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Cigar Review: Espinosa 601 La Bomba Warhead 2013

24 Jul 2017

There was a time when the cigars in the EO Brands portfolio—particularly 601 Blue, 601 Red, and 601 Green—were mainstays in my humidors. Back then, Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega were still in a partnership, and the 601 line was produced by none other than Don José “Pepin” Garcia at My Father Cigars.

In 2010, Rocky Patel bought a 50% stake in EO Brands, which also owned Cubao, Murcielago, and Mi Barrio. Then, in early 2012, Eddie Ortega announced he was leaving the company and starting his own outfit called Ortega Cigars.

Today, Erik Espinosa operates Espinosa Premium Cigars, which runs out of Espinosa’s La Zona Factory in Estelí. Among his creations is Warhead, a semi-regular, limited edition offshoot of the La Bomba line that replaces La Bomba’s Nicaraguan Habano wrapper with a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper (but maintains La Bomba’s same Nicaraguan binder and filler recipe). To date, there have been three Warhead releases, each made in a single vitola: 2013 (6.5 x 54, 20,000 total cigars), 2014 (5.5 x 56, 20,000 total cigars), and 2016 (7.5 x 38, 5,000 total cigars).

Back in 2013, I paid about $11 apiece for three La Bomba Warheads. This original Warhead is easily differentiated from its successors because the 2014 iteration says “Warhead II” on the foot band, and the 2016 model is a lancero with a green foot band. For some reason, I didn’t touch these cigars for four years but am nonetheless dedicated to recording a review.

Maybe it’s the age, or maybe this is the way Warhead was originally shipped and presented in 2013, but the extra-long pigtail cap fuse has been compressed into the surface of the wrapper. That wrapper, by the way, is dark and rustic with a few large veins. The slightly box-pressed cigar is firm with no soft spots. Once clipped (I used a double guillotine and snipped into the cap removing the entire fuse) the cold draw is moderately firm. At the foot, I find pungent notes of cocoa powder and dark chocolate.

After setting an even light, I am greeted by an initial profile of espresso, black pepper, burnt marshmallow, and leather. The flavor is bold and full-bodied from the get-go, and the texture of the smoke is silky, cool, and moist. After about an inch, the strength mellows slightly and the addition of savory roasted nuts contributes some nice complexity. Thereafter, the taste remains fairly unchanged until the end.

The physical properties are imperfect but not burdensome. Expect a solid gray ash and a mostly well-behaved burn that only requires an occasional touch-up here and there to stay even. My main complaint is the draw. While I had anticipated it might open up after the first third, it remains fairly tight until the end, resulting in below average smoke production.

The four years of rest in my humidor may have taken some of the edge off the strength. Even fresh, however, I suspect Warhead would still be less powerful than the original La Bomba blend by virtue of the replacement of the Nicaraguan Habano wrapper with a Connecticut Broadleaf maduro. Whatever the case, the 2013 incarnation of Warhead is an enjoyable smoke with plenty to offer. But it’s also unlikely to blow anyone away. That’s why, all things considered, I am settling on a score of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Azan Maduro Natural Campana

22 Jul 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.”

Azan is an old Cuban brand that was revived by Roberto P. Duran and reintroduced in 2013. Today, there are three Azan variations: White, Burgundy, and Maduro Natural. Maduro Natural includes filler tobaccos from Estelí and Jalapa, a Nicaraguan binder, and a dark Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper that reportedly takes over 22 months to process. This Campana (5.5 x 52, $10) had been resting in one of my humidors for about three years (though, with its nearly flawless appearance, I’m not exactly sure how it escaped the flame for so long). Once lit, it exhibits a rich profile of coffee, black pepper, cinnamon, roasted nuts, and cocoa powder. My hesitation in awarding a full recommendation is a result of the temperamental combustion qualities. The draw is tight and the burn line erratic.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Villiger La Flor de Ynclan Churchill

17 Jul 2017

Among the many new cigars introduced at the annual IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas last week was La Flor de Ynclan from Villiger Cigars. Actually, in the this case, it’s more accurate to say La Flor de Ynclan was re-introduced; Villiger originally debuted the line, which takes its name from an old Cuban brand, back in 2007.

Ten years ago, a “small batch” of La Flor de Ynclan was crafted by Villiger with unsatisfactory results, leading to a decision to cease production. This 2017 re-introduction, therefore, isn’t merely a second go-around with the same recipe. It has been re-blended by José Matias Maragoto—overseer of all Villiger-made product in the Dominican Republic—to feature an Ecuadorian wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos.

Villiger got it right this time, according to Heinrich Villiger, chairman of Switzerland-based Villiger Soehne AG: “The La Flor de Ynclan cigar has been an ongoing labor of love for us. We feel that there is a difference between a good and great cigar, [and] Matias Maragoto and I hope you feel the same.”

La Flor de Ynclan is handmade at the ABAM Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic in three formats: Robusto (5 x 50, $11), Torpedo (5 x 52, $12), and Churchill (7 x 48, $12). In addition to the new recipe, each has a redesigned band to maintain branding consistency across the Villiger portfolio (the 2007 La Flor de Ynclan band depicts an enrobed woman posing with two spears and one hand atop a globe).

The Churchill sports a slightly pale wrapper with plenty of tooth, minimal veins, ultra-tight seams, and a few splotches of harmless discoloration. The cigar is moderately firm—and the cold draw is a little stiff—yet the foot shows a cross-section of loosely packed tobaccos. The gentle pre-light aroma is of damp wood and sweet hay.

The draw opens nicely once an even light is established. At the outset, La Flor De Ynclan boasts a mild- to medium-bodied profile of oak, sweet cream, almond, cinnamon, and caramel. The texture is smooth and the smoke is cool. After about half an inch, a wonderful savory flavor of roasted peanut emerges to add depth. Thereafter, the taste remains fairly consistent throughout, save for the additions of white pepper, dried fruit, and hints of cocoa.

Construction is just about perfect. The burn line is straight and true down to the nub with no need for touch-ups along the way. The ash holds incredibly well off the foot, the draw is moderate, and the smoke production is agreeable with a mouth-wateringly sweet aroma.

Clearly, this is not an inexpensive cigar. It’s also not a cigar that’s likely to satisfy if you’re looking for a full-bodied experience. But if you seek a milder smoke with well-balanced complexity and ample nuance, the Churchill from La Flor de Ynclan will not leave you disappointed. I award this Villiger creation 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: Cubanacan Soneros Habano Claro Corona Gorda

15 Jul 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.”

I acquired this Soneros Habano Claro Corona Gorda (5.625 x 46) over two years ago for about $7.25. I don’t believe time has been particularly kind to its tobaccos. According to my review in January 2015, this cigar had flavors ranging from coffee and cream to roasted nut and milk chocolate. Back then, I really enjoyed it, calling it a “well-balanced treat that provides considerable bang for the buck.” These days, however, I am just getting a heavy dose of leather with a meaty, sour taste that isn’t terribly appetizing. I stored it well, too, as evidenced by the shape of the cigar and its near-perfect combustion qualities. But good construction doesn’t mean much if the profile is off.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Ventura Archetype Initiation Corona

10 Jul 2017

Aimed at producing “memorable, complex cigar blends that move the senses and reward discriminating palates,” the California-based Ventura Cigar Co. first got on my radar in 2013 with the release of two less-than-traditional cigar lines: the uniquely presented Psyko Seven and Project 805, which sports an exclusive tobacco called Andullo.

Since, Ventura has added a series called Archetype, a collection of five different blends that are “inspired by the work of psychologist Dr. Carl Jung and mythographer Joseph Campbell who defined ‘archetypes’ as the constantly repeating characters who occur in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures.” Three of the cigars—Dreamstate, Sage Advice, and Strange Passage—are made at Davidoff’s Occidental Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic; the other two—Initiation and Axis Mundi—are crafted at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate in Estelí, Nicaragua.

Initiation is billed as “an adventure in the art of nuanced flavor with a blend of Habano tobaccos that opens up with heavenly aromas, floral notes, white sage, and orange zest that intensifies throughout the smoke.” It sports an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around binder and filler Habano tobaccos from Nicaragua. Four sizes are available: Churchill, Corona, Robusto, and Toro.

The Corona (5 x 46) retails for about $10. It comes complete with a well-executed cap and sour, musty pre-light notes at the foot. Beneath the metallic double bands of silver, black, and red is a pale, dry wrapper leaf that’s devoid of any large veins. The cigar feels very firm and both the foot and clipped cap exhibit a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos; not surprisingly, the cold draw is not as smooth as I would have liked.

After setting an even light, the draw loosens a bit, though it’s still a little stiff. Despite this, the smoke production does not suffer in the slightest. Like many Drew Estate-made cigars, the Initiation Corona smokes like a chimney.

At the outset, that smoke is characterized by flavors of dry oak, almond, white pepper, and citrus. Some background floral notes linger, as do hints of tea and salted sunflower seeds. Throughout, the profile wavers from delightful and complex at one end of the spectrum, to bland and papery at the other (most times it’s somewhere between the two extremes). I found this to be true across all three samples I smoked for this review—which, in full disclosure, were provided free of charge to StogieGuys.com.

Aside from the tight yet shockingly non-problematic draw, the Archetype Initiation Corona exhibits solid combustion qualities, including a straight burn line and a solid white ash.

All in all, this is one of those cigars I would hope would improve with some age. I can’t say for sure if it will but, to me at least, it tastes a bit green. While there are undoubtedly some wonderful flavors here, there are also patches of blandness. That’s ultimately why I’m settling on a score of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Selección Oscuro Especial No. 6

3 Jul 2017

In March 2009, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo ended his nine-year tenure with General Cigar to establish his own family-owned boutique. He wasted no time in that endeavor. With a factory in Santiago and a work-in-progress website, the EPC Cigar Co. was up and running in time to debut its first blend at the IPCPR Trade Show that August.

Few in the industry doubted he would be successful in his new venture. That Perez-Carrillo has done well on his own over the past eight years is no surprise to anyone. One industry insider described him to StogieGuys.com as the tobacco world’s “mad genius.” And Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley calls him “the original rebel.”

Say what you will about Cigar Aficionado and its annual Top 25 list, but it must have been incredibly gratifying for Carrillo to see his Selección Oscuro Piramides Royal (6 x 52) capture the number four spot in 2016. I’m sure the publicity didn’t hurt sales, either.

In addition to Piramides Royal, there are three other vitolas in the line: Robusto Gordo (5 x 54), Small Churchill (5.5 x 50), and Especial No. 6 (6 x 52). All are made at the Tabacalera La Alianza factory in the Dominican Republic with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, an Ecuadorian binder, and loosely packed filler tobaccos from Nicaragua.

I recently picked up a 5-pack in the Especial No. 6 size for $41.50, which comes to $8.30 per cigar. Out of the cellophane, this cigar oozes pungent pre-light notes of cocoa and dried fruit, especially at the foot. The exterior is toothy and oily with only a few noticeable veins across its lumpy, rustic surface. The ornate, regal band of red, gold, and black is a nice improvement upon the design from the 2015 launch (you can see an example of the old band here; some of these are likely still on the market).

At the outset, the Especial No. 6 exhibits dry wood, black pepper spice, cayenne heat, and plenty of Nicaraguan zing. It’s full-bodied and zesty with a leathery texture from the get-go. Then, after about half an inch, the profile mellows considerably—now it’s decidedly medium-bodied—and the flavor transitions to milk chocolate, cherry, raisin, marshmallow, and coffee. This is how the cigar remains until the end, with no increase in intensity at the finale.

Across the five samples I smoked for this review, four had near-perfect burn lines and one required a touch-up or two along the way to stay even. All had smooth draws and abundant smoke production. The resting smoke has loads of mouth-watering sweetness.

The Selección Oscuro Especial No. 6 is a solid addition to the impressive E.P. Carrillo portfolio. Aside from the first half-inch, this toro boasts less strength than you might expect and instead rewards you with balance, subtlety, cool smoke, and a delightful interplay between gentle spice and sweetness. For that, it earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Ezra Zion Tantrum Prensado Pequeño

1 Jul 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.”

Not to be confused with the Ezra Zion Tantrum P.A., which my colleague reviewed in November 2014, this is the original Tantrum (4.44 x 44, $9.50), which is presented in a single vitola called Prensado Pequeño. It sports an all-Nicaraguan blend featuring a seven-year-old wrapper. This particular cigar had likely been resting in my humidor since it was introduced in 2013. The profile includes strong cedar, roasted nuts, coffee, and milk chocolate sweetness. It’s well-constructed and enjoyable.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys