Archive by Author

Cigar Review: Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature

25 Mar 2019

I was recently perusing the extensive StogieGuys.com archives when I came across this tidy piece from 2010 by one of my colleagues. In typical George E fashion, it is as insightful as it is concise.

“For a cigar fan, walking into a humidor displaying new and untried sticks is an enticing moment,” he wrote. “Whether it’s that cigar you’ve been wanting to try since you first heard or read about it, or something that just hit the shelves, smoking a cigar for the first time can be a lot of fun. But if, like me, you don’t smoke several cigars a day, the quest for untried cigars means you can easily neglect those you’ve enjoyed in the past.”

Indeed. It’s easy to get caught up in the bustle and excitement of new cigars, especially in the month or so following the IPCPR Trade Show. So why not take some time this spring to re-acquaint yourself with an old favorite or two?

With this in mind, there were many, many cigars I could have chosen to write about today. But—with a nudge from Holt’s Cigar Co., who generously provided the five-pack for this review—I landed on the Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature, a perfecto measuring 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 47 and a per-cigar price of $8.30 (or $185.95 for a box of 25).

Handmade at Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia. in the Dominican Republic with a Cameroon wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos, the Hemingway Signature is a dry, pale brown cigar with a narrowed foot and the classic Fuente band of gold, red, and black. Most of the visible veins are what I’d call thin or nondescript, rendering the cigar relatively smooth—though not without a few bumps and wrinkles here and there. The pre-light aroma is faint with notes of hay and pepper. And despite finding a very tight cross-section of tobaccos at the head after clipping it, the cold draw is easy.

Now some cigar enthusiasts will actually clip the narrowed foot before lighting, presumably to ensure an even light at the cigar’s widest point right from the get-go. I don’t understand this. The Hemingway Signature lights easily and evenly with one wooden match.

As for flavor, the mild- to medium-bodied profile starts dry, woodsy, and very sweet. Individual notes include cherry, white pepper, molasses, and cream. On the finish, the sensation is spicier. The flavors remind me of cedar and cayenne heat—both of which nicely complement the sweetness of the core profile. This taste is remarkably consistent from light to nub.

Construction-wise, the physical properties are aligned with what I’ve come to expect from Arturo Fuente. The burn is even throughout with no need for any touch-ups along the way, the draw is smooth, the ash holds well off the foot, and the smoke production is about average.

The Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature has stood the test of time, and for good reason. At an affordable price, you get classic medium-bodied flavors, well-aged tobacco, superb combustion qualities, and a nice interplay between the sweetness of the flavor and the gentle spiciness of the finish. For that, I award it four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Curivari Café 52

18 Mar 2019

For years, my colleague has praised the Buenaventura line by Curivari as not only an excellent smoke, but an excellent value. The cigars—which sport a classic, Cubanesque presentation and have been wellreviewed at StogieGuys.com on numerous occasions—also retail at a very refreshing price point. To this day, when people ask me to recommend an inexpensive cigar that punches above its weight, Buenaventura is usually on the short list.

Still, Curivari doesn’t seem to receive the attention it deserves. Perhaps this is due to its (seemingly purposeful) low profile. In stark contrast to many other boutique brands that employ social media to create a personal connection to between their customers and cigar makers or owners, Curivari’s owner—Andreas Throuvalis—operates behind the scenes, rendering the brand almost faceless.

And Curivari’s spartan website doesn’t help matters. There, you won’t find much more background info than this: “In all our cigars, we use only the traditional Cuban cigar making process with authentic Cuban Criollo and Corojo seed grown in Nicaragua…. Curivari cigars are made with 100% Cuban-seed Nicaraguan tobacco. We blend for a classic Cuban flavor profile that we enjoy, not with focus on strength, but more looking for flavor and aroma in a right balance. All cigars are finished with a triple-cap.”

The Curivari Café line is described as “medium- to full-bodied… with lots of coffee and cocoa undertones.” It is offered in three sizes: Petit Café (4.5 x 42), 60 (5.5 x 58), and 52 (5 x 52).

The 52 retails for $8.25. This Nicaraguan puro boasts soft notes of hay and cedar at the unlit foot. It is spongy to the touch with moderate oils on its smooth, seamless surface and an understated band of sepia and gold. Notably, the filler and binder extend a bit beyond the wrapper. The cold draw is easy with a hint of oaky sweetness on the lips.

After an even light is established, the initial puffs are salty, dry, and loaded with spicy cedar and cinnamon. The spice, while still present, backs off quickly, leaving behind notes of café au lait, cocoa powder, and a little cashew.

But one characteristic of the profile that doesn’t recede is the dryness. The Curivari Café consistently hits my palate in a dry, salty way. For this reason, when it comes to pairing, I’d recommend a citrusy cocktail with a bit of sweetness, as opposed to coffee or a neat finger of bourbon or scotch. Some, including the folks at Curivari, will disagree with this; they call the Café line “a perfect compliment [sic] for coffee.”

Throughout, the burn line is less than stellar, and several touch-ups are needed to keep things even. Every other aspect of combustion, however, is admirable. The gray ash holds pretty well off the foot, the draw is clear, and the smoke production is generous.

The final third of the Curivari Café 52 isn’t much different than the rest. Expect cedar spice, cocoa, some cinnamon, coffee, and dry earth. The next time I try this robusto I may sample it with a limoncello gin martini, a citrus rye and ginger, or simply a Cuba libre. On its own with nothing but water, it earns three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Unico Serie Nasty Fritas

15 Mar 2019

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.”

Last summer, Drew Estate unveiled three smaller vitolas for Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 lines—Corona Viva, Short Panatela, and Petit Corona—plus the Unico Serie Nasty Fritas. “The Nasty Fritas utilizes a Connecticut Broadleaf Oscuro wrapper and a plantation-grown Brazilian Mata Fina binder over Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers,” read a press release dated from July 2018. “Like the Papas Fritas, the Nasty Fritas filler tobacco incorporates leftover tobacco leaves that are short cut through the manufacture of Liga Privada No. 9 and Liga Privada T52 cigars.” Nasty Fritas is a “conical vitola” measuring just shy of 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 52 at its widest point. It is sold in 50-count boxes for $325, or $6.50 per cigar, and features a pigtail cap and closed foot. The burn line is a bit temperamental, but the flavors—cocoa, coffee, and the hints of sweet grassiness that are (to me, at least) synonymous with Liga—are enough to merit a recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Coming to Terms with Winter

11 Mar 2019

Think you love cigars? Let’s put your adoration to the test. Go out and smoke a cigar in the cold. And, no, I don’t mean 40 degrees. I said cold. Let’s put it at 20 degrees or less (not including windchill). Bundle up, plant yourself in a chair with a cup of hot (not for long) coffee, and fire up a smoke. If you’re sitting still—and if you’re not cheating with, say, a heat lamp or something—I bet you won’t be able to get through a toro. Maybe not even a robusto or a corona.

At some point in the process, you’ll find yourself pondering the futility of the exercise. Isn’t the whole idea behind cigars to enjoy yourself? How can you fully appreciate the enticing aromas, delicious flavors, and handmade craftsmanship when your core bodily processes are shutting down and frostbite is trying to take hold of exposed skin? How can you revel in the complexities of the profile—which surely includes anise, cream soda, and pencil shavings—as your shivering turns into slowed, shallow breathing and, eventually, total loss of consciousness?

Maybe you never have to ask yourself these questions. Perhaps you live somewhere where it never gets legitimately cold, at least not for a whole season. Or, if you do, perhaps you can smoke inside your home. Or there’s a good lounge nearby with decent hours. Or perhaps you commute via car and don’t mind smoking in your vehicle (side note: smoking a cigar while driving is not all it’s cracked up to be).

I used to have a cigar room in my condo in the city.. Now I have a bunch of kids and a house in the suburbs.

 

Personally, I live in Chicago. Winter can be rough, and this one is no exception. I have three small children and no place to smoke inside my home. There are a few lounges nearby, but the hours typically don’t work for me (it’s usually 10:30 PM or later by the time the kids are all asleep, the dishes are done, etc.). And, while I’m often on the “L” or on my way to an airport in an Uber, I’m rarely in my own car. So where and when do I smoke, you may ask?

Honestly, I smoke much, much less in the winter. I really don’t have a choice. It may not be fashionable for a member of the online cigar media to admit this, but it’s true nonetheless.

When I do smoke, it’s usually one of two things: (1) I’ve gotten permission from the wife to be at a lounge for a couple hours, which is a welcome respite that will have to be repaid in some (often painful) way, or (2) I’m traveling for work someplace warm and/or there’s a late-hours lounge nearby.

I write this not to ask for your sympathy (I don’t deserve any, and I’m not complaining) but to share a few unintended consequences of my wintertime lull in cigar smoking. First, when you smoke less, you enjoy the cigars you do smoke more. The law of diminishing returns is absolutely at play here. If you smoke cigar after cigar after cigar, the next one won’t be nearly as enjoyable. Anyone who’s ever gone on a cigar rampage—or taken a leave of absence—would probably back this up.

Second, having fewer opportunities to smoke results in a renewed focus on deciding what to smoke. Time is more precious, and the cost of making a bad decision is higher. In the winter, I’m likelier to turn to old favorites and shun new experiences. Any new cigar that gets selected is often the result of a fair amount of review-reading—or, at least, much more research than would be required in the summer.

Finally, less time to smoke should mean more time for something else. In my case, the inability to smoke as often as I would like has not extinguished my passion for cigars. So I’ve been catching up on cigar-related reading (both mainstream publications and, yes, other websites), making some purchases, organizing my inventory, and keeping the humidors functioning properly (which is no small task this time of year).

I guess you could say I’ve come to terms with a seasonal approach to cigar enjoyment. That being said, where the f*#k is spring, and when will it get here?

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva Romantico

8 Mar 2019

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.”

Reserva Romantico

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

Quick Smoke: El Güegüense Corona Gorda

1 Mar 2019

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.”

Corona Gorda

Made at the TABSA (Tobaccos Valle de Jalapa) factory in Nicaragua using Aganorsa tobacco, El Güegüense—also known as “The Wise Man”—is the first blend from Foundation Cigar Co., which was launched in 2015 by former Drew Estate employee Nicholas Melillo. The Nicaraguan puro has a beautiful Corojo ’99 wrapper from Jalapa that’s described as “rosado rosado café.” My favorite El Güegüense vitola is the Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46). It boasts a medium-bodied profile with well-balanced flavors of cedar, honey, melon, and subtle sweetness. With excellent combustion properties, ample complexity, and a sub-$10 price tag, I’d revisit this cigar if you haven’t had it in awhile.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Patina Habano Bronze

25 Feb 2019

I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of Patina before wandering into Casa de Puros, a retail tobacconist and lounge near my home in Forest Park, Illinois. Despite the shop’s well-appointed selection, the Patina Habano caught my eye almost immediately. Something about the beautiful, uniform, milk chocolate-colored wrapper—and the way that wrapper is contrasted by the classic, understated band of white, bronze, and mint—helped differentiate this cigar from its competition.

I used a double-guillotine to neatly clip the head off one of the Patina Habano Bronze specimens I bought for $12.95 apiece and settled into one of the chairs in the lounge. Notwithstanding the cigar’s firmness, the cold draw was fortunately smooth. I took note of the pre-light aroma of green raisin before setting a wooden match to the fragrant foot.

Once fully lit, the combination of the Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Pennsylvania yield a spice-forward, full-bodied profile of leather, macadamia, and black pepper.

There’s a gentle sweetness—especially on the aftertaste—that I’m tempted to call cherry-like, but that’s not quite it. Maybe it’s more like cream soda? It’s a tough flavor to put my finger on. I enjoy it nonetheless. The taste adds balance and complexity to what might otherwise be a somewhat monotone cigar.

As I work my way towards the midway point, I read up on the brand. Mo Maali, currently national sales manager at Mombacho Cigars, partnered with Mombacho to launch Patina back when he was the store manager of Casa de Puros. Patina is handmade at Mombacho’s Casa Favilli factory in Granada, Nicaragua. (The staircase on the band is at Casa Favilli.)

Patina’s two lines, Connecticut and Habano, debuted in May 2017. Both are offered in four sizes. In the case of the Habano line, those formats include Rustic (5 x 52), Copper (6 x 46), Oxidation (6 x 56), and the toro-sized Bronze (6 x 52) I’m smoking for this review.

Around the midway point, the sweetness recedes as earth, hay, and a bready texture emerge. While the smoke production, solid white ash, and draw are all excellent, the burn leaves something to be desired. I had to touch-up and re-light a few times to keep things even.

The Bronze is a slow-burning cigar. It took me two hours and twenty minutes, to be exact. And that marathon comes despite puffing with a greater frequency than usual to ward off the need for more re-lights—a practice that renders the smoke a bit hotter than I would normally like. That probably contributes to the intensification down the home stretch. In the final third, the flavors don’t change much, save for the introduction of cayenne heat and peanut, but they do become spicier.

I don’t regret purchasing a few Patina Habano Bronzes. That said, I can’t see myself going out of the way to buy more in the near future. I will give the Connecticut line a try, though. If you’d like to experience this (or any other) Patina, you don’t have to travel to the Chicago area; a full list of retailers is available here.

In my book, the Patina Habano Bronze 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