Archive | February, 2012

Cigar Review: La Palina Family Series Alison

29 Feb 2012

Let me start by saying that Bill Paley’s La Palina Cigars has been a longtime supporter of My colleagues and I pride ourselves on offering honest, trustworthy reviews of cigars, and that’s what I’m going to give you today. But I wanted to mention this at the outset in the interest of full disclosure. Especially since I really, really like this cigar.

Now on to the smoke. La Palina was reborn in early 2010, 84 years after the original company (founded by Bill’s grandfather, Samuel Paley) closed its doors. Bill called the first cigar “1896” to honor the year Samuel founded the Congress Cigar Company. Then, later in 2010, La Palina launched its second blend: the Family Series.

Like 1896 (and unlike El Diario), the Family Series is made at Graycliff’s factory in The Bahamas. Two of the vitolas in this four-size line come with a Costa Rican wrapper—Pasha (7.25 x 50) and Babe (5.25 x 50)—surrounded by a Costa Rican binder and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua. The other two sizes—Alison (6 x 52) and Little Bill (4.5 x 52)—feature the same binder and filler tobaccos wrapped in an Ecuadorian wrapper for “added intensity.”

Alison, according to La Palina’s website, is “dedicated to Bill’s wife, Alison Van Metre Paley, whose support and encouragement have made La Palina’s revival possible.” It is a handsome, toothy torpedo that retails for $22 apiece. Firm to the touch with a beautiful cross-section of tobaccos at the foot, the cold draw is smooth and easy.

After establishing a straight burn, the pre-light aroma of syrup transitions to a profile of leather, dry wood, and a whole assortment of tastes from the spice rack. But trying to identify individual flavors is a bit of a fool’s errand. The torpedo is balanced and nicely complex. You’ll have more fun if you just sit back and enjoy the ride. That ride starts in the full-bodied range and leans in the salty direction. But as the straight burn works its way from the foot and the gray ash builds in volume, the Alison becomes more medium-bodied. Floral notes and hints of sweetness become more pronounced.

My overall assessment of this cigar is that it’s a traditional-tasting smoke that forgoes bells or whistles to deliver a balanced, complex taste. If I pay $22 for a cigar, I expect a whole heck of a lot. You should too. Fortunately, the La Palina Family Series Alison delivers in a big way. Its cost may place it well out of range for my regular rotation, but this is a great special occasion smoke in the same class as the PG 15th Anniversary or some of the finer Cubans on the market. That earns it a rare four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Warlock Robusto

28 Feb 2012

Sending cigars out for review can pay off for manufacturers. At least in this case it did. Had I not received a couple of Warlock cigars from Altadis, I doubt I’d have ever tried one.

I rarely receive cigars from manufacturers. Lately, though, Altadis has been promoting new smokes, such as the Montecristo New York, by sending them to internet reviewers, including me.

There are several cigar makers whose products I rarely smoke, the two giants (Altadis and General Cigar) among them. It’s not that I think they make bad smokes; it’s just that when I want to try something new I’m much more inclined to explore sticks from other brands. That’s especially true of a cigar with somewhat silly ads and a name that conjures up visions of Darrin, Samantha, and a wiggling nose.

I don’t know why I picked a Warlock from my humidor the other day, though I think remembering that it ranked in Cigar Aficionado’s top 10 list for 2011 probably played a part.

This robusto isn’t a conventional size. It weighs in at 4.75 inches with a 54 ring gauge. Looking online, it seems to run about $6. The blend is a multi-country mix, with the wrapper a not overly attractive Ecuadorian Cubano, the binder from Nicaragua, and the filler from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

The combination results in a fairly powerful smoke that begins with strong spice, a draw that’s a bit too tight, and what may be the slowest burn I’ve ever experienced. I’ve smoked many a toro that didn’t last nearly as long as this short robusto.

The Warlock isn’t a particularly complex smoke, but it does develop throughout. At the halfway point, for example, a dark, syrupy sweetness overtakes the spice. There are also flavors of wood and leather in spots. If you haven’t tried this cigar for whatever reason, I suggest you give it a chance. This one earns four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: CAO OSA Sol Lot 50

27 Feb 2012

CAO entered a new chapter in its history in 2007 when the family-owned company was purchased by the Scandanavian Tobacco Group (STG).

But bigger changes were still on the horizon. In early 2010, STG merged its premium tobacco division with General Cigar. Then a number of CAO stalwarts left the company—including President Tim Ozgener, Chairman Gary Hyams, and Lifestyle Director Jon Huber—and CAO left Nashville to join General Cigar at its headquarters in Richmond. All these changes left many wondering how CAO’s cigars would be impacted, as well as what direction the brand would head in for new releases. Some of these questions were answered in the interview we did with Ed McKenna, senior brand manager for CAO.

As for new releases, though, the proof is in the pudding. And the first batch of pudding—the first new CAO blend since the General Cigar acquisition—is the OSA Sol. The distinguishing characteristic of the line is its unique sun-grown Honduran wrapper from the San Agustin valley in Olancho (hence “OSA”). This remote area is northeast of Danlí, the epicenter of cigar production in the country. The remainder of the blend is comprised of a Connecticut broadleaf binder and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua.

OSA Sol is available in three sizes: Lot 54 (6 x 54), Lot 58 (6.5 x 58), and Lot 50 (5 x 50). The latter retails for $4-6 apiece, depending on where you get it and if you buy in bulk. Its caramel-colored wrapper is a roadmap of veins—some fine, others thick—and there’s a rugged wrinkle to this robusto. While the cap is no work of art, the cigar clips cleanly to reveal a smooth draw.

The Lot 50 starts with a woodsy spice that hits the salty and sour parts of the palate. Individual flavors include cedar, sour cream, black pepper, and some tannins. The finish is long and zesty with a bit of sweetness that adds balance. Smoking slowly keeps the cigar from becoming too bitter. As the spice in the cigar settles at the midway point and beyond, I take note of the physical properties. I have come to expect good construction from both General Cigar and CAO, and the first new CAO line under the General umbrella does not disappoint. The burn is straight, the gray ash holds well off the foot, and the draw is consistent throughout.

So what are my overall impressions of the OSA Sol Lot 50? This cigar has a fair amount to offer if you’re looking for a medium-bodied smoke with a woodsy core. It’s a good buy for around $4 and kind of a stretch at $6. I’ll be interested to see what else comes from the CAO brand under General. For now, the Lot 50 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

Quick Smoke: American Eagles Robusto

26 Feb 2012

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.”

To say it would be easy to dismiss the American Eagles as a gimmick would be an understatement, but when I heard that Davidoff’s Henke Kelner blended the cigar, and that a portion of profits go to the Semper Fi Fund, I figured it was at worth a try. The cigar’s unique “camouflage” wrapper consists of Ecuadorian shade-grown Connecticut, Connecticut broadleaf maduro, and Central American candela, which surrounds a Dominican blend. The medium-bodied smoke has good balance, savory flavors, and its kept lively by the subtle changes in flavor that result from the different combinations of wrapper leaf you experience. At $10 each, its proof that a cigar can be a gimmick and a good smoke.

Verdict = Buy

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Aging Room Small Batch M356 Presto

25 Feb 2012

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.”

Finding cigars on store shelves that I’ve never heard of isn’t at all uncommon. But I was surprised when I walked into a shop with a small selection and spotted two open boxes of a cigar whose name I’d learned only a day earlier by reading Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 list. The Aging Room Small Batch M356 Presto, a diminutive 4.125 inches with a 48 ring gauge, is a Dominican puro with burn problems and great flavors. There is terrific spice, a light finish, and an incredibly smooth experience. If you stumble across one, pick it up. Even if you have to pay nearly $3 over the $7.25 MSRP, as I did.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 278

24 Feb 2012

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) Today is the final day of the 2012 ProCigar Festival, a showcase of the top cigar makers in the Dominican Republic. Since Sunday, when the festival began, cigar enthusiasts have flocked to the country to sample unreleased cigars, tour nearby tobacco fields and factories, chat with cigar makers, and attend gala dinners. As the 5th annual ProCigar Festival ends, the 14th annual Habanos Festival is set to begin on Monday. This Cuban event will likewise feature tours, seminars, tastings, and a preview of new cigars to come. It will also include a dinner to mark the 520th anniversary of the discovery of tobacco in Cuba by the Europeans.

2) New Releases: The new VegaFina Sumum Edición Especial 2010 will include an Ecuadorian wrapper and be solid in one size (5 x 54) for $6.75 apiece. This year’s limited edition release of the Punch Rare Corojo will be available starting March 1. The San Lotano Oval will soon be available in a maduro variety.

3) Inside the Industry: La Flor Dominicana’s Premium line will henceforth be known as “La Flor Dominicana Light” and the packaging will be different, but the blend remains the same. Avo has added a new size (3.6 x 43) to its full-bodied Heritage line.

4) Around the Blogs: Tiki Bar kicks back with the Pedro Martin Fiera. Stogie Fresh rates the Dignity Black Gold. Nice Tight Ash checks out the Illusione 68. Stogie Review reviews the La Sirena Prince. Cigar Brief smokes the God of Fire Carlito Double Corona. Cigar Explorer tours the ProCigar Festival.

5) Deal of the Week: Good for only three more days, this “Silver Plate Special” features six Alec Bradley sticks and a butane lighter for just $45. Included are such highly-rated Alec Bradley smokes as the Prensado, Family Blend, Black Market, and Tempus.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: ProCigar

News: Anti-Tobacco Madness Roundup

23 Feb 2012

The professional anti-tobacco activists are on the march, and their target is your right as an adult to enjoy a premium cigar. Here are three recent stories that show that no matter what they say to appeal to reasonable people, their goal is always the same: restricting your free choice as an adult to use tobacco.

Campus Smoking Bans Spread

Over 600 colleges in the U.S., supposed bastions of multiculturalism and tolerance, have banned smoking on campus. Those in favor of such bans will claim they protect people from secondhand smoke, but their actions show that such a claim isn’t true.

Campus bans routinely include both outdoor and indoor spaces, and make no distinction between instances when others could possibly be impacted and when they definitely are not. Proving that paternalism and the desire to control adults’ behavior (even when no one else is affected) drives such bans, one Florida college official attempted to justify extending the campus smoking ban to personal cars by saying, “We don’t want your car to be a safe haven, where you do any activity you want as long as you’re in your car.”

Public Health Official: Smoking is More Dangerous than Suicide

How dogged and single-minded are anti-tobacco zealots in their advocacy against smoking? Take a look at Dr. Gregory Calkins, director of the Miami University Student Health Center. In response to a question about the dangers of hookah smoking, he actually said this: “First, smoking is the single most harmful thing we can voluntarily do to our bodies. It is most definitively the most dangerous thing one person can choose to partake in.”

Fortunately, one student wrote a letter to the editor calling out Dr. Calkins’ idiocy and providing a list of things that one could do to oneself that would cause immediate death, all of which would be, according to a good doctor, more harmful than smoking. Citizens of Ohio, your tax dollars are paying this man’s salary.

Federal Health Bureaucrats: States Should Ban Smoking in Cars

Campuses aren’t the only ones banning smoking in cars. The federal government is trying to get into that game too. According to the Associated Press, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now advocates that all states pass laws preventing adults from smoking in cars when children are present. But don’t think for a second that their quest will end there.

First, the same logic that would justify a car smoking ban would also support a ban on smoking in the home when children are present. After all, people spend far more time in the home than in cars, so exposure is likely to be greater there. Second, remember that these people also subscribe to the theory that “third-hand smoke” can be just as harmful as “second-hand” or “environmental tobacco smoke.” As one car expert points out, given that a child could be in a car (or house) at any point in time after someone smoked there, total home and car smoking bans may not be far off.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys