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Stogie Tips: Practice Proper Cigar Etiquette

15 Aug 2018

[Editors’ Note: From time to time, StogieGuys.com will reach back into its extensive archives to update and re-publish some of our oldest articles, many of which focused on cigar basics. Our hope is to encourage a discussion among readers and reacquaint the community with important cigar fundamentals.]

Cigar smokers are all Wall Street fat cats who are condescending, elitist snobs that are out of touch with everyday, hard-working Americans.

That’s how Hollywood often portrays us lovers of the leaf, and many non-smokers simply accept this stereotype as reality. While you and I know that nothing could be further from the truth—that cigars are an affordable luxury enjoyed by wearers of blue collars and white collars alike—it’s important to keep this stereotype in mind. We should do our best not to reinforce it, especially when we’re around non-smokers. This is best accomplished by adhering to a reasonable code of conduct.

Where to smoke. When you’re smoking on your own property alone, you can obviously feel free to smoke away. But if you have a non-smoking guest in your presence, it never hurts to ask. “I’d like to smoke a cigar. Do you mind?” In my experience, rarely, if ever, will the guest object. But he or she will always appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Be a good patron. If you happen to be off your property, perhaps at a bar or restaurant that isn’t covered by a smoking ban, follow the rules of that establishment. Some places allow cigarette smoking but prohibit cigars. Others allow cigars in only certain sections. Most forbid cigars altogether. Whatever the case, ask the owner or an employee what the policy is, and then follow it politely. (That said, if I’m in a rare setting where cigar smoking is allowed, I won’t ask other patrons for permission; if the permission is granted by the rules/owner, that’s good enough for me, and there are plenty of other places for people who are offended by cigar smoke.)

Share, don’t impose. Whether you’re about to smoke at home or out on the town, don’t hesitate to offer others in your group a cigar. But remember that offering is a lot different than pressuring. Conversely, if you’ve accepted the gift of a cigar, be sure to reciprocate the generosity next time. No one likes a mooch.

Ash in an ashtray. Floors, potted plants, and toilets are not ashtrays and should not be treated as such. Be respectful of your surroundings. If you’re somewhere falling ash won’t be a problem (say, on a golf course), go ahead and let your ash accumulate for an inch or more. But if you’re at a fancy cocktail party standing on a $15,000 Persian rug, ash early and ash often.

Remove the band when you want to. While some say it’s showy and impolite to leave the band on your cigar while you smoke it, I couldn’t disagree more. In my experience, leaving the band on is a great conversation starter that helps cigar aficionados meet one another. It also minimizes the risk of the band’s glue from tearing or unraveling a fragile cigar wrapper.

Don’t accept a cigar you don’t want or don’t have time for. If you’re lucky enough to be on the receiving end of cigar generosity, politely decline if you don’t have the inclination or time to fully enjoy the smoke. It can be perceived as rude to accept a cigar and then set it down at the halfway mark.

Be a good cigar customer. When visiting a cigar shop, handle the merchandise with care and follow the proprietor’s rules. Damaging the cigars (even slightly), shoving the product up your nose, disrupting the display, taking un-purchased merchandise into the bathroom, smoking cigars in the shop/lounge you purchased elsewhere, and other errors of common sense should be avoided.

On the whole, cigar enthusiasts are among the nicest, most personable people on the planet—a far cry from how we’re portrayed in movies or on TV. Let’s all do our part to keep it that way. Pass on the knowledge you’ve accumulated, but be open and mindful of other opinions. Pay generosity forward. Treat others as you would like to be treated. And have a great time.

Patrick A

 

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Interlude Maduro Carrillitos

13 Aug 2018

I’ve been working my way through the Interlude line from E.P. Carrillo this year, thus far writing reviews on the Natural Rothschild Jr. and the Maduro Rothschild Jr.

At first, my attraction to the pint-sized cigars was inspired by the temperatures of a Chicago winter; more recently, I’m drawn to the cigars for their ability to pack a premium cigar experience into a short time period—a plus when you’ve got two small children and a third on the way.

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo launched Interlude in 2016. There are two blends each presented in two small formats: Carrillitos (4 x 38) and Rothschild Jr. (3.75 x 48).

The Natural version of “Ernesto’s shortest cigar ever made” sports a Connecticut wrapper (same as the New Wave Reserva) around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Maduro boasts a Mexican San Andrés wrapper (same as La Historia) around an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan filler.

Both were hard to blend “because the dimensions limit the amount of tobacco that can be used,” Ernesto Perez-Carrillo shared via email. “So the proportions have to be just right to get the flavor profile sought.”

I smoked a handful of cigars in the Interlude Maduro Carrillitos format for this review. This cigar is neatly presented in a regal five-pack that retails for $15 (or $3 per cigar). The beautiful packaging is offset by the rustic, wrinkled appearance of the wrapper leaf. It is veiny, toothy, and mottled with moderately loose seams.

The firm, lumpy Maduro Carrillitos has a stiff cold draw and pre-light notes reminiscent of cocoa powder and damp earth. A single match is all that’s needed to establish an even burn. Once underway, I find a medium- to full-bodied profile of black pepper spice, cherry sweetness, dark chocolate, and cedar.

After a quarter-inch or so, the draw mercifully opens up nicely. At the same time, there is a shift in flavor away from spice and towards creaminess. Here, flavors include dry oak, marshmallow, and café au lait. This is where things remain until the final third, which is characterized by a reprise of black pepper and cedar spice.

The physical properties are outstanding. All of my samples exhibited straight burn lines, sturdy ashes, and good smoke production. The only blemish is the tight draw at the outset.

When I started to get serious about cigars about 12 years ago, the most challenging scarcity was the cost of the hobby. Now, the biggest constraint is time. I can’t seem to carve out 90 to 120 minutes nearly as often as I would like.

That’s why the Interlude series strikes a chord with me. E.P. Carrillo found a way to deliver much of what I love most about cigars into more manageable formats. For that, I’m thankful. I’ve especially been impressed with the San Andrés-wrapped Maduro Interlude cigars. Like the Rothschild Jr., I’m awarding this one a very solid 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: L’Atelier Imports Extension de la Racine ER13

12 Aug 2018

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.”

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Released in 2013, this cigar from Pete Johnson’s L’Atelier Imports was built to have the same dimensions as the Cohiba Siglo VI (5.9 x 52). That said, its makeup—a Nicaraguan sun-grown Criollo wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos—doesn’t yield a flavor profile that resembles the famed Cuban smoke. Still, it’s good in its own right, with excellent combustion qualities and a balanced taste of rich caramel, cream, and dry oak with a bready texture. It originally sold for $9.25. If you can track one down, pick it up.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Villiger Flor de Ynclan Lancero Especial

8 Aug 2018

Last summer, Villiger Cigars introduced the Flor de Ynclan line. Actually, it was more of a re-introduction. Villiger originally debuted the line, which takes its name from an old Cuban brand, back in 2007.

Eleven years ago, a “small batch” of La Flor de Ynclan was crafted by Villiger with unsatisfactory results, leading to a decision to cease production. The 2017 re-introduction, therefore, wasn’t merely a second go-around with the same recipe. It had been re-blended by José Matias Maragoto—overseer of all Villiger-made product in the Dominican Republic—to feature an Ecuadorian wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos.

Villiger got it right this time, according to Heinrich Villiger, chairman of Switzerland-based Villiger Soehne AG: “The La Flor de Ynclan cigar has been an ongoing labor of love for us. We feel that there is a difference between a good and great cigar, [and] Matias Maragoto and I hope you feel the same.”

La Flor de Ynclan is handmade at the ABAM Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic. It has three regular-production formats: Robusto (5 x 50, $11), Torpedo (5 x 52, $12), and Churchill (7 x 48, $12).

In addition, this year a limited edition Lancero Especial (6.75 x 43, $11) was added; only 500 boxes of 25 will be made annually. This vitola has a pigtail cap and, like its 2017 predecessors, sports a metallic band of silver, blue, red, and black (in case you’re wondering, the 2007 La Flor de Ynclan band depicts an enrobed woman posing with two spears and one hand atop a globe).

In terms of flavor, the Lancero Especial can be thought of as a more concentrated, slightly stronger version of the Toro I reviewed over a year ago. The core profile of oak, cream, and cinnamon is very similar, though the body is decidedly medium instead of mild- to medium-bodied. In the background, attentive smokers will notice hints of citrus, vanilla, and almond. The texture is bready.

The cinnamon spice becomes more prevalent toward the midway point. Here, I also find a taste of white pepper. In the final third, there is a shift back to oak and citrus, and the spice is more reminiscent of black pepper.

Across both samples I smoked for this review, the physical properties left little to be desired. Despite being spongy to the touch, the Lancero Especial exhibits a near-perfect burn behind a sturdy ash. The draw has some resistance but is mostly clear. The smoke production is average.

All told, I give the slight edge to the Lancero Especial over the Churchill—but not enough of an edge to change the overall score. I’m sticking with my (very 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: E.P. Carrillo Capa de Sol Sultan

3 Aug 2018

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.”

Until a few nights ago, this specimen had been resting in one of my humidors for about two years. Part of E.P. Carrillo’s “Elite Series,” the Capa de Sol blend sports a dark Ecuadorian leaf around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. In its three other sizes, which range in ring gauge from 52 to 54, I suspect the line is significantly stronger and denser. The Sultan (6 x 60) format, however, renders the blend cool, airy, and slightly subdued. Flavors include sharp red pepper, chalky earth, sweet cocoa, and a bit of black pepper spice. Expect the price to be in the $9 to $10 range. I’d like to try some of the other Capa de Sol sizes because my main reason for not fully recommending this cigar has to do with construction (flaky ash, somewhat burdensome burn) and the fact that it tends to overstay its welcome. If you’re a fan of the gordo size, however, take my criticism with a grain of salt; this just might be up your alley, and there’s a lot to like here flavor-wise.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Clásico Toro

30 Jul 2018

About a month ago, Joya de Nicaragua announced the reintroduction of the Clásico line to the U.S. market. The move to bring back “the first Nicaraguan cigar ever” seems fitting at a time when the company is celebrating its golden anniversary.

“Clásico goes back to America at a moment when we have reached the highest quality standards at the factory in our 50-year history,” said Mario Perez, sales director for Joya de Nicaragua. “But we kept the same blend that the founders of the company created, the blend that once captivated world leaders when it was the official cigar of the White House back in the 70s.”

In a departure from the powerful smokes for which the company is known, Joya is marketing Clásico as “mild” and “creamy.” There are 6 formats, each packaged in 25-count boxes: Churchill (6.9 x 48, $8.50), Toro (6 x 50, $8.15), Consul (4.5 x 52, $7.00), Torpedo (6 x 52, $9.50), Número 6 (6 x 41, $6.50) and Señorita (5.5 x 42, $5.50).

The recipe remains the same as it did decades ago. The wrapper is Cuban-seed Ecuadorian Connecticut, and the binder and filler tobaccos are, of course, Nicaraguan.

I sampled the Toro for this review. In addition to traditional, understated, and—in my opinion—beautiful bands that nicely highlight the golden color of the smooth, buttery wrapper, this cigar has bright, crisp pre-light notes of sweet hay at the foot. The cap clips cleanly to reveal a smooth cold draw.

Once an even light is established, I find a creamy texture and a medium body to the smoke. The flavors include white pepper, oak, and café au lait. Roasted peanut comes to the fore after half an inch; this is the most enjoyable segment of the cigar.

About a third of the way in, there is a notable decrease in what was already a soft spice, and the creaminess ramps up. The profile teeters between mild and medium once you reach the halfway mark. Here, the roasted peanut is now a creamier peanut, and the former base of white pepper and oak is mostly oak. At times, I can pick up hints of melon.

The finale is mellower than I expected. There is no spice, and the overall taste is somewhat papery with a subdued creaminess. As a result, I found myself setting the cigar down earlier than I do with most smokes.

The construction is in line with the standards that are characteristic of Joya de Nicaragua: straight burn, smooth draw, sturdy ash, and voluminous smoke production.

I enjoy mild cigars, but mild cigars need to have flavor. The Clásico Toro has flavor. At times it shines, and at times—especially the final third—it falls a little short. I’m going to try the other sizes to see if this is true across the board, or if other formats behave differently in this regard. For now, I’m awarding the Joya de Nicaragua Clásico Toro three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Interlude Natural Rothschild Jr.

16 Jul 2018

I recently moved from the city to Oak Park, a close suburb of Chicago. The whole process, to say the least, has been stressful and time-consuming. Under normal circumstances, it’s hard enough to find time for a cigar when you’re working full-time and raising two small children (with a third on the way). When you add in the daunting task of unpacking about 75 million boxes… well, you can see where this is going.

I know I’m not the only one with a challenging schedule. Chances are you, too, find it difficult to set aside the requisite time to thoroughly enjoy a fine cigar.

Fortunately, if you need to pack a premium cigar experience into a short amount of time, cigar legend Ernesto Perez-Carrillo has your back. In 2016, he launched Interlude, a line of two different blends, each presented in two time-friendly formats: Carrillitos (4 x 38) and Rothschild Jr. (3.75 x 48).

The Natural version of “Ernesto’s shortest cigar ever made” sports a Connecticut wrapper (same as the New Wave Reserva) around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Maduro boasts a Mexican San Andrés wrapper (same as La Historia) around an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan filler. Given their small size, both were challenging to blend “because the dimensions limit the amount of tobacco that can be used,” Ernesto Perez-Carrillo shared via email. “So the proportions have to be just right to get the flavor profile sought.”

I smoked a handful of cigars in the Interlude Natural Rothschild Jr. format for this review. This cigar is neatly presented in a regal, compact five-pack that retails for $16.25 (or $3.25 per cigar). Unlike the Maduro version—which has a rustic, highly mottled wrapper that’s wrinkled, veiny, and rough around the edges—the Natural has a clean, dry surface. A standard guillotine cut reveals a smooth cold draw. At the foot, I find pre-light notes of honey and graham cracker.

A cigar of this size needs to get off to a fast start. The Natural Rothschild Jr. does just that. The first few puffs are a medium-bodied burst of white pepper, dry oak, and cereals. The texture is bready. A bit of cinnamon spice helps to add balance.

Into the midway point, while the cigar settles a bit in terms of body and spice, the core flavors remain the same. Not much changes in the finale except for an increase in intensity and heat. Throughout, the combustion properties are excellent. The burn line is straight, the smoke production high, and the draw is easy. Notably, the light gray ash holds really well off the foot; on average, I only had to ash once per cigar.

As expected, the Interlude Natural Rothschild Jr. is a solid choice if you’re low on time but high on desire for a premium cigar experience. I’m not rating the Natural version quite as high as the Maduro—which, in my opinion, is more interesting from a flavor perspective—but this cigar still earns an admirable rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys