Archive by Author

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

Cigar Review: CroMagnon Cranium

27 Aug 2018

We’ve been operating StogieGuys.com since May 2006. As a result, for over twelve years, much of what I’ve smoked has been dictated by necessity for this website. And while I’m sure you won’t shed any tears in my honor (despite being a lot of work, running a cigar site is a rewarding, entertaining endeavor), you can probably appreciate my predicament. Sometimes I just want to smoke—and, yes, write about—an old favorite.

So today I’m reviewing a cigar that most certainly did not debut at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show. It’s also not new to this website (we previously wrote about it here and here). In fact, there’s no good reason for me to publish this—other than I simply want to, and that I’m secretly hoping to inspire a few readers to pick up a CroMagnon Cranium who maybe haven’t grabbed one in a while.

In the event you’re unfamiliar, the CroMagnon line from RoMa Craft Tobac is handmade in Estelí at the Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A. factory. It sports a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper around a Cameroon binder with Nicaraguan filler tobaccos.

The toro-sized Cranium (6x 54) retails for about $9. It has a dark, reddish exterior leaf with moderate oils, plenty of tooth, and a few large veins. The feel is firm and the foot exhibits a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos. The pre-light notes remind me of molasses and cocoa power. The rough cap clips cleanly to reveal a moderate cold draw.

Appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes they can be telling. If you were to judge the CroMagnon Cranium based solely on its intimidating looks and menacing presentation, you’d probably expect it to be a full-bodied powder keg. The initial puffs would validate those expectations. The thick, leathery profile is packed with char, black pepper, espresso, and chalky earth.

To write this toro off as a power-bomb, however, would be to overlook the expert blending that so clearly went into the cigar’s creation. There’s a complexity and balance here that’s often missing from many straightforwardly strong cigars. Creamy peanut, dark chocolate, and hickory add layers. And the strength level dips and surges—an effective strategy that ensures interest is not lost.

Along the way, the physical properties are consistent with what I’ve come to expect from RoMa Craft. The white ash holds well off the foot, the burn is straight, the draw is smooth, and the smoke production is above average.

Trying new cigars is important—especially if you write about cigars. But there’s so much out there, and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. So don’t overlook the tried and true blends that have performed consistently well for years. Your palate, and your wallet, will thank you.

This solid, fairly priced, full-bodied cigar is best enjoyed with a full stomach and a side of brown liquor. I continue to be a fan, and award it a very solid 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: Leccia Tobacco Luchador Loco Perfecto

20 Aug 2018

In early 2014, Sam Leccia of Leccia Tobacco announced he was “looking to put the cigar industry in a headlock” with a new blend called Luchador (Spanish for “wrestler”). In keeping with its Mexican wrestler theme, that blend was formally introduced on Cinco de Mayo.

Luchador was the third line to come out of Leccia Tobacco, which also includes White, Black, and Desnudo. It features (as you’d expect) a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around an Ecuadorian Habano binder with filler from Nicaragua, Pennsylvania, and Honduras.

“Centering the blend is a distinctive tobacco from Ometepe, Nicaragua,” reads the Leccia Tobacco website. “Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua… Its name derives from the Nahuatl words ome (two) and tepetl (mountain), meaning two mountains. It is the largest volcanic island inside a fresh water lake in the world.”

“I wanted to create something fun, yet different and exciting,” said Leccia in 2014. “With Luchador being a combination of exotic blends and flavors with a Mexican wrapper, I thought it was time to tap into my childhood fascination of Mexican pro wrestling.”

Four regular-production vitolas are available: El Hombre (5 x 54), El Castigo (6 x 60), El Guapo (6 x 50), and Loco Perfecto (6 x 58). Each bears a red, white, and green band (think a Mexican flag) adorned with the image of a Mexican wrestling mask.

A box of Loco Perfectos retails for $180.60 at the Leccia Tobacco store. The cigar I sampled for this review had been in my humidor for four years. It had potent pre-light notes of cocoa, salted caramel, and earth. The pointed cap clipped easily to reveal an impressively smooth draw (especially when you consider the firmness of the cigar).

Given the narrow foot, a single wooden match is all that’s needed to establish an even light. The initial profile is one of black pepper spice, espresso, dark chocolate, and the gritty earthiness that’s so often associated with San Andrés tobacco.

Past the half-inch mark, the core flavors remain the same, but the spice becomes more subdued and a creaminess comes to the fore. From there, as the Loco Perfecto progresses, the profile shifts here and there not because of new flavors, but because the flavors rise and fall relative to one another. The journey concludes with a finale that’s very similar to the beginning.

Notwithstanding its solid construction and consistent combustion properties, the Luchador blend is unlikely to wow. It is enjoyable and serviceable, but falls a little short in terms of complexity or richness if you’re hoping for something memorable. That’s ultimately why I’ve landed the respectable rating of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Tips: Practice Proper Cigar Etiquette

15 Aug 2018

[Editors’ Note: From time to time, StogieGuys.com will reach back into its extensive archives to update and re-publish some of our oldest articles, many of which focused on cigar basics. Our hope is to encourage a discussion among readers and reacquaint the community with important cigar fundamentals.]

Cigar smokers are all Wall Street fat cats who are condescending, elitist snobs that are out of touch with everyday, hard-working Americans.

That’s how Hollywood often portrays us lovers of the leaf, and many non-smokers simply accept this stereotype as reality. While you and I know that nothing could be further from the truth—that cigars are an affordable luxury enjoyed by wearers of blue collars and white collars alike—it’s important to keep this stereotype in mind. We should do our best not to reinforce it, especially when we’re around non-smokers. This is best accomplished by adhering to a reasonable code of conduct.

Where to smoke. When you’re smoking on your own property alone, you can obviously feel free to smoke away. But if you have a non-smoking guest in your presence, it never hurts to ask. “I’d like to smoke a cigar. Do you mind?” In my experience, rarely, if ever, will the guest object. But he or she will always appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Be a good patron. If you happen to be off your property, perhaps at a bar or restaurant that isn’t covered by a smoking ban, follow the rules of that establishment. Some places allow cigarette smoking but prohibit cigars. Others allow cigars in only certain sections. Most forbid cigars altogether. Whatever the case, ask the owner or an employee what the policy is, and then follow it politely. (That said, if I’m in a rare setting where cigar smoking is allowed, I won’t ask other patrons for permission; if the permission is granted by the rules/owner, that’s good enough for me, and there are plenty of other places for people who are offended by cigar smoke.)

Share, don’t impose. Whether you’re about to smoke at home or out on the town, don’t hesitate to offer others in your group a cigar. But remember that offering is a lot different than pressuring. Conversely, if you’ve accepted the gift of a cigar, be sure to reciprocate the generosity next time. No one likes a mooch.

Ash in an ashtray. Floors, potted plants, and toilets are not ashtrays and should not be treated as such. Be respectful of your surroundings. If you’re somewhere falling ash won’t be a problem (say, on a golf course), go ahead and let your ash accumulate for an inch or more. But if you’re at a fancy cocktail party standing on a $15,000 Persian rug, ash early and ash often.

Remove the band when you want to. While some say it’s showy and impolite to leave the band on your cigar while you smoke it, I couldn’t disagree more. In my experience, leaving the band on is a great conversation starter that helps cigar aficionados meet one another. It also minimizes the risk of the band’s glue from tearing or unraveling a fragile cigar wrapper.

Don’t accept a cigar you don’t want or don’t have time for. If you’re lucky enough to be on the receiving end of cigar generosity, politely decline if you don’t have the inclination or time to fully enjoy the smoke. It can be perceived as rude to accept a cigar and then set it down at the halfway mark.

Be a good cigar customer. When visiting a cigar shop, handle the merchandise with care and follow the proprietor’s rules. Damaging the cigars (even slightly), shoving the product up your nose, disrupting the display, taking un-purchased merchandise into the bathroom, smoking cigars in the shop/lounge you purchased elsewhere, and other errors of common sense should be avoided.

On the whole, cigar enthusiasts are among the nicest, most personable people on the planet—a far cry from how we’re portrayed in movies or on TV. Let’s all do our part to keep it that way. Pass on the knowledge you’ve accumulated, but be open and mindful of other opinions. Pay generosity forward. Treat others as you would like to be treated. And have a great time.

Patrick A

 

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Interlude Maduro Carrillitos

13 Aug 2018

I’ve been working my way through the Interlude line from E.P. Carrillo this year, thus far writing reviews on the Natural Rothschild Jr. and the Maduro Rothschild Jr.

At first, my attraction to the pint-sized cigars was inspired by the temperatures of a Chicago winter; more recently, I’m drawn to the cigars for their ability to pack a premium cigar experience into a short time period—a plus when you’ve got two small children and a third on the way.

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo launched Interlude in 2016. There are two blends each presented in two small formats: Carrillitos (4 x 38) and Rothschild Jr. (3.75 x 48).

The Natural version of “Ernesto’s shortest cigar ever made” sports a Connecticut wrapper (same as the New Wave Reserva) around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Maduro boasts a Mexican San Andrés wrapper (same as La Historia) around an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan filler.

Both were hard to blend “because the dimensions limit the amount of tobacco that can be used,” Ernesto Perez-Carrillo shared via email. “So the proportions have to be just right to get the flavor profile sought.”

I smoked a handful of cigars in the Interlude Maduro Carrillitos format for this review. This cigar is neatly presented in a regal five-pack that retails for $15 (or $3 per cigar). The beautiful packaging is offset by the rustic, wrinkled appearance of the wrapper leaf. It is veiny, toothy, and mottled with moderately loose seams.

The firm, lumpy Maduro Carrillitos has a stiff cold draw and pre-light notes reminiscent of cocoa powder and damp earth. A single match is all that’s needed to establish an even burn. Once underway, I find a medium- to full-bodied profile of black pepper spice, cherry sweetness, dark chocolate, and cedar.

After a quarter-inch or so, the draw mercifully opens up nicely. At the same time, there is a shift in flavor away from spice and towards creaminess. Here, flavors include dry oak, marshmallow, and café au lait. This is where things remain until the final third, which is characterized by a reprise of black pepper and cedar spice.

The physical properties are outstanding. All of my samples exhibited straight burn lines, sturdy ashes, and good smoke production. The only blemish is the tight draw at the outset.

When I started to get serious about cigars about 12 years ago, the most challenging scarcity was the cost of the hobby. Now, the biggest constraint is time. I can’t seem to carve out 90 to 120 minutes nearly as often as I would like.

That’s why the Interlude series strikes a chord with me. E.P. Carrillo found a way to deliver much of what I love most about cigars into more manageable formats. For that, I’m thankful. I’ve especially been impressed with the San Andrés-wrapped Maduro Interlude cigars. Like the Rothschild Jr., I’m awarding this one a very solid rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: L’Atelier Imports Extension de la Racine ER13

12 Aug 2018

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.”

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Released in 2013, this cigar from Pete Johnson’s L’Atelier Imports was built to have the same dimensions as the Cohiba Siglo VI (5.9 x 52). That said, its makeup—a Nicaraguan sun-grown Criollo wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos—doesn’t yield a flavor profile that resembles the famed Cuban smoke. Still, it’s good in its own right, with excellent combustion qualities and a balanced taste of rich caramel, cream, and dry oak with a bready texture. It originally sold for $9.25. If you can track one down, pick it up.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Villiger Flor de Ynclan Lancero Especial

8 Aug 2018

Last summer, Villiger Cigars introduced the Flor de Ynclan line. Actually, it was more of a re-introduction. Villiger originally debuted the line, which takes its name from an old Cuban brand, back in 2007.

Eleven years ago, a “small batch” of La Flor de Ynclan was crafted by Villiger with unsatisfactory results, leading to a decision to cease production. The 2017 re-introduction, therefore, wasn’t merely a second go-around with the same recipe. It had been re-blended by José Matias Maragoto—overseer of all Villiger-made product in the Dominican Republic—to feature an Ecuadorian wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos.

Villiger got it right this time, according to Heinrich Villiger, chairman of Switzerland-based Villiger Soehne AG: “The La Flor de Ynclan cigar has been an ongoing labor of love for us. We feel that there is a difference between a good and great cigar, [and] Matias Maragoto and I hope you feel the same.”

La Flor de Ynclan is handmade at the ABAM Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic. It has three regular-production formats: Robusto (5 x 50, $11), Torpedo (5 x 52, $12), and Churchill (7 x 48, $12).

In addition, this year a limited edition Lancero Especial (6.75 x 43, $11) was added; only 500 boxes of 25 will be made annually. This vitola has a pigtail cap and, like its 2017 predecessors, sports a metallic band of silver, blue, red, and black (in case you’re wondering, the 2007 La Flor de Ynclan band depicts an enrobed woman posing with two spears and one hand atop a globe).

In terms of flavor, the Lancero Especial can be thought of as a more concentrated, slightly stronger version of the Toro I reviewed over a year ago. The core profile of oak, cream, and cinnamon is very similar, though the body is decidedly medium instead of mild- to medium-bodied. In the background, attentive smokers will notice hints of citrus, vanilla, and almond. The texture is bready.

The cinnamon spice becomes more prevalent toward the midway point. Here, I also find a taste of white pepper. In the final third, there is a shift back to oak and citrus, and the spice is more reminiscent of black pepper.

Across both samples I smoked for this review, the physical properties left little to be desired. Despite being spongy to the touch, the Lancero Especial exhibits a near-perfect burn behind a sturdy ash. The draw has some resistance but is mostly clear. The smoke production is average.

All told, I give the slight edge to the Lancero Especial over the Churchill—but not enough of an edge to change the overall score. I’m sticking with my (very admirable) rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys