Archive | September, 2013

Cigar Review: Crémo Capa Caliente Toro

30 Sep 2013

At one time, Miami was a hotbed for cigar production, especially among Cuban expats seeking to rebuild after the Cuban Revolution stole away their businesses. Rising labor costs eventually necessitated most of this production move overseas to countries like Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic.

Capa CalienteThese days, Miami is witnessing somewhat of a renaissance in cigar making. Crémo Cigars, launched near the end of 2011, is part of this revitalization, proudly proclaiming its commitment to American production. Crémo’s blends are crafted at the El Titan de Bronze Cigar Factory on Miami’s Calle Ocho. The factory is “known best for its old-school Cuban entubado techniques, [and] is a family-owned and operated ‘fabriquita’ which employs level-nine rollers from Cuba,” according to the Crémo website. “These torcedores, like a painter to a canvas, handcraft each cigar with meticulous detail.”

Following up on the Crémo Classic (blended by Willy Herrera prior to his departure to Drew Estate) and the Crémo Classic Maduro, Crémo’s newest blend is Capa Caliente. It is intended to be a full-bodied, full-flavored cigar—and that’s exactly what it is. It features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Capa Caliente comes in two formats: Robusto (5 x 50) and Toro (6 x 52). They cost $8 and $12, respectively. Each has a dark, reddish wrapper with ample oils and neatly executed triple-caps. The foot—a cross-section view of the entubado style of cigar rolling—emanates bold pre-light notes of earth and leather.

The Toro starts out as advertised. It’s about as full-bodied as a cigar can be with a bold, salty spice and flavors of espresso, black pepper, and charred steak. The taste coats the palate with a heavy, leathery texture unequaled in any cigar I’ve smoked in recent memory. The overall impact can be knee-buckling, even on a full stomach.

At the midway point the Toro becomes a little less aggressive, and at times it’s almost creamy. Still, the core notes are pervasive, and the strength is mostly unrelenting. All the while the construction is excellent. The gray ash holds firm off the foot, the draw is smooth, the burn line is straight, and each puff yields ample smoke.

If you’re a power-monger, the Capa Caliente from Crémo is one blend you absolutely have to try. If, like me, you’re more strength-agnostic and instead seek balance and harmony, this may not be the best selection. Like many things with cigars, it all depends on your point of view and personal preferences. For me, all things considered, while I prefer Crémo’s two previous blends, the four Toros I smoked for this review result in a rating of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Espinosa 601 La Bomba Warhead

29 Sep 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.”


This limited edition version of the 601 La Bomba is the same blend as the original except it features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. The cigar (6.5 x 54) is semi box-pressed, and only 2,000 boxes of 10 are available. For me, the maduro wrapper makes the cigar milder than the original. It’s still plenty full-bodied, though, with lots of earth, leather, pepper, and coffee. The cigar produces tons of smoke and has excellent construction. While I generally prefer a Habano wrapper to Broadleaf, I prefer this cigar to the original La Bomba.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Don Pepin Garcia Blue Label Invictos

28 Sep 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.”.

My tastes and preferences tend to change over time, but my appreciation for the Blue Label from Don Pepin Garcia never seems to waver. The robusto-sized Invictos (5 x 50) has been a mainstay of my humidor for years. It earned that spot for its affordability, consistency, and pleasing profile of pepper, leather, earth, and subtle sweetness. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this cigar, and it probably won’t be the last.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 351

27 Sep 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.


1) This week Senate Bill 772, the “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2013,” added New Jersey Democrat Senator Robert Menendez as a co-sponsor. Menendez, reportedly an avid cigar smoker, is the twelfth senator to sign onto the bill this year. The bill, which would protect handmade cigars from FDA regulation, now has equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans signed on as sponsors.

2) Drew Estate is hosting a “mobile herf” Saturday on the Mall in Washington, DC. Participants will receive an “I’m CRA and I Vote” T-shirt and a Nica Rustica cigar from Drew Estate. The herf will start on the eastern steps of the Capitol building at 11 am and culminate at the Lincoln Memorial two hours later.

3) Over the past year Gary Griffith of Emilio Cigars has focused on distributing boutique cigar offerings and now distributes eight boutique brands under the House of Emilio moniker. To promote the brands and encourage retailers to carry all the lines, House of Emilio has introduced the “Master Retailer” program. Participating retailers receive training for their staff on all House of Emilio brands and blends, and have the earliest access to new cigars and extra allocation of limited edition releases.

4) Inside the Industry: Prometheus’ Sencillo line is releasing two the limited edition cigars: Sencillo Platinum Gran Toro 54 (54 x 6) and Sencillo Black Piramide 60. Both are packaged in boxes of ten and have an MSRP of $8.95 per cigar. Sencillo Platinum is made in Danlí, Honduras, and Sencillo Black in , Esteí, Nicaragua.

5) Deal of the Week: This five-cigar sampler includes some full-bodied smokes worth trying. Just $26 lands you a Vega Fina Fortaleza 2 Toro, a Fausto Robusto Extra, a Wild Bunch Island Jim limited release from Ortega Cigars, a Toraño Vault Robusto, and a Cain F 654T.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: CRA

Cigar Spirits: Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year Bourbon

26 Sep 2013

Beam is the first name in bourbon, and members of the Beam family have been distilling bourbon since the late 1700’s (not only at Jim Beam, but at many of its competitors). Fred Booker Noe III, a member of the Beam clan, is the master distiller at Jim Beam, which recently added Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year Bourbon to its collection.

beam-12In addition to Jim Beam’s standard White Label bourbon (four years), Noe is responsible for Beam Black (eight years) and the small batch collection that includes Knob Creek (nine year), Baker’s (seven year, high proof), Basil Hayden (rye heavy, 80-proof), and Booker’s (barrel strength). But the new Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year Bourbon is the oldest bourbon being released by Beam.

The addition makes sense when you look at the booming demand for older bourbons, as many people consider 10-12 years the sweet spot. To that end, Beam released the new Signature Craft line with a 12 year bourbon, bottled at 86-proof (43% ABV). (A rare Spanish bandy finished variation of the Beam Signature Series is also being released, but I’ve yet to find it in my area.)

Although it’s not the cheapest 12 year bourbon (Elijah Craig and Ezra B 12 Year, among others, come in under $30), at $40 it is considerably less than many similarly aged bourbon whiskeys. The sleek bottle features a plastic screw cap which, although less elegant than a cork, is actually more functional.

The result is a deep amber-colored spirit that features plenty of wood, vanilla, and dried fruit on the nose. Whether from the relatively low proof or something else, it has a softer mouth feel than many of its counterparts with just the right amount of oak, sweetness, and underlying dried fruit, honey, and a signature Beam yeasty flavor. The finish is medium in length with soft wood and a wine-like fruit component.

It’s balanced and flavorful, and overall an enjoyable, but not overwhelming, experience. It goes great with a wide variety of cigars.

I particularly enjoyed the Illusione Singulare LE Phantom 2010 with the Beam Signature Series 12 year, but then it’s one of my favorite cigars so perhaps that’s because the best cigars always go well with a good spirit. Other recommend pairings include such medium- or full-bodied smokes as the Aging Room Quattro, Litto Gomez Diez Small Batch No. 2, and the Padrón Serie 1926 No. 6.

Some people will dismiss Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year Bourbon because it’s released under the Jim Beam name and made by the largest bourbon producer. In my opinion that would be a mistake. This is a good bourbon at a reasonable price, and it’s definitely worth trying if your a bourbon drinker.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: A. Flores Serie Privada Capa Habano Robusto

25 Sep 2013

Throughout his career, Abe Flores has made cigars for various brands, including his own boutique Dominican outfit, Pinar del Rio (PDR). He is regarded as one of the most sought-after cigar makers in the world. So he caught the industry’s attention when, in 2012, he decided to produce a cigar bearing his own name.

Capa HabanoCalled A. Flores Serie Privada, it comes in two wrapper varieties: Ecuadorian Habano (“Capa Habano”) and Maduro Habano Ecuador (“Capa Maduro”). These blends use “the oldest tobacco in the PDR factory, and for good reason, [as] they are a tribute to Abe Flores, who has become a major player in the world of premium hand-rolled cigars,” reads the PDR website. “The Habano wrapper delivers great complexity and a creamy, cool, medium-body cigar. Best way to describe this is creamy sweetness with a touch of spice at the finish…The Habano Maduro wrapper is a medium-body cigar that starts with some natural sweetness, then delivers some spice.”

Both versions have Nicaraguan Habano binders and filler tobaccos comprised of Nicaraguan Habano and Dominican Corojo. Sizes include Robusto (5 x 52), Toro (6 x 54), and Churchill (7 x 58). In the $9.75-12.75 MSRP range, Serie Privada’s prices clock in higher than PDR’s other blends, which are very affordably priced (especially when you consider the quality).

I sampled three Serie Privada Capa Habano Robustos for this review. Common aesthetic characteristics include rustic, oily wrappers with only thin veins, a very soft feel from cap to foot, and faint pre-light notes of honey and hay. The caps all clip easily to reveal airy draws that are ultra-easy. Without even lighting it up, my concern is the box-pressed cigar is going to burn hot, harsh, and quick.

Hot or harsh the Robusto mostly isn’t. While there’s a lingering spice—especially on the tip of the tongue—the profile is a medium-bodied mixture of dry cedar, cinnamon, roasted nut, and a little sweet cream. The texture is light, billowy, and toasty. Black pepper and that trademark Nicaraguan zing play bigger roles as the cigar progresses. Towards the end some bitter notes come and go. The aftertaste lingers long after each puff which, I find, makes the Capa Habano an excellent pairing with sipping rum or bourbon.

My concerns about the smoke being too quick were also assuaged, evidenced by the average smoking time of 70 minutes for the Robusto. All the other physical properties are up to muster as well. The burn line is near perfect, the ash holds well, and the draw remains smooth throughout with each puff yielding ample smoke.

I’ve been a big Pinar del Rio fan for years, and I still think it’s hard to find a better bang for your buck than with many of the lines Abe Flores has created for PDR. The 1878 Cubano Especial Capa Natural and the Small Batch Reserve Maduro are among my favorites. For me, the Serie Privada Capa Habano Robusto is a fine smoke, but it falls a little short of my (admittedly high) expectations. While the flavors and construction are solid, the depth and complexity aren’t what I had hoped. All this adds up to a respectable yet tempered rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: A Cigar Goal Report Card

24 Sep 2013

With the fourth quarter just around the corner, it seems like a good time to check in on how I’ve been doing with my 2013 cigar goals.

wild-billThere were three:

1. Concentrate more on the cigar I’m smoking.
2. Check out more limited editions.
3. Smoke more mild and medium-strength cigars.

I’d give myself a “C” on the first one. I think I’ve done better, helped by my efforts at achieving the second goal. But I’m still not where I’d like to be. As for No. 3, I flunked. I’ve had a few more of these, but not many. But I’ve also come to believe that this isn’t a realistic goal when I rarely smoke more than one cigar a day.

It’s goal No. 2 where I made considerable progress. I’m only guessing, since I don’t keep records on what I smoke, but probably a third of my 2013 cigars have been limited editions, including nearly every one I smoke at my local B&M.

I’ve had quite a few cigars I might not have tried otherwise, though I couldn’t bring myself to pull the $30 trigger on the 2013 Fuente Don Carlos Limited Edition 2013.

But others—from the Viaje Satori 2013 that was an unusual mix of spice and low power to La Flor Dominicana Chapter 1, where I found the chisel “cut” worked well for a change—were good experiences. You’ll likely see some here evaluated as “Quick Smokes.”

I haven’t liked them all by any means, but I have appreciated most. Whether the blend is truly limited or unique, for me, the cigars encourage a focus on the individual stick.

A good example is Eddie Ortega’s Wild Bunch series. I’ve had several and liked each one. Perhaps my favorite has been Wild Bill, a six-inch, oily stick with a pigtail cap and a light finish. Is it radically different from many other cigars? No. But does Wild Bill distinguish itself with fine taste and construction that repays attention? Absolutely.

And, after all, isn’t that what cigar smoking is all about?

George E

photo credit: Ortega Cigars