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Cigar Review: Gran Habano La Conquista Robusto

9 Jul 2018

Over two years ago, I examined a pre-release sample of the new La Conquista line from Gran Habano. I found the Gran Robusto to be well-constructed but a little flat.

Flash forward to this spring when my colleague favorably wrote about the same cigar. His conclusions prompted me to revisit the blend, this time in the Robusto size.

La Conquista was introduced in 2016. At that time, it had an understated band of black, cream, and gold with a simple image of a cross. Now, the band is larger and considerably more ornate, featuring a depiction of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. It is further accented by a cedar sleeve emblazoned with “La Conquista” and a foot ribbon.

The golden, toothy Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper comes into full view once the cedar is removed. On its surface you’re likely to find at least one thick vein and perhaps some harmless green splotches of discoloration. Otherwise, though, the wrapper is attractive.

At the foot, the Nicaraguan Corojo binder combines with filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Colombia to yield sweet, grassy pre-light notes. The well-executed cap clips cleanly to reveal a smooth cold draw.

After using the cedar sleeve to establish an even light, the Robusto (5 x 52, under $7 when bought by the box of 24) starts with a medium-bodied, spice-forward profile of dry cedar, cinnamon, and cereals. The texture is bready. In the background, I find a pleasing, balanced note of café au lait.

As the Robusto progresses, the bready, cedary core remains while new flavors come and go. They include vanilla bean, oak, cashew, and a fleeting, incredibly sweet, bright taste that reminds me of candied cherries.

All the while, the construction is impeccable. Even under windy conditions I found a straight burn that required no-touch ups, along with an easy draw, solid ash, and good smoke production.

Gran Habano offers two other sizes in the La Conquista portfolio: Gran Robusto (6 x 54) and Imperial (6 x 60).

I’m glad I gave this blend another try. Either my tastes have changed, the difference in format (Gran Robusto vs. Robusto) has a big impact, the tobaccos have been treated differently, or perhaps all three. Whatever the case, I’m awarding the Honduras-made La Conquista Robusto an admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014 Ares

27 Jun 2018

Over two years ago, my colleague reviewed the Casa Fernandez Anniversario Corojo 2015. He was underwhelmed, especially by the poor construction. Despite (or in spite of) that, I decided to check out its predecessor, the Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014 (6.5 x 52), a box-pressed large toro dubbed Ares.

The Anniversario addition to the Casa Fernandez portfolio started in 2013. That year, 20,000 limited edition cigars were made, and Casa Fernandez decided to make the same amount in 2014. (In 2015, the most recent release of the series, two different sizes were released, but total production was limited to under 15,000 cigars.)

The cigar is made from 100% Nicaraguan Aganorsa tobaccos. (For more on the Casa Fernandez-Aganorsa history, see this recent review.) It features a smooth, medium-brown Corojo wrapper dressed in dual bands, plus a custom paper wrap from band to foot.

Unlike my colleague’s experience with the 2014, I found the construction to be flawless on the 2015 edition. The draw was perfect, and the burn and ash were excellent.

The cigar starts out with a velvety mouthfeel that layers bread and roasted notes on top of oak and very slight pepper spice. As it progresses, the medium-bodied smoke features cafe-au-lait and light leather flavors.

The Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014 retailed for $12.50 per cigar, but a few years later you may be able to find it for far less. (I paid under $50 for a box of 10 on a prominent auction site.) While price isn’t factored into our rating, needless to say, at $50 for a box, it offers far better value than at $125 for ten cigars.

Balance is the word that most comes to mind in this cigar that now has over three years of age. A look around and you’ll find this cigar didn’t get rave reviews when it was introduced, but with time the Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014 Ares has earned a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S


photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Palina No. 2 Robusto

25 Jun 2018

If you’ve been smoking cigars for a while, lighting up La Palina’s No. 2 might seem like visiting with an old friend. From the first puff, it brings forth the flavors, mouth texture, and feel of maduros before Mexican San Andrés tobacco became the maduro wrapper of choice.

Interestingly, the wrapper on the No. 2 is from Costa Rica, not a more traditional maduro wrapper, such as Connecticut Broadleaf. In fact, the overall blend is a bit unconventional, with a Honduran binder and filler from Nicaragua and Honduras.

The No. 2 (you’ll also see it referred to as the 02) was released along with the No. 1 last year in what has been referred to as La Palina’s Number series. Both stand out from other La Palina brands with bright, colorfully modernist box packaging and bands.

Each comes in four vitolas and both are rolled by Plascencia in Honduras. The No. 2 sizes are Gordo (6 x 58, $11), Toro (6.5 x 54, $10), Robusto (5 x 52, $9.50), and Petit Corona (4.5 x 44, $7.99).

Ever since he brought back his grandfather’s La Palina brand in 2010, Bill Paley has displayed a willingness to experiment. Along the way, he’s produced quite a few memorable cigars.

I smoked three of these dark Robustos. The draw on each was excellent. I would have liked a little more smoke production, though the level wasn’t bad. The only negative was the necessity for an occasional touch-up, not unexpected with such a thick, oily wrapper.

The No. 2 kicked off with a rich taste of espresso and a light spice. Both remained through much of the length of the cigar, moving from forefront to background as other flavors emerged. Those included cocoa, a bit of charred wood, and some tobacco sweetness.

I thoroughly enjoyed this cigar and would recommend it highly, especially to those who have smoked primarily maduros with Mexican wrappers. It’s a different experience.

I believe the La Palina No. 2 is a cigar suited to smokers at any level of experience. I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Villiger San’Doro Maduro Toro

18 Jun 2018

About a month ago, Villiger unveiled a new 7,500-square-foot factory in Bahia, Brazil. Called Villiger Do Brasil, the facility makes Villiger puros for both the U.S. market (San’Doro Maduro) and the European market (Celebration and Corrida). More Brazilian cigars are expected from Villiger in the future, though I’m not sure they will all be puros.

Villiger has been making cigars in Brazil since the 1970s. This newer, bigger factory (30 rollers, with the capacity to add 20 more), however, signals a redoubled commitment to the country and its tobaccos. Villiger Do Brasil—along with the recent relocation of U.S. corporate headquarters to the Miami area—is further evidence of Villiger’s interest in expanding its presence in the premium cigar market (Villiger is a major player in the machine-made realm).

My colleague reviewed the Villiger San’Doro Maduro Toro a couple years ago, finding it to be well-constructed, tasty, and balanced. The cigar I’m reviewing today is the same in makeup—a Mata Fina wrapper, Mata Norte binder, and Mata Fina and Mata Norte filler—but this one is made at Villiger Do Brasil.

The single-vitola blend is presented in a Toro (6 x 50) format and retails for about $8.50—a price that is, as far as I can tell, unchanged since the cigar was introduced in 2015. The Toro’s dark, toothy exterior is complemented by dual bands of gold, green, and red. The cap is a bit sloppy, but it clips just fine to reveal a tight cold draw.

I find pre-light notes of cherry, cocoa powder, and molasses at the foot. After setting an even light, the sweet cherry shines through in the flavor, accented by leather, coffee, and roasted cashew. There is a bit of cayenne heat in the background, as well as a subdued cedar spice and a damp, musty taste that’s difficult to describe.

Towards the midway point, the medium-bodied profile enters a phase that can best be characterized as natural tobacco sweetness. The individual flavors, put plainly, seem to be rounded off. The taste stays in this ballpark until the finale, which has a reprise of cherry and coffee.

I sampled three Toros for this review. Each had a tight draw resulting in a low volume of smoke production. I found this to be both frustrating and intrusive, though two of the three seemed to open up a bit at the midway point. The burn line was always straight, and the ash held well off the foot.

Some may read this and conclude my samples were stored in conditions featuring excessive relative humidity. After receiving my five-pack in the mail from Villiger, though, I stored the cigars in one of my closely monitored humidors for a month.

I will let the remaining two San’Doro Maduro Toros rest for awhile before giving this cigar another try. I’ll be sure to post an update when I smoke another, probably in six months or so. For now, I would be remiss if I scored this Villiger cigar any higher than two stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Casa Fernandez Miami Corojo Robusto

14 Jun 2018

Not many years ago, your average well-informed cigar smoker probably had never heard of Aganorsa tobacco. Today, there’s a good chance they have and, if they haven’t, they’ve almost certainly smoked Aganorsa tobacco, which is widely used by many of the largest cigar makers.

Aganorsa S.A. started in 1997 when Cuban-born American businessman Eduardo Fernandez began purchasing land in Nicaragua to grow tobacco, including fields once owned by Ncaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. Prior to the Sandinista revolution, Somoza was part owner of the Joya de Nicaragua factory (dictators don’t pick their lands because they aren’t some of the finest available). Fernandez, who quickly began expanding his growing operations, staffed his fields with Cuban agronomists.

Fernandez soon began expanding to cigar making with the purchase of Tropical Tobacco and later by establishing, with José “Pepín” García, El Rey de los Habanos in Miami and another facility in Nicaragua. (The two split ways acrimoniously in 2010 with a lawsuit that ended in a settlement.) Today, Fernandez runs the Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) (Nicaragua), and Casa Fernandez Miami (USA) factories where he makes cigars for his Casa Fernanedez brands and others, including Illusione and Warped (which is co-owned by Fernandez’s son, Max).

While Aganorsa tobacco is still supplied to numerous cigar makers in Nicaragua and elsewhere, the brand remains closely associated with Casa Fernandez, which uses the tobaccos almost exclusively. Earlier this year, Casa Fernandez was officially moved under the Aganorsa Leaf banner.

The Casa Fernandez Miami Aganorsa Leaf Corojo is a Nicaraguan puro made in Miami with an Aganorsa Corojo wrapper around Aganorsa binder and filler. The cigar comes in three sizes: Robusto (5 x 52), Toro (6.5 x 52), and Torpedo (6.25 x 52).

The Robusto features a slightly mottled Colorado brown wrapper. The slightly rounded, box-pressed cigar features two bands (one denoting Casa Fernandez Miami and another advertising Aganorsa Leaf), plus a black ribbon around the foot. The primary band was changed along the way to make “Miami” more prominent.

Once lit, the cigar features cafe-au-lait, bread, cashew, and light oak. It has only the slightest wood spice (though pepper is prominent when retro-haled), but it is a medium- to full-bodied smoke with excellent balance. The flavors coat the palate creating a long, velvety finish.

The flavors are consistent throughout, with a slight increase in strength towards the final third. Construction was excellent on all three Robustos I smoked, with an easy draw, even burn, and sturdy ash.

I’ve largely been impressed by Casa Fernandez cigars, but I’ll admit to being a bit confused by the line. At times, it’s challenging to discern the differences between their various offerings. For example, what appears to be the exact same Casa Fernandez Corojo has also been made in Nicaragua, but that cigar is still sold on some websites side-by-side with the Miami. Perhaps the new Aganorsa Leaf branding will soon clear up these differences.

The Casa Fernandez Miami Corojo Robusto retails for $110 for box of 15, but the truth is you can find it for quite a bit less. For the $60 I paid for the box (perhaps that confusion I spoke of creates a buying opportunity), it is a real bargain.

This Miami-made Nicaraguan puro is the type of cigar most appreciated by veteran fans of Nicaraguan smokes. With enjoyable flavors and excellent balance, the Casa Fernandez Miami Corojo Robusto 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: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente (TAA Exclusive)

4 Jun 2018

In April, it was announced that Joya de Nicaragua and Drew Estate would be collaborating to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA), as well as the 10th anniversary of their distribution arrangement, by launching a TAA-exclusive cigar.

Called Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente (6.75 x 50), the box-pressed Nicaraguan puro is made with five-year-old tobaccos and is Joya de Nicaragua CEO Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca’s favorite vitola. “When I requested the Gran Reserva blend in the Presidente size, it immediately became my private smoke,” he said. “I decided to share it only for special occasions. I can’t think of a better opportunity than this shared celebration of five decades of perseverance and companionship between TAA, its members, and Joya de Nicaragua.”

Presidente has been shipping since May. It retails for $12.50 and comes presented in gold-colored boxes of 20.

Regarding Presidente’s flavor, Joya de Nicaragua is marketing it as full-bodied and complex cigar that’s “similar to the Antaño line [introduced in 2005; reintroduced in 2017], but due to the age of the proprietary filler leaves it’s a much smoother smoke. It showcases the unique character of Nicaraguan tobacco with refined notes of spice, leather, and wood.”

The box-pressed cigar starts with a flash of red pepper, which transitions into a core profile of leather, dry cedar spice, and a chalky cocoa sweetness. It is full-bodied, yet smooth, creamy, and nicely balanced. At about the half-inch mark, the complexity is enhanced with the introduction of notes of roasted cashew.

The chalky texture continues to the midway point, which is characterized by less spice and more dry wood. There is no harshness, heat, and little spice, rendering the Presidente one of those rare cigars with full flavors that’s quite approachable.

Construction is downright perfect. Across the four samples I smoked for this review, all exhibited straight burns, sturdy gray ashes, clear draws, and generous smoke production.

In addition to Presidente, there are three other Antaño Gran Reserva sizes that are not TAA exclusive: Belicoso (6 x 54), Robusto Grande (5.5 x 52), and Gran Cónsul (4.75 x 60). I haven’t smoked any of those recently, but I can say the Presidente is well worth seeking out. It is masterful, and an excellent example of what a fine Nicaraguan cigar should be. In my book, it earns four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: El Titan de Bronze Redemption Sun Grown Habano Lancero

21 May 2018

Earlier this month, I published a photo essay documenting my recent visit to El Titan de Bronze. Even if you’re not familiar with this small factory on Calle Ocho in Little Havana, Miami, chances are good you’ve enjoyed its cigars at one time or another. El Titan de Bronze counts companies such as Drew Estate, Warped Cigars, La Palina, Cornelius & Anthony, Padilla, El Primer Mundo, Cremo, and many others as clients.

From the outside, you could easily mistake El Titan de Bronze as a mere retailer. The whole operation is only 2,200 square feet. But—unlike all the other cigar spots that dot Calle Ocho, many of which employ a window roller or two to lure tourists—El Titan de Bronze is a living, breathing factory full of rich history.

Its staff is also often called upon to not only craft cigars for other brands, but to also offer guidance and assistance when it comes to blending (one exception here is Willy Herrera of Drew Estate, who apparently does just fine on his own). The expertise El Titan de Bronze brings to the table is evident in its house blends, which are available for sale online—but, I am told, are mostly bought in-person at the factory.

Included in the lineup of house brands is El Titan de Bronze Redemption Sun Grown Habano. This blend features Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos around a sun-grown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper.

Cuban-seed Santo Domingo and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, an Ecuadorian binder, and (as the name implies) a dark Habano wrapper. The Corona (5.75 x 48) sells for about $8.50 apiece. Six regular-production vitolas are available, including the Lancero (6.75 x 38), which retails for about $9. (Beyond the six core sizes—Churchill, Churchill Corto, Toro, Belicoso, Corona, and Lancero—there are five additional formats that are listed as “subject to availability.”)

The Redemption Sun Grown Habano Lancero sports a well-executed pigtail cap and attractive dual bands of white, gold, and blue. It is moderately firm from head to foot with no hard or soft spots. The wrapper is uniform in color and dry with a few large veins. The cold draw is moderately firm, and the soft pre-light notes remind me of hay and molasses.

Many cigars offer fleeting moments of brilliant notes of roasted nuts. For whatever reason, this typically emerges after the first third is completed. In this case, however, that awesome flavor takes center stage right from the get-go. Other tastes include spicy cedar, white pepper, and cinnamon. As the Lancero progresses, a salted caramel note joins the fray to add some creaminess and sweetness.

Then, at the midway point, the entire profile takes a turn, abandoning the roasted nuts, sweetness, creaminess, and spice for a mellower (and, frankly, less interesting) flavor of bread, cereals, and dry oak. Fortunately, this retreat is short-lived. Just as you might begin to lose interest, the roasted nut note comes back, as does the spice.

Throughout, the burn line is straight and the ash holds well off the foot. The draw is tighter than I would like in the first half—even for a lancero—and, as a result, the smoke production is a bit below average. Everything opens up nicely in the final third, though.

I am a fan of lanceros, which is why I gravitated towards this size for my first foray with the El Titan de Bronze Redemption Sun Grown Habano. That said, I can’t help but think the experience would have been improved by the clearer draw that’s likely afforded by the thicker sizes. I look forward to giving those a try. For now, this cigar earns a rating of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys