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Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Original Rebel Maverick 52

27 Mar 2017

Original Rebel

In March 2009, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo ended his nine-year tenure with General Cigar. The move effectively made the Artesanos de Miami his last blend with La Gloria Cubana, the brand he built from relative obscurity to industry prominence.

Original Rebel MaverickPerez-Carrillo parted ways with General to establish his own family-owned boutique. He wasted no time in that endeavor. With a factory in Santiago and a work-in-progress website, the EPC Cigar Co. was up and running in time to debut its first blend at the IPCPR Trade Show that August.

Few in the industry doubted he would be successful in his new venture. That Perez-Carrillo has done well on his own is no surprise to anyone. One industry insider described him to StogieGuys.com as the tobacco world’s “mad genius.” Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley is said to have bestowed Perez-Carrillo with another fitting title: “the original rebel.”

Perez-Carrillo evidently appreciated the compliment. Last summer, he debuted a new blend called Original Rebel Maverick (as well as a Broadleaf maduro-wrapped companion line called Original Rebel Rebellious). It sports a pigtail cap, a closed foot, and an oily, clean, medium-brown Ecuadorian wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Three Maverick sizes are available. I recently sampled several in the “52” format (5.5 x 52), a robusto extra that retails for about $9.

Once lit, pre-light notes of sweet hay and dried fruit transition into a toasty introductory profile of oak, butter, and dry cedar spice. Intermittently, those flavors are accented by a delicious taste that I can only describe as a combination of salted caramel and sweet cream. The effect is one of balance and complexity. I find few changes in flavor or strength from light to nub. At times, notes of leather and some black pepper spice waft in and out, but that’s about it. I don’t consider the consistency in taste a defect, mind you, since the billowy, medium-bodied smoke is satisfying and harmonious.

As for construction, the draw is virtually effortless throughout, and the smoke production is above average—a welcome trait since the resting smoke is sweet and aromatic. The ash holds well off the foot. The burn is imperfect though not troublesome; a torch touch-up is necessary here and there to keep the burn line even.

If the E.P. Carrillo Original Rebel Maverick blend has thus far flown under your radar, I would suggest springing for a single to take it for a test drive. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself buying a box of ten shortly thereafter. In my book, this fine cigar is worthy of an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Nomad S-307 Corona

25 Mar 2017

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.”

S-307 Nomad Corona

Nomad’s S-307 (“S” is for the Sumatra wrapper, “307” for the square mileage of Estelí, Nicaragua) is the company’s first full-production Nicaraguan smoke, handmade at Tobacalera A.J. Fernandez. In addition to its Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, S-307 sports an Ecuadorian Habano binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The line comes in five sizes: Toro (6 x 50), Robusto (5 x 50), Torpedo (6.5 x 52), Toro Grande (6 x 58), and Corona (5.5 x 46). The latter is box-pressed, costs about $7, and has medium- to full-bodied flavors of oak, black pepper, creamy peanut, cedar, and leather. The combustion properties leave little to be desired. I’ve had this cigar in one of my humidors for nearly three years. I’m glad I decided to smoke it. This S-307 Corona was spicy and satisfying.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Take Time to Smoke, Take Time While Smoking

20 Mar 2017

Cigar Watch Time

It’s incredibly cliché but, let’s face it, there just aren’t enough hours in a day—especially if you’re a cigar enthusiast. Between work, commutes, kids, errands, three square meals, taxes, and all the other responsibilities us grown-ups shoulder, how exactly is a human supposed to set aside an hour (more reasonably, 90 minutes) to enjoy some premium tobacco?

The older I get, the harder it gets to find the time. Not only do the days, weeks, months, and years seem to get shorter, but there’s just so much more going on in my life. My job is more demanding. I travel more frequently. And, most importantly, I’m now responsible for the upbringing of two small people I helped make. I would imagine many of you can relate to this (albeit blessed) conundrum.

But we must find the time. We must smoke cigars, even if it means waking up 90 minutes earlier and/or staying up 90 minutes later. We must overcome obstacles like temperature, smoking bans, and—the hardest hurdle of all—the finite number of minutes in each day.

I need my regularly scheduled cigar. Not because I’m addicted to the leaf (unlike cigarettes, I don’t know one cigar smoker who has a physiological dependency on cigars), but because I need to unwind. I need some quiet moments when I can kick my feet up and relish in the aromas, flavors, sights, and sounds of an impeccably made cigar.

I notice many people choose to pair up cigar smoking with another activity, be it golf, driving, walking, or whatever. Some are probably just trying to cram a cigar or two into their busy schedules; others might proactively prefer to not make the cigar the centerpiece of any given experience. Personally, I’ve always found the best way to get the most out of a cigar is to put the rest of the world on hold and just sit down and smoke. Finding the time to do so is the tricky part.

Speaking of time, be sure to take your time while you smoke. Smoke slowly. Cigar enjoyment is not a race, and there’s no prize for finishing first.

Besides, in order to “cook” the tobacco at the right temperature, you should try to limit your puffs to a reasonable pace. When you puff you’re caramelizing the sugars in the tobacco to bring out the flavors. If you puff too often, the temperature will rise, the tobacco will cook too fast, and the smoke may get hot and harsh.

I find this is especially true with full-bodied smokes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone sucking down a ligero-laden cigar like it’s going out of style. I can’t imagine that’s enjoyable. Most things, cigar smoking included, aren’t nearly as pleasant if rushed.

My advice? Carve out some time to smoke a fine cigar and, when you do, make the most of the experience by taking your time.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: A.J. Fernandez Mayimbe Robusto

18 Mar 2017

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.”

Mayimbe

This Mayimbe Robusto had been resting in one of my humidors for about three years before I fired it up the other night. It’s the same vitola my colleague reviewed in 2014 and I later took for a test drive in 2015. It was impressive then, and I think it’s even better today. This Nicaraguan is from A.J. Fernandez—a fixture of the industry who rode a wave of catalog/online sales to cigar stardom. It originally ran about $14 but today can be found in the $10 to $12 range, perhaps less, especially if bought by the box of 10. That makes the Mayimbe Robusto (5 x 56) an easy recommendation. It sports exquisite construction with notes ranging from coffee and cayenne to cinnamon and dry wood. Age has added delightful flavors of sweet cream and roasted nuts. The satisfying, complex profile is the product of a blend that includes a Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper around tobaccos from Nicaragua and Honduras. Reacquaint yourself with Mayimbe if, like me, you haven’t had one in a while.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Arturo Fuente Solaris

13 Mar 2017

Solaris

Years ago, Florida-based retailer Smoke Inn launched the Microblend Series, a program that commissions custom, limited edition blends from top manufacturers. “The Microblend Series not only represents my love and passion for fine cigars but the appreciation and fellowship for the cigar manufacturers that were so amazing to work with on each release,” said Abe Dababneh, owner of Smoke Inn.

Arturo Fuente SolarisToday, the series includes Tatuaje’s Anarchy and Apocalypse, My Father’s El Hijo, Padrón’s 1964 Anniversary SI-15, Quesada’s Oktoberfest Dunkel, Room 101’s Big Delicious, Drew Estate’s Pope of Greenwich Village, and 601’s La Bomba Bunker Buster. One of the earlier additions—and one of the few from the collection I hadn’t smoked, until recently—was Solaris from Arturo Fuente.

“For this Microblend installment, Smoke Inn played no part in the creation of the size or blend,” says the Smoke Inn website. “When Dababneh approached Fuente about making a Microblend, they decided this would be a perfect project for a small batch of cigars made over six years ago. Carlos Fuente Sr. had produced a small batch of belicoso cigars made from Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper that was uniquely light in its complexion. The cigars sat and aged for over six years.”

Solaris has a light brown, slightly reddish, clean wrapper beneath a classic Fuente band of red, gold, and green and a secondary band denoting the Solaris name. It clocks in at 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 49. The well-constructed belicoso cap clips easily to reveal an ultra-clear cold draw. The pre-light notes are incredibly faint, even at the foot; only the slightest hints of sweet hay are evident.

Smoke Inn describes the Solaris experience as follows: “When smoked, we found the flavor mellow yet complex. One could definitely taste the quintessential Fuente flavor profile behind the elegantly aged smoke.” My experience was not dissimilar. I would describe the profile as balanced, bready, medium-bodied, classic, and Cubanesque. Flavors range from sweet cream, roasted nuts, hay, toast, and warm tobacco. There is minimal spice. A pesky sourness can creep in randomly, but this taste can be limited by taking your time between puffs.

As Solaris progresses to the midway point and beyond, the texture takes on a more syrupy character and the intensity ramps up a bit—though, in my opinion, never moves out of the medium-bodied range. The sweetness and nuttiness are awesome at times, difficult to detect at others. All the while the construction is impeccable. The smoke production is high, the ash holds firm, the draw is clear, and the burn is straight.

Solaris sells for $44.75 for a 5-pack or, while not currently available, $89.50 per 10-pack. That means the per-cigar price is $8.95 apiece. That’s a great value, especially if you’d appreciate a classic-tasting, well-constructed, finely balanced, medium-bodied cigar with a profile that will remind you of other fine Fuente smokes. That’s why I’m awarding the Arturo Fuente Solaris an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Mi Querida Fino Largo

11 Mar 2017

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.”

Mi Querida Fino Largo

reviewed this musty, earthy, rich, well-constructed creation from Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust back in October. Since, it has become a regular in my rotation when I’m looking for something full-bodied. The profile is characterized by a grainy texture, ample spice, and flavors ranging from espresso and cinnamon to damp wood and leather. The Mi Querida line is handmade at NACSA employing a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and Nicaraguan tobaccos. If you haven’t tried the blend yet and are a fan of strong Nicaraguan cigars, you’re missing out. The Fino Largo (6 x 48) runs about $9 and is worth every penny.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sobremesa Elegante en Cedros

6 Mar 2017

Elegante

Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust still seems like a very new cigar outfit to me. So I was a bit puzzled to realize it has been over a year and a half since the company’s inaugural line, Sobremesa, debuted at the 2015 IPCPR Trade Show.

Elegante en CedrosTrue, that period of time is nothing compared to the history of longstanding industry flagship operations like Arturo Fuente, La Aurora, Joya de Nicaragua, and the like. Personally, though, it feels like Sobremesa arrived long ago, and that the brand is firmly established.

Maybe that’s because I’ve smoked a ton of Sobremesa since Saka announced it in July 2015. That shouldn’t come as a surprise; regular readers will recall my fondness for the Corona Grande, Gran Imperales, and—especially—the Cervantes Fino. Real estate for Sobremesa has been permanently carved out within my humidor, which is, perhaps, the best complement I can pay a particular line.

Until now, though, the Elegante en Cedros (7 x 50) vitola has eluded me. It’s an extension that was added in 2016. As its name suggests, it comes wrapped in cedar. Like its Sobremesa brethren, Elegante en Cedros boasts an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper, a Mexican binder, and a filler blend of Pennsylvania Broadleaf Ligero with four different Nicaraguan tobaccos (Gk Condega C-SG Seco, Pueblo Nuevo Criollo Viso, La Joya Estelí C-98 Viso, and ASP Estelí Hybrid Ligero). It is made at Joya de Nicaragua.

Beneath the cedar is an oily, velvety, toothy, slightly reddish wrapper leaf with minimal veins and tight seams. The cap clips easily to reveal a smooth cold draw. At the foot, the pre-light notes are cocoa powder, earth, and caramel.

Saka does not subscribe to the blending strategy of trying to make all the vitolas within a line taste as close as possible; rather, he tweaks the core blend to maximize the performance of each format. He calls Elegante en Cedros “the ultimate expression of a sophisticated vitola,” and cites the format is—along with the Short Chuchill (also an extension frontmark)—stronger than the original six sizes.

Out of the gate, Elegante en Cedros is what I’ve come to expect from the Sobremesa blend, but with an added kick of nicotine and concentration on the palate. Flavors include cocoa, cedar, café au lait, baking spices, creamy caramel, and white pepper. Balanced, harmonious, and delicious.

As the white ash builds off the foot and the straight burn moves towards the inch mark, the intensity and spiciness ramps up a bit, though the body still remains in the medium range. Hints of black cherry and cream come and go as the core leans towards stronger cedar and pepper. Beyond that, I noticed few profile changes throughout the 90-minute smoke.

Elegante en Cedros retails for $13.50 and comes packaged in boxes of 13 (cheers to Saka for forgoing the 25-count box presentation for this vitola, making a box purchase more affordable). I may still slightly prefer the Cervantes Fino, but this is another exquisite Sobremesa smoke that’s not to be missed. I award it an exemplary 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