Archive by Author

Quick Smoke: Alec Bradley Nica Puro Diamond Rough-Cut

28 Oct 2017

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.”

This parallelogram-shaped Diamond Rough-Cut is the third limited production Nica Puro from Alec Bradley. Weighing it at 6.25 inches with a ring gauge of 54 and an MSRP under $9, it’s a bargain for a hearty, brawny, satisfying smoke. A Nicaraguan puro, as the name implies, the Diamond Rough-Cut isn’t a complex cigar, but the combination of wood, some sweetness, and pepper is pleasing from start to finish. I did encounter some minor draw issues and had to relight a couple of times, but that didn’t significantly detract from the overall experience.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Alec Bradley

Cigar Insider: Ernest Gocaj of General Cigar

23 Oct 2017

For anyone interested in cigars and tobacco, CAO’s Fuma Em Corda is a fascinating release. The sight of its Arapiraca ligero filler leaves fermenting in thick ropes resembling coiled anacondas is unlike any other.

I was, of course, curious about the cigar, the tobacco, and the process, so I reached out to Ernest Gocaj, General Cigar’s director of tobacco procurement who’s deeply involved in the company’s adoption of many exotic strains from around the world.

Gocaj said he came upon the special tobacco used in the Fuma Em Corda in Alagoas, a small Brazilian state on the eastern coast. The rope fermentation process is used only in Alagoas and only for ligero leaves—those at the top of the tobacco plant often characterized by spice and strength.

Tobacco farmers in Alagoas use more conventional methods of fermenting the lower leaves to allow moisture and ammonia to dissipate.

“The tobacco from Alagoas is Arapiraca, a native seed that’s only grown there,” Gocaj said in an email. “For CAO Fuma Em Corda, we use only ligero leaves which are harvested and sun-cured, and we use this tobacco as filler.”

“Once the tobacco turns brown, the natives make it into a rope and twist it regularly to expel the juices of the tobacco. At this time, ammonia is released and the flavor is softened. In other words, the harshness is removed from the leaf. Everything is done in sunlight. The tobacco becomes very pure and refined through this method.”

Gocaj has been with General Cigar for about 20 years after earning a degree in agriculture in his native Albania and moving to the U.S. He has worked at the company’s Connecticut farming operation and has been instrumental in developing General’s vast tobacco library.

For CAO’s Amazon Basin series, the blends include tobaccos from numerous countries in addition to Brazil. Fuma Em Corda, the second in a planned trilogy, features a Cameroon binder and a Honduran wrapper. It is a limited release with a Robusto (5 x 50, $8.99) for brick-and-mortar retailers and a Toro (6 x 58, $10.49) for online sales.

I’ve smoked several of the Robustos, and they definitely stand out. From the rich, leathery pre-light aroma to the spicy, cedar start, the cigar makes a statement. Along the way, I also encountered chocolate, coffee, and some nuttiness. Strength is medium, with a good burn and strong smoke production.

“Curing under the sun and rope fermentation in an open environment has many advantages,” Gocaj wrote. “The result is tobacco with subtle flavors that blends well with other tobaccos. These methods produce a tobacco that is very pleasant to smoke.”

Like a lot of cigars containing unusual tobaccos or using different production methods—fire-cured tobacco is one example that comes to mind—the smoking experience is distinctive. Some will find it to their liking. Others won’t. I doubt many will be neutral.

For me, Fuma Em Corda is a cigar I’d reach for when I want something different, not on a steady basis. That’s not a knock. I’ve enjoyed those I’ve smoked and would certainly recommend any experienced cigar smoker give it a try.

George E

photo credit: General CigarStogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Hammer + Sickle Hermitage No. 1 Robusto

21 Oct 2017

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.”

The first thing that stands out about this box-pressed Robusto is the wonderfully sweet aroma from its Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The smoke, though, doesn’t begin that way, but rather with a somewhat charred, meaty taste. That gives way fairly quickly to a woody sweetness with a little pepper in the background, all of which changes throughout the smoke. According to Hammer + Sickle, the blend was redone a few years after the Hermitage’s introduction. It now features a Honduran Criollo binder and filler from Germany, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. They combine to create a well-balanced, medium-strength smoke I highly recommend. With an MSRP around $9, it’s well worth picking up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Hammer + Sickle

Commentary: It’s Hard to Break the Rules When There Aren’t Any

11 Oct 2017

One of the great things about smoking cigars is that there are virtually no rules.

Consider for a moment one of the most-asked, most-discussed questions on cigar forums: Cello on or off?

The simple answer: Who cares?

Sure, there are some axioms. Like: Dispose of ashes and butts when you’re finished smoking unless you like the early morning aroma of a 1950s barroom. Or: Don’t bring your own cigars to smoke at a B&M unless you want to display a lack of class and reflect poorly on your upbringing.

But these tend to be more common sense than dictum.

Generally, cigar smoking is an individual activity with each of us free to pursue it as we see fit. Some build vast collections with rare and aged releases, while others simply appreciate an occasional Macanudo. Some are passionate devotees who take trips to fields and factories in their quest for cigar knowledge. Others, though, have little interest beyond lighting up and relaxing.

This lack of rules is, I think, one of the major reasons cigar smoking is a generally egalitarian pastime, attracting participants from nearly every social strata.

This was all sorely stressed during the cigar boom of the mid-1990s when poseurs and affected smokers overran the marketplace. Fortunately, that bubble deflated, taking the air out of those who tried to inject snobbery into the cigar world.

Yes, I know there are still cigar snobs and cigar shops where you’re made to feel a lesser species if you pick up a stick for under $20. Fortunately, though, that’s much the minority among cigar smokers.

And at least part of that seems to be because it’s not nearly as easy to belittle someone or pump up yourself when there are no rules that can be held against those who don’t follow them or are simply unaware they exist.

For me, there’s really only one cigar rule: Enjoy yourself.

George E

photo credit: Creative Commons

Cigar Review: Cornelius & Anthony Aerial Robusto

2 Oct 2017

If your idea of a Connecticut cigar is an Altadis Montecristo or an Ashton Classic, this new offering from Cornelius & Anthony should be on your give-it-a-try list.

While there is a bit of the typical grassy Connecticut (though this wrapper is from Ecuador rather than New England) aroma on the pre-light, the first few puffs are bursting with spice and a strong finish. By the start of the second third, the spice has backed off and tobacco sweetness moves to the fore. In the final third, the spice amps up again, mingling with leather and a light earthiness.

Strength is firmly in the mid-level area. I smoked two for this review and each performed flawlessly, producing lots of thick smoke.

The Robusto (5 x 52) has a suggested price of $9.25 and is one of four sizes in the new line. The others are Gordo (6 x 60, $10.75), Toro (6 x 50, $9.75), and Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $8.75). All are made at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

The filler is Nicaraguan, while the only identification for the binder is that it is grown in the U.S.

Aerial is presented similarly to other Cornelius & Anthony cigars: a relatively large, ornate band identifying the company with a plain secondary band specifying the line. Also familiar in the packaging is the woodcut-style illustration—this one a hot air balloon that looks like it escaped from a Jules Verne tale.

I was curious about the name, and reached out to Cornelius & Anthony director of brand development, Courtney Smith. She said it began with “some beautiful aerial photos” she discovered in the company archive.

“The family has been growing tobacco on the same land in Keysville, Virginia, since the 1860s… and the photos were so interesting and informative, because they were a visual of the expanse of their property,” she wrote in an email. “As we talked about the land and the land’s history, the name and concept organically grew from there.”

Aerial was introduced at the summertime IPCPR Trade Show and began shipping recently. So far, it’s my favorite new release of 2017 and becomes my first five-stogie cigar this year.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here. A list of other five-stogie rated cigars can be found here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection Unicos

1 Oct 2017

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.”

While I’ve smoked only a few of Pete Johnson’s Broadleaf Collection, this vitola is so far the best of the batch. It seemed to be amped up a bit in strength yet remains a smooth smoke. Pepper weaves in and out along the way, mixing with flavors like cinnamon, dark fruit, and espresso. Smoke production is superb. As I put it down at the end, I would have liked to light up another. Highly recommended.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Rocky Patel Fifteenth Anniversary Toro

17 Sep 2017

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.”

When this line was released in 2010, it constituted a major advancement for Rocky Patel among many smokers who previously hadn’t given his cigars much consideration. Clearly a premium smoke, this box-pressed blend of Nicaraguan binder and filler under an Ecuadorian wrapper is rich with a little spice and notes of dark coffee bean and chocolate. While I prefer Rocky’s Twentieth Anniversary, I highly recommend the silver-banded Fifteenth.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys