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Cigar Review: Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf Maduro Délire

30 Apr 2015

casa-fernandez-aganorsa-maduroFirst, a confession. These cigars were in my humidor far longer than I intended. Two Délires were included in a package I received from Casa Fernandez last fall. They got misplaced in my humidor, and I only came across them the other day.

Relieved to have finally found the cigars and eager to give them a try, I lit one up almost immediately.

Going into it, I had some reservations. First, I’m not a big maduro fan, though I do enjoy some of them occasionally. Second, and significantly more important, I’m more than “not a fan” of the Mexican San Andrés wrapper, though, again, there are exceptions.

So, how’d it do? Well, at the start I was a bit concerned. There was a back-of-the-throat sharpness that wasn’t particularly pleasant. But that disappeared within, literally, a few puffs and it was smooth smoking thereafter, particularly as this proved to be one of the San Andrés exceptions. I found none of the disagreeable dirt taste I frequently associate with this leaf.

What I did find was a lot of flavor in the aged Aganorsa tobacco that serves as filler and binder. The Délire is a complex smoke with tastes of burned coffee, sweet black cherry, wood, and leather. I also found the typical maduro sweetness weaving in and out along the way.

Strength was, for me, certainly enough to make an impression but not at all overpowering. Obviously, I can’t say what, if any, impact months in the humidor had, but my guess is that it wasn’t significant.

Construction for the Miami-rolled, lightly-pressed toro was excellent, with an even, slow burn and a tight ash. The draw was near perfect in each of the two samples.

The 6.5-inch, 50-ring gauge Délire (French for “delirium” or “frenzy”) is one of four vitolas in the line and has a more than reasonable MSRP of $8.90. They come packaged in boxes of 15.

I recommend you try this cigar, whatever your general preference. I think you’ll find it a highly engaging and satisfying smoke. I give it a solid four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: San Lotano The Bull Robusto

29 Apr 2015

Not long after The Bull was released nationwide, my colleague reviewed this cigar and awarded it a four-stogie rating. Flash forward to about a week ago, when I found a stash of Robustos in my humidor, each begging to be smoked from beneath yellowed cellophane.

San Lotano The BullThe Bull was originally distributed by the parent company of Cigars International, but last spring was joined by the rest of the San Lotano lines offered through A.J. Fernandez’s regular distribution channels. It’s marketed as a bolder (and more expensive) alternative to the popular San Lotano blends.

The Bull features an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos that were grown on A.J. Fernandez’s farms. Four box-pressed sizes are available: Toro (6 x 54), Torpedo (6.5 x 54), Gordo (6 x 60), and Robusto (5 x 54).

The latter retails for about $10 and sports a dark, velvety exterior with thin veins beneath a cedar sleeve. Each of my three samples had a few bumps and tears in the wrapper, which is frankly a little annoying given the premium price tag. The pre-light notes remind me of sweet milk chocolate an oak.

On the palate, The Bull Robusto is full-bodied from the get-go with notes of espresso bean, black pepper spice, and a sensation I can only describe as Nicaraguan zing. The texture is thick and leathery. Ligero strength is evident, as is a taste of sweet cream that helps offset the dark, rich flavors in the foreground.

In my colleague’s review from April 2014, he wrote, “The Bull lives up to its billing as a more powerful smoke, while maintaining an inviting, smooth balance.” I wholeheartedly agree. While the Robusto is bold in taste and strength, the cigar is nevertheless approachable. Credit its balance. As The Bull progresses, tastes of cream, peanut, and sweet cedar prevent the profile from becoming too one-sided.

True to the A.J. Fernandez reputation, I have no qualms with this cigar’s combustion qualities. It burns like a champ and smokes like a chimney. Expect a straight burn line, solid ash, clear draw, and above-average smoke production.

Yes, by most standards $10 is a considerable sum for a five-inch stick. But if you crave flavor, strength, and also balance, The Bull Robusto is worth every penny. I concur with my colleague in awarding it four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Nomad Dominican Classic Line Renegade

27 Apr 2015

A few weeks back, I was perusing the selection at a tobacconist while a sales rep for Nomad was talking to the shop owner. I was the only customer in the store at the time, so before long the rep and I got to talking. I mentioned how much I enjoyed the Connecticut Fuerte. Needless to say, I purchased a few Nomad smokes, including a three-pack of a cigar I had not yet previously tried: the Nomad Dominican Classic Line Renegade.

Nomad Dominican RenegadeI missed this blend when it came out in 2012, only starting to get acquainted with Nomad in 2014, after the Dominican Classic had been joined by several other blends. But this is “the line that started it all,” according to the Nomad website, and one that’s intended to be “deep in the roots of Dominican culture.”

The blend includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. There are six vitolas currently in production: Fugitive II Perfecto (6 x 51), Vagabond (4.6 x 54), Rambler (5 x 50), Renegade (5.25 x 54), Navigator Torpedo (6 x 52), and Drifter (6 x 60). I paid $9 apiece for three Renegades, which actually measure 5.5 inches long (I’m not sure if the 5.25 listed on the Nomad website is a typo, if the size changed, or if the cigars I bought are somehow an anomaly).

In any event, the oily wrapper on the Dominican Renegade has an interesting marbled color that’s golden with consistent splotches of dark brown. The veins are thin, the seams tight, and the flattened cap seems to have been executed with care. The pre-light notes off the foot remind me of tea and sweet sawdust.

After setting an even light, I’m greeted with a balanced, medium-bodied profile of sweet cream, bread, woody spice, and earth. The texture is chewy and the finish is short and, at times, slightly bitter. The resting smoke—which is bountiful given the high volume of smoke production—is very sweet and, in my opinion, adds a lot to the overall enjoyment.

While the Dominican Renegade certainly isn’t lacking for flavor, smokers who consistently burn full-bodied Nicaraguan sticks may find this specimen a little too muted. From my perspective, the Renegade has much to offer in terms of subtlety, and it pairs nicely with a mid-afternoon cup of coffee. No, this isn’t the most complex smoke around, and there are very few changes from light to nub. But the flavor and aroma are enjoyable, and the construction is perfect.

In comparing the Nomad cigars I’ve had to date, I’d give a slight edge to the S-307 blend, whereas the Connecticut Fuerte is the standout. But this is a nice Dominican and worthy 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: Añoranzas Toro

22 Apr 2015

The Spanish word “añoranza” loosely translates to nostalgia, or a yearning for days gone. So you’d expect a cigar line called Añoranzas to have classic flavors and a traditional look.

Anoranzas ToroThe Miami Cigar & Co. website calls Añoranzas “a soft, box-pressed beauty” that provides “a look into the cigars of yesteryear with the profile and body that today’s discerning cigar smoker wants and expects from a premium cigar.” Añoranzas is “nostalgic in name, but modern in delivery.” To me, that sounds like Miami Cigar is promoting this line as contemporary in taste but old-school in packaging. Truthfully, though, I couldn’t much care what the marketing department wants me to think about Añoranzas; I’m interested in how the tobacco performs.

That tobacco, by the way, is all Nicaraguan, including dual binders and a dark Habano Oscuro wrapper. The blend, launched in 2012, is said to be a tweaked version of the Nestor Miranda Grand Reserve 2011, and the cigars are crafted in Estelí by My Father Cigars. Four sizes are available in what many consider to be Miami Cigar’s boldest blend: Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 52), Belicoso (6.5 x 54), and Gran Toro (6 x 60).

The list price on the Toro seems to be $7.50, but I believe some retailers are selling it for as little as $5 or less, especially when bought by the 20-pack. Its surface has almost invisible seams and only the thinnest of veins. The cap was applied with care, and the foot shows a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos. The cold draw has only the slightest resistance.

Once lit, pre-light notes of sweet milk chocolate transition to a rich, full-bodied profile of espresso, dry wood, cocoa, and black pepper. A char-like spice is concentrated on the tip of the tongue, and that char lingers throughout the long aftertaste (this trait, by the way, is one reason I consider this blend such a solid complement to an after-dinner glass of sipping rum).

Throughout, hints of red pepper, cashew, chocolate, and earth come and go, making this an exceptionally tasty and complex cigar—and one that rewards those who take their time between puffs and smoke through the nose. From light to nub construction is also admirable, including a smooth draw, good smoke production, and a sturdy white ash. The burn line may require a touch-up or two along the way, but combustion is certainly not problematic.

So far as I can tell, Miami Cigar is essentially selling the Nestor Miranda Grand Reserve 2011—a cigar, mind you, that was a good buy north of $10—at a significant discount and under a different name. That’s a win in my book. This should definitely be on your radar as a box-worthy full-bodied cigar that’s consistent, complex, and downright delicious. The Añoranzas Toro earns four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Flor Dominicana 1994 Conga

21 Apr 2015

I’ve written a few times about how 2014 was a year of significant cigar anniversaries, and thus also plenty of anniversary cigars. E.P. Carrillo celebrated its fifth year, for example, and the Padrón’s celebrated a half century in the business.lfd-1994-conga-sq

lfd-1994-congaLa Flor Dominicana had an anniversary, although not a significant one for the La Flor Dominicana brand. Still, 2014 marked 20 years since Litto Gomez started his cigar venture in 1994 (the La Flor Dominicana line wasn’t founded until two years later).

To celebrate, Gomez and La Flor Dominicana introduced a blend simply called 1994. The line comes in five sizes, including a special Toro (6 x 54) that comes in a very cool-looking beer stein. (I got a look at one in person at a local shop recently.)

The beer stein was delayed until early 2015, but the other sizes (Conga (5 x 52), Aldaba (6 x 58), Rumba (6.5 x 52), and Mambo (7 x 54)) were released in 2014. I smoked four of the robusto-sized Congas (MSRP $7.50) for this review.

In addition to the beer stein packaging, all the sizes feature a sharp-looking band. It’s a nice combination of the classic LFD bands with a more ornate touch worthy of a celebratory, anniversary cigar.

The cigar uses a dark San Andrés wrapper. Binder and filler are all Dominican from La Flor’s Dominican farms.

Once lit the cigar features lots of woody spice, leather, and charred steak. It starts out very full, but quickly dials back. There’s dry cinnamon, a slight sourness, and plenty of grittiness on the palate, but it’s a slightly superficial strength. Construction is excellent from first draw to the final ash.

The one drawback I found was a persistent sour, sometimes bitter edge that settles on the back corners of the tongue. Those flavors are frequently embraced when found in beer, like you might pour in a La Flor 1994 beer stein, but it doesn’t work quite as well in a cigar. Perhaps extended aging will see those flaws fade away.

Despite that, it’s still a solid, well-constructed smoke full of interesting flavors. It’s enough to earn La Flor Dominicana 1994 Conga three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Avo Heritage Short Robusto

20 Apr 2015

With Avo getting an update—new packaging, lower prices, eliminations—current retailer inventory is a prime candidate for the discount table. At my local shop, the remaining on-hand stock is marked 40 percent off.

Avo Short RobustoAs an Avo fan, I couldn’t resist the bargain. I picked up a 20-count box of the Short Robustos size with a price tag coming in under $4 per cigar. I don’t think I’d ever smoked this little vitola—weighing in at only 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 56—but I’ve enjoyed other Heritage sizes over the years.

The Heritage extension was introduced in 2010 to give Avo a competitor in what was then an emerging market for stronger cigars. It features an oily, brown, sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper over a Dominican binder and Dominican and Peruvian filler.

For a while, Heritage was hot, helped by its somewhat lower price tag among Avo offerings. Our review of the Robusto not long after it hit the shelves earned a four and a half-stogie rating.

I don’t know how old this box is, but the cellophane on the individual cigars is yellowed considerably, and I’d guess it has been on the shelf for a year or more.

A noticeable pre-light trait is a fairly loose draw, always a concern with a small smoke for fear of overheating the tobacco. But after lighting, there wasn’t a problem; the draw was fine. Other technical aspects like smoke production, burn, and the ash were excellent.

The Heritage is a complex cigar, even in this small package. Beginning with cedar and a hint of the hay and grass common to many Davidoff productions, there’s quickly quite a bit of spice. Along the way, I also picked up cocoa, coffee, and leather, all engaging and harmonious.

The Heritage Short Robusto could be enjoyed any time of the day. It pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee for a morning smoke, even if it’s a bit stronger than many might normally consider at that time of day. If you’re looking for a break in the afternoon, it is an ideal size. Similarly, it’s a cigar to appreciate as a nightcap.

With its good flavors, versatility, and strong performance, I highly recommend the Heritage Short Robusto and concur with the earlier rating given to its sister stick: four and half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Fleur de la Reine Maduro Cinq

15 Apr 2015

So far this year I’ve reviewed three smokes from United Cigar: Atabey Ritos, an expensive cigar that’s complex and nuanced; Garofalo Robusto, a mild-mannered stick that’s affordable, flavorful, and satisfying; and Byron Serie Siglo XX Londinenses, a $30 specimen that’s memorable (it should be at that price) and harmonious.

Fleur de la ReineToday my sights are set on Fleur de la Reine, a line that’s intended to be “rich and bold in flavor and strength.” The recipe includes a Dominican binder and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua. Two wrapper varieties are available: Natural (Ecuadorian Sumatra) and Maduro (Connecticut Broadleaf). Both iterations are crafted in four sizes: Quatre (4.875 x 52), Cinq (5.5 x 54), Six (5.875 x 60), and Sept (7 x 58).

The Fleur de la Reine Maduro Cinq retails for about $6.50. At first glance, the band colors and design make it hard to not think of La Gloria Cubana (I can’t say for sure if this was done intentionally). Beneath the band, it’s a rough-looking cigar with abundant imperfections on the wrapper, plenty of lumps, and some garish seams. The feel is incredibly firm, and the foot shows a pretty tight cross-section of tobaccos. The pre-light notes are reminiscent of dark chocolate and coffee.

The initial flavor is sweet with loads of cocoa, caramel, and cream, all offset by a gentle black pepper spice and some earthiness. I can also taste black cherry and roasted cashew. Leather comes and goes, and is most prevalent on the finish.

Surprisingly, after about an inch, the flavor really mellows out, leaving behind a soft, sweet profile that reminds me of marshmallow. The cigar is still enjoyable, though not as much as the kickoff. Then, at the midway point, the flavor fortunately ramps up again, and the finish is characterized by a slight increase in spice, though the overall effect is still sweet.

Construction is good throughout. The burn line requires a few touch-ups here and there, but is otherwise well-behaved. The draw is clear, the ash solid, and the smoke production average.

Fleur de la Reine Maduro Cinq is a good choice if you’re looking for an experience that’s high on sweetness and low on strength, and the asking price is fair. In my book it earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys