Cigar Review: Diamond Crown Black Diamond Radiant

30 Sep 2019

The J.C. Newman Cigar Co., best known for its Cuesta-Rey and Diamond Crown cigars, was founded in 1895. That’s the year a young Julius Caeser Newman crafted his first cigars in the family barn in Cleveland, which is about 1,100 miles from the city that’s been synonymous with the company for decades: Tampa. J.C. Newman has operated there since its 1954 move to a historic cigar factory in the heart of the Ybor City neighborhood.

With so much history—and given this industry’s proclivity to never let an anniversary pass without a new cigar—it’s no wonder J.C. Newman has a few milestone cigars. Diamond Crown, for example, while originally available in the 1940s and 1950s, was relaunched into the super-premium line you know today in 1995 to commemorate the company’s 100th anniversary. Later, in 2010, Diamond Crown Julius Caeser celebrated the 115th anniversary.

Not every Diamond Crown recognizes a milestone, though (which is perfectly fine, by the way; one shouldn’t require a reason to create a great cigar). I am not aware of any special motivation behind the launch of Diamond Crown Maximus in 2003. Nor am I of the newest Diamond Crown addition: Black Diamond.

Launched in 2016, Black Diamond is made at the Tabacalera A. Fuente factory in the Dominican Republic for J.C. Newman. “Eric and Bobby Newman worked closely with Carlos Fuente, Sr. and Carlos Fuente, Jr. developing a new blend worthy of the Black Diamond name,” reads a J.C. Newman press release. The result is a three-vitola line that includes a dark, eight-year-old Connecticut Havana-seed sun-grown wrapper around a Dominican binder and five-year-old Dominican filler tobaccos grown exclusively for this cigar. This “small-batch, epicurean cigar” is made in limited quantities and only available at 150 retailers.

The three sizes are: Emerald (6 x 52), Marquis (5.25 x 56), and Radiant (4.5 x 54). In keeping with Diamond Crown tradition, they are expensive. Per-cigar prices range from $15.55 to $18.25 when bought by boxes of 20; or $17.25 to $20.25 when bought by the 5-pack.

The Diamond Crown Black Diamond Radiant is a stout, pudgy cigar that’s mottled and fairly toothy. It has thin veins and a relatively spongy feel. At the foot are delicate pre-light notes of cocoa and leather. The cap clips cleanly to reveal a slightly stiff cold draw.

At this price, it’s impossible not to have high expectations when you light up your first. Fortunately, the Radiant gets off to a great start with well-balanced notes of espresso, dark chocolate, creamy peanut, and cereals. The texture is bready, the body is decidedly medium, and the spice level is low. The finish is characterized by cinnamon.

As it progresses, baking spices come to the fore and a green raisin note emerges. All the while the combustion properties are admirable. The burn line is straight, the draw opens nicely once lit, the smoke production is good, and the ash holds well off the foot.

I would only change one thing about the Diamond Crown Black Diamond Radiant: the price. I suppose that isn’t a fair way to judge a cigar, though. Price is so subjective. To one wallet, $10 is a lot to spend on a cigar; to another, it’s quite reasonable. At any rate, this is a wonderful cigar worthy of your time, attention, and, yes, hard-earned money. In my book it earns four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Quick Smoke: Paul Garmirian 15th Anniversary Corona Gorda

29 Sep 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

I’ve always been a big a fan of the PG 15th Anniversary blend. Yet, best I can remember, I’ve never smoked the Corona Gorda size (5.5 x 46), which is odd considering the corona gorda is generally one of my preferred sizes. Featuring a Nicaraguan wrapper along with Dominican binder and filler tobaccos, it’s a full-bodied blend with leather, pepper, wine tannins, rich cedar, and some Davidoff-esque mushroom and earth notes. It isn’t as eloquently balanced as the Belicoso, but it’s still quite enjoyable.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Macanudo Heritage Nuevo Robusto

27 Sep 2019

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

Introduced earlier this summer, the new Heritage Nuevo line from Macanudo sports a golden Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, a Mexican San Andrés binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. The Robusto (5 x 50) starts dry and salty, but quickly settles in to a much more enjoyable profile of creamy almond, peanut, and white pepper. It is mild, balanced, and smooth. The combustion properties are impeccable. While I cannot give my full recommendation given the $13 price point, this Macanudo is unlikely to disappoint if you’re looking for a higher-end morning or mid-afternoon smoke.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Recommends Jacob Grier’s “The Rediscovery of Tobacco”

25 Sep 2019

I wouldn’t normally recommend a book without reading it in its entirety, but I’m making an exception for The Rediscovery of Tobacco by Jacob Grier, released a week ago (available in hardcover, paperback, or digital on Amazon). Grier, a pipe and cigar smoker, has written about tobacco for years in a range of diverse publications including The Atlantic, Slate, Reason Magazine, and even here at

In a post on his website, Grier explains why he wrote the book, and why it is so timely:

How did things get so bad, so quickly? Well, that’s part of why I wrote the book. The evidence that the anti-smoking movement has become dangerously illiberal has been mounting for years. For the past two decades, this has manifested primarily in alarmist claims about secondhand smoke and boundlessly expanding smoking bans. As smoking has become concentrated among the least well-off, it’s been easy for most people to ignore the stigma that now attaches to the habit and the ways that we increasingly infringe on smokers’ liberties. But as governments react to the moral panic over vaping by banning lower-risk alternatives to the cigarette and threatening to imprison sellers of nicotine products, it has become imperative to question the dominant, dogmatic approach of professional tobacco control.

As I’ve quickly read through the first third of the 220-page book, I found one passage particularly resonant. As someone who enjoys the handmade, artisanal quality of premium cigars, Grier’s exploration of whyin an era when craft seemingly everything is praisedthe same hasn’t happened for craft-made tobacco (specifically, in Grier’s example, pipe tobacco) is a particularly interesting question:

Pipe smoking has not become cool, but it’s easy to imagine that it might have. After all, so many other goods emerged from their twentieth century commodification to be embraced as craft, artisanal, authentic, small batch, etc. The marketing invites parody, but one doesn’t need a long memory to know that things have indeed gotten better. Coffee, beer, wine, cocktails, chocolate, fruits, vegetables, meat, you name it: Practically everything we eat and drink has improved in the past few decades, with consumers rewarding quality and not just convenience. Yet despite the predilection of chefs, cooks, servers, and bartenders to smoke, tobacco has been excluded from this gastronomic revival. Why is that?

The answer, not surprisingly, seems to be complicated. Culture, technology, big business, and politics all seem to play a part in Grier’s nuanced explanation:

The Rediscovery of Tobacco takes a longer and wider view, tracing tobacco back to its origin in the Americas and the diverse ways it was put to use around the world. It turns next to how a single product—the manufactured cigarette—came to take over the market, with disastrously lethal consequences. From there it explores secondhand smoke, smoking bans, and the ways in which the anti-smoking movement began replacing rigorous science with ideological fervor. It then moves on to the changing landscape of tobacco regulation, detailing how the biggest tobacco companies shape seemingly public-spirited laws to work to their advantage. This leads into the heated question of tobacco harm reduction and why many leaders in public health are so hostile to products that massively reduce users’ exposure to toxic tobacco smoke. Finally, the book concludes with a case for a more liberal, tolerant, and open approach to nicotine and tobacco use, in opposition to the increasingly authoritarian and technocratic demands of tobacco control.

For the kind of person who reads websites like this one, which are devoted to an appreciation of the finer details of handmade cigars, this is exactly the type of exploration that we need more of. For that reason, we heartily recommend The Rediscovery of Tobacco. Buy it here.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: CroMagnon Blockhead

23 Sep 2019

In August 2018, the last time we published a full review of a CroMagnon cigar, I stopped just short of begging forgiveness. “We’ve been operating since May 2006,” I wrote. “As a result, for over twelve years, much of what I’ve smoked has been dictated by necessity for this website. And while I’m sure you won’t shed any tears in my honor (despite being a lot of work, running a cigar site is a rewarding, entertaining endeavor), you can probably appreciate my predicament. Sometimes I just want to smoke—and, yes, write about—an old favorite.”

This was how I started my review of the CroMagnon Cranium, a blend that—at that time—had already been the subject of three previous articles at this website. Today, though, I’m not going to any lengths to explain myself. While CroMagnon is nothing new (either, as I’ve already stated, to this website, or to the cigar marketplace as a whole) we have not yet written about the Blockhead vitola. So here we are.

As a reminder, the CroMagnon recipe calls for a dark Connecticut Broadleaf maduro wrapper, a Cameroon binder, and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos from Estelí, Condega, and a small farm just south of the Honduran border. It is handmade for RoMa Craft Tobac under the direction of Skip Martin at the Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A. factory in Estelí.

Blockhead (6 x 54) is box-pressed. It retails for about $11 for a single, or $100 for a box of 10. Not unlike the Cranium, it has a dark, reddish exterior leaf with moderate oils, plenty of tooth, and a couple noticeable veins. At the foot, the pre-light notes remind me of dark chocolate and syrup. The rough cap clips cleanly, and the cold draw is nearly effortless—noticeably clearer, in my opinion, than the Cranium.

Once lit, the body seems to be less intense than other CroMagon cigars. While it’s still a thick, leathery cigar with notes of black pepper, espresso, and chalky earth, the familiar char has been replaced with sweet notes: honey, graham cracker, and Cuban coffee with sugar.

In my previous comments about the Cranium, I had written, “To write this off as a power-bomb would be to overlook the expert blending that so clearly went into the cigar’s creation. There’s a complexity and balance here that’s often missing from many straightforwardly strong cigars. Creamy peanut, dark chocolate, and hickory add layers. And the strength level dips and surges—an effective strategy that ensures interest is not lost.”

With the Blockhead, all those supremely tasty flavors are there. But the aforementioned sweetness continues to surge along the way. As the cigar progresses, the combustion properties are stellar. The smoke production is voluminous, the ash holds well, the burn line is straight, and the draw is smooth.

I think this is my favorite CroMagnon vitola—and that’s saying something. What an immensely satisfying, well-balanced smoke. I’m settling on a deservedly wonderful score of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Drew Estate x Caldwell All Out Kings Smash

22 Sep 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

When I reviewed this robusto collaboration almost a year and a half ago, I wasn’t a fan. Overall, I found it sharp on the throat with a fairly unpleasant taste. This stick, the last of a five-pack I purchased for the original review, has been sitting in my humidor ever since. I thought I’d see if resting had led to any improvements. I’d have to say it did. While the sharpness was still noticeable, it had lessened to a relatively small factor. The dirt and campfire tastes I didn’t like originally had also backed off. What was left was an earthy, nutty smoke with some sweetness. And while All Out Kings is not one I’d quickly reach for (especially at nearly $14), it does offer something different. But the fact that you need substantial patience results in my rating.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Hoyo de Monterrey Dark Sumatra La Amistad Media Noche

20 Sep 2019

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

General Cigar Co. has revived the Hoyo Dark Sumatra line—formerly made at the HATSA factory in Honduras—this time in partnership with A.J. Fernandez in Nicaragua. While the factory and country of origin have changed, the blend remains the same as the original Dark Sumatra: a dark Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper, Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and a three-country filler blend of Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan tobaccos. The Media Noche (5.75 x 54, $8.49) is one of three sizes. It is full-bodied, rich, and packed with deep flavors ranging from cocoa and espresso to earth and roasted nuts. Construction is solid, especially for such a large cigar. This isn’t the first time A.J. Fernandez has collaborated with General for the Hoyo brand (La Amistad Gold, Silver, and Black). But it might be my favorite Hoyo collaboration to date.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys