Archive by Author

Cigar Tip: Cigars and the Common Cold

10 Dec 2018

[Editor’s Note: The following commentary first appeared at on April 7, 2010. Since the author is currently suffering from a head cold, and since he’s not feeling well enough to smoke, he thought today would be a good day to revisit the topic. Conveniently, re-posting an old article would also get him out of having to write anything new for the day. He figures if you’ve been publishing for overa decade, you deserve a little break now and then. By the way, take note of two specific cigars that get mentioned below; in the author’s eyes, at least, they really date this article.]

Some call it a sinus infection. Others call it the common cold. The medical community recognizes it as a “viral upper respiratory tract infection.” No matter what the name, the symptoms are usually the same: runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, mild fatigue, and possibly a fever. And, like the summertime blues, there ain’t no cure.

The average adult experiences two to four colds per year. I got my first (and hopefully last) case of the 2010 cold this weekend. In typical fashion, it came overnight with a scratchy throat, stuffed up my nose for a few days, and left just as quickly as it arrived. No big deal, but enough to cause me to cancel a few weekend activities.

One activity I cut back on while sick is cigar smoking. I’m not really concerned that cigars will prolong the cold’s duration (although doctors say smokers tend to have longer colds—but then again, doctors say a lot of things). I just find cigar smoking a lot less enjoyable when my throat is sore or my nose is clogged.

I’d never attempt to review a cigar when my nose—the best cigar tasting instrument I have—is out of whack. Recently, though, I conducted an experiment. I fired up a Rocky Patel Vintage ’90 Toro to see if I could identify the flavors I normally associate with this cigar (cocoa, spicy wood, etc.). I couldn’t.

Not even close. I could have been smoking pretty much anything and it would have tasted like chalky, billowy air. As expected, this was a reminder of the huge role our sense of smell plays in cigar tasting and how important it is to routinely smoke through the nose.

Aside from being an impediment to appreciating premium tobacco, my cold also reminded me that I’m far from addicted to tobacco. I went a solid five days without smoking (and I’ve gone much longer under different circumstances, like when I was training for a marathon). Never once did I experience cravings, headaches, nausea, anxiety, or other symptoms common to those trying to quit cigarettes. Sure, I missed not being able to thoroughly enjoy a cigar. But it wasn’t an epic battle to lay off the leaf for awhile.

Now I’m feeling much better. I took my nose for a test drive with a 601 Red and everything seems to be back to normal. Health permitting, I’m looking forward to catching up on some new reviews and Quick Smokes in the weeks to come.

The next time I get a cold, I’ll probably get lots of sleep, drink lots of fluids, and avoid cigars—at least expensive ones. I suggest you do the same.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo La Pesadilla

3 Dec 2018

When you think of Joya de Nicaragua, likely the first thing to come to mind is a storied firm—the oldest cigar maker in Nicaragua, to be more precise—that has built its reputation on bold, full-bodied Nicaraguan puros. For me, the Joya line that immediately jumps to mind is Antaño Dark Corojo.

Antaño Dark Corojo was the first Joya I ever smoked. It would be safe to say it played a big role in shaping my perception of what a Nicaraguan cigar should be. These days, I’ve smoked enough Antaño Dark Corojos to know that the proper setting for this cigar is after a large meal, in the evening, paired with a nice sipping rum or a neat bourbon. This is the best way to enjoy what Joya calls “the embodiment of the Nicaraguan power cigar.”

Antaño Dark Corojo is a Nicaragua puro with a mottled Corojo Oscuro wrapper. It comes in six sizes: Azarosa (4.5 x 52), La Pesadilla (4.75 x 60), Peligroso (5 x 44), El Martillo (5.5 x 54), La Niveladora (6 x 52), and Poderoso (6 x 54). For this review, I smoked several in the format called La Pesadilla, which is Spanish for “the nightmare.”

That’s a fitting name for a dark, powerful cigar that could be mistaken for an enormous rifle round. This stubby, belicoso-shaped smoke is slightly spongy to the touch and not without a few large veins and several surface imperfections. Much of the wrapper is hidden beneath bands of black and gold. At the foot, I find pre-light notes of green raisin and cocoa. The cold draw is effortless.

I typically prefer to use wooden matches but, with La Pesadilla’s 60-ring gauge foot, I opt for a torch. Once underway, I find a spicy, full-bodied profile with hearty notes of espresso, black pepper, dark chocolate, and cashew. The texture is leathery. Smoking through the nose helps bring out the creamy cashew and also some raisin.

Despite its obvious strength, La Pesadilla verges on medium- to full-bodied, whereas the other (thinner) Antaño Dark Corojo vitolas are decidedly full. This won’t come as a shock to those who understand that thicker cigars tend to have somewhat dialed-back strength, whereas thinner cigars tend to be more concentrated and more potent.

The combustion properties are solid throughout, including a clear draw, straight burn line, and good smoke production. My only complaint is a minor one: The ash tends to be a bit flaky.

La Pesadilla may not be a nightmare, but it’s no stroll in the park, either, and should be approached with a bit of caution. Those bold enough to give it a try will find a flavorful, surprisingly balanced, well-constructed cigar that will consistently deliver.

When bought by the box of 20, you can pay under $6 (and maybe even under $5) apiece for the Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo La Pesadilla. That’s a deal for a tasty treat worthy of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Cohiba Maduro 5 Mágicos (Cuban)

30 Nov 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.”

Cohiba Maduro

When I reviewed this Cuban years ago, which is the first Cohiba to have a maduro wrapper, I found a complex profile of coffee, spice, licorice, cream, and roasted nut. Unfortunately, I also found sub-standard construction—something that’s unforgivable in a cigar that costs over $20. I recently decided to try another, and I honestly wish I hadn’t. The only thing that has changed is the price. Now, you can expect to pay around $30 for a single, and you’ll still have issues with the physical properties. While I like the flavors, I cannot in good conscience recommend such an expensive smoke when the construction is, at best, highly unpredictable.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: A.J. Fernandez New World Puro Especial Toro

26 Nov 2018

Last year, famed cigar maker A.J. Fernandez introduced an extension to his New World brand called New World Puro Especial. At its core, the four-cigar line is Estelí through and through.

All the tobaccos employed are grown and cultivated at Fernandez’s own farms in Estelí, rendering the line a living tribute to a region that has worldwide become synonymous with premium cigars. The cigars are made at Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars, which is located—you guessed it—in Estelí. (Side note: That factory started with just six rollers; today, it is one of the largest factories in Nicaragua and produces over 9 million cigars annually.)

Like so many cigars, the blending of New World Puro Especial took several years. Fernandez’s father, Ismael, helped with the endeavor. The final recipe includes Criollo ’98 from the San José farm, as well as leaves from La Soledad, La Providencia, and San Diego. All the tobaccos are aged three to five years.

The Puro Especial formats include a Short Churchill (6 x 48), Robusto (5.5 x 52), Gordo (6 x 60), and a Toro (6.5 x 52). I picked up a handful of the latter vitola at my local tobacconist here in Chicago for about $9 apiece.

The Toro’s smooth, moderately dry, dark chocolate-colored Nicaraguan Habano wrapper has only the thinnest veins and very tight seams. The cold draw is easy. The feel is consistently firm from head to foot, and the pre-light notes remind me of green raisin and cocoa powder.

The New World Puro Especial is full-bodied from the get-go. It boasts heavy, leathery notes of espresso, dry wood, minerally earth, meaty char, and both red and black pepper. You’ll find abundant spice on the finish. After a half inch, the intensity steps off the accelerator, but the resulting profile remains strong, bold, and—at the very least—medium- to full-bodied.

Thankfully, this is much more than a heavy-handed deliverer of power. As the Toro progresses to its spicy, full-bodied conclusion, attentive smokers will notice secondary flavors ranging from natural tobacco and cinnamon to oak and white pepper. That said, I don’t detect any semblance of sweetness, which would add balance and complexity.

The physical properties are outstanding from light to nub. Each of my samples exhibited a straight burn line with no need for touch-ups along the way, as well as a sturdy ash, smooth draw, and average smoke production.

I will be interested to see how time might impact the profile of the A.J. Fernandez New World Puro Especial Toro. Absent the sweetness that, I think, would improve the overall experience, this is still a fine full-bodied smoke with a pleasant taste and aroma. For that, I’m awarding it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Padrón 2000 Natural

16 Nov 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.”

If you’re looking for classic flavors, reliability, and great bang-for-the-buck value, it’s hard to beat the so-called “Thousands Series” from Padrón. The robusto-sized 2000 Natural (5 x 50) can be found for around $6. That’s a very fair price for a well-constructed cigar with fine medium-bodied flavors of espresso, dark chocolate, dry wood, black pepper, peanut, and raisin. Before firing this one up, I hadn’t smoked the Padrón 2000 Natural in years. I was glad to be reunited.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XXVII)

12 Nov 2018

In this edition of our Random Thoughts from the Humidor series, I fear the immortal words of House Stark: “Winter is coming.”

Find Yourself a Winter Sanctuary

For those of us who live in the northern half of the U.S., winter can be a crummy time to be a cigar enthusiast. The cold, arid air makes humidor maintenance more difficult. And, with a lack of indoor smoking sanctuaries thanks to government-imposed bans, we’re often forced into the frosty outdoors if we want to enjoy a premium cigar. Back in 2011, when I still lived in a condo in the city, had no kids, and was the proud owner of a cigar-friendly den, getting through the winter wasn’t so tough. I had my space. Now, despite being out in the suburbs with more space, there’s no room for an indoor cigar sanctuary; I’ve got three kids (which means I also have precious little time), the youngest of which arrived a mere two weeks ago. I’m on the hunt for a warm cigar space for the winter. Perhaps I’ll try to find a way to get some heat out in the garage without sending the whole thing up in flames. Wish me luck. And hit me up if you have any ideas. (Also: Where are you, cigar lounges?)

Don’t Save Your Best for the Firepit

Here in Chicago, my backyard firepit simply won’t get the job done as a warm cigar sanctuary for the winter. It gets too damn cold, especially at night (typically, the only time I can smoke nowadays is when all three kids and the wife are asleep). The firepit is great on a chilly fall night; when it’s below freezing, however, it just doesn’t kick off enough heat to be comfortable for the requisite 90-120 min. for a cigar. And there’s another problem: The fire obviously emits a lot of smoke and aroma. I find this detracts from a fine cigar, which is why I typically don’t bust out my best when there’s a fire involved. And I certainly wouldn’t ever review a cigar around a fire.

Keep an Eye on Your Humidor(s)

Back indoors, where your cigars are stored, start to pay closer attention to the humidity level of your humidor(s). It’s harder to keep humidity up in the winter—including inside your home. If, like me, you use Boveda packs, check to see if they need to be swapped out (or, as some of you are wont to do, recharged). Boveda’s Smart Sensor is a tech-savvy way to ensure proper monitoring and piece of mind. If you rely on more traditional methods and hygrometers, ensure these notoriously finicky instruments of measurement are properly calibrated. November is a great month to perform the salt calibration test.

Give the Gift of Cigars

Winter is synonymous with the holidays. If you have a cigar enthusiast or two on your list, I have a few tips for you. First, only give a box if you’re sure the recipient loves that cigar and size. 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. Second, keep in mind that samplers offer good variety, and good samplers also offer value. You might also consider cigar accessories, or giving the gift of cigar rights. More on this topic can be found here.

Stay warm out there!

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Davidoff Escurio Petit Robusto

4 Nov 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.”


Davidoff is as inextricably linked to the Dominican Republic as it is to super-premium luxury and high prices. In recent years, however, the brand—crafted by industry legend Hendrik “Henke” Kelner—has ventured to other soils, namely Nicaragua and Brazil. In 2015, Davidoff launched the Brazilian-themed Escurio, which boasts an Ecuadorian Habano-seed wrapper, Brazilian Cubra binder, and a filler blend that includes Mata Fina and Cubra tobaccos paired with Dominican leaves. The Petit Robusto (3.25 x 50) retails for about $8 and is notable for its short-format, condensed delivery of a spicy, complex profile that includes black pepper, espresso, natural tobacco, oak, and earthy mustiness. Construction is absolutely perfect and the smoke production is voluminous and rich. It’s a delicious, intense indulgence that won’t leave you disappointed.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys