Archive | August, 2010

Stogie Commentary: Gold Star Smokes (Part VI)

31 Aug 2010

It’s been over six months since the team published a new list of Gold Star Smokes. As you might recall, this special designation celebrates cigars that we feel are worthy of strong recommendations. They don’t necessarily have to be five stogie-rated—just commendable smokes we turn to time and again.

Gold Star Smokes

Co-Founder & Editor in Chief Patrick A

One of my favorite Cubans is also relatively affordable, and that’s a winning combination. The Juan Lopez Selección No. 1 (5.6 x 42) has a profile of honey and graham with an earthy, woodsy core and good combustion qualities. And unlike some blends from the forbidden communist isle, this lesser-known Cuban doesn’t seem to suffer from consistency problems. A great buy for around $8.

Co-Founder & Publisher Patrick S

From time to time I get asked what my favorite maduro smoke is and, while I wouldn’t say I have just one favorite, the La Aurora Preferidos Maduro Robusto is always in the conversation. It has that classic maduro profile with plenty of creamy cocao and coffee notes. But what separates it from others is an impressive combination of complexity and balance.

Tampa Bureau Chief George E

From the dark appearance to the wonderfully deep, thick flavors, the Toraño Exodus 50 Years Blend Torpedo is an enticing smoke. It is blended for smoothness, and the Brazilian arapiraca sun-grown wrapper has a more refined taste than I’ve found in most other cigars that use it. As it burns with the Nicaraguan filler, you’re treated to a rich array of coffee, chocolate, and fruit. All this, and a reasonable price, make this a cigar to enjoy again and again.

Contributing Reviewer Patrick M

The new Tatuaje Verocu No. 5 (4 x 40) is just starting to hit the market, but I’ve already had a chance to smoke several. This cigar stays true to the blend with a core of leather, cedar, and spice. It is very similar to the Verocu No. 1, No.2, and Tubo and carries a sub-$5 price point—making it a great Gold Star Smoke.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Reviews: Xikar HC Connecticut Shade Robusto

30 Aug 2010

Xikar is primarily known as a leading purveyor of cigar accessories like cutters, lighters, cases, and humidification devices. But this Kansas City-based company is also in the business of crafting premium cigars.

Xikar HC Connecticut Shade RobustoXikar’s cigar-making partner is Jesus Fuego, a Cuban expat with a master’s degree in agronomy and five generations of tobacco cultivation in his blood. Today he has his own cigar outfit in Miami where he produces such gems as the 777 Corojo and the Origen.

Last spring, Xikar and Fuego teamed up to launch the HC Series. Named for and decorated with double bands that mimic Xikar’s Havana Collection, the line boasts three blends: Connecticut Shade, Criollo, and Habano Colorado. “No matter your time, mood, or your preference, the HC Series has the perfect blend for every cigar lover’s palate,” said Fuego in an April 2009 press release.

Each HC cigar is handmade at one of Nestor Plasencia’s factories in either Honduras or Nicaragua. The five-vitola Connecticut Shade blend, for example, originates from the Segovia Cigars factory in Nicaragua. It is made with an Ecuadorian Connecticut shade wrapper, a Sumatran binder, and a three-country filler blend from Costa Rica, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

The Robusto (5 x 50) is a dry, pale cigar with a wrinkly, somewhat veiny exterior and a spongy feel. The pre-light aroma is of sweet grass and hay.

Xikar’s marketing materials state that the Connecticut Shade blend is supposed to be “slightly stronger than the average Connecticut shade cigar, while staying true to the character of a Connecticut.” That’s apparent from the outset. From the first puff, the flavor is spicy with background notes of bread, cream, and almond.

As the taste becomes creamier and nuttier as it progresses, outstanding combustion qualities emerge. The burn is near perfect with a thick, black mascara, the gray ash is stable, and the draw remains clear.

Even though this blend stands on its own, I can’t help but compare it to other Connecticut-wrapped smokes that are permanent features of my humidor. The Camacho Connecticut has a similar texture and profile, for instance, but the HC Robusto’s price tag of $7.50-9 apiece makes it decidedly more expensive. The sub-$5 Oliva Connecticut is an even more affordable option.

Still, fans of Connecticut tobacco—myself included—shouldn’t miss the opportunity to add another blend to their rotation. With a harmonious mix of tastiness and great construction, the HC Connecticut Shade Robusto is a solid, perhaps overpriced, contender. It earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Alec Bradley Tempus Maduro Imperator

29 Aug 2010

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.”


Tempus Maduro, introduced earlier this month, features that same core blend as the regular Tempus line but with a unique San Andres maduro wrapper. The wrapper fermentation process includes the use of a bethune made from tree pulp that’s applied to the leaf during the fermentation process, resulting in a leaf that achieves a dark maduro color. The shorter fermentation time allows the wrapper leaf to maintain some of the strength that would normally be lost in the time required to ferment a maduro leaf. The Imperator, a torpedo (6.1 x 52), is well-constructed with no soft spots and a good draw. The cigar starts out with in an intriguing sweetness and subtle spice. The core flavors of smoked oak, mocha, and subtle cracked black pepper create an interesting and pleasant smoking experience. This cigar is much more enjoyable for me than my previous experiences with the regular Tempus line. Even at$9.40 apiece, I can definitely recommend it.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick M

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: San Lotano Habano Toro

28 Aug 2010

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.”

San Lotano Habano Toro

A.J. Fernandez has made top-selling cigars for the likes of Rocky Patel, Padilla, and others, but a few weeks ago he released his first nationally-distributed solo blend. San Lotano, an old Cuban cigar line that Fernandez has brought back to life, comes in three wrapper varieties: Habano, Connecticut, and Maduro. The former has a combination of Brazilian, Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican tobaccos that combine to produce voluminous, spicy tufts of smoke. Key flavors include leather, roasted coffee beans, caramel, and creamy coffee. Construction is near perfect. The Toro (6 x 52) is a must-try at around $8 apiece.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CCIV

27 Aug 2010

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.

Canada, land of taxes1) Behike, the new ultra-exclusive extension of the Cuban Cohiba brand, is now on sale in Canada. Three sizes are available with MSRPs ranging from $35-40 apiece. Canada’s outrageous taxes, however, make individual cigars as much as $100 and ten-count boxes as much as $1,100. As we reported in April, Behike uses a rare “medio tiempo” leaf and is being advertised as the new standard among smokers worldwide. High demand and low supply make black markets likely in countries where Cubans are legal—and almost certain in the U.S. thanks to the trade embargo.

2) One of our favorite boutiques, the Tesa Cigar Co., is hosting a special event at its Chicago lounge at 7pm on Friday, September 10. Jonathan Drew of Drew Estate and Glynn Loope of Cigar Rights of America (CRA) will be on hand. The event will feature beer, food, a raffle, and specials on Drew Estate products and CRA memberships. Mark your calendars if you plan to be in the area.

3) Inside the Industry: Berger & Argenti is capitalizing on the success of Entubar with a new Jalapa-wrapped “Entubar Quad Maduro.” Famous Smoke Shop has released La Floridita Fuerte, the third line extension in the retailer’s exclusive series made by Nestor Plasencia. Partagas is holding a contest to give away a Napa Valley trip filled with wine, cigars, and gourmet food.

4) Around the Blogs: Smoking Stogie smokes the Avo Heritage. Cigar Fan fires up a Berger & Argenti Entubar. Cigar Inspector inspects an Opus X Lost City Lancero. A Cigar Smoker sparks a PDR 1878 Cubano Especial Capa Madura. Casa Fumando reviews the CAO La Traviata Maduro.

5) Deal of the Week: Here’s a solid deal on a sampler that includes 20 sticks for a tidy $60, including free shipping. For just $3 per stick you get cigars from Rocky Patel, CAO, Graycliff, Padilla, 5 Vegas, Don Diego, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo, and a handful of others. Grab yours here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Reviews: La Aurora Guillermo León Gran Corona

26 Aug 2010

While I had the privilege to smoke the new Guillermo León by La Aurora while I was in the Dominican Republic visiting their facilities in May, I wanted to wait to review this cigar until a production version was released. The sample I smoked was good but, since I had already smoked quite a few cigars that day, I wasn’t in any condition to pass judgment on it other than to say that I enjoyed it.

GuillermoLeonGCNow, a couple of weeks after the release of the production version by La Aurora at the IPCPR Trade Show, and with several Gran Coronas in hand, I am finally able to revisit it with a more critical eye and discerning palate.

The Gran Corona measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of  47. It will be sold in boxes of 20 with an MSRP around $8.50 per cigar. In a first for La Aurora, the Guillermo León features a dual binder of Dominican corojo and Cameroon tobaccos around a four-country filler blend of Peruvian, Brazilian, Dominican, and Nicaraguan tobaccos. The cigar is finished off with a medium brown, semi-veiny, moderately oily Ecuadorian habano wrapper.

The aroma at the foot is of hay and sweet tobacco. A quick pre-light taste reveals sweetness with a hint of spice as well as an effortless draw. Upon lighting, the sweetness present in the pre-light taste is immediately apparent and reminiscent of maple syrup and light brown sugar. Very little spice is present at this point, confined mostly to the retro-hale.

After about an inch, a nutmeg-esque spice emerges and balances the sweetness well. More spice is also present in the nose along with hints of hay and earth. The mottled gray ash holds firm for about an inch at a time and the burn remains mostly even.

As the cigar moves into the second third, some very subtle notes of hay and cream also emerge. The spice and sweetness fade in and out throughout the rest of the cigar to create an interesting interplay that, at times, is a bit unbalanced.

Overall, the Guillermo León Gran Corona is a very interesting cigar with flavors that progress and change creating an interesting and often intricately subtle smoking experience. The cigar is decidedly medium in strength but full in flavor and demands your full attention—or some of the more nuanced flavors can be overlooked. For all of these reasons, the Guillermo León Gran Corona earns four and a half stogies out of five.

4.5 stogies

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

Patrick M

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Insider: Benny Gomez of Casa Gomez Cigars

25 Aug 2010

Like a lot of those who spend their workdays among cigars and tobacco, Benny Gomez is a gregarious, engaging man who enjoys talking about his family, his heritage, and his creations.

Benny Gomez of Casa Gomez CigarsThese days, more cigar smokers will be able to get to know Benny as he devotes greater time and energy to visiting smoke shops to get the word out about his two cigar lines: Casa Gomez and Havana Sunrise. “I still haven’t pushed it out there that much,” he said at a recent, well-attended event at my buddy Arnold Serafin‘s new shop in Spring Hill, Florida. “It costs a lot of money in advertising and promoting.”

But these days he’s ready to make it happen. He cited several reasons, including settlement of some legal issues, working with his son, Loren, in the business, and a recent tweaking of the Casa Gomez blend.

The cigar, created in 2004 by Benny to honor his Cuban father and his role in cigars, comes from Luis Sanchez’s Dominican factory. Benny decided he wanted to ramp it up a bit and added some Nicaraguan ligero to the blend. But he explained that he wasn’t seeking to simply create a stronger smoke. “I didn’t want just a powerful cigar,” said Benny, whose operation is based in his hometown of Miami. “I wanted that sweet texture that comes out of real good ligero leaf.”

One aspect of the business in which Loren has become heavily involved is the Internet. The Casa Gomez website is a work in progress, with direct consumer sales added recently. Loren is also active on several cigar forums.

When I spoke with Benny in July, he and Loren were preparing for another trip to the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans. Benny said he hoped to build on last year’s experience when he met many retailers.

But he said he will still utilize the same pitch for his cigars. He’ll hand them out with a simple request: “Smoke it and come back. I want your opinion.”

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys