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Quick Smoke: 1502 Ruby Lancero

16 Jul 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.”

1502

Made at the Plasencia Cigars S.A. factory for Enrique Sánchez Icaza’s Global Premium Cigars, the seven-vitola 1502 Ruby line sports an Ecuadorian wrapper around tobaccos from Jalapa and Estelí. The Lancero (7 x 40) has a soft box-press, a semi-closed foot, and pre-light notes of sweet hay and cocoa. The profile is chalky—and a little meaty—with core flavors of red pepper, dry wood, bread, and toned-down cinnamon spice. Construction is excellent. Notes of creamy, sweet nut are a little more fleeting than I would like, but this is still a good buy at about $8.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: MBombay Gaaja Toro

11 Jul 2016

Gaaja

Mel Shah, owner of an upscale cigar and wine lounge in Palm Springs, California, is the man behind Bombay Tobak. You may be more familiar with the name MBombay, though, which is his small-batch brand of high-end cigars made in Costa Rica.

GaajaMBombayShah’s newest creation is called Gaaja (pronounced Gaa-ya), which is Sanskrit for elephant. “We had been working on the blend of Gaaja for more than four years,” reads a press release dated June 20. “The process involved in logistics and long fermentation of tobacco from countries like Peru and Paraguay really tested our patience. We had to wait for three vintages of the hybrid Connecticut wrapper leaf for the perfection we wanted.”

Gaaja was formally introduced on July 1. Its recipe calls for an Ecuadorian hybrid Connecticut/Cameroon wrapper that’s grown in the desflorado fashion. (The process of cultivating desflorado tobacco requires a watchful eye and arduous attention to detail; the buds on these plants are cut off before they flower to force the plant’s energy on leaf production instead of flower production.) The binder is Ecuadorian, and the filler is a combination of Seco from Peru; Viso from Ecuador, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic; and Dominican Ligero.

Only one size is available: a Toro measuring 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 54. Of note is the peculiar shape, which I would describe as box-pressed on the back (the side with the back of the band) and rounded on the front.

The Toro is a velvety smooth, moderately oily cigar with a clean, golden exterior and a spongy feel in the hand. It’s accented by a unique, interesting band of light blue, red, and gold with “Gaaja” written on one side and “Bombay Tobak” written on the other. The pre-light notes at the foot are pungent and crisp with loads of sweet hay. The cold draw is airy and smooth.

Once lit, I find a medium-bodied, silky profile with flavors ranging from honey and graham to bread and dry wood. There’s a core of creaminess in the background that I would describe as buttery with hints of almond. Tea, cedar spice, and warm tobacco are also present in this complex taste. At the halfway point and beyond, the flavor starts to flirt with the medium- to full-bodied range, and the spiciness ramps up as well. Construction is outstanding.

You should expect a lot from a cigar that retails for $15.50. Fortunately, Gaaja delivers with a well-balanced, thoughtful profile that rewards careful, contentious attention. My advice is to enjoy this in a quiet, solitary environment with little distraction, and be prepared for a rewarding, distinctive experience. This gem is 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

Quick Smoke: CroMagnon Cranium

2 Jul 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.”

Cranium

This isn’t my favorite cigar from RoMa Craft Tobac—that honor still belongs to the Intemperance BA XXI A.W.S. IV—but it’s damn close. The CroMagnon Cranium (6 x 54) is a heaping pile of rich, full-bodied flavor, yet it also brings ample complexity to the table via well-balanced notes of pepper, coffee, peanut, and chocolate over a base of hickory and leather. Construction is excellent. Something tells me Skip Martin knew what he was doing when he blended this Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper with a Cameroon binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. At $8.50, the toro-sized Cranium is a steal.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Florida Sun Grown Robusto

27 Jun 2016

FSG

Two years ago, StogieGuys.com broke the news that, for the first time since 1977, long-filler cigar tobacco was being grown in Florida. Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of the Orlando-area Corona Cigar stores and a partner in the Sindicato cigar company, began growing tobacco on land he had purchased—out of love of the leaf, and to avoid paying residential taxes on the land, which is outside Orlando.

FSG PNGAt the time, while we learned Drew Estate had been selected as Borysiewicz’s partner in the endeavor, it was unclear exactly how the tobacco would be used. About a month ago, we learned it has been included in a new blend from Drew Estate aptly called Florida Sun Grown (FSG). The Floridian tobacco joins Nicaraguan leaves as a component of the filler; the binder is Mexican and the wrapper Brazilian.

FSG was blended by Drew Estate Master Blender Willy Herrera over the course of two years. Five vitolas—including a limited edition Trunk-Pressed Toro (6 x 54)—currently retail in the $11.50-$15 range. For now, they are only available at Corona Cigar stores, or at Corona Cigar’s retail website. However, rumor has it Borysiewicz would like to see FSG go national. If that happens, the exclusivity at Corona Cigar will likely be remembered as a soft launch.

The FSG Robusto (5 x 54) is a dark, firm, oily cigar with a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos visible at the foot and hearty pre-light notes of raisin and musty earth. It is adorned by a handsome band of teal, orange, and gold that interestingly makes no mention of Drew Estate. The cold draw is smooth and easy.

The flavor is full-bodied and spicy right from the get-go with tons of espresso, black pepper, cayenne heat, and roasted nuts. There’s some raisin and black cherry to help add balance, though that background sweetness certainly doesn’t diminish the intensity. The texture is thick and leathery. After about an inch, the Robusto settles down a bit, but never recedes below the medium- to full-bodied range. Some creaminess enters the equation, as does a little citrus and oak. The final third displays a powerful combination of roasted notes, char, meatiness, and spice.

The combustion qualities are exactly what I’ve come to expect from La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate. The white, finely layered ash holds well off the foot, the draw is clear, the smoke production above average, and the burn line stays straight from light to nub.

It will be interesting to watch the progression of Borysiewicz’s foray into premium cigar tobacco cultivation in Florida. Will FSG get a national release? Will a Florida-grown wrapper leaf be introduced? Will the entire venture be killed off by FDA regulation? I will continue to observe with keen interest. For now, I can say the Florida Sun Grown Robusto is a bold, interesting experience, even at the considerable price of $11.50. In my eyes, this particular cigar is worthy of a very 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: Gran Habano La Conquista Gran Robusto (Pre-Release)

25 Jun 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.”

Gran Habano

Gran Habano is expected to introduce two new cigars this summer: Los Tres Reyes Magos—a culebra consisting of intertwined lancero sizes of its Gran Habano Connecticut #1, Maduro #3, and Corojo #5 lines—and a new blend called La Conquista. The latter sports a Nicaraguan wrapper around tobaccos from Costa Rica, Colombia, and Nicaragua and will be sold in three sizes that retail for $8-9. I recently took the Gran Robusto (6 x 54) for a test drive and found good combustion qualities and a medium-bodied profile of oak, sweet cream, coffee, musty earth, and popcorn. The resting smoke is beautifully aromatic, sweet, and mouth-watering. That said, the actual taste is missing something and, on my palate at least, feels a little flat.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark Rum

20 Jun 2016

Cruzan Estate

For more than a few years, Cruzan Single Barrel has been a staple in my liquor cabinet for its quality, consistency, and great value. For about $30, it delivers a complex, well-rounded flavor of honey, oak, fruit, caramel, and butterscotch. It’s good enough to sip neat, yet affordable enough to prevent you from feeling guilty for including it in a cocktail.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the St. Croix-based distiller, Cruzan originally began producing rum from pot stills eight generations ago and today uses a continuous column distillation process. The name of company (pronounced kru-shun) comes from the island—inhabitants are called “Crucians”—which has a rich and varied history.

St. Croix has been controlled by seven different nations since Christopher Columbus first landed on its beautiful shores in 1493 (Spain, England, Holland, France, Malta, Denmark, and now America). It thrived due to sugar output, which made it a naturally fitting locale for rum production. (Cane is no longer grown on St. Croix; today, Cruzan’s business is supported by molasses imports.)

Cruzan was the first major rum producer to introduce flavored rums. Now, Cruzan’s portfolio spans a multitude of rum styles, including dark, light, spiced, and even a licorice-forward cocktail spirit called Black Strap. But the company’s three flagship rums make up its Distiller’s Collection: Estate Diamond Light, the aforementioned Single Barrel, and Estate Diamond Dark.

The latter retails for about $20 per 750 ml. bottle and is 40% alcohol by volume (80-proof). It is a blend of rums between the ages of five and twelve years that are aged in oak barrels. Cruzan calls it ideal for “slow sips or as a mixer in one-to-one cocktails,” and describes the flavor as “rich notes of oak and vanilla.”

Estate Diamond Dark Rum pours with a light, golden color and a crisp, gentle nose of honey and tropical fruits. On the palate, I find loads of banana with hints of orange, wood, cinnamon spice, vanilla, coffee, and pecan. The overall effect is approachable and bright, though the finish can be surprisingly long with a fair amount of heat and spice.

As for cigar pairings, I’d recommend staying away from full-bodied flavor-bombs and/or dark maduros. Instead, aim for medium-bodied smokes with natural wrappers to avoid overpowering the rum’s subtle flavors that make it so enjoyable. A cigar like the Señorial Corona Gorda No. 5 fits the bill nicely.

One reason I tend to prefer rum and bourbon to scotch is the simple fact that you don’t need to shell out top dollar to have a great rum or bourbon experience. The Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark Rum is a perfect example. This is a great way to spend $20 and worthy of an easy recommendation. Enjoy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Swag Brown Connecticut Lavish

18 Jun 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.”

Swag Connecticut

Introduced about one year ago, the Swag Brown Connecticut line from Aging Room Cigars boasts a beautiful, golden Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. Crafted at the Tabacalera Palma factory, the Lavish (5 x 54) retails for about $7 and includes a mild- to medium-bodied flavor of dry oak, butter, peanut, and a soft white pepper spice. Construction is impressive, as is the cigar’s smooth texture and complex, balanced flavors. If you’re looking for a morning or mid-afternoon smoke to pair with iced coffee this summer, you should give Swag Connecticut a try.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys