Archive by Author

Site News: Here’s Why We Killed Our ‘Friday Sampler’ News Roundup Series

28 Sep 2018

Between May 2006 and July 2018, we published 588 weekly cigar news roundups. We don’t plan to do any more. The “Friday Sampler” series has been discontinued.

Honestly, I didn’t plan to publicly address or acknowledge this decision. I hypothesized that a format change to our long-running cigar site would go mostly unnoticed. I was wrong.

Since our last Friday Sampler on July 20, 2018, we’ve received dozens of inquiries (usually via email, and usually on Friday mornings) asking us what happened. While we still don’t plan to change our decision to discontinue the series, I’ve become convinced that we owe our readers—many of whom have been with us a decade or more—an explanation.

When we launched the series over twelve years ago, “cigar internet media” (or whatever you want to call it) wasn’t really a thing. There were only a handful of cigar websites that didn’t belong to a cigar manufacturer or cigar distributor. And even among this small group, many of the sites only published reviews. That left a void for internet cigar news that didn’t come from Cigar Aficionado, and especially for a short-format summary of the most important happenings from the week. This was how the Friday Sampler was born.

My how things have changed. Now there are seemingly hundreds, if not thousands, of cigar websites out there. Some regurgitate cigar-related press releases as soon as they’re issued, adding little value other than copy-and-pasted dissemination. Some publish their own weekly news summaries, with varying degrees of accuracy and comprehensiveness. Some post news items intraday as events occur.

We don’t need to name names here; you probably have most of these sites favorited in your browser, and that’s perfectly fine and understandable. We do the same thing.

In this environment, you can argue the Friday Sampler is not as valuable as it once was.

That isn’t to say the series brought no value. It certainly did, evidenced in part by the emails we’ve received. Still, we have to measure the impact versus the cost of maintaining the weekly roundup. And by cost I don’t mean money.

At this stage in my life, time is the most precious, most limited resource. And as the value of the Friday Sampler has arguably declined, the opportunity cost of spending my time monitoring cigar news, covering it from the appropriate angles, summarizing it, researching for accuracy, etc. has gone up.

In 2006, when we started the series, I was 23 years old. I was not married. I had no kids. No mortgage. Now I’m a married 35-year-old with two kids, one on the way, a big-ass mortgage payment, and a much more demanding career.

Keep in mind, is not a highly profitable venture for me (or Patrick S, who has his own career, or George E, who is retired); it’s a labor of love. And, frankly, I fell out of love with the Friday Sampler. As the primary author and editor of it, I decided to kill it.

But while the Friday Sampler is dead, is still committed to bringing you important news updates. We will do this not by summarizing everything we think worthy of attention, but instead by focusing on longer-format features as opportunities arise. And we will continue to do so through our unique lens, as I’ve always thought our comparative advantage is at the intersection of cigars with thoughtful, thorough policy analysis (i.e., taxes, smoking bans, tobacco regulations, etc.).

Thanks for your continued readership and trust. My colleagues and I are truly humbled by the interest in our old site.

Patrick A

photo credit: N/A

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XXVI)

24 Sep 2018

In this edition of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ask for your input on future cigar reviews and lament house guests who don’t finish their cigars.

What Cigars Should I Write About?

I’m in a bit of a cigar funk these days. My stash is running lower than usual and, among the cigars that still reside in one of my five humidors, we’ve already written about pretty much all of them. So that begs the question: Should I buy a bunch of “new” cigars and focus on those (that’s pretty much what I have been doing since we founded this site in May 2006; I’m just falling behind lately)? Or should I start to revisit cigars we reviewed (in some cases) years ago to provide an update and an aging report? Perhaps the best strategy is a bit of both. But I figured I’d throw the question out to you, especially since the cigar blogger space is more cluttered than ever. What do you want to see reviewed?

Let Me Follow Up on That Question…

While you’re thinking on the subject, I’ve always wondered: Do you care about reviews of cigars that are no longer in production (I’ve got a ton of those on hand)? What about super-limited cigars, or exclusives? For example, take the cigars I receive each year as a member of Tatuaje’s Saints & Sinners club. The only way to get these cigars is to belong to the small, members-only club. Either you do, or you don’t. On one hand, I could see some people being interested in what’s out there, even if it’s unlikely they’ll ever get their hands on it. On the other, many people could consider the review a vain act of futility. What’s your take?

What A Cigar Review Isn’t

These words written by my colleague nearly a decade ago still ring true, and I think they’re appropriate to recall as we think about reviews: “These days there are no shortages of cigar reviews online. Seems everyone has an opinion and wants to share. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But before you read every cigar review out there and take each as gospel, let’s keep in mind what a review is… and, just as importantly, let’s keep in mind what a review isn’t. First off, a review can only be as good as the limited inputs that created it. That means whatever review you’re reading is first and foremost limited by two important factors: the reviewer, and the cigars sampled.” You can read the rest of this piece from 2010 here.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Chances are, if you visit my home, you’ll be offered a cigar. My guests are almost never as into cigars as I am, and that’s perfectly fine. I am happy to share nonetheless and, despite my relatively depleted stash, almost certainly have a good cigar for the individual and timeframe in question. This is all well and good. What irks me, however, is when a guest will request (and receive) a top-notch cigar and then proceed to not even smoke half of it. If your time is short, or if you want a smaller smoke, please tell me in advance so I can help you select the best fit for your situation. I feel like this should be common courtesy. Aside from this pet peeve, let me know if you’re in the vicinity of Oak Park, Illinois, and want to stop by for a smoke and/or a bourbon. My front porch is a wonderful place to relax, and cigars are best enjoyed in good company–whether I’m writing about them or not.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Black Label Trading Company NBK

21 Sep 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.”

Right off the bat, the Ecuador Habano Oscuro-wrapped NBK (6 x 46) greets me with a strong, bold profile of espresso, warm tobacco, roasted nuts, and black pepper spice. Just as I think I have the cigar figured out, though, it eases back a bit, and the powdery smoke cools. Still, the soft box-pressed NBK packs plenty of punch through to the end as secondary notes of cocoa add complexity. With excellent construction and a $9 price tag, this creation from Black Label Trading Company has a lot going for it.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Clásico Número 6

17 Sep 2018

Back in June, 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.” 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.

There are a whopping twelve formats, so there’s a size here for everyone. The Toro may have been the first Clásico I tried (and also reviewed), but the thin Número 6 (6 x 41, $6.50) is the most appealing to me in terms of dimensions. I tend to gravitate towards narrower ring gauges, whenever possible, and six inches long seems just about perfect in terms of smoking time.

Like the Toro, Número 6 has a traditional, understated, and—in my opinion—beautiful band that nicely highlights the golden color of the smooth, buttery wrapper. At the foot, I find bright, crisp pre-light notes of sweet hay. The cold draw is smooth, especially for such a thin cigar.

The initial profile is salty and abrasive. Fortunately, after just a couple puffs, things settle down nicely. Individual flavors include creamy butter, warm tobacco, and raw almond. There’s also a green freshness that’s hard to put my finger on. The mild- to medium-bodied cigar has a bready texture.

The Número 6 mostly remains this way until the end, save for the occasional additions of tastes like clove, café-au-lait, and white pepper. Along the way, the physical properties are mostly admirable. I found a straight burn line, smooth draw, and good smoke production. On the downside, the ash is very flaky and prone to fall off prematurely, and the burn requires a few re-lights along the way to stay burning.

As I wrote of the Toro, I enjoy mild cigars. But mild cigars need to have flavor. The Clásico Toro has flavor. At times it shines, and at times it falls a little short. All told, I think the most appropriate rating is three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Sirena The Prince

14 Sep 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.”

La Sirena The Prince

I don’t typically remove a cigar’s band before lighting up, but you pretty much have to with The Prince from La Sirena, as the nautical-themed band covers about half of the surface of the robusto (5 x 50). Once lit, the Nicaraguan puro delivers a full-bodied flavor-blast of black pepper and leather. Shortly thereafter, the tobaccos—a Habano Oscuro wrapper, Criollo binder, and filler leaves from Jalapa and Condega—mellow a bit until they settle into a profile that’s strong and rich with heavy notes of char, roasted nuts, oak, and baking spices. Construction is solid. This is a different blend than the Broadleaf-wrapped one launched in 2010 that was made at My Father Cigars for Miami Cigar & Co. Now made at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Estelí, it’s a solid choice if you’re craving something strong, and it’s a good buy for around $8.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: MBombay Corojo Oscuro Gordo

4 Sep 2018

Mel Shah, owner of an upscale cigar and wine lounge in Palm Springs, California, is the man behind Bombay Tobak. You may be more familiar with the name MBombay, though, which is his small-batch brand of high-end cigars made in Costa Rica.

When I think of MBombay, I think of Gaaja and Gaaja Maduro. I love both cigars—especially Gaaja Maduro, which earned a rare five stogies out of five rating in February 2017. The original MBombay line, however, is probably what first comes to mind for most. It includes Classic, Habano, KẽSara, Mora, and Corojo Oscuro.

The latter sports a beautiful, dark, oily, mottled, slightly reddish Ecuadorian wrapper around tobaccos from Ecuador, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. It is adorned with an ornate, eye-catching band.

I smoked a handful of Corojo Oscuro Gordos for this review. This vitola retails for about $11 and measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 60. The cap clips cleanly to reveal a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos, yet the cold draw is nice and smooth. At the foot, I find pre-light notes of dark chocolate and molasses.

The initial flavor is full-bodied and aggressive with strong notes of espresso and black pepper spice. Quickly, though, the breaks are pumped and the Gordo settles into the medium-bodied range. Here, I find flavors ranging from roasted peanut and cereals to coffee and cedar. In the background, there’s a gentle cayenne spice and a sensation that reminds me of sunflower seeds.

I’ve never been a big fan of the over-sized gordo format. For one, the ring gauge is too thick to be comfortable, and that same girth can also water down the flavors that would otherwise be more concentrated. Additionally, many of these cigars tend to overstay their welcome. And they can also suffer from combustion issues.

The physical properties of the Corojo Oscuro Gordo, however, are admirable. The burn stays even and requires only a few touch-ups. And the ash holds firm.

But the other disadvantages I mentioned are present here—and I think that’s more of an indictment of the size (generally speaking) than this particular cigar. Still, MBombay chose to offer the format, and I must review the cigar as it is presented. Taking into account my dislike for the size, as well as my enjoyment of the balanced, complex blend, I’ve arrived at a rating of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Bolivar Gold Medal (Cuban)

31 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.”

It’s not too often I get to smoke a cigar that had been in my possession for seven years. But this since-discontinued, lonsdale-sized Bolivar Gold Medal had been resting in one of my humidors since (at least) 2011. It was high-time I fired it up. The result was a bready, medium-bodied profile with notes of graham cracker, cereals, and honey. The draw was smooth, the smoke production average, and the burn wasn’t perfect—but it also didn’t require any touch-ups. I hesitate to compare this to my last experience with a Gold Medal, which was in 2011, since I don’t remember that, and since my tastes have certainly changed. That said, I really enjoyed this aged Cuban and would recommend trying one if you have the chance.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys