February 28, 2011

Cigar Review: Graycliff Profesionale PG



So I just received my Cigar.com Cigar of the Month Club set for March, and it was Graycliff Cigars. Among the 5 cigars I got, one was the Profesionale PG. I am not a huge fan of this cigar, everyone I have had has not been my type of smoke, but this one performed quite well. The cigar itself is covered in an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper with a filler blend from Brazil, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. I think the biggest highlight of this cigar is the wrapper. It is a beautiful light brown, no veins, and very oily. The wrapper was placed beautifully on and the triple cap was gorgeous. When I cut the head and took a draw it was very tight, so I cut a little more off...a little better. Once lit the draw on this cigar remained very tight, and because of that it took me sometime to smoke. I think you need to take your time when smoke anyways, but this was in particular took me sometime. 

The cigar had a nice spicy cedar aroma, but the burn throughout remained uneven, and it needed several touch ups. The flavor remained constant and unchanging, not boring, but not exciting. Flavor profile was simple giving off some nice earthy, spice, and cedar characteristics, but besides that nothing else. I give this cigar a 90, it was very pleasant and enjoyable, but not for me. I am not the all knowing though, try one yourself. 

Graycliff Profesionale - CIgar.com      
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Padilla Cazadores Torpedo


When the economy got touch, Ernesto Padilla fought back. The Padilla Cazadores line was meant to be a budget friendly cigar by Padilla. Padilla Cigars are usually a little tough on the wallet, but not this one. The Cazadores line has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and is packed with Nicaraguan filler tobacco. The line has your typical sizes in it from your robusto format to your churchill, and it comes in boxes of 25. The cigar itself has some soft spots on it, but other than that the cigar is really nice, and the wrapper is placed on it very well. The aroma is of wood and earth, and has a nice spice to it. Though the smoke was not complex, and stayed the same throughout, it had lots of nuts, toast, and spicy characteristics. 
I enjoyed the smoke, yes it had it some burn issues and it lacked in complexity, but it was a budget cigar. The thing about budget and everyday cigars is that they are not as important as mainline cigars, so they don't get as much attention, but it doesn't mean that they are crappy. I still think this is a great cigar, and it is still better than some more expensive cigars out there. I give this cigar an 88, and with it's Padilla characteristics and name, it is a great value!   

Padilla Cazadores - Cigar.com 

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Don Pepin Serie JJ Maduro Selectos

Selectos

JJ Maduro

If I recall correctly, this was Don Pepin's first maduro and also probably one of the only in his brand. Similar to most of his cigars, the JJ Maduro is a Nicaraguan puro. The wrapper is a Corojo wrapper that has undergone the maduro process. The Selectos is the robusto vitola in the line measuring 5" with a 50 ring gauge. The JJ line is noted to be his line that gets the most rare and highest quality tobacco. When these first came out, I remember the debate amongst my cigar friends in which is better, the JJ or the JJ Maduro? It was around 50-50, but I preferred the Maduro. I have been smoking these cigars for a couple of years now, and they are still the same as they were when they first came out. Don Pepin has begun taking on my contracts to make cigars for brand owners, and though some say he is losing quality in his cigars, I wouldn't completely agree.

This is a full body cigar, but because of the wrapper and the blending it is not over powering. The cigar has a perfect wrapper that was very dark and oily and the triple cap was placed perfectly. Upon lighting you are greeted with lots of pepper and other spices, but it is balanced by nice cocoa notes with some sweet cedar characteristics. Although this cigar does not change much dramatically from the get go, it doesn't need to. The cigar had a nice flavor, and it burned very well with no issues. I find these cigars to be a little too pricey for the cigar, but it is still rather enjoyable. I give this cigar an 89, and although it is not mind blowing, it is relaxing.

Don Pepin Serie JJ Maduro - Cigars International  
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February 27, 2011

Padilla Signature 1932, Padilla Signature 1948, and Padilla Serie '68 / Cigars In History Part II

Ernesto Padilla is known for wonderful cigars, three of them being the Signature 1932, Signature 1948, and the Serie ’68. All of these cigars are wonderful cigars, but each of them also has a story. Like most of his cigars, each of these three lines are made with entire Nicaraguan tobacco and all aged extensively. The 32 and 48 were once made by Don Pepin, but are all made in Honduras at the more and more popular Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas. Let us begin the story. 



The Padilla Signature 1932 was made in the memory of his late father Heberto Padilla’s birthday.  Heberto Padilla was born in January of 1932 in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba. At a young age Heberto was a successful Cuban poet, having his first book published at 16. The book was called Las rosas audaces (The Audacious Roses), and was published in 1948, hence Signature 1948. Like most Cubans, he supported the revolution and Castro in the early stages but in the late 60’s became an active and public opponent. In 1968, Serie 68, his award winning anthology, Fuera del Juego (Out of the Game), had him placed under house arrest. The book expressed his dissatisfaction with the Castro regime. His son Ernesto Padilla, today’s cigar brand owner, was born in 1972. When Ernesto was seven years old, 1979, he was allowed to leave the country with his mother, and a year later his father was allowed to join him and his mother. His father continued to teach and write until his death in 2000. Ernesto would become a member of the cigar industry after graduating college as a market designer, and in 2003 started Padilla Cigar Company. Ernesto has always strived to make cigars “Cubanesque” in construction, flavor, and body. Since 2003 he has remained a boutique cigar brand owner throughout the years. Signature 1932 was release in 2006 and he finished the series in 2008. All of these cigars are full body and full flavor but unique in their own way. Let us begin with the ratings.
Signature 1932
 Like all of the Padilla cigars, these three are constructed beautifully with a triple-cap to top it off.  The Signature 1932 has a beautiful dark brown wrapper that is oily and shines with any light on it. It smells of earth and spice, and right when you first light it up you are greeted with lots of spice. This is probably one of the most full bodied of Padilla cigars, and possibly in the top two of flavor complexities. I received a plethora of spice, earth, chocolate, and cashews on my palate, and it had a long pleasant finish.  When you reach the hallway point with these cigars, they become less spicy, but you are greeted with a lot of cream and toffee characters. From that point on the cigar lost some of its initial intense flavors and became more subtle in its complexities. I think this a great cigar, probably one of his best, and I give it a 94. If you look for a cigar that is full body/flavor and can match any good Cuban, look no further. 
Signature 1948 Robusto
The Signature 1948 takes it a notch or two down from 1932, being more on the mild side and the flavors being a lot more subtle, but wonderful. The aroma of this cigar has a barnyard bouquet to it, with no spice present. Throughout this smoke you are greeted with a soft spice, predominantly peppery, but it has a creamy wood flavor that makes it a lot softer of a cigar. If I were to smoke this cigar, I would smoke it in the morning while the 32 is an evening smoke, but it is still rather enjoyable. I give this cigar a 90, and consider it a nice change of pace with most Padilla cigars.

Serie '68
Completing the series is the Serie ’68, and it finishes strong. You begin this cigar wit tons of black pepper and clove. I had forgotten how much of a powerhouse this cigar starts off, and when I was releasing the smoke through my nose at first, I was about to sneeze because of the pepper. About a third of the way through the smoke begins to “mildify” in its intensity and you get to pick up some coffee notes and a gingerbread-molasses touch as well. I give this cigar a 91. The flavor profile was nice, but it had some issues throughout the smoke.    

Heberto Padilla

Padilla Family (Ernesto - far left) Ted Kennedy (right)

Try out a Padilla Cigar at Cigar.com        
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February 26, 2011

Padilla Miami Robusto

 

I remember smoking these cigars when they were Miami 8/11 and they were made at Pepin's small factory in Miami, they were a bomb! When I heard the news that Pepin was not going to be making anymore of them I was distraught. I collected a good number of them, but I smoked them all quickly and was right back where I started.

When the cigar was re-released, being made in a new factory, Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas in Honduras, I was somewhat skeptical. I knew that the blend and tobacco was going to be the same, but the fact that Pepin would not be making them made me hesitant. I was so wrong! I feel that these cigars are better now than they were. He changed the band, increased cigars in boxes, and kept the pricing about the same. This isn't an everyday cigar, but it is a treat. 

Made with entire Nicaraguan tobacco, the blend of this cigar compares to high end Cuban cigars and non-Cubans. Besides being filled with wonderfully fermented and aged tobacco, the cigar is draped in a wonderful spicy corojo wrapper that has a wonderful red hue in it. Oh, did I say it has a triple-cap! I know the triple-cap doesn't play a function in the cigar, but I love cigars with a triple-cap. 

The aroma on this cigar is a wonderful compilation of spice, chocolate, and wood. I clipped the cap, and the draw on it is perfect and spicy. Right when you light this cigar up, you are greeted with a creamy characteristic. There were a lot of flavors right away, and as the cigar progresses the flavors develop even more. Off the top of my head I can tell you that I picked up lots of spice, wood, nuts, espresso, and earth. This is a really wonderful and complex cigar, it has a bouquet of flavors. I give this cigar a 94, and I am glad I have a couple more in the humidor. There are several vitola's in the line so if a robusto is not your format, you will have plenty of other choices. If you have never enjoyed one of these you should. 

Padilla Miami - Cigar.com        
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Blind Tasting.

Unknown Cigar
So every once in a while I like to have a cigar which I know nothing about. Today, I got my wife to pick a cigar out of one of my humidors, take the band off, and have me smoke that. Sounds like fun right? It is. The beauty about not knowing what you are smoking is that you pay much more attention to the flavor, and the whole time you are trying to guess the tobacco in it.

The cigar she picked out was a robusto in vitola and had a beautiful dark brown wrapper. The wrapper was perfectly placed over the cigar with no stretch marks, and very little veins. At the top of the cigar I noticed the triple cap, which was placed exceptionally. Looking at the leaf and feeling it I had a pretty good idea that it was a habano wrapper, and was either a Criollo seed or Corojo. The cigar was rolled very well, and there were no soft spots on it at all. I am going to go out on a limb and saying this is not a Cuban, but I will be able to tell once I have smoked some of it.

So I have just lit this cigar and right away I am getting tons of pepper, this is a beast. I am going to enjoy this smoke. I have burned my way down some and I am getting lots of pepper, earth, and on the end some coffee. This flavor profile does not narrow it down one bit. This is a habano wrapper, and I am going to say it is probably Ecuadorian or Nicaraguan.

I am about half way through, and this cigar is burning very well, this is not a Cuban. I find that there is a distinct flavor with Cuban cigars, and looking at the burn line by the ash, it has been fermented very well which leads me to think this cigar was made in Honduras or Nicaragua. There is a lot of ligero in this cigar, and I am going to go with Nicaraguan and possibly Honduran tobacco. 

Still smoking this baby, and the pepper is still strong and so is the earth, but I am also getting some nuts now with the coffee on the finish. I am going to go out on a limb and say that this is a habano wrapper from Jalapa, Nicaragua, and that there are fillers in here from Honduras and Nicaragua. The binder is probably from Nicaragua as well, but I am not sure.

I just finished this smoke, and I am going to say it is a habano wrapper from Nicaragua, probably Jalapa, and Nicaraguan fillers. I don't know how my guess is going to be with this, but I'm going to say it is either a Padilla Dominus, Padilla Miami, or an Illusione. I can safely say though that this cigar is made at the Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas in Honduras. It doesn't have any Pepin characteristics in the smoke, and he is the only other non-Cuban manufacturer who used a triple cap.

I am giving this cigar a 91, what a great smoke. I really want to know what it is now!
 Following Day:

So Katie showed me the band, and it is a Alex Bradly Tempus robusto. I was pretty close with my guesses. The Tempus is covered with a habano wrapper, it is a Honduran Criollo '98 from the Trojes region of Honduras. I guessed Jalapa, but there is a lot of Jalapa tobacco in it. I picked up the Jalapa flavor profile from the filler. There is also filler tobacco from Trojes, Honduras. The binder, I was way off. The binder is an Indonesian Embetunada and a Trojes Criollo '98.

This was a ton of fun, and I look forward to more tests like this. I don't know how close you could say I was, but I was on the right track with the wrapper and the Jalapa tobacco. Great smoke!
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February 25, 2011

Spier Signature Pinotage 2009

Spier Signature Pinotage 2009

My wife picked up this bottle on a whim from our local wine store, and we were a little disappointed. The wine is made from a pinotage grape, which is South Africa's signature variety. The grape is a hybrid between a Pinot Noir and a Cinsaut grape. I have not had many wines with Cinsaut, but I am familiar with Pinot Noir. The wine is from South Africa and is still quite young, only 2009. They recommended drinking before 2012. 

The wine has a plummy red color to it, with a nose of tobacco, plums, cherries, and some mild spice. I have never had this grape before, and I don't know when I will have another wine with the same grape, but it wasn't what I thought it would be like. While it was a grape made with Pinot Noir, it seemed to have a more Merlot characteristic. Before going into the tasting, the wine has a wonderful aroma and color.

The wine had a taste of oak, plums, and some very mild spice. It wasn't a round wine, but a sharp wine with a very long finish. I had about a glass of the wine and called it quits. I was really hoping for a little something more with this wine, but it just didn't deliver it. The wine was not balanced and was somewhat harsh, and as I said earlier, the wine was beautiful in color and had a lovely aroma. I do feel the wine would be better if the finish was better. I give it an 82.
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Black Box Wines - Chardonnay



Made with grapes from Monterey County, this wine includes Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and others they don't mention. The color of it is a golden straw color and is very light. With the Riesling and Gewurztraminer you can definitely pick up the sweetness from the grapes, and in my opinion overpowers the Chardonnay grapes. The nose of wine has aromas of tropical fruit, green apples, bananas, vanilla, oak, and some nice spicy floral characteristics. Once you taste the wine, it is very round in your mouth with lots of mango and pineapple with a long finish. I was not as keen on this wine as others, partially due to the Riesling and Gewurztraminer, but it was still an everyday wine. I have gotten to the point in my life, where unless it is a good Chardonnay, I don't want to bother. To me all Chardonnay's are similar unless they are exceptional, and then they can be great. I give this wine an 85. The nose was pleasant, but was not a big fan of the flavor.
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Macanudo Crü Royale Toro

Macanudo Crü Royale Toro
When this cigar was introduced, I was hesitant to even bother getting one. I have smoke Macanudo cigars, but they are not my cup of tea, than I found out that they were made by Benji Menendez. Menendez is such an important figure in General Cigars, and cigars in general, that I thought I should give it a try. The Macanudo Crü Royale comes covered in a dark oily Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, with a Dominican binder, and fillers from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Nicaragua.
Decorative Band for Macanudo
The cigar itself is made incredibly well and the aroma is of earth and cedar. From the beginning to the end of the smoke, the flavor profile remains consistent with notes of chocolate, espresso, cedar, and earth, but is really pleasant. When I got done with this cigars, I was actually surprised and felt I should apologize to General Cigars for my lack of faith. I wouldn't ever put this cigar in my humidor, but I am glad I tried it. I give this cigar an 87, and if offered it by someone, I would truly enjoy it. I will say, this is the best new release Macanudo has had since I have been following cigars.

Macanudo Crü Royale - Cigar.com 
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Partagás Serie D No. 4 Tubo

Partagás Serie D No. 4
 One of my favorite cigars, and in such a great format. Where to begin with this cigar? Partagás is a great Habanos line, and all the vitola's in it are great. Whether you are smoking the Luisitania, 8-9-8, Culebras, Serie P No. 2, Short, or the Serie D No. 4, you are going to get a ton of flavor and have a great body smoke as well. I got this stick in a tubos 3 pack in Antigua and I have been looking forward to them for sometime. First all the tubo is beautiful. Nice design and coloring, it is awesome. Right when you open the tubo, the first thing you notice is the beautiful triple cap. Perfectly rolled with no veins visible, this cigar is beautiful. I always look forward to lighting one of the sticks up. Whether I am drinking a glass of wine, a mojito, or just rum, it goes well with everything. I have burnt through a box and a half of these, and they have always had great flavor.

Check out that Triple Cap! (3 horizontal lines, if you don't know what I am talking about.)




The aroma of this cigar is wonderful. Right away you have a sweet and spicy aroma and with the draw you get anise, cinnamon, and clove. Upon lighting, I am blessed with cinnamon and sweet characteristics, and it is just teasing me. The cigar is medium in body and so smooth. I am a third of the way in and the burn is perfect and beautiful, the flavors are great, and the aroma in the room is amazing. This is what a cigar should be like. Right now I am giving this a 93.

Heaven
 Well, I have spaced out, and didn't write a second third review of this cigar, because I was enjoying it too much. The flavors have remained wonderful and it has increased in body. This cigar is just loaded with dark cherries, cinnamon, cloves, it's just awesome. Sorry, fuckin awesome! I am about to finish it off and I am pissed, this can't be happening. I am tempted to run inside and grab another one, but I am going to throw those to the bottom of the humidor and get them in a year or so. I have changed my earlier vote from 93 to a 95. I haven't had any issues with this cigar, except for the fact that it all gone. It would get a 100 if by some chance it came back, and I could smoke it again. When you have a cigar like this, you can't smoke another, because it will automatically suck.
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February 24, 2011

Cigar Review: Graycliff Double Espresso


Available to only six dealers worldwide, this is the most limited of the limited Graycliff collection. The Double Espresso is a short but powerhouse of a cigar. Measuring 4 1/2" with a 54 ring gauge the flavor and power in this cigar tickles your palate during and long after the smoke. Covered in a beautiful milk chocolate Jaltepec Costa Rican maduro wrapper and packed with unique ligero tobacco from Central and South America this cigar hits you from the start.

Right away you are greeted with lots of black pepper just to announce its presence, but it slowly fades and becomes a background flavor. Once the cigar gets going the chocolate, spice, and coffee flavors become more prevalent. The body on this smoke is heavy throughout, but due to the excellent blending skills it never becomes too much.

The cigar remains flavorful and and powerful throughout and you'll find yourself smoking it all the way to the nub. The cigar was rolled perfectly with a great cap, and the ash remained strong and beautiful on the smoke throughout. One of my favorite aspects of this cigar was the draw. It was fairly tight, but because of that you could really control the flavors you got out of it and control the smoke I never had a burn issue throughout, and never had to relight.

The only downsize to this cigar I would say is the pricing. Like most Graycliff cigars, they aren't cheap, but if you can get these when they have a sale on them or a deal, you should take it! I give this cigar a 93, and I hope you all have a chance to smoke this, even if it is just once.

Graycliff Double Espresso - Cigar.com
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February 22, 2011

Padilla Single Batch #17RC



Just when you thought Padilla was boutique, he begins to release boutique boutique cigars. The Single Batch #17RC is a small production cigar, and I mean small production. There will be different batches, with different tobacco, but the #17RC is covered with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and has filler tobacco from Nicaragua.

The cigar has lots of cedar, caramel, cream, earth, and coffee notes and is medium in body. This cigar is very enjoyable, especially when you take the price into account. For roughly around $2 a cigar, it is a steal, and I strongly suggest picking a bundle up. I give this cigar an 88, it wasn't exceptional, but still very enjoyable. The wrapper had some veins and didn't burn perfectly, but the flavor was nice.


Padilla Single Batch #17RC - Cigars International
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Saint Luis Rey Serie A


The Saint Luis Rey Serie A is one of the forgotten Corona Gorda's coming out of Cuba, more so than Juan Lopez Seleccion No. 1, and it is a shame. The cigar is great in all aspects, and I find it to always be a reliable smoke. Another great aspect of this cigar is that because it is not a cigar in high demand, it not as expensive as others.

Construction wise, this cigar is made perfectly well. The triple cap is perfect and the wrapper has been placed perfectly, not stretched or in bad condition. There are no veins in this wrapper, and it has a beautiful chocolate brown color. When smoking this cigar, you can see how well it was made, the burn on it was always even and the ash held on strong.

Flavor wise, the cigar isn't overly complex, but has wonderful notes of leather, apricot, and some mild spice. It doesn't change throughout with flavor, but remains rather pleasant and medium in body. The box I have of these is from 2008, and though it has improved since I smoked it last year, I truly think these will reach its peak in  a couple of years. I think that with some more age, the tobacco in this cigar will marry well with one another, and release more flavors.

Overall, this cigar is is made very well and the body and flavor of it are great, but it is overtime that you really begin to notice the greatness of it. Resting your cigars for a long time is hard for a lot of people, including myself, and because of that I don't smoke these often or purchase them. If you are willing to put down a box or two of these and not smoke them for over five years than I would buy them, otherwise I would just get a couple of singles. I give this cigar a 91, and look forward to them in the future. Also in the Saint Luis Rey line is the Double Corona, which is an incredible smoke when it is made well, and in the top 10 coming out of Cuba. Try both if you can.
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February 21, 2011

Cigar Review: Cohiba Maduro 5 Secretos



This little guy is a firecracker. If you ever thought small cigars were a waste of time, well look again. With a maduro wrapper that has been aged for 5 years, hence the name Maduro 5, this cigar is dark and oily. The wrapper isn't perfect, with some appearance issues, but the draw is great and it is clear the cigar is made very well. I have had the whole line of the Maduro 5, and this is the best vitola in it I would say. The cigar isn't consistent from one to the next, but when it is on, it is on. Tonight, it was on!
The petit corona is packed with complex flavors of coffee, leather, almonds and caramel. It’s a full-bodied smoke to say the least, and probably one of the most full bodied petit corona's I have ever had. I was talking with one of my friends Down Under, who is a cigar shop owner, and he says a lot of them are made at the Partagas Factory and it is because of that, that they are made with better quality. 
I for one love this smoke, and if I don't have a lot of time, or want a quick smoke, I grab for it. The only downfall of this cigar is the pricing. I think with it's pricing you can get some better Habanos, or non-Habanos, but it is still a rare treat. I give this cigar a 91.
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Ave Maria Knights Templar


I know, another cigar by AJ Fernandez, but he is making great cigars. The cigar starts off with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with fillers from Nicaragua. Sounds like your usual cigar these days, but it isn't. The line comes with several vitola's, but the Knights Templar is my current favorite.  The band on this cigar is just massive and colorful, and though i don't think the band is important it is still a wonderful sight to the eyes.

I find a lot of AJ's cigars are very full body and full flavor, but he went down the middle road this time with the body. While remaining very full in flavor and still being complex, the cigar is not overpowering. I know there are a lot of medium body smokes on the market today, but I have gotten to the point where I find most cigars being either mild or full.

The cigar begins with lots of leather and wood notes and those flavors remain prevalent throughout the smoke. As you look at the ash, the first thing you will notice is that it stays strong on the cigar through the half way point, and it is very very white. Usually a white ash is a symbol that the tobacco was grown in soil that was very rich in nitrogen, and that is very good. With the cigar becoming more complex as it progresses you begin to pick up some nuts and spice on the finish of each puff, and some more flavors that I couldn't pinpoint.

If you are looking for a full body cigar, the Ave Maria is not it, but it is still truly enjoyable, so don't rule it out because of that. The cigar itself is constructed perfectly and the flavors it contains are very nice and pleasant. I have been enjoying these cigars quite regularly and have been enjoying them at anytime during the day. I give this smoke a 93, and love sharing these with my friends who haven't had them. This is a perfect cigar to sit around with friends and just talk or even watch a hockey game. Another great thing about this smoke is that you can have a coke, any type of wine, beer, or anything with it. It is perfect with anything, anytime.


Ave Maria - Cigar.com
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February 20, 2011

Cigar Review: Cohiba Robusto...Cuban Of Course


 The Cuban Cohiba Robusto is the most sought after cigar in the world. The Cohiba line was established in 1968 as a limited production private brand supplied exclusively to Fidel Castro and high-level officials in the Communist Party of Cuba and Cuban government. Often given as diplomatic gifts, the Cohiba brand gradually developed a "cult" status. It was first released commercially for sale to the public in 1982. The robusto was not in the original three viola’s launched within the line, but was the in second phase, and has become the best well-known. If you have ever been abroad or even somehow in the Keys and bought a Cohiba, it is probably the case that you bought a fake one. I have always been careful when buying Cohiba cigars, and will always be careful. Made in the traditional format the cigar measures 4 7/8” and has a ring gauge of 50. The cigar has a beautiful wrapper, with no stretch marks or any flaws. The triple cap is perfect on it and the draw is impeccable. This cigar would be in my Top 5, but I rarely smoke it, so I don’t think I should put it there. I have bought these in boxes and 3 Pack, and have rarely had a problem with them.

   

This cigar starts off as a flavor bomb, and never tones down. From the first puff, you get lots of spice, nuts, lemongrass, and some stone fruit. This cigar just captures so many flavors and remains very complex. With every puff I get spice and nuts on the front, and finishes with stone fruits and lemongrass, truly amazing. This cigar hits the ground running. 

I have just finished the first third of this cigar and it is amazing, I mean a great cigar. This is just an amazing smoke, and deserving of its reputation. I am still getting lots of stone fruits, predominantly apricot and nectarine, but I am also getting caramel, some toasty notes, lemon, and espresso. This is a perfect cigar for the summer time, well it’s perfect anytime, but I just imagine smoking these often in the summer time in the sun with a mojito. 

I am on the second third of this smoke and I am in tears.  This is such a great cigar; it has got body, complexity, and just downright entertainment! I am in love with this cigar, and not looking forward to this smoke ending. I need to stress once again, the great flavors I am getting right now.

I just finished the second third of this cigar and it is still strong. I am still getting loads of stone fruit, lemongrass, nuts, and coffee. This is just a model for cigars. If I were to begin blending my own brand, I would use this cigar as a trademark, it just has so much depth, and I find that so crucial in a cigar. I look forward to every Cohiba Robusto I ever smoke. 

Just finished this cigar, and what a trip it has taken me on. The stone fruit isn’t as prevalent as it was for the first two thirds of this cigar, but has become very dark. The flavors are of dark roasted nuts and dark chocolate covered espresso beans. I am in awe of the flavors I have gotten out of this smoke.

This cigar got a 96 in my book and that might be even low. I know a lot of people will state that these smokes are overrated, but I would disagree. I think Habanos S.A. puts a lot of time and money into this line, and there is a reason for it. Cohiba Robusto is a flagship of Habanos S.A., and I believe it should be a flagship for all cigars. If you want a truly unique smoke that will take you on a journey, this is the one for you.
      

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February 19, 2011

Gran Habano 3 Siglos Gran Robusto






I love this cigar, or should I say loved, since it is no longer in production. Guillermo and George Rico, father and son, have a very small production in Honduras, but make great smokes. I have around four of these sticks left in my humidor, and they are going to remain there for sometime. Looking at this cigar, it is just spell bounding. You can see the oils shine on this beautiful reddish brown habano leaf that was shade grown in Nicaragua. I love cigars that have a wrapper that has red in the color, it is a sign of a great wrapper and great flavors. They get the name for this line, 3 Siglos, from the three country filler tobacco, that is all ligero. They of course use Nicaraguan tobacco in the filler, but also use Colombian and Costa Rican. There aren't a lot of manufacturers who use Colombian tobacco, but Guillermo and George Rico do, and often.

The cigar starts off with a lot of wood, cream, coffee, and walnut notes. The notes stay with the cigar throughout but it is after the first third where it begins to get very complicated. Throughout the rest of the smoke you begin to pick up pepper and spice flavors that come and go teasing your pallet and never knowing if the cigar is medium or full. This cigar truly is wonderful, and I believe is forgotten by many. Now I know you can not get this cigar again, but Cigars International has such a positive relationship with Gran Habano Cigars, that they were able to get almost the exact blend made for them, but called 3 SLS. I give this cigar a 90, and would recommend it as an everyday smoke.

Give it a try, Gran Habano 3 Siglos
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Cigar Review: Illusione Epernay Le Matin

Epernay is a town in France that is built upon chalk rock in the heart of the Champagne region, and this is where the line gets its name. The whole line is meant to be lighter and sweeter than the original Illusiones, and there is no ligero tobacco in the cigars at all. Out of the five vitolas I smoked my favorite, Le Matin. The cigar is 6 1/2" long and has a ring gauge of 46, and has a wonderful draw. To me the cigar is very mild-medium in body, and is blended beautifully. Like all of his cigars, it has a wonderful triple cap and the wrapper on this cigar, a cafe rosado, is beautiful. Another great this about this line, is that all of the vitolas have ring gauges in the 40's. I hate large ring gauge cigars, and I think Giolito does as well. I love Giolito's smokes and I think he is right on with what he is making, but let's get to the flavor profile of this beauty.

The cigar smokes very smoothly, giving off lots of floral, honey, and café au lait notes. This cigar truly is great, and deserves to be in the top 10 of 2010, since it was just released last year. Looking at Cigar Aficionado's Top 10 however, I would move it up to third place, I think it is a better smoke than the four ahead of it. I have read from interviews that this cigar is meant to be paired with champagne, and I can see the reason for that. This would be fabulous with prosecco, cava, or champagne, but would even go great with a coffee! I for one praise my favorite prosecco and cava over most champagnes, just because of the flavors I have gotten. I am still smoking this cigar right now, and I can't begin to tell you how much I love it. 


I would strongly recommend this cigar to anyone out there, and it could be enjoyed anytime of the day. I think in my next wine tasting with Red Dog I will bring one of these sticks over. I can honestly say that this is one of the best smokes I have had all week, and would give it a 96.  If you don't believe me in my opinion, check out other critics, they will say the same.

I feel like a guy on Wall Street with this cigar.  "Buy! Buy! Buy!"
Empire Cigars
W. Curtis Draper
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Wine Tasting Friday Night with Red Dog

Third Wheel and Goats Do Roam
Last night Red Dog and I had a scheduled wine tasting with the two wines above. Well it started with two, and quickly got out of hand. Both are red blends, but very different. Third Wheel is from California and is predominantly Zinfandel with some Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes as well. The Goats Do Roam is predominantly Syrah with Cinsaut, Mourvedre, Granche, and Carignan; and is from South Africa. We started with Goats Do Roam, and were somewhat disappointed. The wine had a vibrant ruby red color and a nose of lamb, anise, and cherries. Right after the first sip, our pallets got some berries and spice, but the wine was very light. Red Dog and I were not to fond of this wine, it was just lacking in our opinion. I believe I gave it an 87 and Red Dog gave it a 5 out of 10. (For all of you out there, Red Dog takes his wine seriously, and after that decided not to rate wines numerically, but merely state "oh this is great!") 

After we were done with the Goats Do Roam we went into the Lancers. Lancers was a sneak attack that was given to us at the last minute, and we had no idea what we were getting into. Actually, Red Dog defended Lancers and swore by it. I made sure to keep track of his argument, and it was broken down into three categories.
  1. "Don't make fun of Lancers Rose Seth, it is a very reliable Rose." (How Red Dog knows it is reliable scares me.)
  2. "Don't make fun of Lancers unless you drink Lancers!" (He has a fair point with that.)
  3. "It's got frosting on the bottle, it's great!" (Most valid argument on behalf of Lancers)
Note: We actually decided not to rate it, but it was very crisp and we loved  the carbonation.

After Lancers, we got back on track. Actually, I don't think we were ever on track, but we dove right into Third Wheel. Third Wheel was a great wine, we really enjoyed the flavors it gave off and the nose. We felt that it was medium in tannins as opposed to the Goats Do Roam which was lacking, and produced great flavors. We picked up lots of dark berries, dark cherries, coffee, and some chocolate. This was so far the best wine we had drunk, and I gave it a 91.    

 
Naughty Cellars - Racy (2004)

After going through Third Wheel, Red Dog pulled out the big guns and insisted we taste this new bottle he had. He had picked up a couple bottles of these earlier in the week or last week, and was loving it. I had noticed the wine when picking out some music, and thought this is awesome. Naughty Racy is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, but it had some Cabernet Fran and Zinfandel in it as well. This wine was teasing out pallets all night, we could never pin point one flavor in it. I got lots of black pepper, Bing cherry, plum,  dark Raspberries, and some Blackberries. This was really an incredible wine, and we gave it a 94. We kept sipping on this wine the rest of the night, and I was constantly bombarded with, "oh my god man, oh my god!" It was after the Racy, that we began speeding up downward spiral. After doing some serious damage on those bottles of wine, Red Dog decided to hit up his cellar and get something "uber special."

Ridge Vineyards - Zinfandel Nervo (2005)

We went through every bottle on the rack, but we decided that the wine that was appropriate to drink, due to it's number of years aged was the Ridge Zinfandel Nervo. The color on the Nervo was not your typical Zinfandel, but had a nice purple-hue from the Petite Sirah, but it still had the notes of a great Zinfandel. We got a nice jammy flavor to it, dark cherry, raspberry, and blackberry; but had tons of anise, cloves, and pepper on top of that. The Nervo had a great flavor profile and once it really opened up was a treat. We planned on saving some for the ladies we were going to be seeing late, but that plan vaporized within minutes. I gave it a 94. The age had been nice on this bottle, and I think it had reached its peak.    
     
The Tasting Table
At the end of the evening I lit up a Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve maduro, and Red Dog and I began the discussion on which was the best wine of the evening, Nervo or Racy? We both came to the conclusion that Racy took it. We thought that Racy was just more complicated and it kept us guessing. The Nervo was great, but it took you down that Zinfandel road everyone knows. I love that road by the way, but Racy just took us by surprise. If I were to compare the two, the Nervo would be you getting in a Porsche and driving around the country. The Racy, would be as if you were about to go walk in the woods on a rainy day, but instead decided to take out the Hummer and do some serious damage.  If you are looking for a nice red blend, try out Naughty Racy, you won't be disapointed. I look forward to the next wine tasting with Red Dog, that is if our wives allow it though, and I am thinking Prosecco.



Red Dog celebrating the decided winner!
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February 18, 2011

Cigar Review: Illusione '888'


The Illusione Cigars are slowly finding their way into my humidor, and also becoming a favorite smoke of mine. Made at the Raices Cubanas Factory in Honduras for Don Giolito of Illusione Cigars, all of his cigars are Nicaraguan puros. He specifically uses Corojo '99 and Criollo '98 seed tobacco from the Esteli and Jalapa growing areas of Nicaragua. When creating the Illusione cigar brand, Don Giolito wanted to create great Nicaraguan cigars that were similar to cigars prior to the Sandinistas Revolution in 1979. Whether or not he has achieved that, since I have never smoked a Nicraguan cigar from the 70's, I do not know; but he has made great cigars.

When naming the vitolas within the Illusione line, he used his religious beliefs as a reference. The 888 got it's name from the Hebrew numerology of Jesus, IhsouV, called Gematria. In gematria each letter is assigned the corresponding number. I find it very interesting, and when looking up the names of the vitola and how gematria all works I got distracted for some time.  Either way, the name of the vitola's are creative and the brand itself is wonderful. The cigar measures 6 3/4" with a 48 ring gauge and because of the length, I find it hard to call it a Corona Gorda or a Churchill. No matter what the proper vitola name is I love the size, and look forward to it.

The cigar itself is beautiful, a Colorado Cafe color wrapper, and the triple cap on it is great. I have found this cigar to be medium in body and I could smoke it anytime of the day, though others might prefer it as an evening smoke. The prelight aroma is of chocolate and barnyard. The first third of this cigar started off very nice, with lots of earth, coffee, and some chocolate notes. I tend to really like those flavors in a cigar, I think they play off of each other very well, and lead to great smokes. From the end of the first third, I begin to get a lot more spice and the cigar became fuller in body, but it remained very earthy and chocolaty still. One of the best things about this smoke is the draw, some cigar draws are very loose, and it is overwhelming. I like cigars that are a little bit tighter because with that, you can control where the smoke goes and pick up more flavors. These smokes I tend to burn my fingers on, because I get them right down to the nub, if only there were a couple more inches!

Overall the cigar is great, along with the others in the line, and I strongly recommend it to all out there. I would give this cigar a 91, and look forward to picking up a box in the future, but there is not enough room in my humidors anyways. Give it a try, I know you can get these cigars at Empire Cigars or W. Curtis Draper. Enjoy.
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February 16, 2011

Gurkha Blue Steel

Gurkha Blue Steel

Derek Zoolander - Blue Steel
The Gukhra Blue Steel, not to be confused with Derek Zoolander's patent look Blue Steel, is truly a boutique cigar. Although Derek is an incredible model, I am going to have to give the winning hand to Gurkha with Blue Steel. Now there is a difference between a boutique cigar and a boutique cigar company. A boutique cigar, is a cigar that is made with very limited tobacco, and is a one time thing. Boutique cigar companies is hard to define. There are differences in opinions on qualifications to be a boutique cigar company. I was going to go into it more, but decided to make a blog about it. It is way too long to talk about for such a short time. Blue Steel is a limited cigar production, with only 50,000 cigars ever being made. I know 50,000 sounds like a lot, but with cigar production it isn't.  Gurkha is noted for making lots of limited smokes, he buys a lot of small batch, high quality, and high price tobacco that no one else does, and makes cigars with them. It is really entertaining for a cigar smoker, because there is always something new and unique. If you ever do fall in love with one of his smokes though, I would splurge, because they probably won't be around long.
The cigar is covered in a toothy Costa Rican Jaltepec maduro wrapper, one of the most expensive leaves on the planet. Underneath the cigar, it is packed with extensively aged tobaccos from Colombia, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Upon lighting you are greeted by rich flavors that are very mellow because of the age on the tobacco. It is a very toasty, woody, and earthy cigar, with some occasional hints of coffee. I didn't find it overly complex, but it remained very balanced, flavorful, and smooth throughout. I would say this cigar is simple, but not in a bad way, it is very enjoyable and relaxing. I would give this cigar an 89, and it is a great value. 

Cigars International - Gurkha Blue Steel
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Cigars in History Part I

So in my non cigar life, I am reading a book I got for Christmas called Afghanistan. Besides cigars, I find myself incredibly fascinated with events, the people, and the country of Afghanistan. This isn't the first, nor the last book I have read on Afghanistan, but I found something in this book that connects my love for cigars with my interest in Afghanistan. Many of you may not have known this, but the British were in Afghanistan long before American ground troops were in Operation Enduring Freedom. In December of 1838 The British Army, under the command of Sir John Keane, marched from the Punjab region to the Bolan Pass, which connects Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. From the pass they marched onto Kandahar, and from there it was all downhill, and there is a double meaning in that. The impressive thing of the army is that it consisted of roughly 21,000 soldiers, 38,000 Indian servants, 30,000 camels, and a pack of foxhounds. Out of those 30,000 camels, for one regiment they set aside two camels who were designated simply to carry their cigars! It is not known if this was the case for all regiments, but if it is, I should have joined the British Army.

Bactrian Camel
 You are probably wondering how much can a camel carry, and how much do cigars weigh? There are two main types of camels in that region, and both can carry different weights. The two main types of camels are Bactrian and Dromedary. Bactrian camels get their name from the ancient Kingdom of Bactria, which encompassed areas of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan  at its height. These are the largest of camels and have two humps. Since their domestication these camels have become critically endangered, and are no longer in the region, but at the time were. The second type of camel is the Dromedary camel, these camels have one hump, unlike the Bactrian and were domesticated in southern Arabia, these are the most common of camels. The Dromedary camel is taller and faster then the Bactrian, but the Bactrian is stockier and hardier. The Dromedary camel can carry up to 900 lb. while the Bactrian can carry up to 1,400 lb. In my research, I have found differences in optimum carrying weight for the camels, but the average is around 450 lb for the Dromedary and the Bactrian is around 900 lb. Since the Dromedary camel is the more common of the two, I am going to go with the fact that the British probably used them, since they had 30,000 of them.

Dromedary Camel
A cigar box weight fluctuates depending on the cigar, and the weight of the box. Cigars have become larger in sizes throughout the years, and are not as a small as they once were. Now cedar boxes were not introduced till 1844, so we can rule out those boxes in weight, and can use a typical cedar line paper box. I decided to go with the Montecristo #4 (Cuban) as the cigar of choice. At the time it would have been an appropriate size and it does not come in a cedar box.  The weight of the box with the cigars in it it, is 8/10 of a pound. So if they can carry 450 lb of weight, and the box weighs .8 lb, they can carry 562.5 boxes of cigars. Since there were two camels, I will say 1,125 boxes of cigars. (I rounded up in one and down in the other) That is 28,125 cigars. Oh, and in case you are wondering the Afghans slaughtered the British and they retreated in 1842. However, the one thing the Afghans loved that the British brought were ice skates, they had never seen them before.  
Montecristo #4
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