Cigar Review: Arturo Fuente Añejo No. 55

22 Jan 2019

In 1998, Hurricane Georges swept through the Dominican Republic. In its wake it left 380 casualties and over $1 billion in damages. The hardest-hit areas included those involved in crop production—including, of course, tobacco.

Not long after the hurricane, Arturo Fuente experienced a predictable and critical shortage of its prized Fuente Opus X sun-grown wrapper leaf. Instead of postponing production until more wrapper was ready, the Fuentes wrapped the Opus X cigars in a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper that had been aged in cognac barrels. With that, the Añejo line was born.

When most people think Añejo, they’ll likely conjure images of the No. 77 vitola—more commonly known as The Shark. This unique format is best described as a tapered pyramid that morphs from a round head to a sharply box-pressed foot.

I didn’t find The Shark at my local shop; it’s rare, so that isn’t surprising. But I did find a box in the No. 55 size, which is a torpedo measuring 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 55. I bought a couple for this review. Not including crazy Illinois taxes, they cost me $15.25 apiece.

In my book, that price tag makes the Añejo No. 55 a super-premium. Expectations are elevated. Fortunately, the cigar comes dressed to impress. In addition to its toothy, rustic wrapper leaf and regal band of red, gold, and white, the bottom two-thirds is embraced by a cedar sleeve and a red foot ribbon.

I used a double-guillotine and found a smooth cold draw. After putting the cedar sleeve to work lighting the foot, pre-light notes of earth, chocolate, and (yes) cognac transition to a medium-bodied profile of cocoa, black coffee, dried fruit, and white pepper. There is body, but the smoothness validates the message on the cellophane that this cigar is “Xtra Aged.”

At the midway point and beyond, the body and spice intensify—though perhaps not to the degree some might expect, especially those who spend a lot of time with Nicaraguan cigars. The white pepper becomes black peppercorn. The black coffee becomes espresso. Dried fruit (think raisin, apricot, fig) and cocoa remain core to the profile.

I never had to go back and adjust the burn in any way after setting an even light with the cedar sleeve. The other physical properties are also exemplary (and appropriate for a cigar of this cost). The white ash holds well off the foot. The smoke production is voluminous. And the draw is clear throughout.

Perhaps, like me, it has been a long time since you fired up an Añejo from Arturo Fuente. Might I recommend you reacquaint yourself? The No. 55 is another stellar smoke from the world’s great tobacco family. It earns a fantastic rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Illusione Epernay Le Petit

20 Jan 2019

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.”


The Illusione Epernay La Petite is a great winter cigar when time is short. The petite corona-sized (4.5 x 44) Nicaraguan puro features a Corojo ’99 Rosado wrapper and Corojo and Criollo filler. The cigar produces an exquisitely balanced combination of coffee, wood, and creamy notes in the mild to medium range. Construction is excellent. Shop around and you can find it for about $5 per cigar (in a box of 50). It’s an excellent cigar at a great value.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Legend Conqueror

18 Jan 2019

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.”

I found this smoke in the corner of one of my humidors, and there’s no telling how long it hid there unnoticed. Perhaps since 2008, the year this blend was introduced as a fuller-bodied version of the original Excalibur line. Setting fire to the Connecticut-wrapped Legend yields a tasty, well-built cigar that goes well with sipping rum. The Conqueror’s (6.25 x 54) profile of seared steak, black pepper, and woody spice pairs perfectly with a sweet spirit, and its superior combustion properties only add to the enjoyment. Expect a 120-minute smoke that’s more complex than your average bold cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A


photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Menorval XO Tres Vieux and Morin Hors d’Age 15 Years Calvados

16 Jan 2019

Ahead of both bourbon or rye, you could make the argument that apple brandy is the original American spirit. It turns out Johnny Appleseed, whose story you likely heard in grade school, was planting apples that were likely good for little except turning into apple cider, brandy or applejack (which is created by mixing brandy-neutral grain spirits).

But apple brandy was hardly an American invention. For at least 400 years, the Normandy region of has been distilling apples (sometimes along with pears) into calvados brandy. Today I’m tasting two calvados brandies, both aged for at least 15 years.

Menorval XO Tres Vieux Calvados

Details: Aged more than 15 years in oak casks. Bottled at 40% ABV. $41 per bottle.

Nose: Pear, baking spices, and brown sugar.

Palate: Honey, walnut, brioche, and leather.

Finish: Soft and long with pie crust, leather, and oak.

Calvados Morin Hors d’Age 15 Years

Details: Aged in 200-year-old casks for 15 year calvados, this one bottled at 42% ABV. $55 per bottle.

Nose: Fresh tart apple, tannins, and oak.

Palate: Floral notes with clove, sandlewood, citrus, and sherry.

Finish: Oak, sour apple, and spice.

Both of these brandies showcase why I’ve become a fan of of calvados. While very different, each showcases both the fruit and wood from age. The Morin is more full-bodied and fruit-forward, while the Menorval is more restrained with softer fruit flavors and more wood influence.

I’m not sure either calvados could stand up to a full-bodied cigar without being overpowered, but a well-balanced medium-bodied cigar is an excellent pairing. Recommended cigars include the Illusione Rothchildes CT, Paul Garmirian Reserva ExclusivaTatuaje Black, and Davidoff Colorado Claro.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: Tampa Looks at Protecting Historic Cigar Factories

14 Jan 2019

Tampa, which calls itself “Cigar City” for its long-ago role as the hub of the industry in the U.S., may again consider officially protecting the historic factories that remain.

Designating the old facilities as historic landmarks, which restricts some changes, was rejected a few years ago. Many of the two-dozen or so remaining buildings still dot Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood, which is also home to numerous cigar shops, small rolling operations, and a giant annual cigar festival.

The only full-fledged factory still operating is J.C. Newman’s (pictured above). Others sit empty or have been converted to different uses. Some already have the historic designation.

New interest in the factories was spurred recently when the city said it had ordered a halt to remodeling work on the Santaella Cigar Factory building because of permit issues. One city councilman told the Tampa Bay Times that it was important to protect the old factories: “They are the castles of our neighborhood.”

According to the Times, Tampa council members considered the historic landmark designation in 2006 but were dissuaded by owners who viewed it as a potential restriction of their property rights.

The Santaella is a three-story building constructed in 1904, one of more than 200 cigar factories that operated at one time in Ybor City. Babe Ruth was said to stop by Santaella for cigars when the Yankees held spring training in the area.

In recent years, the building has been home to local artists. It was sold last year, and the permit flap flared as the new owner was renovating.

We’ve written about Tampa’s cigar history in the past, including a 2015 piece that included a reference to a terrific resource, Tom Ufer’s seminal guide to the factories in Ybor City. If you don’t find live links at Tom’s site, be sure to check back; he recently told me he’s working to restore much of the great information he compiled.

George E

photo credit: J.C. Newman

Quick Smoke: La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Churchill Especiales Oscuro

13 Jan 2019

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.”

La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Churchill Especiales Oscuro

With an incredibly oily wrapper, the Double Ligero Especiales has been a hidden gem in the La Flor Dominicana portfolio for years. The cigar (7 x 48) features a sun-grown Ecuadorian Oscuro wrapper with a pigtail cap around Dominican binder and filler. The pre-light notes are rich with toasted oak and dried fruit. Once lit, I find graphite, wood, unsweetened chocolate, and earth. It’s medium- to full-bodied with lots going on. A classic, powerful, Dominican filler-driven blend, the La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Churchill Especiales Oscuro is worth revisiting.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Cornelius & Anthony Cornelius Toro

11 Jan 2019

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.”

I’ve smoked quite a few Cornelius Toros since I first reviewed it in 2016. It’s a remarkably consistent cigar, from the looks of its light-brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper to the opening puffs of sweetness that are followed by some spice and nuts. The Cornelius burns slowly and smokes smoothly. I thoroughly enjoyed the latest one, and I think most smokers will, too.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Cornelius & Anthony