Cigar Spirits: George Dickel Bottled in Bond 13 Year Old Whisky

30 Jan 2020

Introduced in the last year, George Dickel Bottled in Bond caught my attention for having an attribute few new bourbon offerings have: the possibility of being an excellent value. As the popularity of bourbon has spiked, so have prices.

Some of the best values from five years ago have either dropped their aged statements (so they can include younger whiskey), raised prices, become highly allocated and impossible to find, or have been discontinued. All of which is a long run-up to saying a new 13-year-old bourbon for under $40 is not the type of thing you see every day. (Side note: Tennessee whiskey produced by both Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel meets the legal definition of straight bourbon even if you won’t find the word on the bottle; the key addition to the process that sets Tennessee whiskey apart is the Lincoln County Process, where the spirit is filtered through charcoal.)

Bottled-in-bond whiskey means the spirit must fit a few qualities. It must all be distilled at the same distillery during the same season (January-June or July-December), must be aged in a federally bonded warehouse for four years, and must be bottled at 100-proof or higher.

Distilled at George Dickel’s Cascade Hollow Distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee, this mahogany-colored, 13-year-old bottled-in-bond whiskey was distilled in the fall of 2005 with a mash bill of 84% corn, 10% rye, and 6% malted barley. It was bottled in the spring of 2019 at 50% ABV (100-proof).

The nose is full of peanuts and roast corn. On the palate there’s powdered chocolate, dried corn, candied citrus, and vanilla. The finish has ginger and clove with a lingering, velvety mouthfeel.

This is, without a doubt, an an excellent bourbon that probably could have been sold for more. But I think long-term it’s a good strategy for George Dickel, which is always in the shadow of its Tennessee neighbor Jack Daniel’s. Reminding consumers of their quality with an eye-catching value only serves to make people more likely to check out their other offerings (which are themselves solid and underrated) in the future.

Despite being 100-proof, it’s not overly strong, even when tasted neat. Pair it with a medium-bodied cigar like the Bolivar Royal Corona, Tatuaje Black, or Davidoff Colorado Claro.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: El Galan Campestre Habano Toro

16 Jan 2020

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 first wrote up this cigar when it was just a bundle smoke made by Felix Mesa of the largely unknown El Galan Cigars. Today, Mesa is the man tasked with heading up Fuente’s new Nicaraguan operations. The Toro sports a Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It costs around $30 for a bundle of 20. The specimen I’m smoking is a sample with nearly two years of age. Despite a foot that initially frayed when lit, construction is largely solid, including an ash that’s surprisingly solid for a bundle smoke. Flavors are medium-bodied with balanced notes of coffee, wood, and earth. I’m not sure age has improved this cigar, but it hasn’t made it any worse, either.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Curivari Buenaventura BV 500

11 Jan 2020

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.”

I’ve long touted Curivari Buenaventura as an excellent cigar for the value. The Nicaraguan puro’s understated, classic appearance fits the sub-$5 price tag, but don’t mistake that as an accurate proxy for quality. Excellent construction aids  the delivery of a balanced combination of medium-bodied flavors: cocoa, espresso, cedar, oak, and earth. This reasonably priced gem is a little hard to find but well worth seeking out.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

News: Keeping Up With What Once Made Tampa ‘Cigar City’

6 Jan 2020

Whether you’re a habitué of Tampa’s historic Ybor City, or a new visitor eager to explore, it helps to have a guide.

And if you’re interested in the iconic buildings that once housed bustling cigar factories, there’s no one better to help plan your tour that Tom Ufer, who’s probably forgotten more about those old structures than most of us will ever know.

Tom writes now about cigars and the Tampa Bay cigar scene on his blog, The Cigar Smoking Man. In the past, he also produced a terrific Baedeker about the Ybor City factories while he was writing for Examiner.com. But when that site shut down a few years ago, his work went with it.

Now, though, Tom tells me he’s been able to recreate the posts and is starting to publish them again online.

The old factories that helped make Tampa “Cigar City” seem to always be of interest.

Just last month, for instance, the Tampa Bay Times wrote about the more than 100-year-old Y. Pendes & Alvarez Cigar Factory going up for sale for $4.5 million. While it is one of the fewer than two-dozen remaining factory buildings left from Tampa’s cigar-making prime, it doesn’t have protection under a local preservation ordinance.

Also, work continues on renovations at J.C. Newman’s illustrious El Reloj factory—the last one operating in Tampa—in time to celebrate its 110th anniversary this year by making it a cigar-lover’s destination.

“In addition to an expanded museum, our public areas will also include a retail store, hand-rolling area, and many interactive experiences,” the company says. “Between our self-guided and docent-led tour options, you will be able to peek into the past to see how our family persevered through the years, learn more about the industry which built Tampa, and experience the artistry of cigar making first hand.”

So, before your next visit to Ybor City, where you’ll find a number of shops in a cigar-friendly atmosphere, check out Tom’s guide and enjoy a little history along with a smoke.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

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