Archive | June, 2014

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Black Corona Gorda

30 Jun 2014

Recently, I’ve been talking to a lot of my cigar friends about jars. Whether the pill bottle format of the Viaje Antidote, or the slick black tubing of the Tatuaje Black Corona Gordas, many 2014 best-of lists will include stogies packed in less-than-traditional packaging.

Tatuaje BlackThe Corona Gorda was first released in 2007 in jars of 19, and people went wild. Then, around the end of last year, Pete Johnson decided to celebrate his 10th anniversary with the re-release.

This cigar is revered among Tatuaje fans. Since the jars were so limited in their release the first time around, they quickly became impossible to find. Those who had them were posting amazingly positive reviews. And, to add to the hype, the Black label became known as Pete Johnson’s personal blend.

The Black Corona Gorda is a Nicaraguan puro with a sun-grown binder, rolled at the My Father Cigars factory in Nicaragua. The presentation of this cigar is perfect. The wrapper has a nice feel to it—just a little sponginess—with a perfectly applied cap and a simple, classy band. The pre-light aroma includes leather and a slight hint of chocolate.

When lit, this cigar really lives up to the expectations the appearance created (as well as the cigar’s reputation). The flavors are intense and varied. Starting with leather and cocoa, the cigar then gains some a nice citrus flavor, and both red and black pepper mix in and out as the smoke progresses. Throughout, there is a solid chocolaty core, but it never becomes the prominent flavor. The Corona Gorda remains cool and full-flavored all the way down to the nub.

Normally, my reviews are longer, but there is really nothing else for me to say or complain about with this smoke. It is well worth the price of a jar, and I’m in the process of hunting one or two jars down for myself currently. Any fan of Tatuaje or Nicaraguan smokes will love this one, and I’d be hesitant to award it anything less than a perfect five out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here. A list of other five-stogie rated cigars can be found here.]

Joey J

photo credit: Smoke Inn

Quick Smoke: Camacho Ecuador Churchill

29 Jun 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.”.camacho-sq


This cigar, with an Ecuador Habano wrapper, Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and filler from Honduras and the Dominican, may seem nothing like the Camacho blends of old. But it reminded me of the first Camachos I smoked, if not in taste then in attitude and approach. Flavorful, strong, forthright. At $7, the seven-inch Churchill is a bargain not to be missed.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Camacho

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 389

27 Jun 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.

Montecristo Espada1) In addition to Nicaragua being on pace to surpass the Dominican Republic as the largest exporter of cigars to the United States, one of the best indications of Nicaragua’s rise to prominence has been the fact that historically Dominican-centric brands are now creating Nicaraguan offshoots. Five years ago, this trend would be unthinkable. Examples include La Gloria Cubana, Davidoff, and Romeo y Julieta. And now we can add the storied Montecristo brand to the list. Altadis this week announced the release of Espada by Montecristo, a Nicaraguan puro with a Habano Jalapa Vintage 2010 wrapper, a Habano Jalapa Vintage 2009 binder, and a blend of filler tobaccos from Jalapa, Ometepe, and Condega. Espada is Spanish for sword. It will come in three sizes— Ricasso (5 x 54), Guard (6 x 50), and Quillon (7 x 56)—and retail for $11.25 to $12.50. Espada is made for Altadis by the Plasencia family. It will be packaged in suede boxes of 10.

2) According to a Reuters report, the FDA proposal to regulate cigars and e-cigarettes was made less drastic by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) when they reviewed it prior to the deeming document being issued for public comment. The article states OMB “weakened language detailing health risks from cigars… [and] deleted language in the [proposal] describing how the rules would keep thousands of people from taking up cigar smoking and have enormous public health benefits.” Further, according to the report, “OMB turned the FDA’s proposal as it relates to cigars from a two-part rule—one for traditional tobacco products and one for products that have not previously been regulated—into a ‘two-option’ rule, one of which would exempt ‘premium cigars.'” While the exact reasoning for the changes is just speculation, it’s worth noting OMB is responsible for evaluating the economic impact of proposed rules which, absent a premium cigar exemption, would be devastating to the handmade cigar industry. Another possible reason for the changes is if the FDA includes unsupported claims, it becomes easier for the rules to be challenged.

3) Inside the Industry: My Father Cigars is expected to launch its first Connecticut-wrapped line at the upcoming IPCPR Trade Show. Crafted in Estelí, the cigar will be called My Father Connecticut and feature an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper around tobaccos from the Garcia family’s farms: a Nicaraguan Corojo binder and a filler blend of Habano and Criollo leaves from Nicaragua. My Father Connecticut will be offered in Robusto, Toro, Toro Gordo, and Corona Gorda formats. It will retail for $7.30 to $9.40.

4) Deal of the Week: The Smoke Inn clearance section currently has a number of notable deals. Acclaimed cigars on sale include Añoranzas, La Dueña, Quesda Q d’Etat Daga, El Tiante Habano Oscuro, Nestor Miranda Grand Reserve 2012, and others.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Altadis USA

Commentary: What I Told the FDA

26 Jun 2014


Spurred by a recent article from one of my colleagues, I’ve submitted my comments to the FDA on its proposal to regulate cigars.

I tried to follow Patrick’s excellent advice, especially to be brief and focused. I’d add only one suggestion to his—sign your name. A signed comment is worth dozens of anonymous ones.

I took a somewhat different tack than most filers, focusing on suggestions that I believe could increase the likelihood of getting an exemption with minimal impact on the industry.

Since I shared my recent letter to the FDA’s tobacco czar, I thought I’d do the same with these comments:

I am an adult cigar smoker and fully support an FDA exemption for premium, hand-rolled cigars. I’ll let others enumerate the reasons this should be done. Instead, I’ll focus on three areas that I believe both sides could accept and that would facilitate reaching an agreement on an exemption.

– Enact a federal minimum age of 21 for purchasing premium, hand-rolled cigars. This would both demonstrate the industry’s sincerity that it does not market to underage youth and allay fears of tobacco opponents.

– Require officers and directors of cigar companies whose products are exempted to annually attest, under penalty of perjury, that their companies and products adhere to the requirements of the exemption.

– Ensure that the exemption is clear and unambiguous, and does not, under any circumstances, allow creation of other exempted products, such as lower-cost cigarette alternatives.

I do feel compelled to comment on one specific component of the proposal: the $10 price floor. This would be devastating, leaving an industry so diminished as to require no more regulation than luxury-priced dark chocolate truffles. I urge that rules be enacted without an impractical, ruinous price floor.

Thank you for your consideration.

I hope everyone will file their own comments. Feel free to copy, adapt, or use any portion of mine. Read through our (many) previous articles on the subject for other ideas and sources. But don’t miss the opportunity to register your views here.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Cabal Short Robusto

25 Jun 2014

About one year ago, we reported Hendrik Kelner, Jr.—son of Henke Kelner of Davidoff fame—was releasing his own brand called Smoking Jacket Cigars. The inaugural release was the first cigar created in Kelner, Jr.’s newly opened Kelner Boutique Factory in the Dominican Republic. It was a blend of Dominican, Brazilian, Peruvian, and Nicaraguan tobaccos.

Cabal Short RobustoAs is popular in the cigar industry, Kelner, Jr. is involved in other projects as well. One example is Cabal Cigars, a brand operated by Chris Arolfo who distributes Cabal out of a base in Houston. Over the past few years, Cabal’s availability has expanded to 24 cigar shops, most of which are in Texas. Other states with Cabal retailers include Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington.

Cabal—which means a group of like-minded individuals who gather for a common purpose or ideal—took two years to blend at the Kelner Boutique Factory. The result is a lineup of three regular-production sizes in the $6.50 to $8 range that Arolfo hopes many cigar fans will adopt as everyday smokes. (There’s also a single-vitola blend called Cabal Esoteric; Arolfo says this Robusto stood out so much in the blending process that it deserved its own identity).

The core Cabal sizes are Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46), Robusto (5 x 50), and Short Robusto (4 x 52). The latter, as the Cabal website notes, is “distinctly darker than the other Cabal vitolas… [because it] comes from a higher priming of the Dominican Bonao wrapper.” In addition to this dark Bonao wrapper, the Short Robusto sports double binders from Peru and the Dominican Republic surrounding a filler blend of Nicaraguan, Pennsylvanian, and Dominican tobaccos.

The Short Robusto is characterized by a fair amount of tooth, especially around the rough cap, and a heavy weight. The cold draw is smooth and the pre-light notes are earthy with a hay-like sweetness. Once lit, a leathery, medium-bodied profile emerges with background notes of coffee, roasted nut, and a cocoa sweetness. The impact is bold and complex—especially for such a small smoke—and the interplay between leather and sugar will likely be what grabs you. The hot, meaty notes that creep in towards the final third will be more forgettable.

I only smoked a single sample for this review, which is not typical for me, or for So keep that in mind. But if my Short Robusto is any indication, you won’t encounter any construction issues when you try this smoke for yourself. My sample exhibits a straight burn, solid ash, smooth draw, and ample smoke production.

One of the finest compliments I can pay a cigar is writing that smoking one makes me want to fire up another. Clearly, the Short Robusto’s small stature makes it easier to say this because, by the time you’re done with this tiny smoke, you still haven’t tired of the flavors. That said, though, the Cabal Short Robusto is very impressive and affordably priced. That earns it a reputable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sindicato Corona Gorda

24 Jun 2014

Launched less than 18 months ago, the Sindicato Cigar Group had a lot of things a start-up cigar brand could only dream of. In addition to industry veteran Jim Colucci as CEO, the company had the backing of of a handful of the best-known cigar shops in the country right from the outset.sindicato-sq

Sindicato-cgSindicato has been busy in its first year launching three lines: Affinity, Hex, and their “premium bundle” Cassa Bella. Now the company is following up with its eponymous lines: Sindicato and (coming this fall) Sindicato Maduro.

I received two samples of the Sindicato blend when it began shipping to stores in early May. I smoked the Corona Gorda (5.5 x 48), one of six box-pressed sizes (MSRP $10.95).

The cigar is made by Casa Fernandez in Nicaragua under the direction of it’s master blender Arsenio Ramos. Although the press materials don’t say it, it almost certainly is made completely of Aganorsa tobacco (one of the premier Nicaraguan tobacco growers and suppliers, owned by Casa Fernandez owner Eduardo Fernandez.)

The Nicaraguan puro blend uses a shade-grown Corojo wrapper grown in Jalapa, dual binders from Estelí, and a combination of Jalapa and Estelí filler tobaccos. The wrapper is slightly mottled and reddish-brown in color.

Sindicato features classic woody spice that fans of Casa Fernandez will recognize; it’s a quintessentially Nicaraguan profile. In addition, I picked up flavors of roasted nuts, black coffee, and some graham cracker towards the second half.

It starts out very full-bodied but eases back towards medium in the second half when a little creaminess reveals itself. Construction was excellent throughout.

I smoked an early prototype of this at the IPCPR Trade Show last year given to me by Jim Colucci, and whether it’s a tweaked blend or just time, it has improved greatly since then. Back then it was very strong and harsh. Now it’s far more balanced, and only medium- to full-bodied.

It’s a good cigar, and fans of Casa Fernandez lines will certainly enjoy this one (although I do wonder if they provide slightly better value given the similarities). Still, there’s plenty to like in the Sindicato cigar, and I think it may continue to get better with time. Even in it’s current state, it earns a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Insiders: Dale Cahill and Darcy Cahill, Authors of ‘Tobacco Sheds’

23 Jun 2014

Dale and Darcy Cahill’s interest in tobacco sheds grew naturally, from observation and a simple question. When they began dating some years ago, Dale would drive down from Vermont and, along the way to her home in Connecticut, he passed quite a few big barns.

Having an engineering mind and a history of hands-on work, he was curious and asked Darcy what was in them. “I said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s go look,’” Darcy recalled. “Luckily, it happened to be the end of September, October. We walked into one of those places and… it smelled so good. And it was full of tobacco. It was just beautiful. He said, ‘We’ve got to start taking pictures of these.’”


That was the beginning of what’s become a seeming flood of photographs, calendars, note cards, even tobacco leaves themselves—dried, preserved, and mounted on barn board. You can check it all at their website.

Now, the couple is embarking on a new project, courtesy of a Library of Congress Archie Green Fellowship, recording the oral histories of everyone they can find involved in tobacco in the Connecticut River Valley.

Their second book on the valley’s tobacco sheds just came out. It reflects their efforts to document and preserve New England’s tobacco heritage.

Dale estimates there are currently between 5,000 and 7,000 tobacco sheds still being used, whether for tobacco, vehicle storage, or something else. He’s glad to see that because, he explained, Thomas Visser, a professor of historic preservation who Dale considers a mentor, taught him that the first way to preserve things is to keep them in use. “It’s when you quit using them, they fall apart,” Dale said.

And, Dale added, even a few new sheds have gone up in recent years.

As should be obvious, New England’s agricultural heritage in tobacco is important to Dale and Darcy. It’s easy to understand when they talk lovingly about the structures they’ve toured, the people they’ve met, and the work they’ve done.

Their enthusiasm for the subject seems nearly boundless. Last year, for example, they performed—she plays fiddle, he plays guitar and mandolin—at the Luddy/Taylor Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum’s annual cigar barbecue, which includes a farm tour and appearances by cigar company reps. “It’s very small scale,” Darcy said of the event. “It’s very sweet.”

With the Cahills keeping their eyes, and cameras, trained on the landscape, there’s no doubt that the tobacco sheds, old and new, have someone watching over them.

Contest: Win a Free Copy of Dale and Darcy’s New Book

One lucky reader will win a free copy of Dale and Darcy’s beautiful new book, Tobacco Sheds: Vanishing Treasures in the Connecticut River Valley. Just submit a comment below and we’ll select a winner at random next week. Be sure to include your email address so we can contact you if you win (we will not publish your email address; just make sure you provide it in the space provided when you submit your comment). Here are all the contest rules. Good luck.

George E

photo credit: