Archive | January, 2013

Cigar Review: J. Grotto Reserve Lancero Limitado

31 Jan 2013

Haven’t heard of J. Grotto? Don’t feel bad. Until recently, I knew nothing about the line made by the Rhode Island-based Ocean State Cigars.

J-GrottoFortunately, the company doesn’t make its cigars in the Ocean State, but at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras, one of the hottest and most prolific factories around. Raices also rolls cigars for Illusione, Alec Bradley, Viaje, and a number of other brands.

The J. Grotto Reserve has Honduran ligero and Nicaraguan Jalapa filler surrounded by a Honduran Criollo ’98 binder and a Criollo ’99 wrapper. The Lancero (7.5 x 41) is a new addition to a line that also includes a Gran Corona (5.6 X 46), Gran Robusto (5 X 52), Gran Toro (6 x 52), and Gordo (6 x 60).

According to a press release from the company, production of the limited release Lancero was delayed three months due to demand-driven production delays at Raices Cubanas. Even when the delay was overcome, only 1,000 total cigars were made with 100 boxes of 10 being reserved for stores hosting J. Grotto events. (I received three cigars to sample directly from Ocean State.)

It’s a good-looking Lancero with a reddish wrapper that features a bit of oil. It’s a bit spongy but, when it comes to the lancero size, this doesn’t bother me; an overly tight draw is a far more common problem on long, thin vitolas.

Once lit, I find a flavor profile dominated by clove and nutmeg. There’s also earth and roast cashew, with just a hint of cedary spice on the finish, the only spice the cigar demonstrates. Construction is excellent, with no ill effects from the seemingly loose draw.

The cigar is medium-bodied and mostly balanced, though it adds some grittiness towards the final third. It’s smooth, flavorful, and highly enjoyable. The smoothness comes, I suspect, from the fact that the cigar is made of tobacco that has been aged three full years.

At $7.95 per cigar, this is an impressive smoke worth seeking out, even if finding it may be difficult (retailers that do get it will only be getting four boxes each). With smooth, medium-bodied flavors and excellent construction, the J. Grotto Reserve Lancero Limitado earns an impressive four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Check Out the New Screwpop Cigar Punch Cutter

30 Jan 2013

Most of us are all too familiar with the many cigar-related gadgets on the market. From cigar holders for the golf course to unique and expensive lighters, cutters, and humidor accessories, the manufacturers and retailers of these products would have us believe that no cigar enthusiast is complete without gadgets. Nothing could be further from the truth.

ScrewpopBut I’m willing to consider utilitarian products that I can envision being helpful on a routine basis—especially if they’re inexpensive. The new Screwpop Cigar Punch falls into this category. I’ve been using one for the past couple of weeks (provided to me by Screwpop, in the interest of full disclosure), and I’ve found it to be a decent addition to my keychain.

The Screwpop Cigar Punch is a bottle opener/punch cutter that securely clamps around a keychain (or pretty much anything else—like a clip on a golf bag, a belt loop, or the eyelet of a zipper). It has a rust-resistant body comprised of aluminum so, while it will add bulk to your keychain, it certainly won’t weigh you down.

As a bottle opener, it works perfectly. To reveal the cigar punch, simply unscrew the aluminum cap. The punch itself is sharp and functions just as you’d expect. I’ve tried it on a number of cigars of varying size and wrapper type and found no problems. Just like any other punch, though, you wouldn’t want to use it on torpedos.

My only concern with the product is the possibility of losing the screw cap that protects the punch. Once separated, there’s nowhere to affix the cap as you’re punching the cigar. Obviously, if you were to lose the cap, you may not want to keep Screwpop on your keychain or elsewhere since the sharp cutter will be exposed. Accidents happen.

That said, I can recommend this product to cigar enthusiasts who prefer punch cuts and also have an affinity for beer. And at only $7.95 from Cigars International, you won’t have to break the bank to give it a try.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Hooker’s House Rye

29 Jan 2013

I enjoyed Hooker’s House Bourbon—bottled by Prohibition Spirits—when I tried it last summer. Enough so that when I saw they were adding a rye, I felt it was well worth a try.

Hooker's House RyeI’ve become skeptical of bourbon (or rye) bottled by companies that don’t distill their own whiskey, many of which just seem to slap their label on spirit they had no role in making. Hooker’s House, on the other hand, doesn’t hide the fact that they didn’t make the whiskey, but they do finish it in wine barrels that create a distinct spirit.

Plus, I have a strong suspicion that I know who makes the rye that Prohibition Spirits finishes in used California Zinfandel barrels. The number of places that make rye is limited, and the places that sell aged stock is even smaller. Between the lack of Kentucky in the marketing material and the extremely high rye content of 95%, it all points to the Indiana-based Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), the former Seagrams distillery that provides 95% rye for Bulleit, George Dickel, Templeton, High West, and others.

Each of those ryes is its own twist on LDI’s recipe (againg, barrels, filtration, etc…) and Hooker’s House is a “Sonoma-style American rye” because it places the rye in used Sonoma Zinfandel barrels. They don’t give a specific age statement for this 94-proof spirit, but the fact that it is described as “straight rye whiskey” means all the rye has at least 4 years of time in new charred oak barrels.

The result is a rye with a deep copper color and a spicy, woody nose with citrus and cassis. The taste has lots of rye spice—wood and pepper—plenty of heat, and hints of cherry, mint, and vanilla. The finish is long and hot, with more oak and mint.

While the Hooker’s House rye is pleasant enough, it has a rough and unbalanced edge, especially compared to their bourbon. It does, however, make a great Manhattan.

Straight up, or in a cocktail, Hooker’s House Rye calls for a full-bodied cigar. Either an earthy Nicaraguan smoke (like the Fausto) or a woody, spicy Dominican (like the Opus X).

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Consul

28 Jan 2013

These days, when you think of Joya de Nicaragua, you might think of CyB, the company’s newest line, or José Blanco, its popular and prolific senior vice president. You may even think of Drew Estate, which distributes Joya de Nicaragua cigars in the U.S.

JdN ConsulJust a few years ago, though, I’d bet the first thing to come to mind would be Antaño, Joya de Nicaragua’s strong line of rich cigars that was introduced in 2002. The aptly-named Antaño blend (which translates to “yesteryear”) was crafted, according to Joya’s website, “as a tribute to recapture the power and essence of the puro that made this legendary brand the most sought-after cigar in the U.S. in the post-Cuban Embargo 1970s.”

Ten Antaño vitolas are available, including Consul (4.5 x 52), which retails in the affordable $5-6 range. It is handmade in Estelí—at a factory I’ve personally had the privilege to tour with Blanco and Jonathan Drew—and is intended to be “an ultra-robust, spicy smoke with unbridled body and aroma.”

This stout, old-school cigar is firm with a dense packing of tobaccos. The Habano-seed wrapper is moderately oily with only the thinnest veins, and the rough cap cuts to reveal a smooth pre-light draw. The fragrance at the foot is of cocoa, earth, and hay.

After establishing an even light, a profile of cedar and black pepper hits hard, followed by a solid nicotine kick. The aroma is sweet and almost creamy—a nice contrast to the powerful taste of the smoke. The texture is thick and leathery. Halfway through, a dried fruit flavor emerges. Nothing terribly complex going on here, just traditional, tasty, and straightforward.

As with most cigars, smoking the Antaño 1970 Consul slowly and through the nose pays great dividends, putting all the flavors on full display and keeping the bold smoke from becoming hot or harsh. I never like to rush a cigar, especially one that smokes so well. The Consul has a wonderful burn line, an easy draw that produces ample smoke, and a solid ash that holds firm.

This creation stands as a great example that a cigar doesn’t have to be new or trendy to be good. A classic-tasting, full-bodied, after-dinner smoke at a reasonable price, the Antaño 1970 Consul earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje 7th Capa Especial

27 Jan 2013

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.”

I was a fan of the 7th Capa Especial (5.9 x 46) when it first was released, quickly smoking my way through one of the first boxes available. The cigar features a rustic Sumatra wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos. Except for the wrapper, it’s the same blend as the regular Tatuaje Brown Label. While this particular cigar had many of the coffee and earth flavors I remembered, it lacked the sweetness and balance that made the Tatauje 7th Capa Especial a favorite of mine. Maybe this particular stick was dud—I’m certainly not writing off the blend with one subpar stick out of a few dozen—but for $8-9 I would expect better.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Dona Flor Reserva Especial Robusto

26 Jan 2013

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.”

Dona Flor Reserva Especial Robusto

I’ve been a fan of Dona Flor since I was introduced to the Brazilian company’s cigars in 2006. More recently, when Dona Flor re-launched in the U.S. market this summer, I enjoyed reviewing the Puro Mata Fina and Seleção lines, both of which I liked. The Reserva Especial is another good blend with solid flavors of tea, earth, chocolate, and leather. But I find the Robusto (5 x 52) has occasional stale notes and some burn issues, so I can’t fully endorse the smoke—especially since it retails for $12.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 321

25 Jan 2013

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.

No Smoking1) With the new year well underway, state legislatures across the U.S. are reconvening—and you can bet a wide variety of cigar-related bills are up for consideration. In Washington, a smoking ban exemption has been introduced on behalf of tobacco shops and cigar lounges (yes, it’s currently illegal to smoke inside tobacco shops or lounges in Washington). In Virginia and New Jersey, cigar tax hikes are in the works. In Oregon, some lawmakers are hoping to enable municipalities to place additional excise taxes on tobacco. And in Hawaii, banning smoking on beaches, tobacco display regulations, and excise taxes are all being considered. Be sure to keep an eye out for threats to cigar rights in your neck of the woods.

2) Anti-tobacco zealots also continue to push for outdoor smoking bans. The latest fight is in Marshall County, West Virginia, where officials will be voting on a measure that would criminalize smoking in parks, playgrounds, outdoor dining areas, fairs, and festivals. West Virginia does not currently have a statewide ban, but Marshall County prohibits smoking inside restaurants. For now, county bars, tobacco shops, and private clubs are still afforded the freedom to choose their own smoking policies.

3) Inside the Industry: Alec Bradley’s candela-wrapped St. Patrick’s Day cigar is changing names. Originally called the “Dirty Hooligan,” the cigar is now called “Filthy Hooligan,” a move designed to ensure no trademark issues with Drew Estate, purveyors of the Dirty Rat. According to Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley, “I had to make a decision that was based on integrity. The product is good enough to sell on its own, no matter what we called it.”

4) Around the Blogs: Stogie Review reviews the Tatuaje Apocalypse. Tiki Bar kicks back with a La Gloria Cubana Trunk Show LR-1. Nice Tight Ash checks out an Emilio Series H Maduro. A Cigar Smoker smokes the 601 La Bomba. Cigar Coop fires up an Asylum 13. Cigar Inspector inspects a Ramón Allones Superiores.

5) Deal of the Week: In case you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s a deal created just for readers. The “Stogie Guys Cigar Sampler”—offered by longtime supporter Corona Cigar—contains seven cigars for $29.95 (plus free shipping on your entire order). It includes limited edition cigars from Avo and Davidoff, plus cigars from by Rocky Patel, J.C. Newman, Casa Fernandez, and two Corona “house” blends. Pick yours up here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys