Quick Smoke: La Palina Goldie Laguito Especial

13 Sep 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.”

On a recent trip, I was surprised to spot this limited edition on a cigar store shelf. Naturally, I couldn’t resist, even at $19. Goldie has achieved something of a cult status since La Palina released the first edition 2012. I never had that one, or the Goldie that came out in 2013. If they were as tasty and elegant as this one, I understand all the praise. This lancero-shaped (7 x 40) smoke is, simply, wonderful—from the fantail head to the long ashes as it burns. If you can find one of the 25,000 that were released, don’t miss it.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: N/A

Drew Estate

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 399

12 Sep 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.

Torano Logo1) General Cigar has announced it has acquired the brands associated with the Toraño Family Cigar Company. The move comes four years after Toraño re-launched itself at the 2010 industry trade show—taking back control of its own distribution from a conglomerate that housed Toraño under the same roof as General Cigar and CAO, and introducing a new logo (seen at right). Now, all Toraño brands will be folded into the General Cigar portfolio, and the Toraño Family Cigar Company will be dissolving. Reports are circling that Toraño’s staff will not be included in the acquisition, but StogieGuys.com has been unable to confirm with reliable sources. “There is a long-standing and proud history of partnership between General Cigar and Toraño, dating back to my family’s exodus from Cuba,” said Charlie Toraño. “There is no other company that I would rather have continue my family’s legacy, and I look forward to seeing the Toraño brands prosper under General Cigar’s expertise.” Later in the day yesterday, on Toraño’s website, Charlie had this to say: “The acquisition will provide me with more time to be with my family while still enjoying the pleasures of the cigar business. I will work with General Cigar to transition the brands to them. They are committed to learning the portfolio and maintaining the integrity of the cigars you have come to know and love. You can be sure that the blends will not change, the factories that make these incredible cigars will not change, and there are no plans to discontinue any of our cigars.”

2) It remains to be seen how General Cigar’s acquisition of Toraño’s brands will impact Leccia Tobacco, which is distributed by Toraño. Whether Leccia’s brands like White, Black, and Luchador were included in the deal is unknown. Yesterday, via Facebook, Sam Leccia responded to dozens of concerned commenters: “Gang, I have a multitude of options, no need to be concerned at all whatsoever.”

3) Inside the Industry: Nat Sherman announced it is opening a rooftop cigar lounge (with plenty of heaters for those cooler evenings) on top of the Knickerbocker Hotel overlooking Times Square in New York City. Meanwhile, Joya de Nicaragua announced that Arnold André will market, sell, and distribute Joya de Nicaragua cigars in Germany.

4) Deal of the Week: Act quickly to get this grab-bag special of 15 cigars for just $40. Smoke Inn lists the following brands as likely (though not necessarily) included: Toraño, Perdomo, Rocky Patel, Ortega, Nestor Miranda (old blend), SI House Blend, Camacho (old blend), Romeo Y Julieta, Gran Habano, La Aurora, and Montecristo.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Toraño

Cigar Review: Padrón Family Reserve No. 50 Maduro

11 Sep 2014

The cigar industry loves to celebrate anniversaries. This year there are at least three notable benchmarks, each with a celebratory cigar (or four).Padron-FR-No-50-Mad-sq

Padron-FR-No-50-MaduroE.P. Carrillo is celebrating its fifth year. La Flor Dominicana is celebrating twenty years since Litto Gomez started his cigar venture in 1994. But the most anticipated anniversary in 2014 is that of Padrón’s 50th year. In an industry that puts out limited release cigars for virtually any reason, that’s something worth celebrating. And celebrate Padrón did with two cigars and four blends.

In December, the uber-extravagent “The Hammer” will hit stores. That special cigar comes in humidors of 50 individually numbered cigars (either Maduro or Natural) and will sell for over $4,500. (Yes, that’s nearly $100 a cigar.) Buying one of the only 1,000 handsome humidors entitles the owner of it to purchase refills.

The less-expensive (though hardly inexpensive, with a MSRP of $25 each) is the Family Reserve No. 50, an extension of the Family Reserve line that started five years ago with the No. 45. Boxes of ten are available with either Maduro or Natural wrappers.

Today I turn to the maduro version of the No. 50, which is a box-pressed parejo measuring 5 inches long with a ring gauge of 54. This is a Nicaraguan puro, like all Padrón cigars, and the wrapper is a gorgeous, oily, deep-brown color. (There are rumors Padrón uses maduro wrappers grown in Mexico, but I’ve never seen proof.)

The pre-light draw features cedar and chocolate. Once lit, it’s a rich combination of earth and dry chocolate with notes of oak and molasses, and the tiniest bit of pepper spice. Not a ton of variation as the cigar progresses. The powdery, thick smoke creates a finish that lingers.

It’s a model of restrained strength with full flavors. And construction is flawless. The cigar is firm to the touch, the draw has the ideal amount of resistance, and the ash holds for as long as I dared to test it.

So what’s not to like? Really just the price. A $25 cigar should be excellent, and this hits the mark. Is it much better than the 1926 series? Probably not, but it’s at least a slight step up. Really, the cost is the only thing that would give me pause about buying more.

Still, it’s pure Padrón and an all-around standout cigar. It’s easy to give the Padrón Family Reserve No. 50 Maduro the outstanding 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: How to Spot an Excellent Tobacconist

10 Sep 2014

These days I travel a fair amount for my regular job, staying a few nights here and there with meetings during the day and little to do in the evening. So, naturally, wherever I go I try to find a good (non-private) cigar lounge or tobacconist so I can enjoy a smoke, catch up on some emails, do a little writing, and perhaps even have an adult beverage or two.

Cigar Store Indian

While there are lots of great lounges and tobacconists across this fine nation, believe me when I say that sometimes a good locale is hard to find. I’ve been mentally compiling a list of attributes common among the good shops/lounges. Today I thought I’d share them.

Maintains good selection, fair prices. This one is obvious. I assume I’ll be paying more for the sticks than I otherwise might be able to find online—and I’m completely OK with that. But I don’t think it’s necessary to charge crazy mark-ups, either. And the selection should be big enough to require more than a few minutes to peruse, with the usual suspects and hopefully some hard-to-find smokes as well. House blends, when done right, can add an exclusive touch.

Serves coffee and/or liquor, or implements BYOB. I realize local ordinances and laws may make this impossible, but nothing goes better with a fine cigar than coffee, bourbon, rum, wine, scotch, etc. I’m happy to pay the shop/lounge for drinks, if possible; BYOB is a great alternative. If nothing else, providing coffee or water for free, or for purchase, is a great idea.

Has a friendly, attentive staff. Nothing is worse than being rushed, watched like a hawk, completely ignored, or assumed to be a petty thief. I love it when the staff says something like, “Welcome. Would you like some assistance picking out your cigars, or would you prefer to browse the selection yourself?”

Stays open later. Time and again I find many shops and lounges close early in the evening—like an hour or two after a normal work day. I understand it isn’t always possible, but I love it when they stay open late enough to have a post-dinner smoke. Bonus points for shops that recognize there are important sporting events that need to be watched, and that often merits staying open later if there’s a crowd.

Provides comfortable seating with access to power outlets. I don’t need decadence, but I don’t want to sit in a lawn chair, either. Plentiful, spread-out seating with solid ventilation is preferred. This is what makes me want to hang out, spend money, and come back.

Makes cleanliness a priority. I’m not asking for much. Empty the ash trays, dust the surfaces, and vacuum after those three guys got pizza crumbs everywhere. Also, the bathroom shouldn’t look like the opening scene of Saw.

Takes good care of the product. The cigars you sell should be in perfect smoking condition at the time of purchase. Period.

Values entertainment. Good TVs, WiFi, and maybe even a poker table. These touches go a long way. Cigar events are great, too.

What am I missing? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Spirits: Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Rye (Four Year)

9 Sep 2014

I’m wrapping up our series of rye write-ups with a pair of Willett Family Estate Ryes. The pair may seem similar, but they have some very important differences that are symbolic of the American whiskey industry. (In addition to its ryes, Willett has a history of aging and bottling excellent bourbon, including Noah’s Mill, Pure Kentucky, and Johnny Drum.)willett-family-estate-sb-rye-sq

willett-family-estate-sb-ryeThe Willett Family Estate Small Batch Rye is the first Willett Rye distilled at Willett, and currently it’s bottled after two years in the barrel because that’s roughly how long it has been since Willett first got their still running. The rye is reportedly a blend of the different rye recipes being produced at Willett. And while it’s still young, it shows extraordinary promise. (You can differentiate it from other Willett products because it has a foil top, not wax, and states it is distilled at Willett.)

Meanwhile, Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Rye is a sourced single-barrel whiskey. The younger batches, like the four year I’m writing about (from barrel number 116), are sourced from the MGPI distillery in Indiana, which is also the source of rye bottled by Redemption, Angel’s Envy, Templeton, Bulleit, Dickel, Old Scout, and others. You can tell this one from the Small Batch because of the green wax seal and the fact the back the 110-proof bottle states, “distilled in Indiana.” (Some whiskey companies aren’t so honest about the source of their bourbon or rye, so the clarity is appreciated.)

The $40-45 rye shares many similarities to the other Indiana-sourced rye (which has a mashbill with 95% rye), but the high proof and Willett barrel selection up the intensity. The orange-hued rye features an inviting nose of nougat, clove, butterscotch, and orange.

On the palate, the Willett Single Barrel has remarkable sweetness for a rye, leading with buttered popcorn and butterscotch along with secondary flavors of pine, baking spice, and marmalade. The finish is where it shows a little heat along with spice.

This rye is remarkable in that it is simultaneously intense and concentrated, yet smooth neat. It can stand up to a strong, full-bodied cigar: either a dark, earthy smoke like the Añoranza, or a bold and spicy one like the Fuente Opus X.

The natural question to ask is which young Willett Rye is better? Despite different sources, they aren’t that unlike. I predict that by the time the Willett-distilled rye is four years old it will be better, but right now if you only have money for one, buy the four-year-old Indiana product. Willett has a well-deserved reputation for excellent barrel picks, and this young, lively, flavorful, well-rounded rye is a must-try for rye fans.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Litto Gomez Diez Small Batch No. 5

8 Sep 2014

LGSBIf there’s a certainty about periodically released limited edition cigars, it’s that after the first there will be someone who contends that whatever one you’re smoking, it isn’t as good as one that came before.

Since few of us have smoked them all, that’s a difficult judgment to refute. Is this fifth Small Batch up to the standard of the previous four? I can’t say.

But judged on its own, this is an excellent smoke, created by Litto Gomez as part of his ongoing project to use dark, rough Pelo de Oro wrapper tobacco grown on his Dominican farm. The fifth in the series fits firmly in the La Flor Dominicana tradition of bold smokes that explode the stereotype of Dominican puros.

I got one big surprise in the 6.75-inch, 52 ring gauge stick: sweetness. You find it in the pre-light aroma and woven through the other flavors from beginning to the end. It creates a pleasant contrast.

Other flavors include cocoa, cedar, and coffee, though they’re all artfully blended so none is dominant. I found the burn to be fine on the sticks I’ve smoked, though the white ash is a bit flaky and I wouldn’t mind a bit more smoke production.

While the predominantly red band is typical in appearance to other Litto Gomez cigars, there’s at least one distinguishing feature. In tiny letters on one side is the designation “Puro SB-V,” as was done on the No. 4 earlier.

Released late last year and limited to about 25,000 cigars packed in boxes of 105 and retailing individually for about $20, the No. 5 is no longer easy to find. But it’s well worth seeking out if you’re a fan of strong smokes.

I also think there’s good potential for aging. So even though I only bought a five-pack, I plan to hold on to a couple and check them out in a year or two. For the present, though, I rate this cigar four stogies.

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

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje 10th Anniversary Belle Encre

7 Sep 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.”

Tatuaje Belle Encre

I’m a big fan of this the 10th Anniversary Belle Encre. Like the entire regular Brown Label line, it uses an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. (Though you might recall that long ago the blend was a Nicaraguan puro made with Aganorsa tobacco before a falling out between the Pepíns and Eduardo Fernandez.) Full of flavor with earth and coffee notes, along with a fair amount of spice. Construction is excellent, and the perfecto shape seems to really focus the flavors on the palate. I for one hope this 10th Anniversary addition to the line doesn’t go away when the anniversary passes.

Verdict = Buy.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys