First Smoke: La Aurora Untamed Extreme Robusto

6 Oct 2015

First Smoke is a new series of Quick Smoke reviews, each evaluating a single pre-release cigar. Like the Quick Smokes we publish each Saturday and Sunday, each First Smoke is not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.fyr-cvr-robusto-sq


According to Jason Wood of Miami Cigar & Co. (La Aurora’s partner and distributor), after the last year’s release of Untamed—La Aurora’s strongest cigar to date—a few people started asking for an even more full-bodied smoke from the esteemed Dominican producer that’s better known for more subtle smokes. So master blender Manuel Inoa went to work on a “more extreme” blend. The result is Untamed Extreme, which comes in three sizes: Robusto, Toro, and an oversized Behemoth (7 x 60).

The cigar features dark charred oak flavors, earth, and woody spice. There’s a slight sourness, but overall it’s a truly full-bodied smoke with a big nicotine kick to boot. Construction is excellent. I’ll admit I prefer the more classic profile from La Aurora (the serially overlooked Fernando León Family Reserve, for example), but ultimately the Untamed Extreme delivers what it promises: full flavor, full body, and full strength. If that’s what you’re looking for you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Cigar Spirits: Plantation Barbados Grande Reserve 5 Rum

5 Oct 2015

Plantation Grande Reserve 5

Our Spirits articles always conclude by listing a few cigars we think would pair well with the spirit in question. is, after all, a cigar-focused website.

But I can’t recall ever seeing recommended cigar pairings on the website of the spirit itself. That is until I came across Plantation Barbados Grande Reserve 5 from France-based Cognac Ferrand. Here’s what you’ll find on the Plantation website: “For cigars amateurs (sic), Plantation Grande Reserve 5 years goes very well with the Ashton Cabinet Selection No. 7, a cigar made with a light Connecticut shade wrapper that has a light, woody flavor and plenty of cream. It seeks out the vanilla in the rum.”

While having a recommended cigar pairing on its website is unique and somewhat helpful, that isn’t what drew me to Plantation Barbados Grande Reserve 5 in the first place. Rather, I was intrigued by the rum’s reputation as a low-cost sipping spirit that packs a ton of value and flavor into an inexpensive bottle. I paid just over $20 for a 750 ml. bottle (compared with Plantation’s flagship rum, XO 20th Anniversary, which is $45).

By way of quick background, Cognac Ferrand is primarily a producer of cognac. For years, it sold its prized cognac casks to rum producers in the Caribbean who would use the containers to age their spirits. “During these exchanges, [company founder Alexandre] Gabriel had the opportunity to discover some very old batches of rum with extraordinary richness and a diversity of aroma and flavor,” reads the Cognac Ferrand website. “Available in tiny quantities, the rums were intended either for the personal consumption of the distillery’s cellar master or used to give style to industrial rum blends. Quite naturally, Cognac Ferrand decided to bottle these special rums as a series of vintages.”

Each vintage is named for its locale of origin: Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Trinidad, and St. Lucia. The 80-proof Grande Reserve 5 is a blend of rums from Barbados that’s aged for five years in bourbon casks in the Caribbean then refined in old French oak casks at Château de Bonbonnet in France. It is presented in a stout bottle covered in a decorative netting made from palm fibers.

In the bottle and glass the rum has a light, honey-colored tint with good clarity. The nose is easy on alcohol and heavy on fruit with hints of banana, coconut, papaya, and tangerine. Butterscotch, vanilla, and caramel are also present. Once sipped, the balanced, well-rounded flavor coats the palate with banana, toffee, orange, vanilla, and nuts. The finish has a prolonged, somewhat earthy spice.

Is this one of the finest rums in the world? No. But it might be one of the best values. The taste, presentation, and complexity are far superior than what the price and young age suggest. That means you can use Plantation Barbados Grande Reserve 5 in cocktails guilt-free, and you can also sip it neat. I prefer the latter.

As for cigar pairings, take Plantation’s advice and stick with mild- to medium-bodied smokes wrapped in Connecticut shade or Ecuadorian wrappers. Anything bolder will only overpower the spirit. I’ve found the Herrera Estelí Toro Especial works well.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Arturo Fuente Casa Fuente Churchill

4 Oct 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.”Felix-Assouline-LRS-sq


A recent trip to Las Vegas meant another opportunity to visit Casa Fuente to smoke their Casa Fuente house smoke, which is believed to be the Opus X blend but with a Cameroon wrapper (think a cross between Opus X and a Don Carlos).  The cigar features medium-bodied flavors with clove, coffee, cream, and cedar spice that really shows off the Cameroon wrapper. It is well-balanced and the construction is impressive. If you’re in Vegas I’d strongly suggest dropping by Casa Fuente for a cigar and one of their signature caipirinhas or margaritas.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Aging Room F59 Quattro Espressivo

3 Oct 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

F59 Quattro

A few months ago, Boutique Blends announced the introduction of the Aging Room F59 Quattro, the follow-up to the F55 Quattro (very highly rated by my colleague in a 2012 review of the Concerto size). The F59 Quattro is a Dominican puro that’s marketed as medium- to full-bodied. It’s comprised of Cuban-seed tobaccos that are aged for ten years. The box-pressed, robusto-sized Espressivo (5 x 50) retails for about $10 and features absolutely perfect combustion qualities with rich, oily flavors of heavy cream, coffee, pepper spice, and peanut. Smooth-tasting with a bready texture, this is another winner from Rafael Nodal and highly recommended.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 450

2 Oct 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.

Brian Schatz

1) U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI, pictured) this week introduced legislation to raise the national minimum tobacco purchase age to 21. His bill has nine cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats: Dick Durbin (IL), Sherrod Brown (OH), Ed Markey (MA), Barbara Boxer (CA), Jack Reed (RI), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Mazie Hirono (HI), Richard Blumenthal (CT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI). A companion bill is being introduced in the House. “We know that the earlier smokers begin their unhealthy addiction to nicotine, the more likely they are to suffer from tobacco-related diseases or die,” wrote Senator Schatz on his website. “This year, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to raise the minimum smoking age to 21. It was an historic public health achievement that we should adopt nationwide. By raising the minimum tobacco age of sale to 21 across the country, we can cut the number of new smokers each year; build a healthier, tobacco-free America; and save lives.” The current national minimum age to buy tobacco is 18, though Hawaii and several counties have already raised the age to 21.

2) Carlos Fuente Sr. is commemorating his 80th birthday by releasing his private blend, the Don Carlos Personal Reserve, which is expected to be available later this year. A Robusto (5 x 50), the cigar will retail for $14 and feature a Cameroon wrapper around Dominican tobaccos. Arturo Fuente is also introducing the Eye of the Shark (5.75 x 52, $12) but has not yet made public that cigar’s makeup.

3) Cigar Giveaway: Congrats to the five winners of our recent cigar giveaway. Darrylyn B. of Hickory, North Carolina; Jarrod L. of St. Augustine, Florida; Mark V. of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Tim M. of Buffalo, New York; and Chase A. of Saginaw, Texas. Each will be receiving a five-pack of cigars courtesy of Acme Cigars.

4) Deal of the Week: My Father fans should check out this deal from Cigar Place. Just $50 lands you six cigars—two each of the original My Father blend, My Father Le Bijou, and My Father Connecticut, all in a belicoso size—plus a lighter, cutter, and My Father Cigars ashtray in your choice of blue or red.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit:

Cigar Review: Abaddon Lancero (Blue Havana Exclusive)

1 Oct 2015

In 2013, two of my favorite cigars happened to be Abaddon and Ouroboros, both of which are made exclusively for Blue Havana, a tobacconist in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. They were blended by Chris Schedel with help from Skip Martin of RoMa Craft Tobac. Both are made at Martin’s Fabrica de Tabacos Nica Sueño in Estelí.

Abbadon LanceroOver the past two years, I’ve made the short walk from my home to Blue Havana several times to replenish my supply of these two fine blends (Abaddon, named for the dwelling place of the dead in the Hebrew Bible, features a Nicaraguan hybrid (Criollo/Corojo) wrapper; Ouroboros, named for an ancient symbol of a dragon eating its own tail, is wrapped in a Brazilian Mata Fina leaf).

Until recently, both were only available in a single size (6.25 x 52). During my last trip to Blue Havana a few weeks ago, though, I was greeted by a welcome site: Abaddon and Ouroboros are now both available in a Lancero format. It can only be good news when two excellent blends meet one of my favorite sizes, right? I lit up three Abaddon Lanceros to find out.

The Abaddon Lancero is available on the Blue Havana website for $108 for a 12-pack ($9 per cigar, not including outrageous Illinois taxes). Its dark, oily, slightly reddish, toothy wrapper is accented by a pigtail cap. The binder—Mata Fina—and filler—a blend of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos—are not visible at the closed foot, though you can still pick up pre-light notes of sweet chocolate and baking spices. Despite the narrow ring gauge, the Lancero boasts and easy draw.

Once underway, the rich, bold profile introduces itself with a hearty dose of full-bodied espresso, cracked pepper, and leather. Perhaps not surprisingly, the overall impression is very similar to the toro-sized Abaddon, just more concentrated and more intense.

But the Lancero is more than just a blunt instrument of strength. There are also background flavors of sweet caramel and salty nut. Smoking a little slower than usual also helps quell the strength a bit and bring out more of the complexity—a task made simple by the cigar’s ability to stay lit even with long pauses between puffs.

With a straight burn line, great smoke production (especially for a Lancero), and loads of bold flavor backed up by a tones of sweetness and creaminess, the Abaddon Lancero is an easy recommendation and a solid complement to an after-dinner serving of high-proof bourbon. It’s downright delicious. I may give an ever-so-slight edge to the original Abaddon size since I believe it has marginally more going on in terms of balance and complexity, but the Abaddon Lancero rates exceptionally well at four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

First Smoke: Bolivar 550

30 Sep 2015

First Smoke is a new series of Quick Smoke reviews, each evaluating a single pre-release cigar. Like the Quick Smokes we publish each Saturday and Sunday, each First Smoke is not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.fyr-cvr-robusto-sq


It was about 10 years ago, I think, when General Cigar’s Bolivar line underwent a transformation to a bolder, stronger cigar. I remember being impressed at the time and smoking quite a few until they gradually moved to the back of the box. I can’t remember when I last had one. Until now, that is. I was excited to try the new incarnation, with its “classic taste reimagined” by General’s skunkworks, Foundry Tobacco Co. Though I wasn’t able to attend the past summer’s IPCPR Trade Show, General kindly sent me samples of Bolivar and several other new releases. (Don’t pay much attention to the band; General says the sticks were rolled for the Trade Show and the bands don’t represent the final product.)

It’s a nice-looking, dark, oily stick with a pigtail cap and an unfinished foot. According to General, the wrapper is Havano Connecticut, the binder Ecuadorian Sumatra, and the filler from Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. List price on the robusto-sized 550 (5 x 50) is $6.49, lowest of the three sizes. Construction and performance were excellent, with a near-perfect draw.

I found the new Bolivar rich but a bit harsh. That diminished somewhat after the first third but picked up again towards the end. There is some nice tobacco sweetness as well as notes of chocolate and coffee, particularly in the middle. Overall, though, for me the bite was a drawback. While I’d definitely recommend trying it, you might be better served by first letting your tobacconist age them a bit on their shelves.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys