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Cigar Review: Villiger San’Doro Maduro Toro

18 Jun 2018

About a month ago, Villiger unveiled a new 7,500-square-foot factory in Bahia, Brazil. Called Villiger Do Brasil, the facility makes Villiger puros for both the U.S. market (San’Doro Maduro) and the European market (Celebration and Corrida). More Brazilian cigars are expected from Villiger in the future, though I’m not sure they will all be puros.

Villiger has been making cigars in Brazil since the 1970s. This newer, bigger factory (30 rollers, with the capacity to add 20 more), however, signals a redoubled commitment to the country and its tobaccos. Villiger Do Brasil—along with the recent relocation of U.S. corporate headquarters to the Miami area—is further evidence of Villiger’s interest in expanding its presence in the premium cigar market (Villiger is a major player in the machine-made realm).

My colleague reviewed the Villiger San’Doro Maduro Toro a couple years ago, finding it to be well-constructed, tasty, and balanced. The cigar I’m reviewing today is the same in makeup—a Mata Fina wrapper, Mata Norte binder, and Mata Fina and Mata Norte filler—but this one is made at Villiger Do Brasil.

The single-vitola blend is presented in a Toro (6 x 50) format and retails for about $8.50—a price that is, as far as I can tell, unchanged since the cigar was introduced in 2015. The Toro’s dark, toothy exterior is complemented by dual bands of gold, green, and red. The cap is a bit sloppy, but it clips just fine to reveal a tight cold draw.

I find pre-light notes of cherry, cocoa powder, and molasses at the foot. After setting an even light, the sweet cherry shines through in the flavor, accented by leather, coffee, and roasted cashew. There is a bit of cayenne heat in the background, as well as a subdued cedar spice and a damp, musty taste that’s difficult to describe.

Towards the midway point, the medium-bodied profile enters a phase that can best be characterized as natural tobacco sweetness. The individual flavors, put plainly, seem to be rounded off. The taste stays in this ballpark until the finale, which has a reprise of cherry and coffee.

I sampled three Toros for this review. Each had a tight draw resulting in a low volume of smoke production. I found this to be both frustrating and intrusive, though two of the three seemed to open up a bit at the midway point. The burn line was always straight, and the ash held well off the foot.

Some may read this and conclude my samples were stored in conditions featuring excessive relative humidity. After receiving my five-pack in the mail from Villiger, though, I stored the cigars in one of my closely monitored humidors for a month.

I will let the remaining two San’Doro Maduro Toros rest for awhile before giving this cigar another try. I’ll be sure to post an update when I smoke another, probably in six months or so. For now, I would be remiss if I scored this Villiger cigar any higher than two stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Atabey Ritos

16 Jun 2018

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.”

Here’s an elegant, well-made cigar with a price tag that will make you cringe. The current retail price for the Atabey Ritos (6.1 x 55) is $33. Yikes. Is it elegantly packaged with a tasteful, Behike-like presentation? Yes. Is the construction nothing short of flawless? Yes. And what of the flavor? It is complex, balanced, bready in texture, and mild- to medium-bodied with notes ranging from cream and oak to white pepper and roasted cashew. If money is no object, by all means; you will not be disappointed, unless you’re expecting a full-bodied flavor-bomb.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente (TAA Exclusive)

4 Jun 2018

In April, it was announced that Joya de Nicaragua and Drew Estate would be collaborating to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA), as well as the 10th anniversary of their distribution arrangement, by launching a TAA-exclusive cigar.

Called Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente (6.75 x 50), the box-pressed Nicaraguan puro is made with five-year-old tobaccos and is Joya de Nicaragua CEO Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca’s favorite vitola. “When I requested the Gran Reserva blend in the Presidente size, it immediately became my private smoke,” he said. “I decided to share it only for special occasions. I can’t think of a better opportunity than this shared celebration of five decades of perseverance and companionship between TAA, its members, and Joya de Nicaragua.”

Presidente has been shipping since May. It retails for $12.50 and comes presented in gold-colored boxes of 20.

Regarding Presidente’s flavor, Joya de Nicaragua is marketing it as full-bodied and complex cigar that’s “similar to the Antaño line [introduced in 2005; reintroduced in 2017], but due to the age of the proprietary filler leaves it’s a much smoother smoke. It showcases the unique character of Nicaraguan tobacco with refined notes of spice, leather, and wood.”

The box-pressed cigar starts with a flash of red pepper, which transitions into a core profile of leather, dry cedar spice, and a chalky cocoa sweetness. It is full-bodied, yet smooth, creamy, and nicely balanced. At about the half-inch mark, the complexity is enhanced with the introduction of notes of roasted cashew.

The chalky texture continues to the midway point, which is characterized by less spice and more dry wood. There is no harshness, heat, and little spice, rendering the Presidente one of those rare cigars with full flavors that’s quite approachable.

Construction is downright perfect. Across the four samples I smoked for this review, all exhibited straight burns, sturdy gray ashes, clear draws, and generous smoke production.

In addition to Presidente, there are three other Antaño Gran Reserva sizes that are not TAA exclusive: Belicoso (6 x 54), Robusto Grande (5.5 x 52), and Gran Cónsul (4.75 x 60). I haven’t smoked any of those recently, but I can say the Presidente is well worth seeking out. It is masterful, and an excellent example of what a fine Nicaraguan cigar should be. In my book, it earns 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: RyJ Toro

2 Jun 2018

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.”

In 2013, Altadis expanded the Romeo y Julieta portfolio with RyJ—a Nicaraguan puro with a Jalapa Corojo wrapper, double binders from Estelí and Jalapa, and filler tobaccos from Jalapa, Estelí, and La Mia. I reviewed the Toro (6 x 52) shortly after the line’s release, finding a straightforward, moderately enjoyable core of dry, woodsy, spicy flavors and a draw that was too tight for my liking. In retrospect, my score of three stogies out of five may have been a bit generous. I fired up another Toro recently, hoping five years of age might have improved the experience. But the draw is still tight (no amount of time will ever fix that) and the profile is still flat. These days, you can find the Toro for less than $8—but your money is better spent elsewhere.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: El Titan de Bronze Redemption Sun Grown Habano Lancero

21 May 2018

Earlier this month, I published a photo essay documenting my recent visit to El Titan de Bronze. Even if you’re not familiar with this small factory on Calle Ocho in Little Havana, Miami, chances are good you’ve enjoyed its cigars at one time or another. El Titan de Bronze counts companies such as Drew Estate, Warped Cigars, La Palina, Cornelius & Anthony, Padilla, El Primer Mundo, Cremo, and many others as clients.

From the outside, you could easily mistake El Titan de Bronze as a mere retailer. The whole operation is only 2,200 square feet. But—unlike all the other cigar spots that dot Calle Ocho, many of which employ a window roller or two to lure tourists—El Titan de Bronze is a living, breathing factory full of rich history.

Its staff is also often called upon to not only craft cigars for other brands, but to also offer guidance and assistance when it comes to blending (one exception here is Willy Herrera of Drew Estate, who apparently does just fine on his own). The expertise El Titan de Bronze brings to the table is evident in its house blends, which are available for sale online—but, I am told, are mostly bought in-person at the factory.

Included in the lineup of house brands is El Titan de Bronze Redemption Sun Grown Habano. This blend features Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos around a sun-grown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper.

Cuban-seed Santo Domingo and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, an Ecuadorian binder, and (as the name implies) a dark Habano wrapper. The Corona (5.75 x 48) sells for about $8.50 apiece. Six regular-production vitolas are available, including the Lancero (6.75 x 38), which retails for about $9. (Beyond the six core sizes—Churchill, Churchill Corto, Toro, Belicoso, Corona, and Lancero—there are five additional formats that are listed as “subject to availability.”)

The Redemption Sun Grown Habano Lancero sports a well-executed pigtail cap and attractive dual bands of white, gold, and blue. It is moderately firm from head to foot with no hard or soft spots. The wrapper is uniform in color and dry with a few large veins. The cold draw is moderately firm, and the soft pre-light notes remind me of hay and molasses.

Many cigars offer fleeting moments of brilliant notes of roasted nuts. For whatever reason, this typically emerges after the first third is completed. In this case, however, that awesome flavor takes center stage right from the get-go. Other tastes include spicy cedar, white pepper, and cinnamon. As the Lancero progresses, a salted caramel note joins the fray to add some creaminess and sweetness.

Then, at the midway point, the entire profile takes a turn, abandoning the roasted nuts, sweetness, creaminess, and spice for a mellower (and, frankly, less interesting) flavor of bread, cereals, and dry oak. Fortunately, this retreat is short-lived. Just as you might begin to lose interest, the roasted nut note comes back, as does the spice.

Throughout, the burn line is straight and the ash holds well off the foot. The draw is tighter than I would like in the first half—even for a lancero—and, as a result, the smoke production is a bit below average. Everything opens up nicely in the final third, though.

I am a fan of lanceros, which is why I gravitated towards this size for my first foray with the El Titan de Bronze Redemption Sun Grown Habano. That said, I can’t help but think the experience would have been improved by the clearer draw that’s likely afforded by the thicker sizes. I look forward to giving those a try. For now, this cigar earns 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: MBombay Classic Torpedo

12 May 2018

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.”

In January, MBombay began shipping a new Torpedo (6 x 52, $11.95) as part of its Classic line. The finished cigars are aged for more than 14 months and include an Ecuadorian wrapper and binder around filler tobaccos from Peru, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. The resulting profile is mild- to medium-bodied with a complex array of creamy, salty, and crisp notes. Cashew, cedar, cinnamon, white pepper, clove, and citrus are among the bouquet of individual flavors. Construction is excellent.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Photo Essay: A Visit to El Titan de Bronze

7 May 2018

Even if you’re not familiar with El Titan de Bronze, you likely know some of the cigars made at this small factory in Little Havana, Miami, which crafts cigars for such clients as Drew Estate, Warped Cigars, La Palina, Cornelius & Anthony, Padilla, El Primer Mundo, Cremo, and many others.

From the outside, you could easily mistake El Titan de Bronze as a mere retailer. The whole operation is only 2,200 square feet. But—unlike all the other cigar spots that dot Calle Ocho, many of which employ a window roller or two to lure tourists—El Titan de Bronze is a living, breathing factory full of rich history. It’s a must-visit for any cigar lover visiting Miami.

Once inside, you’ll notice a small display case of cigars at the cash register amidst an eclectic, compact collection of boxes, cigar molds, and rolling tables. If you visit late in the afternoon, you likely won’t see any rollers; they like to arrive early (7 a.m.) and, once they’ve made 100-125 cigars, their day is done. This quota helps with quality control.

Among those 100-125 cigars per day, each roller makes each cigar from start to finish. This is contrasted from many other factories, where teams will focus just on bunching, wrapper application, etc. El Titan de Bronze employs about 8-10 rollers.

El Titan de Bronze does not ferment or age raw tobacco on premises. It acquires ready-to-roll tobacco based on production needs. Here, tobacco from the famed Oliva Tobacco Company awaits its turn to be made into fine cigars.

Once rolled, cigars sit in the El Titan de Bronze aging room for at least two months before being shipped to their respective brand owners’ facilities—where many undergo additional aging.

Master blenders will come to El Titan de Bronze with specific instructions on how to construct their cigars. Willy Herrera is a good example of this. Often, however, brand owners will have a concept and rely on El Titan de Bronze to realize that vision. Here, Cremo Figurados rest in the aging room.

In addition to making cigars for other companies, El Titan de Bronze has a half-dozen house blends (which are the only cigars you can buy on-site, and are also sold on the El Titan de Bronze website). I haven’t tried all of these yet; reviews are forthcoming. What I have tried is both impressive and cost-effective.

There’s a lot more to El Titan de Bronze (especially in terms of history), so I would encourage you to check out their website, try their cigars, and—by all means—pay the factory a visit if you’re in the area. When you walk in the door, don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a warm smile and a serving of Cuban coffee.

Patrick A

photo credits: Stogie Guys