Archive | June, 2016

Cigar Review: Cornelius & Anthony Cornelius Toro

29 Jun 2016

CorneliusAfter growing tobacco in Virginia since the end of the Civil War, the Bailey family operation has moved into premium cigars.

The inaugural Cornelius cigar has a light brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a binder that’s also from Ecuador, and a Nicaraguan Jalapa filler. The cigars are rolled at El Titan de Bronze in Miami’s Little Havana.

The Toro is a 6-inch, 50-ring gauge stick with a $15 MSRP. Two other vitolas fill out the line: Robusto (5 x 52, $13.50) and Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $12). All are sold in boxes of 20. The company’s website is still under construction.

The Cornelius name honors an ancestor of Steven Bailey, who turned the company into a small-brand cigarette juggernaut in the 1990s. That most interesting story was well told by the Los Angeles Times a few years ago.

There’s no doubt Cornelius & Anthony is making a serious move into cigars. The company hired Courtney Smith, a former executive at La Palina. And, as a separate division of the company, Cornelius & Anthony will have its own individual booth at this year’s IPCPR Trade Show. (Smith supplied the samples I smoked for this review.)

The Cornelius makes a fine first impression, with a smooth wrapper that has an almost minty pre-light aroma. When lit, the opening is a classic cigar flavor: tobacco sweetness. That soon includes a bit of spice with some wood and light nutty notes.

While the flavors amp up and down a little along the way, there isn’t a lot of change throughout. The burn is razor-sharp, though the ash is a bit loose. The draw is excellent.

I’d classify the strength as pretty much in the middle of medium. It’s a strength and flavor profile that should appeal to many smokers. The price is reasonable, especially for a cigar of this size that is rolled in the U.S.

If this sounds like a cigar you’d enjoy, give Cornelius a try. I rate it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Florida Sun Grown Robusto

27 Jun 2016


Two years ago, broke the news that, for the first time since 1977, long-filler cigar tobacco was being grown in Florida. Jeff Borysiewicz, 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.

FSG PNGAt 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. About a month ago, we learned it has been 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.

FSG was blended by Drew Estate Master Blender Willy Herrera over the course of two years. Five vitolas—including a Limited Edition Trunk-Pressed Toro (6 x 54)—currently retail in the $11.50-$15 range. For now, they are only available at Corona Cigar stores, or at Corona Cigar’s retail website. However, rumor has it Borysiewicz would like to see FSG go national. If that happens, the exclusivity at Corona Cigar will likely be remembered as a soft launch.

The FSG Robusto (5 x 54) is a dark, firm, oily cigar with a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos visible at the foot and hearty pre-light notes of raisin and musty earth. It is adorned by a handsome band of teal, orange, and gold that interestingly makes no mention of Drew Estate. The cold draw is smooth and easy.

The flavor is full-bodied and spicy right from the get-go with tons of espresso, black pepper, cayenne heat, and roasted nuts. There’s some raisin and black cherry to help add balance, though that background sweetness certainly doesn’t diminish the intensity. The texture is thick and leathery. After about an inch, the Robusto settles down a bit, but never recedes below the medium- to full-bodied range. Some creaminess enters the equation, as does a little citrus and oak. The final third displays a powerful combination of roasted notes, char, meatiness, and spice.

The combustion qualities are exactly what I’ve come to expect from La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate. The white, finely layered ash holds well off the foot, the draw is clear, the smoke production above average, and the burn line stays straight from light to nub.

It will be interesting to watch the progression of Borysiewicz’s foray into premium cigar tobacco cultivation in Florida. Will FSG get a national release? Will a Florida-grown wrapper leaf be introduced? Will the entire venture be killed off by FDA regulation? I will continue to observe with keen interest. For now, I can say the Florida Sun Grown Robusto is a bold, interesting experience, even at the considerable price of $11.50. In my eyes, this particular cigar is worthy of a very admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Davidoff Anniversario No. 3

26 Jun 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.”


For at least as long as I’ve been writing about cigars, it seems Davidoff has been introducing new cigars to appeal to fuller-bodied tastes. And yet, at least for me, it remains their milder, Connecticut-wrapped cigars that are most quintessentially Davidoff. The Anniversario blend certainly fits that bill. The cigar features light cedar, hay, a hint of honey, and classic Davidoff mustiness, all elegantly layered and well-balanced. Construction is flawless, including an even burn and an ash that holds for nearly half the cigar. Even if a milder perspective isn’t what you regularly seek, you can still appreciate the perfect execution of the iconic Davidoff style.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Gran Habano La Conquista Gran Robusto (Pre-Release)

25 Jun 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.”

Gran Habano

Gran Habano is expected to introduce two new cigars this summer: Los Tres Reyes Magos—a culebra consisting of intertwined lancero sizes of its Gran Habano Connecticut #1, Maduro #3, and Corojo #5 lines—and a new blend called La Conquista. The latter sports a Nicaraguan wrapper around tobaccos from Costa Rica, Colombia, and Nicaragua and will be sold in three sizes that retail for $8-9. I recently took the Gran Robusto (6 x 54) for a test drive and found good combustion qualities and a medium-bodied profile of oak, sweet cream, coffee, musty earth, and popcorn. The resting smoke is beautifully aromatic, sweet, and mouth-watering. That said, the actual taste is missing something and, on my palate at least, feels a little flat.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 485

24 Jun 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.

Joya Black

1) The next new cigar from Joya de Nicaragua will be Joya Black, due out later this summer. The recipe includes a Mexican San Andrés wrapper—a first for the oldest cigar maker in Nicaragua—around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. “Since its inception, the Joya brand has pushed the limits of our factory and showcased a new side of our people and our products,” said Juan Ignacio Martínez, President of Joya de Nicaragua. “Varying from fun and easy smokes like Joya Red, to sophisticated and more complex smoking experiences such as the new Joya Black, and together with new upcoming variants, Joya’s portfolio will continue to generate excitement among modern smokers and make their smoking journey much more rewarding.” Four sizes are expected with per-cigar prices ranging from $5.50 to $8: Robusto (5.25 x 50), Toro (6 x 52), Doble Robusto (5 x 56), and Nocturno (6.25 x 46). Joya Black is considered to be a follow-up to the “very well-received” Habano-wrapped Joya Red, which debuted in 2014 and earned high ratings at

2) Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) this week announced the follow-up to its popular Killer Bee cigar. Called the Green Hornet (5 x 48), it will retail for $9.50 and feature an Ecuadorian maduro wrapper with a “Candela linear cap” and a closed foot, all of which will enclose Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. “It’s never easy following up your biggest hit, but I think the Green Hornet is the perfect addition to the Killer Bee Line. The Green Hornet started as an event-only cigar, however, after seeing the response from consumers and retailers, we knew it had to become a regular release,” said BLCT creator James Brown. “The blend is a touch stronger than the Killer Bee to compliment the larger vitola and the closed Candela foot creates a very unique profile from the first puff. The Green Hornet is big, bold, rich and spicy. Everything you expect from a cigar in the Killer Bee lineup.” The cigar is expected to debut at BLTC retailers starting in July.

3) For years, Florida-based retailer Smoke Inn has commissioned custom, limited edition blends from top manufacturers for its Microblend Series. On Wednesday, Smoke Inn announced its new Microblend Collection First Edition, which showcases one each of the first ten cigars in the series in a “custom-built collector’s box” with a “velvet inlet.” Priced at $135.00 per 10-count box, the sampler includes the Tatuaje Anarchy, Padrón 1964 Anniversary SI-15, My Father El Hijo, Arturo Fuente Solaris, Tatuaje Apocalypse, Room101 Big Delicious, Quesada Oktoberfest Dunkel, 601 La Bomba Bunker Buster, Illusione Pactum, and the Drew Estate Pope of Greenwich Village. Only 1,000 boxes will be made. Pre-orders start today at Smoke Inn. “The Microblend Series not only represents my love and passion for fine cigars but the appreciation and fellowship for the cigar manufacturers that were so amazing to work with on each release,” said Abe Dababneh, owner of Smoke Inn.

4) Inside the Industry: While details are still being worked out, has learned that a joint lawsuit challenging the FDA rules regulating cigars is in the works, backed by the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), Cigar Rights of America (CRA), and the Cigar Association of America (CAA). While the lawsuit is still being put together, it will probably not be filed until after the FDA’s regulations go into effect on August 8, at which point proving damages will be easier.

5) From the Archives: Back in 2010, interviewed Frank Hererra to discuss his cigar brand (La Caridad del Cobre), the state of cigar trademark disputes, and more. Hererra is now the lawyer behind the first cigar industry lawsuit challenging the FDA regulations. Read the whole interview here.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Joya de Nicaragua

Cigar Spirits: Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition Bourbon

22 Jun 2016

Knob Creek 2001

Best I can recall, Knob Creek was my first good bourbon. Which is to say, the first bourbon that wouldn’t qualify as bottom-shelf or rail. Many years later, Knob Creek is still a favorite of mine, with its combination of full flavor, nine years of age, and a price that, if you shop around, can be below $30.

Part of the Small Batch Bourbon Collection produced by parent company Jim Beam, along with Booker’s, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden, Knob Creek (which also comes in rye and barrel-proof varieties) is the oldest bourbon of the collection at nine years. Lately, though, Beam has been leaning on its stocks of well-aged whiskeys, along with the demand from bourbon drinkers, to produce some limited edition older offerings.

Two years ago, Beam released Booker’s 25th Anniversary, which was a ten year, three month version of the uncut, barrel-proof Booker’s that debuted to rave reviews. More recently, as part of the Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve program (where stores can pick their own barrels), some older barrels have become available. And now the national release of the 14-year-old Knob Creek 2001 ($130) follows.

According to the company, Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition Bourbon commemorates the year the responsibility of stewarding Knob Creek was passed from Booker Noe to his son Fred Noe, who succeeded Booker as master distiller. Made from barrels that Booker laid down in 2001, it was finished by Fred as a tribute to his father, who passed in 2004.

Three batches of the bourbon were released last year in limited quantities (my home state of Virginia got only 150), each with its own distinctive profile. I was able to pick up a bottle of Batch Two.

Knob Creek 2001 pours a deep copper color and features a lively nose full of roast nuts and caramel (think peanut brittle). On the palate, the time in the barrel begins to show, with concentrated oak, woody spice, burnt brown sugar, and pie crust. The finish shows even more depth with oak and caramel combining with dark fruit and more spice.

Knob Creek 2001 isn’t as exceptional as Booker’s 25, even before you factor in the slightly higher price ($130 vs. $100), which is as much a factor of the demand for high-end, well-aged bourbon as anything. Still, it is a tasty bourbon, and a significant step above the regular Knob Creek offering, even if it lacks the value factor that the everyday offering provides.

All that full flavor calls for a full-bodied cigar. I’d recommend the Bolivar Royal Corona (Cuban), El GüegüensePaul Garmirian 25th Anniversary Connoisseur, or Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark Rum

20 Jun 2016

Cruzan Estate

For more than a few years, Cruzan Single Barrel has been a staple in my liquor cabinet for its quality, consistency, and great value. For about $30, it delivers a complex, well-rounded flavor of honey, oak, fruit, caramel, and butterscotch. It’s good enough to sip neat, yet affordable enough to prevent you from feeling guilty for including it in a cocktail.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the St. Croix-based distiller, Cruzan originally began producing rum from pot stills eight generations ago and today uses a continuous column distillation process. The name of company (pronounced kru-shun) comes from the island—inhabitants are called “Crucians”—which has a rich and varied history.

St. Croix has been controlled by seven different nations since Christopher Columbus first landed on its beautiful shores in 1493 (Spain, England, Holland, France, Malta, Denmark, and now America). It thrived due to sugar output, which made it a naturally fitting locale for rum production. (Cane is no longer grown on St. Croix; today, Cruzan’s business is supported by molasses imports.)

Cruzan was the first major rum producer to introduce flavored rums. Now, Cruzan’s portfolio spans a multitude of rum styles, including dark, light, spiced, and even a licorice-forward cocktail spirit called Black Strap. But the company’s three flagship rums make up its Distiller’s Collection: Estate Diamond Light, the aforementioned Single Barrel, and Estate Diamond Dark.

The latter retails for about $20 per 750 ml. bottle and is 40% alcohol by volume (80-proof). It is a blend of rums between the ages of five and twelve years that are aged in oak barrels. Cruzan calls it ideal for “slow sips or as a mixer in one-to-one cocktails,” and describes the flavor as “rich notes of oak and vanilla.”

Estate Diamond Dark Rum pours with a light, golden color and a crisp, gentle nose of honey and tropical fruits. On the palate, I find loads of banana with hints of orange, wood, cinnamon spice, vanilla, coffee, and pecan. The overall effect is approachable and bright, though the finish can be surprisingly long with a fair amount of heat and spice.

As for cigar pairings, I’d recommend staying away from full-bodied flavor-bombs and/or dark maduros. Instead, aim for medium-bodied smokes with natural wrappers to avoid overpowering the rum’s subtle flavors that make it so enjoyable. A cigar like the Señorial Corona Gorda No. 5 fits the bill nicely.

One reason I tend to prefer rum and bourbon to scotch is the simple fact that you don’t need to shell out top dollar to have a great rum or bourbon experience. The Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark Rum is a perfect example. This is a great way to spend $20 and worthy of an easy recommendation. Enjoy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys