Archive | September, 2018

Quick Smoke: Recluse Amadeus Los Cabos Toro

30 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.”MF-La-Antiguedad-cg-sq

A new release, this lightly box-pressed blend sports a San Andrés wrapper, an Indonesian Sumatran binder and filler from the Dominican Republic (ligero, viso and seco), Nicaragua (Criollo ‘98) and Pennsylvania (broadleaf). As regular readers know, I’m generally not a fan of Mexican tobacco. But, as is the case with a few other cigars, this wrapper doesn’t dominate the experience and allows the other leaves to shine. Draw, burn and smoke production were excellent. The toro is 6.25 inches with a 50-ring gauge, and the MSRP is $8.50. Regardless of which side of the San Andrés schism you stand on, go to the edge and light up a Los Cabos.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: n/a

Site News: Here’s Why We Killed Our ‘Friday Sampler’ News Roundup Series

28 Sep 2018

Between May 2006 and July 2018, we published 588 weekly cigar news roundups. We don’t plan to do any more. The “Friday Sampler” series has been discontinued.

Honestly, I didn’t plan to publicly address or acknowledge this decision. I hypothesized that a format change to our long-running cigar site would go mostly unnoticed. I was wrong.

Since our last Friday Sampler on July 20, 2018, we’ve received dozens of inquiries (usually via email, and usually on Friday mornings) asking us what happened. While we still don’t plan to change our decision to discontinue the series, I’ve become convinced that we owe our readers—many of whom have been with us a decade or more—an explanation.

When we launched the series over twelve years ago, “cigar internet media” (or whatever you want to call it) wasn’t really a thing. There were only a handful of cigar websites that didn’t belong to a cigar manufacturer or cigar distributor. And even among this small group, many of the sites only published reviews. That left a void for internet cigar news that didn’t come from Cigar Aficionado, and especially for a short-format summary of the most important happenings from the week. This was how the Friday Sampler was born.

My how things have changed. Now there are seemingly hundreds, if not thousands, of cigar websites out there. Some regurgitate cigar-related press releases as soon as they’re issued, adding little value other than copy-and-pasted dissemination. Some publish their own weekly news summaries, with varying degrees of accuracy and comprehensiveness. Some post news items intraday as events occur.

We don’t need to name names here; you probably have most of these sites favorited in your browser, and that’s perfectly fine and understandable. We do the same thing.

In this environment, you can argue the Friday Sampler is not as valuable as it once was.

That isn’t to say the series brought no value. It certainly did, evidenced in part by the emails we’ve received. Still, we have to measure the impact versus the cost of maintaining the weekly roundup. And by cost I don’t mean money.

At this stage in my life, time is the most precious, most limited resource. And as the value of the Friday Sampler has arguably declined, the opportunity cost of spending my time monitoring cigar news, covering it from the appropriate angles, summarizing it, researching for accuracy, etc. has gone up.

In 2006, when we started the series, I was 23 years old. I was not married. I had no kids. No mortgage. Now I’m a married 35-year-old with two kids, one on the way, a big-ass mortgage payment, and a much more demanding career.

Keep in mind, StogieGuys.com is not a highly profitable venture for me (or Patrick S, who has his own career, or George E, who is retired); it’s a labor of love. And, frankly, I fell out of love with the Friday Sampler. As the primary author and editor of it, I decided to kill it.

But while the Friday Sampler is dead, StogieGuys.com is still committed to bringing you important news updates. We will do this not by summarizing everything we think worthy of attention, but instead by focusing on longer-format features as opportunities arise. And we will continue to do so through our unique lens, as I’ve always thought our comparative advantage is at the intersection of cigars with thoughtful, thorough policy analysis (i.e., taxes, smoking bans, tobacco regulations, etc.).

Thanks for your continued readership and trust. My colleagues and I are truly humbled by the interest in our old site.

Patrick A

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Review: Illusione Rothchildes CT

26 Sep 2018

The original Illusione Rothchildes is a cigar I recommend to a lot of people, for all the reasons my colleague laid out when he first reviewed it in 2014. A flavorful, medium-bodied profile, excellent construction, and a sub-$5 price tag. You can’t go wrong.

It’s a cigar I regularly keep on hand to give to guests since it will be appreciated by cigar veterans, but isn’t so expensive that I’ll resent it if they decide they don’t want to smoke the whole thing. Everyone can appreciate the classic look (the band’s colors and square shape remind me of Henry Clay) and the size is ideal for when you don’t have a lot of time. Plus, it’s not too intimidating for a newbie.

Needless to say, when in 2016 (almost certainly due to the upcoming FDA deadline) Illusione introduced a Connecticut version of the Rothchildes, it became a cigar I wanted to check out, especially since, although I enjoy the original, I find cigars that use Mexican tobaccos generally don’t hit my palate quite right. Although formally introduced in the summer of 2016, it wasn’t widely available for quite a while thereafter.

Like the Mexican-wrapped version, the single CT vitola (4.5 x 50) comes with an affordable price tag ($5.50 MSRP, though you can buy a box for around $200). The Rothchildes CT swaps out that Mexican wrapper for an oily, tan Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf, though it still uses Nicaraguan binder and filer tobaccos, and is made at the TABSA factory in Nicaragua.

Connecticut cigars carry an expectation for mild flavors, but the Rothchildes CT reminds us this isn’t always the case. Pre-light graham cracker notes are followed by significant pepper once lit.

The medium-bodied flavors include buttered toast, cocoa, and oak. It is (unusually) both creamy and quite dry on the palate, especially on the finish. Construction was excellent on each of the three cigars I smoked, with an ash that held for well over an inch.

Like the original, the Illusione Rothchildes CT gives smokers a lot of bang for their buck, which makes it an excellent cigar to have on hand to smoke yourself, or hand out to friends. Enjoyable medium-bodied flavors and excellent construction earn it a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XXVI)

24 Sep 2018

In this edition of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ask for your input on future cigar reviews and lament house guests who don’t finish their cigars.

What Cigars Should I Write About?

I’m in a bit of a cigar funk these days. My stash is running lower than usual and, among the cigars that still reside in one of my five humidors, we’ve already written about pretty much all of them. So that begs the question: Should I buy a bunch of “new” cigars and focus on those (that’s pretty much what I have been doing since we founded this site in May 2006; I’m just falling behind lately)? Or should I start to revisit cigars we reviewed (in some cases) years ago to provide an update and an aging report? Perhaps the best strategy is a bit of both. But I figured I’d throw the question out to you, especially since the cigar blogger space is more cluttered than ever. What do you want to see reviewed?

Let Me Follow Up on That Question…

While you’re thinking on the subject, I’ve always wondered: Do you care about reviews of cigars that are no longer in production (I’ve got a ton of those on hand)? What about super-limited cigars, or exclusives? For example, take the cigars I receive each year as a member of Tatuaje’s Saints & Sinners club. The only way to get these cigars is to belong to the small, members-only club. Either you do, or you don’t. On one hand, I could see some people being interested in what’s out there, even if it’s unlikely they’ll ever get their hands on it. On the other, many people could consider the review a vain act of futility. What’s your take?

What A Cigar Review Isn’t

These words written by my colleague nearly a decade ago still ring true, and I think they’re appropriate to recall as we think about reviews: “These days there are no shortages of cigar reviews online. Seems everyone has an opinion and wants to share. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But before you read every cigar review out there and take each as gospel, let’s keep in mind what a review is… and, just as importantly, let’s keep in mind what a review isn’t. First off, a review can only be as good as the limited inputs that created it. That means whatever review you’re reading is first and foremost limited by two important factors: the reviewer, and the cigars sampled.” You can read the rest of this piece from 2010 here.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Chances are, if you visit my home, you’ll be offered a cigar. My guests are almost never as into cigars as I am, and that’s perfectly fine. I am happy to share nonetheless and, despite my relatively depleted stash, almost certainly have a good cigar for the individual and timeframe in question. This is all well and good. What irks me, however, is when a guest will request (and receive) a top-notch cigar and then proceed to not even smoke half of it. If your time is short, or if you want a smaller smoke, please tell me in advance so I can help you select the best fit for your situation. I feel like this should be common courtesy. Aside from this pet peeve, let me know if you’re in the vicinity of Oak Park, Illinois, and want to stop by for a smoke and/or a bourbon. My front porch is a wonderful place to relax, and cigars are best enjoyed in good company–whether I’m writing about them or not.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Casa Fernandez Arsenio Corojo Robusto Grande

23 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.”MF-La-Antiguedad-cg-sq

 casa-fernendez-arsenio-corojo

I’m increasingly a fan of of this affordable (around $5 each) offering from Casa Fernandez. (Interestingly, the bands have changed from Nicaragua to Miami, so presumably it is being rolled in Miami now, which makes the price even more impressive.) The Nicaraguan puro, made completely from highly regarded Aganorsa tobacco, features a well-balanced combination of coffee and light cedar. It’s medium-bodied and produces plenty of thick, powdery smoke. Construction is excellent.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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