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Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XXVI)

24 Sep 2018

In this edition of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ask for your input on future cigar reviews and lament house guests who don’t finish their cigars.

What Cigars Should I Write About?

I’m in a bit of a cigar funk these days. My stash is running lower than usual and, among the cigars that still reside in one of my five humidors, we’ve already written about pretty much all of them. So that begs the question: Should I buy a bunch of “new” cigars and focus on those (that’s pretty much what I have been doing since we founded this site in May 2006; I’m just falling behind lately)? Or should I start to revisit cigars we reviewed (in some cases) years ago to provide an update and an aging report? Perhaps the best strategy is a bit of both. But I figured I’d throw the question out to you, especially since the cigar blogger space is more cluttered than ever. What do you want to see reviewed?

Let Me Follow Up on That Question…

While you’re thinking on the subject, I’ve always wondered: Do you care about reviews of cigars that are no longer in production (I’ve got a ton of those on hand)? What about super-limited cigars, or exclusives? For example, take the cigars I receive each year as a member of Tatuaje’s Saints & Sinners club. The only way to get these cigars is to belong to the small, members-only club. Either you do, or you don’t. On one hand, I could see some people being interested in what’s out there, even if it’s unlikely they’ll ever get their hands on it. On the other, many people could consider the review a vain act of futility. What’s your take?

What A Cigar Review Isn’t

These words written by my colleague nearly a decade ago still ring true, and I think they’re appropriate to recall as we think about reviews: “These days there are no shortages of cigar reviews online. Seems everyone has an opinion and wants to share. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But before you read every cigar review out there and take each as gospel, let’s keep in mind what a review is… and, just as importantly, let’s keep in mind what a review isn’t. First off, a review can only be as good as the limited inputs that created it. That means whatever review you’re reading is first and foremost limited by two important factors: the reviewer, and the cigars sampled.” You can read the rest of this piece from 2010 here.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Chances are, if you visit my home, you’ll be offered a cigar. My guests are almost never as into cigars as I am, and that’s perfectly fine. I am happy to share nonetheless and, despite my relatively depleted stash, almost certainly have a good cigar for the individual and timeframe in question. This is all well and good. What irks me, however, is when a guest will request (and receive) a top-notch cigar and then proceed to not even smoke half of it. If your time is short, or if you want a smaller smoke, please tell me in advance so I can help you select the best fit for your situation. I feel like this should be common courtesy. Aside from this pet peeve, let me know if you’re in the vicinity of Oak Park, Illinois, and want to stop by for a smoke and/or a bourbon. My front porch is a wonderful place to relax, and cigars are best enjoyed in good company–whether I’m writing about them or not.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Black Label Trading Company NBK

21 Sep 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Right off the bat, the Ecuador Habano Oscuro-wrapped NBK (6 x 46) greets me with a strong, bold profile of espresso, warm tobacco, roasted nuts, and black pepper spice. Just as I think I have the cigar figured out, though, it eases back a bit, and the powdery smoke cools. Still, the soft box-pressed NBK packs plenty of punch through to the end as secondary notes of cocoa add complexity. With excellent construction and a $9 price tag, this creation from Black Label Trading Company has a lot going for it.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Clásico Número 6

17 Sep 2018

Back in June, Joya de Nicaragua announced the reintroduction of the Clásico line to the U.S. market. The move to bring back “the first Nicaraguan cigar ever” seems fitting at a time when the company is celebrating its golden anniversary.

“Clásico goes back to America at a moment when we have reached the highest quality standards at the factory in our 50-year history,” said Mario Perez, sales director for Joya de Nicaragua. “But we kept the same blend that the founders of the company created, the blend that once captivated world leaders when it was the official cigar of the White House back in the 70s.”

In a departure from the powerful smokes for which the company is known, Joya is marketing Clásico as “mild” and “creamy.” The recipe remains the same as it did decades ago. The wrapper is Cuban-seed Ecuadorian Connecticut, and the binder and filler tobaccos are, of course, Nicaraguan.

There are a whopping twelve formats, so there’s a size here for everyone. The Toro may have been the first Clásico I tried (and also reviewed), but the thin Número 6 (6 x 41, $6.50) is the most appealing to me in terms of dimensions. I tend to gravitate towards narrower ring gauges, whenever possible, and six inches long seems just about perfect in terms of smoking time.

Like the Toro, Número 6 has a traditional, understated, and—in my opinion—beautiful band that nicely highlights the golden color of the smooth, buttery wrapper. At the foot, I find bright, crisp pre-light notes of sweet hay. The cold draw is smooth, especially for such a thin cigar.

The initial profile is salty and abrasive. Fortunately, after just a couple puffs, things settle down nicely. Individual flavors include creamy butter, warm tobacco, and raw almond. There’s also a green freshness that’s hard to put my finger on. The mild- to medium-bodied cigar has a bready texture.

The Número 6 mostly remains this way until the end, save for the occasional additions of tastes like clove, café-au-lait, and white pepper. Along the way, the physical properties are mostly admirable. I found a straight burn line, smooth draw, and good smoke production. On the downside, the ash is very flaky and prone to fall off prematurely, and the burn requires a few re-lights along the way to stay burning.

As I wrote of the Toro, I enjoy mild cigars. But mild cigars need to have flavor. The Clásico Toro has flavor. At times it shines, and at times it falls a little short. All told, I think the most appropriate rating is three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Sirena The Prince

14 Sep 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

La Sirena The Prince

I don’t typically remove a cigar’s band before lighting up, but you pretty much have to with The Prince from La Sirena, as the nautical-themed band covers about half of the surface of the robusto (5 x 50). Once lit, the Nicaraguan puro delivers a full-bodied flavor-blast of black pepper and leather. Shortly thereafter, the tobaccos—a Habano Oscuro wrapper, Criollo binder, and filler leaves from Jalapa and Condega—mellow a bit until they settle into a profile that’s strong and rich with heavy notes of char, roasted nuts, oak, and baking spices. Construction is solid. This is a different blend than the Broadleaf-wrapped one launched in 2010 that was made at My Father Cigars for Miami Cigar & Co. Now made at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Estelí, it’s a solid choice if you’re craving something strong, and it’s a good buy for around $8.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: MBombay Corojo Oscuro Gordo

4 Sep 2018

Mel Shah, owner of an upscale cigar and wine lounge in Palm Springs, California, is the man behind Bombay Tobak. You may be more familiar with the name MBombay, though, which is his small-batch brand of high-end cigars made in Costa Rica.

When I think of MBombay, I think of Gaaja and Gaaja Maduro. I love both cigars—especially Gaaja Maduro, which earned a rare five stogies out of five rating in February 2017. The original MBombay line, however, is probably what first comes to mind for most. It includes Classic, Habano, KẽSara, Mora, and Corojo Oscuro.

The latter sports a beautiful, dark, oily, mottled, slightly reddish Ecuadorian wrapper around tobaccos from Ecuador, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. It is adorned with an ornate, eye-catching band.

I smoked a handful of Corojo Oscuro Gordos for this review. This vitola retails for about $11 and measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 60. The cap clips cleanly to reveal a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos, yet the cold draw is nice and smooth. At the foot, I find pre-light notes of dark chocolate and molasses.

The initial flavor is full-bodied and aggressive with strong notes of espresso and black pepper spice. Quickly, though, the breaks are pumped and the Gordo settles into the medium-bodied range. Here, I find flavors ranging from roasted peanut and cereals to coffee and cedar. In the background, there’s a gentle cayenne spice and a sensation that reminds me of sunflower seeds.

I’ve never been a big fan of the over-sized gordo format. For one, the ring gauge is too thick to be comfortable, and that same girth can also water down the flavors that would otherwise be more concentrated. Additionally, many of these cigars tend to overstay their welcome. And they can also suffer from combustion issues.

The physical properties of the Corojo Oscuro Gordo, however, are admirable. The burn stays even and requires only a few touch-ups. And the ash holds firm.

But the other disadvantages I mentioned are present here—and I think that’s more of an indictment of the size (generally speaking) than this particular cigar. Still, MBombay chose to offer the format, and I must review the cigar as it is presented. Taking into account my dislike for the size, as well as my enjoyment of the balanced, complex blend, I’ve arrived at 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: Bolivar Gold Medal (Cuban)

31 Aug 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

It’s not too often I get to smoke a cigar that had been in my possession for seven years. But this since-discontinued, lonsdale-sized Bolivar Gold Medal had been resting in one of my humidors since (at least) 2011. It was high-time I fired it up. The result was a bready, medium-bodied profile with notes of graham cracker, cereals, and honey. The draw was smooth, the smoke production average, and the burn wasn’t perfect—but it also didn’t require any touch-ups. I hesitate to compare this to my last experience with a Gold Medal, which was in 2011, since I don’t remember that, and since my tastes have certainly changed. That said, I really enjoyed this aged Cuban and would recommend trying one if you have the chance.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: CroMagnon Cranium

27 Aug 2018

We’ve been operating StogieGuys.com since May 2006. As a result, for over twelve years, much of what I’ve smoked has been dictated by necessity for this website. And while I’m sure you won’t shed any tears in my honor (despite being a lot of work, running a cigar site is a rewarding, entertaining endeavor), you can probably appreciate my predicament. Sometimes I just want to smoke—and, yes, write about—an old favorite.

So today I’m reviewing a cigar that most certainly did not debut at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show. It’s also not new to this website (we previously wrote about it here and here). In fact, there’s no good reason for me to publish this—other than I simply want to, and that I’m secretly hoping to inspire a few readers to pick up a CroMagnon Cranium who maybe haven’t grabbed one in a while.

In the event you’re unfamiliar, the CroMagnon line from RoMa Craft Tobac is handmade in Estelí at the Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A. factory. It sports a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper around a Cameroon binder with Nicaraguan filler tobaccos.

The toro-sized Cranium (6x 54) retails for about $9. It has a dark, reddish exterior leaf with moderate oils, plenty of tooth, and a few large veins. The feel is firm and the foot exhibits a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos. The pre-light notes remind me of molasses and cocoa power. The rough cap clips cleanly to reveal a moderate cold draw.

Appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes they can be telling. If you were to judge the CroMagnon Cranium based solely on its intimidating looks and menacing presentation, you’d probably expect it to be a full-bodied powder keg. The initial puffs would validate those expectations. The thick, leathery profile is packed with char, black pepper, espresso, and chalky earth.

To write this toro off as a power-bomb, however, would be to overlook the expert blending that so clearly went into the cigar’s creation. There’s a complexity and balance here that’s often missing from many straightforwardly strong cigars. Creamy peanut, dark chocolate, and hickory add layers. And the strength level dips and surges—an effective strategy that ensures interest is not lost.

Along the way, the physical properties are consistent with what I’ve come to expect from RoMa Craft. The white ash holds well off the foot, the burn is straight, the draw is smooth, and the smoke production is above average.

Trying new cigars is important—especially if you write about cigars. But there’s so much out there, and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. So don’t overlook the tried and true blends that have performed consistently well for years. Your palate, and your wallet, will thank you.

This solid, fairly priced, full-bodied cigar is best enjoyed with a full stomach and a side of brown liquor. I continue to be a fan, and award it a very solid rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys