Archive by Author

Quick Smoke: Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary Connoisseur

14 Jan 2017

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.”

paul-garmirian-25th-anniversary

Last April, my colleague awarded this complex, harmonious, well-balanced cigar a rare five-stogie rating. Out of the many, many cigars we reviewed in 2016, the 25th Anniversary Connoisseur from Paul Garmirian Cigars was one of only four to receive our highest score. Deservedly so. In a rare display of restraint, I’ve been slowly chipping away at a box of these over the past eight months, only firing up a Connoisseur (6 x 52, $19) when the moment seems befitting a cigar of this caliber. Aside from exquisite construction—which is to be expected from such a costly smoke—this masterpiece yields a mouth-watering, satisfying, bready profile with hints of cedar, mushroom, and salted caramel. This is one cigar experience you won’t soon forget.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Illusione 88

2 Jan 2017

illusione-88

This is the cigar that got the Illusione brand off the ground. In 2004, Dion Giolito—today well-known throughout the industry for his height, unique hairstyle, obsession with conspiracy theories, and cigar blending abilities—opened a cigar shop in Reno. Shortly thereafter, with assistance from Pete Johnson of Tatuaje fame, he bought 50 boxes of robustos that would become his house blend. He called the cigar “88,” commemorating the year he moved to Nevada, and named the brand Illusione.

illusione“Illusione sounded like an inside secret,” Giolito recently told Cigar Aficionado. “An indie cigar for people part of an inner circle. Plus, the word Illusione sounded nice. Very European.” Today, all the cigars in the original Illusione lineup (also known as Original Documents) have unique names that refer to Giolito’s faith, a significant year in his life, or his favorite numbers at the craps table.

Illusione debuted at the 2006 industry trade show within the Tatuaje booth. At the time, the cigars were crafted in Honduras at the Raices Cubanas factory; production has since moved to the TABSA factory in Nicaragua, where the five-pack of 88s I smoked for this review were made.

This well-made robusto (5 x 52) retails for about $8 and is notably heavy in the hand due to its tight packing of Nicaraguan tobaccos. At first glance, the cigar has a rustic appeal, though the quality is evident. The clean, milk chocolate-colored wrapper has tight seams, minimal veins, and a fine, toothy surface. There is a floral pre-light scent, and the triple-cap clips cleanly to reveal a smooth cold draw. The simple, thin, black and white ring band is very loosely applied; it can be slipped off the cigar easily.

Once an even light is established, an oily, rich, medium-bodied taste emerges with a core of dry wood, cinnamon, white pepper, cocoa powder, and traces of leather. The finish is characterized by a floral sweetness, and the texture is simultaneously airy and a bit sandy. After a half inch or so, a delightful creamy nuttiness comes to the fore. Coffee and mint join in around the midway mark. The finale reminds me of oily coffee beans with a gentle cayenne heat.

The 88’s combustion properties are imperfect but not troublesome. Each of my five samples required some touch-ups along the way to stay lit and burning evenly. The gray ash is flaky, yet it manages to hold well off the foot. Smoke production is above average.

We interviewed Giolito in 2008, when Illusione was still young. Then, he told us the greatest challenge in creating a brand was “dealing with all of the liars. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in this side of the business it’s that everybody lies—farmers, factory owners, managers, etc. My biggest challenge has been to get my ideals and approach across to these guys without them cutting corners every time the cat’s away. Sometimes the leaf you choose is mysteriously not the leaf that goes into the cigar. I’ve refused entire orders because of one component. I need to be able to look someone in the eye when they ask me what my favorite cigar is and tell them it’s the one I make. I don’t want to be the guy that makes a cigar and smokes someone else’s. There are a lot of those guys out there.”

While a lot has changed since 2008, Giolito’s passion for excellence still comes through in the 88. This is a flavorful, satisfying, well-balanced robusto, and I think Illusione’s trademark floral sweetness comes through particularly well in this format. The Illusione 88 earns a very respectable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Davidoff Escurio Petit Robusto

31 Dec 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.”

escurio

Davidoff is as inextricably linked to the Dominican Republic as it is to super-premium luxury and high price tags. In recent years, however, the brand—crafted by industry legend Hendrik “Henke” Kelner—has ventured to other soils, namely Nicaragua and Brazil. In 2015, Davidoff launched the Brazilian-themed Escurio, which boasts an Ecuadorian Habano-seed wrapper, a Brazilian Cubra binder, and a filler blend that includes Mata Fina and Cubra tobaccos from Brazil paired with Dominican leaves. The Petit Robusto (3.25 x 50) retails for about $8 and is notable for its short-format, condensed delivery of a spicy, complex profile of black pepper, espresso, natural tobacco, oak, and earthy mustiness. Construction is absolutely perfect and the smoke production is voluminous and rich. It’s a delicious, intense indulgence that won’t leave you disappointed.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Crowned Heads La Imperiosa Minutos

24 Dec 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.”

la-imperiosa

I found this cigar on sale for $4 at a lounge and couldn’t be happier with the purchase. Even at the regular price, which is in the $6-7 range, Minutos (4.4 x 42) is a steal, especially if you’re looking for a lot of flavor and don’t have much time. The rich, medium- to full-bodied taste includes satisfying notes of cocoa, dried fruit, and black and red pepper spice. The combustion properties are likewise superb. This is an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro-wrapped winner, and an easy recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Ashton Cabinet Selection No. 4

19 Dec 2016

ashton-cabinet-selection

Few cigar retailers launch a house blend with aspirations of growing it into a highly visible, nationally distributed brand that’s recognizable to nearly every premium cigar enthusiast in the country. But that’s exactly what happened with Ashton, a successful brand made by the famed Fuente family exclusively for Holt’s Cigar Co., a Philadelphia-based retailer.

ashton-cabinetAshton debuted in 1985 and is now sold in over 60 countries. Aston’s two sister brands are well-known, too: La Aroma de Cuba and San Cristobal. These ubiquitous brands have helped promulgate Holt’s well beyond its stature at 1522 Walnut Street in downtown Philadelphia. Today, Holt’s is among the top five cigar retailers in the world, including a notable online and catalog presence.

The Ashton portfolio includes, but is not limited to, the Classic, Aged Maduro, Estate Sun Grown, Virgin Sun Grown, and Cabinet Selection blends. The latter sports a Connecticut Shade wrapper around Dominican tobaccos that are at least four years old. Ten vitolas are available. For this review, I sampled three Ashton Cabinet Selection No. 4s (5.75 x 46), each of which ran me $9.90.

While this is a regal-looking, handsome cigar, I find it disappointing that the back of the white, black, red, and gold band is often mis-adhered to itself (the two ends are rarely aligned properly). Aesthetics and presentation may not be the most important attributes when evaluating cigar, but I know many cigar factories go to great lengths to ensure the rings are applied evenly and tightly to leave no doubt in the consumer’s mind about the quality of the cigar.

That said, this is otherwise a very attractive presentation. The pale wrapper is clean with tight seams and a well-executed cap. The cold draw is smooth and there are no soft spots.

After establishing an even light, delicate pre-light aromas of sweet hay and sawdust transition into a mild- to medium-bodied profile of creamy butter, toast, almond, and white pepper. The smoke is dry and a little spicy with a cedar-like texture. A fleeting bitterness comes and goes throughout, though it never manifests into a central part of the profile—nor is it a major concern.

The physical properties are excellent from light to nub. The fact that this is a well-made, expertly constructed cigar is evident for the duration of the smoke, as is to be expected from the Fuente family. All of my samples exhibited even burn lines, clear draws, solid ashes, and above-average smoke production.

For one reason or another, the Ashton brand has never really been a regular in my cigar rotation. I’m not entirely sure why, and this Cabinet Selection No. 4 has me thinking I might have been missing out. This is an interesting, well-layered, tasty Connecticut Shade-wrapped smoke that’s easy to find and pleasing to the palate. For that, it earns an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Riverside House Blend Toro

17 Dec 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.”

riverside

This creamy, well-balanced cigar is made exclusively for Jeff Mouttet of Riverside Cigar Shop & Lounge in Jeffersonville, Indiana, by Noel Rojas in Estelí, Nicaragua. It sports an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. I paid about $8.50 for the Toro, and found it well worth the price. Construction is excellent—including a straight burn, solid ash, and smooth draw. The mild- to medium-bodied flavor is toasty, bready, and creamy with hints of cinnamon and a soft, woodsy spice. If you’re in the area, I would urge you to drop in and give the Riverside House Blend a try.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XXIV)

12 Dec 2016

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This special winter edition of Random Thoughts from the Humidor is dedicated to the snowstorm that blew through my hometown of Chicago this weekend. I know many of you are also dealing with ice, snow, and plummeting temperatures, so I thought today we’d dig into our extensive archives to find some tips that are especially relevant in these cold months.

Take a Year-End Inventory

In a perfect world, I would only have one very large humidor to worry about, not a handful of medium- to small-sized humidors. But because my many humidors carry sentimental value, I can’t bring myself to consolidate. Plus, given the space I have in our condo in Chicago, one very large humidor would be a lot tougher to make space for. One challenge with this setup is monitoring the humidification levels of each individual humidor. Another challenge is understanding what I have and where it’s located. For this reason, every so often I’ll empty the humidors out, get the stock re-organized, remind myself what cigars I have (and what I’m missing), and “re-charge” the humidors. It takes some time, but I find the process enjoyable and valuable. I suggest you do the same, especially as you prepare your own humidor(s) for the winter. If you can, take your time while you work, and enjoy an excellent cigar you’re sure to be surprised to find at the bottom of your stash.

Re-Acquaint Yourself with a Good Tobacconist

In the winter, a good tobacconist that provides a comfortable, warm place to smoke is worth its weight in gold. As you search for a home base from which to conduct your winter cigar operations, feel free to use this article as a helpful decision-making framework. It lists criteria for consideration, like a good selection, fair prices, hours of operation, WiFi, cleanliness, beverage options, and more.

Brave the Cold

If you don’t have an indoor cigar sanctuary in or near your home, you’ll want to start smoking shorter, smaller cigars to minimize your time outdoors. Other than gloves, space-heaters, hats, and long underwear, that’s probably the best advice I can give you. Remember: That 7-inch, 50-ring gauge Churchill you’ve been eyeing in your humidor is a serious investment in time. If you smoke slowly—as you should to maximize enjoyment—it could take two or more hours to complete. Also, keep these words of wisdom from my colleague in mind; they might help you muster the strength to endure the elements: “To brave inclement weather shows true dedication to the wonderful hobby that is cigars… The cold weather smoker need not smile while he bundles up for a sub-freezing stogie session, but he does. When many might close up the humidor until late spring, the cold weather smoker bravely smokes on.”

Drink Well

While you’re out in the snow, warm your bones with some of our favorite winter libations. The Stonewall Jackson has been a favorite of mine for years. You also can’t go wrong with a hot buttered rum. And don’t forget that winter beers can definitely make solid cigar accompaniments.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr