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Cigar Review: Curivari Buenaventura Pralines P554

7 Dec 2016


More than once I’ve praised the Buenaventura line by Curivari as not only an excellent smoke, but an excellent value (the cigars retail for around $5 each). Over the past couple years, Curivari has begun adding extensions to the line, starting with the Pralines blend in 2015. (Since then, a Connecticut-wrapped Cremas extension and a mixed-filler Picadura version have debuted, too.)

An aside: Curivari has adopted one of my favorite practices when it comes to packaging by selling cigars exclusively in ten-count boxes. This is, as far as I’m concerned, a very consumer-friendly decision, and one that makes the commitment (both financially and simply as a matter of confidence that you’ll enjoy it) much easier in which to enter. I wish more companies would adopt the practice.

The Pralines line extension takes the all-Nicaraguan blend of the original Buenaventura line and adds a Mexican wrapper. I smoked three of the P554 size (a pressed 5.75-inch, 54-ring gauge robusto) for this review, though the blend also comes in Toro (6.75 x 52) and Gordo (4.9 x 60) formats.

Visually, it’s a classic, attractive cigar with a relatively vein-free, toothy, medium-brown wrapper and a not-too-sharp box press. Unless you find the classic, albeit simple, band cheap (I don’t), there is nothing about this cigar that gives away its value-oriented price.

Once lit, you’re greeted by dry wood with light spice, bread, roast coffee, and graphite notes. As the cigar develops, the spice becomes a more pronounced red pepper flavor mingled with gingerbread, plus the slightest hint of sourness.

It’s firmly medium-bodied throughout, though there are some notable variations in flavor from start to finish. Construction is excellent with a deliberate but not overly firm draw, mostly even burn, and solid salt and pepper ash.

While not quite as flavorful or perfectly balanced as the original Buenaventura blend, there is still a lot to like about this cigar, including its sub-$6 price tag. That earns the Curivari Buenaventura Pralines P554 a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Ashton Virgin Sun Grown Torpedo

4 Dec 2016

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.”


Ashton’s Virgin Sun Grown line used to be a staple in my humidor, but its spot has been replaced over the years. In fact, this Torpedo is the first VSG I’ve smoked in a few years. Made for Ashton by Fuente, the blend features a dark, sun-grown Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, a rarity when it was introduced in 1999. It boasts roasted flavors with wood, pepper, and earth. Although it was considered very full-bodied when it debuted, now I’d classify it more in the medium- to full-bodied range. It’s a well-made, tasty cigar worth catching up with if you haven’t smoked one in a while.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Old Bardstown and Old Bardstown Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon

30 Nov 2016


One of the best attributes about bourbon—as opposed to, say, single malt scotch—has always been the value it can provide. Good bourbon doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg. Although, as its popularity has grown, there are those who would gladly charge you an arm and a leg for good (or not-so-good) bourbon.

Old Bardstown (90-proof) and Old Bardstown Bottled-in-Bond (100-proof), which cost $18 and $22 respectively, certainly have the potential to provide good value. While the Old Bardstown brand has been around for years in various forms, the bottles I’m sampling are relatively new varieties that are actually distilled at Willett’s distillery.

Willett has bottled many fine bourbons for years (including Willett Family Estate, Old Bardstown, Noah’s Mill, Johnny Drum, Rowan’s Creek, and others). But the distillery stopped distilling whiskey in the early 1980s and didn’t resume until January 2012. Prior to very recently, all of Willett’s bourbons were bought from other distilleries, even if they were aged and bottled at Willett.

The new bottles clearly state they are “distilled and bottled at the Willett distillery.” Given that Willett didn’t fire up its still until January 2012, we know both are barely over four years old (if it was less than four years, it would have to be disclosed). Beyond some Family Estate Rye and bourbon sold mostly through Willett’s gift shop, these are the first bottles to be sold from that Willett distillate. Currently, these bourbons are only for sale in the state of Kentucky. As production ramps up, though, I’d expect them to become available more widely.

The Old Bardstown Bourbon is a dark color for a relatively young bourbon and features a nose with maple sugar and damp cardboard. On the palate, the whiskey shows wood, toasted cereal grain, and malty sweetness. The finish is light with wood spice and eucalyptus.

Old Bardstown Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon features a nose of ethanol, mint, and rock sugar candy. On the palate is burnt corn, rubber, tea, and some bitter green wood. The finish shows even more tea and rubber along with some burnt sugar.

I was shocked to discover I greatly preferred the 90-proof version to the bottled-in-bond 100-proof version, but I can only speculate that the lower proof smooths over some of the rough edges that come from only four years in the barrel. In either format, Old Bardstown shows the promise of the new Willett distillate, especially after it spends a few more years aging. Right now, try it neat, but know that the price means you won’t feel guilty using it in a cocktail.

As for cigars, I’d recommend a full-bodied, earthy smoke to offset some of the unbalanced aspects of Old Bardstown. Specifically, smoke the Drew Estate Liga Privada Único Serie Velvet Rat, El Güegüense Robusto, Montecristo Sublime Edición Limitada 2008 (Cuban), Tatuaje Black, or Warped Futuro Selección Suprema.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje The Krueger

27 Nov 2016

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 latest Tatuaje monster, Krueger (named after the Nightmare on Elm Street villain) uses a Mexican maduro wrapper with Nicaraguan tobaccos. The box-pressed torpedo (7 x 48) has flavors that include light wood, sweet cocoa, slight clove, and spice, all resulting in a powdery mouthfeel on the palate. I admit I’m not a big fan of this wrapper leaf, but I can always appreciate a well-made cigar. The Krueger fits the bill with medium- to full-bodied flavors, a woodsy profile, and excellent construction.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Brown Label 7th Capa Especial

20 Nov 2016

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 vividly remember quickly smoking through a box of these when they first came out in 2011, but I hadn’t revisited the cigar lately. Made in Nicaragua, the 7th Capa Especial (5.9 x 46) is the only standard Brown Label blend to use a Sumatra wrapper. The result is a woodsy, powdery smoke with cafe-au-lait and a slight cinnamon spice. The three “7th” size cigars of the Tatuaje Brown Label are excellent since they let you see the difference a wrapper makes and, although I slightly prefer the natural (Habano) and Reserva (Broadleaf) versions, the Capa Especial is also very enjoyable.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: The Smoky Calm After the Storm — A Post-Election Dinner with PG Cigars at Morton’s Steakhouse

16 Nov 2016


National elections are always a big deal in Washington, where politics is the largest “industry.” It is safe to say this latest presidential election, however, was watched with even more interest with emotions stronger than usual on both sides.

In that context, I was particularly excited when I found out about plans for a cigar dinner the night after the election (November 9) organized by Paul Garmirian Cigars, which has its headquarters inside the Beltway in nearby McLean, Virginia. The dinner was fittingly hosted by Morton’s The Steakhouse at the downtown location just blocks from the White House.

The event was the first seated PG dinner hosted in Washington in a decade, which isn’t a coincidence since the city’s smoking ban went into effect in 2007. Fortunately, Morton’s has a covered balcony which, no matter the weather (it can be enclosed and heated), is without a doubt one of the best places in the city to enjoy a cigar with a fine meal.

Fittingly, the dinner was neither a celebration of the previous night’s election results nor a consolation. Except for a handful of walk-ins, most of the nearly 50 guests had made plans to attend long before the election was settled early that morning.

Over four courses of excellent food, drink, and four PG cigars, guests bonded over their shared enjoyment of fine cigars and food. Politics came up, of course, as not discussing the biggest news of the day wasn’t an option. But the conversation was never heated nor angry.

Cigar smokers can attest that when you’re enjoying a cigar at your local cigar shop, you tend to run into a diverse group. In the chair next to you could be a retiree, a lawyer, a college student, a small business owner, etc.

The same dynamic made the PG dinner so enjoyable, especially after an exhausting, seemingly never-ending, highly contentious election. Does this mean cats and dogs are at peace, and Democrats and Republicans now agree on politics?

Hardly. Especially when you consider that as we lit our PG 15th Anniversary Belicoso Extras, protesters were lighting candles a few blocks away as part of their vigil in front of the White House. Still, it does remind you that cigars have the unique ability to create camaraderie that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

As the night wrapped up, the question on everyone’s mind was when would Morton’s and PG hold their next dinner. Hopefully soon. Anytime people can put their politics and agendas aside for an evening and come together over premium cigars, it is worth celebrating.

Patrick S

photo credit: PG Cigars

Quick Smoke: The Oscar Habano Robusto

13 Nov 2016

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.”

theoscar theoscar-leaf

Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co. burst onto the cigar scene with Leaf by Oscar, which came wrapped in a tobacco leaf instead of cellophane. The Oscar Habano maintains the same unique packaging, this time with a Candela leaf covering the aqua-colored band. The dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper surrounds Honduran binder and Nicaraguan and Honduran filler. The resulting smoke features oak, bread, cream, pepper, and earth. It reminds me a lot of the original San Cristobal (a cigar I enjoy), but with an added Honduran grittiness and red pepper spice. Even with a price tag of $11, I’m very impressed by The Oscan Habano.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys