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.

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.


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.

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.

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.