Archive | April, 2018

Cigar Review: Debonaire Daybreak Toro

30 Apr 2018

Debonaire got on my radar about two years ago when Drew Estate announced it had entered an agreement to become the exclusive distributor of Debonaire and its sister brand, Indian Motorcycle cigars. Both are produced in the Dominican Republic for longtime industry veteran Phillip S. Zanghi III and Daniel Sinclair, founder of Durfort Holdings, a manufacturer of pipe tobacco, cut rag, and machine cigars.

Of the partnership, Jonathan Drew had this to say: “Phil Zanghi has been a dear personal friend of mine for two decades. When I permanently moved to Nicaragua in 1998, I wasn’t speaking no fancy languages like Spanish, so Phil helped keep me sane, as we scuttled back and forth between Nica and Honduras. He’s been a psychological and spiritual Drew Estate booster from our beginnings.”

Now Zanghi is a booster for his own portfolio of cigars, bolstered by Drew Estate’s extensive distribution network. Along with the Nicaraguan-wrapped Habano and the Connecticut Broadleaf-wrapped Maduro, the Connecticut Shade-wrapped Daybreak is one of three lines in Debonaire’s Ultra Premium collection. It debuted in November and is “the first Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade-wrapped cigar exclusively sold through Drew Diplomat Retailers as part of the Drew Estate portfolio.”

Six sizes are available in the $8.74 to $13.25 price range: Corona (6 x 46), Belicoso (6 x 54), First Degree (4 x 44), Robusto (5 x 50), Sagita-Petite Lancero (5.5 x 38), and Toro (6 x 50). According to Debonaire and Drew Estate, the blend is smooth and tastes of spice, earth, nuts, and sweetness.

I tried a handful of Toros to see how this vitola stacks up. For starters, the appearance is impressive. Underneath the large band of gold, black, and brown is a clean, golden wrapper with tight seams and minimal veins. The cap clips cleanly to reveal a smooth cold draw, and the faint pre-light notes at the foot remind me of honey and hay.

In my book, a good Connecticut Shade cigar has ample creaminess, nuttiness, and a little spice, with (hopefully) some interesting background notes to add complexity. The poor cigars in this class tend to be overly dry, papery, bland, and sometimes medicinal. Fortunately, at the outset, the Daybreak Toro is in the former category. Flavors range from creamy cashew and lightly roasted coffee to white pepper and almond butter. There’s also some cinnamon in the background of the mild- to medium-bodied profile.

After the first third, the flavor settles into the decidedly mild corner of the spectrum with a noticeable drop in both spice and taste. Here, the flavor is smooth and buttery with a dry, oaky character. But it also verges on being too mild and flat. So I find myself hoping for a reprise of the nuttiness and complexity of the introduction.

Fortunately, the anticipated reappearance of the balance, body, and complexity from the first third comes shortly after the midway point and, for the most part, sticks around until the end.

Construction is outstanding throughout, as one should expect from a $13 cigar. The burn line is straight, the ash holds well, the draw is easy, and the smoke production is voluminous.

This is a challenging cigar to review. It has flashes of brilliance, periods of dullness, and a high price tag. In the end, I smoked three Debonaire Daybreak Toros before rendering my verdict of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Nat Sherman Metropolitan Habano Toro

29 Apr 2018

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.”

Nat Sherman Walk-In Humidor

Introduced a couple years ago to update Nat Sherman’s Metropolitan series that dates to the 1990s cigar boom, the Habano is a stronger Nicaraguan puro. It makes that heritage known quickly with a spicy start. That continues to dominate through the first half and then becomes mixed with some sweetness and a bit of nuts and wood. Rolled by Plascencia, construction and draw are excellent. Priced at about $7, the Toro (6 x52) is well worth picking up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: CAO Flathead V554 Camshaft

28 Apr 2018

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.”

CAO Flathead might not be central on your radar anymore, but there’s a lot to like here. This blend—which consist of a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around a Habano Connecticut binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos—brings some nice, full flavors to the table. The V554 Camshaft (5.5 x 54) sports a low-spice, leathery profile of milk chocolate, espresso, black pepper, and cream with a perfect draw and a straight burn line that requires no touch-ups. These days, you can find this cigar for less than $6 when bought by the box of 24. That makes it an easy recommendation for an everyday smoke.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Traverse City Premium Cocktail Cherries, Camacho Reintroduces Coyolar, General Cigar Appoints New VP of Marketing, and More

27 Apr 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 576th in the series.

1) Want to upgrade your cocktail game? One of the easiest ways is to upgrade from those unnaturally neon cherries you are putting in your cocktails. Traverse City Whisky Company’s Premium Cocktail Cherries is easy to recommend for your Manhattan, old fashioned, or sour. (Not coincidentally, Traverse City is the home of the tart cherry festival.) It’s great that it doesn’t use any artificial colors, but really you’ll know the difference when you taste it. Traverse City Whisky Company’s Premium Cherries can now be found at all Meijer grocery locations and numerous other retailers including Amazon.

2) Camacho has announced the national reintroduction of Coyolar. The blend and formats remain the same as the original Coyolar, but the packaging reflects Camacho’s modern, bold look. “Born from the volcanic soils of a small 15-acre farm found at the base of the mountains joining Nicaragua and Honduras, this spicy and flavorful smoke is built from ‘single farm vintage’ Criollo tobaccos,” reads a press release. “The land’s distinctive and mineral-rich soil provides the tobacco its unique color, texture, and intense flavor. Not for the faint of heart, this Honduran Puro is one of Camacho’s most respected blends, a true powerhouse cigar that provides blasts of leather, pepper, rich coffee, and oak.” Coyolar is made at Oettinger Davidoff’s new Camacho facility, Diadema Cigars, located near Danlí, Honduras. The line will begin shipping this week in five formats that range in price from $8.50 to $10.

3) Chris Tarr, a regional sales manager at General Cigar, has been named vice president of marketing. “Chris is the right person to lead the marketing organization and I am very pleased he accepted the position,” said Regis Broersma, president of General Cigar. “He brings a strong background in on-premise marketing, having worked for seven years at Coors Brewing Company before joining General Cigar in 2008. Together with his expertise in managing our 16-state West sales region and his firsthand knowledge of retailer and consumer preferences, Chris has the skills to support me and the executive team in driving the business forward. Chris is also not shy about pushing for his ideas and I am confident that he will be a strong leader for our marketing organization.” Tarr’s responsibilities include brand marketing, innovation, public relations, social media, and events. He will lead the marketing team remotely from Dallas.

4) Inside the Industry: The J.C. Newman Cigar Company has renamed its Nicaraguan cigar factory from PENSA to J.C. Newman PENSA. “This change, while symbolic, reflects the shift that we are making as a company to elevate the J.C. Newman name and use it to tell our story as a 123-year-old, four-generation family business, and America’s oldest family-owned premium cigar maker,” said Eric Newman, president. Eric and Bobby Newman built Puros de Estelí Nicaragua, S.A. (PENSA) in 2011, and the factory has since tripled in size. Today, it employs 840 workers who hand roll 100,000 cigars each day (making it the secord largest Nicaraguan factory next to La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate). J.C. Newman rolls its Brick House, Perla del Mar, El Baton, Quorum, and other cigar brands at J.C. Newman PENSA.

5) From the Archives: Though it should be obvious, a true fan respects all cigar smokers and certainly wouldn’t be disrespectful to our fellow cigar smoker’s who are women. That’s the topic covered in this 2014 commentary, which calls out some (hopefully very rare) bad behavior.

6) Deal of the Week: recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up by Monday to be eligible for the May box.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys / Camacho

Cigar Spirits: Copper & Kings American Brandy

25 Apr 2018

The demand for whiskey, and specifically bourbon and rye, has been booming, with special attention paid to the craft distillers whose ranks have been increasing in recent years. This has lead to plenty of prognostications about which spirit will be the next bourbon/rye.

Along the way, I’ve heard predictions that mezcal, rum, gin, and brandy will be the next big thing. If there’s a case for brandy, and American brandy in particular, then exhibit one is Copper & Kings.

Established in 2015, Louisville, Kentucky-based Copper and Kings’ signature product is brandy, though they also make gin. At least from a business prospective, Copper & Kings’ investors were vindicated in their decision to start a craft brandy distillery in the heart of bourbon country when beer and spirits giant Constellation bought a share of the company earlier this year.

That helped widen the availability of Copper & Kings’ offerings, including to my home state of Virginia, where all liquor is sold through state-run stores. I bought a bottle of Copper & Kings American Brandy at one such store for $36.

This spirit uses sourced American brandy (some of which is later redistilled by Copper & Kings) blended solera-style with no flavor or colorings added. The non-chill filtered brandy is aged in a combination of mostly used Kentucky bourbon barrels along with a small percentage of new American oak barrels.

The 90-proof brandy features a lively nose with pear, floral notes, and raspberry jam along with some alcohol heat. On the palate, the bourbon barrels show their influence with dry oak, tart fruits, honeysuckle, cereal grains, and some tropical notes. The finish features more dry notes along with pear skins and cocoa.

It’s plenty drinkable neat or with a small bit of ice or a drop of water, though it really shines in a cocktail. I thought the flavors were ideal for the sidecar I enjoyed.

So, is brandy the next big movement in craft distilling? I’m not sure. But it is a worthwhile excursion for the bourbon or rye drinker. And a fine pairing with a mild- to medium-bodies Connecticut Shade-wrapped cigar like the CabaiguanAshton ClassicDavidoff Grand Cru, or Paul Garmirian Gourmet.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Palina Bronze Label Robusto

23 Apr 2018

The new La Palina Bronze Label made the journey from a 2017 limited edition to a 2018 regular line without missing a beat, though it did give up the foot band that previously identified it as an exclusive for Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA) shops.

The line also stands out among La Palina offerings for its strong Honduran profile. Not only does it feature a Honduran Habano wrapper, Honduran binder, and a mix of Nicaraguan and Honduran filler, but the Bronze Label is rolled at El Paraíso, a large factory near the border with Nicaragua.

Those roots are evident from the start, with the wrapper giving off a nutty aroma often associated with Honduran tobacco. The cap is deep and nicely applied, allowing for a smooth cut.

The cigar’s strength is in the medium range, and it presents an interesting, enjoyable experience. It kicks off with a tangy citrus taste that quickly mingles with some woody notes. As it burns down, there’s a bit of spice, likely from the Nicaraguan filler, and notes of cedar at different points.

I smoked several in the Robusto size, a 5.5-inch stick with a ring gauge of 50. Construction and performance were excellent in each one.

The line now includes two other sizes: the original TAA Toro (6.5 x 52) and a Gordo (6 x 60). The Robusto costs $8.99.

The Bronze Label is another mark in the evolution of Bill Paley’s resurrection of his grandfather’s 19th-century La Palina cigar company. The new operation began in 2010 with an ultra-high end—and high dollar—cigar rolled for Paley by Graycliff in the Bahamas.

The boutique brand has continued to expand, using other factories and becoming a strong presence on cigar retailers’ shelves.

I recommend you give the Bronze Label a shot. While the profile isn’t one I’d want to smoke all the time, it offers a pleasant, enticing smoke that seems to get better with each cigar. As such, I rate the La Palina Bronze Label Robusto a strong four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: La Palina / Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje La Vérité Churchill 2008

22 Apr 2018

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.”

“Much like a single vineyard wine, La Vérité showcases the soil where the tobacco was grown… The seed varietal varies from year to year based on the crop planted and the tobacco yielded.” That was the pitch for La Vérité when it was introduced, and the original 2008 edition featured tobaccos all from the Garcia’s La Estrella farm in Estelí. A decade since the tobaccos were grown, the Churchill (7 x 47) features notes of graphite, leather, oak, cinnamon, and pepper spice. I’m not certain it’s continuing to improve with age, but the well-constructed cigar is certainly enjoyable.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys