Archive by Author

Cigar Review: Protocol Probable Cause Lancero

11 Nov 2019

I’m not sure how Cubariqueño Cigar Company co-founder Juan Cancel gets any real work done. Being a brand owner surely must entail plenty of grind and grit. Spreadsheets. Forecasting. Sales calls. Long, over-caffeinated nights. Flights to and from the factory. Arduous days spent in airports, rental cars, and countless cigar shops/lounges.

Yet, according to his (often hilarious) Facebook posts, seemingly daily he is at some exotic locale with a wide, toothy, bearded grin. He might be shirtless. He might be with some “internet famous” cigar babe well-known for her bikini-laden Instagram page. He might be dressed as Santa Claus. Wherever he is, and whatever he’s doing, the two constants seem to be (1) a smile as exaggerated as the day is long and (2) a Cubariqueño cigar.

Cubariqueño has been around for four years, having introduced itself to the cigar world in 2015 with a nondescript table at Erik Espinosa’s booth at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans. Founders Juan Cancel and Bill Ives count among their brands Protocol, Protocol Probable Cause, Protocol Official Misconduct, Protocol Gold, and Sir Robert Peel (both Natural and Maduro).

When it was launched in 2015, the Protocol Probable Cause came in two sizes: Robusto (5 x 52, $9.69) and a box-pressed Churchill (6.6 x 48, $9.89). In 2017, a Lancero (7.5 x 38, $10.50) was added. It is made at Espinosa’s La Zona Cigar Factory in Estelí with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos.

I am a fan of lanceros and was eager to try the Probable Cause line in this format. Despite its narrow ring gauge, it has a smooth pre-light draw. It comes handsomely presented with dual bands of red, silver, and black. “La Zona” is inscribed on the back.

Once lit, there is an initial blast of black pepper spice, which is only slightly balanced by a faint background of natural tobacco sweetness. From there, the Lancero settles into a medium-bodied, classic-tasting smoke with a thick, leathery texture.

At the midway point, while the black pepper remains, a spicy red pepper cayenne heat is introduced. Other flavors include steak, dried fruit, and espresso. The overall effect is simultaneously earthy, leathery, and dry. The final third is much of the same.

In terms of physical properties, the burn line isn’t perfect—but it also doesn’t really require any touch-ups along the way. The smoke production is good, and the gray ash holds well.

Bottom line? This is this is a good lancero at a fair price. It may not make my smile as wide and enthusiastic as Juan Cancel’s—not many cigars would—but I’m smiling nonetheless. In my book, the Protocol Probable Cause Lancero earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Quick Smoke: Old Henry Gold Label Toro

8 Nov 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.”

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: Tatuaje The Hyde

1 Nov 2019

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.”

The Hyde Halloween

In 2014 and 2015, Tatuaje’s annual Halloween-themed Monster Series releases were The Jekyll and The Hyde, respectively. The former featured a lighter Ecuadorian Sancti Spíritus wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, whereas the latter sported a darker Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. I liked both, and was pleased to recently discover I still had one The Hyde (7 x 49) in my collection. Halloween night seemed like an appropriate time to revisit it. What I found was, not disappointingly, similar to the review I published four years ago: a medium-bodied smoke with good construction and delightful flavors ranging from chocolate and mint to graham cracker and cream. A little background pepper helps to add balance. I liked The Hyde when it was released, and I liked it last night. I’m not sure I’ll get the chance to smoke another, though.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sir Robert Peel Natural

28 Oct 2019

Sir Robert Peel twice served as prime minister of the United Kingdom in the 19th century. He is also remembered as the father of modern British policing for his founding of the Metropolitan Police Service at Scotland Yard. That legacy has earned Peel a cigar bearing his name and image, courtesy of two former law enforcement officials: Juan Cancel and Bill Ives.

Cancel and Ives launched the Cubariqueño Cigar Co. in 2015 with a nondescript table at Erik Espinosa’s booth at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans. Back then, they were not entertaining delusions of grandeur. They set a goal to open 20 accounts and produced at one factory (Espinosa’s La Zona in Estelí). Before the show was over, they had sold out their inventory.

Flash forward to today and Cubariqueño is still very much a small, boutique outfit. But, in an indication of their continued success, their blend lineup includes Protocol, Official Misconduct, and Sir Robert Peel.

The latter is made at the La Zona Cigar Factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. It comes in two wrapper variations—Ecuadorian Rosado and Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. Each boasts Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, and each is presented in a box-pressed toro format (6 x 52) with a suggested retail price of $12.

Today I’m examining the Natural edition, which features a gold band around the foot. (The Maduro edition has a red band; kudos to Cubariqueño for making it possible to easily identify one versus the other.) It is a handsome, regal-looking smoke with a golden wrapper and an ornate band complete with Sir Robert Peel’s portrait. Pre-light, there are notes of sweet hay at the foot.

As we always do for full reviews, I smoked several Naturals in order to judge consistency—the most recent of which was enjoyed last evening with my father. After lighting up, we both immediately arrived at the same word: “smooth.” This is a soft, smooth cigar with a creamy, buttery texture. At the outset, I would call it mild- to medium-bodied. Other flavor descriptors include toffee, peanut, white pepper, salt, and café au lait.

Moving into the midway point, the flavor increases slightly in intensity, but by no means does it venture any further than the medium-bodied spectrum. That profile is consistent until the final third, when the white pepper transitions to black pepper, the café au lait transitions to espresso, and a hint of licorice enters the equation. Throughout, there are no traces of bitterness or harsh heat.

In terms of physical properties, the burn line meanders a bit but requires zero touch-ups along the way. Other combustion attributes are admirable. The draw is easy, the ash holds really well off the foot, and the smoke production is solid.

So far, this is my favorite of the Cubariqueño lot. It’s a wonderful, classic-tasting, Cuban-esque cigar worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: CAO Session Garage

21 Oct 2019

You won’t find too many details about Rick Rodriquez’s career on his LinkedIn profile. Basically, it says he has been at General Cigar since 1999, and the only role listed is “blender/ambassador.” Not exactly the kind of detail I was hoping for.

General’s website thankfully has more information about Rodriguez. There, we can learn that he distinguished himself as a sales rep to the point where “General Cigar’s team of cigar masters unanimously selected Rick to participate in a rigorous cigar master training program” that brought him throughout the cigar world to learn about “tobacco agriculture, cultivation, aging, processing, cigar rolling, and ultimately, cigar blending.” Not a bad gig.

Fifteen years ago, Rodriquez’s training brought him to Yuri Guillen, who is now manager of manufacturing at General Cigar Dominicana. “Since then, Ricky’s become an accomplished master blender, and he’s been all over the world sourcing the finest, most unique tobaccos for his CAO blends like Flathead, Amazon Basin, and many more of your favorites,” reads the CAO Session microsite. “With the new CAO Session, Ricky’s gone back to his roots, blending his new signature cigar in the Dominican Republic alongside Yuri and his original team.”

Session, which shipped to retailers in early July, is a no-nonsense, everyday smoke inspired by the many cigars Rodriguez smoked in his garage. It is marketed as a medium-bodied, full-flavored stick for any occasion. The recipe includes a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Dominican binder, and Dominican Piloto Cubano and Nicaraguan Estelí filler tobaccos.

There are three Session formats available, each packaged in 20-count boxes: Garage (5.25 x 54, $8.59), Bar (6 x 49, $8.99), and Shop (6 x 60, $9.59). They are handmade in the Dominican Republic and employ a “unique post-fermentation treatment [that] deepens Session’s flavor and darkens its color.”

I sampled three CAO Sessions in the Garage format for this review. As with many Connecticut Broadleaf cigars, it is lumpy and toothy in appearance. The dark, thick wrapper has some noticeable veins and an oily sheen. The dual bands of orange, white, and dark blue—from the perspective of this Bears/Illini fan, a wonderful color scheme—loudly proclaim the blend and invite you to partake in a “session” of your own: “Sit. Smoke. Chill.” Rodriguez’s signature adorns the back.

The cold draw isn’t what I’d call tight but, for whatever reason, I find the Garage slightly more enjoyable if I clip the cap a little further down than I otherwise would.

Once lit, pre-light notes of raisin and damp earth transition to a full-bodied introductory profile of black pepper spice, leather, earth, and a faint sugary note. Sometimes I pick up a hint of citrus. Along the way, these same flavors come and go. At times the profile shines, at times it is muted. Nothing too complex. The final third is hot and somewhat bitter.

While the draw and smoke production are solid, the burn requires multiple touch-ups along the way to keep things burning evenly. As a result, the ash—while holding well—does not layer evenly. I found these physical attributes consistent across all three specimens.

While I certainly respect Rick Rodriquez and all he has accomplished, I think the CAO Session Garage leaves a lot to be desired. The combustion issues could certainly be overlooked if the flavor was consistently exciting. It is not, and that’s ultimately why I’m settling on a disappointing score of two and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Quick Smoke: Paul Garmirian Maduro Corona Grandes

18 Oct 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.”

The PG Maudro line sports a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around an Indonesian binder and filler tobaccos from Brazil and the Dominican Republic. The Corona Grandes (6.5 x 46) has a profile that’s both bold and smooth. The most prominent notes include cocoa, espresso, black pepper spice (which begins strong but fades into the midway point), and roasted peanuts. Construction is superb. At just shy of $13 ($320.80 for a box of 25), it is not an inexpensive smoke. But it’s also a complex, balanced treat that’s not likely to leave you unsatisfied.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Turn Your Zippo into a Cigar Torch with a Zippo Butane Insert

14 Oct 2019

It’s well-known that a standard Zippo lighter uses lighter fluid as its fuel. It is also widely understood—among cigar enthusiasts, anyway—that lighter fluid is ill-suited for cigars. This is because, unlike butane, the preferred cigar ignition fuel, lighter fluid (naphtha) contains chemicals and odors that may alter the taste of your fine cigar. You should avoid it, much like you would avoid using a stovetop, a candle, or paper matches.

In order to modify a Zippo lighter for cigars, the first thing you’ll need is… well… a Zippo lighter. Mine comes courtesy of Zippo from the new Woodchuck USA collection. There are eight lighters in the series, each available in brushed chrome with wooden “emblems” on the front and back. Woodchuck has a “buy one plant one” policy, so each lighter sold contributes to the restoration of forests. Mine, a Compass that retails for $45.95, came with a “find your tree” code that can be entered at the Woodchuck website to see where my lighter’s corresponding tree was planted. In my case, it’s Villamatsa, Madagascar.

Inside the decorative Compass shell is a standard Zippo lighter fluid insert. Removing this is as easy as sliding it out of its chrome shell.

When it comes to replacing it, you have two options: a single-flame butane insert, and a double-flame. The former retails for $14.95, and the latter for $16.95. Both are metal, guaranteed for two years, and—once inserted—equipped with the familiar Zippo snap action.

Out of its package, the double-flame butane insert looks like this. It can be filled (and re-filled) with butane via a valve on the bottom, much the same way you’d fill any butane torch. This is also where you’d adjust the flame size with a small flathead screwdriver.

Installing the butane insert is, as you’ve probably guessed, just as easy as sliding it back into the shell. What you end up with is a stylish, simple, reliable, well-functioning torch. At $62.90 assembled (for the double torch, which is my personal preference) this definitely isn’t the cheapest way to light a cigar. But it’s got to be one of the sharpest. What’s more, and while I’m happy to report back later after I’ve used this for several months, I have every reason to believe this will be a reliable torch for many cigars to come.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys