Cigar Review: Señor Rio Añejo

22 Jan 2015

senor-rio-anejoIn October, I wrote about the new Señor Rio Diamanté, introduced by Jalisco International Imports, which owns and distributes Señor Rio tequila. The Diamanté was one of two cigars created by company co-founders Jonathan Gach and Debbie Medina.

Both are cigar smokers, and each created a cigar tailored to their tastes while visiting Nicaragua. The Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped Diamanté was Medina’s selection, while the Añejo was created for Gach’s tastes.

The Señor Rio Añejo has a Mexican wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from the Condega, Estelí, and Pueblo Nuevo regions. Like the Señor Rio Diamanté, the Señor Rio Añejo is made by A.J. Fernandez at his Tabacelera Fernandez factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

The Añejo comes in one size, a box-pressed toro (6 x 52) that sells for $9.99. I smoked four samples provided to me by Jalisco for this review.

From the start, the influence of the Mexican wrapper is evident. There’s dry notes of dark char, oak, and black coffee. As it progresses the flavors become more complex with damp earth, leather, and a slightly syrupy sweetness. There’s also some red pepper notes that hit on the lips.

From start to finish the dryness of this cigar is its most notable trait. The solidly constructed cigar leaves a layer of chalky, dense smoke on the palate.

While not the most balanced cigar, it’s a cigar with a distinct character, which I’ll take every time over a smooth but dull smoke. And the Añejo’s profile does indeed pair well with Señor Rio Añejo tequila, whose sweet honey, light oak, and fruit flavors contrast brightly but nicely.

Señor Rio has created two distinct, interesting cigars. And while I personally prefer the more subtle and complex Diamanté, the Señor Rio Añejo still earns a commendable rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Cigar Review: Espinosa Maduro Robusto

21 Jan 2015

There was a time when the cigars in the EO Brands portfolio—particularly 601 Blue, 601 Red, and 601 Green—were mainstays in my humidors. Back then, Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega were still in partnership, and the 601 line was still produced by none other than Don José “Pepin” Garcia at My Father Cigars.

Espinosa Maduro RobustoIn 2010, Rocky Patel bought a 50% share in EO Brands, which also owned Cubao, Murcielago, and Mi Barrio. Then, in early 2012, Eddie Ortega announced he was leaving the company and starting his own outfit called Ortega Cigars.

Today, Erik Espinosa operates Espinosa Premium Cigars, which is home to 601 and Murcielago (both of which are now made at Espinosa’s La Zona Factory in Estelí, instead of at My Father Cigars). But Espinosa’s outfit isn’t simply a means to remix old lines from EO Brands. When we spoke with Espinosa at the 2012 industry trade show, he was in the process of launching Espinosa Habano and La Zona, and he was also working on a forthcoming Espinosa Maduro.

Espinosa Maduro has been on the market for some time now, offered in four vitolas: Belicoso (5.5 x 52), Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46), Robusto (5 x 52), and Toro (6 x 52). The Robusto is dark, box-pressed, and toothy with considerable oils on the Mexican Maduro wrapper. The foot shows a slightly loose bunching of Nicaraguan tobaccos and emits pre-light notes of milk chocolate. The triple-cap clips cleanly to reveal an easy cold draw.

Considering the blend makeup, I anticipated a cocoa sweetness offset by a spicy Nicaraguan zing. That’s exactly what I got, right off the bat. The Espinosa Maduro Robusto boasts a medium- to full-bodied profile with bittersweet chocolate, earth, black pepper, and leather. The texture is chalky. To its credit, while the flavor doesn’t change a ton from light to nub, the Robusto is nicely balanced—never too bitter, never too sweet, never hot or harsh if you take your time.

As for combustion qualities, the white ash holds firm, the draw is excellent, and the smoke production is solid. The burn line can meander a bit, though. One of my samples required multiple touch-ups to stay even; another required just a single touch-up after the first inch and remained perfect thereafter.

Priced at about $7-8, the Espinosa Maduro Robusto brings a lot of value to the table in terms of balance and depth of flavor. Despite its strength, I really enjoy it mid-afternoon with a cup of black coffee (but I’d suggest doing so on a full stomach). With renewed interest in sampling the 601 line I loved years ago, I’m awarding this Erik Espinosa creation an admirable rating of four stogies out of five.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Orphan Barrel Lost Prophet 22 Year Old Bourbon

20 Jan 2015

Bourbon is getting increasingly popular, especially well-aged bourbon. The problem is, you can’t just whip up a batch of well-aged bourbon. It takes time. Literally decades.

Orphan Barrel Lost Prophet BourbonAnd yet many of the most sought-after bourbons are those of the extra-aged variety: Pappy Van Winkle 20 and 23, George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare 17, William Larue Weller, and Elijah Craig 20-22. While the suggested pricing of these bottles varies, unless you get lucky you can expect to pay hundreds of dollars for each of these limited offerings.

With that as the background, whiskey giant Diageo (they own Bulleit and George Dickel, plus numerous well-known scotch brands) introduced its Orphan Barrel line of 20+ year old whiskeys that were acquired, one might speculate, from its purchases of Shenley and the closed Stizel-Weller distillery. The first three released Orphan Barrel bourbons were Old Blowhard (26 years old), Barterhouse 20, and Rhetoric 20. (For the record, my favorite of the three is Rhetoric.)

There are lots of details and debate about the Orphan Barrel series bourbons, but one detail that caught my eye about Lost Prophet is that it was distilled at the George T. Stagg Distillery (now renamed Buffalo Trace). According to Whiskey Advocate, it was distilled with the same “high rye” mashbill as Blanton’s and Elmer T. Lee, two favorite bourbons of mine.

Orphan Barrel Lost Prophet 22 Year Old Bourbon is a deep copper color that shows the age of the 90.1-proof Kentucky bourbon. The nose is rich with baking spices, wood, and hints of caramel, though you wouldn’t necessarily assume it’s an extra aged bourbon.

On the palate it really flexes its maturity. There’s intense oak, clove spice, vanilla, and leather. It’s got the woodiness that demonstrates its years, but isn’t as cloying as the previous Orphan bourbons.The spicy finish fades quickly on the roof of your mouth, but lingers on the back of the tongue.

The bourbon’s traditional proof and finesse mean you don’t want an overly bold cigar. I recently reviewed the Illusione Fume d’Amour, and it’s just he kind of cigar you’d want with Lost Prophet: flavorful yet not full-bodied.

Judging a $120 bottle of bourbon can be tough, especially when there are so many fine bourbons available, many for around $30. Still, Lost Prophet has a lot going for it as an excellent representation of why people seek out extra-aged bourbon. It just came out so there’s actually a chance of finding it on shelves right now. If this sounds good to you, move quickly.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Montecristo Relentless Toro

19 Jan 2015

Montecristo requires no introduction. The flagship Altadis brand has a spot at nearly every U.S. cigar retailer and boasts a portfolio of familiar lines, including Classic, Platinum, White, Epic, and Monte.

Montecristo Relentless ToroOne line you won’t find on the Montecristo website, however, is Relentless. That’s because the Montecristo Relentless is exclusive to Famous Smoke Shop, a Pennsylvania-based online retailer. Famous markets Relentless as a cigar that “lives up to its name. It relentlessly pounds your taste buds with amazing flavor, while you experience a medium-bodied strength profile.”

The Relentless recipe includes an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper, a Mexican San Andrés binder, and long-filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Brazil (Mata Fina). It is offered in five sizes: Churchill (7 x 56, $12.50), Magnum (6 x 60, $12.75), No. 2 (6.1 x 52, $12.50), Robusto (5.5 x 48, $9.65), and Toro (6 x 54, $10.00).

Full disclosure: Famous sent me a sampler pack of Relentless Toros to make this review possible. As always, the samples Famous provided in no way impact my assessment of the cigar.

Several things strike me about the Relentless Toro upon initial examination. First, the band of red, black, and orange-ish yellow is huge and covers much of the wrapper. Second, once the band is removed, the beauty of the light, shade-grown wrapper comes into full view. It’s a clean, oily specimen, and the entire cigar exudes an overall feel of quality—from the neatly executed cap to the cross-section of tobaccos at the foot.

After setting an even burn, pre-light notes of oak and hay transition to a creamy, mild- to medium-bodied profile of cinnamon, roasted nut, and dry wood. The texture is bready and the resting smoke is sweet and enticing. There’s a nice interplay between sweet cream, bitter coffee, and some peppery spice on the finish. Those who take their time and smoke slowly will be rewarded with nuance.

Construction is excellent, as one would expect for the price. The burn is straight, the smoke production above average, the gray ash holds firm off the foot, and the draw has just the right amount of resistance. I should add, though, the wrapper is incredibly thin and fragile. Treat this cigar with the utmost care as you store it and smoke it. Any mishandling is sure to cause cracks.

Truth be told, the Montecristo Relentless Toro is a well-built, consistently reliable, tasty smoke with solid, well-balanced flavors. I would absolutely recommend this in the morning or afternoon with a complementary cup of coffee. That said, I think the price point is a tad high (around $7 seems more reasonable to me) and I’d be interested to try Relentless in the more condensed, narrower Robusto format. Still, the Relentless Toro is worthy of a solid rating 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

Quick Smoke: Cabaiguan Lancero

18 Jan 2015

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.”

cabaiguan-g-lancero

This excellent cigar comes as part of Tatuaje’s ten-pack lancero sampler inaugurated last year and expected to be a low-production annual release at a shade under $100. I’ve tried a few and, while they’re all good, this is the best so far. The medium strength and many shifting flavors create a winning combination, with near-perfect construction and draw throughout. The Cabaiguan Lancero (7 x 38) is a beauty that should please almost any cigar smoker.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: CroMagnon Cranium

17 Jan 2015

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.”

CroMagnon Cranium

Last year I spent a lot of time smoking cigars from Skip Martin’s RoMa Craft Tobac, and I even had the opportunity to visit his small Nica Sueño factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. In my judgment, Martin and his lean team are making some of the best damn cigars money can buy. And the price points are all very reasonable. The CroMagnon Cranium (6 x 54) is no exception. It’s a large, slow-burning toro that features a hearty blend of Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, enclosed by a Cameroon binder, and covered by a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. For $8.50, it offers a full-bodied, balanced experience with flavors of charred steak, milk chocolate, barbecue sauce, black pepper, and coffee. Smoke the CroMagnon Cranium on a full stomach with a side of sipping rum. You won’t regret it. Guaranteed.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 413

16 Jan 2015

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.

AVO Domaine1) AVO this week announced a new era for the brand, which will include “contemporary packaging, new communication, and a streamlined range that focuses on core lines,” according to a press release from Davidoff. “The AVO portfolio has been streamlined to focus on its four celebrated core lines—AVO Classic, AVO XO, AVO Domaine, and AVO Heritage.” In addition, the brand presentation will more overtly associate itself with music, a nod to brand founder Avo Uvezian’s background as a jazz composer. “The elegantly modern wooden box design displays the AVO logo on the lid, flanked with music bars featuring authentic debossed notes from Avo Uvezian’s songs… It is finished with an intensity meter, developed from scaling musical notes, that allows consumers to easily select the perfect cigar for that moment.” The new AVO products will begin shipping to U.S. retailers later this month.

2) The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) is in the process of buying property in Washington to serve as the organization’s headquarters. A three-story commercial townhouse in the Capitol Hill neighborhood has been selected. “Currently, the association has employees in five different states with headquarters in Columbus, Georgia,” according to a recent press release. “Mark Pursell, IPCPR’s CEO noted that, ‘The new headquarters will enable IPCPR to house its staff in one location creating a greater focus on all of the services we provide members and the larger industry.’” The move is expected to result in greater access to policymakers and the ability to host congressional events.

3) Inside the Industry: The delayed, but much awaited, limited edition La Flor Dominicana Beer Stein has finally shipped to retailers; it comes complete with 20 1994 anniversary cigars. Altadis is launching a new Romeo cigar called Romeo Añejo, which will sport a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Dominican binder, and Nicaraguan and Honduran filler.

4) Deal of the Week: Nub fans should be all over this sampler. Just $25 gets you 8 cigars ($3.12 per stick). Included are two each of the four first Nub blends: Connecticut, Cameroon, Habano, and Maduro.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Davidoff