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Cigar Review Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Cameroon Merlin

1 Apr 2019

The Excalibur Cameroon line seems to be among the least heralded offerings in the vast General Cigar catalog. I think that’s a shame because it is, for my taste, among the most enjoyable.

It makes a fine first impression. The band, featuring a subtle green addition, is a classy variation on the regular Excalibur presentation. And the thin African Cameroon wrapper gives off a pleasant pre-light aroma that blends spices and sweetness.

From the initial puff, the spices are at the forefront. They’re light spices, not peppery. After about half an inch, sweetness begins to mingle. A little farther into the robusto, I noticed some leather, an occasional citrus note, pepper here and there, and a bit of espresso.

The flavors are balanced nicely from beginning to end, and the finish is long and smooth. I’d place the strength squarely in the medium range.

Construction was generally good in the half-dozen or so I smoked for this review. I did experience a little tightness in the draw at times in a couple of Merlins, though it worked itself out in each instance. Smoke production was excellent, as was the burn line. My only real complaint is the often flaky white ash.

It’s an interesting, multi-national blend. The binder is Connecticut Broadleaf and the filler combines leaves from Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.

The Merlin, for which I smoked about a half-dozen for this review, is a slightly long robusto: 5.25 inches with a ring gauge of 50. There are three other vitolas: Lancelot (7.25 x 54), Galahad (6.75 x 47), and King Arthur (6.25 x 45).

While the Merlin carries an MSRP of $7.79, bargain hunters can find it for much less. I bought 10 for just a shade over $2.60 apiece.

I’d recommend this cigar to a smoker at any level of experience. I rate it a solid four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: 2012 by Oscar Connecticut Toro

29 Mar 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.”

There’s no mistaking the Connecticut nature of this smoke, from the light brown wrapper to the first draw. The grassy flavor dominates from the start, receding only a bit in the second half to allow a little spice and leather to come through. The box-pressed cigar from Oscar Valladares, who became known with Leaf by Oscar, features a Honduran binder and filler from Honduras and Nicaragua. The burn and draw are fine. But even Connecticut fans may find the overall experience to be too much a single-note performance.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Mysteries of the World of Cigars

27 Mar 2019

Like the late Andy Rooney, we all occasionally wonder about things that have no real significance but just seem puzzling. Lately, I’ve been mulling a few of those topics related to cigars.

Do cigar makers really believe we want more baseball caps?

I understand that every company likes to get its name out there, especially with virtually free advertising. And I realize that a few years ago baseball caps seemed to be de rigueur as a fashion accessory. Mercifully, that trend seems to have gone the way of mullets. But cigar companies continue to offer branded caps as an “inducement” to buy their cigars. When we moved last year, I must have pulled a dozen or so unworn caps from the back of the closet and dropped them off at a local thrift shop (where they probably went into the trash).

Why do cigars end up connected to scandal after scandal?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in hot water amid allegations of corruption. And what is among the most mentioned illegal gifts he supposedly received? Boxes and boxes of Cohiba Siglo V. One story even estimated how many hours Netanyahu would have spent smoking the storied Cubans through the years. No doubt the most famous cigar appearance in scandal history was with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. More recently, cigars have come up in the ongoing Mueller investigation. Where did then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, his deputy at the time, and Konstantin Kilimnik meet in the summer of 2016? Where else but New York’s Grand Havana Room.

Why aren’t names like robusto and Churchill good enough?

I never cease to be amazed at the “creative” names cigar makers come up for the different sizes of their cigars. Sometimes weird, sometimes funny, sometimes just odd. But whatever the monikers are, does anyone ever actually speak those names? I can only surmise that they are adapted because the urge to be “creative” is overwhelming. Believe me, though, robusto, Churchill, torpedo, etc., have worked fine for years and years—and they still do.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: My Father Connecticut Toro Gordo

24 Mar 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.”

My Father Connecticut

When My Father Cigars introduced the Connecticut in 2014, Janny Garcia told Cigar Aficionado it was “the one cigar that was missing in our lineup.” Apparently, it still is. It didn’t show up in the listing of “our brands” on the My Father website. Nonetheless, it’s well worth checking out. With a beautiful light brown Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper and binder and filler tobaccos from the Garcia’s Nicaraguan farms, it’s a mild cigar that has plenty of taste, even starting with a little pepper. The blend is creamy, smooth, and well-balanced. I smoked the Toro Gordo (6 x 60) because it was the only vitola available at the shop I visited. I’d prefer a smaller ring gauge (like the Robusto pictured), but it certainly wasn’t a deal-breaker.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Galera 1936 Box Pressed Chaveta

22 Mar 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.”

Since seemingly no one in the cigar industry can resist commemorating an anniversary, it’s no surprise that the La Galera 1936 Box Pressed was introduced in 2016 to celebrate 80 years since the Blanco family opened its factory in the Dominican Republic. With an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Dominican binder, and Dominican Piloto Cubano and Criollo ’98 filler, I thought the Robusto (5 x 50, $7.50) offered promise. But it began with a bit of harshness and didn’t begin to smooth out until roughly the midpoint, when I picked up light spice and earthiness. The harshness returned in the final third. Construction was fine, with a solid burn and good draw.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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