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Cigar Spirits: Ardbeg Drum Committee Release (2019)

20 Mar 2019

As whisky grows in popularity, limited edition whisky releases grow even faster. You’d be hard-pressed to go a week or two without multiple new bourbons, ryes, or single malts being announced.

Increasingly, I don’t bother trying to track down these limited releases. The price and/or rarity makes it not worth it, with only a few exceptions: either because they are reliably good for the money, or because something about the offering is particularly interesting.

The latter is the case for Ardbeg Drum Committee Release. Each year, Ardbeg puts out two variations of their annual releases that is a unique twist on Ardbeg’s peat-forward style. (The Committee Release is a higher ABV offering that is more limited, while a standard issue release is priced slightly lower and bottled at a more traditional ABV, usually around 90%.)

Given my appreciation for Ardbeg’s Uigeadail (a high-proof release that shows off the results of Ardbeg’s peat in sherry casks), I was particularly interested in Drum, which for the first time put Ardbeg Single Malt into American rum casks (reportedly rum casks from the Guyana distillery where El Dorado is made).

This year’s Ardbeg Committee Release ($120) weighs in at 52% ABV. Exact aging details aren’t disclosed except that the whisky is aged in ex-bourbon casks for a period before secondary aging in rum casks. The resulting sprit is pale in color and slightly murky in appearance.

The nose is a hint of what’s to come with light smoke, brown banana peel, and red hot candies. The palate is a classic Ardbeg peaty profile (gritty smoke and petrol) with added lavender, anise, pear, and hints of pineapple. The finish is long and complex with pine smoke, cinnamon, lemon, and leather.

It’s a complex offering that shows off a subtle complexity from the rum barrel finish. Frankly, while I enjoyed it, I was hoping the rum element would be a little more prominent, but that is more because of my affinity towards single malts that combine peat and sweet (more traditionally from sherry casks).

For fans of the entire Ardbeg line, this (or the forthcoming $100 non-Committee Drum release) is an offering worth seeking out. For those just dabbling in Ardbeg’s offerings, I’d recommend trying Uigeadail and Corryvreckan, which are both more complex and more affordable ($70-80).

Like most peaty single malts, a mild cigar will get lost next to Drum, so stick with something more flavorful. I particularly enjoyed the My Father and Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary paired with the Ardbeg Drum Committee Release.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Caldwell Long Live the King The Heater

17 Mar 2019

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.”

This corona (5.75 x 46) employs Dominican Corojo wrapper and binder tobaccos around Peruvian Pelo de Oro and Nicaraguan Habana Ligero filler. The medium- to full-bodied cigar has notes of dried dates, oak, black pepper, coffee, and leather. For $9, you get a well-constructed cigar full of complex flavors.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Caldwell Cigars IG

Cigar Review: My Father Connecticut Robusto

13 Mar 2019

Few brands have earned the across-the-board high ratings as My Father Cigars. Launched in 2008, My Father is owned by the Garcia family and showcases the cigar blending skills of Don José “Pepin” Garcia and his son, Jaime Garcia.

In 2014, the brand announced a new addition, its first-ever cigar featuring a Connecticut wrapper. My Father Connecticut (or “Edition CT”) features a Connecticut-seed Ecuadorian wrapper. The Nicaraguan binder and filler it surrounds are grown on the Garcia family’s farms.

My Father Connecticut comes in four sizes: Robusto (5.25 x 52), Toro (6.5 x 54), Toro Gordo (6 x 60), and Corona Gorda (6 x 48). I smoked three of the Robustos, which retail for around $8 each.

The tan wrapper with few visible veins surrounds a cigar that is neither overly firm, nor particularly spongy. The draw is open and the cigar’s combustion qualities are superb, with a even burn and ash that easily holds for an inch.

The cigar features a combination of leather, hay, butter, hints of fresh clipped grass, and a white pepper spice. As it progresses, the spice fades as wood and earth notes become more prominent in the complex, medium-bodied profile. Coffee, cinnamon, and cedar spice linger on the finish.

My Father Connecticut is another well-made addition to the My Father portfolio, though its occasionally unbalanced flavors lack the sophistication and complexity of many of the My Father blends that came before and after. Hardly your grandfather’s mild, bland Connecticut-wrapped cigar, the My Father Connecticut Robusto earns a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Nuevitas Esteli

10 Mar 2019

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.”

One of Pete Johnson’s first cigars, the Tatuaje Nuevitas was one of the few not made by Don José “Pepin” Garcia. The original was made at Tabacalera Tropical until 2007. The reintroduced version (introduced last year) is made at the Garcia family’s My Father Cigars factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. The Robusto (5 x 52) is a Nicaraguan puro wrapped in a Corojo ’99 wrapper. The cigar features medium-bodied woodsy flavors with notes of leather, honey, and light baking spices. Construction on the $8 cigar was flawless.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: FDA Commissioner’s Resignation Could Have Big Implications for Cigar Regulations

6 Mar 2019


Late yesterday reports broke that U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb would be resigning his position next month. The move comes less than two years after Gottlieb was confirmed to the position in May 2017.

According to a Washington Post report, Gottlieb’s resignation didn’t come at the request of the the White House. President Trump tweeted praise of Gottlieb’s job at the FDA. “Scott has helped us to lower drug prices, get a record number of generic drugs approved and onto the market, and so many other things.”

Gottlieb, who had been commuting from Connecticut weekly, told the Post it was a difficult decision. “This is the best job I will ever have. I’m leaving because I need to spend time with my family. I get home late Friday, work on weekends, and come back to Washington on Sunday.”

Gottlieb’s confirmation was supported by cigar industry groups based on his prior writings questioning the logic of FDA tobacco cigar regulations. But his time at the FDA was a mixed bag for cigars. Gottlieb came into the job known for a “harm reduction” approach to tobacco regulations.

One of Gottlieb’s first acts was to delay upcoming deadlines for implementing the FDA’s Deeming Rule, which included new cigars. He later initiated another round of rule-making on whether the FDA should adopt an exemption for premium cigars. Later, Gottlieb pushed for a ban on flavored tobacco products.

Next Commissioner Faces Big Decisions on Cigar Regulations

Gottlieb’s departure leaves the next head of the FDA to make major decisions regarding the FDA’s oversight of premium cigars. A permanent replacement for Gottlieb would need to go through a Senate confirmation process, which would take months given the backlog of other nominees awaiting confirmation votes. An acting commissioner could be named more quickly, but no decisions have been made about who would fill the post.

The FDA could issue a final rule on the premium cigar exemption any day now and, unless it comes in the next month, it may be one of the first big decisions made by the next commissioner. If a final rule isn’t issued before late spring 2020, the rule can be overturned using the Congressional Review Act by a new Congress and president after the 2020 elections.

The next commissioner would also be primed to make final rulings on flavored tobacco products and on an FDA initiative for reduced nicotine tobacco products. Cigar industry groups would do well to lobby the White House for a nominee who is likely to issue premium cigars a long sought-after exemption from FDA rules.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Caldwell Eastern Standard Signature (Dos Firmas) Rothschild

3 Mar 2019

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.”

An extension of one of Caldwell’s first lines, “Eastern Standard,” this cigar tweaks that blend with a lighter Connecticut Shade wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and filler from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The Rothschild (4.75 x 52) features above-average construction with a pigtail cap. The profile includes light roast coffee, cream, and hay with a clean, short finish. It’s a pleasant, if not particularly complex, mild cigar.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Thoughts on Virginia’s New Increased Age to Purchase Tobacco

27 Feb 2019

My home state of Virginia recently became the latest to up the age at which adults are allowed to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. It joins California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, and Oregon (along with the District of Columbia) in a trend that appears to be spreading.

A Slippery Slope

You may be old enough to vote or join the military (possibly even drafted into it), but that doesn’t mean you can choose to buy tobacco. If this seems odd to you, it should. Eighteen has always been the demarcation between children and adults; with adults getting to decide whether or not to use a legal product like tobacco, while we accept that children must be protected from having the same choices.

The justification appears to be that government is failing to effectively enforce the law that stops those under 18 from using tobacco, and it will be easier to stop minors from smoking if we also make it illegal for non-minors aged 18-20 from obtaining. That’s probably true, just as lowering the speed limit from 65 to 45 would make people less likely to drive over 65. But there is no limit to this justification.

What’s to stop the age from being raised again when the government cannot completely enforce the new 21-year-old age limit, and some 20-year-olds still manage to get their hands on cigarettes? The answer is nothing.

That’s a scary thought when you consider that many of the groups pushing this new restriction have as their ultimate goal a complete prohibition on tobacco products for everyone. After all, people older than 21 make bad decisions sometimes. Just ask Virginia Governor Ralph Northam who signed the bill into law and exercised some very bad judgement in his mid-twenties.

Being Anti-Tobacco Isn’t a Partisan Issue

One of the things that the Virginia bill demonstrates is that both Democrats and Republicans are willing to vote against cigar rights. Indeed, the bill couldn’t have become law without bi-partisan support.

In the Virginia state house, where Republicans hold a 51-49 majority, 46 Democrats and 21 Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Meanwhile, in the state senate, where Republicans also hold a two-member majority (21-19), all but eight Republicans voted for the bill. Then finally Democrat Governor Northam signed the bill into law.

Bootleggers and Baptists

You’d expect the anti-tobacco lobby to support raising the age for purchasing tobacco products, but it’s also worth noting another supporter of this legislation: the giant cigarette company Altria (maker of Marlboro). If this surprises you, it shouldn’t.

Altria also supported giving the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products including cigars, reportedly in part because the company thought that regulating the industry would help it fend off competition and maintain its large market share. It’s another example of an economic concept known as bootleggers and baptists, both of whom had their own reasons for supporting prohibition.

Patrick S

photo credit: Wikipedia