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Cigar Review: S.T.K. Black Dahlia by George Rico Robusto

1 May 2019

The story of Elizabeth Short is a tragic and gruesome one. It need not be repeated here. That said, if you’re interested, you’ll find no shortage of material across all manner of media—including books, films, and the internet—on the 1947 unsolved murder of the young woman who would come to be known as Black Dahlia.

Far be it from me to explain why you’d name a cigar line in honor of a grotesque crime that has persisted in the public consciousness over seven decades. Yet Gran Habano did just that when it launched Black Dahlia in 2017.

Made in Honduras at Gran Habano’s GR Tabaqueras Unidas factory in Danlí, Black Dahlia sports a Nicaraguan Corojo Shade wrapper, dual Habano and Nicaraguan binders, and filler tobaccos that include Habano, Nicaraguan Cubita, Colombian, and Costa Rican leaves. It is offered in three sizes, each packaged in 20-count boxes: Robusto (5 x 52, $9), Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46, $9.50), and Gran Robusto (6 x 54, $10).

The Robusto features a pale, light brown wrapper that’s wrinkled and traversed by a fair number of thin veins. The surface is moderately oily with tooth and some lumps. While the feel is consistently firm throughout with no soft spots, the cold draw is smooth. At the foot, I find gentle pre-light notes of sweet hay and herbal tea.

Black Dahlia might be marketed as a full-bodied smoke but, if the three Robustos I smoked for this review are any indication, it’s a decidedly medium blend. The core profile includes café au lait, white pepper, and a gentle cedar spice. The finish is short with warm spice on the tip of the tongue. At times, there are flashes of roasted peanuts.

As the Robusto progresses, the core flavors remain unchanged but a smooth, sweet creaminess enters the equation. The final third is more of the same, yet slightly more intense. All the while the combustion qualities are solid. Even though the burn might waver a bit here and there, it always self-corrects and almost never requires a touch-up. The draw is easy. The ash holds well off the foot. And the smoke production is generous.

Perhaps, like me, this line escaped your radar when it was introduced a couple years ago. I’m certainly glad I finally gave it a try and recommend you do the same. The S.T.K. Black Dahlia by George Rico Robusto offers balance, nuanced flavors, and good bang for your buck. It’s suitable for a morning smoke with a cup of black coffee, an afternoon round of golf, or a post-dinner treat with some sipping rum. For that, it earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 2011 Gran Robusto

22 Apr 2019

In 2015, Gran Habano—the Florida-based operation of the Rico family—announced a few changes to its portfolio. Chief among them was the introduction of the George Rico S.T.K. Miami Zulu Zulu Mas Paz Edition, which is made in Miami, features design work by artist Mas Paz, and benefits an orphanage in Bogotá, Colombia. Gran Habano also added a few sizes, discontinued a vitola in the G.A.R. Red line, and changed some packaging.

Five years before all these changes, in 2010, the Gran Reserva #3 line was introduced, showcasing well-aged tobaccos from 2008. The cigar was a success, and it spawned a few follow-ups: Gran Reserva #3 2009, Gran Reserva #5 2010, and Gran Reserva #5 2011.

The latter is the latest and only Gran Reserva to be featured at the Gran Habano website (since the cigars are produced in limited quantities, presumably there’s no reason to market the previous Gran Reserva lines). It is offered in five formats: Corona Gorda (5.1 x 46), Gran Robusto (6 x 54), Imperial (6 x 60), Czar (6 x 66), and Grandioso (7 x 70).

It goes without saying that Gran Reserva #5 2011 skews large and thick. Frankly, only two of the sizes even pique my interest: Corona Gorda and Gran Robusto. Today I’m reviewing the latter, after having smoked three samples.

Like its brethren in the Gran Reserva #5 2011 line, the Gran Robusto sports a Nicaraguan wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It is made at Gran Habano’s GR Tabaqueras Unidas factory in Danlí, Honduras.

After removing the beefy cigar from its cedar sleeve, I find a firm, dark specimen that’s dry, toothy, and marked only by thin veins. The densely packed foot showcases pre-light notes of green raisin and coffee grounds. The loosely applied band of red and gold slides effortlessly off the cigar. After clipping the head with a double-guillotine, I find a clear draw that imparts a little spice on the lips.

There’s a lot of tape holding the cedar sleeve and foot ribbon together. If you’re patient enough to peel in all away, though, you can use the cedar to light the cigar—a time-honored tradition I’ve always found to be pleasant. Plus, since the Gran Robusto has a large ring gauge (54), the cedar is helpful in thoroughly establishing an even light from the get-go.

Once underway, the flavors are medium- to full-bodied with notes of espresso, char, black pepper, cedar, and a bit of warm tobacco sweetness. Cocoa powder and creamy cashew help to add balance. After about an inch, the spice and char recede and chocolate and nuts become more prominent.

The voluminous, cool smoke keeps the body (now decidedly medium) and spice at bay, making room for flavor. The taste is also not inhibited by the physical properties, which are admirable. The burn is straight, the white ash holds well, and the draw is smooth.

The final third isn’t much different than the rest of the cigar, save for the introduction of some cayenne heat in the background. And that’s ultimately the biggest knock on this otherwise fine cigar: It tends to overstay its welcome. I don’t dislike the core flavors, but I’m also not sure the offer enough to warrant such a significant time commitment.

That makes the Gran Reserva #5 2011 Gran Robusto a difficult cigar to score. But score it I must, and I’ve settled on a rating 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: Joya de Nicaragua Clásico Señorita

18 Apr 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.”

To date, I’ve reviewed two cigars from the new Joya de Nicaragua Clásico series: Número 6 and Toro. Generally speaking, while I enjoy mild cigars and think they have a place in any proper cigar rotation, these vitolas scored just OK, both falling short in the flavor department. The smaller Señorita (5.5 x 34), however, seems to hit all the right notes. Its Cuban-seed Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, combined with Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, yields a smooth, creamy profile that’s subtle and balanced yet tasty. Flavors include cream, white pepper, dry oak, and toasted nuts. So far, this is my favorite size in the line, which launched last summer.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Nuevitas Jibaro No. 2

8 Apr 2019

Last year, Pete Johnson of Tatuaje re-introduced three cigars he had discontinued in 2007: Nuevitas, Nuevitas Jibaro No. 1, and Nuevitas Jibaro No 2. If you don’t recall them by name, perhaps you will remember them as the Tatuaje cigars not made by Don José “Pepin” Garcia.

Tatuaje is synonymous with Garcia and My Father Cigars. Today even more so, because the three cigars that used to be crafted at Tabacalera Tropical in Nicaragua are now handmade at the My Father Cigars S.A. factory in Estelí.

The trio features a Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos. If not for the differences in the bands, you could be forgiven for confusing Nuevitas with Jibaro No 1.; but Johnson threw us a bone and made the former white with orange trim, and the latter orange with white trim. Jibaro No. 1 also has an exposed foot.

But while Nuevitas (5 x 52) and Jibaro No. 1 (5 x 54) are virtually the same size, Jibaro No. 2 is a toro-sized smoke (6 x 52). It sells for just under $10 for a single and also has an orange band and an unfinished foot.

Jibaro No. 2 is a moderately oily specimen with its fair share of thin veins and noticeable seams. The cold draw is smooth. The wrapper has a faint citrus aroma with some dry earth, but the foot is awash with hay and a sweet nuttiness.

After setting flame to the binder and filler, the cigar yields a spice-forward introductory profile with white pepper, black pepper, and cedar at the core. On the palate, the spice hits the tip of the tongue the hardest. Background notes of bread and warm tobacco add some depth, but the overall sensation is very dry and spicy.

If you allow the Jibaro No. 2 to rest between puffs, the smoke will cool and the spice will subside. What’s left, however, is a dry, papery taste that’s in need of… well, flavor. That flavor starts to build around the midway point with soft floral notes, citrus, and cinnamon. A smooth creaminess contributes complexity which, up to this point, had been frankly lacking. The spice recedes, and the texture is bready.

These changes are too little too late, though. They’re also short-lived. The final third is hot, harsh, spicy, and papery. While the physical properties are in line with what we’ve come to expect from My Father Cigars—including a solid ash, clear draw, straight burn, and good smoke production—the flavors simply aren’t up to par.

There are many, many wonderful Tatuaje cigars. Too many to cite here. But I’m sorry to report the Nuevitas Jibaro No. 2 leaves much to be desired. In my book, it earns a disappointing rating of two and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature

25 Mar 2019

I was recently perusing the extensive archives when I came across this tidy piece from 2010 by one of my colleagues. In typical George E fashion, it is as insightful as it is concise.

“For a cigar fan, walking into a humidor displaying new and untried sticks is an enticing moment,” he wrote. “Whether it’s that cigar you’ve been wanting to try since you first heard or read about it, or something that just hit the shelves, smoking a cigar for the first time can be a lot of fun. But if, like me, you don’t smoke several cigars a day, the quest for untried cigars means you can easily neglect those you’ve enjoyed in the past.”

Indeed. It’s easy to get caught up in the bustle and excitement of new cigars, especially in the month or so following the IPCPR Trade Show. So why not take some time this spring to re-acquaint yourself with an old favorite or two?

With this in mind, there were many, many cigars I could have chosen to write about today. But—with a nudge from Holt’s Cigar Co., who generously provided the five-pack for this review—I landed on the Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature, a perfecto measuring 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 47 and a per-cigar price of $8.30 (or $185.95 for a box of 25).

Handmade at Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia. in the Dominican Republic with a Cameroon wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos, the Hemingway Signature is a dry, pale brown cigar with a narrowed foot and the classic Fuente band of gold, red, and black. Most of the visible veins are what I’d call thin or nondescript, rendering the cigar relatively smooth—though not without a few bumps and wrinkles here and there. The pre-light aroma is faint with notes of hay and pepper. And despite finding a very tight cross-section of tobaccos at the head after clipping it, the cold draw is easy.

Now some cigar enthusiasts will actually clip the narrowed foot before lighting, presumably to ensure an even light at the cigar’s widest point right from the get-go. I don’t understand this. The Hemingway Signature lights easily and evenly with one wooden match.

As for flavor, the mild- to medium-bodied profile starts dry, woodsy, and very sweet. Individual notes include cherry, white pepper, molasses, and cream. On the finish, the sensation is spicier. The flavors remind me of cedar and cayenne heat—both of which nicely complement the sweetness of the core profile. This taste is remarkably consistent from light to nub.

Construction-wise, the physical properties are aligned with what I’ve come to expect from Arturo Fuente. The burn is even throughout with no need for any touch-ups along the way, the draw is smooth, the ash holds well off the foot, and the smoke production is about average.

The Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature has stood the test of time, and for good reason. At an affordable price, you get classic medium-bodied flavors, well-aged tobacco, superb combustion qualities, and a nice interplay between the sweetness of the flavor and the gentle spiciness of the finish. For that, I award it four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Curivari Café 52

18 Mar 2019

For years, my colleague has praised the Buenaventura line by Curivari as not only an excellent smoke, but an excellent value. The cigars—which sport a classic, Cubanesque presentation and have been wellreviewed at on numerous occasions—also retail at a very refreshing price point. To this day, when people ask me to recommend an inexpensive cigar that punches above its weight, Buenaventura is usually on the short list.

Still, Curivari doesn’t seem to receive the attention it deserves. Perhaps this is due to its (seemingly purposeful) low profile. In stark contrast to many other boutique brands that employ social media to create a personal connection to between their customers and cigar makers or owners, Curivari’s owner—Andreas Throuvalis—operates behind the scenes, rendering the brand almost faceless.

And Curivari’s spartan website doesn’t help matters. There, you won’t find much more background info than this: “In all our cigars, we use only the traditional Cuban cigar making process with authentic Cuban Criollo and Corojo seed grown in Nicaragua…. Curivari cigars are made with 100% Cuban-seed Nicaraguan tobacco. We blend for a classic Cuban flavor profile that we enjoy, not with focus on strength, but more looking for flavor and aroma in a right balance. All cigars are finished with a triple-cap.”

The Curivari Café line is described as “medium- to full-bodied… with lots of coffee and cocoa undertones.” It is offered in three sizes: Petit Café (4.5 x 42), 60 (5.5 x 58), and 52 (5 x 52).

The 52 retails for $8.25. This Nicaraguan puro boasts soft notes of hay and cedar at the unlit foot. It is spongy to the touch with moderate oils on its smooth, seamless surface and an understated band of sepia and gold. Notably, the filler and binder extend a bit beyond the wrapper. The cold draw is easy with a hint of oaky sweetness on the lips.

After an even light is established, the initial puffs are salty, dry, and loaded with spicy cedar and cinnamon. The spice, while still present, backs off quickly, leaving behind notes of café au lait, cocoa powder, and a little cashew.

But one characteristic of the profile that doesn’t recede is the dryness. The Curivari Café consistently hits my palate in a dry, salty way. For this reason, when it comes to pairing, I’d recommend a citrusy cocktail with a bit of sweetness, as opposed to coffee or a neat finger of bourbon or scotch. Some, including the folks at Curivari, will disagree with this; they call the Café line “a perfect compliment [sic] for coffee.”

Throughout, the burn line is less than stellar, and several touch-ups are needed to keep things even. Every other aspect of combustion, however, is admirable. The gray ash holds pretty well off the foot, the draw is clear, and the smoke production is generous.

The final third of the Curivari Café 52 isn’t much different than the rest. Expect cedar spice, cocoa, some cinnamon, coffee, and dry earth. The next time I try this robusto I may sample it with a limoncello gin martini, a citrus rye and ginger, or simply a Cuba libre. On its own with nothing but water, it earns three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Unico Serie Nasty Fritas

15 Mar 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.”

Last summer, Drew Estate unveiled three smaller vitolas for Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 lines—Corona Viva, Short Panatela, and Petit Corona—plus the Unico Serie Nasty Fritas. “The Nasty Fritas utilizes a Connecticut Broadleaf Oscuro wrapper and a plantation-grown Brazilian Mata Fina binder over Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers,” read a press release dated from July 2018. “Like the Papas Fritas, the Nasty Fritas filler tobacco incorporates leftover tobacco leaves that are short cut through the manufacture of Liga Privada No. 9 and Liga Privada T52 cigars.” Nasty Fritas is a “conical vitola” measuring just shy of 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 52 at its widest point. It is sold in 50-count boxes for $325, or $6.50 per cigar, and features a pigtail cap and closed foot. The burn line is a bit temperamental, but the flavors—cocoa, coffee, and the hints of sweet grassiness that are (to me, at least) synonymous with Liga—are enough to merit a recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys