Archive | May, 2014

Quick Smoke: Partagas Serie P No. 2 (Cuban)

31 May 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.”

Partagas Serie P

In my experience, Cuban cigars—more than cigars from any other country—require extra aging post-purchase. Holding on to this Partagas Serie P No. 2 (6.1 x 52) for about two years was a smart move. Then, I liked the cigar fresh from the box. Now, the flavors are more developed as the profile is teeming with roasted nuts, white pepper, syrup, hay, and cream. Expect to pay north of $15, and expect to be wowed as long as you can be patient. I recommend a box purchase, or splitting a box of 25 with a buddy, and hiding the smokes away for a few years, if possible.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 385

30 May 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.

No Smoking1) The looming threat of Food & Drug Administration regulations being imposed on premium cigars is still priority number one for defenders of cigar rights. The proposed regulations issued on April 24 could effectively halt cigar innovation, criminalize special editions or seasonal blends, and cost countless jobs in the U.S. and abroad, among other adverse consequences. If you haven’t already done so, please make your voice heard by clicking here to participate in the public comment period. But let’s also not forget about the many battles being fought at more local levels. DC, for example, is facing a proposal that would hike cigar tax rates to those equal to cigarettes (which is 80%). New Jersey is considering a ban on smoking at public parks and beaches, as well as an increase in the minimum age for purchasing tobacco to 21. Minnesota is looking to raise cigar taxes. And there are a host of other threats at various levels of government all around the country. This is a reminder to stay involved.

2) Experts typically characterize the so-called “Cigar Bubble” of the ’90s in the following way: Increased U.S. demand drove cigar prices higher, prompting even inexperienced cigar makers to enter the market, resulting in many sub-standard, overpriced cigars. The result was a resounding bubble burst as consumers became less willing to pay high prices for lower quality smokes. An interesting article in The Atlantic asks if a similar bubble is emerging in craft distilling. According to the author, the number of small distilleries in the U.S. has grown from about 70 to more than 600 since 2003 as consumers clamor for “local” spirits that are small-batch rather than mass-produced. But there is a growing weariness that many of the spirits aren’t up to snuff and are made by inexperienced distillers who simply entered the market due to booming demand.

3) Inside the Industry: Originally released as a limited edition in 2013, La Palina’s “Mr. Sam” collection is now a permanent offering. The cigar is made at El Titan de Bronze in Miami and utilizes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Mr. Sam—named after La Palina owner Bill Paley’s grandfather—comes in three sizes: Corona, Robusto and Toro, which sell for $11, $12.50, and $13.50, respectively.

4) Deal of the Week: Here are lots of discount codes on cigars ranging from Drew Estate and Tatuaje to Rocky Patel and Oliva. Notable deals include the Tatuaje Reserva Regios (box of 25 for $181) and Drew Estate Undercrown (box of 25 for $104).

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Spirits: Redemption Rye and Riverboat Rye

29 May 2014

Redemption Rye and its brother Riverboat Rye don’t claim to be the result of secret recipes handed down from great-great-granddad or prohibition-era gangsters. Both are sold by “Bardstown Barrel Selections” and distilled at MPGI in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (formerly LDI), a wholesaler of whiskey.

redemption-ryesIf the Lawrenceburg address sounds familiar, it should. It’s 95/5 rye/malted barley mashbill is the basis of a number of ryes on the market: Dickel, Bulleit, Templeton, Old Scout, and others. But each takes on its own characteristics based on age, barrel selection, proof, etc.

As far as Redemption Rye and Riverboat Rye are concerned, each is relatively young: “under four years” according to their labels, probably in the 2-3 year range (although some sites selling Riverboat identify it as slightly younger than Redemption). Redemption is filtered and bottled at 92-proof. Riverboat is taken down to 80-proof, but in a twist from the usual (at least for whiskey bottled at so low a proof) it isn’t filtered before being bottled.

 Redemption Rye

The youth of this whiskey (~$27) is apparent from the nose which features fresh apple and oak. On the palate it shows flavors of cereal grain, oak, and some peppery spice swith honey sweetness. The clean finish clings to the roof of your mouth.

It has surprising sophistication for its young age and it’s pleasing neat or on the rocks. That, combined with a fair price (at a time when so many places are bottling up even younger whiskey and trying to sell it for twice as much), makes it worth checking out if you’re looking to expand your rye horizons.

Riverboat Rye

Bottled unfiltered, it’s a bit cloudy, and when you put it up to the light, a small amount of particulate is visible. The going price seems to be $25 for a 1L bottle, or a 750 ml. bottle for $20. It’s similar to Redemption though tamer, probably due to its lower 80-proof. The nose is more apple juice than raw apples and the Palate seems to feature sawdust and honey. The finish barely exists.

Riverboat rye is slightly smoother than Redemption but far less interesting. It’s a perfectly good cocktail rye that you might also consider offering to someone who wants a rye, but would be scared off by a higher proof. (On the flip side, a more seasoned rye drinker is going to find the low proof less than satisfying.)

The company also sells an un-aged rye, bottled straight from the still at 92-proof.  It’s raw, floral, and briny. I suppose this could work in the right cocktail, though more than anything it’s an educational experience. At the same proof as Redemption Rye, the side by side comparison shows how much impact a few years in a new charred oak barrel adds. (And unlike Jack Daniels’ new un-aged rye, you aren’t paying a premium for the experience.)

The unique characteristics of each rye impact the cigar pairings. Redemption Rye has the strength to stand up to a spicy Honduran cigar like a Camacho Corojo. Riverboat Rye requires a more subtle, smooth cigar, like the recently-released Dunhill 1907 or the León Family Reserve by La Aurora.

Ultimately, comparing young rye with something even twice as old is not particularly helpful since the style is so different. That said, as far as fairly priced younger rye, Redemption is a real standout in the category.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Commentary: On the Matter of Gender Inequality in the World of Cigars

28 May 2014

On most Friday nights my mom and stepdad attend karaoke at a nearby bar, the Mercantile Club. While most bars no longer allow smoking, this is a social club where one has to sign up for membership, so they are able to smoke cigars in the bar.

There are some general rules to follow while doing this. First, it is considered impolite to sit next to someone who is eating while smoking your cigar. Second, it is generally considered better to sit near the big vents (the “smoke eaters”), as opposed to further away from them. Both of these guidelines make a lot of sense to me.

What doesn’t make sense is the reaction my mother got on a recent Friday. During karaoke, my stepdad was trying a new Dominican blend, attempting to find something to replace a stick which he recently found out was a limited release, and my mom smoked some of the cigar as well, saying she enjoyed the flavor. While my stepdad was away, a man lectured her on the dangers of smoking cigars, and told her she was “too pretty to be doing that anyway.” Let me make clear that I have smoked cigars in the Mercantile Club a number of times—many times with that same man in the bar—and I have never received this lecture.

Maybe a second anecdote will show my point a little clearer. I was in a large cigar store a few weeks ago just hanging out, smoking, reading, and minding my own business. A man, who I’ve never met, let alone ever said anything to, just taps me on the shoulder, points at the TV, and says, “Hey, check out the tits of that brawd.” I ignored him.

Why is it that as soon as one enters a cigar shop, they feel they have a free pass to talk about women in an objectifying manner? Or to treat women cigar smokers differently? While this is not true for everyone, I have a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest it is a prevalent problem. I noticed from working weekends at my cigar lounge that a lot of the older men think that our business is an “escape” for them from their wives, and this gives them an excuse to say anything they want.

Let’s get this straight: A cigar lounge is an environment for anyone, regardless of their gender, race, political affiliation, class, sexual identity, etc.

The fact that my mom had to ask me, “Is there something weird about me smoking a cigar?” disgusts me, and it should disgust anyone involved in this fine hobby. We’re better than this; cigar smokers are some of the best people around. And there is nothing about cigar smoking that makes it an exclusively “male” hobby. If a woman walks into a cigar shop, she should be treated just like anyone else: a customer. And we don’t need to assume, just based on gender, that she only likes mild cigars, or only smokes flavored cigars.

I won’t even get into the realm of borderline-sexist cigar advertisements (yes, we get it; a cigar is phallic in shape). I would just like cigar smokers to think about whether you would like to be coddled or objectified the next time you go to relax and enjoy a smoke.

As always, if any of you have similar stories to share, or thoughts on the matter, please let me know in the comments.

Joey J

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Review: Dunhill 1907 Robusto

27 May 2014

These days, smokers are more likely to associate the Dunhill name with top-quality pipes (“The White Spot”), long-lamented pipe tobaccos (“Early Morning Pipe”), and high-priced cigarettes (Hunter Thompson’s go-to brand). Among cigars, the trademark name, sliced and diced nowadays to different corporations, is something of a second-place luxury finisher to Davidoff in the U.S. Think Omega vs. Rolex.1907

Dunhill RobustoStill, a cigar brand with a storied history of more than 100 years and ties to Winston Churchill is one not to be ignored. This new line celebrates that history, named as it is for the year in which Alfred Dunhill opened his first tobacco shop in London.

A limited edition cigar was released seven years ago to mark the centenary. This line, Dunhill’s first since introducing Signed Range in 2001, is “a tribute to the legacy and greatness of this brand rather than the mark of a specific anniversary in time,” General Cigar’s Victoria McKee told me.

She also supplied the three Robustos (5 x 52) I smoked for this review. The cigar costs $8.50. There are three others in the line: Rothschild, Toro, and Churchill, with all four packaged in 18-count boxes.

The 1907 is a varied mix of tobaccos. It sports an oily Honduran Olancho wrapper (a higher priming of the same leaf used on the CAO OSA Sol), a Dominican Olor binder, and what General calls “a proprietary blend of Dominican Ligeros and Brazillian Mata Fina.”

The 1907 starts with a lovely pre-light aroma from the wrapper and the filler. When lit, the first impression comes from a nice blast of pepper that backs down after about a half-inch. At that point, it settles into a rich tobacco taste for a bit. Also fairly prominent in the first half is wood and leather, which I often associate with Honduran tobacco. I’d put the overall strength at about medium.

I encountered a little harshness near the halfway point, but that smoothed out fairly quickly, and some spices moved in and out.

Construction was excellent. The draw was just right on each sample and they burned straight from start to finish.

If you haven’t tried a Dunhill in a while, you might want to give the 1907 a try. I rate it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Casa Bella Gran Toro

25 May 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.”

Casa Bella

From Sindicato—a unique cigar company founded by a group of veteran tobacco retailers—comes Casa Bella, a five-vitola line that won’t break the bank. For just a couple bucks you can try the Gran Toro (6 x 60), a huge smoke featuring an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper around an Indonesian binder and a filler blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan tobaccos. Clearly, this blend is positioned to compete in the value space of the market. Yet the bland, nutty, sometimes buttery, sometimes papery flavor of the Gran Toro makes me wish I would have spent more on a better, more interesting cigar. For me, when I smoke Sindicato, I’ll be focusing on Hex and Affinity.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Crux Ninfamaniac

24 May 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.”Ninfamaniac-logo-blk


Fed up with big fat cigars? Then Crux is your company. This 7-inch perfecto rolls in at a modest 33 ring gauge. I smoked two supplied by Crux, a venture from two suburban Minneapolis tobacco retailers, and found it a nice medium cigar with some pepper, nuts, and floral notes. As is always the case with such thin cigars, getting the draw right can be tricky. And though both had some dicey spots, they were generally OK. Crux lists the blend as a Habano Jalapa wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Viso Estelí filler. The MSRP is $5.99. Production runs are small, so if you want to try one, grab it when you see it.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys