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Cigar Review: Curivari Buenaventura BV 500

14 Aug 2017

For years, my colleague has praised the Buenaventura line by Curivari as not only an excellent smoke, but an excellent value. The cigars—which sport a classic, Cubanesque presentation and have been well-reviewed at StogieGuys.com on numerous occasions—retail for about $5 each. That’s a very refreshing price point in today’s market.

Curivari has also adopted the consumer-friendly practice of selling its Buenaventura cigars in ten-count boxes. This is, as far as I’m concerned, a policy more cigar makers should seriously consider. It makes the commitment to buy a box (both financially and simply as a matter of confidence you’ll enjoy it) much easier.

The BV 500 (5.25 x 50) is one of three original Buenaventura vitolas released in 2012—the others being BV 560 (5 x 60) and BV 600 (6 x 60). Since, Curivari has expanded the line with new formats, including D7 (5.5 x 52), Mini BV (3.5 x 50), Petit BV (4.25 x 54), and Picadores 52 (6 x 52). All are Nicaraguan puros.

I picked up three BV 500s at my local tobacconist for $4.90 apiece (not including taxes). If, like me, you’re a fan of the old school Cuban presentation, you’ll love the way this cigar looks dressed in its simple, understated band. The Nicaraguan wrapper is clean, smooth, and incredibly oily, though don’t be surprised if you encounter a harmless watermark or two. The slight box press gives the spongy cigar an oval shape. Pre-light, I find only the faintest notes of sweet hay and honey at the foot. The expertly applied cap clips cleanly to reveal a smooth cold draw.

After setting an even light, I find a medium-bodied profile of cedar, rye, cashew, caramel, and a bit of sweet cream. The texture is bready. The finish has black pepper, cereals, and some leather. As it progresses toward the midway point and beyond, the flavor can best be characterized as a core of dry wood and toasty bread with background notes ranging from milk chocolate and dried fruit to syrup and cherry. The final third is much the same and, thankfully, the tasty, well-balanced smoke stays cool throughout.

Construction is impeccable, especially for a sub-$5 cigar. All three of my samples exhibited set-it-and-forget-it burns, solid ashes, clear draws, and bountiful smoke production. Notably, I find the sharp black mascara of the burn line to be quite beautiful set against the oily wrapper.

There’s a lot to love from the Buenaventura BV 500. Great flavors, classic presentation, affordability, solid combustion properties. It may not be the most complex cigar on the market, but it’s surely one of the best values. For that, I award this Curivari creation a score of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Tatuaje The Krueger

7 Aug 2017

You’ve got to hand it to Pete Johnson, the creator and owner of Tatuaje. His annual Monster Series release is pure marketing genius. Every year, Tatuaje’s growing army of devotees seeks out the Halloween limited release, many buying an entire box before trying a single cigar.

Back in 2011, Cigar Aficionado wrote an article about the “distribution nightmare” the Monster Series had become. Back then, the release was only in its fourth year, with production at 22,000 cigars; the latest release, called the Krueger, clocked in at just shy of 60,000 cigars.

For the uninitiated, Tatuaje has released an annual Monster Series smoke since 2008, each celebrating a character from the horror genre, including The Frank, The Drac, The Face, The Wolfman, The Mummy, The JV13 (Jason), The Jekyll, The Hyde, and The Krueger. The MSRP is always $13, and there are typically 666 “dress boxes” of 13 cigars made available to 13 “unlucky” retailers (Johnson also releases plain boxes of 10).

I didn’t have a chance to get my hands on The Krueger when it came out last fall. Thankfully, I spotted a stash at my local tobacconist and picked up a handful. As the name would suggest, The Krueger honors the Freddy Krueger character from A Nightmare on Elm Street. Its recipe calls for a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos.

Typically, wrapper leaf is judged by both taste and appearance. A testament Johnson’s aforementioned marketing genius is his ability to use ugly, scary-looking wrapper leaves that, while tasty, certainly wouldn’t qualify for most $13 cigars. Indeed, The Krueger is a dark, rough, and rugged box-pressed torpedo (7 x 48). Its dry surface is characterized by plenty of veins, lumps, and tooth. There are hardly any oils to be found. It is slightly spongy and the cold draw is moderate.

After setting an even burn, pungent pre-light notes of earth, cocoa, and hay transition to an initial profile that’s balanced and medium- to full-bodied. Flavors include coffee bean, roasted nuts, leather, black pepper, and sweet cream. That earthiness (some might say dirtiness, or grittiness) so emblematic of San Andrés tobacco creeps in as the first inch is concluding.

As the midway point approaches, the profile remains consistent, but the flavor settles a bit as the cigar takes a more balanced and nuanced stance. The sweetness ramps up with the addition of chocolate, and the leather and roasted nuts become more pronounced. The final third is marked by a reprise of the intensity from the outset, plus heavy notes of leather and a sour meatiness.

With solid construction from light to nub, The Krueger is a fine, well-built cigar with loads of rich flavor and ample changes throughout to keep things interesting. That said, I don’t believe it quite stands up to the lofty expectations set by its Monster Series predecessors (and its price and pedigree). Perhaps that will change with some age. For now, the most fitting rating for this Tatuaje creation is 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: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Churchill

31 Jul 2017

Over three years ago, I visited the Joya de Nicaragua factory in Estelí as part of Drew Estate’s Cigar Safari (Drew Estate is Joya’s distributor). At the outset of the tour, Juan Ignacio Martínez—then 31 years old and recently named executive president—gave us an overview of Joya’s fascinating history.

Many know Joya is the oldest cigar maker in Nicaragua. Fewer are aware of how Joya’s legacy is intertwined with the political unrest in Nicaragua in the 20th century. When you think Joya, you probably don’t think of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, President Nixon, or the Revolución Popular Sandinista. You probably think of brands like Joya Red, Cabinetta, Cuatro Cinco, Dark Corojo, and—perhaps most notably—Antaño 1970.

The Antaño blend (which translates to “yesteryear”) was crafted, according to Joya’s website, “as a tribute to recapture the power and essence of the puro that made this legendary brand the most sought-after cigar in the U.S. in the post-Cuban Embargo 1970s.” The blend is well-known to deliver a consistent, rich, spicy, full-flavored experience.

Ten Antaño vitolas are available, including the Churchill (6.9 x 48), which I recently picked up at my local tobacconist for the very fair price of $7.45. It is handmade in Estelí with 100% Nicaraguan tobaccos, including a dark Habano-seed Criollo wrapper.

Three cheers to Joya de Nicaragua for including the cigar’s name and dimensions on the cellophane (I wish more cigar makers did this). Once the Churchill is out of its packaging, the full features of the intimidating smoke can be more closely observed. The dry, coarse wrapper has a slight reddish hue with thin veins. It is accented nicely by the familiar, attractive band of gold, red, and green. The feel is moderately firm yet the cold draw is smooth. At the foot, you’ll find pre-light notes of dried fruit and damp earth.

“Novices need not light,” warns the Joya website. This is no bluff. From the first puff, the Antaño 1970 Churchill is undoubtedly full-bodied, strong, and spicy. But to write it off as a mere heavy-handed powerbomb would be to miss the excellent, balanced flavors that comprise the profile. Attentive smokers will find green raisin, cedar, black coffee, black pepper, and cayenne spice. The texture of the thick smoke is leathery. And, despite all the power, there is a smooth creaminess to the overall delivery that makes the experience all the more enjoyable.

There are no major changes in flavor throughout. All the while, construction is exquisite. Expect an even burn that requires zero touch-ups, a solid ash, clear draw, and above average smoke production.

Joya de Nicaragua’s website claims “this is a cigar for the experienced connoisseur who appreciates and craves unadulterated boldness.” I am inclined to agree. The Antaño 1970 Churchill brings plenty of strength to the table, and it also delights with a rich, balanced profile that pairs excellently with bourbon or rum after a satisfying meal.

If you want to get to the core of why so many cigar makers and enthusiasts have become so enamored with Nicaraguan tobacco, look no further than this fine specimen. It earns an outstanding 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: Espinosa 601 La Bomba Warhead 2013

24 Jul 2017

There was a time when the cigars in the EO Brands portfolio—particularly 601 Blue, 601 Red, and 601 Green—were mainstays in my humidors. Back then, Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega were still in a partnership, and the 601 line was produced by none other than Don José “Pepin” Garcia at My Father Cigars.

In 2010, Rocky Patel bought a 50% stake in EO Brands, which also owned Cubao, Murcielago, and Mi Barrio. Then, in early 2012, Eddie Ortega announced he was leaving the company and starting his own outfit called Ortega Cigars.

Today, Erik Espinosa operates Espinosa Premium Cigars, which runs out of Espinosa’s La Zona Factory in Estelí. Among his creations is Warhead, a semi-regular, limited edition offshoot of the La Bomba line that replaces La Bomba’s Nicaraguan Habano wrapper with a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper (but maintains La Bomba’s same Nicaraguan binder and filler recipe). To date, there have been three Warhead releases, each made in a single vitola: 2013 (6.5 x 54, 20,000 total cigars), 2014 (5.5 x 56, 20,000 total cigars), and 2016 (7.5 x 38, 5,000 total cigars).

Back in 2013, I paid about $11 apiece for three La Bomba Warheads. This original Warhead is easily differentiated from its successors because the 2014 iteration says “Warhead II” on the foot band, and the 2016 model is a lancero with a green foot band. For some reason, I didn’t touch these cigars for four years but am nonetheless dedicated to recording a review.

Maybe it’s the age, or maybe this is the way Warhead was originally shipped and presented in 2013, but the extra-long pigtail cap fuse has been compressed into the surface of the wrapper. That wrapper, by the way, is dark and rustic with a few large veins. The slightly box-pressed cigar is firm with no soft spots. Once clipped (I used a double guillotine and snipped into the cap removing the entire fuse) the cold draw is moderately firm. At the foot, I find pungent notes of cocoa powder and dark chocolate.

After setting an even light, I am greeted by an initial profile of espresso, black pepper, burnt marshmallow, and leather. The flavor is bold and full-bodied from the get-go, and the texture of the smoke is silky, cool, and moist. After about an inch, the strength mellows slightly and the addition of savory roasted nuts contributes some nice complexity. Thereafter, the taste remains fairly unchanged until the end.

The physical properties are imperfect but not burdensome. Expect a solid gray ash and a mostly well-behaved burn that only requires an occasional touch-up here and there to stay even. My main complaint is the draw. While I had anticipated it might open up after the first third, it remains fairly tight until the end, resulting in below average smoke production.

The four years of rest in my humidor may have taken some of the edge off the strength. Even fresh, however, I suspect Warhead would still be less powerful than the original La Bomba blend by virtue of the replacement of the Nicaraguan Habano wrapper with a Connecticut Broadleaf maduro. Whatever the case, the 2013 incarnation of Warhead is an enjoyable smoke with plenty to offer. But it’s also unlikely to blow anyone away. That’s why, all things considered, I am settling on a score of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Lost & Found Backdoor Bambi

19 Jul 2017

In 2014, Robert Caldwell, Jaclyn Sears, and Tony Bellatto announced Impromptu, a line of limited release cigars sourced from the aging rooms of various factories. Later, the enterprise would be renamed Lost & Found Cigars.

According to Robert Caldwell: “Over several months I have been traveling all over the world spending a lot of time in the Caribbean and Central America in many tobacco fields and factories. Along the way I stumbled upon certain cigars that really left an impression on me. My friends suggest we share them with our friends and customers. These are very special cigars, made with rare tobaccos that have been aged to a point seldom enjoyed by most of us. I cannot take credit with making these beauties, nor for bringing them to you—just for discovering them.”

As I’ve noted before, the line’s popularity is a testament to the difference marketing can make; after all, someone else couldn’t sell the cigars in a previous form. The well-aged cigars are released in small batches emphasizing their limited availability, under a catchy, off-beat name with corresponding art.

Two recent releases were Suavesito (rolled in 2010) and Backdoor Bambi (5.5 x 46). Rolled in 2008, Backdoor Bambi uses Corojo, Habano, and Negrito tobaccos, but no other details about the blend are disclosed, including where the cigar was made. Unlike Suavesito, which is a new addition to Lost & Found, Backdoor Bambi was one of the first releases back when the enterprise was still called Impromptu. While the original release came in a metal jar, the 2017 edition comes in boxes of 12 with each cigar carrying a suggested price of $12.

The cigar features a leathery medium brown wrapper. Once lit, I find bready spice, dried fruit (think cinnamon raisin bread), plus sweet Cuban coffee.

It’s a medium- to full-bodied cigar with lots of leather and spice, especially towards the second half. Construction is perfect, with an open draw, even burn, and a sturdy gray ash.

Although the price is a bit high, this is a well-made spice-forward smoke that probably has benefited greatly from almost a decade of age. (It’s also far better than the Suavesito.) That earns the Lost & Found Backdoor Bambi a rating of three 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: Villiger La Flor de Ynclan Churchill

17 Jul 2017

Among the many new cigars introduced at the annual IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas last week was La Flor de Ynclan from Villiger Cigars. Actually, in the this case, it’s more accurate to say La Flor de Ynclan was re-introduced; Villiger originally debuted the line, which takes its name from an old Cuban brand, back in 2007.

Ten years ago, a “small batch” of La Flor de Ynclan was crafted by Villiger with unsatisfactory results, leading to a decision to cease production. This 2017 re-introduction, therefore, isn’t merely a second go-around with the same recipe. It has been re-blended by José Matias Maragoto—overseer of all Villiger-made product in the Dominican Republic—to feature an Ecuadorian wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos.

Villiger got it right this time, according to Heinrich Villiger, chairman of Switzerland-based Villiger Soehne AG: “The La Flor de Ynclan cigar has been an ongoing labor of love for us. We feel that there is a difference between a good and great cigar, [and] Matias Maragoto and I hope you feel the same.”

La Flor de Ynclan is handmade at the ABAM Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic in three formats: Robusto (5 x 50, $11), Torpedo (5 x 52, $12), and Churchill (7 x 48, $12). In addition to the new recipe, each has a redesigned band to maintain branding consistency across the Villiger portfolio (the 2007 La Flor de Ynclan band depicts an enrobed woman posing with two spears and one hand atop a globe).

The Churchill sports a slightly pale wrapper with plenty of tooth, minimal veins, ultra-tight seams, and a few splotches of harmless discoloration. The cigar is moderately firm—and the cold draw is a little stiff—yet the foot shows a cross-section of loosely packed tobaccos. The gentle pre-light aroma is of damp wood and sweet hay.

The draw opens nicely once an even light is established. At the outset, La Flor De Ynclan boasts a mild- to medium-bodied profile of oak, sweet cream, almond, cinnamon, and caramel. The texture is smooth and the smoke is cool. After about half an inch, a wonderful savory flavor of roasted peanut emerges to add depth. Thereafter, the taste remains fairly consistent throughout, save for the additions of white pepper, dried fruit, and hints of cocoa.

Construction is just about perfect. The burn line is straight and true down to the nub with no need for touch-ups along the way. The ash holds incredibly well off the foot, the draw is moderate, and the smoke production is agreeable with a mouth-wateringly sweet aroma.

Clearly, this is not an inexpensive cigar. It’s also not a cigar that’s likely to satisfy if you’re looking for a full-bodied experience. But if you seek a milder smoke with well-balanced complexity and ample nuance, the Churchill from La Flor de Ynclan will not leave you disappointed. I award this Villiger creation a very 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: Ventura Archetype Initiation Corona

10 Jul 2017

Aimed at producing “memorable, complex cigar blends that move the senses and reward discriminating palates,” the California-based Ventura Cigar Co. first got on my radar in 2013 with the release of two less-than-traditional cigar lines: the uniquely presented Psyko Seven and Project 805, which sports an exclusive tobacco called Andullo.

Since, Ventura has added a series called Archetype, a collection of five different blends that are “inspired by the work of psychologist Dr. Carl Jung and mythographer Joseph Campbell who defined ‘archetypes’ as the constantly repeating characters who occur in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures.” Three of the cigars—Dreamstate, Sage Advice, and Strange Passage—are made at Davidoff’s Occidental Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic; the other two—Initiation and Axis Mundi—are crafted at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate in Estelí, Nicaragua.

Initiation is billed as “an adventure in the art of nuanced flavor with a blend of Habano tobaccos that opens up with heavenly aromas, floral notes, white sage, and orange zest that intensifies throughout the smoke.” It sports an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around binder and filler Habano tobaccos from Nicaragua. Four sizes are available: Churchill, Corona, Robusto, and Toro.

The Corona (5 x 46) retails for about $10. It comes complete with a well-executed cap and sour, musty pre-light notes at the foot. Beneath the metallic double bands of silver, black, and red is a pale, dry wrapper leaf that’s devoid of any large veins. The cigar feels very firm and both the foot and clipped cap exhibit a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos; not surprisingly, the cold draw is not as smooth as I would have liked.

After setting an even light, the draw loosens a bit, though it’s still a little stiff. Despite this, the smoke production does not suffer in the slightest. Like many Drew Estate-made cigars, the Initiation Corona smokes like a chimney.

At the outset, that smoke is characterized by flavors of dry oak, almond, white pepper, and citrus. Some background floral notes linger, as do hints of tea and salted sunflower seeds. Throughout, the profile wavers from delightful and complex at one end of the spectrum, to bland and papery at the other (most times it’s somewhere between the two extremes). I found this to be true across all three samples I smoked for this review—which, in full disclosure, were provided free of charge to StogieGuys.com.

Aside from the tight yet shockingly non-problematic draw, the Archetype Initiation Corona exhibits solid combustion qualities, including a straight burn line and a solid white ash.

All in all, this is one of those cigars I would hope would improve with some age. I can’t say for sure if it will but, to me at least, it tastes a bit green. While there are undoubtedly some wonderful flavors here, there are also patches of blandness. That’s ultimately why I’m settling on a score of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys