Archive | September, 2010

Stogie Reviews: Quesada Tributo Julio

30 Sep 2010

With an emotional back-story, a newly introduced hybrid wrapper, and lots of publicity surrounding its release earlier this year, the Quesada Tributo is unquestionably an interesting cigar. Fortunately, it’s also a good one.

QuesadaTributoThis four-vitola line was created by the latest generation of this tobacco family as it continues to move its Matasa operation from behind-the-scenes work to putting its name on cigars. In a nod to the past, they named each size for a family member or close associate, three of whom died in a 2002 airplane crash.

To make the Tributo taste something special, the Quesadas used a hybrid wrapper created from four tobaccos and grown in Ecuador. Then, they packed it full of strong ligero leaf. Even the binder is a Honduran ligero leaf, with the filler a combination of leaves from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

I’ve been smoking the robusto called the Julio (5 x 50) after Julio Fajardo, a family friend and Matasa executive killed in the crash. It’s a standout cigar, with a dark wrapper and an enticing pre-light aroma. And it makes a statement from the first mouthful of smoke: spicy and strong.

About halfway down, the stick begins to change. The spice level drops, replaced by a darker, heavier taste laced with a little coffee. I appreciate the change but I enjoyed the second half a little less than the first.

When you pick up one of these cigars, you might be concerned about the draw because of its solid, heavy feel. But every one I’ve been through has had a near-perfect draw. I can’t say the same for the burn. As is often the case with ligero-laden cigars, getting an even, steady burn is not a given. That’s true with the Tributo, though most of those I’ve smoked have been OK. So far, only one has required numerous touch-ups and fiddling.

At under $7, this is a good cigar, and one I’d recommend, especially to fans of Pepin Garcia’s creations. On the Stogie Guys rating scale, I give it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: SAG Imports

Stogie Spirits: Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum

29 Sep 2010

Last year, I elevated Cruzan Single Barrel to “regular” status in my rum rotation. It earned that spot due to its affordability, availability, and balanced, rounded taste.

Cruzan 9 Spiced RumI’ve never been disappointed by this high quality, complex spirit. So, when Cruzan announced they were expanding their light, dark, and flavored rum portfolio in July with a new spiced rum, my interest piqued. Called Cruzan 9, the blend is named for the nine spices which comprise its recipe: vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mace, allspice, pepper, and juniper berry.

“Nine” also references St. Croix’s nine districts. The Cruzan name (pronounced kru-shun), after all, is derived from the island’s inhabitants—called “Crucians.” Cruzan began producing rum on St. Croix eight generations ago and, even though cane is no longer grown there, the island remains a naturally fitting locale for rum production.

“With its unique blend of nine all natural spices, Cruzan 9 is true to its heritage of premium craftsmanship, while confronting rum fans with a bolder, more dramatic spirit,” reads a press release from Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc., Cruzan’s distributor. “Spiced rum is one of the fastest growing distilled spirits, yet consumers didn’t really have an option if they were looking for higher quality. The industry is full of gimmicks and pirates when it comes to spiced rum, but Cruzan 9 offers a ‘real’ rum experience.”

It does so inexpensively. At only $13-16 per 750 ml. bottle, Cruzan 9 is priced to compete with the likes of Captain Morgan. Slightly lighter in appearance than its competitor, it has a bright amber hue and a nose of muted vanilla and herbs.

The back of the bottle says this spirit is “perfect neat, on the rocks, or quintessentially Cruzan—over ice with cola and a squeeze of lime.” While I enjoy this rum, it, like many spiced rums, doesn’t quite have the subtlety or depth to be sipped neat or on the rocks. But its smooth taste of vanilla, dried fruits, and cinnamon does work well in a mixed cocktail, with ginger beer, or with Diet Coke.

And that’s probably what the good folks at Cruzan intended when they dreamed up this new offering—an approachable mixing spirit that will capture some of the spiced rum market. In that regard, they succeeded. Cruzan 9 is better than Captain Morgan and worth a try the next time you want to relax with a libation and a cigar.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor

28 Sep 2010

In the latest issue of our “Random Thoughts from the Humidor” series, I ruminate about the end of a partnership, the cigar community’s support of charities, and a new way cigar makers are helping cigar shops hit hard by taxes:

A Collaboration Ends

NostrosIt’s sad to see Nosotros, the joint project of Illusione Cigars and Drew Estate, ending. The announcement came when Illusione’s Dion Giolito told Cigar Aficionado, “Illusione cigars will no longer participate in the Nosotros brand project with Jonathan Drew DBA Drew Estate…The Nosotros brand/trademark dies in the Drew Estate Factory as per contractual agreement, and will not be made outside the factory it originated.”

While we may never know exactly why this promising and well-received project fell apart so suddenly, it’s fair to speculate that it may serve as a warning for anyone considering a similar collaboration in the future. Cigar makers are not only a passionate bunch, the successful ones are also very particular about their product. Getting a release up to snuff so that one cigar maker will put his name on it is difficult enough. But you can imagine that meeting the standards of two particular makers would be infinitely more difficult.

What the News Doesn’t Report

You won’t see it in the newspaper when biased reporters are demonizing the tobacco industry, but there’s no denying that the cigar community is a most charitable bunch. Nearly every cigar maker supporters multiple charities, and many have their own charitable foundations. The giving spirit was certainly on display this Friday for W. Curtis Draper’s annual Little Puff event in DC. While an official total hasn’t been released, those in attendance saw tens of thousands of dollars raised for a three local charities, including one in honor of a Navy SEAL killed in action.

[UPDATE: Draper’s tells me the final total will be approximately $55,000 raised for the three charities, an impressive outpouring of generosity from the attendees.]

A New Way to Support Tobacconists Under Siege

A recent trend for cigar manufacturers has been to release cigars for sale in brick and mortar shops only. The idea is to protect stores that have to charge high sales tax on their products, while online and catalog cut cut margins and costs. Now Alec Bradley is taking that concept to a new level. Since New York retailers were just hit with a record high 75% tax on cigars, company president Alan Rubin is introducing a New York-only blend. It’s a good sign that cigar makers are going out of their way to support those hardest hit by anti-cigar legislation.

Patrick S

photo credit: Drew Estate/Illusione Cigars

Stogie Tips: Accoutrements You May Never Have Considered

27 Sep 2010

When cigar devotees think about accessories, they usually dwell on lighters, cutters, and perhaps small containers of pectin.

PaperclipBut there are a few items that may not seem to have anything to do with smoking I think you should consider keeping on hand. I know they’ve come in handy for me time after time.

1. Large paper clip. Unfold it and you’ve got just the tool necessary to unplug a cigar—or to hold the foot if you really want to nub the smoke. Turning the paper clip as you rub it across rough concrete will sharpen the end, making for an even better cigar implement.

2. Zipper-locking storage bags. Of course, everyone’s familiar with these for short-term cigar storage. But they are valuable for so much more. Several matchboxes fit perfectly in small ones, and long styles are ideal for keeping cedar spills. You’ll likely be amazed at the uses you’ll find for the bags.

3. Eye dropper. In the local pharmacy, you’ll find the oversize, plastic model sold to help people take liquid medicine. I find it ideal for applying distilled water to humidification beads, especially those in tubes.

4. Pen and pad. I’m not referring to the notebook or whatever you might use to keep notes on your cigar smoking experiences. This is separate, and primarily for when you‘re smoking alone. It’s almost impossible, in the relaxed state with a cigar, not to have some thoughts you don’t want to forget.

5. Snus tin. Feel free to substitute an Altoids tin or any other small container that opens and closes easily and tightly. These simply can’t be beat for keeping track of odds and ends.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Ashton Virgin Sun Grown Torpedo

26 Sep 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.”


This Torpedo (6.5 x 55) features a dark sun grown Ecuadorian wrapper. Originally introduced in 1999, the Virgin Sun Grown, made by Fuente, is considered by many to be Ashton’s finest smoke. The well-constructed cigar features a complex combination of cocoa, pepper, earth, and roasted nuts. It’s a full-bodied and well-balanced, with flavors focused on the palate by the torpedo head. Construction is excellent, as I’ve come to expect from cigars made by Tabaclera A. Fuente y Cia.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Aurora Guillermo León Belicoso

25 Sep 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.”

After seeing my colleagues rave about the Gran Toro and Gran Corona versions of the new Guillermo León, I decided to try a Belicoso (6.25 x 52) for myself. I’m glad I did. This Ecuadorian-wrapped smoke boasts superb construction and a harmonious profile of milk chocolate, spice, earth, and syrup. It has a rare combination of body and balance, a testament to the intricacy of its recipe, which includes dual binders—one corojo and one Cameroon—and a four-country filler blend. Definitely one of the top new releases of 2010.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CCVIII

24 Sep 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.

Cuba is facing economic reforms.1) More details are emerging about Cuba’s planned economic reforms. According to the latest edition of The Economist, the communist government is laying off over one million public sector employees to make room for private economic activity—turning small, state-owned enterprises into employee cooperatives and transitioning others to self-employment. Raúl Castro hopes the changes will help create 450,000 non-government jobs before 2012. He says “we have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where it is not necessary to work.” His brother, Fidel, also recognizes that the Cuban economic model “doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

2) As federal tobacco taxes become more and more burdensome, some manufacturers are turning to a “loophole” to keep prices down. The Wall Street Journal reports that makers of small, machine-made cigars are slightly increasing the weight of their products to qualify them as “large cigars,” which are taxed less. Congress is investigating this practice as tax evasion.

3) Inside the Industry: La Palina is introducing a Family Series that will retail for $18-23 per cigar. Cusano has moved into Davidoff USA’s new headquarters outside Tampa, and Camacho will be following soon.

4) Around the Blogs: Smoking Stogie smokes a Viaje Skull and Bones. Nice Tight Ash checks out the Cain F. Cigar Fan fires up a Cuba Caiman. A Cigar Smoker smokes a Dirty Rat. Cigar Inspector inspects a CAO Colombia.

5) Deal of the Week: This unpublicized email special features some of our favorite Cuban Crafters cigars. Included are the highly-rated Miami Medina 1959 Lanceros and the Cuban Crafters Cabinet Selection. Grab yours here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr