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Cigar Review: La Palina Blue Label Toro (TAA Exclusive)

1 Oct 2018

Blue, according to numerous experts, is a soothing color. And that might just be how you feel about this limited edition available for sale from members of the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA).

With its light brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, my first impression of the La Palina Blue Label was that of an “everyman” cigar. Not too bold, not too mild, just the kind to appeal across the board.

It delivers as well. From the first puffs, the Blue Label reveals delicate flavors that range from coffee and citrus to baking spices, all in a well-balanced blend. Strength is in the medium range, with lots of smoke, a near-perfect burn, and an easy draw.

Rolled at the Plascencia factory in Honduras, the Blue Label features a filler mix of Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco held by a Honduran binder. Available only as a 6.5-inch, by 52-ring gauge Toro, the MSRP is $10.

The Blue Label is one of several cigars La Palina has designated with a color, a process that would seem to offer an easy and nearly endless supply of names. Umber or Chartreuse, anyone?

TAA, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is a trade group of about 80 retailers and several dozen manufacturers. While less visible than the much larger International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), TAA offers exclusivity, with membership only by invitation.

You can check the association’s website to see if there’s a TAA shop near you. And if not, quite a few TAA members maintain online sales operations.

TAA’s prominence has been boosted in recent years with the release of special editions available only to its members. La Palina Blue Label is one of a baker’s dozen TAA lists as 2018 limited editions.

Sometimes manufacturers elevate their TAA releases to later become regular releases. That happened with La Palina’s TAA Bronze Label, which was greeted last year with enthusiasm and went into standard production this year. Perhaps the Blue Label will move in this direction as well. If so, it would be another strong cigar in La Palina’s expanding lineup. I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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

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

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

Quick Smoke: G.A.R. Opium S.T.K. Toro

7 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.”

A Nicaraguan puro from George Rico’s Gran Habano, Opium makes a strong first impression. The brown hybrid Habano/Corojo wrapper is smooth and the gold-laced triple banding shines. The first few puffs, though, are a bit harsh, leading me to wonder what will happen as I smoke down the 6-inch, 52-ring gauge frame. Happily, the harshness abates fairly quickly, and sweet spices, wood, and leather emerge. The second half is the most enjoyable, as the cigar becomes more balanced with strength at the medium level. Available at about $7 for a single stick.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Partagas Legend Toro Leyenda

5 Sep 2018

The latest Partagas line extension takes its name, Legend, from the notable men associated with the brand, from its Cuban founding in 1845 to the current versions from General Cigar.

Introduced at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show, Legend features a three-country blend: Dominican Piloto Cubano filler, Honduran Olancho San Agustin binder, and Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.

The medium-strength cigar has a light finish, which is somewhat surprising given its thick, smoky mouthfeel. There’s a little spice, but more predominant are flavors of leather, earthiness, and coffee.

I smoked several and found the performance generally good. One had a bit of a tight draw, which opened up a third of the way down. All produced a lot of smoke, burned slowly and evenly, and held a tight, white ash.

Legend is box-pressed and offered in three sizes: Corona Extra Leyenda (5.25 x 44, $11.49); Fabuloso Leyenda (6.5 x 48, $12.49); and Toro Leyenda (6.25 x 54, $14.49).

The ornate white band is set off by the oily, dark wrapper and has little of the traditional Partagas look. The boxes of 20 are also white.

Over the years, StogieGuys.com has reviewed a lot of General’s Partagas cigars. Nine,  in fact. Many received high ratings.

Now, some smokers have an almost visceral negative reaction to a non-Cuban cigar that bears the name of those still being produced in Cuba. They see it as a crass effort at exploitation.

Others, especially those whose companies were nationalized after the revolution and who fled the island, say the trademarks belong to the owners. They believe the Cuban versions are unlawful expropriations. One of those men was Ramón Cifuentes, who owned the Partagas brand when Fidel Castro seized power.

Perhaps all this will be sorted out if and when the U.S. embargo on Cuba ends. In the meantime, I’m not sure it’s fair to judge a cigar by its name. I prefer to take cigars as I find them and try to evaluate without considering baggage.

In this case, I found the Legend to be another fine Partagas addition and give it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Avo 22 30 Years

24 Aug 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.”

Visually, this limited edition cigar is stunning: Two predominantly white bands set off the figurado’s honey-brown wrapper, and each canister of 19 is individually tagged. Said to be a revival of the 2002 cigar that was Avo Uvezian’s personal blend, the release is part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the brand’s founding. This cigar features a sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper, Dominican binder, and four Dominican fillers. The result is a complex, medium-strength experience that builds in intensity along its 5.875 inches. Though it took a few puffs for the draw to fully open as it burned from the small foot to the 50-ring gauge, performance was excellent in all respects. A terrific cigar for $15.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys