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Quick Smoke: Partagas Serie P No. 2 (Cuban)

24 Jul 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.”

Serie P No. 2

I’ve had this Cuban puro resting in a tube in my humidor for at least a few years. With all the new non-Cuban cigars being introduced this week at the IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas, I decided to check out a Cuban that is anything but new. (Of course, if the cigar could legally be sold in the U.S., it would not be grandfathered as exempt because it was not sold or marketed in the U.S. in 2007.) This pirámide is medium-bodied with a typical Cuban profile with cedar, leather, roasted nuts, and just a bit of woody spice. Although he foot of the cigar has been a little beat up by the metal tube (something I’ve seen before from these) construction was generally without incident.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: FDA Cigar Regulations Already Disrupting Handmade Cigar Industry

20 Jul 2016

FDA-cigars-large

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations covering the cigar industry don’t take effect until August, but the impact on cigars is already apparent. The regulations, which have already prompted two lawsuits against the agency (a long-planned lawsuit by the CRA, IPCPR, and CAA was filed last week), threaten to stifle the introduction of new cigars, plus the continued sale of any cigar introduced after February 15, 2007.

With the annual IPCPR Trade Show set to start next week, cigar makers are already announcing new cigars at a record pace, with plenty more expected next week. The reason is clear, as cigars introduced after August 8 will have to wait for FDA pre-approval before being marketed or sold in the United States, while those on the market before that date can be sold for two years without needing pre-approval.

Exact details of the pre-approval process are still unknown, which only fuels the urgency of getting new products to market. Most industry sources hope cigars will be approved as “substantially equivalent” to a product on the market prior to the February 2007 date, but even that standard may be difficult and costly to establish.

According to the FDA’s final rule, the agency estimates it will take 300 hours for each Substantial Equivalence (SE) report, which works out to two months of time for one full-time employee. Industry sources believe the cost of each SE report would likely be even greater than the FDA’s estimate, possibly $100,000 or more.

Those estimates are per SE report, and the FDA requires pre-approval for every tobacco product. This would likely include every new cigar size and packaging combination. For example, if a cigar is sold in 10-count and 20-count boxes, each would need a separate approval. Presumably, so would samplers created by the manufacturer, and potentially even samplers created and sold by retailers.

Needless to say, those costs are prohibitive for small cigar brands for whom a large volume vitola may only sell tens of thousands of units in a year. By introducing lines now ahead of the August 8 deadline, those small manufacturers buy themselves 18 months before they have to decide whether to submit them to the FDA for approval.

By then, cigar makers will have a better picture of the costs and requirements of achieving FDA approval, so they can decide if seeking approval makes economic sense, or if they will be forced to withdraw cigars from the market by August 2018 (after which cigars introduced after February 2007 can no longer be sold unless they have begun seeking FDA approval).

Unfortunately, this means many of the new cigars being rushed out before the deadline are living on borrowed time. While the results of the lawsuits could change the FDA regulations, such lawsuits are always difficult to win. In the meantime, while there will be a lot of excitement over the next two weeks as numerous cigars are announced, the devastating effects of FDA regulation on the handmade cigar market are already showing.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Tip: How to Travel with Cigars on a Plane

13 Jul 2016

travel-cigar

Whether you’re taking a week-long vacation to a beach paradise or just flying off for a few days in a distant city for work, you’ll probably want to take some cigars.

Depending on where you are going, you may not have easy access to a cigar shop. Or you may not have access to reasonably priced cigars (taxes can be very high in certain states and countries). Or you may only have access to Cubans, and you may not be sure of their authenticity.

Even if you think you’ll pick up some cigars on your trip, bringing some cigars along with the tools necessary to enjoy them is probably a good idea. So here are some tips to make your air travel with cigars smoother:

Protect Your Cigars

Plane travel can be a traumatic experience for cigars, between the pressurized air and the fact that your bag is probably going to be forcibly jammed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. (Don’t check your cigars, as the cargo hold of the plane can have some pretty extreme temperature changes that can do serious damage.) The natural solution is a hard plastic cigar case like those made by Xikar or Cigar Caddy. Each comes in anywhere from a five to fifteen-count, or sometimes more.

If you don’t have a case, or if you can’t fit all the cigars you want to bring in the case you have, a sealed Ziplock bag will do fine. But you’ll want to put the bag in a hard tube or box to make sure they don’t get crushed. If you are traveling for more than few days, throw a small Boveda pack in with your cigars to help stabilize and maintain proper humidity.

Bring a Lighter, Avoid Confiscation

Torch lighters are great, but the TSA will take them from your carry-on or checked luggage. Trust me on this. I’ve accidentally left them in my bag and had them confiscated. But you can bring a soft flame lighter in your carry-on. You can also bring a single box of matches, so I like to stuff one box of wooden matches to the brim as a backup.

My go-to soft flame lighter is the Djeep, which is dependable and has decent capacity. It’s also cheap, so if some ornery TSA agent on a power-trip takes it you won’t be too upset. If you really want a torch lighter, you might consider a Soto Pocket Torch, which can convert a regular cheap lighter into a torch. But bring the lighter in your carry-on and leave the Soto in your checked bag to make sure it isn’t confiscated if the TSA agent figures out what it is. Also, for all lighters and matches, know that other countries might have different rules (Nicaragua, of all places, is known for taking all lighters when you depart from Managua). So no matter what you bring, make sure it is something that, if push comes to shove, you won’t feel too bad about leaving behind.

Check or Carry On a Cutter

Bringing most cutters on a plane shouldn’t be a problem (according to the TSA, blades smaller than four inches are good to carry on), but you never know how the rules are going to be enforced. So fancy cutters, if you must bring them, should go in checked luggage.

Travel is the perfect time to bring along that cheap cutter you got as a throw-in. And remember, if all else fails you can always cut your cigar with your fingernail; just don’t use your teeth.

Be Weary of Fake Cubans

Traveling overseas is great as you have access to cigars from that island south of Miami, but don’t assume you’ll easily be able to find legitimate Cuban cigars. For years, Americans have been buying and smoking Cubans overseas, even though technically this violated the Cuban Embargo. Now, with restrictions being eased, it is perfectly legal for an American to smoke a Cuban cigar while abroad. (Bringing Cubans into the U.S. is still illegal, expect for a small quantity directly from Cuba.)

Fake Cuban cigars are everywhere, especially at vacation spots visited frequently by Americans. The best way to ensure you are buying authentic Cubans is to shop at an official Casa del Habano. Beyond that, here are two easy tips to avoid the most obvious fakes: (1) If the price is too good to be true it is certainly fake, as prices are fixed and nobody’s relative or friend is getting them at a discount straight from the factory; and (2) There has never been any Cuban cigar made with a glass or plastic top box. (I still see pictures of glass top Cohiba boxes in cigar groups on Facebook, only for a dozen or more people to tell the poster the unfortunate news that they were swindled. Repeat after me: All Cuban cigars in a glass top box are fake.)

Carry on Some Booze

Unless you are heading to a country that doesn’t allow alcohol, there is nothing wrong with putting a bottle or three in your checked bag (though you may have to pay taxes on them). But what is often overlooked is that you can actually carry on booze in small amounts.

When carrying on, alcohol is subject to the same rules as other liquids, meaning no container more than 3.4 ounces and all liquids must fit in a one-quart sized bag. Mini bottles (usually 50 ml.) are well under that limit, and you can fit five or six in one Ziplock. If you are planning on cracking these open on the plane, know that most airlines have a rule against alcohol not served by the flight attendants. Practically speaking, though, if you are discrete about it you probably won’t get caught.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: Warped Flor del Valle Las Brumas

6 Jul 2016

Warped Flor del Valle - Las Burmas

The partnership between Warped Cigars and Casa Fernandez has produced some excellent cigars, including the Warped Futuro Selección Supremas, which impressed be enough to earn our first five out of five rating of 2016. Today, I look at another Warped/Casa Fernandez joint production: Flor del Valle.

Warped Flor del Valle Las BurmasThe line was the first Warped cigar produced at the TABSA factory in Nicaragua (Futuro came later), where it is made alongside cigars for Illusione, Casa Fernandez, Foundation Cigar Co. (El Güegüense), and others. It was first introduced in 2014, with the petit robusto-sized Las Brumas (4.5 x 48), the subject of today’s review, added the following year.

Las Brumas retails for $9.45 ($236.25 for a box of 25), but shop around and you should be able to find a box for around $200. The the five cigars I smoked for this review came from is dated January 2016.

The Flor del Valle blend uses 100% Aganorsa tobacco with a Jalapa Corojo ’99 wrapper, is bound in a dual binder, and has fillers made up of of Corojo ’99 and Criollo ’98 tobaccos. Las Brumas (translated as “the mist”) is one of three sizes, with an additional “Sky Flower” size using a tweaked blend with the addition of higher priming tobaccos.

Las Brumas’ wrapper is medium brown with some dark splotches. Once lit, the cigar features rich wood (oak and cedar), cafe-au-lait, and dry cinnamon spice.

Pre-light, there were a few notably spongy spots, but none of the cigars I smoked showed any ill-effects related to their combustion qualities, which produced an easy but not airy draw, and an even, solid ash.

Though not as interesting or complex as Futuro, Flor del Valle is still an excellent medium- to full-bodied cigar with a flavor profile that is very identifiably Nicaraguan. The Warped Flor del Valle Las Brumas earns a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Viva Republica Rapture Perdition

3 Jul 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.”

viva-republica-rapture

Made at La Aurora in the Dominican Republic, Viva Republica’s Rapture features an Ecuadorian wrapper, Dominican binder, and filler from Brazil,  the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Peru. This robusto-sized smoke (4.5 x 50) is well-constructed and mild with sawdust, cedar, and toast. It’s pleasant and balanced, but ultimately a little on the bland side.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Davidoff Anniversario No. 3

26 Jun 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.”

Davidoff-Anni-No3

For at least as long as I’ve been writing about cigars, it seems Davidoff has been introducing new cigars to appeal to fuller-bodied tastes. And yet, at least for me, it remains their milder, Connecticut-wrapped cigars that are most quintessentially Davidoff. The Anniversario blend certainly fits that bill. The cigar features light cedar, hay, a hint of honey, and classic Davidoff mustiness, all elegantly layered and well-balanced. Construction is flawless, including an even burn and an ash that holds for nearly half the cigar. Even if a milder perspective isn’t what you regularly seek, you can still appreciate the perfect execution of the iconic Davidoff style.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition Bourbon

22 Jun 2016

Knob Creek 2001

Best I can recall, Knob Creek was my first good bourbon. Which is to say, the first bourbon that wouldn’t qualify as bottom-shelf or rail. Many years later, Knob Creek is still a favorite of mine, with its combination of full flavor, nine years of age, and a price that, if you shop around, can be below $30.

Part of the Small Batch Bourbon Collection produced by parent company Jim Beam, along with Booker’s, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden, Knob Creek (which also comes in rye and barrel-proof varieties) is the oldest bourbon of the collection at nine years. Lately, though, Beam has been leaning on its stocks of well-aged whiskeys, along with the demand from bourbon drinkers, to produce some limited edition older offerings.

Two years ago, Beam released Booker’s 25th Anniversary, which was a ten year, three month version of the uncut, barrel-proof Booker’s that debuted to rave reviews. More recently, as part of the Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve program (where stores can pick their own barrels), some older barrels have become available. And now the national release of the 14-year-old Knob Creek 2001 ($130) follows.

According to the company, Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition Bourbon commemorates the year the responsibility of stewarding Knob Creek was passed from Booker Noe to his son Fred Noe, who succeeded Booker as master distiller. Made from barrels that Booker laid down in 2001, it was finished by Fred as a tribute to his father, who passed in 2004.

Three batches of the bourbon were released last year in limited quantities (my home state of Virginia got only 150), each with its own distinctive profile. I was able to pick up a bottle of Batch Two.

Knob Creek 2001 pours a deep copper color and features a lively nose full of roast nuts and caramel (think peanut brittle). On the palate, the time in the barrel begins to show, with concentrated oak, woody spice, burnt brown sugar, and pie crust. The finish shows even more depth with oak and caramel combining with dark fruit and more spice.

Knob Creek 2001 isn’t as exceptional as Booker’s 25, even before you factor in the slightly higher price ($130 vs. $100), which is as much a factor of the demand for high-end, well-aged bourbon as anything. Still, it is a tasty bourbon, and a significant step above the regular Knob Creek offering, even if it lacks the value factor that the everyday offering provides.

All that full flavor calls for a full-bodied cigar. I’d recommend the Bolivar Royal Corona (Cuban), El GüegüensePaul Garmirian 25th Anniversary Connoisseur, or Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys