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Cigar Review: La Palina H-Town Lancero (Stogies World Class Cigars Exclusive)

23 Nov 2015

Lancero fans have long lamented the trend towards large ring gauge cigars. If, like me, you tend to favor thinner vitolas over thick smokes, you’ve got to be a fan of what the folks at Stogies World Class Cigars have been up to.

La Palina H-TownBased in Houston, Stogies boasts a huge store, a public lounge, an online shop, and a series of exclusive lanceros called H-Town. Stogies has commissioned some of the industry’s best brands to produce its family of lanceros, including Crowned Heads, Quesada, Tatuaje, Room 101, Fratello, and La Palina.

In the case of the La Palina H-Town Lancero, the cigar is an entirely new blend. While the band is similar to the La Palina Black Label, the recipe is decidedly different. Filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua are wrapped in an Ecuadorian binder and an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. Only 500 boxes of 10 will be made at the Pinar del Rio factory in the Dominican Republic.

In terms of appearance, a few things immediately strike me about the La Palina H-Town Lancero (7 x 38). For one, the cap is a work of art. In addition, the exterior is notably silky, oily, and smooth. Finally, the pre-light notes off the foot remind me of dried apricot, which is certainly unique and interesting.

Once clipped, the moderately spongy cigar yields a cold draw that’s easy, especially for a lancero. After setting an even light with a single wooden match, the initial profile is creamy, nutty, and bready with a significant kick of cayenne spice on the finish. Citrus, oak, and honey play background roles and help add to the cigar’s balanced, rounded, medium-bodied taste. At times the cigar is dry, sharp, and cedary, while other times it’s dominated by mouth-watering creaminess. The final third builds in intensity to a level I’d characterize as full-bodied.

There’s a lot of complexity. Thankfully, the combustion qualities won’t stand in your way of enjoying this lancero. The burn line is imperfect yet serviceable, the gray ash holds well off the foot, the smoke production is solid, and the draw remains clear throughout.

The La Palina H-Town Lancero retails for $8.95 per single, or $80.55 per box of 10. That’s a fair price point for a smoke with so much to offer in terms of intricacy, balance, performance, and taste. Fortunately, if you’re not in the Houston area, you can still give this a try by placing an order online. I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed. I’m awarding this excellent lancero four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Norteño Edicion Limitada Churchill

18 Nov 2015


In May 2014, Drew Estate announced Willy Herrera as its new “master blender.” The move did not place Herrera in charge of La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate; rather, he was charged with maintaining current blends, producing new ones, and reporting directly to Jonathan Drew. The news came just a few days after Nick Melillo left Drew Estate, where he served for 11 years with responsibilities ranging from purchasing and fermentation to quality control and shipment planning. And it also came after Steve Saka left the company.

Drew EstateAt the time, Willy Herrera’s biggest contribution to Drew Estate was Herrera Estelí, a five-vitola line of Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped cigars with a Cuban-esque flavor profile (a sixth vitola, a Toro Tubo, was added later). The blend was well-received within the online cigar community, and also in mainstream publications. The Herrera Estelí Piramide Fino was named the eighth best cigar of 2013 by Cigar Aficionado.

In July 2014, Drew Estate announced Willy’s highly anticipated follow-up to Herrera Estelí: the Herrera Estelí Norteño. Norteño translates to “northerners,” which is what people in Nicaragua call those who live around Estelí. The blend features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, a Honduran binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua. There are six original vitolas, all box-pressed and all made at Drew Estate (despite preliminary reports listing Joya de Nicaragua as the factory of manufacture).

This September, retailers received a seventh Norteño vitola called Edicion Limitada Churchill (7 x 48). The flattened box-pressed smoke—almost rectangle-pressed, if you will—lends itself, I think, to a punch cut, which is all that’s needed to reveal an easy cold draw. The dark, slightly reddish, moderately oily cigar has potent pre-light notes of cocoa, sweet hay, and damp earth off the foot. The feel is consistently firm throughout.

Once lit, a chalky, medium-bodied flavor emerges with tastes of dark chocolate, black coffee, creamy nut, brown sugar, and a little cayenne spice. The finish and retrohale both exhibit a soft black pepper spice, though the overall level of spice is quite muted. Throughout the smoke, there’s an interesting interplay between what I’d call moist chocolate cake, oak, and coffee.

Construction is outstanding. The draw is very easy, the smoke production above average, the burn line straight, and the sandy, white ash holds well off the foot.

Maybe it’s my palate, maybe it’s the size, or maybe it’s some combination of the two, but the Edicion Limitada Churchill is more flavorful and less spicy than the pre-release sample I reviewed in June 2014. I’ve smoked a fair number of Norteños since, and I’m pretty confident this new size is my favorite—even with the $14 price tag. Make sure you try it before the limited run is up. This is a winner that’s worthy 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: Aging Room M19 Fortissimo Preferido

16 Nov 2015

M19 FortissimoThe third annual release in this limited line from Aging Room features the now-familiar nipple foot, pigtail cap, and same dimensions (5.75 x 47) used in the previous M21 and M20.

The M19 also shares a full-strength profile with its siblings. But this year’s blend—introduced this summer—is a bit different, though all use well-aged tobaccos. To me, the M19 may be the smoothest Fortissimo yet.

With a nearly vein-free, tight Habano wrapper around Dominican binder and filler, the M19 is a lovely cigar. The box press is well done. This cigar performs as fine as it looks, with a near-perfect draw and slow burn from start to finish.

Aging Room rolled 20,000 M19s, the same number as it did for last year’s edition. So while it won’t be on every tobacconist shelf, there should be enough to go around, at least for a little while.

I’ve been working my way through a five-pack ($69.50) and each one has been a pleasure to smoke.

From the start, it grabs your attention with thick, powerful smoke and a pepper blast. The pepper drops off a bit about a third of the way down, and a rich tobacco sweetness builds over it.

There’s a bit of wood and leather along the way as well. By the final third, the pepper is back and bringing the M19 to a strong close.

If, like me, you’re already an Aging Room fan, I think you’ll find the M19 a natural for your palate. If you haven’t tried an Aging Room and want to check in with one at the top of the strength chart, light it up and enjoy.

I give the M19 four and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: El Centurion H-2K-CT Corona

12 Nov 2015

Introduced in 2007, the original El Centurion blend was a highly limited release billed as Don José “Pepin” Garcia’s personal blend. It remains one of my favorite Pepin-made cigars: subtle, complex, and well-balanced. (No surprise it earned a rare five out of five rating.)

El-Centurion-H-2K-CTBuilding on that legacy and name, My Father Cigars reintroduced the El Centurion brand in 2013 with an entirely new blend. That cigar featured a sun-grown Nicaraguan wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos.

This year, My Father Cigars introduced a second regular release El Centurion blend, dubbed the H-2K-CT, after the wrapper. H-2K-CT features a unique Cuban-seed Habano 2000 wrapper grown in Connecticut around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos.

The line comes in two box-pressed sizes: Corona (5.5 x 48) and Toro (6 x 52). For this review I smoked three Coronas. This vitola sells for around $7 each. The H-2K-CT wrapper, which is reportedly exclusive to My Father Cigars, is rustic and toothy but also oily.

Once lit, there is some syrup sweetness initially, although it fades as flavors of roasted nuts, leather, and oak dominate this medium-bodied smoke. Towards the final third, some cedar spice emerges along with black coffee notes.

I remember when the Habano 2000 first burst on the scene over a decade ago (the Habano 2000-wrapped Maria Mancini was the first box of cigars I ever bought); the wrapper was well-received for its flavors but suffered from chronic burn issues. Time has solved some of those problems, and this Connecticut-grown variety suffers from none of those issues as the samples I smoked were well-constructed from start to finish.

The H-2K-CT brings a lot to the table. It’s balanced and restrained with a nice combination of both sweetness and spice. Add in excellent construction and a fair price and this is the best El Centurion since the original limited release, which still stands out to me as a particularly special cigar. That earns the My Father El Centurion H-2K-CT Corona a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje The Hyde

11 Nov 2015

Hyde Smoking

“Hopefully I can hang on to a few The Jekyll’s to do a side-by-side comparison next year.” That’s what I wrote back in November 2014 in my review of last year’s Monster Series cigar from Tatuaje. I can actually remember typing the word “hopefully” while knowing it was highly unlikely I’d have the willpower to keep my hands off my box of The Jekyll, a cigar I rated four and a half stogies out of five.

The HydeAs it turns out, my 10-count box is long gone, and with it my ability to do a suitable side-by-side comparison of this year’s follow-up, The Hyde. Fortunately, my colleague informs me he still has a few The Jekyll’s in stock, and he was also able to recently purchase a box of The Hyde; so I expect a Face-Off from him shortly. After all, comparing the two cigars is only natural. They’re based on similar blends, and both are a nod to the 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Thanks to the well-publicized rarity of Monster Series cigars, the success of Tatuaje’s marketing, and the sterling reputation Pete Johnson’s company has amassed over the years, I probably don’t need to remind you that, since 2008, Tatuaje has released an annual Monster Series smoke around Halloween. Each celebrates one of Johnson’s favorite characters from the horror genre, including The Frank, The Drac, The Face, The Wolfman, The Mummy, and The JV13 (Jason).

As is tradition, Johnson produced 666 “dress boxes” of 13 The Hyde cigars, with 13 “unlucky” retailers getting the bulk of the boxes to sell. He also released 4,500 plain 10-count boxes, equating to a total run of just under 54,000 individual sticks.

Like The Jekyll, The Hyde measures 7 inches long with a ring gauge of 49 and has a tapered, rounded cap. Whereas The Jekyll featured a lighter Ecuadorian Sancti Spíritus wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, The Hyde sports a darker Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Hyde is also distinguished by its green band with write font; The Jekyll had a white band with green font.

The Chuchill-sized smoke is notably oily with a few prominent veins and some imperfect seams. The uneven coloring makes it particularly rustic in appearance, though I find the cap style is quite appealing. At the foot, the pre-light notes are incredibly sweet and chocolatey with a hint of damp earth.

The flavor reminds me of the Frango chocolate mint candies that used to be found at Marshall Field’s in Chicago. Creamy, sweet, chocolaty, minty, and mouth-watering. Background notes include graham cracker, light cedar spice, tea, caramel, herbs, and almond. Smoking too quickly tends to bring out some bitterness, but a paced approach will yield a medium-bodied profile that’s sweet, creamy, and enjoyable.

Throughout, the draw is a little stiffer than I would like, which also limits the smoke production. The burn line—while not necessarily perfect—is well-behaved, and the ash holds well off the foot.

To date, my favorite Monster Series smokes have been The Mummy, The Franc, and last year’s The Jekyll, which is spicier and more bready than The Hyde. That said, The Hyde stacks up quite well to its predecessors. And you have to give a lot of credit to the uniqueness of the flavor (which is what you want from a $13 cigar that will be tough to track down). That’s ultimately what makes this creamy, minty, chocolaty candy bar of a cigar worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sobremesa Cervantes Fino

9 Nov 2015

Cervantes Fino

No new cigar is as highly anticipated as Sobremesa (at least among the more serious cigar smokers). And it goes without saying that all of the well-deserved buzz can be attributed to Steve Saka. Sobremesa marks Saka’s triumphant return to the industry after a two-year non-compete with Drew Estate—where he played a critical role in growing the company into a Nicaraguan juggernaut.

Sobremesa was announced in July to almost instant excitement as the first line from Saka’s new independent cigar operation, Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. And while Saka has always displayed humility and, at times, apprehension over how Sobremesa would be received—I’ve heard him use the phrase “unnerving”—his modesty has done little to subdue the overwhelming enthusiasm. But now, finally, after all the discussion on social media, Sobremesa is hitting retailer shelves.

SobremesaChances are Sobremesa will find its way to a tobacconist near you. Retailers were clamoring to place orders with Saka at the IPCPR Trade Show this summer in New Orleans. As a result, as Saka recently told me, “We currently have 108 active accounts, and 126 on an active waiting list. We have inquires by another 19 accounts pending.” That’s a heck of a lot of interest for the debut cigar from a new cigar company, especially when you consider Saka didn’t give away any samples at the convention because he felt the cigars weren’t quite ready.

Sobremesa—an idiom from the Latin world that refers to the leisurely time spent tableside after a meal—features an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper, a Mexican binder, and a filler blend of Pennsylvania Broadleaf Ligero with four different Nicaraguan tobaccos (Gk Condega C-SG Seco, Pueblo Nuevo Criollo Viso, La Joya Estelí C-98 Viso, and ASP Estelí Hybrid Ligero). It is handmade at Joya de Nicaragua. Production is currently capped at 1,000 boxes per month, despite Saka being “grossly oversold,” to maintain quality.

Cervantes Fino (6.25 x 46, $11.45) is one of 6 vitolas, all of which are sold in 25-count boxes. It sports a regal word-less band of gold and mocha, along with a foot band that reads “Sobremesa.” The dark wrapper on the lonsdale is silky and oily, and the pre-light notes remind me of milk chocolate. A punch cut is all that’s needed to reveal an easy cold draw.

To my taste, the profile can best be described as full-bodied, complex, and balanced with loads of rich flavor and a delicate peppery zing. I pick up hints of cocoa, dark cherry, café au lait, baking spices, and creamy caramel. The texture is thick and syrupy. The finish includes a blanket of light pepper across the palate with abundant sweetness. Construction is superb, including a straight burn, intense smoke production, and a solid white ash that hangs on tight.

What stands out about the blend is how approachable it is given the full body. Sobremesa has tons and tons of flavor, yet it’s really easy to smoke and conservative with the spice. Consequently, the Cervantes Fino in particular is the kind of cigar that makes you want to fire up another right away. That’s one of the best compliments I can pay a cigar.

Steve Saka will be the first to tell you nothing ever goes completely to plan in the world of cigars, particularly all the back-end logistics associated with setting out on your own for the first time. But you sure wouldn’t know it to smoke the Sobremesa Cervantes Fino. This is a memorable, expertly blended achievement that’s completely worthy of the price tag. For me, no rating is more appropriate than 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

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Exclusive Series TAA 2015

3 Nov 2015


The Tatuaje TAA 2015 (5.6 x 54) is a cigar with an impressive pedigree. The box-pressed smoke is a re-release of the Tatuaje TAA 2011, the first Tatuaje made exclusively for members of the Tobacconists Association of America (TAA). (The 2015 Tatuaje TAA is one of    fifteen cigar offerings for 2015 made exclusively for TAA members.)

That original Tatuaje TAA release itself was based on one of my all-time favorite Tatuaje cigars, the Barclay Rex 100th Anniversary, which was the first in Tatuaje’s Exclusive Series. (The blend for Barclay Rex, in turn, was based on the Pork Tenderloin cigar, which was made for Gloucester Street Cigars in Boston.)

All of those cigars feature a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. The wrapper is particularly enticing. It’s deep dark brown in color with a sprinkling of shiny crystals that show under the light.

Once lit, there is a burst of wood spice from the closed foot. Soon, the cigar settles into a medium- to full-bodied combination of oak, earth, bread, and char. There’s also some slight red pepper spice along with chewy dried fruit and leather notes.

It’s a complex smoke with lots going on, a roller coaster that starts off spicy before settling in to a more rounded combination of bread and cream.

Construction was good on two of the samples I smoked. Two others, though, suffered from a slightly tight draw that required multiple relights; nothing catastrophic, but it was a slight inconvenience.

Ultimately, while the 2015 Tatuaje TAA might not be quite as outstanding as the Barclay Rex it was based on, it is still an excellent smoke. With plenty of complexity, richness, and balance, the Tatuaje Tobacconists Association of America 2015 earns a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys