Archive | May, 2015

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Fausto Avion 13 Reserva

30 May 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.”

Released in 2013, this limited extension of Tatuaje’s Fausto line can still be found here and there. If you spot one, light up. It’s a very good cigar. With a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler, the pressed figurado opens with strong pepper and a lot of smoke. The blend is excellently balanced, with the pepper never overpowering as other flavors shift in and out along the 6.875-inch frame. Strength is upper medium, satisfaction full. A worthy purchase at $11.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 432

29 May 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.

New Orleans1) Only weeks after criminalizing smoking in bars, restaurants, and casinos, officials in New Orleans have set their sights on banning smoking in city parks. According to WDSU: “’It’s something we are looking into,’ said City Park Board President Susan Hess. The idea was discussed at the board’s Tuesday night meeting. Hess said Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who is one of the 35 board members, has asked the board to explore its options. ‘We will be forming a committee soon, but we can’t really say anything at this point, because it’s just too early,’ said Hess.” In July, New Orleans is set to host the annual International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association Trade Show (smoking will still be permitted on the convention floor). This will be the first Trade Show since IPCPR announced it was moving its headquarters from Georgia to Washington, DC. The last time the event was held in New Orleans was 2010.

2) The ABC affiliate in Nashville ran a nice feature story on local success Crowned Heads on Wednesday, and there are some interesting tidbits for consideration. For instance, when the company was just getting started in 2011, its cigars were in about 60 stores. That number has grown to 700, including some international markets. In 2014 alone, the company grew 75%. In 2015, they are on track to surpass that growth rate. “I think people kind of gravitate towards us because we’re authentic, we’re real, we’re honest, we have some integrity,” owner Jon Huber told ABC. “We’re very transparent in our branding. We’re not trying to fool anybody and I think people kind of gravitate towards that in this day in age.”

3) Inside the Industry: Espinosa Cigars announced this week it has come to an agreement to distribute D’Crossier Cigars, which are made in Costa Rica. D’Crossier announced a new line that will be featured at the upcoming trade show, the Flor de D’Crossier Selection No. 512, which uses an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Costa Rican and Dominican fillers.

4) Deal of the Week: Smoke Inn has begun taking pre-orders on its exclusive cigar “The Pope of Greenwich Village” made by Drew Estate. The cigar has a San Andrés wrapper around a Connecticut stalk-cut Habano binder and Brazilian Mata Fina and Nicaraguan fillers.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Spirits: Willett Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Bourbon (11 Year)

28 May 2015

Lately the book Bourbon Empire has been cited by more than a few articles I’ve read as debunking some of the bourbon mystique. “By the year 2000 you have 8 companies, 13 plants, and they make about 99 percent of all the whiskey in America,” the author Reid Mitenbuler told an astonished public radio reporter.

willett-febourbonThat may be true (today the number is slightly less at around 95%) but it’s hardly new information to many informed drinkers that the overwhelming amount of bourbon is distilled by a handful of companies. In fact, with full knowledge of that, Willett Family Estate Bourbon is very sought-after by many extremely knowledgeable whiskey drinkers.

Willett doesn’t currently sell any bourbon it distilled itself, but instead picks barrels distilled elsewhere which it then resells. Some are blended together in bourbons like Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, and Willett Pot Still Bourbon; others are selected for the Willett Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel program. (Willett recently restarted its stills but, as of this writing, only a very young rye is for sale.)

The Family Estate bourbons are all single-barrel and bottled at barrel-proof. Ages vary from 7 to 20+ years (along with price). For this write-up I tasted an 11 year bourbon purchased by a friend at the Willett Gift Shop for $110. (My barrel is number 8308 and is bottled at 119.9-proof.)

The nose features vanilla and caramel, with a hint of clove spice. On the palate this bourbon is rich and complex with oak, dried fruit, toffee, buttery pie crust, banana, and fudge. The finish is surprisingly short with caramel and clove spice, although a tiny splash of water smooths out the dry spice. Willett Estate Bottled Single Barrel Bourbon is a testament to the fact that barrel management and selection are often more important than who distilled the whiskey. It’s an exceptionally rich and complex bourbon, which lets it live up to its expensive price.

Still, the price leads me to recommend getting acquainted with better value bourbons before jumping up to this one.

As for cigars, strangely, I don’t have any specific recommendations. This bourbon has complexity and strength, and also enough subtleties to go well with any good balanced cigar.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Bandolero Bravos

27 May 2015

So far this year I’ve reviewed three interesting smokes from United Cigar: the Atabey Ritos, an expensive cigar that’s complex and nuanced; the Garofalo Robusto, a mild-mannered smoke that’s affordable, flavorful, and satisfying; and the Byron Serie Siglo XX Londinenses, a handsome $30 stick that’s memorable and harmonious.

Bandolero BravosAll three creations are impressive, not only in their performance but also in their packaging. So I’ve made it a point to try and smoke my way through the rest of the United Cigar portfolio, which includes Fleur de la Reine, La Gianna, and Bandolero.

Here’s the origin of the Bandolero name from United Cigar: “Between 1717 and 1817, the Spanish Crown prohibited cigar production in the Caribbean and the rest of the American colonies, and although its precious leaves continued growing on the other side of the ocean, the ‘puro’ cigar rolling that we all know today could only be done at the Sevilla Royal Factory… [This] led to the rising prices of tobacco and the birth of the Bandolero, an intrepid figure that hid on mysterious roads with tobacco leaves rolled in other countries…”

The Bandolero Bravos is part of the so-called Premium selection of five vitolas that are packaged in humidified tubes (tubes that, by the way, make excellent reusable single-stick travel humidors). This size measures 5.25 inches long with a ring gauge of 52. It is only available in a special gift pack that includes five Bandolero cigars and costs $159.99. (A similar size, the Picaros (5.5 x 54), runs $12.79 for a single.) The Bandolero blend makeup is not disclosed.

Once out of the tube, the Bravos is certainly dressed like a super-premium with its banded cedar sleeve foot, and another two bands near the head with glossy, raised fonts and graphics of gold, silver, black, and red. Beneath is an oily, milk chocolate-colored cigar with thin veins, virtually invisible seams, and a well-executed cap. The feel is consistently spongy throughout, but the foot shows a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos. The cold draw has just a little resistance.

Once lit, pre-light notes of hay and coffee give way to a medium-bodied profile of coffee, leather, oak, and some faint citrus. The core is natural tobacco and the texture is bready. Spice and nicotine strength are both minimal. The resting smoke is an enticing blend of roasted nuts and cream.

Construction—as I’ve grown to expect from United Cigar—is consistent with the characteristics you should demand from a stick priced in the super-premium range. The burn is straight, the ash holds firm, the draw is smooth, and the smoke production is slightly higher than average. Put plainly, the Bravos is a beauty to watch burn.

Given the cost, I was hoping for a memorable, complex experience that would make me reach for this cigar to celebrate special occasions. The Bandolero Bravos falls a little short of those lofty expectations. While I enjoy the flavors, I think the complexity isn’t quite there, and that results in a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Don’t Underestimate the Enemies of Cigar Freedom

26 May 2015

FDA-cigars-large

As a whole, cigar smokers are an amiable bunch that, with the exception of a few curmudgeons, tend to assume good intentions of others. That’s a good way to deal with most people, and exactly how you’d have most people treat you.

But when it comes to politics, it can be very dangerous to underestimate you opponents. This is very much true with the opponents of cigar freedoms.

There are lots of people with various views on how our laws should deal with tobacco products. When it comes to where smoking is banned or permitted, at what level cigars should be taxed, and to what extent cigars should be treated the same as other tobacco products, there a wide variety of views. A proud, freedom-loving cigar smoker should welcome informed debate.

That said, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact there is a well-funded group of professional anti-tobacco activists for whom any adult choosing to use any tobacco product anywhere is a problem that needs to be solved by a law. Attempts to reason or negotiate with these people are not only a useless; any energy expended on them is counterproductive.

These “tobacco control” activists, as they call themselves, are funded to the tune of billions of dollars a year (much of it by our taxes) and extremely politically connected. Look no further than the U.S. Senate, where a small group of anti-tobacco senators continue to push for more aggressive anti-smoking measures, no matter how hypocritical or illogical.

Earlier this month, Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut called for the FDA to accelerate the rulemaking process to, among other things, regulate cigars. The senator even said if the FDA doesn’t issue a final rule soon enough, he would introduce a law demanding that it rush the final rule. Never mind that anti-smoking activists have called for the FDA process to proceed uninterrupted and without the influence of legislation like the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act. Suddenly, when the supposedly independent rulemaking process isn’t proceeding fast enough, here is a senator moving to intervene.

Similarly, Blumenthal is one of four senators who recently introduced a bill to increase taxes on most tobacco products, including almost doubling most tobacco taxes. That may be unsurprising, but their reasoning strains reality. According to a press release issued by Senator Dick Durbin, the bill is necessary to stop smuggling and black market tobacco products. Of course, anyone with a basic understanding of how taxes create black markets realizes this bill would be counterproductive to its supposed goal.

But pointing out to Senator Blumenthal and his ilk that it is hypocritical for them to interfere with the FDA process, or that excessive taxes only encourage smuggling, would be a waste of time because their real goal is removing tobacco as a choice that informed adults can make for themselves.

So I’d like to suggest the following: Instead of just focusing narrowly on the text of whatever legislation the anti-tobacco forces are championing next, lets also remind Americans (who I still think are mostly reasonable on these issues) that every time they cast their lot with politicians and professional activists who just want one more tobacco tax or regulation or smoking ban, they are siding with folks who reject the basic American premise that adults can make choices for themselves.

Cigar smokers, and all adults who choose to use tobacco, don’t want children smoking, nor do we demand the right to smoke everywhere whenever we want. Mostly, we just want to be left alone and not picked on for our choices by a powerful special interest group that seeks to control a centuries-old behavior by consenting adults.

Maybe I’m too optimistic about Americans. But I think enough people agree with those basic principles for the underdog (and that’s exactly what we are) to ultimately prevail.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Celebrate Memorial Day by Sending Cigars to the Troops

25 May 2015

Memorial Day is a great for barbeque, relaxation, and smoking a few cigars with family and friends. It’s also an important day to remember the brave men and women who have fought and died for our country. So, if you have the day off, why not use some of the extra time to show your appreciation for the troops by sending them some cigars?

Cigars for Troops

We’ve written about donating cigars to the troops many times before. If you’ve never done it, today’s a great day to start. There are plenty of avenues, but we’d recommend Cigars for Warriors. “Our top priority is collecting then dispersing premium cigars and accessories to troops serving in combat zones, as well as filling requests from United States military personnel on Forces Afloat in Combat Zones,” reads the Cigars for Warriors website. “Our second priority is for long term deployments OCONUS in 3rd world environments and other appropriate Areas of Operations to be dealt with on a case by case basis. It is our way to honor, show respect, and thank those putting it all on the line for us back home. We have received requests from many soldiers who have no one here in the U.S. to send care packages to them, and would otherwise receive nothing.”

To get started, please click here. You can mail cigars, bring your cigars to a donation center, or make a cash donation. Thank you in advance for your support of this important cause.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Emilio AF2 BMF

24 May 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.”

emilioaf2

Habano leaf has a very distinctive flavor, and perhaps the purest Habano-tasting cigar I’ve come across is the AF2 made by A.J. Fernandez for Emilio Cigars. It’s not a flavor I want all the time, but sometimes it really hits the spot. The BMF (I’ll let you guess what that stands for) is the large gordo (6 x 58) version of the blend. It features dry bready flavors, mild coffee, and very light wood spice. While the size makes it an over two-hour cigar (I was driving to visit family while I smoked it; I lit it in Washington and didn’t finish it until New Jersey) it also loses a lot of the finesse in the massive size.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys