Archive by Author

Quick Smoke: Gran Habano Blue in Green Corona

21 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.”

Over the fourteen years I’ve been seriously smoking cigars, I can’t say how many Gran Habano creations I’ve sampled. Certainly many. But I can tell you this: The Gran Habano Blue in Green is the best I’ve ever had from the Rico family’s outfit. It is stellar. Released at the IPCPR Trade Show this summer, this line intends to put the “rich nuances of its fillers” on display. Those filler tobaccos are from Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The binder is Nicaraguan, and the wrapper is a golden Connecticut leaf. The Corona (6 x 44) retails for about $9 and boasts a wonderfully balanced, medium-bodied profile of creamy cashew, dry oak, cereals, and floral notes. Construction is impeccable. There are three other Blue in Green vitolas: Churchill, Gran Robusto, and Robusto. I suspect they are all excellent, though I haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying anything but the Corona, which is a limited edition (1,000 boxes of 20 were made). I strongly suggest picking one up at your earliest convenience.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sobremesa Robusto Largo

19 Nov 2019

These days, when cigar enthusiasts think of Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, the “marcas” they’re most likely to conjure are the ones Saka features in his frequent social media posts. Sin Compromiso. The Muestra de Saka iterations, including Nacatamale and (especially) Unicorn. Maybe a close-up of a lit Umbagog taken at Saka’s favorite fishing lake in New Hampshire.

But when I think Dunbarton, I think Sobremesa. Sobremesa was announced in July 2015 to almost instant excitement as the first line from Saka’s new independent cigar operation. It marked the culmination of a two-year non-compete agreement Saka had with his former employer, Drew Estate. Seemingly everyone was clamoring to see how the man who played a critical role in growing Drew Estate into a Nicaraguan juggernaut would fare in his first solo foray.

In my opinion, Sobremesa was—and still is—worth the hype. To date we’ve written about the Elegante en Cedros, Gran Imperiales, Corona Grande, El Americano, and—my personal favorite—the Cervantes Fino. All have received exemplary marks.

Today I look at a Sobremesa vitola that has thus far escaped my reach: the Robusto Largo (5.25 x 52). Like its brethren, the Robusto Largo sports an oily, velvety, toothy, slightly reddish Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper leaf with minimal veins and tight seams. It envelops 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).

The cap clips easily to reveal a smooth cold draw. At the foot, the pre-light notes remind me of cocoa powder, earth, and caramel.

After establishing an even light, I find a creamy, balanced, delightfully familiar profile of café au lait, gentle cinnamon spice, salted nuts, and a bit of cayenne heat. The finish has both black pepper and baking spices. The texture is bready.

As the Robusto Largo progresses, flavors like dark cherry, green raisin, cedar, molasses, and caramel come and go. The texture shifts to thick syrup around the midway point and thereafter. As I’ve written before about Sobremesa, “the complexity is palpable and highly enjoyable, and the sweetness of the resting smoke is mouth-wateringly intoxicating. Fortunately, the combustion qualities do not detract from the experience; rather, they enhance it. The burn line is straight, the smoke production above average, the draw easy, and the ash holds well off the foot.”

For me, the Cervantes Fino remains the flagship of the fleet. But don’t sleep on the other vitolas, including the Robusto Largo. It is worthy of another outstanding rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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