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Cigar Spirits: Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

11 Jul 2018

Let me state upfront I’m inherently skeptical of celebrity-endorsed products. When you feel the need to pay an actor or athlete to sell your cigar or whiskey, this suggests you’re worried the product wouldn’t sell on its own merits.

With that in mind, I had my reservations when I heard about Wild Turkey’s Longbranch Bourbon, a collaboration between Wild Turkey’s “creative director,” the Texan and actor Matthew McConaughey, and longtime bourbon man Eddie Russell. The straight Kentucky bourbon melds Kentucky tradition with a Texas twist: the aged bourbon is filtered through Texas mesquite charcoal.

Yet, further details about the bourbon made me think it may not be the usual, easily-dismissed celebrity product. First off, it’s made by Wild Turkey, which, as far as the major bourbon distillers go, tends to make solid bourbons for the price. Second, it’s got an age statement: eight years, which happens to be the age at which much now-revered Wild Turkey bourbon was bottled. Finally, although the Texas mesquite angle is a new twist, charcoal filtration is an accepted and historic method for bourbon making, as evidenced by Jack Daniels.

That Wild Turkey didn’t price Longbranch excessively also made me rethink my initial skepticism. Around $35 for an eight-year, age-stated Kentucky bourbon is, like it or not, a reasonable price in today’s overheated bourbon market.

The 86-proof Kentucky straight bourbon pours a golden amber color. The nose features vanilla sweetness and cereal grains.

On the palate, Longbranch has ripe apples, toasted oak, and vanilla flavors. The finish is long on the palate with more vanilla and a hint of smokiness that shows off the Texas mesquite influence.

If you have about $40 to pay for a bourbon, I’d prefer Russell’s Reserve 10 Year bourbon to Longbranch, but that doesn’t mean Longbranch isn’t a new and interesting bourbon well worth checking out. It’s flavorful (especially considering its relatively low proof).

It’s an excellent bourbon to pair with a fine cigar. Medium- to full-bodied cigars like the Illusione Holy Lance, Litto Gomez Diez Small Batch, Montecristo Petit Edmundo, or Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Sobremesa will work best.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Villiger Flor de Ynclan Lancero Especial

7 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.”

Officially debuting at the upcoming IPCPR Trade Show, this limited edition Lancero (6.75 x 43) is the fourth size from Villiger’s Flor de Ynclan line. It sports an Ecuadorian wrapper around Indonesian binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The profile is bready with light wood, hints of orange peel, and nutmeg. The well-constructed cigar is the my favorite of the line. Only 500 boxes of 25 will be made each year (suggested retail is $11 per cigar).

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Three Things You Can Do to Protect Your Cigar Freedoms

3 Jul 2018


The Fourth of July is a good time for cookouts and fireworks, but also a time to reflect on what Independence Day celebrates. There is, of course, plenty to think about when it comes to the principles of freedom. We’re a cigar website, though, so let’s use the opportunity to look at what each of us can do to protect our cigar freedoms.

With that in mind, here are three tangible, easily achievable things every American cigar smoker can do:

Tell the FDA to Not Regulate Premium Cigars

The FDA is currently reconsidering its regulation of cigars. As part of it’s new regulatory approach, the FDA announced earlier this year it was opening up a new comment period. That period ends at the end of July, so you shouldn’t put it off anymore.

Cigar trade groups should be preparing to overwhelm the FDA with an abundance of scientific evidence for why it makes no sense for handmade cigars to be regulated the same as cigarettes, especially when the stated goal of the FDA’s tobacco regulation is overall public health and tobacco use by minors. But the volume of comments also helps, and you can be sure the anti-tobacco lobbyists will be trying to drive as many people to leave comments against rolling back cigar regulation.

You don’t need to write an essay. Here are four things to cover in your comment (copy and paste them if you want):

  1. The FDA has limited resources and its regulations should be focused on where it can best achieve overall goals, not occupying considerable resources on handmade cigars.
  2. Handmade cigars are an inherently inefficient way to deliver nicotine, which is why those simply looking for nicotine won’t choose cigars over other tobacco products.
  3. There is no evidence that youth are drawn to handmade cigars, especially considering the price.
  4. Handmade cigars are an artisan, handmade product, which renders any regulation particularly burdensome.

Leave you comment here before July 25.

Write to Your Congressional Representatives

Once you’ve left your comment with the FDA, copy it and send it to your senators and congressman. Tell them you just asked the FDA to leave cigars alone, but ultimately the responsibility to fix the current problem lies with Congress.

Tell them the issue is important to you and that their stance on it is an important factor in winning your support. Tell them specifically to commit to co-sponsoring the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act. Leave the bill number (H.R. 564 for members of the House, and S. 294 for senators).

Join Cigar Rights of America

Cigar Rights of America is the only consumer-oriented group devoted to fighting for cigar rights. The more members they have, the more their voice is paid attention to on Capitol Hill.

Joining is just $35 for a year, and you get two limited edition cigars plus other benefits. Or you can buy a CRA Sampler of 10 limited edition cigars for $100, which includes a one-year membership.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014 Ares

27 Jun 2018

Over two years ago, my colleague reviewed the Casa Fernandez Anniversario Corojo 2015. He was underwhelmed, especially by the poor construction. Despite (or in spite of) that, I decided to check out its predecessor, the Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014 (6.5 x 52), a box-pressed large toro dubbed Ares.

The Anniversario addition to the Casa Fernandez portfolio started in 2013. That year, 20,000 limited edition cigars were made, and Casa Fernandez decided to make the same amount in 2014. (In 2015, the most recent release of the series, two different sizes were released, but total production was limited to under 15,000 cigars.)

The cigar is made from 100% Nicaraguan Aganorsa tobaccos. (For more on the Casa Fernandez-Aganorsa history, see this recent review.) It features a smooth, medium-brown Corojo wrapper dressed in dual bands, plus a custom paper wrap from band to foot.

Unlike my colleague’s experience with the 2014, I found the construction to be flawless on the 2015 edition. The draw was perfect, and the burn and ash were excellent.

The cigar starts out with a velvety mouthfeel that layers bread and roasted notes on top of oak and very slight pepper spice. As it progresses, the medium-bodied smoke features cafe-au-lait and light leather flavors.

The Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014 retailed for $12.50 per cigar, but a few years later you may be able to find it for far less. (I paid under $50 for a box of 10 on a prominent auction site.) While price isn’t factored into our rating, needless to say, at $50 for a box, it offers far better value than at $125 for ten cigars.

Balance is the word that most comes to mind in this cigar that now has over three years of age. A look around and you’ll find this cigar didn’t get rave reviews when it was introduced, but with time the Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014 Ares has earned a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S


photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Paul Garmirian Gourmet Series No. 2 (1997)

24 Jun 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.”

There aren’t many places where you can walk in and buy a cigar aged over two decades, but PG’s flagship shop, located in a easily-missed strip mall, has quite a few. This No. 2 (4.75 x 48) was rolled in 1997 and can be bought for $13.75. I didn’t detect the over two decades of age in the first half, which was mild- to medium-bodied with grass, toast, and mineral flavors. The second half was more integrated and complex with leather, hay, sweet cream, and roasted nut notes. Construction was flawless but, truth be told, I’ve enjoyed other aged PG cigars (including a 1995 version of this same cigar) far more.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Barrel Strength Rye & Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye

20 Jun 2018

Today we look at two new Kentucky ryes, both bottled at barrel proof. Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Barrel Strength Rye was introduced year, and Knob Creek’s new barrel-strength rye offering has just arrived in stores in the past month. Both retail for about $70.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Strength Rye is the brand’s standard US-1 rye with a couple twists: After the regular maturation period, it is re-barreled in a custom barrel made with wood that’s air-cured for 24 months then toasted for additional aging. Toasted barrels, if you are wondering, are more gently fired than charred barrels. (Charred barrels give whiskey more dark coloring and naturally filter out some of the harshness of unaged spirits, but that isn’t necessary when, as is the case here, the whiskey has already extensively aged in charred barrels.)

Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye is a limited release (the bottle says “Limited Release 2018,” so perhaps it will become an annual offering) of Knob Creek’s rye aged for nine years and bottled at barrel-proof. It’s a step up in proof from the regular release, which is 100-proof, and in age (the regular release doesn’t carry an age statement but is believed to be in the five- to six-year-old range). The barrels were selected from Beam’s warehouse A, its oldest and most storied barrel rickhouse.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Barrel Strength Rye (111.4-proof)
Color: Dark walnut brown.
Nose: Allspice, toasted coconut, cedar, and ethanol heat.
Palate: Lots of sweetness with spice (think a cinnamon roll with Red Hots on top), burnt caramel, and candied dates.
Finish: Silky vanilla and pepper that lingers on the palate as the heat fades away.

Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye (119.6-proof)
Color: Deep amber.
Nose: Burnt sugar, oak, leather, and orange peel.
Palate: Caramel and buttered toast with hints of cherry and baking spices.
Finish: Long and sweet with caramel and wood spice.

Both are hearty, full-flavored ryes that pair well with full-bodied cigars. Think Nicaraguan-dominant blends like the Muestra de Saka Nacatamale, Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu, Drew Estate Liga Privada Único Serie Velvet Rat, Joya de Nicaragua Antaño, or Davidoff Nicaragua Box Pressed.

It’s a testament to the popularity of rye that even at $70 both of these feel fairly priced. (Frankly, when I first heard of the Knob Creek Rye, I expected a price in the triple digits.) Knob Creek is more classic and I presonaly prefer it slightly, but Michter’s is more unique and also enjoyable. Both are not for everyone, but I’m glad I bought a bottle of each, and I’d probably pick up another bottle of the Knob Creek.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Nica Libre 25th Anniversary Silver Corona

17 Jun 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.”

The catalog favorite Nica Libre has always been a discount cigar with an emphasis on its Nicaraguan pedigree. Lately, the line has expanded, including with this 25th Anniversary Silver offering (25 years since the sovereign post-revolution war, not of the Nica Libre brand) made by A.J. Fernandez. I can’t remember the last time I smoked a cigar with this much in-your-face spice right from the beginning. The Nicaraguan puro is dominated by cayenne and black pepper notes, backed up by black coffee and oak flavors. It’s a bit unbalanced, but if you crave spice this is for you.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys