Cigar Review: Crux Epicure Robusto

24 Jan 2018

The first thing that stands out about this cigar is the wrapper, a beautiful light brown Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf stretched over Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The large band around it has Crux’s trademark medieval-reminiscent typface on a red background balanced by a white strip below with the cigar’s name in gold. It is an impressive presentation.

The next strong impression comes after lighting up. There’s none of that typical Connecticut grassy characteristic. Instead, the dominant flavors are natural sweetness and toast. Around the second third, light pepper and cedar mingle in and remain through the rest of the Robusto (5 x 50, $10).

Though it will certainly appeal to the large segment of cigar smokers who prefer milder cigars, Epicure is by no means an old-school Connecticut. Rather, it’s what I think of as a “millennial Connecticut”: a blend that manages to create smoothness and flavor without a significant grassy component in a mild- to medium-bodied smoke.

Like other Crux cigars, this one is rolled by Plasencia. Performance is first-rate. In both of those I smoked, the burn was slow and straight, the ash held tightly, and there was a lot of smoke production.

The line was introduced in 2016 but didn’t ship widely until last year. It comes in three sizes in addition to the Robusto: Corona Gorda (5.375 x 46), Robusto Extra (5.75 x 54), and Toro (6.25 x 52).

With a milder blend, Epicure fills a spot in the expanding Crux lineup that’s been highly praised, including numerous strong ratings at StogieGuys.com for many of their smokes.

This one is no exception. And I would urge anyone to give Epicure a try, even if you primarily smoke high-powered cigars. With the right circumstances and attention, I believe this cigar will satisfy most smokers. I rate it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: CruxStogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XXV)

22 Jan 2018

In this edition of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I remember an old foe, lament the health of the industry, and ponder how social media is changing cigar marketing.

Actually, It’s CHIP Now, Not SCHIP

Remember SCHIP? All the news about a looming government shutdown—as I am writing this, the House has passed a bill to keep the federal government funded for another four weeks, but the Senate doesn’t look poised to reach an agreement—has brought back memories of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), formerly known as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Just search “SCHIP” on this site (our search bar is in the upper right-hand corner) and you’ll find dozens of articles, mostly from the period of 2007-2009. This January 2009 article was published and updated on the day the SCHIP tax increase was announced (the cap is, and was, 40 cents per large cigar). As we reminded you on Friday, although CHIP’s “funding” would expire if a government funding deal isn’t struck, the tax on tobacco will remain either way. Fantastic. One silver lining: If and when CHIP’s tobacco tax funding is restored, we can once again claim to be “smoking for the children.”

And the Winner Is… Nobody

As you may have seen at Halfwheel.com, the site is not issuing an award for best new cigar company in 2017 because, well, there really wasn’t one. “We’ve given the award each year since 2013 alongside a host of other awards; that will change this year and there’s a good chance that change will be for good,” wrote Charlie Minato. “Due to a variety of reasons, chief amongst them the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation of premium cigars, there simply aren’t many new companies that would be eligible for the award.” We should all be alarmed by this. Creation, innovation, and new blood are signs of a rich and vibrant industry. This is evidence that burdensome regulations and taxes are taking their toll. For those who would stroll the aisles of the IPCPR Trade Show and cite the volume of booths and displays as an indication of industry health, I say this: Think about all the booths and displays that aren’t here. Think about all we might be missing, especially in the form of limited edition smokes. Looking to the horizon, absent major policy changes, isn’t it fair to expect more cigar company consolidation and closures, and fewer new operations?

What Is Skip Martin Eating Today?

Thanks to social media, the way in which the cigar smoking public connects with cigar makers has changed drastically in recent years. In the past, if you wanted to converse with your favorite cigar maker, you’d need to attend a huge gathering like Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke, or wait until he hosts an event at a retailer in your area. Today, you can simply log on to Facebook to trade comments, messages, photos, etc. Many cigar smokers even tag the cigar maker when they’re enjoying one of his cigars. The savvy cigar makers are embracing this trend, using Facebook to update their many followers about what they’re smoking, blending, working on—even eating and drinking. In this fashion, social media becomes a powerful tool to constantly stay top of mind with your most loyal customers. It also allows the cigar makers to bypass more traditional media options—like industry magazines, press releases, and, yes, blogs—and take messages directly to the masses. If you doubt this trend, just follow Skip Martin of RoMa Craft Tobac and Steve Saka of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust on Facebook; they’re constantly posting (some might say marketing). I am surprised more cigar makers don’t wholeheartedly adopt this approach.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Artisan’s Selection by PG No. 2

21 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.”

Top Bordeaux winemakers often make a “second wine” that shares the general characteristics of the higher-priced release but lacks some of the complexity and sophistication. In many ways, Artisan’s Selection by Paul Garmirian has a similar relationship to the more expensive PG Gourmet blend. With an Ecuadorian-grown wrapper around Dominican binder and filler tobaccos, this toro-sized No. 2 produces balanced, mild, creamy flavors with light cedar and roast cashew notes. The well-constructed $9 cigar isn’t for those who only enjoy full-bodied cigars, but if you appreciate cigars that emphasize smoothness, this is one to try.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: A.J. Fernandez Habano Enclave Robusto

20 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.”

With a flawless Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and a partially covered foot, this cigar makes a great first impression. This entry also features something of an unusual combination for A.J. Fernandez: a Cameroon binder covers his Nicaraguan filler. It’s a medium-strength cigar with lots of flavor, including cedar and nuts. The Robusto (5 x 52) retails for around $7. I would have liked greater smoke production and a little better burn, but, overall, this is an enjoyable cigar and worthy of a recommendation.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Boveda Launches Smart Sensor, CHIP Showdown Won’t Affect Cigar Taxes, Alec Bradley Partners with Rabbit Air, and More

19 Jan 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 563rd in the series.

1) Boveda, the Minnesota-based “global leader in two-way humidity control,” has introduced what it is calling “the best innovation for premium cigars since the invention of Boveda.” The new Boveda Smart Sensor will sync up your humidor’s humidity and temperature levels with an app on your phone or tablet. After a two-point calibration is completed, the device will be accurate within +/- 1.5% relative humidity, and the app can be customized to alert you to humidity or temperature changes exceeding a user-defined threshold of acceptability. The Smart Sensor is currently available at Boveda.com and retails for about $40, or $50 if you also want four large humidification packets and a calibration kit. Check back at StogieGuys.com in the coming weeks as we are currently testing the device for a full product review.

2) One of the sticking points in the current last-minute budget negotiations in Washington is the extent to which any deal will include funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program is funded largely by tobacco taxes, including a 40-cent-per-cigar tax on handmade cigars. Although the program’s “funding” would expire if a deal isn’t struck, the tax on tobacco remains whether or not a deal is struck and signed by the president.

3) Inside the Industry: On Monday, Alec Bradley Cigar Co. announced a new partnership with Rabbit Air to distribute “customized Alec Bradley/Rabbit Air co-branded air purifiers.” The SPA-700A model, for example, covers 700 square feet and will retail for about $520; the SPA-780A covers 815 square feet and will retail for about $620. The California-based Rabbit Air is “a leader in the air purifying industry, and its MinusA2 Ultra Quiet Air Purifier is the cigar industry standard for wall-mounted smoke-eating units,” according to a press release. “Our mutually beneficial relationship with Rabbit Air is a no-brainer,” said Jonathan Lipson, Alec Bradley’s director of sales and marketing. “Together, we have the opportunity to positively affect brick and mortar tobacconists. Not only will they have the opportunity to use and display the units, tobacconists will also have the ability to sell the units to the end consumer.”

4) From the Archives: Winter is tough on cigar humidity, but if you think your humidity may be off, the first thing to check is the accuracy of your hygrometer (especially if you are using the spring-loaded hygrometers that come in most humidors). For that, you’ll need to perform the simple but extremely useful salt calibration test.

5) Deal of the Week: StogieGuys.com recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, hot sauce kits, wine, workout gear, exclusive cigar packages, and more) delivered for just $45. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up here to be eligible for the February box; the “Churchill” box features four cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Boveda

Cigar Review: Illusione La Gran Classe Rex

17 Jan 2018

In 2012, Dion Giolito introduced La Grand Classe as a small-batch exclusive for his Fumare store in Reno, Nevada. The project appeared short-lived, with only one follow up, La Grand Classe Rex, which appeared in 2013.

Then, at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show, Giolito, who also owns the Illusione brand, announced La Grand Classe Rex was returning as part of an Illusione-branded La Grand Classe line.

The cigars feature a reddish-brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It measures 4.9 inches long with a ring gauge of 40 and sells for $5.50 per cigar. It comes un-banded in gold foil bundles of 25.

Flavors include roasted cashews, dry earth, and light leather in a medium- to full-bodied blend. The profile also features cinnamon and nutmeg spice, which starts out light and builds after the midway point.

It’s a balanced cigar that provides surprising nuance in such a small vitola. The draw and burn are excellent, although keep in mind that the ash produced by small ring gauge cigars has a tendency to fall off unexpectedly.

If you’re looking for a smaller cigar to enjoy this winter (because you don’t have the time or warmth for something longer) this is one to try. For providing pleasing flavors and excellent value, Illusione La Gran Classe Rex earns a 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 Review: La Aurora León Jimenes Prestige Churchill

15 Jan 2018

“La Aurora was founded on October 3rd, 1903 by Eduardo León Jimenes, a hard worker who was son and grandson of tobacco growers [who]… decided to go a step further with the creation of a cigar brand,” reads the La Aurora website. “The founder was then 18 years old, inherited some ‘tareas’ of land and, with a reduced roster of six employees, a great enthusiasm, and much effort, began to build his dream.”

La Aurora honored Eduardo León Jimenes and his brother, Herminio León Jimenes (the man who “kept alive the family legacy and tradition when Eduardo died in 1937”) with a cigar brand called León Jimenes. While the line has been around for decades, you could be forgiven if it’s unfamiliar to you. The Connecticut-wrapped blend has enjoyed much better sales in the international market, where smokers, generally speaking, tend to prefer milder smokes.

León Jimenes Prestige was introduced as an offshoot in 2011 with intentions of revitalizing the León Jimenes brand in the U.S. It includes a recipe that’s supposed to be spicier and fuller-bodied than its predecessor (though is by no means built to be a powerhouse): an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper surrounds a Dominican binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Three sizes available in the U.S.: Robusto (5 x 50, $7.20), Corona (5 x 38, $6.20), and Churchill (7 x 47, $8). There are other sizes listed on La Aurora’s website, but these are only for outside the U.S. All are made at the E. León Jimenes Tabacalera factory in the Dominican Republic.

This cigar’s modern-looking band of black, gold, and red makes no mention of the name “Prestige,” though it is easily distinguishable from the original León Jimenes and the Doble Maduro, both of which have red bands.

I smoked several Churchills for this review. This size has a pale, moderately oily wrapper. Thin veins are fairly common at the surface, and don’t be surprised if there’s a thicker vein protruding from the binder. The feel is moderately firm and the cold draw is smooth. At the foot, there are sweet, delicate pre-light notes of hay and grass.

After setting an even light with two wooden matches, a toasty, bready profile emerges with notes of oak, roasted nuts, coffee bean, and vanilla. There’s a fair amount of spice on the finish courtesy of white pepper and cinnamon. Towards the midway point, flavors of cashew, butter, and cream become more prominent. Things ramp up a bit in the final third, but the strength never crosses the mild- to medium-bodied end of the spectrum.

The physical properties are in line with what I’ve come to expect from La Aurora. The burn line is straight with no need for any touch-ups along the way. The draw is clear. The ash holds firm off the foot. And the smoke production is above average.

Put plainly, the León Jimenes Prestige Churchill is an enjoyable, well-made, laid-back cigar with some spice, good balance, and smooth, enjoyable flavors of cream and roasted nuts. For that, it earns three and a half stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys