Archive | April, 2012

Cigar Face-Off: Padrón Executive Maduro vs. Padrón Executive Natural

30 Apr 2012

[Editor’s Note: “Cigar Face-Off” is a new feature where we compare and contrast cigars that share at least one important attribute. Please let us know what you think about the new feature in the comments below, and feel free to suggest two cigars for a future Face-Off.]

When most cigar enthusiasts think of Padrón, the lines that come to mind first are the Anniversary Series (both 1926 and 1964) and Family Reserve. Not to be overlooked is the original Padrón line, which includes over a dozen vitolas that are available in either Natural or Maduro formats. Each is comprised of Cuban-seed Nicaraguan tobacco.

The Executive is a double corona that measures 7.5 inches long with a ring gauge of 50. To see how the two varieties stack up in this format, I bought one Maduro and one Natural at a tobacconist in downtown Chicago. The cost was $7 each.

Padrón Executive Maduro

Unlike its counterpart, the Executive Maduro has a dark, noticeably oily wrapper that imparts a sensation of decadence and exudes pre-light notes of chocolate and earth. Based on first impressions, one might expect the taste to be akin to moist chocolate cake. The profile, however, is less sweet than expected with thick flavors of coffee, leather, and pepper.

The fine aroma of the resting smoke and the cigar’s balance help maintain my attention during the two-hour experience even though the actual profile of the smoke doesn’t change much from light to nub. All the while the physical properties are good, including a solid white ash and a straight burn.

Padrón Executive Natural

The Executive Natural doesn’t make as good of a first impression as the Maduro. It has a dry, mottled wrapper, several lumps, and even a few soft spots. I would have a hard time paying $7 for a cigar that looks like this unless the band was stamped with the venerable Padrón name. Or unless I had read/heard good things.

After establishing an even light, the cigar’s musty—somewhat minty—pre-smoke smell transitions to a taste of coarse pepper and cayenne spice. With plenty of heat on the lips, some sweetness or cream would go a long way towards balance. Just as I find myself thinking that, notes of dry cocoa join in, accompanied by coffee. This is how the cigar remains until the end. Good construction is exhibited throughout.


Given the amount of time and tobacco you get for $7, either of these smokes is a good buy. But I would have to give the slight edge to the Padrón Executive Natural. Its classic taste has a bit more complexity and balance, notwithstanding the deficiencies in appearance.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Palina El Diario Toro

29 Apr 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.”

La Palina’s El Diario is the first blend from La Palina that wasn’t made by Graycliff. El Diario, made at the Raices Cubana factory with oversight and blending assistance from Alec Bradley’s Alan Rubin, it’s a full-bodied smoke consisting of Nicaraguan and some Honduran tobacco. Earthy and rich, this well-constructed Toro is a perfect cigar to smoke with Knob Creek Single Barrel. While ultimately I slightly prefer the smaller KB “Kill Bill” size, I can certainly recommend the Toro (6 x 50).

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Emilio AF2 Toro

28 Apr 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.”

The AF2 line is made for Gary Griffith’s Emilio Cigars by A.J. Fernandez. The Toro (6 x 50) sports a clean Ecuadoran Habano wrapper, musty pre-light notes of earth, and a consistently firm feel from head to foot. Construction is about as perfect as you can get with a straight burn and a solid white ash, and the flavors don’t disappoint either. I found a profile of black pepper, cocoa, and green raisin that kept me interested throughout the 90-minute smoke. While the AF2 isn’t quite as exciting as my favorite Emilio line, Grimalkin, it’s still an excellent cigar that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 287

27 Apr 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) In just 15 days, over 25,000 people signed an online petition asking President Obama to instruct the Food & Drug Administration not to regulate premium cigars. This is a major accomplishment. Any petition that gets 25,000 signatories in twice that time is guaranteed to receive an official response from the White House. Ultimately, since Obama was a supporter of the FDA bill as a senator and later signed the bill into law as president, it’s unlikely that he’ll come out and announce the FDA will no longer consider regulating cigars. Still, the forthcoming official response will put the president on record and draw attention to all the jobs that would be destroyed by FDA regulation. A response may even lead to more attention for the two bills in Congress that would protect handmade cigars from the FDA once and for all. Thanks to all readers who signed the petition!

2) Florida officials seized $200,000 in counterfeit Cohiba cigars on Monday in a raid that hit Miami’s Little Havana district. But these cigars were not purporting to be Cuban; instead, their bands were marked with “Rebublica Dominicana” underneath the Cohiba name. Tobacco giant General Cigar owns the Cohiba trademark in the U.S. “Protecting cigar consumers from counterfeiters and maintaining the integrity of our products is a top priority for the company…” said Dan Carr, president of General Cigar.

3) Inside the Industry: A hailstorm in Jalapa, Nicaragua, did significant damage to Padrón’s wrapper crop for their 1964 Anniversary Series. Jorge Padrón told Cigar Aficionado that 9o% of the crop was rendered unusable, but because of Padrón’s extensive tobacco inventory and aging, the impact, if any at all, won’t be felt for years.

4) Around the Blogs: Nice Tight Ash checks out a Roma Craft Intemperance EC XVIII Faith. Cigar Fan fires up a Jameson Red Label. Cigar Inspector inspects the E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut Short Run 2012. Cigar Explorer explores a Tatuaje Lil’ Drac.

5) Deal of the Week: Famous Smoke Shop is offering some valuable coupon deals on its wide selection of cigars. Click here and enter coupon code “SAV15IMPRD” at checkout to save $15 on orders of $100 or more, or click here and enter coupon code “FRSHPIMPRD” to get free shipping on orders $50 or more.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Spirits: A Perfectly Cooked Steak

26 Apr 2012

First, let me acknowledge that a steak is not a “spirit” according to any reasonable definition of the word. Still, steak accompanies a cigar in such an excellent way that I feel perfectly comfortable including steak in our Spirits category with scotches, bourbons, and rums.

While I don’t usually smoke a cigar while eating a steak, a well-cooked steak and a glass of wine are pretty much always the prelude to a cigar. Something about the savory nature of a steak and a glass of wine (a good Rhone, Bordeaux, or California cabernet) just begs for a good cigar.

To that end, I’ve been cooking steaks for a while now and I have a few tricks that make my steaks extra tasty (and worthy of an after-dinner cigar). What follows are my personal tips.

Most important is picking the right steak. While filet mignon is a great cut of meat (especially at a steakhouse), when I’m cooking I prefer a ribeye or strip steak, both of which have more fat (and thus more flavor). Steaks are graded on their marbling, and while Prime are the best cuts (and the most expensive), Choice cuts offer excellent quality for the price (the next level down is Select). A good Choice cut at least one inch thick is perfect.

Next, season your steak with salt and pepper. Let it get to room temperature before you cook it (this is important), then liberally apply course salt and pepper just before cooking.

Forgo the grill and instead use a combination of a cast iron skillet on the stovetop and the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and simultaneously heat up a cast iron skillet, the hotter the better. Brown each side of the steak for a few minutes (until it begins to blacken) in the dry, hot skillet (without butter or oil). Then finish it in the oven until it firms up (only a few minutes is needed if you like your steaks medium-rare like I do).

Pull it out of the oven quickly then let it sit for five minutes. It will continue to cook while you wait. The result is an excellent, tender, flavorful steak that’s blackened on the edges while still rare and juicy in the middle.

Accompanied with a nice glass of fine wine, there is no better prelude to a good cigar. Cooked right, it’s as good as any steak you’ll have at an expensive steakhouse and it’s the perfect introduction to a fine medium- or full-bodied cigar with a scotch or bourbon.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Storage Wars (Multiple Humidors)

25 Apr 2012

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one large humidor in your home, preferably a walk-in, with all the cigars easily accessible, sorted by name, and labeled with received dates? It would make aging simpler, humidification easier to monitor, and your whole stash more organized.

Sometimes I think those of us who regularly visit the online cigar community, or those of us who write for it, automatically assume every reader has one elaborate cigar storage setup that costs thousands of dollars. I’m sure some do. But I don’t. And chances are you don’t, either. That said, I want to be clear that I’m not complaining. As I’ve written before, I’m fortunate to have a wonderful cigar den that allows ample room for my humidors, as well as nice space for indoor smoking during those cold Chicago winters. While I may not have a walk-in teeming with the world’s rarest and most expensive smokes, I’m certainly happy and thankful for what I have.

All this isn’t to say that my setup doesn’t present some challenges. It does, and I think many of the challenges apply to the average cigar consumer. So I figured I’d outline my top two challenges—and the solutions I’ve concocted to confront them—so the information can help others (or with hopes that you have comments and suggestions about how I might improve my own setup).

First, let me say that at any given time I have anywhere from five to seven humidors. The variance is explained by the fact that, depending on inventory, I sometimes outfit two large Tupperware containers with humidification beads and Spanish cedar to store spillover smokes. In a perfect world I would only have one very large humidor to worry about, not a handful of medium- to small-sized humidors. But because the five traditional wooden humidors all carry sentimental value (i.e., the one I got for my wedding that’s engraved with the wedding date) I can’t bring myself to consolidate. Plus, given the space I have in our condo in Chicago, one very large humidor would be a lot tougher to make space for.

One challenge with this setup is monitoring the humidification levels of each individual humidor. Each humidor seems to hold onto humidity differently, and that can make proper maintenance difficult. My solution? Once every so often (more often in the winter, when the natural air humidity is lower) I examine and rotate the cigars in each humidor. I also check to see if the humidification device in each humidor needs to be “recharged.”

The second challenge—especially with all the rotation—is keeping track of which cigars are stored where. I combat this by keeping brands together (i.e., Tatuaje with Tatuaje, PDR with PDR, etc.) and then noting in a spreadsheet which brands are in which humidor. This isn’t perfect because it requires me to reference a document if I’m looking for something in particular. But I’ve found it helpful. I’m considering doing something similar but, instead of organizing the cigars by brand, organizing them by type (i.e., cigars that need to be reviewed, golf course smokes, special cigars for special occasions, etc.).

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how to improve my setup. Or, if you have a completely different setup/strategy, please feel free to share in the comments below as well.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Pinar del Rio Small Batch Reserve Maduro Robusto

24 Apr 2012

Certain cigars just look like they’re going to taste good, and the Pinar del Rio Small Batch Reserve Maduro fits that bill. It features a deep brown, oily wrapper, firm construction, and a triple-cap, all framed by a simple but classic-looking white band. Even before I tasted my first, at least visually, it reminded me of one of my favorites, the Liga Privada No. 9.

Pinar del Rio has been making cigars out of its Don Leoncio factory in Tamboril in the Dominican Republic, but the new Small Batch line is the first (along with the upcoming Flores y Rodriguez) to come out of their new PDR Cigars factory, which is also in the Dominican.

Like the Small Batch Reserve Habano, the Maduro utilizes the entubar bunching technique to combine corojo-seed viso, seco, and ligero tobaccos from Estelí and the Dominican Republic as the filler with a Dominican criollo ’98 binder. Three sizes are available: Gran Toro (6 x 54), Robusto (5 x 52), and Torpedo (6.5 x 52) in both the Habano and the Maduro. The latter has a dark Brazilian ligero leaf with an appetizing sheen.

Once lit, the Small Batch Rserve Maduro shows a nice combination of cocoa, molasses, and a slight woodiness. It’s medium-bodied to start but the flavors build to become fuller by the final third.

The flavors are balanced and savory. It’s a great combination of the best of Nicaragua and the Dominican, with earth, woodiness, dried fruit, and a touch of spice. The solid white ash looks like a thick piece of chalk. Flawless construction and a perfectly straight burn are maintained throughout the hour-plus smoke.

I smoked two PDR Small Batch Maduros (which I received as pre-release samples) and I can only conclude that I will be purchasing more soon, especially at a reasonable price of around $7 each. It’s not hard to see that both of the new Small Batch cigars by Pinar del Rio will be hits, but I think the Pinar del Rio Small Batch Reserve Maduro is even better than the Habano, which is why the Maduro earns a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys