Quick Smoke: Mi Querida Firecracker

23 Dec 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 phrase “little but mighty” comes to mind. The Firecracker vitola measures only 3.5 inches long with a ring gauge of 50. Yet the flavor—punctuated by espresso, dark chocolate, and leather with background notes of cashew and green raisin—is bold, full-bodied, and highly satisfying. The physical properties are outstanding, too. Originally exclusive to the New Hampshire-based Two Guys Smoke Shop, which originated the Firecracker Series, the Mi Querida Firecracker is now a regular-production offering from Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. It is made for Saka by the NACSA factory in Estelí with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Expect to pay around $7.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

StogieGuys.com’s Top Cigars of 2019 (Part II)

18 Dec 2019

Here at StogieGuys.com we delight in reviewing good cigars, and it’s especially rewarding when we can introduce readers to worthwhile smokes they haven’t tried.

This year, we smoked quite a few cigars that rated four stogies on our scale. While they may not be quite the show-stoppers that get five stogies, or those that earned four and a half stogies this year, they’re still excellent and enjoyable, and we wanted to list them here. (You’ll find an explanation of the StogieGuys.com rating system here.)

So without further ado, here’s an alphabetical list of the nearly two-dozen smokes we rated a (very) admirable) four stogies in 2019:

Aquataine Pestra Muierilor: “Once lit, you’ll find a full-bodied smoke with leather, toast, dry earth, and a combination of floral and fruit sweetness.”

Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature: “The Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature has stood the test of time, and for good reason.”

Arturo Fuente Rosado Sungrown Magnum R 54: “From the wrapper’s pre-light floral aroma to some light pepper in the final third, Rosado Sungrown Magnum is a most enjoyable smoke.”

Black Label Trading Co. Killer Bee Connecticut: “[I]t never falls into the trap of tasting like ‘just another Connecticut.’”

Black Label Trading Co. Morphine 2019 Corona Gorda: “The 2019 Morphine Corona Gorda is unapologetically San Andrés. If you like that rich, earthy flavor—and I do—you’ll not want to miss this.”

Cohiba Connecticut Robusto: “While relatively few of us light up $20 cigars on a regular basis, if you occasionally reach for a high-end smoke I’d suggest you add Cohiba Connecticut to your list of possibilities.”

Crowned Heads La Imperiosa Magicos: “La Imperiosa is well-made, rich, and classically Garcia and Nicaraguan.”

Curivari Gloria de Leon Dominante: “One of the more interesting cigars I’ve smoked recently, and one with flavors that are anything but linear.”

Diamond Crown Black Diamond Radiant: “[A] wonderful cigar worthy of your time, attention, and, yes, hard-earned money.”

Diesel Hair of the Dog: “While the cigar, overall, is in the medium-strength range, it begins with a strong pepper blast reminiscent of some of Don José ‘Pepin’ Garcia’s early smokes.”

Espinosa Alpha Dawg Short Churchill: “The Alpha Dawg is an interesting, satisfying smoke, especially for those who like Nicaraguan tobacco and appreciate subtlety.”

Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Cameroon Merlin: “[S]eems to be among the least heralded offerings in the vast General Cigar catalog. I think that’s a shame because it is, for my taste, among the most enjoyable.”

Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Epicure: “The tasty blend of Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan filler inside a Connecticut Broadleaf binder hit the spot.”

Intemperance Whiskey Rebellion 1794 Hamilton: “Call me a RoMa fanboy if you like, but this is another winner from Skip Martin, and a great sub-$7 smoke.”

La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro Robusto: “The Nicaragua Oscuro has the look of a full-bodied cigar, and the introductory profile lives up to that expectation.”

Oliva Master Blends 3 Torpedo: “Along the way I enjoyed tastes of nuts, leather, and sweetness that moved between syrup and cinnamon.”

Partagas Limited Reserve Decadas 2019: “It’s not overly sweet, and there’s plenty else going on, including black pepper spice, red pepper heat, cereals, and oak.”

Protocol Probable Cause Lancero: “This is this is a good lancero at a fair price ($10).”

Sir Robert Peel Maduro: “It’s a full-bodied smoke from the get-go. Leather, chocolate, espresso, cedar, and cinnamon notes are all apparent.”

Sir Robert Peel Natural: “This is a soft, smooth cigar with a creamy, buttery texture.”

S.T.K. Black Dahlia by George Rico Robusto: “It’s suitable for a morning smoke with a cup of black coffee, an afternoon round of golf, or a post-dinner treat with some sipping rum.”

Villiger La Meridiana Toro: “This cigar would seem to be one of Villiger’s best efforts yet.”

If these beauties aren’t enough to keep you busy, check back on the cigars we rated highly in 2018. Now, on to 2020. And happy smoking!

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

StogieGuys.com’s Top Cigars of 2019

16 Dec 2019

Last year there was one. This year this are none. Five-stogie rated cigars, that is. Still, in our 13th year of reviewing cigars, StogieGuys.com found many high-quality smokes we can heartily recommend.

Seven cigars were close to the top, garnering four-and-a-half stogies, and 23 were rated four stogies. (You can read about our rating system here, and find an archive of five-stogie cigars here.) For some perspective, over the course of this site’s history, only 60 cigars have ever earned the heralded five-stogie rating, which amounts to about 4.5 cigars a year.

As is the case each year, the cigars we liked the most were an eclectic collection, ranging from those rolled by small producers to products from large corporations. They also encompass all manner of wrapper, binder, and filler leaf combinations, as well as myriad strength profiles.

Here’s an alphabetical list of all 2019 cigars that earned afour-and-a-half rating, with links to the original reviews:

Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Espressivo: “A full-bodied, but not overly strong cigar… Earth, coffee, and chocolate are the dominant flavors in this full-bodied smoke. Pepper and cedar add to the well-balanced profile, with sweet cedar notes especially prominent towards the final third. It’s a harmonious cigar with a great swirling combination of sweetness, spice, and wood notes.”

Arturo Fuente Añejo No. 55: “The No. 55 is another stellar smoke from the world’s great tobacco family. 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.’”

CroMagnon Blockhead: “What an immensely satisfying, well-balanced smoke. Once lit, the body seems to be less intense than other CroMagon cigars. While it’s still a thick, leathery cigar with notes of black pepper, espresso, and chalky earth, the familiar char has been replaced with sweet notes: honey, graham cracker, and Cuban coffee with sugar.”

Diesel Whiskey Row Sherry Cask Robuso: “Priced fairly, well-constructed, and with deep, rich flavors… Pre-light you can pick up the hints of the barrel-aged tobacco with deep char notes with caramel and dried fruit. Once lit, the charred notes remain and combine with classic earthy Nicaraguan flavors, light pepper, and lots of chocolate and espresso.”

Powstanie Broadleaf Toro: “Whatever minor shortcomings the Powstanie Broadleaf Toro has in the physical department, though, are more than made up for in flavor… a medium- to full-bodied profile of cereals, roast cashew, green raisin, and some warm tobacco sweetness on the finish. The texture is bready. As the finish lingers, I notice black pepper spice on the tip of the tongue…”

Sobremesa Robusto Largo: “After establishing an even light, I find a creamy, balanced, delightfully familiar profile of café au lait, gentle cinnamon spice, salted nuts, and a bit of cayenne heat. The finish has both black pepper and baking spices. The texture is bready… Flavors like dark cherry, green raisin, cedar, molasses, and caramel come and go.”

The Wise Man Maduro Churchill: “A fantastic job getting a rich earthiness from the wrapper while avoiding some of the typical San Andrés pitfalls… The flavors include a complex plethora of baking spices, cocoa powder, espresso, and white pepper. The finish is dry cedar with a hint of cayenne heat. The resting smoke is a delightful blend of cinnamon and cashew.”

And if this list doesn’t satisfy your craving for cigars to try, next up is the list of 2019’s four-stogie selections, as well as some top selections from the past.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: E.P. Carrillo New Wave Brillantes

15 Dec 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.”

Perhaps overlooked in favor of some of the E.P. Carrillo brand’s more recent and buzz-worthy offerings, New Wave Connecticut is (unsurprisingly, given its name) a modern take on the classic Connecticut-wrapped cigar. More medium-boded than mild, and with an Ecuadorian-grown, Connecticut-seed wrapper rather than one grown in the Connecticut River Valley, it is in many ways an updated take on the classic, best-selling formula. Roasted nuts, cream, graham, and mild spice round out this balanced smoke. With a price around $5, it’s a real value in addition to being a well-constructed, enjoyable cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Holiday Guide for Giving the Gift of Cigars

12 Dec 2019

gift

Including today, there are only twenty shopping days left until Christmas. I say “only” because, while that may seem like a long time (to my three-year old it seems like an eternity), rest assured the holiday will be here before you know it.

If you’re like me, you loathe shopping and haven’t bought a damn thing yet. I can’t help you with that. But if you have a cigar enthusiast or two on your list, I am more than happy to offer up some guidance in the form of the following tips:

Only give a box if you’re sure. Some cigar enthusiasts are completely loyal to one brand or one specific blend. If this is the case, you can’t do wrong by buying a box he or she is sure to love. Maybe this isn’t the most original idea—and maybe the box won’t be much of a surprise—but any cigar smoker will tell you that you can never have enough of your favorite smokes, especially if they’re made in limited quantities.

Samplers offer variety. Many cigar enthusiasts don’t have just one favorite cigar. For these folks, we don’t recommend buying a whole box. Instead, samplers are terrific. When you give a sampler of ten different cigars, it’s like giving ten different gifts. The recipient might not love all ten, but chances are he/she will really enjoy at least a few, and you might even be responsible for turning someone on to a new favorite.

Consider cigar accessories. Every cigar enthusiast needs a great table lighter, travel lighter, nice cutter, good ashtray, travel cigar case, humidor, etc. Instead of buying cigars, think about giving the gift of a cigar accessory. Many accessories can be personalized and, unlike cigars themselves, are likely to last for years to come.

Don’t forget cigar rights. Most cigar smokers have a fervent passion for defending cigar rights and opposing tobacco taxes and smoking bans. For these folks, a membership to Cigar Rights of America is an excellent gift. Benefits of membership include supporting professional lobbyists who fight for cigar freedoms, discounts at cigar shops, free cigars, and more.

Many cigar lovers also enjoy bourbon. Cigars and bourbon go together like peanut butter and jelly. I would strongly encourage you to check out our bourbon gift-giving guide, our A-Z Bourbon Guide, and our extensive archive of spirits reviews (all of which also include pairing suggestions). You could do a lot worse than a nice bottle of bourbon and an accompanying cigar or three.

Don’t forget to treat yourself. Lots of cigar purchase opportunities come with a free gift (i.e., a five-pack, a table lighter, a cutter, etc.). Go ahead and take advantage of the offers. You’ve earned it.

Need help? Ask. Find a local tobacconist and don’t be afraid to ask an employee for guidance or suggestions. Any good cigar shop will have helpful, patient, knowledgeable staff. Even if you aren’t a regualr cigar smoker yourself, your visit needn’t be intimidating or unfruitful.

Have other ideas for helpful cigar gift-giving tips this holiday season? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Mi Querida Short Gordo Grande

8 Dec 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.”

Following Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust’s 2015 debut cigar, Sobermesa, was a flurry of new releases for the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show, including Mi Querida. Mi Querida was particularly anticipated as it reunited Dunbarton owner Steve Saka with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper (he famously employed Broadleaf to create Drew Estate’s landmark Liga Privada line). This squat gordo (4.75 x 56) features medium- to full-bodied flavors with notes of coffee, chocolate, light spice, cedar, cinnamon, and black pepper. Excellent combustion and a sub-$10 price makes this an easy cigar to recommend.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Tip: How to Travel with Cigars on a Plane

3 Dec 2019

travel-cigar

Whether you’re taking a week-long vacation to a beach paradise or just flying off for a few days in a distant city for work, you’ll probably want to take some cigars.

Depending on where you are going, you may not have easy access to a cigar shop. Or you may not have access to reasonably priced cigars (taxes can be very high in certain states and countries). Or you may only have access to Cubans, and you may not be sure of their authenticity.

Even if you think you’ll pick up some cigars on your trip, bringing some cigars along with the tools necessary to enjoy them is probably a good idea. So here are some tips to make your air travel with cigars smoother:

Protect Your Cigars

Plane travel can be a traumatic experience for cigars, between the pressurized air and the fact that your bag is probably going to be forcibly jammed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. (Don’t check your cigars, as the cargo hold of the plane can have some pretty extreme temperature changes that can do serious damage.) The natural solution is a hard plastic cigar case like those made by Xikar or Cigar Caddy. Each comes in anywhere from a five to fifteen-count, or sometimes more.

If you don’t have a case, or if you can’t fit all the cigars you want to bring in the case you have, a sealed Ziplock bag will do fine. But you’ll want to put the bag in a hard tube or box to make sure they don’t get crushed. If you are traveling for more than few days, throw a small Boveda pack in with your cigars to help stabilize and maintain proper humidity.

Bring a Lighter, Avoid Confiscation

Torch lighters are great, but the TSA will take them from your carry-on or checked luggage. Trust me on this. I’ve accidentally left them in my bag and had them confiscated. But you can bring a soft flame lighter in your carry-on. You can also bring a single box of matches, so I like to stuff one box of wooden matches to the brim as a backup.

My go-to soft flame lighter is the Djeep, which is dependable and has decent capacity. It’s also cheap, so if some ornery TSA agent on a power-trip takes it you won’t be too upset. If you really want a torch lighter, you might consider a Soto Pocket Torch, which can convert a regular cheap lighter into a torch. But bring the lighter in your carry-on and leave the Soto in your checked bag to make sure it isn’t confiscated if the TSA agent figures out what it is. Also, for all lighters and matches, know that other countries might have different rules (Nicaragua, of all places, is known for taking all lighters when you depart from Managua). So no matter what you bring, make sure it is something that, if push comes to shove, you won’t feel too bad about leaving behind.

Check or Carry On a Cutter

Bringing most cutters on a plane shouldn’t be a problem (according to the TSA, blades smaller than four inches are good to carry on), but you never know how the rules are going to be enforced. So fancy cutters, if you must bring them, should go in checked luggage.

Travel is the perfect time to bring along that cheap cutter you got as a throw-in. And remember, if all else fails you can always cut your cigar with your fingernail; just don’t use your teeth.

Be Weary of Fake Cubans

Traveling overseas is great as you have access to cigars from that island south of Miami, but don’t assume you’ll easily be able to find legitimate Cuban cigars. For years, Americans have been buying and smoking Cubans overseas, even though technically this violated the Cuban Embargo. Now, with restrictions being eased, it is perfectly legal for an American to smoke a Cuban cigar while abroad. (Bringing Cubans into the U.S. is still illegal, expect for a small quantity directly from Cuba.)

Fake Cuban cigars are everywhere, especially at vacation spots visited frequently by Americans. The best way to ensure you are buying authentic Cubans is to shop at an official Casa del Habano. Beyond that, here are two easy tips to avoid the most obvious fakes: (1) If the price is too good to be true it is certainly fake, as prices are fixed and nobody’s relative or friend is getting them at a discount straight from the factory; and (2) There has never been any Cuban cigar made with a glass or plastic top box. (I still see pictures of glass top Cohiba boxes in cigar groups on Facebook, only for a dozen or more people to tell the poster the unfortunate news that they were swindled. Repeat after me: All Cuban cigars in a glass top box are fake.)

Carry on Some Booze

Unless you are heading to a country that doesn’t allow alcohol, there is nothing wrong with putting a bottle or three in your checked bag (though you may have to pay taxes on them). But what is often overlooked is that you can actually carry on booze in small amounts.

When carrying on, alcohol is subject to the same rules as other liquids, meaning no container more than 3.4 ounces and all liquids must fit in a one-quart sized bag. Mini bottles (usually 50 ml.) are well under that limit, and you can fit five or six in one Ziplock. If you are planning on cracking these open on the plane, know that most airlines have a rule against alcohol not served by the flight attendants. Practically speaking, though, if you are discrete about it you probably won’t get caught.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys