Archive by Author

Cigar Review: Oliva Master Blends 3 Torpedo

4 Mar 2019

When first reviewed this line (both the Churchill and Robusto) almost a decade ago, Master Blends 3 was the latest iteration of a limited edition that greatly enhanced Oliva’s standing among cigar enthusiasts.

Now, while Oliva still refers to Master Blends 3 as the third in “a series of limited artisanal blends,” you can find them almost anywhere.

The lightly pressed Torpedo (6 x 52)—one of a trio of available Master Blends 3 vitolas—has a list price over $14, but I’ve seen them as low as $4.25 per stick online when bought 20 at a time.

Master Blends 3 remains a fine smoke, worthy of the strong ratings it garnered in both previous reviews. It kicks off with a burst of cedar that recedes after about a half an inch. Soon, other flavors advance. Along the way I enjoyed tastes of nuts, leather, and sweetness that moved between syrup and cinnamon. The Nicaraguan ligero filler provides a kick and some pepper, especially in the final third.

My only complaints include a fairly flaky ash and several touch-ups being required on each of those I smoked. Not that that was surprising, given the thick, oily nature of the dark sun-grown Broadleaf wrapper that encompasses the Nicaraguan Habano binder.

Each line in the Master Blends series sports a different wrapper. I never smoked the first, but I fondly recall Master Blends 2 as a terrific smoke. There’s been an occasional rumor that Master Blends 4 is on the way. So far, however, rumor is all that’s come out.

And with the sale of Oliva a few years ago (in 2016, Oliva was acquired by the Belgium-based J. Cortès Cigars N.V., a family-owned business focused primarily on machine-made cigars) and former CEO José Oliva stepping down this year to devote more time to politics, it’s even less clear whether anything will happen.

Hopefully, at some point there will be a Master Blends 4 release. I’d like to smoke one. Until that time, though, we can enjoy the Master Blends 3.

For me, the Torpedo is equal to its siblings and also rates four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Rocky Patel Special Reserve Sun Grown Maduro Robusto

24 Feb 2019

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.”

With its dark, thick, sun-grown Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, this cigar trumpets its maduro nature. The flavors went along as well, presenting mocha, coffee, and chocolate, especially in the second half. I didn’t experience the pepper referenced in other reviews, which was somewhat surprising given the Nicaraguan binder and filler. Strength was on the upper end of medium. The Robusto (5 x 50) is box-pressed and solid; so solid, in fact, that I was immediately concerned about the draw. That turned out to be unnecessary. The draw was fine, as was the overall experience.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Arturo Fuente Rosado Sungrown Magnum R 54

19 Feb 2019

When Fuente introduced this line almost a decade ago it went with one trend and against another.

Cigars at that time were starting to get bigger, and Magnum R included four vitolas with ring gauges above 50, including a then-monstrous cigar (6 x 60).

Many cigar makers were also gravitating toward more powerful blends, seemingly competing to see who could get farthest up the Scoville scale. Not Fuente, at least not with Rosado Sungrown Magnum.

The blend of a thin sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper and Dominican binder and filler was designed to be a flavorful smoke with medium strength. For my taste, they got it just right.

From the wrapper’s pre-light floral aroma to some light pepper in the final third, Rosado Sungrown Magnum is a most enjoyable smoke. The first note I registered was a sweetness at the start. Within a short time, leather and nuts began to intermingle with the sweetness.

As with many Fuente cigars, flavors in the Rosado Sungrown Magnum are nicely balanced.

Rosado Sungrown Magnum is not a highly complex cigar, and changes along the 6.25-inch frame were fairly subtle. Frankly, though, I wasn’t eager for the profile to morph too much because I found the overall experience so pleasant.

For this review, I smoked four Magnum R 54s. (The number denotes the ring gauge for all but the 44, which is named for the number of smokes per box; it has a 47 ring gauge.) Each burned slowly and evenly. Smoke production was excellent, with a light finish. The draw was near perfect.

At a retail price of around $8.50, I consider it a bargain. For those of you who favor Fuente’s more high-profile cigars such as the various Opus iterations or the elusive Shark, give the Rosado Sungrown Magnum line a try. I think you’ll be pleased.

I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Epicure

11 Feb 2019

When I started smoking cigars, the Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur was my first real go-to smoke. I went through lots of them. I was captivated by the smooth, creamy texture and strength that seemed ideally suitable for my palate. Some years later, in 2006, I reviewed the Excalibur Epicure and gave it four stogies.

In that review, I remarked that I could remember the first one I smoked. I still do. It was at Signature Cigars in Rockville, Maryland. Although I’d had other cigars, this was the one that really made an impression and let me know smoking cigars could be something special.

I think it was recently enjoying the Tatuaje Verocú that got me to thinking about other cigars I hadn’t had in a while. So I bought a five-pack of Epicures, a robusto (5.25 x 50). They retail these days for a little under $8, but I picked them up online for under $3 each. Quite a bargain.

At first glance, Excalibur looked exactly as I remembered with a smooth, golden brown Connecticut shade wrapper. When I lit one up, I felt I could have been back in that Maryland cigar lounge.

The tasty blend of Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan filler inside a Connecticut Broadleaf binder hit the spot. It started with a bit of pepper mixed with sweetness. For a few more puffs, the pepper increased then faded as I tasted some wood and coffee.

There weren’t a lot of changes, but that was by no means a negative, as the Excalibur was satisfying from beginning to end. Each of those I’ve smoked burned evenly, produced lots of smoke, and had an excellent draw.

When Excalibur was introduced in the early 1990s, it was designed to be a bit less powerful than the regular Hoyo do Monterrey line. It was a hit during the cigar boom and continues to sell.

These days there are 18 vitolas, including Natural and Maduro. They range in size from a 3-inch miniature to the 7.25-inch No. 1.

I recommended them before. I recommend them again. Excalibur is a fine cigar still worthy of four stogies.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Verocú No. 1

1 Feb 2019

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.”

The other day I was wandering around the humidor of a local shop on the lookout for something new and intriguing. Nothing seemed to pique my interest. Then, I spotted an old favorite: Tatuaje’s Verocú line. I loved this cigar in all its iterations, as previous reviews confirm. On the other hand, I hadn’t smoked one in years. I picked up this 6.25-inch beauty with a 52-ring gauge, wondering whether I’d feel the same. The short answer is yes, without question. It is a balanced, smooth, and slow-burning cigar. Strength lies in the medium range and flavors include floral notes, pepper, and coffee mingled with rich tobacco sweetness. With a $10 price tag, the Verocú toro grande is truly one of the great cigar bargains.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Can That Excess Humidity

28 Jan 2019

For a lot of you, high humidity isn’t much of a concern, except in the depths of summer. Here in Florida, though, it is basically a year-round problem.

I’ve been fighting—and usually losing—the battle against high humidity ever since we moved here in 2005. Finally, I believe I’ve found a weapon that works: a desiccant canister designed primarily for gun safes from Liberty Safe and Security Products.

Now, I’m not a fanatic about humidity levels. For one thing, years of monitoring have shown me that it is virtually impossible to maintain an exact point. But there is certainly a danger in cigars being ruined by far too much or too little humidity. Generally, I aim for a range of about 61-67% relative humidity. However, achieving that is no small task.

Since high temperatures are also a major concern here, I’ve used a cooling unit from the start. I ran through a couple of coolidors, which did OK, but didn’t seem to last too long. Then, about seven years ago, I purchased a Cooled 1200 Refrigerated Cigar Cabinet from Avallo Humidors in Nashville. I’ve been pleased with the unit and the service from Matt Allen, the owner of Avallo.

In addition to cooling, the Avallo also has an automated system to measure and add humidity. Of course, it’s rare that I have to add moisture. Getting rid of it is my problem.

The list of what I’ve tried seems endless: tons of beads, mountains of kitty litter, jars and jars of gel, a self-contained dehumidifier—and anything else that seemed like a possible solution.

None of it really worked.

I have a Xikar PuroTemp Wireless Hygrometer System with a sensor on each of the two sliding shelves to monitor temperature and humidity so I can easily tell when either is getting out of control.

For the past couple of years, I have resorted to DampRid or a similar absorbent material when humidity spiked. While it does reduce humidity, it also involves guessing how much to use and frequently checking the rising water level to make sure it doesn’t overflow.

Recently, I did another internet search to see if there was something I hadn’t tried. That’s when I spotted the Liberty canisters.

They come in three sizes (40 grams, 450 grams, and 750 grams), with prices ranging from $6.49 to $15.99. Rather than wait for an online order, I checked gun shop websites for local availability. Fortunately, a shop nearby stocked them, and I bought the large canister. All that was required to put it to use was to heat it in the oven for a couple of hours while the material inside dried out.

When it was cool, I put it in the humidor and… Voila! It sucked the moisture out of the air. I removed the canister when the humidity was down to an acceptable level, ready to re-heat and re-use again when necessary.

So far, I’ve employed it several times, and it has worked like a charm. No worry about water spilling, no wondering why nothing is happening.

Right now, it’s my favorite cigar accessory.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: Tampa Looks at Protecting Historic Cigar Factories

14 Jan 2019

Tampa, which calls itself “Cigar City” for its long-ago role as the hub of the industry in the U.S., may again consider officially protecting the historic factories that remain.

Designating the old facilities as historic landmarks, which restricts some changes, was rejected a few years ago. Many of the two-dozen or so remaining buildings still dot Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood, which is also home to numerous cigar shops, small rolling operations, and a giant annual cigar festival.

The only full-fledged factory still operating is J.C. Newman’s (pictured above). Others sit empty or have been converted to different uses. Some already have the historic designation.

New interest in the factories was spurred recently when the city said it had ordered a halt to remodeling work on the Santaella Cigar Factory building because of permit issues. One city councilman told the Tampa Bay Times that it was important to protect the old factories: “They are the castles of our neighborhood.”

According to the Times, Tampa council members considered the historic landmark designation in 2006 but were dissuaded by owners who viewed it as a potential restriction of their property rights.

The Santaella is a three-story building constructed in 1904, one of more than 200 cigar factories that operated at one time in Ybor City. Babe Ruth was said to stop by Santaella for cigars when the Yankees held spring training in the area.

In recent years, the building has been home to local artists. It was sold last year, and the permit flap flared as the new owner was renovating.

We’ve written about Tampa’s cigar history in the past, including a 2015 piece that included a reference to a terrific resource, Tom Ufer’s seminal guide to the factories in Ybor City. If you don’t find live links at Tom’s site, be sure to check back; he recently told me he’s working to restore much of the great information he compiled.

George E

photo credit: J.C. Newman