Archive by Author

Cigar Tip: Five Green Cigars for St. Patrick’s Day

17 Mar 2020

I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of green-colored candela cigars. For the most part, I smoke them for the same reason I drink green beer: Because it’s fun once a year. That’s why, even in light of events that mean not many of us are enjoying big St. Patrick’s Day parties, I’m updating our list of St. Patrick’s Day smokes.

It’s not that candela cigars are bad. It’s just that I’ve yet to find a candela that’s better than the same blend with a traditional wrapper (and the cigars below are no exception). That’s probably why candela cigars make up a fraction of one percent of the premium cigar market, and a proportional percentage of my cigar purchases.

And yet it wasn’t always that way. Green candela wrappers were once very popular with American cigar smokers. So much so that candela wrapper leafs—which go through a special quick and hot fermentation process that locks in the green color—were once known as “American Market Selection,” as opposed to more traditional brown “English Market Selection” wrappers.

If you’re thinking about trying a candela, St. Patrick’s Day is as good a time to take the plunge. To that end, here’s a quick rundown of some of the green cigars available:

Black Market Filthy Hooligan by Alec Bradley — First released last year, it’s back with a wrapper that’s a year older. It features the same blend as the regular Black Market (Panamanian and Honduran filler with a Sumatra binder) coupled with a candela wrapper. If you like the regular Black Market cigar, this is your best bet.

Illusione Candela — Illusione makes it’s original blend (Nicaraguan binder and filler) with candela in a few sizes. Back in 2011 when it first came out, we found the 88 size to be a pleasant smoke with tea and plenty of sweet flavors, and lacking the bitterness that sometimes characterizes candela cigars.

Viaje WLP St. Patrick’s Day — I smoked a few of the 2012 edition, which features the brightest candela wrapper I’ve ever seen, and found that it equaled the Illusione as my favorite candela. It also has the brightest green wrapper of the bunch.

Don Tomás Candela — My colleague reviewed this candela with some skepticism when the company claimed it was the result of three bales of candela wrappers that had been “lost” for 18 years. Ultimately, though, he found it to be a “respectable” smoke with enjoyable flavors, even if it wasn’t destined to be a regular in his rotation.

Fuente 8-5-8 Candela — Fuente’s regular line is known for smooth, mild flavors produced by Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. I smoked one of these with a candela wrapper a few years back and recall just that: a mild, balanced smoke with a hint of classic grassy candela flavors.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: RoMa Craft CroMagnon EMH “Don Bosco” Limited Edition

25 Feb 2020

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.”

The limited edition CroMagnon EMH “Don Bosco” is made for the Northern Virginia-based Old Virginia Tobacco Co. The cigar features a barber poll dual wrapper with Ecuadorian Connecticut candela and U.S.-grown Connecticut Broadleaf, which surrounds the standard CroMagnon blend (Cameroon binder and Nicaraguan filler). The large robusto-shaped EMH features full-bodied flavors of rich earth and roast nuts with black and green peppercorn spice. The $10 cigar is well-constructed with an open draw and even burn. It’s strongly recommended if you can find one.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Rhum J.M. V.S.O.P.

10 Feb 2020

Rum is available in a wide variety of styles. The lack of strict rules (like those of bourbon, rye, single malt, etc…) make rum a Wild West, for both better and worse. Pure Bahamian rums, funky Jamaican rums, sugar-added dark rums, distilled in pot stills or column stills or both, spiced rums, aged in the tropics or Europe… they’re all rum, as long as they are distilled from one form or another of sugar.

Rhum agricole is the style associated with French Caribbean islands. It is distilled from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, rather than the more frequently used molasses. Rhum J.M. is made in Martinique, and the V.S.O.P. offering is “created by aging rhum 3 years in re-charred bourbon barrels and finishing the rhum an additional year in lightly toasted new American oak barrels and finally reduced to 43% ABV with pure volcanic spring water from Habitation Bellevue.”

The $50 bottle (750 ml.) features a spirit that is light amber in color with a nose of fresh popcorn, red berries, and baking spices. Flavors include butterscotch, fresh sugar cane, custard, rubber, and banana.

It has a notably velvety mouthfeel and excellent balance. The finish is long and rich with nougat and candied apple sweetness.

I suppose you could use it in cocktail (I’m sure it would be excellent in a daiquiri) but, honestly, that would be a waste of a spirit that is best enjoyed neat. It’s a fine example of aged rhum agricole, worth seeking out (it can be a little tricky to find) for all fans of aged rum, especially for those looking to go beyond the molasses-derived offerings that usually make up the higher end of most run bars’ offerings.

Pair it with a balanced medium-bodied cigar. Suggested pairings include Cabaiguan, Davidoff Colorado Claro, El Güegüense, and the Cuban Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: George Dickel Bottled in Bond 13 Year Old Whisky

30 Jan 2020

Introduced in the last year, George Dickel Bottled in Bond caught my attention for having an attribute few new bourbon offerings have: the possibility of being an excellent value. As the popularity of bourbon has spiked, so have prices.

Some of the best values from five years ago have either dropped their aged statements (so they can include younger whiskey), raised prices, become highly allocated and impossible to find, or have been discontinued. All of which is a long run-up to saying a new 13-year-old bourbon for under $40 is not the type of thing you see every day. (Side note: Tennessee whiskey produced by both Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel meets the legal definition of straight bourbon even if you won’t find the word on the bottle; the key addition to the process that sets Tennessee whiskey apart is the Lincoln County Process, where the spirit is filtered through charcoal.)

Bottled-in-bond whiskey means the spirit must fit a few qualities. It must all be distilled at the same distillery during the same season (January-June or July-December), must be aged in a federally bonded warehouse for four years, and must be bottled at 100-proof or higher.

Distilled at George Dickel’s Cascade Hollow Distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee, this mahogany-colored, 13-year-old bottled-in-bond whiskey was distilled in the fall of 2005 with a mash bill of 84% corn, 10% rye, and 6% malted barley. It was bottled in the spring of 2019 at 50% ABV (100-proof).

The nose is full of peanuts and roast corn. On the palate there’s powdered chocolate, dried corn, candied citrus, and vanilla. The finish has ginger and clove with a lingering, velvety mouthfeel.

This is, without a doubt, an an excellent bourbon that probably could have been sold for more. But I think long-term it’s a good strategy for George Dickel, which is always in the shadow of its Tennessee neighbor Jack Daniel’s. Reminding consumers of their quality with an eye-catching value only serves to make people more likely to check out their other offerings (which are themselves solid and underrated) in the future.

Despite being 100-proof, it’s not overly strong, even when tasted neat. Pair it with a medium-bodied cigar like the Bolivar Royal Corona, Tatuaje Black, or Davidoff Colorado Claro.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: El Galan Campestre Habano Toro

16 Jan 2020

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.”

I first wrote up this cigar when it was just a bundle smoke made by Felix Mesa of the largely unknown El Galan Cigars. Today, Mesa is the man tasked with heading up Fuente’s new Nicaraguan operations. The Toro sports a Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It costs around $30 for a bundle of 20. The specimen I’m smoking is a sample with nearly two years of age. Despite a foot that initially frayed when lit, construction is largely solid, including an ash that’s surprisingly solid for a bundle smoke. Flavors are medium-bodied with balanced notes of coffee, wood, and earth. I’m not sure age has improved this cigar, but it hasn’t made it any worse, either.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Curivari Buenaventura BV 500

11 Jan 2020

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.”

I’ve long touted Curivari Buenaventura as an excellent cigar for the value. The Nicaraguan puro’s understated, classic appearance fits the sub-$5 price tag, but don’t mistake that as an accurate proxy for quality. Excellent construction aids  the delivery of a balanced combination of medium-bodied flavors: cocoa, espresso, cedar, oak, and earth. This reasonably priced gem is a little hard to find but well worth seeking out.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Tip: Pairing New Years Champagne with a Fine Cigar

30 Dec 2019

A decade ago, I offered some tips on pairing cigars with champagne. With New Years Eve a day away, here’s an update (including a decade worth of additional experience).

Pairing brown liquor with cigars is the more obvious choice, but champagne (or other sparkling wines) can go surprisingly well with a smoke. Not to mention the celebratory nature of the bubbly. To enhance your champagne and cigar enjoyment, here are a few basic tips:

Save the top-dollar champagne.

Champagne can be fantastic, but unless you have unlimited funds, the vintage Dom Pérignon should be held back if you’re smoking a cigar. You pay a price for the champagne name (meaning it’s from the Champagne region of France). There are plenty of good champagne-style sparkling wines that can be had for a reasonable cost. Spending $50 or $100 on brand-name French bubbly will probably be a waste (considering you’re going to lose some of the complexities due to your cigar). Very pleasant Spanish cava, in particular, can be had for a fraction of the price.

Stick with mild cigars.

Champagne doesn’t have the heft of rum, whiskey, or even beer or coffee. The best champagnes are the most subtle, so the same subtlety is needed in the cigar you pair with your sparkling wine. Stick with mild cigars that have balance. Too often Connecticut-wrapped cigars feature bitterness, so look for those with age and balance. Extra-aged Cubans can be a great pairing, and a special mention is deserved for the Illusione Epernay, which is named after the Champagne region and was blended with a champagne pairing in mind.

Age your cigars and your champagne.

Smoking a cigar with champagne calls for a cigar that is smooth, mild, complex, and subtle, all of which can be the result of aging a cigar. Some cigars just lose their flavor with age, so be careful. But others are enhanced by months or years aging properly in a humidor. Some of the same things happen to aged champagne which, while not for everyone, loses some of its bubbly crispness but adds creaminess and depth along the lines of a well-aged white burgundy. Usually you pay extra for vintage champagne. But if you can get some of those same qualities by just putting aside a good champagne and waiting, don’t be afraid to give it a try. (Not long ago I had some non-vintage Champagne Tattinger with a decade of age, and the result was very impressive.)

Cheers!

Patrick S

photo credit: Wikipedia