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Cigar Review: Hoyo by Hoyo de Monterrey Robusto

27 Apr 2016

Long a General Cigar staple, Hoyo de Monterrey is the latest offering to receive a makeover. This time, the overhaul comes via a new line inspired by an earlier limited edition. The cigar even sports a different, shorter name—simply Hoyo—and, as you’d expect, modern bands, boxes, and promotion.

HoyoInterestingly, the new Hoyo was touted in a press release by General’s vice president of marketing, Alan Willner, rather than a cigar blender.

Hoyo is being offered to tobacconists in four sizes: Rothschild (4.5 x 50), Robusto (5 x 54), Toro (6 x 50), and Gigante (6 x 60). For this review, General provided me with a five-pack of the Robustos, which carry an individual MSRP of $6.59.

The tobaccos used in Hoyo reflect the blend from last year’s Hoyo Edición de Cumpleaños 150 limited edition that celebrated the 150th anniversary of the original Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey.

That cigar features a proprietary wrapper leaf called Estelí Habano Shade, which has been fermented longer and applied to the new Hoyo. It is thick and oily with little pre-light aroma. Under an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder is a filler mix of Pennsylvania ligero along with Nicaraguan tobacco from Estelí and Ometepe.

I found excellent construction, draw, and burn in each of the samples. Smoke production was top-flight. The cigars are densely packed, and a slow burn makes the fat Robusto last longer than many larger cigars.

For me, there’s often a fine line between peppery and harsh. Sometimes it shows up in a back-of-the-throat bite, sometimes in a lingering, coarse finish. With the Hoyo Robusto, it seems to show up in both, especially during the first inch or so.

The harshness backs down somewhat in the second half, with burned coffee and tobacco sweetness coming to the fore. Overall, though, there isn’t much development throughout the five-inch smoke.

While it’s nice to see a major cigar maker reexamine long-time brands, it can sometimes feel like they’re trying too hard to emulate their boutique competitors. With Hoyo, General has produced a perfectly acceptable cigar, but one that seems a bit heavier on the sizzle than on the steak.

On the other hand, with its reasonable price and excellent combustion properties that are characteristic of General Cigar, I’d recommend giving it a try. As for rating, I give the Hoyo Robusto three stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Black Label Trading Company NBK

25 Apr 2016


In November, Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) creator James Brown announced a new “small-batch cigar line” called Black Works Studio. “Part of the motivation for opening our own factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra, was to experiment and develop unique blends highlighting Nicaraguan tobacco,” said Brown. “Black Works Studio (BLK WKS) is my first opportunity to use our factory as my playground. Blending cigars is my passion and I ended up with several blends and ideas on the shelf [so] the time was right to launch a new brand.”

NBKFor the uninitiated, BLTC’s core lines include Salvation, Lawless, Royalty, Redemption, Benediction, and Last Rites. “Our attitude re-thinks standards for cigar making, and caters to cigar lovers and aficionados tired of a mainstream, mass-produced approach to cigar making,” reads the BLTC website.

In late 2015, BLK WKS added three cigars to the BLTC portfolio: Killer Bee (4.5 x 46), an Ecuador Maduro-wrapped petite corona; Rorschach (5 x 38), an Ecuador Habano-wrapped petite panatela; and NBK (6 x 46), an Ecuador Habano Oscuro-wrapped corona larga.

The latter is a dark, reddish cigar with a soft box-press and a closed foot. The size is right up my alley (three cheers to BLK WKS for keeping all of the ring gauges under 50) and the uniformity of the wrapper’s color, tight seams, and minimal veins make this a very appealing smoke. The well-constructed cap clips cleanly to yield an ultra-easy cold draw, and the pre-light notes are sweet and chocolaty.

Once lit, I am immediately struck by the powdery nature of the texture of the smoke. While the smoke is undoubtedly cool, airy, and light, that certainly doesn’t mean the flavor is lacking in any way. Right off the bat, the profile has balanced, complex notes of cocoa powder, coffee, roasted nuts, and black pepper spice. Impressive and highly enjoyable.

As it progresses, NBK tends to favor its most delicious taste—roasted nuts—while the spice mellows and a delightful creaminess emerges. Then, at the midway point and into the finale, the pepper picks back up while coffee and chocolate takes center stage. The body is decidedly medium throughout.

The three samples I smoked for this review (each provided by BLTC) all performed admirably in the construction department. Each had a solid while ash, voluminous smoke production, a clear draw, and a well-behaved burn line that only required a slight touch-up here and there.

NBK delivers on its $9 MSRP, and then some. I’m enamored with the flavors, I love the size, and I have no complaints about the presentation or physical properties. That’s why, in my book, this gem from BLTC earns four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Davidoff Nicaragua Short Corona

18 Apr 2016

The spicy start from this cigar comes quicker and stronger than other vitolas I’ve smoked in this line. Of course, when a cigar is only 3.75 inches, starting fast is nearly a requirement.

Davidoff Nicaragua (1)That wasn’t the only difference that struck me as I smoked through a five-pack of Davidoff Nicaragua Short Coronas I’d bought for about $50 last summer. There was less change throughout—again, not unexpected. In the Robusto, for example, I found the spice to lower in intensity at about the halfway point, especially as coffee became more prominent. Not so here; spice continued pretty much as it began, with the coffee maintaining a moderate level.

Other flavors I noticed were chocolate, wood, and the earthy, musty note that seems to be a part of Davidoff’s DNA. The Short Corona finish was velvet smooth, another common Davidoff characteristic.

I drank coffee while smoking a couple, and it was an excellent pairing.

For such a small smoke (the ring gauge is 46), the draw was perfect, as was the burn throughout. Smoke production rivaled that of a much larger stick.

These Nicaraguan puros were introduced by Davidoff in 2013. Originally released in three vitolas, there are now six, including two box-pressed versions and a Diadima.

The wrapper is a ten-year-old Havana-seed rosado, the binder from Jalapa, and the filler a mixture of leaves from Nicaragua’s tobacco growing regions of Estelí, Condega, and Ometepe. Despite the tobacco composition, the cigars are rolled at Davidoff’s Dominican factory.

While a bit late to the Nicaragua tobacco fest, Davidoff knew what to do when it arrived. Our earlier reviews of the Robusto and the Toro each earned four stogies.

When the Nicaragua line was announced, Davidoff said it was part of the company’s goal of bringing “delightful experiences” to cigar smokers. I believe they did just that with the Short Corona, and I, too, give this smoke four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Old Henry Gold Label Toro

13 Apr 2016

Gold Label

As I wrote in my review of the Pure Breed Toro last month, Holt’s Cigar Company has a Best in Show sampler that features two Toros from each of the four Old Henry blends for just $29.95 ($3.74 per cigar). For cost-conscious fans of José “Pepín” García, this eight-pack is a total no-brainer.

Old Henry CTAnd whether you’re trying Old Henry for the first time or looking for an excuse to revisit these value-priced smokes, your timing couldn’t be better. This year marks the tenth anniversary of Old Henry, a house blend made for Holt’s by Pepín. Holt’s, as you may know, is the Philadelphia tobacconist that launched the Ashton brand in 1985 and today maintains a strong catalog and online presence. That means you don’t have to traipse to 1522 Walnut Street in downtown Philadelphia to get your hands on some Old Henry smokes.

Today, the Old Henry portfolio ranges from the original Old Henry (Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper), Maduro (Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper), Pure Breed (Ecuador Sumatra wrapper), and the subject of today’s review: Gold Label. Gold Label sports a clean, bright, minimally veined Connecticut-seed Ecuadorian wrapper that provides a silky cover for the Nicaraguan tobaccos underneath. Five vitolas are available in the highly affordable $4.75 to $5.75 range: Belicoso, Churchill, Corona, Robusto, and Toro.

The latter is firmly constructed from head to foot. The pre-light notes are faint with delicate hints of sweet hay, honey, and sawdust. After nothing more than a V-cut, I find the cold draw to be a bit stiff for my liking. A simple guillotine cut, though, reveals a good draw with only moderate resistance.

Right out of the gate, the Gold Label Toro exhibits a well-balanced flavor with an enjoyable interplay between sweetness, spice, and cream. Roasted nut, café au lait, dry oak, and white pepper best characterize the profile. The body is mild to medium with a buttery texture.

As it approaches the midway point, the taste becomes spicier with the additions of cinnamon and black pepper. I also notice that when my puffs become more frequent, a fleeting bitter taste has a tendency to materialize, but only for a moment. Avoiding the bitterness—which is not a flavor of which I’m particularly fond—is as easy as remembering to take your time.

The final third of the Toro has lots more cinnamon and pepper, though the body is still barely verging on medium. Construction across both of my samples was consistent and admirable. Both burn lines were of the set-it-and-forget-it variety, the smoke production was above average, and the gray ashes held firm.

This isn’t the first time we’ve reviewed the Old Henry Gold Label. My colleague examined the Belicoso way back in October 2012, finding it not complex enough to merit a four-stogie rating, but “a good bit better than a fairly routine three stogies.” He ultimately split the difference, and I concur. The Toro is worthy 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: Casa Fernandez Aniversario Miami 2015 Corojo Toro

4 Apr 2016

Miami Box

To say I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with this cigar would be too extreme. It’s more aptly described as severely irritated-very pleased.

MiamiYou see, I’ve smoked half of the ten cigars in the box I bought late last year. Four of them have had construction issues. Two had poor draws, one so tight I could barely smoke it. One had a fairly significant tunnel through about half the cigar, while the wrapper on another began to unravel less than a third of the way into the stick. One of the five smoked just fine.

All were tasty cigars, the kind of complex, balanced smokes I’ve experienced before from Casa Fernandez and its showcase Aganorsa tobacco. But it is hard to truly enjoy a cigar when you’re dealing with such interference.

As for what happened, I can only guess. I don’t believe my storage was the cause because nothing has changed in my humidor, and I haven’t encountered similar problems with other cigars. I don’t recall problems smoking other Casa Fernandez lines, so I find it hard to believe it’s an endemic situation.

No, I think I was just unlucky. Cigars, despite the best efforts at quality control, sometimes simply don’t measure up. In my case, I think I just ended up with a bad box, nothing more. Perhaps I’ll be fortunate and find the remaining five all perform perfectly.

As for the flavors, the Aniversario Miami 2015 Corojo Toro (6 x 56) is excellent. Pepper is dominant at the start, though it quickly goes to the background as a rich, thick sweetness moves to the front. Along the way I encountered roasted nuts, floral notes, and wood.

The wrapper is an Aganorsa Corojo ’99 with Nicaraguan filler. The cigar retails for about $12 a stick, a bit less by the box.

Obviously, it’s difficult to rate a cigar after so many problems. I considered waiting until I had smoked them all, but would it really matter if it ended up 5-5 or 6-4 or 4-6?

The bottom line is that I liked the flavors of the cigar very much, but the overall experience was lacking. I can only hope that my box was, as I said, an anomaly. Nonetheless, I can give this Casa Fernandez only three stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Generosos Toro (Casa de Montecristo Exclusive)

28 Mar 2016

EP Carrillo Generosos

In February, Casa de Montecristo (CDM)—a successful three-location tobacconist in Chicago—launched a retail website, which notably boasts exclusive releases from brands like My Father Cigars, Tatuaje, Drew Estate, and more. “ will not only feature a fantastic selection of the finest cigars available, but will bring the consumer interactive features such as wish lists, a virtual lounge, chances to purchase extremely rare cigars, and periodic raffles,” stated a CDM press release. “The newest cigar releases, limited edition products, certified aged vintage cigars, and the finest accessories will also be featured.”

GenerososIncluded in the list of CDM exclusives is a cigar from E.P. Carrillo that hit the market in 2013: Generosos (Spanish for “generous”). This blend sports an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, a Dominican binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua. It is marketed as a “fantastically smooth smoke” that’s “medium-bodied” with “smooth, earthy, and nutty” flavors and “a slight hint of spice with a creamy finish.”

There are three vitolas available at Toro (5.9 x 52, $10.74), Robusto (4.9 x 50, $8.94), and Gordo (6.25 x 60, $11.64). (A box-pressed Torpedo was also previously available, but this format is not listed online.) The E.P. Carrillo Generosos Toro has a lumpy, milk chocolate-colored wrapper with a slight red tint. The surface is criss-crossed with thin white veins, and the feel is consistently moderate from head to foot.

Once lit, the airy cold draw and soft pre-light notes of sweet hay transition to a dry, woodsy profile of cinnamon spice, campfire, tea, and creamy peanut. Hints of sweetness are particularly evident on the retrohale and in the aroma of the resting smoke. The open draw contributes to a somewhat papery texture, yet the Toro does not lack for flavor. Decidedly medium-bodied throughout, the interplay between spice and sweetness over an oak-like base is what I’ll remember most about this experience.

Fortunately, the cigar’s physical properties do not inhibit my enjoyment of the Generosos in the slightest. The white ash holds well off the foot, the burn line stays straight and true from light to nub, and the smoke production is above average.

I’ve come to expect a lot anytime I light up an E.P. Carrillo creation. Since the founding of his second cigar company about six years ago (his first, El Credito, was sold to General Cigar in 1999), Ernesto Perez-Carrillo has impressed my colleagues and I time and again with the impressive quality and craftsmanship he instills in his boutique offerings. The Generosos blend is no exception. Tasty and well-balanced, the E.P. Carrillo Generosos Toro is worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Aging Room Bin No. 1 B Minor

21 Mar 2016

B Minor

B-MinorYears ago, when the literary editor for the Chicago Daily News came across a book he particularly liked, he’d run review after review in the paper. I feel a bit like that with Aging Room’s Bin No. 1, although this is just my second. And I waited more than a year since my previous review.

So, why go back now? Well, I’ve smoked my last cigars from the box and they were just so good I feel like I need to make sure you’re aware of it.

Also, the addition of a Lancero and a limited-edition box-pressed vitola, neither of which I have tried, brought it back to mind.

The B Minor is a tor (6.125 x 52). It sells for about $12 and comes in shiny boxes of 20. If you like larger ring gauges, it is also available in thicker formats (5.25 x 54 and 6.25 x 63). The wrapper is an Ecuadorian Habana over Dominican filler and binder.

The characteristic that stood out after nearly a year and a half in the humidor was smoothness. All that made the Bin No. 1 such an enjoyable smoke seemed to be sanded down just a tad and locked together in a velvety, even experience. I couldn’t help but think of the spice and sweetness as having become intertwined in some sort of cigar smoke double helix.

In the original review, I wrote that because the tobaccos in the Bin No. 1 were already well aged, “these may not be the best candidates for long-term aging because it would be a shame for them to lose the zesty qualities that stand out.”

I’m not sure if my supposition was right or wrong. On the one hand, I certainly found improvement in 16 to 18 months. On the other hand, that amount of time is pretty short for those who are serious about aging cigars.

And my guess is that a year or two is probably all you’d want to wait.

But if you have the patience, I recommend it. What I found was that an excellent cigar got even better, moving the B Minor up to a five-stogie rating.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys