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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

Cigar Review: Caldwell Savages Corona Extra

22 Oct 2018

Caldwell Cigar Co. was launched in 2014 by Robert Caldwell with a lineup of Dominican blends. The company seemingly came out of nowhere; its cigars debuted only about eight months after Caldwell walked away from Wynwood Cigars, a co-venture with Christian Eiroa, formerly of Camacho. Most people will tell you eight months isn’t nearly enough time to create and execute a vision for a new brand, but Robert Caldwell isn’t most people.

Long Live the King was one of Caldwell’s original lines. It sports a Dominican Corojo wrapper and binder, along with filler tobaccos from Nicaragua (Habana Ligero) and Peru (Pelo de Oro). It is marketed as a full-bodied, small-batch cigar made from grade-A tobaccos.

Two years later, in 2016, Caldwell released an offshoot of Long Live the King called Savages. This limited-edition line is said to be “creamier and nuttier” than its predecessor. It employs a Habano wrapper, Dominican binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

There are five Savages vitolas, each packaged in 10-count boxes: Corona Larga (8 x 45), Piramide (6 x 50), Super Rothschild (4.75 x 52), Toro (6 x 54), and Corona Extra (6 x 46). The latter retails for about $11. It makes a strong first impression with a flattened pigtail cap, pre-light notes of sweet hay and earth, and interesting double bands of cream, gold, and silver (Caldwell deserves credit for its marketing and graphics). The oily exterior leaf has thin veins and a chameleon-like color that seems to change in the light from light brown to reddish to dark brown.

The Corona Extra is consistently dense from head to foot. Consequently, the cold draw has a bit more resistance than I would like. It isn’t, however, what I would call tight.

Once an even light is established, the draw opens almost instantly. What follows is a bready, medium-bodied profile of white pepper, cocoa powder, oak, and soft cayenne heat. There’s also a damp mustiness that reminds me of cigars from Davidoff or PG.

Around the midway point, the draw opens once again. Here, it’s virtually effortless and the smoke production is voluminous. The result is a taste that’s simultaneously more intense and creamier. Individual flavors include peanut and coffee with milk and sugar.

The damp mustiness—a note that’s more delicious than it looks on paper—remains a central feature until the end. The final third is decidedly more chocolaty, however.

Throughout, the physical properties include a solid ash and a burn line that, while imperfect, does not seriously hinder the enjoyment of the wonderful flavors. A couple torch touch-ups are enough to keep things on track.

Perhaps the defining characteristic of the Savages Corona Extra is its rich, balanced complexity—as well as the density of the oily smoke, and the damp, earthy, mushroom-like mustiness. This is, by far, the best cigar I’ve had from Caldwell. It’s worthy of 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: CroMagnon Venus

19 Oct 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.”

The CroMagnon line from RoMa Craft Tobac sports a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper around a Cameroon binder with Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The petite salomon-sized Venus (6.5 x 56) retails for about $11 and sports a full-bodied profile with flavors ranging from black pepper and espresso to peanut and dark chocolate. Attentive smokers will also notice hickory, cream, and char, as well as subtle differences in taste as the perfecto’s ring gauge widens then narrows. The texture is leathery and the outstanding combustion properties live up to the high expectations set by the Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A. factory in Estelí. You should buy this cigar. You should smoke this cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sobremesa Robusto Largo

15 Oct 2018

These days, when cigar enthusiasts think of Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, the “marcas” they’re most likely to conjure are the ones Saka features in his frequent social media posts. Sin Compromiso. The Muestra de Saka iterations, including Nacatamale and (especially) Unicorn. Maybe a close-up of a lit Umbagog taken at Saka’s favorite fishing lake in New Hampshire.

But when I think Dunbarton, I think Sobremesa. Sobremesa was announced in July 2015 to almost instant excitement as the first line from Saka’s new independent cigar operation. It marked the culmination of a two-year non-compete agreement Saka had with his former employer, Drew Estate. Seemingly everyone was clamoring to see how the man who played a critical role in growing Drew Estate into a Nicaraguan juggernaut would fare in his first solo foray.

In my opinion, Sobremesa was—and still is—worth the hype. To date we’ve written about the Elegante en Cedros, Gran Imperiales, Corona Grande, El Americano, and—my personal favorite—the Cervantes Fino. All have received exemplary marks.

Today I look at a Sobremesa vitola that has thus far escaped my reach: the Robusto Largo (5.25 x 52). Like its brethren, the Robusto Largo sports an oily, velvety, toothy, slightly reddish Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper leaf with minimal veins and tight seams. It envelops a Mexican binder and a filler blend of Pennsylvania Broadleaf Ligero with four different Nicaraguan tobaccos (Gk Condega C-SG Seco, Pueblo Nuevo Criollo Viso, La Joya Estelí C-98 Viso, and ASP Estelí Hybrid Ligero).

The cap clips easily to reveal a smooth cold draw. At the foot, the pre-light notes remind me of cocoa powder, earth, and caramel.

After establishing an even light, I find a creamy, balanced, delightfully familiar profile of café au lait, gentle cinnamon spice, salted nuts, and a bit of cayenne heat. The finish has both black pepper and baking spices. The texture is bready.

As the Robusto Largo progresses, flavors like dark cherry, green raisin, cedar, molasses, and caramel come and go. The texture shifts to thick syrup around the midway point and thereafter. As I’ve written before about Sobremesa, “the complexity is palpable and highly enjoyable, and the sweetness of the resting smoke is mouth-wateringly intoxicating. Fortunately, the combustion qualities do not detract from the experience; rather, they enhance it. The burn line is straight, the smoke production above average, the draw easy, and the ash holds well off the foot.”

For me, the Cervantes Fino remains the flagship of the fleet. But don’t sleep on the other vitolas, including the Robusto Largo. It is worthy of another outstanding rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys