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Cigar Review: Cohiba Macassar Toro Grande

21 Nov 2016

cohiba-macassarLike many of General Cigar’s new releases, the Cohiba Macassar comes with a story about its tobacco. In this case, they’re all proprietary and spent some time aging in rum barrels.

The wrapper is described as a low-yield Connecticut Habano “grown in a micro-climate that helps to achieve a richer, more flavorful tobacco.” A Connecticut Broadleaf binder covers filler from Dominican seed grown in Mao (distinct from the Mao tobacco used in General’s new Macanudo Mao) and from Nicaraguan Jalapa leaf grown for Cohiba.

This new regular-production addition to Cohiba was introduced last summer. As you’d expect from Cohiba, it’s an expensive smoke. The 6-inch, 52-ring gauge Toro Grande weighs in with an MSRP of $21.99, though I’ve seen it online for as little as $14 each for a 5-pack, and even less for the box of 10.

The other two sizes in the line are the Gigante (6 x 60, $23.99) and a Double Corona (7.25 x 52, $24.99). The name comes from an exotic Indonesian wood with a variety of uses, including a veneer on the cigar boxes.

The first thing I noticed about the Macassar was a gritty feel to the wrapper and an almost nonexistent pre-light aroma. It also gave me some occasional minor burn problems among the several sticks I smoked, requiring a touch-up now and then to keep it even.

Otherwise, construction and smoke production were first-rate.

Taste-wise, the Macassar is a good cigar, though not the most complex. The predominant flavors I got were wood, particularly in the beginning, and light spice that tended to ramp up and down throughout the smoke.

At the list price, it would be hard for me to recommend it. To me, at least, $22 is a lot of money for a cigar. But in the area of $14 it becomes much more reasonable, especially when you consider that it is a big cigar that burns slowly and lasts a long time.

If you can try one at a lower price point, you’ll find it enjoyable and satisfying. I give it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Oliva Serie V Lancero

14 Nov 2016

Occasionally I’ll walk into a tobacconist with a few specific cigars in mind and leave with something entirely different. Or maybe I just end up spending way more than I had anticipated. Such was the case recently when I wondered into one of my local shops only to find a representative from Oliva. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take advantage of the special he was offering and reacquaint myself with some old favorites.

lanceroSerie V has been on the market for a long time. Like many of you, I suspect, the blend was a staple in my rotation years ago, only to be slowly displaced by a constant barrage of newer, trendier smokes. There’s nothing like catching up with a long-lost friend, though, so I decided to re-review a cigar I last wrote about way back in September 2012: the Oliva Serie V Lancero.

This blend is intended “to deliver full body taste while maintaining an unparalleled smoothness,” according to the Oliva website. “This flavorful blend exhibits complex tobacco with rich coffee and dark chocolate tones.” The recipe calls for a Habano sun-grown wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and Ligero filler tobaccos from Jalapa.

I count seven regular-production Serie V vitolas: Belicoso, Churchill, Double Robusto, Double Toro, Special V Figurado, Torpedo, and Lancero. The latter ran me about $8. It measures 7 inches long with a ring gauge of 38 and sports an oily, reddish, smooth wrapper with tight seams. The feel is moderately firm and the foot shows a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos. After the well-executed cap is clipped, the cold draw is quite smooth—especially for such a thin smoke. The sweet pre-light notes remind me of chocolate, caramel, and hay.

On the palate, the Serie V Lancero is much bolder and considerably less sweet than the pre-light notes would have you believe. This is a medium- to full-bodied cigar with ample nicotine kick. Flavors include leather, espresso, black pepper spice, warm tobacco, earth, and a touch of sweetness. Background tastes include subtle hints of sweet toffee, dry cedar, and some dark chocolate.

As the cigar progresses, the profile doesn’t change much, but the spice and intensity dip towards the midway point, only to ramp back up in the final third. I would call the texture leathery—borderline meaty—with enough complexity to keep things interesting from light to nub.

Construction leaves nothing to be desired. The burn is straight, the ash holds fairly well, the draw is clear, and the smoke production is average.

I am electing to slightly change my rating of the Serie V Lancero (I originally awarded it four stogies out of five). It’s hard to say if the cigar is different four years later, or if my preferences, taste buds, and/or standards have somewhat changed. I harbor this impression that one of Oliva’s hallmarks is consistency, so I’m inclined to think it’s more the latter and less the former. In any event, taking everything into consideration, this time I’ve arrived at a score 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: Blind Man’s Bluff Robusto

7 Nov 2016


Cladwell Cigar Co. was launched in 2014 by Robert Caldwell with a lineup of Dominican blends. The company seemingly came out of nowhere; its cigars debuted only about eight months after Caldwell walked away from Wynwood Cigars, a co-venture with Christian Eiroa, formerly of Camacho. Most people will tell you eight months isn’t nearly enough time to create and execute a vision for a new brand, but Robert Caldwell isn’t most people.

bmb-robustoThe following year, in 2015, in an effort to reach segments of the market that don’t typically seek Dominican smokes, Caldwell introduced Blind Man’s Bluff. The line is crafted at Agroindustrias Laepe S.A. in Danlí, Honduras—best known as the factory that produces Camacho—using a “their kitchen, our chef” approach. Caldwell says the intention was to make a “Caldwell-eqsue” cigar from tobaccos to which he didn’t previously have access.

The Blind Man’s Bluff recipe calls for an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Honduran Criollo binder, and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Honduras. It is offered in three sizes: Toro (6 x 52), Magnum (6 x 60), and Robusto (5 x 50). (My colleague has also reviewed a Corona Gorda that’s exclusive to Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, Tennessee.)

I smoked a five-pack of the Robusto vitola for this review (the pack was $37.50, or $7.50 per cigar). Beneath the cigar’s interesting and memorable band—which features a black and white portrait of a man in a bowler hat with his eyes smudged out—is a silky wrapper with a few large veins. The Robusto is moderately spongy to the touch with a few soft spots. The pre-light notes at the foot are a combination of earthiness and dried fruit.

Once lit, I find a medium-bodied, bready profile of cedar, subtle black pepper, papery airiness, and warm tobacco. The texture is light yet it has a leathery core. Salt hits the tip of the tongue while a soft sweetness adds balance in the background. The pace at which you smoke drastically impacts the intensity of the salt so, if you’re like me and want to limit that flavor, you’ll want to take your time between puffs.

Into the midway point, the salt begins to fade while green raisin and hints of vanilla join in. This marks the point at which the Robusto is most enjoyable. The final third is characterized by a slight increase in spice and intensity. I will note, however, that I don’t think this cigar ever ventures beyond medium-bodied.

Construction-wise, the burn line leaves something to be desired; touch-ups are needed along the way to keep things on course. The draw is perfect, though, and the smoke production is above average. I would also add the gray, finely layered ash holds well off the foot.

As I burned through this five-pack, I realized the Blind Man’s Bluff Robusto is my personal introduction to the Cladwell Cigar Co.—a surprising revelation given how I have appreciated (from an apparent distance) the unique names and interesting artwork associated with the Caldwell brands. I will be actively seeking out other Caldwell blends to see how they suit my palate. But this Robusto, while certainly not bad, doesn’t seem to deliver much of what I’m looking for. I find it somewhat dry and not as flavorful as I had hoped. For me, it rates a respectable though uninspired three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: El Güegüense Churchill

31 Oct 2016

churchill-1 has been covering the annual IPCPR Trade Show for a decade, but there are a few things I especially remember about the 2015 convention in Las Vegas. Aside from the scorching heat outside on The Strip, I recall this being the first show where a sense of FDA foreboding seemingly permeated every conversation. I remember the sheer volume of exhibiting cigar makers, which seemed notably more numerous than previous years. And I recollect the excitement about the new cigars coming to market from former Drew Estate tobacco men Steve Saka and Nicholas Melillo.

churchill-2You’ll recall Melillo, who formerly served as executive vice president of international operations at Drew Estate, announced the formation of the Foundation Cigar Company shortly before the 2015 convention. At the time, all we knew was his first solo outfit would be headquartered in Connecticut, and the first blend would be made at the TABSA (Tobaccos Valle de Jalapa) factory in Nicaragua, using Aganorsa tobacco.

Today, many of us have smoked the blend El Güegüense—also known as “The Wise Man”—which is a Nicaraguan puro with a Corojo ’99 wrapper from Jalapa that’s described as “rosado rosado café.” There are five vitolas: Robusto, Toro, Torpedo, Corona Gorda, and Chuchill. The latter measures 7 inches with a ring gauge of 48 and retails for $11.

Aside from its red-tinted color, the first thing you notice about the Churchill when it’s in your hand is the smoothness of the wrapper. Whether the velvety touch is due to the cigar’s tight seams, abundant surface oils, or some combination of the two, it’s definitely silky to the touch. And the well-executed cap and firm feel only reinforce the message of quality. The pre-light notes are soft and floral with traces of white pepper and cedar.

After setting an even light, a spice-forward profile emerges with plenty of cinnamon and pepper. But there are plenty of balancing flavors in the not-too-distant background, including honey, melon, and subtle sweetness. As it settles into the midway point, the Churchill exhibits a little less spice with more dry wood and a molasses-like sweetness with some barbeque char. Hints of hay, graham, and chocolate come and go. The finale witnesses a reprise of spice with abundant cedar and more cinnamon.

While the burn is imperfect, it’s also well-behaved enough to dismiss the need for any touch-ups along the way. The draw is moderate, the smoke production average, and the gray ash is unstable and a bit flaky for my liking. That said, the well-balanced taste is enticing from light to nub.

Interestingly, the medium-bodied El Güegüense is a Nicaraguan puro from a Nicaraguan-centric cigar maker, yet the profile is—to me, at least—decidedly Cubanesque. It brings loads of harmonious, balanced flavors to the fore, leaving the heavy-handed characteristics of many Nicaraguan cigars behind. The Corona Gorda remains my favorite vitola (I think the Churchill overstays its welcome a bit), yet this thoughtfully built cigar is worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Room 101 Uncle Lee Ranfla

24 Oct 2016


ranflaTo say Matt Booth’s Uncle Lee cigar had an inauspicious start last year might be an understatement. The original plan called for the smokes to be issued as a limited edition in packaging that resembled a cereal box with a prize inside.

That never made it to market, apparently from concern over a possible backlash at potential underage appeal. (Older smokers may be reminded of the Beatles’ Yesterday and Today cover debacle, though, unlike that situation, all original Uncle Lee cereal boxes were reportedly destroyed.)

The box that went on sale features a sketch said to be Booth’s Uncle Lee (“a constant inspiration”), with each cigar wrapped in black paper featuring cartoonish dollar signs.

According to initial reports, there were to be 5,000 boxes of 10 of the 6.5-inch, 50-ring gauge perfecto with a $10 price tag.

Whether they didn’t sell well or whether more were produced, I can’t say. But Uncle Lee has definitely hit the discount table, going recently for as little as $39.99 per box online.

Davidoff, which distributes Booth’s Room 101 cigars, still lists the Uncle Lee box price at $105, though it notes that they’re out of stock.

Uncle Lee features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Honduras.

I detected little pre-light aroma from the oily brown wrapper or the filler.

Upon lighting, I noticed a slightly musty taste, a little reminiscent of a milder Davidoff but with a touch of spice added to the mix. As the Uncle Lee progressed, the spice intensity went up and down, mixed with some cedar and clove.

None of the flavors dominate, resulting in a smooth, balanced cigar throughout.

At $10 per stick, I’d be unlikely to stock up. But when you can pick these up for half—or less—than that, it certainly seems like one to check out. The 10-count boxes make the bargain even more enticing.

I rate Uncle Lee three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Hoyo La Amistad Robusto

10 Oct 2016


Justified or not, hardcore cigar enthusiasts will often ignore brands from huge companies like General Cigar and Altadis in favor of offerings from small, boutique operations. Perhaps in an effort to combat this treatment, the two industry giants have both recently partnered with cigar makers who—while certainly not small—manage to maintain a solid rapport among the most dedicated segment of the cigar smoking community.

la-armistadLast year, Altadis tapped Pete Johnson of Tatuaje to help craft Henry Clay Tattoo, a limited run of 2,500 boxes that quickly sold out. This year, General chose to partner with A.J. Fernandez well-known for his operations in Nicaragua, to develop a four-vitola line called La Amistad.

“I grew up very near to the Hoyo de Monterrey farm and I have always had a love for the brand,” said Fernandez in an Altadis press release. “When it came time to develop this blend, I put my heart and soul into it… This cigar represents the best of me and my factory and I am proud to be a part of this collaboration.”

Marketed as “brawny and robust” with “notes of leather and spice,” the recipe for La Amistad includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder from Fernandez’s farms in Estelí, and Nicaraguan filler tobacco from Estelí, Ometepe, Condega, and Jalapa. The available sizes are Rothschild (4.5 x 50, $6.49), Toro (6 x 50, $7.79), Gigante (6 x 60, $7.99), and Robusto (5 x 54, $7.59).

I sampled five Robustos for this review. Each had a dark, slightly reddish wrapper with minimal veins and tight seams beneath dual bands of white, gold, and red. As you would expect from both General and A.J. Fernandez, the cigar appears to be expertly built with a firm feel, a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos at the foot, and a well-executed cap. The pre-light notes remind me of sweet hay and molasses. The cold draw is clear.

The Robusto begins with a hearty dose of Nicaraguan zing. I’d describe the preliminary flavor as black pepper spice, cinnamon, dry wood, and hints of caramel. Spice-forward and dry with a coarse texture, the strength settles after a half-inch. Here, the profile is earthier while still maintaining a fair amount of spice, especially on the tip of the tongue. At the midway point, the cigar is at its best: medium-bodied with citrus, subdued pepper, leather, all balanced by salted nuts and sweetness. The finale brings a reprise of the intensity from the outset.

With solid construction—sturdy ash, straight burn, clear draw, and good smoke production—coupled with a spicy Nicaraguan character and body that sways from full to medium and back to full, the Hoyo La Amistad Robusto is an enjoyable smoke and a good buy at less than $8. I award it an admirable 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: Partagas Ramon y Ramon Robusto

5 Oct 2016

This latest addition to General Cigar’s Partagas line has quite the tobacco heritage.

partagasAccording to General, a key filler component is “a special variety of old-world Dominican tobacco” that had been “locked away for nearly 50 years” before company agronomists restored it solely for this cigar.

It’s blended with Nicaraguan Jalapa and Dominican Piloto Cubano leaf. Those, like the Dominican binder, were also grown by Partagas agronomists.

The wrapper—for me, the jewel in this arrangement—is high-priming Cameroon tobacco grown in that country’s Belita region. has enjoyed cigars from Partagas, both regular and limited releases, for more than a decade. Quite a few have garnered high ratings, and you can check them out through our Reviews Archive. This latest offering, a brick-and-mortar exclusive, is no exception.

As I noted, I think it’s the Cameroon wrapper that makes it special. There’s a spicy pre-light aroma that kicks in with the first puff. And it doesn’t let up. The cigar isn’t particularly hot or peppery; the flavors are a mixture of exotic and seasoning spices.

The Robustos I smoked, which weigh in at 5.5 inches with a 50 ring gauge ($7.49), did not change much throughout, aside from a bit of tobacco sweetness intertwined along the way.

With a flavor so enjoyable, that’s by no means a criticism. The subtlety draws you deeper and deeper into the smoking experience.

Construction, draw, and smoke production were excellent. I’d put the strength level at medium. The only drawback I noticed was that it tended to dry my mouth.

As is evident from the name, this cigar is another General tribute to Ramon Cifuentes Toriello. The Cuban cigar pioneer lost Partagas after the revolution and fled to the United States in 1961. He went to work for General, and later produced the first non-Cuban Partagas cigars.

The new line consists of four vitolas and is a regular-production smoke so you should have no trouble finding them at your local shop. I rate this latest Partagas four and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys