Archive | August, 2011

Cigar Review: Rocky Patel Xtreme Sumatra Robusto

31 Aug 2011

One thing’s for certain about Rocky Patel: He makes a heck of a lot of cigars. Rocky’s flashy website doesn’t even bother to mention many of his blends, be they seasonal, limited editions, retailer exclusives, or what have you.

It’s safe to say that some cigar enthusiasts are perturbed by Patel’s ever-expanding lineup. They lament his seemingly countless blends and claim that over-expansion has deteriorated the excellence of the core cigars that made Rocky famous, including the Vintage ’90 and ’92 cigars. But many others couldn’t be happier with the variety of tastes, sizes, and price points offered by Patel. For them, any stick with Rocky’s name on the label is worth trying.

These are two extremes. Whether you’re in either camp or (more likely) somewhere in-between, you may have heard of Xtreme Sumatra, a “value brand” that Rocky produces exclusively for Famous Smoke Shop. This line features an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper with a Honduran binder and a two-country filler blend from Nicaragua and Honduras. It is available in three traditional vitolas: Churchill (7 x 48), Toro (6 x 52), and Robusto (5 x 50).

I sampled three Robustos for this review. This frontmark is strikingly attractive with a reddish, silky wrapper, no soft spots, a nice cap, and a beautiful cross-section of tobaccos at the foot. The pre-light aroma is of sweet earth and hay and the draw is perfect.

After an even light is established, a profile of dry wood, orange, and coffee emerges. The finish is long and spicy with pepper and occasional traces of sweetness. After an inch or so, flavors of cream, vanilla, and almond start to emerge. The overall result is one of medium-bodied balance, with occasional bitterness in the final third.

Ashing the Xtreme Sumatra Robusto becomes an afterthought as the gray ash builds wonderfully from the cigar’s even burn. You’d be hard-pressed to find a similarly priced smoke with equal construction—perhaps a testament to Patel’s quality control efforts.

So Rocky detractors beware: While this cigar won’t blow any seasoned enthusiasts away, it’s definitely a well-made, satisfying smoke. Best of all, it can be had for as little as $3.90 apiece. That earns the Xtreme Sumatra Robusto three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Palina El Diario Gordo

30 Aug 2011

I’ve found all La Palina cigars to be enjoyable, but the prices (often $18-20 apiece) make them hard to enjoy regularly. The new El Diario line, introduced at this year’s industry trade show, is an attempt to change that. It sells for around $10 each.

“El Diario” is Spanish for “the daily,” a nod to both the daily newspaper and the fact that, at least compared to the La Palina Family Series, it’s a more affordable “daily” cigar. Currently five sizes are available, with a sixth in production and on the way, though details of the new size haven’t yet been released.

El Diario is a collaboration between La Palina and Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley. It is made at the Raices Cubana factory in Honduras, where many Alec Bradley cigars are made, in addition to such highly regarded cigars as Illusione, Viaje, and many of the Padilla lines.

The cigar features Nicaraguan and Honduran tobacco. The wrapper is an oily Honduran corojo ’99 rosado leaf. Underneath are dual Honduran criollo ’98 binders that surround the Nicaraguan filler composed of corojo ’99 and criollo ’98 leaf.

For this review, I smoked two in the Gordo size, which is a thick super toro (6 x 58). The cigars were generally well constructed, though the draw on one of the samples was a bit tight. Each featured smooth earth, powdered chocolate, a hint of pepper spice, and a bit of clove. Though I’ve heard La Palina owner William Paley describe the cigar as medium-bodied, I found the Gordo to be more full-bodied.

The flavor profile is pleasant, accented by a bit of char on the finish but dominated by earthiness. On multiple occasions, I found myself thinking it was a similar profile to the Tatuaje Havana VI, though slightly stronger.

There’s not a ton of variation from start to finish, and it certainly is not as complex as the original La Palina line, but it’s a flavor profile that will be right up the alley of fans of Nicaraguan cigars like Tatuaje and Illusione. And the fact that El Diario costs $9-12 per cigar, as opposed to nearly $20 for the Family Series, makes it easier on the wallet.

Ultimately, this cigar is good enough to keep me interested for a full two hours, which is why I’d give the La Palina El Diario Gordo a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: A Guy Walks Into a Cigar Shop…

29 Aug 2011

You browse a table where stacks of cigar boxes are arranged in rows, their closed lids decorated with shiny gold gilding and brilliantly colored images meant to attract your attention. You’re interested in the artwork on the box instead of the cigar’s style or brand. You see a young woman, seductive and sexily clad, her face passive and motionless. Coy but inviting. Confident and convincing, with a hint of a smile that says, “You can trust me.”

You pick up this box of cigars for a closer look at this pretty girl—she’s the centerpiece of a brilliant arrangement of symbolic imagery, a romantic fantasy world meant to satisfy you, and you only.

Around the woman, a wreath of gold coins appeals to your desire for wealth. Behind her, a flourishing tobacco plantation reflects her fertility.

A pair of men far away ride horses and play polo, and just over her right shoulder stands a Roman warrior—the point of his sword planted between his feet and his muscular arms folded patiently across the hilt, waiting for the pretty girl to stop looking at you and give her undivided attention to him. But she never does.

Despite the wealth that surrounds her, the fertile land, the sport, the heroic soldier waiting to take her in his arms, she never breaks her stare with you. From the moment you saw her, her eyes were planted firmly and eternally on you.

You can’t put this box of cigars down because doing so would mean rejecting beauty and denying yourself of this beautiful woman, this lithographed seductress. And what man has the power to refuse a woman like this?

You take the box to the counter and pay for your cigars, walking home with a new companion designed especially for you. The year is 1844. You are in Havana, Cuba.

For a 19th century cigar enthusiast, the artwork on the box and label are as attractive as the cigar itself. In 1837, Ramón Allones named a brand of cigars after himself and became the first to wrap a label around the end of a cigar. But it was nearly 40 years before that when the Cuban trademark office, in 1810, recorded the first two applications for cigar brand registration: B. Rencurrel by Bernardino Rencurrel and Hija de Cabañas y Carbajal, by Francisco Cabañas.

Cigar labels were one of the earliest forms of advertising and marked a shift to a consumer culture. Making the product unique, an attractive cigar label captured a customer’s attention and was as important as the cigar itself. Ramón Allones, arguably the pioneer of this technique, used manly images of military shields and spears, golden lions, royal crowns, and colorful banners of victory.

Years later it was Cuba Libre, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, that became popular themes on many cigar labels. But from the earliest cigars to the modern day Cuestra Rey, one image that has endured is that of the beautiful woman: the damsel in distress who can only be rescued by the man who lifts her off the cigar store shelf and carries her (and his billfold) to the nearest cash register.

Mark M

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Cohiba Behike BHK 54 (Cuban)

28 Aug 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.”

If a cigar ever had as much hype surrounding it as the Behike, I sure haven’t seen it. The thick (5.7 x 54) Cuban commands $50 per cigar and still is regularly sold out. It’s a complex smoke, with hay, cedar, honey, coffee, and molasses, although it doesn’t change much from start to finish. The result is a pleasant medium-bodied smoke with perfect balance. Were it not for the price I could easily recommend it. But with its hefty price tag, it may only be worth trying if you’re a true connoisseur–and it’s not a cigar to go back to again and again.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: San Cristobal Elegancia Churchill

27 Aug 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.”

This new line extension from Ashton and Don Pepin Garcia sports a flawless Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut wrapper around Nicaraguan filler, a combination that creates a tasty medium-strength cigar. Flavors shift several times throughout the smoke and include wood, toast, nuts, and a bit of floral notes laced with occasional spice. A pleasing cigar at about $7.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 253

26 Aug 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) Politicians in Michigan passed a statewide smoking ban that took effect in May 2010. But now about 500 restaurant and bar owners, organized as Protect Private Property Rights in Michigan, are firing back. They plan to ban state lawmakers from their premises starting September 1. “To highlight what they consider the hypocrisy of Michigan’s smoking ban—which exempts gambling floors of Detroit casinos—business owners said the lawmaker ban also would have exemptions. It would not cover the Republican or Democratic leaders in the House or Senate,” reports the Detroit Free Press. “Ari Adler, a spokesman for House Republican Speaker Jase Bolger, said the lawmaker ban is an interesting tactic but not likely to spark legal change.”

2) The Room 101 “CigarMageddon Tour” kicks off today, a trip that includes 60 in-store events across the country between now and March. Each stop will feature Room 101 swag and cigars like the Connecticut, Conjura, and Namakubi Edition. Today’s event will be held at Cigar Cigars in Rocky River, Ohio, between 4 and 8pm.

3) Inside the Industry: Hurricane Irene could be double trouble for the cigar industry. The storm passed over the Dominican Republic earlier this week, and while we haven’t heard any specific damage (though we’ve made inquiries) it’s hard to imagine that 20 inches of rain and 80 MPH winds left the tobacco farms there completely unharmed. The second blow could be to the Connecticut crop. The hurricane looks likely to make a direct hit on Connecticut just as crops are being harvested. Reports are that farmers are rushing to get crops out of the ground and into barns before the storm is due to hit this weekend.

4) Around the Blogs: Cigar Fan lights up an Alec Bradley Family Blend. Stogie Fresh checks out El Original Corona. Smoking Stogie smokes the Casa Miranda. Stogie Review reviews a Winston Churchill Lancaster.

5) Deal of the Week: Cuban Crafters is featuring deep discounts on cigars we’ve rated well. Snag a box of 25 La Carolinas for just $45 or a box of 25 Cabinet Cameroons for just $65.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: Litto Gomez Famous Signature Series Toro

25 Aug 2011

Cigar maker Litto Gomez is best known for establishing La Flor Dominicana and growing the brand from its humble roots as one of many cigar boom upstarts to a widely recognized, highly successful company. He did so through slow, methodical growth and by building a loyal and passionate following for his strong, innovative smokes.

As his own recognition increased over the years, Gomez also lent his name to a number of smokes made under his direction. Most notable are the Litto Gomez Small Batch cigars that were released between 2008 and 2010. The Small Batch No. 2 and Small Batch No. 3 both received high ratings at—particularly the former, which earned a perfect rating in August 2009.

You’ll also find Gomez’s name on a blend crafted exclusively for Famous Smoke Shop, an internet retailer based in Pennsylvania. According to Famous, these cigars are “seamlessly handcrafted with a full-flavored blend of choice Nicaraguan long-fillers and Ecuadorian Sumatra-seed binders rolled inside dark, shimmering Nicaraguan wrappers.” They produce a “creamy smoke teeming with rich, earthy tobacco flavors augmented by an underlying sweetness in the mix.”

Three traditional sizes are available: Churchill (7 x 50), Robusto (5 x 50), and Toro (6 x 50). They range in price from $8.75 to $10.13 per single, not including the price breaks you can get if you purchase a 5-pack or a box of 20.

The Toro is a firm, heavy cigar with a highly mottled, heavily veined exterior leaf. A closer inspection reveals several soft spots, but the oily cigar seems to be otherwise well-constructed. A muted aroma of leather and cocoa is evident off the foot, and the cigar cuts cleanly to reveal a smooth draw.

Once lit, the Famous Signature Series Toro starts as you might expect from any Litto Gomez creation: lots of bold pepper and spice. Leather is dominant with hints of black cherry in the background. The aftertaste isn’t as sweet as advertised; instead, it has a cayenne kick.

Towards the midway point, the Toro makes the transition from spicy powerbomb to a more medium-bodied profile complete with roasted nuts and cream. The finale is characterized by a reprise of the bold flavors that dominate the outset.

With excellent construction and interesting flavors that change enough to keep the cigar interesting throughout the duration of the smoke, the Famous Signature Series Toro will be a welcome addition to La Flor fans’ humidors. But I would recommend buying by the box since the price for a single ($9.50) is too high in my opinion. All things considered, this Litto Gomez smoke is worthy of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys