrats. This puts cigars behind the eight ball, where opponents of cigars no longer need to pass any additional legislation to subject the industry to extremely restrictive regulations that would include bans on most advertising and a burdensome FDA product approval process.

Since repeal of FDA oversight isn’t a realistic option with the current makeup of Congress (and frankly it would be a tough sell under any Congress we’re likely to see in the next decade), the current strategy should focus on differentiating handmade cigars from other products. Unlike small machine-made cigars and cigarettes, handmade cigars aren’t “manufactured”—they’re crafted. For example, blends are often tweaked from year to maintain an overall flavor even when the tastes of the tobaccos in the blend change due to climate or other factors.

Unless the FDA recognizes this, innovation in the industry is likely to be stifled, particularly for smaller boutique cigar makers who can’t afford the testing that an FDA approval process would include. Splitting handmade cigars from machine-made cigars would be a positive step towards protecting the innovation that has brought us so many of the great cigars that have come to market in recent years. It would also have the added benefit of stalling implementation of regulations until further FDA studies are completed.

The ultimate goal should continue to be to free handmade cigars entirely from the chains of FDA oversight. However, until that is possible, organizations like the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) and Cigar Rights of America (CRA) should focus on protecting cigars as best as possible through the FDA by creating a “handmade cigars” designation that would recognize the unique characteristics of our beloved premium cigars.

Patrick S

photo credit: FDA

Stogie Reviews: Felipe Gregorio Essaoura 40/60 Amir

26 Oct 2009

Felipe Gregorio is one of those cigar brands I wish I knew more about. But thanks to Amine Taoulost, Felipe’s marketing director, I got a first-hand look at this company and its products at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans this August.

Felipe Gregorio Essaoura 40/60 AmirFelipe, inspired by the Cuban cigars he smoked while growing up in Europe, got his self-titled outfit off the ground when he gave up selling helicopters in the Middle East in 1988. His subsequent cigar journey took him to Honduras and Nicaragua before finally settling in the Dominican Republic. There, at request of Frank Sinatra—who wanted Felipe to craft a cigar bearing his name—Felipe established the Tabacalera Real de Felipe Gregorio factory.

One of Felipe’s most intriguing projects is the Moroccan Series. This unique line of cigars includes four different blends named for the region of Morocco in which their tobacco is grown. Essaoura, an isolated city on the Atlantic coast known for its whitewashed houses, is said to produce leaves of “rich, earthy flavors,” according to Felipe’s website. The blend features 40% Essaoura tobacco, 60% Dominican, and a Vuelta Abajo habano wrapper.

The Amir frontmark, a five inch by 52 ring gauge figurado, has a tapered foot and a broad midsection that narrows at the head. Behind two black and yellow bands, the wrapper is coarse, splotchy, and a bit rough around the edges. Both of my samples were firm to the touch with faint pre-light notes of hay and pencil.

My first impression of the taste is that it’s spicy, complex, and—despite the distinctive blend—quite traditional. A full-bodied array of pepper, cedar, cork, and dried tea shines through with each voluminous puff. While I expected something entirely different given the Moroccan connection, I was pleased with what I found.

The flavor mellows and takes on more balance as the cigar opens to its widest point. Here, cream and almond enter the equation to provide a smooth contrast to the woody base. The final third, characterized by more of a meaty texture, is an appropriate way to end a hearty cigar.

I was impressed by all this 60-minute smoke has to offer, including its near-perfect construction performance. So if, like me, you need to better acquaint yourself with the Felipe Gregorio brand, consider picking up a sampler of the three Essaoura vitolas for $24 from CasaFelipe. You’ll enjoy the Amir, which earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Padrón Serie 1964 Exclusivo Maduro

25 Oct 2009

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”


Padrón 1964 is one of the highest-rated and most acclaimed cigar lines for good reason. This square-press, five and a half inch by 50 ring gauge parejo has a dark wrapper and impressive construction. It’s very firm, but never to the detriment of the draw or burn. This stick features a complex blend of coffee beans, unsweetened chocolate, and earthy notes. The result is a classic, rich combination of balanced, medium- to full-bodied flavors.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys