Archive by Author

Cigar Review: Tatuaje The Chuck

11 Nov 2020

The Monster Series from Pete Johnson’s Tatuaje Cigars has been around almost as long as this website—which, in cigar years, is pretty much an eternity. It started in 2008 with The Frank and wrapped up in 2019 with a dual Halloween-timed releases for The Tiff and The Chuck.

In between, many of Johnson’s favorite characters from the horror genre were celebrated, including The Bride, The Drac, The Face, The Hyde, The Jekyll, The JV13, The Krueger, The Michael, The Mummy, and The Wolfman. This annual Halloween release (13 in total) constituted arguably the most sought-after, longest-running, most collectable series of limited production creations in the world of boutique cigars.

Scarcity was certainly a factor at play. Traditionally, Johnson only produced 666 “dress boxes” of 13 cigars for that year’s Monster Series release, with only 13 “unlucky” retailers getting the bulk of the boxes to sell. The 2019 release of The Chuck and The Tiff, however, saw some notable differences. For one, there were two releases, and the two dress boxes interlock to form one Child’s Play-inspired collectable piece. Also, Johnson doubled the unlucky retailers to 26 each receiving 13 dress boxes of both cigars (with another 328 boxes of each cigar sold to other retailers).

Of note: The release of The Chuck and The Tiff in the preceding paragraph relates to the full Monster Series production, not offshoot Tatuaje Monster sizes like Little Monsters, Pudgy Monsters, Skinny Monsters, Skinny Monsters Cazadores, or Skinny Monsters Lancero. Both The Chuck and The Tiff made appearances across all of these other formats, except Little Monsters.

If all this is confusing—and it’s OK to admit it is—here’s the bottom line: In 2019, Tatuaje launched its last two full cigars in the Monster Series: The Tiff (5.9 x 52, $13, 31,000 total cigars) and The Chuck (5.9 x 52, $13, 31,000 total cigars).

Today I’m reviewing The Chuck, which was made at My Father Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. (In contrast, The Tiff has an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos.) It’s a well-formed, firm cigar with an oily, dark chocolate-colored wrapper that’s not without a few large veins. The cold draw is smooth, and the pre-light aroma at the foot is reminiscent of green raisin, hay, and cereals.

The Chuck starts with a burst of both red and black pepper spice along with some heavy notes of earth and leather. The texture is dry and bready. The Habano wrapper clearly takes center stage. The spice dials back after about a quarter-inch, and that leaves room for some subtle sweetness to come through.

Heading into the midway point, the spice remains yet continues to fade. Here, I would classify both the strength and body as medium. Leather and cereals make up the core with some nice additions like roasted peanut, raisin, and black coffee. The final third is more of the same but with even less spice.

Across the three samples I smoked for this review, construction was both consistent and admirable. The burn line requires a few touch-ups along the way, the draw is smooth, and the smoke production is adequate. The ash tends to be fairly flaky, though, and is prone to fall off prematurely.

It’s impossible to smoke The Chuck and not compare it to other cigars in Tatuaje’s Moster Series. Looking back on my reviews, it seems my favorites were The Mummy and The Jekyll (probably in that order). I also loved Boris, though Johnson says this release doesn’t officially count as part of the Monster Series. In any event, while The Chuck is a fine cigar, I would not put it in the same class as my favorites from the series, and have settled on a respectable score of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Mi Querida Triqui Traca No. 648

15 Oct 2020

The story of Triqui Traca starts with Mi Querida, the sophomore cigar line from Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT). Launched in the summer of 2016, Mi Querida was (and is) crafted at the Nicaragua American Cigars S.A. (NACSA) factory in Estelí by Raul Disla, under direction from Saka, with a blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos surrounded by a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.

Three summers later, in 2019, an offshoot called Mi Querida Triqui Traca was announced. The phrase mi querida translates to “my dearest,” but in Nicaragua the phrase is most often used to describe a secret mistress; triqui traca is another Nicaraguan term, this one used to describe fireworks that are bound together to form a long string of fuses and ignited in the streets to mark special occasions and holidays.

Triqui Traca is “arguably our boldest cigar released to date,” said Saka in a June 2019 press release. “At its core, it remains our quintessential Mi Querida blend with its earthy, sweet Broadleaf notes, but with the incorporation of a couple refinements.” Those refinements include the addition of a “high-octane” Dominican ligero leaf, and the replacement of the “traditional Connecticut Broadleaf mediums” used for Mi Querida wrappers with a “rarer No. 1 dark corona leaf.” As a result, Triqui Traca retains the “inherent sweet loam and chocolate characteristics” from Mi Querida, yet it “delivers a significantly heavier smoking experience,” says Saka.

There are four Triqui Traca vitolas available: No. 552 (5 x 52, 20-count box), No. 648 (6 x 48, 20-count box), No. 652 (6 x 52, 20-count box), and No. 764 (7 x 64, 10-count box). These are easily distinguished from Mi Querida by their understated yet beautiful red-and-gold bands (Mi Querida sports identical bands, but the background color is blue).

I sampled two Triqui Tracas in the No. 648 format ($11.75) for this review. Both are notably firm to the touch to the point where there is almost no give when lightly squeezed. They also both have toothy, slightly reddish, mouth-wateringly textured surfaces with significant oils and an almost crystallized appearance—especially when viewed in sunlight. The foot exudes a musty aroma with some sweet hints of raisin.

The cold draw is smooth, notwithstanding the cigar’s firmness. Once an even light is established, I find a balanced, full-bodied, dense profile with notes of rich cocoa, espresso, musty earth, cereals, and cayenne heat. The texture is powdery—it’s hard to smoke this cigar without thinking about cocoa powder—and I would be remiss if I did not mention the nicotine intensity, which is typically something I don’t notice, even in strong cigars. Here, it’s noticeable but not overbearing.

I also can’t stress enough how heavy the overall taste is. This is a palate-coating cigar that lays a thick blanket of flavor that will drown out almost any beverage. As far as pairings go, I would suggest sipping neat a smoky Islay whiskey like Laphroaig, Ardbeg, or Lagavulin.

Construction is masterful. Expect generous smoke production, a straight burn that requires no touch-ups, a smooth draw, and a white ash that holds very well off the foot.

To date, my favorite DDT cigars are the Sobremesa Cervantes Fino and the Muestra de Saka Nacatamale. The Mi Querida Triqui Traca No. 648 is not quite on that level, but it’s close—and that earns it an exemplary rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Wunder|Lust Gran Toro

28 Sep 2020

Two of the best cigars I smoked in 2013 were Abaddon and Ouroboros, both of which are exclusives made by Skip Martin’s RoMa Craft Tobac for Blue Havana, a Chicago tobacconist. So when I read that Martin said, “in a lot of ways, [Abaddon and Ouroboros are] like the American version of the Wunder|Lust,” I knew I had to get my hands on some.

That’s easier said than done. Wunder|Lust, introduced in 2016, is made for—and exclusive to—retailers in Germany (the German prefix wunder means “wonder,” and the name also plays off the concept of wanderlust). But when I recently found a stateside RoMa sampler that included several Wunder|Lust cigars, I jumped at the chance.

Made at the NicaSueño factory in Estelí, the Wunder|Lust recipe includes a Brazilian mata fina wrapper, an Indonesian besuki binder, and undisclosed filler. There are five sizes, each packaged in boxes of 40: Robusto, Petit Belicoso, Gran Corona, Fiorella, and Gran Toro.

The later measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 52 and, depending on the exchange rate, retails for just under $11 (€9.25 in Germany). It has a handsome, understated light blue band over a white ring. Underneath is an oily wrapper with a well-executed cap and a firm feel throughout. While there are a couple prominent veins creating some minor wrinkles and lumps, there’s not enough to merit calling the cigar rustic. Once the cap is clipped, the cold draw is moderately stiff. At the foot, the pre-light notes remind me of cinnamon raisin bread.

After establishing an even light with a few wooden matches, I find a dry, medium-bodied introductory profile with bready, oaky notes and a white pepper spice. Background flavors include espresso and cinnamon.

As the first third turns into the second, RoMa Craft devotees who are used to Nicaraguan power might be surprised as the cigar retreats a bit in terms of strength. There is no retreat in taste, though. The aforementioned flavors still shine through but are now accented by subtle, Cuban-esque floral notes. This makes for a delightful, incredibly tasty experience, and one that remains largely unchanged until the finale.

The physical properties—while not perfect—in no way interfere with my enjoyment of the Gran Toro. The burn requires no touch-ups or relights, but it is also prone to some uneven meandering. The white ash holds firm off the foot, the draw is smooth, and the smoke production is about average.

I will resist the temptation to compare and contrast this with Abaddon or Ouroboros. My memory—and a re-read of the reviews I wrote seven years ago—seem to suggest this is a very different cigar, though one that’s equally enjoyable for different reasons. I’m a fan, and I’m glad I went out of my way to procure some Wunder|Lust; I suggest you do the same. The Wunder|Lust Gran Toro is worthy of a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sobremesa Brûlée Gordo

17 Sep 2020

When the Brûlée offshoot of the Sobremesa blend was introduced in 2019 by Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT), rumors began to swirl that the cap was sweetened. In addition to denying this allegation, Saka used his marketing genius to recently release a “Saka’s Taste For U’rself” sampler, or—in a thinly veiled jab at his detractors—“STFU.” Every cigar in the five-pack is the original Brûlée blend in the Toro format. But the catch is, some are unadulterated, some have sweetened caps, and one is double-sweetened.

Saka will take to Facebook Live on October 1 to reveal which are which. In the meantime, today I am reviewing the Sobremesa Brûlée in its pure form, specifically in the Gordo vitola. The cigars examined were obtained at my own expense and not part of the STFU sampler.

As with his other blends, Saka was very forthcoming about his motivations in crafting Sobremesa Brûlée, and the tobaccos he used to carry out this vision (I wish more cigar makers were this transparent). “Sobremesa Brûlée is a recreation of the milder, shade-wrapped ligas of my early years,” he wrote in a DTT press release. “Somewhere over the last three decades, many of the classic shade cigars have become wispy, uninspiring, and rather dull to my palate. I wanted to share with others the way I remember these blonde cigars being.” He went on to write that he does not “understand the recent trend of making strong Connecticut Shade cigars… To me this seems like an oxymoron and a fundamental lack of appreciation of the enchanting characteristics and nuances of shade-grown, Connecticut-seed tobaccos. In Brûlée, I embraced this shade capa and dedicated myself to showcasing its mild, sweet, and nutty nature.”

What makes Brûlée a Sobremesa? The recipe is a variation on the core Sobremesa blend “in which the Pennsylvania-seed ligero has been removed, the Condega seco has been increased, and the wrapper is replaced with a top-shelf grade of BW Ecuador Connecticut Shade leaf.” The binder remains a Matacapan negro de Temporal leaf from Mexico.

Originally, three Brûlée sizes were available, each ranging in price from $12.45 to $13.95: Robusto (5.25 x 52), Toro (6 x 52), and Gordo (6.25 x 60). A Double Corona (7 x 54) was added this year, along with a new limited edition variation called Brûlée Blue that (uncharacteristically, for Saka) has an undisclosed blend.

When you slide the Brûlée Toro out of its cellophane, the first thing you notice is the nearly flawless, golden-colored, silky wrapper that’s affixed to the binder in such a way that the seams are barely noticeable. Veins are few and far-between and razor-thin.

The pre-light notes at the foot are classic Connecticut Shade: sweet hay, almond, buttery oak, and sawdust. And the packing of tobacco is stiff, especially for a cigar with such a wide girth.

Speaking of girth, I appreciate Saka employing a rounded pyramid cap for this vitola. That helps limit the awkwardness that usually accompanies smoking a 60-ring gauge cigar. Once this cap is clipped, I find a smooth cold draw with—yes—a fair amount of sweetness on the lips. While I take Saka at his word that nothing artificial is at play here, I can certainly see why many people believe otherwise. To me, the sensation reminds me of rum cake, almond cookie, and cognac.

Sobremesa Brûlée is marketed as “a milder, even smoother adaptation of the Sobremesa blend that does not sacrifice its wonderfully complex flavors or aromas.” At the outset, the smoke production is low despite the smooth draw, which I attribute to the Gordo’s generous dimensions. Drawing more aggressively than I might otherwise be inclined highlights the core flavors, which include brown sugar, oak, butter, graham cracker, toast, and white pepper. The texture is bready and the body is mild-to-medium. It should be noted the ever-present sweetness on the lips likely makes a big impression on my interpretation of the flavor.

The core flavors remain consistent throughout, the exception being a ramp-up in intensity in the second third, and another in the final third. That said, one important change is the draw, which opens considerably after the first third and heralds a much-improved rate of smoke production. The other physical attributes are exemplary, especially for such a large cigar. The burn is straight requiring no touch-ups, and the ash holds firm off the foot.

The Sobremesa Brûlée Gordo takes a full two hours to smoke. Whether you think it is sweetened or not (again, Saka is insistent it is not, and I am inclined to believe him), that’s a big commitment with any cigar, and the reward must be either (1) phenomenal flavor that holds your attention or (2) several notable changes in flavor along the way. This cigar has the former. Connecticut Shade fans are bound to love it, and those who typically avoid this wrapper type are likely to find this to be an exception to the rule.

I suspect I will enjoy any of the other sizes more—perhaps considerably more. In the case of the Gordo, I’m still a fan in spite of the size, and have settled on a very admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Polpetta

8 Sep 2020

At the end of 2019—back when the world was a much different place—Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT) announced a new event-only line called Polpetta (Italian for “meatball”). The key there is “event-only.” It’s challenging to stick to that strategy in a year when COIVD-19 effectively brought in-person cigar events to a screeching halt.

Flash forward to July 16, 2020. Smoke Inn, a Florida-based retailer with a robust e-commerce presence, hosted a “Saka’s Smorgasbord” online event, which featured a conversation between Saka and Smoke Inn chief Abe Dababneh, as well as special deals on Dunbarton samplers. And, just as if the event had been conducted in-person, certain purchases included a varying number of Polpetta cigars.

I jumped at what was likely my only chance to secure some Polpettas and made an online purchase of a sampler. Today I am reviewing the cigar after sampling two specimens.

Saka describes this small (4 x 48) parejo as “utilizing the long leaf table trimmings from three of our current ligas.” He wrote on Facebook: “If this concept sounds familiar, it is. I have done it a few times in the past and we are now producing enough Broadleaf cigars to make it viable from a production point of view at DTT.”

In addition to “meatball” being “the perfect moniker for this tasty treat,” it should be noted meatballs have a special place in Saka’s heart—and evidently he’s quite good at making them. Twice he has won the “Meatball Showdown” event held at Two Guys Smoke Shop in his home state of New Hampshire.

The cigar includes a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around a Mexican San Andrés binder. The filler is comprised of the aforementioned “table trimmings” from Saka’s Mi Querida, Mi Querida Triqui Traca, and Umbagog lines.

Seemingly everything Steve Saka touches turns to gold these days. Yet Polpetta doesn’t have the look of a winner. It’s rough around the edges—literally. I realize Broadleaf makes for a thick wrapper, but here the seams stick out to the point they are prone to peel, crack, and nearly unravel. The cap isn’t pretty, either.

When you get a “table trimmings” cigar, though, you’re more interested in a high flavor-to-cost ratio, not necessarily aesthetics. In terms of flavor, the outset is an interesting, bready mix of raisin, cocoa, espresso, white pepper, and earth. The mouthfeel is dry and oaky. After the first inch or so, the rest of the cigar is characterized by periods where the taste seems to stall—low intensity, papery, dry—and periods when the notes from the beginning shine through.

In terms of physical properties, I have no complaints. The draw is smooth, the ash holds well off the foot, the burn is straight, and the smoke production is average.

That said, it’s clear to me the highlight of the sampler I purchased (notwithstanding my motivations) is not the two Polpettas that were thrown in, but rather the ten other DTT cigars, including vitolas of Sobremesa, Mi Querida, Mi Querida Triqui Traca, and Umbagog. While Polpetta is not a bad cigar by any means, I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to seek out. In my book, it earns three stogies out of five—which makes it the lowest-rated DTT cigar on this site.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Paul Garmirian Gourmet III Short Robusto

18 Aug 2020

A rarity among today’s manufacturers, PG Cigars maintains a singular, unwavering mission: to blend and age classic-tasting cigars to meet the most discriminating of palates. That’s what they’ve been doing since the company launched in 1990. And, if you peruse our reviews archive—which includes full reviews of over a dozen PG smokes—you’ll see my colleagues and I agree PG executes on its mission exceptionally well.

PG’s dedication to traditionalism and disdain for slick marketing and gimmickry—documented in our Cigar Insider with Paul and Kevork Garmirian 12 years ago—hasn’t prevented this McLean, Virginia-based boutique from launching new lines from time to time. Such was the case when, in 2005, they celebrated their debut with a 15th Anniversary. Five and ten years later, respectively, 20th and 25th Anniversary lines would appear. All of these cigars were (and are) wonderful.

Another five years has passed, and that means another anniversary celebration is in order. That’s good news for anyone who enjoys fine cigars. This time, though, rather than simply calling the new line “30th Anniversary,” they’ve adopted the “Gourmet Series III” name. When asked why, Kevork told me the recipe is a combination of the Gourmet Series and the 25th Anniversary. “The blend was so smooth, balanced, and well-rounded, I thought it belonged as a part of the Gourmet Series,” he said.

The Garmirians crafted this cigar in partnership with master blender Eladio Diaz. It is not a limited edition, but rather a permanent addition to the PG portfolio. The recipe includes an Ecuadorian wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. Three sizes are available, each packaged in boxes of 25: Connoisseur (6 x 52, $17.90), Short Robusto (4.5 x 52, $15.90), and Bombones Extra (3.5 x 46, $13). The line officially launched July 10.

Some cigars have the kind of pungent, unmistakable pre-light aroma that ensures a memorable experience is to follow. This is one of them. I smoked several Short Robustos for this review, and each had a wonderful fragrance at the foot that I can best describe as intense earthy mustiness. Other attributes that help this cigar make a good first impression include a smooth, oily wrapper, a well-executed cap, and a consistently firm packing of tobacco with no soft spots. The secondary band denoting “30th” (flanked by the years 1990 and 2020) is the singular indication this is Gourmet Series III. The original Gourmet Series, released in 1990, has no secondary band. Neither does Gourmet Series II, which offered more strength and a nuttier profile. The Series III is “richer yet, made available by access to darker and oilier wrappers,” according to PG. It has a “rich, full flavor” with a “medium to full body.”

After an even light is established, the Short Robusto kicks off with an as-advertised medium- to full-bodied profile of musty earth, dry oak, creamy cashew, espresso, and a bit of red pepper spice. Like the 25th Anniversary, the texture is bready, and our previous description of “raisin bread” for that wonderful cigar seems applicable here, too.

There are few changes from light to nub. That said, the Short Robusto’s consistency is not a liability since the core flavors are so impeccably balanced, harmonious, and interesting. The sweetness of the raisin bread pairs well off the spiciness of the espresso and cayenne notes. The creaminess of the cashew adds depth to the dryness of the oak. And all the while that distinctive musty, earthy note that’s so prevalent across the best PG cigars is there to remind you why you’ve paid nearly $16.

The physical attributes are outstanding, as well. Expect a straight burn, smooth draw, firm ash, and generous smoke production.

In all, the Gourmet III is an exceptionally well done blend—perhaps one of the best ever from PG, which is saying an awful lot. And I think the Short Robusto is the showcase of the line. The Connoisseur is a bit milder, and the Bombones Extra is a bit stronger. While both are great cigars, the Short Robusto hits the Goldilocks Zone. This one is just right in all the right ways, and I’d be remiss without awarding it a rare and heralded five stogies out of five rating.

[To read more 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: Diesel Delirium

6 Aug 2020

Last spring, a new, limited edition cigar called Diesel Hair of the Dog emerged as a favorite go-to smoke of mine. This was a surprise since—while I have the utmost respect for A.J. Fernandez as a cigar maker—the Diesel brand had thus far been, in my opinion, hit-or-miss.

But Hair of the Dog hit my palate in all the right places. It was a delicious, well-balanced, toro-sized smoke with a light press and flavors including cashew, white pepper, toast, cinnamon, and licorice. Perhaps out of step with the Diesel name, it was subtle and medium-bodied.

This spring, a new limited edition Diesel was launched, also only in a toro (6 x 52) format. But that’s about where the similarities between Hair of the Dog and Delirium end. Delirium is marketed as “the boldest Diesel blend to date.” Handmade at Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez in Estelí, the powerful Delirium recipe calls for an Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper, a Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and a blend of Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, some from the volcanic island of Ometepe. A fair amount of ligero is employed.

You may recall Ometepe, which rises out of Lake Nicaragua, is home to tobacco production that’s exclusive to General Cigar. Like Hair of the Dog, Delirium is a production with General, which helps guarantee a wide release, even with the limited-edition production ceiling. Only 5,000 boxes of 10 were made for a total production run of 50,000 cigars.

Delirium sports two bands of black, bronze, and maroon, with the foot band making clear this is a “2020 Limited Edition.” The dark Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper is uniform in color (milk chocolate) with tight seams and few noticeable veins. The firmness is slightly spongy, and the foot exudes pre-light notes of earth, cocoa, and peanut.

If I were to smoke this cigar in the morning or afternoon, I might arrive at the conclusion it is too strong (in terms of nicotine content) and too bold in flavor. But the several samples I examined for this review were all in the evening and with a full stomach. In this setting, the phrase “highly satisfying” comes to mind. While Delirium is full-bodied and powerful from the get-go, it’s more than a mere nicotine sledgehammer. There are awesome flavors here, including leather, nutmeg, black pepper, espresso, charred oak, and roasted peanut.

Construction is superb. From light to nub, the burn is straight, the ash holds well off the foot, the draw is clear, and the smoke production is agreeable.

If the Delirium name sounds a oddly familiar, keep in mind this isn’t the first Diesel Delirium. The original was introduced in 2014 by Cigars International and was only briefly on the market. (Diesel started as a catalog brand sold through Cigars International before releasing the Grind blend in 2017, which was just for tobacconists; other B&M blends followed, including Whiskey Row and Sherry Cask.)

As far as I’m concerned, the two limited editions released in 2019 and 2020—Hair of the Dog and Delirium, respectively—constitute the cream of the Diesel crop. Like the former, the Diesel Delirium earns an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys