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Cigar Review: Illusione Rothchildes CT

26 Sep 2018

The original Illusione Rothchildes is a cigar I recommend to a lot of people, for all the reasons my colleague laid out when he first reviewed it in 2014. A flavorful, medium-bodied profile, excellent construction, and a sub-$5 price tag. You can’t go wrong.

It’s a cigar I regularly keep on hand to give to guests since it will be appreciated by cigar veterans, but isn’t so expensive that I’ll resent it if they decide they don’t want to smoke the whole thing. Everyone can appreciate the classic look (the band’s colors and square shape remind me of Henry Clay) and the size is ideal for when you don’t have a lot of time. Plus, it’s not too intimidating for a newbie.

Needless to say, when in 2016 (almost certainly due to the upcoming FDA deadline) Illusione introduced a Connecticut version of the Rothchildes, it became a cigar I wanted to check out, especially since, although I enjoy the original, I find cigars that use Mexican tobaccos generally don’t hit my palate quite right. Although formally introduced in the summer of 2016, it wasn’t widely available for quite a while thereafter.

Like the Mexican-wrapped version, the single CT vitola (4.5 x 50) comes with an affordable price tag ($5.50 MSRP, though you can buy a box for around $200). The Rothchildes CT swaps out that Mexican wrapper for an oily, tan Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf, though it still uses Nicaraguan binder and filer tobaccos, and is made at the TABSA factory in Nicaragua.

Connecticut cigars carry an expectation for mild flavors, but the Rothchildes CT reminds us this isn’t always the case. Pre-light graham cracker notes are followed by significant pepper once lit.

The medium-bodied flavors include buttered toast, cocoa, and oak. It is (unusually) both creamy and quite dry on the palate, especially on the finish. Construction was excellent on each of the three cigars I smoked, with an ash that held for well over an inch.

Like the original, the Illusione Rothchildes CT gives smokers a lot of bang for their buck, which makes it an excellent cigar to have on hand to smoke yourself, or hand out to friends. Enjoyable medium-bodied flavors and excellent construction earn it a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Diesel Whiskey Row Robusto

19 Sep 2018

The prolific A.J. Fernandez made headlines with his collaborations lately, including with General Cigar’s Hoyo de Monterrey line. Largely unnoticed, however, is that A.J. Fernandez and General Cigar had been affiliated (albeit indirectly) for many years through A.J. Fernandez-made private label brands, including Diesel.

Diesel was originally a private label made for Cigars International (and its portfolio of sites, including and starting in 2009. Cigars International was purchased by then General Cigar parent company Swedish Match in 2007. Eventually, Swedish Match merged its pipe and cigar businesses with Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG), putting General Cigar and Cigars International under the same umbrella, even after Swedish Match sold off its share in the company.

Those close connections explain the integration of some Diesel lines with General Cigar, something that started in ernest last year with Diesel Grind. That was followed up earlier this year by Diesel Whiskey Row, which uses binder tobacco aged in bourbon barrels that previously held Rabbit Hole Bourbon.

In addition to the bourbon barrel-aged Mexican San Andrés binder, Diesel Whiskey row uses a three-region blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos from Ometepe, Condega, and Jalapa, each aged five to eight years. Surrounding it all is an attractive, reddish-brown, five-year-old Ecuadorian Habano wrapper.

The three Robustos ($7.50) I smoked had rich pre-light aromas featuring wood and earth but, notably, little that is distinctly bourbon-y. That would be a theme throughout the cigar which, despite its full-bodied flavors, doesn’t showcase the bourbon barrel-aged tobaccos as much as you might expect.

Leather notes dominate and combine with white pepper, oak, and black coffee. The finish is long with tannic leather notes. From start to finish, the leather creates a slightly unbalanced element to the cigar’s full-bodied cigars.

I didn’t have any Rabbit Hole Bourbon (it isn’t sold in Virginia where I live), but I did have an excellent Four Rose Private Selection that paired well with Diesel Whiskey Row. It may have limited bourbon notes, but the Diesel Whiskey Row Robusto earns a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Clásico Número 6

17 Sep 2018

Back in June, Joya de Nicaragua announced the reintroduction of the Clásico line to the U.S. market. The move to bring back “the first Nicaraguan cigar ever” seems fitting at a time when the company is celebrating its golden anniversary.

“Clásico goes back to America at a moment when we have reached the highest quality standards at the factory in our 50-year history,” said Mario Perez, sales director for Joya de Nicaragua. “But we kept the same blend that the founders of the company created, the blend that once captivated world leaders when it was the official cigar of the White House back in the 70s.”

In a departure from the powerful smokes for which the company is known, Joya is marketing Clásico as “mild” and “creamy.” The recipe remains the same as it did decades ago. The wrapper is Cuban-seed Ecuadorian Connecticut, and the binder and filler tobaccos are, of course, Nicaraguan.

There are a whopping twelve formats, so there’s a size here for everyone. The Toro may have been the first Clásico I tried (and also reviewed), but the thin Número 6 (6 x 41, $6.50) is the most appealing to me in terms of dimensions. I tend to gravitate towards narrower ring gauges, whenever possible, and six inches long seems just about perfect in terms of smoking time.

Like the Toro, Número 6 has a traditional, understated, and—in my opinion—beautiful band that nicely highlights the golden color of the smooth, buttery wrapper. At the foot, I find bright, crisp pre-light notes of sweet hay. The cold draw is smooth, especially for such a thin cigar.

The initial profile is salty and abrasive. Fortunately, after just a couple puffs, things settle down nicely. Individual flavors include creamy butter, warm tobacco, and raw almond. There’s also a green freshness that’s hard to put my finger on. The mild- to medium-bodied cigar has a bready texture.

The Número 6 mostly remains this way until the end, save for the occasional additions of tastes like clove, café-au-lait, and white pepper. Along the way, the physical properties are mostly admirable. I found a straight burn line, smooth draw, and good smoke production. On the downside, the ash is very flaky and prone to fall off prematurely, and the burn requires a few re-lights along the way to stay burning.

As I wrote of the Toro, I enjoy mild cigars. But mild cigars need to have flavor. The Clásico Toro has flavor. At times it shines, and at times it falls a little short. All told, I think the most appropriate rating is three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Reviews: Leaf by Oscar Corojo Toro

12 Sep 2018

If you’re familiar with Leaf by Oscar, that’s likely due to the unique packaging. Each cigar is wrapped in a tobacco leaf (hence Leaf) folded around the cigar and held in place by a brown paper band. Opening it is like unwrapping a present with tobacco (the leaf is not wrapper-grade, from the look of it). Beneath is a tobacco treat: a cigar with another brown band.

Leaf by Oscar is a collaboration between Jim “Island Jim” Robinson, known for his Leaf and Bean shop in Pittsburgh, and Danlí, Honduras-based cigar maker Oscar Valladares. The line comes in four wrapper varieties. In addition to the Honduran Corojo (the subject of this review) is a Honduran Connecticut, Ecuadorian Sumatra, and Nicaraguan Maduro Jalapa.

The reddish brown Honduran Corojo wrapper is oily. The line comes in four sizes: Lancero (7 x 38), Robusto (5 x 50), Gordo (6 x 60), and Toro (6 x 52). The Toro sells for around $9 per cigar and comes in bundles of 20.

I smoked four Toros for this review. (The Toro size apparently was adjusted from 50 ring gauge to 52 at some point.) Despite being slightly soft to the touch, the draw was easy, burn even, and the smoke combustion was abundant.

Pre-light, Leaf by Oscar features cashew nuts and pepper spice. Once lit, there is a combination of roasted notes, gritty earth, blackened toast, and slight red pepper.

Pepper is more prominent towards the first third of the cigar, which is medium- to full-bodied. As the cigar progresses, leather emerges as the spice dips slightly. The cigar has a dry element that is particularly notable on the finish.

Distinctly Honduran, but not a one-note cigar, it may not be exquisitely balanced, but it features complex, full flavors. That earns the Leaf by Oscar Corojo Toro a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Aging Room Small Batch M356ii Rondo

10 Sep 2018

The original version of this cigar, the M356, helped put Boutique Blends’ Aging Room on the map when it received rave reviews and stellar ratings.

But the company’s approach of seeking out fine tobaccos regardless of the amount available and rolling cigars until the inventory is exhausted would have meant the end of the line—literally. Popularity, however, led to innovation, and the company worked to replicate the initial blend as closely as possible.

To avoid any misconception, though, they added “ii” to the designation so buyers would know it was not identical to the original. (The original version was rated No. 16 on Cigar Aficionado’s 2011 Top 25, while the new edition came in at No. 14 on the 2016 list.)

The M356ii is available in six sizes, ranging from a big Major (6.5 x 60) to the small Paco (4.5 x 48). It features a Habano wrapper and Dominican binder and filler. Prices range from about $8.25 to about $10.50.

I’ve been smoking through a box of the robustos, called Rondo (5 x 50), in keeping with company co-founder Rafael Nodal’s fondness for using musical nomenclature. For me, two things stand out from the original line.

One is the burn. I experienced some burn issues when I was smoking the M356 Mezzo back in 2012. Nothing horrendous, just enough to mildly mar the experience. With the M356ii, every one I’ve smoked so far has had a near-perfect burn: straight and slow.

Other performance characteristics, including smoke production, draw and holding the ash, have also been first-rate.

The second difference, for me, in the two cigar lines is that the M356ii doesn’t have quite the spice I found in the original. While it is a most tasty cigar, it simply doesn’t reach the level of what I said back then was “akin to lighting up a spice rack … exotic tastes that light briefly on your tongue.”

Not that there is no spice, certainly. It’s simply not as pronounced. I did find other flavors I remember from the original, such as sweet caramel, a little coffee, and hardwood.

I applaud Boutique Blends for being upfront in its labeling to indicate that the cigar has changed, if only a bit. Those adjustments have enabled an excellent cigar to stay on the market and to be enjoyed by more smokers.

Whether you’re one of those who loved the original or someone who never had the opportunity to smoke it, I urge you to give the M356ii a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Partagas Legend Toro Leyenda

5 Sep 2018

The latest Partagas line extension takes its name, Legend, from the notable men associated with the brand, from its Cuban founding in 1845 to the current versions from General Cigar.

Introduced at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show, Legend features a three-country blend: Dominican Piloto Cubano filler, Honduran Olancho San Agustin binder, and Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.

The medium-strength cigar has a light finish, which is somewhat surprising given its thick, smoky mouthfeel. There’s a little spice, but more predominant are flavors of leather, earthiness, and coffee.

I smoked several and found the performance generally good. One had a bit of a tight draw, which opened up a third of the way down. All produced a lot of smoke, burned slowly and evenly, and held a tight, white ash.

Legend is box-pressed and offered in three sizes: Corona Extra Leyenda (5.25 x 44, $11.49); Fabuloso Leyenda (6.5 x 48, $12.49); and Toro Leyenda (6.25 x 54, $14.49).

The ornate white band is set off by the oily, dark wrapper and has little of the traditional Partagas look. The boxes of 20 are also white.

Over the years, has reviewed a lot of General’s Partagas cigars. Nine,  in fact. Many received high ratings.

Now, some smokers have an almost visceral negative reaction to a non-Cuban cigar that bears the name of those still being produced in Cuba. They see it as a crass effort at exploitation.

Others, especially those whose companies were nationalized after the revolution and who fled the island, say the trademarks belong to the owners. They believe the Cuban versions are unlawful expropriations. One of those men was Ramón Cifuentes, who owned the Partagas brand when Fidel Castro seized power.

Perhaps all this will be sorted out if and when the U.S. embargo on Cuba ends. In the meantime, I’m not sure it’s fair to judge a cigar by its name. I prefer to take cigars as I find them and try to evaluate without considering baggage.

In this case, I found the Legend to be another fine Partagas addition and give it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: MBombay Corojo Oscuro Gordo

4 Sep 2018

Mel Shah, owner of an upscale cigar and wine lounge in Palm Springs, California, is the man behind Bombay Tobak. You may be more familiar with the name MBombay, though, which is his small-batch brand of high-end cigars made in Costa Rica.

When I think of MBombay, I think of Gaaja and Gaaja Maduro. I love both cigars—especially Gaaja Maduro, which earned a rare five stogies out of five rating in February 2017. The original MBombay line, however, is probably what first comes to mind for most. It includes Classic, Habano, KẽSara, Mora, and Corojo Oscuro.

The latter sports a beautiful, dark, oily, mottled, slightly reddish Ecuadorian wrapper around tobaccos from Ecuador, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. It is adorned with an ornate, eye-catching band.

I smoked a handful of Corojo Oscuro Gordos for this review. This vitola retails for about $11 and measures 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 60. The cap clips cleanly to reveal a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos, yet the cold draw is nice and smooth. At the foot, I find pre-light notes of dark chocolate and molasses.

The initial flavor is full-bodied and aggressive with strong notes of espresso and black pepper spice. Quickly, though, the breaks are pumped and the Gordo settles into the medium-bodied range. Here, I find flavors ranging from roasted peanut and cereals to coffee and cedar. In the background, there’s a gentle cayenne spice and a sensation that reminds me of sunflower seeds.

I’ve never been a big fan of the over-sized gordo format. For one, the ring gauge is too thick to be comfortable, and that same girth can also water down the flavors that would otherwise be more concentrated. Additionally, many of these cigars tend to overstay their welcome. And they can also suffer from combustion issues.

The physical properties of the Corojo Oscuro Gordo, however, are admirable. The burn stays even and requires only a few touch-ups. And the ash holds firm.

But the other disadvantages I mentioned are present here—and I think that’s more of an indictment of the size (generally speaking) than this particular cigar. Still, MBombay chose to offer the format, and I must review the cigar as it is presented. Taking into account my dislike for the size, as well as my enjoyment of the balanced, complex blend, I’ve arrived at a rating of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys