Archive by Author

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

Quick Smoke: La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva Romantico

11 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.”

Reserva Romantico

While on recent business travels, I found myself perusing the shelves of a tobacconist/lounge I had not previously visited. It seemed like a good time to try a cigar I’d never smoked: the Romantico size of the Mi Amor Reserva line. This La Aroma de Cuba creation measures 6.9 inches long with a ring gauge of 50—making it a good deal longer and thinner than my only previous experience with this blend, the Maximo. Once the dark San Andrés wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos are lit, the Romantico starts pleasantly enough with notes of cocoa, gritty earth, a little black pepper, and creamy peanut. There are few changes throughout the well-constructed smoke, though I don’t necessarily consider that a negative. This cigar has loads of elegant flavor. I don’t regret paying north of $11.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Havana VI Almirante

6 Jun 2016

Tat1

While the so-called Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—the bill giving the FDA the power to regulate cigars—didn’t pass until June 2009, the legislation controversially set February 15, 2007 as the cutoff date for tobacco products to be grandfathered as exempt from needing FDA approval before being sold or marketed in the United States. There were hopes the FDA would modify that date, but they did not. As a result, products introduced past that date will be subjected to the FDA approval process.

Tat2We don’t yet know what that approval process will look like—or how long it will take, or how expensive it will be—though I wouldn’t hold out much hope for anything reasonable. The FDA has made clear they have no intention to be sensible when it comes to handmade premium cigars. Therefore, we may soon need to come to terms with a (severely) narrowed selection of cigars, cigars that have been on the market for over nine years.

With a release date of October 2006, the Tatuaje Havana VI just barely makes the cut.

If, like me, you hadn’t smoked (or thought about) this line for years, let me provide a little background. The Nicaraguan puro sports a Corojo ’99 wrapper and is intended to be a wallet-friendly, more medium-bodied alternative to other Tatuaje smokes. It originally came in six sizes—Hermosos (5.6 x 46), Angeles (4.6 x 42), Victorias (6 x 38), Artistas (6.1 x 52), Nobles (5 x 50), and Almirante (7 x 47)—with the first letter of each spelling “Havana,” the name of one of Tatuaje founder Pete Johnson’s dogs.

The Churchill-sized Almirante can be found for around $7-8. It’s a beautiful, slightly reddish, somewhat dark specimen with plenty of oils. The perfect triple-cap clips cleanly to reveal an easy cold draw. Pre-light aromas at the foot remind me of sweet hay and cocoa powder.

The first third of the cigar is characterized by flavors of spicy cedar, a little white pepper, dry oak, and a satisfying sweet creaminess. Caramel, red pepper, and roasted nut join the fray after an inch. Then, at the midway point, the Almirante begins to shine. Cocoa, cream, and peanut take center stage, rendering the smoke less spicy yet full of interesting flavor. The final third brings about the reappearance of dry wood and cedar spice with some black pepper.

With excellent construction throughout—including a solid white ash, a straight burn line, good smoke production, and a smooth draw—it’s clear this cigar brings considerable quality and enjoyment to the table, all at a reasonable price. FDA awfulness aside, the Havana VI line is worth another look if you haven’t smoked this blend in a while. The Almirante is worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive

30 May 2016

Herrera 1

In early March, it was announced Drew Estate would be expanding its popular Herrera Estelí line by launching the Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive, which began shipping to Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA) members in April. (TAA works to “maximize professionalism and success” among its 80 associated retailers through training and the sharing of best practices; you can find a TAA shop near you here.)

Herrera 2The Drew Estate Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive is presented in a single vitola, a toro (6 x 52) that retails for $144 per 12-count box, or $12 per cigar. Whereas the original Herrera Estelí features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around a Honduran binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, the TAA Exclusive—also blended by Willy Herrera—sports a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and Nicaraguan fillers.

“This is my first blend since joining Drew Estate that utilizes Connecticut Broadleaf tobacco,” said Herrera in a press release. “Drew Estate fans know that we’re famous for our use of Connecticut Broadleaf tobaccos, especially in our Liga Privada No. 9 and Nica Rustica lines. I’ve been experimenting with blends that incorporate this incredible wrapper since coming on board and finally have a blend I’m really excited about.”

The Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive is handsomely appointed with dual bands of red and gold that make this extension easily differentiated from the original Herrera Estelí blend. Even without the bands, though, you’d never confuse the two. The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper on the core line is light and golden, whereas the TAA Exclusive is dark. In typical Drew Estate fashion, the cold draw is ultra-easy. The pre-light notes remind me of chocolate and cedar.

Once underway, I find cocoa with black pepper spice and abundant leather. The texture is coarse and gritty. The potent vegetal notes that are so common among Connecticut Broadleaf smokes from Drew Estate are also apparent, especially in the plentiful resting smoke. Other noticeable flavors include damp earth, vanilla, cream, and a dash of cinnamon. At the midway point and beyond, I start to notice some sour, meaty notes from time to time—nothing terribly concerning, but certainly worth pointing out.

As far as the physical properties are concerned, this cigar is expertly rolled and a complete joy to smoke. The burn line is straight and true throughout, the smoke production well above average, the draw smooth, and the gray ash holds very firmly off the foot.

If Willy Herrera’s objective was to blend a full-bodied cigar that smokes cool with plentiful flavor, I’d consider the Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive a job well done. I especially appreciate the fleeting tastes I uniquely associate with Drew Estate Connecticut Broadleaf tobaccos, and how they are coupled with an overall profile that’s differentiated from the likes of Liga Privada No. 9 or Nica Rustica. This well-crafted cigar is worth seeking out—even with its lofty price tag—and deserving of an 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: Tatuaje The Jackal (Case de Montecristo Exclusive)

29 May 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.”

Jackal

Not to be confused with The Jekyll, which was Tatuaje’s Halloween smoke in 2014, The Jackal hit the market last summer as an exclusive to Chicago-area retailer Casa de Montecristo. It boats a beautiful Ecuadorian Sancti Spiritus wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos. Only about 10,000 Jackals were made in a single vitola (6.75 x 56) with a torpedo-style cap and an unfinished foot. The profile is dry and oaky with cedar spice and hints of cocoa, black pepper, and creamy peanut. The only downside is the price tag of $13.90; you’ll get your money’s worth, though.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys