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Cigar Review: Camacho Connecticut Robusto

25 Feb 2015

In the summer of 2013, Camacho revamped its cigar portfolio. Known for producing full-bodied cigars and owned by Davidoff since 2008, Camacho unveiled a new scorpion logo and distributed marketing materials that trumpeted “bold is back with a vengeance.” The likes of Mike Ditka, Matt Booth of Room 101 Cigars (Room 101 is made by Camacho), and screenwriter Rob Weiss were added to Camacho’s new “Board of the Bold.”

Camacho Connecticut1Aside from these marketing efforts, Camacho narrowed its offerings from 11 lines down to 6—Corojo, Corojo Maduro, Connecticut, Criollo, Triple Maduro, and Diploma. All but the Triple Maduro and Connecticut were entirely re-blended.

At the time, I remember being pleased that the Camacho Connecticut would remain unchanged. The Toro and Monarca, in particular, were solid smokes, as well as regulars in my rotation. In fact, I had enough of each in my humidors that it was only until recently that I started smoking the re-branded Connecticut. (Full disclosure: Famous sent me a sampler pack of Connecticut Robustos to make this review possible. As always, the samples Famous provided in no way impact my assessment of the cigar.)

For starters, I have to say I prefer the old Connecticut band—which was white, classic, and understated—to the new, bright, modern-looking packaging. That said, once you remove the large, yellow-orange band, you’ll find the Robusto (5 x 50, formerly known as Monarca) looks just like the old Connecticut. The wrapper is clean and golden, the feel is moderately spongy, the cold draw is easy, and the pre-light notes remind me of sawdust and peanut.

After setting an even light, the flavor is familiar, too. The Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper combines with the Corojo binder and Honduran and Dominican long-filler tobaccos to produce a creamy, nutty taste that’s on the mild side—but definitely is no slouch in the flavor department. It’s almost like taking your typical Connecticut-wrapped cigar and adding some black pepper and cedar spice. Very nice balance and complexity.

True to Davidoff form, the Camacho Connecticut Robusto displays excellent combustion properties on a consistent basis. Expect a smooth draw, solid ash that holds well off the foot, average smoke production, and a straight burn line that requires zero touch-ups.

Maybe the best decision Davidoff made when re-launching the Camacho portfolio was to not tweak the blend of the Connecticut. My taste buds can’t tell the difference between the old and the new version, and that’s a good thing in my book. This $7 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: Ezra Zion Honor Series FHK The Truth

24 Feb 2015

In November, I reviewed the Ezra Zion Tantrum P.A., the first Ezra Zion cigar we reviewed. Today I take a look at another recent Ezra Zion blend: the Honor Series FHK.

ezra-zion-fhkFHK, the second in the Ezra Zion Honor Series, was released at the beginning of 2014. The blend is billed by Ezra Zion as its “first true multi-country cigar blend.”

Made at Plasencia’s factory in Nicaragua, FHK uses a Mexican Maduro wrapper around an Indonesian binder. The filler is a combination of Brazilian and Nicaraguan filler.

Only 2,000 FHK boxes are split between the line’s four sizes: Inspired (5.5 x 50) and Truth (7 x 44) sell for $189, or $9 each; and Stature (7 x 54) and Character (6 x 52) sell for $210, or $10 each.

The wrapper is a mottled medium brown color. The cigar starts out with a combination of clove, cinnamon, and malty sweetness. It is medium-bodied with some cedar spice and a light, earthy finish that lingers on the palate.

Ezra Zion describes the FHK blend as “creamy and malty, reminiscent of a craft beer,” and I’m inclined to agree. The body, spice, and sweetness profile remind me of a Scottish ale.

Before I give my assessment of this particular cigar, let me admit a little bias. The flavor of the wrapper is one that doesn’t frequently impress me. While there are good Mexican-wrapped cigars, if you gave me two cigars (one with a Mexican wrapper and one without), knowing nothing else I’d be inclined towards the one without the Mexican wrapper.

That said, the Ezra Zion Honor Series FHK is well-made, balanced, and flavorful. While I much prefer the Tantrum P.A. from Ezra Zion, the FHK Truth still earns a respectable rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Emilio Cigars Mia Dora Toro

18 Feb 2015

These days, Emilio Cigars is a brand that seems to be flourishing—thanks in no small part, I believe, to the warm welcome the outfit has received from the online cigar community.

Mia Dora ToroIn addition to the growing blends in the Emilio portfolio (many of which we’ve reviewed), brand owner Gary Griffith also controls distribution for several other companies under his House of Emilio umbrella. Included are 1502, Bodega, Epicurean, Ezra Zion, Guayacan, and Nomad Cigar Co. It’s hard to imagine Emilio Cigars is just a few years old.

The Emilio family was further expanded last fall with the addition of Mia Dora, a new line that started shipping to retailers at the end of October. Mia Dora is produced by A.J. Fernandez in Nicaragua and features a Habano Rosado wrapper and Nicaraguan filler and binder. It comes in three sizes: a Robusto (5 x 50) and a Toro (6 x 50), which come in 21-count boxes; and the Coronita (5.25 x 44), which comes in a 40-count box.

Mia Dora sports bands with a theme dedicated to the Italian town of Ascoli Piceno, birthplace of the ancestors of the love of Griffith’s life, Dora. They envelop a splotchy, light brown wrapper with minimal veins and moderate oils. The Toro feels firm in the hand, and the foot emits soft pre-light aromas of straw, tea, and syrup.

Setting an even light doesn’t take more than a single wooden match. Once underway, flavors reminiscent of clove, toast, and cinnamon take center stage. The texture is bready and the strength is medium. The aftertaste is ever-so-slightly bitter, and the resting smoke is pleasant and sweet.

About a quarter-inch in, the balance really starts to shine as a creamy sweetness comes to the fore. While a slight cedary spice is present throughout, the finale is characterized by more oak and less cedar.

All of my samples smoked impeccably well with no need for any touch-ups, re-lights, or other maintenance. The draw has just the right resistance, the gray ash holds well off the foot, and the burn line stays true all the way to the nub.

The Mia Dora Toro is a very impressive specimen, and one of the better options from Gary Griffith to date. The $10 price tag is a solid value for a cigar that affords good balance and complexity in a medium-bodied format. It’s worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Illusione Pactum

11 Feb 2015

Over four years ago, Florida-based retailer Smoke Inn launched the Microblend Series, a program that commissions custom, limited edition blends from top manufacturers. Today, the series includes Arturo Fuente’s Solaris, Tatuaje’s Anarchy and Apocalypse, My Father’s El Hijo, Padrón’s 1964 Anniversary SI-15, Quesada’s Oktoberfest Dunkel, Room 101’s Big Delicious, and 601’s La Bomba Bunker Buster.

Illusione PactumThe latest (and ninth) addition to Microblend Series is Pactum, crafted by Illusione and offered in a single, lightly box-pressed size (5.5 x 56). It features a Mexican Maduro wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos and sells for $44.75 for a 5-pack, or $134.25 for a box of 15.

“This cigar is in-your-face, with full-bodied flavors and loads of white, chalky smoke,” reads the Smoke Inn website. “Using Nicaraguan tobaccos from the upper primings of the tobacco plant, Pactum takes on the strong and oily characteristics of the leaves… This will be one of the most limited production releases in our Microblend Series to date.”

The cigar has a simple band of navy and white that reads “Cigares Privé,” which is French for “private cigars.” It’s the same band you’ll see on another single-retailer Illusione release: the MC Slam (6 x 54) for R. Field Wine Company, a chain of gourmet food, wine, and cigar shops in Hawaii.

Pactum is a dark, dense brick of a cigar with an incredibly oily wrapper that’s textured and toothy. The foot exudes rich pre-light notes of chocolate, and coffee. A straight guillotine cut yields a moderately firm cold draw.

From the outset, Pactum tastes as oily as it appears and feels. The smoke has a silky texture, and the profile reminds me of cocoa, espresso, black pepper, and peanut. Interestingly, the strength remains surprisingly muted from light to nub, sometimes verging on mild-plus. Changes along the way are minor and include the introduction of some earthy notes at the midway point, as well as a minimal increase in spice in the final third.

I smoked two samples for this review—both provided courtesy of Smoke Inn—and each exhibited top-notch combustion qualities. The burn line is impeccably straight, the ash holds well off the foot, and the smoke production is average.

Pactum is an enjoyable smoke with a great aroma and interesting flavors that pair well with a mid-afternoon cup of coffee. I would especially recommend this to fans of San Andrés-wrapped cigars who are looking for a low to moderate level of strength. I’m awarding this Illusione a very admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Garofalo Robusto

9 Feb 2015

Last month I reviewed the Atabey Ritos, a cigar sent to me by Barry Stein. Many of you know Barry as the founder (and former proprietor of) A Cigar Smoker, a former employee of Miami Cigar & Co., and a current employee of the New Hampshire-based Two Guys Smoke Shop, a chain of cigar retailers.

GarofaloThese days Barry is also doing some marketing for United Cigar, an outfit that “works with top cigar manufacturers throughout the world to create unique cigars built exclusively for the premium cigar retailer.” Among United Cigar’s other brands are Bandolero, Byron, Fleur de la Reine, La Gianna, and Garofalo.

The latter is named for David Garofalo, a Bostonian “who has spent over 30 years as a cigar retailer and is obsessed with cigars” (he’s the owner of Two Guys Smoke Shop and hosts a weekly radio show with Barry Stein). It is a four-vitola line—Robusto (5 x 50), Torpedo (5 x 54), Toro (6 x 52), and Churchill (7 x 50)—made in Estelí by Nick Perdomo to celebrate David’s 50th birthday.

The recipe includes a golden Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and a blend of three Nicaraguan fillers. “The finished cigar has been sitting in aging rooms for a minimum of six full months to marry the blend until it has reached optimum flavor,” according to the United Cigar website. “The flavor is rich and rewarding while elegant and refined.”

The Robusto, which retails for $6.79, features a triple-cap, a firm feel, and a clean exterior with only a few noticeable veins. For such an innocent-looking smoke, the pre-light notes are extremely pungent. I find aromas of hay, hickory, and syrup off the foot. Once clipped, the cap exhibits a moderately smooth cold draw.

After setting an even light, the first few puffs of the Robusto are predominantly nutty and slightly grassy. There’s also a chocolaty background with hints of caramel and a soft peppery spice. The body is mild to medium, and the aftertaste is short and sweet. Towards the midway point, some of the nuttiness fades, leaving behind a flavor that verges on papery and buttery. But the final third once again witnesses an enjoyably interplay between sweet, nutty, and spice.

As for physical properties, the Garofalo Robusto performs impeccably. All three of my samples demonstrated straight burn lines, above average smoke production, and a solid white ash that holds well off the foot.

David Garofalo reportedly spent two years and hundreds of test blends to finalize this cigar. If his objective was to create an interesting mild-bodied cigar that still packs considerable flavor, I’d say he did a job well done with this five-tobacco blend. And the price point is commendable. In my book, the Garofalo Robusto earns a solid 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: Boutique Blends La Bohème Mimi

2 Feb 2015

The most obvious characteristic of this cigar is size. At only 3.5 inches long with a ring gauge of 46, it obviously isn’t very big. Judged by flavor and performance, though, this opera-inspired La Bohème vitola brings down the house.

Mimi La BohemeAs a full-blown fan of cigars coming from Rafael Nodal and Hank Bischoff, I always expect good things when I light a cigar from their Boutique Blends. So it was no surprise that I liked La Bohème, even though I was a bit unsure of what to expect from the small Mimi. After all, even Nodal has said he wasn’t too sure about it at first.

But, lighting this up, it was immediately apparent I was smoking something special.

Rich spices and red pepper lead off and continue throughout. As the Mimi progresses, those flavors are joined by cedar and wood, with nutty overtones. And nearer the foot, there’s a warm sweetness that weaves its way in.

Construction, burn, and draw are top-notch. While it’s necessary to smoke such a small cigar slowly, none of mine got hot as the burn approached the head. The ash is nearly porcelain white and hangs on as if it were glued to the foot.

The wrapper is Ecuadorian Habano, with Dominican binder and filler. Its large band is artistically striking, coming from a nineteenth century Cuban brand, according to Nodal.

La Bohème is available in three other sizes, each named after a character in the Puccini opera. So far, Mimi is the only one I’ve seen. It retails for about $6.50, which might seem high considering the size. But with Mimi you’re purchasing 45 minutes to an hour of wonderful smoking. And it would also translate to about $13 for a Churchill.

All in all, La Bohème Mimi is another virtuoso performance for Boutique Blends. I rate it four and a half stogies out of five.

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

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Dram Cask No. 3 Double Habano Toro

26 Jan 2015

In ancient Greece, a “dram” was a coin and a unit of measurement. These days, “dram” usually refers to a small amount of spirit poured neat, especially scotch whisky.

Dram Cask 3 ToroCapitalizing on the popularity of whiskey, Orleans Group International and C&C Cigars recently released the Dram cigar brand, “a line crafted to choreograph the flavors of whiskey and cigars,” according to a press release. “Cigar and whiskey aficionados alike will appreciate the depth of each blend’s complementary or contrasting flavors, magnifying the qualities of the cigar and the whiskey.”

Dram is subscribing to the principal that “body is as essential as flavor,” so there are four Dram blends that are intended to pair with different whiskey intensities. Dram Cask No. 1 Double Connecticut is on the bolder end of the mild spectrum and marketed as a complement to light whiskies like Glenmorangie and Balvenie Single Barrel. Cask No. 2 Double Corojo is intended for woody whiskeys like Wild Turkey 101 and Angel’s Envy. Cask No. 3 Double Habano is for spicier spirits like Bulleit Bourbon. And Cask No. 4 Double Binder Connecticut Broadleaf is for smoky, peaty scotches like Laphroaig.

I sampled three Cask No. 3 Double Habano Toros (6 x 54, $9-10) for this review. Each featured a dark Habano wrapper with minimal veins, moderate oils, and bold pre-light notes of dried apricot. The cap clips easily and the cold draw is effortless, imparting a slight earthy spice on the lips.

I would be remiss to sample a cigar that’s built specifically to complement spicy whiskeys without actually enjoying one such whiskey alongside the smoke. Since the Dram marketing materials specifically point to Bulleit Bourbon as the example for Cask No. 3—and since I had a bottle of orange-label Bulleit on hand—I decided to pour myself a dram (or two) for each of my three samples. My conclusion: While most cigars taste pretty damn good with any kind of bourbon, I have to tip my hat; the rich earthiness and spice of Cask No. 3 does indeed taste very fine with the likes of Bulleit.

In fact, even though the cigar tastes quite good on its own, and even though Bulleit is tasty and an excellent value on its own, the two together are greater than the sum of their parts. That said, setting aside the bourbon and focusing completely on the cigar, I find the profile is best characterized by mushroom, raisin, and coffee with a dry, woodsy spice. The texture is leathery and the resting smoke is dense and chocolaty. Construction is consistently outstanding with a straight burn line, solid white ash, and good smoke production.

If the C&C name sounds familiar, you’ll remember C&C’s owner, Joe Chiusano, is the former president of Cusano, a brand that ended up getting purchased by Davidoff in 2009. Since he launched C&C, I’d have to say the Dram Cask No. 3 Double Habano Toro is my favorite blend in the portfolio, and one that’s worthy of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys