Archive | September, 2018

Quick Smoke: Black Label Trading Company NBK

21 Sep 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Right off the bat, the Ecuador Habano Oscuro-wrapped NBK (6 x 46) greets me with a strong, bold profile of espresso, warm tobacco, roasted nuts, and black pepper spice. Just as I think I have the cigar figured out, though, it eases back a bit, and the powdery smoke cools. Still, the soft box-pressed NBK packs plenty of punch through to the end as secondary notes of cocoa add complexity. With excellent construction and a $9 price tag, this creation from Black Label Trading Company has a lot going for it.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Diesel Whiskey Row Robusto

19 Sep 2018

The prolific A.J. Fernandez made headlines with his collaborations lately, including with General Cigar’s Hoyo de Monterrey line. Largely unnoticed, however, is that A.J. Fernandez and General Cigar had been affiliated (albeit indirectly) for many years through A.J. Fernandez-made private label brands, including Diesel.

Diesel was originally a private label made for Cigars International (and its portfolio of sites, including Cigar.com and CigarBid.com) starting in 2009. Cigars International was purchased by then General Cigar parent company Swedish Match in 2007. Eventually, Swedish Match merged its pipe and cigar businesses with Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG), putting General Cigar and Cigars International under the same umbrella, even after Swedish Match sold off its share in the company.

Those close connections explain the integration of some Diesel lines with General Cigar, something that started in ernest last year with Diesel Grind. That was followed up earlier this year by Diesel Whiskey Row, which uses binder tobacco aged in bourbon barrels that previously held Rabbit Hole Bourbon.

In addition to the bourbon barrel-aged Mexican San Andrés binder, Diesel Whiskey row uses a three-region blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos from Ometepe, Condega, and Jalapa, each aged five to eight years. Surrounding it all is an attractive, reddish-brown, five-year-old Ecuadorian Habano wrapper.

The three Robustos ($7.50) I smoked had rich pre-light aromas featuring wood and earth but, notably, little that is distinctly bourbon-y. That would be a theme throughout the cigar which, despite its full-bodied flavors, doesn’t showcase the bourbon barrel-aged tobaccos as much as you might expect.

Leather notes dominate and combine with white pepper, oak, and black coffee. The finish is long with tannic leather notes. From start to finish, the leather creates a slightly unbalanced element to the cigar’s full-bodied cigars.

I didn’t have any Rabbit Hole Bourbon (it isn’t sold in Virginia where I live), but I did have an excellent Four Rose Private Selection that paired well with Diesel Whiskey Row. It may have limited bourbon notes, but the Diesel Whiskey Row Robusto earns a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Clásico Número 6

17 Sep 2018

Back in June, Joya de Nicaragua announced the reintroduction of the Clásico line to the U.S. market. The move to bring back “the first Nicaraguan cigar ever” seems fitting at a time when the company is celebrating its golden anniversary.

“Clásico goes back to America at a moment when we have reached the highest quality standards at the factory in our 50-year history,” said Mario Perez, sales director for Joya de Nicaragua. “But we kept the same blend that the founders of the company created, the blend that once captivated world leaders when it was the official cigar of the White House back in the 70s.”

In a departure from the powerful smokes for which the company is known, Joya is marketing Clásico as “mild” and “creamy.” The recipe remains the same as it did decades ago. The wrapper is Cuban-seed Ecuadorian Connecticut, and the binder and filler tobaccos are, of course, Nicaraguan.

There are a whopping twelve formats, so there’s a size here for everyone. The Toro may have been the first Clásico I tried (and also reviewed), but the thin Número 6 (6 x 41, $6.50) is the most appealing to me in terms of dimensions. I tend to gravitate towards narrower ring gauges, whenever possible, and six inches long seems just about perfect in terms of smoking time.

Like the Toro, Número 6 has a traditional, understated, and—in my opinion—beautiful band that nicely highlights the golden color of the smooth, buttery wrapper. At the foot, I find bright, crisp pre-light notes of sweet hay. The cold draw is smooth, especially for such a thin cigar.

The initial profile is salty and abrasive. Fortunately, after just a couple puffs, things settle down nicely. Individual flavors include creamy butter, warm tobacco, and raw almond. There’s also a green freshness that’s hard to put my finger on. The mild- to medium-bodied cigar has a bready texture.

The Número 6 mostly remains this way until the end, save for the occasional additions of tastes like clove, café-au-lait, and white pepper. Along the way, the physical properties are mostly admirable. I found a straight burn line, smooth draw, and good smoke production. On the downside, the ash is very flaky and prone to fall off prematurely, and the burn requires a few re-lights along the way to stay burning.

As I wrote of the Toro, I enjoy mild cigars. But mild cigars need to have flavor. The Clásico Toro has flavor. At times it shines, and at times it falls a little short. All told, I think the most appropriate rating is three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Curivari Buenaventura BV 600

16 Sep 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Cigars in the Buenaventura line from Curivari have gotten multiple high marks from StogieGuys.com, including the BV 550 (pictured). This big stick—a lightly box-pressed gordo (6 x 60) Nicaraguan puro—is another one well worth checking out. It’s a bargain smoke. I paid a little over $6 for a single, and you’ll find them online for close to $5 each by the box of ten. It is medium in strength with a smooth combination of a little spice, a little cedar, and a little pepper. I’d say the BV 600 is an ideal candidate for that second cigar to get you through the final half of a football game.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Sirena The Prince

14 Sep 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

La Sirena The Prince

I don’t typically remove a cigar’s band before lighting up, but you pretty much have to with The Prince from La Sirena, as the nautical-themed band covers about half of the surface of the robusto (5 x 50). Once lit, the Nicaraguan puro delivers a full-bodied flavor-blast of black pepper and leather. Shortly thereafter, the tobaccos—a Habano Oscuro wrapper, Criollo binder, and filler leaves from Jalapa and Condega—mellow a bit until they settle into a profile that’s strong and rich with heavy notes of char, roasted nuts, oak, and baking spices. Construction is solid. This is a different blend than the Broadleaf-wrapped one launched in 2010 that was made at My Father Cigars for Miami Cigar & Co. Now made at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Estelí, it’s a solid choice if you’re craving something strong, and it’s a good buy for around $8.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Reviews: Leaf by Oscar Corojo Toro

12 Sep 2018

If you’re familiar with Leaf by Oscar, that’s likely due to the unique packaging. Each cigar is wrapped in a tobacco leaf (hence Leaf) folded around the cigar and held in place by a brown paper band. Opening it is like unwrapping a present with tobacco (the leaf is not wrapper-grade, from the look of it). Beneath is a tobacco treat: a cigar with another brown band.

Leaf by Oscar is a collaboration between Jim “Island Jim” Robinson, known for his Leaf and Bean shop in Pittsburgh, and Danlí, Honduras-based cigar maker Oscar Valladares. The line comes in four wrapper varieties. In addition to the Honduran Corojo (the subject of this review) is a Honduran Connecticut, Ecuadorian Sumatra, and Nicaraguan Maduro Jalapa.

The reddish brown Honduran Corojo wrapper is oily. The line comes in four sizes: Lancero (7 x 38), Robusto (5 x 50), Gordo (6 x 60), and Toro (6 x 52). The Toro sells for around $9 per cigar and comes in bundles of 20.

I smoked four Toros for this review. (The Toro size apparently was adjusted from 50 ring gauge to 52 at some point.) Despite being slightly soft to the touch, the draw was easy, burn even, and the smoke combustion was abundant.

Pre-light, Leaf by Oscar features cashew nuts and pepper spice. Once lit, there is a combination of roasted notes, gritty earth, blackened toast, and slight red pepper.

Pepper is more prominent towards the first third of the cigar, which is medium- to full-bodied. As the cigar progresses, leather emerges as the spice dips slightly. The cigar has a dry element that is particularly notable on the finish.

Distinctly Honduran, but not a one-note cigar, it may not be exquisitely balanced, but it features complex, full flavors. That earns the Leaf by Oscar Corojo Toro a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Aging Room Small Batch M356ii Rondo

10 Sep 2018

The original version of this cigar, the M356, helped put Boutique Blends’ Aging Room on the map when it received rave reviews and stellar ratings.

But the company’s approach of seeking out fine tobaccos regardless of the amount available and rolling cigars until the inventory is exhausted would have meant the end of the line—literally. Popularity, however, led to innovation, and the company worked to replicate the initial blend as closely as possible.

To avoid any misconception, though, they added “ii” to the designation so buyers would know it was not identical to the original. (The original version was rated No. 16 on Cigar Aficionado’s 2011 Top 25, while the new edition came in at No. 14 on the 2016 list.)

The M356ii is available in six sizes, ranging from a big Major (6.5 x 60) to the small Paco (4.5 x 48). It features a Habano wrapper and Dominican binder and filler. Prices range from about $8.25 to about $10.50.

I’ve been smoking through a box of the robustos, called Rondo (5 x 50), in keeping with company co-founder Rafael Nodal’s fondness for using musical nomenclature. For me, two things stand out from the original line.

One is the burn. I experienced some burn issues when I was smoking the M356 Mezzo back in 2012. Nothing horrendous, just enough to mildly mar the experience. With the M356ii, every one I’ve smoked so far has had a near-perfect burn: straight and slow.

Other performance characteristics, including smoke production, draw and holding the ash, have also been first-rate.

The second difference, for me, in the two cigar lines is that the M356ii doesn’t have quite the spice I found in the original. While it is a most tasty cigar, it simply doesn’t reach the level of what I said back then was “akin to lighting up a spice rack … exotic tastes that light briefly on your tongue.”

Not that there is no spice, certainly. It’s simply not as pronounced. I did find other flavors I remember from the original, such as sweet caramel, a little coffee, and hardwood.

I applaud Boutique Blends for being upfront in its labeling to indicate that the cigar has changed, if only a bit. Those adjustments have enabled an excellent cigar to stay on the market and to be enjoyed by more smokers.

Whether you’re one of those who loved the original or someone who never had the opportunity to smoke it, I urge you to give the M356ii a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys