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Cigar Review: George Rico S.T.K. Miami Barracuda Maduro Robusto

22 Oct 2014

George A. Rico’s American Puro has to be counted as one of the more unique cigars to be released in recent memory. Made in Miami, the blend has only tobacco grown in the United States, including fire-cured leaves from Kentucky.

BarracudaAmerican Puro is part of S.T.K. Miami, a series of limited blends produced by Gran Habano at the company’s new Miami factory. It’s joined by Zulu Zulu, Opium, and Barracuda—an Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped line with bands of cyan and silver.

Now, George A. Rico has added a Maduro variety to Barracuda, using the same Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, but replacing the Ecuadorian wrapper with a dark, mottled specimen of Pennsylvania Broadleaf. (If you’re worried about confusing the two, the natural Barracuda has a fish on the band, whereas the Maduro simply has “Barracuda” written in cursive.)

Three sizes are available in the S.T.K. Miami Barracuda Maduro: Robusto (5 x 52), B-54 (6.5 x 54), and Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46). They range in price from $7.50 to $8.50 apiece. Only 200 boxes are being made of each vitola.

I sampled one pre-release Robusto for this review. This is a rustic-looking smoke with a coarse, thick wrapper that has protruding seams and a rugged cap. The cold draw is smooth and the pre-light notes remind me of molasses and grilled meats.

Marketed as medium to full in body, the Barracuda Robusto starts with a mesquite flavor with moderate intensity and a spicy aftertaste. The texture is leathery, and the core flavors include black pepper, syrup, dry wood, and a tangy zest that reminds me of barbecue.

Before long, a cocoa sweetness creeps in, along with cream and roasted nut. These additions help add balance to the principal flavors. Taking time between puffs helps ward off some of the meatier notes while allowing the complexity to shine though.

With solid construction—including a straight burn line, sturdy ash, and ample smoke production—the Barracuda Maduro Robusto is a unique, enjoyable smoke and a good value at about $8. It’s worthy of a respectable score of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: Room 101 Big Payback Chavala

20 Oct 2014

The Room 101 Big Payback is a Nicaraguan puro with a rather low price point. At just $5 per cigar (for the robusto-sized Chavala, at least), this is something most would consider in the daily price range, and it certainly differs from the double-digit prices that some of the limited edition Room 101 cigars demand. While I have smoked a few cigars from Matt Booth before, I was a little hesitant going into this one.

Room 101Matt describes these cigars as a way to give back to the fans who have supported him throughout the years, and I think that is an admirable effort. There is a small, cynical part of me, though, that was worried these would be cheap cigars, with the Room 101 name slapped on them, and then sold through ad campaigning that this is a cigar “for the fans.” Thankfully, once I actually held a few of the Paybacks in my hand, I realized this is not true.

Out of the four or five cigars I have smoked for this review, only one had construction issues, and it was pretty insubstantial (slight misapplication of the cap). Besides that, the cigar is nice and toothy, with a bouquet of cool cedar and earth coming off of the foot. The stick has a nice give all around when squeezed, and after cutting the cap, I get a citrus-based cold draw.

The cigar opens with a smooth, natural tobacco flavor, and a pleasant, light spice on the finish. The retrohale enhances the flavors, bringing a toastiness forward. Smoke production is very thick, with each puff producing a thick, white cloud. There is a sweetness in the background as well, which I cannot really identify. As the smoke continues, it gains a creamier texture, with cedar notes starting to come out in the second half. The cigar does remain sweet and cool down to the nub.

While the flavor is good, and strength is in my sweet spot of medium-full, I did find the smoke a little lackluster. There is not much complexity, and the basic taste is enjoyable, but not overly dimensional or unique. Perhaps this cigar performs better in its larger ring gauge sizes (in addition to the Chavala (5 x 50), there’s also a Culero (7 x 70) and a Hueso (6 x 60)). However, it’s difficult for me to smoke anything above a 56 ring gauge. I’d prefer to stay under or around 50.

With all that being said, the price point makes the Room 101 Big Payback Chavala something I have been smoking in my rotation since it was released earlier this year. It will certainly appeal to those looking for a pure, naturally flavored Nicaraguan experience. I rate this cigar three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Joey J

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Viaje Cache

16 Oct 2014

viaje-cacheViaje Cache’s name refers to two things: First, we’re told it has tobacco selected from a “cache” of select, well-aged leaves at the TABSA factory in Nicaragua, where it is made. Second, in a box of Viaje Cache cigars you get 20 traditional round parejos, but underneath you’ll find a hidden layer of five box-pressed cigars.viaje-cache-sq

Both the box-pressed and parejo versions measure 5 inches long with a ring gauge of 52. They feature a Mexican maduro wrapper around Nicaraguan Aganorsa binder and filler.

For this review, I smoked four of the round parejo versions. If, like me, you purchase a five-pack, you’re likely to get the non-box-pressed version, as there are four parejos for every pressed Cache made.

The band is not like the traditional Viaje band, at least on the surface. I couldn’t verify since I’m not in a college dorm room, but apparently if you put the band under a black light you’ll find a hidden logo.

The wrapper is nearly black with plenty of oils. Even before you light up, it’s obvious the Cache is well-constructed. Firm to the touch with a tight draw, it has excellent combustion and a solid, light gray ash.

Once lit, the Cache is dominated by dark charred oak notes. There’s also plenty of dry, powdery earth and unsweetened cocoa. The full-bodied flavors are mostly consistent from start to finish, although a little red pepper spice starts to reveal itself towards the end.

Viaje can be hit or miss for me, but this is definitely a hit in my book. It’s very rich, with thick smoke that coats the palate with a dry, distinctive flavor. Viaje owner Andre Farkas has said, depending on the response, Cache may be a more regular offering. I certainly hope it is. Excellent construction, rich flavors, and a unique profile make the Viaje Cache a standout that earns a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: L’Atelier Imports LAT46 Selection Spéciale

15 Oct 2014

L’Atelier Imports, which debuted just a couple years ago, is an outfit formed by Pete Johnson (of Tatuaje fame) to make “consumer price conscious cigars.” The L’Atelier portfolio includes Surrogates, El Suelo, Trocadéro, L’Atelier Maduro, and the original L’Atelier core line.

Selection SpecialeThe latter is crafted at My Father Cigars in Nicaragua using Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The wrappers are Sancti Spíritus, which is a cross between Criollo and Pelo d’Oro that’s grown in Ecuador.

L’Atelier originally had three formats: LAT52 (4.75 x 52), LAT54 (5.6 x 54), and LAT56 (6.5 x 56). Since its introduction in 2012, Johnson has added four vitolas. One is called LAT46 Selection Spéciale—a corona gorda measuring 5.6 inches long with a ring gauge of 46.

Interestingly, when it was rolled out in early 2013, LAT46 was slightly different than its predecessors, as the Sancti Spíritus wrapper comes from a higher priming for this size. That means the wrapper is darker, and the overall profile is supposed to pack more of a punch. So LAT46 was given the “Selection Spéciale” designation to differentiate it from the other vitolas. Since, two other Selection Spéciale sizes were added: the LAT Torpedo and the LAT38 Special lancero.

I smoked five LAT46s for this review. The corona gorda looks dark enough to be a maduro. Its exterior is clean and oily with a reddish tint and few noticeable veins. The triple cap—adorned with a pigtail—clips easily to yield a smooth cold draw. The foot exhibits rich pre-light notes of raisin, black cherry, and dark chocolate.

Once lit, the initial profile is of coffee, cedar, pepper spice, and black licorice. The texture ranges from chalky to leathery, and the aftertaste has a lingering salty bite. Strength and body are both medium to full. The fragrant resting smoke is creamy.

At the midway point it becomes clear this is a complex, balanced cigar with lots to offer (especially to attentive smokers). In addition to the aforementioned flavors—which, I think, constitute the core taste from beginning to nub—notes of sweet cocoa, peanut, and caramel come and go. Throughout, construction is perfect, including a solid ash, great smoke production, and a burn line that requires no touch-ups.

In the reasonable $8-9 range, it’s hard not to love the LAT46 Selection Spéciale. This one has “box purchase” written all over it. One of the best cigars I’ve had the pleasure to review in 2014, it earns an outstanding rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: Cohiba Nicaragua N50

14 Oct 2014

Two things stand out immediately about the new Cohiba Nicaragua from General Cigar. The first is, despite the name, this is not a Nicaraguan puro. The second is it’s expensive.cohiba-nic-sq

cohiba-nicThe line extension should be showing up now on retailer shelves. I smoked samples provided by the manufacturer, a 5-pack of the “N50″ robusto size (5 x 50) that is sold in tubes with an MSRP of $12.99. Online prices appear to be roughly 20 percent cheaper for the box of 8.

The name is intended to signify that this is General’s first Cohiba blended and rolled in Nicaragua, the country that continues its red-hot status in the cigar world. While the filler and binder are from Nicaragua, the wrapper is a Colorado Oscuro from Honduras. That may account for another prominent feature: The Cohiba Nicaragua doesn’t really exhibit any pepper, an often defining taste of stronger Nicaraguan cigars. It’s a darker, deeper smoke with the earthy tone common with Honduran tobacco. Other flavors like coffee bean, dry cocoa, and an occasional sweetness are also present, though not always well-balanced.

The cigars are beautiful, with wrappers that are clean and smooth. Unfortunately, I experienced construction problems in two of the three I sampled, though they were major in only one. The second one I smoked needed several relights, probably exacerbated by my conscious effort to smoke slowly.

The third Cohiba Nicaragua was plagued by tunnels severe enough to cause significant difficulties with the burn and smoke production. In all honestly, though, I’m more inclined to attribute these problems to the pre-release timing of the smokes than flaws in General’s quality control.

I would put the strength in the medium category, not near the level of powerhouses from, say, My Father Cigars or Joya de Nicaragua.

I have a feeling this cigar will improve with age, marrying more of that earthy Honduran wrapper with the Nicaraguan filler. I’ll hang on to the remaining pair and smoke one about six months from now, and the other in a year or so. I’ll let you know what I find via Quick Smokes.

If you try this cigar and agree with my aging assessment, here’s a tip: Consider letting your B&M age them for you. Keep an eye on them when they arrive. They may not sell out quickly, and may linger on the shelves long enough for you to pick up aged smokes.

I think the Cohiba Nicaragua will appeal to a limited number of smokers, partly because of the price and partly because of the flavor profile. I’d recommend picking one up if it sounds like it’s up your alley. I give the Cohiba Nicaragua N50 three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Roberto P. Duran Premium Line Río Toa

13 Oct 2014

On the heels of last week’s news that Jack Toraño—formerly the director of marketing for the Toraño Family Cigar Company—has agreed to oversee sales in Florida and the Caribbean for Roberto P. Duran Premium Cigars, I figured it was high time we expanded our coverage of this Miami-based operation.

RPD Premium LineTo date, Roberto Pelayo Duran is best known for reviving Azan. Azan is an old Cuban cigar brand that was started by a Chinese immigrant who produced handmade cigars in the Manicaragua area of Cuba prior to Castro taking control. He eventually won a lottery and invested the money in his tobacco operation, only to have the Cuban government nationalize his business.

Today, Roberto P. Duran offers three variations on Azan: White, Burgundy, and Maduro Natural. The company also recently launched the Roberto P. Duran Premium Line, its most expensive brand to date. The four vitolas— Río Toa (5 x 52), La Punta (6 x 54), Tainos (6 x 56), and Cacique Guama (6 x 60)—retail in the super-premium $10-16 range.

The Premium Line sports a Habana Criollo wrapper from Duran’s farm in Ecuador around a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from “Nicaragua and other Latin American” countries. It is made at the Nicatabaco SA factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

The Río Toa is a handsome robusto with a well-executed cap and an oily exterior that has only the thinnest veins. Firm to the touch yet smooth on the cold draw, the pre-light aroma features strong notes of sweet hay and peanut.

Once an even light is set, a bold profile emerges of black pepper and espresso. Adding balance are background flavors of milk chocolate, cream, and nut. The texture is leathery and the aftertaste lingers like a high-proof bourbon.

Into the midway point, the spicy pepper recedes a bit and the central taste becomes warm tobacco. Here, I’m reminded of the smell of tobacco pilones—the stacks of tobacco leaves at cigar factories that employ pressure and heat to initialize fermentation. As the body transitions from full to medium, the creaminess and nuttiness become more apparent in the final third.

Save for a burn line that tends to meander a bit, construction is solid on this slow-burning robusto, including a solid gray ash, ample smoke production, and clear draw.

Overall, the Roberto P. Duran Premium Line Río Toa is impressive. And it should be for the price. Across the handful of samples I smoked for this review, all consistently showed interesting flavors, complexity, and balance with surprising intensity. I rate this vitola an admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: JFR XT 654

8 Oct 2014

JFRIntroduced at this summer’s industry trade show, the JFR XT was designed as an addition capable of providing “added strength and body” to Casa Fernandez’s regular JFR line.

That the blenders succeeded is evident from the nice peppery start. The XT is, by no means, a powerhouse, but rather a medium- to full-bodied Nicaraguan puro that’s a pleasure to smoke.

The Corojo wrapper is smooth and has a warm, roasted nut pre-light aroma. The XT isn’t particularly complex, though flavor shifts a bit as the pepper dies down after the first half inch or so. Then there’s a pleasant rich tobacco taste and enough punch to keep it interesting.

I had three samples provided by Casa Fernandez and found them remarkably consistent. Construction is absolutely top-notch, with a straight burn, good draw, and tons of smoke.

The XT is a lightly box-pressed smoke with an untrimmed wrapper that’s folded over the foot, which is covered by an identifying foot band. The head sports a little pigtail. They are rolled at the Casa Fernandez factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

The MSRP is a reasonable $6.92. Two other large ring gauge sizes are available: 6 x 60 ($7.30) and 7 x 70 ($8.80). Maduros with a Mexican wrapper are sized the same and cost a few cents more. All are packed in boxes of 24.

The XT is slated to hit retailer shelves this month, according to the company. I’d recommend this as a good choice for someone who’s been smoking milder cigars and wants to try a stronger smoke. Those who have a regular rotation that includes more powerful cigars should also give it a try to see whether it might find a slot.

I rate the JFR XT 654 a solid three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys