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Quick Smoke: Padrón Serie 1964 SI-15 Maduro

20 Aug 2011

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.”

In celebration of Smoke Inn’s 15th Anniversary, Padrón was commissioned to make a special cigar for owner Abe Dababneh. The result is a thick (6 x 60) version of the 1964 Anniversary Series, available in either Maduro or Natural varieties, retailing for $18.50 each. The SI-15 Maduro is expertly constructed, as one might expect, featuring core flavors of chocolate, leather, and coffee. The large ring gauge results in a cooler, more delicate smoke. Too me the flavors are slightly more muted than I normally experience from this line. But overall this is a good cigar, and if big ring gauges and Padróns are your thing, the SI-15 Maduro is worth a try.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick M

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu No. 5

14 Jun 2011


Pete Johnson’s newest release of the Havana VI Verocu blend, the No. 5, arrived on the market last summer. The 4-inch by 40-ring gauge No. 5 is the smallest release of the blend and it is also markedly cheaper than the other releases with a retail price of only $4.50 each. (more…)

Stogie Reviews: Illusione 88 Candela

26 Apr 2011

Just before the annual IPCPR Trade Show last August, Illusione released the “hl” (or “Holy Lance”) in both candela and maduro wrappers. Now, additional Illusione vitolas have started to spring up with candela wrappers.

When asked why he decided to make a candela-wrapped cigar, Illusione creator Dion Giolito said that he loves candelas, enjoys smoking them, and, naturally, wanted to make one of his own. Currently, the hl, 888, and 88 are the only candela-wrapped Illusione vitolas available.

The 88 Candela measures five inches long with a ring gauge of 52—the same dimensions as the original 88. Beyond the green wrapper, the cigar remains the same with an unchanged blend of Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The wrapper is dull and lacking in oils. Pre-light, the cigar gives off a strong grassy smell, which is to be expected from a candela, as well as a hint of pepper and some earthy notes. The draw is a tad loose.

Upon lighting, the 88 Candela gives of a good volume of smoke that seems slightly less dense than the regular 88. Surprisingly, the initial flavors feature only a slight hint of grass with a core of black pepper, leather, and earth.

One of the biggest changes from the original 88 to the candela-wrapped variant is that a slight sweetness replaces the chocolate and coffee notes that are predominant in the original. The best way to describe this sweetness, which is present on the palate but much more noticeable through the nose, is that it tastes like what fresh cut grass smells like.

While the flavors remain mostly constant throughout, some tea flavors join in for the second half of the smoke. One of the other big differences between the regular 88 and the candela is that the candela has a dry, almost tannic finish, whereas the regular 88 has a creamier, denser finish.

Construction-wise, most of my samples required a number of touch-ups to keep the wrapper burning evenly.

All in all, the 88 Candela is a different yet enjoyable cigar. It doesn’t possess any of the harsh bitterness that’s typical of so many candelas. It’s also a great example of how a wrapper can really change a cigar. At almost $9, I don’t think I’d buy a box, but this Dion Giolito creation is a nice change of pace, worthy of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick M

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Dark Knight No. 1

16 Apr 2011

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.”

The Excalibur Dark Knight No. 1 (5.75 x 54) features a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper around Dominican filler tobaccos, several prominent veins, and a rough texture. It displays a nice balance between sweet and salty notes with predominant flavors of chocolate, espresso, cedar, and cashew. The Dark Knight kept my interest for a full two hours. At $6.50 apiece, it’s a solid buy.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick M

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Punch Gran Puro Rancho

2 Apr 2011

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.”

The Punch Gran Puro Rancho (5.5 x 54) is a Honduran puro. The wrapper and binder leaves are sun-grown and the cigar is constructed well. It burns medium- to full-bodied in strength with core flavors of cinnamon, pepper spice, and an earthy sweetness. While not extraordinary, it is a fine selection for the golf course.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick M

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Tips: Xikar EXII Havana Collection Lighter Review

24 Mar 2011

My first encounter with the Xikar EXII lighter was at the IPCPR Trade Show last August. I was sitting in the Davidoff blending seminar, ran out of matches, and didn’t have my lighter with me.

I asked Tim, co-creator of Your Cigar Ratings, if I could borrow his, and he handed me this exact lighter. I was surprised that it was soft flame and intrigued by the fact that it was supposedly “windproof.” That initial experience piqued my interest, and I thought about purchasing one for several months. I was fortunate enough to receive one as a gift.

The Havana Collection EXII is based on the original EX lighter, but has polished steel casings and the center panel features cigar-related artwork. The Havana Collection retails for $100, but you can purchase the original EX for $60. The biggest difference between the two is the casing and the art. The best part about Xikar lighters, besides their reliability, is that each comes equipped with a lifetime warranty.

Looks are great but the most important thing about a lighter is reliability and functionality. Like any product, the EXII has its pros and cons. The cons, in this case, are more tradeoffs than purely negative attributes. First, in stiff breezes it can be a challenge to get a cigar lit, even though the soft flame is windproof, as the flame behaves erratically. It’s tough to light larger ring gauge cigars, although increasing the flame size does alleviate this somewhat. Lastly, touching up a cigar can be a bit of a challenge with a soft flame, but it gets easier with a little practice.

The EXII has plenty of pros though. Over months of use I have consistently been impressed with how long the fuel lasts before the lighter needs to be filled. And my favorite feature has to be the flame adjustment wheel. It is extremely easy to adjust the flame compared to lighters with those tiny recessed adjustments. The flame is as windproof as they come although, as noted, in a strong breeze lighting a cigar can still be a challenge. The biggest benefit of using the soft flame is that it burns much cooler than a torch and won’t char the cigar like a torch can.

Ultimately, if you are in the market for a good-looking, reliable soft flame lighter, the EXII is an excellent choice. The initial expense might seem a little high, but the quality is excellent and the warranty guarantees your investment.

Patrick M

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie News: Florida Bill Would Open Door to Outdoor Bans

8 Mar 2011

Florida is the cultural, historical, and economic center for the U.S. cigar industry. That makes the Sunshine State’s legal climate for cigar smokers worth watching.

Unfortunately, smokers’ rights are once again under attack in Florida. Kathleen C. Passidomo, a state representative from Naples, has introduced House Bill 211, which would amend the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act. A companion bill has also been introduced in the State Senate by Alan Hays. Part of the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act is a preemption by the state in the area of smoking regulation. What this means is that unlike California, where municipalities can pass anti-smoking regulations that are stricter than the state statute, local governments in Florida cannot pass their own local anti-smoking regulations.

The proposed bills would change the language in the preemption section from “this part expressly preempts regulation of smoking to the state and supersedes any municipal or county ordinance on the subject” to “this part expressly preempts regulation of indoor smoking to the state and supersedes any municipal or county ordinance on the subject.” Adding “indoor” makes a huge difference because it would allow local municipalities the unfettered right to create legislation that bans smoking in outdoor areas such as sidewalks, beaches, and public parks.

Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of the Orlando-based Corona Cigar Co. and board member of IPCPR and CRA, summed up the importance of this legislation. “In 2002, when the Florida Clean Air Act was passed with a 71% majority, it was clearly understood that the law would ban indoor smoking in restaurants and workplaces. Back then, no one even imagined that smoking could be banned outdoors.”

“It was clearly the intent of the voters that outdoor bans were not part of the deal and that the government’s powers to further expand smoking bans would be limited by the preemption clause,” Borysiewicz continued. “Even today, public polls show that 65% of the public do not support outdoor smoking bans even though less than 20% of the adult population smoke.  Why?  Because most people believe that Americans should still have the freedom to make adult choices without ‘Big Brother’ telling them how to live their lives.”

Florida smokers should take note and work toward stopping passage of this bill, or they may find the number of places they are allowed to smoke significantly reduced. Unlike many places, Florida has struck somewhat of a balance between the “rights” of non-smokers to be free of secondhand smoke and the rights of smokers to be able to go out and enjoy a cigar in public.

If either of these bills are allowed to pass, that balance will suddenly end. Florida smokers should to visit the Cigar Rights petition page and take the steps listed to help prevent the bill’s passage and protect their right to smoke in outdoor places around the state.

“If you can’t smoke a cigar inside, and the government wants to ban smoking outside, where the heck are you supposed to be able to smoke? Enjoying a cigar should not be a crime,” Borysiewicz told us. “Let’s speak up and let our elected officials hear from us that enough is enough. Cigars are still a legal product and America is supposed to be ‘the Land of the Free.’ It’s our patriotic duty to fight to keep it that way.”

Patrick S & Patrick M

photo credit: public domain