Monday, December 31, 2007

Carlos Toraño Signature Collection

Carlos Toraño Signature Collection robusto
$5.50 single, Size: 5", Ring: 52
Brazilian maduro wrapper, USA Connecticut binder, Dominican and Nicaraguan ligero fillers

Once in a while, you just fall into good fortune, despite your best efforts. I fell into this fine cigar on Christmas Eve, and thought I'd save it for my New Years Eve smoke. Hat's off to my generous colleague, Uncle Booga.

Toraño's Signature Collection has a sun-grown Brazilian wrapper, and Dominican and Nicaraguan ligero fillers wrapped in a broadleaf binder. With the Toraño band and a cedar sleeve, this cigar looks and feels classy.

The Brazilian wrapper's a lovely chocolate brown and looks a bit rough, showing some sharp veins and a toothy feel. After punching, the smooth draw confirms the look and feel that this cigar is well-stuffed with tobacco. A solid, white ash held for two inches before the initial drop, and over an inch afterwards. This robusto took a bit over an hour to smoke.

After toasting the foot, I was greeted with rich plumes of smoke with a mild, sweet cedar and leather flavors. Once the first inch was past, the flavor became a little stronger, nearer medium-bodied, and stayed there for the rest of the smoke. Halfway, a light spice appears on the palate for a medium finish. I had the impression that this cigar had been aged well, with nicely rounded flavors that belie the ligero tobaccos used in the filler.

The Signature Collection robusto is a nicely balanced, mild to medium cigar that should entertain all but the fussiest cigar enthusiasts.

Cigar Jack smoked a Signature Collection Perfecto in May 2007.

Resolutions 2008

One of the resolutions that I'm gracefully accepting is a limit on the cigar smoking. So, I've formatted a schedule of cigar smoking and reviews that's pretty much a Friday night/Saturday night endeavor. It's hard to argue for a more frequent allowance when you've got colleagues diagnosed with various cancers left and right.

I'll also be giving some of the cigars, the ones that do poorly, a second chance before flogging them. I figure that a three month reprieve period is fair, don't you? Then, we'll see how the offending cigar fares after three months in the Humidor, aging and hob-nobbing with its betters. Hear that, Sherpa?

This coming semester at the university is bringing analytical geometry and calculus to my plate. Between that, and training a new engineer at work, I'll be fairly busy. I'll also be wishing I could smoke more cigars, but ç'est la guerre.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Reo robusto
$7/ 5pk., Size: 5", Ring: 52 box-pressed
Costa Rican Sumatra wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, Honduran and Nicaraguan mixed fillers

Rolled in Danli, Hounduras, the Reo is an EO Brands/United Tobacco cigar blended to their spec and made by Rocky Patel. I got a 5-pack from CBid, let the cigars hang out for a week, then smoked the first.

Reo's wrapper is a nice, medium-dark maduro, glossy, and sporting some moderate veins. The cigar was fairly firm, but the draw loose, and I had to keep puffing on it to keep it lit. Even still, I needed to relight twice, and do a bit of touch-up on the wrapper in between. The crumbly grey ash dropped after an inch.

The first 3/4 inch tasted like an unfiltered Marlboro; Harsh tobacco flavor with no pleasant attributes. After an inch a roasted nut flavor came in, but it was harsh and edgy. Mid-cigar, it mellowed to an earthy cedar, tasting like a Tierra Del Sol, and there it stayed for the duration. The finish on my palate was reminiscent of varnish or shellac.

For a cigar from a well-esteemed blender, I was a bit let down. Reviews from just a year prior to my purchase hailed the Reo as a good cigar, so I expected a little more from it. After letting the cigars rest for a couple more months:

Stogie Review smoked the Reo robusto back in Nov. '06.

Friday, December 28, 2007

So Far #2

Well, since my lament about cheap Nicaraguan cigars, I've had a few better ones, and of varying strengths. I enjoyed the Oliva Serie G maduro, as a nice mild-medium cigar, and enjoyed the Perdomo Lot 23 maduro, a more medium skewed cigar. The Joya De Nicaragua Antaño 1970 knocked my socks off with bold and robust flavors. Like sparring with a kung-fu master, it was a good experience, but I wouldn't want one every day.

I'm also starting to taste familiar themes in different cigars and from different manufacturers, and cross-referencing them.

I've had some other thoughts about the disastrous end of the Gurkha Grand Age perfecto, smoked the other day. The Grand Age's maduro Cameroon wrapper, while lending a great taste to the cigar, was far too thin. The Indian Tabac Cameroon Legend's maduro wrapper was thick and leathery, while the Grand Age's wrapper flaked away like the skin of a peanut or dry onion.

It may have been a bad wrap job, or just a bum leaf or two. Over humidification may have also been the culprit, but I've been keeping the humidity to 66%-68%. I'm stumped. But, the cigar was tasty enough to warrant another foray into that model and vitola.

I've been gravitating more toward the $4-$5 cigars, and so need to get back down to the cheaper $2.50-$3.50 cigars. To that end, I picked up a couple more Primos, a couple G.R. Specials, some Flor De Oliva, and Nestor Reserve cigars. Once they've had some time to unwind a bit in the Humidor, watch out.

By the by, one of my local B&Ms has a brand of bundle cigars, unbanded, in a box with the name 'Miura' on it. Anyone know anything about them? I also saw some Gran Habano #3 that looked in the right price range.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Oliva Serie G Maduro

Oliva Serie G maduro bellicoso
$3.50 (B&M), Size: 5", Ring: 52
Cameroon wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and fillers

I got together with some colleagues for a "city limits" mini-herf, gathering at a pub just beyond the reach of the city's smoking ban. I brought a couple goodies, including this Oliva Serie G and a Gurkha Grand Age (below). I had yet to smoke anything by Oliva, so the Serie G seemed a good place to start.

The Serie G's maduro Cameroon wrapper was dark, smooth, glossy, and had an aroma of cocoa and nut. Box pressed into a squarish presentation, the wrapper seemed supple enough to stand a little pressure, and felt nicely packed.

After nipping the cap, a cold draw found flavors of cocoa and leather. The draw was mildly restrained, but not terribly tight, so the rollers seemed to have done a good job. The silvery white ash, dropping after an inch, and fairly straight burn also attested to the decent construction.

Once the foot started glowing, the smoke had a mild body, with toast and nut flavors to start. Father in, hints of sweet cedar, still mild, appeared. Near the mid point, a leathery flavor established itself. Cedar and leather flavors strengthened to become almost medium-bodied in last third. I didn't notice any pronounced sharp or spicy flavors, just mellow, rounded ones.

Oliva's Serie G maduro is a pleasant mild-medium cigar. I'm going to scrounge a few more for safe keeping.

Gurkha Grand Age

Gurkha Grand Age perfecto
$3 (CBid), Size: 6", Ring: 60
Cameroon wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, Nicaraguan and Peruvian fillers

The Grand Age is proclaimed as Gurkha's first cigar with a Cameroon wrapper, and this wrapper's a beauty: Dark, glossy, and some veins, with an aroma of wood and coffee. While smoking, the burn needed fixing a couple times, but the ash was solid and silvery, dropping after 2 inches. The smoke was thick and lush.

The cigar sprang to life immediately, with warm and spicy wood flavors at the start, similar to a Cusano CC. After the first inch, a leathery undertone arrived and stayed for the rest of the smoke. Hints of roast red peppers came in mid-cigar, then mellowed again to the basic wood-leather flavor (similar to an Indian Tabac Cameroon Legend). The last third brought a spicy ligero flavor to the fore. This was a tasty cigar.

Alas, there were some problems from the outset, mainly dealing with the aforementioned Cameroon wrapper. My cigar was split near the cap before cutting, and the problems got worse. After cutting, a section of wrapper, near the cap, split off, leaving the binder showing. I was able to position my lips enough while drawing on the cigar to alleviate some of the problems.

Then, one-third into the cigar, the wrapper started splitting and flaking in other areas. I tried to moisten the wrapper more around those areas to keep the wrapper from completely flaking off. As the smoke went on, the cigar's wrapper gradually deteriorated, splitting and cracking, until, in the final third, I had sizable fissures in the cigar, enough to kill the draw and end the smoke. I had to give it up almost an inch earlier than I would have liked.

Sometimes, bad things happen to good cigars. It's doubly hard when it happens to an expensive cigar, even if you get it cheap. It may have been comical to watch me struggle to keep this cigar together long enough to smoke it, but the flavors were well worth the effort. I'd love to try this one again, if it will have me.

Update, 1/13/08 : The next Grand Age I smoked was fine, construction-wise. I believe the difference was dry-boxing it for a couple days prior to smoking. And it was still delicious!

Velvet Cigar smoked a Grand Age in May 2007.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Joya De Nicaragua Antaño 1970

Joya De Nicaragua Antaño 1970 machito
$3.50, Size: 4.5", Ring: 42
Nicaraguan wrapper, binder, and filler

I went to see a colleague of mine, to get a couple surplus goldfish for my kids, and also to trade some stogies. In true Christmas spirit, he hooked me up with some beauties, including this Joya De Nicaragua Antaño 1970. He's a connaisseur of all things smokey and whisky, and he's a fan of good Nicaraguan cigars (and single malt scotch whisky). And so, wanting to find a good Nicaraguan cigar myself, this was the first thing I set to toasting.

The Antaño 1970 wrapper is a velvety chocolate color, and looks a little rough, sporting a couple pronounced veins. An aroma of hearty leather and cocoa greet the nose from the wrapper. The draw was nicely balanced, and stayed steady throught the smoke. A solid, white ash formed past the straight burn line, and dropped off after an inch and a half.

Right from the start, the flavors are smooth and strong, of spicy leather and earth. After the first third, the earth and leather lets up enough to allow a flavor of roasted nut to join in, but the spice remains fairly present. The smoke is thick and creamy, which is surprising from this diminutive powerhouse, and there's a fair nicotine kick to it as well.

The Antaño 1970 Machito is the Bruce Lee of cigars: It may not be tall, and it may not be muscular, but it's got punch, it's got kick, and it's got "Whaaaaaaahhhhhhhh".

The Keepers of the Flame reviewed the Antaño 1970 robusto grande earlier this year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

5 Vegas Gold

5 Vegas Gold robusto
$9/ 5 pk., Size: 5", Ring: 52
Honduran Connecticut shade wrapper, Honduran binder, Honduran and Nicaraguan cuban-seed fillers.

We are in the midst of a season of gifts, and the most famous of Christmas gifts were the first recorded of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. So, to celebrate, I pulled a 5 Vegas Gold from the humidor.

Gold is rolled for 5 Vegas in Danli, Honduras, under the aegis of Nestor Plasencia. The Honduran cuban-seed filler is aged 5 years before being enrobed in the Honduran Connecticut shade-grown wrapper, and the results are well worth the care.

The Connecticut wrapper is smooth and sturdy, with few veins, and has a nice toasty aroma to it. After punching the cap, I tried the draw and found it to be a little loose. I'll just have to restrain my enthusiasm while herfing it, that's all. While smoking, the ash was white and fairly solid, dropping after little more than an inch.

Once lit, the taste is a mild, toasty nut body, with a light spice, and that flavor is fairly consistent to the end. While not full of bold and complex flavors, this was still a pleasure to smoke. The taste was reminiscent of the main body of the Occidental Reserve Double Broadleaf, which is my favorite, This is surprising when looking at the disparate origins of the tobaccos of the two cigars.

5 Vegas have made a nice mild-mannered cigar with a pleasant taste. The Gold is like a long-time golfing pal who gives you a 1 foot putt, despite the fact that you're four strokes up on him. That indeed is a precious gift.

Here's Stogie Review's take on the 5 Vegas Gold.

Conundrums #1

#1) Here's the scene: You're getting the kids ready for bed, and your wife tells you to put some Vick's Vap-O-Rub on one that has a cold. But wait, you had pulled out a nice cigar to smoke once the kids are in bed. If you get that smelly Vick's stuff on your hands, it'll ruin your cigar. What do you do:

A) Tell your wife to do it, telling her it would ruin the taste of your cigar.

B) Tell the sick toddler to do it, hoping that the child will not rub her eyes afterward.


C) Grab a sandwich baggy, and using it like a surgeon's glove, apply the mentholated mess on your child's chest.

Now, some guys may say that A is an option, but those must be the one's that don't care if they stay married or not. I don't know if my conscience could enjoy the cigar after option B. Option C is fairly clever, if I may say so. The cigar was pretty good without the added Vick's aroma, by the way.

Onto another conundrum..

#2) How many cigars are too many? Really?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fire by Indian Tabac Maduro

Fire by Indian Tabac maduro robusto
$3.60 (B&M), Size: 4.5", Ring: 52
Costa Rican maduro wrapper, USA Connecticut Broadleaf binder, Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers

"I have only one burnin' desire; let me stand next to your... fire" - Jimi Hendrix, Fire

Fire, a cigar blended by Rocky Patel, is a nicely balanced blend of triple fermented wrapper and fillers.

The triple-fermented Costa Rican wrapper is a medium chocolate color, toothy, and with a few pronounced veins. To a squeeze, the cigar feels nice and solid.

Initial draw has some moderate resistance, feels almost tight. There must be some tobacco inside the wrapper! The draw felt a little restrained while smoking, but never being difficult. Like its namesake, my Fire burned a bit unpredictably, requiring a remedial torching mid-way through the cigar. The ash was a light, mottled gray and held for an inch or so.

Prelight flavors of maduro-sweet wood with some pepper promised a tasty smoke to come. After toasting, the flavors are immediately smooth and present, tasting of leather and roasted peppers. The flavors immediately struck me as very similar to the La Gloria Cubana maduro, but a shade milder and slightly sweeter. After the first inch, the flavor mellowed some, with a roasted nut harmonic appearing. Halfway, a sweet pepper flavor crept into the finish, remaining in the background through the rest of the smoke.

Fire is a tasty, medium-bodied smoke, and another fine job by Rocky Patel. I'll have to hunt up a couple more, and save them for my rainy day.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cusano 18 Paired Maduro

Cusano 18 Paired Maduro robusto
$5.50 (B&M), Size: 5", Ring: 50
Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper, Dominican binder, Brazilian and Dominican fillers

I like Cusano cigars, and I like the Hendrick Kelner blends that I've had so far, and so paying a little extra didn't bother me at the time. The 18 Paired Maduro is a hearty blend of tobaccos that include three wrapper-quality tobaccos: the Connecticut Broadleaf maduro jacketing the cigar, Brazilian Mata Fina maduro and Dominican Oro tobaccos in the filler. The results are sufficiently delicious enough to garner an 89 rating from Cigar Aficianado.

The Paired Maduro's firm wrapper has a light chocolate color with a reddish cast, like pin oak leaves. The surface is moderately veined, with a toothy texture, and burned a bit lopsided, needing correction after a couple inches. That may be due to that fact I was smoking the cigar on my afternoon commute from the studios to the house, au pied, 41&deg and a slight breeze.

After punching the irregular triple cap, the draw gave little resistance, to the point of being too loose. Once smoldering had commenced, the draw opened up even more, then closed a little halfway into the cigar, but was always felt loose. So, I tried to smoke it gingerly, trying not to overdraw and get a harsh burn. As for the ash, it was a flakey, tan/grey color, and dropped off after and inch or so.

Ahh, now we get to the flavors: take a Cusano CC, a Cusano MC, and an Occidental Reserve Double Broadleaf, and smoke them all at once.

The 18 Paired Maduro starts boldly with the sharp, woody taste of the Cusano CC and the rounder body of the Cusano MC. A nice spice starts subtly in the second inch and grows bolder and peppery as you smoke towards the band. All the while, you taste a familiar smooth finish on the palate that I've come to associate with these Kelner-blended cigars.

I enjoyed the taste of the cigar very much, though the smoking of it was a bit of work, and the price was a bit steep. If I can get them cheaper, and the construction issues better, I wouldn't mind smoking the 18 Paired Maduro again.

Other, more thorough reviews are at Keepers of the Flame and Stogie Review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Perdomo Lot 23 Maduro

Perdomo Lot 23 maduro churchill
$15/ 5 pk., Size: 7", Ring: 50
Nicaraguan maduro wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and filler

Rolled in Esteli, Nicaragua at Tabacalera Perdomo, the Lot 23 is a puro, made entirely from tobacco from one particular field in Nicaragua. The maduro wrapped version is a more recent release, hitting the market in 2007.

Lot 23's wrapper is a glossy, milk chocolate brown, with minor veins, and gives an aroma of light wood and coffee. Once punched, the draw was medium, if not a little tight, but it wasn't bothersome. Nice flavors in the pre-light draw, a preview of the light leathery flavor to come. The burn wasn't really straight, but it never warranted fixing either, and the light gray ash would hold for 1 1/2 inches.

The flavor starts off smooth and present, with wood and leather notes that stay fairly steady throught the smoke. A mild, but dark, spice flavor joins the mix soon after the first couple inches, then comes and goes. And that's the flavor you get for the next hour. And while it's not complex, or doesn't morph much, it's a pleasant, medium-bodied flavor.

Perdomo took some nice tobacco, rolled it with care, and called it Lot 23. Factor in the decent price, and we're looking at a good cigar.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Maduro

Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 maduro toro
$15/ 5 pk., Size: 6.5", Ring 52
Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, Nicaraguan and Dominican filler

When you say the name "Rocky" to someone, a variety of images can be conjured. A crook-nosed boxer. A cartoon flying squirrel. But to a cigar smoker, "Rocky" evokes a masterful tobacco blender.

The Vintage 1992 is a box-pressed cigar, sporting a 10-year old jacket of sun-grown Ecuadorian Sumatra tobacco and some well-aged Nicaraguan binder and filler. This cigar has been around a while, so if they've been taken care of, they should be mellow and flavorful. I got a 5 pack from CBid and was a bit surprised: three were a nice chocolate brown, while the other two were much darker. Being partial to maduro cigars, I went with the darker of the cigars.

The wrapper is a dark brown, almost oscuro, with subtle veining and smooth, almost oily. The cap on mine complained about the punch, causing some flaking which spread to all three layers of cap. Once lit, the burn occasionally got warbled to the point of needing some extra torching. Still, the white ash held for two inches, then fell solid like a discarded cork. Drawing through the cigar is nicely balanced, indicating a good job of rolling the filler.

Onto the smoking bit, the flavor was mild to medium, starting with a smooth leather with dark wood notes. I could taste a distinctive tone of the Nicaraguan tobacco used. The wood note subsides mid-cigar, to be replaced by a sweet spice finish at the back of the palate. The smoke was not thin, but it wasn't particularly full either.

While not quite as full or rich as the Indian Tabac Cameroon Legend, this is still a great cigar. Chalk up another knockout for Rocky.

Good Rocky

Bad Rocky

Cigar Jack smoked a Vintage 1992 robusto back in October '07.

Drew Estate Natural Dirt

Drew Estate Natural Dirt maduro
$4 (B&M), Size: 4", Ring: 43

Drew Estate's Natural Dirt cigar is made in Esteli, Nicaragua from a bouliabasse of international tobaccos.

Dirt's maduro wrapper is a toothy, veiny chocolate color, and gives an aroma of cocoa and faint spice. The wrapper started to unravel an inch into smoking the cigar. And watch out for the cap, it's entirely too sweet.

One reviewer, to circumvent the overly sweetened cap on the Dirt, suggested turning the cigar around and lighting the cap and smoking from the foot. Hmm, sounds like an interesting idea. So, I turned the cigar, punched the cap, and toasted it.

The draw from the foot was medium, not very loose, and the cigar tasted surprisingly good, even without the sweetened cap. The cigar is fairly short, so it doesn't have a lot of time to evolve. The flavor was a basic nicaraguan tobacco, a light woody flavor, underneath a strong cocoa note, likely from the wrapper. It was a well balanced combination of sweetness and traditional tobacco flavors.

Dirt isn't a bad cigar, if you can get around the super-sweet cap. Still, the B&M's price is too steep for how short this cigar is.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pirate's Gold No. 2 Maduro

Pirate's Gold No. 2 maduro toro
$7/ 5-pk, Size: 6.5", Ring: 46

Headlining the subtle signature of Rolando Reyes Sr., the honduran-rolled Pirate's Gold is a swashbucking bundle cigar. Avast ye, maties! Where's me torch?

This cigar seems light, but is not overly soft or spongy. The wrapper is a mottled, light milk chocolate color, which seems pale for a maduro, is fairly veiny, and has a toothy texture. A sniff, before weighing anchor, gives hints of mild cocoa and butter.

After being lit, the cigar burned unevenly for the first inch, but got its sea-legs and burned straight for the rest of the voyage, while the mottled gray ash held on for two inches before walking the plank.

Upon setting sail, this cigar has a mild wood flavor, with a hint of spice. In the second third, the flavor turns a bit sharper, more like cedar, and gets a little stronger. A spice flavor keeps a low profile through this leg. The flavor get's a little stronger as we got to the aft, but it never gets past medium-bodied. Paired with a nice rum, Pirate's Gold is smooth sailing.

Pirate's Gold is a nice mild cigar, and one that won't set you back too many dubloons.

Java by Drew Estate Maduro

Java by Drew Estate maduro corona
$5 (single B&M), Size: 5", Ring: 42
Nicaraguan wrapper, binder, and fillers

I was in a local cigar shop, out of sympathy (and a little guilt for getting most of my smokes from C-Bid), and saw that he had some of the Java cigars. Ok, I thought, I don't take myself so seriously that I won't smoke a novelty cigar. So, I bought a couple, and hit the road.

Java, a fragrant and boxy cigar, is a collaboration between Drew Estate and Rocky Patel (the squareness gives it away, eh?), rolled in Esteli, Nicaragua. I love coffee, and I like to drink coffee while smoking a maduro cigar, so why not try a blend of the two?

The Java is a classy-looking cigar, with simple and elegant bands near the cap and at the foot (another Rocky Patel cue). Out of the cellophane, the cigar looks like a long, squarish coffee bean. A coffee bean with veins, that is, and the aroma confirms the Java name.

The cigar was surprisingly lightweight, and spongy, and once the cap was punched, had a draw that was much too fast. While smoking, I had to sip at the cigar to keep it from burning too fast and too harshly. The sweetened cap was also a bit flaky.

The first half inch was a clash of harsh burning tobacco and the cloying sweet taste of the cap. After that the flavor mellowed to taste like a sweetened version of another Esteli native; Perdomo's bundle cigar, Tierra Del Sol. Ok, so we have a Tierra Del Sol with a Starbucks mocha. While the cognoscenti may have issues with either, or both, the two belong together like Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Coming Attractions 121307

There's only 11 days until Christmas, and I've quite a few cigars yet to smoke. The weather's been lousy, so I haven't really gotten to smoke the cigars I wanted most. So, I'm going to get down to business with the Rocky Patel Vintage 1992, Perdomo Lot 23, and Pirate's Gold cigars this coming weekend. Given my lament about Nicaraguan cigars from last weekend, I'm eagerly anticipating the Lot 23.

I've got a line on some Indian Tabac Tomahawk maduros, CAO Gold robustos, and Sol Cubano maduro toros. We'll see if I get to those before Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

La Gloria Cubana (D.R.) Maduro

La Gloria Cubana (D.R.)Corona Gorda maduro toro
$5.40 (single, B&M), Size: 6", Ring: 52
Connecticut Broadleaf maduro wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers

Sometimes, you get what you pay for, and this cigar is worth every red cent. This cigar is made in the Dominican Republic by El Credito Cigar Co.

The cigar was very dense feeling, with the thick maduro wrapper yielding slightly. They didn't skimp on the tobacco at all. After cutting the cap, the draw was a bit tight, which was alleviated somewhat by occasional massaging around the band and at the cap area. It took about 90 minutes to smoke, which may be due to the tight draw, but then again, I'm never in a big hurry either.

First third was smooth from the start, with hearty cedar and leather flavors. The ash was starkly white, and dropped about two inches into the smoke. When the ash dropped, it fell 4 feet down into an empty box, where it stood, solid, like a rook on a chess board. Not bad, eh?

The second third introduced a light peppery finish, with the cedar and leather flavors getting slightly stronger. The burn was getting a little sloppy at this point, and needed a bit of touch-up. The final lap got stronger and more peppery, and I noticed the nicotine working on my midsection a bit (good thing I had dinner). Do not smoke this cigar on an empty stomach, unless you've got a hard head for nicotine.

While costing a little more than my usual range in singles, you can get these cigars en masse for $3 each. This La Gloria Cubana is a very robust and enjoyable smoke.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

So Far, #1

Well, so far I've developed a fondness for bundle cigars by Henke Kelner at Tabadom in the D.R., mainly Occidental Reserve (Alec Bradley) and Cusano. The blends are agreeable to my palate, and the prices are perfect for a 'Friday Night' cigar.

The first amazing cigar I've had was the Indian Tabac Cameroon Legend maduro, a Rocky Patel cigar, which really illustrated the differences between a $2 cigar and a $5 cigar.

The worst I've had yet was the Sherpa, after which I almost had to douche my sinuses with mouthwash to completely get rid of the taste.

I have yet to really enjoy a Nicaraguan cigar, I just haven't liked the flavors. The Sherpa, Primos, and Tierra Del Sol have just not hit the spot for me. If anyone has any reasonable suggestions of a better Nicaraguan cigar, please chime in. (As if anyone is reading this)

Tierra Del Sol Maduro

Tierra Del Sol maduro robusto
$6/ 5 pk., Size: 5", Ring: 50 Box Pressed
Nicaraguan maduro wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and fillers.

Tierra Del Sol is a bundle cigar from Perdomo, made at Tabacalera Perdomo in Esteli, Nicaragua.

Light, milk chocolate coloring, dry raspy to the touch, with pronounced veins. After burning, these veins were visible in the ash as black veins in a flaky white ash. The draw was moderate, and though the cigar did not burn particularly straight, it never got terribly out of line. Kind of like a drunk staggering home; wobbles left, teeters right, but he eventually gets to the front door.

Before lighting, I ran it over the moustache to receive the slightly earthy wood smell.

First inch was harsh, with a flavor that varied between cedar and sawgrass. After that, the flavor mellowed to a medium cedar, with an edgy aftertaste appearing after the middle of the cigar. Not spicy, not bitter, just edgy. Pair this cigar with the right drink, and the taste might just disappear. Which, depending on your tastes, might be a good thing for a Tierra Del Sol.

Primos Maduro

Primos maduro toro
$2.40, Size: 6", Ring: 52
Made in Nicaragua with Nicaraguan Habano Criollo Maduro wrapper, Nicaraguan binders, and Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Peruvian fillers.

Primos is made by Los Blancos in Nicaragua using a 3-year aged Habano Criollo wrapper. The wrapper was mottled with varying shades of chocolate, and had pronounced veins. Still, the wrapper felt sturdy and not at all dry. The cap was a little ragged, but my punch made a neat hole which stayed intact through the smoke. The draw was easy, but not too loose.

This cigar burns crooked like Clinton campaign fundraising. I had to do touch up torching four or five times.

Right out of the cellophane, the Primos smelled somewhere between woody and leathery. The first inch was smooth, but tasted a bit green. The taste oscillated between woody and grassy for the rest of the cigar, with a mildly spicy finish starting mid-cigar. At times the taste was reminiscent of the Indian Tabac maduro I smoked recently, but too frequently, the flavor was like the Sherpa I had yesterday. I don't know if I'm going to buy this one again.

The Velvet Cigar reviewed the Primos rosado cigar.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sherpa Founder's Choice 2002

Sherpa Founder's Choice 2002 toro
$13/5 pk., Size: 6", Ring: 50
Sumatran wrapper, Dominican binder, Nicaraguan filler.

I must admit, I had some expectations of this cigar: It's a Gurkha sub-brand, it's made by Carlos Toraño, it should be good. The wrapper was a tawny color, smooth, but telegraphing some serious veins, and a pre-light sniff was greeted with the smell of dry grass.

I punched away 60% of the cap, and did a quick draw test. The Sherpa has the loosest draw I've had yet, like the cigar wasn't even there. So, I whipped out the Quantum to get it toasting, and the cigar obliged quickly and politely.

The first inch was harsh and grassy, with some hints of grass and a medium grassy finish. I was being mindful not to pull too hard, given that the draw was so loose, and still got some harshness. After the first inch, the flavor rounded off a bit to a smooth grass flavor, with an aftertaste of lawn clippings. I think you get the picture.

So, I'm an inch and a half into the cigar, and I decide that, like a true Sherpa, I would finish the journey. Just for you, dear reader. No sacrifice is too great.

Alas, just as I was getting to the two-inch point, the cigar extinguished itself. It hadn't even dropped ash yet. So, I took it as a sign of God's infinite mercy and let it be.

As I was squeezing and rolling the cigar, to get the band off, the wrapper flaked off into oblivion. So, I decided to do a little post-mortem on the extinguished Sherpa. Contrary to the predominant flavoring, I can attest to there being tobacco in the cigar, as well as some long, hard, twig-like stems. I just chucked the corpse after the autopsy, band and all.

Somewhere, out there, is a man who loves a grassy cigar. All I can say is, "Buddy, the Sherpa is just for you."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

CAO - Toraño Deal

CAO International Inc., as the result of a recent deal with Toraño Cigars Inc., will now be the exclusive U.S. distributor of Toraño and Dunhill brands. It make sense, since their manufacturing is mostly co-located in Nicaragua and Honduras under the aegis of the Fidel Olivias family.

Toraño is hoping to find a broader audience for its cigars with the deal, while C.A.O. hopes taking on Toraño’s distribution will allow Toraño to focus more on the manufacturing end of the cigar business.

The focus on manufacturing should help alleviate the backlog of certain cigars, like the C.A.O. America and Casa Toraño.

h/t Cigar Aficionado

Monday, December 3, 2007

Indian Tabac Cameroon Legend Maduro

Indian Tabac Cameroon Legend Toro Grande maduro
$12/5 pk., Size: 6", Ring:54
Brazilian maduro wrapper, Dominican binder, Dominican long filler

The Cameroon Legend maduro is dark. How dark you may ask? Dark enough to start bending light around it. And it's thick, too. My order arrived from CI today, and I just couldn't wait to toast this dark beauty. The wrapper is dark, and fairly smooth, with small veins.

The pre-light sniff announced a hearty leather aroma with a touch of cocoa. After a gentle punch through the cap, it was time to toast it. The taste was fairly consistent, starting out with a smooth, creamy leather flavor, with some roasted nut and mild spice making veiled cameos in the middle. The smoke was rich and smooth, without a hint of bitterness.

The draw was nicely balanced to take advantage of both the length and thickness of the cigar. The ash was dove-gray and a bit peely, but held for almost 2 inches. The burn was a bit ragged, with a tendency to tunnel, but I'd chalk that up to my impatience in smoking the cigar 12 hours after the postman delivered it. After a few weeks in the 'dor, it'll prolly burn razor-straight.

By the way, if you're going to smoke the Toro Grande, clear your schedule and pack a lunch: This cigar will take you an hour and a half, easy. Of course, it is an hour and a half of good cigar, so make the time.

Stogie Review smoked the Cameroon-wrapped version in June 2007.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cusano to Expand

Cusano is gearing up another production facility in the Dominican Republic, to be called DR Global,and primarily for Cusano's newer cigars.

In the first quarter of 2008, brothers Mike and Joe Chiusano will open a global distribution hub in Santiago, Dominican Republic, complete with a rolling gallery for making some of the company's newest lines.

Among the new lines to be rolled at DR Global will be the Cuvée Blanc and Cuvée Rouge. Cusano's cigars had previously been produced at Tabacos Dominicanos, Dominican Republic, by Hendrik Kelner. These include the Cusano Celebrity Series bundle cigars, enjoyed and reviewed here previously; M1, P1, MC, and CC. I seriously doubt I'll get to enjoy the fruits of this new venture, as the Cuvée range are well out of my budget.

h/t Cigar Aficionado

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Favorite Cigar Smokers, no. 1

G.K. Chesterton: Writer, philosopher, and cigar smoker.

" Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar."

—G.K. Chesterton

from “On American Morals”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

National Brand

National Brand toro
$2.35, Size: 6", Ring:50
Honduran wrapper, binder, and fillers

The National Brand cigar is a long-filler Honduran cigar at a short-filler price. The stick has a triple cap, and a mildly veined wrapper, which is pretty brittle. The cigar burns fairly straight, with a dove-gray ash, and medium draw. The cap area is sweetened, somehow, and so really tries to mask the fairly mild and non-descript Honduran filler. The sweetness makes me think that the makers are trying to hide a skanky blend, or make the smoker think that this is a long, fat Swisher. Which isn't bad for a poker game. Overall, this is an unexceptional cigar, but the sweetened cap may put some off.

Incoming Cigars for Christmas

I've got some new cigars heading my way, and I'll try and review one or two before Christmas. It's been cold out, and hard to get a chance to really smoke in comfort.

Here's what's coming:

Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 toro
Perdomo Lot 23 maduro churchill
Indian Tabac Cameroon Legends maduro toro
Sherpa toro
Pirate's Gold no. 2 maduro toro
Tierra del Sol (by Perdomo) maduro robusto

Th Rocky Patel cigars, and the Perdomos, would be priced $5 to $7 single retail, but they're much cheaper when bought by the 5-pack online or via CBid. They ran about $4/each including shipping.

The Sherpa, Pirate's Gold, and Tierra del Sol cigars would be in the $1 to $3 range, which is right up my usual alley.

If anyone has a preference of what they want to hear about first, let me know. I'm probably going to dive straight for the Vintage 1992 first, followed by the Tierra. The Perdomo churchill may have to wait for spring, unless I can get a local micro-herf together during the Holidays.

Cigar Review Contest

Ladies and Germs, start your cigars!(and don't forget to write a bit about them)The Cigar Inspector is having a cigar review contest, with the grand prize being a St Dupont X-Tend lighter! Smoke if you've got 'em.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cusano CC

Cusano CC robusto

$3.50 , Size: 5", Ring: 50
Equadorian Sumatra wrapper, Dominican filler

This is a good, solid example of a cigar: Well made, easy draw, and good flavor. The CC has a smooth, medium wood/cedar taste, with a faintly peppery finish. It never gets overtly spicy, and consistently maintains it's flavor from foot to band. While a shade darker than a Connecticut wrapper, the CC's wrapper has a full-bodied flavor of its own. It reminds me of a Monticristi Cohiba (Dominican).

Cusano, with the assistance of Henke Kelner, is making some nice bundle cigars. They're as good as many in boxes, and are a good smoke for the price. There's a spot in my humidor for these.

Gurkha G-Series, Blend no. 44

Gurkha G-Series, Blend no. 44 cigarello
$16 for a tin of 10, Size: 4", Ring: 24ish

It's getting cold outside, so it's time to look for quicker smokes. I found a tin of these Gurkha cigarellos at the local shop and decided to give them a shot. These are long-filler, which isn't quite a challenge for such a short cigar.

The first one out of the tin had a draw tighter than slurping a milkshake through a coffee stirrer. The inch I smoked before abandoning hope was nicely flavored, medium-bodied with cedar and cocoa notes and subtle spice. The second cigarello from the tin was as tight as the first, even after a light massage and poking through it with an unwound paperclip. I smoked about an inch of it before giving up. 'Tis a shame, as it was a flavorful smoke, what little I could get.

The third time's a charm, and finally got one out of the tin that would draw. It's a nice-bodied, robust smoke that lasts about 20 - 30 minutes.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Quorum toro
$1.25 , Size: 6", Ring: 50
Nicaraguan wrapper, binder, and filler

You get what you pay for with this stick: A very mild-mannered Nicaraguan cigar with a Connecticut wrapper, which makes for a tepid smoke. I won't call it a a dog rocket, as I've had much worse, but the best I can say for the Quorum is that it doesn't taste bad. When toasting the foot, I noticed some areas that burned quicker, leading to an uneven burn through much of the cigar. I'd take it over a Ditch Dutch Masters.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Occidental Reserve Double Broadleaf

Occidental Reserve Double Broadleaf robusto
$2.75, Size: 5", Ring: 50
Maduro Ecuador-Grown Broadleaf wrapper, U.S.A. Connecticut Broadleaf binder, Piloto, San Vicente and Peruvian fillers

Wow. Okay, the review's over, isn't it? Occidental Reserve Double Broadleaf is is a gem of a cigar, made in Henke Kelner's D.R. facility, and distributed by Alec Bradley. Bradley sells higher shelf cigars than this, and the Double Broadleaf is a great cigar for the money.

The wrapper's a rich, deep maduro that's got the slightest oil sheen. Smelling the wrapper presents one with a nice aroma of cocoa and oak. Despite it's dark look, this cigar smokes smoothly, but not too heavily. The wood/cedar flavor starts mild but gets increasingly spicy in the last third, with a peppery finish by the time you smoke down to the bands. It's like a spicy 'bon voyage' that makes you eager to return.

It was a great complement to the coffee I was drinking at the time, and I've stocked a few in the humidor.

Cusano MC

Cusano MC robusto
$3.35, Size: 5", Ring: 50
Connecticut wrapper, Dominican binder and filler

This is a good smoke, a cigar that lets you know you're smoking a cigar, but without hitting you over the head with it. Like the rest of Cusano's bundle cigars, the MC is decently constructed, though the wrapper was a bit crispy. The flavor is medium-bodied, smooth, with a lightly woody finish. The MC also has a fair nicotine kick. This is yet another good cigar from Cusano that won't break your wallet.

Current Denizens of THotA

Currently in The Humidor of the Apokalypse:

1. Occidental Reserve Double Broadleaf robusto
2. Occidental Reserve Double Broadleaf toro
3. Cusano CC robusto
4. Cusano M1 robusto
5. Arturo Fuente Brevas Royale
7. Indian Tabac Camaroon Legends maduro toro

I'm also trying to chase down some Sherpa toros and some Perdomo Lot 23 maduro cigars.

Occidental Reserve

Occidental Reserve robusto

$2.25, Size: 5", Ring 50
US Connecticut wrapper, Indonesian binder, Dominican filler

This is a decently constructed, mild cigar. With an even draw, it burns fairly evenly, holding over 2" of silvery white ash. The flavor is mild and uneventful, with slight spice creeping in mid-way into the cigar. It's not a bad cigar if you're not looking to be distracted by bold flavors. All in all, a nice, mild smoke for a good price.

Cusano P1

Cusano P1 robusto
$3.00, Size: 5", Ring: 50
Broadleaf maduro wrapper, Dominican filler

I've had fairly good luck with Cusano's M1 and CC cigars, so I decided to delve further into their line of bundles. The P1 has a maduro wrapper with a medium, milk chocolate color. The cigar is decently constructed, has an easy draw and holds a nice, silvery ash. The flavor is a mild autumnal earthiness, smooth without being heavy, and has a faint spice to it. This flavor is steady from the first kiss to the last, getting only slightly stronger as I smoke past where the band was.

The P1 is another nice bundle cigar from Cusano, and one I'd make sure to stow a couple of.

A. Fuente Curly Head Deluxe Maduro

Arturo Fuente Curly Head Deluxe maduro
$2.15, Size: 6.5", Ring: 43
Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, long and short Dominican fillers

This is a cigar usually recommended for those new to hand-rolled cigars. Though they look rougher than Eli Wallach in 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly', they smoke fairly well. The flavor starts mild and smooth, with a mellow, earthy flavor and faintest hint of spice. The flavor is mild the whole time, but half-way through the cigar, a grassy aftertaste starts in gradually. It's a poker game cigar, and not really a cigar that you smoke for the experience. Once again, you get what you pay for.

Cusano M1

Cusano M1 robusto
$3.50, Size: 5", Ring: 50
Connecticut shade-grown wrapper, Dominican filler

The M1 is the mildest of Cusano's Celebrity Series of bundle cigars, and is supposedly a clone of a more expensive cigar, a Macanudo. Sporting decent construction and an easy draw, this cigar burns fairly straight and had an inch and half of silvery ash. The ash reminds me of a paper birch tree.

As for the flavor, the M1 starts mild, with a nutty undertone. There's a subtle spice flavor that saunters in, but never really establishes itself as a center of attention. In essence, it's a cigar for when you don't want to be too distracted by the cigar. The M1 is a nice, mild smoke at a nice, mild price.

Montecristi Cohiba

Cohiba (Montecristi) robusto
$4, Size: 5", Ring: 50
Connecticut wrapper, mixed Dominican fillers

Cohiba's a big name in cigars, both in Cuban and non-Cuban cigars. The cigar I smoked is from the Dominican Republic, and flotsam from the trade dispute between Montecristi and General Cigar. The band is black and yellow, with several rows of white dots on the black ring, and says 'La Republica Dominica' on the yellow portion.

While at an economy price, but didn't cut corners. This stick is put together well, without any serious soft spots, the wrapper was not overly veiny, and has a triple cap like it's better-heeled cousins from Cuba. When smoked, this cigar holds almost two inches of the whitest ash I've seen on the sub-$4 cigars. As for the taste, this cigar is simple, sporting a pronounced woody, cedar note and some light spice in the finish. Not a bad smoke, though most aficianados poo-poo the cigar as a fake.

The controversy over the branding, and the higher price versus the flavor, leaves me preferring the Cusano CC. The flavor is almost identical, but the price lower for the CC.

A. Fuente Brevas Royale

Arturo Fuente Brevas Royale
$2.25, Size: 5.5", Ring: 42
Connecticut shade-grown wrapper, Dominican filler and binder

This is a good, cheap cigar. The construction is good, for a short-fill cigar; the wrapper is smooth, not too veined, and burns fairly straight. This stick has a mild flavor coupled with a subtle spice that eases in as you smoke. The Brevas Royale makes a nice golf cigar, either on the fairways or at the 19th hole.

About the Humidor, and me

I'm a working joe, and I set some limits on my creature comforts according to my station in life. For example, I like to play golf, but I play courses where I can afford to play. I'm not terribly good, so it's a waste to play Pebble Beach once a year, when I can play the local muni course once a month.

Same goes with cigars, so I generally stick to the $5 and under rule. And, as you would surmise, I've found a few nice cigars in that range, perfect for a Friday night treat or while puzzling out a tricky mathematical proof.

I've also got a palate that's about as sensitive as a catcher's mitt, so I'm not going to get too florid in describing a cigar.

So, with that, I bid you welcome to The Humidor of the Apokalypse! [dramatic music here]

(most of the initial reviews were things I had on my other blog, but didn't really belong there, like using a cigar band as a bookmark in your Bible.)