Archive | December, 2010

Site News: Five Most Popular Articles of 2010

30 Dec 2010

In 2010, published over 350 original articles. Each was viewed hundreds, if not thousands of times. Below you’ll find a list of the five most-viewed articles of 2010 followed by a brief quote:

5. Stogie Reviews: Arturo Fuente Rosado Sungrown Magnum R 52

“All in all, while the Sungrown Magnum R is not the most interesting smoke from Fuente, it does provide a pleasant flavor profile—albeit not as lively as some of my favorite Fuente smokes. And it does so at the very reasonable price of under $7. That combination earns the Arturo Fuente Rosado Sungrown Magnum R 52 a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.”

4. Stogie Reviews: La Aurora 107 Robusto

“I maintain that La Aurora is an underrated cigar maker. Headed by Guillermo León and José Blanco, La Aurora doesn’t chase trends, but seems to produce solid, tasty smokes year after year, with Preferidos and Cien Años as classic examples…La Aurora 107 has a lot to offer. Given some aging time I think it might turn out even better. Even so, right now the La Aurora 107 Robusto earns a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.”

3. Stogie News: Premier Cigar Lounge to Open in Alexandria

“CXIII Rex will have all the amenities of traditional cigar lounges, including a well-stocked walk-in humidor, a selection of top libations and small-batch wines, ample seating, wireless internet, private humidor lockers, and the like. But this club, slated to open in late March, will also feature more luxurious accommodations…While all these amenities are fantastic, the club’s finest asset will be the 19th century building in which it resides…Currently under construction in a building adjacent to Landini Brothers, it is an impressive space with ample character and charm. It was only on a behind-the-scenes tour that I got a sense of the size and scope of the future multi-level club, which is complete with a dramatic staircase and a layout built for privacy, comfort, and flow.”

2. Stogie Reviews: Drew Estate Liga Privada Flying Pig

“The unique shape was chosen by Steve Saka from a picture of an 1895 cigar salesman’s size selection case. The Flying Pig features more ligero than the [Liga Privada] No. 9 but the same Connecticut broadleaf wrapper. The changes in the blend give the Flying Pig more strength than the No. 9, and a slightly sweeter flavor profile…The cigar yields plenty of creamy smoke with initial flavors of leather, earth, and some sweetness…Overall, I am very impressed with the Flying Pig. The flavors are interesting and blended well…All of these factors combine to earn the Liga Privada Flying Pig four stogies out of five.”

1. Stogie Tips: Build a Temperature Controlled Humidor

“Living in Florida, I was looking for a storage option that would help me control the temperature during the summer months without breaking the bank…After all that work, my cigars now have a nice, custom-looking, temperature-controlled home for a fraction of the cost of the Avallo unit. The temperature stays between 66 and 68 degrees all the time and the humidity is right at 65%. About once every two months I have to put a dish with a little distilled water in the unit to recharge the beads. Other than that, it’s maintenance-free.”

So there you have them, the five most trafficked articles of 2010, as chosen by our readers. All five posts come from the first four months of the year, at least partially a reflection of the fact that they’ve been around the longest for visitors to read. Also, only articles written in 2010 are on the list, even though a few posts (such as our review of the CAO La Traviata or tip on the salt calibration test) from previous years would have made the list if all previous years were included.

Got a favorite post of your own from the last year, or a topic you want covered in 2011? Let us know in the comments.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Insider: Author Mark Carlos McGinty

29 Dec 2010

Through seven years of writing his second novel, a historical tale woven through Cuba, Tampa, and revolution, Mark Carlos McGinty had a faithful companion.

“I’d take a cigar and go outside and…ponder where the story was going to go. Maybe bring a notepad with me and just jot down some ideas,” said McGinty, 35. “Yeah, it did get me through a lot of, I guess, moments of writers block, if you want to call it that.”

That’s only appropriate. His book is, after all, titled The Cigar Maker. It’s filled with the sights and sounds of turn-of-the-20th-century Tampa when it was truly Cigar City. Drawing from his own family’s past as well as historical events, McGinty artfully spins a story that is both exciting and educational.

Perhaps the biggest revelation for many is the book’s focus on the Cuban community in Tampa. “Everyone thinks of Miami when they think of Cuban-Americans,” McGinty said, adding that Tampa’s cigar industry in Ybor City attracted waves of immigrants for decades before the 1959 revolution. “In fact, sometimes I have to make it a point when I’m talking about the book to tell people that these events all happened before the Cuban Revolution, before Castro.”

His mother’s family was among those in Tampa, and McGinty spent quite a bit of time there with relatives when he was growing up. Her books about the area and Cuba inspired him. The main characters in The Cigar Maker, Salvador and Olympia Ortiz, are modeled on McGinty’s maternal grandparents. McGinty’s parents are now retired in Tampa, and he visited frequently researching the book.

The book has another family connection, too. McGinty’s wife did the striking cover illustration, a cigar-smoking rooster wearing a derby and striding across a tobacco plantation. The rooster made such an impression that it’s now available on mugs, T-shirts, and other items.

For those who want to experience the feel of early 1900s Ybor City, McGinty said quite a bit remains. “The streets are still paved with bricks,” he said. “And a lot of the old buildings are still there. They’ve just been restored and converted into modern-day buildings.”

He particularly recommends stopping by the buildings that housed five old social clubs: “They look like cathedrals.”

Tampa is the site of a new promotional push for The Cigar Maker, with efforts to get it featured in Ybor City shops. McGinty’s also targeting cigar smokers as a natural audience at B&M events like his recent appearance at Perfect Ash, just outside Minneapolis-St. Paul.

He’s most excited about an upcoming trip to Havana. He and his wife are part of a sanctioned delegation of artists and writers slated to visit in February.

“There’s all kinds of red tape, so we’re still working through the red tape,” McGinty said. “But the person who’s organizing the trip sounds pretty confident that it’s going to happen.”

While I think just about anyone will enjoy The Cigar Maker, cigar smokers in particular should find it fascinating. You can order it from McGinty’s website, Amazon, or just about any bookstore. Numerous e-reader versions are available at Smashwords.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Reviews: Xikar HC Habano Colorado Robusto

28 Dec 2010

Xikar entered the cigar-making business in 2009 when it partnered with Jesus Fuego to launch the HC Series. Before then, the Kansas City-based company was solely a purveyor of cigar accessories like cutters, lighters, and cases.

So far the HC Series has been met with positive reviews. Named for Xikar’s Havana Collection, the line boasts three blends: Connecticut Shade, Criollo, and Habano Colorado. Each is handmade at one of Nestor Plasencia’s factories.

The six-vitola Habano Colorado line features a filler blend of tobaccos from Honduras, Jalapa, and Costa Rica along with a binder leaf from Estelí and a dark, Jalapa-grown wrapper. The Robusto (5 x 50) is a rustic, sweet-smelling cigar with a firm feel and a clear pre-light draw. It sells for $8.50.

Touching fire to the foot, the Robusto’s fragrance of chocolate and peanut butter turns into espresso. The flavor is even heartier than the resting smoke smells. It tastes of spicy pepper, damp earth, and black licorice. Each puff is voluminous, making the smoke oily and dense.

Molasses comes to the forefront as the cigar progresses. Here, around the midway point, the spice recedes significantly and a creamy sweetness develops. All this is a nice setup for the final third, which features hints of graham cracker and nuts.

The Habano Colorado Robusto also displays terrific combustion qualities. Look for a straight burn, a smooth draw, and an ash that holds well for at least one inch—characteristics that are consistent with my previous two experiences with the HC Series.

True, I’m not surprised by how much I enjoy this cigar. And I’m certainly not surprised that the partnership between Fuego and Plasencia has resulted is such a fine specimen. While not the most exciting cigar on the market, this one has an interesting interplay between spice and sweetness that renders it worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor

27 Dec 2010

In the latest issue of our “Random Thoughts from the Humidor” series, we ponder humidor maintenance, cleanliness, advertising, and blind reviews:

When I say OCD, I mean it in a good way. Lots of cigar smokers worry about summertime temperatures increasing the chances of a beetle attack. But you’re more likely to see your sticks ruined in the winter from extremely low humidity drying them out beyond repair. Even if you have mild winters, humidity levels will be low and the heat will drive them down even further. Check the hygrometer in your humidor frequently—every couple of days isn’t too often—and add distilled water when necessary.

Brush, brush, brush. I’m no dentist, but I’ve been told by more than one that smoking can lead to an increase of tartar and its associated problems. So, it’s always a good idea to brush as soon as practical after smoking. I don’t know how much it will lessen the buildup, but, hey, it couldn’t hurt. Any dental professionals out there feel free to weigh in.

Cleanliness is at least next to freshness. Whether you smoke inside or out, get rid of the ashes and butts when you’re done. Huge ashtrays are great, but no excuse for collecting tobacco detritus. It creates that unpleasant barroom-at-4 a.m. odor far more than the smoke.

Just wondering. Why are there cigar ads these days in nearly every magazine that aims at an upscale audience except Wine Spectator, the larger sibling of Cigar Aficionado? Aren’t fine wine and premium cigars considered one of the ultimate pairings?

I’m not sure I see the point. I’m always intrigued by cigar reviewing that’s done blind. But does anyone ever smoke that way? Knowing at least a little about the cigar you’re smoking is part of the experience—whether picking up a stick you’ve never heard of or laying out big bucks for a highly regarded limited edition.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Oliva Connecticut Reserve Lonsdale

26 Dec 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 6.5-inch Lonsdale is an excellent coffee accompaniment and a great value at under $5. Its golden Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, combined with Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, produces a light flavor of oak, almond, and cream. And it has combustion qualities characteristic of the Oliva pedigree, including a straight burn and a smooth draw. This is an easy recommendation for cigar enthusiasts who appreciate mild, well-balanced smokes.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie News: The Cigar Year in Review

23 Dec 2010

As 2010 draws to a close, I reflect back on the year that was and some of our favorite, and most important, stories. They’re listed below in chronological order.

The biggest news of January was when Swedish Match and the Scandinavian Tobacco Group merged to bring their many brands under one roof. The deal united General Cigar, CAO, and Toraño.

On January 21, we were the first to report that a new cigar club was opening in Alexandria, Virginia. CXIII Rex has since opened and is now one of the best cigar venues in the country.

President Obama held a townhall on January 28 to discuss the restoration of American jobs. The event took place in Tampa—ground zero the devastation caused by the SCHIP tobacco tax increase.

In February, politicians in Santa Cruz, California, passed one of the most oppressive smoking bans in the country.

The global economic downturn took its toll on so-called “luxury goods.” Cigars were no exception. In late February, it was reported that Cuban cigar sales fell 8% in 2009 to $360 million.

After they won gold at the Olympics, the Canadian women’s hockey team took to the ice with to celebrate with beer, champagne, and cigars. The International Olympic Committee’s executive director later scolded the athletes.

On March 22, the Paul Garmirian Symphony 20th Connoisseur became the first cigar of 2010 to earn a rating of five stogies out of five.

Alejandro Robaina, a “roving ambassador for Cuban cigars” for the last two decades, passed away at the age of 91 on April 17.

On May 27, we gave you a behind-the-scenes tour of La Aurora’s factory in the Dominican Republic.

For the World Health Organization, May 31 wasn’t Memorial Day; it was World No Tobacco Day.

The Church of Scientology paid about $7 million to buy what was once the world’s largest cigar factory, built in 1886 by the man who founded Ybor City.

On June 7, the Padilla Series ’68 Robusto became the second cigar to earn a perfect rating in 2010. reported live from the 2010 Cigar Expo, publishing video interviews with many of the world’s most influential cigar makers.

Wisconsin became the 28th state to enact a smoking ban.

Toraño Cigars took control of its own distribution back from a seven-month-old conglomerate that housed it under the same roof as General Cigar and CAO. The company also adopted a new name, a new look, and launched new blends.

On July 21, we unveiled cigar trademark secrets.

We reported live from the IPCPR Trade Show.

On September 14, the El Centurion Emperadores became the third cigar to earn a rating of five stogies out of five in 2010.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed banning smoking in huge swaths of government-controlled outdoor spaces, including Times Square.

Cuba announced plans to lay off over one million public sector employees and decriminalize certain forms of private enterprise.

When the Reds clinched the National League Central Division and celebrated with cigars in their locker room, the Cincinnati Department of Health decided to investigate the baseball club for violations of Ohio state law.

On October 13, we examined the dirty details of smoking data.

As the Food & Drug Administration moves to expand its oversight to include cigars, the agency announced new graphic warning labels on cigarette packaging.

Tim Ozgener, president of CAO, announced in mid-November that he is leaving the premium cigar business and the company he inherited from his father.

Three months after the IPCPR Trade Show, announced our favorite new releases of the year.

U.S. Customs officials seized 30,000 Cuban cigars when the illegal smokes arrived at O’Hare airport in December, the biggest raid seen at the Customs and Border Protection’s Chicago field office.

There you have it: our review of the world of cigars in 2010. A brand new year is just around the corner. Who knows what 2011 will bring us?

Patrick A

photo credit: various

Stogie Reviews: Avo Limited Edition 2009 Compañero

22 Dec 2010

Behind it’s larger corporate brother Davidoff, Avo can get lost in the mix. Purchased in 1995 by Davidoff for an estimated $10 million, Avo Uvezian’s Dominican smokes are often a way to get the quality of Davidoff at a (slightly) more approachable price.

Avo Uvezian, the charismatic piano-playing creator of Avo, created the Compañero to celebrate his 83rd birthday. The thick Toro (6 x 54) has a velvety Ecuadorian wrapper with Dominican binder and filler tobaccos.

The cigar is well constructed, which you’d expect given that it costs around $12 each, and is notably firm to the touch and from start to finish. The gray ash is  solid, the burn even, and the draw is flawless. The flavor profile includes a mix of cedar, pepper, cream, and honeycomb. Like many Avo/Davidoff creations, damp mushroom notes are also present.

The Compañero features impressive balance despite its medium- to full-bodied profile, even as it becomes bolder as it progresses. Towards the end, there are earthy notes and more cedar spice.

At the time it came out, the Compañero was quite a change of pace for the Avo line, which almost exclusively consisted of mild and medium blends. Had it not been such a success, today we might not have the full-bodied Avo LE 2010 and the Heritage line.

But even without leading Avo into a more full-bodied era, that Compañero stands well on its own as a full-flavored, complex, well-constructed smoke. It’s enough to earn the Avo Limited Edition 2009 Compañero a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys