Archive | December, 2016

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 511

30 Dec 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.


1) This week Cigar Aficionado reported A.J. Fernandez will open a new factory in Ocotál, a Nicaraguan town about 40 miles north of Estelí. It will be called San Lotano, which is the same name as Fernandez’s cigar brand and farm. Formerly known as San Rafael and the site of production for the Brickhouse and El Baton brands for J.C. Newman, the newly launched factory will help Fernandez meet growing demand now that his Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua factory is at capacity. The new facility will house 240 cigar makers and 120 rolling tables. Additionally, A.J. Fernandez will begin making the 601 brand for Erik Espinosa, who has been crafting his own brand out of his La Zona factory for nearly five years. “…I am unable to expand [La Zona’s] production since I have already outgrown it,” Espinosa told Cigar Aficionado. “It’s a perfect opportunity for me to finally meet the demand for my cigars.”

2) Inside the Industry: The 2017 International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show has been rescheduled and relocated. Now the show will run from July 10 to July 14 and be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The convention had originally been slated five days later at the Sands Convention Center—site of previous IPCPR Trade Shows—but the location administration cancelled on IPCPR, triggering a cancellation fee (likely because a bigger business opportunity arose on that date).

3) Perhaps you’ve heard all you want to about tobacco and the FDA. But a short article–thorough, well-written, and scary–from pipe-expert Rick Newcombe in Reason magazine is worth your time.

4) From the Archives: This week we unveiled parts one and two of our top cigars of 2016. But don’t forget the great cigars of the past. Not only should you check out our top cigars from recent years, but we highly recommend browsing through our list of top-rated smokes, which goes back to 2006.

5) Deal of the Week: Everyone loves a Top 25-rated cigar, so browse this year’s and past year’s winners here. You’ll find everything from Opus X to Padrón to Oliva to Rocky Patel. Use the coupon code “Stogie” at checkout to land 10% off your purchase.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: A.J. Fernandez Cigar Co.’s Top Cigars of 2016 (Part II)

29 Dec 2016


This year’s collection of our highest-rated cigars is, like those in the past, a small set of the many we smoked. Only four achieved the heralded five-stogie rating.

That is two fewer than in 2015 and one below the 2014 number, but double that of 2013.

Obviously, a cigar needs special qualities to get such a high rating. We define them as “tasty, complex … truly an occasion” and worthy of “your full and undivided attention.”

Each year’s stellar crop is different from the past, and 2016 is no exception.

Warped Futuro Selección Suprema

First up is the Warped Futuro Selección Suprema. This Nicaraguan puro represents a collaboration between Warped and Casa Fernandez and is said to use rare Aganorsa tobacco. This vitola is 5.625 inches long with a ring gauge of 46 and an MSRP of $8.75. The review noted that it “starts with an initial burst of creaminess before it settles into a woody flavor with light spice and hints of honey. Occasionally, I even pick up on a combination of flavors that reminds me of banana bread.”

Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary Connoisseur

Even a casual reader would likely be aware of our affinity for PG Cigars. They consistently rank among our favorites, and the Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary Connoisseur did so in March. Released in a single size (6 x 52) with undisclosed details on the tobaccos, this toro was “characterized by restrained strength. You get the distinct sense that if it had been rushed at all the Connoisseur would have had some rough edges, but instead the full-bodied woodiness is tempered by a cornucopia of other subtle flavors. While $19 is a lot for a cigar, and you’d expect a lot for such a premium price, the PG 25th Anniversary delivers.”

Aging Room Cigars Bin No. 1 B Minor

The next cigar to gain five stogies in 2016 was an echo from an earlier year. Aging Room Cigars Bin No. 1 B Minor was a four-star stogie in 2014 and moved up after aging in my humidor. “All that made the Bin No. 1 such an enjoyable smoke seemed to be sanded down just a tad and locked together in a velvety, even experience,” I wrote. “I couldn’t help but think of the spice and sweetness as having become intertwined in some sort of cigar smoke double helix.” At 6.125 inches long with a ring gauge of 52, it has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with Dominican filler and binder. The retail price is about $12.50.

E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2016

The final five-stogie smoke for the year was the E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2016, a limited edition in a line that Ernesto Perez-Carrillo introduced in 2010, not long after starting his new company. With an Ecuadorian wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos, this toro-sized (6 x 52) smoke costs $12 and earned high praise in the review: “Exquisite in every way while maintaining incredible balance and offering rare subtlety, I have no reservations about awarding this triumph a rare rating of five stogies out of five.”

To find all our previous five-stogie cigars, click here. And you can read about the rating system here.

Here’s to even more great smokes in 2017!

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys’s Top Cigars of 2016 (Part I)

26 Dec 2016


Each year, we round up the top cigars we reviewed over the past 12 months. Only a small number generate our highest rating: five stogies out of five, which signifies a cigar experience that is “truly an occasion” and worthy of your “full and undivided attention.”

Quite a few more cigars come close, rating four-and-a-half stogies out of five. This year, that honor went to a dozen cigars. It’s a rather remarkable mix, encompassing new and older smokes, high-end and budget price tags, small manufacturers and large operations, and limited editions along with wide releases. There’s a variety of tobacco blends, sizes, and strengths as well. During the year, we also awarded 43 cigars four stogies.

Since we don’t hew to a particular number, our top selections vary annually. Last year, for example, five cigars received five stogies, while 16 got four-and-a-half and 40 got four. The lineup in 2014 was four at the top and 15 with four-and-a-half. In 2013, just two got five-stogie ratings and 15 got four-and-a-half.

Here’s an alphabetical look at our selection of four-and-a-half stogies in 2016. We’ll follow up in a couple days with the year’s five-stogie smokes.

Black Label Trading Company NBK“I’m enamored with the flavors, I love the size, and I have no complaints about the presentation or physical properties.”

Davidoff Colorado Claro Aniversario No. 3“All in all, it is an excellent cigar, one with the complexity and strength to please a seasoned smoker while remaining accessible to a newcomer.”

Drew Estate Florida Sun Grown Limited Edition Trunk-Pressed Toro“The Florida Sun Grown Limited Edition Trunk-Pressed Toro is a joy to smoke.”

Drew Estate Liga Privada No. 9 Toro“When you get your hands on a Toro, though, you’ll find a highly pleasurable, full-bodied cigar with tons of flavor and a fair amount of spice.”

Las Cumbres Tabaco Señorial Corona Gorda No. 5: “After setting an even light with a single wood match, a toasty profile emerges with notes ranging from red pepper and cedar spice to cinnamon butter and dry wood.”

MBombay Gaaja Toro: “My advice is to enjoy this in a quiet, solitary environment with little distraction, and be prepared for a rewarding, distinctive experience.”

Mi Querida Fino Largo“It’s highly satisfying if you’re seeking something musty, earthy, rich, well-constructed, and—in the case of the Fino Largo, especially—strong.”

Ouroboros Lancero (Blue Havana Exclusive): “With superb combustion properties and a price tag around $9, this isn’t a cigar you want to miss—especially if, like me, you’re a fan of RoMa Craft Tobac.”

Partagas Ramon y Ramon Robusto: “The subtlety draws you deeper and deeper into the smoking experience.”

Sobremesa Corona Grande: “The complexity is palpable and highly enjoyable, and the sweetness of the resting smoke is mouth-wateringly intoxicating.”

Sobremesa Gran Imperiales“Just make sure you have enough time to smoke before you light it up; you won’t want to extinguish this large smoke before you hit the nub.”

Tatuaje K222“Once lit, you’ll find loads of powdery smoke with lots of oak, unsweetened chocolate, earth, and pepper spice.”

If you want to know more about our rating system, just click here. We maintain an alphabetical list of all our reviews (going back more than a decade) here, and a special list of five-stogie smokes here.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Paul Garmirian 15th Anniversary Belicoso Extra

25 Dec 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.”

Knowing this Quick Smoke would publish on Christmas, I decided to return to an old standby cigar adorned with a band that matches Santa’s hat. Paul Garmirian Cigars makes many smokes I enjoy, but my favorite PG blend is the 15th Anniversary, and this Belicoso Extra is my favorite size. It’s savory and meaty with plenty of wood, leather, and spice. Best of all is the combination of full flavors with harmonious balance. Any cigar smoker would be lucky to find a few of these in their stocking, or maybe even a box under the tree.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Crowned Heads La Imperiosa Minutos

24 Dec 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 found this cigar on sale for $4 at a lounge and couldn’t be happier with the purchase. Even at the regular price, which is in the $6-7 range, Minutos (4.4 x 42) is a steal, especially if you’re looking for a lot of flavor and don’t have much time. The rich, medium- to full-bodied taste includes satisfying notes of cocoa, dried fruit, and black and red pepper spice. The combustion properties are likewise superb. This is an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro-wrapped winner, and an easy recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 510

23 Dec 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.


1) Starting on January 1, Craig Reynolds will assume leadership of the entire North American enterprise for Scandinavian Tobacco Group—a “cluster” that includes General Cigar, Cigars International, STG Lane (a market leader in pipe tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and little cigars), and STG Canada. “We are leading in handmade cigars, pipe tobacco, and fine cut in the U.S.,” said Reynolds in a press release. “Advancing our collaboration between entities allow us to bring products from across our tobacco categories to all our customers. We believe that this will benefit our customers and drive further growth for our business in the U.S.” According to CEO Niels Frederiksen, “Craig Reynolds has successfully led our entire global handmade cigars business. Today, the handmade cigar category is a growth engine in our business and accounts for more than one-fourth of our net sales and profit. We want to reinforce this development by extending Craig Reynolds’ leadership to our entire North American business.”

2) On Tuesday, Caldwell Cigar Co. and Drew Estate announced All Out Kings, a collaborative effort between the two companies, would be shipping in March, delayed from the original anticipated shipment date of November. We first learned about All Out Kings in June, right around the time Caldwell announced another collaboration—Anastasia, and made by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. All out Kings will be shipped in four sizes, all sold in 20-count boxes: Smash (5 x 52), Give Me Your Lunch Money (5.75 x 46), Foreverlast (6.5 x 54), and The Fourth Pose (6 x 54). Drew Estate Master Blender Willy Herrera said this of the project: “When Rob [Caldwell] and I began blending this project, we had to meet in the middle in terms of the strength of the cigar so that it was something Rob would enjoy as he is not typically a maduro smoker. We selected specific primings of Connecticut Habano wrapper that would be a bit more subtle, yet flavorful. This has taken a bit more time at the sorting tables and, in addition, the wrapper is extremely oily by nature, which has added to the aging process. I know everyone has been waiting and I’m causing additional stress for Rob, but I won’t let them out of the aging room until I feel they are ready.”

3) Inside the Industry: Could the incoming administration repeal the FDA regulations currently threatening to choke the premium cigar industry? While some experts regard that possibility as a long shot, one report issued by Congressman Mark Meadows, incoming chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, suggests just that. “The worst fear of cigar manufacturers and smokers alike has been that the FDA will impose the same onerous pre-market review requirements on cigars that it currently places on cigarettes,” the Freedom Caucus report said.

4) From the Archives: This is the time of the year for best-of lists, and next week we’ll be unveiling our best of 2016. In the meantime, you’ll want to check out our best of 2015 list to see the handful of cigars that achieved the rare five-stogie rating last year.

5) Please join us in congratulating Derek C. from Louisville, Kentucky. Derek is the latest winner of a giveaway. He was randomly selected among many participants at our Facebook page to receive a $20 gift card from Holt’s Cigar Company. Enjoy, Derek!

6) Deal of the Week: The Liga Privada Dirty Rat is a very sought-after and hard-to-find limited edition smoke. Currently, it is in-stock here (4-packs are $58, boxes of 12 are $157). But move quickly. Buy the box, or any order over $75, and get a free triple-flame table lighter by adding the coupon code “StogieDeal” at checkout.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Scandinavian Tobacco Group

Cigar Review: Villiger 1888 Robusto

21 Dec 2016

Villiger’s latest offering combines a nod to the past as the company continues its efforts to make new inroads into the premium cigar market. This 1888 line features bold new packaging for a blend based on a celebratory 2010 regional limited edition.

villiger-1888The first 1888 line—Villiger’s introductory hand-made long-filler cigar—was a limited edition that hit U.S. shelves in 2009. The 1888 name commemorates the tobacco giant’s founding year. Interestingly, one of the blends considered for the cigar included Cuban tobacco, but the company decided against using it in order to maintain access to the U.S. market.

The blend on this new incarnation, according to a press release by the company, is based on the Villiger 1888 Reserva 2010, which was issued to celebrate the Swiss-based company’s 100th anniversary in neighboring Germany. It combines a lovely Ecuadorian leaf over a Mexican binder and filler from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

The Robusto, retailing for under $6, measures 4.875 inches with a 50-ring gauge. It comes in four other sizes, with prices ranging by size up to a Toro Gordo (6 x 60) at $8.20. They’re crafted in the Dominican Republic and come in boxes of 20. Rolled out to retailers at the end of 2016, the new 1888 follows Villiger’s successful launch of the San’Doro line earlier in the year.

I found the new 1888 to be a medium-strength cigar that starts a little dry with lots of smoke and a dead-even burn. Along the way, I tasted a bit of chocolate, clove, and a rich sweetness, particularly in the final third. Occasionally, I did get some of the dirt taste I associate with Mexican tobacco, but it was infrequent and never overbearing.

A little spice comes and goes, and is especially noticeable on the retrohale. The 1888 has a light, very pleasant finish.

With such a modest price, it’s a no-brainer to recommend you pick up a couple to see whether they suit your palate. For me, it easily rates three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys