Archive | September, 2016

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 499

30 Sep 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.

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1) In a scathing—though perhaps unsurprising—story from Scientific American, it was revealed the FDA “has been arm-twisting journalists into relinquishing their reportorial independence” with a tactic known as the “close-hold embargo.” The entire article is well worth a read, but the gist of the unnerving scheme is that the FDA is offering certain media outlets briefings about upcoming announcements before those announcements are provided to their competition in exchange for the FDA’s ability to determine who the journalists can and cannot interview. “Documents obtained by Scientific American through Freedom of Information Act requests now paint a disturbing picture of the tactics that are used to control the science press,” reads the article. “For example, the FDA assures the public that it is committed to transparency, but the documents show that, privately, the agency denies many reporters access—including ones from major outlets such as Fox News—and even deceives them with half-truths to handicap them in their pursuit of a story. At the same time, the FDA cultivates a coterie of journalists whom it keeps in line with threats. And the agency has made it a practice to demand total control over whom reporters can and can’t talk to until after the news has broken, deaf to protests by journalistic associations and media ethicists and in violation of its own written policies.” This hardly seems like the behavior of an agency that works in the best interest of the public it supposedly serves. The revelation—which one observer described as “journalists become stenographers”—also may explain how so many supposedly reputable mainstream media outlets repeated many misleading FDA claims about the agency’s cigar regulations.

2) Major League Baseball may be officially anti-tobacco, but the players have no doubt what marks a special occasion. Before David Ortiz’s last game Sunday at Tropicana Field, the Tampa Bay Rays presented the Boston Red Sox slugger with gifts that included 34 cigars (his number) from local cigar company J.C. Newman. Reports referred to 34 Diamond Crown Maximus sticks, but a photo of the event (held off-field because of the death of José Fernández earlier that day) shows Rays’ star Evan Longoria with a box of Diamond Crown Julius Caeser and Big Papi holding the Maximus box. It’s not the first time cigars have figured in Ortiz’s retirement-tour celebration. The White Sox gave him a large cigar-filled humidor built by former Sox slugger-turned-woodworker Ron Kittle.

3) Inside the Industry:  A trio of products that pay tribute to the company’s history highlight La Aurora’s new offerings this year. La Aurora has long been known for using tobacco aged in rum barrels, but the new La Aurora 1903 Edition Double Barrel Aged doubles, by one year, the rum barrel aging period for the filler. The blend uses Ecuadorian wrapper, a Brazilian binder, and filler from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Nicaragua. The company is also introducing new formats of its flagship La Aurora Preferidos line, with non-tubo Corona, Robusto, and Toro sizes. Also new this year is the La Aurora 107 Cosecha 2006, which has tobacco from the 2006 harvest in three sizes: Churchill (7 x 50), Corona Gorda (6 x 47), and Robusto (5 x 50).

4) From the Archives: Picking a cigar to smoke is hard enough, but sometimes picking a tobacconist to buy it from can be equally frustrating. Based on lots of travel and visits to many cigar shops, this examination of “How to Spot an Excellent Tobacconist” will help you evaluate any shop.

5) Deal of the Week: Just $27 will land you this Lucky 7 Sampler. Included are three each of the Alec Bradley American Sun Grown and Oliva Serie O, plus a Punch Gran Puro, and a free cutter thrown in for good measure. Be sure to add the coupon code “stogie” for 10% off.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Cigar Country Power Rankings (5-1)

28 Sep 2016

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While cigars are commonly associated with few countries, at least a dozen countries make significant contributions to handmade cigars. This week, we rank the top ten countries by their importance to the industry. The production of handmade cigars is truly global, as evidenced by the fact that Belgium, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Jamaica, and the Bahamas—each of which grow cigar tobacco or make cigars—missed the top ten.

On Monday we counted down from ten to six. Today we reveal the rest of the top ten.

5) Ecuador Wrapper, wrapper, and more wrapper. That’s why Ecuador is so high on this list. Blessed with powdery, nutrient-rich soil and natural cloud cover, odds are good some of your favorite cigars introduced in recent years use Ecuadorian wrapper, likely grown by the Oliva tobacco family. Not only is Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut (where cloud cover makes netting unnecessary) an alternative to U.S.-Connecticut Shade wrapper, but the country also produces the increasingly popular Ecuadorian Habano leaf, as well as significant amounts of Sumatra-seed wrapper.

4) Honduras Not too long ago, Honduras surpassed Nicaragua when it came to cigar exports to the United States. That’s no longer the case, and it isn’t all that close but the country is still in a tier of its own above all but the top three on this list. Known for bold, flavorful tobaccos, Honduran tobacco continues to be a staple for cigars rolled in Honduras (especially in the country’s cigar epicenter of Danlí) and elsewhere.

3) Dominican Republic Long the number one handmade cigar country for cigars imported into the United States, today the Dominican Republic has a strong claim to our number three spot. Many victims of Cuban revolution ended up in the Dominican Republic, where iconic brands continue to be produced today. Add such classic brands as Davidoff and La Aurora, plus many upstart boutique brands, and it is easy to see why the Dominican Republic continues to be a juggernaut.

2) Nicaragua Both Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic have a strong case to make for second place, but in recent years Nicaragua has surpassed the Dominican Republic in many ways, especially as the social and political instability of the war in the 1980s moved into the rear-view mirror. In terms of handmade cigar output, Nicaragua, with its rich soil, has pulled even with the Dominican Republic in terms of imports to the U.S. in recent years, even though as recently as 2005 the Dominican Republic outproduced Nicaragua almost four to one. Today, many traditionally Dominican blends are coming out with cigars that include Nicaraguan tobacco, a fact that ultimately pulls Nicaragua ahead.

1) Cuba Although held back because Cuba’s cigar industry is state-controlled, Cuba still has some of the best tobacco-growing regions in the world, which results in many of the finest cigars. Plus, no country is as closely identified with cigars as Cuba. If ever we could see some of the top-grade Cuban tobacco used in combination with that from other countries, I would expect the result to be spectacular.

There you have it, our top ten. Agree or disagree? Let us know.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Cigar Country Power Rankings (10-6)

26 Sep 2016

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While cigars are commonly associated with few countries, at least a dozen countries make significant contributions to handmade cigars. This week, we rank the top ten countries by their importance to the industry. The production of handmade cigars is truly global, as evidenced by the fact that Belgium, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Jamaica, and the Bahamas—each of which grow cigar tobacco or make cigars—missed the top ten.

Today, we count down from ten to six, with the top five being revealed Wednesday.

10) Indonesia Indonesian cigar tobacco doesn’t get a lot of respect from many cigar connoisseurs, but it is a workhorse. Sumatra wrapper is known for its mild spice, and Indonesian tobacco is frequently used as binder due to its excellent combustion qualities and neutral flavors that play well with more flavorful tobaccos. Take a look at any cigar catalog and you may be surprised at how many premium cigars use some Indonesian tobacco.

9) Brazil Although rich in history with a diversity of cigar tobaccos grownincluding Mata Fina, Mata Norte, and ArapiracaBrazil flies under the radar. After the Menendez family, which created Cuba’s famed Montecristo cigar, had their Cuban-based holdings seized by the Castro regime, the family spread out in search of other opportunities to grow tobacco and make cigars, including Felix Menendez, who became a pioneer in Brazilian tobacco. While few Brazilian puros are made, Brazilian tobacco is primarily used in combination with other tobaccos.

8) Cameroon Cameroon wrapper has a special place in the cigar industry. Put simply, there is nothing else like it. Grown predominately by the Meerapfel family in Cameroon and the Central African Republic, Cameroon wrapper features a mild spice that so far hasn’t been replicated. That’s why, even though quality Cameroon wrapper is expensive and sometimes delicate, more than one cigar maker has told me as long as it is available they plan on keeping a Cameroon-wrapped cigar in their profile, if for no other reason than because they enjoy the leaf so much.

7) Mexico For a long time, Mexican tobacco had a reputation as rough and course, but that has changed in recent years as Mexican puros have decreased but Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper has become an increasingly popular. With high quality Broadleaf Maduro wrapper hard to find, the industry has turned to Mexican leaf in large numbers, and consumers have welcomed the addition.

6) United States A century ago, cigars were rolled in every major U.S. city. Today, with the exception of a few boutique factories in Miami, almost no handmade cigars are made in the United States. Still, the country is important to handmade cigars because of the high quality wrapper grown in the Connecticut River Valley, especially Connecticut Shade and Broadleaf wrapper. As demand for Broadleaf has increased, tobaccoBroadleaf especiallyis also being grown in Pennsylvania. Although minute in terms of volume, an interesting experiment has also seen cigar tobacco grown in Florida for the first time in decades.

Check back Wednesday for the top five.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Viaje Oro Reserva VOR No. 5 (2010)

25 Sep 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.”

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This Viaje Oro Reserva VOR No. 5 is the cigar that put Viaje on the map for many people when it landed at number two on the Cigar Aficionado best-of list for 2010. Today, I’m re-tasting the six-year-old cigar to see how it has aged. (The VOR No. 5 was reissued in 2012 and 2013, but those can be differentiated because they featured a secondary band marked “Oro” and the Reserva band on the foot.) The cigar features wood, earth, and leather along with light cocoa and mild spice (cinnamon and nutmeg). The result is a cigar that, over the years, has become even more perfectly balanced, but still flavorful. Six years later you can still see why this was so sought-after.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Galera Habano Chaveta

24 Sep 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.”

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A new offering from Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic, La Galera pays homage to the craft of cigar making from start to finish. From the line’s name (“la galera” is a factory’s rolling room) to the individual vitola designations (each an industry-related name) and the incredible band (intricate scenes of a tobacco field and a lector at work), it’s an impressive presentation. The cigar also delivers on performance and flavor, with a complex blend: Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Dominican Corojo binder, and a mix of Dominican fillers, including Pelo de Oro. At just a shade over $6 for the robusto-sized Chaveta (5 x 50), this sweet-tasting, medium-strength smoke is definitely one to try.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 498

23 Sep 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.

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1) Among the choices facing California voters in November is the option to increase the cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with equivalent increases on other tobacco products, including cigars. A “yes” vote on Proposition 56 would increase the tax on cigars and pipe tobacco by 145% in the country’s most populous state. California Citizens Against Special Interests and Wasteful Taxes set up a website to encourage voters to reject the tax hike, calling Prop. 56 “a $1.4 billion tax hike grab by insurance companies and other wealthy special interests to dramatically increase their profits by shortchanging schools and ignoring other pressing problems.” Cigars are already taxed at a rate of 27.3% in California. “At a time when the California state budget has billions in surplus revenue, is this really the right time to be raising taxes—especially when the revenue will have no taxpayer accountability?” asked Tom Hudson, president of the California Taxpayer Protection Committee.

2) Greensboro, North Carolina, is the site of the latest Davidoff Lounge, this one a 2,000-square-foot space with “a modern design with industrial touches” inside Havana Phil’s Cigar Company. The grand opening was yesterday. According to a press release: “Davidoff commissioned NYC urban artists, UR New York, to create a one-of-a-kind art piece, depicting the fusion of Davidoff luxury and Greensboro’s local flavor. The lounge also features a filigree polygon ‘base jumper’ sculpture by artist Moto Waganari, offering interesting perspectives that will take viewers on an experiential journey from virtual art to reality. All decorative elements give this Davidoff Lounge a recognizable stamp of quality and luxury.”

3) Inside the Industry: Yesterday, multiple reports surfaced indicating Michael Giannini, creative director at General Cigar, was departing the company where he had worked since 2000. Giannini has held many positions at General over the years, including working with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo on La Gloria Cubana, and then becoming the face of the brand after Carrillo departed. In more recent years, he launched Foundry Cigar Company, which was described as a boutique operation within the General Cigar umbrella. Quotes from both parties suggest they part with mutual respect. Giannini also hinted he will soon reemerge in the cigar industry: “A musician knows when to stop playing when they don’t have any more songs… I’m not done playing,” he said.

4) From the Archives: If you’re a new cigar smoker, you may suffer from too much—or too little—advice. The simple act of attempting to enjoy a cigar can even become a source of worry, which is the last thing it should ever be. Back in 2013, we presented some suggestions to help beginners more easily find pleasure in the hobby.

5) Deal of the Week: New cigars continue to flow in at Smoke Inn. Now, any purchase of $75 or more includes a free triple-flame lighter valued at $50. To get it, just add the coupon code “StogieDeal” in your shopping cart before checking out.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: MBombay Vintage Reserve Lancero 1973

21 Sep 2016

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This is a cigar made to stand out.mbombay-lancero

At 8.5 inches in length, it’s an inch longer than the traditional Cuban lancero size. After removing the cedar sheath that covers about two-thirds of the Vintage Reserve, the unwrapped foot is pronounced. At the head, a small pigtail cap is easy to miss.

But where this version of MBombay’s annual limited edition—500 boxes of 25 shipped to retailers, according to company head Mel Shah—truly shines is with its flavors.

It begins with light, enticing spice before the Ecuadorian wrapper becomes engaged. At this point, with all components burning, the spice begins to be overshadowed by notes of wood.

About a third of the way down, there’s a rich taste of cinnamon that lasts throughout. It is most enjoyable, especially as it mixes with the wood, cedar, and tobacco sweetness along the way. Strength is in the medium range.

The filler is a mix of Dominican and Peruvian tobaccos, while the binder is Dominican. Like other cigars from MBombay, the Vintage Reserve is rolled in Costa Rica. The price tag is $13.50 a stick.

I smoked two of these and found them to perform excellently. The burn was straight, the draw smooth, and smoke production top-notch. As with all thin cigars—the ring gauge is 38—it’s necessary to smoke slowly to avoid overheating.

Perhaps as a backlash to the trend toward humongous ring gauges, some smokers have embraced lanceros. In fact, you’ll often see the vitola dubbed the “connoisseur’s size.”

I’m not sure that’s quite rational. Judging someone by the size of the cigars they smoke doesn’t make any more sense to me than judging cigars themselves based on size.

In the case of the Vintage Reserve, I think it’s a tasty cigar that any smoker would enjoy, from connoisseur to amateur. It scores four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys