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Cigar Review: Yaxel Ortiz Y.O. Toro

25 Jul 2016

YO Pic 1

About a month ago, right after LeBron James delivered the Cleveland Cavaliers their first title in the franchise’s 46-year history, pictures and video began to surface of the NBA Finals MVP with a cigar. Since it wasn’t easy to discern the band, I recall seeing some speculation on social media about what cigar LeBron had chosen to celebrate. Several people seemed quite certain it was a Hoyo.

YO ToroThe cigar brand was later correctly identified as Y.O. by Yaxel Ortiz. I think it’s safe to say this choice caught many people by surprise. Even many of those who are regular smokers and enthusiastic readers and followers of the world of cigars had never heard of the brand. How it got on LeBron’s radar—or how the cigar in question made its way to him—is not known.

An employee of Cousin’s Cigar, a five-location tobacconist in the Cleveland area, sent me a handful of Yaxel Ortiz Y.O. Toros, along with information about the brand. Yaxel Ortiz, for instance, has been working with tobacco for a quarter century and has been making cigars in the U.S. for years. Recently, he opened his own factory in Estelí called The Best Cigars S.A. It is there his first Nicaraguan-made cigar is crafted.

Y.O. has been on the market for about nine months and is available at about 30 stores across 9 states. Its recipe includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Four sizes are available, each of which is affordably priced: Robusto (5 x 50, $5.20), Torpedo (6.5 x 52, $6.50), Churchill (7 x 50, $6.50), and Toro (6 x 52, $5.90).

Beneath the glossy band of black and gold that was the subject of much speculation and head-scratching is a silky, oily, slightly reddish wrapper with thin veins and moderate tooth. The several Toros I smoked for this review all had a few lumps here and there, along with a spongy feel. At the foot, the sweet pre-light notes are reminiscent of mocha and caramel.

On the palate, after an even light is established, medium- to full-bodied flavors of black pepper, coffee, and dark chocolate waste no time introducing themselves. The texture is thick and leathery, and there is a little cayenne heat on the finish. After a quarter inch, the intensity fades a bit, a retreat that paves the way for some creaminess and sweetness to enter the equation.

The midway point is lighter on spice and flatter in character with oak, creamy nougat, and bread. Now decidedly medium-bodied, the texture is less leathery and chalkier. The finale witnesses a reprise of some of the initial intensity.

Despite the cigar’s sponginess—which, in my experience, can often portend construction issues—the Toro exhibits excellent combustion properties. Each of my samples had a straight burn, solid ash, smooth draw, and above-average smoke production.

One would think LeBron wouldn’t need to concern himself with cost, especially when selecting a celebratory smoke for one of the greatest accomplishments in his storied career. You and I, on the other hand, are likely in a different boat. So the price points across the Y.O. range are certainly welcome and highly appreciated. As far as the Toro is concerned, it won’t knock your socks off with flavor or complexity. But it will deliver a consistently enjoyable experience that’s worthy of a solid rating of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Cornelius & Anthony Daddy Mac Gordo

18 Jul 2016

Daddy MacFor its latest release, Cornelius & Anthony has turned up the heat.

Daddy Mac, named for founder Steven Bailey’s father, is a three-country blend produced at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Nicaragua.

It makes a nice first impression, with a barnyard aroma on the pre-light wrapper, which is an oily Brazilian Habano. The binder is Ecuadorian and the filler tobaccos are from Nicaragua.

The cigar starts with a pleasing burst of pepper. Then, about an inch in, it begins to mix with wood, leather, and sweetness. While the pepper never backs completely away, it stays in the background until about the final third, when it amps up again.

The Brazilian wrapper seems to add a little something extra to the Nicaraguan tobacco.

The Daddy Mac is decidedly stronger than the Cornelius line I smoked previously. I’d rank the Daddy Mac as a full-strength, full-flavor blend.

Daddy Mac comes in four sizes: Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $8.50), Robusto (5 x 52, $9), Toro (6 x 50, $10), and Gordo (6 x 60, $11). Cornelius & Anthony supplied me with two samples of each vitola, and I smoked them all.

Each one performed excellently, with draw, burn, and smoke production first-rate. According to Courtney Smith, Cornelius & Anthony’s director of brand development, the four sizes were blended to have the “same/similar profile,” though she added that ring gauges do account for some differences.

I was surprised to find my favorite was the massive Gordo, a larger cigar than I usually smoke. While I enjoyed all four Daddy Mac vitolas, for my taste, the Gordo was smoother and more balanced than the others. The smaller smokes were just a bit sharper, the flavors not quite as rounded.

Cornelius & Anthony seems to be expanding its reach at a pretty good clip, so don’t be surprised if you spot its cigars at your local B&M. When you do, I recommend Daddy Mac. I give the Gordo four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: MBombay Gaaja Toro

11 Jul 2016

Gaaja

Mel Shah, owner of an upscale cigar and wine lounge in Palm Springs, California, is the man behind Bombay Tobak. You may be more familiar with the name MBombay, though, which is his small-batch brand of high-end cigars made in Costa Rica.

GaajaMBombayShah’s newest creation is called Gaaja (pronounced Gaa-ya), which is Sanskrit for elephant. “We had been working on the blend of Gaaja for more than four years,” reads a press release dated June 20. “The process involved in logistics and long fermentation of tobacco from countries like Peru and Paraguay really tested our patience. We had to wait for three vintages of the hybrid Connecticut wrapper leaf for the perfection we wanted.”

Gaaja was formally introduced on July 1. Its recipe calls for an Ecuadorian hybrid Connecticut/Cameroon wrapper that’s grown in the desflorado fashion. (The process of cultivating desflorado tobacco requires a watchful eye and arduous attention to detail; the buds on these plants are cut off before they flower to force the plant’s energy on leaf production instead of flower production.) The binder is Ecuadorian, and the filler is a combination of Seco from Peru; Viso from Ecuador, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic; and Dominican Ligero.

Only one size is available: a Toro measuring 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 54. Of note is the peculiar shape, which I would describe as box-pressed on the back (the side with the back of the band) and rounded on the front.

The Toro is a velvety smooth, moderately oily cigar with a clean, golden exterior and a spongy feel in the hand. It’s accented by a unique, interesting band of light blue, red, and gold with “Gaaja” written on one side and “Bombay Tobak” written on the other. The pre-light notes at the foot are pungent and crisp with loads of sweet hay. The cold draw is airy and smooth.

Once lit, I find a medium-bodied, silky profile with flavors ranging from honey and graham to bread and dry wood. There’s a core of creaminess in the background that I would describe as buttery with hints of almond. Tea, cedar spice, and warm tobacco are also present in this complex taste. At the halfway point and beyond, the flavor starts to flirt with the medium- to full-bodied range, and the spiciness ramps up as well. Construction is outstanding.

You should expect a lot from a cigar that retails for $15.50. Fortunately, Gaaja delivers with a well-balanced, thoughtful profile that rewards careful, contentious attention. My advice is to enjoy this in a quiet, solitary environment with little distraction, and be prepared for a rewarding, distinctive experience. This gem is worthy of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: 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

Cigar Review: Cornelius & Anthony Cornelius Toro

29 Jun 2016

CorneliusAfter growing tobacco in Virginia since the end of the Civil War, the Bailey family operation has moved into premium cigars.

The inaugural Cornelius cigar has a light brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a binder that’s also from Ecuador, and a Nicaraguan Jalapa filler. The cigars are rolled at El Titan de Bronze in Miami’s Little Havana.

The Toro is a 6-inch, 50-ring gauge stick with a $15 MSRP. Two other vitolas fill out the line: Robusto (5 x 52, $13.50) and Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $12). All are sold in boxes of 20. The company’s website is still under construction.

The Cornelius name honors an ancestor of Steven Bailey, who turned the company into a small-brand cigarette juggernaut in the 1990s. That most interesting story was well told by the Los Angeles Times a few years ago.

There’s no doubt Cornelius & Anthony is making a serious move into cigars. The company hired Courtney Smith, a former executive at La Palina. And, as a separate division of the company, Cornelius & Anthony will have its own individual booth at this year’s IPCPR Trade Show. (Smith supplied the samples I smoked for this review.)

The Cornelius makes a fine first impression, with a smooth wrapper that has an almost minty pre-light aroma. When lit, the opening is a classic cigar flavor: tobacco sweetness. That soon includes a bit of spice with some wood and light nutty notes.

While the flavors amp up and down a little along the way, there isn’t a lot of change throughout. The burn is razor-sharp, though the ash is a bit loose. The draw is excellent.

I’d classify the strength as pretty much in the middle of medium. It’s a strength and flavor profile that should appeal to many smokers. The price is reasonable, especially for a cigar of this size that is rolled in the U.S.

If this sounds like a cigar you’d enjoy, give Cornelius a try. I rate it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Florida Sun Grown Robusto

27 Jun 2016

FSG

Two years ago, StogieGuys.com broke the news that, for the first time since 1977, long-filler cigar tobacco was being grown in Florida. Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of the Orlando-area Corona Cigar stores and a partner in the Sindicato cigar company, began growing tobacco on land he had purchased—out of love of the leaf, and to avoid paying residential taxes on the land, which is outside Orlando.

FSG PNGAt the time, while we learned Drew Estate had been selected as Borysiewicz’s partner in the endeavor, it was unclear exactly how the tobacco would be used. About a month ago, we learned it has been included in a new blend from Drew Estate aptly called Florida Sun Grown (FSG). The Floridian tobacco joins Nicaraguan leaves as a component of the filler; the binder is Mexican and the wrapper Brazilian.

FSG was blended by Drew Estate Master Blender Willy Herrera over the course of two years. Five vitolas—including a limited edition Trunk-Pressed Toro (6 x 54)—currently retail in the $11.50-$15 range. For now, they are only available at Corona Cigar stores, or at Corona Cigar’s retail website. However, rumor has it Borysiewicz would like to see FSG go national. If that happens, the exclusivity at Corona Cigar will likely be remembered as a soft launch.

The FSG Robusto (5 x 54) is a dark, firm, oily cigar with a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos visible at the foot and hearty pre-light notes of raisin and musty earth. It is adorned by a handsome band of teal, orange, and gold that interestingly makes no mention of Drew Estate. The cold draw is smooth and easy.

The flavor is full-bodied and spicy right from the get-go with tons of espresso, black pepper, cayenne heat, and roasted nuts. There’s some raisin and black cherry to help add balance, though that background sweetness certainly doesn’t diminish the intensity. The texture is thick and leathery. After about an inch, the Robusto settles down a bit, but never recedes below the medium- to full-bodied range. Some creaminess enters the equation, as does a little citrus and oak. The final third displays a powerful combination of roasted notes, char, meatiness, and spice.

The combustion qualities are exactly what I’ve come to expect from La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate. The white, finely layered ash holds well off the foot, the draw is clear, the smoke production above average, and the burn line stays straight from light to nub.

It will be interesting to watch the progression of Borysiewicz’s foray into premium cigar tobacco cultivation in Florida. Will FSG get a national release? Will a Florida-grown wrapper leaf be introduced? Will the entire venture be killed off by FDA regulation? I will continue to observe with keen interest. For now, I can say the Florida Sun Grown Robusto is a bold, interesting experience, even at the considerable price of $11.50. In my eyes, this particular cigar is worthy of a very admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Crux Limitada PB5

13 Jun 2016

The first limited release from Crux, this lightly box-pressed beauty comes in one size and showcases a well-aged wrapper leaf.

PB5That tobacco, called Engañoso, came from the Plascencia factory where it had been aging for seven years, according to Crux. The company bought it all, and it was another two-and-a-half years before the PB5 blend was finalized.

Crux isn’t disclosing much information about the tobaccos in the cigar. Here’s what I got from them: “The blend includes tobacco (though not exclusively) from Nicaragua and Honduras.”

The name reflects some of the journey to create it. The “PB” is a recognition of the individuals involved in creating the cigar, Crux said, and the “5” refers to the number of test blends sampled before the end result was achieved.

The cigars recently began to arrive on retailers’ shelves. Crux produced 500 boxes of 10 with a retail price of about $12 per stick. They believe they have enough wrapper left to keep production going for up to five years.

That’s good news. Because if you miss the opportunity to try one this time around, you’ll get another chance.

Since its initial offering a couple of years ago, Minnesota-based Crux has brought out one good cigar after another. The web site now lists 10 lines, from one that features diminutive dimensions (4 x 32) to another sporting considerable length and girth (6 x 60).

The Limitada PB5 is 5.75 inches long with a ring gauge of 54. The samples I smoked, supplied by Crux, had excellent burns, good smoke production, and a near-perfect draw.

The wrapper presents a mouth-watering nutty pre-light aroma.

From the beginning, it is a balanced and complex smoke, kicking off with some cedar and pepper to grab your attention. Other flavors along the way include nuts, wood, and leather, with the intensity of the pepper rising and falling throughout. There are points, too, when a bit of sweetness moves forward as a counterpoint.

Strength falls somewhere in the medium- to full-bodied range. It’s by no means a power bomb, but it is certainly strong enough to satisfy most smokers.

I would say the Limitada PB5 was among the most enjoyable new cigars I’ve tried so far in 2016. I heartily recommend giving the Limitada PB5 a try, whether you’re a new smoker or an old-timer. For me, it rates four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys