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Cigar Tip: Beyond the Basics of Humidity

24 Apr 2014

There was a time when I stressed over keeping my cigars at a perfect humidity. These days, I’m not so fussy about monitoring my humidors on a day-to-day basis.

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When you first get into cigars, you read often that 70/70 (humidity/temperature) is the ideal way to store your cigars. Soon, though, you probably realize that a slightly lower humidity (62-65%) is better, especially if you are storing cigars for long-term aging.

We’ve covered the fundamentals of proper humidity before, but as the outside temperature gets hotter it’s a good time to recap. Anywhere from 62-70% is generally fine. (You can even go all out and build your own temperature-controlled humidor.)

It’s often a matter of personal preference if you like your cigars a little drier. On the low end of that range, your cigars are certain to burn easily, but possibly a bit quick and hot.

Of course, the first step in proper humidity is making sure your hygrometer is properly calibrated, especially for the inexpensive spring-loaded hygrometers that come with most humidors. For that you want to to use the salt calibration test.

Eventually, though, you might get to the stage where you don’t even need a hygrometer. I now keep most of my cigars in humidors without one, since I can tell by feel, and by how my cigars are smoking, when it’s time to add a little more distilled water or humidor solution.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m really only concerned about keeping a select few cigars at their ideal humidity. Over time I’ve found certain cigars smoke better at slightly higher or lower humidity levels. Thick broadleaf wrappers, in particular, tend to benefit from a slightly higher humidity. This is especially true of Liga Privada, which will produce smoke like a chimney at almost any humidity. (Sometimes I’ll leave a 70% or 72% Boveda pack in a box with these cigars within my larger humidor.)

Other cigars, I may pull out of the humidor a few hours before smoking to let the humidity drop a bit before lighting it up. Cigars with a closed foot, which is becoming more common, tend to hold moisture more easily than a traditional foot so they may benefit from this. The same goes for cigars with a particularly firm draw.

Ultimately, it’s a case of trial and error, and you may want to experiment a bit. Tweaking the humidity won’t make a bad cigar good, but it might just make a favorite of yours a little bit better, so give it a try.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: San Lotano Oval Connecticut Robusto

20 Apr 2014

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.”IMG_3778 - Version 2San-Lotano-Oval-Conn-sq

 San-Lotano-Oval-Conn

Making a full-bodied cigar with a Connecticut shade-grown wrapper can be a challenge. Often, either the wrapper gets overwhelmed or there are significant bitter notes. Fortunately, A.J. Fernandez hits the mark with the San Lotano Oval Connecticut, made with Nicaraguan binder and filler, with additional filler from Honduras. The Robusto (5.5 x 54) features the unique oval shape Fernandez has created and marketed. It produces thick, creamy smoke along with notes of cedar, honey, and coffee. Construction is excellent, but most of all it’s impressive for being a full-bodied, balanced, and complex Connecticut-wrapped cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Jefferson’s Straight Rye Whiskey

17 Apr 2014

Rye whiskey is a quintessentially American spirit, and yet in recent decades Canada has become better known for rye than the United States. Canadian whiskey is synonymous with rye, as rye is the dominant grain in most Canadian whiskey.Jeffersons-rye-10-sq

Jeffersons-rye-10But most Canadian whiskey doesn’t meet the “straight rye” designation since the rye is often mixed with neutral grain spirits (basically vodka), to produce the low-proof, smooth-drinking Canadian whiskey you might be familiar with. And yet lots of rye is made in Canada, which caught the eye of some American whiskey sellers as old aged rye has gained a larger and larger following with American whiskey fans.

Three such Canadian straight ryes are particularly noteworthy: Jefferson’s Straight Rye Whiskey (10 Year, 94-proof), Whistlepig (10 Year, 100-proof), and Masterson’s (10 Year, 90-proof). All reportedly source their straight rye from the same Alberta distillery, and all are made with a mashbill of 100% rye, which sets them apart from rye produced in the U.S. (Lots of ryes, mostly made in Indiana, use a 95% rye mashbill.)

While they are distilled in Canada, due to their marketing and style, you’ll probably find them in the bourbon and rye section of your store, not lumped in with Canadian Club and Crown Royal. In the case of Jefferson’s, the label on the side discloses its origins: “Imported by Castle Brands, Produced in Canada.” Included is a batch and bottle number (the bottle I’m using for this review is batch 41, bottle number 251).

Jefferson’s pours a lovely reddish copper color and has a nose full of floral sweetness, a hint of what’s to come. Once tasted, it reveals a very clean, balanced profile with minty spice. It’s floral, oily, and has a honey sweetness. It lacks the forward spice that characterizes most American-distilled rye, but it’s very enjoyable in its own way. The finish stays true to the taste and it lingers on the roof of your mouth.

Normally I suggest a full-bodied cigar to stand up to rye’s spice, but the more subtle aspects of Jefferson’s Rye suggest a different direction. Instead, I’d stick with a milder cigar, either a Connecticut (USA or Ecuador) or the subtle spice of a Cameroon wrapper.

I’ve become a big fan of Jefferson’s Rye, and I heartily recommend all rye fans seek it out, especially at the very fair price of $40 or less. (It’s probably obvious by now, but this is totally different than the Jefferson’s bourbons which we’ve written about here and here.)

Now for the bad news: Jefferson’s Rye, at least in its current form, isn’t going to be around for long, and may already not be available in your area. Reports are they’ve lost their source of whiskey and it will soon be replaced with rye from a different (probably non-100% rye mashbill) rye, that won’t carry the ten-year age statement. So be sure to examine the bottle closely. Personally, I scooped up four bottles when I had the chance.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: RoMa Craft Intemperance EC XVIII Brotherly Kindness

12 Apr 2014

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.”IMG_3778 - Version 2

IntemperanceECBrotherlyKindness

Normally an event-only cigar, I received this edition of Intemperance’s Ecuador Connecticut cigar while visiting the small Nica Sueño factory in Estelí, where the RoMa Craft cigars are made. Interestingly, this is the vitola (5 x 56) that RoMa Craft uses while creating its blends, which you could say makes it the purest example of what its creators intend smokers to experience. The medium-bodied cigar features cedar, roasted nuts, and hints of spice. Construction is flawless. I’ll admit that at first I didn’t think the Intemperance lines were quite as good as the original RoMa Craft Cromagnon and Acquitaine lines, but slowly I’ve come to appreciate them just as much.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate Cigar Safari Personal Blend (2013)

6 Apr 2014

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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Since we’re headed to visit Drew Estate in Estelí today, I thought I’d try out the blend I made during last year’s visit. Truth be told, I don’t remember exactly what the blend is (I have it written somewhere), but I remember it has the same stalk-cut Connecticut Habano wrapper as the Liga Privada T-52 and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. I also selected an unusual size (6.5 x 46) with a pigtail cap and closed foot. As for flavor, the medium-bodied blend features plenty of classic Habano notes of warm tobacco, bread, and wood with hints of coffee and clove. It’s pretty simplistic and hardly a masterpiece, though it is well-constructed and balanced. Still, there’s a reason you won’t be seeing Drew Estate put this blend into production.

Verdict = Hold.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: NJ Bill Targets Tobacco Advertising for Special Tax

3 Apr 2014

A New Jersey bill currently under consideration represents a new type of anti-tobacco legislation.The proposed law, introduced March 24, would tax all advertising for tobacco products at a rate of 25%.

750px-Flag_of_New_Jersey.svgWhile a number of states are considering expanded smoking bans and increased tobacco taxes, the New Jersey law would be the first time a state would tax tobacco advertising. New Jersey already taxes cigars at a rate of 30% of the wholesale price and has a $2.70 per-pack tax on cigarettes, the sixth highest in the country.

Advertising directed at children is already regulated, so the ads this bill targets are for adults who can legally purchase cigars and other tobacco products. Revenue raised from the tax would go towards state funding of programs to prevent the use of tobacco products including electronic cigarettes.

Analysis

The bill only has four sponsors out of an 80-member General Assembly. And no companion bill has been introduced in the New Jersey Senate.

Given the current support, it is unlikely it will pass this term, but it should be a warning for advocates of cigar freedom. Anti-tobacco zealots are not happy just taxing tobacco; they also want to silence speech targeted at adults for tobacco products, or at least tax that speech and use the revenue to counter the message.

The proposed legislation also raises free speech issues since it targets one specific viewpoint for a tax and uses it for a message (anti-tobacco advocacy) that would presumably be opposed by those paying the tax. Generally, courts have found laws that target or limit a specific viewpoint to be a violation of First Amendment free speech protections.

It isn’t clear how the bill would apply to national publications where advertising happens to reach New Jersey audiences, but isn’t specifically targeted to them, which would include sites like StogieGuys.com. Further, the proposed tax would likely hit more dynamic and innovative types of tobacco particularly hard, which would include premium cigars where new products utilize advertising to fight for consumer attention.

Even though passage of this tobacco speech tax may not be likely immediately, this is a disturbing new type of anti-tobacco legislation that cigar smokers should be wary of. In the past, far too often seemingly unique and farfetched anti-tobacco proposals have become mainstream only a few years later.

-Patrick S

photo credit: wikipedia

Cigar Review: Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte Robusto Gordo

1 Apr 2014

General Cigar recently unveiled two new blends that will fall under its Partagas 1845 brand. One, Partagas 1845 Extra Oscuro, is for online and catalog retailers. The other, Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte, is for brick-and-mortar shops.Partagas-1845-Extra-Fuerte-sq

Partagas-1845-Extra-FuerteReleasing two similarly branded cigars (one for cigar shops, the other for online/catalog) seems to be a new strategy General Cigar is embracing, since they did something similar with La Gloria Cubana Serie R Black/Serie R Estelí. The idea, I suspect, is to protect cigar shops from online competition and vice versa, while having the branding, packaging, and profile be similar enough that each benefits from the publicity and marketing of the other.

In the always competitive world of premium cigars, if it provides even a small advantage then it’s good strategy, though I think the risk is that it can be confusing for consumers who shop both in-person and by mail-order. Unless they are side by side, they look very similar: the Extra Fuerte has a black and silver band, while the Extra Oscuro has a dark purple and silver band, with a darker oscuro wrapper.

The Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte features a four-country blend with an oily Ecuadorian Habano ligero warpper and an unusual Habano Connecticut binder. The filler uses Dominican Piloto Cubano and three types of Nicaraguan tobacco identified only as “Gurdian, Estelí, and ASP”.

It comes in four sizes: Robusto Gordo (5.5 x 52), Gigante (6 x 60), Double Corona (7.5 x 54), and Supremo (7 x 58). Each comes in 20-count boxes with suggested retail prices ranging from $7.49 to $8.49 per cigar. I smoked three of the Robusto Gordo size for this review, all of which were provided as samples by the manufacturer.

The cigar lives up to its “extra fuerte” name with a full-bodied combination of deep flavors. It’s dominated by woody notes, namely dried oak and char, but there are also black coffee and clove spices. While it’s a little sharp and slightly unbalanced at first, but rounds out nicely during the second half.

General Cigar has been using more and more Nicaraguan tobacco in their new blends, and I think the results have been very good. Like the La Gloria Serie R Estelí, the Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte ramps up the flavor and body, but without betraying the identity of the original. The Extra Fuerte went well with some Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year.

With flawless construction, full-bodied flavors, and a fair price point, there’s a lot to like about the newest blend to carry the historic Partagas name. That earns the Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte Robusto Gordo a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys