Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 403

17 Oct 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.

Culver City1) Culver City—a California town near Los Angeles with a population of about 40,000—has criminalized smoking inside condos, apartments, and other multi-unit residences. This week, the City Council voted 4-1 to approve the new ban, with the only opposition coming from an official who thought the ordinance lacked the “teeth” for proper enforcement. “The ordinance calls for ‘private enforcement’ as city police would not have the time…” reports the Culver City Observer. “There will be anti-smoking signage in shared areas of multiple unit residences, including smoke-free ‘buffer zones’ to be established within 25 feet in any direction of any doorway, window, opening, or other vent into an enclosed non-smoking area. Substances that are prohibited include all tobacco products and medical marijuana.”

2) Speaking of California and smoking ban enforcement, it was reported this week that officials in Turlock, California, discovered their town has had a smoking ban for parks on the books for over a decade that had never been enforced. “In our research over the last month we were trying to figure out why our sports complex—the soccer fields—had a no-smoking ban, but none of our other parks did,” said a parks official. “Due to our research, we came across a resolution from back in 2003, and within that resolution there was a banning of smoking in parks and parking lots—all parks and parking lots. For whatever reason, after the council took action on that item, there was never any enforcement, never any signs posted.”

3) Inside the Industry: In response to reports of crackdowns by  cigar industry representatives, yesterday a bipartisan group of 33 members of Congress sent a letter to the Department of Justice’s Inspector General asking for an investigation into DOJ’s “Operation Chokepoint.” The letter alleges that DOJ is engaging in “an egregious abuse of power” by targeting completely legal businesses, including tobacco retailers, by pressuring financial institutions into ending their access to banking services with the effect of driving the targeted legal enterprises out of business.

4) Deal of the Week: Fans of Montecristo Classic and Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve will want to check out this “Super 10 Sampler.” Just $37 (over 50% off the regular price) gets you five toros of each blend.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Google Maps

Drew Estate

Cigar Review: Viaje Cache

16 Oct 2014

viaje-cacheViaje Cache’s name refers to two things: First, we’re told it has tobacco selected from a “cache” of select, well-aged leaves at the TABSA factory in Nicaragua, where it is made. Second, in a box of Viaje Cache cigars you get 20 traditional round parejos, but underneath you’ll find a hidden layer of five box-pressed cigars.viaje-cache-sq

Both the box-pressed and parejo versions measure 5 inches long with a ring gauge of 52. They feature a Mexican maduro wrapper around Nicaraguan Aganorsa binder and filler.

For this review, I smoked four of the round parejo versions. If, like me, you purchase a five-pack, you’re likely to get the non-box-pressed version, as there are four parejos for every pressed Cache made.

The band is not like the traditional Viaje band, at least on the surface. I couldn’t verify since I’m not in a college dorm room, but apparently if you put the band under a black light you’ll find a hidden logo.

The wrapper is nearly black with plenty of oils. Even before you light up, it’s obvious the Cache is well-constructed. Firm to the touch with a tight draw, it has excellent combustion and a solid, light gray ash.

Once lit, the Cache is dominated by dark charred oak notes. There’s also plenty of dry, powdery earth and unsweetened cocoa. The full-bodied flavors are mostly consistent from start to finish, although a little red pepper spice starts to reveal itself towards the end.

Viaje can be hit or miss for me, but this is definitely a hit in my book. It’s very rich, with thick smoke that coats the palate with a dry, distinctive flavor. Viaje owner Andre Farkas has said, depending on the response, Cache may be a more regular offering. I certainly hope it is. Excellent construction, rich flavors, and a unique profile make the Viaje Cache a standout that earns a rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: L’Atelier Imports LAT46 Selection Spéciale

15 Oct 2014

L’Atelier Imports, which debuted just a couple years ago, is an outfit formed by Pete Johnson (of Tatuaje fame) to make “consumer price conscious cigars.” The L’Atelier portfolio includes Surrogates, El Suelo, Trocadéro, L’Atelier Maduro, and the original L’Atelier core line.

Selection SpecialeThe latter is crafted at My Father Cigars in Nicaragua using Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The wrappers are Sancti Spíritus, which is a cross between Criollo and Pelo d’Oro that’s grown in Ecuador.

L’Atelier originally had three formats: LAT52 (4.75 x 52), LAT54 (5.6 x 54), and LAT56 (6.5 x 56). Since its introduction in 2012, Johnson has added four vitolas. One is called LAT46 Selection Spéciale—a corona gorda measuring 5.6 inches long with a ring gauge of 46.

Interestingly, when it was rolled out in early 2013, LAT46 was slightly different than its predecessors, as the Sancti Spíritus wrapper comes from a higher priming for this size. That means the wrapper is darker, and the overall profile is supposed to pack more of a punch. So LAT46 was given the “Selection Spéciale” designation to differentiate it from the other vitolas. Since, two other Selection Spéciale sizes were added: the LAT Torpedo and the LAT38 Special lancero.

I smoked five LAT46s for this review. The corona gorda looks dark enough to be a maduro. Its exterior is clean and oily with a reddish tint and few noticeable veins. The triple cap—adorned with a pigtail—clips easily to yield a smooth cold draw. The foot exhibits rich pre-light notes of raisin, black cherry, and dark chocolate.

Once lit, the initial profile is of coffee, cedar, pepper spice, and black licorice. The texture ranges from chalky to leathery, and the aftertaste has a lingering salty bite. Strength and body are both medium to full. The fragrant resting smoke is creamy.

At the midway point it becomes clear this is a complex, balanced cigar with lots to offer (especially to attentive smokers). In addition to the aforementioned flavors—which, I think, constitute the core taste from beginning to nub—notes of sweet cocoa, peanut, and caramel come and go. Throughout, construction is perfect, including a solid ash, great smoke production, and a burn line that requires no touch-ups.

In the reasonable $8-9 range, it’s hard not to love the LAT46 Selection Spéciale. This one has “box purchase” written all over it. One of the best cigars I’ve had the pleasure to review in 2014, it earns an outstanding rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Cigar Review: Cohiba Nicaragua N50

14 Oct 2014

Two things stand out immediately about the new Cohiba Nicaragua from General Cigar. The first is, despite the name, this is not a Nicaraguan puro. The second is it’s expensive.cohiba-nic-sq

cohiba-nicThe line extension should be showing up now on retailer shelves. I smoked samples provided by the manufacturer, a 5-pack of the “N50″ robusto size (5 x 50) that is sold in tubes with an MSRP of $12.99. Online prices appear to be roughly 20 percent cheaper for the box of 8.

The name is intended to signify that this is General’s first Cohiba blended and rolled in Nicaragua, the country that continues its red-hot status in the cigar world. While the filler and binder are from Nicaragua, the wrapper is a Colorado Oscuro from Honduras. That may account for another prominent feature: The Cohiba Nicaragua doesn’t really exhibit any pepper, an often defining taste of stronger Nicaraguan cigars. It’s a darker, deeper smoke with the earthy tone common with Honduran tobacco. Other flavors like coffee bean, dry cocoa, and an occasional sweetness are also present, though not always well-balanced.

The cigars are beautiful, with wrappers that are clean and smooth. Unfortunately, I experienced construction problems in two of the three I sampled, though they were major in only one. The second one I smoked needed several relights, probably exacerbated by my conscious effort to smoke slowly.

The third Cohiba Nicaragua was plagued by tunnels severe enough to cause significant difficulties with the burn and smoke production. In all honestly, though, I’m more inclined to attribute these problems to the pre-release timing of the smokes than flaws in General’s quality control.

I would put the strength in the medium category, not near the level of powerhouses from, say, My Father Cigars or Joya de Nicaragua.

I have a feeling this cigar will improve with age, marrying more of that earthy Honduran wrapper with the Nicaraguan filler. I’ll hang on to the remaining pair and smoke one about six months from now, and the other in a year or so. I’ll let you know what I find via Quick Smokes.

If you try this cigar and agree with my aging assessment, here’s a tip: Consider letting your B&M age them for you. Keep an eye on them when they arrive. They may not sell out quickly, and may linger on the shelves long enough for you to pick up aged smokes.

I think the Cohiba Nicaragua will appeal to a limited number of smokers, partly because of the price and partly because of the flavor profile. I’d recommend picking one up if it sounds like it’s up your alley. I give the Cohiba Nicaragua N50 three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Roberto P. Duran Premium Line Río Toa

13 Oct 2014

On the heels of last week’s news that Jack Toraño—formerly the director of marketing for the Toraño Family Cigar Company—has agreed to oversee sales in Florida and the Caribbean for Roberto P. Duran Premium Cigars, I figured it was high time we expanded our coverage of this Miami-based operation.

RPD Premium LineTo date, Roberto Pelayo Duran is best known for reviving Azan. Azan is an old Cuban cigar brand that was started by a Chinese immigrant who produced handmade cigars in the Manicaragua area of Cuba prior to Castro taking control. He eventually won a lottery and invested the money in his tobacco operation, only to have the Cuban government nationalize his business.

Today, Roberto P. Duran offers three variations on Azan: White, Burgundy, and Maduro Natural. The company also recently launched the Roberto P. Duran Premium Line, its most expensive brand to date. The four vitolas— Río Toa (5 x 52), La Punta (6 x 54), Tainos (6 x 56), and Cacique Guama (6 x 60)—retail in the super-premium $10-16 range.

The Premium Line sports a Habana Criollo wrapper from Duran’s farm in Ecuador around a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from “Nicaragua and other Latin American” countries. It is made at the Nicatabaco SA factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

The Río Toa is a handsome robusto with a well-executed cap and an oily exterior that has only the thinnest veins. Firm to the touch yet smooth on the cold draw, the pre-light aroma features strong notes of sweet hay and peanut.

Once an even light is set, a bold profile emerges of black pepper and espresso. Adding balance are background flavors of milk chocolate, cream, and nut. The texture is leathery and the aftertaste lingers like a high-proof bourbon.

Into the midway point, the spicy pepper recedes a bit and the central taste becomes warm tobacco. Here, I’m reminded of the smell of tobacco pilones—the stacks of tobacco leaves at cigar factories that employ pressure and heat to initialize fermentation. As the body transitions from full to medium, the creaminess and nuttiness become more apparent in the final third.

Save for a burn line that tends to meander a bit, construction is solid on this slow-burning robusto, including a solid gray ash, ample smoke production, and clear draw.

Overall, the Roberto P. Duran Premium Line Río Toa is impressive. And it should be for the price. Across the handful of samples I smoked for this review, all consistently showed interesting flavors, complexity, and balance with surprising intensity. I rate this vitola an admirable score of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Quick Smoke: Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Robusto

12 Oct 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.”Jaime-Garcia-RE-sq

Jaime-Garcia-RE

My Father Cigars makes many outstanding cigars, which might make the Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial a slightly under-the-radar offering. The Connecticut Broadleaf-wrapped Robusto (5.25 x 52) has Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It features rich, smooth flavors with powdery earth, dark chocolate, and oak notes, along with excellent construction. The Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial doesn’t feature much spice, but it does have lots of classic deep maduro flavors, and even though it’s not the most complex cigar, it’s still quite enjoyable.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Quesada Oktoberfest Das Boot

11 Oct 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.”

The fourth annual Oktoberfest limited edition from Quesada sports a new band and, for my taste, displays the best flavors yet. I’m a confirmed Oktoberfest fan—rating it highly last year and in 2012. This year’s Dominican puro shows a bit more spice and an added graham cracker sweetness. Das Boot (6 x 52) is a toro you shouldn’t miss.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: N/A