Archive | May, 2016

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive

30 May 2016

Herrera 1

In early March, it was announced Drew Estate would be expanding its popular Herrera Estelí line by launching the Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive, which began shipping to Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA) members in April. (TAA works to “maximize professionalism and success” among its 80 associated retailers through training and the sharing of best practices; you can find a TAA shop near you here.)

Herrera 2The Drew Estate Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive is presented in a single vitola, a toro (6 x 52) that retails for $144 per 12-count box, or $12 per cigar. Whereas the original Herrera Estelí features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around a Honduran binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, the TAA Exclusive—also blended by Willy Herrera—sports a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and Nicaraguan fillers.

“This is my first blend since joining Drew Estate that utilizes Connecticut Broadleaf tobacco,” said Herrera in a press release. “Drew Estate fans know that we’re famous for our use of Connecticut Broadleaf tobaccos, especially in our Liga Privada No. 9 and Nica Rustica lines. I’ve been experimenting with blends that incorporate this incredible wrapper since coming on board and finally have a blend I’m really excited about.”

The Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive is handsomely appointed with dual bands of red and gold that make this extension easily differentiated from the original Herrera Estelí blend. Even without the bands, though, you’d never confuse the two. The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper on the core line is light and golden, whereas the TAA Exclusive is dark. In typical Drew Estate fashion, the cold draw is ultra-easy. The pre-light notes remind me of chocolate and cedar.

Once underway, I find cocoa with black pepper spice and abundant leather. The texture is coarse and gritty. The potent vegetal notes that are so common among Connecticut Broadleaf smokes from Drew Estate are also apparent, especially in the plentiful resting smoke. Other noticeable flavors include damp earth, vanilla, cream, and a dash of cinnamon. At the midway point and beyond, I start to notice some sour, meaty notes from time to time—nothing terribly concerning, but certainly worth pointing out.

As far as the physical properties are concerned, this cigar is expertly rolled and a complete joy to smoke. The burn line is straight and true throughout, the smoke production well above average, the draw smooth, and the gray ash holds very firmly off the foot.

If Willy Herrera’s objective was to blend a full-bodied cigar that smokes cool with plentiful flavor, I’d consider the Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive a job well done. I especially appreciate the fleeting tastes I uniquely associate with Drew Estate Connecticut Broadleaf tobaccos, and how they are coupled with an overall profile that’s differentiated from the likes of Liga Privada No. 9 or Nica Rustica. This well-crafted cigar is worth seeking out—even with its lofty price tag—and deserving of an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje The Jackal (Case de Montecristo Exclusive)

29 May 2016

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.”

Jackal

Not to be confused with The Jekyll, which was Tatuaje’s Halloween smoke in 2014, The Jackal hit the market last summer as an exclusive to Chicago-area retailer Casa de Montecristo. It boats a beautiful Ecuadorian Sancti Spiritus wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos. Only about 10,000 Jackals were made in a single vitola (6.75 x 56) with a torpedo-style cap and an unfinished foot. The profile is dry and oaky with cedar spice and hints of cocoa, black pepper, and creamy peanut. The only downside is the price tag of $13.90; you’ll get your money’s worth, though.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: E.P. Carrillo Selección Oscuro Especial No. 6

28 May 2016

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.”

EPC-oscuro

The Selección Oscuro is the first E.P. Carrillo cigar to feature a Mexican San Andrés Oscuro wrapper. Underneath the dark, leathery wrapper is an Ecuadoran binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The medium-bodied smoke has dark, rich, earthy notes with powdered cocoa, bread, and a tiny bit of spice. The Selección Oscuro was a bit more spongy than I would have expected, although it didn’t negatively impact combustion at all, nor the noticeably cool smoke. As someone who generally isn’t the biggest fan of the San Andrés wrapper, it is noteworthy how much I enjoyed this cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 481

27 May 2016

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.

FSG Tobacco

1) Two years ago, StogieGuys.com broke the news that, for the first time since 1977, long-filler cigar tobacco was being grown in Florida. Jeff Borysiewicz (pictured above), owner of the Orlando-area Corona Cigar stores and a partner in the Sindicato cigar company, began growing tobacco on land he had purchased—out of love of the leaf, and to avoid paying residential taxes on the land, which is outside Orlando. At the time, while we learned Drew Estate had been selected as Borysiewicz’s partner in the endeavor, it was unclear exactly how the tobacco would be used. This week we learned it will be included in a new blend from Drew Estate aptly called Florida Sun Grown (FSG). The Floridian tobacco joins Nicaraguan leaves as a component of the filler; the binder is Mexican and the wrapper Brazilian. Five vitolas—including a limited edition Trunk-Pressed Toro (6 x 54)—will retail in the $11.50-$15 range. “This has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life,” said Borysiewicz. “Tobacco growing is just as much an art as it is a science, and growing tobacco in this area of Florida was totally uncharted territory. It took a lot of trial and error to get it to where it is today, but we couldn’t be happier with the way it’s smoking.” FSG will be exclusively available at Corona Cigar starting in June.

2) On the heels of thawing relations between Washington and Havana, Cuba’s government has announced the decriminalization of small- to medium-sized private businesses. “Cuban business owners and economic experts said they were hopeful the reform would allow private firms to import wholesale supplies and export products to other countries for the first time, removing a major obstacle to private business growth,” reports ABC news. “While the government offered no immediate further details, the new business categories appear to be the next stage in reforms initiated by President Raúl Castro after he took over from his brother Fidel Castro in 2008.”

3) Inside the Industry: Paul Joyal’s Ocean State Cigars announced the addition of a box-pressed Double Robusto (5.5 x 54) to the J. Grotto Anniversary line. The cigar uses a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, a Dominican Habano binder, and undisclosed “other Central American tobaccos” for the filler. The Anniversary line is blended and manufactured by Phil Zanghi, whose Dominican operation shares factory space with the Reyes family of tobacco producers. The cigar comes in 10-count boxes and sells for $8.50.

4) From the Archives: One user error that rookie cigar smokers often commit is ashing too often. In a tip from three years ago titled “Better Ash, Better Cigar Experience,” we covered this and gave the advice that, while smoking doesn’t need to be a long ash contest, there are scientific reasons why ashing too frequently will negatively impact your enjoyment.

5) Deal of the Week: The latest iteration of the popular Tatuaje Monster Series is the Tatuaje Skinny Monsters. This ten-count sampler ($85) features each of the eight Halloween Monster blends, plus the Chuck and Tiff blends that debuted in the Pudgy Monster sampler in a “skinny” lancero (6 x 38) format.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Drew Estate

Tip: Father’s Day Gift Guide 2016

25 May 2016

Fathers Day Gifts

Father’s Day is less than a month out, and chances are you’re still looking for a gift for pops. If your father happens to enjoy his cigars (or whiskey), here are some suggestions you can have ready for dad to open on June 19th:

Cigars

Giving the gift of cigars is not as easy as it sounds. Personal preferences can be finicky and there are so many cigars to choose from. Ideally, you’re giving him a cigar he wouldn’t usually buy for himself. (Think a Padrón Anniversary or a Fuente Opus X if he usually smokes standard-issue Padróns or Fuentes, respectively.) For more ideas, read our Guide to Giving the Gift of Cigars. One specific suggestion always worth considering is a Cigar Rights of America (CRA) sampler, which includes ten high-end cigars plus a free membership in CRA.

Cigar Accessories

Every cigar enthusiast needs a great table lighter, travel lighter, cutter, ashtray, travel case, humidor, etc. Instead of buying cigars, think about giving the gift of a cigar accessory that can last a lifetime. Many regular cigar smokers I know won’t spring for a nice case or lighter, so it makes the perfect gift. Lately, I’ve really been appreciating this Lotus triple-flame lighter and my Stingray Skin Tampa Fuego case.

Whiskey

There are lots of good bourbons being made these days, but some old standbys are becoming harder and harder to find. Sure, who wouldn’t want a bottle of Pappy as a gift? But the increasingly exorbitant prices you’d pay ($1,000+ for a 20 Year Pappy) make it hard to justify. One good bourbon you can still find with relative ease is the nine-year-old Knob Creek Small Batch (~$32). Full of caramel, oak, and a little spice, it is a bourbon novices and connoisseurs alike can enjoy. For rye fans, the new Pikesville Six Year Rye is a full 110-proof flavor bomb. Any single malt fan would appreciate Glendronach 15 which, although it has been discontinued, can still be found and is the closest thing to Macallan 18 available for under $100.

A Good Book

A good book is always appreciated. If you are looking for a specific recommendation, you could do worse than The Cigar: Moments of Pleasure, an informative and visually appealing coffee table book. In his recent review of the book, my colleague wrote: “Spectacular. That is the only word I can think of to adequately describe this large-format, colorful book that explores every imaginable facet of cigars.”

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Quesada Selección España Beli-Lance (Casa de Montecristo Exclusive)

23 May 2016

Quesada 1

A little over a year ago, it was announced Casa de Montecristo (CDM)—a successful three-location tobacconist in Chicago—would be receiving two exclusive sizes of Quesada’s Selección España blend. These vitolas joined eight other Selección España frontmarks, some of which are regular production, others limited to as few as 600 total cigars.

Quesada 2The two CDM sizes are Fabulosos (7 x 54, $12) and the subject of today’s review, a cross between a belicoso and a lancero called Beli-Lance (7 x 40, $12). CDM received 3,000 of each size from Quesada. Each comes complete with an Ecuadorian Arapiraca wrapper, a Dominican Broadleaf binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

“The Spanish Market has always been dominated by Cuban cigars, but lately high unemployment and the high cost of Cuban cigars has driven the Spanish to search out alternatives,” reads an un-dated explanation on the Quesada website about the origins of the blend’s name, which was likely written around 2010. “To address this new demand, the Quesada family brought Spanish tobacconists to the Dominican Republic to work a cigar exclusively for Spain, and after a week of blending the Quesada España was born.”

Clearly, Selección España is not exclusive to Spain. Quesada’s retailers in the U.S. got a hold of some samples when the cigar was being introduced in 2010, liked them, and ultimately got approval to bring the blend to the American market.

The Beli-Lance from CDM sports a lancero frame topped by a sharply pointed cap. The cap clips uneventfully to yield a clear cold draw, which is somewhat surprising given the thin ring gauge and firm feel. The unique wrapper (Arapiraca is typically grown in Brazil, not Ecuador) is moderately textured and reddish with a few large veins and tight seams.

Once lit, pre-light notes of molasses and hay transition to a woody, meaty profile with hints of oak, char, peppery spice, clove, and leather. The body is medium and the smoke texture is thick and chewy. After a quarter-inch, the spice increases, but traces of sweet cream and roasted nuts fade in and out for some balance. At times, the resting smoke is incredibly aromatic and mouth-watering.

As the Beli-Lance progresses, the draw tends to tighten and the flavors take a turn towards a bitter, somewhat stale, version of their former selves. From the midway point on, I find myself in a struggle to keep the cigar lit while preventing the taste from becoming too hot or too harsh as the foot heats up from my frequent puffs and touch-ups. I was rarely able to regain the pleasant, balanced profile that characterized the beginning.

Notwithstanding the high regard in which many hold Quesada Selección España, I did not have a satisfactory experience with the Beli-Lance, a size I thought I was destined to thoroughly enjoy. All things considered, this cigar earns a disappointing rating of two stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Curivari Buenaventura BV 500

22 May 2016

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.”

I’ve long touted Curivari Buenaventura as an excellent cigar for the value. The Nicaraguan puro’s understated, classic appearance fits the sub-$5 price tag, but don’t mistake that as an accurate proxy for quality. Excellent construction aids  the delivery of a balanced combination of medium-bodied flavors: cocoa, espresso, cedar, oak, and earth. This reasonably priced gem is a little hard to find but well worth seeking out.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys