Archive by Author

Cigar Review: Muestra de Saka Nacatamale

11 Dec 2017

“A muestra is the vision of the ligador and torcedor realized, it is the promise of a new experience and possibly the key to financial success for the fabrica,” says Steve Saka, founder and Master Ligador of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. “Muestras are hoarded and coveted by not only their makers, but by the cigar smokers who seek to catch a glimpse into the cigar maker’s soul within their smoke.”

In its young history, Dunbarton has amassed acclaim from seasoned cigar devotees that is as well-deserved as it is widespread. Sought-after brands like Sobremesa and Mi Querida are virtually universally praised by cigar veterans who trek to meet Saka at retailer events and hang on his every Facebook post. So when Saka introduces a “muestra,” you have to take notice.

Nacatamale is the second muestra from Dunbarton. It was announced in July and is intended to be “considerably more robust” than its predecessor, Exclusivo. It is made in the “old farm” style, meaning all the filler tobaccos are from a single operation (in this case, an undisclosed farm in Jalapa, Nicaragua).

Nacatamale (6 x 48) comes flawlessly presented in an individual wooden coffin. I paid over $20 for mine (including insane tobacco taxes here in Chicago; the MSRP is $15.95). Inside is a gorgeous, beautifully constructed cigar with a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. It has tight seams, a firm feel, thin veins, and a smooth cold draw. The pre-light notes remind me of green raisin with milk chocolate and cinnamon.

After setting an even light with a wooden match, a spicy, bold, well-balanced introductory flavor emerges that reminds me of cayenne heat, dark chocolate, black coffee, and sweet nougat. The medium- to full-bodied profile steps off the accelerator as the midway point approaches. Here, hints of cinnamon, cedar, cream, and leather play a more active role, and the spice is more subdued. The finale witnesses a reprise of spice with notes of black pepper, dry oak, espresso, cedar, and a frothy, marshmallowy sweetness at the fore.

As you would expect from Saka (and any cigar at this price point), the combustion properties are sublime. The burn line stays straight and true from light to nub with torch touch-ups completely unnecessary. In addition, the draw is smooth, the ash holds firm, and the smoke production is outstanding.

What makes Nacatamale so outstanding—and, yes, it is absolutely outstanding—is not any individual flavor. This cigar is a great example of how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. The overall balance, complexity, and harmony is simply on point. That Saka handicapped himself by relegating the entire filler recipe to one farm and still composed a symphony of deliciousness… well, that’s head-scratching. Pony up and grab one of these while you still can. Any rating besides five stogies out of five would be inappropriate.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here. A list of other five stogie-rated cigars can be found here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Aurora ADN Dominicano Toro

4 Dec 2017

About four years ago, Cigar Aficionado published an article entitled “Strange Leaves” about how some cigar makers are looking to non-standard tobaccos to create distinctive blends. One of the tobaccos highlighted is Andullo, which has a longstanding Dominican heritage and is typically used as a pipe or chewing tobacco.

“Andullo is created by taking cured tobacco leaves, wrapping them tightly in palm tree pods with rope, and hanging them to ferment for a period of two years,” reads the article. “The process turns the tobacco into dark, hard logs resembling big sausages… Andullo is made, not grown. It’s the process that makes the tobacco distinctive, not the seed variety or its growing conditions.”

Leave it to La Aurora, the oldest cigar maker in the Dominican Republic, to incorporate this uniquely Dominican tobacco into one of its blends. The new line—called ADN Dominicano—debuted earlier this year at the 2017 ProCigar Festival. Originally, it was only going to be sold within the Dominican Republic. Before the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show, however, La Aurora and its distributor, Miami Cigar & Co., decided to make it available in the U.S. market.

ADN Dominicano sports a Dominican wrapper from the Cibao Valley, a Cameroon binder, and filler tobaccos from Pennsylvania, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, including one whole Andullo filler leaf. There are four ADN Dominicano vitolas, each retailing in the $7.25 to $9.25 range: Robusto (5 x 50), Churchill (7 x 47), Gran Toro (6 x 58), and Toro (5.75 x 54). Each is adorned with a slightly toothy, moderately oily wrapper that has several large veins, as well as a Dominican flag-themed band that includes the familiar La Aurora lion. The Toro is firm to the touch with pre-light notes of molasses. The cold draw is effortless.

The initial profile is medium-bodied with core flavors of earth, leather, cereals, and some tangy, zingy sweetness that reminds me of barbecue sauce. The finish on the palate is clean with hints of lingering spice and gentle heat. Beyond these impressions, however, there is a noticeable lack of complexity that, at times, strikes me as papery and a little bland, notwithstanding the aforementioned spice and body.

As the Toro approaches the midway point, some welcome changes begin to take shape. The overall flavor gets a boost of balance and depth with the arrival of a creamy sweetness. In addition, a taste reminiscent of walnuts emerges and, while the spice seems to recede a bit, the body begins to approach the medium- to medium-full range. The final third is characterized by dense earth, bread, warm tobacco, and black pepper.

Throughout, the combustion properties can be slightly frustrating. While the smoke production is good and the draw is clear, the flaky ash tends to fall off the foot haphazardly, and the wavering burn line requires a number of touch-ups to stay even.

The star of ADN Dominicano is intended to be Andullo yet, tasting the cigar as a complete blend with its many components, it’s hard to say exactly what role that tobacco leaf plays. I would relish the opportunity to smoke Andullo on its own in order to define its attributes.

On the whole, the ADN Dominicano Toro does not live up to the standards I’ve come to expect from La Aurora in terms of either flavor, balance, or construction. That’s ultimately why I am rating this cigar only two and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Neanderthal SGP

2 Dec 2017

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 magnificent specimen from RoMa Craft Tobac includes a toothy, rustic, dark Mexican San Andrés wrapper, a Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and four different types of Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. It also boasts an aromatic Dominican olor component, and a Pennsylvanian double ligero leaf known as “Green River Sucker One.” The result is a strong, full-bodied cigar with dense, rich flavors packed into a compact (4.25 x 52) format. Notes include dark chocolate, leather, espresso, black pepper, nougat, and dry oak. Construction is exquisite. There are few better ways to spend $10.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Crowned Heads Jericho Hill Jack Brown

27 Nov 2017

The Montecristo Ciudad de Música, a new cigar line produced by Crowned Heads in partnership with Altadis U.S.A., is only the latest example among many instances of Crowned Heads invoking its love of music to help market cigars. At this point, it’s hard to think of the Nashville-based boutique outfit without conjuring images of live rock and artists like Led Zeppelin and Kings of Leon.

Let’s add Johnny Cash. Jericho Hill was “inspired by Cash’s rendition of ‘Cocaine Blues,’ found on Cash’s 1968 live album, At Folsom Prison,” according to the Crowned Heads website. “The song is a tale of a man, Willy Lee, who goes down a dark path brought on by the influence of whiskey and cocaine. Willy is captured in Juarez, Mexico, and is brought to justice by the sheriff from Jericho Hill. Cash was the fourth of seven children, and Jericho Hill marks the fourth regular production release from Crowned Heads.”

There are four original Jericho Hill vitolas, all inspired by lyrics and music from At Folsom Prison: .44S (5.1 x 44), LBV (6.5 x 46), OBS (4.75 x 52), and Willy Lee (6 x 54). All are made at the My Father Cigars factory in Estelí with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos.

The lightly box-pressed Jack Brown vitola (5 x 56) was added in 2015 and carries a suggested retail price of about $10. I smoked a handful in this size for this review. Each had a reddish, rustic wrapper with thin veins, plenty of wrinkles, and ample tooth. The cold draw was moderate—perhaps just a tad tight for my liking. The foot exhibits a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos.

Once lit, faint pre-light notes of sweet cedar and oak transition to a medium-bodied, leathery profile. Individual flavors include leather, molasses, earth, dry wood, and banana bread. After only a quarter of an inch, the draw opens nicely and the smoke production is ample, sweet, and aromatic.

Towards the midway point, there is an increase in spice with tastes of cayenne and both white and black pepper. Leather is still the dominant force, however. The burn line is imperfect but not at all troublesome, and the white ash holds firmly off the foot. The final third can be characterized as medium- to full-bodied with additional bright citrus flavors.

When it was introduced in 2014, Jericho Hill marked a departure in strategy for Crowned Heads. It was the first regular production cigar to be produced at a factory other than E.P. Carrillo’s La Alianza in the Dominican Republic, and it was also the first time the company employed a San Andrés wrapper. The result is a well-balanced, earthy, leathery, well-made cigar. The Jack Brown vitola earns an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger

20 Nov 2017

Baby, it’s cold outside. For those of us not lucky enough to be living in a tropical climate in the winter, November—with its diminishing humidity and plummeting temperatures—is a stark reminder that this time of year is not the most accommodating for cigars. It isn’t terribly accommodating for cigar smokers, either. Thanks to government-imposed smoking bans, thousands of decent cigar enthusiasts will be thrust into the cold and out of private restaurants and bars that otherwise would have welcomed them with open arms.

One strategy for beating the winter-time blues is to limit your exposure to the elements by smoking shorter cigars. And if you’re looking to pack a mighty punch into a stout format, one excellent option is the Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger from RoMa Craft Tobac.

By now, RoMa Craft—brought to you by Mike Rosales (the “Ro”) and Skip Martin (the “Ma)—needs no introduction. After all, the operation may be small with limited production, but it’s undoubtedly making some of the world’s best cigars. The lineup includes CroMagnon, Intemperance (EC XVIII and BA XXI), and Aquitaine.

Aquitaine has the same filler blend (Estelí, Condega, and Pueblo Nuevo) and binder (Cameroon) as CroMagnon. But instead of featuring a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper, Aquitaine has an Ecuadorian Habano Ligero wrapper. “This eighth and ninth priming Ligero leaf is thick, oily, and has amazing texture,” according to RoMa.

The Knuckle Dragger (4 x 52) retails for $6.25 and sports a wrapper that’s rustic, toothy, and oily. It is on the firm side and the pre-light notes remind me of dried apricot and cereals. The nicely executed cap, even when only barely pierced, conceals a smooth cold draw.

Right out of the gate, the flavor is bold with a rich, leathery texture on the palate. Introductory notes include leather, white pepper spice, espresso bean, and a bit of a cayenne heat in the back of the throat. A wonderful sweetness, likely a product of the Cameroon binder, adds a touch of cream to balance the blend.

Towards the midway point, the body ramps up from medium- to full-bodied to full-blown full. There’s a hearty nicotine kick. Notes of roasted cashew join the profile. From there, the flavor remains largely unchanged to the nub, save for an increase in spice and heat down the home stretch. All the while, construction is exquisite. Expect a solid ash, even burn, and good smoke production.

RoMa Craft has built its well-deserved reputation on quality, consistency, and great bang for the buck. The Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger lives up to these virtuous characteristics, and it does so in a winter-friendly format that delivers a ton of flavor in a relatively short time span. In my book, it’s worthy of a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Natural (Smoke Inn Exclusive)

18 Nov 2017

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 Padrón Serie 1964 vitola is exclusive to Florida retailer Smoke Inn. It retails for about $12 and is presented in a small, winter-friendly format (4 x 50). Construction is sublime, and the flavor profile includes notes of cream, almond, cedar, cocoa, and vanilla. About five months have passed since I reviewed it in June, and I can’t really detect any discernible changes. That’s OK in my book, though, as this Nicaraguan puro was unsurprisingly wonderful from the get-go.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Aurora 107 Cosecha 2006 Corona Gorda

11 Nov 2017

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.”

La Aurora 107 debuted in 2010 to celebrate the storied history of the oldest cigar manufacturer in the Dominican Republic. Last year, a limited edition 107 offshoot was introduced called Cosecha 2006. It sports a Habana-seed wrapper grown in Ecuador around a Brazilian Mata Fina binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The Corona Gorda (6 x 47, $10) is my favorite of three sizes. It boasts toasty, medium-bodied flavors of coffee, cedar (six months of age has softened the spice a bit, but it’s still quite sharp), cereals, and citrus. The combustion qualities are superb.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys