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Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2016

2 May 2016

Short Run

When the man who made La Gloria Cubana a household name started his new family-run company in 2009, few in the cigar industry doubted he would be successful in his new venture. To date, by seemingly every measure, he has been.

Short Run 2016One undertaking that has helped solidify Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s post-General Cigar success has been Short Run. So far, the line has resulted in one release per year—although, when it was first introduced, we were told there might be two Short Run blends per year. The concept is pretty simple: Make a limited run of a blend using tobacco that isn’t available in enough quantities for a full-blown release. (Read our thoughts on the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 Short Run cigars by clicking on these links.)

“The Short Run 2016 takes a new direction and departs from our prior approach, since it is only one vitola,” reads a letter from the E.P. Carrillo team that accompanied my samples. “It is adorned with a beautiful honey Colorado wrapper from Ecuador that is smooth to the touch and alluring to the eye and utilizing unique tobacco from several regions in Nicaragua for the binder and filler.” Only 2,500 boxes of 10 cigars were made, with each cigar carrying an MSRP of $12.

The toro-sized smoke (6 x 52) is oily and light brown in color with minimal veins and potent pre-light notes of sweet hay and light syrup. Moderately firm to the touch, the well-constructed cap clips easily to reveal a smooth cold draw with a slight spice on the lips. Notably, the large, ornate band of gold and red is the most detailed, regal, and textured band to adorn an E.P. Carrillo cigar since the company’s inception—which may signal how Ernesto Perez-Carrillo feels about this particular release.

Once lit, the initial profile is characterized by a hearty dose of roasted nuts, spicy cedar, and graham cracker. Well-balanced with a creamy texture, it’s the kind of flavor the makes your mouth water significantly between puffs—and the sweet, abundant resting smoke doesn’t hamper my enjoyment either.

As it progresses, this medium-bodied treasure loses some of the cedar bite in favor of more graham and creamy nut. Oak, hay, and restrained leather add more balance without overpowering the core tastes. All the while the physical properties are excellent from light to nub. The gray ash holds well off the foot, the draw is easy, the burn line straight, and the smoke production is well above average.

If I were asked what flavors I most enjoy in a cigar, sweet cream, graham cracker, and roasted nuts would rank among my top tastes. The E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2016 has all three in spades. This cigar wasn’t blended specifically for my palate, but it might as well have been. Exquisite in every way while maintaining incredible balance and offering rare subtlety, I have no reservations about awarding this triumph a rare rating of five stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Black Label Trading Company NBK

25 Apr 2016

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In November, Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) creator James Brown announced a new “small-batch cigar line” called Black Works Studio. “Part of the motivation for opening our own factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra, was to experiment and develop unique blends highlighting Nicaraguan tobacco,” said Brown. “Black Works Studio (BLK WKS) is my first opportunity to use our factory as my playground. Blending cigars is my passion and I ended up with several blends and ideas on the shelf [so] the time was right to launch a new brand.”

NBKFor the uninitiated, BLTC’s core lines include Salvation, Lawless, Royalty, Redemption, Benediction, and Last Rites. “Our attitude re-thinks standards for cigar making, and caters to cigar lovers and aficionados tired of a mainstream, mass-produced approach to cigar making,” reads the BLTC website.

In late 2015, BLK WKS added three cigars to the BLTC portfolio: Killer Bee (4.5 x 46), an Ecuador Maduro-wrapped petite corona; Rorschach (5 x 38), an Ecuador Habano-wrapped petite panatela; and NBK (6 x 46), an Ecuador Habano Oscuro-wrapped corona larga.

The latter is a dark, reddish cigar with a soft box-press and a closed foot. The size is right up my alley (three cheers to BLK WKS for keeping all of the ring gauges under 50) and the uniformity of the wrapper’s color, tight seams, and minimal veins make this a very appealing smoke. The well-constructed cap clips cleanly to yield an ultra-easy cold draw, and the pre-light notes are sweet and chocolaty.

Once lit, I am immediately struck by the powdery nature of the texture of the smoke. While the smoke is undoubtedly cool, airy, and light, that certainly doesn’t mean the flavor is lacking in any way. Right off the bat, the profile has balanced, complex notes of cocoa powder, coffee, roasted nuts, and black pepper spice. Impressive and highly enjoyable.

As it progresses, NBK tends to favor its most delicious taste—roasted nuts—while the spice mellows and a delightful creaminess emerges. Then, at the midway point and into the finale, the pepper picks back up while coffee and chocolate takes center stage. The body is decidedly medium throughout.

The three samples I smoked for this review (each provided by BLTC) all performed admirably in the construction department. Each had a solid while ash, voluminous smoke production, a clear draw, and a well-behaved burn line that only required a slight touch-up here and there.

NBK delivers on its $9 MSRP, and then some. I’m enamored with the flavors, I love the size, and I have no complaints about the presentation or physical properties. That’s why, in my book, this gem from BLTC earns four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Quesada Sons of Freedom Maduro Torpedo (Casa de Montecristo Exclusive)

23 Apr 2016

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.”

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This dark Dominican from Quesada is exclusive to Casa de Montecristo, a three-location tobacconist in Chicago with a new retail website. With an ash that holds incredibly well and a razor-sharp burn, the Torpedo (6 x 52) boasts some of the best combustion qualities you’ll ever find. The profile is medium-bodied with ample cedar spice coupled with tea, damp earth, and a little candied pecan sweetness. Strength and complexity increase at the midway point and beyond. At $5.50 for a single, you can’t go wrong.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Kilo Toro

16 Apr 2016

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.”

Kilo Toro Smoke

Eight months ago, I reviewed Kilo in the Toro format (6 x 52) and found it to be worthy of a near-perfect rating given its cool-burning balance, excellent construction, and unique, interesting flavors. You may recall Kilo is the product of a partnership between Barry Stein, a cigar blogger and employee of the New Hampshire-based Two Guys Smoke Shop, and Noel Rojas of the Tabacalera Aromas de Jalapa factory in Nicaragua. The blend features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan Corojo 2006 binder, and three-year-old filler tobaccos from Rojas’ farms in Nicaragua and Aganorsa. Last night I fired up the Toro for the first time in a long time, and I immediately thought, “Why am I not smoking this more often?” This complex, harmonious cigar is a joy to smoke.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Old Henry Gold Label Toro

13 Apr 2016

Gold Label

As I wrote in my review of the Pure Breed Toro last month, Holt’s Cigar Company has a Best in Show sampler that features two Toros from each of the four Old Henry blends for just $29.95 ($3.74 per cigar). For cost-conscious fans of José “Pepín” García, this eight-pack is a total no-brainer.

Old Henry CTAnd whether you’re trying Old Henry for the first time or looking for an excuse to revisit these value-priced smokes, your timing couldn’t be better. This year marks the tenth anniversary of Old Henry, a house blend made for Holt’s by Pepín. Holt’s, as you may know, is the Philadelphia tobacconist that launched the Ashton brand in 1985 and today maintains a strong catalog and online presence. That means you don’t have to traipse to 1522 Walnut Street in downtown Philadelphia to get your hands on some Old Henry smokes.

Today, the Old Henry portfolio ranges from the original Old Henry (Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper), Maduro (Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper), Pure Breed (Ecuador Sumatra wrapper), and the subject of today’s review: Gold Label. Gold Label sports a clean, bright, minimally veined Connecticut-seed Ecuadorian wrapper that provides a silky cover for the Nicaraguan tobaccos underneath. Five vitolas are available in the highly affordable $4.75 to $5.75 range: Belicoso, Churchill, Corona, Robusto, and Toro.

The latter is firmly constructed from head to foot. The pre-light notes are faint with delicate hints of sweet hay, honey, and sawdust. After nothing more than a V-cut, I find the cold draw to be a bit stiff for my liking. A simple guillotine cut, though, reveals a good draw with only moderate resistance.

Right out of the gate, the Gold Label Toro exhibits a well-balanced flavor with an enjoyable interplay between sweetness, spice, and cream. Roasted nut, café au lait, dry oak, and white pepper best characterize the profile. The body is mild to medium with a buttery texture.

As it approaches the midway point, the taste becomes spicier with the additions of cinnamon and black pepper. I also notice that when my puffs become more frequent, a fleeting bitter taste has a tendency to materialize, but only for a moment. Avoiding the bitterness—which is not a flavor of which I’m particularly fond—is as easy as remembering to take your time.

The final third of the Toro has lots more cinnamon and pepper, though the body is still barely verging on medium. Construction across both of my samples was consistent and admirable. Both burn lines were of the set-it-and-forget-it variety, the smoke production was above average, and the gray ashes held firm.

This isn’t the first time we’ve reviewed the Old Henry Gold Label. My colleague examined the Belicoso way back in October 2012, finding it not complex enough to merit a four-stogie rating, but “a good bit better than a fairly routine three stogies.” He ultimately split the difference, and I concur. The Toro is worthy of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Fratello Bianco Event Exclusive

9 Apr 2016

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.”

Bianco Event

Bianco is the second line from Omar de Frias’ Fratello Cigars. Launched last year, it boats a San Andrés Negro Wrapper, Dominican Binder, and filler tobaccos from Pennsylvania, Nicaragua, and Peru. The Event Exclusive (5 x 44) is my favorite Bianco vitola. It delivers a concentrated, deceptively potent flavor of cocoa, espresso, black pepper, and dry wood. Expertly constructed, it’s a great buy for about $8. I liked it when I reviewed it in September, and a half year later it’s still an excellent smoke.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Generosos Toro (Casa de Montecristo Exclusive)

28 Mar 2016

EP Carrillo Generosos

In February, Casa de Montecristo (CDM)—a successful three-location tobacconist in Chicago—launched a retail website, which notably boasts exclusive releases from brands like My Father Cigars, Tatuaje, Drew Estate, and more. “CDMCigars.com will not only feature a fantastic selection of the finest cigars available, but will bring the consumer interactive features such as wish lists, a virtual lounge, chances to purchase extremely rare cigars, and periodic raffles,” stated a CDM press release. “The newest cigar releases, limited edition products, certified aged vintage cigars, and the finest accessories will also be featured.”

GenerososIncluded in the list of CDM exclusives is a cigar from E.P. Carrillo that hit the market in 2013: Generosos (Spanish for “generous”). This blend sports an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, a Dominican binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua. It is marketed as a “fantastically smooth smoke” that’s “medium-bodied” with “smooth, earthy, and nutty” flavors and “a slight hint of spice with a creamy finish.”

There are three vitolas available at CDMCigars.com: Toro (5.9 x 52, $10.74), Robusto (4.9 x 50, $8.94), and Gordo (6.25 x 60, $11.64). (A box-pressed Torpedo was also previously available, but this format is not listed online.) The E.P. Carrillo Generosos Toro has a lumpy, milk chocolate-colored wrapper with a slight red tint. The surface is criss-crossed with thin white veins, and the feel is consistently moderate from head to foot.

Once lit, the airy cold draw and soft pre-light notes of sweet hay transition to a dry, woodsy profile of cinnamon spice, campfire, tea, and creamy peanut. Hints of sweetness are particularly evident on the retrohale and in the aroma of the resting smoke. The open draw contributes to a somewhat papery texture, yet the Toro does not lack for flavor. Decidedly medium-bodied throughout, the interplay between spice and sweetness over an oak-like base is what I’ll remember most about this experience.

Fortunately, the cigar’s physical properties do not inhibit my enjoyment of the Generosos in the slightest. The white ash holds well off the foot, the burn line stays straight and true from light to nub, and the smoke production is above average.

I’ve come to expect a lot anytime I light up an E.P. Carrillo creation. Since the founding of his second cigar company about six years ago (his first, El Credito, was sold to General Cigar in 1999), Ernesto Perez-Carrillo has impressed my colleagues and I time and again with the impressive quality and craftsmanship he instills in his boutique offerings. The Generosos blend is no exception. Tasty and well-balanced, the E.P. Carrillo Generosos Toro is worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys