Friday, December 31, 2010

Kristoff Maduro Criollo


Size: 5 ½ X 54
Shape: Robusto
Origin: Dominican Republic
Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Brazilian Maduro
Binder: Olor Dominican and Cuban Seed
Filler: Olor Dominican, Cuban Seed, Nicaraguan
Smoke Clock: 1hr 10mins

With the holidays behind us and winter in full swing, I’ve been forced indoors in order to perform my reviewing duties. But never fear, this cigar man is a resourceful one.

Being unable to smoke in my apartment, I retired to my local purveyor of fine smokes in order to complete my reviewing task. The stick that tagged along for my first indoor winter smoke: the Kristoff Maduro. This is one beauty of a smoke in both appearance and flavor.

First light reveals delectable notes of rich toasted caramel and leather with a pepper-filled finish that satisfies. Continuing into the first quarter, cocoa, coffee, caramel, and pepper take and hold dominance as the profile evolves in depth and complexity. This is one rotund smoke.

Sweet & creamy notes of compost barrel into the profile at the start of the second quarter, supported by leather, pepper, cocoa, and coffee. These flavors danced about each other in an intricate ballet as the second quarter processed.

The profile of this stick remained delicious and complex as the third quarter began. This was by far my favorite part of the smoke as the flavors reached a crescendo all together, none standing out more than another, but everyone playing their part to create a truly transcendent moment in this man’s cigar smoking life.

The Kristoff Maduro has made its way into my heart as a truly beautiful medium – full bodied smoke and may very well take the lead as a favorite in this category. It is a truly excellent cigar, no foolin’.

Hopefully, some of you were fortunate enough to find a few of these tucked into your stockings this Christmas. For those of you not so fortunate, make your way to Rocky’s and nab these while you still can!

Rating:
Presentation: 7/10 – Although the caramel colored band is attractive and simple, it is a little hard to read due to very little contrast between the text and the background.

Appearance: 8/10 – This is a beauty. The oily and teeth covered wrapper showcases beautiful dark brown earth tones. The wrapper also seemed a tad wrinkled, hence the drop in points.

Construction: 32/35 – Well constructed, this stick was equally firm from head to toe with a comfortable draw.

Flavor: 43/45 – With a masterful blend showcasing cocoa, coffee, caramel, pepper, sweet and creamy compost, and leather notes, this smoke is one that is ready to smoke right out of the box. No aging necessary for this Dominican beauty. However, I bet this stick would transform into something spectacular if set aside to age for a year or two.

Overall: 90/100 – The Kristoff Maduro has a lot to offer: a bold, complex, and delicious flavor profile; excellent construction, providing a comfortable draw; and an attractive, however wrinkly, wrapper. This is one stick you can’t go wrong with, and I can promise you I will be picking up more.

-DH

Friday, December 3, 2010

Berger & Argenti Mooch Loll

Size: 6 X 52
Shape: Loll (Torpedo)
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium
Wrapper: Equadorian Connecticut
Binder: Jalapa, Nicaraguan
Filler: Esteli, Nicaraguan
Smoke Clock: 1 hr

Mooch Loll

Ah, Thanksgiving. This holiday is precious to me, not only for the enormous amounts of delicious food that I gorge myself on every year, but for being given the time to reflect on the things that I am thankful for. The list is large and cannot be fully reiterated here. However, there is one thing that I’m sure you all know I’m thankful for: excellent tobacco.

After a tremendous Thanksgiving meal, I snuck outside for a post meal smoke. Despite my disappointment with the Berger & Argenti line thus far, I decided to try out the Mooch to see if I could yet be swayed. Let me tell you, the Mooch finally showed me what Berger & Argenti cigars can taste like when they hit the mark.

At first light, I tasted an excellent combination of oak, cedar, and cashew flavors. These flavors ebbed and flowed throughout the smoke, but held a significant lead in the first quarter, allowing some pepper notes and something I couldn’t identify at first to emerge slowly towards the second quarter.

I love a cigar that can surprise me and the Mooch did just that. Tasting something new is something that doesn’t happen extremely often in cigars, at least for me. As such, it was a delight to try to identify what this mysterious flavor was. Once the second quarter reached its end, I was finally able to at least describe it. In addition to the delectable oak, cedar, cashew, and light pepper notes, I tasted something that I can only describe as a light and neutral coffee creamer: ever so slightly bitter, but creamy none-the-less.

With the start of the third quarter, the creamer note took dominance, then gently evolved from slightly bitter coffee creamer to a sweet cream with a subtle hint of caramel to it. The notes that I’d experienced here-to-fore began to retreat, giving the sweet cream focus through the end of this tasty smoke.

As I lay this stick down, I had to admit that, despite my misgivings, the Mooch proved to be an excellent smoke. What better way to experience a holiday dedicated to giving thanks than with a cigar that reminds you to be thankful for surprises?

Rating:
Presentation: 8/10 – Again, standard Berger & Argenti presentation, but with a faux piece of newspaper stating, “Embargo Cuban Imports,” and, “Kennedy Embargo Cuts Cuban Trade.” I think that this is a rugged touch to an otherwise formal presentation and is much appreciated.

Appearance: 6/10 – This is the first time I have not loved the way a Berger & Argenti looked. The wrapper was multi-hued and wrinkled and the head of the torpedo was oddly leaning to one side. This stick is a bit of an ugly duckling to say the least. I can say that the wrapper was fully intact and showed no signs of damage.

Construction: 28/35 – Oddly enough, the construction was a tad messy as well. There were hard and soft spots throughout the stick, making it feel extremely lacking in the uniformity department. Despite this, the draw was typically fantastic for Berger & Argenti.

Flavor: 43/45 – This smoke was very nice. A solid medium body with a nice sense of evolution in the profile, carrying oak, cashew, cedar, pepper, and cream notes with hints of earth now and again. This was a very creamy and tasty smoke.

Overall: 85/100 – Despite the mid-80s score, I liked this smoke. I find it truly odd, however, that the Berger & Argenti’s that I didn’t like looked awesome and had excellent construction, but the flavor was completely lacking. In this case, the construction and appearance were sub-par, but the flavor was great. I’m not sure what to take away from all this, but if this correlation has any consistency, I’ll be looking for the ugly Berger & Argenti sticks, of that you can be sure.

-DH

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Joya de Nicaragua Antano Dark Peligroso


Size: 5 X 44
Shape: Peligroso
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Full
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Smoke Clock: 45 mins
Joya de Nic Dark Peligroso

This past Monday, having just eaten a hearty lunch, I ventured out into the November chill to enjoy a fine smoke. Joining me that day was the Joyo de Nicaragua Antano Dark Corojo. Ever heard the phrase “seek and ye shall find?” That day, I was seeking an excellent smoke, and I must admit that I found it.

With the first light came a blast of powerful pepper, which quickly mellowed to reveal some excellent caramel and leather notes. Although the smoke remained peppery, dark chocolate and rich, earthen black coffee notes made their way into the profile with some excellent support from the caramel and leather. There was a nice nutty aftertaste left on my palate after each exhale that made me hungry for more.

These notes remained strong into the second quarter of the smoke, weaving in and out of dominance like a well conducted symphony. One moment, the chocolate note would emerge and bathe me in decadence while the next moment earthen coffee notes would slip in to ground me. Caramel would emerge and flit across the profile like a flute solo before dropping away into a supportive role for the other major players. This interplay continued well into the third quarter of the smoke, mesmerizing my senses in a whirl of delight and subtle dizziness. This is a full bodied beauty, no doubt about that.

As the symphony played on, that familiar November chill began to seep into my bones. Finally relenting to the weather, I lay this fantastic stick down. Still mesmerized by the depth, complexity, and delicious flavors that this smoke provided, I stumbled back indoors with the taste of ecstasy still on my lips.

Rating:
Presentation: 7/10 – This stick is presented well. Simple and attractive, the double bands do their job well while not detracting from the cigar itself. Gold and black in color, the bands display the name of the stick (“Antano Dark Corojo”) and the strength (“Doble Fuerte”) of the cigar. My beef with the bands is this, the band closer to the head of the cigar which displays its name has muddy focus. “Antano” gets cut off at the top & bottom by the gold trim, making it difficult to read and leaves the focal point of the band in question.

Appearance: 9/10 – The wrapper on the other hand, is near flawless. It is a beautiful dark maroon color which is spread consistently across the leaf. Smooth with only 1 discernable blemish, this is a wrapper that deserves to be framed.

Construction: 32/35 – Construction is very good. This stick is very firm, but gets increasingly hard towards the head. Despite the density of the pack, the draw is open, providing an easy and pleasant smoke. I did get a few runs, but they never became more than a big wave and managed to fix themselves.

Flavor: 44/45 – This is what a great cigar should taste like.

Overall: 92/100 – This cigar is one for the ages: the leaf used is truly beautiful and unique in color; the flavor profile is deep, complex, and pure with an exquisite interplay that I’ve rarely experienced. For you full bodied fans, this is the stick to try.

-DH

Friday, November 12, 2010

Berger & Argenti Entubar Double Corona


Size: 7 X 54
Shape: Double Corona
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Ecuadorian ‘Desflorado’ Connecticut-seed
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Dominican & Nicaraguan
Smoke Clock: 1 hr 25 mins

Entubar Double Corona


Having recently discovered a park with a pond not far from my apartment, I decided to spend mid-day enjoying the peace that a park’s pond allows. Tagging along for a mid-day respite was the Berger & Argenti Entubar in the hulking double corona shape.

Finding a comfortable spot by the pond, I followed the explicit directions located on the band at the foot of the cigar and thoroughly toasted all there was to light, including the tube of rolled filler which casually poked its nose out from the foot of this stick. Pepper, caramel, light earth, and leather notes led off this lengthy smoke in a subdued but tasty way.

Burning through the first quarter of this smoke revealed the dominant notes of the blend: caramel and leather. When rolled through the nose, the smoke took on a light spice and pepper note that was enchanting. These elements of the profile remained at the forefront of the experience through the second quarter.

As I was feeding some geese that approached me over the expanse of the pond, a light bitter note crept in. This bitter note was not overpowering, but considering the subtle nuance that the rest of the flavors exhibited, the bitterness was unwelcome. Fortunately, it went away rather quickly, exposing some hints of cashew which replaced the caramel note in the profile.

Having finished this smoke and feeling a bit underwhelmed, I tossed the nub into the waiting depths of the pond. Watching the nub sink below the surface, I noted the irony inherent in the nub’s final resting place: its presence on the pond’s floor as subtle as its flavor.

Rating:
Presentation: 9/10 – Classy. The band is huge, but unobtrusive on a cigar of this size. “Berger & Argenti” covers the band as a backdrop to the imitation wax seal which holds the band together. Reminiscent of a letter whose text is meant only for my eyes, it’s the fake wax seal that sealed the deal on this band for me.

Appearance: 9/10 – This is one pretty cigar. Even though the seams in the wrapper were clearly visible, all else was near perfect. The wrapper itself has some of the most consistent coloring I’ve ever seen, it was as smooth as a baby’s bottom, and showed no flaws what-so-ever.

Construction: 33/35 – The construction of this cigar was stellar. This stick was solid all the way through with a very slight hard spot beneath the band. Despite this, the draw was quite open and the burn remarkably even for a cigar of this size.

Flavor: 32/45 – This was probably the toughest aspect of this stick to grade, given the extreme subtlety of the flavor profile. Were the flavors detectable? Absolutely. Were the flavors clearly presented and pure? Without a doubt (minus the slight intrusion of a bitter note[-3 points]). Was the flavor profile full and present in the smoke? Hardly. A lot of the time, I felt as if I were smoking air and struggled to taste this blend. For this reason, I dock 10 points. Describing this profile as subtle barely begins to do justice to it.

Overall: 84/100 – The Berger and Argenti Entubar is a beautiful and well constructed oddity amongst its cigar brethren, given the rolled filler sticking out from the foot. Overall, this stick is very well done in terms of tobacco selection and construction. As far as flavor goes, this stick falls far short of what I’d expect from a high end smoke. The body was there, I just missed out on the full flavor that I expected. If you like a solid medium bodied smoke and have the time to sit, reflect, and search out the flavors in what you’re smoking, then this stick is for you.

-DH

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tatuaje Petite Cazadore Reserva


Size: 4 x40
Shape: Petite Cazadore
Origin: Miami, USA
Body: Medium-Full
Wrapper: Habano Equador
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Smoke Clock: 25 mins

Tatuaje Cigars

Winter is now knocking at our door and the weather has taken a turn for the cold, but that can’t stop the hearty from enjoying a fine smoke. Braving the morning chill with me this morning was the Petite Cazadore by Tatuaje. I felt the name of this blend apt for the situation as I stepped outside into the cold November air, hunting for a good smoke.

Once I’d settled myself onto a perch high above the ground (about a foot and a half), I lit up this delicious looking smoke. It became immediately apparent that I’d nabbed my prey. Notes of sugar, pepper, and leather raced over my palate in a rush of delight akin to spotting a 12 point buck.

Caramel and leather notes followed as this stick burned beautifully into the first quarter. Hints of spice through the nose and pepper on the palate created a playful dance for my senses.

As my bum began to go numb with cold (as it is apt to do on early morning hunts such as this), light earth notes began mingling with the caramel already present in the blend. Sometimes a powerful presence in the nose, sometimes subtly wafting over my palate, pepper notes darted in and out of the profile like a buck darting amongst the trees.

The profile remained consistent throughout the third quarter with few new surprises. However, just as the finish began, a subtle chocolate note cautiously crept in and remained in the far off distance like prey that knows it’s being hunted.

Putting an end to my brief morning hunting trip, I lay this stick to rest, having bagged the greatest prize of all: one fantastic smoke.

Rating:
Presentation: 7/10 – Simple and to the point with no pomp or pretention. The blend is signaled by the color of the band, which I think is a creative way to signal a cigar smoker to what they’re buying, if they’re informed about the line.

Appearance: 7/10 – The wrapper is a consistent dark brown color, oily, and smooth. A description of “mouthwatering” comes to mind. The stick received points off for three nasty looking veins which did not connect or run together, but were on the same side of the cigar.

Construction: 33/35 – This stick has some of the best construction in a cigar that I’ve smoked. The pack was firm, the draw open, and the burn overwhelmingly even. At times, the burn became slightly wavy, but it quickly righted itself. This is common in smaller cigars, but this one was done well, none-the-less.

Flavor: 42/45 – I really enjoyed the interplay of flavors in this blend. Caramel, leather, and light earth dominated the experience while pepper and spice danced, juked, and sprung in and out throughout the duration. The chocolate finish didn’t hurt at all either.

Overall: 89/100 – This was a really fine smoke that I enjoyed a great deal. The body was a little north of medium, the flavors were consistent and provided some nice interplay amongst them, and the construction was excellent. I also liked that this stick can be enjoyed in under half an hour, making it a great smoke to enjoy on your lunch break. Pick up a few of these to try out and discover the hunter in you.

-DH

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nick's Sticks Maduro Robusto


Size: 5 X 52
Shape: Robusto
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium
Wrapper: Triple Fermented Nicaraguan Maduro
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Smoke Clock: 52 mins

Nicks Sticks

After a long week of 12 hour days, things finally started to slow down and I was able to take some time to relax. I woke up ready to relax, only to discover that it was raining. Fortunately, this didn’t damper my spirits too much because I knew how I’d be spending the morning relaxing with a great cigar.

The stick for the morning turned out to be another Nick’s Stick, only this time the Maduro. This stick turned out to be significantly different than its brother, but the differences are what make this stick sing.

Sliding this cigar out of the cellophane, I noticed how dark and oily the wrapper was. Light gleamed from the reflective surface of this oily smooth beauty. Needless to say, this stick was love at first sight.

Once I had a look at it, I couldn’t wait to put a flame to it. Having already brewed some tea, I quickly poured a cup, stepped outside, put this stick to my lips, and lit. First light flavors were of caramel and cocoa. MmmmMmmmm! These flavors continued throughout the cigar, intermingling with a rich earthen background and the occasional leather note.

Into the second quarter, I made note of how consistent the caramel and cocoa flavors were. They remained pure, rich, and dominant while allowing for a great deal of depth to exist beneath them. Occasionally sipping on my green tea with honey elevated the caramel notes to beautiful heights before allowing them to slip gently back into the mix. Despite the fantastic flavors of this stick, this was about the time that the runs began and unfortunately, they never stopped.

Despite the runs, the flavor profile of this stick continued to woo me with its sweet depth and complexity, allowing the rain to become a soothing, cleansing presence. The third quarter remained much the same, with some leather notes peaking out and then retreating into the background to allow the caramel and cocoa to remain the fore-runners in the blend.

When I put this stick down, I was left incredibly impressed by the experience this cigar had given me. Particularly impressive were the purity, consistency, and depth of the flavor profile as well as the overwhelmingly smooth draw.

Remaining outdoors for a few minutes longer, I reveled in the peace of the falling rain, savoring the lingering flavors of heaven on my lips

Rating:
Presentation: 8/10 – Although not particularly classy, the band on this stick has a certain character to it that I appreciate. It makes me think brick and mortar and I like that.

Appearance: 8/10 – This wrapper is oily, smooth, and consistent in color. The rich earthen tone that the wrapper has is truly beautiful. Top notch.

Construction: 32/35 – This was a tough one. The pack of the cigar was rock solid despite some softening at the foot. The draw was incredibly wide open, making for an effortless and easy smoke. The problem here was the burn. The burn was incredibly uneven, resulting in two huge runs that needed the attention of a lighter.

Flavor: 44/45 – The profile that this cigar offers is impeccable. Caramel and cocoa flavors supported by rich earth tones which were incredibly deep and complex. Light wafts of leather helped to keep the smoke interesting. The profile never became bitter, even towards the end. The body actually caught me towards the end, which makes me thing this cigar is more medium-full than a solid medium. This was a fantastic smoke, to say the least.

Overall: 92/100 – The only drawback to this cigar was the burn. Other than that, you’re looking at another fantastic offering by Padron. One thing I do feel warrants mentioning is the price point. For quality like this, you’re getting a serious bargain. I’d say that Nick’s Sticks maduro is comparable to the 1926, and at a significantly lower price. I’ve already ordered my box from Rocky’s and I highly recommend you do the same. I have a feeling that these sticks are going to age extremely well. This is a deal that you just can’t beat.

-DH

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kurt Kendal 's 7-20-4


Size: 5 5/8 X 46
Shape: 7-20-4
Origin: Honduras
Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina
Binder: Columbia
Filler: Nicaraguan, Honduran, Mexican
Smoke Clock: 1 hr

7-20-4 Cigars

It was a clear and breezy day in the city when a man, clad only in blue jeans and a light jacket, crept outdoors onto the terrace of his apartment building to stealthily enjoy his cigar. What was the cigar that crept along with him, you might ask. Why none other than K.A. Kendall’s 7-20-4.

With finesse he flicked open his torch lighter, providing flame to fuel the burning beauty he so sought. As the fumes rose high, the first impressions he received were of leather and caramel. Both of these notes carried through the first quarter of this stick, dancing around each other in a mysterious tango full of beauty and seduction.

He puffed with decadence, allowing the breeze to waft and carry away the smokey tendrils as he blew into the passing wind. Delight carried him along as the leather and caramel notes from the first quarter had carried over into the second. But wait, interrupting his solitude and harmony came a note of bitterness which slowly overcame the previous beauty of the blend.

This bitterness continued into the third quarter of his smoke, disturbing him deeply. Suddenly, a dark toasted caramel note appeared, support by some light compost. Sadly, both of these delectable notes surfaced deep within the profile, allowing the bitterness to maintain dominance through the end of the stick.

In defense of this stick, the man justified that the bitterness aspired to become coffee and chocolate notes. However, the amount of bitterness was just too much and he finally set the stick down.

Despite the rough ending to his smoke, the man found 7-20-4 to be satisfying up to the mid-point and hung onto the pleasure he experienced then. Considering a second attempt in the future, he snuck his way back indoors, away from the bitter memory of the 7-20-4’s end and onto other tasty conquests.

Rating:
Presentation: 8/10 – The band is lovely and classic and an excellent reproduction of the original band on the original 7-20-4 from the early 1900s. A cedar sleeve is nice for aging, but, in this reviewer’s opinion, not for presentation. Sure, it looks nice, but it obscures what I really want to see: the wrapper.

Appearance: 8/10 – Upon removal of the cedar sleeve, a beautiful dark brown, oily, and toothy wrapper is revealed. The color on the wrapper is consistent, 1 vein runs the length of the cigar, and the oily sheen is simply mouth watering.

Construction: 32/35 – This stick was firm throughout with no soft or hard spots, the draw was very good, and the burn very even. Nice construction.

Flavor: 35/45 – Prelight notes were vegetal with earth and caramel in the background. The first 2 quarters were great until a powerful bitter note crept in and muddied up the whole experience. After reading a few other reviews, I am surprised by this, as no one else seems to have had an experience like this.

Overall: 82/100 – This stick was well constructed, presented a beautiful wrapper, and provided a great smoke through nearly the first half of the cigar. The second half really messed it up for me. I am seriously considering trying another as no one else seems to have had an experience like mine. I’m willing to chalk it up to random chance, but can’t in good conscience give this stick a score based on presumption. I’d recommend giving this stick a try though. Even if you wind up having a similar experience to mine, the first half is totally worth it.

-DH

Thursday, September 30, 2010

601 Oscuro La Fuerza


Size: 5.5 X 54
Shape: La Fuerza
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Nicaragua Habana Oscuro
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Smoke Clock: 1 hr 25 mins

After a long and successful summer season, I have finally gotten settled into my new apartment. To celebrate, I pulled out a smoke that I have long waited for: the EO 601 Green.

The 601 Green has spent the last month and a half eluding me. I’d bring it with me to work to smoke on a break, only to have more work than I expected and not enough time to smoke this stick. I’d step outside to light up on my day off, only to be bombarded by phone calls to go hiking or kayaking (two of my other favorite things to do). As you can imagine, neither of these things are conducive to taking notes on a fine blend, so this cigar continued to elude me. However, yesterday, I had time to sit outside on the veranda (aka the cement porch of my apartment building) and relax and that’s just what I did, bringing this elusive smoke along with me.

Sliding this stick out of its cellophane, I immediately noticed the consistency of color and quality of the wrapper. It didn’t scream juicy deliciousness though, and for a moment, I lost heart. I trudged through the cut, which was clean and easy, pushed through the prelight ritual, which was a delight, and lit up. Boy did this stick blow my doubts out of the water.

Prelight, there were strong earth, spice, and leather notes detected with the spice being very forward. However, when I lit up, the Green delivered a complex, sweet, and earth filled profile with only a subtle spice note present.

Developing into the first quarter, the profile became all about the compost note. Delicious! The smoke was soft and creamy in the mouth as the profile ebbed and flowed around and through the compost note. Pepper and caramel notes wafted up into dominance and meandered back into the blend several times until the profile began its first evolution into deep earth and bright cedar notes. The cedar notes here taste like a cedar campfire: toasty and bright. Towards the end of the quarter, some dark chocolate notes had begun to peek their heads through, but didn’t take over until the half mark of this stick.

I was admiring the view of shorts sporting college girls as they passed by when the second quarter of this cigar really came into its own. Notes of toasted cream and leather took over, then slowly and gently relinquished command to dark cocoa and coffee notes. That delectable compost note had slunk way into the background at this point, nearly vanishing into the delicious depths of the flavor profile.

It was at this point that I tried to ash for the first time. The ash, having remained quite dense, would not relinquish its hold on this cigar. I was so confident in its density, in fact, that I stood the cigar on end ON THE ASH. I could not believe how incredibly well packed this cigar must have been to be able to sport such fine and strong ash on such a lengthy, heavy stick. Bravo!

After my ashen foray, I refocused on the flavor profile as the third quarter began. The second quarter carried over into the third nicely, relinquishing dominance to some oak campfire notes once or twice before returning to where it began. That fantastic complex compost note returned just before the fourth quarter, bringing the profile full circle and leaving me completely satisfied.

There are times when I realize that the Universe is smarter than I. This is one such case. The EO 601 Green eluded my smoking desires until just the right time when I could really focus on it and enjoy it to the fullest. Thank you Universe for all your wisdom.

Rating:
Presentation: 9/10 – I really like the band on all the EO 601 cigars, but the interplay of green and gold here is really stunning. Great design with an excellent focus on the 601 line. Simple and straightforward yet beautiful in its own right, accenting the color of the cigar perfectly. Way to go, EO.

Appearance: 7/10 – This cigar is nice to look at, but not gorgeous. The wrapper has a very consistent color, it’s toothy, and the seams of are almost well hidden, but there’s barely any shine to it. There was also a small dime sized patch missing towards the foot of the cigar, but I burned through that quickly enough.

Construction: 33/35 – Great construction. The draw was open, the pack firm enough to stand the cigar up on its ash, and the burn was mostly even with a little wave here and there.

Flavor: 44/45 – This cigar told a story and brought it full circle. I really respect a blender’s ability to do this clearly while providing purity to the flavors and a dynamite smoke to booth. Excellent work.

Overall: 93/100 – This cigar is tasty and delicious, telling a story with its pure flavors. The construction is very high quality, allowing the smoker to focus on the flavorful experience and not on the draw or relights. This is one heck of a cigar that I highly recommend any fan of full bodied smokes try at their earliest convenience.

-DH

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nick's Sticks Sun Grown Robusto


Size: 5 X 52
Shape: Robusto
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium
Wrapper: Sun Grown Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Smoke Clock: 45 mins

Having ended the season at CRT, I spent last week with friends. We worked in their garden, and when they went to their day jobs, I participated in one of my favorite past times. That’s right, you guessed it: smoking.

On this particular day, clouds covered the sky, leaving the day cool and calm. I sauntered out onto the porch to enjoy the pick of the day, a Nick’s Stick by Perdomo.

Now, I didn’t know a thing about this cigar when I lit up, but I can tell you this: when I discovered it was blended by Perdomo, I wasn’t at all surprised. First light was pepper, spice, and cashew euphoria; those pure flavors pouring over my pallet let me know right off the bat that this was going to be a dynamite smoke.

Sliding into the first quarter, Nick’s Stick maintained those pepper and nut flavors but the profile began to expand, showcasing some serious depth. Complex compost notes crept in here as support for the pepper and nut flavors.

Side note: One of my favorite things about a good blend that features compost notes is the way that this complex array of flavors can ebb and flow in the background to give dominance to one flavor or another as the smoke evolves. Sometimes, aspects of the compost notes will elicit a sweet note which makes the blend sing momentarily while the next moment dark earthen notes may slip in to ground the overall experience.

This was the case in this blend. With the compost notes sliding in and out (coughs) to provide fascinating yet subtle fluctuations in the blend, the cashew and pepper notes continued to float on top into the second quarter of this smoke.

Pleasantly puffing away and enjoying the mild weather of the day, I noticed a slight coffee note emerge at this juncture, with some sweet caramel supporting this new player in the profile.

As the third quarter began, deep dark earthen notes crept in, transitioning beautifully from the coffee notes that I experienced in the previous quarter of Nick’s Stick. At this point, some of the spice came back, but only through the nose. Because of its long absence, the spice note was a welcome return to the profile.

Finally setting this stick to rest, I reflected on how delicious this smoke was. The body was relatively mild-medium for me, but that didn’t stop the flavors from satisfying this smoker. The compost provided support all the way through, allowing Nick’s Stick to take me on a journey. In short, this is another dynamite Perdomo blend, which should not be missed.

Rating:
Presentation: 8/10 – Although not particularly classy, the band on this stick has a certain character to it that I appreciate. It makes me think brick and mortar and I like that.

Appearance: 8/10 – The color of this wrapper is a lovely medium brown and is consistent all over. The wrapper is also oily and toothy and, at the right angle, seems to be nearly seamless. Nice job.

Construction: 32/35 – Nick’s Stick is packed firmly and consistently. Prelight draw felt a bit tight, but didn’t present any problems at all during the smoke. The burn was nice and even until the third quarter when it began to get wavy and then run a bit.

Flavor: 43/45 – The journey that this cigar took me on was comforting and delectable. The compost provided complexity and support throughout the smoke as pepper, cashew, coffee, and earth took their turns at the front.

Overall: 91/100 – A well deserved high rating goes to this medium bodied stick. I really enjoyed the complete experience with this cigar, from the prelight examination all the way down to the nub, Nick’s Sticks delivers the good.

A note on Nick’s Sticks by Perdomo:
The current Nick’s Sticks is a re-release of Nick Perdomo’s debut blend rolled in his original factory in Miami, Florida in the ‘90s. Originally available only in Florida, this re-release is more available and, as you may have guessed, Rocky’s has ‘em.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Berger & Argenti Classico Belicoso


Size: 5 ¾ X 50
Shape: Belicoso
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Equadoran “Desflorado” Connecticut
Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo
Filler: Nicaraguan
Smoke Clock: 1 hr 2 mins


As most of you know, I’ve working in Cortland all summer. With the season at Cortland Repertory drawing to a close, we all find temporary housing with members of the theatre’s board. The fellow that I’m staying with has a gorgeous home and a fantastic open air balcony on which to smoke, and, taking full advantage of this new convenience, I found my way onto the balcony, still in my night wear, with a delicious Berger & Argenti Clasico to keep me company.

Before I pulled this stick out of the cellophane, I thought it was pretty attractive. After I actually removed it, I discovered that the cellophane had hidden this cigar’s true beauty. The wrapper is a gorgeous light brown with only slight darkening towards the head, deliciously oily, and smooth as a baby’s bottom.

The pre-light aroma revealed scents of subtly sweet spice, earth, and leather with hints of fruit and manure (a scent that I associate with excellent tobacco). There was spice in the draw pre-light with hints of minerals which reminded me a little of a multi-vitamin. I knew cigars were good for you!

After gently toasting the foot, I lit up and experienced leather, pepper, and a subtle raisin note which were supported by a subdued sweetness which remained throughout the smoke.

The first quarter revealed how a good cigar can establish itself at first light and then interweave and develop those flavors. Raisin notes slowly transformed into an overall fruit like experience, allowing me to experience peach, fig, and raisin notes at different periods in the first quarter. Spice mingled with the fruit flavors to create a piquant sweetness that was both delightful and surprising. Pepper still stood out on its own with leather still hanging around in the background. What a way to begin!

Even though motorcycles buzzed, cars zipped, and trucks roared by on the little road below, my focus remained fastened to the evolution that this cigar was making. As this smoke eased into the second quarter, the piquant fruit notes slowly gave way to an overall toasted butter experience with leather emerging as the dominant focus in the profile. A slight cashew note crept in as the smoke become full and chewy.

The third quarter and finish remained fairly true to second quarter, even though the most subtle cocoa note crept in just before the finish began.

I finally set down the nub of this tasty smoke with a full sense of satisfaction, ready to actually get dressed and start the day. This cigar was an excellent smoke, and one that I may soon repeat.

http://www.rockyscigars.com/catalog.asp?prodid=686080


Rating:
Presentation: 6/10 – This cigar is presented simply and elegantly, with a band that makes me think I’ll be smoking a law firm instead of a cigar. Not a whole lot of points for creativity or originality though.

Appearance: 9/10 – The wrapper on this stick is a gorgeous light brown color with some slight darkening towards the head. It is smooth and mouth wateringly oily with no cracks, bumps or dents. A nice long vein runs the length of this stick.

Construction: 30/35 – The pack was firm and consistent with no soft spots detected. However, the draw was a little tight but didn’t ultimately negatively affect the experience.

Flavor: 43/45 – The flavors in this cigar were well presented and blended, providing an excellent sense of evolution and cohesion in the blend. Even though the smoke starts off complex, it eases the smoker into a soft and comforting euphoria which I highly recommend you experience for yourself.

Overall: 88/100 – This is a beautiful cigar which is well constructed and masterfully blended. If you haven’t given this stick a try, I highly recommend that you pick up a few to experience this stick for yourself. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

-DH

Monday, August 23, 2010

Perdomo Lot 23 Gordito


Size: 4.5 X 64
Shape: Gordito
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium
Wrapper: Maduro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Smoke Clock: 45 mins

Having been inundated with work for the last month, I finally managed to sneak a short and delicious smoke into my dinner break. I crept off to the park close by and brought my Perdomo Lot 23 Maduro along with me.

As I stepped through my pre-light ritual, this cigar seemed to be pretty outstanding. It’s extremely attractive, the pre-light aroma was delectable, the sweet raisin accompanying the cedar and spice in the draw, and the wind tunnel-like draw. As usual, my pre-light assessment did not let me down.

When I lit this little pudgy guy up, I was first struck by an excellent combination of cedar and earth with some scintillating spice gliding gently over both of these dominant flavors. As this stick burned into the first quarter, toasted coffee flavors emerged and took over the dominant role in the profile. The silky, creamy texture of the smoke complemented these flavors perfectly as the profile evolved and became thick with chewy leather notes.

Quickly burning through this stick, wood and spice flavors took the lead as some subtle sweetness re-emerged. The spice that was detected upon first light remained forward and pleasant when the smoke was rolled through the nose.

These flavors continued their interplay through the end when I begrudgingly had to set this puppy down to return to work way too soon for my liking. I would’ve gladly taken the time to burn through another one or two of these smokes before returning to the grind.

In short, this was a fantastic smoke. I was grateful for the brevity of the experience due to my personal lack of time, but how I wish it could’ve gone on forever. Like so many things, one of its best assets is its only downfall: it ends.

Rating:
Presentation: 8/10 – The band on this cigar is beautiful and rustic, utilizing shades of brown to provide the needed contrast to make the name on the band pop. A dark shade of blue is utilized to show off the central image on the band: a tobacco farm. Some asymmetry is also utilized in the design of this band by placing the company’s name off to the right (from the viewer’s perspective) of the central image of the band.

Appearance: 8/10 – The wrapper had a lovely dark color (heck, it is a maduro) which becomes a little inconsistent by transitioning to some lighter hues towards the head. Toothy, bumpy, and oily, the wrapper is, overall, quite lovely.

Construction: 34/35 – The consistency of the pack seemed slightly off since I found a few slightly soft spots along the stick. However, this did not affect the burn at all. If these soft spots influenced the wide open draw, then who cares? The draw, by the way, was incredibly open. Smoking this cigar required little more effort than breathing.

Flavor: 43/45 – Very complex with lots of purity and clarity to the blend. Flavors mingled nicely and exchanged dominance without a hitch. Bravo!

Overall: 93/100 – This cigar is a winner. To quote the Tabacalera Perdomo website, this blend can be compared to “…a wine maker’s special reserve…” This cigar was certainly an excellent experience and one I would repeat in a heartbeat. Something else to consider: the price. Check out the prices and you will be shocked. To get a cigar which has properties which even come close to this one you’d have to spend at least twice as much. If you love medium to full bodied smokes, this is the next cigar you should try.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nording by Rocky Patel Toro Grande



Shape: Toro Grande
Origin: Honduras
Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Costa Rican Maduro
Binder: Mexican
Filler: Nicaraguan
Smoke Clock: 1 hr 25 min

Plopping down at one of my usual park benches amidst the meager number of families at the lake, I pulled out my Rocky Patel Nording and took it in with the surroundings.

My first glance at this cigar made me want to skip all the foreplay and get right to the smoke. The wrapper on this cigar is absolutely beautiful. Consistent color, seamless, smooth, and oily, the wrapper on Nording cried out to me, “Please smoke me!”

Before I gave in completely to this wily wrapper, I forced myself to take a whiff. Delicious wafts of sweet leather, earth, and spice glided through my nose and made me start salivating like a black dog on a hot day.

Unable to wait any longer, I snipped the end and took a draw. The very first thing I tasted was sweet iced tea. Inexplicable in an unflavored cigar, yet it was there. Another draw revealed leather and spice and… sweet tea.

At this point, waiting any longer to light this puppy would’ve been unbearable so, giving in, I lit up. Reading directly from my notes, the first word I wrote down was “heaven.” With plenty of pepper on the lips and palate, the first light profile rounded out with leather, oak, and cedar notes with a hint of that sweet tea I detected in the pre-light draw. The body started out round and robust and solidly medium.

As the first quarter progressed, wood & nut notes became formidable players in the profile. Spice continued to be a presence on the palate and through the nose with compost notes joining in. Towards the beginning of the second quarter, chocolate and coffee notes began to creep in with hints of toffee. Mmm mmm!

Cocoa and coffee with a sweet toffee background emerged as dominant in the flavor profile in the second quarter. This cigar was proving to be quite an incredible ride! A lot of the spice had abated by this point, giving way to evolving coffee notes towards the third quarter. Progressing through the second quarter, I noticed that there was a natural sweetness felt on the lips which made every puff that much more delectable.

The third quarter continued the trend set by the second quarter, but continued to evolve. This was most noticeable towards the end as cocoa and spice began to overtake the coffee notes and the sweetness ramped back up. This trend continued through the long and satisfying finish of this fantastic smoke.

This cigar held my complete attention throughout the entirety of the smoke, nearly blinding me to the babbling of the creek nearby or the playing of children and parents in said creek. My environment did effect me, however. Playing outside in the sun and amongst nature tends to bring out my artistic side, but this cigar moved me to poetry. If I may:

(Clears his throat)

Roses are red
Cigar smoke is blue
Nording is sweet
So pick up a few!

(Takes a bow)

Rating:
Presentation: 4/5 – Excellent design running with the Viking theme, the band features two butting rams which, for me, invokes a Viking energy. Great use of color and contrast on the double bands.

Appearance: 4/5 – The wrapper was seamless, oily, smooth, and exhibited a beautiful dark red/brown color which was very consistent all over. This is pretty impressive considering the size of this stick. Absolutely mouth watering.

Construction: 42/45 – The pack was firm, leaving the draw feeling a bit tight, but the tight draw proved to be an illusion once I started smoking. The burn was pretty wavy but never presented any real problems.

Flavor: 43/45 – This blend blew my socks off, offering lots of sweetness and evolution throughout the smoke. A mind blowing blend to say the least.

Overall: 93/100 – I thoroughly enjoyed this smoke and will definitely be picking up another. From the first glance at this cigar until the time you set it down, the Rocky Patel Nording does not disappoint. This cigar is a cut above the rest and, in this reviewers opinion, cannot be beat at its price point.

-DH

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Rocky Patel Decade Toro

Size: 6.5 X 52

Shape: Toro

Origin: Honduras

Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Equadorian
Binder: Honduran
Filler: Nicaraguan

Smoke Clock: 1 hr

It was a rainy day in the park, but that wasn’t about to stop me from enjoying a fine cigar. I took refuge on the porch of the Pavilion housing Cortland Repertory Theatre (where I’m working for the summer), and went to it.

That day it was the Rocky Patel Decade that I had brought along with me, a cigar that I eagerly looked forward to.

Passing the stick beneath my nose, I detected oak and cedar notes with some underlying leather and peat. If the pre-light aroma was any indication, this cigar had the makings of a refined and relaxing smoke. I snipped the foot and drew, tasting sweet alfalfa on the palate with a light amount of pepper on the lips.

Eager to dive in, I lit up and was rewarded with light spice and sweetness, complimenting what seemed a definitive bbq flavor at the start. This opened up in the first quarter, exhibiting those oak, cedar, and leather notes which were detectable pre-light. A caramel note emerged towards the end of the first quarter, complimenting the wood notes in a subtle yet specific way, like the smell of a freshly dipped caramel apple. Coffee and chocolate notes also began to emerge and mingle with the already tasty profile.

The second quarter was slowly overtaken by the coffee and chocolate notes, supported by caramel with cedar and leather remaining firmly in the background. Rolling smoke through the nose revealed a pure compost note which was otherwise undetectable on the palate.

Rain continued to spatter the ground as the third quarter began. The coffee notes continued to overtake the remaining flavors in the profile with chocolate remaining a strong supporter. Caramel notes slid into the background but remained present and enjoyable through the end.

This was a nice relaxing smoke which fit perfectly into my dinner break from work. Smoking the Decade provided me with exactly what I needed then, a bit of calm relaxation on an otherwise stormy day.

Rating:

Presentation: 2/5 – I’m not a big fan of the bands on this stick. There are three of them, but only two carry a consistent color and design theme, which appears a bit under thought and lazily designed. The third band is so far from the other two in color and concept that it almost appears to be an afterthought which someone on the line thought might be a fun addition. Oh well. You can’t win ‘em all.

Appearance: 4/5 – The wrapper, on the other hand, is beautiful. Dark, consistent, oily, and seamless, this stick is a delight to the eye.

Construction: 40/45 – This stick is very firm with a soft spot at the head. The draw was pretty good, but I did feel like I was tugging at times. I experienced a few runs, but none required a relight as the cigar fixed itself.

Flavor: 42/45 – Simple: Sweet earth, chocolate, coffee, and caramel dominate this tasty flavor profile. Very pure flavors which I found to be relaxing and very enjoyable.

Overall: 88/100 – This cigar was a solid smoke, very relaxing, and quite tasty. I’d recommend picking one up to give it a try.

-DH

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pinar del Rio Cubano Especial


Size: 5 X 52
Shape: Robusto
Origin: Dominican Republic
Body: Medium
Wrapper: Brazilian Arapirca
Binder: 1998 Dominican Criollo
Filler: 1998 Dominican/Nicaraguan Criollo
Smoke Clock: 45 mins

Over the weekend, as per usual this summer, I made my happy way into the heart of beautiful Dwyer Park to enjoy the beauty of the day. Low and behold, I had an excellent cigar to keep me company.

I found a nice secluded picnic table to rest on and pulled out my Pinar Del Rio 1878 Cubano Especial Capa Madura. Passing this stick beneath my nose I detected leather, cedar, and manure supported with an underlying sweetness. Clipping the head of this cigar was effortless, like passing a sharp knife through hot butter.

Drawing on the now clipped stick, I experienced a lot of spice and earth, which left me expecting a very hearty smoke. I was not to be disappointed.

Upon lighting, I tasted a balanced degree of spice, dark chocolate, caramel, and leather, all standing alone and yet standing together. This flavor profile was fleeting however, giving way to a much more earthen experience.

The first quarter really established what this stick had to offer. Salt and pepper danced across the palate as leather and earth sat solidly as dominant players in this profile. Subtle notes of nuts crept across the experience as well but never became indiscrete. As the first quarter drew to an end, the spice began to mellow out which allowed the other flavors in the profile to peak through and display how pure and rich they were.

Throughout the remainder of the experience, earth and leather notes dominated the experience on the palate and the nose. However, when rolled through the nose, the smoke consistently elicited a delicate yet intricate compost note.

Despite my isolate location in the park, the wind managed to find me and picked up as I set down my Cubano Especial. The time spent enjoying this hearty smoke truly elevated me and had me looking forward to the next time I might lay my hands on one.

-DH

Rating:
Presentation: 9/10 – I really like the way this cigar is presented. The band is bold and masculine with no frills or decoration. Hard lines and stark contrast draw your attention to the only thing that matters on this band, the name. The design very accurately represents this cigar: bold and straight forward.

Appearance: 8/10 – The wrapper of this beauty is quite dark and consistently so. It is also very oily and toothy with very little seem to be seen.

Construction: 31/35 – The cigar was firm throughout with no soft spots and the draw was quite open despite the firm pack. However, the burn was a pretty inconsistent, causing a few serious runs which required touch ups.

Flavor: 41/45 – The profile was very hearty with earth and leather notes dominating. It was simple and straightforward but provided an excellent smoke with pure flavors and a nice depth to the profile.

Overall: 89/100 – This cigar was an excellent and straightforward smoke. The profile is hearty with earth and leather notes dominating with a depth to the profile. This well presented and attractive stick has an excellent draw and pack but burns unevenly. Despite the burn, this cigar is an excellent smoke that I would recommend to medium bodied fans.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

La Aroma de Cuba EE #55


Size: 5.75” X 50
Shape: #55
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Equadoran Sun Grown
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Smoke Clock:

Buy This Cigar

When it rains it pours. In this case, I am happy to refer to several gorgeous days in a row, sans rain. With such a slew of blue sky days, how could one not step outside and enjoy them with an excellent cigar in hand?

The cigar of the day was the La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial (EE) by Ashton. This cigar is smooth, veiny and colored a rich brown tone, smelling of leather, earth, and coffee surrounded by a subtle sweetness. Tasting this stick prelight provided me mostly with a sense of the strength of the blend with only light notes of raisin and leather detected.

Lighting this guy up, I got a nice combination of leather and spice with spice leading the way. This lead beautifully into the first quarter as the profile melted into salt and pepper, leather, cedar, and cashew notes.

The first quarter evolved slightly, providing some coffee notes before its time had passed. By the time the second quarter began, the profile had begun to taste smokey, like sitting around a campfire. Fortunately, these camp fire notes were not overwhelming but supporting and lead neatly into the next section of this stick.

Throughout the second quarter, the individual flavors detected in the first quarter melded together to create a very interesting and complex profile, supported by the camp fire quality of the smoke.

I lazily gazed at people as they passed by and began to notice that the pepper note had all but vanished from the palate. I tried rolling smoke through my nose and discovered that, despite its disappearance on the palate, spice had remained a major player through the nose. Once I got into the third quarter, the profile had stabilized with the camp fire note remaining a strong supporter of the blend.

I finally lay this stick to rest just as the camp fire note began to take its place in the front, but found myself completely satisfied none-the-less.

When it rains it pours. In this case, I refer to two great cigars from La Aroma de Cuba experienced one gorgeous day after the next. What an excellent start to the week!

Rating:
Presentation: 9/10 – The La Aroma de Cuba EE received an additional band recently. You can see it in the photo. This band is so new that Ashton doesn’t even display it on their website. It’s a beautiful addition to an already stellar design. The main difference on the main band is the addition of a second lady to the focal image. Two lovely Cuban ladies instead of one? I can live with that.

La Aroma de Cuba Robusto


Size: 5 X 54
Shape: Robusto
Origin: Honduras
Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Honduran
Binder: Honduran
Filler: Honduran / Nicaraguan
Smoke Clock:

It was another lovely day for a stroll, so I grabbed the Ashton La Aroma de Cuba and headed for the park. I found a comfortable bench near the water fountain and unsheathed this delicious stick.

The La Aroma de Cuba gave off delectable wood and leather notes accented by pepper. Pepper played a more dominant role when I drew on the cigar, supported by smooth cashew flavors.

Upon lighting, I tasted mostly pepper followed by the arrival of leather and oak notes in the first quarter. The cashew flavor that I sensed prelight crept in a little but remained a subtle player in the background.

As the second quarter began, the cashew note crept up into a position of shared dominance with the pepper and leather notes as oak crept into the background. The pepper note began to abate by the end of this quarter, but remained present when rolled through the nose. By the start of the third quarter, the smoke had become creamy with cedar and cashew notes dominating the profile.

With the profile mellowing out, I decided to dip my toes in the fountain. The water was cool and soothing and the cigar was smooth and creamy. What a great combination!

I finally set the stick down, fully satisfied with the journey the profile took me on: starting with pepper, leather, and oak and evolving into creamy cedar and cashew. This cigar was eventful and delicious.

Walking home, I considered picking up a few more to tuck away in my humidor for another gorgeous day when a quick dip in cool water and an excellent smoke are always welcome.

Rating:
Presentation: 9/10 – The band has a nice shape and draws your focus to the name of the cigar and the Cuban woman featured on the band. Attractive colors provide a nice sense of contrast, allowing the “La Aroma de Cuba” to stand out and be noticed. The sides of the band feature images from Cuba: a dock by the bay and a tobacco plantation. The band is full of nostalgia and beautifully designed. Well done!

Appearance: 7/10 – The wrapper is dark and toothy. The color is a little inconsistent, becoming lighter towards the head. The wrapper on my stick was cracked but not bad. It burned right through the troubled area.

Construction: 32/35 – The burn was uneven but the cigar constantly fixed itself, allowing me to ignore what could have been issues. The pack was nice and firm all through yet still provided an open draw.

Flavor: 43/45 – The flavor profile of this cigar was very high quality and made a delightful evolution throughout the course of the smoke that I really enjoyed. It kept me interested the entire time and delighted me at every turn. An excellent blend.

Overall: 91/100 – Well constructed, well presented, and masterfully blended, the La Aroma de Cuba really delivered. The burn was the only issue I had with the cigar, but it continually fixed itself, making it a non-issue. I highly recommend this cigar and encourage anyone who enjoys a complex medium-full smoke which provides the smoker with a journey across the palate to pick up a few sticks of this blend to sample.

-DH

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Arturo Fuente Rosado Gran Reserva


Size: 6 ¼” X 54
Shape: R54
Origin: Dominican Republic
Body: Full
Wrapper: Equadoran Rosado aged 8-10 years
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Smoke Clock: 1hr 15mins

No matter where I go, I like to find a nice spot where I can smoke in peace. Being in Cortland for the summer, I’ve found a lovely park downtown which serves the turn. So when I pulled out this stick that is just where I went.

I chewed on my Arturo Fuente Rosado Gran Reserva on the way and after finding a nice park bench to rest on, I set to work (if you can call it that). This cigar smells of earth and leather and delivers some deliciously sweet raisin and apricot notes prelight. Given that this is a firm and sturdy stick, the draw wasn’t bad. However it wasn’t wide open either.

Putting a flame to the foot, I experienced lots of leather and tobacco flavors with some light salt and pepper on the palate. This blend is very naturally sweet and I have to give a pat on the back to Arturo Fuente for blending this cigar in such a way that the natural sugars in the leaf come through. I can see why this cigar is so hard to find (and not just because it’s a limited release!).

The first quarter continued to deliver natural sweetness, which accented the leather and caramel notes that evolved into the second quarter. When these flavors mingled just right I could swear I tasted sweet tea.

The caramel note gave way to some wood and subtle coffee notes as the second quarter progressed. This cigar was certainly full flavored!

As the breeze blew, the birds chirped, and the kids played in the grass, the third quarter of my cigar kept up its flavorful progression, but only slightly so. Leather notes returned and mingled with the wood and coffee notes while the natural sweetness of the tobacco continued to support the entire experience.

By the time I reached the finish, the sweetness had finally begun to abate, although it never completely went away.

As I meandered home from the park, I couldn’t help but reflect on how enjoyable a smoke the Rosado Gran Reserva was. It is one of the sweetest blends I’ve tried without the addition of flavoring and provided a smooth but full bodied smoke. Bravo!

Rating:
Presentation: 8/10 – The band on this stick is simple and elegant. It is designed to give weight to the Arturo Fuente crest in the center and is certainly eye catching. My understanding is that this band was slightly redesigned for this blend and their efforts paid off.

Appearance: 8/10 – The wrapper is toothy, oily, veiny, and medium brown in color with just a hint of red to it when the light hits it at an angle. The color is a little inconsistent as the foot and shoulder are lighter than the rest of the stick. This isn’t a major issue, just a slight cosmetic faux pas.

Construction: 30/35 – This cigar has a relatively good draw but isn’t as open as I’d like. The pack is solid all through, which may contribute a little to the draw being a little less than open. My only major issue here was the burn. The cigar ran from the first light and continued to run until the end.

Flavor: 43/45 – The flavor of this cigar was excellent, providing an unparalleled natural sweetness to support the leather, caramel, wood, and coffee notes that evolved throughout the smoke. Excellent blending, to say the least.

Overall: 89/100 – Well blended, tasty, full flavored, and interesting, the Rosado Gran Reserva provides an excellent smoke for the buck. I really enjoyed smoking this cigar, despite the constant runs that I experienced. The flavor was consistent but took some interesting turns. The natural sweetness of this blend is what really makes it stand out in comparison to most other blends. I highly recommend burning one of these at your earliest convenience as it is a limited release and is pretty tough to find. There are only a few retailers who carry this release and Rocky’s is one of them. Drop in on your lunch break or on your way home to sample one. This limited release won’t be around forever and missing out on a blend like this would certainly be a travesty.

Good luck and happy puffing!

-DH

Thursday, June 3, 2010

CAO La Traviata Divino


Size: 5 X 50

Shape: Divino

Origin: Nicaragua

Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Colorado Brown Equadoran
Binder: Cameroon
Filler: Nicaraguan / Dominican

Smoke Clock: 1hr

A few nights ago, after a long day of work, I decided to make the short walk from my summer housing in Cortland to a nearby park to light up a bit of rolled tobacco. My companion for the evening: CAO La Traviata.

The wrapper on this guy was a rich and dark color, oily, smooth, near seamless, and absolutely mouth watering. I passed the stick beneath my nose to get a better sense of just how delicious this stick might be and smelled complex cedar and sweet farmland. This guy had a lot of promise.

I nipped the end and put the cigar to my lips for a pre-light test and tasted light spice and pepper with some subtle sweet fruit notes on the back of the palate. In addition to the excellent flavors, the draw was very open, which only added to my already mounting lack of patience to get this stick lit.

At long last I lit up and immediately tasted an excellent mingling of pepper and leather. These first light flavors stayed pretty dominant in the profile for the majority of the smoke, slowly giving way to a pure tobacco taste during the third quarter. The pepper and spice smoothed out during the second quarter and were all but gone by the second half of the cigar. Despite their slow retreat to the back of the profile, spice and pepper remained a subtle but dominant note when rolled through the nostrils.

As the finish progressed, little else occurred in the evolution of the profile. I appreciated that quality in this smoke as the tasty flavors remained tasty; never allowing a bitter note or other flavors to muddy up what was a consistently delicious flavor profile.

Having enjoyed a simple yet delicious smoke, I took my time walking home to enjoy the calm of the evening. Even though it had been a long day, it was nothing that a great smoke and a peaceful evening couldn’t fix. Fortunately for me, I got both.

Rating:

Presentation: 5/10 – I’m just not a fan of this band. The focus of the design is a bit chaotic, placing several small images around the name of the cigar which was probably meant to lend focus to the name. This plan might have succeeded if the name of the cigar wasn’t almost the same color as the background and they hadn’t executed the idea in such a busy way. My attention is drawn much more to the color of the tiny images than it is the name of the cigar, which seems counterproductive to me.

Appearance: 8/10 – A dark, oily, smooth, and near seamless wrapper holds this stick together. Despite the overall beauty of the wrapper, I did find a small blotch on it about the size of a nail head.

Construction: 33/35 – The pack was consistent and firm and the draw quite open. Nicely done.

Flavor: 43/45 – Even though this cigar wasn’t especially complex, it really delivered on the purity and quality of the flavors it intended to showcase in the blend. The profile offered some mild evolution but ultimately remained consistent all the way to the end. This is a very tasty, well executed, and straight forward blend.

Overall: 89/100 – Overall, this is a very consistent, well constructed, and tasty smoke. For those of you who enjoy a straight forward, no nonsense cigar with a consistent flavor profile, this may become your go-to smoke.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tabak Especial


Size: 5 X 54
Shape: Robusto
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium
Wrapper: Nicaragua Criollo
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Smoke Clock: 1 hr 10 mins

A few days ago, knowing that I would be smoking the Drew Estate Tabak Especial Coffee Infusion, I got up early (about 9am), made a cup of coffee, and headed out to the porch to light up this stick of infused sweetness.

Passing this stick beneath my nose reveals lots and lots of rich milk chocolate and sugar flavors. These flavors are also very dominant in the pre-light draw. I have a feeling I may have to brush my teeth after this one.

When I put a flame to the foot of this guy, I tasted a lot of sugar with a hint of cigarette tobacco, which surprised me. The cigarette taste, however, was high quality, more akin to American Spirits than your run of the mill cigarette.

The cigarette taste hung around in the background for the majority of the smoke and was eventually forgotten due to the sugar, cotton candy, and chocolate notes which took dominant rolls throughout the smoke.

By the third quarter, I began to taste a little bit of a coffee note, as if I’d been drinking cream and sugar and someone had slowly been using an eye dropper to add coffee to my drink. At this point, the coffee that I’d been sipping along with the cigar was finally able to provide some support to the cigar and helped to boost the coffee flavors which became present in the profile.

With the finish came little change, except that the coffee notes intensified a little after their third quarter arrival.

Overall, I’d say this cigar has a lot of fine qualities when compared to run of the mill flavored cigars: the construction is decent, the tobacco is all long filler, and the draw wasn’t bad. However, this cigar is not really for me. I’d recommend this stick as a huge step up in quality for anyone who enjoys flavored cigars.

Rating:
Presentation: 7/10 – Nicely designed double bands, but the colors don’t present much contrast, keeping this cigar from being eye catching.

Appearance: 6/10 – The wrapper has a consistent light and creamy coloring to it with only very minor blotches, but the wrapper is quite wrinkly and has a stretched appearance to it. The rough foot is an interesting visual touch.

Construction: 27/35 – The draw felt a bit tight through this stick, but provided copious amounts of smoke anyway. The cigar felt like it had a lot of give when pressed, illustrating a loose but consistent pack. How I got a tight draw with what felt like a loose pack, I may never know.

Flavor: 40/45 – I found the flavor to be overly sweet and candy-like with very few, if any, flavors that one would associate with high quality tobacco. The infusion made this stick taste like I was smoking hot chocolate with a splash of coffee and about 10 spoon fulls of sugar added to the mix. However, to say that the flavors were low quality would be to lie. The flavors that this cigar offered were very pure and of the highest quality for what the maker sought to create. Even though it wasn’t my cup of tea, I have to say that this cigar was executed extremely well given what they sought to create.

Overall: 80/100 – This cigar is a fairly well done, high end flavored cigar, utilizing their own flavoring methods by “infusing” instead of the usual flavoring practices. The construction is decent and the blend well done. However, this stick is not really my cup of tea (or coffee for that matter). I would recommend this stick to anyone who enjoys flavored cigars and is seeking a huge step up in quality in that category.

Joya de Nicaragua Dark Antano


Size: 6 X 54
Shape: Poderoso
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Full
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Smoke Clock: 1hr

When I got home from work yesterday, I was looking forward to a relaxing evening and a good cigar, so I pulled out the Joya de Nicaragua Dark Corojo Antano and nestled myself into a cozy chair on the porch.

The pre-light aroma was wonderful, sending wafts of rich earth and straw through my senses.

I tasted spice and earth notes when I drew on the unlit cigar and could sense that this guy was going to have some serious power to it.

When I first lit up this stick, I got a mild blast of pepper which carried through the first quarter, maintaining dominance while notes of earth, chocolate, and caramel fluidly came and went.

Once the second quarter began, the smoke and profile took on a very buttery quality, which was delightful. A lot of the more subtle flavors flitted away into obscurity, replaced by other subtle notes of cedar and nuts with a high quality tobacco flavor taking dominance at this point. The spice subdued itself and allowed these other delectable flavors to have their moment in the lime light.

Through the nose, the spice never lost its presence. Even though spice remained a dominant player when exhaled through the nose, it remained a second thought through the rest of the experience.

By the third quarter of this stick, the body really began to affect me and I broke out into a cold sweat because of it. This cigar really packs a whallop! Before I made it to the finish, I had to lay it down, otherwise it would’ve lay me down! This was unfortunate because, although I was feeling ill, the flavor and buttery quality of the smoke made me want to keep puffing away. I’ll probably pick up another and be sure to eat a very hardy meal beforehand.

Overall, I’d say this offering from Drew Estate is a big winner. I’m very happy that this company has branched out from its infused Acid line and begun making more naturally tasting cigars. I for one, am very impressed.

Rating:
Presentation: 7/10 – Not a bad band. Gold on black with a wavy border, this band has a simple yet attractive quality.

Appearance: 8/10 – The wrapper on this stick was very dark, oily, and toothy with a few spots of minor discoloration. Overall, the wrapper is attractive enough to make any cigar man drool at the thought of lighting this stick up.

Construction: 29/35 – The pack of this stick felt firm and consistent, offering a decent draw which was not quite tight but not quite open. The burn was frequently uneven and this cigar tunneled three times in the first half which necessitated relighting. After the tunneling stopped, it began to run, necessitating more relights.

Flavor: 43/45 – The flavor of this cigar is where it really shines. Lots of spice early on with buttery earth, chocolate, caramel at the beginning and giving way to nut, and cedar flavors later on. Note: this cigar will lay you to waste if you aren’t used to full boded cigars or if you haven’t eaten.

Overall: 87/100 – Overall, I think that this cigar has a lot to offer and shows that Drew Estate has the ability to make excellent cigars outside of the flavored category. I’d recommend this guy to anyone who enjoys a spicy, sweet, and buttery full flavored cigar.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oliva Serie V Double Toro

Locked out with Oliva
Part 2: Oliva Serie V Double Toro

Size: 6 X 60
Shape: Double Toro
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Full
Wrapper: Sun-Grown Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
Filler: Jalapa Valley Ligero

Once I finished enjoying my Oliva Serie O, I decided to go inside for some breakfast before I dove into the Serie V, which I knew would be a more powerful smoke. When I returned to the front door, I found it locked. “No matter,” I thought and trudged over to the side door, which I also found locked. “Hmm…,” I hummed to myself, “Neither of these doors is ever locked. How strange.” I then tried the sun room door to no avail. “What is going on here? How did I get locked out of a house where no one ever locks the doors?” I had one chance left to get in without waking the rest of the house, and that was the garage. Of course the garage door was closed, but I thought with some quiet ingenuity and the application of some brute force I’d be able to get back in. I was wrong. The garage door remained firmly shut, held in place by its motor.

Defeated, I trudged back to the porch and plopped into my favorite rocking chair next to the smoking table that I’d acquisitioned from the patio. I sat for a few minutes trying to decide whether I should wait for someone to come down, wake the house so I could get back in, or smoke my Oliva Serie V. As difficult a choice as this was, there were two primary drives working on me at that moment: the drive to eat some breakfast and the drive to smoke the Oliva Serie V. Since the drive to eat was mostly a means to an end, I decided to take the risk of getting severely drunk and dive into this full bodied beauty.

I slid this stick out of its plastic housing and gazed at the staggeringly lovely wrapper. Dark, smooth, and nearly seamless, this cigar had me from “hello.”

I passed it back and forth beneath my nose and smelled earth and manure. I then clipped the head and gave a draw, tasting earth, spice, and raisin. This hinted at a profile that would be smooth and delicious. The body of this cigar was unapparent at this point and I felt my stomach relax at the hope that this smoke might not be as full bodied as I’d thought.

Throwing caution to the wind, I lit up. Immediately, I tasted earth and sweet cedar with a subtle chocolate undertone. These flavors continued into the first quarter of the cigar, sending sweet and creamy smoke tasting of oak, cedar, earth, coffee, and chocolate lofting across my palate. When exhaled through the nose, I experienced that wonderful compost flavor, which was accompanied by chocolate cream. Who needs breakfast when you’ve got a delicious cigar to keep you happy! Mmm Mmm!

As the smoke moved into the second quarter, the profile remained much the same. As I continued to enjoy the deliciously smooth and deceptively full bodied smoke, my mind wandered back to my predicament. It no longer seemed that breakfast would be needed to help me handle the body of this cigar, but I did want to get back inside after I’d finished. I decided it wasn’t worth worrying about just yet and set my mind back to the task at hand.

Just as I forced my focus back to the cigar, the big body began to make itself known. It is difficult to tell how big the body of this cigar is initially, as the blend is incredibly smooth. I never sensed how big the body was until I began to feel ill. Just as I began to feel the effects of having no breakfast, someone stepped outside, giving me an avenue to save my head and gut from ruination. I dashed inside (“stumbled” I should say) and grabbed an apple to munch as a preventative measure.

Back outside with my apple and cigar, I picked up the Serie V again and got back to puffing and enjoying the delectable flavors that this cigar delivers.

I continued on until just after the start of the finish when it became apparent that my apple was doing very little to abate my cigar drunkenness. Finally, I lay down the remainder of this fine cigar and waited for a few minutes to allow the world to stop spinning. Once it seemed like I might be able to walk under my own power again, I made my way to the front door, which I was very glad to find open, and made my way inside for breakfast.

All in all, I’d say this was a full and eventful morning. I got to start the day with a mild adventure, sneak in breakfast (albeit a little later than I’d have liked), and enjoy two fantastic cigars from a brilliant and inventive company like Oliva. And all of this before noon!

Rating:
Presentation: 9/10 – The band on this cigar is large and lovely, showcasing the chocolate color of the wrapper on the band behind the Oliva name. It has a very regal appearance.

Appearance: 8/10 – The wrapper is a gorgeous, dark, oily maduro that will make your mouth water. The wrapper is almost seamless and there was a very tiny crack which posed no problems during the smoke.

Construction: 32/35 – The Serie V is solidly constructed, exhibiting a firm and consistent pack and very open draw. It lost a few points because the burn was a bit uneven, forcing me to relight once or twice.

Flavor: 41/45 – I thought that this cigar tasted excellent, offering cedar, oak, earth, chocolate, coffee and compost flavors all in a sweet, creamy, and smooth smoking experience. My only complaint about the flavor profile is that it seemed a bit thin, almost airy, to me. There seemed to be a degree of depth missing, but what it lacks in depth it certainly makes up for in smoothness.

Overall: 90/100 – Despite becoming terribly drunk off of this cigar, I really enjoyed the experience and plan on buying another to sample after I’ve eaten a full meal. I’d recommend this cigar to those full bodied lovers out there. Enjoy this stick after a fine meal and you will enjoy one excellent smoking experience.

A note on the Serie V blend by Oliva:

The Serie V by Oliva has received multiple awards and high ratings:

Cigar Aficionado Best Cigar of the Year 2007 & 2008

Cigar Aficionado Ratings:
December 2007: 94
April 2008: 92

Cigar Insider Ratings:
September 2007: 94
October 2007: 94

The Serie V comes in boxes of 24 in a Sun-Grown Habano or Maduro wrapper.

From the Oliva website: “This cigar is blended to deliver full body taste while maintaining an unparalleled smoothness. This flavorful blend exhibits complex tobacco with rich coffee and dark chocolate tones. A subtle and well balanced spice is present throughout.”