September 30, 2011

Cigar Review: Casa Magna Colorado (Robusto)

Casa Magna Colorado
It was December of 2008, and a cigar bud of mine sent me some cigars in the mail to try. I had no idea what the cigar was, but I always trusted him in the past. I opened up to see the Casa Magna Colorado. I knew nothing about the cigar at the time, and he didn't tell me anything about them either. Well, after I smoked through the two of them and was totally impressed I found out where he got them in Pennsylvania, and ordered a box immediately. That box is what I am reviewing this cigar out of today, and these cigars are probably from the same production cycle that Cigar Aficionado smoked when they gave it the rating of #1 in the February 2009 Issue for Best Cigar of the Year. That is right, I have had these cigars since December of 2008. This cigar was somewhat of a hot topic after it received that rating, but I am not going to worry about that, I am just going to talk about the cigar. ...

September 28, 2011

Cigar Review: Room 101 LTD. Namakubi (Monstro)

Namakubi Monstro
If you are unfamiliar with Matt Booth, you wouldn’t be the only one. He is relatively new to the cigar industry, and he began making cigars with Camacho Cigars in 2009. When you see his marketing style, or see and speak with him, you will think that he is very similar to that of Pete Johnson of Tatuaje, and I would agree. The two of them are on that fine line between traditional and new wave cigar manufacturers. Because of Matt Booth’s Eastern influences, I remember the film The Last Samurai, and the line in the movie, “I belong to the warrior in whom the old ways have joined the new." I feel that line is perfect for discussing Matt Booth, Pete Johnson, Dion Gioltio and some others. ...

September 27, 2011

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Core Line Maduro - Club 52

E.P. Carrillo
So about a week ago I was helping a customer of Havana Phil’s out in the humidor, and I was guiding him in some directions to go. Well I ended up talking about E.P. Carrillo and how I think he is rocking the industry right now when I noticed that Phil got in the Core Line Maduro smokes. He had them on order, but they were finally in!  Well as you can imagine, I began to talk to the customer about the smoke because of my love for it, and he decided to pick some up. I should say that I did as well, and we both left the humidor excited, he to smoke some new cigars to him, and me to enjoy a familiar friend. I have reviewed the corona gorda vitola in the new line, Regalia Real, but I decided to grab the Club 52 to review. I love the Club 52 size, because it is reminiscent of the Cuban cañonazo vitola. That is the size in which the Cuban Siglo VI’s and Montecristo Grand Edmundo Limited Edition 2010 are made. ...

September 26, 2011

Cigar Review: Casa Fernandez Miami (Toro)

Casa Fernandez
I know I have mentioned it in past reviews, but Casa Fernandez is moving their location of production. It is not often that you see manufacturers move their production facility, but Casa Fernandez is, and they are moving it to the great City of Miami! Casa Fernandez has been making great cigars in Nicaragua and Honduras for some time, but they are slowly moving production to Miami, Florida. Their core line, Casa Fernandez, has been made in Nicaragua while their Aganorsa Leaf and Arsenio  lines have been made in Honduras at their Raices Cubanas Cigar Factory. I am very excited about this move, and I am hoping that once they get a great factory in Miami going you will begin to see great cigars from other cigar companies who work with Casa Fernandez. I have heard that the production of the Arsenio and Aganorsa Leaf cigars will be moving to Miami eventually, but right now they are only moving the Casa Fernandez line. ...

September 25, 2011

Cigar Review: Rocky Patel Vintage 2003 Cameroon

Most people who smoke cigars do not think of how hard it was for the maker to blend that cigar. All the tobacco in a cigar is unique and each leaf provides something special for that cigar, but the wrapper leaf is probably the most important aspect. The Cameroon leaf is one of the most difficult tobacco leaves to work with, and there are several reasons for that, but first let us talk about Cameroon tobacco. Tobacco grown in Cameroon is actually Sumatra seed, which is the same type of seed that is grown in Indonesia or Ecuador. The name Cameroon merely comes from the country in which the tobacco is grown, Cameroon. The tobacco grown there is very thing to begin with, and because of this, it makes it very difficult to work with. It takes some time for the fermentation process with Cameroon wrappers, and because the leaf is so thin and delicate, many leaves can be damaged along the way. With that being said, Cameroon tobacco is very expensive, and for a long time was much more popular than it is now a days. Many makers, once they left Cuba, began making cigars with Cameroon wrappers because of the wonderful flavors they possess. Some considered it a better wrapper than that of Cuba's. With all of that information, you can realize my surprise when Rocky announced the Vintage 2003 Cameroon. The project has been in the works for several years now, almost a decade, and it is the first Cameroon wrapper cigar that Rocky has ever put on a cigar bearing his name. Like the rest of the Vintage lines by Rocky Patel, they are made at the General Factory in Honduras, Honduras American Tabaco S.A. factory. Besides the Cameroon wrapper the cigar has a Nicaraguan binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. I am not sure if the blend is the same as the other Vintage lines, but it is the same country breakdown for binder and fillers. ...

September 24, 2011

Cigar Review: Tatuaje Black Petite Lancero

Pete Johnson logo

2011 was a big year for a lot of cigar manufacturers, but I think Pete Johnson with Tatuaje Cigars has definitely taken the lead with new and successful lines. When you release lines like Fausto, La Casita Criollo, and La Verite Vintage 2009 you are bound to have a popular line. When you release single cigars like the Capa Especial and Black Label Petit Lancero, you are bound to have one of them be a hit. The thing about it though is that all these cigars have been fabulous. I have smoked through all lines,  and almost all the vitolas, and every one of them blew me away. I look at my list for Top 25 Cigars of 2011 and there is an abundance of Tatuaje Cigars on that list. The Black Label Petit Lancero has been one of the biggest talked cigars among smokers out there, and its popularity has been incredible. In years past there have been small releases of a certain vitola with the infamous Tatuaje Black Label, but production has never been ongoing, and this leaves customers always wanting more. The upside is that now that he has a constant production smoke for the Black Label, I think the popularity will increase as well. With this huge success, the greatest thing about it for me is that the vitola is a petite lancero. Thin ring gauge cigars are not the trend on the market currently, but everyone is flocking to these sticks even if the prefer the popular 6 by 60 cigar. 

Tatuaje Black Label Petit Lancero
The cigar comes in boxes of 25 and they are packed in sleek glossy black box that bare the infamous Pete Johnson logo on the top. Measuring 6" with a 38 ring gauge, I know that if the cigar had a different band on it, or was made by a different manufacturer it would not move as fast, the cigar is a Nicaraguan puro. He does not specify anymore on the cigar other then the wrapper is a Nicaraguan Sun Grown Criollo leaf from Esteli. I had the pleasure of talking with Pete Johnson a couple weeks back about this cigar and others, and it was really awesome to talk to him about his cigars and to listen to the amount of knowledge he has. He is definitely passionate about what he does and incredibly knowledgeable which are two thing you wish to see in any position. Looking at the cigar you would not be very impressed, but as Pete said, the appearance is not the major issue. It has a color of light roasted coffee beans and has some veins present throughout the smoke while having a slightly rough, uneven and oily feel to it. The cigar is still firm, and rolled well, but is not that pretty. With that being said, one of the greatest things that Pete said was "that when people complain about veins in the cigar they shouldn't, because the veins in the cigar really add a lot to the smoke, and hold a ton of flavor. People sometimes say they have stems in their cigar, but they are not stems, those are veins from the leaves." The aroma is slightly sweet when holding it up to my nose, and I am detecting notes of barnyard, damp wood and spice. 

The cigar opens up beautifully giving off notes of black pepper early on before settling down and showcasing flavors of dark cherries, wood, coffee and chocolate. The first third was around medium in body for me, but I imagine some might think of it as being full bodied. The ash is this beautiful light gray and the cigar is burning wonderfully producing a nice amount of smoke. It was in the middle third of this petite lancero that the flavors became very complex, and I saw an emergence of floral notes and nuts. There was a nice pleasant sweetness to the cigar, not very strong, but subtle. I am still getting some stone fruit, chocolate and coffee notes, but the pepper is long gone and it is replaced with a nice presence of sweet allspice. It is still smoking perfectly and remaining medium in body. I will say the cigar is smoking very cool, which is great, because typically smaller ring gauge cigars smoke a little bit hotter. When the final third hits me I am very upset. I don't want the cigar to end, and I should have bought a box of these when I had the chance. Don't get me wrong, I got a box of the Fausto's and they are the bomb, but I should have gotten a box of these as well. It finishes medium in body, and showing dark flavors of wood, roasted nuts, espresso, dark chocolate, and a hint of spices. I find a toothpick to stick in the end so I can continue smoking it, and there is basically nothing left when I am done with it. It is cigars like this that if certain people saw me smoking them they could say cigars are addictive and like crack, and I wouldn't disagree with them. This is a cigar that you want to smoke back to back, and you will fly through a box.

Black Label
Whoever says that bigger cigars have more flavors is an idiot, and they clearly have not smoked this cigar. I found this cigar to show so much in terms of greatness for a cigar, and the vitola is a petite lancero. The cigar burned as cool as a robusto or double corona, had excellent flavors that any cigar made with great tobacco and blended wonderfully would, and at the same time had a small ring gauge to showcase the awesome flavors from the wrapper. I am giving this cigar a 94, and I look forward to lighting up the remaining cigars I have. This was definitely one of Pete Johnson's greatest releases of the year, and if this cigar does not do well in a certain magazine at the end of the year I will be very surprised. This is another box worthy cigar by Pete Johnson, and I am so pleased that this cigar was so successful and popular even with a small ring gauge.  
Petite Lancero


September 22, 2011

Cigar Review: Cruzado Domenicos Extra

I was originally going to review another cigar for this post, but after Phil at Havana Phil's pointed out this new cigar in the humidor I had to change things up. The Cruzado line is one of Dion's newer lines, and is the only cigar that features tobacco outside of Nicaragua. One thing I love about this cigar is the packaging and cigar bands. The boxes come with Crest of The Kingdom of Jerusalem on them, and and the font is very cool as well. Cruzado can be translated as "to bear a cross", and that is definitely present when looking at the boxes. Like the rest of the Illusione Cigars they do not come in cellophane and are perfect for box aging if you wish to do so. I age a lot of cigars, never whole boxes, and I can tell you that it is hard to let Illusione's rest because of how great they are! I have reviewed two of the other sizes in the line, the Dantes and the Marios and found them to be very enjoyable and just as flavorful as the Illusione line only lighter, but the Domenicos Extra is a whole new experience. Like all of the cigars made for Illusione Cigars, they are made in Honduras at the Raices Cubanas Factory by Tabacalera Tropical. They have an excellent master blender, Arsenio Ramos, and his work with Dion is excellent!
The Domenicos Extra was released in 2010, and like the rest of the line has a Criollo '98 wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and fillers from Honduras and Nicaragua that are Criollo '98 and Corojo 2006. The size is meant to replace one or two of the current vitolas in the line and it measures 6" with a 56 ring gauge. The two lines that I have heard are discontinued are the Domenicos and Marcelas. Now with all of this being said, the Domeincos Extra has been introduced in a new manner, and one similar to that of the ~mj12~ in the standard Illusione line. The vitola is wrapped in a foil like material but instead of it being silver, it is gold, very cool!
The Gold Covering
While very firm to touch, and a great triple cap and small pigtail the cigar has a great reddish hue color to the milk chocolate color wrapper. The pigtail cap really reminds me of the Casa Fernandez Arsenio line by Casa Fernandez, but that makes sense since the makers of this cigar make the Casa Fernandez Cigars. It is oily in hand and there are very few veins present in the cigar. The cigar has wonderful aromas of cedar, chocolate, spices and barnyard. There is a nice sweet spice to the aroma, and I can tell that the sweetness is from the Criollo tobacco. As a cigar made by Illusione, it is one of the largest ring gauges in the arsenal, and I am sure to pick up the great flavors from the filler tobacco inside from Honduras and Nicaragua. The first third of the cigar is very wonderful and light showing great flavors of chocolate, wood, nuts and spice. There is not much of a pepper presence in the flavor, but more of cinnamon. Throughout the first third the cigar is burning perfectly and producing a plethora of smoke ... perfect for smoke rings.
Slight Pigtail
When I enter the second third the cigar becomes much more complex and there is an emergence of cream, nuts and leather. I am still picking up the sweet spice that I had in the first third, and lots of cedar and cocoa notes as well. The cigar is easily medium in body, and of all his lines it is second to lightest behind the Epernay line. The burn has been perfect on this cigar, and I have only had to relight it once due to my carelessness. I am really love this cigar, and glad that Phil told me these were in when he did. I am smoking the last third of the cigar now and it is really incredible; I am telling you right now that this cigar is box worthy. There are wonderful flavors of hay, wood, nuts and leather, but there is that richness from the cocoa notes and sweet spices as well. I had to relight the final third a couple times, but other than that this cigar has been amazing. As I get to the nub of the cigar I put it down and wish I had another to smoke immediately.
Unfolding the Gold
I am typically not a fan of larger ring gauges, as I have said in the past, but this cigar was incredible. It is easily the best vitola in the Cruzado line, and I will definitely be purchasing these cigars in the future. I am giving this cigar a 94 rating and it is going into the growing list of Top Cigar for 2011. With only three months left before the end of the year I can foresee this cigar doing well in future ratings and going the distance. Before this cigar the Cruzado line was not at the top of my list, but it really makes me want to light up the rest of the line again. The Domenicos Extra had a great amount of flavor, was constructed perfectly, and not overly strong, meaning this is great for anyone! This is a cigar that smokers of all walks of life will enjoy, and I know they will be selling fast in shops. At Havana Phil's I will be recommending this cigar to many and yet putting a couple in my Robusto Room locker to enjoy on the premises as well so that I have some. I know that this Saturday I will be enjoying this great cigar while watching some great college football, as I am sure Phil and others will as well. Pick up a box of these as soon as you can!  
Domenicos Extra

September 20, 2011

Cigar Review: Padron 1926 Serie 80th Anniversary (Maduro)

80th Anniversary (Maduro)
There is one cigar that I believe never received the ranking it deserved by Cigar Aficionado, well there are many cigars that never have, and there other cigars that should never have been given what they were given, but when you saw the cigar I was reviewing I think you all know what I am talking about. It was in 2008 that the Padron 1926 Serie 80th Anniversary was rated as the No. 2 cigar of the year by Cigar Aficionado and not the ranking it deserved, No. 1. Cigar Aficionado went about the rating stating the because of the economic situation, a great cigar for $5 seemed fit to be No. 1. Don't get me wrong, I think the Casa Magna Colorado is a great cigar, especially for the price, but it just does not compare with the 80th Anniversary. The 80th Anniversary was first released in 2006 to honor the 80th birthday of Jose Orlando Padron, and because the 85th is soon to be released to honor his 85th birthday, I thought I would finally review this magnificent cigar. The Padron Family has always made incredible cigars, and when it comes to their limited smokes and higher end cigars you really see magnificence in a cigar.

This cigar has always received high ratings from critics and other cigar smokers, and I consider to be one of the best cigars on the market. The cigar is the only perfecto in the Padron arsenal, and there is only one buncher and roller that make these cigars. Because of the limited hands involved in making these cigars, and the fact that tobacco that goes into these cigars is over five years old, the number of these cigars produced annually is very limited, only 300 daily. The cigar is a perfecto grande, and measures 6 3/4" with a 54 ring gauge. The cigar is available, like all Padron Cigars, in a sun-grown natural or maduro wrapper, and I decided to go with the maduro wrapper. Like all Padron Cigars the cigar is a Nicaraguan puro, and as I said earlier, made with tobacco that has been rested for over five years. With all that aging on the tobacco you have matured tobacco that is ready to be blended and therefore cigars that are ready to be smoked.

Holding the cigar in my hand it is absolutely perfect. It is very firm, and has a nice somewhat toothy wrapper. The wrapper is very dark to look at with very little veins, and has wonderful aromas of barnyard, wood, leather and rich earth. As I light up the tapered head I let the cigar get a little way in before really trying to pick out the flavors. Once I am beginning to pick up a some of the filler tobacco with the wrapper, I begin to pick up wonderful notes of coffee, cocoa, toast and nuts. Before picking up a lot of the filler tobacco when I lit the cigar there is a hint of sweetness and toast. The cigar is burning perfectly so far, and it is burning around medium-full in body. It's really great to see the flavors grow and grow as we get further into the first third and close to the second third. The cigar is truly remarkable.

As I enter the second third of the cigar the flavors grow even more, and I am now picking up wonderful notes of cream and coffee, chocolate, toast, almonds and orange zest. I think the second third shows so much in a great cigar and this is what cigars are meant to be like. It is a very elegant smoke and unique in so many ways. I am still having a perfect burn on the cigar, and it is producing wonderful thick smoke. It is smoking around medium in body at this point and very balanced. In the final third of the cigar the flavors are still as strong as they were in the second third, and the cigar is showing no signs of letting up. I am still picking up hints of orange zest and the core flavors of coffee, cocoa, toast and nuts. There isn't much cream notes as there was in the second third, but in no way is the cigar lacking in the flavor department. I smoke the cigar all the way down to the nub, and I put it down when my fingers are getting hot. 

Truly a magnificent cigar that receives a 100 rating, this cigar never fails to me. Though very limited and expensive, the cigar is still easily available and worth every penny. You can't find a better cigar filled with this much flavor and unique qualities to it. With its amazing vitola I find this cigar perfect for those special occasions, and every once awhile just great to have for the heck of it. I think the Padron Family makes some of the finest cigars, and I consider this cigar to be one of their finest if not their best. This is a cigar that is definitely worth having a box of, even though there are only eight in a box. I can say that if I had a cigar like this to honor my 80th birthday I would be the happiest man in the world. 
80th Anniversary    

September 19, 2011

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut (Gran Via)

E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut Gran Via
This weekend I decided to do a lot more smoking than blogging, and I am know getting around to reviewing a few of the cigars I chose. Saturday was an interesting day for me, and I went about the smoking process in a reverse manner than is to be expected. I started the day with a Casa Fernandez Miami Reserva. and from there went to a Padron 1926 Serie No. 9, Padron 1964 Anniversary 'A', and finally the E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut Gran Via. I know that smoking arrangement should be reverse, but as I said, it was a weird day. In some aspects the cigar was a great cigar to end the day with, it was a very flavorful cigar, but very mild. I think the New Wave Connecticut line is one of the greatest mild cigar releases of 2011, and by far one of the best mild cigars that I have had. I have reviewed the line before in a different vitola, the New Wave Connecticut Brillantes, but I thought I would try it out in the Churchill vitola. I love the Churchill size, and I find it to be the best size for an end of the day smoke. The Gran Via measures 7" and has a 48 ring gauge. Like the rest of the line, it is covered in a gorgeous Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper and has a Nicaraguan binder. The filler blend is a composition of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobacco, and similar to all of the cigars made by E.P. Carrillo it is rolled in the traditional Cuban fashion and is finished with an elegant triple cap. I am loving all of the cigars coming out of Tabacalera La Alianza, and I look forward to future cigars from them, like the Limitada 2011, and others cigars for different companies.

The Connecticut Shade wrapper is beautiful to hold and silky to touch. Connecticut Shade from Ecuador has definitely become more dominant in the past years from tobacco from the Connecticut Valley in the United States, and that is because of the price point. I know tobacco grown in the US is much more expensive than that of Ecuador, but it also has this more golden color to it as well. I wouldn't say tobacco from the Connecticut Valley is better than Ecuador, because both are incredibly flavorful, but you can definitely tell in its color and texture where the wrapper is grown. The Churchill had a nice light khaki color to it, and wonderful aromas of hay, grass, wood and raisins. In the first third, the cigar showed those common flavors in a Connecticut Shade wrapper of cream and butter, but I also picked up wonderful nuances of hay, grass, honey and nuts. It was easily between mild and medium in body and had a great burn line on the wrapper. After the amount of cigars I smoked the other day this was a great one to conclude my day with, while remaining very flavorful.  

In the second third of the cigar the strength increased very slightly and I began to pick up some hints of spices. There was still the dominant flavors of nuts, cream and butter, but I began to pick up hints of coffee and graham cracker as well. The cigar still smoked perfectly in that third, and produced wonderful amounts of smoke. E.P. Carrillo really did a wonderful job in blending this cigar and using great tobaccos that added so much to its flavor while keeping it very mild. The last third of the cigar really came as a surprise to me when it began to pick up in every department. Like the 1812 Overture, the end really built and ended in wonder and glory. I noticed wonderful notes of soft chocolate with the coffee that began to emerge in the second third, and it paired with the cream and graham cracker notes wonderfully. There was definitely a rise in the spice as well, and it ended smoking medium in body. I nubbed the beautiful Churchill and laid the cigar down to rest.

I found the cigar to show similar qualities to that of the Brillantes, but with the smaller ring gauge and longer size I was able to pick up more flavors from the wrapper. I would give this cigar a 93, and prefer it over the robusto vitola, but with a shortness of time in the morning I would probably grab the robusto format. Overall this is probably one of the best Connecticut Shade wrapper cigars on the market and I always recommend this to smokers who prefer a milder smoke. You won't find any lack of flavor with this mild cigar, and I imagine you will go back in and buy a box of these after you smoke through your first samples. With that being said, if you prefer a maduro smoke as well, grab their E.P. Carrillo Core Line Maduro. It is truly a remarkable maduro, and a great Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. I am not a huge fan of Connecticut Broadleaf cigars, but this is one of my favorites. Once again, check out my past review of the cigar, Core Line Maduro. Overall I should point out that if you want to smoke a great cigar that is incredibly flavorful, grab a smoke by E.P. Carrillo.
New Wave Connecticut

September 16, 2011

Cigar Review: Casa Fernandez Arsenio (Maduro)

Arsenio Maduro

I have talked about Tabacalera Tropical on numerous occasions, and last night I reviewed a classic cigar for me, the Casa Fernandez Arsenio. I love the Arsenio line by Casa Fernandez, and consider it to be the best everyday cigar. It has great flavors, rolled perfectly, and is a steal at the price point. The line gets its name from the master blender of Tabacalera Tropical, Arsenio Ramos. Mr. Ramos is in his late 70’s and has been involved in tobacco since his birth really. He began smoking at ten, and worked for Cuba Tobacco for many years before coming to Tabacalera Tropical. Besides being the blender for all Casa Fernandez lines, he helps blend cigars with Dion Giolito, Ernesto Padilla, Bill Paley, Alan Rubin and Andre Farkas to name a few. Tabacalera Tropical is just a small bit of a larger company named AGANORSA, which also has Raices Cubanas in Honduras and several other operations. I have been told that Arsenio Ramos was brought in to replace Jose Pepin Garcia, and if that is the case I don’t think they could have gotten anyone better. I think Mr. Ramos has an incredible knowledge of tobacco and cigars, and I love his stuff and find it as good as that of Don Pepin’s. The Casa Fernandez Arsenio line is a one size line and the cigar measures 5 ½” with a 52 ring gauge. Like all of Tabacalera Tropical Cigars, it has a great triple cap, and interesting little pigtail as well. It’s not your typical pigtail, but it is pressed into the cap, very cool. Check out my review of the Arsenio Corojo, to see the differences. Actually that is one of my first reviews and looking at the brings back memories. For this review I am lighting up the Arsenio Maduro. Like its counterpart, it is a Nicaraguan puro, and has tobacco from Condega, Esteli and Jalapa, but has a wrapper that has undergone the maduro process. It is all Cuban Seed and Aganorsa tobacco. This cigar is currently made in Nicaragua, not in Honduras like their other products, and I have heard that it will soon move to being produced in Miami. Currently the Casa Fernandez Miami and Reserva lines are being made there, and the Aganorsa line will move there shortly with the Arsenio. 

The cigar is beautiful in hand, and I love this size. It is a little bit thicker than I typically reach for in a cigar, but for some reason this line is my go to cigar line. The wrapper is a beautiful dark marbled brown with some minor veins, and is slightly oily. Holding the foot up to my nose I am greeted with wonderful aromas of barnyard, chocolate, spices and rich dirt. It has all the aromas you could ask for in a cigar and in particular a maduro. Smoking the first third of the cigar it is showing wonderful flavors of chocolate, spice, wood and rich earth. I would say the cigar is smoking around medium-full, but more importantly it is very flavorful. The cigar is burning incredibly well, and I feel as if I am sitting in a cloud of smoke. Things are going great!

Around the two-thirds spots the cigar begins to change directions, and it is no longer showing those sweet notes but more flavors that you would get from a natural wrapper. The flavors I am picking up are that of toast, coffee, nuts, earth and spice, and it the stick is really reminding me of a Padron 1926 Serie. The flavors are really incredible, and the cigar is burning great. The strength is still around medium-full, and it is still burning great. I am in the final third now, and I begin to see a return of the first third flavors. There is a definite presence of hazelnuts and walnuts, but I am getting a return of dark chocolate, wood and spice as well. It was still burning around medium-full at this point and it has a great long finish. As to be expected the cigar is burning great, and I put it down when I am burning my fingers and lips.

This was a very nice maduro and worth a rating of 90. I prefer the natural wrapper over the maduro version, but both are really great. I think this is an awesome line by Casa Fernandez, and a heck of a deal. I would buy these cigars if they were at twice the pricing, but since they own every single level of operation in making this cigar they can sell it such a great price. I know every single person who has smoked these cigars have loved them, and I would love it if they made Cabinets of 50’s for this smoke. If you are tight on your cigar spending, and don’t want to spend more than $5 on a stick, than I would not smoke anything but this cigar. I think this cigar compares with cigars any in a high price range, and in some cases is better…most cases! This is truly an awesome line.      

September 15, 2011

Cigar Review: Rocky Patel 50 (robusto)

First Box of Rocky Patel 50 robusto - 0/2000
Late Tuesday night I receive an email from Havana Phil telling me that Rocky Patel is going to make a quick stop at Havana Phil's on his way to an event later that evening somewhere in North Carolina. Havana Phil's has a Rocky Patel Cigar Lounge, and what a gorgeous lounge it is too! I was very pleased to hear this, and awaited to hear the time of his arrival. If you have never met Rocky Patel then you have missed out in meeting one of the greatest guys in the business. To say it plainly, he is a great guy! Before Rocky showed up I lit up a 15th Anniversary Corona Gorda in his honor only to be presented with the new Rocky Patel 50 moments later by Rocky himself. I didn't want to put down a great cigar like the 15th so I was going to wait and smoke the 50 that evening. Well, I lacked the patience and lit it up directly after finishing my 15th. The vitola he brought was the robusto, and it is the first box of production displaying 0 of 2000 on the box. I will say that the box is gorgeous to look at, and is definitely a great sign of tribute to Rocky Patel's 50th birthday. Before I get into the review I would like to thank Rocky Patel for his time and kindness, and wish him the best!
Rocky Patel 50
The 50 is made to honor the 50th birthday of Rocky Patel, and is due to be released in October. The cigar will have three vitolas, and each vitola is limited to 2000 boxes. Like all of his new cigars, the 50 is made in Rocky's newest factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, Tabacalera Tavicusa Sociedad. This is the factory where the 15th, Xen, and Thunderer are being made, and where the rest of his lines will eventually be moved. The cigar features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, and has a Nicaraguan binder and fillers. Like the 15th, the cigar is made in the traditional Cuban fashion and is gorgeous to look at. I am not sure of the breakdown of tobacco, but it probably has some very special tobacco in it that Rocky is keeping secret. The robusto measures 5 1/2" and has a 50 ring gauge. The band near the head has the infamous RP logo, and around the foot is a second band displaying the number 50.
The box-pressed foot
Holding the cigar in hand it is really incredible. The box-pressed cigar is a very tight press, and it reminds me of his I-Press. The wrapper is very dark with some minor oils on it and very few veins present. Like all of his cigars coming out of his new factory it has a great triple cap and is very firm to touch. Rocky Patel tends to make box-pressed cigars on his ultra premium lines, and I love that about them. I think box-pressed cigar smoke great and you can really get lots of flavor with them. I hold the foot of the cigar up to my nose, and I get lovely aromas of roasted nuts, rich earth, leather and dark spices. I get right to it and light up the stick. The first third is very lovely showing lots of chocolate, nuts and spice notes. The spices I am picking up are close to that of curry and chili peppers and it is very lovely and complex. I had no burn issues through the first third, and the smoke it is producing is very thick. I would say the cigar is smoking between medium and full, and would be great for me anytime of the day.

50 Robusto
I have smoked the cigar into the second third now, and there is a big change in flavors. The chocolate sweetness from the first third has died now, and is replaced with lovely cedar and oak notes. There is still the leather and spice present, and it has a great nutty finish. The change in flavors really showed in this cigar and it is truly remarkable. You can usually pick up a change in flavors from thirds in good cigars, but this cigar really was at the top of the heap. The cigar still burned incredibly well in the second third, and was producing thick clouds of smoke. The ash at this point has been a dark gray and has been very firm. When I get into the final third of the cigar the flavors from the first third begin to return and it is very elegant. I am picking up some new stoned-fruit flavors with chocolate up front, and it has a lovely spicy and nutty finish. There was a minor burn issue in the final third, but it corrected itself  in a short amount of time and presented no problems for me. I put the cigar down and let it extinguish itself right at the nub.
What an amazing cigar, and easily worth a 95 rating. I thought the flavors were impeccable, and the cigar was made incredibly well. The cigar to me showed both the greatest qualities from the Decade and 15th Anniversary, and I consider it to be one of Rocky's great cigars. I really loved that this cigar was made at his new factory, and this factory is making great cigars. Rocky Patel has definitely come a long way in the cigar industry and has overcome many challenges along the way. He is making amazing smokes right now and I think he is the Top Five for most recognized names in the industry. This will be a great cigar for those special occasions, and a great gift for those friends of yours who enjoy only the best. I know I will definitely stockpile these sticks in my humidor and pull them out when only the best is called for. I found this cigar to be one of the most flavorful sticks I have had recently, and very balanced the whole way through. The 2011 IPCPR has definitely showcased great new cigars, and the 50 by Rocky Patel is in the Top Five. With ratings in mind I foresee this cigar being in my Top 25 for 2011. This was truly a great gift to all of us who were present, and I know that I speak for all of us when I say that we were incredibly impressed. Thank you once again Rocky, and I wish you the best!

* This cigar was gifted to me by Rocky Patel on his quick stop to Havana Phil's

September 14, 2011

Cigar Review: Casa Magna Domus Magnus Limitada (Optimus)

Domus Magnus Limitada

Before February of 2009, the Casa Magna line was just another new cigar. Sure its smokers thought it tasted great, but it did not have the following until Cigar Aficionado named it the #1 Cigar of the Year for 2008. Since then the cigar has become a daily cigar for most, and has been a smash hit for Quesada Cigars. In 2009 the company announced its follow up to the original Casa Magna Colorado, and we were given the Casa Magna Oscuro, I for one have not seen a division in two cigars more than these two. If you can find me someone out there who loves the Casa Magna Colorado and the Oscuro I will be astonished. I for one don’t care for the Oscuro, but I am a huge supporter of the Colorado. Well, it is now 2011 and Quesada Cigars have released the newest line to the Casa Magna brand, the Casa Magna Domus Magnus Limitada. This limited edition cigar is released in two sizes and will be limited to 100,000 cigars in boxes of ten.

 The cigar is a completely different blend than the other Casa Magna Cigars, but is a Nicaraguan puro. The wrapper is a sun grown Cuban-Seed leaf from Jalapa, Nicaragua, and other than the wrapper, they do not specify the information on the binder and fillers.  I imagined the filler is a blend of tobacco from Condega, Esteli and Jalapa, but that is just a guess. The cigar is still blended by Manuel Quesada and the Plasencia Family, and is made in the Palencia’s Nicaraguan factory. The cigar comes perfectly box pressed and has a thick pigtail cap as well. I smoked the Optimus vitola which measures 5 ¾” with a 52 ring gauge.       

Holding the cigar in my hand, you can tell that it was box pressed very well, and the wrapper is very appealing to the eyes. It is silky to touch while remaining very toothy, and has a nice reddish brown hue to it. There are very few veins present in the wrapper and it has wonderful aromas of chocolate, graham cracker, rich earth and eastern spices. As I light up the cigar and give it a chance to really get going, I notice lovely flavors of wood, earth and cocoa up front, and it ends with this nice chocolaty chili pepper flavor. The cigar is definitely between medium and full, and is producing a nice salt and pepper ash. I am having no problems with the burn and the smoke is very thick as well. 
Domus Magnus
As I get into the second third of the cigar there is a big change in the flavor department, and it also becomes more complex as well. The cigar is still smoking around medium full in body, with a great even burn, but it is the flavor that really throws me a curve ball. I am picking up heavy nutty characteristics up front with leather and wood, and there is a finish of earth and unsweetened coconut. It is really an interesting change in flavors in this third, and it makes me really wonder about the filler blend. I am wondering if I was picking up a lot of Esteli tobacco in the first third, and now I am getting more from Jalapa and Condega. The ash is the same color and holding on strong to the cigar though.

When I get into the final third of the cigar, the cigar is showing a culmination of flavors from the first two thirds, and I really wish the cigar was about an inch longer. There are slight notes of mocha up front with a nutty, wood and coconut core before it finishes with a sweet chili flavor. The cigar was almost like a candy bar in the final third and really showed those great qualities of tobacco. I still had not burn issues with that cigar, and the ash was still holding on strong. 

This was a very flavorful cigar and definitely the best of the Casa Magna line. I think that this cigar is meant for a more experience cigar smoker, and that is not because of the strength of the cigar but rather the complexity in the flavor. I would give this cigar a 93, and consider it one of the best cigars Quesada has released to date. This cigar had everything you can ask for in a cigar, in my opinon. It had a great body, nice flavors, good smoking quality and all the other great traits. I foresee this cigar doing very well with all critics, and a huge support from the consumers. I know I have heard nothing but praise about this cigar, and I am joining in. I don’t care which Casa Magna line you like, you will love this cigar! Out of all the cigars I have reviewed since the IPCPR this one of the few that is box worthy. As their advertisements say, it is not just great. It’s Casa Magna great.  


September 13, 2011

Cigar Review:Tatuaje La Verite 2009 (L' Esprit De Vérité 2009 Vintage)

L' Esprit De Vérité Vintage 2009

If you haven't paid attention to La Vérité by Pete Johnson and Tatuaje Cigars, than you don't have any clue as to the great notion you are missing. Made after the concept of vintage wines, La Vérité is meant to be made with tobaccos grown from a single farm in Nicaragua owned by the Garcia's, La Estrella, and is to be made with tobaccos from a singe vintage, year. Depending on what tobacco is grown on the farm changes what potential tobaccos will be in the cigar, but all in all it is the concept of vintage wines. If you have never tasted the same wine from different vintages, than you really should, because you will be really surprised to see how much the weather plays a factor in strength and flavor. Since I am a wine and cigar nut, this is like a dream come true, and I am so happy that Pete Johnson is a huge wine drinker and thought up this wonderful notion. It was in 2007 that he had the vision, and implemented it with tobacco grown in 2008. The first vintage was released in 2010, and we are now on our second vintage with tobacco that was grown in 2009. Unlike the 2008 vintage, the cigar is not 100% Habano Nicaragua, but is a blend of three types of tobacco. Depending on the vitola you choose, the blend is tweaked some, and for this review I chose the robusto vitola. The blend is composed of 50% Habano Nicaragua, 40% Criollo '98, and 10% Pelo De Oro. The robusto measures 5" with a 50 ring gauge, and like all of his cigars is made in Nicaragua at the My Father Factory. I am really looking forward to reviewing this smoke, and seeing what the 2009 crop of tobacco was like for La Estrella.     

Holding the foot up to my nose, I am picking up wonderful nuances. There is a strong aroma of cedar and earth, with a hint of sweetness and pepper. The cigar is rolled beautifully showing a nice light chocolate brown color and a slight hint of red clay coloring. The triple cap is beautifully placed, and so are the bands on the cigar. Like the 2008 Vintage, the 2009 displays the same concept with just the year on the band, but it also has a small band underneath it in white that has Tatuaje written on it in silver. The first third of the cigar begins wonderfully showing hints of cocoa, but the predominant flavors that I am picking up are that of cedar, hay, earth and spice. The cigar is medium in body, and closer to the milder side of that. Looking at the ash on the cigar, it is easy to see how it is beautiful, it is a very light gray, and is very firm. I am blowing smoke rings with the thick smoke it produces, and it is very easy and cool draw.

As I get into the second third of the cigar, stronger flavors of coffee and cocoa begin to emerge, and it is accompanied by the cedar and spice notes from before. Along with the core flavors, I begin to pick up some herbal qualities to the cigar, and it is very pleasant. The cigar is very balanced giving off great sweet and bitter flavors, and is very complex. It is still burning perfectly as well throughout the second third, and this cigar is showing greatness at such a young age. When I get into the final third, the cocoa flavors have dissipated, but I am still getting that coffee dominance from before. There is a return of hay and earth to the cigar, and I am also noticing some mineral qualities as well. The spice has died down now, and I am not getting any pepper at all. I would say in the last two thirds of the cigars it is a little above medium, but still not very powerful. Like the rest of the cigar, there were no burn issues and I put it down close to the nub when it began to warm up a bit.    

When I find myself about to give my final verdict, I recall the discussions I have heard throughout the Tatuaje community about this cigar. I have heard a lot of people say the prefer the Churchill vitola over the robusto, but I have heard more people say they prefer the 2009 over the 2008. Afterwards, I recall telling them that this is a great example of what different crop years can have on any item. I know some of the people I have talked to don't understand the vintage concept, and they say things like "but isn't it the same cigar?" Well, I drink plenty of wine, and I tell them that one of my favorite Chardonnay's is Chateau Montelena's, and with that being said, I love the 2007 Vintage, but I am not a huge fan of the 2008. They reply to this by saying, "isn't it the same wine?" Well, yes it is the same wine, but it is from a different year. Like Montelena's Chardonnay grapes, the weather was different in Napa in 2007 than in 2008, and because of that the grapes tastes different. Temperature, sun, water, soil and other factors play a key part in changing what you will get out of the tobacco leaves or grapes in the case of wine. If I were to smoke the two cigars side by side right now, I would probably prefer the 2008, but that in no way reflects how I feel about this cigar. The 2008 has had time to age and thus the tobacco has had a longer marriage together. I think the 2008 has a couple more years to get better, but the 2009 is much better now than the initial release of the 2008. I think in a couple years time the 2009 is going to be outstanding, and a classic cigar. 

This was a very flavorful and enjoyable cigar, and looking at the year, I would say it was a great year and the cigar is worth 91 points, right now. I tell people that these cigars are not blended like the Tatuaje Havana VI or Seleccion De Cazador in the fact that every years production, no matter the year, should taste very similar to the original production, but the cigar is based off the vintage. I love this concept that Pete is doing for the cigar industry, and hopefully I will stop buying more of other cigars, and buy boxes of these vintages and enjoy them through years to come. Great job on this line Pete, and I look forward to La Vérité Vintage 2010.  

Vintage 2009


September 12, 2011

Cigar Review: Ideology by 262 Cigars (Box Pressed Toro)


Ever since I smoked the Paradigm by 262 Cigars, I have been eager to light up the Ideology. I try not to review cigars by the same manufacturer back to back too often, but there are times when you need to break the rules. The Ideology is the second line to come out of 262 Cigars, and what an exciting one it is as well. Like the Paradigm, the Ideology is made by Nestor Plasencia, but the Ideology is made in his Nicaraguan factory in Esteli, instead of in Danli, Honduras. The cigar begins with a Nicaraguan Habano Rosado leaf that reminds me of the Epernay line of Illusione Cigars. Underneath the wrapper is a Nicaraguan binder, and a tri-country filler of Nicaraguan, Dominican, and Mexican tobacco. I like the filler blend for this cigar because Dominican tobacco is known for its light but flavorful qualities, Nicaraguan tobacco is typically known for being very rich and flavorful, and Mexico is known for its great San Andres wrapper tobacco that is really flavorful, and sweet. With those three countries and potential filler tobacco, you can really get tons of flavors while keeping the cigar light and balanced.

Holding the cigar in my hand, the box pressed toro, measuring 6” with a 54 ring gauge, is beautiful. It is perfectly box pressed, and has a nice light brown color to the wrapper. It is very silky to touch, and has nice oils present as well. Holding the foot of the cigar to my nose I pick up notes of honey, wood, light spices and caramel. As I light up the first third of the cigar, and let it burn its way in, I begin to notice wonderful flavors of honey, wood, bread and peaches. The peach note is very subtle, but present. There is a light spice with the cigar, and I can definitely pick out some nutmeg. The cigar is very light and easy to smoke, but very flavorful. The cigar is definitely mild and burning very true, and would be a great morning cigar for me. 

Nice box-pressed cigar

In the second third of the cigar the strength increases some, but it is still a little below medium in body. Along with the strength increasing, the flavors have increased some too, and I am now picking up stronger spices with wood and leather notes. There is still a hint of caramel, but the honey, bread, and peach notes have faded. I am still having a great burn with the cigar, and the ash on the cigar is looking beautiful, it is light gray and holding on to the cigar magnificently. When I get into the final third of the cigar, the lovely notes from the first third have returned. I am once again picking up those enchanting notes of honey and caramel, and the spice is paired wonderfully with the wood and bread notes. It is still a little below medium in body, and burning great. When I get a little past an inch left, I put it down because it is getting a little hot. I am still getting nice flavors, but it is warming up some. I am sure if I really took a lot of time between draws they would be cool, but I have enjoyed it so much so far, I will let it rest.

This was a really pleasant cigar, and a very flavorful mild smoke. When I smoked this, I found it in some ways to be fairly similar to the Epernay line by Illusione Cigars, and that is saying a lot. It was very mild, but very flavorful as well. I know that this would be a great cigar every cigar smoker out there, and I think it will be very popular among mild smokers. Personally, I prefer something a little bit stronger, but if it is the first cigar of the day or late in the morning, this is a cigar I would definitely light up. I am going to give this cigar a 91, and will be smoking these on those early Saturday mornings. I think Mr. Aaron with 262 Cigars has two great cigar lines, and I am eagerly awaiting any upcoming lines. 

Ideology band

*One of the cigars was gifted to me by 262 Cigars

September 11, 2011

Cigar Review: San Lotano Oval

San Lotano Oval
A.J. Fernandez has been making great cigars for sometime now, mostly for Cigars International and, but he has also been making lines for Emilio Cigars, Gurkha, Padilla and Rocky Patel. When his first own line, San Lotano, was released, I found it to be truly amazing. I thought the Habano vitola was packed with great flavors, strength and complexity, the Connecticut was one of the most flavorful Connecticut's I have had, and I thought the maduro was an incredibly rich and flavorful cigar as well. I believe it has gained the attention and success it deserves, and I hope that it continues its growth in both areas as in the future.

When it was announced that there would be a new line made by A.J. I was incredibly excited. I love the cigars he is making, and I knew that he would follow up his first line with a smash hit. The advertisement for the Oval was very interesting, and it wasn't till what I saw the cigar would look like that I was very impressed. As I mentioned in my previous review of the San Lotano Habano, the San Lotano line was once made in Cuba by his his grandfather before the Castro regime. Taking the shape of a rounded box press, the cigar has a Habano 2000 wrapper from the upper ligero primings, which was grown in Ecuador. The binder is Nicaraguan, and the filler is a mix of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobacco. The Honduran tobacco is some of the new special tobacco from a new region, and all the tobacco in the cigar has been aged between 4 and 7 years. The cigars I were gifted for this review were the robusto vitolas measuring 5.5" with a 54 ring gauge.

The cigar is beautiful in hand, showing the wonderful skills of the rollers in its shape. It has a lovely light milk chocolate color to it, and holding the foot to my nose I pick up lovely hints of hay, wood, leather and spice. The cigar is very firm to hold, and has a leathery/silky feel to it. As I light up the cigar, and let it get some way into the first third I begin to pick up notes of wood, leather, coffee, pepper and spice. It is easily medium-full in body and very complex. The cigar is burning beautifully, and is producing a wonderful and sturdy light gray ash.
Unique Size
When I get into the second third of the cigar, the spices begin to level out. There are still subtle notes of pepper and spice, but they are not as present as they were in the first third. At this point I am beginning to pick up more coffee notes, but it is mixed with chocolate, so it has a mocha taste to it. I am also picking up light herbal notes along with leather as well. The second third is really an incredible smoke, and a great transition from the first third. Like the first third it burning medium-full in strength, and it still has a wonderful and strong ash. This has been a great cigar so far, and I am still looking forward to the final third.

As I get into the final third, the cigar begins to pick up even more. The strength is closer to full now, but it is still wonderfully flavorful. I am picking up a lot of spice in the final third, and it it is accompanied by a rich earth quality to it. There is still a hint of coffee in the background, but it is mostly earthy and spicy. I should mention that towards the end I began to pick up a hint of nuts as well, but it was not very dominant. The cigar burned perfectly all the way to the end, and like most of the cigar it had a great ash all the way to the nub, and remained cool as well.

I loved this cigar. Besides having a very unique size to it, it was very flavorful and complex, it was well made, and it had a great strength to it. I think this was a great follow up to the original San Lotano line and it will be very popular. I think each size will be very popular with the market, and because of that will all be great to carry in a store. I for one will be smoking this cigar often, and will be smoking a various of sizes depending on the time I have. I think because the ring gauge is the same for all sizes each cigar will be very similar in flavor, and as I said earlier, the size you choose will depend on the time you have. I am giving this cigar a 94. A new favorite of mine, and A.J. Fernandez is back on my mind again.
San Lotano Oval
*These cigars were gifted to me by Clay Roberts of A.J. Fernandez Cigars, if you have not heard of them, or your local store does not have them, check them out. A.J. Fernandez Cigars

September 8, 2011

Cigar Review: Tatuaje 7th Capa Especial

Tatuaje 7th Capa Especial

I have gone on and on before about how wrappers really play a change in flavors and strength for a cigar, and I am going down that road again, and with a fabulous cigar. I am partial to cigars that have multiple wrapper options, and I usually end up liking only one out of how many options, but this cigar is the exception to the rule. The Tatuaje 7th Capa Especial was released prior to the 2011 IPCPR, but after being featured there has definitely become more popular. The cigar is based off of the Tatuaje 7th in the Seleccion De Cazador line, and is a 5 5/8” by 46 ring gauge corona gorda. The cigar features the same Nicaraguan binder and fillers, but has an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper instead of an Ecuadorian Habano. This is the third installation in this vitola, the second being the 7th Reserva which featured a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. I have had all three cigars, and there is a big difference in them, and I will give you my opinion in the end; but in the mean time I am going to talk about this smoke.

Holding the cigar in hand, it is very firm. The wrapper is this beautiful, toothy and oily, and it has a nice chocolate brown color to it. There are very few veins present, and the triple cap is great. The cigar, with all of Pete’s cigars is made in Nicaragua at the My Father Factory in Esteli. It has the traditional Seleccion De Cazador band to it, but it is also dressed with an elegant white band that denotes Capa Especial in gold. Holding the foot to my nose I am greeted with hints of mocha, leather and spices. As I light the cigar I am greeted with the typical Pepin flavors of spice, but about half an inch in the cigar begins to become less spicy, and shows the true flavors. In the first third I pick up lots of mocha, leather, spices and some wood notes on the finish. The spices are of pepper, cinnamon and anise, and are very balanced but complex. The cigar is burning perfectly even, and is producing nice thick smoke.
Capa Especial
 In the second third, the cigar begins to change some and is now showing a lot more nutty characteristics than mocha. I am still getting that nice spice and leather, but there is this emergence of coffee as well. I would say the cigar is smoking around medium-full full, but is very balanced and flavorful. I thought the second third of the cigar was very nice, but I preferred the first third. Typically the cigar is warming up in the first third, and in the second third it begins to show its great flavors, but I thought it stepped down some at this point. It was still burning great and giving off great smoke though, which is always important in a cigar, but I preferred the first third. When I get into the final third of the cigar the strength definitely picks up and so does the spice level. I am getting a lot of pepper all the way to the end, and it is accompanied by leather and wood. I am not picking up many more flavors than that, but it is very full bodied at this point. The cigar had a minor burn issue at this point, but it corrected itself and I put it down at the nub. It was interesting, but I thought that the first third was the best, and then the second third. I typically find the second third to be the sweet spot, but that was not the case with this cigar.

I thought this was a great cigar, and it was nice to enjoy the original blend again with a Sumatra wrapper. I would have to say this I prefer the original Habano 7th over this cigar but it was still great in its own way. I am giving this cigar a 91 rating. I think all three versions of the Tatuaje 7th are very flavorful and unique in their own way, and I would say this is my second favorite of the three. I think the Tatuaje Reserva is a great cigar, but I am not as huge a fan of Connecticut Broadleaf as some are, and because of that it is not my preferred pick over the Sumatra and Habano version. I think the Habano line has a richer and heavier flavor to it which, but that’s just my pick. I will say that this is one of the best Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper cigars I have had in some time, and it was a great release for the year. I love the corona gorda vitola, and I love that Pete Johnson makes most of his cigars in that as well. To me it gives off the best flavor profile in a cigar, and I think Pete Johnson mentioned that in a Cigar Aficionado a couple years back as well. Tatuaje Cigars have always been great, and I think his recent releases have been incredible. He has done incredible wonders in the cigar world, and I think he will continue to do so for years to come. A great cigar, and a great company!           
Ecuadorian Sumatra Wrapper 


September 6, 2011

Cigar Review: Illusione MK ~ultra~

Dion Giolito has got some awesome names and meanings for cigar lines and vitolas, and I think the MK ~ultra~ is among the best. Named after the project performed by the CIA, Project MKULTRA, the idea behind was to perform human research on Canadian and American citizens without their knowledge. LSD was a main part of the testing, and of course it was all illegal. There are some beliefs that Project MKULTRA was involved with Sirhan Sirhan and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, and even the Peoples Temples, and the Jonestown Massacre. Whether you believe this or not is up to you, but the whole thing is just entertaining to read about. I will say though that whenever I look into the names of an Illusione cigar, I often get lost in the meaning or story behind it, and forget what I was originally doing for about an hour. Anyways, the MK ~ultra~ was released in limited quantities after the initial ~mk~ release, and was stronger than the original line. Originally, the MK ~ultra~ was made before the ~mk~, but because it was stronger than the rest of the line, he tweaked the blend so that the vitola would be more in line with the Illusione flavor and strength profile. Afterwards, he released the original stronger vitola in its limited quantities. The MK ~ultra~ differs from the ~mk~ because it has more ligero tobacco in the filler, and is covered with a dark Corojo wrapper instead of the traditional Rosado shade on the ~mk~. The cigar is still a Nicaraguan puro and has the same measurement of 5 1/8" with a 42 ring gauge, but more sizes will be added in time.

The cigar has a beautiful dark chocolate color to it with veins present throughout. It is rolled impeccably and is very firm with a great triple cap. Holding the foot to my nose I am greeted with aromas of dark chocolate, cherries, leather and spice. It has all those wonderful qualities of the Illusione line but with a more intense spice. Because of the size of the cigar I am going to break it down into halves. I could do thirds, but I don't want to break it down that much with this size.

The first half is kicking with lots of wonderful spices, mostly paprika and some cinnamon, and I am also getting lots of chocolate, espresso, leather and dark cherries. It does have a finish of wood, but I am still picking up those core flavors predominantly. The cigar is full bodied but very balanced so the strength is not overpowering. The cigar is burning cool and producing a thick amount of smoke. I have had no problems with the burn in the first half, and I would say that this is a great cigar. I would want to smoke this side by side with the regular ~mk~, but right now I am saying they are equally great but different in strength.

In the second half the cigar picks up in strength, and the flavors remain very full bodied as well. I am not picking up much cinnamon anymore, but there is still tons of paprika and Eastern spices up front. I can always pick out paprika in anything, because I use to live in Hungary, and paprika is huge there. It was everywhere you went and in almost everything you ate. Along with the paprika notes I was picking up lovely mocha flavors and this jammy characteristic as well. It finishes of leather, and as the cigar came to a close I began to pick up small hints of vanilla and oak. The oak and vanilla were not very present but instead were very subtle. Burning true the whole way through, the cigar produced a thick cloud of smoke and was great for blowing rings. I put it down still smoking cool right at the nub.

I really loved this cigar. If you are an Illusione fan, and want something a little stronger than I would smoke this cigar. I found that it kept a lot of the flavors in the Illusione line but darkened them and added more strength as well. While kicking up the strength in the cigar, it did not diminish the flavor and in no way did it become less elegant. To me this cigar is in some ways different than the Illusione line, but really stronger. I am interested in seeing the other vitolas for this line, and I will definitely smoke them all , but in the meanwhile I will love this corona vitola. I don't think I will begin to smoke these over the regular Illusione line, but it will be a nice change of pace for those evenings after a big meal and a big heavy red. I give this cigar a 91, and as stated earlier look forward to future vitolas. Once again Dion Giolito blesses us with a great cigar.


September 5, 2011

Wine Review: Quinta do Vale Meão Douro Meandro (2006)

Quinta do Vale Meão 
I know it has been some time since I reviewed a wine, but I am back. For my birthday I was gifted with a magnificent treat, and last night we finally opened the bottle up. When you think of Portugal and wine, the first wine that comes to mind for most is Port. You wouldn't be wrong in assuming that, but within Portugal are two regions that produce some of my favorite wines. The first is Vinho Verde, and the second is Douro. The Duoro region is noted for producing Port and table wines, and this wine in particular made the Top 100 list by Wine Spectator at #48 ranking. The Quinta do Vale Meão winery is run by Francisco Olazabel, and the the winery possess 153 acres of vines with three distinct soil types, and is one of the finest wineries in Douro region of Portugal. The Meandro 2006 is composed of five different styles of grapes, 40% of them are Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz, 20% Touriga Franca, 5% Tinta Barroca and the remaining 5% Amarela. All these grapes are prominent in Portugal and Spain, and typically used in Portuguese wines like this.    

The wine has a beautiful dark garnet/purple color to it with wonderful thick legs. Holding the glass to my nose I picked up beautiful notes of dark red fruit, pepper, spices and wood. With a sip the wine showed wonderful amounts of pepper, hints of mocha, spice and beef. While remaining full bodied and having lots of tannin's present it is still very balanced and round to the end. The finish was long and dry and showed cedar and oak notes.  

This wine was fabulous, and I can see how it did so well for Wine Spectator in 2009. The wine had loads of flavors and body to it, and would be enjoyed by all lovers of wine. I give this wine a 94, and would easily say this is currently my favorite wine. I haven't paired this with a cigar yet, but I know that the next bottle I have will be paired with the Casa Fernandez Miami Reserva. This wine was perfect for the steak dinner, and will be great with any big meal anytime of the year. A wonderful and flavorful wine!

Letting it Breathe 

Cigar Review: Paradigm by 262 Cigars (Torpedo)

Paradigm Torpedo by 262 Cigars
Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with the President of 262 Cigars, Clint Aaron, when he was in Havana Phil's. Besides him gifting me with cigars for review, I had the fortune to sit down and talk about his company, 262 Cigars. The company is fairly new to the industry, around 18 months old, and is based in Lynchburg, Virginia. Mr. Aaron has been a cigar enthusiast for many years now, and it was several years ago that he decided to launch his own line. A lot of us dream of doing this but never do so, and I am impressed that he did. The company's mission statement, besides providing excellent cigars to cigar smokers, is to increase awareness of the unfair laws imposed on cigar smokers, and for all to stand up to this and preserve the industry and a wonderful style of life. A revolution you could say, and that is what he refers to it as. I couldn't agree more with his motto/mission statement, and I fully support him in "smoking the revolution."

To many, the term 262 rings a bell with cigars, but to those that it doesn't, it refers to the month of February in the year 1962. It was in this month that President Kennedy announced the embargo on Cuba, banning all Cuban products from the United States. What a lot of people don't know is that the day before signing the bill, Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, who was unaware of the bill to come, was asked to gather as many H. Upmann Petit Upmann's he could by the President. After going from shop to shop in the DC area, Salinger returned the following morning with roughly 1,200 cigars, the bill was signed into full effect after notifying the President of his success.

The line I am choosing is the Paradigm. the beginning or framework of 262 Cigars. The Paradigm line is made by the Plasencia Family in their Honduran factory in Danli, Honduras, which is a large and highly successful factory. The cigar is composed of a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper and a Honduran binder. Underneath that is a tri-country filler blend of Cuban-seed ligero and seco from Esteli and Jalapa, Nicaragua, and Cubito tobacco from Colombia. The wrapper is beautiful and dark, showing a marbled dark chocolate color to it, while remaining very toothy and oily. The vitola I was given was the torpedo, which measures 6" and has a 54 ring gauge.
Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper
Holding the cigar to my nose I was greeted with wonderful aromas of tobacco, chocolate, spice and rich earth. After lighting the cigar, the first third greets you with wonderful flavors of wood, rich earth, spice and sugar. The cigar is producing a nice spice level, but it is balanced by the nice sweet finish from the maduro wrapper. It is medium-full in body and as I said earlier, very balanced. Burning true through the whole third, it is producing thick smoke and giving off great smoke rings.      

As I enter the second third of the cigar, the flavors have intensified. I am getting the same amount of spice as I did in the first third, with the lovely sweet finish, but it is showing much more notes of chocolate, coffee and citrus notes. I picked up some hints of orange peel, but there was the hint of lemon bitter as well. It had a nice long finish, and it left flavors of wood and leather on my palate as well. The cigar was definitely medium-full in body, and a great maduro. Along with the wonderful flavors and nice body, the cigar burned true as well and showed all the great qualities you could ask for in a cigar.

In the final third now, and the flavors are still going strong. I am picking up lovely mocha notes on the forefront, and hints of wood, orange and leather towards the end. There is still a pleasant amount of spice and sweetness, but it is not as present as it was in the first two thirds. I smoke the cigar close to the nub before it begins to get too warm and I put it down. Still burning perfectly towards the end, the cigar smoked wonderfully, and was made impeccably.

This was a great cigar, and I am very glad that my local shop Havana Phil's will be stocking these smokes. It is always nice to smoke a truly boutique cigar, and I think this cigar will definitely become very popular when more shops begin to carry them and smokers hear about them as well. I think Mr. Aaron was very smart to work with the Plasencia Family because of their knowledge of tobacco and access to it, and more importantly their skills in making great cigars. I give this cigar a 92, and would highly recommend it to anyone out there. There aren't an abundance of Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper cigars on the market, but I have found that cigars that utilized the leaf really show great flavors. I look forward to reviewing his other current line, and his future lines as well. It looks like we will be able to add another great truly boutique cigar manufacturer to the short list.
262 Cigars

* Cigar gifted by Clint Aaron of 262 Cigars.