Archive | December, 2015

Happy (Cigar-Filled) New Year from StogieGuys.com!

31 Dec 2015

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From all of us at StogieGuys.com, we want to wish you a happy and healthy 2016 filled with many fine cigars! We’re taking a few days off to celebrate the new year with friends and family, but we’ll be right back here on Monday with more cigar reviews, news, interviews, commentaries, and tips in what will be our tenth year covering the world of cigars.

Until then, you can follow us on our official Twitter feed, on Instagram, and on Facebook, or you can sign up for our free email newsletter.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Celebrate the New Year with Cigars and Champagne

30 Dec 2015

[In order to help our readers ring 2016 in right, we’re republishing this tip about how to pair cigars and champagne. Enjoy!]

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Pairing brown liquor with  cigars is the more obvious choice, but champagne (or other sparkling wines) can go surprisingly well with a smoke. Not to mention the celebratory nature of the bubbly. To enhance your champagne and cigar enjoyment, here are a few basic tips:

Save the top-dollar champagne.

Champagne can be fantastic, but unless you have unlimited funds, the vintage Dom Pérignon should be held back if you’re smoking a cigar. You pay a price for the champagne name (meaning it’s from the Champagne region of France). There are plenty of good champagne-style sparkling wines that can be had for a reasonable cost. Spending $50 or $100 on brand name French bubbly will probably be a waste (considering you’re going to lose some of the complexities due to your cigar). Spanish Cava, in particular, can be had for a fraction of the price.

Stick with mild cigars.

Champagne doesn’t have the heft of rum, whiskey, or even beer or coffee. The best champagnes are the most subtle, so the same subtlety is needed in the cigar you pair with your sparkling wine. Stick with mild cigars that have balance. Too often Connecticut-wrapped cigars feature bitterness, so look for those with age and balance. Extra-aged Cubans can be a great pairing, and a special mention is deserved for the Illusione Epernay, which is named after the Champagne region and was blended with a champagne pairing in mind.

Age your cigars and your champagne.

Smoking a cigar with champagne calls for a cigar that is smooth, mild, complex, and subtle, all of which can be the result of aging a cigar. Some cigars just lose their flavor with age, so be careful, but others are enhanced by months or years aging properly in a humidor. Some of the same things happen to aged champagne which, while not for everyone, loses some of its bubbly crispness but adds creaminess and depth along the lines of a well-aged white burgundy. Usually you pay extra for vintage champagne. But if you can get some of those same qualities by just putting aside a good champagne and waiting, don’t be afraid to give it a try. (Not long ago I had some non-vintage Champagne Tattinger with a decade of age, and the result was very impressive.)

Cheers!

Patrick S

photo credit: Wikipedia

StogieGuys.com’s Top Cigars of 2015 (Part II)

29 Dec 2015

Throughout the year, we smoked scores of cigars, and six of them achieved our top rating. That’s one more than last year and three times as many as in 2013.

Obviously, our top rating isn’t easy to get. Our system, which we’ve been using for nearly ten years) notes the five-stogies-out-of-five rating is reserved for cigars that are “tasty, complex” and “truly an occasion,” deserving “your full and undivided attention.” We think you’ll find these half dozen clear that high bar.

Two of our top-rated cigars for 2015 were also among the most anticipated: Nick Melillo’s El Güegüense and Steve Saka’s Sobremesa.

Reviewing the Robusto, I found “El Güegüense more than lives up to expectations.” Smoking the Sobremasa Cervantes Fino, my colleague called it “full-bodied, complex, and balanced with loads of rich flavor and a delicate peppery zing.”

Two others were from Tatuaje, a regular on our five-stogie list: the Black Robusto and the Havana VI Verocu No. 1.

My other colleague reviewed the Black Robusto. It was, he wrote, “the best of the bunch when it comes to the recent-era Tatuaje Blacks.” I found the new Verocu every bit as good as its predecessors, highlighting “smoothness and balance, as the flavors move and shift throughout the smoke.”

Another list regular, Don Gioloto’s Illusione, scored with the Singulare LE 2014 Anunnaki. For my colleague, this Singulare was “very similar to the Epernay, but with more sweetness and a velvety texture.”

The sixth spot was also held by a widely known name in cigars, José Blanco. His Las Cumbres Tabaco Señorial Paco Robusto is, according to my colleague, “the kind of cigar that makes you want to light up another as soon as it’s finished.”

If you’re looking for more suggestions, all of our five-stogie sticks through the years are here, and an alphabetical compilation of all reviews is here. And lastly, please keep in mind this best-of list is restricted not to cigars that were introduced in 2015, but rather cigars we reviewed in 2015.

George E

photo credit: N/A

StogieGuys.com’s Top Cigars of 2015 (Part I)

28 Dec 2015

We smoked a lot of cigars in 2015, many of them truly wonderful. A handful got our top five-stogie rating, but more came awfully close. In fact, 16 cigars scored four-and-a-half stogies, while 40 earned four stogies. As we end the year with our traditional look back, we’ll focus first on those smokes that just missed the top slot. Tomorrow, we’ll come back with a look at the six that landed at the pinnacle.

The 4.5-stogie rated cigars span a wide range of manufacturers, blenders, strengths, and sizes. They’re listed in alphabetical order:

Abaddon Lancero (Blue Havana Exclusive): “An easy recommendation and a solid complement to an after-dinner serving of high-proof bourbon.”

Aging Room M19 Fortissimo Preferido: “May be the smoothest Fortissimo yet.”

Añoranzas Toro: “A box-worthy full-bodied cigar that’s consistent, complex, and downright delicious.”

Avo Heritage Short Robusto: “Beginning with cedar and a hint of the hay and grass common to many Davidoff productions, there’s quickly quite a bit of spice.”

Boutique Blends La Bohème Mimi: “Another virtuoso performance for Boutique Blends.”

Byron Serie Siglo XX Londinenses: “The flavors are as numerous as they are harmonious, and the experience is downright memorable.”

Exactus Puro Ambar Short Robusto: “If you like bold, spicy cigars, this is one to try.”

Fratello Bianco Event Exclusive: “As the cigar progresses, the complexity deepens with the additions of creamy nut, damp earth, and a dried fruit sweetness.”

Guayacan Sabor de Esteli Habana Robusto: “Teeming with taste and abundant in complexity.”

Illusione Fune d’Amour Viejos: “The flavors are a whirlwind combination of dry woodiness, hay, roast nuts, light honey, and maybe a hint of muted black pepper.”

Kilo Toro: “Balanced, cool-burning, interesting, unique, and superbly constructed.”

La Palina H-Town Lancero: “The initial profile is creamy, nutty, and bready with a significant kick of cayenne spice on the finish.”

Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2015 LC46: “A complex smoke that began with roasted nuts, dry cocoa, and a little back-of-the-throat spice.”

Nestor Miranda Collection One Life Edition Danno Habano: “No doubt concentration will pay off in what you experience with this complex cigar.”

Padrón Serie 1964 Exclusive Natural: “You get a high-quality stick with balanced, medium-bodied flavors for your money.”

Tatuaje La Verite Churchill 2008: “Balance is wonderful and the texture is bready. The taste is bright and vibrant.”

You’ll find an explanation of our rating system here and a curated listing of our five-stogie selections through the years here. An alphabetical compilation of all reviews (spanning almost ten years!) is here. And lastly, please keep in mind this best-of list is restricted not to cigars that were introduced in 2015, but rather cigars we reviewed in 2015.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Review: Las Cumbres Tabaco Freyja Valhalla

23 Dec 2015

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Emma Viktorsson has a tobacco pedigree that goes far beyond her marriage to José Blanco. “I sort of grew into this business,” she writes on her blog. “Ever since I was barely eight years old, my father, Ake Viktorsson, was a vital part of Swedish Match as a part of the management team and general director of several international areas… Straight out of university, in 2005, I myself took on a job for Swedish Match.”

FreyjaLater, in 2010, Viktorsson joined Blanco in the Dominican Republic, and then followed him to Nicaragua as he left his post at La Aurora to work at Joya de Nicaragua. “I always joined José to the factory, even if it was just for pleasure,” she says. “During the blending of CyB I stayed by his side and watched him do his magic, and when the blends started to be made I was part of the smoking panel.”

In August 2013, Joya de Nicaragua announced Blanco would be leaving Estelí for “his roots in the Dominican Republic.” Blanco later formed Las Cumbres Tabaco in partnership with Tabacalera Palma, operated by Blanco’s cousin, Jochi Blanco, in Tamboril, Santiago.

The first Las Cumbres blend was officially launched June 2014—and it’s excellent. Called Señorial (Spanish for “lordly”), it boasts a Habano Ecuardor wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder from Estelí, and Dominican filler tobaccos of the Piloto Cubano and Corojo varieties.

This summer, Las Cumbres launched Viktorsson’s first brand. Called Freyja after the Viking goddess associated with love, beauty, and fertility, it is intended to bridge Viktorsson’s Swedish roots with her passion for premium cigars. The blend includes a Dominican Criollo ’98 wrapper, a Mexican San Andrés binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

The Freyja Valhalla is a robusto (5.5 x 50) that retails for about $8 (yes, all four Freyja vitolas have names consistent with the Viking theme). Underneath its large, intricate band of gold and blue, it sports a moderately oily exterior that’s light brown, silky, and not without a couple large veins. Fairly spongy to the touch throughout, the pre-light notes remind me of caramel, syrup, and hay. The cold draw is smooth.

After setting an even light with a wooden match, I find a harmonious, mild- to medium-bodied profile of cedar, pecan, creamy sweetness, and white pepper. Neither spice nor sweetness dominates, leaving the overall profile oaky, balanced, and interesting. As it progresses, both body and strength build to the medium level. The flavors also change a little throughout, with varying notes of sweetness coming and going, and hints of tea and clove at the midway point. The finale introduces some cinnamon spice. Construction is good—the straight burn requires no touch-ups along the way—though the ash is particularly flaky.

According to Viktorsson, neither José Blanco nor Jochi Blanco helped her develop the blend; rather, Freyja was produced by the combination of Viktorsson and Geraldito Perez, Tabacalera Palma’s production manager. The duo has crafted a satisfying smoke that’s undoubtedly a solid first effort from Viktorsson—though, to my palate, it’s not at the level of excellence achieved by Señorial, which, to be fair, is one of the better blends I smoked in 2015. All things considered, the Freyja Valhalla earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2015

22 Dec 2015

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While we do publish an annual list of our highest-rated cigars (check back next week for the 2015 edition), we’ve generally not named a top individual cigar. Unsurprisingly, we’ve also never given much thought to naming a whiskey or bourbon of the year.

We’re not going to start doing so now. But if we were, the Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2015 would probably be my top contender. When checking out the 2014 version, I wrote: “The 2014 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition is a delicious bourbon, and it only makes me look forward to the soon-to-be-released 2015 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition even more.”

Luckily, I was able to grab a bottle of the 2015 ($100 retail, although it frequently sells for more). Not only did it live up to the very good 2014, but it exceeded it by leaps and bounds. Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise as this was long-time Four Roses’ Master Distiller Jim Rutledge’s final limited edition selection, as he retired in September after 49 years in the spirits industry.

For this year, the small batch used four bourbons from three of Four Roses’ ten recipes: OBSK (16 years), OESK (15 years), OESK (14 years), and OBSV (11 years). The barrel-proof combination comes in at 108.6-proof (54.3% ABV). The rich, amber-colored bourbon features an inviting nose with vanilla, red apple, candy corn, and a hint of mint.

On the palate, the bourbon boasts creamy notes with cinnamon spice, dried fruit, fresh apples, burnt caramel, and honey-soaked oak. The finish lingers on the tongue with more apple, spearmint, and clove.

You can add a splash of water to this barrel-proof whiskey if you like, but given the mild (for barrel-strength) proof it really isn’t necessary as it drinks better neat. I haven’t tried every new bourbon introduced in 2015, but I’ve tried many of the high-profile ones, and at least so far this is the bottle that impressed me most with a rare combination of intensity and integrated, balanced flavor.

Pair it with a balanced medium- to full-bodied cigar (for example SobremesaTatuaje BlackPadrón Serie 1926, or Cuban Cohiba Siglo) and enjoy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Bugatti Ambassador Robusto

21 Dec 2015

BugattiCigars with celebrity names usually generate skepticism.

I confess I initially had reservations about this smoke with a name that first came to prominence about 100 years ago with speedy cars and has, in recent years, become attached to fashion, leather, lighters, watches, and other luxury items.

But I also realize that judging by a name makes no more sense than judging by looks or any other superficial trait. So I lit one up wondering what I’d find.

What I found was an excellent cigar.

The Ambassador line features a beautiful Ecuadorian wrapper, a Dominican binder, and Nicaraguan filler. The Robusto (5 x 52) has an MSRP of $9.50. There’s also a $10 Toro.

The three Robustos I smoked were supplied by Bugatti.

The Ambassador has a nice peppery start that mixes with an earthiness in the first third. Those flavors mingle nicely in the middle and then pepper kicks back up in the final third, along with a delicate sweetness.

Construction, burn, and smoke production were excellent in all three samples. Strength is medium.

You may remember Bugatti cigars from a few years ago when brand owner Yigal Harel worked with Nick Perdomo to produce a line under the Bugatti name. But that collaboration ended, and the cigar now comes from Harel’s Bugatti Group, which is working with two factories in the Dominican Republic, according to company vice president Julian Correa.

Reflections of the supercar can be found on the bands. The main one features a somewhat similar “B” logo, while the smaller, red second band has a design reminiscent of Bugatti’s honeycomb grills.

I recommend this Robusto, especially for fans of Nicaraguan pepper. I think you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was. I give the Bugatti Ambassador four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys