Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 404

24 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.

U.S. Capitol Building1) With the midterm election only 11 days away, it isn’t too early to start thinking about cigar rights—and keeping your cigar liberties (or lack thereof) in mind while you cast your ballot. “The impending mid-term election promises to be a pivotal one that could alter the balance of power in Washington,” according to Cigar Rights of America (CRA). “With that, CRA would like to recognize those individuals who serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, who have stood up for premium cigars and have supported a legislative exemption from FDA regulation as co-sponsors on both H.R. 792 and S. 772, respectively.” If you’re a CRA member, you likely received an email this week with a voting guide for your region; if you aren’t a member, please consider signing up here.

2) The Oliva Tobacco Company (not to be confused with Oliva Cigars) turns 80 years old this month. The company is a major provider of wrapper tobacco leaves to the cigar industry, especially Ecuadorian Habano and Ecuadorian Sumatra. It grows most of its product in Ecuador and processes and ferments it in Nicaragua. “If there’s a premium brand with an Ecuador Habano wrapper, the chances are more than likely that it was grown by the Olivas,” says Cigar Insider. The company has recently begun experimenting with growing Cameroon wrappers in Ecuador.

3) Inside the Industry: More new cigars introduced at the IPCPR are now shipping to retailers. The L’Atelier Extension de la Racine ER14 (a torpedo) recently began hitting shops. So did the Sindicato Maduro, which has a Mexican Marrón wrapper, a double leaf binder from Estelí, and Nicaraguan fillers from Jalapa and Estelí.

4) Deal of the Week: Using these coupon codes you can score some good deals from site sponsor Cigar Place. Our favorites include 20% off Undercrown and Oliva, 15% off Drew Estate MUWAT, and 10% off Ashton VSG. You can also use the promo to score 5% off the limited Tatuaje Reserva Noella and other Tatuaje cigars.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Drew Estate

Cigar Spirits: Angel’s Envy Cask Strength (2014)

23 Oct 2014

This is a fun time of the year for bourbon enthusiasts, with many excellent limited releases heading to stores. If you’re lucky enough, you may find a bottle of the annually released Pappy Van Winkle, the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, Four Roses Small Batch Cask Strength, or Parker’s Heritage.angels-envy-cask-strength-sq

angels-envy-cask-strengthIn recent years, you could add Angel’s Envy Cask Strength bourbon to that list of highly sought-after but hard-to-find limited offerings released in the fall. Angel’s Envy port-finished bourbon and rum cask-finished rye (a personal favorite of mine) are now offered year-round. Like the widely distributed Angel’s Envy bourbon, the limited Cask Strength offering is finished in port barrels after extended aging in standard new charred oak barrels.

The 2014 Cask Strength is a hearty 119.3-proof, and only 6,500 bottles (an increase over previous years) are being released. The suggested retail price is $169—for better or worse a fair price given the huge demand for such limited-release bourbons in the increasingly hot bourbon market.

The Angel’s Envy Cask Strength pours a deep copper color. The nose features a tightly wound combination of cherries, toffee, and vanilla. It’s barely a speed-bump compared to what’s to come.

On the palate, the full force of this bourbon comes to bear. Thick clove, dried fruit, charred oak, and butterscotch. The finish lingers with much of the same, plus a hint of ginger spice. It drinks very well neat, but a splash of spring water opens it up.

Angel’s Envy has quickly filled a niche in the American whiskey scene as a brand without a distillery (though they have started work on a Louisville distillery). Simply reselling whiskey made elsewhere is a tough business when you’re competing against the companies that make it themselves, but by adding the twist of unique barrel aging, Angel’s Envy has quickly become an established and respected addition.

Deep, intense bourbons like this one are made for cigars. And rich, full cigars are the way to go. Connecticut Broadleaf-wrapped cigars like the Drew Estate Liga Privada No. 9 or Tatuaje Reserva fit the bill.

The price, understandably, will make some people hesitant to pick up the Angel’s Envy Cask Stength release—especially considering you can buy three or four excellent bottles for the same price. But this is a special, limited, and unique offering. Pass up the opportunity to buy one at your own peril.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: George Rico S.T.K. Miami Barracuda Maduro Robusto

22 Oct 2014

George A. Rico’s American Puro has to be counted as one of the more unique cigars to be released in recent memory. Made in Miami, the blend has only tobacco grown in the United States, including fire-cured leaves from Kentucky.

BarracudaAmerican Puro is part of S.T.K. Miami, a series of limited blends produced by Gran Habano at the company’s new Miami factory. It’s joined by Zulu Zulu, Opium, and Barracuda—an Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped line with bands of cyan and silver.

Now, George A. Rico has added a Maduro variety to Barracuda, using the same Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, but replacing the Ecuadorian wrapper with a dark, mottled specimen of Pennsylvania Broadleaf. (If you’re worried about confusing the two, the natural Barracuda has a fish on the band, whereas the Maduro simply has “Barracuda” written in cursive.)

Three sizes are available in the S.T.K. Miami Barracuda Maduro: Robusto (5 x 52), B-54 (6.5 x 54), and Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46). They range in price from $7.50 to $8.50 apiece. Only 200 boxes are being made of each vitola.

I sampled one pre-release Robusto for this review. This is a rustic-looking smoke with a coarse, thick wrapper that has protruding seams and a rugged cap. The cold draw is smooth and the pre-light notes remind me of molasses and grilled meats.

Marketed as medium to full in body, the Barracuda Robusto starts with a mesquite flavor with moderate intensity and a spicy aftertaste. The texture is leathery, and the core flavors include black pepper, syrup, dry wood, and a tangy zest that reminds me of barbecue.

Before long, a cocoa sweetness creeps in, along with cream and roasted nut. These additions help add balance to the principal flavors. Taking time between puffs helps ward off some of the meatier notes while allowing the complexity to shine though.

With solid construction—including a straight burn line, sturdy ash, and ample smoke production—the Barracuda Maduro Robusto is a unique, enjoyable smoke and a good value at about $8. It’s worthy of a respectable score of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

News: Swisher Seals Deal to Buy Drew Estate

21 Oct 2014

Yesterday, Drew Estate and Swisher International announced an agreement had been finalized for Swisher to purchase Drew Estate. The announcement comes after over a month of intense rumors of the deal, including denials of a finalized deal by Jonathan Drew.

swisher-drew-estateSwisher is the largest cigar company in the world by volume and has a massive distribution network beyond traditional cigar shops. Drew Estate runs the largest cigar factory in Nicaragua—producing around 10,000 cigars a day—and owns heralded premium cigar lines including Liga Privada, Undercrown, My Uzi Weighs a Ton, Nica Rustica and Herrera Estelí, along with premium infused cigar lines including the best-selling Acid.

The deal, which will be completed before the end of the year, includes the Nicaraguan facilities and Drew Estate’s cigar lines. Monetary terms of the deal were not disclosed. Since both companies are privately held, details (including Drew Estate’s valuation) may never be known.

According to various reports, senior management from Drew Estate—co-founders Jonathan Drew and Marvin Samel, President Michael Cellucci, and master blender Willy Herrera—will all stay on, at least in the near term.

Jonathan Drew issued the following statement: “We began under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass in Brooklyn with a laser focus on ‘The Rebirth of Cigars.’ Friends, retailers, and consumers connected with our passion and authenticity, supporting us at each stage of our growth. We are eternally grateful to all of those who have helped build Drew Estate, and look forward to advancing the Drew Estate legacy with a great partner.” Other executives praised the agreement in a press release published on Drew Estate’s website.

Analysis

When a business is bought by larger company it’s natural for fans to be worried. Still, there are plenty of reasons for Drew Estate fans to think, despite the uncertainty of the shakeup, this may be a good thing for Drew Estate and the cigars its fans enjoy.

Drew Estate hasn’t hidden the fact that it had taken on significant debt to expand to its current size, including from other cigar companies. At least one such loan was tied to $5 million seized by the ATF as part of a settlement over back taxes reportedly owed by House of Oxford, a cigar distributor run by Alex Goldman, who was put in charge of Swisher’s premium cigar division. (Nothing illegitimate was alleged to have been done by Drew Estate and the case has now settled.) Goldman was also instrumental in having Drew Estate make Nirvana for Swisher’s Royal Gold premium cigar venture, a line that will presumably be merged into Drew Estate’s operations.

The agreement for Swisher to buy Drew Estate will presumably end any outstanding debts and allow Drew Estate to continue expansion with Swisher’s significant resources. Drew Estate can now refocus on making its cigars and innovating, something it has done remarkably well over the past few years.

It’s also worth noting that while FDA regulations are a looming threat to the entire handmade cigar industry, they are especially a threat to Drew Estate, whose infused/flavored lines will likely be hit hardest by FDA regulations. Swisher certainly knows this, which means it is likely to invest the funds necessary to promote Drew Estate’s brands no matter the impact of FDA regulations.

Finally, you can’t talk Drew Estate without Jonathan Drew. Anyone who has spent time with Jonathan knows he has a deep passion for cigars and his customers. While sometimes he may seem to be burdened by the business of cigars, there is no doubt he brings a unique energy and the spirit of innovation.

Drew and his partners built Drew Estate from a cigar kiosk in the World Trade Center to one of the largest cigar companies in the world, which is a remarkable feat. And Jonathan feels this deal is good for Drew Estate, which is his legacy.

Unless evidence presents itself to show otherwise, this deal is good not only for Drew Estate’s owners, but also for its customers.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Drew Estate

Cigar Review: Room 101 Big Payback Chavala

20 Oct 2014

The Room 101 Big Payback is a Nicaraguan puro with a rather low price point. At just $5 per cigar (for the robusto-sized Chavala, at least), this is something most would consider in the daily price range, and it certainly differs from the double-digit prices that some of the limited edition Room 101 cigars demand. While I have smoked a few cigars from Matt Booth before, I was a little hesitant going into this one.

Room 101Matt describes these cigars as a way to give back to the fans who have supported him throughout the years, and I think that is an admirable effort. There is a small, cynical part of me, though, that was worried these would be cheap cigars, with the Room 101 name slapped on them, and then sold through ad campaigning that this is a cigar “for the fans.” Thankfully, once I actually held a few of the Paybacks in my hand, I realized this is not true.

Out of the four or five cigars I have smoked for this review, only one had construction issues, and it was pretty insubstantial (slight misapplication of the cap). Besides that, the cigar is nice and toothy, with a bouquet of cool cedar and earth coming off of the foot. The stick has a nice give all around when squeezed, and after cutting the cap, I get a citrus-based cold draw.

The cigar opens with a smooth, natural tobacco flavor, and a pleasant, light spice on the finish. The retrohale enhances the flavors, bringing a toastiness forward. Smoke production is very thick, with each puff producing a thick, white cloud. There is a sweetness in the background as well, which I cannot really identify. As the smoke continues, it gains a creamier texture, with cedar notes starting to come out in the second half. The cigar does remain sweet and cool down to the nub.

While the flavor is good, and strength is in my sweet spot of medium-full, I did find the smoke a little lackluster. There is not much complexity, and the basic taste is enjoyable, but not overly dimensional or unique. Perhaps this cigar performs better in its larger ring gauge sizes (in addition to the Chavala (5 x 50), there’s also a Culero (7 x 70) and a Hueso (6 x 60)). However, it’s difficult for me to smoke anything above a 56 ring gauge. I’d prefer to stay under or around 50.

With all that being said, the price point makes the Room 101 Big Payback Chavala something I have been smoking in my rotation since it was released earlier this year. It will certainly appeal to those looking for a pure, naturally flavored Nicaraguan experience. I rate this cigar three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Joey J

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Dueña Robusto

19 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.”la-duena-rob-sq

 la-duena-rob

I very much enjoyed La Dueña (made and distributed by My Father, but blended by Tatuaje’s Pete Johnson) when it was first released, although I haven’t had many recently. The cigar features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos . This Robusto has the same flavors I remember from past La Dueña cigars (sweetness, earth, and cocoa) but with far less intensity. It’s still medium-bodied but bogged down with slightly damp flavors that detract from the overall experience. Considering I know this blend can be better (the Petit Lanceros I’ve smoked have consistently been very good) this Robusto was disappointing.

Verdict = Sell.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Davidoff Colorado Claro Short Perfecto

18 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.”IMG_3778 - Version 2San-Lotano-Oval-Conn-sq

Davidoff Colorado

This could be the poster child for total cigar enjoyment. From an immaculate Ecuadorian Colorado Claro wrapper rolled around the finely tapered body, to the mouth-watering sweet pre-light aroma and flavors that entice from beginning to end, this little stick is built to please. The tastes are complex, the strength medium to full, construction excellent, and satisfaction immense. Praised by my colleague in a 2010 review that awarded the diminutive Davidoff a rare five-stogie rating, it’s still an incredible smoke—well worth its $14 price tag when you want to reward yourself.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys