Archive | July, 2011

Quick Smoke: Lou Rodriguez Edicion Reserva Bom Bom

31 Jul 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.”

Haven’t heard of Lou Rodriguez Cigars? Neither had I until recently when I tried the Reserva blend, which features a notably smooth San Andreas wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The little “Bom Bom” has flawless construction. It’s a medium- to full-bodied blend with lots of earth and just a hint of sweetness. The well-balanced cigar even reminds me of the dependably tasty Padrón Serie 1926. This is a very pleasant introduction to Lou Rodriguez Cigars; I’m looking forward to trying more from this brand.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Cain Maduro 550

30 Jul 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.”

Sam Leccia’s “straight ligero” line called Cain debuted at the 2009 industry trade show in two wrapper varieties: Habano and Maduro. The latter is built with a dark Brazilian exterior leaf, a Nicaraguan binder, and filler tobaccos from Estelí, Condega, and Jalapa. As you might expect given its recipe, the toro-sized 550 (5.75 x 50) produces tons of spice on the lips and a rich profile of roasted coffee beans and dry wood. With little depth, unwavering consistency in taste, and zero maduro sweetness, though, I can’t fully recommend this $5-6 cigar. The Habano is superior in my book.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 249

29 Jul 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) With the eyes of the industry on the annual trade show in Las Vegas, cigar enthusiasts may have missed the shakeup at Davidoff. Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard, president and CEO of the Switzerland-based company, has named Jim Young the new president of North American distribution (Young was formerly president of Guinness USA). Christian Eiroa now serves as an advisor to the company instead of president of Camacho (Camacho was acquired by Davidoff in 2008). And Peter Baenninger has been moved from heading up Davidoff’s U.S. operations to overseeing global retail. No word yet on how these management changes may impact Davidoff’s portfolio of cigars, which includes AVO, Camacho, Cusano, Griffin’s, Zino Platinum, and Winston Churchill.

2) Cigar Rights of America, a consumer-based group that works at to protect the freedoms of cigar enthusiasts, has launched a quarterly newsletter called Cigar Patriot. If you are a CRA member and you haven’t received your copy in the mail yet, be sure to log on to the CRA website and update your contact information. You can also view a digital copy here.

3) Inside the Industry: Altadis announced new lines at last week’s trade show, including “A. Turrent Puro Corojo” (using a Mexican wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and Nicaraguan and Mexican filler), H. Upmann 1844 Reserve (featuring an Ecuadorian wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and Dominican filler), and “Diamondback” (blended by Omar Ortez with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler). For more new releases see’s complete 2011 Trade Show coverage: Show Preview, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Odds and Ends, and Final Thoughts. Reviews of new releases will start next week.

4) Around the Blogs: Smoking Stogie smokes Undercrown by Drew Estate. Stogie Review has lots of Trade Show videos. Stogie Fresh has Trade Show photos. Cigar Fan fires up a Kinky Friedman Kinkycristo. A Cigar Smoker lights up an E.P. Carrillo Maduro.

5) Deal of the Week: This special lands you ten full-bodied smokes at a very mild price. Just $30 gets you five Cain Habano robustos and five Perdomo Criollo 10th Anniversary robustos. Or double up for only $20 more.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Davidoff

Cigar Review: Cohiba Behike BHK 54 (Cuban)

28 Jul 2011

The Cohiba Behike has embodied the very definition of cigar hype since it was announced in February 2010 and hit international retailers in May of that year. Habanos SA, Cuba’s state-owned tobacco monopoly, called it “the new standard among smokers worldwide.” Longtime enthusiasts lauded it for ushering in a second era of Cuban dominance. And Cigar Aficionado named one of the Behike sizes the top smoke of 2010—awarding it a whopping 97 points.

To say this cigar has earned its fair share of press and accolades would be a massive understatement. This hype is due, at least in part, to the exorbitant prices commanded by the three Behike vitolas, which can reach as high as $75 per cigar depending on the market. Notwithstanding that cost, boxes of Behikes (named for the Taino word for sorcerer or doctor) have been selling out all over the world, making the El Laguito-made brand exceptionally rare.

The BHK 54 (5.7 x 54) certainly has the look of luxury and exclusivity. Packaged in a sleek black box of ten, complete with a fabric underside and a magnet latch, the cigar comes dressed in a beautiful reddish wrapper and a hologram-faced band. Beneath are tightly packed filler tobaccos, at least a portion of which is medio tiempo—a type of sun-grown leaf that’s found at the top of some tobacco plants.

Clipping away a small portion of the pigtail cap reveals an easy draw despite the crowded cross-section of interior tobaccos. Here you’ll find a gentle aroma of hay and honey. Once lit, the BHK 54 starts medium-bodied with subtle notes of cedar, coffee, earth, cream, and grass. I also find powdery cinnamon on the finish, especially after the midway point. But identifying these individual tastes doesn’t accurately describe the profile. The theme throughout is balance and restraint, and this harmony makes it difficult to pick out the components of the sum.

The flavors themselves—or, rather, the overall effect of the flavors—doesn’t change much from beginning to end. I suspect some will find this annoying given the cigar’s price, while others will be pleased with the consistency of the balance. Either way, the profile is amplified in the final third but remains in the medium-bodied spectrum. And all the while the physical properties are superb (including a finely layered gray ash that will hold strong beyond expectation).

At the end of the day, I can’t help but factor price into the equation when deriving a final rating for the Behike BHK 54. Is this Cuban really worth $500-600 for a box of 10? No, especially when you consider the other cigars you can buy with that kind of money. That said, this is a wonderful creation in its own right, and one that promises to deliver a memorable experience to the lucky few who get to try it. So I’m settling on a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Final Thoughts on the 2011 IPCPR Trade Show

27 Jul 2011

After a hectic trip to the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) Trade Show in Las Vegas, I’ve finally had a few days to reflect on what was my fourth consecutive show. All in all, it was successful show, and a healthy industry is a good for cigar fans.

I asked Chris McCalla, legislative director for the IPCPR, about the exact figures, and he said attendance was up about 20% from last year’s show in New Orleans (although he cautioned that because Las Vegas is closer to West Coast shops it always tends to draw more attendees). This year over, 1,000 retail shops were represented (New Orleans 2010 had 755) and nearly 2,000 retail badges were picked up (compared to 1,786 last year). There were 5,000 attendees in Las Vegas.

More importantly, the consensus among those on the show floor selling cigars seemed to be that although foot traffic was down (compared to what was expected) those who did attend were there to buy. Even after the initial rush on day one, sales held for most cigar makers on the all-important day two.

While individual cigar makers each will judge the show on their own bottom line, I wanted to look deeper at the trends that I saw from one booth to the next. To that end, three trends were particularly notable from this year’s show:

Small Smokes — Cigar makers have taken notice. With increasingly busy schedules and smoking bans forcing cigar smokers outside into the summer heat or winter cold, we often don’t have time for robustos and coronas, let alone Churchills or toros. The answer seems to be lots of new cigars that are smaller sizes (i.e., 4 x 40, 4 x 42, etc.). Larger than a cigarillo, these little sizes do their best to combine the flavors and complexity of a large premium cigar in a shorter 20-30 minute smoking time. (It’s also worth noting that the uncomfortably large super toro size (6 x 60) has become a staple of the industry because—as more than a few people told me—even though few people in the industry seem to smoke them regularly, they continue to be a big seller.)

Connecticut is Back — In the past few years, cigars with shade-grown Connecticut wrappers have gotten a reputation (unfairly in my humble opinion) for being simple, mild, beginners’ smokes. But, like so many things, these trends tend to be cyclical. This year I noticed many new Connecticut-wrapped smokes. However, unlike past versions of many Connecticut cigars, new releases this year tended to be more medium-bodied than mild. I think it’s a reflection of the fact that many of the hardened smokers who used to smoke only full-bodied flavor bombs are now looking for more balance. Cigar makers are hoping that these more flavorful versions of Connecticut-wrapped cigars will be a welcome new addition. Whether it’s successful or not, only time will tell.

Less News, More Sales? — I certainly didn’t get to stop by every booth, but more than in past years I didn’t feel that stopping by every booth was necessary. That’s because more than in previous years, cigar makers had announced (or “leaked”) what was coming ahead of time. Part of it is because Cigar Aficionado‘s long-held monopoly on cigar news has been broken by the online cigar media (a trend we’re fans of here at But I also think cigar makers see the role of the Trade Show as place to open new accounts, rather than sell new releases to existing accounts. To that end, paradoxically, even though the largest cigar companies with the largest booths pay the most to be at the annual convention, it is the smaller cigar makers who need the convention the most to grow their businesses and add accounts.

Next year the show moves to Orlando, and it will be interesting to see if the IPCPR can prevent a drop-off, as Las Vegas always seems to attract a great crowd. Orlando certainly has plenty to offer those who use the show as a chance for a family vacation, but the extent to which California (and other West Coast) retailers are willing to make the long trip across the country is not clear. One prediction I feel comfortable making: The well-stocked bar at the downtown location of IPCPR Board Member Jeff Borysiewicz’s Corona Cigar Company will be very busy.

Beyond that, the only thing left to do is smoke all the new releases. That alone will determine for me the real winners from the 2011 Trade Show. Look for plenty of reviews of the new releases in the next few months.

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr

News: IPCPR 2011 Odds and Ends

26 Jul 2011

Last week I reported live from the 2011 International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) Association Trade Show. Catch up on my updates from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, as well as the show preview. But even this coverage isn’t comprehensive.

While two and a half days on the convention floor wasn’t enough time to hit every booth, three days of updates still wasn’t enough to capture all of the info I gathered. So here are some odds and ends that didn’t make my previous IPCPR coverage:

Last year Drew Estate won the award for best booth, and they followed it up this year with another eye-catching display. In addition to more custom-painted shoes (last year it was sneakers, this year it was women’s pumps) the Drew Estate booth featured dozens of graphic cigar molds.

Drew Estate had many new releases, including a number of blends based on the popular Liga Privada line. Included was Undercrown, a blend created by the torcedors who roll Liga Privada. As Drew Estate President Steve Saka explained to me, when they were smoking too many Liga Privadas, they created this blend from the same tobaccos used for the Liga, but using different primings and vintages not used in the Liga blend. According to Saka, while the Liga is medium- to full-bodied, this is a more medium-bodied blend.

The Miami Cigar Co./La Aurora booth was full of new releases. In fact, if there’s an award for most new lines, they surely won it. One of the most anticipated of those new releases was Casa Miranda, which was blended by Willy Herrera at the El Titan de Bronze factory in Miami before Herrera left to join Drew Estate. Despite selling for around $10 a cigar, Jason Wood tells me this was a top seller for Miami. Another new cigar in the super-premium line was the Nestor Miranda Grand Reserve ($12 each), a box-pressed torpedo made by the Pepins at the My Father factory in Nicaragua using a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.

La Aurora 107 was a big hit for La Aurora in 2010, and so a maduro extension was almost inevitable. While they had banded and boxed examples of the new 107 Maduro for display, I was told the actual blend isn’t ready yet. The blend was recently tweaked, but they still are aiming for a release by October.

La Aurora Preferido Corojo Vintage 2003 is one of those new cigars that isn’t actually very new at all. After looking through their aging room in their Santiago factory, they “discovered” that they had enough of these circa-2003 Preferido Corojos to put out a limited release.

In case you forget that Miami Cigars is a distributor as well as a cigar maker, take note of the new Humo Jaguar made by Nestor Plasencia in Honduras. The cigar shares the same name as the Honduran Humo Jaguar cigar festival. I was told that a number of Honduran makers created blends for the festival for blind tasting by attendees. Plasencia’s blend won and is now being distributed by Miami Cigars. Next year a new blend will be crowned.

Tomorrow, stay tuned for my final thoughts on this year’s IPCPR Trade Show. Until then, be sure to let us know which blends you are most looking forward to trying.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Plantation 20th Anniversary Rum

25 Jul 2011

In the premium tobacco industry, new blends often commemorate one anniversary or another. Such traditions transcend industry boundaries. Plantation 20th Anniversary Rum, for example, celebrates Alexandre Gabriel’s two decades of leadership over Cognac Ferrand.

The French company is primarily a producer of cognac. For years, it sold its prized cognac casks to rum producers in the Caribbean who would use the containers to age their spirits. “During these exchanges, Gabriel had the opportunity to discover some very old batches of rum with extraordinary richness and a diversity of aroma and flavor,” reads the Cognac Ferrand website. “Available in tiny quantities, the rums were intended either for the personal consumption of the distillery’s cellar master or used to give style to industrial rum blends. Quite naturally, Cognac Ferrand decided to bottle these special rums as a series of vintages.”

Each vintage is named for its locale of origin: Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Trinidad, and St. Lucia. Over and above these, Plantation 20th Anniversary is the flagship rum from Cognac Ferrand. It is made from the company’s oldest Caribbean reserves in Barbados, aged in bourbon casks in the tropics, then matured in oak in France for an additional 12 to 18 months. “This double aging process brings an incomparable smoothness and fullness to this rum,” reads the spirit’s ornate box.

Ever since I discovered it a few weeks ago, Plantation 20th Anniversary has become one of my favorite rums. Its superior quality is evident on the nose, which is creamy and rich with a butterscotch-like character. On the palate the spirit is very complex. Notes as varied as coconut, vanilla, orange peel, cinnamon, banana, and warm tobacco are evident, and they linger for quite some time in a warm finish.

The price tag of $40 for a 750 ml. bottle is no small expenditure, but I’m more than convinced that Plantation 20th Anniversary is worth the cost. What a finely balanced, multifaceted rum this is. For maximum enjoyment, pair it with a mild-bodied cigar that will play off of—rather than drown out—the spirit’s exquisite subtlety.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys