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Quick Smoke: My Father El Centurion Toro

7 Feb 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

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The original El Centurion blend was one of my favorite cigars, which has always given the second iteration an unfair standard to live up to. But after being impressed with the newer El Centurion H2K I decided to revisit the cigar, which uses a Nicaraguan sun grown Criollo wrapper. The cigar featured nice pepper and wood notes but this particular stick suffered from a terribly tight draw that made multiple relights necessary. Given my experience with this blend and My Father cigars in general I have every reason to think the fatal construction on this cigar was a fluke and a rare one at that. Still, each Quick Smoke only evaluates a single sample and this one was a dud.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje L’Espirit de Vérité 2008

31 Jan 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

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Here’s a throwback: a robusto from the original Tatuaje La Vérité release, which represented an ambitious use of aspects of wine by adopting future sales pricing, single vintage tobaccos, and tobacco sourced from a single farm. Back in 2009, when my colleague reviewed a pre-release edition, he predicted it would age well, so today I’m checking out what the better part of a decade did for this cigar. Construction is flawless, with age producing a sharp, even burn. The dominant flavors on this medium-bodied smoke are mild oak and light spice, although there is a slightly tannic, bitter element towards the final third. Most unique is the notably clean and crisp finish. This is a well-made, unique, and enjoyable cigar, but I don’t think it ever fully lived up to the grandiose expectations. Even with age it is easily surpassed by the 2009 La Vérité releases.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Orphan Barrel Project Rhetoric 21 Bourbon

27 Jan 2016

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Formally announced in 2014, the Orphan Barrel Project has been one of the biggest, albeit sometimes divisive, developments in the high-end bourbon market in recent years. The project of industry giant Diageo has brought a number of well-aged bourbons to the marketplace at a time when such releases are becoming very rare and expensive.

The first releases were the 20-year Barterhouse and 26-year Old Blowhard, the latter being one of the oldest bourbons to be sold. Next came Rhetoric 20, a 20-year bourbon distilled at the New Bernheim distillery in Louisville, which is now owned by Heaven Hill, maker of Elijah Craig and Evan Williams.

Next up was the 22-year Lost Prophet and 15-year Forged Oak. The latest release is a 21-year version of Rhetoric, which is part of a planned annual release that will show off the evolution of the bourbon as it ages, perhaps up to 26 years. (Another Orphan Barrel release, Gifted Horse, is due out soon; it will be a combination of 4-year bourbon and corn whiskey blended with 17-year bourbon.)

Rhetoric 21 is 90.2-proof, a smidge higher than the 20-year version (90-proof). It sells for around $100, and I picked up my bottle for $93 online after tasting a sample provided by Diageo.

Rhetoric 21 pours a deep copper color and has a nose that shows off its age with damp wood, vanilla, and green apple taffy. On the palate, the bourbon tastes of oak, baking spices (clove, cinnamon, nutmeg), vanilla, orange peel, and burnt sugar. The finish is long with cornbread, charred wood, and clove.

At times, the flavors feel slightly muted with the exception of the deep woodiness (over-oaked, perhaps) which is why I prefer the Lost Prophet and Forged Oak. Still, fans of oaky, ultra-aged bourbon will find Rhetoric fits the bill in a way that very few bourbons (you can actually find) will.

For cigar pairings, I think the light wood and sweet spice style of Mexican-wrapped cigars matches up nicely. Specifically, try the Illusione *R* Rothchildes, Room 101 San AndrésTatuaje The Face, and Drew Estate’s Undercrown.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: El Güegüense Corona Gorda

24 Jan 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

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I was very impressed with El Güegüense  when I first smoked the debut from Nick Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Co. in the Robusto format. Since then I’ve been enjoying the Corona Gorda size, which I may like even better. It’s woodsy with roasted notes, pepper spice, and subtle sweetness. It’s medium- to full-bodied with excellent balance. The only vitola in the line with a suggested retail price under $10 (albeit only slightly at $9.90) has my strong recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje H-Town Lancero (Stogies World Class Cigars Exclusive)

17 Jan 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.”

Tat HTown Lancero

Some of my favorite Tatuaje cigars have been from the Exclusive Series (for example, the Barclay Rex and TAA 2015) so I was interested to see how this Lancero stacked up. Once lit, it showed roasted coffee notes, clove spice, and intense leather that borders on bitter, especially towards the first half. Construction on the medium- to full-bodied smoke was flawless. I like lanceros, and I’ve generally been very impressed by the Tatuaje Exclusive Series cigars, but I’m just not sure this size showed off the best of the blend, which was pleasant but not outstanding.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: A Cigar State of the Union

13 Jan 2016

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Last night President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address. In that spirit, I offer my thoughts on the state of the cigar industry as we enter 2016.

In many ways, the state of cigars is as strong as it has ever been. This is our tenth year publishing StogieGuys.com, and the cigars being released today are of highest quality they have ever been.

Consumers are better educated, and they demand more of their cigars. Cigar companies have largely delivered better quality and more interesting flavors. One of the best trends is that new competition continues to challenge the status quo, which drives up quality.

Take a look at various top cigar lists and you’ll see lots of newer companies represented. Fortunately, their success isn’t a result of more established companies slacking off. Rather, the bar is continually rising. I honestly believe the tenth-rated cigar on most “Best of 2015” lists would have beat the number one cigar five or ten years ago.

Another sign of the health of the state of cigars is the fact that even those who have achieved the financial success to walk away rarely do. Statistically, when someone announces they are stepping down or retiring from a job in cigars, it most likely just means they are planning their return, armed with the lessons of their experience.

At the cigar shops you can see how all this benefits cigar smokers. The days where the vast majority of cigars for sale in most shops are made by a handful of the largest companies are increasingly in the past. Cigars have to earn shelf space more than ever, and companies large and small are upping their game to compete for that valuable space.

In short, cigar smokers have more and better choices than ever before. That’s the good news. But there are dark clouds on the horizon.

Impending FDA regulation continues to hover over the cigar industry with the potential to devastate the thriving competition that we’re enjoying. The fact that we enter 2016 without those regulations is a good sign, but literally any day regulations could be finalized. One cigar company executive told me not long ago that he expected many smaller cigar companies couldn’t survive FDA regulations, and I’m afraid that’s probably true.

The delay in the finalized FDA rules shows there is division within the executive branch over the extent of the need for regulation over cigars. While that’s a testament to the work of organizations that lobby for cigar rights, it doesn’t change the fact that the only way to fully stop FDA regulation would take an act of Congress. Going forward, cigar rights groups would benefit from more long-term strategy, instead of pinning their hopes to last-minute Hail Mary attempts to slip riders into massive appropriations bills.

Elsewhere, cigar rights are on defense, too. Smoking bans are not being repealed anywhere, while proposals for expanded bans and increased tobacco taxes continue to flourish.

We have work to do. There may never have been a better time to be a cigar smoker. Keeping it that way, though, won’t be easy. The old saying is eternal vigilance is the price of freedom; when it comes to the freedom to enjoy cigars, that has never been more true.

Patrick S

photo credit: Wikipedia

Quick Smoke: Coronado by La Flor Double Toro (Original Release)

10 Jan 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.”

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Last year La Flor Dominicana’s Coronado blend returned after being discontinued in 2013. In smoke shops, though, it seemed the cigar never went away at all, like the one where I found this Double Toro (7  x54) from the original run. (You can tell the new version by the new band which prominently features “LFD” in the center, while the old version only says “Coronado by La Flor” in small letters at the bottom.) The cigar features heavy oak, light cream, a little pepper, and a dusty, powdery element. It’s medium- to full-bodied with excellent construction that requires a deliberate slow pace. The original Coronado might not have sold well—hence the remaining availability despite the line being pulled from the market years ago—but I always enjoyed Coronado, and this was no exception.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys