Archive | Cigar Reviews RSS feed for this section

Cigar Review: La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro Robusto

19 Nov 2018

Before we get to smoking this cigar, let’s clear up some confusion about what it is. And what it isn’t.

The blend and the production location are no longer what they were. The new version of La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro uses a Costa Rican oscuro wrapper, a Dominican binder, and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler. It’s rolled at the Plascencia factory in Honduras.

This information comes directly from La Palina. The confusion arises because the cigar was redone, and a number of online sites haven’t updated their particulars.

As for the Robusto, it is a 5-inch, 52-ring gauge, box-pressed stick with a price tag of $9.50. A sheath that features both the cigar name and the now-familiar image of brand owner Bill Paley’s paternal grandmother, Goldie, covers more than half the cigar. When all is peeled away, it reveals a dark wrapper with little pre-light aroma.

El Año 1896’s name pays tribute to the year La Palina cigars made their first appearance in the market. La Palina’s new incarnation debut came in 2010.

The smoking experience of El Año 1896 is as smooth as the nearly vein-free wrapper. Strength is in the medium range with modest pepper and spice.

One of the more pleasing, and somewhat surprising, flavors I encountered was a piquant citrus at about the halfway point. The zesty sensation remained and contrasted nicely with the occasional tobacco sweetness. Also appearing in the second half was an intermittent earthy mushroom note.

The burn was slow. Smoke production was high and the ash held tightly. I had to make a couple minor burn corrections on two of the three I smoked, but nothing to significantly mar the experience.

Overall, I’d say La Palina has another winner on its hands. El Año 1896 is a tasty cigar that should appeal across the board. I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Davidoff Yamasá Robusto

14 Nov 2018

As one of Davidoff’s black band bunch, Yamasá is immediately identifiable as being outside the company’s typical profile. A bit bolder. A bit more intense. A bit more power.

Yamasá highlights a tobacco that celebrates what Davidoff calls “Master Blender Henke Kelner’s impossible dream to turn the unforgiving swampland of the Yamasá region into a successful tobacco-growing field.” It makes for a smooth wrapper and is also used for the binder. The filler is a combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican leaves.

But it was the Yamasá tobacco that piqued my interest. It was featured in Davidoff’s now-discontinued Puro d’Oro line, one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I smoked a five-pack of the Yamasá Robustos (5 x 50) and, not surprisingly, found them remarkably consistent. Each of the started a little harsh but quickly smoothed out after only a couple puffs.

And that’s when the cigar began to come into its own. I quickly picked up notes of leather, nuts, and coffee with cream during the first third or so. Then the leather and nuts receded as the creamy coffee came on stronger.

At the halfway point, I noticed that typical Davidoff earthy mushroom flavor, which dissipated fairly quickly. Another flavor soon made itself known: a tangy citrus note. It stayed throughout the remainder of the smoke, creating a nice contrast with the coffee and cream.

As you’d expect, construction was excellent, as were the burn and draw. The Yamasá also produced rich, thick smoke.

The line has five vitolas, ranging from a behemoth (6 x 60) to a petit Churchill (4 x 48). MSRP on the Robusto is $19.70.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Yamasá experience, and I would recommend it to any experienced cigar smoker. For me, the Davidoff Yamasá Robusto rates four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Davidoff / Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Punch Diablo Scamp

31 Oct 2018

Diablo kicks off with the accelerator mashed to the floor. After getting your attention and numbing your lips, the devil backs off from pedal-to-the-metal to a little over the speed limit.

Announcing the Punch Diablo earlier this year, General Cigar said it “wanted to make the fullest-bodied Punch to date.” They turned to frequent partner A.J. Frenandez to create the blend, which is made at his factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

He worked with a blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran filler, a Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and a dark Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. The wrapper, aged for six years, has a dry, gritty feel with almost no visible veins and a nice, deep cap. Pre-light, it has a campfire aroma, while the filler is sweet.

After the strong start, Diablo presents lighter spice and woodiness. I also pick up some floral notes in the first half. And that sweetness from the pre-light is present throughout, with greater prominence in the second half. On the downside, it is a dry smoke, and I’d recommend accompanying it with a large container of your favorite beverage.

Performance in those I smoked was excellent: near-perfect burn and draw, a light ash, and thick, rich smoke.

The line comes in only three sizes. The Scamp I sampled is a 6.125-inch, 50-ring gauge toro. It comes 25 to a box with a single stick MSRP of $7.17. The Diabolus (5.25 x 54) also comes in boxes of 25 and has an MSRP of $7.79, while boxes of the Brute (6.25 x 60, $8.19) hold 20.

Diablo features what General says is “the brand’s new look and feel.” New, indeed. The bands, for example, bear almost no resemblance to those on the traditional Punch, which echoed the the ones from Habanos. The boxes also are unlikely to be mistaken for anything coming out of Cuba.

I’ve enjoyed quite a few Punch cigars over the years, including some of the limited-release Rare Corojos, the Champion, and the Signature Pita. Diablo joins their ranks. I rate this cigar three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Quai d’Orsay Secreto Cubano Exclusivo Francia RE (2016)

24 Oct 2018

Quai d’Orsay occupies a unique little corner in the landscape of post-nationalized Cuban cigar offerings. The line is named for the street that runs along the left bank of the Seine in Paris, where both the French Foreign Ministry and the headquarters of former state-owned tobacco monopoly SEITA are located.

Quai d’Orsay was created to appeal to French tastes, which was believed to favor milder cigars. The line was reportedly created by Cubatabaco in 1973 at the request of SEITA. SEITA managed the brand outside of the purview of Cuban cigar distribution company Habanos S.A., until SEITA merged with Spanish tobacco company Altadis, which later purchased a 50% stake in Habanos.

The brand has featured a resurgence in recent years. After years of neglect, Habanos revamped the line and elevated it from a purely regional brand to a global one. (It doesn’t hurt that, unlike so many other brands, there isn’t a competing non-Cuban version in the U.S. market, which means it wouldn’t face the same trademark hurdles if the Cuban trade embargo is ever completely lifted.)

Given the historical connection, it’s no surprise when Quai d’Orsay is featured as a regional exclusive for the French market. In 2016, another RE was released called Secreto (4.3 x 40). The three small coronas I sampled featured golden brown wrappers and were slightly spongy to the touch.

Pre-light notes included bread and cedar. Once lit, the cigar quickly shows off notes of hay, cedar, and white pepper. The profile is mild- to medium-bodied and evolves to include hints of cumin, pine, sourdough bread, and light roast coffee.

Secreto exhibited excellent combustion, with a perfectly even draw and a sturdy black and gray ash. At around $8 per cigar, and packaged in boxes of ten, it’s one of the more affordable Cuban cigars our there.

I’ll admit this cigar surprised me, in a good way. Despite its small size, it provided nearly an hour of enjoyable, interesting, complex flavors. That earns the Quai d’Orsay Secreto Cubano Exclusivo Francia RE 2016 a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Caldwell Savages Corona Extra

22 Oct 2018

Caldwell Cigar Co. was launched in 2014 by Robert Caldwell with a lineup of Dominican blends. The company seemingly came out of nowhere; its cigars debuted only about eight months after Caldwell walked away from Wynwood Cigars, a co-venture with Christian Eiroa, formerly of Camacho. Most people will tell you eight months isn’t nearly enough time to create and execute a vision for a new brand, but Robert Caldwell isn’t most people.

Long Live the King was one of Caldwell’s original lines. It sports a Dominican Corojo wrapper and binder, along with filler tobaccos from Nicaragua (Habana Ligero) and Peru (Pelo de Oro). It is marketed as a full-bodied, small-batch cigar made from grade-A tobaccos.

Two years later, in 2016, Caldwell released an offshoot of Long Live the King called Savages. This limited-edition line is said to be “creamier and nuttier” than its predecessor. It employs a Habano wrapper, Dominican binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

There are five Savages vitolas, each packaged in 10-count boxes: Corona Larga (8 x 45), Piramide (6 x 50), Super Rothschild (4.75 x 52), Toro (6 x 54), and Corona Extra (6 x 46). The latter retails for about $11. It makes a strong first impression with a flattened pigtail cap, pre-light notes of sweet hay and earth, and interesting double bands of cream, gold, and silver (Caldwell deserves credit for its marketing and graphics). The oily exterior leaf has thin veins and a chameleon-like color that seems to change in the light from light brown to reddish to dark brown.

The Corona Extra is consistently dense from head to foot. Consequently, the cold draw has a bit more resistance than I would like. It isn’t, however, what I would call tight.

Once an even light is established, the draw opens almost instantly. What follows is a bready, medium-bodied profile of white pepper, cocoa powder, oak, and soft cayenne heat. There’s also a damp mustiness that reminds me of cigars from Davidoff or PG.

Around the midway point, the draw opens once again. Here, it’s virtually effortless and the smoke production is voluminous. The result is a taste that’s simultaneously more intense and creamier. Individual flavors include peanut and coffee with milk and sugar.

The damp mustiness—a note that’s more delicious than it looks on paper—remains a central feature until the end. The final third is decidedly more chocolaty, however.

Throughout, the physical properties include a solid ash and a burn line that, while imperfect, does not seriously hinder the enjoyment of the wonderful flavors. A couple torch touch-ups are enough to keep things on track.

Perhaps the defining characteristic of the Savages Corona Extra is its rich, balanced complexity—as well as the density of the oily smoke, and the damp, earthy, mushroom-like mustiness. This is, by far, the best cigar I’ve had from Caldwell. It’s worthy of an excellent rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Curivari Seleccion Privada Coronation Corona

17 Oct 2018

Last month my colleague wrote an article that (among other things) sought input on what cigars our readers would like to see us review. I was somewhat surprised by one comment that noted we’ve only reviewed two blends from Curivari’s many offerings.

I’ve long appreciated Curivari’s offerings for the value they provide and, frankly, I expected that in our hundreds of reviews we would have visited the Curivari line more than just twice. But apparently we haven’t. So today we look at another Curivari blend: the Curivari Seleccion Privada Coronation.

Curivari Seleccion Privada Coronation comes in three formats: a lonsdale called Cazadores (6.1 x 44), a Petite Corona (4.4 x 42), and a Corona (5.1 x 44). I smoked three of the latter vitola for this review. Each of the sizes comes in boxes of ten (I wish more cigars were sold this way), which can be found for just $40-50 if you shop around.

The Curivari Seleccion Privada Coronation isn’t listed on the dated Curivari website, but apparently the difference between the Coronation blend and the regular Curivari Seleccion Privada blend is the wrapper and size. The standard blend is frequently cited as using a Habano wrapper and it comes in sizes that are 50 ring gauge or wider, while the Coronation employs a Corojo wrapper and comes in the aforementioned thin sizes. Both blends, like most of the Curivari offerings, are Nicaraguan puros.

The Curivari Seleccion Privada Coronation Corona features pre-light notes of oat bread, hay, and cardamom. Once lit, notes of leather, tannins, and toast dominate the medium-bodied smoke. As it progresses, more cedar, black coffee, and cinnamon spice develop. The finish is long and woodsy.

The band looks like a Cuban Partagas from a distance and, while the cigar won’t be mistaken for Cuban Partagas when smoked, it does have a Cuban-esque element. Construction is excellent with an easy draw and sturdy ash.

Like the Curivari Buenaventura, this is a cigar that offers a lot of flavor for the price (both can be found for around $4 per cigar). With complex flavors and excellent construction, the Curivari Seleccion Privada Coronation Corona earns a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sobremesa Robusto Largo

15 Oct 2018

These days, when cigar enthusiasts think of Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, the “marcas” they’re most likely to conjure are the ones Saka features in his frequent social media posts. Sin Compromiso. The Muestra de Saka iterations, including Nacatamale and (especially) Unicorn. Maybe a close-up of a lit Umbagog taken at Saka’s favorite fishing lake in New Hampshire.

But when I think Dunbarton, I think Sobremesa. Sobremesa was announced in July 2015 to almost instant excitement as the first line from Saka’s new independent cigar operation. It marked the culmination of a two-year non-compete agreement Saka had with his former employer, Drew Estate. Seemingly everyone was clamoring to see how the man who played a critical role in growing Drew Estate into a Nicaraguan juggernaut would fare in his first solo foray.

In my opinion, Sobremesa was—and still is—worth the hype. To date we’ve written about the Elegante en Cedros, Gran Imperiales, Corona Grande, El Americano, and—my personal favorite—the Cervantes Fino. All have received exemplary marks.

Today I look at a Sobremesa vitola that has thus far escaped my reach: the Robusto Largo (5.25 x 52). Like its brethren, the Robusto Largo sports an oily, velvety, toothy, slightly reddish Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper leaf with minimal veins and tight seams. It envelops a Mexican binder and a filler blend of Pennsylvania Broadleaf Ligero with four different Nicaraguan tobaccos (Gk Condega C-SG Seco, Pueblo Nuevo Criollo Viso, La Joya Estelí C-98 Viso, and ASP Estelí Hybrid Ligero).

The cap clips easily to reveal a smooth cold draw. At the foot, the pre-light notes remind me of cocoa powder, earth, and caramel.

After establishing an even light, I find a creamy, balanced, delightfully familiar profile of café au lait, gentle cinnamon spice, salted nuts, and a bit of cayenne heat. The finish has both black pepper and baking spices. The texture is bready.

As the Robusto Largo progresses, flavors like dark cherry, green raisin, cedar, molasses, and caramel come and go. The texture shifts to thick syrup around the midway point and thereafter. As I’ve written before about Sobremesa, “the complexity is palpable and highly enjoyable, and the sweetness of the resting smoke is mouth-wateringly intoxicating. Fortunately, the combustion qualities do not detract from the experience; rather, they enhance it. The burn line is straight, the smoke production above average, the draw easy, and the ash holds well off the foot.”

For me, the Cervantes Fino remains the flagship of the fleet. But don’t sleep on the other vitolas, including the Robusto Largo. It is worthy of another outstanding rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys