Archive | March, 2014

Cigar Review: A.J. Fernandez Pinolero Maduro Toro

31 Mar 2014

The other day I was browsing through our archive of cigar reviews, and I came across my colleague’s take on the Pinolero Toro from October 2012. It occurred to me I still hadn’t tried any of the Pinolero smokes—an oversight I needed to rectify given my respect for A.J. Fernandez as one of the industry’s best young cigar makers.

Pinolero ToroFernandez, of course, has one of the best cigar résumés you’ll ever see. Born in Cuba, he worked with the late Alejandro Robaina, Cuba’s foremost producer of top wrapper leaves and the namesake of the Vegas Robaina brand. Fernandez quickly gained fame making cigars for other cigar companies including Rocky Patel, Padilla, Graycliff, and Gurkha, as well as making exclusive cigars for catalog giant Cigars International (for whom he makes Diesel, Man O’ War, La Herencia, and other smokes.) Then, at the 2010 industry trade show, he introduced his first solo national brand, San Lotano, which became a hit.

A few years later Fernandez added the highly anticipated Pinolero (Spanish for “local”) line to his portfolio. It includes either a Nicaraguan sun-grown wrapper or a Maduro wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder. The filler tobaccos are part Nicaraguan Habano-seed and part proprietary. “Filled with rich, luxurious long-fillers and wrapped in coveted Fernandez Family leaves, this medium- to full-bodied smoke not only captures the highly complex flavors of exotic regional Nicaraguan tobacco, but also affords a highly aromatic mellowness which has become the brand standard of A.J.’s highly coveted products,” reads the A.J. Fernandez website.

Pinolero comes in six vitolas that range in price from $7 to $10: Corona, Robusto, Toro, Figurado, Churchill, and Gran Toro. I smoked two Maduro Toros (6 x 52) for this review. The Maduro Toro is a dark, extremely toothy cigar with a few large veins and some protruding seams, particularly at the cap. It sports an interesting, colorful band with pre-light notes of chocolate and spice. Despite its firmness and weight, the cold draw has only the slightest resistance.

Once lit, a savory profile emerges that instantly reminds me of mesquite. Tangy, spicy, and a little sweet, the Pinolero Maduro Toro’s balanced flavor includes notes of syrup, brown sugar, and herbs. The smoke is dense and moist, and it confronts the palate head-on, though not in an overly intense way. Cocoa, espresso, and spice become more prominent towards the end.

True to A.J. Fernandez form, the physical properties are superb. Both of my samples displayed solid ashes, straight burn lines, smooth draws, and plenty of smoke production.

Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay the Pinolero Maduro Toro is it doesn’t taste like anything else on the market. That makes it interesting and memorable. I’m disappointed I didn’t lock on to this gem sooner. It’s a great smoke, a good value, and worthy of a commendable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Punch Rare Corojo Rare Salomones

30 Mar 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.”


I’ll admit that while I’ve always enjoyed the Punch Rare Corojo line, I haven’t smoked many in recent years. But when my colleague recently reviewed the Rare Salomones size, I thought I should revisit the line. Salomones are one of the most impressive-looking sizes, and this is no exception with its reddish wrapper and double bands. Once you get past the initial couple minutes, the large format produces plenty of smoke. It features leather, earth, and fruit notes and is medium- to full-bodied. It’s an elegant smoke worth paying attention to for a full 90 minutes.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: El Titan de Bronze Redemption Sungrown Habano Robusto

29 Mar 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.”

El Titan de Bronze

This was one of those yellow-cello, buried-in-the-humidor, didn’t-know-I-had-it, don’t-recall-where-it-came-from cigars. My best guess is that it was part of a Black Friday sampler I bought at a local shop, but it might have come from last summer’s IPCPR Trade Show. Whatever the origin, I need to get more. El Titan de Bronze Redemption Sungrown Habano Robusto is an excellent cigar. The Ecuadorian wrapper is a beautiful light brown with a lovely cedar pre-light aroma. The cigar performs excellently, with spicy and sweet touches in a smooth smoke.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 376

28 Mar 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.

Alaska Flag1) Alaska is currently one of fewer than ten U.S. states that don’t have a statewide smoking ban. But that may be changing. While anti-tobacco forces in America’s biggest state have been pushing for smoking regulations for over a decade, a bill recently introduced by Rep. Lindsey Holmes (R-Anchorage) has made it further than any other effort to criminalize smoking statewide inside bars, restaurants, and other workplaces. And Alaska certainly isn’t the only state where anti-tobacco measures are under consideration. A newsletter issued this week by the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association lists 20 different states with legislative proposals ranging from mail order prohibitions and tax hikes to smoking bans and raising the legal tobacco age from 18 to 21.

2) During a Congressional hearing yesterday, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg responded to a question from Representative Kevin Yoder, a co-sponsor of the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2013, which would prohibit the FDA from regulating premium cigars. In her response, Hamburg said that cigars would be part of a rule that the agency would be “hopefully putting forward for public comment very soon,” and also she said that she felt it was “very appropriate for FDA… to take [cigar regulation] on.”

3) Want to know more about cigar tasting? There’s a fascinating article in Bon Appétit exploring how your taste buds and olfactory senses work and, more importantly, how they can change dramatically over the years. While it’s obviously focused on food, the solid information applies to cigars as well.

4) Inside the Industry: Drew Estate has announced a new vitola for its popular Undercrown line called Dogma. A box-pressed cigar, it will measure 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 56. The limited run of 10-count bundles will be sold through Smoke Inn exclusively at a price of $9.95 per cigar or $99.50 per bundle. Pre-orders are being taken starting today.

5) Giveaways: Win a five-pack of Undercrown Dogma. Win a box of limited edition Punch Rare Corojo Salomones. Win a year of free cigars.

5) Deal of the Week: Emersons Cigars is featuring this five-cigar sampler for just $25. Included are the CAO OSA Sol, Rocky Patel Edge Habano, Room 101 Master Series, Toraño Master, and the Affinity by Sindicato.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Check Out the Adorini Black Slate Deluxe L Humidor

27 Mar 2014

When it comes to style, most humidors are pretty much the same: stained wood, the occasional glass-top, and brass trimmings. That’s why, with it’s grey slate stone exterior, the Adorini Black Slate Deluxe L stands apart from the crowd.


In fact, I’ve had one on display for a few months while I tested it out and more than once I had someone ask me what it was, because it doesn’t look like any humidor you’ve probably seen before. As noted in the Cigar Aficionado‘s write up of the same humidor (one of three other sites that have recently written about this humidor, but the only to not to say if they received it free to write about from Humidor Discount), the slate can even double as a chalk board – even though I’m not sure it befits such a stylish cigar storage unit.

I don’t claim to be an expert on interior design, but it occurs to me that stylistically this is a versatile humidor. It goes equally well in a dark-stained wood and leather decor as it would in a more modern, minimalist style.

There’s no doubt it’s a sharp looking but frankly, I’m more interested in how it keeps my cigars. After three months, there’s no question that it keeps them well, as the seal is perfect.

While larger (you could comfortably store over 100-125 cigars) than the Adorini humidor my colleague tested out last year, the basics are mostly the same. It holds humidity very well and has more than a few notable features that make it function better than most humidors. (more…)

Commentary: Tools of the Trade for Pipe Smoking

26 Mar 2014

In my first article of this series on pipes, I tried to provide some reasons for the typical cigar smoker to consider smoking a pipe. Hopefully those were effective, and now you are looking for some advice on what you physically need to get into the pipe-smoking hobby. Well, look no further. Today we’ll discuss the three main materials that pipes are made of.

Tobacco Pipes

Pipes can range in price drastically, from $5 to over $1,000. They come in all different shapes and sizes, with tons of different designs. These differences do impact the smoke to some degree. The larger the bowl size, for instance, the easier you can pack certain tobaccos. If the stem of the pipe is long, this will cool the smoke as it goes from the lit tobacco to your mouth. The shape of the bowl itself can impact the taste, with some people preferring different shapes for different blends.

However, all of this is personal preference. The most important thing about the type of pipe you get will be how it looks and feels to you. If you have the option of going to a local tobacconist with a nice pipe selection, pick them up and find one that feels right. If you’ll be using an internet retailer, shop around a lot, look at all the different options, and find one you really like. Pipes will last a long, long time if you treat them right, so make sure you like the one you end up with.

This brings up our next point: whether you should buy a corn cob pipe, a briar pipe, or a meerschaum. There are some pros and cons to each. Corn cob pipes are the cheapest way to get into the hobby, and so that is probably the best option for someone who is unsure about pipe smoking. However, they also can give tobaccos a different flavoring (you taste the corn cob). Also, these pipes are normally filtered, have small bowls, and do not develop any sort of cake (the “breaking in” carbon build-up that occurs in briar pipes).

Briar is the most common type of pipe material, and you’ll find thousands of options in this format. This is the way that I personally started smoking pipes, but it is certainly more expensive than a corn cob. The biggest advantage to a briar pipe is that it builds cake. This is something we’ll discuss more in-depth in the future but, to put it simply, cake has three main functions: it keeps the pipe cooler as you smoke it, it keeps the pipe strong on the inside, and it develops a particular, unique flavor based on the types of tobacco you smoke in that pipe. For example, if you smoked all Virginia-based pipe tobaccos in a pipe, it would begin to taste like those tobaccos, and make the flavors in those tobaccos more intense. A good way to start smoking a briar pipe is to pick up a Dr. Grabow, which can be found pretty cheaply in most pharmacies and tobacconists.

Finally, there are meerschaum pipes. These pipes are carved out of a clay-like material, and normally feature very intricate, creative patterns. They can look like animals, people, dragon claws, etc. Meerschaum is all white, and as you smoke it the pipe will very slowly begin to develop a yellow-brown tinge, which does nothing to the flavor but looks really beautiful. I would not recommend a meer to a beginning smoker, as they are expensive and you need to watch to make sure you aren’t building cake in them, since it can break the pipe.

Whatever you choose, find a pipe that looks right to you. You probably want to stick with a corn cob or a briar pipe to start, and don’t feel pressured to spend a lot of money. Then, all you need is a “pipe tool” (anywhere that sells pipes should have these, they let you tamp down the tobacco in your bowl), a lighter, and some tobacco. Feel free to try any tobaccos that smell good, or that your friends like. In my next post, I’ll break down the different types of pipe tobaccos, and I’ll recommend some good beginner blends.

Joey J

photo credit: Flickr

Commentary: Use It, Don’t Lose It

25 Mar 2014

With heading toward its eighth anniversary in May, now seems like a good time to take a few minutes to look at the amazing amount of material stored on the site and offer some tips on how you can take advantage of it.

stogieguyssquareFirst, check out the references across the top. There, our material is curated into categories to make it easily accessible and useful, whether you’re a raw beginner or a grizzled vet. Just below and to the right is a link to information about Stogie Guys, including our policies and short bios. The Reviews Archive is alphabetized, and there’s a separate list of our top-rated smokes, along with an explanation of our reviewing system.

Around the page you’ll see ads from our advertisers, sometimes with special Stogie Guys offers. Check them out. They help keep us going.

Down the side of the page, there are links to other segments, such as the incredible A-Z Guide to Bourbon and the extensive Cigar University.

And don’t forget that little search window in the upper right of the page. Type in a topic and you’ll likely find we’ve had something to say about it. Searching for some new sticks to try? Explore our Gold Star Smokes. Interested in exploring coffee to go with your smoke? As with many topics, you’ll likely be surprised at how much we’ve written on this.

We focus on cigars, writing about them from Latin American farms and factories to conventions and get-togethers—and everywhere in-between. We take a broad view of cigar enjoyment and try to enhance the experience in any way we can. Sometimes that means delving into regulations and legislation, sometimes it’s an interview with a local tobacconist. Sometimes it is simply reflecting on the joys of a fine cigar.

Our overriding goal is to make the best site we can. That includes careful archiving and assembling material for our readers.

To that end, we’re always interested in hearing from you. If there’s anything you’d like to see, just let us know. You can always leave a comment or, if you prefer, email one of us directly.

And stay tuned. You won’t want to miss our birthday celebration!

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys