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Cigar Review: Davidoff Year of the Rooster Limited Edition 2017

16 Jan 2017

Year of the Rooster

Year of the Rooster is Davidoff’s fifth annual international release celebrating Chinese New Year with its sign of the zodiac. Like the earlier releases, it is a limited edition with special aged tobaccos and a high price tag.

The cigar itself is a 6.75-inch diadema with a ring gauge of 50. The white Davidoff band is offset with a secondary red and gold one highlighting the cigar’s name and a drawing of a rooster. Eight thousand of the striking 10-count red lacquered boxes were produced, with the per-stick price set at $40.

The wrapper is an Ecuadorian Habano-seed leaf, with a Dominican San Vicente binder and Dominican filler, which Davidoff identifies as Piloto Seco, San Vicente Visus, Piloto Visus, and Criollo Seco.

I smoked two for this review and was impressed. Admitting up front that I’m no expert on Cuban cigars, I found the Rooster to be reminiscent of some of the best Cubans I’ve smoked.

It started a little peppery with medium strength and shifted after about an inch to a nutty flavor with some fruit-like notes. About halfway through, I began to pick up some vanilla and cedar added to the mix as the strength increased. The last half or so was also marked by a rich tobacco sweetness.

Like so many Davidoff cigars, the Rooster is incredibly smooth, balanced, and easy to smoke. The draw and burn were near perfect throughout.

Of course, the price tag puts this cigar out of reach for many smokers, except possibly as a celebration candidate. Is it worth $40? Is a lousy cigar worth $3? Is a mediocre cigar worth $8? Those are questions that cigar smokers have to decide for themselves.

But, if you’re a Davidoff fan or like to sample small production cigars, I think you’ll want to try one. I found it exemplary and rate it four and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Davidoff

Cigar Review: Nestor Miranda Collection Corojo Robusto

11 Jan 2017

nm-corojo-1

A spicy Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper so oily you might fear it’ll slide through your fingers highlights the latest release in the Nestor Miranda Collection from Miami Cigar & Co. It also makes for a tasty, satisfying cigar.

nestor-mirandaSporting the line’s trademark Art Deco style foil bands with electric-yellow highlights, Corojo is the fourth in the collection. Like the others, it is rolled at the My Father Cigars factory and comes in four sizes with MSRPs ranging from $7.50 to $9.50.

The line is named for Miami Cigar’s gregarious president and co-founder. Vice president Jason Wood said in a press release that Miranda had been “adamant about introducing his beloved Corojo wrapper to the collection.”

It was introduced at this summer’s industry trade show in Las Vegas and recently began shipping to merchants. The short Robusto—4.5 inches long with a ring gauge of 50—is firmly packed with Nicaraguan filler that exudes a nutty pre-light aroma. The first smoking impression is the pepper common to Corojo tobacco.

Along the way, I also experienced spice, a little cedar, burned coffee, and a rich tobacco sweetness. The three I smoked for this review each had an excellent draw. None exhibited the burn difficulties sometimes associated with Corojo tobacco.

The ash was ivory white and held firmly until I tapped it off. The burn was slow, extending the smoking time beyond what might be expected, given the cigar’s length. I’d put the strength level in the upper-medium to full category, as it tends to build along the way.

StogieGuys.com has smoked and reviewed many Miami Cigar & Co. productions over the years. They include several from the Nestor Miranda Collection since it was repackaged and re-blended in 2014.

This is the best in that line. And the Robusto format seems to take advantage of all it has to offer. I rate this a strong four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Aurora 107 Cosecha 2006 Especial Corona Gorda

9 Jan 2017

LaAuroraCosechaLa Aurora has again expanded its well-regarded 107 line that debuted in 2010 as an anniversary smoke. The Cosecha is a limited edition with tobaccos from 2006, hence the Cosecha name, Spanish for “harvest.”

There are three sizes, each packaged in ten-count boxes: Robusto Especial (5 x 54), Corona Gorda Especial (6 x 47), and Churchill Especial (7 x 50). Per-stick prices are $9, $10, and $11, respectively. It’s distinguished from the regular 107 line by a second identifying band.

So far, 107 Cosecha isn’t featured on either the La Aurora website or that of Miami Cigar & Co., La Aurora’s U.S. distributor.

The wrapper is a Habana seed grown in Ecuador. Binder is Brazilian Mata Fina with filler from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The wrapper doesn’t provide much pre-light aroma, but an almost cherry-like sweetness comes off the filler.

I got more fruit notes smoking through the first third. Occasionally, there was a papery overtone that, fortunately, didn’t last long. Pepper came and went, building into the final half. Other flavors I picked up were burned coffee and wood.

Strength was medium, with a light finish. Construction was excellent, as is to be expected from cigars coming from La Aurora’s Dominican factory. The burn was very slow, making for a smoking experience considerably longer than that of most cigars this size. One annoyance was a fairly loose ash.

These days, limited editions in the $9 to $11 range are fairly limited themselves, whether they deserve a higher price tag or not. That in itself is likely to entice quite a few cigar smokers, especially those already familiar with La Aurora’s broad array of smokes.

If you measure cigar palate impact in megatons, the Cosecha isn’t likely to make your needle move. But if you enjoy cigars further down on the power scale, I recommend checking out this offering. I also have a feeling it will improve with age, possibly eliminating that papery taste.

I give the La Aurora 107 Cosecha 2006 Especial Corona Gorda three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Illusione 88

2 Jan 2017

illusione-88

This is the cigar that got the Illusione brand off the ground. In 2004, Dion Giolito—today well-known throughout the industry for his height, unique hairstyle, obsession with conspiracy theories, and cigar blending abilities—opened a cigar shop in Reno. Shortly thereafter, with assistance from Pete Johnson of Tatuaje fame, he bought 50 boxes of robustos that would become his house blend. He called the cigar “88,” commemorating the year he moved to Nevada, and named the brand Illusione.

illusione“Illusione sounded like an inside secret,” Giolito recently told Cigar Aficionado. “An indie cigar for people part of an inner circle. Plus, the word Illusione sounded nice. Very European.” Today, all the cigars in the original Illusione lineup (also known as Original Documents) have unique names that refer to Giolito’s faith, a significant year in his life, or his favorite numbers at the craps table.

Illusione debuted at the 2006 industry trade show within the Tatuaje booth. At the time, the cigars were crafted in Honduras at the Raices Cubanas factory; production has since moved to the TABSA factory in Nicaragua, where the five-pack of 88s I smoked for this review were made.

This well-made robusto (5 x 52) retails for about $8 and is notably heavy in the hand due to its tight packing of Nicaraguan tobaccos. At first glance, the cigar has a rustic appeal, though the quality is evident. The clean, milk chocolate-colored wrapper has tight seams, minimal veins, and a fine, toothy surface. There is a floral pre-light scent, and the triple-cap clips cleanly to reveal a smooth cold draw. The simple, thin, black and white ring band is very loosely applied; it can be slipped off the cigar easily.

Once an even light is established, an oily, rich, medium-bodied taste emerges with a core of dry wood, cinnamon, white pepper, cocoa powder, and traces of leather. The finish is characterized by a floral sweetness, and the texture is simultaneously airy and a bit sandy. After a half inch or so, a delightful creamy nuttiness comes to the fore. Coffee and mint join in around the midway mark. The finale reminds me of oily coffee beans with a gentle cayenne heat.

The 88’s combustion properties are imperfect but not troublesome. Each of my five samples required some touch-ups along the way to stay lit and burning evenly. The gray ash is flaky, yet it manages to hold well off the foot. Smoke production is above average.

We interviewed Giolito in 2008, when Illusione was still young. Then, he told us the greatest challenge in creating a brand was “dealing with all of the liars. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in this side of the business it’s that everybody lies—farmers, factory owners, managers, etc. My biggest challenge has been to get my ideals and approach across to these guys without them cutting corners every time the cat’s away. Sometimes the leaf you choose is mysteriously not the leaf that goes into the cigar. I’ve refused entire orders because of one component. I need to be able to look someone in the eye when they ask me what my favorite cigar is and tell them it’s the one I make. I don’t want to be the guy that makes a cigar and smokes someone else’s. There are a lot of those guys out there.”

While a lot has changed since 2008, Giolito’s passion for excellence still comes through in the 88. This is a flavorful, satisfying, well-balanced robusto, and I think Illusione’s trademark floral sweetness comes through particularly well in this format. The Illusione 88 earns a very respectable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Villiger 1888 Robusto

21 Dec 2016

Villiger’s latest offering combines a nod to the past as the company continues its efforts to make new inroads into the premium cigar market. This 1888 line features bold new packaging for a blend based on a celebratory 2010 regional limited edition.

villiger-1888The first 1888 line—Villiger’s introductory hand-made long-filler cigar—was a limited edition that hit U.S. shelves in 2009. The 1888 name commemorates the tobacco giant’s founding year. Interestingly, one of the blends considered for the cigar included Cuban tobacco, but the company decided against using it in order to maintain access to the U.S. market.

The blend on this new incarnation, according to a press release by the company, is based on the Villiger 1888 Reserva 2010, which was issued to celebrate the Swiss-based company’s 100th anniversary in neighboring Germany. It combines a lovely Ecuadorian leaf over a Mexican binder and filler from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

The Robusto, retailing for under $6, measures 4.875 inches with a 50-ring gauge. It comes in four other sizes, with prices ranging by size up to a Toro Gordo (6 x 60) at $8.20. They’re crafted in the Dominican Republic and come in boxes of 20. Rolled out to retailers at the end of 2016, the new 1888 follows Villiger’s successful launch of the San’Doro line earlier in the year.

I found the new 1888 to be a medium-strength cigar that starts a little dry with lots of smoke and a dead-even burn. Along the way, I tasted a bit of chocolate, clove, and a rich sweetness, particularly in the final third. Occasionally, I did get some of the dirt taste I associate with Mexican tobacco, but it was infrequent and never overbearing.

A little spice comes and goes, and is especially noticeable on the retrohale. The 1888 has a light, very pleasant finish.

With such a modest price, it’s a no-brainer to recommend you pick up a couple to see whether they suit your palate. For me, it easily rates three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Ashton Cabinet Selection No. 4

19 Dec 2016

ashton-cabinet-selection

Few cigar retailers launch a house blend with aspirations of growing it into a highly visible, nationally distributed brand that’s recognizable to nearly every premium cigar enthusiast in the country. But that’s exactly what happened with Ashton, a successful brand made by the famed Fuente family exclusively for Holt’s Cigar Co., a Philadelphia-based retailer.

ashton-cabinetAshton debuted in 1985 and is now sold in over 60 countries. Aston’s two sister brands are well-known, too: La Aroma de Cuba and San Cristobal. These ubiquitous brands have helped promulgate Holt’s well beyond its stature at 1522 Walnut Street in downtown Philadelphia. Today, Holt’s is among the top five cigar retailers in the world, including a notable online and catalog presence.

The Ashton portfolio includes, but is not limited to, the Classic, Aged Maduro, Estate Sun Grown, Virgin Sun Grown, and Cabinet Selection blends. The latter sports a Connecticut Shade wrapper around Dominican tobaccos that are at least four years old. Ten vitolas are available. For this review, I sampled three Ashton Cabinet Selection No. 4s (5.75 x 46), each of which ran me $9.90.

While this is a regal-looking, handsome cigar, I find it disappointing that the back of the white, black, red, and gold band is often mis-adhered to itself (the two ends are rarely aligned properly). Aesthetics and presentation may not be the most important attributes when evaluating cigar, but I know many cigar factories go to great lengths to ensure the rings are applied evenly and tightly to leave no doubt in the consumer’s mind about the quality of the cigar.

That said, this is otherwise a very attractive presentation. The pale wrapper is clean with tight seams and a well-executed cap. The cold draw is smooth and there are no soft spots.

After establishing an even light, delicate pre-light aromas of sweet hay and sawdust transition into a mild- to medium-bodied profile of creamy butter, toast, almond, and white pepper. The smoke is dry and a little spicy with a cedar-like texture. A fleeting bitterness comes and goes throughout, though it never manifests into a central part of the profile—nor is it a major concern.

The physical properties are excellent from light to nub. The fact that this is a well-made, expertly constructed cigar is evident for the duration of the smoke, as is to be expected from the Fuente family. All of my samples exhibited even burn lines, clear draws, solid ashes, and above-average smoke production.

For one reason or another, the Ashton brand has never really been a regular in my cigar rotation. I’m not entirely sure why, and this Cabinet Selection No. 4 has me thinking I might have been missing out. This is an interesting, well-layered, tasty Connecticut Shade-wrapped smoke that’s easy to find and pleasing to the palate. For that, it earns an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Umbagog Toro Toro

14 Dec 2016

umbagogtt-1

What’s supposed to be wrong with my Umbagog? That’s the question going through my head while smoking this cigar, the second Broadleaf-wrapped smoke created by Steve Saka for his Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust portfolio.

The reason that question came to mind wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the cigar—I did—but that Saka created the bundled cigar to use Broadleaf wrapper deemed too “ugly” for his premium Mi Quireda line. The name, which refers to Saka’s favorite fishing spot, Umbagog Lake, implies this is a cigar to smoke while fishing or anytime when you may not be too concerned with the aesthetics of your cigar.

Looking through the brown paper-wrapped ten-pack, some cigars had obvious flaws like multiple speckled discolorations. For others, whatever made it not Mi Querida-worthy was less easily discerned. Too much color variation? Too prominent veins? (The above photo shows the cigars side-by-side with a Mi Querida.)

Let’s be honest here for a moment: The “factory second” discount cigar that tastes the same as a premium offering but, supposedly due to a small flaw, isn’t quite good enough to make the final cut is a time-honored marketing ploy that has disappointed many a budget-conscious buyer. Still, I had high hopes for Umbagog, especially given Saka’s reputation as one of the more detail-obsessed people in the industry. (It should be noted Saka has never called Umbagog a factory second, but merely a more affordable cigar in simple packaging that provides an outlet for Broadleaf not quite good enough for his higher-priced Mi Querida.)

Beyond the wrapper, Saka has said this cigar isn’t exactly the same blend as Mi Querida, though it’s very similar. Think slightly different primings or grades of tobacco but the same basic Nicaraguan components, all out of the same factory (NACSA) in Estelí, Nicaragua. Seven sizes are listed. I smoked four of the Toro Toro vitola (6 x 52) for this review.

The Toro Toro is heavy on the spice and earth with charred oak, chocolate milk, and white pepper that lingers on the palate. Umbagog is full-bodied with a thick, powdery mouthfeel. There are only slight variations from start to finish, including a building wood spice.

Visually, while Umbagog may not be top-grade, the construction is nonetheless excellent. The draw is firm but not tight, and the cigar burns evenly leaving a sturdy ash in its wake.

Umbagog’s flavors are not as refined as Mi Quireda, and its appearance is almost purposely unrefined, but it is plenty tasty and is offered at an excellent value ($60 for a bundle of ten). All of which earns the cigar a hearty recommendation and a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys