Archive | October, 2016

Cigar Review: El Güegüense Churchill

31 Oct 2016

churchill-1

StogieGuys.com has been covering the annual IPCPR Trade Show for a decade, but there are a few things I especially remember about the 2015 convention in Las Vegas. Aside from the scorching heat outside on The Strip, I recall this being the first show where a sense of FDA foreboding seemingly permeated every conversation. I remember the sheer volume of exhibiting cigar makers, which seemed notably more numerous than previous years. And I recollect the excitement about the new cigars coming to market from former Drew Estate tobacco men Steve Saka and Nicholas Melillo.

churchill-2You’ll recall Melillo, who formerly served as executive vice president of international operations at Drew Estate, announced the formation of the Foundation Cigar Company shortly before the 2015 convention. At the time, all we knew was his first solo outfit would be headquartered in Connecticut, and the first blend would be made at the TABSA (Tobaccos Valle de Jalapa) factory in Nicaragua, using Aganorsa tobacco.

Today, many of us have smoked the blend El Güegüense—also known as “The Wise Man”—which is a Nicaraguan puro with a Corojo ’99 wrapper from Jalapa that’s described as “rosado rosado café.” There are five vitolas: Robusto, Toro, Torpedo, Corona Gorda, and Chuchill. The latter measures 7 inches with a ring gauge of 48 and retails for $11.

Aside from its red-tinted color, the first thing you notice about the Churchill when it’s in your hand is the smoothness of the wrapper. Whether the velvety touch is due to the cigar’s tight seams, abundant surface oils, or some combination of the two, it’s definitely silky to the touch. And the well-executed cap and firm feel only reinforce the message of quality. The pre-light notes are soft and floral with traces of white pepper and cedar.

After setting an even light, a spice-forward profile emerges with plenty of cinnamon and pepper. But there are plenty of balancing flavors in the not-too-distant background, including honey, melon, and subtle sweetness. As it settles into the midway point, the Churchill exhibits a little less spice with more dry wood and a molasses-like sweetness with some barbeque char. Hints of hay, graham, and chocolate come and go. The finale witnesses a reprise of spice with abundant cedar and more cinnamon.

While the burn is imperfect, it’s also well-behaved enough to dismiss the need for any touch-ups along the way. The draw is moderate, the smoke production average, and the gray ash is unstable and a bit flaky for my liking. That said, the well-balanced taste is enticing from light to nub.

Interestingly, the medium-bodied El Güegüense is a Nicaraguan puro from a Nicaraguan-centric cigar maker, yet the profile is—to me, at least—decidedly Cubanesque. It brings loads of harmonious, balanced flavors to the fore, leaving the heavy-handed characteristics of many Nicaraguan cigars behind. The Corona Gorda remains my favorite vitola (I think the Churchill overstays its welcome a bit), yet this thoughtfully built cigar is worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Mi Querida SakaKhan

30 Oct 2016

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

mi-querida-sakakhan

Reviewers, including my colleague, raved about Steve Saka’s debut release from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust: Sobremesa. Although I enjoyed that cigar, something about it didn’t quite hit my palate right (I consistently found a slight metallic flavor detracted from otherwise excellent flavors). My experience with Saka’s second release, Mi Querida, however, has given me no such hesitations. Made with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler, the cigar produces rich flavors with wood, roasted notes, and just a bit of subtle sweetness. Construction is excellent from start to finish. The Churchill-sized (7 x 50) SakaKhan is slightly mellower than the smaller sizes I tried (more medium-bodied than medium- to full-bodied) but it is highly enjoyable and easy to recommend.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Aurora 1987 Connecticut Robusto

29 Oct 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.”

connecticut-robusto

For those who typically smoke stronger cigars, reaching for one draped in a shade-grown Connecticut wrapper is probably a rare occurrence. But I suggest mixing it up can be a positive experience, especially if you choose the right alternative. Like this bargain-priced blend released this year by La Aurora. With a Dominican binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler, the Robusto (5 x 50, $5.50) has a bit more strength than you might expect, as well as a mix of flavors beyond the common Connecticut grassy notes. While the draw is loose, smoke production is excellent. An altogether enjoyable smoke.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 503

28 Oct 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.

blanco

1) Yesterday, Cigar Aficionado reported the exclusive news—which was then widely disseminated throughout social media and on cigar websites—that José Blanco will become the new senior vice president of EPC Cigar Co., the premium cigar company owned by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. In that capacity, he will focus on building out a sales force for EPC in the U.S. Meanwhile, Las Cumbres Tabaco, which includes the Señorial and Freyja brands, will be majority owned and operated by Blanco’s wife, Emma Viktorsson, who will work out of Macedonia to build distribution in both Europe and the U.S. The brands will continue to be manufactured at Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic. Blanco launched Las Cumbres in 2014 after serving as vice president of Joya de Nicaragua. Before that, he was the sales director for La Aurora. He cites impending FDA regulations as the primary reason for the change. “The uncertainty behind the FDA’s rules is the main reason,” Blanco told Cigar Aficionado. “They are not making the terms clear and making business very difficult.”

2) The Wall Street Journal recently weighed in on the FDA clarification that cigar companies are no longer allowed to donate cigars to troops. “It would be hard to find a man or woman in uniform who doesn’t know that smoking is risky,” reads the editorial. “Then again so is combat. Meanwhile, the ban on cigar donations takes away the ability of these adults to make their own choices, contrary to President Obama’s explicit promise.” Duncan Hunter (R-CA) “says he’ll try to overturn the cigar-donation ban with an amendment to the next defense authorization bill. But he adds that the FDA’s overreach has given Congress good cause to take a fresh hard look at the FDA’s overall tobacco rule. Members are likely to find that it is less a genuine health measure than another government power grab.”

3) The book we called “spectacular” in a review earlier this year is on sale at a bargain price. The Cigar – Moments of Pleasure is available at Amazon and Cigars International for only $20, about a third of the original $59 list price. It’s a great gift for any cigar lover.

4) Inside the Industry: Drew Estate and Pappy & Company have announced the release of the Pappy Drew Limitada (4.9 x 60). The cigar is only available to those who purchase a box of each of the three regular Pappy Van Winkle cigars (Robusto, Toro, and Churchill). It sports an overstuffed perfecto shape similar to the Feral Pig.

5) From the Archives: Back in 2011, as part of our interview with cigar maker A.J. Fernandez, we observed “[A.J.] may be the best cigar maker you haven’t heard of. But not for long.” The years since have only validated that statement, which makes the interview worth a read now in light of how prolific Fernandez has been.

6) Deal of the Week: This week’s deal is a special sampler we personally selected. The contents highlight cigars we enjoyed years ago and still remain staples in our humidors. Just $58.49 gets you 10 cigars well below MSRP, including some high-end smokes from Padrón, Fuente, and Oliva.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Las Cumbres

Cigar Spirits: Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon (2016)

26 Oct 2016

Some of the most sought-after bourbons come out this time of year, including Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Parker’s Heritage, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and Four Roses Small Batch Barrel Strength. Since 2012, you can add the Angel’s Envy Cask Strength to that list.

angels-envy-cs-2016Angel’s Envy Cask Strength (AECS) has a suggested retail price of $179 and, unlike some of the aforementioned limited releases, you actually have a decent chance of finding AECS at that price, or something close to it. (Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year, in contrast, theoretically retails for $150, but the going market price is over $1,000.)

The 2016 Angel’s Envy release is 124.6-proof, or 62.3% ABV, slightly lower than last year’s release which was 127.9-proof. Just 8,000 bottles are being produced this year, up from 7,500 in 2015.

The bourbon pours a copper color and features an intense but inviting nose with ginger, pear, black pepper, sugar cookies, and some pure alcohol heat. On the plate, there is a full-bodied combination of figs, butterscotch, red apples, oak, and the notable influence of the port barrels in which this bourbon is finished. The finish is long and spicy with wood and port.

This is an intense, almost overpowering bourbon when sipped neat, but just the smallest amount of water smooths the rough edges and opens up a cacophony of more subtle flavors. Last year, after trying the sample I received from Angel’s Envy, I went out and purchased a full bottle (the bottle in the picture). Although the price is high, this tasty cask-strength bourbon has me considering doing so again.

Pair this bourbon with a bold, spicy smoke. Here are a few suggestions: Arturo Fuente Opus X, Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu, Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary, and Joya de Nicaragua Antaño.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Cigar Review: Room 101 Uncle Lee Ranfla

24 Oct 2016

uncle-lee

ranflaTo say Matt Booth’s Uncle Lee cigar had an inauspicious start last year might be an understatement. The original plan called for the smokes to be issued as a limited edition in packaging that resembled a cereal box with a prize inside.

That never made it to market, apparently from concern over a possible backlash at potential underage appeal. (Older smokers may be reminded of the Beatles’ Yesterday and Today cover debacle, though, unlike that situation, all original Uncle Lee cereal boxes were reportedly destroyed.)

The box that went on sale features a sketch said to be Booth’s Uncle Lee (“a constant inspiration”), with each cigar wrapped in black paper featuring cartoonish dollar signs.

According to initial reports, there were to be 5,000 boxes of 10 of the 6.5-inch, 50-ring gauge perfecto with a $10 price tag.

Whether they didn’t sell well or whether more were produced, I can’t say. But Uncle Lee has definitely hit the discount table, going recently for as little as $39.99 per box online.

Davidoff, which distributes Booth’s Room 101 cigars, still lists the Uncle Lee box price at $105, though it notes that they’re out of stock.

Uncle Lee features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Honduras.

I detected little pre-light aroma from the oily brown wrapper or the filler.

Upon lighting, I noticed a slightly musty taste, a little reminiscent of a milder Davidoff but with a touch of spice added to the mix. As the Uncle Lee progressed, the spice intensity went up and down, mixed with some cedar and clove.

None of the flavors dominate, resulting in a smooth, balanced cigar throughout.

At $10 per stick, I’d be unlikely to stock up. But when you can pick these up for half—or less—than that, it certainly seems like one to check out. The 10-count boxes make the bargain even more enticing.

I rate Uncle Lee three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Punch Signature Robusto

23 Oct 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.”

punch-signature

When I reviewed this Punch in March 2015, my biggest complaint was “a sharpness that scratched at the back of my throat for much of the cigar.” After more than a year and half in my humidor, that’s gone and the Signature Robusto (5 x 52) has come into its own. A strong, spicy smoke with a slow burn, it was enjoyable from beginning to end. If you’re willing to invest the time—or can pick up Signatures that have been sitting awhile on your B&M’s shelves—I believe you’ll be rewarded.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys