Quick Smoke: 1502 Ruby Lancero

16 Jul 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

1502

Made at the Plasencia Cigars S.A. factory for Enrique Sánchez Icaza’s Global Premium Cigars, the seven-vitola 1502 Ruby line sports an Ecuadorian wrapper around tobaccos from Jalapa and Estelí. The Lancero (7 x 40) has a soft box-press, a semi-closed foot, and pre-light notes of sweet hay and cocoa. The profile is chalky—and a little meaty—with core flavors of red pepper, dry wood, bread, and toned-down cinnamon spice. Construction is excellent. Notes of creamy, sweet nut are a little more fleeting than I would like, but this is still a good buy at about $8.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 488

15 Jul 2016

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

Umbagog

1) As we wrote last week, cigar makers, brand owners, blenders, and factories have been frantically scrambling to meet the August 8 deadline set forth by the FDA. (Cigars introduced after August 8 will have to go through the FDA approval process before they can be sold or marketed.) This rush has been personified by Steve Saka of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. Saka has recently announced on Facebook a handful of new blends and sizes. This week he shared details on yet another line: Umbagog, an “extreme value-priced ten-count bundle” using a Broadleaf wrapper that didn’t visually make the grade for his more expensive Broadleaf cigar, Mi Querida. The photo shared on Instagram shows a Toro Toro (6 x 52) which Saka says will sell for under $6. The cigar is named for a New Hampshire lake that’s a favorite fishing locale of Saka’s.

2) Following the original Fratello and the Fratello Boxer, Fratello Oro is set to become Omar de Frais’ third blend. “We wanted a mild to medium cigar with a creamy aftertaste that also embodies the true nature of our company, which is full-flavor cigars,” said de Frais in a press release. Oro marks the first time Fratello has worked with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. The line’s six sizes will retail between $7 and $10. Fratello Oro is made at La Aurora in the Dominican Republic with a Cameroon binder and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos.

3) Inside the Industry: Boveda yesterday announced a “long-term” supply agreement whereby the Minnesota-based company will be providing “private label custom printed patented two-way humidity control products” to Xikar, a cigar accessory brand. “We believe retailers and consumers will benefit significantly from this new supply agreement, and it adds an exciting new product line to Xikar’s already formidable accessories lineup,” said Tim Swail, Boveda’s executive vice president. “Our agreement with Boveda is a natural step in our pursuit to be the turn-key supplier of all cigar accessories, to all cigar retailers,” said Kurt Van Keppel, Xikar’s president.

4) From the Archives: Think you need the latest cigar gadget? Before you spend your hard-earned dollars, read this commentary from 2007: The Truth About Cigar Gadgets. Sure, gadgets can be fun, but as the article concludes, “the more gadgets enter into our smoking routines, the less we’ll concentrate on the cigar itself, which is (along with peace of mind) what cigar smoking is really all about.”

5) Deal of the Week: Drew Estate Undercrown fans will want to check out this special. Buy any Undercrown or Undercrown Shade box and you’ll get six cigars (three Undercrown Gran Toros and three Undercrown Shade Robustos) for free, plus an Undercrown Shade guillotine cutter. Use our discount code “Stogie10” to knock an additional 10% off the box price.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Instagram

Tip: How to Travel with Cigars on a Plane

13 Jul 2016

travel-cigar

Whether you’re taking a week-long vacation to a beach paradise or just flying off for a few days in a distant city for work, you’ll probably want to take some cigars.

Depending on where you are going, you may not have easy access to a cigar shop. Or you may not have access to reasonably priced cigars (taxes can be very high in certain states and countries). Or you may only have access to Cubans, and you may not be sure of their authenticity.

Even if you think you’ll pick up some cigars on your trip, bringing some cigars along with the tools necessary to enjoy them is probably a good idea. So here are some tips to make your air travel with cigars smoother:

Protect Your Cigars

Plane travel can be a traumatic experience for cigars, between the pressurized air and the fact that your bag is probably going to be forcibly jammed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. (Don’t check your cigars, as the cargo hold of the plane can have some pretty extreme temperature changes that can do serious damage.) The natural solution is a hard plastic cigar case like those made by Xikar or Cigar Caddy. Each comes in anywhere from a five to fifteen-count, or sometimes more.

If you don’t have a case, or if you can’t fit all the cigars you want to bring in the case you have, a sealed Ziplock bag will do fine. But you’ll want to put the bag in a hard tube or box to make sure they don’t get crushed. If you are traveling for more than few days, throw a small Boveda pack in with your cigars to help stabilize and maintain proper humidity.

Bring a Lighter, Avoid Confiscation

Torch lighters are great, but the TSA will take them from your carry-on or checked luggage. Trust me on this. I’ve accidentally left them in my bag and had them confiscated. But you can bring a soft flame lighter in your carry-on. You can also bring a single box of matches, so I like to stuff one box of wooden matches to the brim as a backup.

My go-to soft flame lighter is the Djeep, which is dependable and has decent capacity. It’s also cheap, so if some ornery TSA agent on a power-trip takes it you won’t be too upset. If you really want a torch lighter, you might consider a Soto Pocket Torch, which can convert a regular cheap lighter into a torch. But bring the lighter in your carry-on and leave the Soto in your checked bag to make sure it isn’t confiscated if the TSA agent figures out what it is. Also, for all lighters and matches, know that other countries might have different rules (Nicaragua, of all places, is known for taking all lighters when you depart from Managua). So no matter what you bring, make sure it is something that, if push comes to shove, you won’t feel too bad about leaving behind.

Check or Carry On a Cutter

Bringing most cutters on a plane shouldn’t be a problem (according to the TSA, blades smaller than four inches are good to carry on), but you never know how the rules are going to be enforced. So fancy cutters, if you must bring them, should go in checked luggage.

Travel is the perfect time to bring along that cheap cutter you got as a throw-in. And remember, if all else fails you can always cut your cigar with your fingernail; just don’t use your teeth.

Be Weary of Fake Cubans

Traveling overseas is great as you have access to cigars from that island south of Miami, but don’t assume you’ll easily be able to find legitimate Cuban cigars. For years, Americans have been buying and smoking Cubans overseas, even though technically this violated the Cuban Embargo. Now, with restrictions being eased, it is perfectly legal for an American to smoke a Cuban cigar while abroad. (Bringing Cubans into the U.S. is still illegal, expect for a small quantity directly from Cuba.)

Fake Cuban cigars are everywhere, especially at vacation spots visited frequently by Americans. The best way to ensure you are buying authentic Cubans is to shop at an official Casa del Habano. Beyond that, here are two easy tips to avoid the most obvious fakes: (1) If the price is too good to be true it is certainly fake, as prices are fixed and nobody’s relative or friend is getting them at a discount straight from the factory; and (2) There has never been any Cuban cigar made with a glass or plastic top box. (I still see pictures of glass top Cohiba boxes in cigar groups on Facebook, only for a dozen or more people to tell the poster the unfortunate news that they were swindled. Repeat after me: All Cuban cigars in a glass top box are fake.)

Carry on Some Booze

Unless you are heading to a country that doesn’t allow alcohol, there is nothing wrong with putting a bottle or three in your checked bag (though you may have to pay taxes on them). But what is often overlooked is that you can actually carry on booze in small amounts.

When carrying on, alcohol is subject to the same rules as other liquids, meaning no container more than 3.4 ounces and all liquids must fit in a one-quart sized bag. Mini bottles (usually 50 ml.) are well under that limit, and you can fit five or six in one Ziplock. If you are planning on cracking these open on the plane, know that most airlines have a rule against alcohol not served by the flight attendants. Practically speaking, though, if you are discrete about it you probably won’t get caught.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: MBombay Gaaja Toro

11 Jul 2016

Gaaja

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.

GaajaMBombayShah’s newest creation is called Gaaja (pronounced Gaa-ya), which is Sanskrit for elephant. “We had been working on the blend of Gaaja for more than four years,” reads a press release dated June 20. “The process involved in logistics and long fermentation of tobacco from countries like Peru and Paraguay really tested our patience. We had to wait for three vintages of the hybrid Connecticut wrapper leaf for the perfection we wanted.”

Gaaja was formally introduced on July 1. Its recipe calls for an Ecuadorian hybrid Connecticut/Cameroon wrapper that’s grown in the desflorado fashion. (The process of cultivating desflorado tobacco requires a watchful eye and arduous attention to detail; the buds on these plants are cut off before they flower to force the plant’s energy on leaf production instead of flower production.) The binder is Ecuadorian, and the filler is a combination of Seco from Peru; Viso from Ecuador, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic; and Dominican Ligero.

Only one size is available: a Toro measuring 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 54. Of note is the peculiar shape, which I would describe as box-pressed on the back (the side with the back of the band) and rounded on the front.

The Toro is a velvety smooth, moderately oily cigar with a clean, golden exterior and a spongy feel in the hand. It’s accented by a unique, interesting band of light blue, red, and gold with “Gaaja” written on one side and “Bombay Tobak” written on the other. The pre-light notes at the foot are pungent and crisp with loads of sweet hay. The cold draw is airy and smooth.

Once lit, I find a medium-bodied, silky profile with flavors ranging from honey and graham to bread and dry wood. There’s a core of creaminess in the background that I would describe as buttery with hints of almond. Tea, cedar spice, and warm tobacco are also present in this complex taste. At the halfway point and beyond, the flavor starts to flirt with the medium- to full-bodied range, and the spiciness ramps up as well. Construction is outstanding.

You should expect a lot from a cigar that retails for $15.50. Fortunately, Gaaja delivers with a well-balanced, thoughtful profile that rewards careful, contentious attention. My advice is to enjoy this in a quiet, solitary environment with little distraction, and be prepared for a rewarding, distinctive experience. This gem is worthy 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

Quick Smoke: Warped La Hacienda Gran Robusto

10 Jul 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

This Nicaraguan puro opened with a knife-like spice that gradually dialed back as the cigar’s strength increased. It was a smooth, pleasing smoke priced at about $8. Draw was near perfect, the ash tight, and smoke production thick and full. Burn was OK, though a bit wavy at times. La Hacienda, rolled for Warped by Casa Fernandez using its hallmark Aganorsa leaf, comes in two vitolas: Gran Robusto (5.5 x 52) and Superiores (5.6 x 46).

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Quick Smoke: Kristoff GC Signature Series Robusto

9 Jul 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

The oily Brazilian Maduro wrapper on this over-sized Robusto (5.5 x 54) makes a nice first impression. Unfortunately, I didn’t find smoking the cigar as impressive. While there was the typical Maduro coffee and sweetness, the spice too often was harsh, while there was also an off-putting grassy flavor. The GC Signature Series has a varied blend of tobaccos: Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Dominican filler with a Honduran binder. Burn, smoke output, and draw were excellent. Not a bad cigar, just not a particularly memorable one, either.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 487

8 Jul 2016

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

NACSA

1) Cigar makers, brand owners, blenders, and factories have been frantically scrambling to meet the August 8 deadline set forth by the FDA. Perhaps no single individual, however, has been as busy (at least not publicly) as Steve Saka of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. “It has been an incredibly grueling 90 days,” he wrote on Facebook yesterday. “I have finalized five marca designs and over 15 ligas between 46 vitolas. Thankfully, I had been buying leaf and working on all of these blends over the past year. While there are some packaging tweaks required, none of any of these cigars are half-baked. I must express my sincere thanks to my partners at both the NACSA (pictured above) and Joya de Nicaragua factories. The demands I put upon both, in particular Joya, have been beyond reasonable.” What do we know so far about Saka’s forthcoming cigars? We know there will be a new Broadleaf-wrapped line called Mi Querida, a Nicaraguan puro line that will be made at Joya and retail in the $6-9 range, a line called Muestra de Saka, and new Sobremesa Elegante en Cedros and Short Churchill ligas that are tweaked to be a bit stronger.

2) This week it was announced Miami Cigar & Co. will be the exclusive distributor of The Upsetters, the second line from Nicholas Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Company. The Upsetters will debut shortly. It follows El Güegüense (“The Wise Man”), which was Melillo’s first solo cigar brand after leaving Drew Estate (where he worked alongside Steve Saka). “The Upsetters is possibly my most exciting and thought-out product to date,” said Melillo in a press release. “By using both Jamaican and Nicaraguan filler leaf, the brand pays deference to the ancient historic relationship between Jamaica and Nicaragua when the two were geologically connected by a land bridge known as the Nicaraguan Rise.” The Upsetters brand will be offered in eight sizes and retail for $5-$12. Each size will either have a Claro, Maduro, or Candela wrapper.

3) In other major news, last Friday brought the public confirmation of the long-rumored purchase of the Oliva Cigar Co. The buyer is J. Cortés Cigars N.V., a private business out of Belgium known for its machine-made cigars. The resulting company will have annual revenues of over $100 million. According to reports, José Oliva will stay on as the chief executive officer of Oliva. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, though Oliva reportedly turned down a higher offer from General Cigar before agreeing to be purchased by J. Cortés.

4) From the Archives: Cigar reviews frequently refer to a cigar’s texture without explaining the meaning of the term. In 2012, we took an in-depth look at the different things people refer to when they speak of a cigar’s texture. “As consumers of cigars, you and I mostly talk about texture in the way a cigar hits our palate. Some of the best cigar producers, on the other hand, are referring to the physical attributes of individual leaves before they become cigars… The distinction is important to understand in our education of the world of cigars.”

6) Deal of the Week: Want to fill your humidor with some high-quality cigars on the cheap? This Secure Server Sampler features ten cigars that will normally run you over $60 for just $29.95. Move quickly as these deals tend to sell out.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Facebook