Cigar Spirits: Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark Rum

20 Jun 2016

Cruzan Estate

For more than a few years, Cruzan Single Barrel has been a staple in my liquor cabinet for its quality, consistency, and great value. For about $30, it delivers a complex, well-rounded flavor of honey, oak, fruit, caramel, and butterscotch. It’s good enough to sip neat, yet affordable enough to prevent you from feeling guilty for including it in a cocktail.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the St. Croix-based distiller, Cruzan originally began producing rum from pot stills eight generations ago and today uses a continuous column distillation process. The name of company (pronounced kru-shun) comes from the island—inhabitants are called “Crucians”—which has a rich and varied history.

St. Croix has been controlled by seven different nations since Christopher Columbus first landed on its beautiful shores in 1493 (Spain, England, Holland, France, Malta, Denmark, and now America). It thrived due to sugar output, which made it a naturally fitting locale for rum production. (Cane is no longer grown on St. Croix; today, Cruzan’s business is supported by molasses imports.)

Cruzan was the first major rum producer to introduce flavored rums. Now, Cruzan’s portfolio spans a multitude of rum styles, including dark, light, spiced, and even a licorice-forward cocktail spirit called Black Strap. But the company’s three flagship rums make up its Distiller’s Collection: Estate Diamond Light, the aforementioned Single Barrel, and Estate Diamond Dark.

The latter retails for about $20 per 750 ml. bottle and is 40% alcohol by volume (80-proof). It is a blend of rums between the ages of five and twelve years that are aged in oak barrels. Cruzan calls it ideal for “slow sips or as a mixer in one-to-one cocktails,” and describes the flavor as “rich notes of oak and vanilla.”

Estate Diamond Dark Rum pours with a light, golden color and a crisp, gentle nose of honey and tropical fruits. On the palate, I find loads of banana with hints of orange, wood, cinnamon spice, vanilla, coffee, and pecan. The overall effect is approachable and bright, though the finish can be surprisingly long with a fair amount of heat and spice.

As for cigar pairings, I’d recommend staying away from full-bodied flavor-bombs and/or dark maduros. Instead, aim for medium-bodied smokes with natural wrappers to avoid overpowering the rum’s subtle flavors that make it so enjoyable. A cigar like the Señorial Corona Gorda No. 5 fits the bill nicely.

One reason I tend to prefer rum and bourbon to scotch is the simple fact that you don’t need to shell out top dollar to have a great rum or bourbon experience. The Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark Rum is a perfect example. This is a great way to spend $20 and worthy of an easy recommendation. Enjoy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Quick Smoke: Pinar del Rio 1878 Cubano Especial Capa Natural Robusto

19 Jun 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.”

PDR-1878-Capa-Natural

This medium-bodied blend from Abe Flores and his team at Pinar del Rio features a pale brown Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper. Underneath is 100% Criollo ’98 tobaccos, including filler from Nicaragua and binder and filler from the Dominican Republic. The cigar has straw and cedar flavors, along with hints of cream and coffee. A pleasant, balanced cigar with solid construction and combustion qualities, the 1878 Capa Natural would go great with a cup of coffee.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Swag Brown Connecticut Lavish

18 Jun 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.”

Swag Connecticut

Introduced about one year ago, the Swag Brown Connecticut line from Aging Room Cigars boasts a beautiful, golden Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. Crafted at the Tabacalera Palma factory, the Lavish (5 x 54) retails for about $7 and includes a mild- to medium-bodied flavor of dry oak, butter, peanut, and a soft white pepper spice. Construction is impressive, as is the cigar’s smooth texture and complex, balanced flavors. If you’re looking for a morning or mid-afternoon smoke to pair with iced coffee this summer, you should give Swag Connecticut a try.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 484

17 Jun 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.

Freyja Box Press

1) Las Cumbres Tabaco will be releasing two new box-pressed sizes next month, one for José Blanco’s Señorial Maduro line, and one for his wife Emma Viktorsson’s Freyja line. The former will be called El Cuadro—Spanish for “the frame,” which is a reference to both the press and the company’s oil painting-styled logos. El Cuadro (5.75 x 46) will retail for $7.50. The latter, in keeping with Viktorsson’s Nordic theme, will be called Mjölnir (me-YUL-nir) after Thor’s hammer. It will retail for $9 and measure 6.5 inches long with a ring gauge of 55. Both will be sold in 21-count boxes. “José and I both agree that this press on these tobaccos could add some extra intensity in the flavor and character,” Viktorsson wrote. “This vitola suits them both very well as they are already full-flavored blends.”

2) In light of forthcoming regulations on premium cigars, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking volunteers for its Tobacco Product Manufacturing Facility Visits program, which is intended to give FDA staff “an opportunity to visit facilities involved in the manufacturing of newly deemed tobacco products and their components and parts, and to observe the tobacco industry’s manufacturing operations.” An email from the agency explains, “These visits are meant to improve FDA staff’s understanding of the tobacco industry and its manufacturing operations (including any related laboratory testing), and to inform agency staff as they implement the tobacco provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The visits are not intended to include or replace official FDA inspections of facilities to determine compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.” Interested parties are encouraged to volunteer here by August 15.

3) Inside the Industry: Two upcoming collaborations with Caldwell Cigars have the Miami-based company teaming up with highly respected cigar makers. Announced earlier in the year was All Out Kings, which was blended with Drew Estate master blender Willy Herrera and will be produced at the Joya de Nicaragua factory. More recently, via an Instagram post, Caldwell announced Anastasia, a cigar to be produced by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo.

4) From the Archives: Looking for a proper meal before enjoying a fine cigar and whiskey? The obvious choice is a good steak. For advice on how to cook that steak, look no further than our tip for using a cast iron skillet on a stovetop finished in the oven.

5) Deal of the Week: One of the best-regarded annual releases among Nicaraguan cigar connoisseurs is the Tatuaje TAA. Site sponsor Smoke Inn is now taking pre-orders on the 2016 Tatuaje TAA (which uses the same blend as the Tatuaje TAA 2015). This is sure to sell out everywhere, so act quickly.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Las Cumbres Tabaco

Commentary: Coping with a Post-FDA Cigar Industry

15 Jun 2016

[Below is a follow-up to a previous commentary on the grim FDA situation facing the cigar industry.]

FDA-cigars-large

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s cigar regulations will undoubtedly transform the industry, leading to the potential elimination of most sticks introduced after Feb. 15, 2007.

Obviously, that includes a lot great cigars. It also strikes at the heart of what many consumers enjoy about the pastime: discovering new and different cigars.

What it doesn’t have to mean, though, is an end to cigar smoking pleasure. In the words of Buddhist teacher Tara Brach, “A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.”

And that’s what we face—a major detour. It’ll require a lot of shifts in the way we think about and approach cigars.

For many, cigar smoking has become subject to the common consumer quest for something new. Indeed, “What’s new?” has got to be the most common question asked by customers at a tobacconist.

Scientists know that humans respond to novelty, and that novelty wears off over time. As professor Aimee Huff, who’s studied the issue, wrote: “the perception of newness is an important part of the consumption experience because it creates short-term value.”

Achieving that experience won’t be nearly as easy if all the FDA restrictions take effect as scheduled. That means we’ll have to adjust our approach.

For starters, instead of asking the clerk, “What’s new?” I suggest asking yourself, “What’s new for me?” There are likely to be hundreds of pre-2007 cigars you or I haven’t tried. Sure, maybe we don’t want to try half of them, but that still leaves a lot to check out.

Another approach is to thoroughly examine what it is about certain cigars that you enjoy most and look for others that match or come close. Some of them could be pre-2007 cigars, some may be among those that make it through the vetting process.

Thinking carefully about what you enjoy may also make it easier to find satisfaction with a smaller number of lines.

A return to the days when most cigar smokers stopped by their local shop periodically for the same box of, say, Romeo y Julieta or Montecristo, seems highly improbable, regardless of what happens. But continuing to sample a new release every week or so seems an equally remote possibility.

I, for one, intend to go on smoking and enjoying cigars, regardless of the obstacles. If I have to make an attitude adjustment in order to do it, I’ll make the effort.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Crux Limitada PB5

13 Jun 2016

The first limited release from Crux, this lightly box-pressed beauty comes in one size and showcases a well-aged wrapper leaf.

PB5That tobacco, called Engañoso, came from the Plascencia factory where it had been aging for seven years, according to Crux. The company bought it all, and it was another two-and-a-half years before the PB5 blend was finalized.

Crux isn’t disclosing much information about the tobaccos in the cigar. Here’s what I got from them: “The blend includes tobacco (though not exclusively) from Nicaragua and Honduras.”

The name reflects some of the journey to create it. The “PB” is a recognition of the individuals involved in creating the cigar, Crux said, and the “5” refers to the number of test blends sampled before the end result was achieved.

The cigars recently began to arrive on retailers’ shelves. Crux produced 500 boxes of 10 with a retail price of about $12 per stick. They believe they have enough wrapper left to keep production going for up to five years.

That’s good news. Because if you miss the opportunity to try one this time around, you’ll get another chance.

Since its initial offering a couple of years ago, Minnesota-based Crux has brought out one good cigar after another. The web site now lists 10 lines, from one that features diminutive dimensions (4 x 32) to another sporting considerable length and girth (6 x 60).

The Limitada PB5 is 5.75 inches long with a ring gauge of 54. The samples I smoked, supplied by Crux, had excellent burns, good smoke production, and a near-perfect draw.

The wrapper presents a mouth-watering nutty pre-light aroma.

From the beginning, it is a balanced and complex smoke, kicking off with some cedar and pepper to grab your attention. Other flavors along the way include nuts, wood, and leather, with the intensity of the pepper rising and falling throughout. There are points, too, when a bit of sweetness moves forward as a counterpoint.

Strength falls somewhere in the medium- to full-bodied range. It’s by no means a power bomb, but it is certainly strong enough to satisfy most smokers.

I would say the Limitada PB5 was among the most enjoyable new cigars I’ve tried so far in 2016. I heartily recommend giving the Limitada PB5 a try, whether you’re a new smoker or an old-timer. For me, it rates four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Viaje Platino Reserva VPR No. 6

12 Jun 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.”

Viaje-VPR

Viaje is known for small-batch releases, and this is no exception. Made at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras, this cigar features a Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 wrapper around well-aged Nicaraguan fillers. The result is a medium-bodied smoke with light spice, dry earth, and a slight raisin sweetness. The box-pressed toro boasts an excellent draw and burn. It’s not the kind of cigar to buy a box of without trying. That said, if a medium-bodied, rounded smoke sounds up your alley, pick up a single when you get the chance.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys