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Cigar Review: San Lotano The Bull Robusto

15 Apr 2014

San Lotano cigars have been a hit for A.J. Fernandez, and this extension seems certain to keep the line high on the charts. The Bull lives up to its billing as a more powerful smoke, while maintaining an inviting, smooth balance. The Bull was originally distributed by the parent company of Cigars International, but has since joined the rest of the San Lotano lines offered through A.J. Fernandez Cigar’s regular distribution channels.Lotano Bull copy

Lotano BullThe filler is from Fernandez’s fields in Nicaragua, as is the binder. They’re rolled in a fine-looking dark brown Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper that is encased in a cedar sleeve stamped with the silhouette of a bull’s head.

The Robusto, one of the three introductory vitolas, sports a hefty 54 ring gauge with the typical length of 5 inches. Befitting the premium price tag of $9.60, it’s also decked out with a black cloth foot band and is lightly box-pressed.

I haven’t come across these locally yet; the two I smoked for this review arrived in my mailbox as part of a Fernandez sampler.

I’m a fan of cedar spills and it seemed appropriate to use The Bull sleeves to light the cigars. It was a good way to start. The natural cedar mixed with an explosion of flavors that included spice in the back of the throat, some floral notes, and a pleasant metallic tone.

About halfway through, The Bull took on a darker taste. There was less spice, and the floral notes were gone, replaced by a rich tobacco fullness. But spice reappeared in the final third as the cigar continued to evolve.

Construction in the two samples was excellent, as was the burn and dark gray ash. And it’s hard to imagine a cigar producing more smoke.

Near the end, The Bull did get a bit harsh, signaling time to let it go.

For those who enjoy a full-bodied cigar, this is one you shouldn’t miss. I give the San Lotano The Bull Robusto a strong recommendation and four stogies out of five.

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

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Nirvana Toro

2 Apr 2014

When I first saw the Nirvana on the shelves of the tobacconist near me, I was confused. I hadn’t heard anything about these cigars up until I saw them, and as someone who is very active on tobacco blogs (not to mention someone who works somewhat in the industry), that’s pretty rare for me. So, imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a beautiful new Cameroon smoke from Drew Estate with absolutely no warning.

NirvanaThis cigar is truly beautiful, too. The Cameroon wrapper is a really nice shade of reddish-brown, with a light tint, and the gold bands on the cigar make it stand out. I really like Cameroon wrappers. In fact, I think they’re underused, but I understand that some find them too delicate. If you’re one of those smokers, you should still be excited about the Nirvana, which is made by Drew Estate exclusively for Royal Gold Cigars (the premium cigar division of Swisher International, Inc.). Drew Estate has stated that their intention with this blend is to match the sweet earthy complexities of a Cameroon smoke with the strength, boldness, and spice of the Nicaraguan fillers. On top of this, the cigar has some Honduras filler with a Mexican San Andreas binder.

I clipped the cigar and it lit very easily with a single-flame torch. The first thing I noticed was the amount of smoke. Similar to the Undercrown or T52, the smoke off this cigar is like a small signal fire. Well, maybe not that bad, but I was the only one smoking in our twelve-person lounge when I lit up, and I needed to turn on the exhaust system. This smoke is not harsh or heavy, though, it’s very smooth and pleasant. I wouldn’t quite call it creamy, but it’s close.

About an inch into the cigar that typical Cameroon sweetness came in, with notes of earth and coffee in the background. All of these were complimented by a very long, enjoyable, spicy finish. The flavors on this are hard to pin down, because there are so many, but these are the main ones. As the cigar continues the spice dies down and the Cameroon flavors become stronger and more pronounced. Throughout all of it, though, the cigar maintains a perfect balance—as one flavor moves forward, others fade to the background to allow specific points to have their spotlight.

This cigar is easily my favorite smoke I’ve enjoyed in 2014. There is something to love here for everyone. While the cigar is a bit more expensive than average, weighing in about $10, it is absolutely worth it. Seek this smoke out if you can. With that being said, I’m going to have to award it a four and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Joey J

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte Robusto Gordo

1 Apr 2014

General Cigar recently unveiled two new blends that will fall under its Partagas 1845 brand. One, Partagas 1845 Extra Oscuro, is for online and catalog retailers. The other, Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte, is for brick-and-mortar shops.Partagas-1845-Extra-Fuerte-sq

Partagas-1845-Extra-FuerteReleasing two similarly branded cigars (one for cigar shops, the other for online/catalog) seems to be a new strategy General Cigar is embracing, since they did something similar with La Gloria Cubana Serie R Black/Serie R Estelí. The idea, I suspect, is to protect cigar shops from online competition and vice versa, while having the branding, packaging, and profile be similar enough that each benefits from the publicity and marketing of the other.

In the always competitive world of premium cigars, if it provides even a small advantage then it’s good strategy, though I think the risk is that it can be confusing for consumers who shop both in-person and by mail-order. Unless they are side by side, they look very similar: the Extra Fuerte has a black and silver band, while the Extra Oscuro has a dark purple and silver band, with a darker oscuro wrapper.

The Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte features a four-country blend with an oily Ecuadorian Habano ligero warpper and an unusual Habano Connecticut binder. The filler uses Dominican Piloto Cubano and three types of Nicaraguan tobacco identified only as “Gurdian, Estelí, and ASP”.

It comes in four sizes: Robusto Gordo (5.5 x 52), Gigante (6 x 60), Double Corona (7.5 x 54), and Supremo (7 x 58). Each comes in 20-count boxes with suggested retail prices ranging from $7.49 to $8.49 per cigar. I smoked three of the Robusto Gordo size for this review, all of which were provided as samples by the manufacturer.

The cigar lives up to its “extra fuerte” name with a full-bodied combination of deep flavors. It’s dominated by woody notes, namely dried oak and char, but there are also black coffee and clove spices. While it’s a little sharp and slightly unbalanced at first, but rounds out nicely during the second half.

General Cigar has been using more and more Nicaraguan tobacco in their new blends, and I think the results have been very good. Like the La Gloria Serie R Estelí, the Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte ramps up the flavor and body, but without betraying the identity of the original. The Extra Fuerte went well with some Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year.

With flawless construction, full-bodied flavors, and a fair price point, there’s a lot to like about the newest blend to carry the historic Partagas name. That earns the Partagas 1845 Extra Fuerte Robusto Gordo a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: A.J. Fernandez Pinolero Maduro Toro

31 Mar 2014

The other day I was browsing through our archive of cigar reviews, and I came across my colleague’s take on the Pinolero Toro from October 2012. It occurred to me I still hadn’t tried any of the Pinolero smokes—an oversight I needed to rectify given my respect for A.J. Fernandez as one of the industry’s best young cigar makers.

Pinolero ToroFernandez, of course, has one of the best cigar résumés you’ll ever see. Born in Cuba, he worked with the late Alejandro Robaina, Cuba’s foremost producer of top wrapper leaves and the namesake of the Vegas Robaina brand. Fernandez quickly gained fame making cigars for other cigar companies including Rocky Patel, Padilla, Graycliff, and Gurkha, as well as making exclusive cigars for catalog giant Cigars International (for whom he makes Diesel, Man O’ War, La Herencia, and other smokes.) Then, at the 2010 industry trade show, he introduced his first solo national brand, San Lotano, which became a hit.

A few years later Fernandez added the highly anticipated Pinolero (Spanish for “local”) line to his portfolio. It includes either a Nicaraguan sun-grown wrapper or a Maduro wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder. The filler tobaccos are part Nicaraguan Habano-seed and part proprietary. “Filled with rich, luxurious long-fillers and wrapped in coveted Fernandez Family leaves, this medium- to full-bodied smoke not only captures the highly complex flavors of exotic regional Nicaraguan tobacco, but also affords a highly aromatic mellowness which has become the brand standard of A.J.’s highly coveted products,” reads the A.J. Fernandez website.

Pinolero comes in six vitolas that range in price from $7 to $10: Corona, Robusto, Toro, Figurado, Churchill, and Gran Toro. I smoked two Maduro Toros (6 x 52) for this review. The Maduro Toro is a dark, extremely toothy cigar with a few large veins and some protruding seams, particularly at the cap. It sports an interesting, colorful band with pre-light notes of chocolate and spice. Despite its firmness and weight, the cold draw has only the slightest resistance.

Once lit, a savory profile emerges that instantly reminds me of mesquite. Tangy, spicy, and a little sweet, the Pinolero Maduro Toro’s balanced flavor includes notes of syrup, brown sugar, and herbs. The smoke is dense and moist, and it confronts the palate head-on, though not in an overly intense way. Cocoa, espresso, and spice become more prominent towards the end.

True to A.J. Fernandez form, the physical properties are superb. Both of my samples displayed solid ashes, straight burn lines, smooth draws, and plenty of smoke production.

Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay the Pinolero Maduro Toro is it doesn’t taste like anything else on the market. That makes it interesting and memorable. I’m disappointed I didn’t lock on to this gem sooner. It’s a great smoke, a good value, and worthy of a commendable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Punch Rare Corojo Rare Salomones

24 Mar 2014

There are two ways to get your hands on this new limited edition smoke. You can either buy one for the suggested retail price of $7.99, or you can enter to win one of 13 boxes General Cigar is giving away between now and May 31.

Rare SalomonesEither way, if you want to try the new Rare Salomones vitola (7.25 x 57), you’ll need to act pretty quickly. While the Rare Corojo line is released every March—and has been since 2001, the year it was reintroduced after a wrapper shortage caused a hiatus—Rare Salomones is a 2014-only size. Once the figurado is gone, it’s gone.

While supplies last, Rare Salomones is joining the portfolio of seven other Rare Corojo vitolas, all of which are made in Honduras: Champion (4.5 x 60), Double Corona (6.75 x 48), El Doble (6 x 60), Magnum (5.25 x 54), Pita (6.1 x 50), Rothschild (4.5 x 50), and Elite (5.25 x 55).

Unlike its predecessors, which have the familiar double bands of bright red and gold, the Rare Salomones has cream-colored bands that impart a subtler, more exclusive look. Beneath are Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Dominican tobaccos, bound with a Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and wrapped in a reddish Sumatra leaf from Ecuador.

Truthfully, the Rare Salomones is one of the more beautiful cigars on the entire General Cigar roster. The difficult-to-roll shape is executed very well, and the wrapper has an oily sheen with minimal veins. Notes of earth and black cherry are apparent off the foot. The sharply pointed cap clips easily to reveal a smooth draw.

Even before the figurado gets to its widest point, the smoke production is solid and the flavor is well-developed. The profile includes dried fruit, hay, cocoa, and a little cedar spice. The texture is leathery, and it isn’t uncommon for the aftertaste to linger on the palate for a noticeably long time between puffs.

Towards the midway point, a black coffee flavor emerges. This can be misconstrued as a bitter component by those who smoke too quickly; but I find slowing the pace of my puffs (as I so often recommend) results in a much better experience.

With outstanding construction—this wouldn’t be a bad choice for a long ash competition, considering the fortitude of the ash and the remarkably straight burn—the Punch Rare Corojo Rare Salomones is a good value at $8. I fired up four for this review. If I get my hands on more, I’ll be saving them for the warmer months to accompany me to the golf course. Overall, this limited, medium-bodied smoke is worth seeking out and worthy of a solid rating 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: Quesada Heisenberg Robusto

18 Mar 2014

This dark, attractive cigar is something of a gimmick, with Quesada concealing nearly all details about the line and promoting it with a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics. I was eager to try the Heisenberg, not because of any of that, but because I’ve enjoyed several earlier Quesada smokes.

HeisenbergBut after going through a five-pack of Robustos—each five inches long with a ring gauge of 48—I’m not uncertain about my reactions. The Heisenberg is not for me. (My colleague had a similar reaction.)

First, let me deal with Quesada’s intention to, as it says, “dispel the stereotypes that limit our ability to enjoy a cigar and remind aficionados that sometimes it’s best to sit back, relax, and just enjoy a smoke without overanalyzing it.”

To that end, they turned to Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, a scientific principle that, like déjà vu, has been greatly altered in popular use. For Quesada, it’s more or less reduced to “embrace uncertainty.”

I think, perhaps, Quesada should name its next cigar after Robert K. Merton, who popularized the concept of unintended consequences. I’m sure many Heisenberg smokers spend a lot of time trying to guess what the tobaccos are, rather than get lost in smoke-filled wonder.

These days, with so many tobacco strains being cultivated all over, I think it’s impossible for most of us to pinpoint the origin or leaf. The only guess I’d hazard is that I’d be surprised if there’s much, if any, typical Nicaraguan in the Heisenberg.

I say that because there’s very little pepper or spice and a fairly prominent grassy taste often found in Dominican tobacco. The other prominent tastes I noted were floral notes and heavy wood.

Overall, the draw was good, as was the burn and smoke production. The ash was flaky. I paid $6.75 each, and they come in boxes of 10.

As I said upfront, the medium-strength Quesada Heisenberg Robusto isn’t my kind of smoke. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a well-made, quality stick and worth a try. I give it three stogies out of five.

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

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Emilio Cigars Series H Maduro Robusto

17 Mar 2014

These days, Emilio Cigars is a brand that seems to be flourishing—thanks in no small part, I believe, to the warm welcome the outfit has received from the online cigar community.

Emilio Series H RobustoIn addition to the growing blends in the Emilio portfolio, brand owner Gary Griffith also controls distribution for several other companies under is House of Emilio umbrella. It’s hard to imagine Emilio Cigars is just a few years old.

The cigar that started it all was the Series H Maduro. It was the first cigar Gary Griffith created after he sold his construction business, started working at a cigar shop, and then bought and expanded the tobacconist franchise to over 20 locations. According to Griffith, he blended the Series H Maduro on his first trip to Central America. Shortly thereafter, he started to visit various cigar factories and speak with different cigar makers, A.J. Fernandez chief among them.

Griffith, who takes a chemistry-oriented approach to blending, chose to pair a Maduro Ligero wrapper from Jamastran with Nicaraguan and Costa Rican tobaccos for the Series H Maduro. It is made for him in Danlí, Honduras. Three sizes are available: Robusto, Toro, and Torpedo.

The Robusto measures 5.5 inches long with a ring gauge of 50 (kudos for making a robusto that’s slightly longer than the traditional 5-inch format without upping the ring gauge). It has pre-light notes of nut, red pepper, and chocolate. While the feel is noticeably firmer than most cigars, the cold draw is smooth. The wrapper is dark, oily, and clean with pronounced shine.

After setting an even light, the Series H Maduro starts with a medium-bodied profile of black coffee, creamy nut, cocoa, and leather. Smoking quicker will impart more of a dry, woody spice on the center of the tongue. This peppery finish couples really well with what I’d characterize as a typical Maduro sweetness. The smoke production is above average, and as it fills the room it leaves a sweet, creamy aroma. The final third of the Robusto tends to straddle the line between medium- and full-bodied.

I smoked several samples for this review—all of which I had been aging for about 18 months—and each displayed very good combustion qualities. Expect no problems with the burn line, ash, or draw. This is a set-it-and-forget-it smoke.

In addition to the Series H Maduro, Griffith also makes a Series H Sumatra. I honestly don’t think there’s much of a comparison. The Maduro is the far better, more balanced, more interesting choice, and the Robusto is worthy of a very fine rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys