Archive | June, 2015

Cigar Spirits: I.W. Harper 15 Year Straight Kentucky Bourbon

30 Jun 2015

IW-harper-15

If Americans suddenly doubled their demand for vodka it would take the vodka makers only months, or at most a year or two, to increase their supply to match the new demand. Not so for bourbon. When the public suddenly wants more well-aged bourbon, increasing distilling capacity today won’t do anything to change supply for a decade.

The formula is simple: Want 15-year-old bourbon? It has to rest in barrels for at least 15 years. Which makes the introduction of I.W. Harper 15 Year somewhat remarkable. This particular offering is new, but the brand certainly isn’t, something I covered in my write-up of the non-age statement version of the I.W. Harper:

I.W. Harper has an interesting and complex story. Originally introduced in 1879, the brand was discontinued in the U.S. market around 1990 but continued to thrive in the Japanese market. I.W. Harper is owned by Diageo, the largest spirits company in the world, but a company that has a long, though often puzzling, history in the American bourbon market.  Currently, Diageo’s American whiskey portfolio consists of George Dickel, Bulleit, and the Orphan Barrel series.

This bourbon was distilled at the New Bernheim distillery, which is currently owned by Heaven Hill, owner of Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, and many other brands. The mashbill used is 86% corn, 6% rye (a very low rye percentage), and 8% barley and it is bottled at 86-proof. Suggested retail price is $75 a bottle, although you might see it anywhere from $60-90 in a throwback decanter-style bottle that is certainly eye-catching.

Inside is a bronze-colored bourbon with a nose of vanilla, cotton candy, brown sugar, and fresh corn. It starts out light on the palate with lots of sweetness, apples, and a little creaminess, but it also shows a bigger, thick woody edge. The finish is long with more oak and spice.

The low rye content of the I.W. Harper 15, combined with the relatively low 86-proof, creates a soft, complex, finessed bourbon, especially given the age. It pairs well with a mild cigar. Think a creamy Connecticut Shade.

Good, old bourbon is increasingly hard to find at a reasonable price, and the I.W. Harper fits that description. In addition, it would make an excellent gift. The seasoned bourbon drinker will appreciate the juice, but a more novice bourbon fan can still appreciate the fancy bottle and relatively old age (which, rightly or wrongly, is often seen as a indicator of quality).

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Nestor Miranda Collection One Life Edition Danno Habano

29 Jun 2015

One Life DannoThis is one enjoyable cigar. The kind you light up, sit back, and savor. The Danno Habano is one of three 2015 limited editions commemorating Nestor Miranda’s late son, Daniel, that are hitting store shelves.

Each of Miami Cigar & Co.’s Danno cigars has been special since they debuted in 2009. This is certainly among the best I have had. I’d rate the strength on the upper end of medium, with deep, rich flavors that shift several times along the 7-inch, 56-ring gauge frame.

The Habano wrapper was grown in Nicaragua and is nearly flawless, with a small pigtail cap at the head. The filler comes from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil. All three of this year’s Danno editions use a Nicaraguan Criollo ’98 binder. MSRP is $12.

The other two Dannos feature variations on the filler blend and sport different wrappers, one an Ecuadorian Connecticut and the other a Broadleaf Maduro. They’re rolled at Pepin Garcia’s My Father Cigars factory in Nicaragua.

With only 1,000 boxes of each of the three blends produced, these will likely be difficult to find. In fact, Nestor Miranda had a six-shop East Coast tour in June to introduce the cigars and that undoubtedly put a dent in the inventory.

I smoked two for this review, both provided by Miami Cigar. The Danno Habano kicks off with pepper and cedar, joined by a sweetness that lingers into the second third. There, a toasty flavor comes on, with the pepper and cedar receding. In the final third, I picked up graham cracker as the pepper came back, smoothed out by tobacco sweetness.

The flavors are balanced, and the finish is silky. There’s no doubt concentration will pay off in what you experience with this complex cigar.

Construction generally was good, though the second one I smoked developed a small tunnel about halfway down that took a few minutes to run through and necessitated several relights. The white ash was incredibly tight, holding on both for nearly half the smoke before I tapped off.

I give the Danno Habano a high rating of four and a half stogies.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Montecristo Petite Edmundo

28 Jun 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

Montecristo-Petit-Edmundo

When it first came out, the Petite Edmundo was one of my favorite Cuban smokes, although later boxes proved to be less consistent. This particular stick had been resting in my humidor for the better part of three years, so it should hardly suffer from the ill-effects of under-aged tobacco, as Cubans sometimes do. It was well-constructed with notes of roast pecan, hay, coffee, sweetness (especially towards the second half), and intense cedar. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I still remember enjoying the Petit Edmundos seven or eight years ago better. Still, with proper age, this Cuban is quite tasty.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Aurora 107 Maduro Robusto

27 Jun 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.”

La Aurora 107 Maduro Robusto

The review I composed of this Connecticut Broadleaf-wrapped smoke in 2013 wasn’t exactly scathing, but it wasn’t glowing either. Ever since, I’ve found the La Aurora 107 Maduro Robusto (4.5 x 50) to be excellent. While I’m not sure if my initial samples were duds, every Robusto I’ve had since has been much, much better. Whereas my first impression was of a smoke that’s coarse and hot with a few combustion issues, now this cigar tastes smooth, complex, pleasant, and creamy with a core of pepper, cocoa, and coffee. I’m glad I decided to give this well-constructed, $7 specimen a second chance.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 436

26 Jun 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.

Cuatro Cinco1) Joya de Nicaragua has announced the Cuatro Cinco Reserva Especial, which will start shipping the last week of June to selected members of the Drew Diplomat Retailers program. “In 2013, during its 45th anniversary, Joya de Nicaragua released Cuatro Cinco Edición Limitada, a beautiful cigar containing 100% Nicaraguan fillers and five-year-old Ligeros aged inside vintage oak barrels,” according to a press release. “This Limited Edition exhibited a unique, seductive flavor and enchanting aroma that captivated consumers worldwide and sold out in just a few short weeks. The ecstatic response from around the globe and our consumer’s desire for more, encouraged us to create a cigar as special as Cuatro Cinco Edición Limitada, only this time on an on-going basis.” Reserva Especial will feature a “carefully modified recipe,” including barrel-aged, Grade A fillers and a shade-grown Habano wrapper from Jalapa. Four softly box-pressed vitolas will sell in the $8 to $12.50 range: Torpedo, Double Robusto, Petit Corona, and Toro. “This blend is a superb milestone for our factory,” said Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca, chairman of Joya de Nicaragua. “It’s a cigar worthy of lighting to celebrate your own extraordinary achievements and special moments.”

2) Drew Estate announced yesterday its newest Drew Estate Lounge will open at Famous Smoke Shop’s Retail Store in Easton, Pennsylvania, immediately prior to Famous’ annual Cigarnival event, which starts today. This new Drew Estate Lounge is the second in the United States, following the opening of the first Drew Estate Lounge at Corona Cigar Company in Sand Lake, Florida, in 2014. The new lounge features a 35,000 sq. ft. humidor offering all Drew Estate cigar brands, as well as custom-made Drew Estate furniture, ashtrays, and artwork made by Subculture Studios.

3) Inside the Industry: Gran Habano announced the newest blend in its Gran Reserva line, the Gran Reserva #5 2011, which uses all Nicaraguan vintage tobaccos and sells for around $10 per cigar. Duran Cigars announced it will be adding an extension to the Neya F-8 Ligero Typhoon line: an extra large (7 x 70) vitola named “Big Jack” after company representative Jack Toraño.

4) Deal of the Week: Purchase any box of Camacho Ditka Signature Cigars from Smoke Inn and land a free ceramic Camacho ashtray. Once you use the “Stogie10” coupon code at checkout, prices start at under $130, plus you can add a T-shirt (currently on sale) for just a few dollars more than normal shipping and land free shipping on the entire order.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Joya de Nicaragua

Cigar Spirits: Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum

25 Jun 2015

Diplomatica-reserva-exclusiva

Here in Washington, it has been hot lately, with the only exception being intense storms that quickly give way to extra humidity. Some call it summer but I call it rum season, and today I’ll introduce you to one of my go-to rums.

Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva is a Venezuelan rum that is actually a blend of rums aged up to 12 years. The blend mostly consists of rum distilled from a sugar cane honey “with 80% heavy and 20% light rums and aged for up to 12 years.”

The nose of this dark, copper-colored rum wastes no time as it wafts toward your nose as soon as you pull the cork top. Once poured into the glass, the vibrant nose shows brown sugar icing, clove, and banana bread.

On the plate Diplomático reveals nougat, maple wood, oak, nuttiness, orange peel, and chocolate. It has a rich thickness with a restrained sweetness. It’s plenty sweet with lots of vanilla, but it isn’t cloying and is balanced out by spice, wood, and fruit. The finish continues the interplay between the brown sugar sweetness and the oaky woodiness, which leaves the plate a little dry.

I’ll admit I’m far more likely to drop an ice cube in my rum than my bourbon, and I wouldn’t hold it against you if you did that here, but it does deserve to be tried neat first. Diplomático is plenty smooth for the task (aided by the fact it is 80-proof).

Any cigar you enjoy would work as a pairing with Diplomático. To really bring out the best, though, I’d lean towards refined and elegant over big and bold. For example, the photo above shows the Drew Estate Nica Rustica, but my suggested Drew Estate cigar with this rum would be Herrera Estelí.

You won’t find it everywhere but, with a little work, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva isn’t all that hard to track down. If you enjoy rums that can be sipped neat or on the rocks, consider the Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva a must-try.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Looking Ahead to the Big Cigar Show in New Orleans

24 Jun 2015

In less than a month, the 83rd International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show will commence in New Orleans. StogieGuys.com will be on hand to cover the biggest cigar event of the year, as we have for seven of the last eight years.

2015 IPCPR Trade Show

In preparation of our coverage, today I wanted to list some of the key trends, issues, concerns, etc. I’ve been thinking about. These are just a few of the topics I’d like to learn more about. Following the Trade Show, I expect to be able to report back to you with my findings and impressions, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts as well.

The Impending FDA Threat

First and foremost, I’m anxious to hear what all the cigar makers—both big and small—have to say about the expected regulations from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA threat has been looming for some time, but now it feels as though the guillotine blade is in position and ready to fall at moment’s notice. These days the peril is more focused and more concrete. As we reported on June 2, every cigar introduced after February 15, 2007 could soon be made illegal by the U.S. government. This would be devastating for consumers, tobacconists, and manufacturers alike. How is the industry preparing for the FDA to hand down its regulations? How much better positioned are bigger manufacturers than smaller boutiques who may not have launched any cigars before February 2007?

Former Drew Estate Executives Back in the Ring

There will be no new releases I’m personally more eager to try than the cigars from Nicholas Melillo and Steve Saka. Both were instrumental to Drew Estate’s immensely successful transition into the non-infused premium cigar market. Melillo has already announced the formation of the Foundation Cigar Company. His cigars will be made at the TABSA (Tobaccos Valle de Jalapa) factory in Nicaragua, using Aganorsa tobacco, which is also extensively used in Drew Estate blends. Former Drew Estate president and CEO Steve Saka is also expected to launch his new cigar outfit at the Trade Show, though there aren’t many details available just yet. You can bet the cigars from both Melillo and Saka will be highly sought-after—and the expectations couldn’t be much higher. How will their cigars perform? On the flip side of the coin, given the FDA threat, can you imagine a worse time to launch a new boutique cigar company? How are they dealing with that?

Size Matters

For what seems like years I’ve been lamenting the trend toward bigger, thicker smokes. I’m not sure you can even call this an emerging trend anymore. Monstrous smokes with 60-ring gauge (and bigger) proportions seem to be the status quo now. Virtually every new cigar line has at least one 6 x 60 behemoth. Yet the more I smoke cigars—and I think this is fairly consistent among dedicated cigar enthusiasts—the more I appreciate narrower formats (like lanceros) or smaller sizes (like robustos or coronas). I appreciate the focus, complexity, and concentration of a smaller format. In the past, when I’ve spoken to cigar makers on the subject, they all seem to lament this trend too. Generally speaking, they’d prefer to not smoke (or make) these huge sizes. The problem is they sell. How do they feel about these giant frontmarks now? Do they see the trend reversing?

Cuban Communiqué

President Obama’s recent executive order making legal travel to Cuba easier (and making it legal for visitors to import $100 worth of Cuban cigars) must have the industry buzzing with possibilities. Are we getting closer to the legalization of Cuban cigars in the U.S.? Would Cuban factories even be able to meet the new U.S. demand? Or are we all so enamored with Nicaraguan tobacco that nobody cares? The trademark disputes alone are enough to make your head spin (think of all the brand names owned by Altadis and General Cigar that are the same as Cuban brands). I’d like to hear what the various cigar makers have to think on the subject. And even though an outright end to the trade embargo is likely a long way off, it doesn’t hurt to consider the possibility of my favorite cigar makers in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, etc. getting access to Cuban tobacco to use in their blends.

Patrick A

photo credit: IPCPR