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Cigar Review: Montecristo Churchill Añejado (Cuban)

20 Sep 2017

You have to hand it to the Cuban government. For a communist regime ostensibly dedicated to the tradition of Marxism-Leninism, they sure let their state-run cigar company embrace capitalism and profit maximization.

The Añejados line, introduced in 2015, is a profit-seeking solution to the common complaint that Cuban cigars are frequently under-aged. Rather than address the issue across the board by better aging tobacco before cigars are rolled, Habanos created the limited Añejados line to feature cigars aged at least five years after they are rolled, then priced accordingly.

This Montecristo Churchill was the second variety introduced in the line (after a Romeo y Julieta Pirámide) in 2015. I bought two while in France last month where they cost around $22 U.S. apiece.

Both of my Montecristo Churchill Añejados exhibited good construction. Wrapped in a medium brown wrapper with a little shine, the Churchill (7 x 47) is firm to the touch. As it progresses, the draw gets a bit on the tight side, although it’s not overly problematic. The ash is notably sturdy, with one cigar holding for a full two inches before I decided not to tempt fate any further.

Pre-light, flavors are graham cracker and sawdust. Once lit, the profile starts with musty bread with cinnamon notes, soon followed by a cacophony of flavors both good and bad.

Most prevalent is a traditional combination of cedar and oak with leather and coffee notes. There are also Davidoff-esque mushroom notes and a metallic finish that hits the tip of the tongue. It’s a complex and sometimes discordant flavor profile.

Needles to say, there’s a lot going on throughout the two-hour smoke. Perhaps some of this is the result of over-humidification (Paris cigar shops tend to keep their humidity levels too high), but two months in my humidor didn’t result in much change.

Instead of aging tobacco more in bales prior to rolling, the Añejado series is aged for at least five years in cedar bins after rolling. I suspect that strategy benefits the cigar’s construction, though I wish more of the aging would take place prior to rolling where it could be better targeted to the specific type of tobacco.

Price is a serious drawback to this cigar, which doesn’t taste under-aged but does feature an unusual mixture of flavors. That combination earns the Montecristo Churchill Añejado a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon Limited Edition 2017

13 Sep 2017

Although only introduced in 2010 (a baby compared to bourbons that have been on the market for decades), Angel’s Envy has quickly established itself as a premium bourbon. Available for around $50, with a sweetness imparted from port-barrel finishing, it is a solid bourbon that is well-suited to those who are starting to explore the variety and quality of bourbon in the $30 to $50 range. (It also makes an excellent gifting bourbon given it’s attractive bottle.)

Since 2012, Angel’s Envy has also offered a limited edition Cask Strength annual release. Like the regular offering, Cask Strength is aged traditionally in new charred oak casks then placed in port barrels for finishing to impart extra flavors.

Unlike the standard variety, the Cask Strength isn’t proofed down, meaning each year the proof is different. The 2017 version is 124.5-proof (62.25% ABV), which is hearty though slightly lower than recent editions.

The bourbon is a deep copper color. The nose is an eye-opening combination of leather, black tea, charred oak, and dried cherries. The palate features more charred barrel, dried herbs, spiced almonds, and hints of orange peel, banana, and clove.

Over the years, Angel’s Envy Cask Strength has become increasingly spicy and more wood dominant. Whether that’s the result of more barrel time or something else entirely is impossible to say since the age isn’t disclosed. But if wood is your style then the 2017 version will hit the spot. Personally, in terms of bourbon I actually have a chance to find at retail prices, this is one of the best every year.

Speaking of price, Angel’s Envy Cask Strength 2017 sells for $199. It’s a lot by some measures, and hardly the best value in bourbon, but it isn’t outrageous. In fact, at a time when many limited edition bourbons sell on the gray market for many multiples of their suggested retail price, it is the rare limited release bourbon that neither lingers on shelves nor is frequently resold for more than retail price. I suppose that’s the market’s way of saying it is priced appropriately.

For cigar pairings, Angel’s Envy Cask Strength 2017’s spice and wood necessitate a full-flavored smoke. I’d go with a full-bodied Nicaraguan cigar like the Curivari Buenaventura, Tatuaje Broadleaf Collection, or Illusione Garagiste.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Aurora Preferidos Ecuador No. 2

3 Sep 2017

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.”

La Aurora’s super-premium Preferidos line doesn’t seem to have the luster it once did. (For example, I bought this single from a well-known internet retailer for under $5.) That doesn’t mean it isn’t a well-made cigar. The small, 5-inch perfecto has a ring gauge of 54 at its widest point. It features a slightly mottled Habano sun-grown wrapper from Ecuador with a Dominican binder and filler from the Dominican Republic, Cameroon, and Brazil. The cigar’s bold flavors include leather, cedar, coffee, and tannic notes. If you can find it for around $5, like I did, it is well worth it.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Photo Essay: A Visit to the Connecticut River Valley

30 Aug 2017

Growing up in New York and going to college in Maine, I have many friends from Connecticut. Cigar geeks aside, few realize that not only does Connecticut grow tobacco, but some of the most expensive and sought-after premium cigar wrapper is grown in the Nutmeg State. Recently I visited the Connecticut River Valley (north of Hartford) to see the farms there during the growing season, which runs from summer to early fall. Below are some of the photos from the trip.

One of the most notable things you quickly see is how each type of tobacco is grown differently to maximize qualities sought in the wrapper they hope it will become. (Inevitably, some leaves will end up as binder or filler; that said, leaves are grown with the intention and hope that they become wrapper, which commands the highest price.)

 

Sun-grown tobacco is topped (the flower at the top is removed) and lower leaves are removed early to maximize the nutrients that reach the leaves intended for tobacco. (Yes, the photo at the top is of the Habano leaf that will eventually become the Partagas Black.)

Increasingly, the leaves are then stalk-cured (the ones I saw were speared through the center of the stalk to kick-start curing) so the flavor of the nicotine in the stalk can continue to move into the leaves.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Connecticut Shade tobacco, which is processed to keep the leaf thin and light. In addition to netting, flowers remain and all the leaves are left on so they don’t get too thick.

Leaves are sewn individually for curing, instead of being left on the stalk.

In addition, fields are left to fallow one year out of three, and rye is frequently grown (then plowed over) in the off-season to replenish nutrients in the soil.

This is big business for Connecticut farmers, with each curing barn holding up to half a million dollars worth of tobacco, depending on the leaf type. Connecticut Shade is still the most expensive leaf grown in Connecticut, but Broadleaf and Habano are also grown in ample quantities.

If you are in the area in the late summer, drive around and you shouldn’t have too much trouble spotting tobacco fields. For those not lucky enough to visit foreign tobacco growing regions, Connecticut is the most accessible place to see the tobacco that ends up as a key component of the handmade cigars we enjoy.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Curivari Reserva Limitada Classica Epicure

27 Aug 2017

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.”

As my colleague noted recently, I’ve long hailed Curivari’s Buenaventura line as an excellent value. Buenaventura is hardly the only Curivari creation to provide great bang for the buck, though. Recently, I smoked a Curivari Reserva Limitada Classica Epicure (4.5 x 52), a Nicarguan puro featuring a dark, oily wrapper. The cigar exhibits rich earth, milk chocolate, and woody spices. Construction is excellent on this 50-minute smoke. Best of all, it sells for just over $50 for a box of 10.
Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Four Kicks H-Town Lancero

20 Aug 2017

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 H-Town Lancero (7.5 x 38) was made by Crowned Heads for retailer Stogies World Class in Houston. The cigar is made in the Dominican Republic at Ernie Carrillo’s La Alianza SA factory using an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. It’s a well-balanced, medium- to full-bodied cigar with woody spice, earth, and coffee notes. It was a little spongy, but it showed no ill effects with a steady, even burn.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Illusione Garagiste Gordo

16 Aug 2017

Garagiste winemakers (sometimes referred to as “super-cuvée” or “microchâteau”) are primarily associated with the Bordeaux region and known for super small-batch wine production and a style which is bold, fruit-forward, and tannic. Although Dion Giolito‘s Illusione Cigars is no longer among the smallest producers of cigars, the brand has long been associated with the boutique cigar movement, which makes the name of this Illusione line fitting. (It also isn’t the first Illusione cigar with a name associated with wine; Epernay is the region of France best known for producing Champagne.)

One of multiple new Illusione cigars made available for the first time at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show (in addition to a looming FDA deadline, it was also Illusione’s 10th Anniversary), Garagiste is the first Illusione cigar to feature an Ecuadorian wrapper. In materials distributed to retailers last year, Garagiste was described as follows:

“Garagiste is a medium- to full-bodied cigar concentrating on the combination of two tobaccos: Viso Corojo, and Viso Criollo from a specific farm from Aganorsa fields. Sweet and spice are the focal efforts of this cigar. Garagiste is finished with an Ecuador Habano wrapper that has been put through final fermentation techniques at TABSA in Estelí, Nicaragua.”

The line comes in four sizes (Short Robusto, Robusto, Toro, and Gordo) with suggested retail prices ranging from $8 to $12. I smoked four of the Gordos (6 x 56) for this review. Each featured a notably oily, shiny wrapper and pre-light notes of leather.

The cigar starts out very full-bodied with lots of leather and earth notes, along with some black pepper spice. An inch or so in, it dials back to a medium- to full-bodied, balanced profile as some sweetness emerges in the form of burnt sugar combined with bread and oak.

The cigar mostly features a clean, balanced finish, although occasionally graphite-like tannic notes emerge. Construction was excellent start to finish, with the densely packed cigar drawing flawlessly and producing an even burn trailed by a sturdy multi-gray ash.

Garagiste is a bit of a departure for Illusione and not just since it is the first Habano wrapper to be featured on an Illusione cigar. It’s a cigar with some sneaky strength, especially in the first third, though it also features the promised sweetness and spice.

Although it isn’t my favorite Illusione cigar (that high bar is set by the original 2010 Singulare) or even my second or third favorite, the Illusione Garagiste Gordo is another welcome addition to the impressive Illusione family. It 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