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Cigar Review: 7-20-4 Factory 57 Robusto

22 Dec 2014

Every November since I started smoking cigars, I’ve compiled a list. Not a “best-of” list, mind you; more like a hit-list—cigars I want to try.

Factory 57Normally, I can cross everything off rather easily. But every once in a while there’s a cigar that evades me. This year, that cigar was the new Factory 57 from 7-20-4. A friend of mine got to sample it months ago and loved it, and since then I’ve been waiting for Factory 57 to hit shelves. Well, they’re finally in. And I’ve smoked three to let you know what I think.

The Factory 57 name refers, apparently, to the U.S. government’s official designation of 7-20-4 as a manufacturer of premium cigars. This cigar continues the naming trends of brand owner Kurt A. Kendall, who normally titles his cigars around the history of the company and tobacco in general. (The 7-20-4 name itself is a nod to 724 Elm Street in Manchester, New Hampshire—the address of the company’s original factory showroom.)

This specific vitola is a classic Robusto (5 x 50). It features a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper, Costa Rican binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Columbia. There’s no real discernible aroma from the foot, besides strong tobacco. The Robusto boasts a look of quality and care, with the traditional 7-20-4 artwork underlined by a black second band that has “Factory 57” in gold.

I straight-cut two of these cigars and V-cut the third. Each exhibited great draws, lit easily, and smoked down to the nub without needing corrections or getting harsh. The cold draw has an enticing sweet flavor. After setting an even light, the smoke tastes sweet and earthy. There is a unique vegetal note in the flavor profile, which is creamy and smooth. The finish of is short, with a very light spice left on the tongue.

Despite everything positive I’ve said, I have to say the Factory 57 Robusto left me underwhelmed. I look to 7-20-4 for complex, interesting smokes, and the Factory 57 just isn’t that. The first cigar I smoked for this review seemed to get stronger and more intense as I burnt it down, but the other two did not. By the third, I was so familiar with the smoke, and the vegetal note started to seem less unique.

Now, I do not mean to imply this is a bad cigar. It isn’t. If you’re looking for a medium- to full-bodied, mellow, creamy smoke, this could be a grand slam. It is constructed at a master level, and certainly has solid flavors. For me, though, the Factory 57 Robusto does not live up to the high expectations set by 7-20-4. It earns three stogies out of five.

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

Joey J

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Black Label Trading Company Salvation Toro

17 Nov 2014

Once again I will be eating my words at the beginning of this review. When I reviewed the Swag Black, I laughed at the name—until I realized it’s actually a solid cigar. Well, with the Black Label Trading Company Salvation I did the same thing.

BLTC Salvation ToroWhen my cigar shop ordered these, we were sent decals and patches with the Black Label logo, and I couldn’t help thinking they were trying to appeal to a hard-rock/biker group of smokers. Which, to clarify, is not a bad thing. I just don’t like gimmicky marketing. So, anyway, I began working my way through the six different lines in Black Label’s portfolio, and each time I had to admit to myself I should not have written these off based on appearance.

Today, I’d like to talk specifically about the Black Label Trading Company Salvation Toro. Toros are not a size I traditionally enjoy, but with all the fantastic box-pressed Toros that have been released this year, I find the vitola growing on me, in both the box-pressed and standard parejo formats.

The Salvation Toro features a beautiful, reddish-brown Ecuadorian sun-grown Habano wrapper, tightly rolled around a Honduras binder with Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Nothing matches the aesthetic appeal of a sun-grown wrapper to me. This cigar has a slight oil to it with a nice natural sheen that makes it catch your eye.

I smoked three Toros for this review. I cut two with my standard guillotine cutter, and V-cut another. I did not notice a difference from either cutting method; both produced a nice amount of smoke on an easy, slightly tight draw. In terms of consistency, I did notice that the third cigar got harsh in the last third, which did not happen in the other smokes. But I am not sure if this was the fault of the cigar, the lighter, the storage, or some other variable.

The flavor from cigar to cigar was consistent—an attribute I expect from a $10 stick. There is nothing worse than loving a single, picking up a five-pack, and being disappointed by the rest.

The flavor starts off as a solid, medium-bodied, leathery experience, with the nice light earth and natural tobacco flavors that sun-grown wrappers normally carry. As the cigar develops, it gains a unique, pleasant herbal spice on the retrohale, almost like an Italian spice mix. It’s a really cool taste that becomes the forefront for the second half of the smoking experience. As the cigar finishes, a lot of the leather comes back, and the body and flavor step up to medium- to full-bodied for the final inch or so.

This is a very enjoyable cigar, and would serve as a great introduction to the Black Label Trading Company. Like all Black Label products—including Redeption—only 1,000 boxes of Salvation are being produced. So, while they certainly are not as rare as some smokes, they are not available everywhere. If you do find one, be sure to pick this stick up. You’ll find a unique, albeit non-complex, flavor at a $10 price point that stands up to most of its competition. Overall, this cigar scores four stogies out of five.

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

Joey J

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Swag Black Lavish

5 Nov 2014

I have to admit, when I first saw the Swag cigars, I rolled my eyes and wrote them off. The name—combined with the over-the-top packaging—led me to assume they were subpar cigars, marketed towards casual smokers who wouldn’t know the difference between quality tobacco and cheap smokes.

Swag BlackAfter a while, a friend of mine convinced me to try the Swag Sobe, and I was pretty surprised. It certainly was not the best cigar I ever smoked, but it was a solid experience. Later, I learned Swag is part of Boutique Blends, noted most famously for the Aging Room cigars they’ve created. At this year’s industry trade show, the Boutique Blends booth was constantly busy, and they released four new cigars. One is the smoke I’m reviewing today: Swag Black.

This cigar is branded as a “Nicaraguan-level strength” Dominican puro. Personally, I’m not sure what this means. I’ve had plenty of Dominican puros that were filled to the brim with nicotine (I’m looking at you, La Flor Dominicana), and I’ve had some Nicaraguans that were solid medium-bodied smokes.

Swag Black clocks in at around $8, in 4 different sizes. I purchased 3 in the “Lavish” format (5 x 54) for this review, and after about a month in the humidor I figured it was time to light them up.

The construction on all three robustos was great; one cigar had a large vein underneath the band, but it did not impact the smoking experience at all. I straight-cut two of these, and punched the third. Both types of preparation created a smooth, easy draw with a decent amount of smoke production. The cold draw was nice and earthy, with a strong fruity aroma coming off of the foot.

I was hoping that fruity flavor would be the dominant one, similar to Joya de Nicaragua’s Cuatro Cinco. Instead, the first few puffs are smooth and earthy with natural tobacco in the background. This is definitely a full-flavored cigar, but I’m not sure I’d call it full-bodied (more medium- to full-bodied). As the cigar progressed, some of the fruity notes started to develop with a rich berry tone. About halfway through, on each of the sticks, I noticed a dark espresso component. On the third, I decided to brew up an Americano to pair the smoke with, and it really heightened the experience.

With an interesting flavor profile, consistent burn line and draw, and a decent price, the Swag Black Lavish is definitely worth checking out. This is my favorite of the Swag lines, but some of the Aging Room offerings are where one should go to find the best that Boutique Blends has to offer. Still, I like this cigar enough to want to have some around as a hefty morning coffee option. I award it four stogies out of five.

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

Joey J

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Room 101 Big Payback Chavala

20 Oct 2014

The Room 101 Big Payback is a Nicaraguan puro with a rather low price point. At just $5 per cigar (for the robusto-sized Chavala, at least), this is something most would consider in the daily price range, and it certainly differs from the double-digit prices that some of the limited edition Room 101 cigars demand. While I have smoked a few cigars from Matt Booth before, I was a little hesitant going into this one.

Room 101Matt describes these cigars as a way to give back to the fans who have supported him throughout the years, and I think that is an admirable effort. There is a small, cynical part of me, though, that was worried these would be cheap cigars, with the Room 101 name slapped on them, and then sold through ad campaigning that this is a cigar “for the fans.” Thankfully, once I actually held a few of the Paybacks in my hand, I realized this is not true.

Out of the four or five cigars I have smoked for this review, only one had construction issues, and it was pretty insubstantial (slight misapplication of the cap). Besides that, the cigar is nice and toothy, with a bouquet of cool cedar and earth coming off of the foot. The stick has a nice give all around when squeezed, and after cutting the cap, I get a citrus-based cold draw.

The cigar opens with a smooth, natural tobacco flavor, and a pleasant, light spice on the finish. The retrohale enhances the flavors, bringing a toastiness forward. Smoke production is very thick, with each puff producing a thick, white cloud. There is a sweetness in the background as well, which I cannot really identify. As the smoke continues, it gains a creamier texture, with cedar notes starting to come out in the second half. The cigar does remain sweet and cool down to the nub.

While the flavor is good, and strength is in my sweet spot of medium-full, I did find the smoke a little lackluster. There is not much complexity, and the basic taste is enjoyable, but not overly dimensional or unique. Perhaps this cigar performs better in its larger ring gauge sizes (in addition to the Chavala (5 x 50), there’s also a Culero (7 x 70) and a Hueso (6 x 60)). However, it’s difficult for me to smoke anything above a 56 ring gauge. I’d prefer to stay under or around 50.

With all that being said, the price point makes the Room 101 Big Payback Chavala something I have been smoking in my rotation since it was released earlier this year. It will certainly appeal to those looking for a pure, naturally flavored Nicaraguan experience. I rate this cigar three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Joey J

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Tattoo Caballero

14 Jul 2014

Recently I’ve been on a bit of a Tatuaje kick. Reviewing the Tatuaje Black Corona Gorda made me want to try the different Pete Johnson blends I had been aging, and seek out some of the cigars I hadn’t tried yet. I make it no secret that I’m a big fan of Johnson’s cigars, my only problem is the pricing. Most cigars are in the $9 to $12 range, and while that’s not ridiculous, it is out of my comfort zone for a “daily smoke.” Enter the Tattoo.

Tatuaje Tattoo CaballeroThis cigar has been released before in a lancero, but this year Tatuaje released the blend in a robusto (5 x 50) called the Caballero. I’ve heard there are more vitolas coming, reportedly three, but until the IPCPR Trade Show later this month, this Robusto is the only size. Not many details have come out about the smoke. It is rolled by a Don Pepín García-related factory, and features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with some Nicaraguan filler.

The pre-light experience had me wary, to be honest. While I like the banding of the cigar, the wrapper did not have much oil, and there were large veins on all three samples I smoked for this review. None of them had any burn issues regardless, but they definitely do not compare to the flawless construction I’ve come to expect from Tatuaje. The foot of the cigar contains a light earthy aroma, with a bit of citrus in the back, and the pre-light draw was very similar.

Luckily, my actual smoking experience was better than I thought it would be. All of the samples had a perfect burn line. The draw was a little loose for my preference, but not problematic. The flavor from the Tattoo is simple and enjoyable. What starts out as a profile dominated by cedar and citrus gradually develops into a more earthy core as the stick burns down. By the second third, there were notes of coffee and cocoa present as well. I have often heard these described as tasting like a mocha, which makes a lot of sense to me.

I would also like to note that while I was expecting a peppery retrohale, there was actually very little black pepper present. While certainly some pepper could be noticed at times, this cigar did not start nor develop into a pepper bomb, like many Tatuajes or other smokes made by García.

Overall, I did enjoy the Tattoo Caballero, but it is not something that blew me away. The price point is really what makes this smoke appealing, as it’s cheap enough to work into most tobacco budgets. Before I give this cigar a final score, I’d like to also provide a small tip: Smoke these slowly. Any time I wasn’t paying attention and starting puffing too fast, they became a little harsh. With that said, the Tattoo Caballero is a cigar many will enjoy, and it would make a good lunch break smoke with a nice strong coffee. On that basis, I’m awarding it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Joey J

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Black Corona Gorda

30 Jun 2014

Recently, I’ve been talking to a lot of my cigar friends about jars. Whether the pill bottle format of the Viaje Antidote, or the slick black tubing of the Tatuaje Black Corona Gordas, many 2014 best-of lists will include stogies packed in less-than-traditional packaging.

Tatuaje BlackThe Corona Gorda was first released in 2007 in jars of 19, and people went wild. Then, around the end of last year, Pete Johnson decided to celebrate his 10th anniversary with the re-release.

This cigar is revered among Tatuaje fans. Since the jars were so limited in their release the first time around, they quickly became impossible to find. Those who had them were posting amazingly positive reviews. And, to add to the hype, the Black label became known as Pete Johnson’s personal blend.

The Black Corona Gorda is a Nicaraguan puro with a sun-grown binder, rolled at the My Father Cigars factory in Nicaragua. The presentation of this cigar is perfect. The wrapper has a nice feel to it—just a little sponginess—with a perfectly applied cap and a simple, classy band. The pre-light aroma includes leather and a slight hint of chocolate.

When lit, this cigar really lives up to the expectations the appearance created (as well as the cigar’s reputation). The flavors are intense and varied. Starting with leather and cocoa, the cigar then gains some a nice citrus flavor, and both red and black pepper mix in and out as the smoke progresses. Throughout, there is a solid chocolaty core, but it never becomes the prominent flavor. The Corona Gorda remains cool and full-flavored all the way down to the nub.

Normally, my reviews are longer, but there is really nothing else for me to say or complain about with this smoke. It is well worth the price of a jar, and I’m in the process of hunting one or two jars down for myself currently. Any fan of Tatuaje or Nicaraguan smokes will love this one, and I’d be hesitant to award it anything less than a perfect five out of five.

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

Joey J

photo credit: Smoke Inn

Cigar Review: 7-20-4 Hustler Robusto Barber Pole

10 Jun 2014

I’ve hesitated to call myself a fan of the 7-20-4 brand. Not because I don’t like them—I actually enjoy the Dog Walker and Robusto—but those are the only two cigars I’ve tried. Since K.A Kendall has numerous lines, I wanted to smoke a few more before I called myself a real fan. Well, with the Hustler, I’m ready to jump on the bandwagon.

HustlerI smoked the Hustler Robusto Barber Pole (5.5 x 54) for this review, which has a Brazilian Mata Fina base with a strip of Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapped tightly around to form a barber pole. The construction is great, and the barber pole has a nice tight wrapping around it that looks really beautiful.

Let me insult this cigar in just one aspect quickly: I hate the band. The red and blue color scheme represents the Hustler magazine theme, I suppose, but to me it just looks garish and cheap. Anyway, the rest of the pre-light experience is immaculate. Pre-draw is a little tight, but not in a bad way, and there are some faint chocolate notes.

The flavor on this smoke is very balanced, and it is a really nice effect. As a general rule, I don’t care for barber poles, as I feel like they don’t really reach their goal too often. The goal would be to have both wrappers complement each other and blend together smoothly. In my experience, though, I’ve had two types of barber pole cigars: (1) one wrapper, normally a maduro, completely overwhelms the other wrapper, or (2) both of the wrappers have a really light flavor and they’re just underwhelming.

Like I said, though, the Hustler is in a different class. All of the flavors are blended together perfectly. The Mata Fina gives some nice chocolate notes with a bit of earth, and the Ecuadorian Connecticut lends a creamy texture and the eventual pepper. There is not much differentiation for me between thirds, but each puff has its own unique flavor. Some highlight the chocolate smoothness of the cigar, while others have some leather notes with pepper.

The only other complaint I’d have is the price point, which is around $9. The inclusion of Mata Fina and the barber pole craftsmanship mean this cigar is going to be pricier, but frankly it’s got some hot competition in the $9 to $10 range. If this were a few bucks cheaper I’d rate it even higher but, still, due to its smooth balance, this cigar is able to achieve four stogies out of five.

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

Joey J

photo credit: Smoke Inn