Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 410

12 Dec 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.

Hirochi Robaina1) Hirochi Robaina’s “HR” cigar brand has started to appear at tobacconists across the U.S. HR, which is crafted in Estelí, Nicaragua, is the first non-Cuban made by the Robaina, proprietor of the Vegas Robaina farm in Pinar del Río, Cuba. According to a July press release, “The HR blend is a collaborative effort between Hirochi and Don Omar González” and features an Ecuadorian Habano 2000 hybrid wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Four sizes are available—Belicoso (5.5 x 52), Hermoso (5.1 x 48), Toro (6 x 52), and Sublime (6.5 x 54)—with each selling in the super-premium $19 to $22 range. Hirochi Robaina is the grandson of the legendary (and late) Alejandro Robaina, a “roving ambassador for Cuban cigars” who is remembered as Cuba’s foremost producer of top wrapper leaves and for being the voice of small tobacco growers in Pinar del Río.

2) Smoking bans and heavy taxation are to blame for the “decimation” of the pub industry in Britain, according a recent study by the Institute for Economic Affairs. AFP reports 10,000 pubs have closed in only eight years. “Of the pubs that had closed since 2006, the bulk had shut due to a ban on smoking in enclosed public places and a tax on alcohol, according to the report… Overall alcohol consumption per person has fallen by 18 percent in the last decade, according to the study, while Britons increasingly chose to drink at home.”

3) Love it or hate it, there’s no denying Cigar Aficionado’s impact with its annual Top 25 and Cigar of the Year awards. The magazine will begin counting down on its website on December 15 with the 10, 9, and 8 selections, going down to the No. 1 slot on Dec. 18. Then, over the following two days, they’ll list 11-25 and their best bargains.

4) Inside the Industry: Señorial by José Blanco is shipping its limited edition cigar to celebrate Blanco’s 65th birthday. The Perfecto Elegance (5.75 x 55) is a $14 Dominican puro.

5) Deal of the Week: E.P. Carrillo is exclusively releasing two cigars as part of Bespoke Post, a monthly “box of awesome items” delivered to your door. The $45 (shipping included) “Churchill” box includes four E.P. Carrillo cigars (similar to the exclusive Bespoke Post cigar we wrote about here) along with cedar spills, a handcrafted wood ashtray/candle holder, candle, and cigar cutter. Past boxes include fine bar accessories, shaving kits, coffee, BBQ kits, and more. You can always skip months or cancel at anytime. Click here to sign up.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Facebook

Drew Estate

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Verocu No. 9

11 Dec 2014

I joined Tatuaje’s Saints & Sinners Club in its inaugural year, and I’ve been happy to renew every year since. The club includes access to a private cigar forum and an annual shipment of cigar swag and a box of 15 cigars.tatuaje-verocu-no-9-sq

tatuaje-verocu-no-9The smokes alone are worth the price, as every year the selection has been an interesting mix of that includes rare Tatuajes, one-offs, and test blends. This year’s shipment included two different exclusive sizes of the Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu blend.

Smoking them reminded me so much of how I enjoy the blend, which over the years has come out in a number of different sizes. The originals were a Verocu No. 1 (Exclusivo Lado Occidental) and No. 2 (Exclusivo Zona del Este), both of which earned perfect 5-stogie ratings. A tubo torpedo came later, and the only regular release still shipping is the No. 5, a petit corona (4 x 40) size that comes in boxes of 50.

The forgotten member of the Verocu line is No. 9, a 4.5-inch, 49-ring gauge robusto sold exclusively by the Philadelphia-based Holt’s retailer. Reminded by the excellence of the line, I recently picked up a 10-pack of the No. 9 size for just $45 (normal price is $130 for a box of 20).

Like the rest of the line, No. 9 uses Nicaraguan filler and binder with a dark, oily Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. It is intended to be a more full-bodied edition of the normal Havana VI line, and it hits that mark dead on. It starts with lots of dark cocoa, oak, and earth. There’s a little pepper spice. Body is medium-full, sometimes bordering on completely full. As it progresses, a little more spice emerges.

The well-made smoke produces tons of thick smoke on the palate. Each of the four cigars I smoked for this review had a perfectly straight burn, easy draw, and a sturdy white ash.

If I had to find a flaw, it’s that there’s not a ton of transition here. But that’s not a big deal as this is an all-around excellent cigar. It’s also the type of smoke that, perhaps counter-intuitively, would be good for relatively new cigar smokers looking to expand their horizons with a smooth yet full-bodied smoke.

I really can’t find much wrong with the Verocu No. 9, except perhaps that it is not more widely available. At $4.50, it’s a steal, and even at regular price it’s a good value. That, combined with excellent, full-bodied flavors, earns the Tatuaje Verocu No. 9 a formidable 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 Tip: Frequent Cigar Questions Asked and Answered

10 Dec 2014

Cigar forums offer a lot. A chance to learn from more experienced smokers. Hear directly from manufacturers and industry leaders occasionally. Arrange a herf with other members. Get involved in trades and box passes.

Aging Cigars

But there are some topics that come up over and over, and I’d like to help address them. I’m sure this article won’t prevent the queries from arising again, though if it results in even a small reduction I’ll consider it a success. Here are three questions I see all the time:

Cellophane on or off?

It’s up to you. Manufacturers use cello to protect cigars against damage in shipping and handling, as well as when they’re on display in shop humdiors. Cellophane offers you that same protection. Don’t worry about the impact on aging. Cellophane allows air to pass through it, slowing the transfer so little you’re unlikely to notice the difference (unless you measure your aging in decades).

Humidity at 60, 65, or 70?

Again, that’s up to you. Most smokers have to experiment to determine the level they prefer. For one thing, the ambient humidity and temperature where you live and smoke can have a strong impact. Nowadays, too, the old 70/70 “rule” isn’t as applicable, since newer humidification methods permit much greater control. But recognize that precisely measuring relative humidity is notoriously difficult, and even good hygrometers can easily get out of whack.

What bundle cigar tastes like a Padrón Anniverary or Opus X or Davidoff or …?

What Japanese compact drives like a Ferrari? What off-the-rack suit fits like one from Savile Row? What budget hotel accommodations match Four Seasons? Sorry, no cheap smokes come any closer in replicating the best in the business. Yes, some cigars are overpriced, but that doesn’t mean all expensive cigars are overpriced. The storied brands have earned their reputations and value through hard work, meticulous attention to detail, and use of the finest materials.

I hope this helps. If you want more on any of these—or other—topics, just click on Tips at the top of the page or use the Search function at the top right for a wealth of information.

P.S. Yes, always store infused cigars separately from regular sticks.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Host a Whiskey Tasting

9 Dec 2014

Tasting multiple cigars in a sitting can be tricky. An entire cigar needs to smoked for it to be properly judged, but smoking full cigars one after another can overwhelm your palate.

Most cigar tastings, to the extent they aren’t just a single cigar, will consist of several specially made mini pure grade cigars (made entirely of one type of tobacco). This is a valuable educational experience, but what you taste isn’t actually a finished cigar.

whiskey-tasting

Whiskeys, on the other hand, are perfect for tasting side by side. Pick two whiskeys, or five, or a dozen, and get to it. Observe the color, take in the nose, experience the taste (on the palate and the finish), and keep notes so you can come back to them later. While the basics aren’t hard to understand, here are a few tips to improve your whiskey tastings:

Select the right whiskeys – It sounds obvious, but it’s also crucial. Tastings are great because you can compare and contrast, so focus on a selection with both similarities and differences. Here are just a few suggestions: wheated bourbons, Indiana-distilled ryes, barrel-proof bourbons, sherry cask-aged single malts, etc. In the photo above, I decided to taste the first three Orphan Barrel bourbons, all of which are at least 20 years old.

Proper glassware – I’m a big fan of Glencairn whiskey glasses, which were specially designed for whiskey tasting. You don’t have to go that route, but tasting from similar glasses is important because the shape will impact what you pick up. Along those lines, shot glasses or big tumblers are poor choices, but a medium or small wine glass can work well.

Keep your palate fresh – Much like cigar tasting, I like to use club soda or sparkling mineral water to cleanse the palate. You’ll also want some spring water on hand. No ice is allowed (it dulls your taste). Try and taste it all neat first, then add a drop or two of water at a time to see how that impacts flavor. For a food to help keep your palate fresh, keep some bread or lightly salted crackers on hand.

Bring friends  – Of course, drinking with good friends is fun, but there are more reasons why this is preferable. First, you can compare notes. Second, with the help of friends, all but one person can taste blind. Because that’s the real test: Do you enjoy a particular whiskey even without knowing what it is and what it costs?

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Illusione *R* Rothchildes

8 Dec 2014

Last week my business travels brought me to Manchester, New Hampshire. Naturally, while in the area, I visited the Londonderry location of Twins Smoke Shop, a tobacconist with a solid lounge, full bar, and an incredible selection of cigars. (Twins is also home base of the acclaimed 7-20-4 brand by Kurt A. Kendall.)

Illusione RothchildesAs closing time approached, the shop’s staff recommended I try the Illusione *R* Rothchildes for one last short smoke before heading back to my hotel. I’m glad I did. I had never smoked one before, but now I can see I had been missing out. This small, value-priced Illusione is outstanding, and it deserves a spot in my regular repertoire.

The *R* Rothchildes (4.5 x 50) was added to the Illusione portfolio in 2013. It carries an impressive price point of $4 and has been dubbed “a cigar for the masses” with “unmatched” quality for the price, according to the Illusione website. I’m happy to report I enthusiastically agree.

Made at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) in Nicaragua, *R* Rothchildes features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It looks a little rough around the edges—most San Andrés-wrapped cigars do—but sports a smooth cold draw and rich pre-light notes of leather, earth, and cocoa.

Once an even light is established, the medium-bodied profile exudes a balanced taste of roasted nuts, sweet cream, earth, and warm tobacco. The texture is meaty and the resting smoke is beautifully floral. Black pepper and cocoa build at the midway point. Towards the finale, there’s a slight increase in spice and the wonderful floral notes grow to become prominent.

The burn line may not be perfect, but any deficiencies in the construction department are merely aesthetic in nature. Expect to not have to fiddle with torch touch-ups, and expect the draw to be easy, the ash solid, and the smoke production above average.

I have to agree with Illusione that the quality is impeccable for the cost. How better can you spend $4 and about 45 minutes? For its value, consistency, balance, complexity, and awesome floral notes, I’m awarding the Illusione *R* Rothchildes a fantastic 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

Quick Smoke: Espinosa Habano Robusto

7 Dec 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.”

Erik Espinosa’s “Espinosa” cigar was released at the 2012 IPCPR Trade Show. The Nicarauan puro has a Habano wrapper and is made at La Zona in Estelí. The medium-bodied cigar is well-constructed and features paper, wood, pepper, and coffee notes. All and all, there’s nothing to complain about, but there’s nothing particularly remarkable either (and I find other La Zona-made blends much more interesting).

Verdict = Hold.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Padrón Serie 1964 Corona Maduro

6 Dec 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.”

1964 Maduro Corona

I stumbled across this cigar at a tobacconist during my recent travels and, despite the relatively hefty $12 price tag, couldn’t resist firing it up. Immediately, I realized it had been way too long since I smoked the Padrón Serie 1964 Corona Maduro (6 x 42). This fantastic cigar sports perfect construction and complex, balanced flavors of cocoa, espresso, cedar, and cream. Don’t think twice about treating yourself to this classic when you have the chance.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys