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Cigar Review: Crux Limitada PB5

13 Jun 2016

The first limited release from Crux, this lightly box-pressed beauty comes in one size and showcases a well-aged wrapper leaf.

PB5That tobacco, called Engañoso, came from the Plascencia factory where it had been aging for seven years, according to Crux. The company bought it all, and it was another two-and-a-half years before the PB5 blend was finalized.

Crux isn’t disclosing much information about the tobaccos in the cigar. Here’s what I got from them: “The blend includes tobacco (though not exclusively) from Nicaragua and Honduras.”

The name reflects some of the journey to create it. The “PB” is a recognition of the individuals involved in creating the cigar, Crux said, and the “5” refers to the number of test blends sampled before the end result was achieved.

The cigars recently began to arrive on retailers’ shelves. Crux produced 500 boxes of 10 with a retail price of about $12 per stick. They believe they have enough wrapper left to keep production going for up to five years.

That’s good news. Because if you miss the opportunity to try one this time around, you’ll get another chance.

Since its initial offering a couple of years ago, Minnesota-based Crux has brought out one good cigar after another. The web site now lists 10 lines, from one that features diminutive dimensions (4 x 32) to another sporting considerable length and girth (6 x 60).

The Limitada PB5 is 5.75 inches long with a ring gauge of 54. The samples I smoked, supplied by Crux, had excellent burns, good smoke production, and a near-perfect draw.

The wrapper presents a mouth-watering nutty pre-light aroma.

From the beginning, it is a balanced and complex smoke, kicking off with some cedar and pepper to grab your attention. Other flavors along the way include nuts, wood, and leather, with the intensity of the pepper rising and falling throughout. There are points, too, when a bit of sweetness moves forward as a counterpoint.

Strength falls somewhere in the medium- to full-bodied range. It’s by no means a power bomb, but it is certainly strong enough to satisfy most smokers.

I would say the Limitada PB5 was among the most enjoyable new cigars I’ve tried so far in 2016. I heartily recommend giving the Limitada PB5 a try, whether you’re a new smoker or an old-timer. For me, it rates four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje K222

8 Jun 2016


The brand new Tatuaje K222 could make for an interesting test case for the reasonableness of the “substantially equivalent” pathway for approval under the new FDA rules regulating cigars. The blend is a combination of the Tatuaje Cojonu 2003 and the Reserva J21, both of which were sold prior to the February 2007 grandfather date. Under any normal interpretation of “substantially equivalent,” it should meet that test.

Tatuaje-K222Whether the FDA would be so reasonable is another matter. Plus, the small-scale production of the K222 (around 100 boxes a month made in Miami) means if the FDA process proves too costly, there might not be an application submitted to sell the cigar past 2018. Like many cigars produced in small numbers, if the cost of an approval runs into six figures, the math simply won’t work to keep a cigar on the market that only sells tens of thousands per year.

The K222 was released two months ago as a tribute to Pete Johnson’s late dog, Kona, who passed away at 2:22 PM on April 26, 2015. Like the J21 and Cojonu 2003, it features a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The toro-esque size (5.9 x 52) comes in boxes of 25 with a retail price of $14.

The wrapper is dark enough to pass for Connecticut Broadleaf, and the cigar is slightly spongy to the touch, although the three samples I smoked exhibited good construction. (If you’re curious about Tatuaje’s use of the “Reserva” secondary band, note that all Reserva cigars made in Miami use an Ecuador Habano wrapper, while Nicaraguan-made Tatuajes designated Reserva have a Broadleaf wrapper. I’m told soon the Broadleaf-wrapped Tatuaje Brown Label cigars will denote Broadleaf on the secondary band to help with the confusion.)

Before firing up the K222, there is little in the pre-light draw (slight grass and a little spice on the lips) that warns of the full-bodied experience to come. Once lit, you’ll find loads of powdery smoke with lots of oak, unsweetened chocolate, earth, and pepper spice.

There is a slight bitterness that reminds me of banana peel. But just as it gets to the edge of the bitterness line, a slight sweetness reveals itself as it settles into a full-bodied cigar with sneaky strength.

Given that Cojonu essentially means ballsy, it isn’t surprising that the K222 (based in part on the Cojonu 2003 cigar) is a full-bodied smoke. Perhaps if you were expecting a more refined smoke you would find the K222 trades balance for full flavors. But if complex, full flavors are what you seek, Kona’s cigar delivers in droves. With excellent construction, deep, enjoyable flavors, and a subtle yet sneaky punch, the K222 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: Tatuaje Havana VI Almirante

6 Jun 2016


While the so-called Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—the bill giving the FDA the power to regulate cigars—didn’t pass until June 2009, the legislation controversially set February 15, 2007 as the cutoff date for tobacco products to be grandfathered as exempt from needing FDA approval before being sold or marketed in the United States. There were hopes the FDA would modify that date, but they did not. As a result, products introduced past that date will be subjected to the FDA approval process.

Tat2We don’t yet know what that approval process will look like—or how long it will take, or how expensive it will be—though I wouldn’t hold out much hope for anything reasonable. The FDA has made clear they have no intention to be sensible when it comes to handmade premium cigars. Therefore, we may soon need to come to terms with a (severely) narrowed selection of cigars, cigars that have been on the market for over nine years.

With a release date of October 2006, the Tatuaje Havana VI just barely makes the cut.

If, like me, you hadn’t smoked (or thought about) this line for years, let me provide a little background. The Nicaraguan puro sports a Corojo ’99 wrapper and is intended to be a wallet-friendly, more medium-bodied alternative to other Tatuaje smokes. It originally came in six sizes—Hermosos (5.6 x 46), Angeles (4.6 x 42), Victorias (6 x 38), Artistas (6.1 x 52), Nobles (5 x 50), and Almirante (7 x 47)—with the first letter of each spelling “Havana,” the name of one of Tatuaje founder Pete Johnson’s dogs.

The Churchill-sized Almirante can be found for around $7-8. It’s a beautiful, slightly reddish, somewhat dark specimen with plenty of oils. The perfect triple-cap clips cleanly to reveal an easy cold draw. Pre-light aromas at the foot remind me of sweet hay and cocoa powder.

The first third of the cigar is characterized by flavors of spicy cedar, a little white pepper, dry oak, and a satisfying sweet creaminess. Caramel, red pepper, and roasted nut join the fray after an inch. Then, at the midway point, the Almirante begins to shine. Cocoa, cream, and peanut take center stage, rendering the smoke less spicy yet full of interesting flavor. The final third brings about the reappearance of dry wood and cedar spice with some black pepper.

With excellent construction throughout—including a solid white ash, a straight burn line, good smoke production, and a smooth draw—it’s clear this cigar brings considerable quality and enjoyment to the table, all at a reasonable price. FDA awfulness aside, the Havana VI line is worth another look if you haven’t smoked this blend in a while. The Almirante is worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive

30 May 2016

Herrera 1

In early March, it was announced Drew Estate would be expanding its popular Herrera Estelí line by launching the Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive, which began shipping to Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA) members in April. (TAA works to “maximize professionalism and success” among its 80 associated retailers through training and the sharing of best practices; you can find a TAA shop near you here.)

Herrera 2The Drew Estate Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive is presented in a single vitola, a toro (6 x 52) that retails for $144 per 12-count box, or $12 per cigar. Whereas the original Herrera Estelí features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around a Honduran binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, the TAA Exclusive—also blended by Willy Herrera—sports a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and Nicaraguan fillers.

“This is my first blend since joining Drew Estate that utilizes Connecticut Broadleaf tobacco,” said Herrera in a press release. “Drew Estate fans know that we’re famous for our use of Connecticut Broadleaf tobaccos, especially in our Liga Privada No. 9 and Nica Rustica lines. I’ve been experimenting with blends that incorporate this incredible wrapper since coming on board and finally have a blend I’m really excited about.”

The Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive is handsomely appointed with dual bands of red and gold that make this extension easily differentiated from the original Herrera Estelí blend. Even without the bands, though, you’d never confuse the two. The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper on the core line is light and golden, whereas the TAA Exclusive is dark. In typical Drew Estate fashion, the cold draw is ultra-easy. The pre-light notes remind me of chocolate and cedar.

Once underway, I find cocoa with black pepper spice and abundant leather. The texture is coarse and gritty. The potent vegetal notes that are so common among Connecticut Broadleaf smokes from Drew Estate are also apparent, especially in the plentiful resting smoke. Other noticeable flavors include damp earth, vanilla, cream, and a dash of cinnamon. At the midway point and beyond, I start to notice some sour, meaty notes from time to time—nothing terribly concerning, but certainly worth pointing out.

As far as the physical properties are concerned, this cigar is expertly rolled and a complete joy to smoke. The burn line is straight and true throughout, the smoke production well above average, the draw smooth, and the gray ash holds very firmly off the foot.

If Willy Herrera’s objective was to blend a full-bodied cigar that smokes cool with plentiful flavor, I’d consider the Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive a job well done. I especially appreciate the fleeting tastes I uniquely associate with Drew Estate Connecticut Broadleaf tobaccos, and how they are coupled with an overall profile that’s differentiated from the likes of Liga Privada No. 9 or Nica Rustica. This well-crafted cigar is worth seeking out—even with its lofty price tag—and deserving of an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Quesada Selección España Beli-Lance (Casa de Montecristo Exclusive)

23 May 2016

Quesada 1

A little over a year ago, it was announced Casa de Montecristo (CDM)—a successful three-location tobacconist in Chicago—would be receiving two exclusive sizes of Quesada’s Selección España blend. These vitolas joined eight other Selección España frontmarks, some of which are regular production, others limited to as few as 600 total cigars.

Quesada 2The two CDM sizes are Fabulosos (7 x 54, $12) and the subject of today’s review, a cross between a belicoso and a lancero called Beli-Lance (7 x 40, $12). CDM received 3,000 of each size from Quesada. Each comes complete with an Ecuadorian Arapiraca wrapper, a Dominican Broadleaf binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

“The Spanish Market has always been dominated by Cuban cigars, but lately high unemployment and the high cost of Cuban cigars has driven the Spanish to search out alternatives,” reads an un-dated explanation on the Quesada website about the origins of the blend’s name, which was likely written around 2010. “To address this new demand, the Quesada family brought Spanish tobacconists to the Dominican Republic to work a cigar exclusively for Spain, and after a week of blending the Quesada España was born.”

Clearly, Selección España is not exclusive to Spain. Quesada’s retailers in the U.S. got a hold of some samples when the cigar was being introduced in 2010, liked them, and ultimately got approval to bring the blend to the American market.

The Beli-Lance from CDM sports a lancero frame topped by a sharply pointed cap. The cap clips uneventfully to yield a clear cold draw, which is somewhat surprising given the thin ring gauge and firm feel. The unique wrapper (Arapiraca is typically grown in Brazil, not Ecuador) is moderately textured and reddish with a few large veins and tight seams.

Once lit, pre-light notes of molasses and hay transition to a woody, meaty profile with hints of oak, char, peppery spice, clove, and leather. The body is medium and the smoke texture is thick and chewy. After a quarter-inch, the spice increases, but traces of sweet cream and roasted nuts fade in and out for some balance. At times, the resting smoke is incredibly aromatic and mouth-watering.

As the Beli-Lance progresses, the draw tends to tighten and the flavors take a turn towards a bitter, somewhat stale, version of their former selves. From the midway point on, I find myself in a struggle to keep the cigar lit while preventing the taste from becoming too hot or too harsh as the foot heats up from my frequent puffs and touch-ups. I was rarely able to regain the pleasant, balanced profile that characterized the beginning.

Notwithstanding the high regard in which many hold Quesada Selección España, I did not have a satisfactory experience with the Beli-Lance, a size I thought I was destined to thoroughly enjoy. All things considered, this cigar earns a disappointing rating of two stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Nica Rustica Belly

16 May 2016

Belly 2

Whether by design or coincidence, Nica Rustica feels like a discount version of the immensely popular Liga Privada No. 9. Both feature Connecticut Broadleaf wrappers (Liga uses “Broadleaf #1 Darks” while the Nica Rustica uses a “Broadleaf Medium”), and both debuted in just one size—a toro—before later growing to multiple vitolas.

BellyContinuing to follow in Liga’s footsteps, last year Drew Estate expanded Nica Rustica with two new sizes: the immense Belly (7.5 x 54) and the Short Robusto (4.5 x 50). They join the original El Brujito vitola (6 x 52), which is named for an ancient image found on a rock in Estelí. The image depicts a Pre-Columbian shaman—thought to be one of the earliest users of tobacco for “ceremonial and medicinal rituals,” according to the Drew Estate website.

In addition to the Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, each Nica Rustica format includes a Mexican San Andrés Negro binder (which is also the wrapper on Undercrown) with Nicaraguan filler tobaccos from the Estelí and Jalapa growing regions. Intended to be “medium- to full-bodied,” “rustic,” and “un-polished and unrefined,” Jonathan Drew calls the blend a tribute to the people of Nicaragua.

With its dark, oily, toothy, slightly reddish wrapper and generous proportions, Belly is an intimidating cigar. Before the first puff, you can sense the flavors are going to be rich and heavy, and the pre-light notes of leather, cocoa, and earth seem to validate those expectations. The imperfect cap clips easily enough to reveal an ultra-easy cold draw.

After setting an even light to the closed foot, the first thing you’ll notice is the voluminous smoke production. The thick, dense smoke seems to ooze from the foot virtually effortlessly, which helps you dive head-first into the bold tastes of dark chocolate, roasted nuts, white pepper, and espresso. The texture is chalky. A fleeting vegetal note is particularly noticeable on the retrohale—a sensation that should be familiar to fans of both Liga Privada No. 9 and Undercrown.

There are few profile changes throughout, rendering the beginning, middle, and end of this huge cigar all very similar, save for an increase in intensity at the finale. If you’re a fan of how the Belly tastes at the outset, chances are you’ll be fine with the consistency; that said—especially for such a large cigar that takes at least two and a half hours to burn from light to nub—a shift in flavor or texture would have been welcome.

In terms of construction, the Nica Rustica Belly doesn’t live up to the high standards set by Drew Estate. While the ash is solid, the draw smooth, and the smoke output extremely high, the burn leaves much to be desired. Frequent touch-ups are necessary to keep the cigar burning evenly.

Even so, this is still a good bang-for-the-buck at around $8, especially considering the size and big flavors. Add this to your list if you’re looking for a large time-filler with bold, dense flavors. In my book, the Belly earns three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2016

2 May 2016

Short Run

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, he has been.

Short Run 2016One undertaking that has helped solidify Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s post-General Cigar success has been Short Run. So far, the line has resulted in one release per year—although, when it was first introduced, we were told there might be two Short Run blends per year. The concept is pretty simple: Make a limited run of a blend using tobacco that isn’t available in enough quantities for a full-blown release. (Read our thoughts on the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 Short Run cigars by clicking on these links.)

“The Short Run 2016 takes a new direction and departs from our prior approach, since it is only one vitola,” reads a letter from the E.P. Carrillo team that accompanied my samples. “It is adorned with a beautiful honey Colorado wrapper from Ecuador that is smooth to the touch and alluring to the eye and utilizing unique tobacco from several regions in Nicaragua for the binder and filler.” Only 2,500 boxes of 10 cigars were made, with each cigar carrying an MSRP of $12.

The toro-sized smoke (6 x 52) is oily and light brown in color with minimal veins and potent pre-light notes of sweet hay and light syrup. Moderately firm to the touch, the well-constructed cap clips easily to reveal a smooth cold draw with a slight spice on the lips. Notably, the large, ornate band of gold and red is the most detailed, regal, and textured band to adorn an E.P. Carrillo cigar since the company’s inception—which may signal how Ernesto Perez-Carrillo feels about this particular release.

Once lit, the initial profile is characterized by a hearty dose of roasted nuts, spicy cedar, and graham cracker. Well-balanced with a creamy texture, it’s the kind of flavor the makes your mouth water significantly between puffs—and the sweet, abundant resting smoke doesn’t hamper my enjoyment either.

As it progresses, this medium-bodied treasure loses some of the cedar bite in favor of more graham and creamy nut. Oak, hay, and restrained leather add more balance without overpowering the core tastes. All the while the physical properties are excellent from light to nub. The gray ash holds well off the foot, the draw is easy, the burn line straight, and the smoke production is well above average.

If I were asked what flavors I most enjoy in a cigar, sweet cream, graham cracker, and roasted nuts would rank among my top tastes. The E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2016 has all three in spades. This cigar wasn’t blended specifically for my palate, but it might as well have been. Exquisite in every way while maintaining incredible balance and offering rare subtlety, I have no reservations about awarding this triumph a rare rating of five stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys