Quick Smoke: Cohiba Maduro 5 Mágicos (Cuban)

30 Nov 2018

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.”

Cohiba Maduro

When I reviewed this Cuban years ago, which is the first Cohiba to have a maduro wrapper, I found a complex profile of coffee, spice, licorice, cream, and roasted nut. Unfortunately, I also found sub-standard construction—something that’s unforgivable in a cigar that costs over $20. I recently decided to try another, and I honestly wish I hadn’t. The only thing that has changed is the price. Now, you can expect to pay around $30 for a single, and you’ll still have issues with the physical properties. While I like the flavors, I cannot in good conscience recommend such an expensive smoke when the construction is, at best, highly unpredictable.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: A 2018 Holiday Whiskey Gift Guide

29 Nov 2018

Haven’t finished your Christmas gift list? StogieGuys.com is here to help with some bourbon, rye, and single malt gift suggestions. Plus, an accessory any whiskey drinker would appreciate.

Lots of people like whiskey, but with so many choices and lots of hype it’s hard to decide what makes the best gift. Prices are going up and whiskeys that were once easy to find are now impossible to find (at least at retail). Fact is, it’s not just ultra-limited whiskeys like Pappy Van Winkle that cannot be found without paying an exorbitant price. Even such staple bourbons as Elmer T. Lee, Weller 12, and Blanton’s are becoming hard to find.

With that in mind, here are suggestions focused on whiskey you can actually find and buy. For each category, we’ve got a suggestion that is value-priced ($20 to $30), something a bit nicer and more expensive ($35 to $60), and a whiskey that, while not too difficult to find, is, for one reason or another, rare or limited.

Bourbon

Value: Buffalo Trace — A standard offering from the maker of Pappy, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, and many more highly sought-after bourbons. It’s delivers a lot of flavor for around $25 that’s excellent neat but not so expensive that you’d cringe if you use it in a cocktail.

Superior: Four Roses Single Barrel or Booker’s Barrel Proof — Two different offerings depending on the recipient. Four Roses Single Barrel ($45) is a rich, spicy offering. Booker’s ($60) is a powerful, full-flavored, barrel-proof offering.

Rare: Rhetoric 25 — The sixth and final edition of the Rhetoric annual release, which started out with the 20-year-old edition and concludes with this year’s 25-year-old release. It shows off the increasing effects of time spent in a bourbon barrel. Intense and perhaps even overly woody for some, this bourbon will be hard to find when it hits retailer shelves later this month at $150.

Rye

Value: Bulleit — Good neat or in cocktails, and made with a mashbill of 95% rye that gives it a distinctive flavor. Supremely affordable ($22), but a rye that can be appreciated by all. (Look for the gift pack with a canvas Lewis bag for crushing ice for your julep.)

Superior: Sazerac — This six-year-old rye is a classic that would be appreciated as a gift by any rye fan who isn’t a snob. It’s got classic floral and spice flavors, all for just $36.

Rare: Angel’s Envy — The rum barrel finish of this rye gives it an exotic, sweet finish. Think rye crossed with Sauternes or oloroso sherry. At $75 to $90, it is a special occasion whiskey, and a generous gift.

Scotch

Value: Monkey Shoulder — Not blended whisky (which uses grain whisky), but a smooth, fruity blend of three single malts. It’s $25 to $30, but it offers the quality of a single malt at half the price.

Superior: Talisker Storm or Glendronach 12 — Talkisker Storm ($50) is smoky and peaty with balance and sweetness. For the peat-adverse drinker, Glendronach 12 ($60) is about as intensely sherried in style as a single malt gets.

Rare: Game of Thrones Limited Edition Single Malts — A new collection of eight single malts from a variety of distilleries features something for every Game of Thrones fan. Just don’t wait too long; they were just released. You’re paying a small premium for the branding, but details suggest they are reasonably priced, at least while you can find them. (We tried the nine-year-old Lagavulin “House of Lannister,” and it was excellent.)

Accessories

Glencairn Whisky Glasses — Any whiskey drinker will appreciate the gold standard in whisky glassware. It is designed to bring out the best in bourbon, rye, and single malt (and also works well with brandy or rum). Even if your recipient already has a few of these, more is always better. A good collection will let them taste side-by-side, or host a tasting with friends.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: A.J. Fernandez New World Puro Especial Toro

26 Nov 2018

Last year, famed cigar maker A.J. Fernandez introduced an extension to his New World brand called New World Puro Especial. At its core, the four-cigar line is Estelí through and through.

All the tobaccos employed are grown and cultivated at Fernandez’s own farms in Estelí, rendering the line a living tribute to a region that has worldwide become synonymous with premium cigars. The cigars are made at Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars, which is located—you guessed it—in Estelí. (Side note: That factory started with just six rollers; today, it is one of the largest factories in Nicaragua and produces over 9 million cigars annually.)

Like so many cigars, the blending of New World Puro Especial took several years. Fernandez’s father, Ismael, helped with the endeavor. The final recipe includes Criollo ’98 from the San José farm, as well as leaves from La Soledad, La Providencia, and San Diego. All the tobaccos are aged three to five years.

The Puro Especial formats include a Short Churchill (6 x 48), Robusto (5.5 x 52), Gordo (6 x 60), and a Toro (6.5 x 52). I picked up a handful of the latter vitola at my local tobacconist here in Chicago for about $9 apiece.

The Toro’s smooth, moderately dry, dark chocolate-colored Nicaraguan Habano wrapper has only the thinnest veins and very tight seams. The cold draw is easy. The feel is consistently firm from head to foot, and the pre-light notes remind me of green raisin and cocoa powder.

The New World Puro Especial is full-bodied from the get-go. It boasts heavy, leathery notes of espresso, dry wood, minerally earth, meaty char, and both red and black pepper. You’ll find abundant spice on the finish. After a half inch, the intensity steps off the accelerator, but the resulting profile remains strong, bold, and—at the very least—medium- to full-bodied.

Thankfully, this is much more than a heavy-handed deliverer of power. As the Toro progresses to its spicy, full-bodied conclusion, attentive smokers will notice secondary flavors ranging from natural tobacco and cinnamon to oak and white pepper. That said, I don’t detect any semblance of sweetness, which would add balance and complexity.

The physical properties are outstanding from light to nub. Each of my samples exhibited a straight burn line with no need for touch-ups along the way, as well as a sturdy ash, smooth draw, and average smoke production.

I will be interested to see how time might impact the profile of the A.J. Fernandez New World Puro Especial Toro. Absent the sweetness that, I think, would improve the overall experience, this is still a fine full-bodied smoke with a pleasant taste and aroma. For that, I’m awarding it three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Have a Happy Thanksgiving… with Cigars (2018)

21 Nov 2018

 

With football on the TV, turkey in your stomach, and family gathered, Thanksgiving is a great day to enjoy a cigar (or several). So as we have every year for each of the past eleven years, today the StogieGuys.com team tells you what cigars we’ll be firing up after our big meals.

Patrick A: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (with its fireworks, barbecues, baseball, and beer, the Fourth of July is a close second). That’s why, despite being smoked in a way-too-cold Chicago garage, my post-dinner smoke on Thanksgiving is probably my favorite cigar experience of the year. So there’s a lot riding on picking a consistent smoke that’s well-suited to the situation. This year I’m going with the Mi Querida Fino Largo (6 x 48, about $9). Crafted at the NACSA factory for Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, Mi Querida sports a blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos surrounded by a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. Full-bodied flavors of espresso, cinnamon, nougat sweetness, damp wood, and leather will provide the combination of power and harmony I’ll be craving after a huge dinner—and (hopefully) a Bears victory.

Patrick S: I’m visiting family in New York, where the high on Thanksgiving is expected to be below freezing and where any cigar will have to be enjoyed outdoors. So while I’m still looking forward to a post-turkey cigar, brevity is very much appreciated. This year I’m going to be lighting up a Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary Short Robusto. The small (4.5 x 52) cigar packs all the complexity and flavor of the larger Connoisseur size. Think full-bodied flavors of rich oak, toast, black coffee, spice, salt, and pepper. I’ll probably pair it up with a peaty single malt (Lagavulin or Arbeg), which should be ideal for the harsh conditions.

George E: The weather down here in Florida nearly always makes for a terrific Thanksgiving, unquestionably one of the best holidays. This year is no exception, with the forecast calling for a couple degrees below the average high (77°) and little chance of rain until late in the night. So, I’m almost certain to end the day outside with a large cup of coffee (Starbucks Italian Roast) and a cigar. Looking back through some of my previous Thanksgiving selections, it seems I’ve often opted for high-powered cigars. For 2018, that’s not really changing. I’ve decided to light up one of the few My Father Limited Edition 2011 sticks (6.5 x 52, $20) remaining from the box I bought at an event when they were released. It’s been more than a year since I last had one, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Previous cigars the StogieGuys.com team designated as Thanksgiving smokes include:

 

Not a bad list, eh? If you’re so inclined, feel free to let us know what you’ll be smoking tomorrow in the comments below. And be sure to have a safe and joyous Thanksgiving.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro Robusto

19 Nov 2018

Before we get to smoking this cigar, let’s clear up some confusion about what it is. And what it isn’t.

The blend and the production location are no longer what they were. The new version of La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro uses a Costa Rican oscuro wrapper, a Dominican binder, and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler. It’s rolled at the Plascencia factory in Honduras.

This information comes directly from La Palina. The confusion arises because the cigar was redone, and a number of online sites haven’t updated their particulars.

As for the Robusto, it is a 5-inch, 52-ring gauge, box-pressed stick with a price tag of $9.50. A sheath that features both the cigar name and the now-familiar image of brand owner Bill Paley’s paternal grandmother, Goldie, covers more than half the cigar. When all is peeled away, it reveals a dark wrapper with little pre-light aroma.

El Año 1896’s name pays tribute to the year La Palina cigars made their first appearance in the market. La Palina’s new incarnation debut came in 2010.

The smoking experience of El Año 1896 is as smooth as the nearly vein-free wrapper. Strength is in the medium range with modest pepper and spice.

One of the more pleasing, and somewhat surprising, flavors I encountered was a piquant citrus at about the halfway point. The zesty sensation remained and contrasted nicely with the occasional tobacco sweetness. Also appearing in the second half was an intermittent earthy mushroom note.

The burn was slow. Smoke production was high and the ash held tightly. I had to make a couple minor burn corrections on two of the three I smoked, but nothing to significantly mar the experience.

Overall, I’d say La Palina has another winner on its hands. El Año 1896 is a tasty cigar that should appeal across the board. I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Umbagog Robusto Plus

18 Nov 2018

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.”

Made by Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, Umbagog is to Mi Quireda as a Bordeax Chateau’s “second wine” is to the winemaker’s top offering. Basically, it’s a similar but more value-conscious blend made by the same experts with the finest components being reserved for the pricier offering. The Robusto Plus (5 x 52) sells for round $7 each in bundles of 10. With a rustic, oily Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, the cigar produces roasted notes with coffee, earth, dark chocolate, and hints of wood and pepper spice. It’s rich and full-bodied, well-constructed and, on top of it all, very reasonably priced.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Padrón 2000 Natural

16 Nov 2018

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.”

If you’re looking for classic flavors, reliability, and great bang-for-the-buck value, it’s hard to beat the so-called “Thousands Series” from Padrón. The robusto-sized 2000 Natural (5 x 50) can be found for around $6. That’s a very fair price for a well-constructed cigar with fine medium-bodied flavors of espresso, dark chocolate, dry wood, black pepper, peanut, and raisin. Before firing this one up, I hadn’t smoked the Padrón 2000 Natural in years. I was glad to be reunited.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys