Archive | March, 2011

Stogie Review: Mercer Pinar del Rio Custom Cuban Sublimes

31 Mar 2011

If you were to judge a cigar solely on its ability to win the game of cigar shop one-upmanship, then it would be hard to beat the Mercer Pinar del Rio Custom Cuban Sublimes.  You know, that never-ending competition to have the most impressive answer to the question of “what have you been smoking lately?”

Sure, the other guy may be able to say he’s smoking that vintage limited edition Cuban but, if you’re smoking the Mercer Pinar del Rio, you’ve probably still got him beat. After all, your cigar is a custom-rolled Cuban with an impressive story.

Offered exclusively by Mercer Cigars (La Casa del Habano) in Merida, Mexico, the Mercer PdR Custom Cubans are reportedly made completely from tobacco from Pinar del Rio’s most prominent cigar family (an apparent reference to Robaina family). The cigars are made exclusively for Mercer in three sizes (Canonazos (5.9 x 52), Piramides (6.5 x 52), and Sublimes (6.75 x 54)) and notably are shipped from inside the U.S. un-banded.

For this review, I smoked two of the Sublimes (and I also sampled one Canonazos). The large cigar has some serious heft in the hand and in the mouth. The Colorado brown wrapper has plenty of oil and the excellent construction is accented by a closed foot.

The cigar is well-balanced with quintessential Cuban sweet earth notes, in combination with coffee, toast, nutmeg, and dry cedar. The long finish shows some red and black pepper spice.

It’s an extremely harmonious smoke that’s firmly in the medium- to full-bodied range, though it trends towards the fuller end in the final third. While all around I am very impressed with this Cuban, the earthy sweetness of the cigar’s flavors really strike me.

The Sublimes smokes for a full two hours with a notably solid white ash. And, unlike many Cubans I’ve smoked, there are no burn or draw issues. That, coupled with complex, earthy sweetness, an excellent draw, and a not unreasonable price of around $15 each, makes this a fantastic cigar. That’s why the Mercer Pinar del Rio Custom Cuban Sublimes earns a most impressive rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Commentary: A Great Time to Be a Cigar Smoker

30 Mar 2011

Spring is finally here. At least officially, as of March 20. I guess some of us are still dealing with cooler temperatures or even snow. But the promise of warmer weather is closer than ever. Cue “Here Comes the Sun” on your iPod.

And that means good things for those of us who are lucky enough to be cigar enthusiasts. We can finally open the windows, dust off our tiki torches, and comfortably smoke cigars where cigars were meant to be smoked: outside. Soon, we’ll all be freed from the indoor smoke-friendly sanctuaries in which we’ve been hiding since the fall. That is, of course, if you’re lucky enough to have access to an all-too-rare indoor cigar haven.

I’ve been hiding in my den, which is equipped with plenty of books, more than plenty of cigars, and easy access to cold libations. My wife “allows” me to smoke in there as long as the outside temp is below 50 degrees. For that I’m very grateful.

I’m not, after all, one of these guys with an air-tight, separately ventilated room, an expensive exhaust system, and a password-protected vault door. When I smoke a cigar in the den, you can smell it throughout our home. But I like that smell. And my wife is cool enough to put up with it.

As much as I love the den, though, and as much as I enjoy such cigar-friendly locales as CXIII Rex and Shelly’s, I’m really looking forward to getting back outside. Whether it’s having a cocktail on my patio, playing a round of golf, or firing up the barbecue, outside is the place to be for this cigar fan.

Warmer temperatures aren’t the only reason spring is a great time to be a cigar smoker. This season is also a perfect chance to catch up on cigars that were released at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show. The next convention, after all, is just a few months away, and many cigar makers will start issuing press releases about their new products before you know it. It’ll be like hearing Christmas carols before Thanksgiving (a major no-no in my book).

Before you grow envious of all the new stuff you can’t buy yet, take stock in those cigars you may have missed from the 2010 convention, or reacquaint yourself with some of your favorites. Personally, I think last year’s trade show was top-notch in terms of new cigar releases. Smokes like the Avo Heritage, J. Fuego Origen, Toraño Single Region, and Guillermo León will pair nicely with the warmer temperatures and the increasing levels of sunshine.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Reviews: Private Stock No. 1

29 Mar 2011

There’s so much (mis)information about this Davidoff line floating around that I didn’t want to review these until I satisfied myself that I had the straight stuff. A conversation with Michael Herklots, general manager of Davidoff’s New York stores, provided answers to my questions.

First and foremost, these long-filler handmade cigars are not Davidoff seconds, mistakes, or throwaways. “It’s a brand, just like Avo is a brand,” Herklots said. The natural’s Connecticut shade wrapper and Dominican filler is a specific blend, one that’s repeated year in and year out just like any other cigar, he said.

After going through about half a box, I have found them every bit as consistent as cigars costing three or four times more.

“We really try to go out of our way to clarify that it is not a second,” Herklots continued. He explained Davidoff ‘s strategy to control cost: simple bands and simple boxes coupled with little promotion.

And keep the price down they do. If you look around online, you can find a box of 25 of the double corona-sized No. 1 (7.75 x 48) for about $75. The Private Stock brand also includes several vitolas in maduro as well as medium-filler cigars that are even less expensive. All are parejo shapes.

If you like mild cigars, I urge you to try this cigar. Make no mistake, though. You won’t close your eyes and think you’re smoking a Davidoff Classic. While I find a little of those special Davidoff characteristics in the Private Stock, the cigar is nowhere near as complex, rich, or flavorful. But, then again, it’s a $3 cigar.

While I don’t usually favor mild cigars for newcomers because they may not get enough taste, the flavors in this case lead me to make an exception. I’d probably recommend one of the smaller sizes, though.

I plan to keep a box on hand for when I’m looking to enjoy a mild cigar. It’s tough to beat, and for me it rates four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Tips: Lobby Effectively for the Cigar Cause

28 Mar 2011

Here at, one of our missions is to keep you abreast of important developments that can impact cigar rights, be they local, state, or national. If you’re informed, you have a chance to change the outcome. But to be an effective voice, you need to know what works and what doesn’t. The following are suggestions from my experiences with governments and from consulting recently with some politicians and staffers.

Focus on your legislator. Politicians respond to constituents. This is as true at the city council level as it is in the U.S. Senate. Your address should be near the top of all correspondence. As a former Hill staffer said, “You have a voice they want to hear if you have a vote they need.”

Know the bill number or name. There are so many bills at so many stages of the process, even in a small locality, that it’s difficult for anyone to keep up. Being specific will ensure that you make your point effectively and precisely.

Visit if you can. No one knows the impact of the personal touch better than a politician. If possible, schedule a brief meeting. If not, send a carefully constructed, single-page letter. It will have greater impact than an email.

Don’t copy a form letter. These usually get consigned to File 13 and may not generate a reply. Use your own words to express your own thoughts. Forwarding a copied email is even less effective.

Be business-like and professional. Always keep your goal in mind. Arguing, threatening, bullying, etc., are counterproductive.

Don’t bother with petitions. These rarely matter to politicians, unless they’re huge or involve a recall effort. A handful of committed, active constituents carries much more weight than dozens of people who simply signed their names, many of whom may not even be constituents.

But there is strength in numbers. Outfits like CRA and IPCPR can be effective. Even small groups can have a strong voice. Consider inviting your local rep or city council member to a meet-and-greet night at the cigar shop.

Be brief, polite, and to the point. This should go without saying. But if you aren‘t, you’re probably wasting your time.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Avo Limited Edition 2008 Tesoro

27 Mar 2011

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.”

Before trying the new Avo 85th Anniversary, I wanted to go back and smoke one of my favorite limited edition Avo smokes from the past. The Tesoro (5.75 x 50) debuted in 2008 and it’s still a fine smoke in 2011. Sweet cream, honey, and light cedar are each elegantly balanced in this well-constructed toro. The Tesoro is proof that mild cigars need not be bland or unflavorful, and that’s why it’s still a favorite of mine.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Avo

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler CCXXXI

25 Mar 2011

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

1) China’s Ministry of Health is imposing new, far-reaching smoking regulations on the planet’s most populous country. Starting May 1, smoking will be banned in most public places, including hotels, restaurants, parks, and pedestrian walkways. “Beijing has long said it is determined to tackle the country’s smoking problem but has so far met with little success,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “In fact, the new regulations come months after China missed a Jan. 9 deadline to restrict indoor smoking, set when Beijing signed the World Health Organization’s 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2006.” It is not yet clear how the Chinese government intends to enforce the law in a country where  previous smoking regulations have gone largely ignored.

2) Tickets for Famous Smoke Shop’s annual Cigar Expo are now on sale. The theme of this year’s event, held August 26-27 in Pennsylvania, is “Cigarnival,” and attendees will be treated to “a carnival-like atmosphere replete with carnival games and performers, all they can eat and drink, plus the world’s leading cigar makers, and plenty of cigars to smoke.” Click here to purchase tickets.

3) Inside the Industry: Padilla is teaming up with Oliva to create a limited edition cigar for Oliva’s Studio Tobac project that is scheduled for an August release.  The next ProCigar, the Santiago-based Dominican cigar festival, will be held on February 19-25 of 2012. Camacho is a releasing a series of limited cigars for select retailers called Super Limitados.

4) Around the Blogs: Smoking Stogie smokes the My Father Edición Limitada 2011. Stogie Review reviews the Man O’ War Puro Authentico. Cigar Fan fires up a La Gloria Cubana Serie N. Nice Tight Ash checks out an Illusione 888 Candela. The Padrón 1964 Principe Maduro is a  top ten cigar over at

5) Deal of the Week: Loyal readers can use the discount code “stogieguys” to subscribe to The Cigar Network magazine at 15% off the cover price. Just enter the code at checkout (seen here).

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Tips: Xikar EXII Havana Collection Lighter Review

24 Mar 2011

My first encounter with the Xikar EXII lighter was at the IPCPR Trade Show last August. I was sitting in the Davidoff blending seminar, ran out of matches, and didn’t have my lighter with me.

I asked Tim, co-creator of Your Cigar Ratings, if I could borrow his, and he handed me this exact lighter. I was surprised that it was soft flame and intrigued by the fact that it was supposedly “windproof.” That initial experience piqued my interest, and I thought about purchasing one for several months. I was fortunate enough to receive one as a gift.

The Havana Collection EXII is based on the original EX lighter, but has polished steel casings and the center panel features cigar-related artwork. The Havana Collection retails for $100, but you can purchase the original EX for $60. The biggest difference between the two is the casing and the art. The best part about Xikar lighters, besides their reliability, is that each comes equipped with a lifetime warranty.

Looks are great but the most important thing about a lighter is reliability and functionality. Like any product, the EXII has its pros and cons. The cons, in this case, are more tradeoffs than purely negative attributes. First, in stiff breezes it can be a challenge to get a cigar lit, even though the soft flame is windproof, as the flame behaves erratically. It’s tough to light larger ring gauge cigars, although increasing the flame size does alleviate this somewhat. Lastly, touching up a cigar can be a bit of a challenge with a soft flame, but it gets easier with a little practice.

The EXII has plenty of pros though. Over months of use I have consistently been impressed with how long the fuel lasts before the lighter needs to be filled. And my favorite feature has to be the flame adjustment wheel. It is extremely easy to adjust the flame compared to lighters with those tiny recessed adjustments. The flame is as windproof as they come although, as noted, in a strong breeze lighting a cigar can still be a challenge. The biggest benefit of using the soft flame is that it burns much cooler than a torch and won’t char the cigar like a torch can.

Ultimately, if you are in the market for a good-looking, reliable soft flame lighter, the EXII is an excellent choice. The initial expense might seem a little high, but the quality is excellent and the warranty guarantees your investment.

Patrick M

photo credit: Stogie Guys