Archive | December, 2009

Stogie Tips: Pairing Champagne and Cigars

30 Dec 2009

Odds are tomorrow night you’ll be celebrating the New Year with a champagne toast. And if you’re like me, you’ll also want to celebrate that festive occasion with a fine cigar. But not just any cigar will do.

ChampagneWhile I’ve seen champagne pairings that include such powerhouse cigars as an Opus X, this seems like a waste of good champagne to me. Sure, while you’ll the enjoy cigar—much as you probably would if any exceptional cigar was paired  a glass of water—a true cigar/drink pairing should bring out the best in both components.

That’s why I’d recommend the following five cigars when you’re looking for something to smoke with a toast on New Year’s Eve:

Macanudo Vintage 1988 — I recently smoked a Churchill of this blend and its extensive aging has turned this into a delicate smoke with almond notes.

Por Larrañaga (Cuban) — This under-appreciated Cuban has just the right combination of mild flavors to pair with a fine Cava.

Paul Garmirian Gourmet Belicoso Fino (1991) — This one’s a bit specific, but with a mild to medium body, ginger, and floral notes, it’s an excellent pairing for a vintage champagne.

Davidoff Classic — Considered the most mild of the Davidoff blends, these cigars have a creamy base with vanilla notes and plenty of subtleties.

Illusione Epernay — Named after the central town in the Champagne region of France, Illusione creator Dion Giolito says this line (originally commissioned for European Cigar Cult Journal) is specifically designed to pair with champagne.

In addition to picking the right cigar, here’s one other hint to keep in mind: Consider pouring your champagne in a traditional wine glass instead of a champagne flute. Tall, slender flute glasses often enunciate the bubbles to the detriment of flavor. Also, be sure to avoid saucer-shaped champagne coupes, which eliminate the brilliant aromas of a fine champagne.


Patrick S

photo credit: Blogspot

Stogie Commentary: A New New Year’s Tradition

29 Dec 2009

The other day a workman came by to do some adjustments on a project that had been previously installed at my house. He was here for only a few minutes, and I puzzled over what to do. A tip didn’t seem exactly appropriate for the small job, but something seemed in order.

cigarpocketAs he was packing up, I went to my humidor, grabbed a stick and dropped it in my pocket. Before he got to the door, I asked whether he ever smoked cigars.

“Sometimes,” he replied. “Great,” I said. “I think you’ll enjoy this one.” I pulled the cigar out of my pocket and dropped it in his.

And with that simple act, I decided I have established my own new tradition: New Year’s cigars. For the next couple of weeks I’m going to look for opportunities to present someone with a cigar as I wish them Happy New Year.

What better way to spread some cheer and happiness than with a cigar? Oh, I’m sure I’ll run into a tobacco Grinch or two. Honestly, though, I think most people see the gift of a cigar as a friendly gesture. It seems to hearken back to a more civilized time. After all, who ever got in a fight after one too many cigars?

So, may I invite you to join me in giving the gift of cigars? Maybe we can make it a lasting New Year’s ritual.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Reviews: EO Murcielago Belicoso

28 Dec 2009

EO Murcielago BelicosoBack in November, I wrote a Quick Smoke of Murcielago, one of this summer’s most anticipated releases. Now, after burning through about a quarter box of this new line from Eddie Ortega, Erik Espinosa, and Don Pepin Garcia, I am pleased to present a more thorough review.

Murcielago was one of two new blends introduced by United Tobacco at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans (the other being the Cubao Maduro). According to the text printed on the tissue paper inside my box, its name—“bat” in Spanish—honors the often misunderstood creature that fertilizes tequila-producing agave plants in Mexico. “No bats, no tequila,” it reads.

Why link this cigar to Mexico and tequila? Well, the five-vitola Murcielago blend is predominantly Mexican in makeup with a San Andreas maduro wrapper and a Mexican binder. The filler tobaccos are Nicaraguan.

When the production of this blend was announced in July, Espinosa said in a press release that “the cigars were better than Eddie and I hoped for.” That struck a chord with many cigar enthusiasts who have grown to love the handful of blends United Tobacco has created since the company was founded in 2003.

Murcielago stands out among them in both name and appearance. The Belicoso (5.5 x 52) is slightly box-pressed with a smooth, dark, and rich-looking exterior leaf, accented by a red and black band. Moderately firm from head to foot, it exudes pungent pre-light notes of powdered cocoa and compost.

This cigar’s makers say Murcielago is supposed to be “medium- to full-bodied.” I think that’s about right, though fans of bold sticks should note that its thick smoke has more smoothness than strength. The chalky profile tastes of nuts, espresso, and leather with little variation throughout.

While this flavor is interesting, it isn’t as captivating as I hope it will become with some age. Otherwise, the young EO Murcielago Belicoso is an excellent smoke with above average physical properties. It’s a good value at $9-10 apiece and worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Bolivar Royal Corona (Cuban)

27 Dec 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.”


I’ve had this cigar sitting in my humidor for nearly two years, so I was anxious to see how the aging had affected one of my favorite Cuban smokes. What I found was a cigar that had mellowed slightly from the last time I smoked it, but maintained much of the depth and complexity that made it a highly-rated favorite. The robusto featured a wonderful combination of dark roast coffee, cinnamon, cedar, and earth. As it progressed, leather and a hint of black pepper emerged. After some initial burn issues, it became clear that this smoke is not only still a winner—it’s even better with age.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: El Primer Mundo Rosado Oscuro Robusto

26 Dec 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.”

El Primer Mundo Rosado Oscuro Robusto

Like the Criollo Maduro, El Primer Mundo’s Rosado Oscuro line is handmade by the Plasencias in Estelí. Its blend of Panamanian and Nicaraguan tobaccos yields a creamy, medium-bodied flavor of nuts and molasses with a smooth spice on the finish. The wavy burn can be frustrating but, on the whole, I’d recommend this box-pressed stick if you want to try something off the beaten path.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Commentary: The Cigar Smokers’ Friend

23 Dec 2009

This is the time of year for looking back. Lists of the best this or that, the top whatever, or the biggest disappointments are everywhere. For cigars, that usually means compilations of the premier smokes and new releases. I can’t even begin to compile something like that. There are just too many cigars I haven’t seen, much less smoked, to make my opinions worthwhile.

brickhouseBut I’ve been so impressed by the actions of one industry leader that I feel compelled to bestow at least my own recognition. So, I’m creating the Cigar Smokers’ Friend award and bestowing the first one to the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. for its release of more high-quality cigars at a reasonable price. The Brick House line follows the late 2008 shipment of its well-received El Baton.

Many cigar blenders and manufacturers create excellent sticks that tip the scales at $9 or more. Putting consistently good cigars on the shelf in the $5 to $6 range–some even less– s quite a trick. Newman’s performance with these two lines qualifies as near magic.

Though it’s among the oldest U.S. cigar companies, J.C. Newman rarely gets the attention of, say, Fuente, its business partner. With brands like Cuesta-Rey and Diamond Crown, Newman has long had a reputation for producing high-quality smokes on the lighter side of the scale. Perhaps its most public venture of late has been the creation of snazzy Diamond Crown lounges at smoke shops throughout the country.

el_batonWith El Baton and Brick House, both names restructured from years ago, Newman has moved to both Nicaraguan tobacco and stronger blends. I’ve smoked quite a few El Batons and did a positive Quick Smoke earlier this year. I’ve only had a couple from the Brick House line since its recent introduction. It is another fine cigar, perhaps a shade lighter than El Baton, but its equal in quality construction, burn, and flavor.

Newman also moved from its traditional producer, Fuente, for these cigars, and created separate websites for each ( and

While the company’s response to smokers’ desire for a stronger cigar isn’t unusual, I think the way Newman went about it is. For starters, the cigars aren’t simply strong; they’re anything but nicotine bombs. They can be enjoyed by a wide variety of smokers.

Then there’s the price. With a struggling economy and many people having to watch their money, that’s nothing to ignore. By bringing out two lines at reasonable prices, Newman has shown respect and concern for customers.

And that’s why I say J.C. Newman is the Cigar Smokers’ Friend.

George E

photo credit: JNewmanOTB

Stogie Commentary: Tell ’Em What You Think

22 Dec 2009

A common complaint among cigar smokers is that elected officials and government leaders don’t listen to them. Well, here’s a chance to easily get your thoughts before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as  the  bureaucracy considers how to implement its recently granted control over tobacco.

The process is relatively simple. Just go to this page and follow the instructions to input your comments. Before doing that, though, you should read about the process. That’s easy, too. Visit this page on and you’ll find links to the notice in the Federal Register and commentary from the FDA on tobacco regulation.

The IPCPR, in a recent release, had “talking points” you might find helpful. I’ve reproduced them below, with permission. Cigar Rights of America has also issued talking points for cigar smokers, but I urge you not to copy your comments from another source.  Use your own words to express your own opinions. Thoughtful, polite, and concise individual comments always carry more weight. The deadline for public comment is Dec. 28.

You might also want to send a copy of your comments–with a brief explanatory note–to your Senators and Representative. You’ll find their contact information here and here. Even though they’re not currently directly involved, I think it’s good to take every opportunity to let them know how you feel. When it comes to elected officials, personal letters are more effective than emails.

One point to remember is that the current law does not explicitly include cigars and pipe tobacco. To do so would require hearings, though it wouldn’t require new legislation. But one of the aims is to attack under-age smoking, and “little” cigars and mass-produced cigars–particularly flavored ones–are often enmeshed in that effort. So, it couldn’t hurt to voice your views now.

IPCPR Suggested Talking Points

— Congress recognized the fact that cigars and pipe tobacco do not pose the same public health concerns as the tobacco products outlined for regulation. FDA needs to recognize this important distinction as it implements the Tobacco Act.

— Flavored cigarillos are manufactured and marketed to only adults, as is premium cigar tobacco, and should remain as a legal adult choice product.

— Kids don’t smoke tobacco pipes; pipe smoking is an adult activity; there has not been a single study that has indicated any issue with kids smoking tobacco pipes.

— Cigar and pipe consumers have the right to purchase and enjoy flavored premium products just as they have the right to purchase and consume flavored alcoholic spirits and other flavored alcoholic products.

— Because of their artisan nature, origin, and construction, cigars are far different from cigarettes and are not consumed in the same way.

— Cigars are a mature, adult social experience.

— As most cigar and pipe tobacco businesses are owned and operated by small business owners and their families, further regulation will prove burdensome and overwhelming.

— Simply because a product is flavored does not mean it is intended for, or marketed to, children.

— For centuries, pipe tobacco has been flavored to create a wide variety of taste profiles enjoyed by adults.

George E

photo credit: