Archive | November, 2016

Cigar Spirits: Old Bardstown and Old Bardstown Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon

30 Nov 2016


One of the best attributes about bourbon—as opposed to, say, single malt scotch—has always been the value it can provide. Good bourbon doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg. Although, as its popularity has grown, there are those who would gladly charge you an arm and a leg for good (or not-so-good) bourbon.

Old Bardstown (90-proof) and Old Bardstown Bottled-in-Bond (100-proof), which cost $18 and $22 respectively, certainly have the potential to provide good value. While the Old Bardstown brand has been around for years in various forms, the bottles I’m sampling are relatively new varieties that are actually distilled at Willett’s distillery.

Willett has bottled many fine bourbons for years (including Willett Family Estate, Old Bardstown, Noah’s Mill, Johnny Drum, Rowan’s Creek, and others). But the distillery stopped distilling whiskey in the early 1980s and didn’t resume until January 2012. Prior to very recently, all of Willett’s bourbons were bought from other distilleries, even if they were aged and bottled at Willett.

The new bottles clearly state they are “distilled and bottled at the Willett distillery.” Given that Willett didn’t fire up its still until January 2012, we know both are barely over four years old (if it was less than four years, it would have to be disclosed). Beyond some Family Estate Rye and bourbon sold mostly through Willett’s gift shop, these are the first bottles to be sold from that Willett distillate. Currently, these bourbons are only for sale in the state of Kentucky. As production ramps up, though, I’d expect them to become available more widely.

The Old Bardstown Bourbon is a dark color for a relatively young bourbon and features a nose with maple sugar and damp cardboard. On the palate, the whiskey shows wood, toasted cereal grain, and malty sweetness. The finish is light with wood spice and eucalyptus.

Old Bardstown Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon features a nose of ethanol, mint, and rock sugar candy. On the palate is burnt corn, rubber, tea, and some bitter green wood. The finish shows even more tea and rubber along with some burnt sugar.

I was shocked to discover I greatly preferred the 90-proof version to the bottled-in-bond 100-proof version, but I can only speculate that the lower proof smooths over some of the rough edges that come from only four years in the barrel. In either format, Old Bardstown shows the promise of the new Willett distillate, especially after it spends a few more years aging. Right now, try it neat, but know that the price means you won’t feel guilty using it in a cocktail.

As for cigars, I’d recommend a full-bodied, earthy smoke to offset some of the unbalanced aspects of Old Bardstown. Specifically, smoke the Drew Estate Liga Privada Único Serie Velvet Rat, El Güegüense Robusto, Montecristo Sublime Edición Limitada 2008 (Cuban), Tatuaje Black, or Warped Futuro Selección Suprema.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: How Will Castro’s Death Impact Cigars?

28 Nov 2016


By now you most assuredly know that Fidel Castro—the communist revolutionary who overthrew Cuban President Fulgencio Batista via guerrilla warfare in 1959 and ruled the island nation as a totalitarian dictator until 2006, when he installed his brother at the helm—died on Friday, November 25. He was 90 years old.

Castro’s legacy will be a complicated one. The myriad narratives will be shaped by the biases of the authors who document his life, and by the millions of people who will either mourn or celebrate his demise. These threads of opinion will not abide national boundaries, either; consider that, even among Cubans themselves, there will be those who benefited from Castro’s socialist state, while others did not fare so well.

Those who lost their businesses, land, homes, and even family members will not remember El Presidente fondly. I don’t need to remind you that human rights violations were—and still are—not uncommon under the Castro regime. Consider the following summary of Fidel’s time in power, courtesy of the Washington Post: “It began with mass summary executions of Batista officials and soon progressed to internment of thousands of gay men and lesbians; systematic, block-by-block surveillance of the entire citizenry; repeated purges, complete with show trials and executions, of the ruling party; and punishment for dissident artists, writers, and journalists. Mr. Castro’s regime learned from the totalitarian patron he chose to offset the U.S. adversary—the Soviet Union, whose offensive nuclear missiles he welcomed, bringing the world to the brink of armageddon. Mr. Castro sponsored violent subversive movements in half a dozen Latin American countries and even in his dotage helped steer Venezuela to economic and political catastrophe through his patronage of Hugo Chávez.”

I have my own biases about Fidel Castro. While I do not harbor any personal connection to Cuba, I believe humans flourish in free societies, and the proper role of government is to be limited in power and scope, enabling individuals and businesses to interact with one another on voluntary terms. Cuba lies but 90 miles from America’s shores, yet it serves as a tragic example of the impacts of a politically and economically overarching government. You will not count me among those mourning Castro.

My opinion of the late dictator hardly matters, though. If you’re reading this, you might be wondering what Castro’s death means for your future ability to acquire Cuban cigars—or, perhaps more interestingly, if this event will somehow expedite the ability of non-Cuban cigar makers to start including Cuban tobacco in their blends (assuming this isn’t already happening under-the-radar). Crass as it may seem to think of cigars at a time like this, is, after all, a cigar website.

On one hand, perhaps not much will change. Fidel Castro hasn’t been officially running the country for a decade (his brother, Raúl Castro, was appointed presidential powers in 2006). And even though Congress is unlikely to change its tune on the longstanding embargo, recall that President Obama—via executive order—has made it legal to bring back cigars purchased in Cuba or elsewhere, as long as the cigars are for personal consumption. This was the latest step in the gradual progress of diplomatic normalization that also included the reestablishment of embassies in Havana and Washington.

That said, President-elect Trump made promises to reverse the wheels Obama set in motion. “The death of Fidel Castro is putting unexpected pressure on [Trump] to follow through on earlier promises,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Trump’s top aides said Sunday that he would demand the release of political prisoners held in Cuba and push the government to allow more religious and economic freedoms. Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff, said the president-elect ‘absolutely’ would reverse Mr. Obama’s policies if he didn’t get what he wanted from Cuba.” Still, Trump “could face pushback from U.S. companies now deeply invested in Cuba under the current administration’s policy. Those companies include major airlines, hotel operators, and technology providers, while big U.S. phone carriers have signed roaming agreements on the island.”

Time will tell how the new administration in Washington reacts to the various competing interests related to Cuba. There are plenty of issues and conflicts at play, and cigars are unlikely to be top of the agenda. For now, what seems certain is that the people of Cuba will continue to live under a regime whose main business is the promulgation of extreme political and economic repression. There was a one-party, socialist state during Fidel Castro’s reign; there is a one-party, socialist state with his brother at the helm; and, barring a new revolution, there will likely be a one-party, socialist state long after the 85-year-old Raúl Castro is gone.

Patrick A


photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje The Krueger

27 Nov 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.”


The latest Tatuaje monster, Krueger (named after the Nightmare on Elm Street villain) uses a Mexican maduro wrapper with Nicaraguan tobaccos. The box-pressed torpedo (7 x 48) has flavors that include light wood, sweet cocoa, slight clove, and spice, all resulting in a powdery mouthfeel on the palate. I admit I’m not a big fan of this wrapper leaf, but I can always appreciate a well-made cigar. The Krueger fits the bill with medium- to full-bodied flavors, a woodsy profile, and excellent construction.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Intemperance EC XVIII The Industry

26 Nov 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 recently found myself at a cigar lounge on an empty stomach midday looking for something affordably priced with ample flavor that wouldn’t bowl me over. I settled on the Intemperance EC XVIII blend from RoMa Craft. The torpedo-sized The Industry (5.5 x 54) ran me about $8 (including ridiculous Chicago taxes). It hit the spot. Construction was impeccable, and the dry, woodsy, medium-bodied flavor of cedar, pepper, vanilla, and honey really hit the spot. This is an easy recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A


photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Have a Happy Thanksgiving… with Cigars (2016)

23 Nov 2016


With football on the TV, turkey in your stomach, and family gathered, Thanksgiving is a great day to enjoy a cigar (or several). So, as we have for each of the previous nine years, today the team tells you what cigars we’ll be firing up after our big meals.

Patrick A: Industry veteran José Blanco may have relinquished majority control of Las Cumbres Tabaco to his wife as he began his new role at E.P. Carrillo, but that doesn’t make the Señorial brand any less spectacular. I’ve enjoyed this blend—which includes a Habano Ecuardor wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder from Estelí, and Dominican filler tobaccos of the Piloto Cubano and Corojo varieties—since it was launched, and I think the Señorial Corona Gorda No. 5 will be an outstanding post-dinner selection (likely the first of several cigars I’ll smoke Thursday evening). The toasty profile and flavors of red pepper, cedar, molasses, and green raisin will pair well with a strong cup of black coffee. I look forward to sharing this cigar with my family.

Patrick S: A little-known fact is that there were two blends in contention to be the Paul Garmirian 15th Anniversary blend. The blend ultimately not selected for the 15th Anniversary became the PG Soirée. While I’m glad they selected the blend they did (the 15th is my favorite PG blend), the Soirée is also excellent with roasted notes, wood, pepper, and full-bodied flavors. Seeing as it will be cold outside (in order to have a cigar I’ll need to head outside post-dinner), I’m firing up the four-inch Paul Garmirian Soirée Short Robusto and pouring myself an Islay Single Malt.

George E: This Thanksgiving, as we’ve done for the past several years, my wife and I will go out to eat with some friends. That will likely put me home in time to fire up the iPad on the deck and watch the NFL’s mediocre late game. While the football doesn’t hold much promise, my smoke certainly does. I have a Casa Fuente Corona Gorda that’s been in my humidor for several years. It was a gift, and Thanksgiving seems just the right time to celebrate with it.

Previous cigars the team designated as Thanksgiving smokes include:

Not a bad list, eh? If you’re so inclined, feel free to let us know what you’ll be smoking tomorrow in the comments below. And be sure to have a safe and joyous Thanksgiving.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: Cohiba Macassar Toro Grande

21 Nov 2016

cohiba-macassarLike many of General Cigar’s new releases, the Cohiba Macassar comes with a story about its tobacco. In this case, they’re all proprietary and spent some time aging in rum barrels.

The wrapper is described as a low-yield Connecticut Habano “grown in a micro-climate that helps to achieve a richer, more flavorful tobacco.” A Connecticut Broadleaf binder covers filler from Dominican seed grown in Mao (distinct from the Mao tobacco used in General’s new Macanudo Mao) and from Nicaraguan Jalapa leaf grown for Cohiba.

This new regular-production addition to Cohiba was introduced last summer. As you’d expect from Cohiba, it’s an expensive smoke. The 6-inch, 52-ring gauge Toro Grande weighs in with an MSRP of $21.99, though I’ve seen it online for as little as $14 each for a 5-pack, and even less for the box of 10.

The other two sizes in the line are the Gigante (6 x 60, $23.99) and a Double Corona (7.25 x 52, $24.99). The name comes from an exotic Indonesian wood with a variety of uses, including a veneer on the cigar boxes.

The first thing I noticed about the Macassar was a gritty feel to the wrapper and an almost nonexistent pre-light aroma. It also gave me some occasional minor burn problems among the several sticks I smoked, requiring a touch-up now and then to keep it even.

Otherwise, construction and smoke production were first-rate.

Taste-wise, the Macassar is a good cigar, though not the most complex. The predominant flavors I got were wood, particularly in the beginning, and light spice that tended to ramp up and down throughout the smoke.

At the list price, it would be hard for me to recommend it. To me, at least, $22 is a lot of money for a cigar. But in the area of $14 it becomes much more reasonable, especially when you consider that it is a big cigar that burns slowly and lasts a long time.

If you can try one at a lower price point, you’ll find it enjoyable and satisfying. I give it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Brown Label 7th Capa Especial

20 Nov 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 vividly remember quickly smoking through a box of these when they first came out in 2011, but I hadn’t revisited the cigar lately. Made in Nicaragua, the 7th Capa Especial (5.9 x 46) is the only standard Brown Label blend to use a Sumatra wrapper. The result is a woodsy, powdery smoke with cafe-au-lait and a slight cinnamon spice. The three “7th” size cigars of the Tatuaje Brown Label are excellent since they let you see the difference a wrapper makes and, although I slightly prefer the natural (Habano) and Reserva (Broadleaf) versions, the Capa Especial is also very enjoyable.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys