Quick Smoke: Villiger La Libertad Robusto

3 Nov 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.”

Villiger recently updated the dress of its La Libertad line to match its more recent offerings. The blend remains unchanged, with the $6 Robusto (5 x 52) employing an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, a Mexican binder, and filler from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The cigar, which is made at the ABAM factory in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, features a notes of sweet cream, hay, toast, and roast cashews. The mild, well-balanced cigar has enjoyable flavors that would go well with a morning cup of coffee. Despite the need for a few touch-ups (outside in a breeze), construction is largely good.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje The Hyde

1 Nov 2019

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 Hyde Halloween

In 2014 and 2015, Tatuaje’s annual Halloween-themed Monster Series releases were The Jekyll and The Hyde, respectively. The former featured a lighter Ecuadorian Sancti Spíritus wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, whereas the latter sported a darker Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. I liked both, and was pleased to recently discover I still had one The Hyde (7 x 49) in my collection. Halloween night seemed like an appropriate time to revisit it. What I found was, not disappointingly, similar to the review I published four years ago: a medium-bodied smoke with good construction and delightful flavors ranging from chocolate and mint to graham cracker and cream. A little background pepper helps to add balance. I liked The Hyde when it was released, and I liked it last night. I’m not sure I’ll get the chance to smoke another, though.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Curivari Gloria de Leon Dominante

30 Oct 2019

Curivari has grown a reputation as a brand that appeals to fans of Nicaraguan cigars and provides excellent value for the price. They’ve particularly been lauded for the Buenaventura line (which we’ve often praised). Today, though, we’re checking out the Curivari Gloria de Leon line.

Like other Curivari offerings, it is dominated by Nicaraguan tobacco. In this case, it’s a Nicaraguan puro with a Criollo wrapper surrounding a combination of Cuban-seed Criollo and Corojo tobaccos. It comes in three sizes: Fuerza (4.5 x 50), Dominante (5.25 x 54), and Prominente (6.75 x 54). I smoked three of the thick robusto-sized Dominante vitola for this review.

The cigar retails for $6-7 and comes in boxes of 10. (I’m a big fan of 10-count boxes, which I find to be very consumer-friendly.) The medium reddish-brown wrapper is framed by a classic red, white, and gold band that one might reasonably conclude is deliberately similar to the classic Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey.

Pre-light notes include bread and subtle licorice. The cigar opens with a blast of black coffee followed not long after with wet cedar and bread notes. Soon, it progresses to a spicier profile, with gingersnap cookies, red pepper, nutmeg, and clove.

It’s a complex cigar that wobbles back and forth over the line between medium- and full-bodied. Towards the final third, it settles into a more medium-strength profile with some creaminess and fruit notes. Baking spices remain on the finish.

Construction is excellent with a firm (but not-too-firm) draw and solid gray ash. One of the more interesting cigars I’ve smoked recently, and one with flavors that are anything but linear, the Curivari Gloria de Leon Dominante earns a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Sir Robert Peel Natural

28 Oct 2019

Sir Robert Peel twice served as prime minister of the United Kingdom in the 19th century. He is also remembered as the father of modern British policing for his founding of the Metropolitan Police Service at Scotland Yard. That legacy has earned Peel a cigar bearing his name and image, courtesy of two former law enforcement officials: Juan Cancel and Bill Ives.

Cancel and Ives launched the Cubariqueño Cigar Co. in 2015 with a nondescript table at Erik Espinosa’s booth at the IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans. Back then, they were not entertaining delusions of grandeur. They set a goal to open 20 accounts and produced at one factory (Espinosa’s La Zona in Estelí). Before the show was over, they had sold out their inventory.

Flash forward to today and Cubariqueño is still very much a small, boutique outfit. But, in an indication of their continued success, their blend lineup includes Protocol, Official Misconduct, and Sir Robert Peel.

The latter is made at the La Zona Cigar Factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. It comes in two wrapper variations—Ecuadorian Rosado and Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. Each boasts Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, and each is presented in a box-pressed toro format (6 x 52) with a suggested retail price of $12.

Today I’m examining the Natural edition, which features a gold band around the foot. (The Maduro edition has a red band; kudos to Cubariqueño for making it possible to easily identify one versus the other.) It is a handsome, regal-looking smoke with a golden wrapper and an ornate band complete with Sir Robert Peel’s portrait. Pre-light, there are notes of sweet hay at the foot.

As we always do for full reviews, I smoked several Naturals in order to judge consistency—the most recent of which was enjoyed last evening with my father. After lighting up, we both immediately arrived at the same word: “smooth.” This is a soft, smooth cigar with a creamy, buttery texture. At the outset, I would call it mild- to medium-bodied. Other flavor descriptors include toffee, peanut, white pepper, salt, and café au lait.

Moving into the midway point, the flavor increases slightly in intensity, but by no means does it venture any further than the medium-bodied spectrum. That profile is consistent until the final third, when the white pepper transitions to black pepper, the café au lait transitions to espresso, and a hint of licorice enters the equation. Throughout, there are no traces of bitterness or harsh heat.

In terms of physical properties, the burn line meanders a bit but requires zero touch-ups along the way. Other combustion attributes are admirable. The draw is easy, the ash holds really well off the foot, and the smoke production is solid.

So far, this is my favorite of the Cubariqueño lot. It’s a wonderful, classic-tasting, Cuban-esque cigar worthy of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Blend 4 (Saints & Sinners 2019)

27 Oct 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.”

Personally, the biggest reason I keep up my membership in the Saints & Sinners club (I’ve been a member since they launched) is the cigars. Membership fees get you access to the members-only forum, a membership card, branded accessories, and 15 cigars (more this year, as the price also includes CRA membership). This year’s smoke kit includes Blend 4, a torpedo with a rich brown wrapper. The cigar features leather, wood, earth, and cinnamon. It’s medium-bodied, balanced, and very tasty.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Oban Bay Reserve The Night’s Watch Single Malt Whisky

23 Oct 2019

Pop culture and whiskey have become a natural pairing. Just look at the list of celebrities who have lent their name to recently: Bob Dylan, Drake, Conor McGregor, Metallica, Matthew McConaughey, and even Nick Offerman. Likewise, television shows and movies are hardly immune to whisky crossovers; for example, Lost in Translation (Suntory Japanese Whisky), Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Old Forester Statesman), and Walking Dead (Spirits of the Apocalypse).

Yet no pop culture brand seems to have cashed in on the Hollywood/Whiskey connection more than Game of Thrones. As it entered its eighth and (frankly underwhelming) final season, the HBO series partnered with spirits giant Diageo for an extended line of scotch whiskies. And partner they did.

Three Johnnie Walker blended scotch whiskeys were introduced (White Walker, followed more recently by two others). Most notable, though, is the line of exclusive single malt whiskies, each from a different distillery under the Diageo umbrella. Eight whiskies from eight distilleries represent seven of the major houses from the series, plus the Night’s Watch. (Another Game of Thrones single malt, a 15-year-old from Mortlach, is on its way too.)

Today I’m tasting the Oban Bay Reserve: The Night’s Watch, which seems to be one of the harder to find offerings in the line. Made at the Highland distillery Oban, it is 43% ABV, NAS (no age statement), and sells for $63 per bottle. This makes it more expensive than the NAS Oban Little Bay offering, but less expensive than the popular 14 Year Old Oban.

The single malt pours a dark golden color with a nose boasting orange peel, malt, melon, light smoke, caramel, and solvent. On the palate, it has orange zest, waxy honey, red fruits, sea salt, and oak. The finish is medium in length with clove, oak, and powdered milk flavors.

Oban is known for blending the dry, smoky, peat-influenced style of Islay with the lighter, sweeter malts of the Highlands. While this spirit is no exception, I’d prefer a little more of the Islay influence. Apparently, because it’s hard to find, some stores are selling this for over $100 a bottle. But at that price you are far better off buying the 14 Year Old, which sells for around $70. At its normal MSRP of $63, The Night’s Watch is a reasonable value, considering you are paying for some Game of Thrones marketing. But I wouldn’t rush out to grab another bottle.

It pairs well with a fuller-bodied Dominican cigar. Particularly recommended are the Paul Garmirian Symphony 20th, Arturo Fuente Opus X, and La Aurora 107.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: CAO Session Garage

21 Oct 2019

You won’t find too many details about Rick Rodriquez’s career on his LinkedIn profile. Basically, it says he has been at General Cigar since 1999, and the only role listed is “blender/ambassador.” Not exactly the kind of detail I was hoping for.

General’s website thankfully has more information about Rodriguez. There, we can learn that he distinguished himself as a sales rep to the point where “General Cigar’s team of cigar masters unanimously selected Rick to participate in a rigorous cigar master training program” that brought him throughout the cigar world to learn about “tobacco agriculture, cultivation, aging, processing, cigar rolling, and ultimately, cigar blending.” Not a bad gig.

Fifteen years ago, Rodriquez’s training brought him to Yuri Guillen, who is now manager of manufacturing at General Cigar Dominicana. “Since then, Ricky’s become an accomplished master blender, and he’s been all over the world sourcing the finest, most unique tobaccos for his CAO blends like Flathead, Amazon Basin, and many more of your favorites,” reads the CAO Session microsite. “With the new CAO Session, Ricky’s gone back to his roots, blending his new signature cigar in the Dominican Republic alongside Yuri and his original team.”

Session, which shipped to retailers in early July, is a no-nonsense, everyday smoke inspired by the many cigars Rodriguez smoked in his garage. It is marketed as a medium-bodied, full-flavored stick for any occasion. The recipe includes a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Dominican binder, and Dominican Piloto Cubano and Nicaraguan Estelí filler tobaccos.

There are three Session formats available, each packaged in 20-count boxes: Garage (5.25 x 54, $8.59), Bar (6 x 49, $8.99), and Shop (6 x 60, $9.59). They are handmade in the Dominican Republic and employ a “unique post-fermentation treatment [that] deepens Session’s flavor and darkens its color.”

I sampled three CAO Sessions in the Garage format for this review. As with many Connecticut Broadleaf cigars, it is lumpy and toothy in appearance. The dark, thick wrapper has some noticeable veins and an oily sheen. The dual bands of orange, white, and dark blue—from the perspective of this Bears/Illini fan, a wonderful color scheme—loudly proclaim the blend and invite you to partake in a “session” of your own: “Sit. Smoke. Chill.” Rodriguez’s signature adorns the back.

The cold draw isn’t what I’d call tight but, for whatever reason, I find the Garage slightly more enjoyable if I clip the cap a little further down than I otherwise would.

Once lit, pre-light notes of raisin and damp earth transition to a full-bodied introductory profile of black pepper spice, leather, earth, and a faint sugary note. Sometimes I pick up a hint of citrus. Along the way, these same flavors come and go. At times the profile shines, at times it is muted. Nothing too complex. The final third is hot and somewhat bitter.

While the draw and smoke production are solid, the burn requires multiple touch-ups along the way to keep things burning evenly. As a result, the ash—while holding well—does not layer evenly. I found these physical attributes consistent across all three specimens.

While I certainly respect Rick Rodriquez and all he has accomplished, I think the CAO Session Garage leaves a lot to be desired. The combustion issues could certainly be overlooked if the flavor was consistently exciting. It is not, and that’s ultimately why I’m settling on a disappointing score of two and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys