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Quick Smoke: Flor de las Antillas Toro

5 Aug 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.”

My Father’s Flor de las Antillas blend is a Nicaraguan puro from the Pepin family featuring a sun-grown Nicaraguan wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The cigar has garnered high ratings from both Cigar Aficionado (which named it the top cigar of 2012) and Stogie Guys. The 6-inch, 52-ring gauge, box-pressed Toro features notes of coffee, earth, nutmeg, bread, and a hint of damp cardboard. Combustion is excellent, but I can’t help but feeling that this cigar doesn’t fully deliver compared to past editions.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 6 Year Bourbon & David Nicholson Reserve Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

1 Aug 2018

The soaring popularity of bourbon has resulted in high-end bourbon getting more and more expensive. Today, we’re ignoring the premium-priced whiskey and looking for some value bourbon options, both 100-proof Kentucky straight bourbons.

Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 6 Year Bourbon is sold only in Kentucky for the value price of around $13 a bottle. Made by Heaven Hill (who makes Elijah Craig and Evan Williams), it uses a mashbill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. It’s a standout because, while there are many bottom-shelf bourbons in the same price range, none carry an age statement of six years (meaning all the whiskey in the bottle has been aged at least six years).

David Nicholson Reserve Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is also bottled at 100-proof, although it doesn’t carry an age statement. The brand was owned by the Van Winkle family until it was sold to Missouri-based Luxco in 2000. David Nicolson’s 1843 brand utilizes a wheated mashbill (as is the standard for Van Winkle bourbons), but the $30 Nicholson Reserve features a more traditional mashbill with rye along with corn and malted barley.

Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Year Bourbon
Color: Light amber.
Nose: Vanilla, brown sugar, burnt corn, citrus.
Palate: Butterscotch, spice, wood.
Finish: Long with cinnamon and burnt sugar.
Verdict: Just a solid, if unexceptional, classic bourbon. Good enough to sip neat, but perfectly priced and proofed for cocktails or other mixed drinks.

David Nicholson Reserve Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
Color: Orange copper.
Nose: Candied apple, spice, and leather.
Palate: Plenty of spice and vanilla with apple and red fruit.
Finish: Intense but short finish with fruit and spice.
Verdict: Though not for everyone, this is a unique and largely enjoyable sipping bourbon. There’s a short sweetness that is enjoyable and can work in the right cocktail.

In terms of price-to-value ratio, Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Year Bourbon is hard to beat, which is why it is a bourbon I try (despite being sold only in Kentucky) to keep on hand when I can. David Nicholson Reserve is more expensive, but also more unique. It’s worth a try, despite falling into a more competitive price range that includes such excellent bourbons as Eagle Rare 10 Year, Elijah Craig, and others.

These are both versatile bourbons that pair with excellent cigars. Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Year Bourbon pairs well with most balanced cigars, while the spiciness of David Nicholson Reserve is more apt towards a medium- to full-bodied cigar, like El Güegüense, Litto Gomez Diez Small Batch, Muestra de Saka, or Warped Futuro.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Diesel Rage Corona

29 Jul 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.”

I’ve long heard from Diesel fans who say the line offers strong, full-bodied flavors at a discount price. Today I’m checking out the Diesel Rage blend in the Corona size, which is made by A.J. Fernandez with a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The cigar features deep earth and black coffee with malt, cinnamon, and graham cracker. While I’ve found other Diesel cigars to be full-bodied yet one-dimensional and unbalanced, this is a more complex smoke. That, combined with excellent construction, makes it worth a try.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: JFR Corojo Robusto

22 Jul 2018

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.”

Casa Fernandez’s JFR (short for “Just for Retailers”) was originally known for its over-sized vitolas. This 5.5-inch, 50-ring gauge format is a welcome addition for those, like me, who are generally not a fan of 60+ ring gauge cigars. The Nicaraguan puro features a Corojo ’99 wrapper and Aganorsa binder and filler tobaccos. The result is a classic, medium-bodied Nicaraguan profile with sourdough bread, wood spice, and earth flavors. Excellent construction and a reasonable price ($5.50) makes the Robusto easy to recommend.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Five Early Standouts from the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show

18 Jul 2018

Despite a small electrical fire that caused a little damage to some booths by setting off the sprinkler system, and a outbreak of the flu at the host hotel, the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show is in full roar in Las Vegas. While IPCPR occasionally holds the convention, the biggest of the year for handmade cigars, in other cities, any who attended multiple trade shows can tell you the event is at its natural home when it is in Las Vegas.

Like many, we’re still digging through the many press releases and announcements of new cigars, so we reserve the right to add to this list. But here are five new cigars we’re particularly excited to check out when they hit shelves in the coming months:

Illusione OneOff

Actually announced a couple months ago, OneOff is a reboot of a cigar that was popular in early 2000s but faded away only for Illusione owner Dion Giolito to purchase the trademark last year. The eight-vitola line is made at TABSA and, while Giolito is being tight-lipped about the exact blend, given Illusione’s track-record this is a cigar I’m looking forward to.

Drew Estate Liga Privada 10-Year Anniversario

Ten years, ago Drew Estate introduced Liga Privada and completely changed the way cigar smokers thought about Drew Estate, which up until that point had been primarily a maker of infused cigars. As production and demand increased, many (myself included) felt Liga Privada, while still good, was not as exceptional as when it first arrived. Will the 10th Anniversary release of Liga Privada hearken back to the standout days when the brand first burst onto the scene? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Nestor Miranda 75th Anniversary

Nestor Miranda’s Miami Cigar Co. and Don José “Pepin” Garcia have collaborated to make some of my favorite cigars over the years. So Pepin making a Nicaraguan puro for his longtime collaborator Nestor Miranda is something I’m particularly interested in trying. The large, salomon-sized cigar features a Corojo wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. Only 15,000 are scheduled to be made, and I’m looking forward to trying one.

Partagas Legend

Partagas Legend is a tribute to five legendary cigar men who contributed to the Partagas brand: Jaime Partagas, Ramon Cifuentes, Edgar Cullman Sr., Daniel Nunez, and Benji Menendez. The box-pressed cigar uses a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Honduran binder, and Dominican Piloto Cubano filler. The Partagas brand is, in my opinion, too frequently overlooked, but I don’t plan to overlook the Partagas Legend.

Aging Room Puro Cepa

To say Rafael Nodal has been busy lately would be an understatement. In addition to his Aging Room brand, he has joined with Altadis’ Tabacalera USA. We could just as easily have picked the new Montecristo Nicaragua for this final pick, but perhaps more interesting is Aging Room’s new Nicaraguan cigar called Puro Cepa. Made with tobaccos from all four major Nicaraguan growing regions (Ometepe, Jalapa, Condega, and Estelí), it is the rare Nicaraguan puro from Aging Room which has made some very under-the-radar cigars in recent years.

Patrick S

photo credit:  IPCPR

Quick Smoke: Muestra de Saka Exclusivo

15 Jul 2018

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 Nacatamale from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust’s Muestra de Saka portfolio measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 52. It boasts tobaccos from each of Nicaragua’s four major growing regions: Condega, Estelí, Jalapa, and Ometepe. It’s an exquisitely balanced cigar with cinnamon bread, coffee, earth, and pepper. Construction is flawless. Even though I slightly prefer the Nacatamale, the Exclusivo is is an excellent cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

11 Jul 2018

Let me state upfront I’m inherently skeptical of celebrity-endorsed products. When you feel the need to pay an actor or athlete to sell your cigar or whiskey, this suggests you’re worried the product wouldn’t sell on its own merits.

With that in mind, I had my reservations when I heard about Wild Turkey’s Longbranch Bourbon, a collaboration between Wild Turkey’s “creative director,” the Texan and actor Matthew McConaughey, and longtime bourbon man Eddie Russell. The straight Kentucky bourbon melds Kentucky tradition with a Texas twist: the aged bourbon is filtered through Texas mesquite charcoal.

Yet, further details about the bourbon made me think it may not be the usual, easily-dismissed celebrity product. First off, it’s made by Wild Turkey, which, as far as the major bourbon distillers go, tends to make solid bourbons for the price. Second, it’s got an age statement: eight years, which happens to be the age at which much now-revered Wild Turkey bourbon was bottled. Finally, although the Texas mesquite angle is a new twist, charcoal filtration is an accepted and historic method for bourbon making, as evidenced by Jack Daniels.

That Wild Turkey didn’t price Longbranch excessively also made me rethink my initial skepticism. Around $35 for an eight-year, age-stated Kentucky bourbon is, like it or not, a reasonable price in today’s overheated bourbon market.

The 86-proof Kentucky straight bourbon pours a golden amber color. The nose features vanilla sweetness and cereal grains.

On the palate, Longbranch has ripe apples, toasted oak, and vanilla flavors. The finish is long on the palate with more vanilla and a hint of smokiness that shows off the Texas mesquite influence.

If you have about $40 to pay for a bourbon, I’d prefer Russell’s Reserve 10 Year bourbon to Longbranch, but that doesn’t mean Longbranch isn’t a new and interesting bourbon well worth checking out. It’s flavorful (especially considering its relatively low proof).

It’s an excellent bourbon to pair with a fine cigar. Medium- to full-bodied cigars like the Illusione Holy Lance, Litto Gomez Diez Small Batch, Montecristo Petit Edmundo, or Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Sobremesa will work best.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys