Archive | August, 2013

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 348

30 Aug 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.

Jose Blanco1) Joya de Nicaragua announced yesterday that José Blanco, the company’s senior vice president, has stepped down and will be leaving Estelí for “his roots in the Dominican Republic.” While Blanco’s two-year contract with the oldest cigar maker in Nicaragua will not be renewed, he leaves behind his eponymous, critically acclaimed CyB cigar line (formerly Cuenca y Blanco). Some have speculated CyB’s sales never lived up to expectations—notwithstanding virtually unanimous praise from the online cigar community. The terms of Blanco’s departure did not include a non-compete clause, and expects (and hopes) he will continue to work in the industry. Blanco formerly worked at La Aurora in the Dominican for 29 years and is well known for his tasting seminars and extensive travel to cigar shops.

2) For those in the Chicago area, Blue Havana is hosting a RoMa Craft Tabac event this evening from 5-9 pm. The gathering will include deals on RoMa’s Intemperance, CroMagnon, and Aquitaine blends. RoMa produces the forthcoming Ouroboros and Abaddon blends for Blue Havana, both of which are expected to debut in September.

3) Inside the Industry: Hammer + Sickle is introducing the mild Icon Series by Hendrik Kelner, made at Kelner’s Tabacos Dominicanos factory with a Connecticut shade wrapper and Dominican binder and filler. In addition to José Blanco stepping down, Joya de Nicaragua announced a number of promotions by its Board of Directors this week, including the election of Juan Ignacio Martínez, son of longtime Joya head Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca, as executive president.

4) Around the Blogs: Cigar Inspector inspects the Punch Rare Corojo Champion. Cigar Fan fires up the CLE Corojo. Stogie Review reviews the CAO Flathead. Tiki Bar kicks back with a Miami Cigar Kilo. Stogie Fresh smokes the Avo La Trompeta.

5) Deal of the Week: This Silver Tray Sampler has five full-bodied sticks for just $27. The deal includes the Cabaiguan Guapos Maduro, a La Flor Dominicana Air Bender, a La Sirena, one Asylum 13, and the Punch Gran Puro Sesenta.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: El Cedro Corona Gorda

29 Aug 2013

El Cedro is a new brand recently launched by Anwar Elboustani. Elboustani experienced what he calls “love at first smoke” while stationed in Iraq as a translator in the U.S. Navy. In early 2013, nearly ten years later, Elboustani founded El Cedro Cigars, a new boutique brand “inspired by the men and women of America’s armed services.”

el-cedroThe name means “The Cedar,” which refers to the ancient Mediterranean cedar trees which dot the mountains of Lebanon, some of which date back nearly 2000 years. “I chose the cedar tree because to me it embodies eternity… I want ‘The Cedar’ to memorialize those who have fallen for the freedom that every American enjoys,” Elboustani says. (Spanish) cedar also happens to be the type of wood most closely associated cigar making and proper cigar storage.

El Cedro cigars are produced at the new Kelner Boutique Factory in the Dominican Republic, run by Hendrick Kelner Jr.(son of “Henke” Kelner, who oversees Davidoff production and produces many other cigars). Henke Jr. also makes his new Tuxedo Cigars at the new facility.

El Cedro has a Dominican wrapper and binder around a blend of Dominican tobacco (supplied by Kelner Jr.’s sister Monica) and Nicaraguan ligero from an undisclosed source. The blend comes in two sizes: Robusto (5.5 x 50) and Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46), the latter of which is really more of a traditional corona size; they retail for $8 and $7, respectively. I smoked four of the Corona Gorda size for this review, all provided by El Cedro before its national release next month.

With a white and gold band around a medium brown wrapper with only a few veins, it’s a classic-looking cigar. It’s well-constructed with a flawless draw (just enough resistance, but not too much) an even burn, and a solid ash that holds for at least an inch.

The cigar is medium-bodied and distinctly Dominican. Dominant flavors are dry cedar and dusty earth. It’s nicely balanced, even if it’s not overly complex. The tobaccos have a character that suggests they are properly aged and not rushed.

These are the first cigars I’ve smoked from the Kelner Boutique Factory and I’m largely impressed. It doesn’t feature the mustiness that characterizes most Davidoff cigars, but it is smooth, balanced, and well-aged. Those characteristics earn this fairly-priced cigar a very respectable four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Leccia Tobacco White 650

28 Aug 2013

Leccia WhiteFew expected Sam Leccia to stay away from the cigar industry any longer than he was legally obligated to. Leccia fans will recall he originally tried to jump back in the business in 2011 with a Toraño-distributed brand called Debut, which prompted a lawsuit from Oliva and postponed his return until this year.

With the conclusion of his non-compete agreement with the Oliva Cigar Co., his former employer, Leccia’s return was formally announced in April, and in June he unveiled his new company at the IPCPR Trade Show. His venture is called Leccia Tobacco.

It has two inaugural blends—Black and White—that fall in the $7-9 range and are distributed by Toraño. Each comes in four sizes. My colleague recently reviewed the Black 552 (5 x 52), which is made in Nicaragua and features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Nicaraguan Rosado binder, and a filler blend of Dominican Ligero, Brazilian Mata Fina, and some fire-cured tobacco.

I personally haven’t tried Black yet. My first experience with Leccia Tobacco is the White 650 (6 x 50), a toro I grabbed at my local shop for $8.50. Made in the Dominican Republic, it’s a Cameroon-wrapped smoke with an Ecuadorian binder and a filler blend that includes Pennsylvanian tobacco. Soft to the touch with a rough cap, the toothy, nearly vein-free cigar has a sweet caramel smell at the foot. The pre-light draw is smooth.

After setting the burn with a couple wooden matches, a doughy texture emerges with flavors of coffee, nuts, milk chocolate, and cream. The impact is mild- to medium-bodied with a little black pepper and cedar on the finish. The resting smoke has a wonderful, sweet aroma.

Construction is very good with a straight burn and a solid gray ash. My only complaint is the draw errors on the side of airy, which renders the toro a fast-burning, quick cigar (albeit with great smoke production). Taking your time between puffs is highly advised.

When it’s all said and done, the Leccia Tobacco White 650 is the kind of cigar I can see myself buying regularly. It pairs as well with morning coffee as it does with after-dinner drinks, and it’s a very approachable choice to hand out to occasional smokers. I’m awarding it a deservedly high rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Black Maple Hill Small Batch Bourbon

27 Aug 2013

I’ve come to lump bourbons into two categories: those who make their bourbon and those who buy their bourbon. This isn’t a value judgement (I’ve had excellent and mediocre examples of each) just a matter of information. For some bourbons, the owner is a distiller; in other instances the owner is a “non-distiller producer” (NDP) who buys and perhaps ages and blends bourbon made elsewhere.

Black-Maple-Hill-SBBy the way, the same is true of cigars. Some cigar makers have own their factory, while other brand owners contract someone else to make it for them. But for both bourbons and cigars there’s a wide range of those who fall in the latter category. Some companies are completely upfront about who makes their cigars (they may be more like co-producers), while others are completely secretive. Fortunately, for cigars, the top-secret undisclosed factory is the rarity.

For bourbons, those who don’t distill their own tend to be more tight-lipped about their sources. Black Maple Hill falls into that category. The California-based company has Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (itself an NDP) blend and bottle its bourbon. Sources aren’t disclosed, but Kentucky Bourbon Distillers says it buys bourbon from every major distiller except Maker’s Mark. Which ones end up in Black Maple Hill? The handful of people who know won’t tell.

Black Maple Hill occasionally releases very small runs of extra-old (and very pricey) bourbons and ryes, but these days, if you find it at all, it’s likely to be the Small Batch variety. It’s bottled at 95-proof (47.5 ABV) with no statement of age. Not long ago this could be found for $35-40, but now you might pay quite a bit more. My bottle cost $58 at my local Virginia state-run store and still it was sold out a week after I first spotted it on the shelf.

Black Maple Hill Small Batch is an orange amber color. The nose has corn along with coconut, toffee, and oak. On the palate corn continues to dominate with buttered kettle popcorn. There’s also fudge, malty sweetness, and caramel. In other words, tons of sweetness. The finish continues much the same way, with more corn sweetness and touches of oak.

It’s largely a one-dimensional bourbon (corn sweetness anyone?), but it’s a pleasant dimension, even if $60 seems like way too much for it. The sweetness makes it a versatile pairing with a fine cigar. A refined mild cigar (Macanudo or Davidoff) works just as well as a full-bodied maduro (RoMaCraft CroMagnon or La Riqueza).

Ultimately, for the price, Black Maple Hill Small Batch is outmatched by such staples as Blanton’s, Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage, and fellow Kentucky Bourbon Distillers’ NDP Noah’s Mill. But I wouldn’t say don’t try it. I’d just say, don’t mythologize the fact that it’s so difficult to find. It may be relatively rare and quite tasty, but that combination doesn’t necessarily make it better than bourbons that are more easily procured.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: In Truth Is Smoke

26 Aug 2013

One of the most enjoyable aspects of attending the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show is the opportunity to meet new people in the cigar industry and see the fruits of their labor. Their enthusiasm and passion is infectious.

TorchAt this summer’s show, I met lots of people I didn’t know. I was, for example, mightily impressed by the men behind Table 36. Listening to them tell their story with so much zest and spirit was amazing.

Sitting down over a cup of coffee with Gary Griffith of Emilio Cigars was simply a great experience. You don’t get to meet such a genuine, smart, and engaging person—whatever their field of endeavor—very often.

Another new contact was John Staurulakis of Veritas Cigar Co., a Wilmington-based firm that was introducing three blends at this year’s show. No one talked with more zeal about their cigars than John, the company’s national director of sales. He eagerly handed me one to smoke while we talked.

Sitting at the booth, John explained what the company had been up to in the past year. The first thing they did was decide to drop the cigars they had been offering, he said. “We spent the last year blending three new blends to debut here.”

When they got what they wanted, their new Torch line was born. Offered in five sizes, the cigar comes in three variations.

John laid out the details: One sports a sun-grown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and Nicaraguan filler from Jalapa and Ometepe; another features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over an Indonesian binder around Jalapa filler; and the Ecuadorian Habano maduro wrapper on the third is matched with a Nicaraguan Habano binder and Nicaraguan filler from Jalapa and Estelí.

John said he got into cigars in school and spent lots of time at a favorite cigar shop before jumping into the business.

At IPCPR, he added, Veritas signed up about 18 new shops and, he emailed me later, “that number just keeps getting larger every day.”

If you spot a Torch, give it a try. One thing I can guarantee: They’re produced with passion.

George E

photo credit: Veritas Cigar Co.

Quick Smoke: El Bigote Torpedo

25 Aug 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.”


El Bigote is proof a cheesy band doesn’t tell you much about a cigar. I picked up this cigar, made by Honduras Caribbean Tobacco, at the IPCPR Trade Show a few years ago. A dark brown wrapper surrounds the well-made torpedo. Rich earth and cedar dominate the medium-bodied and well-balanced cigar. With surprising complexity, this was very enjoyable.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Nica Rustica

24 Aug 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.”

Nica Rustica

My colleague reviewed this new, single-size Drew Estate cigar back in July, but I only recently fired up my first Nica Rustica (6 x 52) to see if this Connecticut Broadleaf-wrapped smoke agrees with my taste buds. I found a stark vegetal flavor with accompanying notes of black pepper and a dry, coarse texture. Bitter black coffee dominates the aftertaste. Construction is excellent, including the trademark Drew Estate draw and bountiful smoke production. The complexity doesn’t match, say, Undercrown, but at $7 it’s a good value and a nice change of pace. Drew Estate fans won’t want to miss Nica Rustica.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys