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Cigar Review: Protocol Probable Cause Lancero

11 Nov 2019

I’m not sure how Cubariqueño Cigar Company co-founder Juan Cancel gets any real work done. Being a brand owner surely must entail plenty of grind and grit. Spreadsheets. Forecasting. Sales calls. Long, over-caffeinated nights. Flights to and from the factory. Arduous days spent in airports, rental cars, and countless cigar shops/lounges.

Yet, according to his (often hilarious) Facebook posts, seemingly daily he is at some exotic locale with a wide, toothy, bearded grin. He might be shirtless. He might be with some “internet famous” cigar babe well-known for her bikini-laden Instagram page. He might be dressed as Santa Claus. Wherever he is, and whatever he’s doing, the two constants seem to be (1) a smile as exaggerated as the day is long and (2) a Cubariqueño cigar.

Cubariqueño has been around for four years, having introduced itself to the cigar world in 2015 with a nondescript table at Erik Espinosa’s booth at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans. Founders Juan Cancel and Bill Ives count among their brands Protocol, Protocol Probable Cause, Protocol Official Misconduct, Protocol Gold, and Sir Robert Peel (both Natural and Maduro).

When it was launched in 2015, the Protocol Probable Cause came in two sizes: Robusto (5 x 52, $9.69) and a box-pressed Churchill (6.6 x 48, $9.89). In 2017, a Lancero (7.5 x 38, $10.50) was added. It is made at Espinosa’s La Zona Cigar Factory in Estelí with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos.

I am a fan of lanceros and was eager to try the Probable Cause line in this format. Despite its narrow ring gauge, it has a smooth pre-light draw. It comes handsomely presented with dual bands of red, silver, and black. “La Zona” is inscribed on the back.

Once lit, there is an initial blast of black pepper spice, which is only slightly balanced by a faint background of natural tobacco sweetness. From there, the Lancero settles into a medium-bodied, classic-tasting smoke with a thick, leathery texture.

At the midway point, while the black pepper remains, a spicy red pepper cayenne heat is introduced. Other flavors include steak, dried fruit, and espresso. The overall effect is simultaneously earthy, leathery, and dry. The final third is much of the same.

In terms of physical properties, the burn line isn’t perfect—but it also doesn’t really require any touch-ups along the way. The smoke production is good, and the gray ash holds well.

Bottom line? This is this is a good lancero at a fair price. It may not make my smile as wide and enthusiastic as Juan Cancel’s—not many cigars would—but I’m smiling nonetheless. In my book, the Protocol Probable Cause Lancero earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Cigar Review: Curivari Sun Grown 550

6 Nov 2019

Last week I reviewed the Curivari Gloria de Leon and noted the brand’s “reputation as a brand that appeals to fans of Nicaraguan cigars and provides excellent value for the price.” Now I’m looking at another Curivari line, the (comparatively simply-named) Sun Grown blend.

I smoked three robusto-shaped “550” vitolas. The Sun Grown line consists of box-pressed smokes that feature sun-grown Nicaraguan Habano wrappers around Nicaraguan binder and fillers. The cigars sell for around $6, slightly less when purchased in consumer-friendly boxes of 10 cigars.

The cigar is a medium-bodied smoke with espresso, damp earth, and clove notes. As it evolves, leather and black pepper spice flavors emerge with the pepper spice lingering on the palate.

It’s a gritty flavor profile that at times lacks balance. Construction is excellent, with the firmly box-pressed smoke featuring an even burn, sturdy salt and pepper ash, and good smoke production.

Curivari makes a lot of cigars (with a flurry, including the Sun Grown, introduced at the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show). While there are many blends, all stay true to the brand’s Nicaraguan-centric character. The Curivari Sun Grown is no exception.

While hardly my favorite Curivari blend (I far prefer the Buenaventura and Gloria de Leon lines), it is still a solid smoke, especially considering the price. That earns the Curivari Sun Grown 550 a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Curivari Gloria de Leon Dominante

30 Oct 2019

Curivari has grown a reputation as a brand that appeals to fans of Nicaraguan cigars and provides excellent value for the price. They’ve particularly been lauded for the Buenaventura line (which we’ve often praised). Today, though, we’re checking out the Curivari Gloria de Leon line.

Like other Curivari offerings, it is dominated by Nicaraguan tobacco. In this case, it’s a Nicaraguan puro with a Criollo wrapper surrounding a combination of Cuban-seed Criollo and Corojo tobaccos. It comes in three sizes: Fuerza (4.5 x 50), Dominante (5.25 x 54), and Prominente (6.75 x 54). I smoked three of the thick robusto-sized Dominante vitola for this review.

The cigar retails for $6-7 and comes in boxes of 10. (I’m a big fan of 10-count boxes, which I find to be very consumer-friendly.) The medium reddish-brown wrapper is framed by a classic red, white, and gold band that one might reasonably conclude is deliberately similar to the classic Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey.

Pre-light notes include bread and subtle licorice. The cigar opens with a blast of black coffee followed not long after with wet cedar and bread notes. Soon, it progresses to a spicier profile, with gingersnap cookies, red pepper, nutmeg, and clove.

It’s a complex cigar that wobbles back and forth over the line between medium- and full-bodied. Towards the final third, it settles into a more medium-strength profile with some creaminess and fruit notes. Baking spices remain on the finish.

Construction is excellent with a firm (but not-too-firm) draw and solid gray ash. One of the more interesting cigars I’ve smoked recently, and one with flavors that are anything but linear, the Curivari Gloria de Leon Dominante 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: Sir Robert Peel Natural

28 Oct 2019

Sir Robert Peel twice served as prime minister of the United Kingdom in the 19th century. He is also remembered as the father of modern British policing for his founding of the Metropolitan Police Service at Scotland Yard. That legacy has earned Peel a cigar bearing his name and image, courtesy of two former law enforcement officials: Juan Cancel and Bill Ives.

Cancel and Ives launched the Cubariqueño Cigar Co. in 2015 with a nondescript table at Erik Espinosa’s booth at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans. Back then, they were not entertaining delusions of grandeur. They set a goal to open 20 accounts and produced at one factory (Espinosa’s La Zona in Estelí). Before the show was over, they had sold out their inventory.

Flash forward to today and Cubariqueño is still very much a small, boutique outfit. But, in an indication of their continued success, their blend lineup includes Protocol, Official Misconduct, and Sir Robert Peel.

The latter is made at the La Zona Cigar Factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. It comes in two wrapper variations—Ecuadorian Rosado and Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. Each boasts Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, and each is presented in a box-pressed toro format (6 x 52) with a suggested retail price of $12.

Today I’m examining the Natural edition, which features a gold band around the foot. (The Maduro edition has a red band; kudos to Cubariqueño for making it possible to easily identify one versus the other.) It is a handsome, regal-looking smoke with a golden wrapper and an ornate band complete with Sir Robert Peel’s portrait. Pre-light, there are notes of sweet hay at the foot.

As we always do for full reviews, I smoked several Naturals in order to judge consistency—the most recent of which was enjoyed last evening with my father. After lighting up, we both immediately arrived at the same word: “smooth.” This is a soft, smooth cigar with a creamy, buttery texture. At the outset, I would call it mild- to medium-bodied. Other flavor descriptors include toffee, peanut, white pepper, salt, and café au lait.

Moving into the midway point, the flavor increases slightly in intensity, but by no means does it venture any further than the medium-bodied spectrum. That profile is consistent until the final third, when the white pepper transitions to black pepper, the café au lait transitions to espresso, and a hint of licorice enters the equation. Throughout, there are no traces of bitterness or harsh heat.

In terms of physical properties, the burn line meanders a bit but requires zero touch-ups along the way. Other combustion attributes are admirable. The draw is easy, the ash holds really well off the foot, and the smoke production is solid.

So far, this is my favorite of the Cubariqueño lot. It’s a wonderful, classic-tasting, Cuban-esque cigar worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Cigar Review: CAO Session Garage

21 Oct 2019

You won’t find too many details about Rick Rodriquez’s career on his LinkedIn profile. Basically, it says he has been at General Cigar since 1999, and the only role listed is “blender/ambassador.” Not exactly the kind of detail I was hoping for.

General’s website thankfully has more information about Rodriguez. There, we can learn that he distinguished himself as a sales rep to the point where “General Cigar’s team of cigar masters unanimously selected Rick to participate in a rigorous cigar master training program” that brought him throughout the cigar world to learn about “tobacco agriculture, cultivation, aging, processing, cigar rolling, and ultimately, cigar blending.” Not a bad gig.

Fifteen years ago, Rodriquez’s training brought him to Yuri Guillen, who is now manager of manufacturing at General Cigar Dominicana. “Since then, Ricky’s become an accomplished master blender, and he’s been all over the world sourcing the finest, most unique tobaccos for his CAO blends like Flathead, Amazon Basin, and many more of your favorites,” reads the CAO Session microsite. “With the new CAO Session, Ricky’s gone back to his roots, blending his new signature cigar in the Dominican Republic alongside Yuri and his original team.”

Session, which shipped to retailers in early July, is a no-nonsense, everyday smoke inspired by the many cigars Rodriguez smoked in his garage. It is marketed as a medium-bodied, full-flavored stick for any occasion. The recipe includes a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Dominican binder, and Dominican Piloto Cubano and Nicaraguan Estelí filler tobaccos.

There are three Session formats available, each packaged in 20-count boxes: Garage (5.25 x 54, $8.59), Bar (6 x 49, $8.99), and Shop (6 x 60, $9.59). They are handmade in the Dominican Republic and employ a “unique post-fermentation treatment [that] deepens Session’s flavor and darkens its color.”

I sampled three CAO Sessions in the Garage format for this review. As with many Connecticut Broadleaf cigars, it is lumpy and toothy in appearance. The dark, thick wrapper has some noticeable veins and an oily sheen. The dual bands of orange, white, and dark blue—from the perspective of this Bears/Illini fan, a wonderful color scheme—loudly proclaim the blend and invite you to partake in a “session” of your own: “Sit. Smoke. Chill.” Rodriguez’s signature adorns the back.

The cold draw isn’t what I’d call tight but, for whatever reason, I find the Garage slightly more enjoyable if I clip the cap a little further down than I otherwise would.

Once lit, pre-light notes of raisin and damp earth transition to a full-bodied introductory profile of black pepper spice, leather, earth, and a faint sugary note. Sometimes I pick up a hint of citrus. Along the way, these same flavors come and go. At times the profile shines, at times it is muted. Nothing too complex. The final third is hot and somewhat bitter.

While the draw and smoke production are solid, the burn requires multiple touch-ups along the way to keep things burning evenly. As a result, the ash—while holding well—does not layer evenly. I found these physical attributes consistent across all three specimens.

While I certainly respect Rick Rodriquez and all he has accomplished, I think the CAO Session Garage leaves a lot to be desired. The combustion issues could certainly be overlooked if the flavor was consistently exciting. It is not, and that’s ultimately why I’m settling on a disappointing score of two 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: Aquitaine Pestra Muierilor

9 Oct 2019

As the weather cools I find myself looking for smaller cigars to enjoy. Not cigarillos or mini machine-mades, but smaller format, handmade cigars that can be enjoyed in 30 minutes when the time is short and the weather is chilly.

When RoMa Craft Tobac burst onto the scene, the outfit favored large ring gauges; now RoMa has a portfolio of a variety of shapes and sizes. In 2015, RoMa introduced El Catador de las Petite Coronas, a sampler of their five primary blends, all in the petit corona format. Now each is available in its own 30-count box.

One example is the Aquitaine Pestra Muierilor (4 x 46). Like other Aquitaine vitolas, it features an Ecuadorian Habano Ligero wrapper, a Cameroon binder, and Nicaraguan filler consisting of tobaccos from Condega, Estelí, and Pueblo Nuevo. Boxes of 30 have a suggested retail price of $195, but I’ve seen them sell for under $140 (or under $5 per cigar).

The Pestra Muierilor features a chestnut brown wrapper with a little oily shine. Pre-light, notes include coffee, cocoa, and light spice. Once lit, you’ll find a full-bodied smoke with leather, toast, dry earth, and a combination of floral and fruit sweetness.

The cigar sports a peppery retrohale. The finish is long with dry chocolate, baking spices, and creamy notes. Construction is notably excellent, especially for such a compact format, with plenty of smoke production, an even draw, and a mostly even burn.

Pestra Muierilor is a sparkplug of a little smoke, full of flavor even if at times it seems to come at the expanse of balance. I think the depth of the Aquitaine blend is better showcased in larger formats, but that doesn’t mean the Pestra Muierilor isn’t a highly enjoyable 30-40 minute smoke. It 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: Intemperance Whiskey Rebellion 1794 Hamilton

8 Oct 2019

Nothing says “America!” quite like a tax protest, the most preeminent of which has to be the “no taxation without representation” movement that culminated in the Boston Tea Party. Whiskey is objectively better than tea, though; the 1790s insurrection against the so-called “whiskey tax” shouldn’t be overlooked.

Skip Martin of RoMa Craft Tobac is doing his part to draw cigar enthusiasts’ attention to the Whiskey Rebellion. You need look no further than a certain cigar in his Intemperance line—entirely fitting since Intemperance is an ode to everything the temperance movement was against (namely, booze).

The Intemperance Whiskey Rebellion 1794 cigar line debuted in 2016—approximately 222 years after the actual Whiskey Rebellion was squelched by President Washington. It was initially an exclusive for Famous Smoke Shop, which is headquartered in Easton, Pennsylvania (not far from the route Washington rode through Reading to Carlisle and back west through Womelsdorf to check in on the militia he sent to suppress the uprising).

Starting this summer, the Whiskey Rebellion cigar is no longer exclusive to Famous. It is available to retailers nationwide. It employs an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, an Indonesian Bezuki binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

There are five sizes, each named for a major player in the rebellion. Hamilton (4 x 46, $6.15) is named for Alexander Hamilton, who believed an excise tax on whiskey would help the young nation pay for the Revolutionary War and draw public attention to the negative effects of alcohol. Jefferson (4.5 x 50, $7.10) is named for Thomas Jefferson, a prominent opponent of the tax. McFarlane (5 x 50, $7.35) is named for Major James McFarlane, the commander of the rebels who died in the conflict. Washington (5.5 x 54, $7.85) is obviously named for George Washington. And Bradford (5 x 56, $8) is named for David Bradford, a leader of the rebellion.

The Hamilton is a compact, handsome smoke with the familiar Intemperance band and a dark secondary band denoting the blend. As with other Intemperance lines, the exposed foot shows the binder and filler bunch for about a quarter inch past the wrapper. The cold draw is smooth.

The foot lights easily and immediately offers a unique opportunity to taste the binder/filler combo before the wrapper comes into play. To me, this part of the cigar is drier and spicier and less balanced than when the wrapper is lit—which stands up to reason.

Once fully operational, the Hamilton impacts a profile that’s medium-bodied, dry, and woodsy. Individual notes include cedar, oak, espresso, and thick molasses. The background sweetness has a character of warm natural tobacco. The texture is leathery and, at times, I can pick up a cherry sweetness. Across the three samples I smoked for this review, two had occasional burn issues that were easily corrected with a few torch touch-ups.

From light to nub, this cigar lasts about 45 minutes—which makes it a perfect way to satisfy an Intemperance craving without a significant time commitment. Call me a RoMa fanboy if you like, but this is another winner from Skip Martin, and a great sub-$7 smoke. In my book it’s worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys