Archive by Author

Cigar Tip: Cigars and the Common Cold

18 Sep 2017

[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

Quick Smoke: Sosa Limitado Stout Torpedo

9 Sep 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 cigar had been resting in one of my humidors for about four years before I lit it up last night. It features a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper around an Indonesian Sumatra binder and filler tobaccos from Ecuador and Nicaragua. It is handmade made in Miami at Santiago Cabana Cigars with production limited to 800 cigars per month (only one roller is used to make the Sosa Limitado Stout Torpedo). With an asking price of about $15, you’d expect quite a lot. Unfortunately, while the Torpedo’s soft, rounded flavors of oak, raisin bread, and sweet cream are enjoyable enough, they’re simply too flat and too lacking in complexity or depth to make this a worthwhile investment.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection Especiales (Laguito No. 2)

5 Sep 2017

Limited run? Check. Boutique manufacturer with a solid reputation among cigar enthusiasts? Check. Outrageous packaging requiring a sizable investment without the opportunity to first try a single? Check. Tweaking existing blends to create exclusivity? Check.

If there were ever a product release that just screams “FOR CIGAR NERDS ONLY,” the Broadleaf Collection from Pete Johnson’s famed Tatuaje brand is it. Fortunately, after burning through quite a few of these, I am happy to report I consider this purchase money well spent.

As we’ve noted previously, with the FDA deadline just days away at the time, the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show saw a flurry of new cigar announcements, as expected. Tatuaje was no exception. And I don’t think I have to go out on a limb when I say fans of Tatuaje were most excited for the new Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection. Rightfully so.

The Reserva Broadleaf Collection consists of a whopping 100 cigars selling for $1,200, featuring ten each of the six original Miami Seleccion de Cazador (Brown Label) “HUNTER” sizes, plus the J21, SW, K222, and Cojonu 2003 blends (check out our previous musings on cigars from this collection here, here, and here). Each has its normal wrapper replaced with a Broadleaf wrapper. Fortunately, while the collection was set to only be available in 5,000 master cases of 100 (pictured above), Tatuaje has since said some will be released in boxes of ten of each size.

The master cases of 100 began arriving at retailers earlier this year. Included are ten Seleccion de Cazador Especiales (7.5 x 38), a lancero from the famed Brown Label line—which was introduced by Johnson in 2003 as an “old world, full-bodied, Cuban-style cigar.”

Ordinarily, this cigar has an Ecuadorian wrapper around its Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. This version, however, sports a thick, rustic, toothy, heavily veined Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. Along with ample oils and rich pre-light notes of coca powder and dried apricot, Especiales also boasts a handsome triple-cap accented with a pigtail. The cigar is firm yet the cold draw is average. A helpful secondary band of black and gold denotes “Reserva Broadleaf” to eliminate any confusion with the original.

After setting an even light, I find a medium-bodied, slightly spicy profile with a thick, chalky texture. Flavors include cayenne heat, espresso, caramel, leather, rye, and chocolate. The draw is impressively smooth for a lancero, the smoke production solid, the resting smoke sweet and aromatic, and the burn is off to a great start.

As the cigar progresses, black pepper spice comes to the fore along with black cherry, cinnamon, and more pronounced espresso. The intensity builds at the midway point and beyond with the final third weighing in as medium- to full-bodied. All the while, the combustion properties remain solid.

I will resist the temptation to compare this to the Ecuadorian-wrapped Seleccion de Cazador Especiales because (1) it has been too long since I’ve smoked that cigar and (2) I’d prefer to evaluate this Broadleaf Collection lanerco on its own merits. All told, this is a wonderful, balanced, satisfying cigar that commands your attention from light to nub. For that, I award it an excellent rating of four 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 Antaño 1970 Robusto Grande

2 Sep 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.”

I’ve been on a bit of an Antaño 1970 kick lately. Can you blame me? I find this Joya de Nicaragua line delivers outstanding performance and value time and again. Most recently, I picked up a Robusto Grande (5.5 x 52) from my local tobacconist for $6.95. This Nicaraguan puro sports a dark Habano-seed Criollo wrapper and a full-bodied profile of dark cherry, leather, espresso, and both red and black pepper. With outstanding combustion properties and a sub-$7 price, the Antaño 1970 Robusto Grande is very easy to recommend—especially to veteran cigar enthusiasts who crave body, spice, and a balanced, smooth delivery.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Laphroaig Cairdeas Quarter Cask 2017

28 Aug 2017

Depending on my mood, I find few spirits pair as well with a fine cigar as scotch—especially those scotch whiskeys from Islay that are characterized by a hearty dose of smoky peat. For me, along with bourbon and rye, scotch is a mainstay cigar companion in the colder months (whereas I typically turn to rum in the summer heat).

There’s certainly nothing wrong with scotch in the summer, though, especially when there’s a new release to try that stirs my interest. Case in point: the new Cairdeas Quarter Cask from Laphroaig. Cairdeas (“friendship” in Gaelic) is, according to Laphroaig, a response to market demand for “a cask-strength version of the popular Laphroaig Quarter Cask expression, which offers an irresistible doubling of flavor, due to the double maturation in two American oak barrels.”

The strategy behind the 2017 Cairdeas Quarter Cask includes blending different ages (at least five years old) of Laphroaig in “first-fill bourbon casks” before undergoing a second round of maturation in smaller quarter casks. After another six months, these casks are then bottled at cask-strength without the addition of any coloring agents. The result is a 114.4-proof (57.2% alcohol by volume) spirit that sells for $80 per bottle.

As you can see from the photo above, I received a miniature bottle sample from Laphroaig to make this review possible (a gesture that is much appreciated but, as always, has zero impact on my assessment of the product). In contrast, the photo to the right shows the 2017 Cairdeas Quarter Cask bottle and its decorative sleeve (this photo is courtesy of Laphroaig). Notably, in the promotional photo, the whiskey has a darker, reddish hue, whereas my sample poured a crisp, bright golden color.

The Laphroaig reputation is one of power and peat. This is due to Laphroaig being “one of only a few distilleries that still uses traditional malting floors and dries and infuses its own malt with the thick blue smoke from old peat-fired kilns.” So you would expect a cask-strength Laphroaig to bring a bold, powerful, peaty, smoky nose to the table. And that’s exactly what you get. Even with the addition of a little water to open it up, the nose on this whiskey is absolutely huge with brine, fresh peat, black pepper, minerals, and vanilla.

On the palate, Cairdeas Quarter Cask arrives relatively gently, then slowly builds in strength as the finish lingers. Flavors include peat, ginger spice, smoke, oak, molasses, and white pepper. The intensity of the finish reaches its zenith with a spicy, warm, tingly, crisp sensation that concentrates on the tip of the tongue.

I am a fan of Laphroaig 18 (48% alcohol by volume) and decided to taste some side-by-side with Cairdeas Quarter Cask. Frankly, Cairdeas Quarter Cask renders 18—a hearty, spicy, peat-forward whiskey by any stanard—relatively harmless and approachable.

In my book, the 2017 Laphroaig Cairdeas Quarter Cask is an intense expression that offers solid value for the dollar (it should, after all; quarter casking is, effectively, a strategy to get whiskey in the bottle quicker since the smaller barrels provide a higher ratio of wood surface to liquid volume, thereby requiring less of a distillery’s most precious asset: time). When you try this whiskey, I think you’ll agree that it begs to be enjoyed with a fine cigar. And when you select your stick, I suggest you look for something bold that won’t get drowned out by this spirit’s incredible, powerful flavors. I found the Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection Havana Cazadores, for example, does the trick.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys / Laphroaig

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Short Corona

26 Aug 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.”

Drew Estate cigar production expertise meets a Cubanesque approach to blending. That’s what you get when you fire up Herrera Estelí, a line blended by Willy Herrera that sports Ecuadorian, Honduran, and Nicaraguan tobaccos. The Short Corona (4.9 x 46, about $8) is my favorite vitola. It packs a profile of syrup, creamy nut, dry wood, and white pepper into a short, compact, concentrated format. And, as I’ve come to expect from Drew Estate, the combustion properties are sublime.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2015 LC50

21 Aug 2017

Las Calaveras is an annual limited release from Nashville-based manufacturer Crowned Heads. It is inspired by La Calavera Catrina (“the dapper skeleton”), a painting that has become synonymous with Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday honoring the dead.

Made at the My Father Cigars factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, the Las Calaveras tradition began in 2014 and continues today with a 2017 iteration that includes four vitolas and about 135,000 total cigars. Back in 2015, total production was only 90,000 cigars across three vitolas. So imagine my surprise when I recently stumbled across a stash of 2015 Las Calaveras cigars at one of my local tobacconists.

The three 2015 Las Calaveras formats were LC50 (5 x 50), LC46 (5.6 x 46), and LC52 (6 x 52). Each came packaged in boxes of 24 with an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. I picked up a handful of LC50s, which ran me $9.95 apiece.

The Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2015 LC50 is a handsome, well-made cigar with an attractive, understated band of white, black, and gold over a clean, reddish, medium-brown wrapper that’s devoid of any prominent veins. It is firm, yet the cold draw is smooth once the nicely executed cap is clipped with a guillotine cutter. Interestingly, the foot exhibits only faint pre-light notes; you have to concentrate to pick up the almond and oak.

Once an even light is set, the profile can best be characterized by cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, red pepper spice, and dry wood. The texture is delightfully thick and chalky. Attentive smokers will notice a bready core of cereals and toasty grains. The overall impression is one of a well-balanced, medium-bodied, spice-forward smoke with some Cubanesque, old-school personality.

As the LC50 progresses into the midway point and beyond, some richer flavors come to the fore, including espresso, leather, and thick molasses. All the while, the spice and sweetness both remain bold, rendering the overall taste harmonious. In the background, there’s a fresh greenness to help offset flavors that are slightly bitter or savory.

Throughout, construction is impeccable. Expect an even burn that requires no touch-ups, a sold ash, a smooth draw, and good smoke production.

Tomorrow, I am headed back to my tobacconist to see if they have any more Las Calaveras cigars from 2015. I certainly hope they do. And, if you come across any, I heartily recommend you pick up whatever you can find. The LC50 is an awesomely balanced and satisfying cigar. It earns a stellar rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys