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Cigar Review: Villiger La Vencedora Toro

19 Feb 2018

A month ago, Villiger announced its first full-bodied cigar. La Vencedora, Spanish for “the victor,” is a Nicaraguan puro made at Joya de Nicaragua. The line is intended as a “follow-up blend” to the Ecuadorian-wrapped La Flor de Ynclan, which debuted last year.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to use our 130 years of experience to create what I feel is a very special cigar in the Villiger La Vencedora,” said Heinrich Villiger, chairman of the Switzerland-based company. Rene Castañeda, president of Villiger Cigars North America, added, “La Vencedora is a palate-pleasing, full-bodied, yet elegant cigar, that will satisfy the cigar connoisseur as well as the casual smoker.”

The introduction of a truly full-bodied cigar is the latest in a series of moves made by Villiger to step up its premium cigar game. For quite some time, Villiger had been known almost exclusively as a purveyor of machine-made cigars. In recent years, though, Villiger has introduced several premium handmade cigar lines, including La Flor de Ynclan, 1888, San’Doro, and, now, La Vencedora. (Quick side note: Three cheers to Villiger for maintaining a clean, updated, easy-to-navigate website to help consumers learn about its blends—a no-brainer that’s unfortunately all too uncommon among cigar makers.)

The three La Vencedora vitolas retail in the $9-10 range: Robusto (5 x 50), Churchill (7 x 50), and Toro (6 x 50). The latter is the subject of today’s review. Beneath its metallic band of silver, black, and red is a dark, moderately oily Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro wrapper. The foot exhibits pre-light notes of black cherry and mesquite. Once the well-executed cap is clipped, I find, despite the Toro’s relative firmness, an easy cold draw.

After setting an even light, a rich, medium-bodied profile introduces itself with flavors ranging from espresso and dried fruit to black pepper and cinnamon. Shortly thereafter, the body ramps up to full, and all of the individual notes—especially espresso—increase in intensity. The midway point is characterized by less spice and more cream, as well as the welcome additions of brown sugar, roasted pecans, and vanilla. The texture is bready. The finale is a heavy dose of spice.

True to Joya de Nicaragua form, the combustion properties are outstanding. Expect an even burn, solid gray ash, smooth draw, and good smoke production.

La Vencedora “represents to Heinrich Villiger the arrival of Villiger Cigars to the premium handmade cigar segment.” To him, it is a “legacy cigar.” To me, it’s the most impressive, complex, encompassing smoke Villiger has produced to date, and it earns 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: MBombay Classic Torpedo

14 Feb 2018

This new vitola in the Classic line from Bombay Tobak won’t be crowding the shelves at your local B&M. In fact, it is intended to be available only as one of five cigars in MBombay’s new Sample Pack, though some retailers may split them apart for individual sales (MSRP $11.95).

The Torpedos have a smaller production level than other MBombay Classics. According to brand owner Mel Shah, there are two primary reasons for this: (1) the difficulty and time required to properly roll the shape, and (2) the fact that the cigars are aged for more than 14 months before heading to market.

So, the bottom line is you may have to do a little searching to find this cigar. Judging from those I’ve smoked, it will be well worth your while.

The tobaccos include an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, Ecuadorian binder, and filler from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Peru. The Torpedo, a 6-inch cigar with a ring gauge of 52, features an unfinished, closed foot. As with other Bombay Tobak cigars, it is rolled in Costa Rica.

There’s not a lot of differences from the original Classic—which received four stogies when we reviewed it in 2016—but that little bit is notable.

While both are smooth, the Torpedo is a bit stronger, especially in the second half. (Overall, I’d rate the strength as mild in the first half, medium thereafter.) And both are creamy with cedar notes, but the Torpedo also evokes some citrus and other fruity sweetness for added complexity.

On the other hand, they were identical in performance. Excellent burn, excellent draw, and great smoke production.

If you purchase the sampler, the other four cigars are the Mora Toro, Habano Robusto, Corojo Oscuro Robusto, and a Gaaja Toro.

The Classic Torpedo is a welcome addition to the MBombay line, and I think any cigar smoker will enjoy it. It earns four and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Interlude Maduro Rothschild Jr.

12 Feb 2018

Baby, it’s cold outside. For those of us not lucky enough to live in a tropical climate, February–with its diminishing humidity and freezing temperatures–is a stark reminder that winter is not the most accommodating season for cigars. This may be the shortest month in terms of days but, here in Chicago, it certainly feels like the longest.

While braving inclement weather shows a true dedication to the leaf, Jack Frost does everything he can to make standing still or sitting down pretty damn intolerable. That’s why many cold-climate cigar enthusiasts turn to smaller, shorter cigars this time of year.

If you’re looking to pack a premium cigar experience into a short amount of time, cigar legend Ernesto Perez-Carrillo has your back. In 2016, he launched Interlude, a line of two different blends each presented in two winter friendly formats: Carrillitos (4 x 38) and Rothschild Jr. (3.75 x 48).

The Natural version of “Ernesto’s shortest cigar ever made” sports a Connecticut wrapper (same as the New Wave Reserva) around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Maduro boasts a Mexican San Andrés wrapper (same as La Historia) around an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan filler. Given their small size, both were challenging to blend “because the dimensions limit the amount of tobacco that can be used,” Ernesto Perez-Carrillo shared via email. “So the proportions have to be just right to get the flavor profile sought.”

I smoked a handful of cigars in the Interlude Maduro Rothschild Jr. format for this review. This cigar is neatly presented in a regal, compact five-pack that retails for $16.25 (or $3.25 per cigar).

Once the cellophane is removed, the rustic, highly mottled wrapper comes into view. It is wrinkled, veiny, and rough around the edges—especially at the seams and cap (this is, to some extent, to be expected with San Andrés wrapper leaf). The feel is firm. Still, after a guillotine cut, the cold draw is smooth. At the foot, I find pre-light notes of leather, green raisin, and caramel.

The introductory flavor is a full-bodied experience with plenty of black pepper spice, rich molasses, and black coffee. Quickly, the Maduro Rothschild Jr. settles into the medium- to full-bodied spectrum. As the body and spice settle a bit, the introduction of café au lait with sugar adds sweetness, creaminess, and balance. At the midway point, a salty peanut flavor joins the fray. This is about how the cigar remains for the rest of the 45-minute smoke.

Throughout, construction is flawless. The burn is straight from light to nub, the ash holds well off the foot, and the draw is clear. Notably, the smoke production is well above average—especially for a cigar that feels this firm.

I am looking forward to trying the remaining three Interlude cigars. The E.P. Carrillo Interlude Maduro Rothschild Jr. earns a solid rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Series P Miami P1 Corona Gorda

7 Feb 2018

Perhaps our well-informed readers will know of another but, off the top of my head, I can think of only one mixed-filler, hand-rolled cigar made in America: the Tatuaje Series P Miami. Last year, without much fanfare, the cigars began appearing in limited numbers at some Tatuaje retailers.

Via email, Tatuaje owner Pete Johnson describes the cigars this way: “Made in Miami using only picadura from Brown Label Miami. The Ecuador Habano wrapper is the same wrapper on Brown Label. Two binders like everything else we make. Very small production with only one roller making them.”

The cigars are available in two sizes: P1 Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46) and P2 Robusto (5 x 50). The cigars sell for about $6 each in foil-wrapped bundles of 25. I smoked four in the Corona Gorda size for this review.

The cigar features a nipple cap (just like the Tatuaje Black Corona Gorda) and the dark Ecuadorian wrapper extends around the closed foot. About that wrapper, Johnson says the Miami Series P uses the same wrappers as the Brown Label cigars rolled in Miami, which is a mix of the lighter shade original six sizes and the higher priming wrappers used on the Cojonu, J21, and K222 vitolas.

The cigar features medium- to full-bodied flavors with rich espresso, light cedar, black pepper, and cocoa. Additional notes of sweet cream, toast, and charred oak are prominent, especially towards the second half.

Despite being mixed-filler (a combination of long-filler and picadura cuttings from other long-filler cigars), I found construction to more than adequate. Though the draw is perhaps more open and the ash less stable than regular, higher-priced Tatuaje Miami cigars, combustion overall is still good.

I’ve always found the foil-wrapped Tatuaje cigars to be among my favorites and, once again, I’m impressed by a Miami-made, wet-packed Tat. Despite the 100% long-filler Brown Label Tatuajes not being all that more expensive than this mixed-filler offering, I recommend this cigar, if you can find it. The Tatuaje Series P Miami P1 Corona Gorda earns a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Bandolero Traviesos

29 Jan 2018

Havana-born Nelson Alfonso is the graphic designer behind Selected Tobacco, an ultra-premium outfit that produces cigars under the Atabey, Byron, and Bandolero brands. Even if you’re unfamiliar with these cigars, you’ve almost certainly appreciated Alfonso’s work; his firm, Golden Age Visual Developers, has contributed to the packaging and design of many iconic Cuban brands, including Behike (which explains why Atabey looks so Behike-esque).

Bandolero is handmade in Costa Rica with an undisclosed blend. Here’s the origin of the Bandolero name from United Cigar (Selected Tobacco’s distributor in the U.S.): “Between 1717 and 1817, the Spanish Crown prohibited cigar production in the Caribbean and the rest of the American colonies, and although its precious leaves continued growing on the other side of the ocean, the ‘puro’ cigar rolling that we all know today could only be done at the Sevilla Royal Factory [in Spain]… [This] led to the rising prices of tobacco and the birth of the bandolero, an intrepid figure that hid on mysterious roads with tobacco leaves rolled in other countries…”

The Bandolero Traviesos has the dimensions of a standard robusto (5 x 50), but it actually smokes more like a shorter, stouter cigar given its long torpedo cap. It retails for $12 for a single. The cigar has a dark, mahogany-colored wrapper with moderate tooth and ample oils. The seams are tight and the veins are thin. Once the well-executed torpedo cap is clipped, I find a smooth cold draw. At the foot, the pre-light notes remind me of molasses.

After setting an even light with a couple wooden matches, a woodsy, slightly spicy, medium-bodied profile emerges with flavors ranging from cedar and espresso to black cherry and cocoa powder. The overall first impression is one of harmony, depth, and smoothness of delivery.

As the Traviesos progresses, the flavors remain fairly consistent, save for a cayenne-like heat that comes and goes at will, as well as the introduction of a taste I can only describe as natural tobacco. At times, there’s a roasted peanut flavor that’s borderline brilliant—but it’s very fleeting.

While the ash holds well and the draw is clear throughout, the burn line leaves something to be desired. I didn’t have to perform any touch-ups along the way, but I certainly thought about using my flame to correct the wavy burn a few times. The smoke production is about average.

Of the Bravos size (5.25 x 52), I wrote the following in May 2015: “Given the cost, I was hoping for a memorable, complex experience that would make me reach for this cigar to celebrate special occasions. The Bandolero Bravos falls a little short of those lofty expectations. While I enjoy the flavors, I think the complexity isn’t quite there, and that results in a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.”

My experience might have been a little different with the Traviesos, but my conclusions are identical. I award 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: Crux Epicure Robusto

24 Jan 2018

The first thing that stands out about this cigar is the wrapper, a beautiful light brown Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf stretched over Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The large band around it has Crux’s trademark medieval-reminiscent typface on a red background balanced by a white strip below with the cigar’s name in gold. It is an impressive presentation.

The next strong impression comes after lighting up. There’s none of that typical Connecticut grassy characteristic. Instead, the dominant flavors are natural sweetness and toast. Around the second third, light pepper and cedar mingle in and remain through the rest of the Robusto (5 x 50, $10).

Though it will certainly appeal to the large segment of cigar smokers who prefer milder cigars, Epicure is by no means an old-school Connecticut. Rather, it’s what I think of as a “millennial Connecticut”: a blend that manages to create smoothness and flavor without a significant grassy component in a mild- to medium-bodied smoke.

Like other Crux cigars, this one is rolled by Plasencia. Performance is first-rate. In both of those I smoked, the burn was slow and straight, the ash held tightly, and there was a lot of smoke production.

The line was introduced in 2016 but didn’t ship widely until last year. It comes in three sizes in addition to the Robusto: Corona Gorda (5.375 x 46), Robusto Extra (5.75 x 54), and Toro (6.25 x 52).

With a milder blend, Epicure fills a spot in the expanding Crux lineup that’s been highly praised, including numerous strong ratings at StogieGuys.com for many of their smokes.

This one is no exception. And I would urge anyone to give Epicure a try, even if you primarily smoke high-powered cigars. With the right circumstances and attention, I believe this cigar will satisfy most smokers. I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: CruxStogie Guys

Cigar Review: Illusione La Gran Classe Rex

17 Jan 2018

In 2012, Dion Giolito introduced La Grand Classe as a small-batch exclusive for his Fumare store in Reno, Nevada. The project appeared short-lived, with only one follow up, La Grand Classe Rex, which appeared in 2013.

Then, at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show, Giolito, who also owns the Illusione brand, announced La Grand Classe Rex was returning as part of an Illusione-branded La Grand Classe line.

The cigars feature a reddish-brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It measures 4.9 inches long with a ring gauge of 40 and sells for $5.50 per cigar. It comes un-banded in gold foil bundles of 25.

Flavors include roasted cashews, dry earth, and light leather in a medium- to full-bodied blend. The profile also features cinnamon and nutmeg spice, which starts out light and builds after the midway point.

It’s a balanced cigar that provides surprising nuance in such a small vitola. The draw and burn are excellent, although keep in mind that the ash produced by small ring gauge cigars has a tendency to fall off unexpectedly.

If you’re looking for a smaller cigar to enjoy this winter (because you don’t have the time or warmth for something longer) this is one to try. For providing pleasing flavors and excellent value, Illusione La Gran Classe Rex earns a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys