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Cigar Review: Viaje Oro Reserva VOR Aficionado

16 Sep 2014

Many people first heard of the Viaje Oro Reserva, better known as the VOR, when the No. 5 size was named the number two cigar on Cigar Aficionado‘s top 25 list of 2010 (behind only the Cuban Cohiba Behike). That’s understandable given the extremely small production numbers of that first VOR; most probably never saw the cigar in any cigar shop near them.Viaje-VOR-Aficionado-sq

Viaje-VOR-AficionadoWith a name clearly evocative of that acclaim, Viaje recently rolled out this new Churchill (7 x 50) size of the VOR blend dubbed Aficionado. (The added marketing benefit is when you Google the cigar’s name, the top hit is that CA rating.)

The Viaje Oro Reserva line features the same basic ingredients as the regular Viaje Oro line: a Niacaraguan Corojo ’99 wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. The difference is the Reserva edition fine tunes the blend with more aged ligero filler, and it is made by the most experienced rollers at the Raice Cubanas factory in Honduras in box-pressed sizes.

The triple-banded VOR Aficionado sells for around $11 each, or $280 for a box of 25. The reddish brown Corojo wrapper is nearly vein-free and the VOR features inviting pre-draw flavors with sweet spice, like a graham cracker pie crust.

Once lit, the spice-forward theme continues. There’s a molasses sweetness to the cigar along with baking spices, leather, and a powdery mouthfeel. Also evident are subtle fruit undertones and a long cocoa finish.

It starts out just a bit under full-bodied, but gradually eases back to a medium-bodied cigar, although the spice never really fades. The VOR features immaculate construction, from the razor-straight burn to sturdy ash to easy draw.

Thinking back on the Viaje cigars I’ve smoked, I often find them to be very good. But few are true standouts, especially given the price and trouble to track them down (since they aren’t carried by many shops). The VOR Aficionado, however, is a special spice-forward, interesting cigar worth finding. It’s enough to earn the Viaje Oro Reserva Aficionado 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: E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut Gran Via

15 Sep 2014

When the man who made La Gloria Cubana a household name started his new family-run company in 2009, few in the cigar industry doubted he would be successful in his new venture. To date, by seemingly every measure, this “mad genius” of tobacco he has been.epc-nw

Gran ViaOne undertaking that has helped solidify Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s post-General Cigar success has been the New Wave Connecticut blend. In 2011, it joined the E.P. Carrillo portfolio, which now also includes Cardinal, Inch, E-Stunner, La Historia, and the Core line.

Made at Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. in the Dominican Republic, New Wave Connecticut is E.P. Carrillo’s first Connecticut. It sports an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. It is available in six sizes: Brillantes (5 x 50), Stellas (5.1 x 42), Divinos (6 x 52), El Decano (6 x 60), Selectos de Oro (6.1 x 43), and Gran Via (7 x 49).

I picked up a five-pack of Gran Vias for $35. This long, somewhat slender vitola has a thin, golden, almost pale wrapper with minimal veins and a wrinkled surface. The foot emits pre-light notes of green raisin, dried apricot, and sweet hay. A simple guillotine cut reveals an easy cold draw. In the hand, the cigar feels a little light, and there are some soft spots.

Those who expect all Connecticut-wrapped cigars to be mild will be surprised by the New Wave Connecticut, even from the start. The body at the outset is decidedly medium with flavors that include black pepper, cedar, and honey. As one might anticipate, there are also tastes of cream, nut, and sweet hay. The texture is toasty and buttery.

The strength builds at the midway point and beyond as notes of pepper and warm tobacco take hold. The finale tastes more Nicaraguan than Connecticut. All the while the combustion properties are solid, including a straight burn line, true draw, and good smoke production. Only the ash leaves something to be desired; it is flaky and temperamental.

I would agree with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo that the Divinos is probably the better vitola. The Stellas is no slouch either. But the Gran Via is excellent, and a tremendous value at only $7. I award it four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: Padrón Family Reserve No. 50 Maduro

11 Sep 2014

The cigar industry loves to celebrate anniversaries. This year there are at least three notable benchmarks, each with a celebratory cigar (or four).Padron-FR-No-50-Mad-sq

Padron-FR-No-50-MaduroE.P. Carrillo is celebrating its fifth year. La Flor Dominicana is celebrating twenty years since Litto Gomez started his cigar venture in 1994. But the most anticipated anniversary in 2014 is that of Padrón’s 50th year. In an industry that puts out limited release cigars for virtually any reason, that’s something worth celebrating. And celebrate Padrón did with two cigars and four blends.

In December, the uber-extravagent “The Hammer” will hit stores. That special cigar comes in humidors of 50 individually numbered cigars (either Maduro or Natural) and will sell for over $4,500. (Yes, that’s nearly $100 a cigar.) Buying one of the only 1,000 handsome humidors entitles the owner of it to purchase refills.

The less-expensive (though hardly inexpensive, with a MSRP of $25 each) is the Family Reserve No. 50, an extension of the Family Reserve line that started five years ago with the No. 45. Boxes of ten are available with either Maduro or Natural wrappers.

Today I turn to the maduro version of the No. 50, which is a box-pressed parejo measuring 5 inches long with a ring gauge of 54. This is a Nicaraguan puro, like all Padrón cigars, and the wrapper is a gorgeous, oily, deep-brown color. (There are rumors Padrón uses maduro wrappers grown in Mexico, but I’ve never seen proof.)

The pre-light draw features cedar and chocolate. Once lit, it’s a rich combination of earth and dry chocolate with notes of oak and molasses, and the tiniest bit of pepper spice. Not a ton of variation as the cigar progresses. The powdery, thick smoke creates a finish that lingers.

It’s a model of restrained strength with full flavors. And construction is flawless. The cigar is firm to the touch, the draw has the ideal amount of resistance, and the ash holds for as long as I dared to test it.

So what’s not to like? Really just the price. A $25 cigar should be excellent, and this hits the mark. Is it much better than the 1926 series? Probably not, but it’s at least a slight step up. Really, the cost is the only thing that would give me pause about buying more.

Still, it’s pure Padrón and an all-around standout cigar. It’s easy to give the Padrón Family Reserve No. 50 Maduro the outstanding 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: Litto Gomez Diez Small Batch No. 5

8 Sep 2014

LGSBIf there’s a certainty about periodically released limited edition cigars, it’s that after the first there will be someone who contends that whatever one you’re smoking, it isn’t as good as one that came before.

Since few of us have smoked them all, that’s a difficult judgment to refute. Is this fifth Small Batch up to the standard of the previous four? I can’t say.

But judged on its own, this is an excellent smoke, created by Litto Gomez as part of his ongoing project to use dark, rough Pelo de Oro wrapper tobacco grown on his Dominican farm. The fifth in the series fits firmly in the La Flor Dominicana tradition of bold smokes that explode the stereotype of Dominican puros.

I got one big surprise in the 6.75-inch, 52 ring gauge stick: sweetness. You find it in the pre-light aroma and woven through the other flavors from beginning to the end. It creates a pleasant contrast.

Other flavors include cocoa, cedar, and coffee, though they’re all artfully blended so none is dominant. I found the burn to be fine on the sticks I’ve smoked, though the white ash is a bit flaky and I wouldn’t mind a bit more smoke production.

While the predominantly red band is typical in appearance to other Litto Gomez cigars, there’s at least one distinguishing feature. In tiny letters on one side is the designation “Puro SB-V,” as was done on the No. 4 earlier.

Released late last year and limited to about 25,000 cigars packed in boxes of 105 and retailing individually for about $20, the No. 5 is no longer easy to find. But it’s well worth seeking out if you’re a fan of strong smokes.

I also think there’s good potential for aging. So even though I only bought a five-pack, I plan to hold on to a couple and check them out in a year or two. For the present, though, I rate this cigar four stogies.

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

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Crowned Heads J.D. Howard Reserve HR52

3 Sep 2014

It was back in early 2010 when we first reported on the major deal that united Stockholm-based Swedish Match, parent company of General Cigar (Macanudo, Punch, La Gloria Cubana, Hoyo de Monterrey, Partagas, Cohiba), and the Denmark-based Scandinavian Tobacco Group (CAO, Toraño, Henri Wintermans). In the ensuing months, many CAO executives left, and the company moved from its home of Nashville to Richmond.

JDHRIn 2011, details began to emerge about Crowned Heads, a new cigar company formed by Jon Huber and other former CAO employees. The same cigar fans who bemoaned the loss of CAO (as they once knew it) were able to cheer for a new boutique startup. “Crowned Heads is influenced by a time when quality, pride, and integrity mattered,” reads the Nashville company’s website. “We strive to bring our vision to reality and invite you to live in our world.”

The Crowned Heads world revolves around a handful of distinct blends, with Four Kicks, Headley Grange, and J.D. Howard Reserve comprising the core. The latter was introduced at the 2013 industry convention in five vitolas: HR46 (6 x 46), HR48 (5 x 48), HR50 (5.6 x 50, figurado) HR52 (6 x 52), and HR54 (5 x 54).

Named for the alias outlaw Jesse James used when he lived in Nashville, J.D. Howard Reserve employs a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper, Ecuadorian Sumatra binder, and Nicaraguan filler. It is intended to be medium- to full-bodied and made by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo at his Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

I purchased a five-pack of J.D. Howard Reserve HR52s for $48.50 ($9.70 per cigar). This toro-shaped vitola comes complete with an old-school band; a thick, moderately oily wrapper with a few prominent veins; and a well-crafted cap. A simple V-cut is all that’s needed to open up a smooth cold draw. The wrapper leaves a slight red pepper spice on the lips.

Once an even light is established, a savory taste of wood, meat, black pepper, and leather emerges. At times, a subtle sourness is present. And while I don’t typically think of sour flavors as particularly pleasing in cigars, in this case they’re subdued enough to not be a distraction. Throughout, the resting smoke boasts a pleasant nutty creaminess.

A sensation I can only describe as “mesquite” best exemplifies my overall impression of the rustic flavor. Not much changes from beginning to end, at least in my experience, save for an intensification of heat and spice in the final third. All the while the construction is outstanding, including a straight burn line and an ash that holds incredibly well.

To be frank, I am neither enamored nor disappointed with the J.D. Howard Reserve HR52. Though I will say the price point is a little high for my liking; I’d prefer to pay about $6-7 for a smoke of this caliber rather than the asking price, which is approaching the $10 mark. For me, it clocks in at three stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje WCD 127

2 Sep 2014

Tatuaje has long had a close relationship with the Washington-based W. Curtis Draper cigar shop, which now includes two locations and the affiliated Civil Cigar Lounge. The shop was an early supporter of Tatuaje and its owner Pete Johnson, and the relationship has resulted in many collaborations. (At times the loyalty has even prevented other DC-area shops from getting certain Tatuaje products.)tat-wcd-127-sq

tat-wcd-127One result of the special bond between Draper and Tatuaje was the “Cabaiguan WCD 120,” a limited edition petit corona Cabaiguan blend released in 2007 to celebrate the shop’s 120th anniversary. Five years later, the “120 Redux” would bring that blend back to celebrate year 125.

Another collaboration was a special size of the Tatuaje Brown Label (also known as the “Selección de Cazador”) made for Civil Cigar Lounge. That cigar was a essentially just a slightly thicker version of the 7.6-inch Taino size: 52 ring gauge versus the 49 for the regular release Taino.

Which gets us to the WCD 127. Made to celebrate Draper’s 127th year, it uses the same large size as the Civil Cigar Lounge Tatuaje cigar. The differences are the blend (although the basics are still an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler) and the packaging, which uses the red, white, and green band that pops up for one-off Tatuaje projects.

Tatuaje Selección de Cazador wrappers can vary in color, so it’s hard to say the 127′s wrapper is darker or lighter, but certainly the medium brown wrapper has, when you look closely, more dark splotches that I normally see in Tatuaje Brown Label cigars. The large cigar is well-constructed, and once lit it produced loads of thick smoke.

The Tatuaje WCD 127′s flavors are a farily traditional combination of earth and coffee, but there’s also some roasted peanut, nutmeg, burnt wood, leather, and plenty of pepper spice. It’s a medium- to full-bodied smoke that ebbs and flows throughout the two-hour smoking time, with hints of bitterness popping up on few occasions.

Maybe my standards are too high when it comes to Tatuaje limited release cigars (as some have been my all-time favorites) but while this is a very good cigar, it didn’t knock it out of the park for me. I actually prefer the regular Tatuaje Brown Label Taino. Still, it’s a very nice way to spend two hours and $12. (Boxes of 12 sold for $140.)

All of which earns the Tatuaje WCD 127 a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys



Cigar Review: George Rico Miami S.T.K. American Puro Corona Gorda

28 Aug 2014

You could argue George Rico’s Miami S.T.K. American Puro is the most unique cigar around. Made in Miami, the blend has only tobacco grown in the United States, including fire-cured tobacco from Kentucky.GeorgeRico-STK-AP-sq

GeorgeRico-STK-APThe Miami S.T.K. American Puro was one of three cigars with fire-cured tobacco introduced at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show. The others, Leccia Black and Drew Estate MUWAT KFC, were announced first with the American Puro following a few weeks later. (Drew Estate’s announcement of its KFC cigar was pushed forward on the heels of Leccia Black because the company wanted to make clear it had the cigar in production long before Leccia’s announcement.)

But unlike Leccia Black and KFC, the American Puro has the added twist of being made with U.S.-grown wrapper, binder, and filler. The wrapper and binder are Connecticut Habano (an unusual wrapper) and the filler combines the fire-cured Kentucky leaf with Connecticut broadleaf.

The band may seem familiar to fans of Cuban cigars, as it’s very similar to the Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey (an interesting choice given the American-ness of the blend). I smoked the Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46) size for this review. Construction was good from start to finish.

Pre-light, the fire-cured tobacco dominates with a combination of a peaty scotch (think Laphroaig) and BBQ pit. It’s interesting to say the least and seriously pungent.

Once lit, the cigar seems less influenced by the fire-cured tobacco than you might expect. Yes, there’s a slight smokey, hickory edge there, but there’s also a molasses sweetness along with coffee, chocolate, and earth. It’s medium-bodied with minimal variation from start to finish.

I’ll say I was surprised by how traditional the Miami S.T.K. American Puro smokes. That’s not to say it’s bad or boring, just not as dominated by the fire-cured tobacco as I expected, which is a very polarizing flavor. Still, it’s a solid cigar for $9 with excellent construction and a pleasing profile. That earns the American Puro Corona Gorda an admirable rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys