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Cigar Spirits: Jefferson’s Straight Rye Whiskey

17 Apr 2014

Rye whiskey is a quintessentially American spirit, and yet in recent decades Canada has become better known for rye than the United States. Canadian whiskey is synonymous with rye, as rye is the dominant grain in most Canadian whiskey.Jeffersons-rye-10-sq

Jeffersons-rye-10But most Canadian whiskey doesn’t meet the “straight rye” designation since the rye is often mixed with neutral grain spirits (basically vodka), to produce the low-proof, smooth-drinking Canadian whiskey you might be familiar with. And yet lots of rye is made in Canada, which caught the eye of some American whiskey sellers as old aged rye has gained a larger and larger following with American whiskey fans.

Three such Canadian straight ryes are particularly noteworthy: Jefferson’s Straight Rye Whiskey (10 Year, 94-proof), Whistlepig (10 Year, 100-proof), and Masterson’s (10 Year, 90-proof). All reportedly source their straight rye from the same Alberta distillery, and all are made with a mashbill of 100% rye, which sets them apart from rye produced in the U.S. (Lots of ryes, mostly made in Indiana, use a 95% rye mashbill.)

While they are distilled in Canada, due to their marketing and style, you’ll probably find them in the bourbon and rye section of your store, not lumped in with Canadian Club and Crown Royal. In the case of Jefferson’s, the label on the side discloses its origins: “Imported by Castle Brands, Produced in Canada.” Included is a batch and bottle number (the bottle I’m using for this review is batch 41, bottle number 251).

Jefferson’s pours a lovely reddish copper color and has a nose full of floral sweetness, a hint of what’s to come. Once tasted, it reveals a very clean, balanced profile with minty spice. It’s floral, oily, and has a honey sweetness. It lacks the forward spice that characterizes most American-distilled rye, but it’s very enjoyable in its own way. The finish stays true to the taste and it lingers on the roof of your mouth.

Normally I suggest a full-bodied cigar to stand up to rye’s spice, but the more subtle aspects of Jefferson’s Rye suggest a different direction. Instead, I’d stick with a milder cigar, either a Connecticut (USA or Ecuador) or the subtle spice of a Cameroon wrapper.

I’ve become a big fan of Jefferson’s Rye, and I heartily recommend all rye fans seek it out, especially at the very fair price of $40 or less. (It’s probably obvious by now, but this is totally different than the Jefferson’s bourbons which we’ve written about here and here.)

Now for the bad news: Jefferson’s Rye, at least in its current form, isn’t going to be around for long, and may already not be available in your area. Reports are they’ve lost their source of whiskey and it will soon be replaced with rye from a different (probably non-100% rye mashbill) rye, that won’t carry the ten-year age statement. So be sure to examine the bottle closely. Personally, I scooped up four bottles when I had the chance.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: RoMa Craft Intemperance EC XVIII Brotherly Kindness

12 Apr 2014

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.”IMG_3778 - Version 2

IntemperanceECBrotherlyKindness

Normally an event-only cigar, I received this edition of Intemperance’s Ecuador Connecticut cigar while visiting the small Nica Sueño factory in Estelí, where the RoMa Craft cigars are made. Interestingly, this is the vitola (5 x 56) that RoMa Craft uses while creating its blends, which you could say makes it the purest example of what its creators intend smokers to experience. The medium-bodied cigar features cedar, roasted nuts, and hints of spice. Construction is flawless. I’ll admit that at first I didn’t think the Intemperance lines were quite as good as the original RoMa Craft Cromagnon and Acquitaine lines, but slowly I’ve come to appreciate them just as much.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Cigar Safari Personal Blend (2013)

6 Apr 2014

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.”

DE-cigar-safari-blend

Since we’re headed to visit Drew Estate in Estelí today, I thought I’d try out the blend I made during last year’s visit. Truth be told, I don’t remember exactly what the blend is (I have it written somewhere), but I remember it has the same stalk-cut Connecticut Habano wrapper as the Liga Privada T-52 and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. I also selected an unusual size (6.5 x 46) with a pigtail cap and closed foot. As for flavor, the medium-bodied blend features plenty of classic Habano notes of warm tobacco, bread, and wood with hints of coffee and clove. It’s pretty simplistic and hardly a masterpiece, though it is well-constructed and balanced. Still, there’s a reason you won’t be seeing Drew Estate put this blend into production.

Verdict = Hold.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: NJ Bill Targets Tobacco Advertising for Special Tax

3 Apr 2014

A New Jersey bill currently under consideration represents a new type of anti-tobacco legislation.The proposed law, introduced March 24, would tax all advertising for tobacco products at a rate of 25%.

750px-Flag_of_New_Jersey.svgWhile a number of states are considering expanded smoking bans and increased tobacco taxes, the New Jersey law would be the first time a state would tax tobacco advertising. New Jersey already taxes cigars at a rate of 30% of the wholesale price and has a $2.70 per-pack tax on cigarettes, the sixth highest in the country.

Advertising directed at children is already regulated, so the ads this bill targets are for adults who can legally purchase cigars and other tobacco products. Revenue raised from the tax would go towards state funding of programs to prevent the use of tobacco products including electronic cigarettes.

Analysis

The bill only has four sponsors out of an 80-member General Assembly. And no companion bill has been introduced in the New Jersey Senate.

Given the current support, it is unlikely it will pass this term, but it should be a warning for advocates of cigar freedom. Anti-tobacco zealots are not happy just taxing tobacco; they also want to silence speech targeted at adults for tobacco products, or at least tax that speech and use the revenue to counter the message.

The proposed legislation also raises free speech issues since it targets one specific viewpoint for a tax and uses it for a message (anti-tobacco advocacy) that would presumably be opposed by those paying the tax. Generally, courts have found laws that target or limit a specific viewpoint to be a violation of First Amendment free speech protections.

It isn’t clear how the bill would apply to national publications where advertising happens to reach New Jersey audiences, but isn’t specifically targeted to them, which would include sites like StogieGuys.com. Further, the proposed tax would likely hit more dynamic and innovative types of tobacco particularly hard, which would include premium cigars where new products utilize advertising to fight for consumer attention.

Even though passage of this tobacco speech tax may not be likely immediately, this is a disturbing new type of anti-tobacco legislation that cigar smokers should be wary of. In the past, far too often seemingly unique and farfetched anti-tobacco proposals have become mainstream only a few years later.

-Patrick S

photo credit: wikipedia

Cigar Review: Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte Robusto Gordo

1 Apr 2014

General Cigar recently unveiled two new blends that will fall under its Partagas 1845 brand. One, Partagas 1845 Extra Oscuro, is for online and catalog retailers. The other, Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte, is for brick-and-mortar shops.Partagas-1845-Extra-Fuerte-sq

Partagas-1845-Extra-FuerteReleasing two similarly branded cigars (one for cigar shops, the other for online/catalog) seems to be a new strategy General Cigar is embracing, since they did something similar with La Gloria Cubana Serie R Black/Serie R Estelí. The idea, I suspect, is to protect cigar shops from online competition and vice versa, while having the branding, packaging, and profile be similar enough that each benefits from the publicity and marketing of the other.

In the always competitive world of premium cigars, if it provides even a small advantage then it’s good strategy, though I think the risk is that it can be confusing for consumers who shop both in-person and by mail-order. Unless they are side by side, they look very similar: the Extra Fuerte has a black and silver band, while the Extra Oscuro has a dark purple and silver band, with a darker oscuro wrapper.

The Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte features a four-country blend with an oily Ecuadorian Habano ligero warpper and an unusual Habano Connecticut binder. The filler uses Dominican Piloto Cubano and three types of Nicaraguan tobacco identified only as “Gurdian, Estelí, and ASP”.

It comes in four sizes: Robusto Gordo (5.5 x 52), Gigante (6 x 60), Double Corona (7.5 x 54), and Supremo (7 x 58). Each comes in 20-count boxes with suggested retail prices ranging from $7.49 to $8.49 per cigar. I smoked three of the Robusto Gordo size for this review, all of which were provided as samples by the manufacturer.

The cigar lives up to its “extra fuerte” name with a full-bodied combination of deep flavors. It’s dominated by woody notes, namely dried oak and char, but there are also black coffee and clove spices. While it’s a little sharp and slightly unbalanced at first, but rounds out nicely during the second half.

General Cigar has been using more and more Nicaraguan tobacco in their new blends, and I think the results have been very good. Like the La Gloria Serie R Estelí, the Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte ramps up the flavor and body, but without betraying the identity of the original. The Extra Fuerte went well with some Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year.

With flawless construction, full-bodied flavors, and a fair price point, there’s a lot to like about the newest blend to carry the historic Partagas name. That earns the Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte Robusto Gordo a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Punch Rare Corojo Rare Salomones

30 Mar 2014

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.”

Rare-Salomones-qs

I’ll admit that while I’ve always enjoyed the Punch Rare Corojo line, I haven’t smoked many in recent years. But when my colleague recently reviewed the Rare Salomones size, I thought I should revisit the line. Salomones are one of the most impressive-looking sizes, and this is no exception with its reddish wrapper and double bands. Once you get past the initial couple minutes, the large format produces plenty of smoke. It features leather, earth, and fruit notes and is medium- to full-bodied. It’s an elegant smoke worth paying attention to for a full 90 minutes.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Check Out the Adorini Black Slate Deluxe L Humidor

27 Mar 2014

When it comes to style, most humidors are pretty much the same: stained wood, the occasional glass-top, and brass trimmings. That’s why, with it’s grey slate stone exterior, the Adorini Black Slate Deluxe L stands apart from the crowd.

 humidor1

In fact, I’ve had one on display for a few months while I tested it out and more than once I had someone ask me what it was, because it doesn’t look like any humidor you’ve probably seen before. As noted in the Cigar Aficionado‘s write up of the same humidor (one of three other sites that have recently written about this humidor, but the only to not to say if they received it free to write about from Humidor Discount), the slate can even double as a chalk board – even though I’m not sure it befits such a stylish cigar storage unit.

I don’t claim to be an expert on interior design, but it occurs to me that stylistically this is a versatile humidor. It goes equally well in a dark-stained wood and leather decor as it would in a more modern, minimalist style.

There’s no doubt it’s a sharp looking but frankly, I’m more interested in how it keeps my cigars. After three months, there’s no question that it keeps them well, as the seal is perfect.

While larger (you could comfortably store over 100-125 cigars) than the Adorini humidor my colleague tested out last year, the basics are mostly the same. It holds humidity very well and has more than a few notable features that make it function better than most humidors. (more…)