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Cigar Review: MBombay Gaaja Maduro Torpedo

21 Feb 2017

Gaaja Maduro

Since it was formally announced on July 1, 2016, MBombay’s Gaaja line has only had a single blend available in a single vitola: a Toro, which I reviewed (and thoroughly enjoyed) last summer. That changed earlier this month when a second Gaaja format was added—a Torpedo—along with a Maduro blend. Today I review the new Gaaja Maduro Torpedo.

Gaaja Maduro TorpedoBy way of background, MBombay is a small-batch brand of high-end cigars made in Costa Rica and produced by Bombay Tobak. The man behind the operation is Mel Shah, owner of an upscale cigar and wine lounge in Palm Springs, California.

Gaaja (pronounced Gaa-ya) is Sanskrit for elephant. The original blend took over four years to perfect and calls for an Ecuadorian hybrid Connecticut and Cameroon wrapper that’s grown in the desflorado fashion. (The process of cultivating desflorado tobacco requires the buds on the plants to be 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.

Gaaja Maduro uses the same binder and filler combination, but it replaces the Ecuadorian hybrid wrapper with a darker Brazilian Mata Fina leaf. “This wrapper has played a very important factor in increasing the flavor and the body to the cigar,” reads a press release dated February 6. “Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper has definitely added more complexity into the mix. [The] rest of the composition of the Gaaja cigar has not been changed, [but] the proportions have been adjusted to make the cigar taste more complete.”

There are two Gaaja Maduro sizes on the market, both of which retail for $15.50: Toro (6 x 54) and Torpedo (6.5 x 54). I smoked several of the latter for this review. The cigar is pungent and attractive out of the cellophane with rounded box press edges, a seamless wrapper, a nicely executed cap, and pre-light notes of dark chocolate and nougat at the foot. The striking appearance and overall feel of quality is only complemented by a unique band of gold, blue, and red that offers no text on the face (but reads “Gaaja” on one side and “Bombay Tobak” on the other). What’s more, its silky smooth, oily wrapper gives the Gaaja Maduro Torpedo a velvety feel. And, despite its firmness, the cold draw is surprisingly effortless.

I found the original Gaaja to be teeming with well-balanced complexity and flavors like honey, graham, bread, dry wood, cream, and almond. While the Maduro does have some almond and dry wood, its core is more focused on coffee bean, dark chocolate, salted caramel, and roasted nuts. In other words, delicious. Adding to the enjoyment is the aroma of the resting smoke, which is mouth-wateringly sweet. I would classify the body as medium to medium-plus. The texture of the smoke is light and sweet (I am reminded of marshmallows) and there is only moderate spice with no traces of heat or harshness.

In addition to a harmonious, interesting, well-balanced profile, and, as you should expect from any cigar with a super-premium price tag, the combustion properties are excellent. The burn runs straight and true from light to nub, the ash holds very well off the foot, the draw remains clear throughout, and the smoke production is above average.

Don’t be turned off by the price; this is not one to miss. I like everything about the Gaaja Maduro Torpedo—the taste, the aroma, the way it smokes, and the way it looks. In fact, I think it’s up there with the finest. And that’s why I’m awarding it our highest rating: five stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here. A list of other five-stogie rated cigars can be found here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Foundry Time Flies 550

15 Feb 2017

foundry-timeflies

When large companies find themselves under assault from smaller operations with innovative products, the response is often to try to replicate what’s leading the attack.

Time FliesThink of Ford’s Pinto to compete with smaller foreign imports, or MillerCoors’ Blue Moon reaction to craft beer brewers, or any one of many similar situations.

In the cigar world, a prime example is General Cigar’s Foundry Tobacco Co. The division was created in 2012 under the now-departed Michael Giannini, who’d come to General after Swedish Match bought Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s successful boutique brand that made La Gloria Cubana.

Foundry has featured nearly every card in the boutique deck: exotic packaging, silly and obscure brand names, baroque themes, limited editions, elaborate back stories about the tobaccos, etc. Additionally, General Cigar has moved some of its historic, if under-appreciated, brands like Bolivar, Ramón Allones,  and Temple Hall under the Foundry umbrella.

With Time Flies, Foundry joined in the collaboration trend. This four-size line, introduced at the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show, was created by Giannini and A.J. Fernandez and rolled at Fernandez’s factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

With all that surrounds Time Flies—skulls, wild colors, aphorisms on the band, a $35,000 humidor—you’d be forgiven for assuming the line is just another gimmicky creation. In this case, though, I believe you’d be wrong. The half-dozen Time Flies robustos I’ve smoked are strong, satisfying cigars.

The regular release Time Flies smokes feature an Ecuadorian Habano 2000 wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. MSRP on the 550 robusto (5 x 50) is $7.50, and the most expensive in the line is the 660 at $9. (There’s also a limited edition with a Sumatra wrapper, which I haven’t tried.)

The opening notes of the cigar are hot pepper, which remind me of some of Don José “Pepin” Garcia’s early creations. The volume lowers about an inch in, which is where you begin to pick up woody notes and dark coffee.

At the halfway point, the pepper reemerges and mingles with some cedar. Toward the final third, there’s some sweetness as well.

I found the overall strength to be on the higher end of medium, though it ramps up a bit in the second half. The finish is fairly light. Construction, burn, and draw are excellent, as is the smoke production.

All in all, I enjoyed Time Flies and rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Foundry Cigars/Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Aguila Robusto

1 Feb 2017

Aguila

In 2014, as part of President Obama’s efforts to normalize relations between Washington and Havana, the importation of Cuban cigars into the U.S. was partially legalized—only for officially licensed travelers to Cuba, and only if the value of the cigars (and rum) totaled $100 or less. Later, in March 2016, the $100 limit was eliminated, and the legalization was expanded to include the importation of Cuban cigars that were bought in Cuba or elsewhere overseas, as long as the cigars were for personal consumption. However, as we reported last fall, Cuban cigars still cannot be imported to the U.S. unless you are personally traveling with them. In other words, online sales of Cuban cigars to American residents are still illegal.

Aguila RobustoThat said, there a bevy of online retailers based overseas who claim to be able to ship authentic Cuban cigars directly to your door. Among them is iHavanas. “iHavanas operates out of a bonded warehouse located in Geneva, Switzerland, enabling us to offer our customers cigars with duty-free pricing,” reads the website. “All our cigars are purchased from authorized distributors, thereby ensuring authenticity.”

iHavanas is somewhat unique among overseas retailers in that it also has a house brand made in Nicaragua. The brand is called Aguila, which is Spanish for “eagle” (an eagle is prominently featured on the coat of arms and flag of Geneva). “We’ve noticed a growing interest in boutique brands of cigars and, although a few online retailers do offer custom-rolled cigars, we thought we’d go a step further and create a distinct brand,” said an iHavanas representative that, due to the nature of his business, wishes to be identified only as Bryan. “We had been in discussions with a number of factories in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, but eventually settled on this [undisclosed Nicaraguan] factory as we felt we were getting a high quality cigar that we could offer at exceptional value.”

Aguila was launched in October 2016 in three formats: Robusto (4.9 x 50, $47 per box of 10), Sublime (6.5 x 54, $49 per box of 10), and Torpedo (6.1 x 52, $48 per box of 10). The tobaccos include an Ecuadorian wrapper, a Jalapa binder, and long-filler from Estelí.

I smoked five Aguila Robustos for this review. The understated, elegant ring band of white and gold reminds me of another brand made by a company headquartered in Geneva: Davidoff. Beneath is a milk chocolate-colored wrapper that has only very thin veins, thick seams, and a moderate amount of oil and tooth. The feel is on the spongy side. Pre-light notes at the foot remind me of dried apricot, hay, and musty earth.

At the outset, a mild- to medium-bodied profile emerges with flavors of cinnamon, cedar, cream, and a cherry-like sweetness that, at times, verges on medicinal (think cherry cough drops). Cinnamon and cedar are sensations we all associate with spice, but in this case the spice is incredibly light. The texture of the smoke is somewhat sandy. After about an inch, a core of warm tobacco comes to the fore. Here, the sweetness is still playing a notable role. The finale is characterized by few flavor changes but a marginal increase in intensity.

The physical properties leave little to be desired. While the burn can get off to a poor start, it quickly self-corrects and then stays straight until the end. The draw is smooth and the smoke production is above average. The ash has a tendency to fall off a little prematurely.

For $4.70 per cigar when bought by the box of 10 (inclusive of shipping, mind you), the Aguila Robusto can be a nice little bargain for those who seek a low-cost, everyday cigar that packs considerable sweetness and feels at home in the garage, out on the yard, or on the golf course. It lacks complexity and balance, but I don’t think it was ever intended to be a special occasion masterpiece worthy of your undivided attention, either. In my book, this creation from iHavanas is worthy of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: EO 601 La Bomba Sake Bomb

25 Jan 2017

Sake Bomb Box 1

With this addition to his popular La Bomba line, Erik Espinosa went small in size and big in impact. While all La Bomba cigars hit hard, this petit corona connects with a wallop.

Like its siblings, the Sake Bomb is a Nicaraguan puro, including a Habano wrapper. The Sake Bomb blend is said to have been tweaked to increase the strength. It sports the line’s trademark long fuse and a bright yellow foot band.

For those who like a high-powered smoke and find yourself suffering these days through the cold to enjoy a cigar, the Sake Bomb is certainly a cigar to consider. The length is only 4.5 inches and the ring gauge is 42. The MSRP is $6.75, though they’re often priced considerably lower online by the box of 10.

While it is the strength that stands out in this small cigar, the Sake Bomb offers more complexity than you might anticipate

Pepper and spice make an aggressive appearance—make that an extremely aggressive appearance—at the start. And they tend to linger on the finish as well. After an inch or so, the pepper becomes a little less persistent, and I found flavors of nutmeg and dark, strong coffee mixed in.

In the final third, the strength seems to ramp up as a tobacco sweetness comes to the fore.

Both the draw and combustion on those I’ve smoked have been excellent. It also burns slowly and produces a lot of smoke.

I’ve had quite a few, though by no means all, of the ever-expanding La Bomba line. And I enjoyed each of them. However, this little explosive device may be my favorite. It definitely knocks you around but not for so long that you’re exhausted by the experience.

I raise my glass to the Sake Bomb and give it a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Dunhill Signed Range Selección Suprema

23 Jan 2017

Dunhill

Dunhill may not be the sexiest brand on the market. Owned by British American Tobacco and made and distributed by General Cigar Co., you could argue Dunhill is somewhat neglected by the online cigar community, gets lost in General’s portfolio of more visible brands, and hasn’t lived up to its rich legacy.

Signed Range SS DunhillThat legacy pre-dates the communist takeover of Cuba, when the Dunhill shop in London had exclusive marketing and distribution agreements with various Cuban cigar makers, including Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, and Partagas. Since then, Dunhill has bounced around with cigars by Toraño and Altadis, finally settling under the General Cigar umbrella.

In 2015, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of its Selección Suprema series (which kicked off in 1935 with a cigar called Don Candido), Dunhill released a special limited edition cigar called Signed Range Selección Suprema. Only 20,000 total cigars were made in a single vitola, a toro (6 x 50); they are packaged in display-friendly boxes of 8 and retail for $20 apiece.

Signed Range Selección Suprema is made at the General Cigar Dominicana factory with a Nicaraguan Jalapa wrapper, Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua (Estelí and Jalapa) and Brazil (Mata Fina). It sports three bands of black and metallic bronze, including one at the foot. Underneath is a mottled, oily leaf that’s traversed by a network of thin veins. The pre-light notes at the foot are subtle and characterized by hints of honey and sawdust. The cap clips easily to reveal and smooth cold draw.

Once an even light is set, the preliminary flavor is a medium-bodied combination of leather, damp earth, salted caramel, and oak. The texture is buttery and the resting smoke gives off a creamy sweetness that is, frankly, much more enticing than the actual flavor, which I find a little flat.

Things pick up nicely after a half-inch or so, however. That’s where the smoke production kicks into gear and the taste becomes mouth-wateringly velvety and balanced. The damp earth takes a back seat to more intense flavors of gentle spice, citrus, and sugar. This profile remains mostly consistent throughout, save for the additions of coffee and dark chocolate in the finale.

As I’ve come to expect from General Cigar—and as everyone should expect from any cigar with a super-premium price tag—the cigar has exquisite construction. The burn line is excellent, the draw easy, the smoke production good, and the ash is well-behaved and finely layered.

While I’ll admit I don’t smoke many Dunhills, I can easily say this is the best I’ve had. Sure, it’s also the most expensive. Price aside, though, you can’t deny this toro’s complexity and balance. If you decide to pony up the cash, you won’t be disappointed. The Dunhill Signed Range Selección Suprema earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Davidoff Year of the Rooster Limited Edition 2017

16 Jan 2017

Year of the Rooster

Year of the Rooster is Davidoff’s fifth annual international release celebrating Chinese New Year with its sign of the zodiac. Like the earlier releases, it is a limited edition with special aged tobaccos and a high price tag.

The cigar itself is a 6.75-inch diadema with a ring gauge of 50. The white Davidoff band is offset with a secondary red and gold one highlighting the cigar’s name and a drawing of a rooster. Eight thousand of the striking 10-count red lacquered boxes were produced, with the per-stick price set at $40.

The wrapper is an Ecuadorian Habano-seed leaf, with a Dominican San Vicente binder and Dominican filler, which Davidoff identifies as Piloto Seco, San Vicente Visus, Piloto Visus, and Criollo Seco.

I smoked two for this review and was impressed. Admitting up front that I’m no expert on Cuban cigars, I found the Rooster to be reminiscent of some of the best Cubans I’ve smoked.

It started a little peppery with medium strength and shifted after about an inch to a nutty flavor with some fruit-like notes. About halfway through, I began to pick up some vanilla and cedar added to the mix as the strength increased. The last half or so was also marked by a rich tobacco sweetness.

Like so many Davidoff cigars, the Rooster is incredibly smooth, balanced, and easy to smoke. The draw and burn were near perfect throughout.

Of course, the price tag puts this cigar out of reach for many smokers, except possibly as a celebration candidate. Is it worth $40? Is a lousy cigar worth $3? Is a mediocre cigar worth $8? Those are questions that cigar smokers have to decide for themselves.

But, if you’re a Davidoff fan or like to sample small production cigars, I think you’ll want to try one. I found it exemplary and rate it four and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Davidoff

Cigar Review: Nestor Miranda Collection Corojo Robusto

11 Jan 2017

nm-corojo-1

A spicy Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper so oily you might fear it’ll slide through your fingers highlights the latest release in the Nestor Miranda Collection from Miami Cigar & Co. It also makes for a tasty, satisfying cigar.

nestor-mirandaSporting the line’s trademark Art Deco style foil bands with electric-yellow highlights, Corojo is the fourth in the collection. Like the others, it is rolled at the My Father Cigars factory and comes in four sizes with MSRPs ranging from $7.50 to $9.50.

The line is named for Miami Cigar’s gregarious president and co-founder. Vice president Jason Wood said in a press release that Miranda had been “adamant about introducing his beloved Corojo wrapper to the collection.”

It was introduced at this summer’s industry trade show in Las Vegas and recently began shipping to merchants. The short Robusto—4.5 inches long with a ring gauge of 50—is firmly packed with Nicaraguan filler that exudes a nutty pre-light aroma. The first smoking impression is the pepper common to Corojo tobacco.

Along the way, I also experienced spice, a little cedar, burned coffee, and a rich tobacco sweetness. The three I smoked for this review each had an excellent draw. None exhibited the burn difficulties sometimes associated with Corojo tobacco.

The ash was ivory white and held firmly until I tapped it off. The burn was slow, extending the smoking time beyond what might be expected, given the cigar’s length. I’d put the strength level in the upper-medium to full category, as it tends to build along the way.

StogieGuys.com has smoked and reviewed many Miami Cigar & Co. productions over the years. They include several from the Nestor Miranda Collection since it was repackaged and re-blended in 2014.

This is the best in that line. And the Robusto format seems to take advantage of all it has to offer. I rate this a strong four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys