Archive | March, 2015

Cigar Spirits: Lot No. 40 Canadian Rye Whiskey (2012 Release)

24 Mar 2015

Canadian whiskey has never been something I’ve spent much time seeking out. With a reputation for mild flavors, often the result of blending rye whiskey with largely flavorless grain whiskey, I’ve found it’s a bit lacking in the distinctive character I identify with with my favorite scotch and American whiskey.

Lot-40-canadian-ryeFortunately, Canadian whiskey makers have started to see the potential for selling more expressive offerings, many of which are in the same class as good Kentucky or Indiana straight rye. Three stealth Canadian ryes (they don’t play up their Canadian roots) are WhistlePig, Masterson’s, and Jefferson’s, each of which are 10 years old. Each sports a 100% rye mashbill. This is achieved by using the same unmalted rye that goes into all straight American rye, along with a percentage of malted rye, which is necessary for the distillation process.

The 86-proof Lot 40 is similarly a 100% rye (90% unmalted, 10% malted), although it doesn’t obscure the fact that this is Canadian rye. The brand was originally launched in the late 1990s but disappeared for a while until it was reintroduced a few years ago.

For a time it was hard to find in the U.S., but in the past year it has become more widely available. I was able to find a bottle at a Virginia state liquor store for just under $50.

The spirit features a bronze color and a lively nose with fresh bread, banana, anise, and maple. On the palate it has a syrupy intensity with oak, baking spices, fruit cake, and a little floral spice. The finish is subtle with more bread and muted fruit notes. The result is a complex, sophisticated Canadian rye that calls for a similarly complex, yet balanced, cigar. I’d recommend the following: Davidoff Colorado Claro, Illusione Epernay, or Paul Garmirian Gourmet.

I realize, for many bourbon drinkers, a Canadian whiskey is something your grandfather drinks or you mix with cola, not a spirit to be enjoyed neat. But this is a fine whiskey that rye fans should certainly pick up and try.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Byron Serie Siglo XX Londinenses

23 Mar 2015

So far this year I’ve reviewed two interesting smokes from United Cigar: the Atabey Ritos, an expensive cigar that’s complex and nuanced; and the Garofalo Robusto, a mild-mannered smoke that’s affordable, flavorful, and satisfying.

Byron Siglo XX ReservaBoth creations are impressive, not only in their performance but also in their packaging (more on that later). So I’ve made it a point to try and smoke my way through the rest of the United Cigar portfolio, which includes Bandolero, Fleur de la Reine, La Gianna, and Byron.

The latter is named for Lord Byron, an English poet and a leader of the Romantic movement. The Byron cigar line is the revival of an old Cuban brand from the mid-nineteenth century. “Many cigar factories produced numerous brands with Anglo-American names to attract UK and US markets, which had tremendous demand for premium cigars at the time,” according to the United Cigar website.

Today Byron is made in three different blends—Siglo XIX, Siglo XX, and Siglo XXI—to represent “what Cuban cigars were in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.” They are handmade in Costa Rica, stored in an aging room for one year, and then packaged in beautifully ornate porcelain jars or individually humidified tubes.

The Siglo XX Londinenses (5.5 x 54) is dark, firm, and clearly crafted with care. Underneath the cedar sleeve and double bands is a virtually veinless wrapper with a well-executed cap and potent pre-light notes of green raisin, cocoa, and earth. The Byron Siglo XX’s wrapper, binder, and filler are undisclosed.

The cold draw is quite tight, which is a bit of a concern, but fortunately it seems to open immediately after setting an even light. The ensuing flavor is medium-bodied and balanced with notes of creamy nut, sweet cream, dried fruit, coffee, cedar spice, warm tobacco, and cinnamon. Yes, there’s a lot going on here. The texture is dense and the smoke production is moderate. The final third witnesses a slight increase in spice and body.

Aside from the draw being a tad too resistant for my liking, construction is absolutely perfect. The gray ash holds well off the foot, and the straight burn line doesn’t require a single-touch up.

Like Atabey, the Byron Serie Siglo XX Londinenses is competing in the ultra-premium market with a sky-high price of about $30. Surely some of that cost is sunk in the flamboyantly elaborate packaging and the humidified tube (which is reusable and excellent for the golf bag, by the way). That said, this is no mediocre cigar on masquerade. No, the flavors are as numerous as they are harmonious, and the experience is downright memorable. Pony up for an indulgence, and be prepared for a cigar that’s worthy of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Liga Privada Único Serie Dirty Rat

22 Mar 2015

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.”

Liga-Unico-Dirty-Rat

With a high price and limited availability, I don’t smoke Drew Estate’s Dirty Rat frequently, but when I do I never regret it. The cigar came about when Drew Estate wanted to add a corona size to its Liga Privada No. 9 line, but the small ring gauge meant the blend had to be tweaked. The result is a balanced cigar that is simultaneously sweet, spicy, and savory. Milk chocolate, rich earth, and black pepper flavors are all apparent.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Pinar del Rio Small Batch Reserve Maduro Robusto

21 Mar 2015

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.”

PDR

For a little over three years I held on to this specimen in my humidor. That’s about as much patience as I can muster, so it was high time I lit up the Small Batch Reserve Maduro Robusto (5 x 52). This Pinar del Rio creation sports a dark Ligero Habano wrapper from Brazil, a Dominican Criollo ’98 binder, and Corojo filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The result is a well-constructed, pleasurable smoke with notes dark chocolate, peanut, coffee, syrup, and cream—perhaps a little more balanced and subdued than what I remember, and a little more chalky in texture. Whether you plan to smoke it or age it, the Small Batch Reserve Maduro Robusto will be a wise investment at only $7.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 422

20 Mar 2015

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.

Harrahs New Orleans1) Harrah’s Casino is in the midst of a “last-ditch” effort to gain an exemption from New Orleans’ smoking ban, which goes into effect April 22. “In a press release issued March 18, Harrah’s said it will request a smoking section on its gambling floor while promising ‘to offer programs to make patrons and employees aware of the dangers of smoking and programs to quit smoking,’” according to The Times-Picayune. “The company said it plans to shop this proposal to City Council members in the next few days… Harrah’s rehashed its argument that banning smoking on its gambling floor would run off a large number of its customers, reduce its revenue, and cut yearly sales tax collections by $500,000. It also claimed the law could jeopardize the $3.6 million in gambling money the state sends to the city to cover some public safety and sanitation costs and another $13.6 million in annual lease payments the casino pays to New Orleans.” Notably, New Orleans is the host site of the next International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association Trade Show in July.

2) Viaje Cigar Co., which took a break last year from issuing its annual Summerfest cigar, is planning its return this summer. According to the company, noted for small batch and seasonal releases, the 2015 Summerfest will have a new blend and a new manufacturer. Summerfest was released annually from 2010 through 2013 in a single size each year, with all but the first having a shaggy foot.

3) Inside the Industry: Eric Piras has entered into a partnership with Roberto P. Duran Premium Cigars & Azan Tobacco Group. A French national based in Hong Kong, Piras has nearly 20 years of experience in sales and marketing in the cigar industry. Piras is formerly of Altadis (later acquired by Imperial Tobacco Group), where he strengthened distribution channels. “I am thrilled to have Eric Piras on our team,” said Roberto Pelayo Duran in a press release. “His global network is enormous and diverse. I am very confident that with Eric on board we will be able to expand Roberto P. Duran Premium Cigars & Azan Tobacco Group brands into new markets around the world.”

4) Deal of the Week: This Silver Tray Sampler features 5 cigars for just $25 with free shipping. Included are the Hex Perfecto, BG Meyer Standard Issue Toro, E.P. Carrillo Cardinal 54 Maduro, Kristoff Sumatra Robusto, and Gran Vida Connecticut Corona.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: Crux Passport Half Corona

19 Mar 2015

crux-passport-scThis little cigar makes quite a first impression: tight pigtail cap, unfinished foot, oily wrapper, and warm barnyard aroma.crux-pass-sq

And when you begin smoking, it more than lives up to the pre-light promise. Whether you’re looking for a lunchtime smoke, a cold (or hot) weather shortie, or just a small vitola to fit your schedule, Crux’s Passport Half Corona delivers.

The dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper covers Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, and the combination results in a relatively strong, tasty cigar. In addition to rich tobacco flavors, the most prominent others I found were coffee, chocolate, and some pepper.

One of five sizes in the Passport line rolled by Plasencia, the Half Corona is 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 42. MSRP is $5.99, and it comes in 20-count boxes.

Other than a bit of a tight draw on one of the five samples sent to me by Crux, construction and performance were solid. As with most smaller cigars, it’s essential to smoke slowly and not draw too deeply so you’ll avoid overheating the tobacco.

When I reviewed the Passport Lancero, almost a year ago, Crux cigars could be found in only a handful of shops. Today, the site lists scores of retailers in more than 30 states that carry the brand.

I wondered how the small operation was being affected by its growing acceptance in the market and checked with Jeff Haugen, who is Crux brand and Tobacco Grove co-owner. “Yes, demand has been exceeding supply,” he emailed me. “We have adapted and changed our production schedule to keep up with demand. We will continue to do this as long as the quality stays consistent.”

The Passport Half Corona is well worth seeking out. I liked it even more than the Lancero and give it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Cubanacan Soneros Habano Maduro Corona Gorda

18 Mar 2015

Back in January, I was introduced to Cubanacan—a cigar company with a name that means “where fertile land is abundant”—via the Soneros Habano Claro Corona Gorda. I really enjoyed that cigar, and was therefore eager to try the subject of today’s review: the Cubanacan Soneros Habano Maduro Corona Gorda. Even with my high expectations, I would not be disappointed.

Soneros1As a reminder, Cubanacan began growing its own tobacco in Nicaragua in 2006, and shortly thereafter established the Tabacalera Cubanacan factory in Estelí. There, six distinct blends are handmade under the supervision of master blender Omar González Alemán: Cubanacan Connecticut, Cubanacan Habano, Cubanacan Maduro, HR Habano 2000, Soneros Maduro, and Soneros Habano Claro.

Like the Soneros Habano Claro, the Maduro also comes in the same five vitolas: Campana, Corona Gorda, Gran Robusto, Petit Sublime, and Toro. The two blends also share the same tobacco makeup—Habano Ecuadorian wrapper, Ecuadorian binder, and Nicaraguan filler. The difference, obviously, is the Habano Maduro is wrapped in a dark Ecuadorian Maduro leaf.

I sampled two Soneros Habano Maduro Corona Gordas (5.625 x 46) for this review, both of which were provided by Cubanacan. They retail for $7.75 and come complete with oily, toothy wrappers, well-executed caps, and rich pre-light notes of dark chocolate and earth. Aside from the wrapper color, it’s easy to tell the Maduro apart from the Claro; the former has a red band, while the latter is black.

As I said in my review of the Habano Claro, I personally love this Corona Gorda size. I would probably choose its dimensions (or some rough approximation thereof) if I were pressed to divulge my favorite cigar format right now. The slender frame is a nice departure from the (regrettable) trend toward thicker smokes, and the length means you have plenty of time to enjoy the flavor—but the whole experience won’t be overstaying its welcome.

Speaking of the experience, the Habano Maduro Corona Gorda starts with a profile that includes coffee, oak, and cream—not dissimilar to the Habano Claro. However, the Maduro quickly differentiates itself with the additions of black cherry and cocoa. I’d characterize the body as medium to medium-full, especially as a hearty does of espresso enters around the midway point. The texture is leathery, and the resting smoke is incredibly sweet. Construction is virtually perfect. Both of my samples exhibited straight burn lines, solid gray ashes, smooth draws with just the right amount of resistance, and above-average smoke production.

A Habano Ecuadorian Maduro wrapper is, at least to me, a different take on the Maduro concept, and one I definitely appreciate. The Soneros Habano Maduro Corona Gorda is another strong effort from Cubanacan, and one that’s worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys