Cigar Review: Neanderthal (Pre-Release)

22 Jul 2014


At least for fans of boutique cigars, I expect this new release from RoMa Craft Tobac (makers of Cromagnon, Aquitaine, and Intemperance) to be one of the most anticipated cigars from the IPCPR Trade Show that’s currently taking place.

Neanderthal is billed as the strongest RoMa Craft to date, which says a lot since Cromagnon and Aquitaine (particularly the former) are anything but mild. At least for its introduction, the cigar will come in one size: a 5-inch figuardo that has a ring gauge of 56 near the foot and narrows to 52 at the cap. The head of the cigar is completely flat across, and not just from a press… think a bowling pin with the top few inches sawed off. (In fact, a cutter isn’t really necessary; you can just remove the cap from the wrapper and start smoking.)

The blend has a medium brown San Andrés maduro wrapper (a first for RoMa Craft) with a Connecticut Broadleaf binder. The filler is comprised of four types of Nicaraguan tobacco, along with the aromatic Dominican Olor and a Pennsylvanian Double Ligero that provides it’s unique strength.

Neanderthal is very full-bodied with black coffee, damp earth, oak, and pepper spice—especially on the retrohale. It starts out with a heavy grittiness that seems to scratch the roof of your mouth. This reminds me a little of the early versions of Nica Rustica that had a wild form of Nicaraguan tobacco in it. After a third, the strength fades slightly, most likely because you grow accustomed to it.

The strength of the Neanderthal isn’t simply full flavors. It’s also nicotine, which is why the Pennsylvanian tobacco is key to the blend. While not necessarily the most flavorful tobacco, it contains double the nicotine content of a more traditional filler tobacco. Personally, I don’t notice the nicotine at all for the vast majority of the cigars I smoke, so when I did notice it while smoking this cigar, that told me RoMa Craft’s Skip Martin is accomplishing his goal.

I received this cigar while visiting RoMa Craft’s Nica Sueño S.A. factory in Estelí three months ago. I only smoked one, so it’s not clear what, if any, impact a few months of rest had. When I received this cigar, Skip also gave me a puro rolled from 100% Pennsylvanian Double Ligero that he uses for blending, and it’s certainly clear that filler has a huge impact on the cigar. (By itself, it’s really not too enjoyable.)

But as part of the Neanderthal eight-tobacco blend, the Pennsylvanian Double Ligero gives the cigar a unique club-to-the-head strength. It won’t be for everyone, and there isn’t much nuance to it, but if you like full-bodied, strong cigars (especially Cromagnon) you’ll want to give this a try. While at $12 (sold in cabinets of 50) it’s not cheap, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything else like it. That earns the Neanderthal a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Instagram

Drew Estate

Cigar Review: El Primer Mundo La Hermandad Costa Fuerte Caballito

21 Jul 2014

Last spring, Abe Flores of Pinar del Rio Cigars (PDR) issued an announcement that PDR would be managing the sales and distribution of the El Primer Mundo (EPM) brand. “This is a great opportunity for the EPM brand,” said Sean Williams, head of the Atlanta-based EPM. “Abe and I have… some good synergies with our overlap on sales reps and key accounts. This move will just make things a lot more efficient for our reps and our retailers.”

EPM Costa Fuerte 1The EPM lines now sold and distributed by PDR include Liga Miami, Epifania, and La Hermandad. The latter, which translates to “brotherhood,” has been made by Abe Flores at his factory in the Dominican Republic since its inception in 2012. (It should be noted that Flores’ factory also produces cigars for other brands outside the PDR-EPM fold, including Gurkha and La Palina).

EPM also has La Hermandad Costa Fuerte, which sports a Bahia Brazilian wrapper, a Dominican binder, and filler tobaccos that include Corojo ’06 from the Dominican and Criollo ’98 from Nicaragua. It is offered in three sizes that retail in the $8-$10 range: Caballito (5 x 50), Embajador (6 x 52), and Consejero (6 x 60).

I sampled three Caballitos for this review. Once I removed the white sleeve that covers the majority of the cigar, I notice this robusto-sized format has a number of fairly large veins across its otherwise smooth surface. The foot shows a cross-section of tightly packed tobaccos that give off some earthy pre-light notes. The cap seems hastily applied.

According to the EPM website, Costa Fuerte is intended to be a full-bodied smoke “with complex notes of spice, light coffee, and subtle creaminess.” After torching the foot and establishing an even light, a spice-forward profile of dry cedar takes center stage. The draw is virtually devoid of resistance, which I think adds to the intensity of the spice. It’s almost as though the voluminous smoke is concentrated at the tip of the tongue, rendering the profile salty and abrasive. For me, the sensation is quite agreeable. What’s more, I find it’s even better if paired with rum (Flor de Caña 18, in my case), as the sweetness of the rum offsets the cigar’s spice.

Into the second third and beyond, the Costa Fuerte mellows a bit, replacing some of the dry cedary spice and salt with notes of cream and roasted nut. Here the smoke begins to taste more along the lines of what I consider to be the profile of a classic full-bodied Cuban. It’s more balanced, and very traditional-tasting. All the while, the combustion properties are superb, including a straight burn, effortless draw, and solid ash.

We all know cigar reviews are subjective. I can see how some might be less enthralled by Costa Fuerte, especially since the first third is so dry and spicy. But the Caballito really strikes a chord with me, at least in part because I’m a fan of good cigars to pair with sweet sipping rums in the evening. After smoking through three samples this weekend, I’ve settled on an admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: CLE Signature Series Primera Liga de Miami (PLdM) Robusto

20 Jul 2014

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.”CLE-Signature-PLdM-sq


The annual IPCPR Trade Show opens in full today (the opening seminars and reception were yesterday), so it’s fitting I’m checking out a new release. CLE Signature Series PLdM is a small-batch line (only around 400 25-count boxes are set to be released, spread between four sizes) made in Miami by three handpicked rollers who work on Christian Eiroa’s personal blends. Details of this blend aren’t disclosed, but the profile and source suggest plenty of Honduran tobacco. The notable pre-draw flavors are an enticing combination of breadiness, spice, and sweetness. Once lit, I found a very refined combination of woodiness, bread, and caramel with a hint of clove spice. The medium-bodied Robusto (4.5 x 50) features flawless construction, which you’d expect from a cigar that retails for $16. It’s not cheap, but it’s a sophisticated step up, even from the high bar that CLE sets.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Emilio AF1 Toro

19 Jul 2014

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.”

Emilio AF1

I’ve aged this San Andrés-wrapped cigar for a solid two years to see if time might mellow it out, and/or bring to life some new flavors. What I found surprised me: virtually no changes whatsoever. The AF1 Toro (6 x 50) from Gary Griffith’s Emilio Cigars smokes just as it did 24 months ago. Full-bodied with a leathery, spicy texture and notes of raisin, caramel, creamy nut, and espresso. I can’t say the lack of change is disappointing, though. I liked this cigar in 2012, and I like it now—especially after a large meal with some sipping bourbon. If you decide to buy a box, however, don’t feel guilty if you mow through it; several years of patience won’t pay extra dividends.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 391

18 Jul 2014

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 World1) For the first time in his career, famed cigar maker A.J. Fernandez is teaming up with his father, Ismael Fernandez, to unveil a new cigar. Called “New World,” it is expected to debut at the upcoming IPCPR Trade Show. “The New World cigar relates to expanding one’s knowledge and questioning the status quo by discovering our personal New Worlds as we go through life,” said A.J. in a press release. “The team at A.J. Fernandez Cigars is grateful for the amazing support we have received from the consumer and therefore will offer the New World cigar at a value price as we invite everyone to join us on our New World journey.” New World will retail for $6 and be offered in four sizes: robusto, belicoso, toro, and gordo. It will feature a Nicaraguan wrapper around a Jalapa binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua.

2) According to a Cigar Insider poll of tobacconists across the U.S., Padrón is the country’s best-selling brand for the seventh year in a row. Padrón was followed by Arturo Fuente, Davidoff, and Romeo y Julieta. The survey also found two-thirds of shops reported higher overall sales than the previous year.

3) Inside the Industry: In what is a cigar industry first, the Meerapfel family, long known for their Cameroon wrappers, is combining Nicaraguan and Cuban tobacco in the same cigar. According to Cigar Aficionado, the new brand, La Estancia, is made with a Nicaraguan wrapper and binder, and equal parts Nicaraguan and Cuban filler. The cigars are made at an undisclosed Honduran factory in two sizes: Robusto (4.9 x 50) and Corona (5.1 x 42).

4) Contest Update: New Jersey lawyer Steven Jayson is the latest contest winner, getting a copy of the beautiful book, Tobacco Sheds: Vanishing Treasures in the Connecticut River Valley. A cigar smoker for about four years, Steven says the Onyx Reserve Mini Belicoso “got me through studying for the bar.” Congrats, Steven.

5) Deal of the Week: This Silver Tray Sampler has five top-notch cigars for $26. Included are one each of the following: Crowned Heads Four Kicks Selección No. 5, RyJ 1875 Romeo’s Court, My Father El Centurion Belicoso, Tatuaje Regios, and Kristoff Sumatra Corona.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: A.J. Fernandez

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Pudgy Monster Tiff

17 Jul 2014

Tatuaje recently shipped it’s Pudgy Monster sampler, a follow-up to it’s Little Monster sampler, which was comprised of smaller versions the Monsters Series Halloween cigars.tatuaje_pudgy_monsters

Tatuaje-TiffThe $95 Pudgy Monster sampler features 10 cigars, six being smaller versions of the prior Monsters, with the remaining four cigars comprised of two each of two new blends. The two new cigars are both based on the Child’s Play villains: “Chuck,” after the main character Chucky; and “Tiff,” after his bride, Tiffany.

Tiff has a golden Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. (Sounds similar to another Tatuaje blend… more on that below.) It’s a petit robusto size at four inches long with a ring gauge of 50.

The cigar has a smooth, complex, mild- to medium-bodied profile. It’s dominated by sweet creaminess, along with roasted nut and woodiness, and hints of paper, graham, and spice.

There have been some questions about just how different, if at all, Tiff is from the standard Cabaiguan blend (which also has an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper around Nicarauan binder and fillers). Tatuaje owner and blender Pete Johnson said Tiff is “blended fairly stronger” than Cabaiguan, and I’d certainly agree, though the profile is very similar.

Over the course of smoking three samples for this review, I also smoked a couple Cabaiguans, and the difference is clear. Is it stronger than the Cabiguan WCD 120 (which is known to be a ramped-up Cabaiguan blend)? Maybe, although I sadly don’t have any samples to compare it too.

Exactly where it ranks strength-wise in the Cabaiguan-esque blends is up for debate, but I don’t think there’s much debate about Tiff being a fantastic cigar. It’s everything I look for in a Connecticut smoke—subtle, smooth, complex—and it earns four and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: Bodega Premium Blends Reunión Digestivo Toro

16 Jul 2014

About one year ago, Gary Griffith of Emilio Cigars and House of Emilio—his umbrella of the “best of the boutiques”—announced a new partnership with Bodega Premium Blends (BPB). “BPB offers cigars that embody the company’s passion and commitment to the ‘cigar experience,’” reads the BPB website. “Our philosophy is to capture how and when people enjoy cigars and reflect this essence in our blends.”

DigestivoBPB has four founders headed by Gino Domanico, who serves as president and social media guru (@Cigar_G). The founders do not hide from the fact they weren’t born of cigar lineage. “Their blending pedigree stems from passion and vision, not birth right,” says their website. “Maybe it’s their busy family lives, or the harshness of their northern climate, but the guys at BPB understand the value of time and the relevance of the cigar experience.”

BPB’s cigars include Reunión Aperitivo—a Habano Claro-wrapped, three-vitola line that’s intended to be smoked before a meal—and Reunión Digestivo. The latter, as you’ve likely guessed, is intended to be a bolder, post-meal smoke. Also offered in three sizes, it has a Mexican wrapper around a proprietary binder and fillers of Nicaraguan origin.

The Reunión Digestivo Toro (6 x 52) costs about $10 per single. It’s a heavy, oily cigar with rich pre-light notes of raisin and a firm packing of tobaccos. The exterior is dark and silky, and the cap is applied neatly. The cold draw is moderately firm with some spice on the lips.

Once underway, a spicy, leathery profile of black pepper, espresso, and dry wood emerges. The texture is thick and meaty, and the spice-centric aftertaste lingers on the tip of the tongue. As the Toro progresses, background notes of raisin, dried apricot, and sweet earth come and go. The body is medium to medium-full with a moderate nicotine kick. Down the stretch, a sour meatiness becomes more apparent. A background sweetness—which BPB attributes to a longer fermentation process—keeps things interesting.

The Toro’s physical properties do not detract from the flavor it offers. The gray ash holds well off the foot, and the burn is straight and true. At times, though, the draw can be a little stiff, and the smoke production can be a little stingy.

In all, the BPB Reunión Digestivo Toro is a nice smoke that, frankly, I’d be more excited about in the $6-8 range. I think $10 is asking a lot when you consider the many outstanding smokes that can be had at that cost. That said, this is a respectable after-dinner companion that isn’t so spicy or strong it would drown out a full-bodied red like a Cabernet or Bordeaux. For that, I award it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys