Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Zócalo Announced, Smokes on Boats, and Mores

13 Apr 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 574th in the series.

1) This week CAO announced a new, limited edition release called Zócalo. The cigar, CAO’s first blend to use a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, is being made in one size only, a vitola called San Andrés (6 x 60) that includes a Cameroon binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. Individual cigars will sell for $8.49 and come in brightly colored, 20-count boxes for $169.80. Only 3,500 boxes of Zócalo have been produced, and the limited release will hit cigar shops in time for Cinco de Mayo on May 5.

2) SAG Imports, the distribution arm of Quesada Cigars, will no longer serve as the U.S. distributor for Matilde Cigars and MLB Cigar Ventures (MLB). Instead, effective immediately, SeiBel Distribution—a new company formed by Enrique Seijas of Matilde and Mike Bellody of MLB—will serve as distributor of the brands. This new distribution arrangement in no way impacts the production of the cigars themselves. Quesada will continue to produce the Imperia, Islero, and Aventador brands for MLB; Tabacalera La Alianza will continue to produce the Matilde brands. Both Seijas and Bellody spoke highly of Quesada but acknowledged the need for more control over the distribution process.

3) Inside the Industry: New York City cigar smokers are invited to attend the fourth annual New York City “Boats and Smokes” cigar cruise series. On Thursday, May 17th, cigar connoisseurs will get the opportunity to sail on the East River with skyline and Statue of Liberty views. The cruise will feature cigars by La Gloria Cubana, CAO, and Macanudo, with a portion of the proceeds going to Cigars for Warriors. More details and tickets to the event, which sold out last year, can be found here.

4) From the Archives: In one of our most controversial interviews, we spoke with Michael J. Mcfadden, author of TobakkoNacht: The Antismoking Endgame. Read the entire thing, including the spirited comments, here.

5) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, Davidoff, Cohiba, Crowned Heads, RoMa Craft, and more. Free shipping is included on any purchase. If you really want to stock up, add promo code “GBP20D” at checkout to knock $20 off an order of $150 or more.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: CAO Cigars

Cigar Spirits: Talisker Storm Single Malt

11 Apr 2018

In recent years, single malt distilleries have introduced a number of new scotches that lack a statement of age, commonly called No Age Statement (NAS) whiskey. It’s easy to dismiss these new introductions as attempts to grab extra dollars from consumers and sell younger whiskey at premium prices.

In many cases, this reaction is accurate. Single malt distilleries don’t have enough properly aged whiskey, so they release NAS whiskey while discontinuing, or raising the prices of, their offerings with age statements.

But there are some genuinely interesting NAS offerings. For my tastes, Talisker Storm is one of them. The distillery on the Isle of Skye introduced Talisker Storm to its line of offerings in 2013. According to reports, Storm is a mixture of single malt between 3 and 25 years old.

The result is a single malt that shows off the light peat and smokiness of the Talisker 10, but with additional intense sweetness. The nose features light smoke and brine along with honey and floral notes.

On the palate, the complexity shines through with classic Talisker smoke and light peat combined with oak, sticky butterscotch, pineapple, and rum cake. The finish features more intense smokiness mixed with honey and pepper.

Talisker Storm is priced similarly to Talisker 10 ($50-60), but it is the better, more interesting (if less classic) single malt.

For those getting into scotch, I’ve often recommended Taliskler 10 as the gateway (as in, if you like it, try these next) to the more singularly peated Islays like Ardbeg 10, Laphroaig 10, and Lagavulin 16. That would make Talisker Storm a slightly different gateway towards some of my favorite Islays (which feature significant sweetness on top of the classic peat) like Ardbeg Uigeadail, Laphroaig Loreor Cairdeas, and Lagavulin Distillers Edition. (In many ways, Talisker Storm reminds me of a slightly less rich, but more affordable and not limited, Talisker Distillers Edition.)

Pair Talisker Storm with a medium- or full-bodied Broadleaf-wrapped cigar like the Liga Privada No. 9 or Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection Havana Cazadores.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Eastern Standard Midnight Express Lancero

9 Apr 2018

Cladwell Cigar Co. was launched in 2014 by Robert Caldwell with a lineup of Dominican blends. The company seemingly came out of nowhere; its cigars debuted only about eight months after Caldwell walked away from Wynwood Cigars, a co-venture with Christian Eiroa, formerly of Camacho. Most people will tell you eight months isn’t nearly enough time to create and execute a vision for a new brand, but Robert Caldwell isn’t most people.

The following year, in 2015, in an effort to reach segments of the market that don’t typically seek Dominican smokes, Caldwell introduced Blind Man’s Bluff. The line is crafted at Agroindustrias Laepe S.A. in Danlí, Honduras—best known as the factory that produces Camacho—using a “their kitchen, our chef” approach. Caldwell says the intention was to make a “Caldwell-eqsue” cigar from tobaccos to which he didn’t previously have access.

Then, in 2016, Caldwell introduced Eastern Standard Midnight Express. Unlike the Dominican Corojo-wrapped Eastern Standard line, which is billed as mild- to medium-bodied, Eastern Standard Midnight Express is marketed as medium- to full-bodied. Its recipe calls for a Connecticut Arapiraca Maduro wrapper, a Habana Dominicano binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua (Habano) and the Dominican Republic (Criollo ’98 and Corojo).

The Caldwell website lists four Eastern Standard Midnight Express sizes—Corona, Robusto, Piramide, and Toro—but, at my local tobacconist, I found a Lancero (7.5 x 42), which cost me $11.85 (not including insane Chicago taxes).

The Lancero is a handsome, firm, moderately oily, Colorado Maduro-colored cigar with a dark band of black and gold and a ring at the foot that denotes “Midnight Express.” While a pigtail cap may have been the intention, the result (likely from packaging and shipping) is more of a twisted tail that’s flattened to the cap’s surface. The foot exhibits faint pre-light notes of honey and dry wood.

A single wooden match is all that’s need to establish an even light. On the palate, the Lancero is moist and woody with notes of oak, damp earth, leather, and some cayenne heat on the finish. There’s also a background sweetness that reminds me of cherry and dried fruit.

There are some changes to the flavor as the cigar progresses. For starters, the spice amps up a bit after an inch or so. Notably, this is a cinnamon spice, not black pepper. Here, I’d classify the body as solidly medium. Then, at the midway point, there’s a heavy dose of charred meat, salt, and black coffee. The meatiness—a taste of which I’m not particularly fond—tends to play  a greater and greater role as the Lancero progresses.

Construction is good throughout. Expect a slow, straight burn, a moderate draw, solid smoke production, and a gray ash that holds pretty well off the foot.

For me, the Eastern Standard Midnight Express Lancero starts complex and promising, only to become overly meaty and salty in the second half. Smoking with a deliberately slowed pace doesn’t seem to noticeably offset this trend. That’s ultimately why I’m settling on a 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

 

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Blend 4 (Saints & Sinners 2017)

8 Apr 2018

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.”

Each year I look forward to receiving the Tatuaje Saints & Sinners member exclusive smoke kit. Details on the blends are limited, but 2017’s “Blend 4” is a robusto with a Broadleaf wrapper. It’s a powerhouse of a cigar with damp earth, dark roast coffee, and pepper. Construction of the full-flavored cigar was flawless, and it’s one of the best cigars I’ve smoked this year.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Aurora Preferidos Corojo Tubo

7 Apr 2018

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.”

There’s no telling exactly how long this cigar had been patiently resting in one of my humidors before I lit it up recently. I am sure the time would be better measured in years, not months. Whatever the case, some age seems to have done the Corojo Tubo (5 x 54) well. I found a well-balanced profile of red pepper sweetness, cedar, coffee, and cream. Construction was excellent. I would absolutely pick up this La Aurora again.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Cigar Industry Asks for Warning Label Delays, NY Tax Hike Fails, Bourbon in the Mail, and More

6 Apr 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 573rd in the series.

1) On the heels of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announcing its intent to seek comments about reconsidering existing regulations of premium cigars, the cigar industry is now seeking to eliminate FDA warning label requirements, which are scheduled to go in effect on August 10. The Cigar Association of America, Cigar Rights of America, and International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association have asked U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta (pictured at right) to delay the new warning label rules while the FDA reconsiders its position. The trade groups are hopeful Judge Mehta will be consistent with his statement from December hearings in this case when he said, “I guess I just have a real problem, it seems to me, with a government agency telling an entire industry [to] spend millions of dollars to satisfy a regulation that we’re not sure is going to be on the books a year from now or two years from now.” At issue are larger warning labels on cigar boxes, and rules about where these labels would need to be placed. As we wrote last week, simply considering a premium cigar exemption, of course, doesn’t guarantee that the FDA will ultimately adopt one. The FDA notably considered and rejected such an exemption in its original regulation of cigars. However, the willingness of the new FDA leadership to spend time and resources considering rolling back its regulations is a good sign for those who make, sell, and enjoy cigars.

2) Cigar consumers and retailers in New York can breathe a sigh of relief. The final version of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 budget does not include a proposed cigar tax hike. “While the original version of the budget did not raise the tax percentage of cigars, which is currently 75 percent of the wholesale price, it removed an ‘industry standard adjustment ratio’ clause that allows retailers to charge a much lower rate of 28.5 percent,” reports Cigar Aficionado. “The section of the original 2018–2019 Executive Budget proposal that pertained to wholesale tobacco prices was intentionally omitted from a subsequent version published on March 13 and did not reappear in what would become the final version…”

3) Kentucky recently passed HB400, a law which, for the first time, and in certain circumstances, allows the state’s famous bourbon distilleries, along with state wineries, to ship bourbon directly to consumers outside the state.  The law allows those who visit the state’s distilleries in person to ship whiskey to their home state, depending on their local laws.

4) Inside the Industry: RoMa Craft is restarting production of Neanderthal following a shortage of adequately aged Mexican San Andrés Ligero Capa. According to RoMa Craft’s Skip Martin, current back-orders of the line will begin being filled in late 2018.

5) From the Archives: Rarely are there new types of cigar tobacco, but Fuma Em Corda is one. As Ernest Gocaj of General Cigar explained in an interview last year: “Once the tobacco turns brown, the natives make it into a rope and twist it regularly to expel the juices of the tobacco. At this time, ammonia is released and the flavor is softened. In other words, the harshness is removed from the leaf. Everything is done in sunlight. The tobacco becomes very pure and refined through this method.”

6) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, Davidoff, Cohiba, Crowned Heads, RoMa Craft, and more. Free shipping is included on any purchase. If you really want to stock up, add promo code “GBP20D” at checkout to knock $20 off an order of $150 or more.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Cigar Spirits: The GlenDronach 18 Allardice

4 Apr 2018

About this time last year I was singing the praises of GlenDronach 15 Revival, “a rich (but not syrupy), balanced combination of figs, raisins, toffee, orange marmalade, and clove.”

Sadly, GlenDronach 15 has been discontinued (or at least put on hiatus). Now the line jumps from the 12 year to the 18 year, and in price from around $60 for the former to $110 or more for the latter.

GlenDronach named its 18 year single malt after John Allardice, founder of the distillery in 1826. Allardice inherited the land where the distillery was built, and named it after the Glendronac Burn, which supplied water for the operation.

GlenDronach is known for its exclusive use of sherry cask-aged single malt in the 12 year and older varieties (more recently, a peated variety, a dual bourbon, and a sherry cask 8 year GlenDronach have been added to the line). Two years ago, the distillery was acquired by American spirits giant Brown-Forman (owner of Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, and other brands). You might hope this would lead to wider distribution within the U.S. but, so far, anything beyond GlenDronach 12 is still difficult to find.

The 18 year Allardice is matured exclusively in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 46% ABV. It is not chill-filtered and is naturally colored (without the caramel coloring that some scotch whiskies use). The nose is rich with dried fruit, fudge, and caramel.

On the palate, Allardice is subtle, complex, and rich. Dates, prunes, figs, and especially raisins bring classic sherry notes, which combine with orange peel, roast hazelnuts, and pound cake. The finish is long but soft, with fruit cake and caramel.

Price aside, I slightly prefer the 15 year GlenDronach to the 18. But both are excellent, sherry-forward, sophisticated single malts. I’ve touted GlenDronach 18 as similar to Macallan 18 Sherry Oak at half the price; while the cost of both keeps creeping up, this is still true.

This is a single malt that needs a well-balanced cigar pairing, or else you will miss the subtitles. Think a mild- or medium-bodied cigar like the Davidoff Grand Cru, Illusione EpernayPaul Garmirian Gourmet, or Cuban Cohiba Siglo.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys