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Cigar Review: Arturo Fuente Añejo No. 55

22 Jan 2019

In 1998, Hurricane Georges swept through the Dominican Republic. In its wake it left 380 casualties and over $1 billion in damages. The hardest-hit areas included those involved in crop production—including, of course, tobacco.

Not long after the hurricane, Arturo Fuente experienced a predictable and critical shortage of its prized Fuente Opus X sun-grown wrapper leaf. Instead of postponing production until more wrapper was ready, the Fuentes wrapped the Opus X cigars in a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper that had been aged in cognac barrels. With that, the Añejo line was born.

When most people think Añejo, they’ll likely conjure images of the No. 77 vitola—more commonly known as The Shark. This unique format is best described as a tapered pyramid that morphs from a round head to a sharply box-pressed foot.

I didn’t find The Shark at my local shop; it’s rare, so that isn’t surprising. But I did find a box in the No. 55 size, which is a torpedo measuring 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 55. I bought a couple for this review. Not including crazy Illinois taxes, they cost me $15.25 apiece.

In my book, that price tag makes the Añejo No. 55 a super-premium. Expectations are elevated. Fortunately, the cigar comes dressed to impress. In addition to its toothy, rustic wrapper leaf and regal band of red, gold, and white, the bottom two-thirds is embraced by a cedar sleeve and a red foot ribbon.

I used a double-guillotine and found a smooth cold draw. After putting the cedar sleeve to work lighting the foot, pre-light notes of earth, chocolate, and (yes) cognac transition to a medium-bodied profile of cocoa, black coffee, dried fruit, and white pepper. There is body, but the smoothness validates the message on the cellophane that this cigar is “Xtra Aged.”

At the midway point and beyond, the body and spice intensify—though perhaps not to the degree some might expect, especially those who spend a lot of time with Nicaraguan cigars. The white pepper becomes black peppercorn. The black coffee becomes espresso. Dried fruit (think raisin, apricot, fig) and cocoa remain core to the profile.

I never had to go back and adjust the burn in any way after setting an even light with the cedar sleeve. The other physical properties are also exemplary (and appropriate for a cigar of this cost). The white ash holds well off the foot. The smoke production is voluminous. And the draw is clear throughout.

Perhaps, like me, it has been a long time since you fired up an Añejo from Arturo Fuente. Might I recommend you reacquaint yourself? The No. 55 is another stellar smoke from the world’s great tobacco family. It earns a fantastic rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Legend Conqueror

18 Jan 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.”


I found this smoke in the corner of one of my humidors, and there’s no telling how long it hid there unnoticed. Perhaps since 2008, the year this blend was introduced as a fuller-bodied version of the original Excalibur line. Setting fire to the Connecticut-wrapped Legend yields a tasty, well-built cigar that goes well with sipping rum. The Conqueror’s (6.25 x 54) profile of seared steak, black pepper, and woody spice pairs perfectly with a sweet spirit, and its superior combustion properties only add to the enjoyment. Expect a 120-minute smoke that’s more complex than your average bold cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

 

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Diesel d. 10th Robusto

7 Jan 2019

I can’t help it. When I think “Diesel,” I think “catalog cigar.” Back when I was single living in an apartment in Northern Virginia, I can remember leafing through thick catalogs mailed to me by Cigars International, each page making its case for whatever disposable income I had (which wasn’t very much at all). I spent many hours longingly studying the photos and descriptions of all the tasty treats. To me, those catalogs were “cigar porn” long before the phrase became a hashtag on social media.

I must have seen enough ads for Diesel because, on more than one occasion, I ponied up for some Unholy Cocktails. “Some liken a fine cigar to a harmonious symphony,” I wrote of the Unholy Cocktail in 2010. “To me, [it’s] more like a ZZ Top song—unpolished, familiar, simplistic, repetitious, and somewhat heavy. But it’s also catchy. And the price rocks. Boxes of 30 sell for just under $100, rendering the Unholy Cocktail a smart buy if you’re looking for a cheap full-bodied torpedo.”

Diesel debuted as an exclusive to Cigars International and Cigar.com in 2009. That makes 2019 the tenth anniversary of the brand. And everyone knows no industry loves its anniversaries more than the cigar industry; no milestone is wasted without a commemorative cigar.

In keeping with tradition, master cigar maker A.J. Fernandez recently added the Diesel d. 10th to the Diesel portfolio—which, over the years, has expanded to include Diesel Unlimited, Unlimited Maduro, Whiskey Row, Rage, Uncut, Delirium S.E., and Wicked. The three-vitola d. 10th is offered in a Short Robusto (4.5 x 52), Torpedo (6 x 54), and Robusto (5.5 x 52).

The latter retails for $115 for a box of 20, or $45 for a 5-pack. Those friendly prices are in keeping with the Diesel value proposition, just like the assurance of a full-bodied experience is in keeping with the Diesel reputation. “100% full-bodied, 100% full-flavored, and 100% Diesel,” reads the copy at Cigars International.

The d. 10th recipe calls for an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. The Robusto is, put simply, menacing. It’s toothy, firm, rustic, and black. At the foot, I find pre-light notes reminiscent of cocoa and green raisin. The cold draw is clear.

This is not one of those cigars that eases in to its strength. The Robusto is full-flavored from the get-go with tastes ranging from black pepper, espresso, cedar, oak, and a bit of cayenne heat on the lips. Smoking through the nose serves to amplify the intensity and bring out a few additional sensations, including roasted cashew, char, and natural tobacco sweetness.

Just as I’m about to write off the d. 10th as too much power for power’s sake, it backs off the accelerator around the one-third mark. Here, the notes of cashew become more pronounced, and the creaminess comes through more clearly. Even so, I would characterize the body as on the high end of medium, verging on full. It remains this way until the final third, which is characterized by a reprise of power, power, and more power.

I burned my way through a five-pack for this review. Each Robusto exhibited exemplary construction, including a straight burn line that requires zero touch-ups along the way, a solid gray ash, clear draw, and voluminous smoke production.

Anyone who has been following the Diesel brand won’t be surprised to hear the d. 10th is powerful and cost-effective. It packs a lot of punch for your dollar. It’s also not going to wow anyone with its complexity or nuance. In my book, that earns a score of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Cohiba Blue Robusto

4 Jan 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.”

In May 2017, not long after it had been introduced by General Cigar, I reviewed the Robusto (5.5 x 50, about $10) format of the then-new Cohiba Blue. This line sports a Honduran Olancho San Agustin wrapper and binder around Honduran Jamastran, Nicaraguan Ometepe, and Dominican Piloto Cubano filler tobaccos. At the time, I called the Robusto a “satisfying, well-made smoke with good flavors,” yet I also remarked, “I don’t think it’s going to wow anyone.” After about 20 months of aging, the flavor remains the same: cinnamon, cedar, roasted nuts, and a bit of honey; well-balanced, spice-forward, and medium-bodied. Enough to merit a recommendation, albeit not a completely enthusiastic one.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas

26 Dec 2018

By now, we all know the story. Former Drew Estate chief Steve Saka, now owner of the acclaimed boutique Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, began work in 2005 on a personal blend for his own enjoyment. After over 50 blends of testing with Jonathan Drew and Nick Melillo (now owner of Foundation Cigar Co.), a final recipe was arrived at: a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper fermented for at least 18 months, a Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua.

The cigar became known as Liga Privada No. 9. It forever changed the way the cigar world thinks about Drew Estate, which had formerly been known for its infused cigars.

Despite being on the market for over a decade, Liga No. 9 production is still limited (due to tobacco availability) so the cigars can be both tough to find and expensive. In 2012, to help satisfy sky-high demand and capitalize on what would otherwise be waste, Drew Estate launched Papas Fritas, a small cigar (4.5 x 44) that employs cuttings from Liga No. 9 production. Like Liga No.9, it has the same Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Mata Fina binder, and Honduran and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos.

Spanish for “French fries,” one of Saka’s favorite foods, Papas Fritas is a mixed-filler cigar that, while not on par with the elegance or complexity of the original No. 9, is a quick, cost-effective way to get the core Liga flavors that made that line so successful.

Those flavors include a medium- to full-bodied combination of spice, cocoa powder, espresso, cream, and white pepper. The texture is leathery. The trademark Liga flavor that’s as noticeable as it is hard to describe—the best I can do is “sweet grassiness”—is also present, though it tends to drift in and out.

True to Drew Estate’s reputation, Papas Fritas has an incredibly easy draw with voluminous smoke production. The other combustion properties are also impressive, especially for a mixed-filler cigar. The burn light is straight, and the white ash holds well.

In 2015, to make the cigar cheaper, Drew Estate rolled out new packaging. Papas Fritas can now be found in 50-count boxes, instead of 4-count tins or 28-count boxes. As a result, the per-cigar cost was reduced from $6.40 to $5.25. “We needed something for fans of Papas Fritas who already had plenty of tins and wanted a better value, so now we’re offering the cigar with no tin,” said then-president Michael Cellucci.

If you look around, you can actually pay about $4.70 per cigar, if you buy a box of 50. And why wouldn’t you? Papas Fritas enables you to get your Liga fix in a quick, price-efficient way, and you won’t feel bad about discarding one halfway through. For that, I’m awarding this cigar three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Old Henry Gold Label Toro

21 Dec 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.”

For cost-conscious fans of José “Pepín” García, the Old Henry brand from Philadelphia-based Holt’s Cigar Co. is a no-brainer. This Gold Label Toro sells for $110 for a box of 25, $26 for a 5-pack, or $5.50 for a single. It sports a bright Connecticut-seed Ecuadorian wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos. The profile exhibits mild- to medium-bodied balance with tastes ranging from roasted nut and café au lait to dry oak and white pepper. The texture is buttery, and the combustion qualities are solid. This cigar won’t knock your socks off, but it gets the job done for the price.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Cohiba Siglo VI (Cuban)

14 Dec 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.”

Siglo VI

The core Cohiba line, also known as Línea Clásica, launched in 1982 with three vitolas: Panetela, Corona Especial, and Lancero. Exquisito, Espléndido, and Robusto were introduced in 1989. The much-lauded Siglo line—which ranges in format from the small Siglo I (4 x 42) to the large Siglo VI (6 x 52)—didn’t come around until later. Aside from Behike, the Cohiba Siglo VI is one of the most sought-after Cubans. If you can get your hands on one, you’ll find a well-balanced profile of honey, white pepper, earth, and cream—but you’ll also find a cigar that turns papery and sour from time to time. In my view, this makes the Siglo VI really difficult to recommend, especially for the tremendous price the cigar often commands.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys