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Cigar Tip: Holiday Guide for Giving the Gift of Cigars

5 Dec 2016


Including today, there are only twenty shopping days left until Christmas. I say “only” because, while that may seem like a long time (to my three-year old it seems like an eternity), rest assured the holiday will be here before you know it.

If you’re like me, you loathe shopping and haven’t bought a damn thing yet. I can’t help you with that. But if you have a cigar enthusiast or two on your list, I am more than happy to offer up some guidance in the form of the following tips:

Only give a box if you’re sure. Some cigar enthusiasts are completely loyal to one brand or one specific blend. If this is the case, you can’t do wrong by buying a box he or she is sure to love. Maybe this isn’t the most original idea—and maybe the box won’t be much of a surprise—but any cigar smoker will tell you that you can never have enough of your favorite smokes, especially if they’re made in limited quantities.

Samplers offer variety. Many cigar enthusiasts don’t have just one favorite cigar. For these folks, we don’t recommend buying a whole box. Instead, samplers are terrific. When you give a sampler of ten different cigars, it’s like giving ten different gifts. The recipient might not love all ten, but chances are he/she will really enjoy at least a few, and you might even be responsible for turning someone on to a new favorite.

Consider cigar accessories. Every cigar enthusiast needs a great table lighter, travel lighter, nice cutter, good ashtray, travel cigar case, humidor, etc. Instead of buying cigars, think about giving the gift of a cigar accessory. Many accessories can be personalized and, unlike cigars themselves, are likely to last for years to come.

Don’t forget cigar rights. Most cigar smokers have a fervent passion for defending cigar rights and opposing tobacco taxes and smoking bans. For these folks, a membership to Cigar Rights of America is an excellent gift. Benefits of membership include supporting professional lobbyists who fight for cigar freedoms, discounts at cigar shops, free cigars, and more.

Many cigar lovers also enjoy bourbon. Cigars and bourbon go together like peanut butter and jelly. I would strongly encourage you to check out our bourbon gift-giving guide, our A-Z Bourbon Guide, and our extensive archive of spirits reviews (all of which also include pairing suggestions). You could do a lot worse than a nice bottle of bourbon and an accompanying cigar or three.

Don’t forget to treat yourself. Lots of cigar purchase opportunities come with a free gift (i.e., a five-pack, a table lighter, a cutter, etc.). Go ahead and take advantage of the offers. You’ve earned it.

Need help? Ask. Find a local tobacconist and don’t be afraid to ask an employee for guidance or suggestions. Any good cigar shop will have helpful, patient, knowledgeable staff. Even if you aren’t a regualr cigar smoker yourself, your visit needn’t be intimidating or unfruitful.

Have other ideas for helpful cigar gift-giving tips this holiday season? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Emilio Cigars Draig Cayuquero Toro

3 Dec 2016

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.”


Before Gary Griffith retired from Emilio—a cigar outfit he founded in 2010 that grew to become a distributor of various boutiques under the House of Emilio umbrella—he introduced Draig Cayuquero. This four-vitola line is comprised of a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Toro (6 x 50) retails for about $12 and yields a medium-bodied, straightforward profile of dark cherry, leather, and musty earth notes. Hints of black pepper and cedar spice come and go, and the combustion properties are fine, though the draw can be a bit tight. I was hoping for more, especially in this price range. And I wasn’t terribly impressed with occasional waves of heat, harshness, and bitterness.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A


photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: How Will Castro’s Death Impact Cigars?

28 Nov 2016


By now you most assuredly know that Fidel Castro—the communist revolutionary who overthrew Cuban President Fulgencio Batista via guerrilla warfare in 1959 and ruled the island nation as a totalitarian dictator until 2006, when he installed his brother at the helm—died on Friday, November 25. He was 90 years old.

Castro’s legacy will be a complicated one. The myriad narratives will be shaped by the biases of the authors who document his life, and by the millions of people who will either mourn or celebrate his demise. These threads of opinion will not abide national boundaries, either; consider that, even among Cubans themselves, there will be those who benefited from Castro’s socialist state, while others did not fare so well.

Those who lost their businesses, land, homes, and even family members will not remember El Presidente fondly. I don’t need to remind you that human rights violations were—and still are—not uncommon under the Castro regime. Consider the following summary of Fidel’s time in power, courtesy of the Washington Post: “It began with mass summary executions of Batista officials and soon progressed to internment of thousands of gay men and lesbians; systematic, block-by-block surveillance of the entire citizenry; repeated purges, complete with show trials and executions, of the ruling party; and punishment for dissident artists, writers, and journalists. Mr. Castro’s regime learned from the totalitarian patron he chose to offset the U.S. adversary—the Soviet Union, whose offensive nuclear missiles he welcomed, bringing the world to the brink of armageddon. Mr. Castro sponsored violent subversive movements in half a dozen Latin American countries and even in his dotage helped steer Venezuela to economic and political catastrophe through his patronage of Hugo Chávez.”

I have my own biases about Fidel Castro. While I do not harbor any personal connection to Cuba, I believe humans flourish in free societies, and the proper role of government is to be limited in power and scope, enabling individuals and businesses to interact with one another on voluntary terms. Cuba lies but 90 miles from America’s shores, yet it serves as a tragic example of the impacts of a politically and economically overarching government. You will not count me among those mourning Castro.

My opinion of the late dictator hardly matters, though. If you’re reading this, you might be wondering what Castro’s death means for your future ability to acquire Cuban cigars—or, perhaps more interestingly, if this event will somehow expedite the ability of non-Cuban cigar makers to start including Cuban tobacco in their blends (assuming this isn’t already happening under-the-radar). Crass as it may seem to think of cigars at a time like this, is, after all, a cigar website.

On one hand, perhaps not much will change. Fidel Castro hasn’t been officially running the country for a decade (his brother, Raúl Castro, was appointed presidential powers in 2006). And even though Congress is unlikely to change its tune on the longstanding embargo, recall that President Obama—via executive order—has made it legal to bring back cigars purchased in Cuba or elsewhere, as long as the cigars are for personal consumption. This was the latest step in the gradual progress of diplomatic normalization that also included the reestablishment of embassies in Havana and Washington.

That said, President-elect Trump made promises to reverse the wheels Obama set in motion. “The death of Fidel Castro is putting unexpected pressure on [Trump] to follow through on earlier promises,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Trump’s top aides said Sunday that he would demand the release of political prisoners held in Cuba and push the government to allow more religious and economic freedoms. Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff, said the president-elect ‘absolutely’ would reverse Mr. Obama’s policies if he didn’t get what he wanted from Cuba.” Still, Trump “could face pushback from U.S. companies now deeply invested in Cuba under the current administration’s policy. Those companies include major airlines, hotel operators, and technology providers, while big U.S. phone carriers have signed roaming agreements on the island.”

Time will tell how the new administration in Washington reacts to the various competing interests related to Cuba. There are plenty of issues and conflicts at play, and cigars are unlikely to be top of the agenda. For now, what seems certain is that the people of Cuba will continue to live under a regime whose main business is the promulgation of extreme political and economic repression. There was a one-party, socialist state during Fidel Castro’s reign; there is a one-party, socialist state with his brother at the helm; and, barring a new revolution, there will likely be a one-party, socialist state long after the 85-year-old Raúl Castro is gone.

Patrick A


photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Intemperance EC XVIII The Industry

26 Nov 2016

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 recently found myself at a cigar lounge on an empty stomach midday looking for something affordably priced with ample flavor that wouldn’t bowl me over. I settled on the Intemperance EC XVIII blend from RoMa Craft. The torpedo-sized The Industry (5.5 x 54) ran me about $8 (including ridiculous Chicago taxes). It hit the spot. Construction was impeccable, and the dry, woodsy, medium-bodied flavor of cedar, pepper, vanilla, and honey really hit the spot. This is an easy recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A


photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Montecristo Espada Estoque

19 Nov 2016

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.”


If you’re in the market for a cigar with a whole bunch of shiny, elaborate bands, look no further than the Espada Estoque from Montecristo. This well-dressed cigar debuted last year as Altadis’ follow-up to the 2014 Montecristo Espada. The Plasencia Family made only 5,000 boxes of 10 in a torpedo (6 x 50) format, the only vitola offered. The tobaccos include a 2013 Jalapa wrapper, 2002 Criollo Jalapa binder, and three filler leaves from Estelí (Corojo 2009), Ometepe (Criollo 2013), and Condega (Criollo 2013). I found a single Espada Estoque in one of my humidors, where it had likely been resting over a year. The initial profile is deliciously nutty with a toned-down black pepper spice and some espresso. Thereafter, the nuttiness fades while pepper and leather come to the fore. The texture is gritty and papery. Construction is excellent, but I expect more from a cigar with an MSRP of $14.50.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A


photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Oliva Serie V Lancero

14 Nov 2016

Occasionally I’ll walk into a tobacconist with a few specific cigars in mind and leave with something entirely different. Or maybe I just end up spending way more than I had anticipated. Such was the case recently when I wondered into one of my local shops only to find a representative from Oliva. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take advantage of the special he was offering and reacquaint myself with some old favorites.

lanceroSerie V has been on the market for a long time. Like many of you, I suspect, the blend was a staple in my rotation years ago, only to be slowly displaced by a constant barrage of newer, trendier smokes. There’s nothing like catching up with a long-lost friend, though, so I decided to re-review a cigar I last wrote about way back in September 2012: the Oliva Serie V Lancero.

This blend is intended “to deliver full body taste while maintaining an unparalleled smoothness,” according to the Oliva website. “This flavorful blend exhibits complex tobacco with rich coffee and dark chocolate tones.” The recipe calls for a Habano sun-grown wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and Ligero filler tobaccos from Jalapa.

I count seven regular-production Serie V vitolas: Belicoso, Churchill, Double Robusto, Double Toro, Special V Figurado, Torpedo, and Lancero. The latter ran me about $8. It measures 7 inches long with a ring gauge of 38 and sports an oily, reddish, smooth wrapper with tight seams. The feel is moderately firm and the foot shows a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos. After the well-executed cap is clipped, the cold draw is quite smooth—especially for such a thin smoke. The sweet pre-light notes remind me of chocolate, caramel, and hay.

On the palate, the Serie V Lancero is much bolder and considerably less sweet than the pre-light notes would have you believe. This is a medium- to full-bodied cigar with ample nicotine kick. Flavors include leather, espresso, black pepper spice, warm tobacco, earth, and a touch of sweetness. Background tastes include subtle hints of sweet toffee, dry cedar, and some dark chocolate.

As the cigar progresses, the profile doesn’t change much, but the spice and intensity dip towards the midway point, only to ramp back up in the final third. I would call the texture leathery—borderline meaty—with enough complexity to keep things interesting from light to nub.

Construction leaves nothing to be desired. The burn is straight, the ash holds fairly well, the draw is clear, and the smoke production is average.

I am electing to slightly change my rating of the Serie V Lancero (I originally awarded it four stogies out of five). It’s hard to say if the cigar is different four years later, or if my preferences, taste buds, and/or standards have somewhat changed. I harbor this impression that one of Oliva’s hallmarks is consistency, so I’m inclined to think it’s more the latter and less the former. In any event, taking everything into consideration, this time I’ve arrived at a score of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Blind Man’s Bluff Robusto

7 Nov 2016


Cladwell Cigar Co. was launched in 2014 by Robert Caldwell with a lineup of Dominican blends. The company seemingly came out of nowhere; its cigars debuted only about eight months after Caldwell walked away from Wynwood Cigars, a co-venture with Christian Eiroa, formerly of Camacho. Most people will tell you eight months isn’t nearly enough time to create and execute a vision for a new brand, but Robert Caldwell isn’t most people.

bmb-robustoThe following year, in 2015, in an effort to reach segments of the market that don’t typically seek Dominican smokes, Caldwell introduced Blind Man’s Bluff. The line is crafted at Agroindustrias Laepe S.A. in Danlí, Honduras—best known as the factory that produces Camacho—using a “their kitchen, our chef” approach. Caldwell says the intention was to make a “Caldwell-eqsue” cigar from tobaccos to which he didn’t previously have access.

The Blind Man’s Bluff recipe calls for an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Honduran Criollo binder, and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Honduras. It is offered in three sizes: Toro (6 x 52), Magnum (6 x 60), and Robusto (5 x 50). (My colleague has also reviewed a Corona Gorda that’s exclusive to Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, Tennessee.)

I smoked a five-pack of the Robusto vitola for this review (the pack was $37.50, or $7.50 per cigar). Beneath the cigar’s interesting and memorable band—which features a black and white portrait of a man in a bowler hat with his eyes smudged out—is a silky wrapper with a few large veins. The Robusto is moderately spongy to the touch with a few soft spots. The pre-light notes at the foot are a combination of earthiness and dried fruit.

Once lit, I find a medium-bodied, bready profile of cedar, subtle black pepper, papery airiness, and warm tobacco. The texture is light yet it has a leathery core. Salt hits the tip of the tongue while a soft sweetness adds balance in the background. The pace at which you smoke drastically impacts the intensity of the salt so, if you’re like me and want to limit that flavor, you’ll want to take your time between puffs.

Into the midway point, the salt begins to fade while green raisin and hints of vanilla join in. This marks the point at which the Robusto is most enjoyable. The final third is characterized by a slight increase in spice and intensity. I will note, however, that I don’t think this cigar ever ventures beyond medium-bodied.

Construction-wise, the burn line leaves something to be desired; touch-ups are needed along the way to keep things on course. The draw is perfect, though, and the smoke production is above average. I would also add the gray, finely layered ash holds well off the foot.

As I burned through this five-pack, I realized the Blind Man’s Bluff Robusto is my personal introduction to the Cladwell Cigar Co.—a surprising revelation given how I have appreciated (from an apparent distance) the unique names and interesting artwork associated with the Caldwell brands. I will be actively seeking out other Caldwell blends to see how they suit my palate. But this Robusto, while certainly not bad, doesn’t seem to deliver much of what I’m looking for. I find it somewhat dry and not as flavorful as I had hoped. For me, it rates a respectable though uninspired three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys