Commentary: Gold Star Smokes (Part IX)

3 Jun 2019

It has been over five years (!) since the team published a new list of Gold Star Smokes. As you might recall, this special designation celebrates cigars we feel are worthy of extra-strong recommendations. They don’t necessarily have to be five stogie-rated—just commendable smokes we find ourselves turning to time and again.

Co-Founder & Editor in Chief Patrick A

My newest addition to the Gold Star Smokes designation is also new to the market. Since reviewing it in April, I’ve been enamored with Diesel Hair of the Dog. It’s a lightly pressed, toro-sized (6 x 54) smoke with a smooth, golden brown Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper around an Ecuadorian Habano binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. Sweet hay dominates the pre-light notes. It begins with a Pepin-esque blast of pepper and then settles into a complex profile complete with creamy cashew, white pepper, toast, a bit of cinnamon and, in the final third, a little licorice. It’s an absolute gem from famed cigar maker A.J. Fernandez and well worth the $10 asking price.

Cigar Review: Diesel Hair of the Dog

Co-Founder & Publisher Patrick S

In the past few years the single vitola I’ve purchased, given away, and smoked most frequently is Illusione’s Rothchildes CT. There’s no question that the price (under $200 for a box of 50, if you shop around) is part of the reason. But it takes more than value to be a Gold Star Smoke. Irrespective of price, it is a thoroughly enjoyable, medium-bodied smoke, with creamy, toasty notes, coffee, oak, and hints of pepper. It’s well-balanced and well-constructed. Add in a price tag under a Lincoln, and it’s easy to see why this is a cigar worth seeking out.

Cigar Review: Illusione Rothchildes CT

Tampa Bureau Chief George E

I’d be hard-pressed to guess how many Gurkha Class Regent Torpedoes I’ve smoked since reviewing one over 12 years ago. It is not a complex cigar, but one that is pleasant and consistent. Perhaps the most notable characteristic is the thick, abundant smoke. Like many Gurkhas, the list price, which for this one is, I believe, $11, isn’t what you pay. In fact, it’s the bargain-basement cost that helps make the Class Regent Torpedo so attractive. I’ve paid under $3 each, including shipping, and you can routinely find them for about $3.50. If you’re looking for a companion to a round of golf, a fishing outing, or simply relaxing when you don’t want to concentrate on your cigar, this is one to try.

Stogie Reviews: Gurkha Class Regent Torpedo

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Cordoba & Morales 19th Hole Torpedo

2 Jun 2019

A couple times each week 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 cigar had been in my humidor for years, probably since I received it as a trade show sample. It features a dark Ecuadorian wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Torpedo (which isn’t box-pressed, as later versions of this cigar are) features oak, chocolate, sawdust, and fresh cut grass. There’s a raw tobacco element. Construction is excellent but, at the end of the day, this cigar lacks balance.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Macanudo Estate Reserve Series 2015 No. 9

31 May 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Introduced in 2015, this fuller-bodied Macanudo features a 10-year-old Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Mexican binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. It is the third edition of Macanudo Estate Reserve, which comes handsomely presented in individual coffins in a box featuring the black, yellow, and green of the Jamaican flag. The No. 9 vitola (5 x 50) retails for about $16 and boasts excellent physical properties with chalky cocoa, earth, and oak. There are also fleeting notes of roast cashew. If you eschew the entire Macanudo portfolio because of its reputation as a mild cigar for beginners, don’t pass up an opportunity to try this cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: The Real McCoy 12 Year and Doorly’s 12 Year Rum

30 May 2019

Today we’re looking at two 12-year-old Bajan rums that, on their face, are quite similar. Doorly’s 12 Year and The Real McCoy 12 Year are both distilled at the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados and aged for a dozen years.

Foursquare has produced some classic rums, both high-end limited offerings and more widely available rums. The brand is known for its straightforward style that rejects additives and embraces honesty with its consumers, including when it comes to age statements (e.g., the rum in these bottles has been aged a minimum of 12 years, whereas many other rums market the age of the oldest distillate in the bottle).

So given that they are both produced at Foursquare, what exactly is the difference between Doorly’s and The Real McCoy (beside the price; the Doorly’s costs under $30, The Real McCoy costs around $50)?

Well, for one thing, Doorly’s discloses on its label that it is made at Foursquare, along with the fact that Doorly’s rum has been made on Barbados since 1908. Meanwhile, The Real McCoy traces its name back to prohibition, but the brand isn’t nearly that old, and the distillery name is nowhere to be found (even though The Real McCoy is distilled in Barbados and widely linked with Foursquare). They are undoubtedly similar rums, but each features its own twist.

Doorly’s 12 features notes of ginger, lighter oak, ripe fruit, and green banana. The finish is long but not overly sweet, with more dried fruit notes (apricots and dates).

The Real McCoy 12 is woodier with heavier spice, figs, vanilla, cigar box, and orange peel. It has a long and woody finish with a silky mouthfeel.

Both are fantastically flavorful (but not overly sweet) rums that are in the classic Bajan style. I have a slight preference for The Real McCoy, but factoring price into consideration I suppose they are equally impressive, especially as a pairing with a cigar.

The full flavors of The Real McCoy call for a medium- to full-bodied cigar, while Doorly’s balance suggests something more mild- to medium-bodied. Either way, both are exceptional rums to sip neat, paired with a cigar or otherwise.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Illusione OneOff Corona Gorda

28 May 2019

Eighteen years ago, Andrea Molinari—proprietor of Casa del Habano in Milan, Italty—introduced his own cigar line called OneOff. He originally wanted the brand to be made in Cuba but was turned away. So he ended up entrusting his venture to one of the world’s most prominent tobacco families: the Plasencias.

At first, OneOff was only available to a select few accounts in Europe and Asia. Many surely thought the line—adorned simply with an orange band sporting a peace symbol—was truly a one-off limited production run. But OneOff found its way to the U.S. market in 2002, earning a cult status reputation and making quite an impact on a young Dion Giolito, who credits OneOff as the inspiration for Illusione.

Flash forward to 2009. Molinari is out of the OneOff picture, and so are the Plasencias. The cigars now go by “OneOff Doble Capa” and are produced and distributed by Cuban Crafters as a catalog brand. Then Giolito bought OneOff from Cuban Crafters in 2017. And here we are.

Today, OneOff is made for Illusione at the Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) factory in Nicaragua using 100% Nicaraguan tobacco from Aganorsa. The eight OneOff vitolas are each packaged in boxes of ten and retail for $11.95 to $17.95: Cartuchos (3.9 x 52), Corona (5.5 x 42), Robusto (4.9 x 50), Cañonazo (6.1 x 52), Pyramides (6.1 x 52), Julieta (7 x 47), and Corona Gorda (5.4 x 46). (The eighth size is called +53 Super Robusto and retails for $30; the tobacco origins are undisclosed.)

The Corona Gorda is a firm, oily cigar with a triple-cap and a few prominent veins. The cross-section of tobaccos at the foot shows a snug fit of generously packed filler leaves. The pre-light aroma is smoky (I’m tempted to cite mesquite) and the cold draw is on the stiff side.

Once an even light is established, the introductory profile that emerges is dry, bready, woody, and slightly spicy. Individual flavors include cedar, cinnamon, cereals, and some black pepper. The cedar and pepper fade pretty quickly; they are replaced with sweet cream and roasted cashew. This combination is both complex and delicious.

At around the midway point, the cream and cashew fade, and the cinnamon and cedar pick up where they left off. The spice intensifies in the final third, and the Corona Gorda becomes hot and—at times—harsh.

In terms of combustion characteristics, the burn is set-it-and-forget-it straight and the smoke production is average. The draw—while a bit tight for my liking at the outset—opens nicely after a quarter of an inch. The ash does not hold well off the foot, however.

OneOff is a tale of two cigars: the interesting, complex, balanced cigar in the first half; the hot, sometimes harsh cigar in the second. This dichotomy played out across all three samples I smoked for this review. And that’s ultimately why I can’t award the Illusione OneOff Corona Gorda anything higher than three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Aging Room Quattro F55 Expressivo

26 May 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

After recently reviewing the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua favorably, I went back and tried the one of the original Aging Room Quattro (F55) that helped put the line on the map. (The “F55” was recently dropped, but the robusto I smoked is from before last year’s line revamp.) The cigar is made with an aged Indonesian Sumatra wrapper, the type often used on machine-made cigars, and Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. It shows surprising depth of flavor with roast coffee, cedar spice, and toasted brown bread. Medium-bodied, balanced, and well-constructed, it’s still an impressive cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Pinar del Rio 1878 Cubano Especial Capa Madura Robusto

24 May 2019

A couple times each week 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 Pinar del Rio cigar boasts a three-country blend (Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper, Dominican Criollo binder, and Criollo filler from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua), a pigtail cap, and a low price tag. I found the Robusto (5 x 52), which had been in my humidor for quite a while, to have many of the typical maduro (but, yes, they use madura) flavors like coffee and cocoa. But they were marred by a harshness that kept any from shining. Good construction and performance couldn’t overcome the negatives.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys