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Cigar Spirits: Menorval XO Tres Vieux and Morin Hors d’Age 15 Years Calvados

16 Jan 2019

Ahead of both bourbon or rye, you could make the argument that apple brandy is the original American spirit. It turns out Johnny Appleseed, whose story you likely heard in grade school, was planting apples that were likely good for little except turning into apple cider, brandy or applejack (which is created by mixing brandy-neutral grain spirits).

But apple brandy was hardly an American invention. For at least 400 years, the Normandy region of has been distilling apples (sometimes along with pears) into calvados brandy. Today I’m tasting two calvados brandies, both aged for at least 15 years.

Menorval XO Tres Vieux Calvados

Details: Aged more than 15 years in oak casks. Bottled at 40% ABV. $41 per bottle.

Nose: Pear, baking spices, and brown sugar.

Palate: Honey, walnut, brioche, and leather.

Finish: Soft and long with pie crust, leather, and oak.

Calvados Morin Hors d’Age 15 Years

Details: Aged in 200-year-old casks for 15 year calvados, this one bottled at 42% ABV. $55 per bottle.

Nose: Fresh tart apple, tannins, and oak.

Palate: Floral notes with clove, sandlewood, citrus, and sherry.

Finish: Oak, sour apple, and spice.

Both of these brandies showcase why I’ve become a fan of of calvados. While very different, each showcases both the fruit and wood from age. The Morin is more full-bodied and fruit-forward, while the Menorval is more restrained with softer fruit flavors and more wood influence.

I’m not sure either calvados could stand up to a full-bodied cigar without being overpowered, but a well-balanced medium-bodied cigar is an excellent pairing. Recommended cigars include the Illusione Rothchildes CT, Paul Garmirian Reserva ExclusivaTatuaje Black, and Davidoff Colorado Claro.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Churchill Especiales Oscuro

13 Jan 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.”

La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Churchill Especiales Oscuro

With an incredibly oily wrapper, the Double Ligero Especiales has been a hidden gem in the La Flor Dominicana portfolio for years. The cigar (7 x 48) features a sun-grown Ecuadorian Oscuro wrapper with a pigtail cap around Dominican binder and filler. The pre-light notes are rich with toasted oak and dried fruit. Once lit, I find graphite, wood, unsweetened chocolate, and earth. It’s medium- to full-bodied with lots going on. A classic, powerful, Dominican filler-driven blend, the La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Churchill Especiales Oscuro is worth revisiting.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: New Congress Means Renewed Effort to Exempt Cigars from FDA Regulations

9 Jan 2019

FDA-cigars-large

Every two years, a flurry of new bills are introduced in Congress and, as has been the case every two years since 2011, a bill was again introduced in the Senate to protect handmade cigars from damaging Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

Senate Bill 9, the “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2019,” was introduced January 3, 2019, by Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Five Senators signed on as original co-sponsors: Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Joni Ernst (R-IA).

In the previous Congress, Florida Senator Bill Nelson introduced the legislation, while longtime-supporter Rubio had been an original co-sponsor who supported the bill from its initial introduction. The change takes place after Nelson, a Democrat, was defeated in November by then Republican Governor Rick Scott.

Although Scott is not one of the original co-sponsors, as governor he did send a letter to the FDA Commissioner opposing FDA regulation of handmade cigars. A later report claimed Scott personally lobbied Vice President Mike Pence about the issue of how FDA regulations would be applied to cigars already on the market. The discussion was revealed in a report that noted that Swisher, which now owns Drew Estate, had made significant contributions to Scott’s campaign.

Other past supporters who were defeated in November include Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN), though many others were re-elected. Cigar industry groups will now have to build support for the legislation in both the Senate and House.

According to Congress.gov, a companion House bill has not yet been introduced to protect handmade cigars from the FDA. Florida Republican Bill Posey, who easily won re-election in November, has traditionally introduced that bill.

Despite the House changing hands in the 2018 elections, most previous supporters of the bill survived re-election. The cigar industry did lose some champions, including Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who retired after being a longtime advocate for cigar rights.

Trump-appointed FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was initially seen by many as a positive change when it came to FDA policies towards cigars compared to the Obama FDA. However, despite delaying the implementation of some cigar regulations, some experts worry his subsequent actions are step towards a stealth ban on tobacco products, including cigars.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Monster Series The Michael

6 Jan 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.”

For ten straight years Tatuaje has released an annual Halloween series cigar. The 2017 edition was “The Michael” – a large 6.5 inch by 52 RG toro using an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. One of the better recent Tatuaje Halloween releases, it features a complex medium-full bodied combination of flavors including leather, oak, roast nuts, coffee and light spices. Like all Halloween series annual releases, suggested retail is $13.00.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: What I Want to Smoke and Drink More of in 2019

3 Jan 2019

New Year’s resolutions are a annual tradition. Here are my cigar (and cigar-related) resolutions for 2019:

Smoke More Non-Nicaraguan Cigars

Not counting cigars I’m reviewing, I find there’s been less and less diversity in what I smoke. Mostly, I reach for Nicaraguan cigars. I plan on changing that this year and shaking things up more, which will especially mean more Dominican cigars and more Cubans.

Explore Calvados

The spirit I want to explore and learn more about this year is calvados. As I observed recently: “The apple (and sometimes pear) brandy from Normandy combines some of the best elements of cognac, wine, and whiskey. Terroir matters, oak barrel aging is important, and both large and small producers develop their own distinct styles.” Calvados can be hard to find, but I’m looking forward to tracking more down.

Drink More Cocktails

With the exception of margaritas, and the very occasional negroni, I rarely order or make cocktails. My thinking tends to go: If I’m drinking spirits, why not have a good one and take it neat? It’s not the worst philosophy, but this year when I’m at a place with a interesting cocktail list, I plan to take advantage.

Try More Coffee

I drink coffee daily, and I’m fairly serious about it (with or without a cigar). Every morning I freshly grind beans in my burr grinder and make myself a pour-over coffee. But nearly every morning I use the exact same coffee: Major Dickason’s Blend by Peet’s Coffee. It’s a solid, full-bodied coffee and always available at a reasonable price at my local grocery store. Nothing wrong with that. Still, it has been a while since I saw what else is out there. So trying out local roasters, online specialists, and more are on the agenda for 2019.

Got a cigar-related resolution of you own? Let us know.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Celebrate the New Year with Cigars and Champagne

31 Dec 2018

[In order to help our readers ring 2019 in right, we’re republishing this tip about how to pair cigars and champagne. Enjoy!]

Pairing brown liquor with  cigars is the more obvious choice, but champagne (or other sparkling wines) can go surprisingly well with a smoke. Not to mention the celebratory nature of the bubbly. To enhance your champagne and cigar enjoyment, here are a few basic tips:

Save the top-dollar champagne.

Champagne can be fantastic, but unless you have unlimited funds, the vintage Dom Pérignon should be held back if you’re smoking a cigar. You pay a price for the champagne name (meaning it’s from the Champagne region of France). There are plenty of good champagne-style sparkling wines that can be had for a reasonable cost. Spending $50 or $100 on brand name French bubbly will probably be a waste (considering you’re going to lose some of the complexities due to your cigar). Spanish Cava, in particular, can be had for a fraction of the price. Prosecco is also a nice option.

Stick with mild cigars.

Champagne doesn’t have the heft of rum, whiskey, or even beer or coffee. The best champagnes are the most subtle, so the same subtlety is needed in the cigar you pair with your sparkling wine. Stick with mild cigars that have balance. Some Connecticut-wrapped cigars can feature bitterness, so look for those with age and balance. Extra-aged Cubans can be a great pairing, and a special mention is deserved for the Illusione Epernay, which is named after the Champagne region and was blended with a champagne pairing in mind.

Age your cigars and your champagne.

Smoking a cigar with champagne calls for a cigar that is smooth, mild, complex, and subtle, all of which can be the result of aging a cigar. Some cigars just lose their flavor with age, so be careful. Others others are enhanced by months or years of aging properly in a humidor. Some of the same things happen to aged champagne which, while not for everyone, loses some of its bubbly crispness but adds creaminess and depth along the lines of a well-aged white burgundy. Usually you pay extra for vintage champagne. But if you can get some of those same qualities by just putting aside a good champagne and waiting, don’t be afraid to give it a try. (Not long ago I had some non-vintage Champagne Tattinger with a decade of age, and the result was very impressive.)

Cheers, and happy 2019!

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr 

Quick Smoke: Fratello Oro Robusto

30 Dec 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.”

Added to Omar Frias’ Fratello line in 2016, the Oro blend is produced at La Aurora in the Dominican Republic. It features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, Cameroon binder, and filler from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The Robusto produces medium-bodied flavors with notes of roasted cashew, pepper, cream, and cedar. Connecticut cigars can sometimes be so mild they are bland, but that isn’t the case at all with the Fratello Oro.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys