Quick Smoke: Gran Habano Corojo No. 5 Maduro 2011 Robusto

5 Oct 2018

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.”

Known as the strongest blend in the Gran Habano portfolio, the Corojo No. 5 Maduro 2011 is comprised of a Nicaraguan Maduro wrapper around a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The Robusto (5 x 52) starts with a full-bodied blast of espresso, roasted peanut, and cayenne pepper. It cools down considerably after the first half inch or so, yielding flavors like dry oak, dark cherry, and natural tobacco. The texture is bready and, at times, the taste shines with a sensation akin to moist chocolate cake. Solid construction and a $6 price tag make the Robusto easy to recommend.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Gloria Cubana Estelí Robusto

3 Oct 2018

Unlike the other La Gloria Cubana with which this cigar shares a name—the Serie R Estelí—this is not a Nicaraguan puro.

In fact, only the wrapper, a dark, oily leaf from the acclaimed Jalapa Valley, is from Nicaragua. The binder is from the southern Honduran area of Jamastran, while the filler combines tobacco from there and from the western area of La Entrada.

General Cigar says the name is “in honor of the artisans of our factory in Estelí who did a fantastic job creating the blend,” which General calls a “modern, fuller-bodied take on the classic La Gloria smoking experience.”

The Robustos I smoked are one of three sizes for the new release: Robusto (4.5 x 52, $4.99), Toro (5.5 x 54, $5.99), and Gigante (6.25 x 60, $6.99).

The wrapper, surprisingly, offers little pre-light aroma. It’s an easy light and the opening puffs have a deep, charred flavor. Soon, there is a good bit of spice and a little sweetness, which increases in the final third. Along the way I also picked up some cedar and earthiness. Strength was in the medium range.

Although I haven’t smoked the other vitolas, the Robusto strikes me as an excellent size. It is not a particularly complex cigar, and in 4.5 inches you can fully experience the blend.

The draw was good in each of those I smoked, and the ash held tightly. The burn did require a couple of minor touch-ups that weren’t significant enough to affect the experience.

If you go searching for the La Gloria Cubana Estelí, you might need a sharp eye. While the single band includes the word “Estelí” in all caps, a shopper could be forgiven for becoming confused by the brand’s seemingly endless lineup.

The non-Cuban La Gloria Cubanagot its start in Miami in the early 1970s and gained an enthusiastic national following during the 1990s cigar boom.

Since Ernesto Perez-Carrillo sold the brand in 1999, General Cigar has pumped out extension after extension, some influential and long-lasting, some limited editions, and some eventually killed. And though Perez-Carrillo left General in 2007 to start his own brand, last year he joined in creating La Gloria Cubana Colección Reserva, which is rolled at his factory.

Over the years, StogieGuys.com has reviewed a dozen La Gloria Cubana cigars, with an impressive two-thirds of them receiving ratings of four stogies or higher. This latest iteration earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Palina Blue Label Toro (TAA Exclusive)

1 Oct 2018

Blue, according to numerous experts, is a soothing color. And that might just be how you feel about this limited edition available for sale from members of the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA).

With its light brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, my first impression of the La Palina Blue Label was that of an “everyman” cigar. Not too bold, not too mild, just the kind to appeal across the board.

It delivers as well. From the first puffs, the Blue Label reveals delicate flavors that range from coffee and citrus to baking spices, all in a well-balanced blend. Strength is in the medium range, with lots of smoke, a near-perfect burn, and an easy draw.

Rolled at the Plascencia factory in Honduras, the Blue Label features a filler mix of Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco held by a Honduran binder. Available only as a 6.5-inch, by 52-ring gauge Toro, the MSRP is $10.

The Blue Label is one of several cigars La Palina has designated with a color, a process that would seem to offer an easy and nearly endless supply of names. Umber or Chartreuse, anyone?

TAA, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is a trade group of about 80 retailers and several dozen manufacturers. While less visible than the much larger International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), TAA offers exclusivity, with membership only by invitation.

You can check the association’s website to see if there’s a TAA shop near you. And if not, quite a few TAA members maintain online sales operations.

TAA’s prominence has been boosted in recent years with the release of special editions available only to its members. La Palina Blue Label is one of a baker’s dozen TAA lists as 2018 limited editions.

Sometimes manufacturers elevate their TAA releases to later become regular releases. That happened with La Palina’s TAA Bronze Label, which was greeted last year with enthusiasm and went into standard production this year. Perhaps the Blue Label will move in this direction as well. If so, it would be another strong cigar in La Palina’s expanding lineup. I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Recluse Amadeus Los Cabos Toro

30 Sep 2018

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.”MF-La-Antiguedad-cg-sq

A new release, this lightly box-pressed blend sports a San Andrés wrapper, an Indonesian Sumatran binder and filler from the Dominican Republic (ligero, viso and seco), Nicaragua (Criollo ‘98) and Pennsylvania (broadleaf). As regular readers know, I’m generally not a fan of Mexican tobacco. But, as is the case with a few other cigars, this wrapper doesn’t dominate the experience and allows the other leaves to shine. Draw, burn and smoke production were excellent. The toro is 6.25 inches with a 50-ring gauge, and the MSRP is $8.50. Regardless of which side of the San Andrés schism you stand on, go to the edge and light up a Los Cabos.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: n/a

Site News: Here’s Why We Killed Our ‘Friday Sampler’ News Roundup Series

28 Sep 2018

Between May 2006 and July 2018, we published 588 weekly cigar news roundups. We don’t plan to do any more. The “Friday Sampler” series has been discontinued.

Honestly, I didn’t plan to publicly address or acknowledge this decision. I hypothesized that a format change to our long-running cigar site would go mostly unnoticed. I was wrong.

Since our last Friday Sampler on July 20, 2018, we’ve received dozens of inquiries (usually via email, and usually on Friday mornings) asking us what happened. While we still don’t plan to change our decision to discontinue the series, I’ve become convinced that we owe our readers—many of whom have been with us a decade or more—an explanation.

When we launched the series over twelve years ago, “cigar internet media” (or whatever you want to call it) wasn’t really a thing. There were only a handful of cigar websites that didn’t belong to a cigar manufacturer or cigar distributor. And even among this small group, many of the sites only published reviews. That left a void for internet cigar news that didn’t come from Cigar Aficionado, and especially for a short-format summary of the most important happenings from the week. This was how the Friday Sampler was born.

My how things have changed. Now there are seemingly hundreds, if not thousands, of cigar websites out there. Some regurgitate cigar-related press releases as soon as they’re issued, adding little value other than copy-and-pasted dissemination. Some publish their own weekly news summaries, with varying degrees of accuracy and comprehensiveness. Some post news items intraday as events occur.

We don’t need to name names here; you probably have most of these sites favorited in your browser, and that’s perfectly fine and understandable. We do the same thing.

In this environment, you can argue the Friday Sampler is not as valuable as it once was.

That isn’t to say the series brought no value. It certainly did, evidenced in part by the emails we’ve received. Still, we have to measure the impact versus the cost of maintaining the weekly roundup. And by cost I don’t mean money.

At this stage in my life, time is the most precious, most limited resource. And as the value of the Friday Sampler has arguably declined, the opportunity cost of spending my time monitoring cigar news, covering it from the appropriate angles, summarizing it, researching for accuracy, etc. has gone up.

In 2006, when we started the series, I was 23 years old. I was not married. I had no kids. No mortgage. Now I’m a married 35-year-old with two kids, one on the way, a big-ass mortgage payment, and a much more demanding career.

Keep in mind, StogieGuys.com is not a highly profitable venture for me (or Patrick S, who has his own career, or George E, who is retired); it’s a labor of love. And, frankly, I fell out of love with the Friday Sampler. As the primary author and editor of it, I decided to kill it.

But while the Friday Sampler is dead, StogieGuys.com is still committed to bringing you important news updates. We will do this not by summarizing everything we think worthy of attention, but instead by focusing on longer-format features as opportunities arise. And we will continue to do so through our unique lens, as I’ve always thought our comparative advantage is at the intersection of cigars with thoughtful, thorough policy analysis (i.e., taxes, smoking bans, tobacco regulations, etc.).

Thanks for your continued readership and trust. My colleagues and I are truly humbled by the interest in our old site.

Patrick A

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Review: Illusione Rothchildes CT

26 Sep 2018

The original Illusione Rothchildes is a cigar I recommend to a lot of people, for all the reasons my colleague laid out when he first reviewed it in 2014. A flavorful, medium-bodied profile, excellent construction, and a sub-$5 price tag. You can’t go wrong.

It’s a cigar I regularly keep on hand to give to guests since it will be appreciated by cigar veterans, but isn’t so expensive that I’ll resent it if they decide they don’t want to smoke the whole thing. Everyone can appreciate the classic look (the band’s colors and square shape remind me of Henry Clay) and the size is ideal for when you don’t have a lot of time. Plus, it’s not too intimidating for a newbie.

Needless to say, when in 2016 (almost certainly due to the upcoming FDA deadline) Illusione introduced a Connecticut version of the Rothchildes, it became a cigar I wanted to check out, especially since, although I enjoy the original, I find cigars that use Mexican tobaccos generally don’t hit my palate quite right. Although formally introduced in the summer of 2016, it wasn’t widely available for quite a while thereafter.

Like the Mexican-wrapped version, the single CT vitola (4.5 x 50) comes with an affordable price tag ($5.50 MSRP, though you can buy a box for around $200). The Rothchildes CT swaps out that Mexican wrapper for an oily, tan Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf, though it still uses Nicaraguan binder and filer tobaccos, and is made at the TABSA factory in Nicaragua.

Connecticut cigars carry an expectation for mild flavors, but the Rothchildes CT reminds us this isn’t always the case. Pre-light graham cracker notes are followed by significant pepper once lit.

The medium-bodied flavors include buttered toast, cocoa, and oak. It is (unusually) both creamy and quite dry on the palate, especially on the finish. Construction was excellent on each of the three cigars I smoked, with an ash that held for well over an inch.

Like the original, the Illusione Rothchildes CT gives smokers a lot of bang for their buck, which makes it an excellent cigar to have on hand to smoke yourself, or hand out to friends. Enjoyable medium-bodied flavors and excellent construction earn it a rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XXVI)

24 Sep 2018

In this edition of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I ask for your input on future cigar reviews and lament house guests who don’t finish their cigars.

What Cigars Should I Write About?

I’m in a bit of a cigar funk these days. My stash is running lower than usual and, among the cigars that still reside in one of my five humidors, we’ve already written about pretty much all of them. So that begs the question: Should I buy a bunch of “new” cigars and focus on those (that’s pretty much what I have been doing since we founded this site in May 2006; I’m just falling behind lately)? Or should I start to revisit cigars we reviewed (in some cases) years ago to provide an update and an aging report? Perhaps the best strategy is a bit of both. But I figured I’d throw the question out to you, especially since the cigar blogger space is more cluttered than ever. What do you want to see reviewed?

Let Me Follow Up on That Question…

While you’re thinking on the subject, I’ve always wondered: Do you care about reviews of cigars that are no longer in production (I’ve got a ton of those on hand)? What about super-limited cigars, or exclusives? For example, take the cigars I receive each year as a member of Tatuaje’s Saints & Sinners club. The only way to get these cigars is to belong to the small, members-only club. Either you do, or you don’t. On one hand, I could see some people being interested in what’s out there, even if it’s unlikely they’ll ever get their hands on it. On the other, many people could consider the review a vain act of futility. What’s your take?

What A Cigar Review Isn’t

These words written by my colleague nearly a decade ago still ring true, and I think they’re appropriate to recall as we think about reviews: “These days there are no shortages of cigar reviews online. Seems everyone has an opinion and wants to share. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But before you read every cigar review out there and take each as gospel, let’s keep in mind what a review is… and, just as importantly, let’s keep in mind what a review isn’t. First off, a review can only be as good as the limited inputs that created it. That means whatever review you’re reading is first and foremost limited by two important factors: the reviewer, and the cigars sampled.” You can read the rest of this piece from 2010 here.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Chances are, if you visit my home, you’ll be offered a cigar. My guests are almost never as into cigars as I am, and that’s perfectly fine. I am happy to share nonetheless and, despite my relatively depleted stash, almost certainly have a good cigar for the individual and timeframe in question. This is all well and good. What irks me, however, is when a guest will request (and receive) a top-notch cigar and then proceed to not even smoke half of it. If your time is short, or if you want a smaller smoke, please tell me in advance so I can help you select the best fit for your situation. I feel like this should be common courtesy. Aside from this pet peeve, let me know if you’re in the vicinity of Oak Park, Illinois, and want to stop by for a smoke and/or a bourbon. My front porch is a wonderful place to relax, and cigars are best enjoyed in good company–whether I’m writing about them or not.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys