Archive by Author

Cigar Spirits: Foursquare Principia and Velier 2009 Last Ward Mount Gay Rums

22 Aug 2018

France is known for its wonderful food and wine, and it has both in droves. When I visit France, one of the things I look forward to is, perhaps unexpectedly, finding some excellent rum that would be nearly impossible to find here in the U.S. Today, I review two rums I picked up on a recent visit.

Though France is geographically far from most rum-producing countries, the historic ties between France and its former colonies makes possible a certain a level of access. The result is, if you know where to look, a lot of good rum.

I’ve sung the praises of Foursquare before, and in many ways Foursquare Principia is a follow-up to the highly acclaimed Foursquare Triptych. Principia was distilled in 2008, then spent three years in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to ex-sherry casks for six years until it was bottled, at barrel-proof, in late 2017.

Principia was bottled and distributed by Velier, which also bottles and distributes The Last Ward 2009, a limited offering featuring some of the final casks distilled at the Mount Gay Distillery under longtime owner Frank Ward. The triple-distilled rum has been aged nine years and is presented at cask-strength.

Foursquare Principia – $130 (62% ABV)
Nose: Oak, candied fruit, and roast almonds
Palate: Salt, pepper, integrated fruits, dates, figs, toffee, and caramel
Finish: Long with stoned fruit, port, and charred oak

Velier 2009 Last Ward Mount Gay – $110 (59% ABV)
Nose: Fresh tropical fruit of pineapple with mango, plus burnt brown sugar
Palate: An initial burst of alcohol heat, followed by apricot, oranges, pineapple, clove, and wood resin
Finish: Funky, almost rubber band-ish, notes with fruit and wood

Both rums are excellent. Despite their significant proofs, they are best enjoyed neat, or with just a few drops of water. The bright tropical flavors featured in Last Ward are like a momentary Caribbean jaunt. Meanwhile, the Sherry cask aging of Principia give it the heft and complexity of a single malt scotch. Both are quite limited with just 5,400 bottles of Principia and 18 barrels worth (after the angel’s share removed 64%) of Last Ward.

Both pair well with a fine cigar. Principia’s wood and sherry heft stands up to a full-bodied cigar like a RoMa Craft CroMagnon, Mi Querida, or Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970. Last Ward’s tropical notes go well with the subtle spice of a Cameroon-wrapper like the La Flor Dominicana Cameroon Cabinet, Partagas Ramon y Ramon, or Arturo Fuente Don Carlos.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Partagas Series No.1 Edición Limitada 2017

19 Aug 2018

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.”

Cuban cigar conglomerate Habanos introduced the Edición Limitada in 2000, employing extra-aged tobaccos in exclusive sizes. The 2017 releases consisted of the Cohiba Talisman, Punch Regios de Punch, and this Partagas Series No.1. It’s a 5.4-inch, 52-ring gauge smoke that cost me 17 euro. The cigar features dark chocolate, earth, and oak flavors with a hint of mint. It has a solid ash, open draw, and a slightly uneven burn. Rich, balanced, classic, medium- to full-bodied flavors make this a cigar well worth trying.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Flor de las Antillas Toro

5 Aug 2018

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.”

My Father’s Flor de las Antillas blend is a Nicaraguan puro from the Pepin family featuring a sun-grown Nicaraguan wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The cigar has garnered high ratings from both Cigar Aficionado (which named it the top cigar of 2012) and Stogie Guys. The 6-inch, 52-ring gauge, box-pressed Toro features notes of coffee, earth, nutmeg, bread, and a hint of damp cardboard. Combustion is excellent, but I can’t help but feeling that this cigar doesn’t fully deliver compared to past editions.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 6 Year Bourbon & David Nicholson Reserve Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

1 Aug 2018

The soaring popularity of bourbon has resulted in high-end bourbon getting more and more expensive. Today, we’re ignoring the premium-priced whiskey and looking for some value bourbon options, both 100-proof Kentucky straight bourbons.

Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 6 Year Bourbon is sold only in Kentucky for the value price of around $13 a bottle. Made by Heaven Hill (who makes Elijah Craig and Evan Williams), it uses a mashbill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. It’s a standout because, while there are many bottom-shelf bourbons in the same price range, none carry an age statement of six years (meaning all the whiskey in the bottle has been aged at least six years).

David Nicholson Reserve Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is also bottled at 100-proof, although it doesn’t carry an age statement. The brand was owned by the Van Winkle family until it was sold to Missouri-based Luxco in 2000. David Nicolson’s 1843 brand utilizes a wheated mashbill (as is the standard for Van Winkle bourbons), but the $30 Nicholson Reserve features a more traditional mashbill with rye along with corn and malted barley.

Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Year Bourbon
Color: Light amber.
Nose: Vanilla, brown sugar, burnt corn, citrus.
Palate: Butterscotch, spice, wood.
Finish: Long with cinnamon and burnt sugar.
Verdict: Just a solid, if unexceptional, classic bourbon. Good enough to sip neat, but perfectly priced and proofed for cocktails or other mixed drinks.

David Nicholson Reserve Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
Color: Orange copper.
Nose: Candied apple, spice, and leather.
Palate: Plenty of spice and vanilla with apple and red fruit.
Finish: Intense but short finish with fruit and spice.
Verdict: Though not for everyone, this is a unique and largely enjoyable sipping bourbon. There’s a short sweetness that is enjoyable and can work in the right cocktail.

In terms of price-to-value ratio, Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Year Bourbon is hard to beat, which is why it is a bourbon I try (despite being sold only in Kentucky) to keep on hand when I can. David Nicholson Reserve is more expensive, but also more unique. It’s worth a try, despite falling into a more competitive price range that includes such excellent bourbons as Eagle Rare 10 Year, Elijah Craig, and others.

These are both versatile bourbons that pair with excellent cigars. Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Year Bourbon pairs well with most balanced cigars, while the spiciness of David Nicholson Reserve is more apt towards a medium- to full-bodied cigar, like El Güegüense, Litto Gomez Diez Small Batch, Muestra de Saka, or Warped Futuro.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Diesel Rage Corona

29 Jul 2018

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’ve long heard from Diesel fans who say the line offers strong, full-bodied flavors at a discount price. Today I’m checking out the Diesel Rage blend in the Corona size, which is made by A.J. Fernandez with a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The cigar features deep earth and black coffee with malt, cinnamon, and graham cracker. While I’ve found other Diesel cigars to be full-bodied yet one-dimensional and unbalanced, this is a more complex smoke. That, combined with excellent construction, makes it worth a try.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: JFR Corojo Robusto

22 Jul 2018

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.”

Casa Fernandez’s JFR (short for “Just for Retailers”) was originally known for its over-sized vitolas. This 5.5-inch, 50-ring gauge format is a welcome addition for those, like me, who are generally not a fan of 60+ ring gauge cigars. The Nicaraguan puro features a Corojo ’99 wrapper and Aganorsa binder and filler tobaccos. The result is a classic, medium-bodied Nicaraguan profile with sourdough bread, wood spice, and earth flavors. Excellent construction and a reasonable price ($5.50) makes the Robusto easy to recommend.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Five Early Standouts from the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show

18 Jul 2018

Despite a small electrical fire that caused a little damage to some booths by setting off the sprinkler system, and a outbreak of the flu at the host hotel, the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show is in full roar in Las Vegas. While IPCPR occasionally holds the convention, the biggest of the year for handmade cigars, in other cities, any who attended multiple trade shows can tell you the event is at its natural home when it is in Las Vegas.

Like many, we’re still digging through the many press releases and announcements of new cigars, so we reserve the right to add to this list. But here are five new cigars we’re particularly excited to check out when they hit shelves in the coming months:

Illusione OneOff

Actually announced a couple months ago, OneOff is a reboot of a cigar that was popular in early 2000s but faded away only for Illusione owner Dion Giolito to purchase the trademark last year. The eight-vitola line is made at TABSA and, while Giolito is being tight-lipped about the exact blend, given Illusione’s track-record this is a cigar I’m looking forward to.

Drew Estate Liga Privada 10-Year Anniversario

Ten years, ago Drew Estate introduced Liga Privada and completely changed the way cigar smokers thought about Drew Estate, which up until that point had been primarily a maker of infused cigars. As production and demand increased, many (myself included) felt Liga Privada, while still good, was not as exceptional as when it first arrived. Will the 10th Anniversary release of Liga Privada hearken back to the standout days when the brand first burst onto the scene? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Nestor Miranda 75th Anniversary

Nestor Miranda’s Miami Cigar Co. and Don José “Pepin” Garcia have collaborated to make some of my favorite cigars over the years. So Pepin making a Nicaraguan puro for his longtime collaborator Nestor Miranda is something I’m particularly interested in trying. The large, salomon-sized cigar features a Corojo wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. Only 15,000 are scheduled to be made, and I’m looking forward to trying one.

Partagas Legend

Partagas Legend is a tribute to five legendary cigar men who contributed to the Partagas brand: Jaime Partagas, Ramon Cifuentes, Edgar Cullman Sr., Daniel Nunez, and Benji Menendez. The box-pressed cigar uses a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Honduran binder, and Dominican Piloto Cubano filler. The Partagas brand is, in my opinion, too frequently overlooked, but I don’t plan to overlook the Partagas Legend.

Aging Room Puro Cepa

To say Rafael Nodal has been busy lately would be an understatement. In addition to his Aging Room brand, he has joined with Altadis’ Tabacalera USA. We could just as easily have picked the new Montecristo Nicaragua for this final pick, but perhaps more interesting is Aging Room’s new Nicaraguan cigar called Puro Cepa. Made with tobaccos from all four major Nicaraguan growing regions (Ometepe, Jalapa, Condega, and Estelí), it is the rare Nicaraguan puro from Aging Room which has made some very under-the-radar cigars in recent years.

Patrick S

photo credit:  IPCPR