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Quick Smoke: Sobremesa El Americano

28 Nov 2015

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.”

Sobremesa El Americano

It has only been a few weeks since I reviewed Sobremesa, the debut blend from Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. But I couldn’t resist the temptation to light up another. Plus, I was eager to see how the blend would perform in a different vitola. This time I decided to try El Americano (6 x 52), a toro that, like the Cervantes Fino, boasts an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper, a Mexican binder, and a filler blend of Pennsylvania Broadleaf Ligero with four different Nicaraguan tobaccos. The taste is balanced and complex with a syrupy texture and hints of dark cherry, spices, coffee, and some cocoa sweetness. It’s not unlike the Cervantes Fino—which is definitely a good thing—though perhaps the overall impact is a little less full-bodied. With an MSRP of $12.45, this is not an inexpensive smoke, but it’s one that’s worth every penny and teeming with rich flavor.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Palina H-Town Lancero (Stogies World Class Cigars Exclusive)

23 Nov 2015

Lancero fans have long lamented the trend towards large ring gauge cigars. If, like me, you tend to favor thinner vitolas over thick smokes, you’ve got to be a fan of what the folks at Stogies World Class Cigars have been up to.

La Palina H-TownBased in Houston, Stogies boasts a huge store, a public lounge, an online shop, and a series of exclusive lanceros called H-Town. Stogies has commissioned some of the industry’s best brands to produce its family of lanceros, including Crowned Heads, Quesada, Tatuaje, Room 101, Fratello, and La Palina.

In the case of the La Palina H-Town Lancero, the cigar is an entirely new blend. While the band is similar to the La Palina Black Label, the recipe is decidedly different. Filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua are wrapped in an Ecuadorian binder and an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. Only 500 boxes of 10 will be made at the Pinar del Rio factory in the Dominican Republic.

In terms of appearance, a few things immediately strike me about the La Palina H-Town Lancero (7 x 38). For one, the cap is a work of art. In addition, the exterior is notably silky, oily, and smooth. Finally, the pre-light notes off the foot remind me of dried apricot, which is certainly unique and interesting.

Once clipped, the moderately spongy cigar yields a cold draw that’s easy, especially for a lancero. After setting an even light with a single wooden match, the initial profile is creamy, nutty, and bready with a significant kick of cayenne spice on the finish. Citrus, oak, and honey play background roles and help add to the cigar’s balanced, rounded, medium-bodied taste. At times the cigar is dry, sharp, and cedary, while other times it’s dominated by mouth-watering creaminess. The final third builds in intensity to a level I’d characterize as full-bodied.

There’s a lot of complexity. Thankfully, the combustion qualities won’t stand in your way of enjoying this lancero. The burn line is imperfect yet serviceable, the gray ash holds well off the foot, the smoke production is solid, and the draw remains clear throughout.

The La Palina H-Town Lancero retails for $8.95 per single, or $80.55 per box of 10. That’s a fair price point for a smoke with so much to offer in terms of intricacy, balance, performance, and taste. Fortunately, if you’re not in the Houston area, you can still give this a try by placing an order online. I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed. I’m awarding this excellent lancero four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Flor Dominicana Ligero L-400

21 Nov 2015

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.”

I can’t remember that last time I lit up a La Flor Dominicana smoke, which is truly amazing given how consistently solid the brand is. This realization hit me as I was scanning the selection of a walk-in humidor at a cigar shop. So I picked out a Ligero L-400 (5.75 x 54). This Ecuadorian Sumatra-wrapped smoke, which features Dominican binder and filler tobaccos, has a balanced profile of sweetness, cream, and subtle spice with a straight burn and a solid ash. I found it to be a good value at $7.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Norteño Edicion Limitada Churchill

18 Nov 2015


In May 2014, Drew Estate announced Willy Herrera as its new “master blender.” The move did not place Herrera in charge of La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate; rather, he was charged with maintaining current blends, producing new ones, and reporting directly to Jonathan Drew. The news came just a few days after Nick Melillo left Drew Estate, where he served for 11 years with responsibilities ranging from purchasing and fermentation to quality control and shipment planning. And it also came after Steve Saka left the company.

Drew EstateAt the time, Willy Herrera’s biggest contribution to Drew Estate was Herrera Estelí, a five-vitola line of Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped cigars with a Cuban-esque flavor profile (a sixth vitola, a Toro Tubo, was added later). The blend was well-received within the online cigar community, and also in mainstream publications. The Herrera Estelí Piramide Fino was named the eighth best cigar of 2013 by Cigar Aficionado.

In July 2014, Drew Estate announced Willy’s highly anticipated follow-up to Herrera Estelí: the Herrera Estelí Norteño. Norteño translates to “northerners,” which is what people in Nicaragua call those who live around Estelí. The blend features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, a Honduran binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua. There are six original vitolas, all box-pressed and all made at Drew Estate (despite preliminary reports listing Joya de Nicaragua as the factory of manufacture).

This September, retailers received a seventh Norteño vitola called Edicion Limitada Churchill (7 x 48). The flattened box-pressed smoke—almost rectangle-pressed, if you will—lends itself, I think, to a punch cut, which is all that’s needed to reveal an easy cold draw. The dark, slightly reddish, moderately oily cigar has potent pre-light notes of cocoa, sweet hay, and damp earth off the foot. The feel is consistently firm throughout.

Once lit, a chalky, medium-bodied flavor emerges with tastes of dark chocolate, black coffee, creamy nut, brown sugar, and a little cayenne spice. The finish and retrohale both exhibit a soft black pepper spice, though the overall level of spice is quite muted. Throughout the smoke, there’s an interesting interplay between what I’d call moist chocolate cake, oak, and coffee.

Construction is outstanding. The draw is very easy, the smoke production above average, the burn line straight, and the sandy, white ash holds well off the foot.

Maybe it’s my palate, maybe it’s the size, or maybe it’s some combination of the two, but the Edicion Limitada Churchill is more flavorful and less spicy than the pre-release sample I reviewed in June 2014. I’ve smoked a fair number of Norteños since, and I’m pretty confident this new size is my favorite—even with the $14 price tag. Make sure you try it before the limited run is up. This is a winner that’s worthy of an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje The Hyde

11 Nov 2015

Hyde Smoking

“Hopefully I can hang on to a few The Jekyll’s to do a side-by-side comparison next year.” That’s what I wrote back in November 2014 in my review of last year’s Monster Series cigar from Tatuaje. I can actually remember typing the word “hopefully” while knowing it was highly unlikely I’d have the willpower to keep my hands off my box of The Jekyll, a cigar I rated four and a half stogies out of five.

The HydeAs it turns out, my 10-count box is long gone, and with it my ability to do a suitable side-by-side comparison of this year’s follow-up, The Hyde. Fortunately, my colleague informs me he still has a few The Jekyll’s in stock, and he was also able to recently purchase a box of The Hyde; so I expect a Face-Off from him shortly. After all, comparing the two cigars is only natural. They’re based on similar blends, and both are a nod to the 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Thanks to the well-publicized rarity of Monster Series cigars, the success of Tatuaje’s marketing, and the sterling reputation Pete Johnson’s company has amassed over the years, I probably don’t need to remind you that, since 2008, Tatuaje has released an annual Monster Series smoke around Halloween. Each celebrates one of Johnson’s favorite characters from the horror genre, including The Frank, The Drac, The Face, The Wolfman, The Mummy, and The JV13 (Jason).

As is tradition, Johnson produced 666 “dress boxes” of 13 The Hyde cigars, with 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.

Like The Jekyll, The Hyde measures 7 inches long with a ring gauge of 49 and has a tapered, rounded cap. Whereas The Jekyll featured a lighter Ecuadorian Sancti Spíritus wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, The Hyde sports a darker Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Hyde is also distinguished by its green band with write font; The Jekyll had a white band with green font.

The Chuchill-sized smoke is notably oily with a few prominent veins and some imperfect seams. The uneven coloring makes it particularly rustic in appearance, though I find the cap style is quite appealing. At the foot, the pre-light notes are incredibly sweet and chocolatey with a hint of damp earth.

The flavor reminds me of the Frango chocolate mint candies that used to be found at Marshall Field’s in Chicago. Creamy, sweet, chocolaty, minty, and mouth-watering. Background notes include graham cracker, light cedar spice, tea, caramel, herbs, and almond. Smoking too quickly tends to bring out some bitterness, but a paced approach will yield a medium-bodied profile that’s sweet, creamy, and enjoyable.

Throughout, the draw is a little stiffer than I would like, which also limits the smoke production. The burn line—while not necessarily perfect—is well-behaved, and the ash holds well off the foot.

To date, my favorite Monster Series smokes have been The Mummy, The Franc, and last year’s The Jekyll, which is spicier and more bready than The Hyde. That said, The Hyde stacks up quite well to its predecessors. And you have to give a lot of credit to the uniqueness of the flavor (which is what you want from a $13 cigar that will be tough to track down). That’s ultimately what makes this creamy, minty, chocolaty candy bar of a cigar worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sobremesa Cervantes Fino

9 Nov 2015

Cervantes Fino

No new cigar is as highly anticipated as Sobremesa (at least among the more serious cigar smokers). And it goes without saying that all of the well-deserved buzz can be attributed to Steve Saka. Sobremesa marks Saka’s triumphant return to the industry after a two-year non-compete with Drew Estate—where he played a critical role in growing the company into a Nicaraguan juggernaut.

Sobremesa was announced in July to almost instant excitement as the first line from Saka’s new independent cigar operation, Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. And while Saka has always displayed humility and, at times, apprehension over how Sobremesa would be received—I’ve heard him use the phrase “unnerving”—his modesty has done little to subdue the overwhelming enthusiasm. But now, finally, after all the discussion on social media, Sobremesa is hitting retailer shelves.

SobremesaChances are Sobremesa will find its way to a tobacconist near you. Retailers were clamoring to place orders with Saka at the IPCPR Trade Show this summer in New Orleans. As a result, as Saka recently told me, “We currently have 108 active accounts, and 126 on an active waiting list. We have inquires by another 19 accounts pending.” That’s a heck of a lot of interest for the debut cigar from a new cigar company, especially when you consider Saka didn’t give away any samples at the convention because he felt the cigars weren’t quite ready.

Sobremesa—an idiom from the Latin world that refers to the leisurely time spent tableside after a meal—features 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 handmade at Joya de Nicaragua. Production is currently capped at 1,000 boxes per month, despite Saka being “grossly oversold,” to maintain quality.

Cervantes Fino (6.25 x 46, $11.45) is one of 6 vitolas, all of which are sold in 25-count boxes. It sports a regal word-less band of gold and mocha, along with a foot band that reads “Sobremesa.” The dark wrapper on the lonsdale is silky and oily, and the pre-light notes remind me of milk chocolate. A punch cut is all that’s needed to reveal an easy cold draw.

To my taste, the profile can best be described as full-bodied, complex, and balanced with loads of rich flavor and a delicate peppery zing. I pick up hints of cocoa, dark cherry, café au lait, baking spices, and creamy caramel. The texture is thick and syrupy. The finish includes a blanket of light pepper across the palate with abundant sweetness. Construction is superb, including a straight burn, intense smoke production, and a solid white ash that hangs on tight.

What stands out about the blend is how approachable it is given the full body. Sobremesa has tons and tons of flavor, yet it’s really easy to smoke and conservative with the spice. Consequently, the Cervantes Fino in particular is the kind of cigar that makes you want to fire up another right away. That’s one of the best compliments I can pay a cigar.

Steve Saka will be the first to tell you nothing ever goes completely to plan in the world of cigars, particularly all the back-end logistics associated with setting out on your own for the first time. But you sure wouldn’t know it to smoke the Sobremesa Cervantes Fino. This is a memorable, expertly blended achievement that’s completely worthy of the price tag. For me, no rating is more appropriate than five stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here. A list of other five stogie-rated cigars can be found here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Liga Privada No. 9 Box Press (Lounge Exclusive)

7 Nov 2015

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.”

Liga Box Press

In September, six exclusive cigar sizes were announced for the new Drew Estate Lounge at Corona Cigar Co.’s location in Sand Lake, Florida. The sizes are all presented in a toro format (6 x 50), with half featuring a soft-press and half a box-press. The blends include Undercrown, Liga Privada No. 9, Herrera Estelí, Natural, Tabak Especial Dulce, and Tabak Especial Negra. The Liga Privada No. 9 Box Press sports perfect construction, massive smoke production, and flavors reminiscent of dry wood, black pepper spice, espresso, and sweet cocoa. It’s a bit flat compared to the smokes in the regular Liga No. 9 lineup, missing some of the punch and substituting a bready texture for the familiar oily, rich density that, to me at least, is a hallmark of the brand. That said, the Box Press is absolutely a good cigar in its own right if you can light it up without expecting the normal Liga No. 9 experience.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys