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Cigar Review: Davidoff Escurio Robusto (Pre-Release)

1 Jul 2015

In 2013, Davidoff launched a new line that was a stark departure for a brand so inextricably linked to the Dominican Republic: Davidoff Nicaragua, as it was (and is) called, a Nicaraguan puro crafted by Hendrik “Henke” Kelner.

Escurio Robusto“[Davidoff Nicaragua] is a major step for Davidoff to expand to a new territory,” said CEO Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard at the time. “Davidoff’s mission is to bring aficionados delightful experiences regardless of territory.” For some, these statements hinted to further Davidoff expansion beyond its Dominican base.

Sure enough, this year Davidoff will be expanding to Brazil with a new line called Escurio. Escurio is intended to deliver “intense, spicy, sweet palate stimulation, coupled with the signature Davidoff refinement and sophistication.” It 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.

Three Escurio sizes will make their debut at next month’s industry trade show: Petit Robusto (3.25 x 50, $8.50), Robusto (4.5 x 54, $15.90), and Gran Toro (5.5 x 58, $17.90). Each vitola will be sold in packs of 4 and 12.

Like Davidoff Nicaragua, Escurio sports a black Davidoff band, as well as a secondary band to denote the blend. Underneath is an oily, slightly reddish exterior leaf with a wrinkled texture and a plethora of thin veins. The pre-light notes at the foot are heavy on cocoa and sweet hay.

At the outset, the Escurio Robusto is airy, almost papery, with a very loose draw and tons of smoke production. Background notes consist of black pepper spice and espresso. After about a quarter of an inch, though, the cigar becomes more flavorful with a taste reminiscent of sweet cream, oak, dark chocolate, coffee, and natural tobacco. The resting smoke is particularly interesting, sweet, and mouth-watering.

Until the nub, the Robusto is silky—a sensation that’s offset by intense spice and red pepper. Construction-wise, the ash holds firm and the burn, while it meanders, is not an issue.

While the sizes are unfortunate—I’d prefer to see some narrower ring gauges—and the price points are intimidating, the Davidoff Escurio has much to offer in the way of flavor. Notably, it adds significant diversification to the Davidoff portfolio. I find it worthy of an admirable rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Aurora 107 Maduro Robusto

27 Jun 2015

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 Aurora 107 Maduro Robusto

The review I composed of this Connecticut Broadleaf-wrapped smoke in 2013 wasn’t exactly scathing, but it wasn’t glowing either. Ever since, I’ve found the La Aurora 107 Maduro Robusto (4.5 x 50) to be excellent. While I’m not sure if my initial samples were duds, every Robusto I’ve had since has been much, much better. Whereas my first impression was of a smoke that’s coarse and hot with a few combustion issues, now this cigar tastes smooth, complex, pleasant, and creamy with a core of pepper, cocoa, and coffee. I’m glad I decided to give this well-constructed, $7 specimen a second chance.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Looking Ahead to the Big Cigar Show in New Orleans

24 Jun 2015

In less than a month, the 83rd International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show will commence in New Orleans. will be on hand to cover the biggest cigar event of the year, as we have for seven of the last eight years.

2015 IPCPR Trade Show

In preparation of our coverage, today I wanted to list some of the key trends, issues, concerns, etc. I’ve been thinking about. These are just a few of the topics I’d like to learn more about. Following the Trade Show, I expect to be able to report back to you with my findings and impressions, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts as well.

The Impending FDA Threat

First and foremost, I’m anxious to hear what all the cigar makers—both big and small—have to say about the expected regulations from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA threat has been looming for some time, but now it feels as though the guillotine blade is in position and ready to fall at moment’s notice. These days the peril is more focused and more concrete. As we reported on June 2, every cigar introduced after February 15, 2007 could soon be made illegal by the U.S. government. This would be devastating for consumers, tobacconists, and manufacturers alike. How is the industry preparing for the FDA to hand down its regulations? How much better positioned are bigger manufacturers than smaller boutiques who may not have launched any cigars before February 2007?

Former Drew Estate Executives Back in the Ring

There will be no new releases I’m personally more eager to try than the cigars from Nicholas Melillo and Steve Saka. Both were instrumental to Drew Estate’s immensely successful transition into the non-infused premium cigar market. Melillo has already announced the formation of the Foundation Cigar Company. His cigars will be made at the TABSA (Tobaccos Valle de Jalapa) factory in Nicaragua, using Aganorsa tobacco, which is also extensively used in Drew Estate blends. Former Drew Estate president and CEO Steve Saka is also expected to launch his new cigar outfit at the Trade Show, though there aren’t many details available just yet. You can bet the cigars from both Melillo and Saka will be highly sought-after—and the expectations couldn’t be much higher. How will their cigars perform? On the flip side of the coin, given the FDA threat, can you imagine a worse time to launch a new boutique cigar company? How are they dealing with that?

Size Matters

For what seems like years I’ve been lamenting the trend toward bigger, thicker smokes. I’m not sure you can even call this an emerging trend anymore. Monstrous smokes with 60-ring gauge (and bigger) proportions seem to be the status quo now. Virtually every new cigar line has at least one 6 x 60 behemoth. Yet the more I smoke cigars—and I think this is fairly consistent among dedicated cigar enthusiasts—the more I appreciate narrower formats (like lanceros) or smaller sizes (like robustos or coronas). I appreciate the focus, complexity, and concentration of a smaller format. In the past, when I’ve spoken to cigar makers on the subject, they all seem to lament this trend too. Generally speaking, they’d prefer to not smoke (or make) these huge sizes. The problem is they sell. How do they feel about these giant frontmarks now? Do they see the trend reversing?

Cuban Communiqué

President Obama’s recent executive order making legal travel to Cuba easier (and making it legal for visitors to import $100 worth of Cuban cigars) must have the industry buzzing with possibilities. Are we getting closer to the legalization of Cuban cigars in the U.S.? Would Cuban factories even be able to meet the new U.S. demand? Or are we all so enamored with Nicaraguan tobacco that nobody cares? The trademark disputes alone are enough to make your head spin (think of all the brand names owned by Altadis and General Cigar that are the same as Cuban brands). I’d like to hear what the various cigar makers have to think on the subject. And even though an outright end to the trade embargo is likely a long way off, it doesn’t hurt to consider the possibility of my favorite cigar makers in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, etc. getting access to Cuban tobacco to use in their blends.

Patrick A

photo credit: IPCPR

Cigar Review: Drew Estate My Uzi Weighs a Ton Bait Fish

22 Jun 2015

As I was perusing the selection at a tobacconist recently, a five-pack of Bait Fish caught my eye. After all, you don’t see too many cigars packaged in brown paper bundles.

Bait FishI picked up a pack for several reasons. One, I know when I’m buying a Drew Estate product I’m going to have a good experience. Two, I don’t have enough smaller cigars in my regular rotation. Three, in most cases, I much prefer the concept of a five-pack to a full box of 20 or 25 smokes. And finally, the price point ($31.95, or $6.39 per Bait Fish) provides affordable access to high quality.

When My Uzi Weighs a Ton (MUWAT) was announced a few years back—presumably named for the Public Enemy song—MUWAT only came in three sizes, all with a 60 ring gauge (5, 6, and 7 inches long, respectively). Since, the team at Subculture Studios has released the smaller Bait Fish size (4 x 44). At first, Bait Fish was exclusive to online retailer New Havana Cigars, but in 2012 the line went national.

A quick refresher: MUWAT is made at the Joya de Nicaragua factory with leaf mostly from Drew Estate, including a San Andrés Negro wrapper, Connecticut Capote binder, and Brazillian Mata Fina filler, along with Nicaraguan filler from Joya de Nicaragua’s own tobacco stocks. It’s rolled at Joya de Nicaragua but was blended by Jonathan Drew of Drew Estate. This is probably why the Drew Estate name isn’t featured on the soft pack or the band; instead, you’ll find “Subculture Studios” and “by Subculture Studios and JDN.”

According to reports, the Bait Fish size in particular was tweaked to add more Ligero to create a stronger smoke. It certainly has the look of a little firecracker. The wrapper is oily and dark with a slight Colorado hue. The feel is moderately firm from cap to foot, and the pre-light notes feature cocoa, coffee, and earth.

After using a punch cut—the guillotine would likely remove too much tobacco from such a small smoke—and setting an even light, the Bait Fish opens with a medium- to full-bodied profile of chocolate, dry oak, natural tobacco, and faint white pepper spice. The taste remains mostly the same, but the intensity ramps up after only a half inch.

From there, this is definitely a full-bodied smoke, and a great way to get big flavor in a short amount of time. Construction is fantastic throughout, including an effortless draw, straight burn line, and massive smoke production.

When my colleague reviewed the Bait Fish three years ago, he called it “focused, intense, flavorful, and well-made.” I completely agree. I’d also add “good value” to the mix, even though some might say $6.39 is a lot to pay for a small smoke (I personally think that’s a fair price for this cigar). In my book, this little gem is worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Pinar del Rio Habano Sun Grown Robusto

20 Jun 2015

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.”

PDR Habano Sun Grown

This blend from Abe Flores’ Pinar del Rio sports an oily, Dominican-grown Habano wrapper around a Dominican Criollo ’98 binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The Robusto (5 x 50) can be found for under $6 and has a bitter, leathery profile with hints of spicy herbs. Pinar del Rio makes some great, affordably priced smokes, but this one doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. When I smoke it, I always find myself hoping for some sweet creaminess to add balance and depth.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Casa Miranda Chapter Two Robusto

17 Jun 2015

In the summer of 2011, Miami Cigar & Co. debuted Casa Miranda, a “small-batch, ultra-premium” line comprised of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos. Shortly after the cigar was unveiled, the man responsible for blending the highly anticipated release, Willy Herrera, left El Titan de Bronze—the Miami factory where the cigar was made—for Drew Estate before Casa Miranda even came to market.

Casa Miranda Chapter Two RobustoNotwithstanding Herrera’s departure (and subsequent success with the Herrera Estelí line), Miami Cigar introduced Chapter Two in 2013. Unlike Chapter One, Chapter Two is made at the My Father Cigars factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. It boasts a Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper around tobaccos from Brazil, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.

Four sizes are available: Robusto (4.5 x 50), Corona Gorda (6 x 46), Toro (5.5 x 54), and Gran Toro (6 x 60). The Robusto retails for $6-7 and, like the other Chapter Two sizes, has a dark, beautiful wrapper that’s almost chalky in texture with a fair amount of oils. The feel is pretty firm throughout, which is interesting since the foot shows a less-than-tight packing of tobaccos. The pre-light notes are reminiscent of cocoa and earth. Overall, the Robusto looks and feels like a well-built smoke. And, for what it’s worth, I particularly like the band, which is understated and detailed.

The flavor gets off to a fast start with a medium- to full-bodied taste of espresso, dark chocolate, peanut, and dry wood right at the outset. There are also some sweet background notes of dark cherry and nougat. The texture is light and billowy, and the smoke production is excellent.

While the balanced flavors don’t change much—save for the introduction of leather in the final third—the intensity of the profile definitely evolves as the Robusto progresses. After the medium-plus start, the body is decidedly full-bodied by the midway point. And by the time you reach the nub, this little smoke has tons of Nicaraguan strength and spice.

With excellent construction observed across several samples, an approachable price point, and big, bold flavor condensed in a smaller format, there’s a lot to like about the Casa Miranda Chapter Two Robusto. It’s worthy of a very admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Kuuts Miró Momentos

15 Jun 2015

Miró and its brethren brands—Placeres Reserva and Tabacalera Zapata—have only been in the U.S. market for about two years. But with longer histories in international markets, the brands are older and (globally) more popular than you might think.

Kuuts MiroAs the U.S. distribution arm for Compañia Hondureña de Tabacos, Kuuts is working to expand the reach of this Honduran factory in America. The strategy has included a new line that capitalizes on the popularity of Nicaraguan tobacco—simply called the Nicaraguan Blend—and a few new vitolas.

One of the new vitolas is Momentos (4 x 48), a petit corona Miró format that was released in May 2014. It is the sixth Miró size (the first to measure less than 5.25 inches long). The other Miró sizes include Robusto (5.25 x 50), Toro (6 x 52), Torpedo (6.1 x 52), Gordos (6 x 60), and a limited Lancero (7.5 x 38).

Miró is “a balanced cigar with dominant notes of earth and sweet cream complemented by cocoa, spice, and nuts,” according to the Kuuts website. “With fillers from Nicaragua and Honduras, and employing a beautiful Sumatra wrapper, this medium-bodied cigar offers a delicious bittersweet combination.”

It’s hard to examine the aesthetics of the Miró Momentos without first removing the large band that covers much of the wrapper. Underneath the band is a firm, sturdy cigar with ample oils and tooth. The pre-light notes are heavy on earth and walnut.

I was expecting the draw to be stiff given the firmness of the cigar, the somewhat narrow ring gauge, and the tight cross-section of tobaccos visible at the foot and clipped head. Fortunately, the Momentos draws easily.

Once an even light is set, the initial profile is a full-bodied blend of bold espresso, black pepper spice, and a meaty char. Soon, only about a quarter of an inch in, the cigar mellows into the medium-bodied range as flavors of raisin, leather, and oak take center stage. At times, tastes of peanut and cream appear, and this is where the Momentos is most balanced, complex, and enjoyable. When these notes are not present, the cigar can be bitter or a little too rough around the edges.

With decent construction—the burn line requires a touch-up here and there to stay even—the Miró Momentos is a nice little smoke that will run you only $5.50. If only those nutty, sweet flavors played a more dominant (or more consistent) role in the overall profile. All things considered, this petit corona from Kuuts is worthy of a rating of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys