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.

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.

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!

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.”

Oliva Serie O Robusto

Locked out with Oliva
Part 1: Oliva Serie O Robusto

Size: 5 X 50
Shape: Robusto
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Sun-Grown Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
Filler: Nicaraguan Habano

This morning, I went out onto the front porch, being sure to close the door behind me, with both the Oliva Serie O Robusto and the Oliva Serie V Double Toro Maduro, excited to sampling these two cigars that I have been looking forward to for some time.

I decided to try the Serie O first and slid it out of its cellophane. Giving the stick a once over, I noticed that the wrapper was incredibly uniform in color, displaying a lovely tan brown color over its entirety. The wrapper was toothy with a few unfortunate cracks, one of which gave me some cause for concern. Fortunately for me, my concerns were later squashed thanks to the construction of this cigar.

Passing the stick beneath my nose, I noticed the distinct smell of manure and cedar, and the pre-light draw exhibited the taste of cream and cedar. Cedar seemed like it would be a major player in this smoke, and it was in the most welcome way.

When I put some flame to the foot of this cigar, I immediately tasted peat and wood before the flavor profile settled into its most dominant flavors: cedar and nuts.

From the outset I tasted a great deal of delicious cedar and cashew notes, with a bright compost flavor exhibited through the nose. As the first quarter progressed, the smoke became sweet and creamy with light spice in the nose.

Through the second and third quarters of the smoke, cedar and oak notes took dominance while the cashew flavor sunk slightly into the background. Occasional raisin notes crept in during this time, but came and went without ever staying present for longer than a puff. Spice became dominant in the nose as the compost flavor subsided towards the end of the third quarter.

One occurrence of note from the third quarter was the way the cigar burned through the large crack in the wrapper. As the burn edged closer to the growing canyon, I felt certain that things would go to pot once the split began to burn, but I was very wrong. The wrapper kept pace as it burned through the troublesome crevice with little to no variation in the flavor profile. This crack was most impressively handled, and I attribute that to the cigar’s construction.

Once I arrived at the finish, the body ramped up slightly and the compost flavor which had all but vanished transformed into rich earthen notes.

Second to the flavor of this cigar, something that greatly impressed me was the burn and the ash. The ash held on for ¾ of the cigar! By the time the first bit of ash fell off, I was already making notes about the finish. The burn was also very even for the majority of the smoke, only becoming wavy for moments at a time and masterfully worked through a major crack in the wrapper without so much as a run.

Having come outside with the Serie O and the Serie V, I was glad to have chosen the Serie O first, it being the milder of the two. The creamy, sweet cedar and cashew notes were delightful, especially first thing in the morning. It was also the shorter smoke, which then allowed me time to grab a meal before I dove into the full bodied Serie V.

I watched the nub for a minute as it quietly snuffed itself out and then rose from the rocking chair to go back inside. The only problem was, when I placed my hand on the door knob to let myself back in, I discovered that it was locked.

To be continued…

Presentation: 8/10 – The band on this stick is fairly standard for Oliva, with gold and eggshell complementing each other. It is simple with a touch of elegance. Very nice.

Appearance: 7/10 – The wrapper is very nice and consistent in color. However, it did exhibit a few small cracks and one major one which fixed itself during the smoke.

Construction: 32/35 – In addition to being consistently firm, the burn was very even overall and the ash was firm and held on solidly for 3/4s of the smoke. The draw felt a bit tight during the pre-light ritual, but proved to be deceptively open once lit.

Flavor: 43/45 – The creamy cedar and cashew flavors were delectable and the compost and spice in the nose provided an excellent contrast. The profile of this cigar had an ebb and flow to it that really keeps the smoker interested.

Overall: 90/100 – The Oliva Serie O Robusto is another excellent offering from Oliva and offers very good construction and excellent flavor. For the price, this is a smoke that cannot be beat. I highly recommend giving this stick a try.

A note on the Serie O blend by Oliva:
From “A great value, the Oliva Series O was one of the first blends made by the Olivas. In 2005, it received a 92 rating from Cigar Aficionado magazine.
The Oliva Series O is a selection of cigars that commemorate one of the most famous tobacco families in the cigar industry. Oliva is a smaller more boutique cigar company that takes exceptional pride in the quality of their cigars. In Nicaragua they are one of the largest tobacco growers of tobacco and roll their own crop. They oversee every aspect of the production of a cigar from seed to smoke, which is not something many people in the cigar business do successfully.
The Series O earns its name as the original blend to hit the market. The Nicaraguan tobaccos in this blend give the cigar a well-rounded body and aroma. A silky… wrapper finishes this cigar making it look almost as good as it tastes. The blends release in 2005 was met with some of the highest ratings ever received including a 92 rating from Cigar Aficionado Magazine…”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nestor Miranda Danno Dark

Nestor Miranda Danno Dark

Size: 7” X 56
Shape: Danno
Origin: Nicaragua
Body: Medium - Full
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano 2000 Oscuro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

This past Sunday, my contract at Syracuse Stage ended, leaving me with about a month of free time before my next contract at Cortland Repertory Theatre begins (I am a Sound Designer by trade). This is about the biggest break I will have had in years and I have to say I am thrilled to be able to have this much time to catch up on personal projects, like working my way through the queue of fine cigars in my humidor.

To celebrate the beginning of this momentous month, I pulled out the Nestor Miranda 20th Aniversario Danno Oscuro. With a dark, oily, and nearly seamless wrapper, this cigar is a beauty to behold. The pre-light aroma is full of earth and dark chocolate and the pre-light draw leaves cocoa lingering on your palate. Mmm Mmm!

Despite the pre-light experience, upon lighting I first tasted salt and pepper. After this initial surprise, the cigar smoothed out into a flavor profile more akin to what I had expected. Earth, coffee, and spice took the front seat early on and never completely left the flavor profile, but allowed other delectable flavors like dark chocolate, caramel, and compost to take dominance at times.

The first quarter of the cigar delivered lots of earth, coffee, spice, and compost flavors, with the compost mostly experienced through the nose. Some dark chocolate and caramel flavors crept in at times, but never stayed long, only showing up long enough to tease the senses.

As I considered how many cigars I could fit into my camping pack, the second quarter began, with compost flavors taking over both in the mouth and through the nose. The compost flavor, as I experience it, is one of extremely rich earth. Compost is like a clarified version of what most experience as earth in the flavor profile of a cigar. It tastes deep, bright, sweet, tart, and just a little musty and provides a slight tingle on your palate or through your nose that is neither pepper nor spice. If you’ve ever walked through the forest in the early spring kicking up leaves which were left exposed by the recently thawed snow, you’ll know this flavor instantly. It is totally intoxicating and absolutely delicious.

By the time the second quarter ended and the third began, dark chocolate and earth had re-emerged as the dominant flavor, the compost slinking into the background to support them. The smoke became very rich as the chocolate flavor gave way to the return of coffee and light caramel.

When the finish began, the profile had changed slightly to display earth and a definitive tobacco flavor with bitter coffee flavors creeping in every so often. The finish was long and tasty, but the previous three quarters outshone it, in my opinion.

I really enjoyed this smoke and I believe that I would not hesitate to pick up another. The flavor profile was complex, rich, and delicious, offering tons of earth, coffee, compost, and chocolate flavors with some supporting caramel throughout. What a great way to start off a month of freedom: smoking a top notch cigar, and looking forward to smoking my way through the month.


Presentation: 9/10 – The way that this stick is displayed is probably one of the nicest presentations I’ve seen. The design of the band is excellent, displaying Nestor Miranda’s signature in red over a grey background with the “20 Aniversario” displayed below over a black background. These two stripes are bordered at the top and bottom of the band by shiny orange strips. Simple, beautiful, elegant, and artful.

Appearance: 9/10 – This cigar looks great. The wrapper is seamless, oily, toothy, and displays a rich and dark color. It lost a single point because there was a small black blotch on mine.

Construction: 29/35 – Overall, I thought the construction on this cigar was pretty good. The draw was relatively good but bordered on being tight, the burn was very uneven but I never had to touch it up, and the pack felt firm and consistent.

Flavor: 43/45 – The flavor of this cigar was excellent. I found myself entranced by the complex and delectable flavors that shared the flavor profile throughout the experience. The taste of the Danno Dark has me really looking forward to sampling the Danno Rosado.

Overall: 90/100 – This cigar really delivered for me. It did lose a few points on construction, but the issues weren’t detrimental and the sensory experience is what really makes this cigar. From the appearance to the pre-light aroma to the complex flavor profile, the Nestor Miranda 20 Aniversario Danno Oscuro delivers the goods.