Quick Smoke: Illusione *R* Rothchildes

30 Jan 2016

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.”

Rothchildes

I often get asked to recommend cigars with great flavor, low price points, and relatively wide availability. My response always includes the *R* Rothchildes (4.5 x 50) from Illusione, which was released in 2013—and has maintained a welcome home in my humidor ever since. For only $4, you get a balanced, medium-bodied profile with floral notes, cocoa, black pepper, sweet cream, and roasted nuts. *R* Rothchildes is made at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) in Nicaragua with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Get yourself a box of 50 and keep them on hand for just about any occasion—or no occasion at all.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 464

29 Jan 2016

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.

Cuba

1) Relations between Cuba and the United States continue to make incremental progress toward normalization. This week, the “Obama administration announced new Cuban regulations that allow financing of authorized exports to the island and more exceptions to the embargo,” reports the Miami Herald. “The new regulations, which went into effect Wednesday, not only allow financing of authorized exports but also expand the types of exports that will generally be approved as well as those that may be sent to the island on a case-by-case basis if Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control determines such products meet ‘the needs of the Cuban people.’” This development follows the formal restoration of diplomatic relations, including the re-establishment of embassies in Washington and Havana, and an executive order from President Obama making legal travel to Cuba easier. Obama has also called on Congress to end the trade embargo. Currently, legal visitors to Cuba are allowed to bring up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars back to the U.S.; an outright end to the embargo, however, would unquestionably herald drastic, long-lasting changes for the cigar industry, as well as present new challenges and opportunities.

2) Altadis has announced Yargüera H. Upmann, a blend named for a new hybrid tobacco seed that’s exclusive to a Honduran farm of the same name. Three sizes will be available in the $8.50 to $9.25 range, each with a Yargüera ’13 Tapado wrapper, Criollo ’98 binder, and sun-grown Yargüera ’13 and Criollo ’98 fillers. “We are thrilled to announce Yargüera H. Upmann, as the first project for this Honduran Estate Tobacco,” said Altadis in a press release. “There is such a heritage connection between both Yargüera and H. Upmann as they both originated from Cuba. Cigar enthusiasts will enjoy not only Yargüera H. Upmann, but the tobacco brand in general as this is just the start.”

3) Wild Turkey’s label has undergone a remake to show off a more mature fowl. The Wall Street Journal reports the turkey—known internally as Jacob—is “really front and center” along with the slogan “Crafted With Conviction” on new bourbon bottles. It’s all part of a push by owner Campari to increase sales. “We acquired a rather dusty brand, but we also felt that it was a real hidden gem,” says Melanie Batchelor, Campari’s vice president of global strategic marketing. On the old packaging, “our turkey is kind of in the background, more of a watermark, and he looks a little sad. He’s not proud,” Ms. Batchelor says. Also, “a lot of consumers know a lot about turkeys,” she says, adding that customer research found that the young-looking turkey conflicted with the idea that the bourbon is aged.

4) Inside the Industry: Drew Estate announced it has entered into an exclusive U.S. distribution agreement with Debonaire Cigars and Indian Tabac, both of which produce cigars in the Dominican Republic and are run by Philip S. Zanghi III. Drew Estate founder Jonathan Drew said the partnership was a natural pairing: “Phil Zanghi has been a dear personal friend of mine for two decades… Phil is old school and has been a presence in the Central American and Caribbean tobacco worlds forever.” Zanghi, who is licensing the Indian Motorcycle name from its owner, Polaris, was partners with Rocky Patel in the original Indian Tabac until he sold his share to Patel in 2002. Patel later re-branded his company as Rocky Patel.

5) Deal of the Week: Want an easy way to try some of the hottest new blends? Check out this five-cigar sampler at Smoke Inn. Included are one each of the Flor de D’Crossier Selection No. 512, Camacho American Barrel-Aged, El Güegüense by Foundation Cigar Company, Drew Estate Undercrown Shade, and Steke Saka’s Sobremesa. Use our exclusive coupon “Stogie10” to knock the price down to just $41.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Spirits: Orphan Barrel Project Rhetoric 21 Bourbon

27 Jan 2016

OB-Rhetoric-21

Formally announced in 2014, the Orphan Barrel Project has been one of the biggest, albeit sometimes divisive, developments in the high-end bourbon market in recent years. The project of industry giant Diageo has brought a number of well-aged bourbons to the marketplace at a time when such releases are becoming very rare and expensive.

The first releases were the 20-year Barterhouse and 26-year Old Blowhard, the latter being one of the oldest bourbons to be sold. Next came Rhetoric 20, a 20-year bourbon distilled at the New Bernheim distillery in Louisville, which is now owned by Heaven Hill, maker of Elijah Craig and Evan Williams.

Next up was the 22-year Lost Prophet and 15-year Forged Oak. The latest release is a 21-year version of Rhetoric, which is part of a planned annual release that will show off the evolution of the bourbon as it ages, perhaps up to 26 years. (Another Orphan Barrel release, Gifted Horse, is due out soon; it will be a combination of 4-year bourbon and corn whiskey blended with 17-year bourbon.)

Rhetoric 21 is 90.2-proof, a smidge higher than the 20-year version (90-proof). It sells for around $100, and I picked up my bottle for $93 online after tasting a sample provided by Diageo.

Rhetoric 21 pours a deep copper color and has a nose that shows off its age with damp wood, vanilla, and green apple taffy. On the palate, the bourbon tastes of oak, baking spices (clove, cinnamon, nutmeg), vanilla, orange peel, and burnt sugar. The finish is long with cornbread, charred wood, and clove.

At times, the flavors feel slightly muted with the exception of the deep woodiness (over-oaked, perhaps) which is why I prefer the Lost Prophet and Forged Oak. Still, fans of oaky, ultra-aged bourbon will find Rhetoric fits the bill in a way that very few bourbons (you can actually find) will.

For cigar pairings, I think the light wood and sweet spice style of Mexican-wrapped cigars matches up nicely. Specifically, try the Illusione *R* Rothchildes, Room 101 San AndrésTatuaje The Face, and Drew Estate’s Undercrown.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: CAO Pilón Robusto

25 Jan 2016

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Few cigar brands are as diverse as the current portfolio from CAO. Flathead and Steel Horse are built to attract blue-collar tough guys who fancy muscle cars, pinup girls, and motorcycles. Margaritaville would be most at home with the baby boomer dads and grandpas who occasionally smoke as they grill dinner on the back deck while wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Then there’s Flavours, the country-specific blends (Brazilia, Italia, Colombia, etc.), and holiday limited editions like Angry Santa and Evil Snowman.

CAO PilonOne of the 2015 releases from CAO caught my eye. Called CAO Pilón, the line seems intended for more serious cigar smokers who care about tobacco and probably spend a good portion of their cigar budgets on boutique-made smokes. CAO classifies Pilón in the Classic quadrant of its lineup, which also includes Gold and La Traviata.

Behind the Pilón name is an antique fermentation technique that, according to CAO, comes from eighteenth century Cuba. “This method involved hemming tobacco leaves together and stacking them, layer by layer, in a circular pattern,” reads the CAO website. “While building and tending to the round pilón took as much patience as it did skill, this method of natural fermentation maximized the flavor and color of the leaves.” Over time, “less costly fermentation methods were explored and the standard rectangular pilón was born.”

Crafted by Master Blender Rick Rodriguez, whose name and recipe adorns the attractive CAO Pilón band, the blend consists of an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Three sizes are available in the affordable $6 to $7.25 range: Corona (5.5 x 44), Churchill (7 x 48), and Robusto (5 x 52).

The latter makes a good first impression with a clean, seamless exterior that’s both smooth and dry. Firm to the touch, the Robusto’s foot shows a well-packed cross-section of tobaccos that exude pre-light notes of cocoa powder and musty earth. The head clips easily to reveal a stiff cold draw with a slight sweetness on the lips. I appreciate that the two ends of the band are joined by an external band sticker—which both makes the band easy to remove and prevents any errant adhesive from making its way to the wrapper.

At the outset, the medium-bodied profile carries notes of dry wood, leather, coffee, and sweet cream. The overall effect might be best summed by the phrase “warm tobacco.” The aftertaste leaves considerable cedary spice on the tongue, while the retrohale enables you to pick up a little dried fruit and nuts. As the cigar progresses, I find the flavors remain fairly consistent, save for an increase in intensity in the final third that brings a dose of black pepper.

From light to nub, the burn line remains straight and the gray ash holds well off the foot. However, I find the tight draw and low level of smoke production to be frustrating. These physical attributes were similar across the three samples I smoked for this review.

Draw and smoke production aside, this is an enjoyable—albeit straightforward—cigar with a mellow profile that renders it approachable and somewhat classic-tasting, especially for the friendly price. Some will find it just their speed, others will say it lacks pop and complexity. In my book, the CAO Pilón Robusto is worthy of three stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: El Güegüense Corona Gorda

24 Jan 2016

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

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I was very impressed with El Güegüense  when I first smoked the debut from Nick Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Co. in the Robusto format. Since then I’ve been enjoying the Corona Gorda size, which I may like even better. It’s woodsy with roasted notes, pepper spice, and subtle sweetness. It’s medium- to full-bodied with excellent balance. The only vitola in the line with a suggested retail price under $10 (albeit only slightly at $9.90) has my strong recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Flor Dominicana La Nox Toro

23 Jan 2016

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

With a multi-national combination of tobaccos—a dark Brazilian maduro wrapper, Mexican San Andrés binder, and Dominican filler—La Nox is a strong, satisfying smoke. The Toro (6.5 x 52) is ideal for the cigar to develop along the way. For instance, it begins with a combination of spice and earth and maintains a rich, spicy finish for a third or so. Then sweetness mixes in, toning down the finish and allowing other flavors to come to the fore. Tony Gomez, son of La Flor Dominicana’s founders, has certainly created a fine limited cigar, well worth its $11 price tag.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 463

22 Jan 2016

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.

Sam Leccia

1) This week, Sam Leccia took another turn along his winding work path, announcing a split from General Cigar and hinting at major new releases in the future. Leccia had been working with General since it took over distribution of his brands in late 2014. “It just wasn’t a good fit,” Leccia wrote on his Facebook page. “Things really shouldn’t change all that much for Leccia Tobacco. The cigar brands have always been made at the same factories since day one, and that will continue. I have always maintained 100% ownership of the Leccia Tobacco brands and trademarks, so the only real change is how the cigars will be delivered to the retailer.” He’s scheduled to appear at a tobacconist tonight not far from his Pittsburgh home and said “it’s business as usual.” Leccia told StogieGuys.com in an email that he plans to announce a new distributor in the coming weeks. “As far as new projects,” Leccia added, “I have been working tirelessly on several projects. Some line extensions, some limited release vintage cigars, and a ‘game changer’ that will create a new cigar category.”

2) The fate of the premium cigar industry is firmly in the grasp of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), as OMB officials decide whether to proceed with the FDA draft cigar regulations, which would have a devastating impact on the industry, or request more changes. As we await action, the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products has announced a request for unpublished information pertaining to “psychosocial predictors of uptake and continued use of tobacco products.” Glynn Loope, executive director of Cigar Rights of America, took to Facebook on Tuesday to say this is “further proof that our government has too much time and money on their hands… Because decisions are supposed to be based upon ‘science,’ and now they have to resort to ‘unpublished science.’”

3) From the Archives: Cigar smokers spend lots of time deciding which cigars to select, but maybe they should spend a little more time selecting their cigar shop. Back in 2009, we wrote about what you should look for in a cigar shop, including four specific items: a good owner, a well-kept stock, neatness, and variety of selection. Read the whole thing here.

4) Deal of the Week: Famous Smoke Shop features 100 deals (with free shipping included on most items) as part of its Cigar Monster promotion. Deal-seekers should consider stacking one of these coupons (which get you free cigars or cigar accessories with a purchase of $50 or more) with a few five-packs from Cigar Monster to maximize your savings.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Leccia Tobacco