Archive by Author

Cigar Tip: Maintaining Proper Humidity with Boveda Two-Way Packs

28 Jul 2014

In a perfect world, I would have one large humidor, preferably a walk-in, with all the cigars easily accessible, sorted by name, and labeled with received dates. It would make aging simpler, humidification easier to monitor, and my whole stash more organized.

Reality is much different. At any given time I have anywhere from five to seven humidors. The variance is explained by the fact that, depending on inventory, I sometimes outfit two large Tupperware containers with Spanish cedar to store spillover smokes. While I’d love to just have one humidor instead of a handful of medium- to small-sized humidors, the five traditional wooden humidors all carry sentimental value (i.e., the one I got for my wedding that’s engraved with the wedding date), so I just can’t bring myself to consolidate.

One challenge with this setup is monitoring the humidification levels of each individual humidor. Each humidor seems to hold humidity differently, and that can make proper maintenance difficult. My solution? Once every so often (more often in the winter, when the natural air humidity is lower) I examine and rotate the cigars in each humidor. I also check to see if the humidification device in each humidor needs to be “recharged.” The whole process can easily take upwards of an hour, sometimes two.

Boveda Pack

So I finally broke down and decided to start using Boveda packs instead of the humidification devices that came with the humidors. In all, since I started using Boveda about a year ago, I’ve found my humidity to be more reliable, and there’s much less effort demanded of me to keep my cigars fresh. (Before I get into the details of my experience, I’d like to point out that Boveda is not a sponsor of, and the company did not provide any product for me to review. I’m simply trying to solve a personal humidity control need, and I paid my own money to get the product.)

ChartThe process of ordering Boveda is easy. Simply consult the chart to determine how many packs you’ll need, select your level of relative humidity (62%, 65%, 69%, 72%, 75%, or 84%), and the packs arrive in a few days. It’s preferable to order more packs than you think you’ll need. “It’s impossible for Boveda to over-humidify beyond the RH on the pack,” according to the Boveda website. “That’s why our usage instructions talk about minimums, not maximums. There’s no such thing as using ‘too much.’ More than the minimum will just last longer.”

Once you’ve arranged the packs inside your humidor(s)—feel free to lay them directly on the cigars—you can essentially forget about the hygrometer (which is likely mis-calibrated anyhow) and only worry about changing out your Boveda packs once they’ve dried up. It’s easy to tell when the packs need to be changed because they feel like dry wafers instead of liquid pillows.

When I placed my first Boveda order, I didn’t get enough packs, and most of them dried out after 60 days. In my experience, buying more packs helps drag out the pack life to 90 days. Still, since these packs are $4 apiece, if you need to buy 10 packs every quarter you’re looking at $160 a year just to keep your cigars humidified. That’s a lot of money considering my old method of using distilled water was essentially free, albeit time-consuming.

I generally like Boveda, but haven’t quite come to terms with the cost. So I’m open to suggestions on other, more cost-effective ways to maintain proper humidity without wasting a lot of time. I encourage you to offer suggestions in the comments below.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys / Boveda

Quick Smoke: Crémo Classic Maduro Intrepidus

27 Jul 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.”


This cigar’s velvety notes of espresso, marshmallow, dark chocolate, and dry wood leave a lasting impression on the palate. Even more interesting from the Crémo Classic Maduro is the resting smoke, which has a sweet aroma of candied nuts. This blend—a dark Mexican wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos—also performs well in the construction department, exhibiting a straight burn, solid ash, and good draw with ample smoke production. Pick up a toro-sized Intrepidus if you come across one.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya Red Robusto

23 Jul 2014

Back in April, I visited the Joya de Nicaragua factory in Estelí as part of Drew Estate’s Cigar Safari. At the outset of the tour, Juan Ignacio Martínez—the 31-year-old who was named executive president as his father, Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca, steps away from day-to-day operations—gave us an overview of Joya’s fascinating history. Many know that Joya is the oldest cigar maker in Nicaragua. Fewer are aware of how Joya’s legacy is intertwined with the political unrest in Nicaragua in the 20th century.

Joya Red RobustoBut that is a story for another time. Before walking the factory floor, we were provided samples of an unnamed blend that was under development. I only got to try one—and I had smoked many cigars that day—but I recall it being milder than the traditional Joya profile, very classic-tasting, balanced, and delicious. At the time, I didn’t know this blend would ever hit the market. I hoped it would.

Fortunately, Joya Red, as it is called, was officially announced in early June. It is currently making its worldwide debut at the IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas. Joya Red is intended to be the “new and exciting side of Joya de Nicaragua,” a product of what’s now “the youngest executive team in the industry.” A Nicaraguan puro, it features a lower priming of Habano wrappers, as well as more Viso tobacco and less Ligero than what Joya typically employs. The filler is a mixture of leaves from the Estelí, Jalapa, and Condega growing regions.

Joya Red will be sold in the affordable $5.75-$8 range in four sizes: Short Churchill (4.75 x 48), Robusto (5.25 x 50), Toro (6 x 52), and Cañonazo (5.5 x 54). (The latter was originally slated to be called “Cardinal;” it was likely changed to avoid confusion with the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal.) The Robusto is a handsome, well-made cigar with a nice cap and an unblemished exterior. The cold draw is smooth and the foot has abundant pre-light notes of hay and syrup.

Once lit, I find a medium-bodied, balanced profile of citrus, dry cedar spice, roasted nuts, and a little black pepper. The texture if light and toasty. Nothing else in the Joya portfolio tastes like this. The Robusto is classic with traditional tastes and plenty of balance and complexity. It is simultaneously understated yet full of flavor. The midway point witnesses a tendency to coffee with creamer, and the finish has a slight increase in pepper and spice. All the while the physical properties—ash, smoke production, burn, and draw—are solid.

Already there are a number of Joya Red reviews online, and the consensus is acclaim. After smoking several Robustos, I am adding to that praise. This is an excellent blend that will almost assuredly be on many year-end lists of the best smokes of 2014. For now, I’m awarding the Robusto four and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: El Primer Mundo La Hermandad Costa Fuerte Caballito

21 Jul 2014

Last spring, Abe Flores of Pinar del Rio Cigars (PDR) issued an announcement that PDR would be managing the sales and distribution of the El Primer Mundo (EPM) brand. “This is a great opportunity for the EPM brand,” said Sean Williams, head of the Atlanta-based EPM. “Abe and I have… some good synergies with our overlap on sales reps and key accounts. This move will just make things a lot more efficient for our reps and our retailers.”

EPM Costa Fuerte 1The EPM lines now sold and distributed by PDR include Liga Miami, Epifania, and La Hermandad. The latter, which translates to “brotherhood,” has been made by Abe Flores at his factory in the Dominican Republic since its inception in 2012. (It should be noted that Flores’ factory also produces cigars for other brands outside the PDR-EPM fold, including Gurkha and La Palina).

EPM also has La Hermandad Costa Fuerte, which sports a Bahia Brazilian wrapper, a Dominican binder, and filler tobaccos that include Corojo ’06 from the Dominican and Criollo ’98 from Nicaragua. It is offered in three sizes that retail in the $8-$10 range: Caballito (5 x 50), Embajador (6 x 52), and Consejero (6 x 60).

I sampled three Caballitos for this review. Once I removed the white sleeve that covers the majority of the cigar, I notice this robusto-sized format has a number of fairly large veins across its otherwise smooth surface. The foot shows a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos that give off some earthy pre-light notes. The cap seems hastily applied.

According to the EPM website, Costa Fuerte is intended to be a full-bodied smoke “with complex notes of spice, light coffee, and subtle creaminess.” After torching the foot and establishing an even light, a spice-forward profile of dry cedar takes center stage. The draw is virtually devoid of resistance, which I think adds to the intensity of the spice. It’s almost as though the voluminous smoke is concentrated at the tip of the tongue, rendering the profile salty and abrasive. For me, the sensation is quite agreeable. What’s more, I find it’s even better if paired with rum (Flor de Caña 18, in my case), as the sweetness of the rum offsets the cigar’s spice.

Into the second third and beyond, the Costa Fuerte mellows a bit, replacing some of the dry cedary spice and salt with notes of cream and roasted nut. Here the smoke begins to taste more along the lines of what I consider to be the profile of a classic full-bodied Cuban. It’s more balanced, and very traditional-tasting. All the while, the combustion properties are superb, including a straight burn, effortless draw, and solid ash.

We all know cigar reviews are subjective. I can see how some might be less enthralled by Costa Fuerte, especially since the first third is so dry and spicy. But the Caballito really strikes a chord with me, at least in part because I’m a fan of good cigars to pair with sweet sipping rums in the evening. After smoking through three samples this weekend, I’ve settled on an admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Emilio AF1 Toro

19 Jul 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

I’ve aged this San Andrés-wrapped cigar for a solid two years to see if time might mellow it out, and/or bring to life some new flavors. What I found surprised me: virtually no changes whatsoever. The AF1 Toro (6 x 50) from Gary Griffith’s Emilio Cigars smokes just as it did 24 months ago. Full-bodied with a leathery, spicy texture and notes of raisin, caramel, creamy nut, and espresso. I can’t say the lack of change is disappointing, though. I liked this cigar in 2012, and I like it now—especially after a large meal with some sipping bourbon. If you decide to buy a box, however, don’t feel guilty if you mow through it; several years of patience won’t pay extra dividends.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Bodega Premium Blends Reunión Digestivo Toro

16 Jul 2014

About one year ago, Gary Griffith of Emilio Cigars and House of Emilio—his umbrella of the “best of the boutiques”—announced a new partnership with Bodega Premium Blends (BPB). “BPB offers cigars that embody the company’s passion and commitment to the ‘cigar experience,’” reads the BPB website. “Our philosophy is to capture how and when people enjoy cigars and reflect this essence in our blends.”

DigestivoBPB has four founders headed by Gino Domanico, who serves as president and social media guru (@Cigar_G). The founders do not hide from the fact they weren’t born of cigar lineage. “Their blending pedigree stems from passion and vision, not birth right,” says their website. “Maybe it’s their busy family lives, or the harshness of their northern climate, but the guys at BPB understand the value of time and the relevance of the cigar experience.”

BPB’s cigars include Reunión Aperitivo—a Habano Claro-wrapped, three-vitola line that’s intended to be smoked before a meal—and Reunión Digestivo. The latter, as you’ve likely guessed, is intended to be a bolder, post-meal smoke. Also offered in three sizes, it has a Mexican wrapper around a proprietary binder and fillers of Nicaraguan origin.

The Reunión Digestivo Toro (6 x 52) costs about $10 per single. It’s a heavy, oily cigar with rich pre-light notes of raisin and a firm packing of tobaccos. The exterior is dark and silky, and the cap is applied neatly. The cold draw is moderately firm with some spice on the lips.

Once underway, a spicy, leathery profile of black pepper, espresso, and dry wood emerges. The texture is thick and meaty, and the spice-centric aftertaste lingers on the tip of the tongue. As the Toro progresses, background notes of raisin, dried apricot, and sweet earth come and go. The body is medium to medium-full with a moderate nicotine kick. Down the stretch, a sour meatiness becomes more apparent. A background sweetness—which BPB attributes to a longer fermentation process—keeps things interesting.

The Toro’s physical properties do not detract from the flavor it offers. The gray ash holds well off the foot, and the burn is straight and true. At times, though, the draw can be a little stiff, and the smoke production can be a little stingy.

In all, the BPB Reunión Digestivo Toro is a nice smoke that, frankly, I’d be more excited about in the $6-8 range. I think $10 is asking a lot when you consider the many outstanding smokes that can be had at that cost. That said, this is a respectable after-dinner companion that isn’t so spicy or strong it would drown out a full-bodied red like a Cabernet or Bordeaux. For that, I award it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: My Personal Blend from Drew Estate’s Cigar Safari 2014

9 Jul 2014

I write this acutely aware that none of you (save for Patrick S) will ever get to try this cigar. In fact, right now I’m smoking the second-to-last of its kind. And the final specimen is resting comfortably in my humidor. It will almost assuredly be smoked by no one other than me, probably in the not-too-distant future with a serving of Four Roses Small Batch.

Cigar Safari 2014

But this is not a cigar review, and I’m definitely not doing this to brag. In the interest of cigar education—and for the benefit of those who have never had the opportunity to blend their own cigar—today I’m bringing you my findings from the blend I chose at Drew Estate’s 2014 Cigar Safari. Only ten of these cigars were made, nine of which I brought back from Nicaragua (the tenth was traded to my colleague for a sample of his blend).

For starters, I’d like to point out this is my third blend from Cigar Safari over the past several years. In each case I chose a different wrapper. I chronicled the results of my Connecticut Ecuador and Brazilian Mata Fina blends here.

Each time I’ve blended a cigar, the process has been similar. I’m presented with a menu of pre-selected, pre-fermented, aged tobaccos (so all the hard work is already done). They are organized by filler, binder, and wrapper. Based on the vitola format of my choosing, I’m told how many filler leaves I’ll need. And while barber poles and double-binders are certainly on the market these days, I’m instructed to select just one wrapper and one binder. I wrote more about this process here.

Fortunately, I don’t have to actually roll my cigars. I’m just selecting the tobaccos, and the professionals do all the actual craftsmanship. A cigar bunched or rolled by my own hands would be unsmokable. But, in true Drew Estate fashion, all of my samples exhibited perfect construction, including a solid ash, smooth draw, even burn, and good smoke production.

Here’s what I chose for the actual blend, for which I elected a Toro format (6 x 50):

• Cameroon wrapper

• Connecticut Habano binder (a leaf grown specifically for Drew Estate in Enfield)

• Four filler tobaccos in equal parts

o Seco Piloto Cubano from the Dominican Republic
o Viso Ometepe from the volcanic island in Nicaragua
o Ligero Estelí
o Ligero Jalapa grown specifically for Drew Estate

My intention was to create a spicy smoke with equal parts saltiness and sweetness. I was aiming for the medium-bodied spectrum, counting on sweetness from the wrapper, coupled with spice and strength from the binder. The Seco was added for its fruitiness and aroma, the Viso for its richness and texture, and the Ligero fillers for their power and sharpness.

Cigar Safari 2014 2

I’m really pleased with the result. The profile tastes of crème brûlée, cinnamon, cedar, black pepper, and coffee. The texture is coarse—almost sandy—and the finish is long and spicy. I’d say the strength is medium to medium-full. My only concern is a creeping sour meatiness that comes and goes if you smoke too quickly.

While I think this is by far my best effort to date, I’m not entertaining any delusions of Drew Estate putting it into regular production. That said, this was one of the most rewarding and educational exercises in my tenure of writing about and studying cigars, and I thank you for indulging my desire to write about the experience.

Tomorrow we’ll get back to writing about cigars you actually have a chance of smoking.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys