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Cigar Review: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Piramide Fino

17 Dec 2014

Back in May, on the heels of Nick Melillo’s departure, Drew Estate named Willy Herrera “master blender,” a role where he would help maintain current blends, produce new cigar lines, and report directly to Jonathan Drew.

Piramide FinoIt remains to be seen how Swisher International’s purchase of Drew Estate may change Herrera’s position at one of the world’s largest handmade cigar manufacturers. But we know that Drew Estate management—including Jonathan Drew, Marvin Samel, and Michael Cellucci—are remaining at the company for the time being. And we know these individuals have a great deal of confidence in Herrera.

That confidence stems in large part from the success of Herrera’s debut line at Drew Estate, Herrera Estelí. This “Cubanesque” blend not only diversified the Drew Estate portfolio (which lacked a visible, more traditional, non-maduro cigar,), but it also earned widespread acclaim from the online cigar community, and claimed the number eight slot on Cigar Aficionado’s list of the best smokes of 2013.

To date, my experience with Herrera Estelí has been mostly limited to the Short Corona, a cigar that’s small in stature but big in quality. Lately, I’ve fired up a few Piramide Finos (6 x 52), one of the other four sizes in the series. Like the Short Corona, the Piramide Fino is a handsome, golden-colored smoke comprised of Ecuadoran, Honduran, and Nicaraguan tobaccos with pre-light notes of hay and molasses. Only the slightest puncture of the gorgeous cap is all that’s needed to open up a smooth cold draw.

Once lit, the belicoso yields a medium-bodied, balanced taste of cream, cashew, white pepper, and dry wood. There’s a lingering sweetness in the background, and the finish is characterized by a sharp, zesty spice on the tip of the tongue. At times a cinnamon spice can take control. Other times, an earthiness that reminds me of truffle comes to the foreground.

Throughout, construction is impeccable. Drew Estate prides itself on ease of draw and high smoke production, and the Piramide Fino is no exception. Additionally, the burn line is straight and the white ash holds superbly well.

I may have to give a very slight edge to the Short Corona, simply because I think the flavors pop a little more in that smaller format. But this is an outstanding belicoso, and one of the many Drew Estate creations I hope stays consistent once the Swisher International acquisition is complete. In my book, the Herrera Estelí Piramide Fino is a truly wonderful value at $10 and worthy of 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: Nestor Miranda Collection Maduro Robusto

15 Dec 2014

Earlier this month, I reviewed the Habano Robusto from the new Nestor Miranda Collection. Miami Cigar & Co. recently launched the series to coincide with the company’s 25th anniversary and honor its founder as Nestor Miranda slowly transitions away from active management of the business.

Nestor Miranda Collection MaduroIt’s safe to say the Nestor Miranda Collection is a preview of what we might expect from Miami Cigar & Co. over the ensuing years. Jason Wood, Miranda’s son-in-law and vice president of (and presumed heir to) the company, is the driving force behind the series. Evidently, his work was met with Miranda’s approval. “I am excited about the new vision [Jason Wood] has for our future and the re-branding of the Nestor Miranda Collection,” he said in a press release. “[He has positioned us] to make a lasting impression on the cigar industry for years to come.”

The new Nestor Miranda Collection is made at My Father Cigars and is broken up into three lines: Habano (green band), Maduro (red), and Connecticut (blue). While the former are original blends, the Connecticut has the same recipe as the old Special Selection Connecticut cigar. All come in 4 sizes—Robusto (4.5 x 50), Toro (5.5 x 54), Corona Gorda (6 x 46), and Gordo (6 x 60)—and retail for about $7 to $9 apiece.

The Maduro Robusto sports a dark, mottled, and toothy Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and a three-country filler blend from Nicaragua, Honduras, and Brazil. Rustic in appearance, it’s adorned with large veins, a few bumps, and some thick seams. The firmness is moderate, the cold draw stiff, and the pre-light notes remind me of warm tobacco.

Once lit, a chewy, peppery flavor emerges with plenty of spice and leather. I wouldn’t call it a slap-in-the-face introduction, but the body is medium to medium-full. There’s a meaty sourness on the aftertaste of which I’m not particularly fond, and the draw is a little tight for my liking.

At the midway point, the draw starts to open, the smoke production increases, and a few new flavors join the fray. They include cocoa, cream, and coffee. The finish featyres an increase in spice, strength, and richness that places the final third solidly in the full-bodied range.

Aside from early-on issues with the draw, the construction is good. My samples exhibited a solid ash and a straight burn line.

In total, I can safely say I prefer the Habano Robusto to the Maduro, and I look forward to trying the Connecticut. On its own, the Maduro Robusto is a serviceable smoke that Connecticut Broadleaf fans should try. That earns it a rating of three stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Verocu No. 9

11 Dec 2014

I joined Tatuaje’s Saints & Sinners Club in its inaugural year, and I’ve been happy to renew every year since. The club includes access to a private cigar forum and an annual shipment of cigar swag and a box of 15 cigars.tatuaje-verocu-no-9-sq

tatuaje-verocu-no-9The smokes alone are worth the price, as every year the selection has been an interesting mix of that includes rare Tatuajes, one-offs, and test blends. This year’s shipment included two different exclusive sizes of the Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu blend.

Smoking them reminded me so much of how I enjoy the blend, which over the years has come out in a number of different sizes. The originals were a Verocu No. 1 (Exclusivo Lado Occidental) and No. 2 (Exclusivo Zona del Este), both of which earned perfect 5-stogie ratings. A tubo torpedo came later, and the only regular release still shipping is the No. 5, a petit corona (4 x 40) size that comes in boxes of 50.

The forgotten member of the Verocu line is No. 9, a 4.5-inch, 49-ring gauge robusto sold exclusively by the Philadelphia-based Holt’s retailer. Reminded by the excellence of the line, I recently picked up a 10-pack of the No. 9 size for just $45 (normal price is $130 for a box of 20).

Like the rest of the line, No. 9 uses Nicaraguan filler and binder with a dark, oily Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. It is intended to be a more full-bodied edition of the normal Havana VI line, and it hits that mark dead on. It starts with lots of dark cocoa, oak, and earth. There’s a little pepper spice. Body is medium-full, sometimes bordering on completely full. As it progresses, a little more spice emerges.

The well-made smoke produces tons of thick smoke on the palate. Each of the four cigars I smoked for this review had a perfectly straight burn, easy draw, and a sturdy white ash.

If I had to find a flaw, it’s that there’s not a ton of transition here. But that’s not a big deal as this is an all-around excellent cigar. It’s also the type of smoke that, perhaps counter-intuitively, would be good for relatively new cigar smokers looking to expand their horizons with a smooth yet full-bodied smoke.

I really can’t find much wrong with the Verocu No. 9, except perhaps that it is not more widely available. At $4.50, it’s a steal, and even at regular price it’s a good value. That, combined with excellent, full-bodied flavors, earns the Tatuaje Verocu No. 9 a formidable 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

Cigar Review: Illusione *R* Rothchildes

8 Dec 2014

Last week my business travels brought me to Manchester, New Hampshire. Naturally, while in the area, I visited the Londonderry location of Twins Smoke Shop, a tobacconist with a solid lounge, full bar, and an incredible selection of cigars. (Twins is also home base of the acclaimed 7-20-4 brand by Kurt A. Kendall.)

Illusione RothchildesAs closing time approached, the shop’s staff recommended I try the Illusione *R* Rothchildes for one last short smoke before heading back to my hotel. I’m glad I did. I had never smoked one before, but now I can see I had been missing out. This small, value-priced Illusione is outstanding, and it deserves a spot in my regular repertoire.

The *R* Rothchildes (4.5 x 50) was added to the Illusione portfolio in 2013. It carries an impressive price point of $4 and has been dubbed “a cigar for the masses” with “unmatched” quality for the price, according to the Illusione website. I’m happy to report I enthusiastically agree.

Made at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) in Nicaragua, *R* Rothchildes features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It looks a little rough around the edges—most San Andrés-wrapped cigars do—but sports a smooth cold draw and rich pre-light notes of leather, earth, and cocoa.

Once an even light is established, the medium-bodied profile exudes a balanced taste of roasted nuts, sweet cream, earth, and warm tobacco. The texture is meaty and the resting smoke is beautifully floral. Black pepper and cocoa build at the midway point. Towards the finale, there’s a slight increase in spice and the wonderful floral notes grow to become prominent.

The burn line may not be perfect, but any deficiencies in the construction department are merely aesthetic in nature. Expect to not have to fiddle with torch touch-ups, and expect the draw to be easy, the ash solid, and the smoke production above average.

I have to agree with Illusione that the quality is impeccable for the cost. How better can you spend $4 and about 45 minutes? For its value, consistency, balance, complexity, and awesome floral notes, I’m awarding the Illusione *R* Rothchildes a fantastic rating of 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: Zino Platinum – The Make Of L.A. Collector’s Edition

4 Dec 2014

Some first impressions from this limited Zino release aren’t the best: marbling wrapper, a light feel in the hand, not much aroma, loose pre-light draw, and Frankenstein-style veins.zino-platinum-la-sq

zino-platinum-laBut remember what your mother told you about looks being deceiving and Bo Diddley’s warning not to judge a book by the cover? They were right. The Make of L.A. Collector’s Edition is a strong, complex, and thoroughly enjoyable cigar.

This limited release—3,000 boxes of 10—follows Davidoff’s marketing strategy to make Zino appealing to a younger, affluent market. Like the earlier Make of New York, the cigar comes in one vitola (6 x 54) and four box designs, these featuring artwork by Burton Machen. It also sports a hefty $18 price tag, though I got a box online for less than half that cost.

The tobacco is an interesting mix of a variety of Dominican fillers with a binder from Yamasa (the region where Davidoff grows Puro d’Oro wrapper leaf). The wrapper is a caramel-colored Ecuadorian Habana.

Construction has generally been good in those I’ve smoked. The draw turned out to be fine and smoke production is excellent. I had a bit of an uneven burn in one, but others performed just fine.

The Make of L.A. begins with a touch of cedar and light spices before opening up to reveal more power. The flavors shift frequently and pleasantly, while the cigar maintains an excellent balance. I found wood, leather, pepper, and honey along the way. Each time I smoked one was more revealing than the last, with new flavors braiding in and out.

The finish is light, perhaps one reason the strength wasn’t immediately apparent. Not that this is a knock-you-in-the-face cigar, but it’s also far from a tap-you-on-the-shoulder stick.

I haven’t smoked enough Zino cigars to say how this release fits among its offerings. Judged on its own, it’s an excellent cigar.

But the obvious drawback is the price. Eighteen dollars for a fat toro is, from nearly anyone’s view, an expensive cigar. For the $7.50 I paid, I’d call it a great buy, a gamble I feel I clearly won, since I’d never had one before. Now, I wish I’d bought two boxes.

If you’re looking for an occasion cigar, pick up a Make of L.A. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, especially if you can take advantage of a markdown.

I give the Zino Platinum Make of L.A. Collector’s Edition a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Nestor Miranda Collection Habano Robusto

1 Dec 2014

Back in June, Miami Cigar & Co. announced it would be revamping and re-launching its series of lines bearing the Nestor Miranda name. The move coincides with the company’s 25th anniversary and honors its founder as Nestor Miranda reduces his workload.

NMC Habano Robusto“It has been an honor for me to begin the process of creating a new look and feel which is worthy of what Nestor Miranda and the Miami Cigar & Co. team have accomplished over the last 25 years,” said Jason Wood, Miranda’s son-in-law and vice president of (and presumed heir to) Miami Cigar & Co.

Wood was the driving force behind the overhaul of the Nestor Miranda Collection, providing us with a vision of where he plans to take the company in the future. Evidently, the changes were met with Miranda’s approval. “I am excited about the new vision [Jason Wood] has for our future and the re-branding of the Nestor Miranda Collection… [He has positioned us] to make a lasting impression on the cigar industry for years to come.”

The new Nestor Miranda Collection is made at My Father Cigars and is broken up into three lines: Habano (green band), Maduro (red), and Connecticut (blue). While the former are original blends, the Connecticut has the same recipe as the old Special Selection Connecticut cigar. All come in 4 sizes—Robusto (4.5 x 50), Toro (5.5 x 54), Corona Gorda (6 x 46), and Gordo (6 x 60)—and retail for about $7 to $9 apiece.

The Habano version has a dark wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and a three-country filler blend from Nicaragua, Honduras, and Brazil. It’s a stout, oily specimen with a well-executed cap and a clean surface. The pre-light notes are rich and reminiscent of espresso bean and cocoa. The firmness is moderate (perhaps a little soft at the foot), and the cold draw is tight.

With a cigar like the Habano Robusto—where the large band covers roughly 30% or more of the actual cigar—I always remove the band before lighting. Underneath is an impeccable wrapper with only a few thin veins. Once lit, the cigar produces a medium-bodied profile of oak, coffee, roasted nuts, and some creamy sweetness. The texture is leathery, and the finish leaves some cedary spice on the tip of the tongue.

After the first third, the draw opens considerably and the smoke production increases. The flavor remains consistent throughout, save for some notes of baking spices that surface towards the end. From light to nub, the burn stays straight and the ash holds firm.

I’m looking forward to trying the other new Nestor Miranda Collection lines, and I also want to try some of the larger sizes of the Habano blend. But my first taste of this new twist on the series is a good one. The Habano Robusto packs a lot of flavor and spice into a condensed format, and the sweet creaminess plays well off the coffee notes. For that, it earns 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: Ezra Zion Tantrum P.A.

25 Nov 2014

Ezra Zion has been around for a while now, but looking through our hundreds of reviews, somehow we’ve never written up one of their cigars. So let’s change that today.Ezra-Zion-Tantrum-PA-sq

Ezra-Zion-Tantrum-PAThe Tantrum P.A. is a follow-up to the original Tantrum, released last year by the Ezra Zion, which is distributed by House of Emilio. Tantrum comes in a single petit corona size called Prensado Pequeño and sports an all-Nicaraguan blend featuring a seven-year-old wrapper.

The “P.A.” (short for Passive Aggressive, as opposed to the fully aggressive Tantrum) also comes in one size: this time 6.5 inches long with a ring gauge of 44 and a box press. It’s a Nicaraguan puro with a Cuban-seed Corojo ’99 wrapper. The cigar is sold in boxes of 28 with a planned annual production of just 700 cigars. The Tantrum P.A. carries a suggested retail price of $9.95. I smoked two for this review, both provided by Ezra Zion.

Pre-light there is quite a bit of cinnamon and sweetness. Once lit, I find a medium-bodied combination of leather, slight clove, earth, and roasted nuts. The flavors don’t change much over the hour-plus of smoking time, but the cigar has complexity, with a multi-layered profile.

Tantrum P.A. actually reminds me quite a bit of the 2013 Illusione Singulare (which I recently smoked for a Quick Smoke between the samples I smoked for this review), probably in part because it’s from the same factory and a similar size.

Neither of my Tantrum P.A. samples had any construction issues. What really stands out is the copious amount of dense, palate-coating smoke, and a sweet, almost molasses-like, aroma.

I’ll admit I haven’t had many Ezra Zion cigars, but what few I have impressed me. This is no different, and it makes me want to give a better look at some of their other offerings. While the price prevents it from being a great value, it is a thoroughly enjoyable smoke. That earns the Ezra Zion Tantrum P.A. a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys