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Cigar Review: Protocol Official Misconduct Corona Gorda

26 Aug 2019

The Cubariqueño Cigar Company introduced itself to the cigar world in a way that was both humble and, by virtue of its association with a longstanding veteran, firmly grounded. In 2015, the small outfit came on the scene with a nondescript table at Erik Espinosa’s booth at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans.

Back then, Cubariqueño founders Juan Cancel and Bill Ives, both police officers, 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 their inventory.

Flash forward to today and Cubariqueño is still very much a small, boutique outfit. But, in an indication of their continued success, they’ve just launched a new size of their fourth blend—Official Misconduct.

The blend sports an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from Estelí and Jalapa. Originally, it was only available in a Toro (6 x 50). As of this summer, though, you can also find it in a Corona Gorda format (5.6 x 46). The retail price is $9.95 and the cigar is packaged in boxes of 10.

Beneath the Corona Gorda’s two silver bands and silver foot ribbon is a Colorado-hued, dry wrapper with more than a couple sizable veins. There are no soft spots; the feel is moderately firm throughout. The well-executed cap clips cleanly to reveal a smooth cold draw. At the foot, the pre-light notes are reminiscent of molasses.

Once lit, the initial flavor is chalky, papery, and dry with considerable black pepper spice. The effortless draw seems to contribute to the airy, papery sensation. Fortunately, after half an inch inch, the profile assumes a more interesting stance with the additions of cocoa, black coffee, and peanut. The next transition, which occurs within the first third, is even more welcome: a replacement of dry, airy notes with a creamy richness and more pronounced peanut. From here, there are few changes before the Corona Gorda is complete.

Construction is solid from light to nub. The burn line is straight, the draw clear, the smoke production voluminous, and the white ash holds well off the foot. None of this should be surprising. Cubariqueño might be new, but La Zona is an experienced, well-respected operation.

I’m looking forward to trying additional blends and sizes from Cubariqueño. And while I like the Protocol Official Misconduct Corona Gorda, the way this cigar starts—which was consistent across the several samples I smoked for this review—gives me some pause. That’s ultimately why I’m awarding it a score not greater than three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Avo Classic No. 2

23 Aug 2019

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

Avo Classic 2

The Avo Classic line sports a Connecticut-seed, sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. The toro-sized No. 2 (6 x 50, $10) features the familiar musty, mushroomy notes that are typical of Hendrik Kelner creations, along with white pepper spice, cream, and macadamia nut. Construction isn’t perfect—the spongy smoke has a meandering burn line and a flaky ash—but the balanced, interesting taste is more than enough to earn my recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Cigar Tip: Storage Wars (Multiple Humidors)

19 Aug 2019

[Editors’ Note: In the coming weeks, I will be writing about my experience consolidating my cigar storage setup. As a precursor, today I am republishing an article I wrote about managing multiple humidors. It originally appeared here on April 25, 2012.]

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one large humidor in your home, preferably a walk-in, with all the cigars easily accessible, sorted by name, and labeled with received dates? It would make aging simpler, humidification easier to monitor, and your whole stash more organized.

Sometimes I think those of us who regularly visit the online cigar community, or those of us who write for it, automatically assume every reader has one elaborate cigar storage setup that costs thousands of dollars. I’m sure some do. But I don’t. And chances are you don’t, either. That said, I want to be clear that I’m not complaining. As I’ve written before, I’m fortunate to have a wonderful cigar den that allows ample room for my humidors, as well as nice space for indoor smoking during those cold Chicago winters. While I may not have a walk-in teeming with the world’s rarest and most expensive smokes, I’m certainly happy and thankful for what I have.

All this isn’t to say that my setup doesn’t present some challenges. It does, and I think many of the challenges apply to the average cigar consumer. So I figured I’d outline my top two challenges—and the solutions I’ve concocted to confront them—so the information can help others (or with hopes that you have comments and suggestions about how I might improve my own setup).

First, let me say that at any given time I have anywhere from five to seven humidors. The variance is explained by the fact that, depending on inventory, I sometimes outfit two large Tupperware containers with humidification beads and Spanish cedar to store spillover smokes. In a perfect world I would only have one very large humidor to worry about, not a handful of medium- to small-sized humidors. But because the five traditional wooden humidors all carry sentimental value (i.e., the one I got for my wedding that’s engraved with the wedding date) I can’t bring myself to consolidate. Plus, given the space I have in our condo in Chicago, one very large humidor would be a lot tougher to make space for.

One challenge with this setup is monitoring the humidification levels of each individual humidor. Each humidor seems to hold onto humidity differently, and that can make proper maintenance difficult. My solution? Once every so often (more often in the winter, when the natural air humidity is lower) I examine and rotate the cigars in each humidor. I also check to see if the humidification device in each humidor needs to be “recharged.”

The second challenge—especially with all the rotation—is keeping track of which cigars are stored where. I combat this by keeping brands together (i.e., Tatuaje with Tatuaje, PDR with PDR, etc.) and then noting in a spreadsheet which brands are in which humidor. This isn’t perfect because it requires me to reference a document if I’m looking for something in particular. But I’ve found it helpful. I’m considering doing something similar but, instead of organizing the cigars by brand, organizing them by type (i.e., cigars that need to be reviewed, golf course smokes, special cigars for special occasions, etc.).

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how to improve my setup. Or, if you have a completely different setup/strategy, please feel free to share in the comments below as well.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Charter Oak Maduro Toro

12 Aug 2019

Last month I reviewed the Charter Oak CT Shade, Nicholas Melillo’s attempt at an affordably priced cigar for any time of day. I found it to have a pleasant, straightforward, mild- to medium-bodied profile of cream, white pepper, peanut, and café au lait. The “unchanging, unpretentious” taste, however, tends to overstay its welcome, especially in the large Grande (6 x 60) format. So I settled on an OK score of three stogies out of five and decided I needed to try some of the other sizes.

Before I do that, though, today I am reviewing the Maduro version of Charter Oak. Like the CT Shade, it honors Melillo’s home state of Connecticut. It is named for The Charter Oak, an “unusually large white oak tree growing on Wyllys Hyll in Hartford, Connecticut… from around the 12th or 13th century until it fell during a storm in 1856,” reads a Wikipedia article. “According to tradition, Connecticut’s Royal Charter of 1662 was hidden within the hollow of the tree to thwart its confiscation by the English governor-general. The oak became a symbol of American independence and is commemorated on the Connecticut State Quarter.”

The Foundation Cigar Co. website provides more color: “Charter Oak cigars hail from the same fertile valley in Connecticut that native son and master blender… Nick Melillo was born and raised. [They] feature some of the most prized and sought-after Cuban-seed leaf varieties from the exquisite Estelí and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua.”

The filler may be Nicaraguan, and the binder Habano, but the centerpiece of the blend—the wrapper—is a dark, mottled Connecticut Broadleaf (Charter Oak CT Shade, as you might have guessed, has a golden Connecticut Shade wrapper; it swaps the Habano binder for Sumatra). Five Maduro sizes are available, all made at Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua: Toro (6 x 52), Grande (6 x 60), Lonsdale (6.25 x 46), Petit Corona (4.25 x 42), and Rothschild (4.25 x 50).

The Toro retails for $5.50, which makes it wonderfully affordable. From looks alone, though, you wouldn’t guess this is a value-oriented smoke. The closed foot, seamless wrapper, and handsome cap suggest a higher price point. One exception is the band; while attractive in color and design, it has no raised lettering and a minimalist approach.

After toasting the closed foot and establishing an even burn, pre-light notes of cocoa powder transition to a taste of earth, leather, black coffee, and warm tobacco. The draw is open, and there’s ample black pepper spice on the finish. The texture is gritty and dry. There’s a cherry-like sweetness on the retrohale.

That sweetness comes and goes as the Toro winds its way down, but the other core flavors remain consistent from light to nub. All the while the construction does just fine. The burn isn’t perfect, but it also doesn’t require any touch-ups to stay even. The ash holds pretty well. The draw is smooth. And the smoke production is solid.

Whereas I grew tried of the CT Shade Grande due to the combined effect of an unwavering, simplistic taste and large, thick format, the Maduro Toro is more interesting and more appropriately sized. For the money, it’s a rather nice value. I’d absolutely keep a stash of these on hand for the golf course or a barbecue. That’s ultimately why I’m settling on a score 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

Quick Smoke: Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger

9 Aug 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.”

This stellar creation from RoMa Craft Tobac pairs excellently with a serving of wheated bourbon, a comfortable chair on a summer porch, and a Cubs game on the radio. That was my setup last night, anyways, and it couldn’t have worked out better. As the Cubs pelted the Reds for 12 runs and solidified their lead in the NL Central, I devoured this rustic, toothy, oily cigar that’s stubby in format (4 x 52) and affordable in price (less than $7). You might recall that 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. That blend results in a rich, leathery smoke with notes of espresso, white pepper, balanced sweetness, and cashew. Construction is stellar. All this renders the Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger an easy cigar to recommend.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Emilio AF1 Robusto

5 Aug 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.”

In January, in what was called a merger between two entities, Black Label Trading Co. took over marketing and branding for the Scott Zocca-owned Emilio Cigars portfolio, as well as producing the brand’s cigars at its Fabrica Oveha Negra factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. The cigar might have a new (and, in my opinion, improved) look, but the blend remains the same: a dark, toothy San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos. It has been awhile since I’ve had an AF1, but this experience was exceptional. Outstanding construction and heavy notes of char and espresso with considerable spice on the lips. The Robusto (5 x 50) retails for $9.50, which makes this a very good deal.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: How to Spot an Excellent Tobacconist (Updated)

29 Jul 2019

[Editors’ Note: This article first appeared at StogieGuys.com in September 2014. We felt it worthy of re-publication and an update since (1) last time it generated a good conversation in the comments and (2) the concepts are still relevant today. As always, we look forward to your opinions, comments, and feedback.]

I travel a fair amount for work, staying a few nights here and there with meetings during the day and (sometimes) little to do in the evening. So, naturally, wherever I go, I try to find a good (non-private) cigar lounge or tobacconist where I can enjoy a smoke, catch up on some emails, do a little writing, and perhaps even have an adult beverage or two.

Cigar Store Indian

While there are lots of great lounges and tobacconists across this fine nation, believe me when I say that sometimes a good locale is hard to find. I’ve been mentally compiling a list of attributes common among the good shops/lounges. Today I thought I’d share them.

Maintains a good selection at fair prices. This one is obvious. I assume I’ll be paying more than I otherwise would online—and I’m completely OK with that, especially since the shop is offering me a place to smoke. But I don’t think it’s necessary to charge crazy mark-ups, either. And the selection should be big enough to require more than a few minutes to peruse, with the usual suspects and hopefully some hard-to-find smokes as well. House blends, when done right, can add an exclusive touch. The best shops bring in the brands their regulars are clamoring for.

Serves coffee and/or liquor, or implements BYOB. I realize local ordinances and laws may make this impossible, but nothing goes better with a fine cigar than coffee, bourbon, rum, wine, scotch, etc. I’m happy to pay the shop/lounge for drinks, if possible; BYOB is a great alternative. If nothing else, providing coffee or water for free, or for purchase, is a great idea.

Has a friendly, attentive staff. Nothing is worse than being rushed, watched like a hawk, completely ignored, or assumed to be a petty thief. I love it when the staff says something like, “Welcome. Would you like some assistance picking out your cigars, or would you prefer to browse the selection yourself?” It’s a simple question that’s rarely asked.

Stays open later. Time and again I find many shops and lounges close early in the evening—like an hour or two after a normal work day. I understand it isn’t always possible, but I love it when they stay open late enough to have a post-dinner smoke. Bonus points for shops that recognize there are important sporting events that need to be watched, and that often merits staying open later if there’s a crowd.

Provides comfortable seating with access to power outlets. I don’t need decadence, but I don’t want to sit in a lawn chair, either. Plentiful, spread-out seating with solid ventilation is preferred. This is what makes me want to hang out, spend money, and come back.

Makes cleanliness a priority. I’m not asking for much. Empty the ash trays, dust the surfaces, and vacuum after those three guys got pizza crumbs everywhere. Also, the bathroom shouldn’t look like the opening scene of Saw.

Takes good care of the product. The cigars you sell should be in perfect smoking condition at the time of purchase. Period. Too often I’ve purchased a cigar that, once lit, proves to be under- or over-humidified. This should never, ever happen.

Values entertainment. Good TVs, WiFi, and maybe even a poker table. These touches go a long way.

Hosts great events. These days, many cigar consumers follow their favorite cigar makers on social media. They surely notice pictures and posts from cigar celebrities who visit shops across the country, often bringing with them exclusive cigars, branded merchandise, and a chance to make a more personal connection. Good cigar shops attract the best events and offer event-only deals.

Provides valuable consultation. There are tons of cigars on the market, and smoking them all is just not possible. The best shops can make educated suggestions about cigars to try based on a particular customer’s current tastes and interests.

What am I missing? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr