Archive | September, 2015

First Smoke: Bolivar 550

30 Sep 2015

First Smoke is a new series of Quick Smoke reviews, each evaluating a single pre-release cigar. Like the Quick Smokes we publish each Saturday and Sunday, each First Smoke is not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.fyr-cvr-robusto-sq


It was about 10 years ago, I think, when General Cigar’s Bolivar line underwent a transformation to a bolder, stronger cigar. I remember being impressed at the time and smoking quite a few until they gradually moved to the back of the box. I can’t remember when I last had one. Until now, that is. I was excited to try the new incarnation, with its “classic taste reimagined” by General’s skunkworks, Foundry Tobacco Co. Though I wasn’t able to attend the past summer’s IPCPR Trade Show, General kindly sent me samples of Bolivar and several other new releases. (Don’t pay much attention to the band; General says the sticks were rolled for the Trade Show and the bands don’t represent the final product.)

It’s a nice-looking, dark, oily stick with a pigtail cap and an unfinished foot. According to General, the wrapper is Havano Connecticut, the binder Ecuadorian Sumatra, and the filler from Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. List price on the robusto-sized 550 (5 x 50) is $6.49, lowest of the three sizes. Construction and performance were excellent, with a near-perfect draw.

I found the new Bolivar rich but a bit harsh. That diminished somewhat after the first third but picked up again towards the end. There is some nice tobacco sweetness as well as notes of chocolate and coffee, particularly in the middle. Overall, though, for me the bite was a drawback. While I’d definitely recommend trying it, you might be better served by first letting your tobacconist age them a bit on their shelves.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar News: FedEx Announcement to Stop Cigar Shipments Part of Stealth Attack on Tobacco

29 Sep 2015


Last week news broke that, starting in January, FedEx would no longer be shipping tobacco. The company cited the “complex regulatory environment” as part of the reason for its decision to cease shipments.

While consumers are unlikely to notice the change, since FedEx is used mostly by manufacturers and distributors to ship cigars to retailers, the change is part of a larger trend that is making it harder for legal businesses that sell tobacco products. (Currently, UPS and USPS are used for most consumer shipments of tobacco sales.)

But almost certainly the same “regulatory environment” that led FedEx to stop shipments will spread. FedEx faced a massive lawsuit from the state of New York for shipping untaxed cigarettes into the state even though the company has no way of knowing the contents of the millions of packages it transports every day. UPS is currently facing a similar lawsuit.

And the ability to ship products is only one way in which legal tobacco sales are under pressure. Tobacco retailers’ access to banking services, which are critical for running any business, are also under attack.

Starting in 2013, the Department of Justice began an initiative called Operation Choke Point with the goal of cutting off financial services to “high risk businesses” for fraud. But critics have said Choke Point has been used by the Justice Department to target many legal businesses deemed undesirable by the current administration.

Multiple cigar retailers have already been dropped by their credit card processors or banks, according to IPCPR. And a Department of Justice list, since taken down from its website, lists “tobacco sales” as one of the targeted businesses.

What makes these attacks so challenging is ultimately banks or shipping companies should be able to decide for themselves what types of businesses they want to do business with. But when activist attorneys general or Department of Justice officials are pressuring them, the result is regulation by fiat, without meaningful oversight or legislative authorization. While the cigar industry faces potentially devastating regulations from the FDA, those regulations are at least authorized by an act of Congress. That gives the industry the opportunity for input in the rulemaking process and the ability to challenge the regulations in court.

Policies like Operation Choke Point and pressure on shippers from lawsuits represent an entirely different challenge. Tobacco is a legal product in America, but there are many elected officials who don’t want it to be and they have initiated a stealth attack on cigars with the potential to be just as devastating as the formal regulations pending at the FDA.

Patrick S

photo credit: Washington Times

Cigar Review: Montecristo White Vintage Connecticut Double Corona

28 Sep 2015

Back in July, Altadis launched an extension of its longstanding Montecristo White line called the Montecristo White Vintage Connecticut. Unlike White, which boasts a Connecticut-seed wrapper grown in Ecuador, White Vintage Connecticut has a shade-grown wrapper from 2008 that was grown on Altadis’ own farms in Connecticut.

Vintage ConnecticutBut the differences between the blends don’t end there. Whereas White has a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, White Vintage Connecticut has a Nicaraguan binder and a three-country filler blend of Dominican, Peruvian, and Nicaraguan tobaccos. Vintage Connecticut is also easily distinguished from its predecessor by two extra bands—one at the foot, and a large mid-section band with a picture of a red Connecticut tobacco barn. (These three bands combine to conceal the majority of the cigar’s surface.)

White Vintage Connecticut is made at Tabacalera de García in the Dominican Republic and offered in three sizes: No. 2 Belicoso (6 x 50), No. 3 (5.5 x 44), and Double Corona (6.25 x 50). Prices range from $10.50 to $14.50, which makes the line more expensive than White (which, at around $9-11 per cigar, was already considered to be on the pricier end by some consumers).

Once the mid-section and foot bands are removed from the Double Corona, the true beauty of the vintage Connecticut leaf is on full display. The exterior is silky, golden, and smooth with a few larger veins and some wrinkles at the seams. The pre-light notes, as expected, are faint with aromas of honey, hay, and sawdust. The cold draw is stiff at first, but opens right up with a little chewing at the foot.

After setting an even light, the initial profile greets you with flavors of cream, peanut, paper, butter, almond, and vanilla. The texture is bready and the aftertaste is short with moderate cedar spice. As you’d expect from Altadis and Montecristo, construction is perfect from beginning to end.

I’d wager the binder and filler recipe was concocted specifically to not overpower the 2008 Connecticut leaf, which is surely intended to be the showcase. As such, all the traditional Connecticut flavors come through with minimal interference. And that’s ultimately what keeps this cigar from reaching its potential. While it brings you the classic tastes you’d expect from Connecticut Shade—flavors you can get from many cigars for considerably less, mind you—it fails to really complement those flavors with complexity. Instead, you’re left with a cigar that tastes creamy and nutty at its best spots, but also papery and ultra-mild at its low points.

My recommendation? Pick up this cigar if you’re looking for a mild morning smoke to pair with coffee, want to taste a vintage Connecticut Shade leaf, and budget is not a major concern. In my book, the Montecristo White Vintage Connecticut Double Corona earns three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Nestor Miranda Collection One Life Edition Danno Connecticut

27 Sep 2015

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

Danno Conn

For lovers of light Connecticut cigars, this large limited edition will almost certainly be a hit. With a Nicaraguan binder and multi-nation filler, the strength is light while the predominant flavor is the familiar grass and hay from the lovely light brown wrapper. Construction and performance are excellent. For my taste, though, this Danno (samples provided by Miami Cigar & Co.) is simply too light. Judge your preference accordingly.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 449

25 Sep 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.

Cigar Rights of America1) On Tuesday, J. Glynn Loope of Cigar Rights of America issued an open letter to the presidential candidates. “Twenty-nine—that’s the magic number. That’s the number of electoral votes represented by Florida, and the path to twenty-nine is with the approximate 11,939,889 registered voters in the Sunshine State,” the letter reads. “Our message is simple. In light of the planned effort by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to regulate cigars, you need to be talking to our industry—the premium cigar industry. We are Florida… and a few other places you need, as well.” Loope goes on to point out how FDA regulation would damage other states, including Connecticut (where some of the most prized tobacco is grown), Pennsylvania (the nation’s cigar distributor), and Nevada and Louisiana (where the annual cigar trade shows are typically held). “We’ve never had to reach out like this to candidates like you,” the letter continues. “Then again, we’ve never been threatened like this… Not a candidate or victor has ever advanced laws or regulations upon this industry, as in this moment in history. But make no mistake. We will educate, and we will listen. Then, we will vote.” You can read the letter in its entirety here.

2) Residents of Casper will soon vote on whether to allow smoking in the Wyoming city’s bars. “The council moved last week to repeal the ban on smoking in bars, which only went back into effect earlier this month,” reports the San Francisco Gate. “The council was forced by state law to suspend the amendment allowing smoking in bars despite the city’s ban on smoking in other establishments after city officials verified signatures on a petition that would have sent bar smoking to a public vote. Those signatures had originally been thrown out in 2013.” Casper is the second-largest city in Wyoming.

3) Inside the Industry: Cuba doesn’t produce many maduro cigars, so it is notable that the first Cuban Partagas maduro, the “Maduro No. 1,” is now arriving in cigar shops worldwide (except, of course, in the United States). Nicholas Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Company is now shipping its highly anticipated debut cigar, El Güegüense. Nate McIntyre, who works in sales for Cubanacan Cigars, has announced he will be launching his own brand called Percy Ray Cigars, which will be an annual limited edition manufactured at Cubanacan.

4) Deal of the Week: Cigar Place is offering an additional 40% off its already discounted clearance section by using the promo code “clearance.” Use it to score a five-pack of Quesada Oktoberfest 2013 Das Boot for just $18, or the CAO OSA Sol Lot 54 for just $12.50.

5) FREE CIGAR GIVEAWAY: Last call for our giveaway of multiple five-packs of Acme Cigars. To enter, all you have to do is follow @akajaylundy on Instagram and post a comment here to say you’ve done so. We’ll be selecting the winners in the next few days, so enter right away!

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Cigar Rights of America

First Smoke: BG Meyer Gigantes 56

24 Sep 2015

First Smoke is a new series of Quick Smoke reviews, each evaluating a single pre-release cigar. Like the Quick Smokes we publish each Saturday and Sunday, each First Smoke is not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.fyr-cvr-robusto-sq

BG Meyer Gigantes 56

BG Meyer is an offshoot of the re-branded Camacho line and a project of Hollywood writer and producer Rob Weiss, a member of Camacho’s “Board of the Bold” (along with Matt Booth and Mike Ditka). The recently introduced BG Meyer Gigantes line is the third BG Meyer release, and it showcases a seven-year-old Nicaraguan-grown Habano wrapper. Underneath is a six-year-old Brazilian Mata Fina binder and six-year-old filler from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The line comes in four sizes. For this assessment, I’m smoking the 56 (5 x 56). (The Gigantes name, by the way, isn’t about the sizes in the line, but rather a reference to giant personalities and influences.)

The cigar is dominated by earth and oak, though notes of coffee, bread, clove, and hints of red pepper are also apparent. Davidoff (which owns Camacho) has been emphasizing Nicaragua lately in its releases, but Gigantes may be the most quintessentially Nicaraguan smoke in its entire catalog. The cigar, which sells for around $12, is nicely balanced, medium- to full-bodied, and well-constructed.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: U.S. May Abstain from Vote Condemning Cuban Embargo

23 Sep 2015

Cuban-American Relations

According to a recent report, the Obama administration may exclude the U.S. from an annual United Nations vote that condemns America’s 54-year-old embargo on Cuba. The vote is expected to take place next month.

The move comes amid thawing diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana, as well as Pope Francis’ visit to the communist island nation (Francis “worked behind the scenes to broker the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations,” according to the Associated Press).

“U.S. officials tell the AP that the Obama administration is weighing abstaining from the annual U.N. General Assembly vote on a Cuban-backed resolution demanding that the embargo be lifted. The vote could come next month. No decision has yet been made, said four administration officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on sensitive internal deliberations and demanded anonymity. But merely considering an abstention is unprecedented. Following through on the idea would send shock waves through both the United Nations and Congress. It is unheard of for a U.N. member state not to oppose resolutions critical of its own laws. By not actively opposing the resolution, the administration would be effectively siding with the world body against Congress, which has refused to repeal the embargo despite calls from President Barack Obama to do so,” reports the Associated Press.

In early July the U.S. and Cuba moved to formally restore diplomatic relations, including the re-establishment of embassies in Washington and Havana. By then President Obama had already issued an executive order making legal travel to Cuba a little easier—and had already removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism—which represented the biggest changes in a generation with respect to U.S.-Cuban relations. Obama has also called on Congress to end the trade embargo.

Under new rules, legal visitors to Cuba are allowed to bring up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars back to the U.S.; an outright end to the embargo, however, would unquestionably herald drastic, long-lasting changes for the cigar industry, as well as present new challenges and opportunities.

You can read more analysis of everything that’s new with Cuba here and here. And, as always, we’ll keep you posted with new developments as they arise.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr