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Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas!

24 Dec 2018

christmas-2014

From all of us at StogieGuys.com, we want to wish you and yours a joyous, safe, and cigar-filled Christmas. We’re taking today and tomorrow off to spend time with our families, but we’ll be right back here on Wednesday with more reviews, news, interviews, commentaries, and tips from the world of cigars.

Until then, you can follow us on our official Twitter feed, on Instagram, and on Facebook, or you can sign up for our free email newsletter.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

StogieGuys.com’s Top Cigars of 2018

19 Dec 2018

Compiling the annual StogieGuys.com cigar retrospective is always interesting. How many smokes did we find outstanding? How does this year compare to the past? Was there any dominant brand or startling newcomer?

Only a handful of cigars achieve the top five-stogie rating. In more than 12 years of reviewing, only 59 have made it, an average of just under five a year. (You can find the full list of five stogie-rated smokes here and an explanation of our ratings system here.)

In 2018, only a single cigar scored five stogies out of five: the 7.5-inch, 40-ring gauge Illusione Holy Lance (hl). It was hailed in the review as “a balanced symphony of complex, authentically Nicaraguan flavors.”

Illusione cigars have long been highly enjoyed at StogieGuys.com. Dion Giolito’s brand has two other five stogie-rated smokes, as well as others with an outstanding four and a half stogie-rating, including one this year.

The review also called it “one of the finest lanceros in production today, and these aged cigars showed that they lose nothing after a few years, and might have gained some added complexity.”

For comparison, we had four five-stogie cigars in both 2017 and 2016, six each in 2015 and 2014, and two in 2013.

Considerably more cigars were rated four or four and a half stogies, numbers not dissimilar to those of 2017. I tallied 22 four-stogie smokes (the same as last year), and 13 four-and-a-half-stogie smokes (down three from 2017). They run the gamut from small company productions and limited editions to a couple Cubans to releases from cigar giants.

Below is an alphabetical listing of the four-and-a-half-stogie cigars from 2018 with a quote from each review.

Caldwell Savages Corona Extra: “Once an even light is established, the draw opens almost instantly. What follows is a bready, medium-bodied profile of white pepper, cocoa powder, oak, and soft cayenne heat.”

El Triunfador (Original Blend): “Complexity is the name of the game. There’s a lot going on here.”

Fable Fourth Prime Sapta: “It tastes of nougat, cream, dark chocolate, and coffee bean. There is little spice or heat.”

Fratello Navetta Atlantis: “The individual flavors remind me of espresso, roasted nuts, black pepper, and cayenne heat.”

Hoyo de Monterrey Hermoso No. 4 Añejados (Cuban): “Ultimately, you pay a premium for an assurance of a cigar that isn’t under-aged, but the balanced, rich flavors… still earn it a very solid rating.”

Illusione La Gran Classe Rex: “It’s a balanced cigar that provides surprising nuance in such a small vitola.”

Intemperance BA XXI Vanity: “While Vanity is an awesome cigar for any time of year, I especially appreciate it during the cold months here in Chicago.”

Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente (TAA Exclusive): “It is full-bodied, yet smooth, creamy, and nicely balanced.”

La Gloria Cubana Colección Reserva Robusto: “In addition to enjoyable flavors and solid construction, the price ($7.59) makes this an impressive offering. “

MBombay Classic Torpedo: “… creamy with cedar notes, but the Torpedo also evokes some citrus and other fruity sweetness for added complexity.”

Quai d’Orsay Secreto Cubano Exclusivo Francia RE (2016): “I’ll admit this cigar surprised me, in a good way. Despite its small size, it provided nearly an hour of enjoyable, interesting, complex flavors.”

Sobremesa Robusto Largo: “As the Robusto Largo progresses, flavors like dark cherry, green raisin, cedar, molasses, and caramel come and go.”

Villiger La Vendedora Toro: “… the most impressive, complex, encompassing smoke Villiger has produced to date”

We look forward with great anticipation to the wonderful smokes 2019 is sure to bring.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Site News: Here’s Why We Killed Our ‘Friday Sampler’ News Roundup Series

28 Sep 2018

Between May 2006 and July 2018, we published 588 weekly cigar news roundups. We don’t plan to do any more. The “Friday Sampler” series has been discontinued.

Honestly, I didn’t plan to publicly address or acknowledge this decision. I hypothesized that a format change to our long-running cigar site would go mostly unnoticed. I was wrong.

Since our last Friday Sampler on July 20, 2018, we’ve received dozens of inquiries (usually via email, and usually on Friday mornings) asking us what happened. While we still don’t plan to change our decision to discontinue the series, I’ve become convinced that we owe our readers—many of whom have been with us a decade or more—an explanation.

When we launched the series over twelve years ago, “cigar internet media” (or whatever you want to call it) wasn’t really a thing. There were only a handful of cigar websites that didn’t belong to a cigar manufacturer or cigar distributor. And even among this small group, many of the sites only published reviews. That left a void for internet cigar news that didn’t come from Cigar Aficionado, and especially for a short-format summary of the most important happenings from the week. This was how the Friday Sampler was born.

My how things have changed. Now there are seemingly hundreds, if not thousands, of cigar websites out there. Some regurgitate cigar-related press releases as soon as they’re issued, adding little value other than copy-and-pasted dissemination. Some publish their own weekly news summaries, with varying degrees of accuracy and comprehensiveness. Some post news items intraday as events occur.

We don’t need to name names here; you probably have most of these sites favorited in your browser, and that’s perfectly fine and understandable. We do the same thing.

In this environment, you can argue the Friday Sampler is not as valuable as it once was.

That isn’t to say the series brought no value. It certainly did, evidenced in part by the emails we’ve received. Still, we have to measure the impact versus the cost of maintaining the weekly roundup. And by cost I don’t mean money.

At this stage in my life, time is the most precious, most limited resource. And as the value of the Friday Sampler has arguably declined, the opportunity cost of spending my time monitoring cigar news, covering it from the appropriate angles, summarizing it, researching for accuracy, etc. has gone up.

In 2006, when we started the series, I was 23 years old. I was not married. I had no kids. No mortgage. Now I’m a married 35-year-old with two kids, one on the way, a big-ass mortgage payment, and a much more demanding career.

Keep in mind, StogieGuys.com is not a highly profitable venture for me (or Patrick S, who has his own career, or George E, who is retired); it’s a labor of love. And, frankly, I fell out of love with the Friday Sampler. As the primary author and editor of it, I decided to kill it.

But while the Friday Sampler is dead, StogieGuys.com is still committed to bringing you important news updates. We will do this not by summarizing everything we think worthy of attention, but instead by focusing on longer-format features as opportunities arise. And we will continue to do so through our unique lens, as I’ve always thought our comparative advantage is at the intersection of cigars with thoughtful, thorough policy analysis (i.e., taxes, smoking bans, tobacco regulations, etc.).

Thanks for your continued readership and trust. My colleagues and I are truly humbled by the interest in our old site.

Patrick A

photo credit: N/A

Happy Fourth of July!

4 Jul 2018

flag-fourth

All of us at StogieGuys.com would like to wish you a very happy Independence Day. America’s 242nd birthday is a wonderful occasion to spend time with friends and family. So we’ve decided to take our own advice and barbecue, see some fireworks, and smoke more than our share of celebratory cigars. Have a safe, relaxing holiday.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

StogieGuys.com’s Top Cigars of 2017 (Part II)

28 Dec 2017

As always, the StogieGuys.com list of the absolute best cigars we smoked throughout the year is small: just four. That is, though, the same as in 2016. In fact, through the years, the number of five-stogie cigars has been relatively consistent.

Another constant in our five-stogie ratings is diversity. This year’s list, for example, features the debut of MBombay, a stellar line of cigars rolled in Costa Rica for Californian Mel Shah’s Bombay Tobak, and Cornelius & Anthony, a firm with longstanding ties to the tobacco business but is relatively new to premium cigars.

On the other hand, you’ll spot the familiar name Tatuaje. This marks its 10th five-stogie cigar, quite a few more than any other brand.

In order to achieve a five-stogie rating, a cigar must be better than good. As we note in the explanation of our rating system, a five-stogie cigar is “tasty, complex” and “truly an occasion.”

Here’s a chronological look at this year’s top-rated cigars:

MBombay Gaaja Maduro TorpedoWhile this is the first cigar from MBombay to score five stogies, it is not the first to be rated highly. Two others got four stogies and one received four and a half. The Gaaja Maduro was introduced early in 2017 and made a strong impression. Our review called it “delicious,” “harmonious,” “well-balanced,” and “up there with the finest.” It also urged readers not to be put off by the $15.50 MSRP: “This is one not to miss.”

Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection Havana Cazadores: When Tatuaje’s Pete Johnson introduced a 100-cigar collection rolled in Miami with a price tag of $1,200, the brand’s devotees were captivated. One of the distinguishing features of these cigars over similar earlier releases was the use of a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper rather than an Ecuadorian. The review found this lonsdale-sized smoke featured “tempered strength that walks the fine line between balance and full flavor.” It also called it “a perfectly constructed combination of full Nicaraguan flavors with the restrained richness that Connecticut Broadleaf provides.”

Cornelius & Anthony Aerial Robusto: In just a few years, Cornelius & Anthony has created an impressive line of cigars. The Aerial—rolled at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Nicaragua—has a creative combination of an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper with Nicaraguan filler and an unnamed U.S. binder. The Robusto has a $9.25 MSRP. As the review noted, “…the first few puffs are bursting with spice and a strong finish. By the start of the second third, the spice has backed off and tobacco sweetness moves to the fore. In the final third, the spice amps up again, mingling with leather and a light earthiness.”

Muestra de Saka Nacatamale: Since reentering the cigar business in 2015, Steve Saka, with his Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, has knocked ‘em out of the park like Aaron Judge: a five-stogie rating in 2015 followed by numerous four-and-a-half rated smokes. This year’s entry comes packed in a wooden coffin with an MSRP of $15.95. “What makes Nacatamale so outstanding—and, yes, it is absolutely outstanding—is not any individual flavor,” said our review. “This cigar is a great example of how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.”

You can find all 58 five-stogie rated cigars with reviews dating back more than a decade here.

Here’s to many more wonderful cigars in 2018!

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

StogieGuys.com’s Top Cigars of 2017 (Part I)

26 Dec 2017

It’s time for the annual StogieGuys.com roundup of the best cigars we reviewed throughout the past 12 months.

As it is every year, the number of cigars that achieved the coveted five-stogie rating is small: only four in 2017. That’s fitting because the top StogieGuys.com rating signifies the cigars are “tasty, complex” and are “truly an occasion” to smoke. The total also dovetails neatly with the results in recent years. In 2016, for instance, there were also four top-rated smokes, while six made it in 2015 and 2014, and only two in 2013.

On the other hand, many more of 2017’s cigars were close to the top. I counted 22 four-stogie cigars and 16 four-and-a-half-stogie cigars. Again, while the numbers go up and down annually, that’s not far off from previous years. Today we’ll take an alphabetical look at our four-and-a-half stogie candidates with a quote from each review. Later this week, we’ll follow up with the five-stogie rated cigars of 2017.

Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger: “RoMa Craft has built its well-deserved reputation on quality, consistency, and great bang for the buck. The Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger lives up to these virtuous characteristics…”

Davidoff 702 Series 2000: “With a perfect draw, solid ash, and even burn, the cigar delivers wonderful medium-bodied flavors from start to finish.”

Davidoff Nicaragua Box Pressed Robusto: “Without question, Davidoff’s first box-pressed line is a winner.”

Davidoff Year of the Rooster Limited Edition: “…the Rooster is incredibly smooth, balanced, and easy to smoke.”

El Galan Dona Nieves Negra Macho: “This is a flavorful, complex, well-made, balanced smoke at a very fair price.”

E.P. Carrillo Elencos Don Rubino: “After an even light is established, the profile is incredibly full-bodied right from the get-go. The bold, spicy flavors include espresso, black pepper, cayenne heat, and dark cherry.”

Illusione Singulare Phantom (Regular Production): “The new Illusione Phantom is a complex and balanced smoke…”

Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Limited Edition 2017: “Fans of Connecticut Broadleaf cigars will want to seek this one out, even if the price means it will probably be only an occasional indulgence.”

Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Churchill: “… undoubtedly full-bodied, strong, and spicy. But to write it off as a mere heavy-handed powerbomb would be to miss the excellent, balanced flavors that comprise the profile.”

Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2015 LC50: “The overall impression is one of a well-balanced, medium-bodied, spice-forward smoke with some Cubanesque, old-school personality.”

L’Atelier Imports La Mission 1999: “…La Mission 1999 may be the best L’Atelier to date. I would even encourage those who are typically put off by San Andrés (I know you’re out there) to give this standout specimen a try.”

Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Maduro (Smoke Inn Exclusive): “I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone when I say the Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Maduro is a terrific smoke. It’s a compact, concentrated iteration of a blend we all know and love that delivers exactly as expected.”

Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Natural (Smoke Inn Exclusive): “Once lit, nutty, creamy pre-light notes transition to a complex, well-balanced profile of oak, almond, sharp cedar spice, and vanilla. Background notes of powdery cocoa and cream help add balance.”

Sobremesa Elegante en Cedros: “Flavors include cocoa, cedar, café au lait, baking spices, creamy caramel, and white pepper. Balanced, harmonious, and delicious.”

Tatuaje Black Petit Lancero: “This classic-tasting, medium-bodied cigar scores very well due to its ample complexity and harmonious balance.”

Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection Especiales (Laguito No. 2): “All told, this is a wonderful, balanced, satisfying cigar that commands your attention from light to nub.”

You can read about the StogieGuys.com rating system here, find all of our reviews here, and see a curated list of five-stogie smokes here.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Happy Thanksgiving!

23 Nov 2017

Thanksgiving

StogieGuys.com will be taking November 23 and 24 off to enjoy that most American of holidays: Thanksgiving. (We will return on Saturday for our regularly scheduled coverage of the world of cigars.) Known for food, family, friends, and football, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to enjoy a fine smoke. Have a safe and happy holiday!

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr