Archive | March, 2012

Quick Smoke: Los Hermanos Toro

31 Mar 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.”

Haven’t heard of Los Hermanos? I hadn’t until I got one as a throw-in with an order I placed from Atlantic Cigar, apparently the exclusive provider of this cigar made by Casa Fernandez and Tropical Tobacco. The Toro (6.5 x 52) is a Nicaraguan puro that sells for just under $7. It starts out dry and woody with a slight bitterness. Fortunately, it doesn’t stay that way as the bitterness fades and the cigar shows coffee, leather, and even some black pepper. Los Hermanos may not be complex, but it’s a decent, medium- to full-bodied cigar at a fair price.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 283

30 Mar 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) Since February, we’ve been covering Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s misguided attempt to boost state coffers by raising his state’s excise tax on cigars from 15% to 70%. There are currently bills before the state Senate and House that would bolster premium cigar taxes, and a joint committee is set to meet to reconcile the two different proposals. “Surrounding jurisdictions such as Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., already tax premium cigars less than Maryland’s current 15 percent levy,” according to the Gaithersburg Gazette. In the same article, Stephen Castro, owner of seven cigar shops in the state, said “the current legislative push…could drive shops such as his out of business.”

2) Officials in Elk Grove were considering a ban on smoking inside private apartments in the Northern California town. They have decided not to pursue the restrictive proposal, for now. “After hearing the comments, the council agreed that the apartment smoking issue seemed to be confined to [one apartment complex] and were reluctant to ban smoking outright at all complexes within the city,” reports the Sacramento Bee.

3) Inside the Industry: General Cigar is launching a new Partagas line called 1845 with an Ecuadorian Habano-seed wrapper, Connecticut binder, and rum barrel-aged filler tobaccos. Manny Ferrero, senior vice president of sales for Ashton Distributors, passed away on Tuesday. Wicked Indie is the first cigar release under the East India Trading Company, a subsidiary of the newly renamed Gurkha Cigar Group, Inc.

4) Around the Blogs: Cigar Fan fires up a Padilla Artemis. Cigar Explorer explores a Patoro Vuelta Abajo Limited. The Tiki Bar kicks back with a 262 Paradigm Lancero. Cigar Inspector inspects a Tatuaje TAA. Half Wheel smokes a Second Growth. Stogie Review reviews an Ashton ESG.

5) Deal of the Week: This weekly special features two top-notch blends for just $30. Included are five Boris 11 Connecticut Perfectos (created in partnership with Avo) and five Nestor Miranda Dominicana Piramides (made by the Garcia family).

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Commentary: Help CRA Be an Independent Voice for Cigar Smokers

29 Mar 2012

In the early days of Cigar Rights of America (CRA), the creation of the organization caused a stir for existing groups, especially the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR).

While it’s often forgotten now, just days after the announcement of the founding of CRA in 2008, IPCPR moved to start its own organization for consumers. The group, called “Friends of the Industry,” was hastily announced just a day after CRA was unveiled. Manufacturers, who had lined up behind, and provided the initial funding for, CRA were caught off guard by the IPCPR’s seemingly unplanned attempt to copy the CRA. “All the cigar manufacturers are lining up to be part of the CRA, and we invite the IPCPR to join our organization. I think we should work together,” Ashton president Robbie Levine told Cigar Aficionado.

Nothing much became of IPCPR’s consumer group, at least not officially. Though the association has (thankfully) made more effort lately to encourage consumers to contact their elected representatives, even if they’ve dropped the “Friends of the Industry” group name.

In hindsight this seems to be a good thing. My opinion is informed by being a member of Cigar Rights of America since soon after its founding, and becoming an online media member of the IPCPR last year. Now more than ever I’n glad the CRA was created.

Recently, the need for an independent consumer-oriented group has been reinforced by an ongoing controversy over the role of media (and specifically online media like at the IPCPR annual trade show. My intention isn’t to get into that controversy, but if you want to read more I recommend checking out the opinions of Cigar Craig and Jerry of Stogie Review.

IPCPR primarily represents two key constituencies: the retailers whose numbers make up most of its ranks and the manufacturers who pay a large percentage of its fees, particularly to be part of the trade show. These are important groups, whose fundamental goals are in line with cigar smokers, especially when it comes to anti-tobacco zealots’ attempts to regulate and tax cigars out of existence.

But when it comes to smaller, more internal, issues, cigar consumers’ interests are not always perfectly in line with manufacturers or retailers. The debate over cigar media access to the annual trade show makes this clear. Our readers certainly benefit from our reporting (and that of others) from the trade show, even if some people would prefer a more controlled release of information. That’s part of why the Cigar Rights of America is so fundamental. It represents an increasingly independent voice for consumers and their interests. Cigar smokers need to join the CRA, so the organization can effectively represent cigar smokers exclusively.

“Industry” voices (both manufacturers and retailers) are important and should be supported. But the pure number of voting cigar smokers is a force they need to counter the anti-tobacco lobby. Join today and be proud that you’re a part of the solution.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje NHC Selección Limitada Natural

28 Mar 2012

These days lots of new blends are designated to be sold exclusively at brick and mortar tobacconists. But there are still many that can only be purchased online.

The Tatuaje NHC Selección Limitada falls into the latter category. It is only available at New Havana Cigars (hence the “NHC”), an online retailer based in Columbus, Ohio. Unlike most online retailers, NHC’s selection is limited to a handful of more boutique brands like Illusione, Viaje, E.P. Carrillo, and 7-20-4, including many rare limited releases. NHC even has its own brand—Surrogates—and some exclusive smokes like the My Uzi Weighs a Ton Bait Fish from Drew Estate and the Tatuaje NHC Selección Limitada.

“We are proud to feature this project for fans of NHC and Tatuaje,” reads the NHC website. “Produced by Pete Johnson and rolled at the My Father Cigars factory in Estelí, the NHC Selección Limitada is based on an original Tatuaje blend and available in both Natural and Reserva (broadleaf) wrappers.”

I sampled two Naturals for this review. Both measured 6.75 inches long with a ring gauge of 42. The cost per cigar is anywhere from $6 to $8, depending on how many you buy at once. That price range seems appropriate based on appearances alone. The smooth, slender Tatuaje NHC Selección Limitada Natural has a beautiful, clean, milk chocolate-colored wrapper, a handsome triple cap, and a slight box press. Sweet earthy notes are apparent off the wrapper and especially noticeable at the foot.

Once the Habano wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos are lit, a taste of contrasts emerges. On the one hand is a searing black pepper spice that bites the tip of the tongue. On the other is a caramel sweetness that’s most apparent on the aftertaste and in the resting smoke. The interplay is both palpable and enjoyable.

I could go on listing the other flavors that are apparent in the cigar—including chocolate, cedar, espresso, etc.—but your experience with the Selección Limitada Natural will likely be remembered for three traits. The first is the aforementioned interaction between spicy and sweet. The second is how classic-tasting the cigar is. And the third is its similarity to Tatuaje’s Brown Label, which isn’t terribly surprising since this cigar is said to be the same blend just in a different size.

With excellent construction, this is another winner from Pete Johnson and the talented folks at My Father Cigars. Only 500 boxes were produced, so be sure to check out this cigar fairly soon. It’s well worth the money and worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Berger & Argenti Entubar V32 Rogue Rothschild

27 Mar 2012

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a bit of an explosive theme in cigar names in recent years: Tatuaje Thermonuclear, 601 La Bomba, Don Pepin Garcia Firecracker, Viaje WMD, Viaje MOAB (Mother of all bombs)… you get the idea. Berger & Argenti’s Entubar V32 isn’t exactly of the same vein, but there’s something a little fuse-like about the entubar foot.

And the caution tape “advisory” tells you exactly how to light the fuse: “Thoroughly toast entire cigar foot before smoking.” Normally that’s obvious, but with the protruding entubaro scroll, the same as the original Berger & Argenti Entubar and Quad Maduro, it is actually good advice. I’d recommend a torch, as matches are quite a bit of work.

This Entubar cigar takes the V32 name because the center tube is thicker than the other lines (32 ring gauge to be specific). Essentially, it’s a small cigar of ligero in the middle of a larger cigar. The Nicaraguan puro features a Jalapa Valley wrapper around binder and filler tobaccos from the Estelí, Condega, Jalapa, and Jinotega regions.

The result is a full-bodied, balanced cigar with tons of chocolate and earth. The flavor is like a really good cup of hot chocolate (not that instant junk). With saltiness and wood notes that emerge towards the second half of the cigar, it is a very savory smoke.

Like all of Berger & Argenti’s collaborations that I’ve tried, construction is excellent. The cigar produces tons of smoke, draws easy, and burns evenly—a testament to the time-consuming entubaro bunching method. I smoked two of the “Rogue Rothschild” size (5.6 x 54), one of the four sizes available. Only 1,000 boxes of 20 of each size are being made (80,000 total). Between the limited run and time-consuming construction, the V32 is a pricey cigar, with prices ranging from $11 to $14 each.

Despite the high price, I found this to be a very impressive cigar. Savory, flavorful, and balanced, the V32 will appeal to almost all cigar smokers and is a must-try for maduro fans. Its flavors aren’t quite explosive, but they are well-rounded, deep, and complex. Personally, I liked it even more than the box-pressed Quad Maduro, which is no slouch of a cigar. That’s enough to earn the Berger & Argenti Entubar V32 Rogue Rothschild our highest rating of five stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here. A list of other five stogie-rated cigars can be found here.]

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Quesada Oktoberfest Bavarian

26 Mar 2012

I happened upon this stick at a local shop and couldn’t resist the dark, oily wrapper, the considerable heft, and a price tag around $7.25 a stick. I chose the smaller of the two sizes, a 52-ring gauge smoke that’s 5.5 inches long.

The limited edition did not disappoint. It’s a Dominican puro, but like so many cigars from the Dominican Republic these days, the Oktoberfest has little in common with what many of us think of as the light, toasty, typical smoke from that country.

The flavors are dark, rich, and full. Strength is medium to full, though light on nicotine punch.

From the first, the cigar produces smoke like a three-alarm fire. Quesada—which cleverly incorporated the German flag’s colors in the band along with its trademark tobacco leaf Q—promotes it as a cigar to pair with Oktoberfest-style beer. I’m not much of a beer drinker, so I can’t comment on that. I have smoked mine with coffee, and I can say that is a great match.

The Bavarian is a complex experience with flavors of dark cherry, burnt coffee, and an occasional bitter bite that sets them off well. The last third injects some tobacco sweetness into the mix.

The only negative was the burn. As you might expect, the wrapper didn’t burn as easily as the filler and binder and several touch-ups were necessary along the way.

This cigar strikes me as a good candidate for aging. A few years in the humidor could lead to an even smoother smoke.

If you see the Bavarian, or the larger Uber, and, like me, can’t resist, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It earns four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: @WMThorne

Quick Smoke: Viaje Skull and Bones (MOAB)

25 Mar 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.”

This “Mother of All Bombs” (the 2012 edition) is a slightly smaller version of the Father of All Bombs I reviewed earlier this week. The MOAB (4.5 x 52) also has an all Nicaraguan blend with a dark, ebony-colored, sun-grown criollo wrapper. The cigar features the same dark flavors as the FOAB, with charred oak, dark coffee, and damp earth, paired with some bready flavors. While not particularly different from it’s slightly larger Father, the MOAB was strong but not off-balance, with excellent construction. Even at $9 a stick, like the FOAB, this is an enjoyable cigar worth picking up if you can find one of just 7,500 that were made.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys