Archive | January, 2014

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 368

31 Jan 2014

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.

DE21) We first told you about Drew Estate’s enormous, new “pre-industry” facility back in May, when we visited it while it was still under construction. This week Drew Estate announced it held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the building they’ve now dubbed “DE2.” Located right across the street from Drew Estate’s La Gran Fabrica in Estelí, Nicaragua, the $4 million building will be used to ferment, age, and sort tobacco, as well as house a medical center and cafeteria for Drew Estate employees. The facility is “one of the largest, most state-of-the-art leaf processing operations in the world, specializing in dark air-cured tobaccos,” according to a press release. “DE2 provides Drew Estate with the ability to drastically increase their scale for pilone curing and bail storage, as well as provide all of the necessary professional support services in leaf sorting, classification, and analysis.”

2) Officials in Boulder have instituted a smoking ban for parts of the Colorado city’s downtown area, where lighting up a cigar is now a criminal activity, even outdoors. Interestingly, the law also applies to smoking inside parked cars within this area. Details about enforcement are not yet clear.

3) Inside the Industry: Drew Estate is giving away a bundle of MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured cigars. Just post a photo of yourself smoking one and tag it Drew Estate. Details here.

4) Deal of the Week: Cigar Place is offering this CA 2013 Top 25 Sampler that is definitely worth checking out. Just $180 (about $8 per cigar) gets you 22 top-rated smokes, including quite a few hard-to-find, super-premium smokes like an Opus X, Padrón 1964, Davidoff Nicaragua, and many more.

The Stogie Guys,

photo credit: Drew Estate

Cigar Spirits: George Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Whisky

30 Jan 2014

It’s my contention that George Dickel is as underrated as Jack Daniels is iconic. That’s not a slight on either.  The two Tennessee whiskey brands are inextricably linked, but in all likelihood you’ve probably heard of Jack Daniels and not George Dickel, which might just be exactly how Dickel fans want it.

DickelBSBoth are more or less bourbon, but utilize the Lincoln County Process to filter the whiskey through charcoal. The result, according to both competitors, is a unique, smooth variety of American whiskey.

George Dickel Barrel Select is the top-of-the-line offering from Dickel ($35-40). In a whiskey world where “small batch” is pretty much a meaningless term, Barrel Select is a genuinely small batch product, with each batch consisting of just 10 barrels combined in each batch.

It’s bottled at 86-proof and, according to Dickel’s website, it’s aged between 10 and 12 years. It’s a medium amber hue with a nose that features tropical fruit, maple, and leather.

On the palate it has raw corn, roasted cashew, caramel, and wood. It has a slightly oily quality that reminds me of a Campbeltown single malts. The finish is clean with hints of wood along with maple and honey sweetness.

There’s a depth and sweetness to the Barrel Select that’s exceptional, even if it really makes me want to try the same Tennessee whisky at a higher proof (100- or 107-proof would be my ideal). Still, it’s a whisky that proves my contention that Dickel is under-appreciated, even if, at around $40, this may not be the best value of the Dickel line.

It has enough subtlety to call for a mild- to medium-bodied cigar pairing. I’d suggest a Macanudo Estate Reserve, Cuban H. Upmann, or E.P. Carrillo New Wave.

I can confidently recommend George Dickel to bourbon fans. In all honestly, you’ll probably want to start with the No. 8 or No. 12 varieties, which provide a fantastic price-to-value proposition, but don’t shy away from the Barrel Select, which is very smooth, flavorful, and highly underrated.

Patrick S

photo credit: George Dickel

Commentary: Loving Cigars is a Contact Sport

29 Jan 2014

Many people who enjoy wine have made the trip to Napa Valley, France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, or another wine-producing locale to walk the vineyards, speak to the winemakers, and learn more about the process of transforming carefully grown grapes into wine.

Cigar SafariMy knowledge of wine is far more limited than my knowledge of cigars. Yet my understanding of wine seems to grow exponentially with each visit I pay to a vineyard. While those visits are rare, each one leaves a lasting impression on me. I pick up new nuggets of information. I see the passion of winemakers sewn into their meticulous processes. I observe how others taste wine. And, above all, I gain a greater appreciation for the grape.

Cigars, like wine, are hard to gain a thorough appreciation for unless you have the opportunity to see them made. Loving cigars is a contact sport. You need to walk tobacco fields. Witness the many careful steps required to properly ferment the leaves. See the cigars being rolled. And speak with the great cigar men who oversee blending, bunching, aging, and boxing.

Such firsthand access to cigars doesn’t come easy. Obviously you can’t get it at an event like Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke. While no doubt fun, events like these are typically spent wondering through crowds to exchange coupons for cigars—and trying to balancing a lit cigar with a drink and a plate of food (there’s always a severe shortage of tables). It’s hard to have a brief conversation with a sought-after cigar maker, let alone see any of their processes. One Big Smoke I attended in Las Vegas featured a mile-long line just to shake Rocky Patel’s hand.

Still, there do exist opportunities to visit tobacco fields and cigar factories, and to get an invaluable behind-the-scenes look at cigar production. The foremost example is an experience I can’t recommend highly enough: Drew Estate’s Cigar Safari in Nicaragua. I find myself thinking about my Cigar Safari adventure a lot. It was so eye-opening, and it was a real pleasure to bounce all my questions off knowledgeable men like Jonathan Drew, Steve Saka, José Blanco, and Mario Perez. Other options for factory tours include the ProCigar Festival in the Dominican Republic, Humo Jaguar in Honduras, the Nicaragua Tobacco Festival, or the Habano Cigars Festival in Cuba. I’ve also heard instances of cigar shops sponsoring informative trips, so keep your ears open at your local tobacconist.

Reading about cigars, visiting your local shop, speaking with other enthusiasts, attending events in the U.S., and, of course, smoking cigars are all great ways to learn about the leaf. But I would encourage you at some point to visit a live cigar factory, tobacco field, or tobacco processing facility. The experience will increase your appreciation of cigars twofold. And you’ll have an amazing time.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Montecristo 520 Edición Limitada 2012 (Cuban)

28 Jan 2014

This limited edition Cuban Montecristo celebrates the “520th anniversary of the arrival of Cuban tobacco to Europe.” Never mind that Christopher Columbus’ famous journey of 1492 didn’t return to Europe until March 1493. (Perhaps Habanos S.A. means the 520th anniversary of Europeans being introduced to tobacco?)

Monte-520-LENot to mention that it didn’t go very well for the pair of Europeans who first ventured inland and saw the natives smoking. Rodrigo de Jerez introduced tobacco to Europe, only to find himself jailed for seven years by the Spanish Inquisition because “only the devil could give a man the power to exhale smoke from his mouth.” His partner Luis de Torres stayed behind when the Santa Maria sank to found a settlement known as La Navidad, which was wiped  off the earth by the time Columbus returned later in 1493.

None of which is pertinent information for evaluating this exclusive, expensive, limited edition Habano. The Montecristo 520 comes in a new size known by the factory name as “Maravillas No.3,” which is 6.1 inches long with a ring gauge of 55. Prices vary greatly by country depending on their tobacco taxes, but expect to pay at least $30 for the Montecristo 520.

It’s a sharp-looking cigar: a deep brown wrapper with broad proportions framed by the double band. It reminded me of another Montecristo Limitada, the Montecristo Sublime Edición Limitada 2008, one of my very favorite Cuban cigars.

Once lit, it started with a bit of grassiness that I wouldn’t have expected from the well-aged tobaccos used for Edición Limitada. Fortunately, ten minutes or so in, that faded away and more standard Cuban-esque flavors revealed themselves: roasted notes, coffee,  cocoa, and sweet cedar. From there it was a pleasant, if largely uncomplicated, cigar that smoked for almost two full hours. It suffered none of the construction flaws that sometimes ruin Habanos.

The result is a very good cigar, but it’s not the masterpiece that the Montecristo Sublime Edición Limitada 2008 is, as it’s lacking the complexity and finesse that made that cigar such a standout.

And let’s face it, given the steep price, you’re owed more than just a very good, flaw-free Cuban. So even though I had hoped for great, the final product is still quite good, which earns the Montecristo 520 Edición Limitada 2012 a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Swag S Maduro Spin

27 Jan 2014

Aging Room. Boutique Blends. Oliveros Cigars. Swag. Call this Miami-based organization what you will. I call it a damn fine maker of premium boutique cigars. Since the company was launched, my colleagues and I have been consistently impressed by its offerings, from Swag Elite and M21 to SoBe and M356.

Swag S SpinSo, even though I had only very limited at the 2013 IPCPR Trade Show, I made sure to stop by the Boutique Blends booth. There, I found the company’s president, Rafael Nodal, and spoke to him about his newest creation, the Swag S Maduro.

This blend is intended to reflect “the taste of young and modern smokers who are tired of the same old traditional brands,” according to the Boutique Blends website. “Contemporary, slick presentation, oversized vitolas, perfect construction, and an incredible taste is what Swag S is all about.” The line is comprised of Dominican binder and filler tobaccos and a San Andres maduro claro wrapper. Billed as medium- to full-bodied, five sizes are available in the $8-13 range. They include Infamous (6 x 54), Ego Grande (6.5 x 60), Carter (7.9 x 63), The Bawse (7 x 70), and Spin (5.5 x 57).

My first impression is that this cigar—or at least its marketing—is not targeted to my tastes. I typically prefer slimmer, more traditionally sized smokes, classic names and bands, and an emphasis on balance and complexity over brute strength. But the bottom line is the Swag S smokes nicely and has a solid taste. For me, the blend is further proof you can’t judge a cigar by its marketing copy.

The Spin vitola is a gorgeous, pigtail-capped smoke with a dark, clean, toothy wrapper offset by a bright band of white, red, and gold. Its foot gives off a subtle pre-light aroma of sweet raisin and leather. The cold draw is smooth. Once lit, the bold profile has a charred character with notes of espresso, unsweetened chocolate, dry wood, and black pepper. The texture is simultaneously gritty and oily. I find few changes from light to nub.

With good construction and a full-bodied taste that has some depth, the Swag S Maduro Spin from Boutique Blends is a fine cigar. I may not smoke it too often—the price is a little high for an everyday cigar, and I tend to favor slightly milder blends—but when I do I’ll pair it with an after-dinner sipping rum. And I will enjoy myself. These conclusions result in an admirable rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

Guest Quick Smoke: Casa Magna Colorado Corona

26 Jan 2014

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.” The following is a Guest Quick Smoke, submitted by a reader. If you’d like to submit your own for publication, please contact us.

Casa Magna

This Nicaraguan puro is very reasonably priced at around $5-6 per stick. The wrapper is a rich, deep brown with a fair amount of oil and only a few veins. There are a couple of construction problems with both the draw and the burn, and the ash also is not particularly stiff. Nonetheless, what the Casa Magna Colorado Corona lacks in construction, it makes up for in flavor and price. It starts with a burst of pepper and then mellows into a sweet combination of wood, leather, and caramel. The finish is largely coffee-based with some spices thrown in for complexity. Despite the problems with construction, this cigar is plenty enjoyable, particularly at its reasonable price. Definitely check this one out if you are looking for a nice cigar to enjoy on a budget. Having earned four stogies out of five from Patrick A, this one is perfect for regular smoking.

Verdict = Buy.

– Denis, a.k.a. Cigar Inspector

photo credit: Cigar Inspector

Quick Smoke: Joya de Nicaragua Cuatro Cinco

25 Jan 2014

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 in just one size, this limited edition cigar from Joya de Nicaragua celebrates 45 years of the original Nicaraguan cigar company. The puro is the perfect combination of Nicaraguan strength, complexity, and finesse. It features lots of wood, some spice, and hints of dry chocolate and roasted nuts. The construction is perfect. My only wish is for this same cigar in a corona size. Even though I think it may be even better in a slimmer size, I can easily recommend the Cuatro Cinco.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys