Archive | June, 2012

Quick Smoke: Tesa Gran Cru Limited Edition

30 Jun 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.”

Not to be confused with five-vitola Series Gran Cru line that has a criollo ’98 maduro wrapper, the Gran Cru Limited Edition is new to the Tesa portfolio. It was crafted by Chris Kelly as a one-size, box-pressed blend. Only 1,000 cigars were made, and Kelly tells me he sold almost his entire Gran Cru stash in a matter of weeks. So he has ordered his Estelí factory to produce more. I think that’s a wise decision. The Gran Cru—which boasts an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with a criollo ’98 binder from Jalapa and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos—is a testament to Kelly’s outstanding talents. The smoke has incredible balance with a woodsy core complimented by cream, salty peanut, and coffee. With top-notch construction, I’m going to get my hands on more of these while they’re still available.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 295

29 Jun 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) Anti-tobacco lawmakers and groups have been trying to pass a comprehensive statewide smoking ban in Indiana since 2007. In March, Governor Mitch Daniels finally signed a ban into law that criminalizes smoking in most workplaces in the Hoosier State, and that law goes into effect on Sunday. But it’s safe to say the anti-smoking zealots are less than satisfied since the law provides exemptions for bars, cigar shops, private clubs, and gaming facilities. They’d prefer smoking to be banned outright. So keep an eye on Indiana, as the new law expressly allows local governments to enact more stringent smoking regulations.

2) On the heels of the defeat of Prop. 29, more good news out of California. A bill that would have criminalized smoking in cigar shops and private clubs that are licensed to sell alcohol has died in committee. “Working with our state lobbyist, key area IPCPR retailers, and the Cigar Association of America, we worked with and educated the committee chair and leadership on this issue,” reads a press release issued by the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association. “The chair of the committee will not bring this bill back up for further consideration.”

3) Inside the Industry: La Aurora is producing another 20,000 cigars in the 100 Años blend in three sizes. Cigar Aficionado has announced its 17th Big Smoke Las Vegas will be held November 9-11 at the Mirage. Oliva’s newest line, the Serie V Melanio, will be the most expensive Oliva yet at $8 to $14 per cigar, and it will hit U.S. tobacconists in September.

4) Around the Blogs: Cigar Fan fires up an Oliva Serie V Lancero. Stogie Review reviews the Inferno by Oliva. Cigar Inspector inspects a Montecristo No. 4. Cigar Brief smokes the Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne Noir. Nice Tight Ash checks out the Arturo Fuente Solaris Microblend.

5) Deal of the Week: Here’s a rare Tatuaje blend that Tat fans should grab up before it (inevitably) sells out. The limited edition cigar features a dark San Andreas wrapper and sells for for $108 for a 15-cigar bundle, or $40 for a 5-pack.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Spirits: Knob Creek Rye

28 Jun 2012

During my college years, my father explained that there’s bourbon beyond shots of Jim Beam. His favorite bourbon, he told me as he shared a taste, was Knob Creek. The bourbon has been a favorite of mine ever since, even as I’ve tried plenty of other “craft” bourbons.

So when I saw Knob Creek was adding a third line (their second was a Single Barrel that I think very highly of) I knew I’d have to try it. I saw that it was on sale for $35 (normally $38 for a 750 ml. bottle) and quickly picked it up.

Knob Creek’s Rye was released this spring and quickly garnered praise, earning “Best Rye Whiskey” at the 2012 San Francisco Spirits Competition. The rye (which means at least 50& of the mash is made with rye, as opposed to bourbon which must be at least 50% corn) is bottled at 100-proof. According to its label it is “patiently aged” with the whiskies being as old as 9 years.

The result is a hearty rye with a deep amber color. The nose is filled with overwhelming spice and wood. The taste also reveals quintessential rye flavors: oak and pepper, with subtle dried fruit and tobacco. The finish is long, smooth, and savory.

Taken straight it’s spicy and explosive, but one or two ice cubes tames the beast. That makes it very versatile. It’s plenty good enough to drink on its own, but it also has all the makings of an excellent component to a Manhattan (a cocktail which, although regularly made with bourbon, is traditionally made with rye).

The spicy characteristics of this whiskey go great with a cigar. Almost any medium- or full-bodied cigar would work well, but I found the PG 15h Anniversary (pictured) and the Tatuaje Verocu to be particularly ideal pairings.

All in all, the Knob Creek Rye was highly enjoyable. It’s up there with the Bulleit Rye and Michter’s as my favorite rye whiskey, and certainly worth a try for anyone who enjoys or wants to explore rye whiskey.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Cigars as Therapy

27 Jun 2012

Folks who only enjoy a cigar once in a blue moon typically view cigars as luxuries for special occasions. Graduation. A promotion. The birth of a child. A wedding. You get the idea.

Those of us who consider cigars to be a happy and (much more) regular part of our lives, though, don’t require a special occasion to light up. Sure, we might save some of our most prized cigars for meaningful moments—even if that practice is somewhat discouraged by my colleague—but any day of the week is a good day for premium tobacco. For us, cigars are a meaningful component of who we are. We read about them. We collect and care for them. And we smoke them often.

If you, like me, smoke cigars during special occasions and most days in between, you may also find that, just as cigars can be a wonderful accompaniment to a joyous event, they can also be a therapeutic relief in stressful or trying times. When something goes wrong, it’s often a good idea to step back from the situation, reflect, and take a few moments to weigh your options or get your mind off the subject completely. These are good days to pull something nice from your humidor.

I’ll give you an example. Back in 2008, I was involved in a minor car accident that thankfully produced no injuries but still messed up my car. The car was pretty new at the time, and it was (and still is) the first new car I ever owned. It still had that new car smell. And, up until the accident, I was still obsessing over the tiniest of scratches.

Once the accident scene was cleared, the police report was filed, and the insurance company was contacted, I found myself back home replaying the event in my head over and over, stressing and worrying about the whole situation. Accidents happen. Cars can be fixed. But those truths weren’t making me feel any better.

So I did what any reasonable cigar enthusiast would do. I grabbed a nice smoke from my humidor, I poured myself a generous serving of rum, and I grabbed a seat on my patio to clear my head. I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet my heart rate and my blood pressure fell to more reasonable levels over the ensuing 90 minutes.

Since that crummy day, there have been dozens of times when a cigar helped me move past an unfortunate situation. Maybe you’ve also found cigars to be an excellent (and relatively cheap) source of therapy. If you haven’t yet, consider lighting up something nice the next time you need a quick reprieve from a stressful day. I think you’ll find the practice worthwhile.

The car did get fixed, by the way. All of the damage was cosmetic, yet costly to repair. It’s still running well and hopefully will be for years to come. The day it dies, though, you can bet I’ll be smoking a cigar.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: Room 101 One Shot One Kill Trucha

26 Jun 2012

As I noted last month when I reviewed the San Andreas, I didn’t know what to think when Camacho announced a partnership with jewelery maker Matt Booth, whose Room 101 brand is named after the torture room in George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The original Room 101, while far from a bad cigar, didn’t do much for me.

Since then, I’ve been far more impressed by Room 101. I’ve found Conjura, Namakubi, Connecticut, and the new San Andres all very enjoyable. Which is why I wanted to try the One Shot One Kill (OSAK), introduced earlier this year. (I did smoke a pre-release sample from an event last fall.)

The limited edition line has some interesting characteristics. It comes in three distinct perfecto sizes, from the small Filero (4.5 x 52-42) to the large Chingon (8 x 60-44), and features very original packaging. The cigars are wrapped in tissue paper, then placed in a decorative patterned paper tube, before being packed in boxes of ten. The unique band has stylized OSOK initials and a QR code on the back that sends you to Room 101’s Facebook page.

The blend is comprised of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Honduran corojo binder, and a combination of Honduran corojo and Dominican piloto ligero filler. I smoked the $10 Trucha size, which is 6.5 inches in length with a ring gauge that’s 19 at the foot and 50 at it’s widest point.

It’s a good looking cigar with a milk chocolate wrapper and a bit of shine. It’s well-constructed, with an open draw and an ash that holds for well-over an inch.

Once I light up the OSOK I find distinctly dry flavors: cedar, toast, slight cinnamon, and black pepper that hits the back of he tongue. It’s a medium-bodied cigar that lets off highly aromatic, cedary smoke. As it develops, it sheds some of its dryness. Earth and roasted flavors develop as the cigar gets near the 50% mark but, by the end, the dominant cedar flavor is back with vengeance.

If you like dry, cedar-driven smokes, then this is a must-try. But if you, like me, prefer more nuance and complexity, the one-dimensional aspect of the Room 101 may not be a big hit. Considering the price, I’d much prefer the Room 101 San Andres or Conjura. That doesn’t mean OSOK is a bad cigar. I rather enjoyed the first 30 minutes. I just didn’t find it interesting enough for an hour and a half cigar. The next time I smoke one, I’ll certainly be reaching for the smaller Filero. In the end, the Room 101 One Shot One Kill Trucha earns a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Illusione Epernay Le Matin

25 Jun 2012

This cigar boasts a lovely wrapper, excellent construction, and more flavors than you’ll find in a collection of three-star restaurant menus. This Illusione vitola, introduced in 2010, has become a favorite since I smoked my first one only a month or so ago.

I’ve read that the blend has no ligero and that seems believable. Le Matin is no nicotine horse choker. Instead, it’s a medium strength, complex cigar that, to me, can compete with any cigar in the world.

In fact, if there’s someone who’s convinced Cubans are the only ones worth smoking, I recommend Le Matin. Pour whatever you like to drink, light up this 6.75-inch lightly pressed cigar, and prepare to spend 90 minutes or more enthralled. The 46 ring gauge Nicaraguan puro burns slowly and cool with a tight ash.

It’s difficult to enumerate the flavors without sounding like a tasting wheel. There’s a sweetness in parts that lingers on the finish, a variety of floral notes, a bite at points that complements the spicy notes, and coffee undertones sprinkled throughout.

Like other creations of Don Giolito—interestingly, another cigar master and musician—Le Matin isn’t the easiest cigar to find. Frankly, I don’t think I’d seen it until recently when I quickly stocked up.

At around $11 per stick, the price may be a bit steep. But I can only tell you it’s worth every penny. If you aren’t initially committed to giving Le Matin the time and attention it deserves, you’ll probably find yourself abandoning whatever plans you had to focus on the cigar shortly after lighting up.

When Cigar Aficionado named Le Matin No. 7 on its list of top cigars for 2010, the magazine wrote about Giolito’s “impeccable quality.” I can only concur. For me, this is, without question, a smoke worthy of a rare 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.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Undercrown Belicoso

24 Jun 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.”

Many are quick to compare the Undercrown line, which debuted about a year ago, to Drew Estate’s famed Liga Privada No. 9 blend. I understand the interest in comparing the two but, the more I smoke it, the more I find Undercrown to be an excellent creation in its own right. The Belicoso (6 x 52) is no exception. It boasts a balanced, medium-bodied profile of coffee, peanut, spice, and mocha along with superb physical properties. This is an easy smoke to recommend and a solid buy at around $7, especially if you like San Andreas-wrapped cigars.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys