Quick Smoke: Kilo Robusto

10 Jun 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.”

Kilo has been a passion project of Barry Stein since he joined Miami Cigar. The original cigar was produced while Barry was at Miami, but the second edition I’m smoking was released in 2015 under the United Cigar Group, owned by Dave Garofalo of Two Guys Smoke Shop. This edition is made at Noel Rojas’ Aroma de Jalapa Factory (home of Guayacan Cigars) using an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. The full-bodied cigar starts with creamy flavors followed by oak, earth, milk chocolate, and coffee notes. It’s certainly full-bodied, but with integrated flavors and sufficient balance. It’s unclear whether Kilo is still being made, but if it isn’t that’s a shame because it’s an excellent cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: S.T.K. Black Dahlia by George Rico

9 Jun 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.”

This offering from Gran Habano features a multi-nation blend, a beautifully ornate band, and a distinctive flavor profile. It’s that profile that will make or break the Black Dahlia for most smokers. For me, it starts with a predominance of biting grassy, hay notes and a long finish. Progressing along the 5-inch, 52-ring gauge frame wrapped in shade-grown Nicaraguan Corojo leaf, nuts and charred wood mix with the predominant, somewhat acerbic, taste. Overall, though, this isn’t a complex creation. It’s also not a cigar I’d want to smoke all the time. But for a change of pace it’s an interesting, different experience. You’ll only know if you feel the same by lighting one up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: FDA Comment Period Extended, J.C. Newman’s Billboard Campaign, and More

8 Jun 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 582nd in the series.

1) Yesterday—not long after 33 members of Congress signed a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), asking him to extend the comment period on FDA premium cigar regulation—the FDA announced a 30-day extension. July 25 is the new deadline for comments concerning the regulation of premium cigars (and July 19 for comments concerning the regulation of flavors in tobacco products). If you’d like to submit your own comments, you may do so here.

2) Taking a page from the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, J.C. Newman’s “Save Cigar City” campaign is now employing electronic billboards across Florida to promulgate the message of cigar freedom. The message is expected to be viewed over two million times by June 25. The billboards are intended to “complement the large banners visible from Interstate 4 that J.C. Newman has hung from its iconic 108-year-old cigar factory’s clock tower in Tampa’s Ybor City National Historic Landmark District, and the 100,000 postage-paid FDA comment cards that J.C. Newman has distributed to premium cigar retailers across the country,” reads a press release. “Our goal is to spread the word about how America’s historic premium cigar industry is under serious threat from excessive government regulation,” said Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman. “According to the FDA’s own estimates, regulation will put up to half of the cigar industry out of business—including the last operating cigar factory in ‘Cigar City.’”

3) Random Read: A tribute to the heroes of D-Day, including Star Trek‘s James Doohan, whose life was saved during the operation because he smoked. (He was shot in the chest, but the bullet was stopped by the cigarette case in his pocket.)

4) Inside the Industry: Black Label Trading Co. (BLTC) is teaming up with Jim “Island Jim” Robinson, who is known as a brand owner and for his Leaf and Bean shop in Pittsburgh. Together, they are launching Leaf by James, a single-vitola blend made at BLTC’s Fabrica Oveja Negra in Estelí. The Toro (6 x 50, $9.95) sports a Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper around an Ecuadorian Habano binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua. It is available at Leaf and Bean starting today; there will be a national release later this summer.

5) From the Archives: Win the war on mold in your humidor.

6) Deal of the Week: Fancy humidors can be great, but when it comes to functionality and value you’d be hard-pressed to beat an acrylic jar like this one, which is currently on sale for $14 (with free Amazon Prime shipping). [Also, check out this cigar-themed Game of Thrones T-shirt: “That’s what I do: I smoke cigars and I know things.”]

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys / J.C. Newman

Cigar Spirits: Belle Meade Special Cask Finish Series Bourbon

6 Jun 2018

Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery has plenty of history. In the 1800s, the Nashville distillery was one of the nation’s top whiskey producers, selling two million bottles annually.

Like many distilleries, it didn’t survive prohibition, and was shuttered in 1909 when Tennessee adopted prohibition at a state level. In 2006, Nelson family descendants visited the grounds and decided to relaunch the operation, eventually installing whiskey stills in 2014.

Like many smaller distilleries, while they wait for their whiskey stock to grow, Nelson’s Green Brier is relying on sourced whiskey. In this case, they turned to MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, to supply their Belle Meade bourbon line, all using a “high rye” mashbill.

Rather than just bottling sourced whiskey, the company sought to produce a more unique product with their limited Belle Meade Cask Finish Series which, as the name suggests, finishes aged bourbon in casks previously used for other spirits.

The Sherry Cask version employs nine-year-old bourbon aged in 20-year-old oloroso sherry casks. The Cognac and Madeira both use a blend of six- to nine-year-old bourbon in twelve-year-old Champagne XO cognac and Malmsey Madeira casks, respectively. The tasting notes on each are as follows:

Belle Meade Cognac Cask Bourbon
Nose: Burnt toffee, orange peel, cedar
Palate: Wood tanins, ripe berries, cigar box
Finish: Sugared pears with cedar and cinnamon spice

Belle Meade Madeira Cask Bourbon
Nose: Pear, oak, vanilla
Palate: Candied apples, honey, sugar cookies
Finish: Mint, oak, cherries

Belle Meade Sherry Cask Bourbon
Nose: Rich dried fruit, malt, caramel
Palate: Tobacco, spice box, fruit cake, grilled pineapple
Finish: Long with sherried walnuts and burnt caramel

The intensity of Sherry Cask was the standout, but then I’m a fan of sherry bomb single malts. All three are quite nice, with the Madeira being the most subtle and the Cognac bringing a nice balance of rich flavors, even if both sometimes, to their detriment, show their more youthful bourbon components.

In many ways, the Belle Meade Cask Finish Series represents both the opportunity and drawbacks of the current bourbon resurgence (some would call it a bubble). Quality sourced bourbon is expensive, but it also drives innovation, which is almost certainly why Belle Meade decided to differentiate their sourced bourbon with these unique cask finishes.

Bottles of each range from $70 to $80, but the best way to sample the range is to pick up a three-pack of half-size 375 ml. bottles. Usually, the three-bottle set sells for around $100, but maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find them on sale (as I did for $50). At full price, it’s harder to justify buying without trying them first, but at half that it’s good bourbon to keep on your shelf.

The Madeira and Cognac benefit from a more medium-bodied balanced cigar. The richness of the Belle Meade sherry cask will stand up to more full-bodied cigar.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente (TAA Exclusive)

4 Jun 2018

In April, it was announced that Joya de Nicaragua and Drew Estate would be collaborating to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA), as well as the 10th anniversary of their distribution arrangement, by launching a TAA-exclusive cigar.

Called Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente (6.75 x 50), the box-pressed Nicaraguan puro is made with five-year-old tobaccos and is Joya de Nicaragua CEO Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca’s favorite vitola. “When I requested the Gran Reserva blend in the Presidente size, it immediately became my private smoke,” he said. “I decided to share it only for special occasions. I can’t think of a better opportunity than this shared celebration of five decades of perseverance and companionship between TAA, its members, and Joya de Nicaragua.”

Presidente has been shipping since May. It retails for $12.50 and comes presented in gold-colored boxes of 20.

Regarding Presidente’s flavor, Joya de Nicaragua is marketing it as full-bodied and complex cigar that’s “similar to the Antaño line [introduced in 2005; reintroduced in 2017], but due to the age of the proprietary filler leaves it’s a much smoother smoke. It showcases the unique character of Nicaraguan tobacco with refined notes of spice, leather, and wood.”

The box-pressed cigar starts with a flash of red pepper, which transitions into a core profile of leather, dry cedar spice, and a chalky cocoa sweetness. It is full-bodied, yet smooth, creamy, and nicely balanced. At about the half-inch mark, the complexity is enhanced with the introduction of notes of roasted cashew.

The chalky texture continues to the midway point, which is characterized by less spice and more dry wood. There is no harshness, heat, and little spice, rendering the Presidente one of those rare cigars with full flavors that’s quite approachable.

Construction is downright perfect. Across the four samples I smoked for this review, all exhibited straight burns, sturdy gray ashes, clear draws, and generous smoke production.

In addition to Presidente, there are three other Antaño Gran Reserva sizes that are not TAA exclusive: Belicoso (6 x 54), Robusto Grande (5.5 x 52), and Gran Cónsul (4.75 x 60). I haven’t smoked any of those recently, but I can say the Presidente is well worth seeking out. It is masterful, and an excellent example of what a fine Nicaraguan cigar should be. In my book, it earns four 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: Avo Heritage Short Corona

3 Jun 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.”

avo-heritage-sc

A few years ago, Avo underwent a revamp by its parent company, Davidoff. Many retailers put older stock on discount, which is where this cigar comes from. The petite-sized Short Corona showcases the full-bodied flavors of the line, which has a dark, sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper over a Dominican binder and Dominican and Peruvian filler. Strong leather, charred oak, nutmeg spice, and earth are all evident in the little smoke. It isn’t my favorite size in the Avo Heritage line, but don’t overlook the Short Corona if you want a tasty 30-minute smoke.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: RyJ Toro

2 Jun 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.”

In 2013, Altadis expanded the Romeo y Julieta portfolio with RyJ—a Nicaraguan puro with a Jalapa Corojo wrapper, double binders from Estelí and Jalapa, and filler tobaccos from Jalapa, Estelí, and La Mia. I reviewed the Toro (6 x 52) shortly after the line’s release, finding a straightforward, moderately enjoyable core of dry, woodsy, spicy flavors and a draw that was too tight for my liking. In retrospect, my score of three stogies out of five may have been a bit generous. I fired up another Toro recently, hoping five years of age might have improved the experience. But the draw is still tight (no amount of time will ever fix that) and the profile is still flat. These days, you can find the Toro for less than $8—but your money is better spent elsewhere.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys