Cigar Review: San Lotano The Bull Robusto

29 Apr 2015

Not long after The Bull was released nationwide, my colleague reviewed this cigar and awarded it a four-stogie rating. Flash forward to about a week ago, when I found a stash of Robustos in my humidor, each begging to be smoked from beneath yellowed cellophane.

San Lotano The BullThe Bull was originally distributed by the parent company of Cigars International, but last spring was joined by the rest of the San Lotano lines offered through A.J. Fernandez’s regular distribution channels. It’s marketed as a bolder (and more expensive) alternative to the popular San Lotano blends.

The Bull features an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos that were grown on A.J. Fernandez’s farms. Four box-pressed sizes are available: Toro (6 x 54), Torpedo (6.5 x 54), Gordo (6 x 60), and Robusto (5 x 54).

The latter retails for about $10 and sports a dark, velvety exterior with thin veins beneath a cedar sleeve. Each of my three samples had a few bumps and tears in the wrapper, which is frankly a little annoying given the premium price tag. The pre-light notes remind me of sweet milk chocolate an oak.

On the palate, The Bull Robusto is full-bodied from the get-go with notes of espresso bean, black pepper spice, and a sensation I can only describe as Nicaraguan zing. The texture is thick and leathery. Ligero strength is evident, as is a taste of sweet cream that helps offset the dark, rich flavors in the foreground.

In my colleague’s review from April 2014, he wrote, “The Bull lives up to its billing as a more powerful smoke, while maintaining an inviting, smooth balance.” I wholeheartedly agree. While the Robusto is bold in taste and strength, the cigar is nevertheless approachable. Credit its balance. As The Bull progresses, tastes of cream, peanut, and sweet cedar prevent the profile from becoming too one-sided.

True to the A.J. Fernandez reputation, I have no qualms with this cigar’s combustion qualities. It burns like a champ and smokes like a chimney. Expect a straight burn line, solid ash, clear draw, and above-average smoke production.

Yes, by most standards $10 is a considerable sum for a five-inch stick. But if you crave flavor, strength, and also balance, The Bull Robusto is worth every penny. I concur with my colleague in awarding it four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Cigar Spirits: Five Best Buy Bourbons for the Kentucky Derby, or Any Day

28 Apr 2015

best-buy-bourbons

The Kentucky Derby is as close to a bourbon holiday as we have in America. So if you’re thinking of running to the liquor store to pick up some bourbon for the Run for the Roses, here are five best-buy bourbons, plus some honorable mentions worth consideration.

What do I mean by a best buy? I mean bourbons that over-perform their retail price and aren’t overly difficult to find. While you wouldn’t find a $200 bottle of bourbon on this list, Elmer T. Lee ($32), Pappy Van Winkle 15 ($80), or George T. Stagg ($80) would all make this list if you could easily find find them at suggested retail price. (Elmer T. Lee has been missing from most shelves for around six months at least, and Pappy and George T. Stagg have been highly allocated for years and regularly sell for many times their retail price.)

So without further ado, here are five best buy bourbons that provide good bang for the buck.

Old Grand Dad 114 – Costing barely more than $20, this is a connoisseur’s bourbon at nearly bottom-shelf prices. It features intense flavors, high proof, complex wood, and sweetness. (FYI: Old Grand Dad 114 is essentially a less diluted version of the 80-proof Basil Hayden, which sells for double). My only hesitation with putting it on this list is that sooner or later enough people will discover what a gem this OGD114 is and it will become overly difficult to find.

Weller 107 – Two or three years ago, Weller 12 ($30) would take this spot, but now people are buying every bottle they come across at retail price. This 107-proof “Weller Antique” is itself quickly becoming a little harder to find, but at $25-30 it remains a quality example of the slightly sweeter stye of wheated bourbon that makes people drool when it’s in a bottle with the words Van Winkle on it.

Buffalo Trace – It’s not a small batch or single barrel, nor does it carry an age statement guaranteeing a certain number of years in the barrel, but the eponymous bourbon of the famed Buffalo Trace Distillery delivers the goods. Vanilla, toffee, wood, and fruit make it pleasant neat, and the price ($25) makes it easy to pour into a cocktail.

Booker’s – I’ve noted before that Booker’s ($50-60) is a bit underrated, and I stand by it. Brash vanilla and wood mean it isn’t for beginners, but it is dangerously tasty and, best of all, available at almost every decent liquor store or bar with more than a handful of bourbon offerings.

Four Roses Private Barrel Selection – The entire Four Roses line is excellent (even the standard Yellow Label) but the Private Barrel Selections ($50-70) are truly world class. Because each barrel is a store pick, this is a bit tougher to find, but fortunately it isn’t impossible yet. Each of Four Roses’ ten recipes takes on its own character, but none that I’ve come across have disappointed.

Honorable Mentions: Old Forester, Very Old Barton, Jim Beam Black 8 Year, Bulleit, Eagle Rare 10 Year, Blanton’s.

For more excellent bourbons, see my lists of Five Good Bourbons Under $30 and Five Good Value Bourbons Under $20.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Nomad Dominican Classic Line Renegade

27 Apr 2015

A few weeks back, I was perusing the selection at a tobacconist while a sales rep for Nomad was talking to the shop owner. I was the only customer in the store at the time, so before long the rep and I got to talking. I mentioned how much I enjoyed the Connecticut Fuerte. Needless to say, I purchased a few Nomad smokes, including a three-pack of a cigar I had not yet previously tried: the Nomad Dominican Classic Line Renegade.

Nomad Dominican RenegadeI missed this blend when it came out in 2012, only starting to get acquainted with Nomad in 2014, after the Dominican Classic had been joined by several other blends. But this is “the line that started it all,” according to the Nomad website, and one that’s intended to be “deep in the roots of Dominican culture.”

The blend includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. There are six vitolas currently in production: Fugitive II Perfecto (6 x 51), Vagabond (4.6 x 54), Rambler (5 x 50), Renegade (5.25 x 54), Navigator Torpedo (6 x 52), and Drifter (6 x 60). I paid $9 apiece for three Renegades, which actually measure 5.5 inches long (I’m not sure if the 5.25 listed on the Nomad website is a typo, if the size changed, or if the cigars I bought are somehow an anomaly).

In any event, the oily wrapper on the Dominican Renegade has an interesting marbled color that’s golden with consistent splotches of dark brown. The veins are thin, the seams tight, and the flattened cap seems to have been executed with care. The pre-light notes off the foot remind me of tea and sweet sawdust.

After setting an even light, I’m greeted with a balanced, medium-bodied profile of sweet cream, bread, woody spice, and earth. The texture is chewy and the finish is short and, at times, slightly bitter. The resting smoke—which is bountiful given the high volume of smoke production—is very sweet and, in my opinion, adds a lot to the overall enjoyment.

While the Dominican Renegade certainly isn’t lacking for flavor, smokers who consistently burn full-bodied Nicaraguan sticks may find this specimen a little too muted. From my perspective, the Renegade has much to offer in terms of subtlety, and it pairs nicely with a mid-afternoon cup of coffee. No, this isn’t the most complex smoke around, and there are very few changes from light to nub. But the flavor and aroma are enjoyable, and the construction is perfect.

In comparing the Nomad cigars I’ve had to date, I’d give a slight edge to the S-307 blend, whereas the Connecticut Fuerte is the standout. But this is a nice Dominican and worthy of three 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: Room 101 HN 615

26 Apr 2015

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.”

Room 101 HN

The HN line derives its name from its Honduran Criollo ’98 wrapper (the “H”) and the use of Dominican Navarette tobaccos (the “N”). It’s a product of Matt Booth’s Room 101 Cigars, which is affiliated with Camacho and manufactured and distributed by Davidoff. The 615 vitola (7 x 48, about $7) is my favorite format of the blend, offering excellent construction and a full-flavored, moderate-strength profile with notes of roasted nut, milk chocolate, woody spice, sweet cream, and white pepper. About a year of age in my humidor hasn’t resulted in much change, but that’s not an issue since I enjoyed the cigar considerably right after acquiring it.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Pudgy Monster Jason

25 Apr 2015

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.”trinidad-reyes-sq

tatuaje-pudgymonsters-jason

Tatuaje’s Monster Series is a highly sought-after release around Halloween every year. Last year, Tatuaje released a sampler of Pudgy Monsters, which are shorter versions of the same blends, all in a relatively thick format. The JV13, the 2013 Monster release, became the pudgy monster known as Jason. The blend uses a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. The result is a very full-flavored cigar with classic Broadleaf flavors: earth, chocolate, grittiness with a slight sweetness. Construction is excellent. You can still pick up Tatuaje Pudgy Monsters at some retailers, and I highly recommend picking one up so you can try some of the more limited blends from Pete Johnson.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 427

24 Apr 2015

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.

New World Connecticut1) A.J. Fernandez is set to release New World Connecticut, a line that previewed at the IPCPR Trade Show last summer. Expected to begin appearing at retailers in May, the blend features a Connecticut Shade wrapper around a Mexican binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Brazil. “Master blender A.J. Fernandez created the New World brand to pay homage to the discovery of the ‘mystical smoking leaf’ named tobacco by the Europeans, when their ships landed in what is now known as the New World,” reads a press release. Fernandez says, “The New World cigar was a very special project as it was the first cigar that was created with the help of my father Ismael Fernandez since he joined me at A.J. Fernandez Cigars.” Four sizes will be available in 20-count boxes: Corona Gorda, Robusto, Toro, and Belicoso. “Smokers of the New World Connecticut will experience notes of cream, wood, and almonds in a very well-balanced and refined cigar.” The cigars will cost about $6.

2) Online retailer Famous Smoke Shop is launching an exclusive cigar called Inferno 3rd Degree, which is made by Oliva. “The first shipment has just arrived at the company’s warehouse and is currently available for sale on their website,” reads a press release. “The company has expressed that the new brand will be available in limited quantities, but is not a one-time release and will be a consistent offering for the foreseeable future. The Inferno 3rd Degree is the third release under the Inferno umbrella… Inferno 3rd Degree cigars utilize a blend of all Nicaraguan tobaccos with a triple-fermented Ligero and Viso longfiller core, and a Habano-seed binder, all encased in another silky Habano-seed wrapper.” Four sizes will be available in the $5.80 to $6.50 range: Churchill, Double Toro, Robusto, and Toro.

3) New Orleans’ smoking ban went into effect this week, but many bars went out in a blaze of glory. Shelly Waguespack, owner of the famed French Quarter spot Pat O’Brien’s, noted how the smoking ban contradicts the best aspects of New Orleans. “It’s that overall bohemian kind of free spirit that we have in New Orleans that makes it so unique, and it’s why people love it.” Pat O’Brien’s, along with Harrah’s Casino and other businesses, are suing to overturn the ban.

4) Inside the Industry: Davidoff is set to introduce a cigar at the upcoming IPCPR Trade Show that will, for the first time in the company’s history, include a significant percentage of Brazilian tobaccos. The Turrents, the famed Mexican cigar family, has severed is distribution relationship with Altadis USA and will soon introduce a Casa Turrent cigar which will be distributed in-house.

5) Deal of the Week: This Hidden Treasures Sampler features eight solid cigars for just $60. Included are the Padrón 3000 Natural, Camacho Ecuador Toro, La Jugada Habano Toro, Sindicato Corona Gorda, RyJ Toro, 601 La Bomba Bunker Buster, H. Upmann The Banker Annuity, and the Nat Sherman Timeless Dominican Hermoso.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: A.J. Fernandez

Cigar Spirits: Glenfarclas 17 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

23 Apr 2015

April marks the end of scotch season for me. (I’m a seasonal drinker: Single malts and the occasional cognac in the colder months, rum and tequila/mezcal when it warms up. Bourbon and rye year-round, of course.) So lets wrap up the season with with this Glenfarclas 17-year-old single malt whisky.

Glenfarclas-17SMGlanfarclas is an independent distillery, owned by the same family for 150 years. It’s a Speyside distillery that makes a range of single malts, with 10-year and 17-year the most readily available, at least here in the States. They also bottle a 105 cask-strength variety, of which I’m a big fan.

The Glenfarclas 17 is bottled at 86-proof and sells for around $100 a bottle. It’s a light golden color. (Note that because single malts can have caramel coloring added, color doesn’t mean as much for scotch as it does for straight bourbon or rye, and a light color may only mean coloring wasn’t used.

The nose with sweet toffee and pear serves as a preview of the subtle, classic style of this whiskey. The Glenfarclas 17 coats the palate with a rich combination of creaminess, sherried fruit, orange peel, toffee, and clove. There’s a bit of smokiness and just a wisp of peat. The finish is light with oak and brown sugar.

I’m just guessing here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a combination of sherry cask and bourbon cask whisky, as the sherry is evident, but subtle. The whisky seems to grow in complexity as you drink it. It’s hard to suggest that Glenfarclas 17 is anything but delicious, subtle, and approachable.

For a cigar pairing, you’ll want a cigar that’s not so overpowering as to overwhelm the delicate aspects of this single malt. Go with a Fuente Chateau, Tatuaje BlackIllusione Epernay, or a well-aged Cuban Trinidad.

I’m not one to recommend turning a bourbon drinker into a scotch drinker, as you’ll always find better value in American whiskey, but for bourbon drinkers branching out into single malt, Glenfarclas is an excellent place to start. That said, before you buy this, try the 10-year, which is also excellent but only half the price. But if you like the 10-year and want to see the complexity that additional age can add, I very much recommend Glenfarclas 17, even if my own preference is slightly for the cask-strength 105 variety.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys