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Cigar Review: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Piramide Fino

17 Dec 2014

Back in May, on the heels of Nick Melillo’s departure, Drew Estate named Willy Herrera “master blender,” a role where he would help maintain current blends, produce new cigar lines, and report directly to Jonathan Drew.

Piramide FinoIt remains to be seen how Swisher International’s purchase of Drew Estate may change Herrera’s position at one of the world’s largest handmade cigar manufacturers. But we know that Drew Estate management—including Jonathan Drew, Marvin Samel, and Michael Cellucci—are remaining at the company for the time being. And we know these individuals have a great deal of confidence in Herrera.

That confidence stems in large part from the success of Herrera’s debut line at Drew Estate, Herrera Estelí. This “Cubanesque” blend not only diversified the Drew Estate portfolio (which lacked a visible, more traditional, non-maduro cigar,), but it also earned widespread acclaim from the online cigar community, and claimed the number eight slot on Cigar Aficionado’s list of the best smokes of 2013.

To date, my experience with Herrera Estelí has been mostly limited to the Short Corona, a cigar that’s small in stature but big in quality. Lately, I’ve fired up a few Piramide Finos (6 x 52), one of the other four sizes in the series. Like the Short Corona, the Piramide Fino is a handsome, golden-colored smoke comprised of Ecuadoran, Honduran, and Nicaraguan tobaccos with pre-light notes of hay and molasses. Only the slightest puncture of the gorgeous cap is all that’s needed to open up a smooth cold draw.

Once lit, the belicoso yields a medium-bodied, balanced taste of cream, cashew, white pepper, and dry wood. There’s a lingering sweetness in the background, and the finish is characterized by a sharp, zesty spice on the tip of the tongue. At times a cinnamon spice can take control. Other times, an earthiness that reminds me of truffle comes to the foreground.

Throughout, construction is impeccable. Drew Estate prides itself on ease of draw and high smoke production, and the Piramide Fino is no exception. Additionally, the burn line is straight and the white ash holds superbly well.

I may have to give a very slight edge to the Short Corona, simply because I think the flavors pop a little more in that smaller format. But this is an outstanding belicoso, and one of the many Drew Estate creations I hope stays consistent once the Swisher International acquisition is complete. In my book, the Herrera Estelí Piramide Fino is a truly wonderful value at $10 and worthy of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Nestor Miranda Collection Maduro Robusto

15 Dec 2014

Earlier this month, I reviewed the Habano Robusto from the new Nestor Miranda Collection. Miami Cigar & Co. recently launched the series to coincide with the company’s 25th anniversary and honor its founder as Nestor Miranda slowly transitions away from active management of the business.

Nestor Miranda Collection MaduroIt’s safe to say the Nestor Miranda Collection is a preview of what we might expect from Miami Cigar & Co. over the ensuing years. Jason Wood, Miranda’s son-in-law and vice president of (and presumed heir to) the company, is the driving force behind the series. Evidently, his work was met with Miranda’s approval. “I am excited about the new vision [Jason Wood] has for our future and the re-branding of the Nestor Miranda Collection,” he said in a press release. “[He has positioned us] to make a lasting impression on the cigar industry for years to come.”

The new Nestor Miranda Collection is made at My Father Cigars and is broken up into three lines: Habano (green band), Maduro (red), and Connecticut (blue). While the former are original blends, the Connecticut has the same recipe as the old Special Selection Connecticut cigar. All come in 4 sizes—Robusto (4.5 x 50), Toro (5.5 x 54), Corona Gorda (6 x 46), and Gordo (6 x 60)—and retail for about $7 to $9 apiece.

The Maduro Robusto sports a dark, mottled, and toothy Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and a three-country filler blend from Nicaragua, Honduras, and Brazil. Rustic in appearance, it’s adorned with large veins, a few bumps, and some thick seams. The firmness is moderate, the cold draw stiff, and the pre-light notes remind me of warm tobacco.

Once lit, a chewy, peppery flavor emerges with plenty of spice and leather. I wouldn’t call it a slap-in-the-face introduction, but the body is medium to medium-full. There’s a meaty sourness on the aftertaste of which I’m not particularly fond, and the draw is a little tight for my liking.

At the midway point, the draw starts to open, the smoke production increases, and a few new flavors join the fray. They include cocoa, cream, and coffee. The finish featyres an increase in spice, strength, and richness that places the final third solidly in the full-bodied range.

Aside from early-on issues with the draw, the construction is good. My samples exhibited a solid ash and a straight burn line.

In total, I can safely say I prefer the Habano Robusto to the Maduro, and I look forward to trying the Connecticut. On its own, the Maduro Robusto is a serviceable smoke that Connecticut Broadleaf fans should try. That earns it a rating of three stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: 7-20-4 Lancero

13 Dec 2014

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.”

7-20-4 Lancero

Over two years ago, my colleague wrote a very favorable review of the Lancero from 7-20-4, a brand made in Honduras for Kurt A. Kendall, owner of Twins Smoke Shop in New Hampshire. I visited one of the Twins locations on a recent business trip and decided to take the Lancero (7.5 x 38, $8) for a test drive. That was a good decision. This elegant cigar—comprised of a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper, Colombian binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico—smokes beautifully and produces a complex, medium-bodied flavor of roasted nuts, cream, cocoa, syrup, and cedar. I encourage you seek it out.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Illusione *R* Rothchildes

8 Dec 2014

Last week my business travels brought me to Manchester, New Hampshire. Naturally, while in the area, I visited the Londonderry location of Twins Smoke Shop, a tobacconist with a solid lounge, full bar, and an incredible selection of cigars. (Twins is also home base of the acclaimed 7-20-4 brand by Kurt A. Kendall.)

Illusione RothchildesAs closing time approached, the shop’s staff recommended I try the Illusione *R* Rothchildes for one last short smoke before heading back to my hotel. I’m glad I did. I had never smoked one before, but now I can see I had been missing out. This small, value-priced Illusione is outstanding, and it deserves a spot in my regular repertoire.

The *R* Rothchildes (4.5 x 50) was added to the Illusione portfolio in 2013. It carries an impressive price point of $4 and has been dubbed “a cigar for the masses” with “unmatched” quality for the price, according to the Illusione website. I’m happy to report I enthusiastically agree.

Made at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) in Nicaragua, *R* Rothchildes features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It looks a little rough around the edges—most San Andrés-wrapped cigars do—but sports a smooth cold draw and rich pre-light notes of leather, earth, and cocoa.

Once an even light is established, the medium-bodied profile exudes a balanced taste of roasted nuts, sweet cream, earth, and warm tobacco. The texture is meaty and the resting smoke is beautifully floral. Black pepper and cocoa build at the midway point. Towards the finale, there’s a slight increase in spice and the wonderful floral notes grow to become prominent.

The burn line may not be perfect, but any deficiencies in the construction department are merely aesthetic in nature. Expect to not have to fiddle with torch touch-ups, and expect the draw to be easy, the ash solid, and the smoke production above average.

I have to agree with Illusione that the quality is impeccable for the cost. How better can you spend $4 and about 45 minutes? For its value, consistency, balance, complexity, and awesome floral notes, I’m awarding the Illusione *R* Rothchildes a fantastic rating of 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: Padrón Serie 1964 Corona Maduro

6 Dec 2014

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.”

1964 Maduro Corona

I stumbled across this cigar at a tobacconist during my recent travels and, despite the relatively hefty $12 price tag, couldn’t resist firing it up. Immediately, I realized it had been way too long since I smoked the Padrón Serie 1964 Corona Maduro (6 x 42). This fantastic cigar sports perfect construction and complex, balanced flavors of cocoa, espresso, cedar, and cream. Don’t think twice about treating yourself to this classic when you have the chance.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Give the Gift of Cigars this Christmas

3 Dec 2014

Like it or not, the Christmas shopping season is upon us. And if you’re a regular StogieGuys.com reader, changes are you have a few individuals on your list who are lovers of the leaf themselves. But sometimes shopping for cigars for gifts can be intimidating and confusing—even for the most seasoned cigar veterans.

Christmas Presents

Never fear. Cigar smokers need not be a difficult crowd for which to buy presents. Their passion for the hobby makes it easy to narrow down gift choices. This holiday season, you can be virtually assured of gift-giving success if you follow some simple rules of thumb.

Only give a box if you’re sure. Some cigar enthusiasts are completely loyal to one brand or one specific blend. If this is the case, you can’t do wrong by buying a box he or she is sure to love. Maybe this isn’t the most original idea—and maybe the box won’t be much of a surprise—but any cigar smoker will tell you that you can never have enough of your favorite smokes, especially if they’re made in limited quantities.

Samplers offer variety. Many cigar enthusiasts don’t have just one favorite cigar. For these folks, I can’t recommend buying a whole box. Instead, samplers are terrific. When you give a sampler of ten different cigars, it’s like giving ten different gifts. The recipient might not love all ten, but chances are he/she will really enjoy at least a few, and you might even be responsible for turning someone on to his/her new favorite.

Consider cigar accessories. Every cigar enthusiast needs a great table lighter, travel lighter, nice cutter, good ashtray, humidor, etc. Instead of buying cigars, think about giving the gift of a cigar accessory. Many accessories can be personalized and, unlike cigars themselves, are likely to last for years to come. My wife gave me a wonderful alligator skin cigar case years ago and I’ve cherished it ever since.

Cigar access can be invaluable. Many cigar smokers don’t have ready access to a good indoor lounge where they can light up without fear of temperature, wind, or precipitation. If there’s a members-only indoor lounge near him/her, you might look into buying him/her a seasonal or year-round pass (or maybe even a private locker). This gift would obviously be expensive, but no doubt appreciated.

Think drinks. Cigars pair excellently with all sorts of libations, including coffee, wine, bourbon, rum, and scotch. Maybe that cigar smoker on your list would really enjoy a French press to make the perfect brew. Or perhaps a nice bottle of something special. Feel free to peruse our many musings on spirits; most of these articles include recommended cigar pairings to help make the gift complete.

Don’t forget cigar rights. Most cigar smokers have a fervent passion for defending cigar rights and opposing tobacco taxes and smoking bans. For these folks, a membership to Cigar Rights of America is an excellent gift. Benefits of membership include supporting professional lobbyists who fight for cigar freedoms, discounts at cigar shops, free cigars, and more.

I hope these tips are helpful as you shop for that cigar smoker on your list. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a tip of your own that you’d like to share. And happy holidays.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: Nestor Miranda Collection Habano Robusto

1 Dec 2014

Back in June, Miami Cigar & Co. announced it would be revamping and re-launching its series of lines bearing the Nestor Miranda name. The move coincides with the company’s 25th anniversary and honors its founder as Nestor Miranda reduces his workload.

NMC Habano Robusto“It has been an honor for me to begin the process of creating a new look and feel which is worthy of what Nestor Miranda and the Miami Cigar & Co. team have accomplished over the last 25 years,” said Jason Wood, Miranda’s son-in-law and vice president of (and presumed heir to) Miami Cigar & Co.

Wood was the driving force behind the overhaul of the Nestor Miranda Collection, providing us with a vision of where he plans to take the company in the future. Evidently, the changes were met with Miranda’s approval. “I am excited about the new vision [Jason Wood] has for our future and the re-branding of the Nestor Miranda Collection… [He has positioned us] to make a lasting impression on the cigar industry for years to come.”

The new Nestor Miranda Collection is made at My Father Cigars and is broken up into three lines: Habano (green band), Maduro (red), and Connecticut (blue). While the former are original blends, the Connecticut has the same recipe as the old Special Selection Connecticut cigar. All come in 4 sizes—Robusto (4.5 x 50), Toro (5.5 x 54), Corona Gorda (6 x 46), and Gordo (6 x 60)—and retail for about $7 to $9 apiece.

The Habano version has a dark wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and a three-country filler blend from Nicaragua, Honduras, and Brazil. It’s a stout, oily specimen with a well-executed cap and a clean surface. The pre-light notes are rich and reminiscent of espresso bean and cocoa. The firmness is moderate (perhaps a little soft at the foot), and the cold draw is tight.

With a cigar like the Habano Robusto—where the large band covers roughly 30% or more of the actual cigar—I always remove the band before lighting. Underneath is an impeccable wrapper with only a few thin veins. Once lit, the cigar produces a medium-bodied profile of oak, coffee, roasted nuts, and some creamy sweetness. The texture is leathery, and the finish leaves some cedary spice on the tip of the tongue.

After the first third, the draw opens considerably and the smoke production increases. The flavor remains consistent throughout, save for some notes of baking spices that surface towards the end. From light to nub, the burn stays straight and the ash holds firm.

I’m looking forward to trying the other new Nestor Miranda Collection lines, and I also want to try some of the larger sizes of the Habano blend. But my first taste of this new twist on the series is a good one. The Habano Robusto packs a lot of flavor and spice into a condensed format, and the sweet creaminess plays well off the coffee notes. For that, it earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys