Quick Smoke: Porthole by La Sirena Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro Corona

4 Feb 2018

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.”

Porthole is a value-oriented line by La Sirena cigars made at the La Zona factory in Nicaragua. The line consists of two blends, one of which utilizes an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler and comes in two sizes, including this 5-inch, 44-ring gauge Corona. The cigar features damp earth and black coffee flavors. Construction is excellent and, although the cigar had pleasant flavors, it lacked any significant complexity or nuance.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Robusto Grande

3 Feb 2018

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.”

Last summer, we reported that Joya de Nicaragua’s Antaño series would be expanding with a new line called Antaño Gran Reserva. The main difference between Antaño 1970 (a Nicaraguan puro featuring a Habano Criollo wrapper) and Antaño Gran Reserva is that the filler tobaccos on the latter have been aged for up to five years. I paid about $13 (including outlandish Chicago taxes) to take the Robusto Grande (5.5 x 52) for a test drive. In my book, this cigar exhibits an incredibly rich, balanced, full-bodied flavor with notes of dark cherry, espresso, black pepper, and roasted cashew. And, in typical Joya de Nicaragua fashion, it has superb construction. This is one you shouldn’t miss.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: STG Acquires Thompson, S&R Introduced, and More

2 Feb 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 565th in the series.

1) On Wednesday, Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG), parent company of General Cigar and Cigars International, announced it had reached an agreement to acquire Thompson Cigar for $62 million. Thompson is a Tampa-based online retailer that was founded in 1915 and boasts $100 million in annual net sales and 185 employees. “I am pleased to announce this acquisition, which strengthens our position in the online retail channel in the US.,” said Niels Frederiksen, STG CEO. “Our existing U.S. online retailer, Cigars International, will, in combination with Thompson, be able to deliver an unmatched range of premium cigars at the highest level of service to the U.S. consumers. At the same time, we foresee significant cost synergies to the benefit of our customers and shareholders.”

2) Black Label Trading Company’s Black Works Studio (BLK WKS) is introducing S&R, a limited release that’s the first BLK WKS cigar to use Dominican tobacco and also the first to have a Sumatra wrapper. Intended as a medium-bodied smoke, S&R has a Nicaraguan Habano binder around Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos. Two sizes are available: Lancero (6.75 x 42, $9.50) and Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $9.50).

3) Inside the Industry: Thompson being bought by STG wasn’t the only significant acquisition this week. Cigar accessory maker Xikar, known best for its cigar cutters, was purchased by Quality Importers (QI) for undisclosed terms. QI has made a number of acquisitions in the cigar accessory category in recent years, including Cigar Caddy, Palió, Cigar Mechanic, and Stinky Ashtray, and also has the distribution rights to Eddie Ortega’s Ortega Permium Cigars. Xikar previously sold the rights to its cigar lines to Cigars International (owned by STG) in 2013.

4) From the Archives: Are cigar makers losing an opportunity for sales because of their failure to disclose information about their blends? That’s the case we made in What’s on the Label? back in 2013. The argument remains unchanged and, unfortunately, so does the the state of cigar disclosures.

5) Deal of the Week: Here are 100 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, CAO, My Father, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, and more. Free shipping is included on any purchase. If you really want to stock up, add promo code “GBP20D” at checkout to knock $20 off an order of $150 or more.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Scandinavian Tobacco Group

Cigar Spirits: Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon (2017)

31 Jan 2018

The Michter’s whiskey brand was created in the 1950s by Lou Forman (the name is derived from his sons, MICHael and peTER). At that time, it was associated with the distillery in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, which ultimately closed in the late 1980s. (Some of the last whiskey distilled there ended up as the historic A.H. Hirsch bourbon.)

Later, the Michter’s brand was resurrected in the late 1990s, with whiskey made in Kentucky. I first wrote about Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon in 2009. Today, I look at the 2017 release. This limited and tough-to-find bourbon is released each fall, along with a 10-year rye and, depending on the year, 20- or 25-year bourbon.

Ostensibly, it’s the same bourbon; in reality, much has changed. Earlier, Michter’s 10 Year bourbons were known for being excellent picks, including from the stock of Stitzel Weller wheated bourbon that also was the source of earlier Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

While Michter’s has started operating its own distillery, to date all Michter’s 10 Year has been sourced elsewhere. Although the source has never been revealed, it certainly isn’t Stizel Weller anymore. Brown-Forman (Old Forester), Heaven Hill, and Barton’s have all been speculated to be the source(s).

Michter’s 10 is bottled at 94.4-proof. The 2017 version retails for around $120, though don’t be surprised to find it selling for even more.

The spirit is chestnut brown in color. The nose is an inviting combination of toffee, buttered popcorn, and toasted oak. It has a creamy, velvety texture that features a combination of vanilla, oak, subtle baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg), and brown sugar notes.

More than anything, the 2017 release of Michter’s 10 Year is smooth. The finish is long with soft wood spices and burnt brown sugar notes.

It’s a very tasty bourbon with one significant drawback: a $120+ price tag. Personally, I find it hard to justify this cost when I can easily buy three bottles of very good bourbons—like Eagle Rare 10 Year or Henry McKenna Single Barrel (10 year)—for less, though that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate this, smooth, flavorful, well-executed bourbon.

To fully appreciate Michter’s, you’ll want to pair it with a mild- or medium-bodied cigar that’s well-balanced. Specifically, I’d recommend Cabaiguan, Davidoff Grand Cru, Paul Garmirian Gourmet, or Tesa Vintage Especial.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Bandolero Traviesos

29 Jan 2018

Havana-born Nelson Alfonso is the graphic designer behind Selected Tobacco, an ultra-premium outfit that produces cigars under the Atabey, Byron, and Bandolero brands. Even if you’re unfamiliar with these cigars, you’ve almost certainly appreciated Alfonso’s work; his firm, Golden Age Visual Developers, has contributed to the packaging and design of many iconic Cuban brands, including Behike (which explains why Atabey looks so Behike-esque).

Bandolero is handmade in Costa Rica with an undisclosed blend. Here’s the origin of the Bandolero name from United Cigar (Selected Tobacco’s distributor in the U.S.): “Between 1717 and 1817, the Spanish Crown prohibited cigar production in the Caribbean and the rest of the American colonies, and although its precious leaves continued growing on the other side of the ocean, the ‘puro’ cigar rolling that we all know today could only be done at the Sevilla Royal Factory [in Spain]… [This] led to the rising prices of tobacco and the birth of the bandolero, an intrepid figure that hid on mysterious roads with tobacco leaves rolled in other countries…”

The Bandolero Traviesos has the dimensions of a standard robusto (5 x 50), but it actually smokes more like a shorter, stouter cigar given its long torpedo cap. It retails for $12 for a single. The cigar has a dark, mahogany-colored wrapper with moderate tooth and ample oils. The seams are tight and the veins are thin. Once the well-executed torpedo cap is clipped, I find a smooth cold draw. At the foot, the pre-light notes remind me of molasses.

After setting an even light with a couple wooden matches, a woodsy, slightly spicy, medium-bodied profile emerges with flavors ranging from cedar and espresso to black cherry and cocoa powder. The overall first impression is one of harmony, depth, and smoothness of delivery.

As the Traviesos progresses, the flavors remain fairly consistent, save for a cayenne-like heat that comes and goes at will, as well as the introduction of a taste I can only describe as natural tobacco. At times, there’s a roasted peanut flavor that’s borderline brilliant—but it’s very fleeting.

While the ash holds well and the draw is clear throughout, the burn line leaves something to be desired. I didn’t have to perform any touch-ups along the way, but I certainly thought about using my flame to correct the wavy burn a few times. The smoke production is about average.

Of the Bravos size (5.25 x 52), I wrote the following in May 2015: “Given the cost, I was hoping for a memorable, complex experience that would make me reach for this cigar to celebrate special occasions. The Bandolero Bravos falls a little short of those lofty expectations. While I enjoy the flavors, I think the complexity isn’t quite there, and that results in a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.”

My experience might have been a little different with the Traviesos, but my conclusions are identical. I award this cigar three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: 601 Green Oscuro Tronco

28 Jan 2018

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.”

When the 601 Green was first introduced in 2007, it was made by José “Pepín” García for United Tobacco and distributed by Miami cigars. All those details, plus the packaging, have changed since then, some more than once. Today, the Nicaraguan puro is made at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory. The full-bodied smoke features heavy earth, coffee, and pepper spice. It’s a well-made cigar that, as with the original 2007 release, will appeal to fans of full-bodied Nicaraguan smokes. That said, at least based on my memory of the Pepin-made 601, this lacks some of the complexity and intensity that made the original one of my favorite cigars at the time.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: MBombay Corojo Oscuro Robusto

27 Jan 2018

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.”

As we reported a couple weeks ago, MBombay recently announced a new five-count sampler pack that retails for $45. This pack is the only way to get the new Classic Torpedo (full review forthcoming from StogieGuys.com). Not to be overlooked is the Corojo Oscuro Robusto (4.5 x 50), a dark, Ecuadorian-wrapped beauty that retails for about $7. This well-constructed smoke burns well, draws smoothly, and boasts admirable balance. The flavor is thick and leathery with notes of espresso, dark chocolate, nougat, roasted cashew, and red pepper.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys