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Cigar Review: Arturo Fuente Añejo No. 55

22 Jan 2019

In 1998, Hurricane Georges swept through the Dominican Republic. In its wake it left 380 casualties and over $1 billion in damages. The hardest-hit areas included those involved in crop production—including, of course, tobacco.

Not long after the hurricane, Arturo Fuente experienced a predictable and critical shortage of its prized Fuente Opus X sun-grown wrapper leaf. Instead of postponing production until more wrapper was ready, the Fuentes wrapped the Opus X cigars in a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper that had been aged in cognac barrels. With that, the Añejo line was born.

When most people think Añejo, they’ll likely conjure images of the No. 77 vitola—more commonly known as The Shark. This unique format is best described as a tapered pyramid that morphs from a round head to a sharply box-pressed foot.

I didn’t find The Shark at my local shop; it’s rare, so that isn’t surprising. But I did find a box in the No. 55 size, which is a torpedo measuring 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 55. I bought a couple for this review. Not including crazy Illinois taxes, they cost me $15.25 apiece.

In my book, that price tag makes the Añejo No. 55 a super-premium. Expectations are elevated. Fortunately, the cigar comes dressed to impress. In addition to its toothy, rustic wrapper leaf and regal band of red, gold, and white, the bottom two-thirds is embraced by a cedar sleeve and a red foot ribbon.

I used a double-guillotine and found a smooth cold draw. After putting the cedar sleeve to work lighting the foot, pre-light notes of earth, chocolate, and (yes) cognac transition to a medium-bodied profile of cocoa, black coffee, dried fruit, and white pepper. There is body, but the smoothness validates the message on the cellophane that this cigar is “Xtra Aged.”

At the midway point and beyond, the body and spice intensify—though perhaps not to the degree some might expect, especially those who spend a lot of time with Nicaraguan cigars. The white pepper becomes black peppercorn. The black coffee becomes espresso. Dried fruit (think raisin, apricot, fig) and cocoa remain core to the profile.

I never had to go back and adjust the burn in any way after setting an even light with the cedar sleeve. The other physical properties are also exemplary (and appropriate for a cigar of this cost). The white ash holds well off the foot. The smoke production is voluminous. And the draw is clear throughout.

Perhaps, like me, it has been a long time since you fired up an Añejo from Arturo Fuente. Might I recommend you reacquaint yourself? The No. 55 is another stellar smoke from the world’s great tobacco family. It earns a fantastic rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Diesel d. 10th Robusto

7 Jan 2019

I can’t help it. When I think “Diesel,” I think “catalog cigar.” Back when I was single living in an apartment in Northern Virginia, I can remember leafing through thick catalogs mailed to me by Cigars International, each page making its case for whatever disposable income I had (which wasn’t very much at all). I spent many hours longingly studying the photos and descriptions of all the tasty treats. To me, those catalogs were “cigar porn” long before the phrase became a hashtag on social media.

I must have seen enough ads for Diesel because, on more than one occasion, I ponied up for some Unholy Cocktails. “Some liken a fine cigar to a harmonious symphony,” I wrote of the Unholy Cocktail in 2010. “To me, [it’s] more like a ZZ Top song—unpolished, familiar, simplistic, repetitious, and somewhat heavy. But it’s also catchy. And the price rocks. Boxes of 30 sell for just under $100, rendering the Unholy Cocktail a smart buy if you’re looking for a cheap full-bodied torpedo.”

Diesel debuted as an exclusive to Cigars International and Cigar.com in 2009. That makes 2019 the tenth anniversary of the brand. And everyone knows no industry loves its anniversaries more than the cigar industry; no milestone is wasted without a commemorative cigar.

In keeping with tradition, master cigar maker A.J. Fernandez recently added the Diesel d. 10th to the Diesel portfolio—which, over the years, has expanded to include Diesel Unlimited, Unlimited Maduro, Whiskey Row, Rage, Uncut, Delirium S.E., and Wicked. The three-vitola d. 10th is offered in a Short Robusto (4.5 x 52), Torpedo (6 x 54), and Robusto (5.5 x 52).

The latter retails for $115 for a box of 20, or $45 for a 5-pack. Those friendly prices are in keeping with the Diesel value proposition, just like the assurance of a full-bodied experience is in keeping with the Diesel reputation. “100% full-bodied, 100% full-flavored, and 100% Diesel,” reads the copy at Cigars International.

The d. 10th recipe calls for an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. The Robusto is, put simply, menacing. It’s toothy, firm, rustic, and black. At the foot, I find pre-light notes reminiscent of cocoa and green raisin. The cold draw is clear.

This is not one of those cigars that eases in to its strength. The Robusto is full-flavored from the get-go with tastes ranging from black pepper, espresso, cedar, oak, and a bit of cayenne heat on the lips. Smoking through the nose serves to amplify the intensity and bring out a few additional sensations, including roasted cashew, char, and natural tobacco sweetness.

Just as I’m about to write off the d. 10th as too much power for power’s sake, it backs off the accelerator around the one-third mark. Here, the notes of cashew become more pronounced, and the creaminess comes through more clearly. Even so, I would characterize the body as on the high end of medium, verging on full. It remains this way until the final third, which is characterized by a reprise of power, power, and more power.

I burned my way through a five-pack for this review. Each Robusto exhibited exemplary construction, including a straight burn line that requires zero touch-ups along the way, a solid gray ash, clear draw, and voluminous smoke production.

Anyone who has been following the Diesel brand won’t be surprised to hear the d. 10th is powerful and cost-effective. It packs a lot of punch for your dollar. It’s also not going to wow anyone with its complexity or nuance. In my book, that earns a score of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas

26 Dec 2018

By now, we all know the story. Former Drew Estate chief Steve Saka, now owner of the acclaimed boutique Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, began work in 2005 on a personal blend for his own enjoyment. After over 50 blends of testing with Jonathan Drew and Nick Melillo (now owner of Foundation Cigar Co.), a final recipe was arrived at: a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper fermented for at least 18 months, a Brazilian Mata Fina binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua.

The cigar became known as Liga Privada No. 9. It forever changed the way the cigar world thinks about Drew Estate, which had formerly been known for its infused cigars.

Despite being on the market for over a decade, Liga No. 9 production is still limited (due to tobacco availability) so the cigars can be both tough to find and expensive. In 2012, to help satisfy sky-high demand and capitalize on what would otherwise be waste, Drew Estate launched Papas Fritas, a small cigar (4.5 x 44) that employs cuttings from Liga No. 9 production. Like Liga No.9, it has the same Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Mata Fina binder, and Honduran and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos.

Spanish for “French fries,” one of Saka’s favorite foods, Papas Fritas is a mixed-filler cigar that, while not on par with the elegance or complexity of the original No. 9, is a quick, cost-effective way to get the core Liga flavors that made that line so successful.

Those flavors include a medium- to full-bodied combination of spice, cocoa powder, espresso, cream, and white pepper. The texture is leathery. The trademark Liga flavor that’s as noticeable as it is hard to describe—the best I can do is “sweet grassiness”—is also present, though it tends to drift in and out.

True to Drew Estate’s reputation, Papas Fritas has an incredibly easy draw with voluminous smoke production. The other combustion properties are also impressive, especially for a mixed-filler cigar. The burn light is straight, and the white ash holds well.

In 2015, to make the cigar cheaper, Drew Estate rolled out new packaging. Papas Fritas can now be found in 50-count boxes, instead of 4-count tins or 28-count boxes. As a result, the per-cigar cost was reduced from $6.40 to $5.25. “We needed something for fans of Papas Fritas who already had plenty of tins and wanted a better value, so now we’re offering the cigar with no tin,” said then-president Michael Cellucci.

If you look around, you can actually pay about $4.70 per cigar, if you buy a box of 50. And why wouldn’t you? Papas Fritas enables you to get your Liga fix in a quick, price-efficient way, and you won’t feel bad about discarding one halfway through. For that, I’m awarding this cigar three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo La Pesadilla

3 Dec 2018

When you think of Joya de Nicaragua, likely the first thing to come to mind is a storied firm—the oldest cigar maker in Nicaragua, to be more precise—that has built its reputation on bold, full-bodied Nicaraguan puros. For me, the Joya line that immediately jumps to mind is Antaño Dark Corojo.

Antaño Dark Corojo was the first Joya I ever smoked. It would be safe to say it played a big role in shaping my perception of what a Nicaraguan cigar should be. These days, I’ve smoked enough Antaño Dark Corojos to know that the proper setting for this cigar is after a large meal, in the evening, paired with a nice sipping rum or a neat bourbon. This is the best way to enjoy what Joya calls “the embodiment of the Nicaraguan power cigar.”

Antaño Dark Corojo is a Nicaragua puro with a mottled Corojo Oscuro wrapper. It comes in six sizes: Azarosa (4.5 x 52), La Pesadilla (4.75 x 60), Peligroso (5 x 44), El Martillo (5.5 x 54), La Niveladora (6 x 52), and Poderoso (6 x 54). For this review, I smoked several in the format called La Pesadilla, which is Spanish for “the nightmare.”

That’s a fitting name for a dark, powerful cigar that could be mistaken for an enormous rifle round. This stubby, belicoso-shaped smoke is slightly spongy to the touch and not without a few large veins and several surface imperfections. Much of the wrapper is hidden beneath bands of black and gold. At the foot, I find pre-light notes of green raisin and cocoa. The cold draw is effortless.

I typically prefer to use wooden matches but, with La Pesadilla’s 60-ring gauge foot, I opt for a torch. Once underway, I find a spicy, full-bodied profile with hearty notes of espresso, black pepper, dark chocolate, and cashew. The texture is leathery. Smoking through the nose helps bring out the creamy cashew and also some raisin.

Despite its obvious strength, La Pesadilla verges on medium- to full-bodied, whereas the other (thinner) Antaño Dark Corojo vitolas are decidedly full. This won’t come as a shock to those who understand that thicker cigars tend to have somewhat dialed-back strength, whereas thinner cigars tend to be more concentrated and more potent.

The combustion properties are solid throughout, including a clear draw, straight burn line, and good smoke production. My only complaint is a minor one: The ash tends to be a bit flaky.

La Pesadilla may not be a nightmare, but it’s no stroll in the park, either, and should be approached with a bit of caution. Those bold enough to give it a try will find a flavorful, surprisingly balanced, well-constructed cigar that will consistently deliver.

When bought by the box of 20, you can pay under $6 (and maybe even under $5) apiece for the Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo La Pesadilla. That’s a deal for a tasty treat worthy of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: A.J. Fernandez New World Puro Especial Toro

26 Nov 2018

Last year, famed cigar maker A.J. Fernandez introduced an extension to his New World brand called New World Puro Especial. At its core, the four-cigar line is Estelí through and through.

All the tobaccos employed are grown and cultivated at Fernandez’s own farms in Estelí, rendering the line a living tribute to a region that has worldwide become synonymous with premium cigars. The cigars are made at Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars, which is located—you guessed it—in Estelí. (Side note: That factory started with just six rollers; today, it is one of the largest factories in Nicaragua and produces over 9 million cigars annually.)

Like so many cigars, the blending of New World Puro Especial took several years. Fernandez’s father, Ismael, helped with the endeavor. The final recipe includes Criollo ’98 from the San José farm, as well as leaves from La Soledad, La Providencia, and San Diego. All the tobaccos are aged three to five years.

The Puro Especial formats include a Short Churchill (6 x 48), Robusto (5.5 x 52), Gordo (6 x 60), and a Toro (6.5 x 52). I picked up a handful of the latter vitola at my local tobacconist here in Chicago for about $9 apiece.

The Toro’s smooth, moderately dry, dark chocolate-colored Nicaraguan Habano wrapper has only the thinnest veins and very tight seams. The cold draw is easy. The feel is consistently firm from head to foot, and the pre-light notes remind me of green raisin and cocoa powder.

The New World Puro Especial is full-bodied from the get-go. It boasts heavy, leathery notes of espresso, dry wood, minerally earth, meaty char, and both red and black pepper. You’ll find abundant spice on the finish. After a half inch, the intensity steps off the accelerator, but the resulting profile remains strong, bold, and—at the very least—medium- to full-bodied.

Thankfully, this is much more than a heavy-handed deliverer of power. As the Toro progresses to its spicy, full-bodied conclusion, attentive smokers will notice secondary flavors ranging from natural tobacco and cinnamon to oak and white pepper. That said, I don’t detect any semblance of sweetness, which would add balance and complexity.

The physical properties are outstanding from light to nub. Each of my samples exhibited a straight burn line with no need for touch-ups along the way, as well as a sturdy ash, smooth draw, and average smoke production.

I will be interested to see how time might impact the profile of the A.J. Fernandez New World Puro Especial Toro. Absent the sweetness that, I think, would improve the overall experience, this is still a fine full-bodied smoke with a pleasant taste and aroma. For that, I’m awarding it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro Robusto

19 Nov 2018

Before we get to smoking this cigar, let’s clear up some confusion about what it is. And what it isn’t.

The blend and the production location are no longer what they were. The new version of La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro uses a Costa Rican oscuro wrapper, a Dominican binder, and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler. It’s rolled at the Plascencia factory in Honduras.

This information comes directly from La Palina. The confusion arises because the cigar was redone, and a number of online sites haven’t updated their particulars.

As for the Robusto, it is a 5-inch, 52-ring gauge, box-pressed stick with a price tag of $9.50. A sheath that features both the cigar name and the now-familiar image of brand owner Bill Paley’s paternal grandmother, Goldie, covers more than half the cigar. When all is peeled away, it reveals a dark wrapper with little pre-light aroma.

El Año 1896’s name pays tribute to the year La Palina cigars made their first appearance in the market. La Palina’s new incarnation debut came in 2010.

The smoking experience of El Año 1896 is as smooth as the nearly vein-free wrapper. Strength is in the medium range with modest pepper and spice.

One of the more pleasing, and somewhat surprising, flavors I encountered was a piquant citrus at about the halfway point. The zesty sensation remained and contrasted nicely with the occasional tobacco sweetness. Also appearing in the second half was an intermittent earthy mushroom note.

The burn was slow. Smoke production was high and the ash held tightly. I had to make a couple minor burn corrections on two of the three I smoked, but nothing to significantly mar the experience.

Overall, I’d say La Palina has another winner on its hands. El Año 1896 is a tasty cigar that should appeal across the board. I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Davidoff Yamasá Robusto

14 Nov 2018

As one of Davidoff’s black band bunch, Yamasá is immediately identifiable as being outside the company’s typical profile. A bit bolder. A bit more intense. A bit more power.

Yamasá highlights a tobacco that celebrates what Davidoff calls “Master Blender Henke Kelner’s impossible dream to turn the unforgiving swampland of the Yamasá region into a successful tobacco-growing field.” It makes for a smooth wrapper and is also used for the binder. The filler is a combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican leaves.

But it was the Yamasá tobacco that piqued my interest. It was featured in Davidoff’s now-discontinued Puro d’Oro line, one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I smoked a five-pack of the Yamasá Robustos (5 x 50) and, not surprisingly, found them remarkably consistent. Each of the started a little harsh but quickly smoothed out after only a couple puffs.

And that’s when the cigar began to come into its own. I quickly picked up notes of leather, nuts, and coffee with cream during the first third or so. Then the leather and nuts receded as the creamy coffee came on stronger.

At the halfway point, I noticed that typical Davidoff earthy mushroom flavor, which dissipated fairly quickly. Another flavor soon made itself known: a tangy citrus note. It stayed throughout the remainder of the smoke, creating a nice contrast with the coffee and cream.

As you’d expect, construction was excellent, as were the burn and draw. The Yamasá also produced rich, thick smoke.

The line has five vitolas, ranging from a behemoth (6 x 60) to a petit Churchill (4 x 48). MSRP on the Robusto is $19.70.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Yamasá experience, and I would recommend it to any experienced cigar smoker. For me, the Davidoff Yamasá Robusto rates four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Davidoff / Stogie Guys