Archive | July, 2013

Cigar Review: Sindicato Hex Perfecto

31 Jul 2013

Sindicato was clearly one of the most anticipated new cigar companies at this month’s industry trade show in Las Vegas. And that came as no surprise. It is the first cigar outfit to be launched by a formidable “syndicate” of veteran tobacco retailers.

Sindicato HexThese retailers include Abe Dababneh (Smoke Inn in Florida), Dan Jenuwine (Quality Fresh Cigars in Michigan), Gary Pesh (Old Virginia Tobacco in Virginia), Robert Roth (Nice Ash Cigars in New York and Pennsylvania), and Jeff Borysiewicz (Corona Cigar Company in Orlando). The group is headed by Jim Colucci, formerly executive vice president of sales for Altadis. So while Sindicato is new, it’s getting a great head start with a base of 45 top retailers—not to mention some of the biggest, most sought-after retailers in the industry.

Three distinct brands comprise the Sindicato lineup. Casa Bella is a “premium bundle” smoke from the Dominican Republic with prices around $2 per cigar. Affinity is an Ecuadorian Connecticut-wrapped blend with a mild profile that “delivers a rich, flavorful, and complex taste.” And Hex, Dababneh’s personal favorite, will be sold as “a refined medium- to full-bodied cigar.”

Hex sports a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around tobaccos from Condega, Nicaragua. It is available in five sizes, including the Perfecto (6.25 x 52) which retails for $183.75 for a box of 21. The Perfecto is a gorgeous, pigtail-capped smoke with an oily shine and negligible veins or seams. A big aroma of earth, cocoa, and red pepper is apparent off the tapered foot.

One might assume a cigar as dark and menacing as this would have a powerful, spicy intro. But that’s not the case. After setting an even light, a balanced, medium-bodied profile of black cherry, dry wood, and white pepper emerges. The smoke production is solid and the mouth-feel is velvety. Little changes from beginning to end, save for a slight increase in intensity.

The Perfecto burns nicely with a thick, black mascara that requires no torch touch-ups. The solid, gray ash hangs off the foot well, and the draw remains moderate throughout. Interestingly, resting smoke only emanates from the foot a few seconds after each puff; otherwise, when sitting un-smoked, virtually no smoke is produced.

This young cigar isn’t a nicotine ass-kicker or a spicy flavor-bomb. Rather, it dominates the palate in a different way: with an oily, palate-coating texture that, I think, begs to be paired with sipping bourbon. I wonder how it will age. Right now, I find it works best in the evening after a meal, and I’m awarding it a very solid rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Nica Rustica

30 Jul 2013

When I visited Drew Estate three months ago it was clear that the My Uzi Weighs a Ton Kentucky Fire Cured (MUWAT KFC) would be released at the (then-upcoming) 2013 IPCPR Trade Show. For the blend called Nica Rustica, the immediate future seemed far less clear.

Nica-RusticaAt the time, I was given a pre-release sample which I described as “gritty, rustic, slightly vegetable, and even a bit grating.” That blend included a unique and nontraditional (for cigars) strain of tobacco that grows wild in Nicaragua. I’m told that tobacco has been eliminated from the final release.

Nica Rustica is being introduced in trunk-like boxes of 48 comprised of two 24-count bundles. Retailers, I was told at the Trade Show, could order full boxes or simply refill bundles of 24. Frankly, this strategy is pretty smart on Drew Estate’s part. Retailers essentially get to sell the cigar in bundle form (I say that in the purely packaging sense) without it actually being a bundle cigar (which, fair or not, carries certain prejudices).

The cigar comes in just one size (at least for now; Liga Privada was also first introduced in just one size): 6 inches with a 52 ring gauge with a pigtail cap  and a closed foot. The cigar’s suggested retail price is $6.95. (I smoked two for this review, both given to me at the Trade Show.)

The cigar uses Connecticut Broadleaf “mediums” for its wrapper, as compared to “No. 1 Darks” for the Liga Privada No. 9. The binder is Mexican San Andres Negro (the same type used as wrapper on the Undercrown) while the fillers are Nicaraguan, from Estelí and Jalapa.

Drew Estate says the strength is medium to full and I’m inclined to agree. It’s full of flavor with dry cocoa, wood, and black pepper, along with a hint of vegetal flavors that grates on the roof of your mouth. As you might expect from the blend, it shares many qualities with both the Liga No. 9 blend and Undercrown. But the flavor isn’t nearly as refined or dense as the Liga No. 9, nor are the flavors as  balanced or sweet as Undercrown.

Construction is absolutely impeccable, something it shares with both the other aforementioned Drew Estate cigars. The draw is flawless (something Jonathan Drew calls critical to Drew Estate’s success) and I’m always amazed at the volume of aromatic smoke Drew Estate’s cigars produce, even when just perched on the side of my ashtray between draws.

Nica Rustica is billed as “rustic, un-polished, un-refined,” and that’s pretty spot-on. It lacks balance and harmony, but attempts to make up for those deficiencies with plenty of strong, dominant flavors. Drew Estate is upfront about this trade-off. The similarity to Drew Estate’s other popular lines, combined with the price, nearly guarantees it will be a hit.

I place high value on balance and nuance, which is what amazes me about Liga Privada, which so flawlessly marries balance and complexity with intensity of flavor and strength. To that end, I’d trade some of Nica Rustica’s forcefulness for a little more balance, but I also know that, for many people, this will be right up their alley. Rustic and formidable, if lacking slightly in balance, Nica Rustica earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Beginner’s Mind, Smoker’s Mind

29 Jul 2013

A comment from a reader asking what I meant about a cedar sleeve being handy for lighting gave me pause. I know many readers are highly knowledgeable about cigars. But some are newcomers. So, this is for you: a few tips I hope you’ll find useful.

Cigar1. Don’t stress out over what you should and shouldn’t do. As a beginner, I remember being so intimidated by warnings not to cut too much of the cap that I wouldn’t touch a guillotine to the head of a cigar. For the longest time I used a punch or a V-cut. I was always relieved when a cigar shop proprietor offered to clip my smoke. Mine was a classic case of overreacting. Clipping the cap doesn’t rank with splitting the atom.

2. Resist the urge to purchase more than a couple of sticks at a time, at least for several months. Not only do tastes change—and not just when you’re starting out quickly—but the style and size of cigar you enjoy can also shift dramatically. Lately, I’ve become disenchanted with huge ring gauges, even for cigars I enjoy, such as the E.P. Carrillo Inch. I nearly bought a box of them when I had smoked a couple. Now I’m glad I didn’t.

3. Don’t make your selections by using the calculation of price/tobacco. You know the concept: “This Churchill is only 50 cents more than this robusto and there’s a lot more cigar.” Quantity and quality are distinct qualities, and a fair amount of the cost involves things you can’t see, such as aging tobacco, consistency, and quality control.

4. Avoid most catalog/online store samplers. Lots of smokers will disagree vehemently with this one, but, hey, these are my tips, right? My primary reason for this suggestion is that, while a few of the house brands that are used to fill out these offerings are decent smokes, my experience tells me that most of those used to fill out samplers are pretty poor. A cheap, mediocre cigar is a bargain only if you’re considering nothing but price. I’d rather measure my enjoyment. Invest your money and your smoking time in good cigars from the beginning, and I think you’ll enjoy a far, far better payoff.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Casa Miranda Chapter Two Robusto

28 Jul 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 liked the original Casa Miranda quite a bit, but I always got the feeling the cigar didn’t do as well Miami Cigar had hoped. Maybe the wind was taken out of the sails when Willy Herrera, who blended the cigar, left El Titan de Bronze where it’s made in the time between when the cigar was announced and when it hit the market. I was looking forward to this cigar and was pleased to have been given a sample at the recent industry convention. Chapter Two is made at Don Pepin’s factory in Nicaragua and carries a more reasonable suggested price. (The Robusto (4.5 x 50) is $6.35.) I found it to be a well-made, medium- to full-bodied cigar with dry dark chocolate, coffee, and subtle cedar notes. It’s a tasty sequel.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje NHC Selección Limitada Natural

27 Jul 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.”


Available at the Ohio-based online retailer New Havana Cigars, this Pete Johnson creation measures 6.75 inches long with a ring gauge of 42 and costs about $8 per stick. It is manufactured by My Father Cigars with a slight box press and a nice triple-cap. Sweet pre-light notes transition to a balanced bouquet of flavors including caramel, coffee, black pepper, and dry cedar. Construction is solid with the only downside being an overly airy draw that burns rather quickly and makes this enjoyable smoke a little too brief. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself lighting up another after the first NHC Selección Limitada leaves you wanting more.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 343

26 Jul 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.

Foundry1) Following recent International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show in Las Vegas, IPCPR has released its list of “Best-In-Show” winners, celebrating the expensive, elaborate, and sometimes bizarre displays the various cigar companies set up to lure retailers and attract attention. It came as no surprise to us that General Cigar won best large booth. General had an enormous display (it took us over an hour to see all the displays for CAO, La Gloria Cubana, Macanudo, and their other brands). And Foundry’s mad scientist-inspired display within General’s booth (see right) was one of the more memorable exhibits. Also recognized for their booths were La Palina, Fabricas Unidas, Fusion Cigars, and Tabacos Mata Fina, among others.

2) ABC News is reporting Alex Goldman, president of the newly launched Royal Gold Cigars (which is owned by Swisher International), recently had assets seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). “About $538,000 was seized from an ING Direct checking account associated with Goldman on May 23, 2013,” ABC reports. “The ATF also seized a 2011 Ferrari California convertible, a 2011 Audi A5 convertible, and a 2013 Porsche Panamera, all with New Jersey plates.” Little other information is available at this time since this is an ongoing ATF investigation. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

3) Inside the Industry: Nat Sherman opened a short-term “pop up store” in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, sharing space with Cocoa Prieto which makes chocolate, liquers, and even sells its own bourbon. CAO is discontinuing its Sopranos cigar line, which was made under a licensing agreement with CAO. The new Davidoff Nicaragua has begun arriving at stores nationwide.

4) Around the Blogs: Cigar Fan fires up some Don Pepin Garcia Blue Labels. Cigar Brief smokes the Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Big Bull. Stogie Fresh lights up a RoMaCraft Intemperance. Robby Ras reviews the J.D. Howard Reserve. Cigar Inspector inspects the Ramón Allones Gran Robusto RE.

5) Deal of the Week: This five star sampler includes five sticks for just $26. You get the Gary Sheffield HR 500, Partagas 1845, Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve Belicoso, CAO OSA Sol Lot 54, and Cain NUB Maduro 464T.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: Cigar Makers Roll Out Individually Sealed, Humidified Cigars

25 Jul 2013

The battle for a space in a cigar shop’s humidor may be more competitive than most people realize. At a certain point, it’s simply impossible to add another blend or an additional size without removing another.

Partagas, Hoyo, Punch solo packThat battle for humidor space is what the annual cigar convention is all about. Cigar makers trying to convince retailers to add more of their products. Retailers trying to decide what will sell best.

Breaking out beyond the humidor is difficult for makers of premium cigars. Proper humidor care is a skill, and it’s not uncommon to see a humidor at a gas station full of dried-out cigars.

To address this, premium cigar makers have begun rolling out new, self-contained, humidified, single cigars. This is a growing trend that culminated at the recent International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show. If it’s successful, expect to see more.

General Cigar, Altadis, and Drew Estate have all rolled out sealed, single-cigar packs. And while most of the sort of cigar smokers who read this site will likely continue purchasing their cigars from cigar specialists, this is all about expanding the locations where premium cigars are sold. The packs claim to keep proper humidity for up to three years.

The idea is this: There are plenty of outlets (gas stations, convenience stores, etc.) where the occasional cigar smoker might pick up a cigar, but won’t because they don’t know if the cigar has been properly humidified. With a completely sealed and humidified bag, that person might pick up a few cigars for the golf course or his friend’s barbeque that he otherwise wouldn’t. Easy access and confidence in the cigar’s care could turn the once- or twice-a-year cigar smoker into someone who lights up more regularly.

Additionally, it can be a point of sale item for cigar shops. Humidor space is valuable and limited, but this way stores can carry additional cigars without having to remove any thing else from the humidor. Further, the cigar maker has a highly visible product that can serve as an advertisement for the entire brand.

General Cigar has rolled these out for their Macanudo, Punch, Partagas and Excalibur lines. Altadis has introduced Romeo y Julieta 1875, H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon, and Saint Luis Rey in “fresh-loc” sealed packaging (usually in a box). Drew Estate has its Acid infused line in “G-Fresh” packs, and discussed putting Undercrown in similar single-serve packs, but has decided against that for now.

Patrick S

photo credit: Cigar World