Archive | November, 2012

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 314

30 Nov 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) Davidoff is celebrating 2013 being the year of the snake with a Davidoff 2013 “Year Of The Snake” Edition. The Churchill (7 x 48) features an Ecuador “701” wrapper around a San Vicente Seco binder and a combination of Piloto Seco, San Vicente Ligero, Piloto Viso, and hybrid 192 Seco/Yamasá filler. The cigar sells for $29.90 or $240 for a box of 8. Only 4,500 boxes are being produced.

2) Once again, Tampa’s cigar history comes alive with a festival celebrating the city’s rich heritage. Cigar makers, retailers, and food and drink vendors will be among those on hand for the Tampa Cigar Festival tomorrow at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park downtown. It lasts from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a $5 admission fee. Part of the proceeds go to Southeastern Guide Dogs.

3) Inside the Industry: This year Nicaragua is expected to supplant the Dominican Republic as the top exporter of premium cigars to the U.S. despite lagging far behind the Dominican and Honduras only a decade ago. Habanos SA has named Walfrido Hernandez Mesa a co-president to serve alongside Buenaventura Jiménez Sanchez-Cañete.

4) Around the Blogs: Cigar Fan fires up an Ashton ESG 22 Year Salute. Stogie Review reviews La Musa by Emilio. Nice Tight Ash checks out a La Zona Espinosa. Tiki Bar kicks back with an Oliva Serie V Melanio. Cigar Inspector inspects a Fuente 8-5-8 Rosado.

5) Deal of the Week: Emerson’s Cigars is featuring a “Deal of the Year” with 20 cigars and a humidor for $99. Included are four each of the Vega Fina Fortaleza Toro, Trinidad Paradox Toro, Vega Fina Toro, Montecristo Platinum Toro, Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real Toro, and Montecristo Platinum humidor.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Davidoff

Cigar Review: 7-20-4 Lancero

29 Nov 2012

I’ve come to believe that Kurt Kendall’s 7-20-4 brand represents the best of the latest variation of cigar entrepreneur. I’d put Gary Griffith of Emilio Cigars in a similar category. Both successfully ran cigar shops before working with first one cigar factory then others to create their own cigars, fueled primarily on their own passion. Both are small business cigar operations that keep the larger operations on their toes.

While the brand has historic roots stretching back to 1874 (once over 50 million cigars were produced in New Hampshire each year), the newest version of 7-20-4 was introduced in 2008. The complex, five-nation blend is rolled in Honduras utilizing Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Mexican long-fillers, a Colombian binder, and a Brazilian mata fina wrapper.

This line has long been a favorite if mine, combining a reasonable price point ($5-7 each) with enjoyable flavors. The smallest size, the Dog Walker (4.25 x 40), is one I’ve particularly enjoyed as a small cigar that provides full flavors.

Given that, I was particularly interested to try the newest size of the 7-20-4 line, the Lancero (7.5 x 38). (Kendall has also introduced a Lancero in his 7-20-4 1874 Series blend.) In many, but certainly not all, cigars, the proportions of the Lancero yield the best representation of the blend with high amounts of wrapper flavor versus binder and filer. Kendall says he made the Lancero for himself, only deciding to make it a full production size after being encouraged by those he shared them with. So far about 500 boxes have been made.

Wrapped in a cedar sleeve, the Brazilian wrapper has a little shine and minimal veins. Once lit, I find a medium- to full-bodied combination of flavors with maple syrup, earth, and hints of coffee and chocolate. As it progresses, balanced yet intense notes emerge. The Lancero has excellent construction start to finish, with a even burn, stable ash, and an easy draw. That’s particularly notable given that some lanceros tend to have tight draws.

While I enjoy the 7-20-4 line in general, I think the smaller ring gauge formats are the best representations of the blend. The Dogwalker is a great small cigar, and the Lancero is an even better cigar, with it’s long and slender proportions. (The Gagger (6 x 60), on the other hand, is my least favorite of the line.) Oozing sweetness and intense flavors, the 7-20-4 Lancero is yet another example of a small ring gauge cigar demonstrating the best of a blend. That’s why it earns four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Liga Privada Único Serie Velvet Rat

28 Nov 2012

Back on October 19, after finishing my day job in the Loop, I made the short trek to Tesa, a Chicago shop and lounge that’s home to some of my favorite boutique cigars. But on this particular occasion I wasn’t looking for Tesa’s Series Gran Cru, Vintage Especial, or even the new Limited Edition. I instead came in search of the elusive Velvet Rat.

It was finally the long-awaited day when Drew Estate was to make available 40 pre-release bundles of 10 Dirty Rats, limiting purchases to a handful of smokes per customer. This was, after all, a soft release; the nationwide full release of the Dirty Rat won’t take place until mid-2013.

For this particular night, the cigars were only available at Tesa, a longtime supporter of Jonathan Drew. And enthusiasts from around the entire Chicagoland area came in droves get their hands on a few Dirty Rats, as well as peruse the selection of other Drew Estate and Tesa cigars. But the focus was understandably on the Velvet Rat, which was selling for $14 apiece for its single size (6.25 x 46).

The Velvet Rat is the ninth cigar from Drew Estate to be designated “Único Serie,” the others being Papas Fritas, UF-13, Feral Flying Pig, L40, UF-4, A, Ratzilla, and Dirty Rat. It sports a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, Brazilian mata fina binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua. This blend was only finalized at the end of the summer. It is intended to be a lighter, creamier experience than the Liga Privada No. 9.

The mottled cigar is dark and reddish with a handsome pigtail cap and very faint pre-light notes of caramel and nougat. Once lit, the profile is a little spicier than anticipated with black pepper on the finish. This quickly settles, however, into a sweeter, milder flavor that reminds me of coffee, syrup, and caramel. In other words, very nice and expertly balanced.

Even as the cigar progresses into its second and final thirds, the body remains decidedly sweeter and lighter than the Liga 9. The texture is chalky and a little syrupy as flavors of cocoa, nut, and cream come and go. The phrase “moist chocolate cake” comes to mind. All this is paired with the sort of physical properties I’ve come to expect from La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate: perfect burn line, solid white ash, and easy draws that produce large volumes of smoke. You can’t argue with that.

I’ll admit my expectations for this cigar were exceptionally high. But I’m happy to report those expectations were met. The Velvet Rat is a memorable, well-balanced smoke with interesting flavor and (I would argue) more nuance than the Liga 9 or any other Drew Estate cigar that comes to mind. For me, it’s worthy of a very 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.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Breuckelen Distilling 77 Whiskey White Wax (Rye and Corn)

27 Nov 2012

As a whiskey fan and a New Yorker, I’ve always been quick to give New York spirits a shot. Such was the case when I came across this whiskey from Breuckelen Distillery in Brooklyn.

Breukelen is made in Sunset Park, barely a mile from the neighborhood where I grew up. While I hadn’t heard of the operation until I saw it in a Park Slope wine shop, the distillery seems to have cut its teeth making small batch boutique gin and, more recently, moving into whiskey.

They call their whiskeys “77 Whiskey” and they come in two varieties: Black Wax (made from 100% New York wheat) and White Wax, which I picked up for $42 for a bottle. White Wax utilizes local New York grains (90% rye and 10% corn).

The whiskey is relatively young (just 235 days to be exact) and demonstrates surprising complexity for its age. Light and copper-colored, it features a bright nose with sugared dates and cherries. The palate has tropical fruit, oak, and pepper with a gritty mouthfeel and quite a bit of alcoholic heat. The medium-length finish has oak and dried fruit.

It’s an interesting spirit that goes well with a variety of cigars, particularly full-bodied cigars. I tried it with a Tatuaje Halloween Mummy, RoMaCraft Aquitaine, Oliva Serie V, and an Aging Room Quattro, while all of which paired very well.

Essentially a rye whiskey, the youth of the 77 Whiskey leaves quite a bit of grittiness, but it still has plenty of interesting flavors. I suspect Breuckelen Distilling releases this so young in part because the cost of aging it longer would tie up too much capital, and yet if they ever decide to leave this spirit in barrels for a few years I think it could be fantastic. Still, it’s an interesting, artisanal whiskey with lots of character.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XIV)

26 Nov 2012

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ponder newspaper names, one of my favorite new cigars, fancy humidors, and pre-light aromas.

Just What this Country Needs

As a retired journalist, I’m always interested in newspapers. Recently I came across the first mention I’d seen of a college paper that’s my new favorite: The Good 5¢ Cigar. It’s the student paper at the University of Rhode Island. According to Wikipedia, the paper was born after an earlier paper printed in 1971 a blank edition with only the words: “This is what you deserve.” That paper was shuttered and the new one got its name when editors recast Vice President Thomas Marshall’s famous line to “All this campus needs is a good five-cent cigar.”

Magnificent Melanio

It’s nice to have your opinions validated, and I felt that way when flipping through the latest issue of Cigar Snob magazine. Leading off the coverage of the summer’s industry trade show was its choice of the best new cigar. They chose Oliva’s Melanio. Although I didn’t get an opportunity to visit Oliva when I was at the show, I’ve been most enthusiastic since encountering Melanio.

High-End Humidors

I don’t remember how I came to view the Website for JR-Quality, woodworkers extraordinaire. The two Austrian artists, based in Chicago, do restoration as well as create an array of items from furniture to cigar humidors. Although they may be beyond the price range of most of us, their humidors are wonderful creations. Take a look. That way you’ll be ready when you win the lottery.

Appreciating the Fragrance

One of the most satisfying and, I fear, least indulged aspects of cigar appreciation is the pre-light aroma of the wrapper. “Barnyard” seems to be the most frequent description, a wonderful bouquet but by no means the only one. I thought about this recently when I ran a San Cristobal under my nose and was knocked out by the sweet mixture of fragrances. A CyB produced similar delight with an altogether rich and different experience. I find some cigars have most distinctive wrapper aroma. The Padrón 1000s series, for example, always reminds me of nuts. Before you light up again, take a moment to appreciate the olfactory properties.

George E

photo credit: Wikipedia

Quick Smoke: Oliva Serie V Double Robusto

25 Nov 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 cigar burst on the scene a few years ago, as Oliva was establishing itself as a creator of full-bodied, premium cigars. Most of the company’s previous blends had been milder and toward the value end of the price spectrum. Years later, it’s still an excellent, consistently well-made cigar, even if it doesn’t have all of the buzz it once did. With cocoa, leather, espresso, and earth, along with excellent construction, it’s a cigar I turn to often. Although I think I slightly prefer the new Serie V Melanio blend, I can heartily recommend this cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Angelenos Robusto

24 Nov 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.”

Made at Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia under the direction of Carlito Fuente, Angelenos is a six-size line offered by God of Fire. The Robusto measures 5.25 inches long with a ring gauge of 50. Its golden Ecuadorian wrapper combines with Dominican binder and filler tobaccos to yield a mild flavor of cream, ginger, spice, dried fruit, and peanut. The result is a bready, satisfying smoke with excellent construction. With a price of $9.50, this is a nice morning to mid-afternoon cigar, and a great accompaniment to a cup of coffee.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys