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Cigar Review: Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 2010 Gran Robusto

29 Oct 2014

About two years ago, Gran Habano—the Florida-based operation of the Rico family—added two new blends to its Gran Reserva series: Gran Reserva #3 2009 and Gran Reserva #5 2010. They joined the original Gran Reserva, which was the Gran Reserva #3 2008.

Gran Reserva 2010Made at Gran Habano’s GR Tabaqueras Unidas factory in Danlí, Honduras, all the cigars in the Gran Reserva series are produced in limited quantities. In the case of the Gran Reserva #5 2010, production was limited to 1,200 boxes of each of the 5 sizes, for a total of 6,000 boxes of 20 cigars (120,000 individual cigars). But at the time of publication of this review, there are still plenty of Gran Reserva #5 2010 cigars to be had.

Blended by George A. Rico, the Gran Reserva #5 2010 blend consists of a Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper from 2005, a Nicaraguan Habano binder from 2005, and filler tobaccos from Jalapa. It is offered in the following formats for about $6 to $9 per cigar: Imperiales (6 x 60), Czar (6 x 66), Grandioso (7 x 70), Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46), and Gran Robusto (6 x 54).

Slipping the Gran Robusto out of its cedar sleeve (which covers almost the entire cigar up to the golden band), I find a thick, heavy, dense cigar with a neat cap and a tight cross-section of tobaccos at the foot. The veins are thin and minimal, and the surface is oily with moderate tooth. The cold draw is smooth and the pre-light aroma reminds me of milk chocolate and sweet hay.

According to Gran Habano, the Gran Reserva #5 2010 blend is sold as a “remarkably smooth, earthy, and spicy smoke accompanied by notes of sweet wood and espresso.” Upon setting an even light, I encounter a spicy profile of cedar and black pepper with background notes of coffee and leather. Quickly, a creamy peanut taste also enters the equation, which adds nice balance.

Into the midway point and the final third, little changes in terms of profile, save for a slight increase in intensity at the very end. For me, frankly, that’s a bit of a disappointment. This is a large, slow-burning cigar. More complexity and more variation in taste would go a long way towards better capturing my attention.

Still, with solid construction, a pleasant flavor, and sweet, aromatic resting smoke, the Gran Reserva #5 2010 Gran Robusto is a solid cigar at a fair price. That earns it three stogies out of five. I just can’t help but wonder how the blend would fare in a thinner format.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: Padrón 2000 Natural

27 Oct 2014

They aren’t sexy. They aren’t limited. They aren’t new. Heck, they aren’t even expensive. But the core Padrón line of cigars—often referred to as the “Thousands Series” or the “Classic Series”—is not to be overlooked. If fact, if you’re searching for everyday smokes that are high-quality, consistent, readily available, and don’t break the bank, the original Padrón cigars are a great place to start.

Padron 2000 NaturalLike many cigar smokers, when you think of Padrón, you likely think of the 50-year-old company’s incredible résumé of accolades (way too many to mention here) and acclaimed super-premium offerings like the Anniversary Series (both 1926 and 1964) and Family Reserve.

But don’t forget the original Padrón line, which includes fifteen vitolas that are available in either Natural or Maduro formats. (By the way, with similar wrapper shades and no distinguishing markings, it’s really hard to tell a Natural from a Maduro without holding two next to each other.) Each is comprised of Cuban-seed Nicaraguan tobacco that’s sun-grown and aged for two-and-a-half years.

The robusto-sized 2000 Natural sports an oily, somewhat grainy Nicaraguan wrapper that’s not without its imperfections. I often find the caps of these cigars to be sloppily applied, and one of the three samples I smoked for this review (the one pictured, in fact) came with a tear in the wrapper above the band. Few have criticized the Thousands Series smokes for being too handsome.

That said, when you remove the Padrón 2000 Natural from its cellophane, the pungent pre-light aroma is more than enough to render the robusto enticing. The foot seems to ooze a pungent fragrance of earth, hay, and cocoa. It’s enough to make me salivate.

Whereas the 2000 Maduro is characterized by espresso, cocoa, raisin, and dark chocolate, the 2000 Natural tastes more of dry wood, black pepper, and peanut. The edges round out and the texture becomes creamier at the midway point. In the final third, I find a fuller-bodied, more leathery texture. But dry wood and cream are still at the core.

Construction is absolutely perfect throughout. Despite any aesthetic flaws, every 2000 Natural (5 x 50) I’ve smoked has a straight burn line, a solid gray ash, and just the right amount of resistance on the draw. Smoke production is above average.

This may not be the most complex cigar on the market, but the quality Padrón delivers for the reasonable asking price of $5-6 is striking. To me, that’s sexy. So the 2000 Natural is worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Nirvana Toro

25 Oct 2014

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.”IMG_3778 - Version 2San-Lotano-Oval-Conn-sq

Nirvana Toro

I can’t peer into the future to see how (or if) Swisher International’s recent purchase of Drew Estate will change the Drew Estate portfolio of cigars. But one potential clue about future blends might be found in the Nirvana series, a five-vitola blend crafted by Drew Estate for Royal Gold Cigars (the premium cigar division of Swisher International). The blend was introduced earlier this year—months before rumors of an acquisition began to circle—with a Cameroon wrapper around a Mexican binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. My colleague loves this cigar, and I can’t disagree. Cinnamon spice, graham cracker, coffee with creamer, and a typical Cameroon sweetness all play a role in making this Toro (6 x 52) a well-balanced, complex, enjoyable smoke. Construction is top-notch, too. My only complaint is the price, which clocks in at $11.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: George Rico S.T.K. Miami Barracuda Maduro Robusto

22 Oct 2014

George A. Rico’s American Puro has to be counted as one of the more unique cigars to be released in recent memory. Made in Miami, the blend has only tobacco grown in the United States, including fire-cured leaves from Kentucky.

BarracudaAmerican Puro is part of S.T.K. Miami, a series of limited blends produced by Gran Habano at the company’s new Miami factory. It’s joined by Zulu Zulu, Opium, and Barracuda—an Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped line with bands of cyan and silver.

Now, George A. Rico has added a Maduro variety to Barracuda, using the same Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, but replacing the Ecuadorian wrapper with a dark, mottled specimen of Pennsylvania Broadleaf. (If you’re worried about confusing the two, the natural Barracuda has a fish on the band, whereas the Maduro simply has “Barracuda” written in cursive.)

Three sizes are available in the S.T.K. Miami Barracuda Maduro: Robusto (5 x 52), B-54 (6.5 x 54), and Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46). They range in price from $7.50 to $8.50 apiece. Only 200 boxes are being made of each vitola.

I sampled one pre-release Robusto for this review. This is a rustic-looking smoke with a coarse, thick wrapper that has protruding seams and a rugged cap. The cold draw is smooth and the pre-light notes remind me of molasses and grilled meats.

Marketed as medium to full in body, the Barracuda Robusto starts with a mesquite flavor with moderate intensity and a spicy aftertaste. The texture is leathery, and the core flavors include black pepper, syrup, dry wood, and a tangy zest that reminds me of barbecue.

Before long, a cocoa sweetness creeps in, along with cream and roasted nut. These additions help add balance to the principal flavors. Taking time between puffs helps ward off some of the meatier notes while allowing the complexity to shine though.

With solid construction—including a straight burn line, sturdy ash, and ample smoke production—the Barracuda Maduro Robusto is a unique, enjoyable smoke and a good value at about $8. It’s worthy of 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: L’Atelier Imports LAT46 Selection Spéciale

15 Oct 2014

L’Atelier Imports, which debuted just a couple years ago, is an outfit formed by Pete Johnson (of Tatuaje fame) to make “consumer price conscious cigars.” The L’Atelier portfolio includes Surrogates, El Suelo, Trocadéro, L’Atelier Maduro, and the original L’Atelier core line.

Selection SpecialeThe latter is crafted at My Father Cigars in Nicaragua using Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The wrappers are Sancti Spíritus, which is a cross between Criollo and Pelo d’Oro that’s grown in Ecuador.

L’Atelier originally had three formats: LAT52 (4.75 x 52), LAT54 (5.6 x 54), and LAT56 (6.5 x 56). Since its introduction in 2012, Johnson has added four vitolas. One is called LAT46 Selection Spéciale—a corona gorda measuring 5.6 inches long with a ring gauge of 46.

Interestingly, when it was rolled out in early 2013, LAT46 was slightly different than its predecessors, as the Sancti Spíritus wrapper comes from a higher priming for this size. That means the wrapper is darker, and the overall profile is supposed to pack more of a punch. So LAT46 was given the “Selection Spéciale” designation to differentiate it from the other vitolas. Since, two other Selection Spéciale sizes were added: the LAT Torpedo and the LAT38 Special lancero.

I smoked five LAT46s for this review. The corona gorda looks dark enough to be a maduro. Its exterior is clean and oily with a reddish tint and few noticeable veins. The triple cap—adorned with a pigtail—clips easily to yield a smooth cold draw. The foot exhibits rich pre-light notes of raisin, black cherry, and dark chocolate.

Once lit, the initial profile is of coffee, cedar, pepper spice, and black licorice. The texture ranges from chalky to leathery, and the aftertaste has a lingering salty bite. Strength and body are both medium to full. The fragrant resting smoke is creamy.

At the midway point it becomes clear this is a complex, balanced cigar with lots to offer (especially to attentive smokers). In addition to the aforementioned flavors—which, I think, constitute the core taste from beginning to nub—notes of sweet cocoa, peanut, and caramel come and go. Throughout, construction is perfect, including a solid ash, great smoke production, and a burn line that requires no touch-ups.

In the reasonable $8-9 range, it’s hard not to love the LAT46 Selection Spéciale. This one has “box purchase” written all over it. One of the best cigars I’ve had the pleasure to review in 2014, it earns an outstanding 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: Roberto P. Duran Premium Line Río Toa

13 Oct 2014

On the heels of last week’s news that Jack Toraño—formerly the director of marketing for the Toraño Family Cigar Company—has agreed to oversee sales in Florida and the Caribbean for Roberto P. Duran Premium Cigars, I figured it was high time we expanded our coverage of this Miami-based operation.

RPD Premium LineTo date, Roberto Pelayo Duran is best known for reviving Azan. Azan is an old Cuban cigar brand that was started by a Chinese immigrant who produced handmade cigars in the Manicaragua area of Cuba prior to Castro taking control. He eventually won a lottery and invested the money in his tobacco operation, only to have the Cuban government nationalize his business.

Today, Roberto P. Duran offers three variations on Azan: White, Burgundy, and Maduro Natural. The company also recently launched the Roberto P. Duran Premium Line, its most expensive brand to date. The four vitolas— Río Toa (5 x 52), La Punta (6 x 54), Tainos (6 x 56), and Cacique Guama (6 x 60)—retail in the super-premium $10-16 range.

The Premium Line sports a Habana Criollo wrapper from Duran’s farm in Ecuador around a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from “Nicaragua and other Latin American” countries. It is made at the Nicatabaco SA factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

The Río Toa is a handsome robusto with a well-executed cap and an oily exterior that has only the thinnest veins. Firm to the touch yet smooth on the cold draw, the pre-light aroma features strong notes of sweet hay and peanut.

Once an even light is set, a bold profile emerges of black pepper and espresso. Adding balance are background flavors of milk chocolate, cream, and nut. The texture is leathery and the aftertaste lingers like a high-proof bourbon.

Into the midway point, the spicy pepper recedes a bit and the central taste becomes warm tobacco. Here, I’m reminded of the smell of tobacco pilones—the stacks of tobacco leaves at cigar factories that employ pressure and heat to initialize fermentation. As the body transitions from full to medium, the creaminess and nuttiness become more apparent in the final third.

Save for a burn line that tends to meander a bit, construction is solid on this slow-burning robusto, including a solid gray ash, ample smoke production, and clear draw.

Overall, the Roberto P. Duran Premium Line Río Toa is impressive. And it should be for the price. Across the handful of samples I smoked for this review, all consistently showed interesting flavors, complexity, and balance with surprising intensity. I rate this vitola an admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: Buena Vista Reserva 2008 Prominente

6 Oct 2014

Buena Vista is back. After a short stint in the U.S. market in 2011, the brand disappeared due to “circumstances beyond the manufacturer’s control,” according to a press release from MGM Cigars, which now controls Buena Vista. But the brand’s reintroduction was officially declared on June 19, backed by 200,000 cigars that had been carefully stored as they patiently awaited their opportunity to be sold and smoked.

Buena Vista“The MGM Cigars project and first brand, Buena Vista, was nothing more than a dream in 2009. It quickly caught flight, only to be put to bed for a short while. I am thankful to have relocated to the United States where I am free to forge ahead with our project,” said José E. Borges Batista, founding partner and current president of MGM. “We look forward to re-introducing the Buena Vista brand, which pays homage to all who, through music and from one generation to another, have kept the Cuban traditions, values, and joie de vivre alive.”

The Buena Vista Reserva 2008 blend consists of a Habano ’98 wrapper from Ecuador around Dominican filler tobaccos that had been aged between 2008 and 2010 before they were rolled into cigars for the original 2011 release. Nine vitolas are available: Prominente (7 x 49), Sublime (6.3 x 54), Piramide (6.3 x 52), Doble Robusto (5.5 x 52), Robusto (5.3 x 54), Corona Larga (4.8 x 50), Corona (5.1 x 46), Petit Pyramid (4.9 x 52), and Short Churchill (4.3 x 54).

The Churchill-sized Prominente retails for $10 and, like its brethren, sports double bands of black, dark red, and chrome. It has an incredibly oily exterior with three or four prominent veins dividing an otherwise smooth surface. The pre-light notes are of subtle leather and earth, and the cold draw is moderate to moderately resistant.

The blend is marketed as a “well-balanced cigar of medium strength” that has benefited from ample aging in cedar conditioning rooms. My single sample, which was provided free of charge by Buena Vista, starts with a medium-bodied profile of red pepper, mushroom, roasted nut, and cream. On the aftertaste, a spicy heat lingers on the tip of the tongue.

As the Prominente progresses, the smoke seems to become less spicy and more creamy, with some caramel notes becoming prominent. In the final third, the overall intensity increases slightly, but the Churchill remains solidly in the medium-bodied spectrum. All the while, the physical properties are good, including a draw that opens beyond the first third, a straight burn line, and a solid gray ash.

Overall, this is an impressive cigar, and one to put on your radar if you’re looking for something off the beaten path. For its complexity and depth of flavor, the Buena Vista Reserva 2008 Prominente earns four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys