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Cigar Spirits: Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon (2016)

26 Oct 2016

Some of the most sought-after bourbons come out this time of year, including Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Parker’s Heritage, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and Four Roses Small Batch Barrel Strength. Since 2012, you can add the Angel’s Envy Cask Strength to that list.

angels-envy-cs-2016Angel’s Envy Cask Strength (AECS) has a suggested retail price of $179 and, unlike some of the aforementioned limited releases, you actually have a decent chance of finding AECS at that price, or something close to it. (Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year, in contrast, theoretically retails for $150, but the going market price is over $1,000.)

The 2016 Angel’s Envy release is 124.6-proof, or 62.3% ABV, slightly lower than last year’s release which was 127.9-proof. Just 8,000 bottles are being produced this year, up from 7,500 in 2015.

The bourbon pours a copper color and features an intense but inviting nose with ginger, pear, black pepper, sugar cookies, and some pure alcohol heat. On the plate, there is a full-bodied combination of figs, butterscotch, red apples, oak, and the notable influence of the port barrels in which this bourbon is finished. The finish is long and spicy with wood and port.

This is an intense, almost overpowering bourbon when sipped neat, but just the smallest amount of water smooths the rough edges and opens up a cacophony of more subtle flavors. Last year, after trying the sample I received from Angel’s Envy, I went out and purchased a full bottle (the bottle in the picture). Although the price is high, this tasty cask-strength bourbon has me considering doing so again.

Pair this bourbon with a bold, spicy smoke. Here are a few suggestions: Arturo Fuente Opus X, Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu, Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary, and Joya de Nicaragua Antaño.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Tip: Five Things You Need To Know About the New Cuban Cigar Rules

19 Oct 2016


On Friday, news broke that federal rules for importing Cuban cigars (and rum) were changing. While the Obama administration has been largely hostile to handmade cigars, moves towards normalizing relations with Cuba have been a silver lining to the otherwise draconian stance by the Obama presidency, most notably the FDA, towards cigars. The changes officially went into effect on Monday, October 17. Here’s what you need to know:

Cuban cigars bought overseas can now be brought into the U.S.

In December 2014, for the first time since before Cuban Embargo, it became legal to import Cuban cigars into the United States, but only for officially licensed travelers to Cuba and only if the value of the cigars (and rum) totaled $100 or less. Further, until March 16, 2016, it was also technically illegal to buy Cuban cigars overseas even if they weren’t smoked outside the U.S. Now, it is legal to bring back cigars purchased in Cuba or elsewhere, as long as the cigars are for personal consumption.

Online sales from overseas on hold for now.

Many of the news stories about the rule change were vague and implied that all overseas purchases of Cuban cigars for personal consumption were allowed. Since non-approved alcohol can be purchased from overseas for consumption, it left the window open for Cuban cigar purchases overseas online, which would then be delivered into the U.S. However, the Treasury Department has made clear that the rule changes for importing Cuban cigars only apply to accompanied baggage: “OFAC is also removing the prohibition on foreign travelers importing Cuban-origin alcohol and tobacco products into the United States as accompanied baggage.” So while non-FDA approved, non-Cuban cigars can be purchased from overseas and shipped into the U.S., Cuban cigars still cannot be imported unless you are personally traveling with them (in other words, they must be in your baggage).

Taxes and duty still must be paid on Cuban cigars.

While you can bring in Cuban cigars, you are still responsible for declaring them on your customs form. The Treasury Department also notes that you may have to pay when you bring your cigars back with you: “In all cases, the Cuban-origin goods must be imported for personal use, and normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply.” Generally, you can bring back up to 100 cigars with a value of $800 without paying duty. Note you also may be required to pay federal excise taxes on the tobacco products you are importing.

There are lots of fake Cuban cigars out there.

Cuban cigars tend to be expensive, which creates an incentive for people to sell counterfeits. Since we first wrote about how to spot a fake, Habanos (the Cuban government-controlled distribution company) has beefed up its assistance to cigar smokers when it comes to verifying a Cuban cigar’s authenticity. In addition to a helpful page detailing the anti-counterfeiting measures they use, they also have a page where you can input the serial number of a box to check authenticity. But the best advice remains to purchase your cigars only from reputable and official Cuban cigar retailers, and always be weary of a deal that seems to good to be true. Fake Cubans have even been spotted at duty-free shops in airports. And the guy at the beach selling “discount Cubans” is almost certainly selling fakes.

Don’t get caught up in the Cuban hype.

We’ve said many times that while Cuban cigars can be very special, they are not the be-all-end-all of cigars. Many of the finest cigars produced today are made outside of Cuba, and if you are not used to Cuban cigars, you may not find them particularly enjoyable as they tend to be different from the finest Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan cigars. The benefit of the new rules is that more Americans will get to legally try authentic Cuban cigars for themselves, and they will finally be able to judge them free from the hype and mystique that is tied up in trying a banned product.

Patrick S

photo credits: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Montecristo Petit Edmundo (Cuban)

16 Oct 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.


On Friday, news broke that the Obama administration ended the prohibition on bringing cigars into the U.S. for personal use. (An earlier change had allowed up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars to be brought back only by licensed travelers to Cuba.) This will certainly kick off a rush of people wanting to try their first (legal) Cuban cigar, but the question remains: Are they any good? I get asked that question frequently, and the answer I always give is as follows: Like non-Cuban cigars, some are exquisite, others quite bad, and most fall somewhere between. This Petite Edmundo has over half a decade of humidor time, which has resulted in a savory smoke with roasted flavors, light spice, and a slight creaminess. I suspect many people will be disappointed when they finally get their hands on a Cuban cigar as they wont live up to the hype, but this well-aged Montecristo didn’t disappoint.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Eagle Rare 10 Year Bourbon Single Barrel Select (Saints & Sinners Barrel No. 1)

12 Oct 2016


Whiskey and cigars are a natural pairing, but the connection isn’t usually explicit. Two exceptions include the Cigar Malt Reserve by Dalmore and this barrel selection from Saints & Sinners, the private cigar club for Tatuaje fans.

Saints & Sinners launched in 2011, when I first joined. For $150 each year, members get a cigar kit with 15 smokes (frequently with rare or exclusive picks), access to a private online forum, and plenty of swag (usually cigar accessories, a shirt, and more). Registration for new members opens in early June with only a limited number of spots available.

Occasionally, members also get the opportunity to purchase other items, such as Tatuaje owner Pete Johnson’s private label Tatouage Bordeaux wine. More recently, the club offered a single barrel selection of Eagle Rare 10 Year bourbon, available in 375 ml. bottles that sold for $19.99.

The selection came about after a trip to the Buffalo Trace distillery in June. As I’ve observed before, barrel picks are often particularly excellent bourbons, assuming the person doing the picking has a decent palate. If nothing else, they are getting to try a half dozen or so barrels from which they pick the one they like the best.

Eagle Rare 10 has long been a staple on my bourbon shelf, especially with it available for around $30 for a 750 ml. bottle. For many years,including when I first discovered it, it was distilled at the Old Prentice distillery, which is now Four Roses’ distillery. The brand was purchased by the Sazerac Company in 1989 and for the better part of a decade the bourbon sold as Eagle Rare has been distilled at Buffalo Trace.

Standard Eagle Rare is a classic with heavy wood, lots of vanilla sweetness, and just a bit spice. The Saints & Sinners pick features all of that, but with a particularly aromatic nose featuring mint and caramel, and a palate that has maple, wood, and toffee. The finish is classic Eagle Rare with charred oak spice and vanilla.

You really can’t go wrong pairing any cigar with this tasty, well-priced bourbon. That said, I have to recommend a Tatuaje cigar given that this is a Saints & Sinners Club selection. Personally,I’d turn to the Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu or La Riqueza Cabinet with this bourbon, though there wouldn’t be any bad pairings from the Tatuaje offerings.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: : Illusione Singulare Phantom LE 2010

2 Oct 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.”


To celebrate a recent birthday, I fired up one of my favorite cigars: Illusione’s first Singulare release from 2010. More than half a decade since its release, “Phantom” continues to deliver. Medium-bodied with wood and earth along with hints of both sweetness and spice, the cigar is immaculately balanced. Of the 1,000 boxes made, I personally smoked through four or five, but I’m unfortunately down to my last few. At this year’s IPCPR trade show, Illusione announced the Singulare Phantom was being brought back as a regular production cigar. Needless to say, I’m very interested to see if they can successfully reproduce this masterpiece.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Cigar Country Power Rankings (5-1)

28 Sep 2016


While cigars are commonly associated with few countries, at least a dozen countries make significant contributions to handmade cigars. This week, we rank the top ten countries by their importance to the industry. The production of handmade cigars is truly global, as evidenced by the fact that Belgium, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Jamaica, and the Bahamas—each of which grow cigar tobacco or make cigars—missed the top ten.

On Monday we counted down from ten to six. Today we reveal the rest of the top ten.

5) Ecuador Wrapper, wrapper, and more wrapper. That’s why Ecuador is so high on this list. Blessed with powdery, nutrient-rich soil and natural cloud cover, odds are good some of your favorite cigars introduced in recent years use Ecuadorian wrapper, likely grown by the Oliva tobacco family. Not only is Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut (where cloud cover makes netting unnecessary) an alternative to U.S.-Connecticut Shade wrapper, but the country also produces the increasingly popular Ecuadorian Habano leaf, as well as significant amounts of Sumatra-seed wrapper.

4) Honduras Not too long ago, Honduras surpassed Nicaragua when it came to cigar exports to the United States. That’s no longer the case, and it isn’t all that close but the country is still in a tier of its own above all but the top three on this list. Known for bold, flavorful tobaccos, Honduran tobacco continues to be a staple for cigars rolled in Honduras (especially in the country’s cigar epicenter of Danlí) and elsewhere.

3) Dominican Republic Long the number one handmade cigar country for cigars imported into the United States, today the Dominican Republic has a strong claim to our number three spot. Many victims of Cuban revolution ended up in the Dominican Republic, where iconic brands continue to be produced today. Add such classic brands as Davidoff and La Aurora, plus many upstart boutique brands, and it is easy to see why the Dominican Republic continues to be a juggernaut.

2) Nicaragua Both Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic have a strong case to make for second place, but in recent years Nicaragua has surpassed the Dominican Republic in many ways, especially as the social and political instability of the war in the 1980s moved into the rear-view mirror. In terms of handmade cigar output, Nicaragua, with its rich soil, has pulled even with the Dominican Republic in terms of imports to the U.S. in recent years, even though as recently as 2005 the Dominican Republic outproduced Nicaragua almost four to one. Today, many traditionally Dominican blends are coming out with cigars that include Nicaraguan tobacco, a fact that ultimately pulls Nicaragua ahead.

1) Cuba Although held back because Cuba’s cigar industry is state-controlled, Cuba still has some of the best tobacco-growing regions in the world, which results in many of the finest cigars. Plus, no country is as closely identified with cigars as Cuba. If ever we could see some of the top-grade Cuban tobacco used in combination with that from other countries, I would expect the result to be spectacular.

There you have it, our top ten. Agree or disagree? Let us know.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Cigar Country Power Rankings (10-6)

26 Sep 2016


While cigars are commonly associated with few countries, at least a dozen countries make significant contributions to handmade cigars. This week, we rank the top ten countries by their importance to the industry. The production of handmade cigars is truly global, as evidenced by the fact that Belgium, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Jamaica, and the Bahamas—each of which grow cigar tobacco or make cigars—missed the top ten.

Today, we count down from ten to six, with the top five being revealed Wednesday.

10) Indonesia Indonesian cigar tobacco doesn’t get a lot of respect from many cigar connoisseurs, but it is a workhorse. Sumatra wrapper is known for its mild spice, and Indonesian tobacco is frequently used as binder due to its excellent combustion qualities and neutral flavors that play well with more flavorful tobaccos. Take a look at any cigar catalog and you may be surprised at how many premium cigars use some Indonesian tobacco.

9) Brazil Although rich in history with a diversity of cigar tobaccos grownincluding Mata Fina, Mata Norte, and ArapiracaBrazil flies under the radar. After the Menendez family, which created Cuba’s famed Montecristo cigar, had their Cuban-based holdings seized by the Castro regime, the family spread out in search of other opportunities to grow tobacco and make cigars, including Felix Menendez, who became a pioneer in Brazilian tobacco. While few Brazilian puros are made, Brazilian tobacco is primarily used in combination with other tobaccos.

8) Cameroon Cameroon wrapper has a special place in the cigar industry. Put simply, there is nothing else like it. Grown predominately by the Meerapfel family in Cameroon and the Central African Republic, Cameroon wrapper features a mild spice that so far hasn’t been replicated. That’s why, even though quality Cameroon wrapper is expensive and sometimes delicate, more than one cigar maker has told me as long as it is available they plan on keeping a Cameroon-wrapped cigar in their profile, if for no other reason than because they enjoy the leaf so much.

7) Mexico For a long time, Mexican tobacco had a reputation as rough and course, but that has changed in recent years as Mexican puros have decreased but Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper has become an increasingly popular. With high quality Broadleaf Maduro wrapper hard to find, the industry has turned to Mexican leaf in large numbers, and consumers have welcomed the addition.

6) United States A century ago, cigars were rolled in every major U.S. city. Today, with the exception of a few boutique factories in Miami, almost no handmade cigars are made in the United States. Still, the country is important to handmade cigars because of the high quality wrapper grown in the Connecticut River Valley, especially Connecticut Shade and Broadleaf wrapper. As demand for Broadleaf has increased, tobaccoBroadleaf especiallyis also being grown in Pennsylvania. Although minute in terms of volume, an interesting experiment has also seen cigar tobacco grown in Florida for the first time in decades.

Check back Wednesday for the top five.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys