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Cigar Spirits: Isaac Bowman Bourbon Finished in Port Barrels

21 Feb 2018

In November. the A. Smith Bowman Distillery announced a new addition to its Bowman series of bourbon whiskey: Issac Bowman, a straight bourbon whiskey finished port barrels. The Virginia distillery traces its roots to before prohibition, and relocated from Fairfax County (now a suburb of Washington) to Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Today, it is owned by Sazerac, which owns Kentucky’s famous Buffalo Trace Distillery, home to some of the biggest names in bourbon today: Pappy Van Winkle, George T. Stagg, Weller, Eagle Rare, and Blanton’s. Although details are limited, it is believed that most of the Bowman bourbons were distilled at the Buffalo Trace distillery, shipped to Bowman for additional distillation, then aged in Virginia.

The Bowman line is named after the Bowman brothers, who fought in the Revolutionary War: Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon, John Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon, and Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Bourbons. There’s also a George Bowman Revolutionary Rum, named after their father. While youngest brother Isaac had been left out, the popularity of multiple Abraham Bowman limited edition bourbons finished in port barrels inspired the new permanent addition to the line.

While the Abraham Bowman Port Finish bourbons which were aged for over 12 years, the new Issaac Bowman line is reportedly aged for about half as long. The bourbon is copper in color with short legs.

The 92-proof bourbon features a sharp nose of cherry, vanilla, and wine tannin. On the palate, I find a combination of toasted grains, fresh cut oak, cherry cola, and caramel. The finish has roasted flavors and notes of red wine aged in french oak.

Those flavors pair well with an Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped cigar. Some favorites include: Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu, Sobermesa, Illusione Garagiste, and My Father.

One benefit of living in Virginia is the state-run liquor stores carry Bowman bourbons that would otherwise be harder to find. The new Issaac Bowman port-finished ($40) was released first to Virginia, but is expected to roll out to other states soon.

I slightly prefer Angel’s Envy Bourbon ($50) to Isaac Bowman, but fans of Angel’s Envy should try this bourbon, too. Both prominently display the flavors imparted by finishing the bourbon in port barrels, though Angel’s Envy is more balanced while Isaac Bowman is more forward and brash. Neither is as excellent as the limited release Abraham Bowman Port Finish (pictured right) but, of course, that sold out years ago and is nearly impossible to find.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Illusione Cruzado Elitas

18 Feb 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.”

This particular Illusione Cruzado Elitas (6 x 44) had been aging for at least four years, which is why it features the original band, as opposed to more recent packaging that highlights the connection to the Illusione brand. The Cruzado blend, launched in 2008, is a Nicaraguan puro that heavily utilizes Criollo ’98 tobaccos, as opposed to the corojo tobaccos that are predominant in the original Illusione blend. The full-bodied smoke is characterized by leather, wood spice, coffee, unsweetened chocolate, and black pepper. It’s an excellent, if perhaps frequently overlooked, blend.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Gran Habano #1 Connecticut Robusto

11 Feb 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 Gran Habano #1 Connecticut is a cigar I often see sold at golf courses near me, where they may have, at most, five or six different cigars. The Robusto (5 x 52) uses a Connecticut wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The well-constructed cigar features hay, cedar, earth, and some pepper spice. It’s not particularly complex, but the medium-bodied smoke has more flavor than your average Connecticut -wrapped cigar. Available for under $5 each, it isn’t hard to see why this is an excellent pick for the golf course.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Series P Miami P1 Corona Gorda

7 Feb 2018

Perhaps our well-informed readers will know of another but, off the top of my head, I can think of only one mixed-filler, hand-rolled cigar made in America: the Tatuaje Series P Miami. Last year, without much fanfare, the cigars began appearing in limited numbers at some Tatuaje retailers.

Via email, Tatuaje owner Pete Johnson describes the cigars this way: “Made in Miami using only picadura from Brown Label Miami. The Ecuador Habano wrapper is the same wrapper on Brown Label. Two binders like everything else we make. Very small production with only one roller making them.”

The cigars are available in two sizes: P1 Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46) and P2 Robusto (5 x 50). The cigars sell for about $6 each in foil-wrapped bundles of 25. I smoked four in the Corona Gorda size for this review.

The cigar features a nipple cap (just like the Tatuaje Black Corona Gorda) and the dark Ecuadorian wrapper extends around the closed foot. About that wrapper, Johnson says the Miami Series P uses the same wrappers as the Brown Label cigars rolled in Miami, which is a mix of the lighter shade original six sizes and the higher priming wrappers used on the Cojonu, J21, and K222 vitolas.

The cigar features medium- to full-bodied flavors with rich espresso, light cedar, black pepper, and cocoa. Additional notes of sweet cream, toast, and charred oak are prominent, especially towards the second half.

Despite being mixed-filler (a combination of long-filler and picadura cuttings from other long-filler cigars), I found construction to more than adequate. Though the draw is perhaps more open and the ash less stable than regular, higher-priced Tatuaje Miami cigars, combustion overall is still good.

I’ve always found the foil-wrapped Tatuaje cigars to be among my favorites and, once again, I’m impressed by a Miami-made, wet-packed Tat. Despite the 100% long-filler Brown Label Tatuajes not being all that more expensive than this mixed-filler offering, I recommend this cigar, if you can find it. The Tatuaje Series P Miami P1 Corona Gorda earns 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: Porthole by La Sirena Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro Corona

4 Feb 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.”

Porthole is a value-oriented line by La Sirena cigars made at the La Zona factory in Nicaragua. The line consists of two blends, one of which utilizes an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler and comes in two sizes, including this 5-inch, 44-ring gauge Corona. The cigar features damp earth and black coffee flavors. Construction is excellent and, although the cigar had pleasant flavors, it lacked any significant complexity or nuance.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon (2017)

31 Jan 2018

The Michter’s whiskey brand was created in the 1950s by Lou Forman (the name is derived from his sons, MICHael and peTER). At that time, it was associated with the distillery in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, which ultimately closed in the late 1980s. (Some of the last whiskey distilled there ended up as the historic A.H. Hirsch bourbon.)

Later, the Michter’s brand was resurrected in the late 1990s, with whiskey made in Kentucky. I first wrote about Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon in 2009. Today, I look at the 2017 release. This limited and tough-to-find bourbon is released each fall, along with a 10-year rye and, depending on the year, 20- or 25-year bourbon.

Ostensibly, it’s the same bourbon; in reality, much has changed. Earlier, Michter’s 10 Year bourbons were known for being excellent picks, including from the stock of Stitzel Weller wheated bourbon that also was the source of earlier Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

While Michter’s has started operating its own distillery, to date all Michter’s 10 Year has been sourced elsewhere. Although the source has never been revealed, it certainly isn’t Stizel Weller anymore. Brown-Forman (Old Forester), Heaven Hill, and Barton’s have all been speculated to be the source(s).

Michter’s 10 is bottled at 94.4-proof. The 2017 version retails for around $120, though don’t be surprised to find it selling for even more.

The spirit is chestnut brown in color. The nose is an inviting combination of toffee, buttered popcorn, and toasted oak. It has a creamy, velvety texture that features a combination of vanilla, oak, subtle baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg), and brown sugar notes.

More than anything, the 2017 release of Michter’s 10 Year is smooth. The finish is long with soft wood spices and burnt brown sugar notes.

It’s a very tasty bourbon with one significant drawback: a $120+ price tag. Personally, I find it hard to justify this cost when I can easily buy three bottles of very good bourbons—like Eagle Rare 10 Year or Henry McKenna Single Barrel (10 year)—for less, though that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate this, smooth, flavorful, well-executed bourbon.

To fully appreciate Michter’s, you’ll want to pair it with a mild- or medium-bodied cigar that’s well-balanced. Specifically, I’d recommend Cabaiguan, Davidoff Grand Cru, Paul Garmirian Gourmet, or Tesa Vintage Especial.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: 601 Green Oscuro Tronco

28 Jan 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.”

When the 601 Green was first introduced in 2007, it was made by José “Pepín” García for United Tobacco and distributed by Miami cigars. All those details, plus the packaging, have changed since then, some more than once. Today, the Nicaraguan puro is made at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory. The full-bodied smoke features heavy earth, coffee, and pepper spice. It’s a well-made cigar that, as with the original 2007 release, will appeal to fans of full-bodied Nicaraguan smokes. That said, at least based on my memory of the Pepin-made 601, this lacks some of the complexity and intensity that made the original one of my favorite cigars at the time.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys