Archive | October, 2015

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured Just a Friend

31 Oct 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.”

MUWAT KFC

Drew Estate extended its My Uzi Weighs a Ton (MUWAT) brand in 2013 with the addition of Kentucky Fire Cured (KFC). A project over two years in the making, KFC is crafted at the Fábrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua using, as Jonathan Drew puts it, “dark fire-cured” tobaccos from a proprietary seed called KY190, Burley. The leaves are cured in a barn under fires of hickory and maple. Just a Friend (6 x 52) is one of seven vitolas. It retails for about $9 and, as you’d expect, exhibits a tremendously unique profile of barbeque sauce, chewy meat, hickory, leather, sweet tobacco, and peat. Though, notably, the taste is more toned-down than the pre-light aromas might lead you to believe. But this is still as close to a love-it-or-hate-it blend as you can get. And my palate doesn’t seem well-suited to the distinctive MUWAT KFC taste.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 454

30 Oct 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.

Year of the Monkey1) Davidoff has announced a limited edition cigar called Chinese Year of the Monkey 2016. The toro (6.5 x 50) will feature a pigtail cap, a Habano Rojiza Corte 3 wrapper, a Mexican binder, and a blend of filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. It will be packaged in bamboo boxes of 10 (only 8,500 boxes) and be available at tobacconists starting in November for $340, or $34 per cigar. “Davidoff found its inspiration for this new 2016 Limited Edition in the character traits of the Chinese zodiac sign of the Monkey and in the noble material associated with the cultures of South and East Asia—bamboo,” said Charles Awad, senior vice president of marketing and innovation at Oettinger Davidoff AG.

2) Earlier this week the e-cigarette trade group Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA) caused a stir by leaking what it claimed was a draft of the FDA’s deeming rules, which includes regulations for cigars. Although the FDA refused to confirm the document’s authenticity (they didn’t deny it, either), the group claims the draft is what was submitted by the FDA to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final approval. Notably, the document includes option 1 for regulating cigars, which means no exemption from the FDA’s pre-approval process for any cigars introduced since early 2007, a prospect industry insiders say would be devastating. If authentic, the document seems to confirm what we’ve been hearing throughout the rulemaking process, which is that the FDA wants to take a hard line against premium cigars, while the OMB has been pushing for an exemption for handmade cigars. Since the rule is now in the hands of the OMB, cigar enthusiasts can only hope OMB will continue to push back against FDA’s overreach in this step of the review process.

3) Two Guys Smoke Shop, a three-store chain in New Hampshire, has begun a cigar box drive for Cigars for Warriors, a charitable organization dedicated to providing premium cigars to active duty U.S. military members serving overseas. Two Guys Smoke Shop is collecting boxes (and matching each box up to 500) from October 30 until Thanksgiving. There is a donation box set up at each Two Guys Smoke Shop location, and you may even donate online at 2GuysCigars.com (by leaving a message in the comment box) or by calling 1-(888)-2-CIGAR-2.

4) Deal of the Week: Smoke Inn currently has a very limited number of the annual Tatuaje Halloween cigar in stock. It’s called The Hyde, a follow-up to last year’s The Jekyll. If history is any guide, you should move very quickly if you’re interested.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Davidoff

Cigar Spirits: Bulleit Bourbon

29 Oct 2015

bulleit-bourbon

Can’t find Pappy Van Winkle anywhere? Here’s a bourbon that you’ll find on the shelf of virtually every decent liquor store, as well as some less-than-decent shops, in America.

Bulleit Bourbon is in that nice sweet spot in the market, a step or two up from the bottom shelf. Prices vary from state to state, but you’ll likely pay between $20 to $30 for the 90-proof straight Kentucky bourbon.

Owned by liquor giant Diageo, the high rye bourbon (the mashbill is just under 40% rye grain) was distilled for many years at Four Roses distillery. Because of growing demand for its own whiskeys, Four Roses recently stopped supplying Bulleit. Who exactly is making bourbon for Bulleit now is sort of a mystery.

What’s in the bottles on shelves right now probably is still from Four Roses (at least in part) and probably aged at the famed Stitzel Weller distillery. Soon enough, Bulleit’s $115 million new distillery will be up and running and the mini-mystery of where the bourbon is made will go away.

The nose on Bulleit has lots of sweet corn, light caramel, and oak with just the slightest floral aroma. It pours a light copper color and comes in its distinctive old style apothecary bottle.

On the palate, Bulleit features light char, caramel, buttered corn bread, and honey. The finish shows off the rye spice and wood that lingers on the roof of your mouth.

There’s no question in my mind that Bulleit Bourbon is a steal at $20 and it hangs well with the best bourbons under $30. You wouldn’t hesitate to use it in a cocktail, but its perfectly pleasant neat, which is how I prefer it.

For a cigar pairing, Bulleit calls for a medium-bodied cigar with a little spice. I’d particularly recommend the Tatuaje Black, Aging Room F55, La Flor Dominicana, or My Father.

For all the hype of limited edition bourbons like Pappy Van Winkle and the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (which are both outstanding), Bulleit is a reminder of what I like best about bourbon. You can still find excellent bourbons for a reasonable price and Bulleit just another example.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Alisado

28 Oct 2015

Back in April 2014, I visited the Joya de Nicaragua factory in Estelí as part of Drew Estate’s Cigar Safari. At the outset of the tour, Juan Ignacio Martínez—then 31 years old and recently named executive president as his father, Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca, stepped away from day-to-day operations—gave us an overview of Joya’s fascinating history.

AlisadoMany know Joya is the oldest cigar maker in Nicaragua. Fewer are aware of how Joya’s legacy is intertwined with the political unrest in Nicaragua in the 20th century. When you think Joya, you probably don’t think of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, President Nixon, or the Sandinista Popular Revolution. You probably think of brands like CyB, Joya Red, Cabinetta, Cuatro Cinco, and Antaño 1970.

The aptly-named Antaño blend (which translates to “yesteryear”) was crafted, according to Joya’s website, “as a tribute to recapture the power and essence of the puro that made this legendary brand the most sought-after cigar in the U.S. in the post-Cuban Embargo 1970s.” The blend is well-known to deliver a consistent, rich, spicy, full-flavored experience.

Ten Antaño vitolas are available, including the toro-sized Alisado (6 x 52), which retails in the affordable $6-7 range and has a slight box press. It is handmade at Fábrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua with 100% Nicaraguan tobaccos, including a dark Criollo wrapper.

Alisado, like its Antaño 1970 brethren, enjoys a fairly dense packing of tobaccos within its mottled, somewhat reddish wrapper. Dry and smooth to the touch with minimal veins, the cigar exhibits pre-light notes of cocoa, earth, and hay, especially at the foot. The cap clips easily to reveal a clear pre-light draw.

Once an even light is established, a moist, mouth-watering profile emerges of chocolate, coffee, cedar, and black pepper. Background notes include cream, raisin, and peanut. The texture is leathery and the body is full. Spice is not yet overtly prevalent, though it does linger on the finish.

Towards the midway point, the pepper spice begins to dominate, complemented by the addition of cayenne heat and sweet prune. The finale exhibits more intensity though, admirably, no harshness or bitterness. The combustion qualities are very good throughout; expect a solid ash, straight burn line, hassle-free draw, and above-par smoke production.

Over the years I’ve always kept some Antaño 1970s on hand. They provide a great deal of flavor, enjoyment, strength, and consistency—especially for such a reasonable price. And the more I smoke the line, the more I think the Alisado is the best vitola of the bunch. Something about the format, or perhaps the ratio of tobaccos in this size, simply hits me the right way. That’s why I’m awarding this excellent cigar from Joya de Nicaragua four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Bacon, Tobacco, Cancer, and Politicized Science

27 Oct 2015

bacon

If you’re like me, the last few days on Facebook you’ve seen a lot online about how bacon can cause cancer and is just as dangerous as smoking. (Maybe it’s just that a lot of my friends are fans of bacon, tobacco, or both.)

It’s a perfect story to go viral with a headline designed to scare. A modern version of: “It kills thousands of people every year, and you give it to your children every day… tonight at 10.” (It’s just water.)

Unfortunately, it’s a also a perfect example of bad government science and the bad journalism that perpetuates it. Like stories that deal with cancer and tobacco, it leaves out critical context.

The gist of the story is that smoked meats, like bacon and hot dogs, can be carcinogenic, meaning they can cause cancer in humans. That may be true in a technical sense, but it tells readers almost nothing about the risk that bacon poses, or the risk they actually face from eating bacon.

In truth, while bacon may be carcinogenic, eating lots of bacon adds only very slightly to someone’s overall risk of cancer. Drill down on the “bacon causes cancer” headline and you’ll find that if you eat a serving of smoked meat (one hot dog or two strips of bacon, for example) daily over your lifetime (which is quite a lot), the odds of you getting colorectal cancer, which bacon contributes to, goes up only 0.8 percent.

But “daily bacon increases relative risk of cancer by slightly less than one percent” doesn’t quite have a ring to it. Instead, we’re simply told bacon can cause cancer, which while literally perhaps true is also pretty much meaningless as a statement. It does nothing to help consenting adults decide for themselves whether or not to order a side of bacon since it simplifies, and probably over-amplifies, the risk.

Unfortunately, when it comes to tobacco, and especially cigars, the critical issue of relative risk is ignored even more often. It remains the position of the U.S. government that “cigars contain the same toxic and carcinogenic compounds found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.”

Once again, that may be true in a technical sense. But the statement is also meaningless. Saying cigars contain the same chemicals as cigarettes doesn’t say anything about the relative risk of smoking cigars compared to smoking cigarettes, or how much of those chemicals each activity delivers in a way that can increase your risk. It’s the equivalent of saying driving the speed limit is not a safe alternative to speeding drunk because you can crash either way. (You can, of course, get in an accident either way, but obviously the risk of that happening isn’t the same in both cases.)

The fact is, the average cigar smoker who smokes cigars properly (without inhaling) is way better off than the average cigarette smoke, but our government can’t bring itself to say that because doing so would admit that with normal use cigar smoking is in fact less risky than smoking cigarettes. It would be nice if our government would be honest enough with us to say so. At least for now, though, Uncle Sam is unwilling to admit what we all know to be true.

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Insider: Steve Saka of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust

26 Oct 2015

Last week I found myself in New Hampshire and had a chance to sit down with Steve Saka. Saka is head of the newly launched Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT) and former CEO of Drew Estate—where he played a critical role in growing the company into a Nicaraguan juggernaut that makes some of the most sought-after cigars in the world.

Steve Saka

We met at Twins Smoke Shop in Londonderry (about 40 minutes from Saka’s home in Dunbarton), an outstanding tobacconist/cigar bar that’s home to Kurt A. Kendall’s 7-20-4 brand. It was a great opportunity to talk tobacco, try the new Sobremesa (it’s outstanding, as you’d expect), and get caught up on all things DTT.

Stogie Guys: It seems like your debut brand, Sobremesa, did well at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans this summer. How many inaugural accounts did you open?

Steve Saka: We currently have 108 active accounts, and 126 on an active waiting list. We have inquires by another 19 accounts pending.

SG: What does the current production for Sobremesa look like? Are you planning to ramp up output to meet the high demand?

SS: We are currently slated to produce 1,000 boxes per month. Even though we are grossly oversold, we will not be increasing this production in the near term. The reason is not to limit the brand; I am a capitalist so my intent is to always make and sell more cigars. The reason for the limitation is twofold.

First, I want to ensure we maintain steady production. In my opinion, great cigars are crafted when the torcedors are working on the same liga and same vitola every single day at a steady pace. I personally do not believe in “batch” handmade cigar manufacturing or spiking production to satisfy a short-term demand. Doing so sacrifices quality.

Second, I currently have enough properly fermented and aged materials available to make about 300,000 Sobremesa. I never want production to outpace ready-to-use leaf and force us to cease rolling to wait on leaf. Sometimes things happen beyond your control tobacco-wise that force you to stop production for the integrity of the brand, but in this case, I know what we have and it is critical to me to do my best to plan accordingly. In Feb./Mar. 2016 the second pilon of ECH Grade 1 Dark Rosado capa should be ready to use. If this ends up being the case, we will then begin to increase the production accordingly.

SG: Have you already begun thinking past Sobremesa on other blends?

SS: I have secured tobacco for the second liga DTT intends to release and it will be made with Connecticut Broadleaf capa. I am in the process of working on this blend. There is no release timetable—when it is right we will offer it.

SG: Do you know what this new blend will cost?

SS: There is not currently a pricepoint on this second release. I never think about crafting cigars in the terms of trying to hit a particular market segment. My approach is simple: I start with tobacco I like and an idea of what type of cigar I wish to create: strong, mild, sweet, peppery, nutty, rustic, refined, etc. I then work with the leaf to come up with a blend I find satisfying to me, and sometimes during the course of the blending process the leaf can take me in a totally different direction, but to an unexpected great destination.

This is the reason I never like to talk about what a cigar “will be” or even share the blend with others to taste test during the process. Once the cigar itself is 100% done I then figure out what it costs to make it on an ongoing basis and add reasonable profit, and that is how I come up with the price. Then it is up to consumers to decide whether they feel the experience it delivers is worth its cost. If they do, I am grateful and continue making the cigar. If not, I continue to work hoping they find my next offering worthy of their hard-earned dollars.

I think most new cigars being made today are being made to hit a certain pricepoint, or to appeal to a certain consumer demographic. Way, way too many cigars are being created in conference rooms first these days, rather than by artisans in tobacco and cigar making. I think they are totally missing what makes handmade cigars so magical and, in turn, are unlikely to be successful long-term.

SG: Will this second blend also be made at Joya de Nicaragua?

SS: I am working on this particular blend at the NACSA factory. It is best known for making economy price handmade cigars, however we are working together to create a cigar that I would personally smoke daily. They are very committed to this project and have hired Raúl Disla to join the team and work in the factory with me. Sr. Disla is the former general manager of production at A.J. Fernandez; happens to be the brother of Esteban Disla, the much heralded master cigar maker from RoMa Craft; and is an extremely talented master cigar maker in his own right.

It meant a lot to me to get people to think about Drew Estate as much more than just an infused cigar maker, and I feel the same way about NACSA. I believe this factory is capable of producing something totally unexpected in the premium handmade segment and I am honored to be working with them as we strive toward doing so.

SG: What else does the future hold for DTT?

SS: I am in the process of sourcing tobaccos for a future third liga. I have not formally decided where I will be crafting this blend, however I am so incredibly impressed by the workmanship and dedication to my exacting standards that Joya de Nicaragua has exhibited in the execution of Sobremesa that it is my sincere hope it is with them. Whether they agree, I don’t know because I am, admittedly, a total pain in the ass.

StogieGuys.com joins cigar fans throughout the country in eager anticipation of Sobremesa arriving at their local tobacconists. We wish Steve Saka the best and thank him for his time.

Patrick A

photo credit: Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust

Quick Smoke: Neanderthal HoxD

25 Oct 2015

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

neanderthal-pc

When my colleague reviewed the Neanderthal SGP this past week, it reminded me I had a Neanderthal I’ve been meaning to fire up. I’ve smoked the original HN size before, but not this new petit corona size, which comes only (for now) as part of the El Catador de Las Petite Coronas box, which has two each of RoMa Craft Tobac’s five blends, each in a little (4 x 46) size for $62.50. Much like the larger sizes I’ve smoked, the HoxD trades away nuance and subtlety for power, which manifests itself as damp earth, charred oak, and black pepper. Even more so than the larger sizes, this cigar tastes raw and coarse, which is probably the point. But it’s a little too much in such a small, concentrated size.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys