Archive by Author

Cigar Tip: Have a Happy Thanksgiving… with Cigars

26 Nov 2014

With football on the TV, turkey in your stomach, and family gathered, Thanksgiving is a great day to enjoy a fine cigar (or several). So, as we have for the previous seven years, today the StogieGuys.com team tells you what cigars we’ll be firing up after our big meals.

Patrick A: This year I was lucky enough to purchase a box of the new Tatuaje Monster Series, The Jekyll. As tempting (and trendy) as it would be to name that cigar my go-to stick for Thanksgiving, I’ve decided on a smoke that’s much less rare: the Joya Red Robusto. In addition to loving this blend since it was released earlier this year, I think its medium-bodied, balanced profile of citrus, dry cedar spice, roasted nuts, black pepper, and toasty notes will pair well with a warm up of coffee after a huge meal. And given its availability and modest price point, I won’t have any misgivings about sharing the same cigar with interested family and friends.

Patrick S: Family, friends, football, good food, fine drink… They all call for a fine cigar. This year I’ve decided to select one of the Verocu cigars from the 2014 Tatuaje Saints & Sinners smoke kit (I’m leaning towards the robusto size). I’ve tried both of the two Verocu sizes from this year’s kit, and they are both outstanding (reminiscent of the excellent East and West versions). They feature all the chocolate, earth, and wood of the regular Havana VI line, but with a delicious added kick of spice and complexity. It should be just right with a coffee or a whiskey (or both) after dessert.

George E: Thanksgiving will be, for me, a rare two-cigar day. Rather than dine at home, we’ll eat at one of the local Greek restaurants. So, I plan to step up and celebrate before and after. For the first cigar, it’ll be a Davidoff Colorado Claro Short Perfecto, a great little smoke. That evening, I plan to light up an Opus X, though I don’t know which one. My local shop has a good selection, and I’ll make my choice in the humidor.

Joey J: I’ve really been debating what I should smoke after Thanksgiving dinner. Of course I’ll be watching the Cowboys-Eagles game, and I’ll probably be (at least) a few glasses of wine/bourbon in at that point, so whatever cigar I choose won’t have my complete attention. I was thinking of smoking a Lost City Lancero by Arturo Fuente just because I really enjoy a full-bodied smoke after a large meal. But I think I’m going to play it safe, and stick with the Tatuaje Black Corona Gorda. Since I reviewed this cigar, I’ve smoked my way through a jar—and then some. Over 20 cigars in, and I still haven’t been disappointed in the least.

Previous cigars the StogieGuys.com team designated as Thanksgiving smokes include:

 

Not a bad list, eh? If you’re so inclined, feel free to let us know what you’ll be smoking tomorrow in the comments below. And be sure to have a safe and joyous Thanksgiving.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Review: Tatuaje The Jekyll

24 Nov 2014

I didn’t intend to buy a whole box of cigars. And I wasn’t planning to spend $130. But that’s just what I did when I was lucky enough to come across a 10-count box of The Jekyll, the latest cigar from Tatuaje’s popular Monster Series.

The JekyllMy impromptu purchase speaks to the rarity of Monster Series cigars, the success of Tatuaje’s marketing, and the well-earned reputation Pete Johnson’s company has amassed over the years. I simply could not let the opportunity to buy The Jekyll slip through my fingers. And after smoking a few, I’m glad I didn’t.

Since 2008, Tatuaje has released an annual Monster Series smoke around Halloween, celebrating some of Johnson’s favorite characters from the horror genre, including The Frank, The Drac, The Face, The Wolfman, The Mummy, and The JV13 (Jason). This year it’s The Jekyll, a nod to the 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Next year, the Monster Series release will be The Hyde.

As is tradition, Johnson only produced 666 “dress boxes” of 13 The Jekyll cigars, with only 13 “unlucky” retailers getting the bulk of the boxes to sell. He also released 4,500 plain 10-count boxes, equating to a total run of just under 54,000 individual sticks. Each The Jekyll features an Ecuadorian Sancti Spíritus wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The single vitola (7 x 49) is made by My Father Cigars.

The Chuchill-sized smoke sports a silky exterior with a few prominent veins. Firm to the touch with a good weight in the hand, the cigar has a belicoso-like cap that’s expertly constructed. A precise guillotine cut at the very tip is all that’s needed to reveal a smooth cold draw. At the foot, the subtle pre-light notes include honey and sawdust.

Right at the outset, there’s a lot going on with the medium-bodied flavor. The profile is balanced with notes of sweet cream, cinnamon, damp wood, and white pepper. The aftertaste is long and characterized by both red pepper and cedar. The texture is bready, and the resting smoke has an incredible creaminess. As The Jekyll progresses, an understated hint of black licorice creeps in and out but never really grabs the spotlight. Throughout the two-hour smoke, the defining trait remains the interplay between spice and a creamy sweetness.

Being the weak man that I am, I couldn’t wait any longer than five days to fire up one of these, even though my box had been shipped and likely suffered through some winter conditions. Even so, the physical properties perform beautifully. The burn line never requires so much as a touch-up, the draw is clear and true, and the smoke production is excellent. It should be noted, however, the white ash is extremely flaky.

Those familiar with the classic tale will recall Mr. Hyde is the sinister split personality of the gentler Dr. Jekyll. So I would expect 2015’s The Hide to be more intense. Hopefully I can hang on to a few The Jekyll’s to do a side-by-side comparison next year. For now, The Jekyll is an excellent, well-balanced smoke that’s well worth the $13 price and worthy of the Monster Series name. It earns the outstanding 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

Cigar Review: A.J. Fernandez Fallen Angel Robusto

19 Nov 2014

A.J. Fernandez is one of the most respected cigar makers in the world. And deservedly so. He has one of the best résumés you could hope to come across in the industry.

Fallen Angel RobustoBorn in Cuba, Fernandez worked with the late Alejandro Robaina, Cuba’s foremost producer of top wrapper leaves and the namesake of the Vegas Robaina brand. Fernandez quickly gained fame making cigars for other companies including Rocky Patel, Padilla, Graycliff, and Gurkha, as well as crafting exclusive cigars for catalog giant Cigars International (for whom he makes Diesel, Man O’ War, La Herencia, and others.) Then, in 2010, he introduced his first solo national brand, San Lotano, which became a hit.

These days, Fernandez’s portfolio includes Pinolero, Mayimbe, New World, and five different San Lotano blends. He also has a line called Fallen Angel, which features an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper from the highest priming available around Nicaraguan tobaccos.

There are five Fallen Angel vitolas sold in the affordable $6-8 range: Churchill (7 x 48), Double Toro (6 x 60), Toro (6 x 50), Torpedo (6 x 52), and Robusto (5 x 52). The latter—gifted to me by the fine folks at CigarsFor.Me—is box-pressed with a clean, moderately oily wrapper that’s almost vein-free. The cap is executed well, the seams are barely noticeable, and the pre-light notes remind me of dry earth and milk chocolate.

As I set the light, I notice the draw is a little stiff. Still, once the foot is burning evenly, each puff seems to yield ample smoke. Once underway, a medium-bodied profile emerges with notes of oak, black pepper, and a syrupy sweetness. I find the flavor balanced and pleasing, though not terribly complex.

After an inch, a spicy aftertaste of cinnamon and cedar introduces itself—just in time to pique my interest after a start that’s, frankly, a little lackluster. Tastes of cream and pecan join the fray at the midway point. The final third is characterized by more intensity and more spice, though I can’t say the Robusto ever leaves the medium-bodied spectrum.

Throughout, the physical properties are exactly what you’d expect from Tabacalera Fernandez in Estelí: superb. The white ash holds incredibly well, the burn never requires so much as a touch-up, and the draw opens nicely after the first few puffs.

This is not A.J. Fernandez’s finest cigar, and I doubt it will amaze anyone. That said, it’s tasty, well-built, and affordable. You might consider keeping a few on hand for an afternoon complement to coffee, or to share with guests who are infrequent cigar smokers (this is a very approachable smoke). Overall, I rate the Fallen Angel Robusto three stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Emilio AF1 Corona

15 Nov 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.”

Emilio AF1 Corona

Ever been disappointed by an AF1 from Emilio? Me either. This Corona (5.5 x 44) would be no exception. Made in Estelí by A.J. Fernandez—for whom the cigar is also named—the blend sports a dark, toothy San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos. The balanced, full-bodied flavors include black pepper, espresso, and creamy nut. The texture is thick and leathery. This is my favorite size in the AF1 portfolio, and well worth the reasonable asking price of about $6.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Where Are You, Cigar Lounges?

12 Nov 2014

Winter is coming. For those who don’t relish braving the harsh outdoor elements, the season is a stark reminder of the scarcity of indoor locales in which to enjoy a fine cigar.

Government-imposed smoking bans have outlawed many bars, restaurants, and other establishments from offering cigar-friendly accommodations. In certain municipalities, private residences in multi-unit buildings have even been targeted. The result? In the winter, a multitude of cigar smokers must either curtail their cigar consumption until the weather improves; smoke out in the cold; build some kind of cigar sanctuary at their home, if possible; or find a welcoming cigar lounge, however far away.

Cigar Masters

The latter can be surprisingly challenging. Depending on your region, your options may be extremely limited. My work-related travels regularly take me far away from my cozy den. When they do—especially in the winter—I’m confronted with the same challenge: How do I find a convenient, well-appointed lounge where I can fire up a good smoke?

I’ve written before about some of my criteria for optimal cigar enjoyment, as well as how to spot a good lounge/tobacconist. Generally, I’m looking for a welcoming environment with plenty of space, a good selection of cigars at fair prices, and the ability to enjoy an adult beverage with my cigar (either purchased at the lounge, or BYOB).

Sometimes, depending on where I am, I’ll need to drive 30 to 60 minutes or more just to find a suitable spot. A good example: Last week I was in Hartford, Connecticut—the sort of city that has plenty of business travelers (think insurance and finance) for whom a cigar lounge would be a wonderful refuge after a day full of meetings. Sadly, the only cigar shop in town closes early and doesn’t have much space. So I find myself having to drive to New Haven to visit The Owl Shop (which is a lot of fun, by the way).

In other instances, I’ll find myself near an upscale, members-only cigar lounge where my only option would be to pay a $50 entrance fee. I’ve never actually done this, mind you, since I can’t reconcile having to pay $50 for the right to buy a smoke and sit in a chair.

True, some places have great cigar lounges (I’m looking at you, Cigar Masters in Providence, Rhode Island). But with premium cigar consumption—and bourbon consumption—on the upswing, I’m still amazed at how hard it can be to locate a suitable lounge in some areas. And it seems like every good lounge I visit is always packed with people paying good money for premium cocktails and higher-priced cigars.

The good news? Thanks to mobile technology, social media, etc. it’s easier than ever to find the nearest smoke-friendly option. It’s just unfortunate the “nearest” often isn’t all that near.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Cigar Masters

 

Cigar Review: Azan Maduro Natural Campana

10 Nov 2014

About a month ago, I reviewed the Premium Line, the most expensive brand to date from Roberto P. Duran Premium Cigars. Impressed, I set out to round off our coverage of the company’s Azan line by trying the Azan Maduro Natural for the first time.

Azan Maduro Natural CampanaAzan is an old Cuban cigar brand that was revived by Roberto Pelayo Duran and reintroduced at the 2013 industry trade show. Azan was originally 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. Maduro Natural includes filler tobaccos from Estelí and Jalapa, a Nicaraguan binder, and a dark Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper that reportedly takes over 22 months to process. “This Maduro wrapper is very oily and naturally dark [hence, “Maduro Natural”] while maintaining the sweetness of the Corojo,” according to the manufacturer. “The beauty of the wrapper comes absolutely natural without any additive.”

Azan Maduro Natural comes in two sizes: Robusto Extra (5.5 x 52) and a belicoso called Campana (5.5 x 52). The latter retails for about $10 and comes complete with a well-executed cap, a firm packing of tobaccos, and pre-light notes of espresso, leather, and earth. The cold draw is moderately tight.

After setting an even light, a spicy, full-bodied profile abruptly announces itself. There’s no easing into this smoke. Right at the outset, bold, rich flavors of coffee bean, roasted nut, and black pepper hit the palate with a thick, leathery texture.

Background tastes include sweet cream and cinnamon. Aside from the additions of cocoa and warm tobacco in the final third, I don’t find many changes from light to nub.

While the complex flavor leaves little to be desired, the two samples I smoked for this review did not perform as well in the construction department. For one, the draw is stiffer than I would like (even though the smoke production is solid). Second, the burn line is often ill-behaved, requiring touch-ups along the way to stay even. That said, flavor is king. And the Azan Maduro Natural Campana has flavor in spades. As an after-dinner smoke and a complement to bourbon, this belicoso is an excellent choice and 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: Kuuts Nicaraguan Blend Toro

3 Nov 2014

This summer, Kuuts launched Nicaraguan Blend. The new line is likely a response to the popularity of Nicaraguan tobacco, and yet another example of a non-Nicaraguan brand introducing a Nicaraguan-themed cigar.

Kuuts Nicaraguan Blend ToroKuuts Nicaraguan Blend started shipping to retailers only recently. It sells in the affordable $5-7 range, and is available in 5 formats: Momentos (4 x 48), Pequeño (4.5 x 58), Robusto (5 x 52), Gordo Especial (7 x 60), and Toro (6 x 52). The blend recipe calls for Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos surrounded by an Ecuadorian wrapper. It is marketed as a “solid, medium-bodied cigar.”

Like the other Kuuts brands—including Miró, Placeres Reserva, and Tabacalera Zapata—the Nicaraguan Blend is made at the Compañia Hondureña de Tabacos (CHT) factory in Jacaleapa, Honduras. “Although the Danlí region is the source for a large percentage of the cigars manufactured for worldwide distribution, we have the advantage of owning and operating our own factory,” reads the Kuuts website. “Our factory [can produce] over 6 million cigars a year. With 98 pairs of rollers working in a family atmosphere, CHT has the ability to keep all aspects of the manufacturing process under one roof.”

The Nicaraguan Blend Toro has a light brown, almost pale exterior with little tooth or oils. It’s firm to the touch with a neat cap and an interesting band of black and metallic orange. The pre-light notes are subtle and sweet, and the cold draw is firm.

After setting an even light, I find the initial profile to be light, creamy, and characterized by sweet bready notes with some roasted nuts. The texture is smooth and the body is medium to medium-mild. Then, after the first inch, the Toro begins to taste a little more like what I’d expect from a Nicaraguan-heavy blend: black pepper spice, dry wood, and a bit more overall strength.

Still, even into the final third, the strength remains low and the body doesn’t seem to increase beyond medium. Late-arriving flavors include cinnamon and more sweet cream. All the while the burn line stays true and the gray ash holds well. The draw is a little tight for my liking and the smoke production is slightly below average.

Kuuts has a bigger footprint in Europe, where (generally speaking) the Cuban-esque profile reigns supreme. Perhaps that helps account for why the Nicaraguan Blend tastes so non-Nicaraguan (at least to me). The name of the cigar aside, the Nicaraguan Blend Toro is a nice smoke with balanced, subdued flavors that will strike a chord with less-frequent smokers, as well as experienced cigar fans who seek a morning complement to a cup of coffee. I award it three stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys