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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

Cigar Review: Mi Querida Fino Largo

3 Oct 2016


This summer, cigar makers, brand owners, blenders, and factories scrambled in an effort to rush as many new brands and vitolas to market as possible before the August 8 deadline. (Regular readers will recall that cigars introduced after August 8, 2016, will have to go through the FDA approval process before they can be sold or marketed.)

fino-largoThis mad dash was best personified by Steve Saka of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. If you follow him on Facebook—where he is quite prolific—you’ll recall his rapid succession of posts proclaiming new cigars like Umbagog, Maestro de Saka, and Mi Querida. These announcements drew considerable attention among cigar faithful which, of course, was a predictable outcome given the success of Dunbarton’s inaugural line, Sobremesa.

“It has been an incredibly grueling 90 days,” Saka wrote on Facebook on July 7. “I have finalized five marca designs and over 15 ligas between 46 vitolas. Thankfully, I had been buying leaf and working on all of these blends over the past year. While there are some packaging tweaks required, none of any of these cigars are half-baked.”

NACSA is the site of production for Mi Querida, a blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos surrounded by a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper that’s crafted by Raul Disla under direction from Saka. Nine vitolas are available, including the Fino Largo (6 x 48), which retails for about $9. I smoked several for this review, each provided by

Mi Querida sports an understated yet attractive band of blue and gold with corrugated edges. The exterior leaf is dark, oily, mottled, and rustic with plenty of tooth, thick seams, and the occasional splotch of out-of-place color. The rough-looking cap clips cleanly to reveal an easy cold draw. Off the foot, the pre-light notes are rich, sweet, and damp with hints of chocolate and musty earth.

The Fino Largo tastes the way, I believe, many expected Sobremesa to taste given Saka’s history with Drew Estate. It has a moist, full-bodied profile with a grainy texture and ample spice. Notes of espresso, cinnamon, damp wood, and leather are front-and-center from the get-go. After an inch, the cigar is at its best with hints of roasted nut and nougat sweetness adding complexity. Here, there’s still plenty of power, but that power is more refined, balanced, and harmonious. The final third brings a reprise of the intensity found at the outset.

Mi Querida is Spanish for “my dearest,” but in Nicaragua the phrase is most often used to describe a mistress. Kind of fitting, since I almost feel like I’m cheating on Sobremesa when I smoke one. Sobremesa came first, after all, and while it hasn’t been around terribly long, I’ve burned through more than my fair share. We have a history. That said, I foresee a long and meaningful relationship with the dirtier, cheaper Mi Querida. It’s highly satisfying if you’re seeking something musty, earthy, rich, well-constructed, and—in the case of the Fino Largo, especially—strong. My expectations are high whenever I light up a Saka creation, and this one does not disappoint. I award it four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: MBombay Vintage Reserve Lancero 1973

21 Sep 2016


This is a cigar made to stand out.mbombay-lancero

At 8.5 inches in length, it’s an inch longer than the traditional Cuban lancero size. After removing the cedar sheath that covers about two-thirds of the Vintage Reserve, the unwrapped foot is pronounced. At the head, a small pigtail cap is easy to miss.

But where this version of MBombay’s annual limited edition—500 boxes of 25 shipped to retailers, according to company head Mel Shah—truly shines is with its flavors.

It begins with light, enticing spice before the Ecuadorian wrapper becomes engaged. At this point, with all components burning, the spice begins to be overshadowed by notes of wood.

About a third of the way down, there’s a rich taste of cinnamon that lasts throughout. It is most enjoyable, especially as it mixes with the wood, cedar, and tobacco sweetness along the way. Strength is in the medium range.

The filler is a mix of Dominican and Peruvian tobaccos, while the binder is Dominican. Like other cigars from MBombay, the Vintage Reserve is rolled in Costa Rica. The price tag is $13.50 a stick.

I smoked two of these and found them to perform excellently. The burn was straight, the draw smooth, and smoke production top-notch. As with all thin cigars—the ring gauge is 38—it’s necessary to smoke slowly to avoid overheating.

Perhaps as a backlash to the trend toward humongous ring gauges, some smokers have embraced lanceros. In fact, you’ll often see the vitola dubbed the “connoisseur’s size.”

I’m not sure that’s quite rational. Judging someone by the size of the cigars they smoke doesn’t make any more sense to me than judging cigars themselves based on size.

In the case of the Vintage Reserve, I think it’s a tasty cigar that any smoker would enjoy, from connoisseur to amateur. It scores four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Black Label Trading Company Killer Bee

19 Sep 2016


Last fall, James Brown, creator of Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC), 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.”

20160918_234642490_iosThe three original BLK WKS cigars were 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. Green Hornet, a stronger follow-up to the Killer Bee that’s distinguished by its Candela closed foot, was added this summer. All of these are offered in addition to BLTC’s core lines, which include Lawless, Royalty, Redemption, Benediction, Salvation, and Last Rites.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the NBK and found it to be outstanding—perhaps one of the best cigars I’ve examined in 2016. I really enjoyed the “powdery” texture, the “cool, airy, and light” smoke, and the flavors of “cocoa powder, coffee, roasted nuts, and black pepper spice.” So it’s no surprise I’d like to further explore the BLK WKS portfolio.

Today we’re looking at the Killer Bee, which retails for $7.50 and sports Nicaraguan tobaccos beneath its dark, clean, oily, and moderately veined Ecuadorian Maduro wrapper. The closed foot, “linear cap,” and eye-catching band of black, gold, and green makes this a striking petit corona from an appearance perspective.

After setting an even burn, pre-light notes of burnt caramel transition to a bold, powerful profile of hearty black pepper spice with dry notes of char and oak. Make no mistake: Killer Bee is full-bodied and attention-grabbing from the get-go. The spice is offset only slightly by subtle sweet notes of syrup and candied nuts. At the midway point, though, the strength mellows noticeably and the spice tempers considerably. Here, the cigar is more balanced, but I’d say it still falls into the full-bodied spectrum. The finale includes a predictable—though not unwelcome—increase in spice and intensity.

Construction is fine with a burn line that requires a few touch-ups here and there. The gray ash holds well off the foot, the draw is smooth throughout, and the smoke production is average.

I’ve smoked several Killer Bees, and I can attest my enjoyment is heightened greatly when I fire up this cigar on a full stomach and pair it with a neat bourbon or a glass of sipping rum. For me, under other conditions, it verges on too much strength. In any circumstance, though, if you’re looking for a lot of power in a small format, this is a good choice—especially for the price. All told, I think the most appropriate rating is a respectable three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Rodrigo Boutique Blend G6

12 Sep 2016


Not long ago, Rodrigo Cigars was part of the House of Emilio, an organization headed by Gary Griffith that provided distribution of what Griffith called the “best of the boutiques.” Also included under this allied umbrella were brands like 1502, Bodega, Epicurean, Ezra Zion, Guayacan, Herederos, and Nomad.

20160910_025427652_iosMore recently, Griffith departed the outfit, and the confederated brands—now called Boutiques United—were pared down to four: 1502, Emilio, Ezra Zion, and Nomad. Anecdotally speaking, the social media visibility of all of the involved brands (with the exception of Fred Rewey’s Nomad) has declined considerably since the heyday of the House of Emilio. This observation is based on nothing more than my own personal experience, mind you, but I feel safe making the claim. All this isn’t to say the cigars themselves aren’t any good, or can’t still be purchased.

These were the thoughts jumbling in my brain as I came across several Rodrigo Boutique Blend G6s in one of my humidors. No telling how long they had been there. Since this is not a blend my colleagues or I have previously reviewed, I decided to fire them up.

The story behind the Rodrigo brand is one of a man who loved cigars, flew to Santiago on a whim in 2010, and by chance got connected to a former master blender for Davidoff who taught him the business. That man is George Rodriguez, founder and president of Rodrigo Cigars.

Rodrigo consists of three small-batch blends: Habano Clasico, La Fortaleza, and Boutique Blend. The latter sports a dark, clean, moderately oily, slightly reddish Habano Ecuador wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. It is available in three sizes: G4 (6.25 x 54), G5 (5.5 x 56), and G6 (6 x 60). The G6 retails for about $9 and has a spongy feel with pre-light notes of honey and graham. The large, thick cigar boasts a smooth cold draw.

As with any 60-ring gauge smoke, toasting the foot and establishing an even light takes patience. My advice is to enjoy the process and take in the ambient notes of sweetness and spice, which set the tone for the profile to come.

On the palate, the G6 is mild- to medium-bodied and balanced with flavors of bread, honey, cedar, and red pepper. The texture is silky. While there’s ample spice on the aftertaste, the overall impression is mostly creamy and light—similar to a whipped butter sensation. At the midway point, the spice increases and the strength ramps up to decidedly medium. Thereafter, I find few changes.

Construction is damn good for a cigar this large. The burn is immaculate, the draw is easy, the ash holds firm, and the smoke production is about average.

The Boutique Blend line was specifically built to taste best in thick formats, hence the ring gauges of 54, 56, and 60. As someone who prefers thinner smokes, though, I can’t help but wonder what this might taste like in a lancero, or even in a standard robusto frame. I wonder if the profile’s character would hold intact, and if the intensity would be amplified.

Regardless, judging the G6 on its own merits, I feel a rating of three and a half stogies out of five is most appropriate.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys