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Cigar Review: Espinosa 601 La Bomba Warhead 2013

24 Jul 2017

There was a time when the cigars in the EO Brands portfolio—particularly 601 Blue, 601 Red, and 601 Green—were mainstays in my humidors. Back then, Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega were still in a partnership, and the 601 line was produced by none other than Don José “Pepin” Garcia at My Father Cigars.

In 2010, Rocky Patel bought a 50% stake in EO Brands, which also owned Cubao, Murcielago, and Mi Barrio. Then, in early 2012, Eddie Ortega announced he was leaving the company and starting his own outfit called Ortega Cigars.

Today, Erik Espinosa operates Espinosa Premium Cigars, which runs out of Espinosa’s La Zona Factory in Estelí. Among his creations is Warhead, a semi-regular, limited edition offshoot of the La Bomba line that replaces La Bomba’s Nicaraguan Habano wrapper with a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper (but maintains La Bomba’s same Nicaraguan binder and filler recipe). To date, there have been three Warhead releases, each made in a single vitola: 2013 (6.5 x 54, 20,000 total cigars), 2014 (5.5 x 56, 20,000 total cigars), and 2016 (7.5 x 38, 5,000 total cigars).

Back in 2013, I paid about $11 apiece for three La Bomba Warheads. This original Warhead is easily differentiated from its successors because the 2014 iteration says “Warhead II” on the foot band, and the 2016 model is a lancero with a green foot band. For some reason, I didn’t touch these cigars for four years but am nonetheless dedicated to recording a review.

Maybe it’s the age, or maybe this is the way Warhead was originally shipped and presented in 2013, but the extra-long pigtail cap fuse has been compressed into the surface of the wrapper. That wrapper, by the way, is dark and rustic with a few large veins. The slightly box-pressed cigar is firm with no soft spots. Once clipped (I used a double guillotine and snipped into the cap removing the entire fuse) the cold draw is moderately firm. At the foot, I find pungent notes of cocoa powder and dark chocolate.

After setting an even light, I am greeted by an initial profile of espresso, black pepper, burnt marshmallow, and leather. The flavor is bold and full-bodied from the get-go, and the texture of the smoke is silky, cool, and moist. After about an inch, the strength mellows slightly and the addition of savory roasted nuts contributes some nice complexity. Thereafter, the taste remains fairly unchanged until the end.

The physical properties are imperfect but not burdensome. Expect a solid gray ash and a mostly well-behaved burn that only requires an occasional touch-up here and there to stay even. My main complaint is the draw. While I had anticipated it might open up after the first third, it remains fairly tight until the end, resulting in below average smoke production.

The four years of rest in my humidor may have taken some of the edge off the strength. Even fresh, however, I suspect Warhead would still be less powerful than the original La Bomba blend by virtue of the replacement of the Nicaraguan Habano wrapper with a Connecticut Broadleaf maduro. Whatever the case, the 2013 incarnation of Warhead is an enjoyable smoke with plenty to offer. But it’s also unlikely to blow anyone away. That’s why, all things considered, I am settling on a score of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Lost & Found Backdoor Bambi

19 Jul 2017

In 2014, Robert Caldwell, Jaclyn Sears, and Tony Bellatto announced Impromptu, a line of limited release cigars sourced from the aging rooms of various factories. Later, the enterprise would be renamed Lost & Found Cigars.

According to Robert Caldwell: “Over several months I have been traveling all over the world spending a lot of time in the Caribbean and Central America in many tobacco fields and factories. Along the way I stumbled upon certain cigars that really left an impression on me. My friends suggest we share them with our friends and customers. These are very special cigars, made with rare tobaccos that have been aged to a point seldom enjoyed by most of us. I cannot take credit with making these beauties, nor for bringing them to you—just for discovering them.”

As I’ve noted before, the line’s popularity is a testament to the difference marketing can make; after all, someone else couldn’t sell the cigars in a previous form. The well-aged cigars are released in small batches emphasizing their limited availability, under a catchy, off-beat name with corresponding art.

Two recent releases were Suavesito (rolled in 2010) and Backdoor Bambi (5.5 x 46). Rolled in 2008, Backdoor Bambi uses Corojo, Habano, and Negrito tobaccos, but no other details about the blend are disclosed, including where the cigar was made. Unlike Suavesito, which is a new addition to Lost & Found, Backdoor Bambi was one of the first releases back when the enterprise was still called Impromptu. While the original release came in a metal jar, the 2017 edition comes in boxes of 12 with each cigar carrying a suggested price of $12.

The cigar features a leathery medium brown wrapper. Once lit, I find bready spice, dried fruit (think cinnamon raisin bread), plus sweet Cuban coffee.

It’s a medium- to full-bodied cigar with lots of leather and spice, especially towards the second half. Construction is perfect, with an open draw, even burn, and a sturdy gray ash.

Although the price is a bit high, this is a well-made spice-forward smoke that probably has benefited greatly from almost a decade of age. (It’s also far better than the Suavesito.) That earns the Lost & Found Backdoor Bambi a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Villiger La Flor de Ynclan Churchill

17 Jul 2017

Among the many new cigars introduced at the annual IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas last week was La Flor de Ynclan from Villiger Cigars. Actually, in the this case, it’s more accurate to say La Flor de Ynclan was re-introduced; Villiger originally debuted the line, which takes its name from an old Cuban brand, back in 2007.

Ten years ago, a “small batch” of La Flor de Ynclan was crafted by Villiger with unsatisfactory results, leading to a decision to cease production. This 2017 re-introduction, therefore, isn’t merely a second go-around with the same recipe. It has been re-blended by José Matias Maragoto—overseer of all Villiger-made product in the Dominican Republic—to feature an Ecuadorian wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos.

Villiger got it right this time, according to Heinrich Villiger, chairman of Switzerland-based Villiger Soehne AG: “The La Flor de Ynclan cigar has been an ongoing labor of love for us. We feel that there is a difference between a good and great cigar, [and] Matias Maragoto and I hope you feel the same.”

La Flor de Ynclan is handmade at the ABAM Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic in three formats: Robusto (5 x 50, $11), Torpedo (5 x 52, $12), and Churchill (7 x 48, $12). In addition to the new recipe, each has a redesigned band to maintain branding consistency across the Villiger portfolio (the 2007 La Flor de Ynclan band depicts an enrobed woman posing with two spears and one hand atop a globe).

The Churchill sports a slightly pale wrapper with plenty of tooth, minimal veins, ultra-tight seams, and a few splotches of harmless discoloration. The cigar is moderately firm—and the cold draw is a little stiff—yet the foot shows a cross-section of loosely packed tobaccos. The gentle pre-light aroma is of damp wood and sweet hay.

The draw opens nicely once an even light is established. At the outset, La Flor De Ynclan boasts a mild- to medium-bodied profile of oak, sweet cream, almond, cinnamon, and caramel. The texture is smooth and the smoke is cool. After about half an inch, a wonderful savory flavor of roasted peanut emerges to add depth. Thereafter, the taste remains fairly consistent throughout, save for the additions of white pepper, dried fruit, and hints of cocoa.

Construction is just about perfect. The burn line is straight and true down to the nub with no need for touch-ups along the way. The ash holds incredibly well off the foot, the draw is moderate, and the smoke production is agreeable with a mouth-wateringly sweet aroma.

Clearly, this is not an inexpensive cigar. It’s also not a cigar that’s likely to satisfy if you’re looking for a full-bodied experience. But if you seek a milder smoke with well-balanced complexity and ample nuance, the Churchill from La Flor de Ynclan will not leave you disappointed. I award this Villiger creation 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: Ventura Archetype Initiation Corona

10 Jul 2017

Aimed at producing “memorable, complex cigar blends that move the senses and reward discriminating palates,” the California-based Ventura Cigar Co. first got on my radar in 2013 with the release of two less-than-traditional cigar lines: the uniquely presented Psyko Seven and Project 805, which sports an exclusive tobacco called Andullo.

Since, Ventura has added a series called Archetype, a collection of five different blends that are “inspired by the work of psychologist Dr. Carl Jung and mythographer Joseph Campbell who defined ‘archetypes’ as the constantly repeating characters who occur in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures.” Three of the cigars—Dreamstate, Sage Advice, and Strange Passage—are made at Davidoff’s Occidental Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic; the other two—Initiation and Axis Mundi—are crafted at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate in Estelí, Nicaragua.

Initiation is billed as “an adventure in the art of nuanced flavor with a blend of Habano tobaccos that opens up with heavenly aromas, floral notes, white sage, and orange zest that intensifies throughout the smoke.” It sports an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around binder and filler Habano tobaccos from Nicaragua. Four sizes are available: Churchill, Corona, Robusto, and Toro.

The Corona (5 x 46) retails for about $10. It comes complete with a well-executed cap and sour, musty pre-light notes at the foot. Beneath the metallic double bands of silver, black, and red is a pale, dry wrapper leaf that’s devoid of any large veins. The cigar feels very firm and both the foot and clipped cap exhibit a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos; not surprisingly, the cold draw is not as smooth as I would have liked.

After setting an even light, the draw loosens a bit, though it’s still a little stiff. Despite this, the smoke production does not suffer in the slightest. Like many Drew Estate-made cigars, the Initiation Corona smokes like a chimney.

At the outset, that smoke is characterized by flavors of dry oak, almond, white pepper, and citrus. Some background floral notes linger, as do hints of tea and salted sunflower seeds. Throughout, the profile wavers from delightful and complex at one end of the spectrum, to bland and papery at the other (most times it’s somewhere between the two extremes). I found this to be true across all three samples I smoked for this review—which, in full disclosure, were provided free of charge to StogieGuys.com.

Aside from the tight yet shockingly non-problematic draw, the Archetype Initiation Corona exhibits solid combustion qualities, including a straight burn line and a solid white ash.

All in all, this is one of those cigars I would hope would improve with some age. I can’t say for sure if it will but, to me at least, it tastes a bit green. While there are undoubtedly some wonderful flavors here, there are also patches of blandness. That’s ultimately why I’m settling on a score of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Limited Edition 2017

6 Jul 2017

Earlier this year I reviewed the Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial TAA 2017, noting it reminded me “to revisit the regular offerings in the Jamie Garcia Reserva Especial line.” It also inspired me to pick up the new Reserva Especial Limited Edition 2017 at a recent My Father Cigars store event. The new cigar was released in May and carries a hefty price tag of $17.

The Limited Edition cigar first appeared in 2011. That release came in boxes of 16, whereby 15 had a Broadleaf wrapper and one had an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper. This year, only 3,000 boxes of 16 are being made, a slight decrease from the 2011 release. (The ribbon helps differentiate this release from the 2017 release.)

The 2017 release is all made with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper (no experimental wrapper single this time) in a toro (6.5 x 52) format. The recipe sports Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, including reportedly two leaves of strong, flavorful, but hard-to-grow Pelo de Oro from the the Garcia’s Nicaraguan farms.

The cigar features many of the oak and chocolate notes of the regular Jamie Garcia line with considerably more intensity and strength. It is highly complex and full-bodied. Initial dark chocolate and minty spice notes quickly turn to sharp black pepper and barrel char. There are also roasted notes and coffee bean, although the interplay between wood, cocoa, and spice dominates the two-hour smoke.

While one of the two cigars I smoked had an unfortunately tight draw for the first quarter, it soon opened up and a sturdy, monotone, light gray ash developed that held for two full inches before I tapped it off. Besides that self-correcting issue, construction is excellent.

This is a significant step up in complexity, flavor, and strength from the regular line, and even from the Especial TAA 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. That’s why the Jamie Garcia Reserva Especial Limited Edition 2017 earns a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Selección Oscuro Especial No. 6

3 Jul 2017

In March 2009, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo ended his nine-year tenure with General Cigar to establish his own family-owned boutique. He wasted no time in that endeavor. With a factory in Santiago and a work-in-progress website, the EPC Cigar Co. was up and running in time to debut its first blend at the IPCPR Trade Show that August.

Few in the industry doubted he would be successful in his new venture. That Perez-Carrillo has done well on his own over the past eight years is no surprise to anyone. One industry insider described him to StogieGuys.com as the tobacco world’s “mad genius.” And Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley calls him “the original rebel.”

Say what you will about Cigar Aficionado and its annual Top 25 list, but it must have been incredibly gratifying for Carrillo to see his Selección Oscuro Piramides Royal (6 x 52) capture the number four spot in 2016. I’m sure the publicity didn’t hurt sales, either.

In addition to Piramides Royal, there are three other vitolas in the line: Robusto Gordo (5 x 54), Small Churchill (5.5 x 50), and Especial No. 6 (6 x 52). All are made at the Tabacalera La Alianza factory in the Dominican Republic with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, an Ecuadorian binder, and loosely packed filler tobaccos from Nicaragua.

I recently picked up a 5-pack in the Especial No. 6 size for $41.50, which comes to $8.30 per cigar. Out of the cellophane, this cigar oozes pungent pre-light notes of cocoa and dried fruit, especially at the foot. The exterior is toothy and oily with only a few noticeable veins across its lumpy, rustic surface. The ornate, regal band of red, gold, and black is a nice improvement upon the design from the 2015 launch (you can see an example of the old band here; some of these are likely still on the market).

At the outset, the Especial No. 6 exhibits dry wood, black pepper spice, cayenne heat, and plenty of Nicaraguan zing. It’s full-bodied and zesty with a leathery texture from the get-go. Then, after about half an inch, the profile mellows considerably—now it’s decidedly medium-bodied—and the flavor transitions to milk chocolate, cherry, raisin, marshmallow, and coffee. This is how the cigar remains until the end, with no increase in intensity at the finale.

Across the five samples I smoked for this review, four had near-perfect burn lines and one required a touch-up or two along the way to stay even. All had smooth draws and abundant smoke production. The resting smoke has loads of mouth-watering sweetness.

The Selección Oscuro Especial No. 6 is a solid addition to the impressive E.P. Carrillo portfolio. Aside from the first half-inch, this toro boasts less strength than you might expect and instead rewards you with balance, subtlety, cool smoke, and a delightful interplay between gentle spice and sweetness. For that, it earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Maduro (Smoke Inn Exclusive)

26 Jun 2017

Earlier this month, I reviewed the Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Natural, the result of an arrangement between Padrón and Smoke Inn whereby the latter has exclusive distribution on one-time release of a vitola that isn’t available elsewhere.

Hermoso is the newest size in the 1964 Anniversary Series, added in 2016. “When Padrón first began toying with their new 1964 Anniversary Hermoso cigar (4 x 56), they first came to us with a more manageable (4 x 50) vitola,” reads the Smoke Inn website, which refers to the 1964 Prototype as “an exclusive pre-release cigar.”

Including Hermoso, Serie 1964 has 12 box-pressed vitolas, each available in either a sun-grown Natural wrapper or a dark Maduro leaf. All of the tobaccos in the Nicaraguan puro are aged for four years. The line was launched in 1994 to commemorate Padrón’s 30th anniversary (there’s also a 1926 Serie that honors the year of José Orlando Padrón’s birth.)

In essence, what the Prototype Maduro offers is the ability to smoke the famed Serie 1964 blend in an otherwise unavailable format (4 x 50). I recently bought a 5-pack for $59.75 ($11.95 per cigar). At the time of this writing, 5-packs and boxes of 20 of both the Natural and Maduro are still available at Smoke Inn.

As you would expect given the pedigree and price, the Prototype Maduro leaves nothing to be desired in terms of appearance. The familiar 1964 double-ring band is very reassuring; it reinforces the only thing that’s “prototype” about this cigar is the format. Everything else—the quality of the tobacco, the craftsmanship of the construction, etc.—should be up to the high Serie 1964 standards.

The exterior leaf is thick and oily with ample tooth and only very thin veins. Once lit, pre-light notes of cocoa and caramel transition to a medium- to full-bodied profile of espresso, dark chocolate, and white pepper spice. The draw is effortless and the smoke production well above average. The flavor might be rich and thick, but the texture is actually light and sweet—almost marshmallow-esque. The sweetness is nicely offset by some salted caramel and cayenne heat, especially in the second half.

Construction is thankfully in line with what we’ve all come to expect from Padrón. Expect a straight burn line that requires no touch-ups and a solid gray ash that holds well off the foot. (In the picture above, I was smoking outside under fairly windy conditions; that said, I smoked five samples for this review, and the other four all burned beautifully.)

As I wrote in my review of the Natural iteration of this cigar, 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. For my money, I would give the slight edge to the Maduro, which also earns a very impressive rating 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