--> Cigar Coop: January 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Yellow Alert: CRA Petition Update for Minnesota, Florida, and New Mexico

The CRA has put out three more petitions on tobacco legislation that is on the books.   These petitions are for the states of Minnesota, Florida, and New Mexico.   These petitions should only be signed if you are a resident of the state for which the petition is for.  While it is very important that we all pay attention to these things, these need support at the local level in order to show the legislators that it is their constituents that won't put up with this nanny-state politics.

This is an affirmative position that we as cigar enthusiasts WANT PASSED.   In this petition,  there is a bill  that would allow smoking in restaurants that have attached bars and meet necessary separation from dining areas; that have a required level of ventilation.

If you are from Minnesota, click here to sign the petition SUPPORTING THIS BILL.

There is a bill on the table that would limit the Florida state "preemption clause" to indoor smoking bans, only.  The bad thing is that this would give local governments the right to to pass such limits on the enjoyment of cigars, outdoors.  Outdoor Smoking Ban proposals are becoming more and more common everyday.  It is important to send the legislators a message here indicating this is unacceptable and an infringement of our civil rights.

If you are from Florida, click here and encourage your representatives that this is unacceptable.

New Mexico
New Mexico has a bill that would result in a 114% increase on the tax of cigars.  The actual cigar tax would increase from 25% to 57%.  We all know what a catastrophic impact this could have on local retailers in New Mexico.  Just ask folks in New York...

If you are from New Mexico, click here and encourage your representatives that this is unacceptable.

Again, please only sign these petitions if you are residents of these states.

Yellow Alert - Florence SC: Great Editorial on how Smoking Bans should work

This article I have a link to below says it all.   Smoking bans should be decided at the individual business level and not the government level.

While I don't agree with everything they say on second-hand smoke, it's refreshing to see an editorial taking this particular stand. A government ban is an "usurpation of individual rights" (to quote the article I have linked below).   And if you think the Pleasure Police are just looking at tobacco - think again.

There is a smoking ban on the table in Florence, South Carolina.   Once again, I encourage everyone to make their voice known who live in that city.

Click here to read the article.

Breaking News: Gary Hyams departs the CAO Brand and General Cigar

In a move that was not unexpected,  Gary Hyams formerly Chairman of CAO Cigars is leaving General Cigars.   This move comes just a little over four years he was named to this position.

With the departures of President Tim Ozgener and Lifestyle Marketing Director, Jon Huber over the past three months, this has was not unexpected.  I'm sure the CAO brand is undergoing the transfer of trade process into the General Cigars family.   As a part of this process, consolidations, relocations, and re-organizations are normal activities.  In his role as a part of the acquisition by General, Hyams was involved in many of the transfer activities.

While I know a lot of people are upset about the changes at CAO, I still have a lot of faith in what General Cigars is doing.  Acquisitions and mergers are a natural part of a capitalistic society.   Change is inevitable.    We need to see how the chips fall.

No doubt - things will be different with CAO - and no doubt, there are three big free agents on the cigar job market.

Here are the details of the press release:

Richmond, VA—General Cigar announced today that with completion of the integration of CAO® International and General Cigar Company, Gary Hyams will step down from his role as chairman of CAO International, effective today.
Along with Dan Carr, president of General Cigar, Mr. Hyams led the integration of the two companies as part of the recent joint venture with Scandinavian Tobacco Group, which was announced in October.

Gary Hyams commented, “Being at the helm of CAO for the past four years has meant a lot to me and I am proud of what my colleagues and I have accomplished. I have great faith in Dan Carr and his team, and I leave CAO fully confident that they will continue to enhance and grow the brand.”

Dan Carr, president of General Cigar said, “Gary is a strong leader who is responsible for bringing international prominence to CAO. I am grateful to him for his dedication to the company and to all that he contributed toward the integration of General Cigar and CAO into the new Scandinavian Tobacco Group. Gary has done an exceptional job of preparing my staff and me for the future and we remain committed to continuing the momentum that he and his colleagues have built with CAO.”

In 2007, Hyams was highly instrumental in the acquisition of CAO International and was appointed Chairman. Under his leadership, CAO has grown to become a highly successful company in the competitive premium cigar category. He retained the culture of the company and implemented many successful new brand launches including America®, Lx2® and La Traviata®, which has received the highest acclaim of all CAO brands to date. Mr. Hyams was also heavily involved in the 2009 acquisition of the Toraño and Olivas cigar factories in Nicaragua and Honduras.

Mr. Hyams has been an advocate for the cigar industry, having been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Cigar Association of America (CAA) and having served as Chairman of the Imported Tobacco Products Advisory Council (ITPAC) in the U.K.

His distinguished career in the industry began in the U.K. at “Loretta Cigars London LTD,” which Mr. Hyams later came to co-own. Loretta Cigars was noted for building the Henri Wintermans, King Edward and Ritmeester brands, and was also an agent for Macanudo®, Don Tomas®, CAO and the cigarette brand “Natural American Spirit.”

Upon the sale of Loretta Cigars to Henri Wintermans, Mr. Hyams became managing director in the new company, Henri Wintermans U.K. Upon the Acquisition of CAO, Mr. Hyams held the distinction of being the only general manager/managing director in Scandinavian Tobacco Group to hold that position in two different countries.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cigar Review: Paul Garmirian Gourmet Series

For a while I've been intrigued with sampling the Paul Garmirian line.   Paul Garmirian is a Indie cigar line that tends to fall into the more expensive category when it comes to cigars.   At the same time, I have not had a lot of success locating this line of cigars in Charlotte, North Carolina.   Upon a recent visit to Charleston, South Carolina, I came across the Paul Gamirian Gourmet Series, and I knew I had to try it.    While this cigar is not in my flavor profile, I was pretty impressed with as well-constructed a cigar as I've found.

A little background on Paul Garmirian (and more details can be found by clicking here).  Garmirian established himself in the area of  Politics and International Marketing in the Northern Virginia area. Garmirian's also had a passion for cigars.  As a result, in 1990, he created a book called  The Gourmet Guide To Cigars.  The publication of his book resulted in the opportunity to work with Hendrik Kelner and thus Garmirian found himself in the cigar business.

It was at a place called The Smoking Lamp in Charleston, South Carolina where I found the P.G. Gourmet Series.   Upon first glance of this cigar, it did not have a strong look, so it looked perfect to be a morning smoke.

The blend is comprised as follows:
Wrapper: Colorado Shade Grown Connecticut
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican

The Paul Garmirian Gourmet Series is available in a wide variety of vitolas.   This cigar has pretty much a vitola for everyone:

Celebration     9 x 50    
Double Corona    7 5/8 x 50 
Torpedo   6 1/4 x 52 
Belicoso    6 1/4 x 52
Churchill    7 x 48 
Belicoso Fino     5 1/2 x 52    
Connosseur     6 x 50   
Epicure     5 1/2 x 50    
P.G. No.1     7 1/2 x 38 
Corona Grande     6 1/2 x 46  
Robusto     5 x 50 
Especial     5 1/2 x 38     
Lonsdale     6 1/2 x 42     
P.G. No.2     4 3/4 x 48    
Corona     5 1/2 x 42   
Petit Corona    5 X 43    
Torito     4 X 50   
Petit Bouquet     4 1/2 x 38 
P.G. No.5     4 x 40    
Bombones     3 1/2 x 43    
Joyitas 4 1/2 x 26    

While there are a lot of vitolas available on this cigar, the only vitola I was able to find in Charleston, South Carolina was the Robusto.   Still, I did not hesitate to purchase this cigar.   I then decided to put a straight cut into the cap and toasted the foot and began the experience of enjoying this cigar.

One thing right off the bat - this is not a strong cigar, so it lived up to the way it looked.   This cigar is not going to produce a nicotine buzz and not going to produce strong flavor notes - so it is definitely a mild strength, mild bodied cigar.   This cigar was advertised to be medium-bodied, but I say no way.  This is also not going to be a highly complex cigar.  The cigar is going to start out with some wood notes.   About 1/3 of the way into the cigar, and mild citrus sweetness emerges with this smoke.   This is pretty much how the cigar is going to smoke to the end.  The finish was not harsh - it was cool and firm.  It was smooth from start to finish.

This cigar fits the definition of "morning smoke" or "first smoke".  This cigar sold for $10.00 at the Tobacco Lamp, but from a construction standpoint this was flawless so it looked worth the price.   The burn and draw are as good as they can get.   All of this is what I would expect from a "pricey cigar"

Overall, the mild-bodied, mild-strength cigars are not in my rotation.  Sometimes I do prefer a little more pop with my cigar.   However, if I am rating this cigar for what it is - I have to say, this is a quality smoke.   I'd be very curious to try this in one of the other vitolas.

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Strength: Mild
Body: Mild
Assessment: Nice to Have

Friday, January 28, 2011

Avo LE11 Update

As mentioned earlier this month, the Avo LE 11 is in the works.

I'm going to direct folks to Barry at "A Cigar Smoker's Journal" as he has a lot of great information on this cigar.  As expected, this cigar will be released March 22nd - Avo Uvezian's 85th birthday.

To not steal any thunder, click here to check out the post on the Avo Le 11.

The Avo LE10 was my 2010 Cigar of the Year, so I'm pretty excited about the follow-up.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Post 200: The Cigar Enthusiast

I wanted to think of something special to put up for Post #200 on Cigar Coop.   My inspiration for this came from Post #199 - when I discussed how cigar enthusiasts have to deal with substandard conditions on where they can enjoy a cigar.

In that post, there was some deliberate wording when I was referencing cigarette users and cigar users.  For cigarette users, I said the word "cigarette smokers".   As for cigar users, I went out of my way to say the word "cigar enthusiast".   Some may scoff or mock such wording, but when it comes to the consumption of cigarettes and cigars, they only thing they have in common is literally that each word contains the letters "c-i-g-a-r".

With cigarette consumption, it really is all about smoking - thus I use the term cigarette smokers.   The primary activity involved with having a cigarette is lighting it up and smoking it.  Cigarette smokers will often have to "rush outside" to grab a "quick smoke" or to satisfy a "nicotine fit".     They often gravitate to the same brand of cigarettes.   Occasionally this may be a social activity, but I would say that is more of an exception than a regular occurrence.

With cigar consumption, smoking is an activity - and an important one.  However, it really is only one component of the full cigar experience.   It goes back to the Cigar Coop motto, The Smoke, the Craft, and the People - thus comprising what a cigar enthusiast is all about.    Cigar enthusiasts don't rush out for a smoke - sometimes they might get anxious, but usually the enthusiast wants to savor the moment to enjoy a cigar.  They often will mix up what cigars they smoke - usually not smoking two sticks in a row.  In fact, some daily cigar enthusiasts won't smoke the same stick over a week's period of time.   Much like wine tasting, cigar enthusiasts are often very interested in the flavors and complexity produced by the cigar.

Many cigar enthusiasts do have an interest in the blend of the tobacco, the origins of the tobacco, the shape, the growing and production aspects of the cigar - thus "the Craft".   Finally, cigar enthusiasts often love to have a cigar in the fellowship of other people.  They enjoy not the just interactions with each other, but the interactions with the retailer, and the manufacturer - thus "the People".

Net-net - its not Cigar Smoker, its Cigar Enthusiast.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Opinion Page: Pushing Back on Smoking Areas from the Cigar Enthusiast Point of View

Recently, I attended one of those "timeshare" tours where I was given a very hard push of a sales pitch to invest in a timeshare vacation property.   The end result was that someone was looking at trying to pry $35,000.00 of my hard earned money for the right to enjoy a vacation at one of the chain's many properties worldwide.   The idea of vacation ownership was intriguing as the facilities were top notch.   However, things went downhill quickly after a series of questions were asked.

Me: Are there any smoking rooms?
Agent:  All of our rooms are smoke-free
Thinking to Myself:  Ok, not good, but do a really want a cigar in my room?

Me: Can you smoke on the balconies?
Agent:  I think so, I'm not sure
Thinking to Myself: Not good either - especially if I cannot enjoy a cigar on the balcony.  Shouldn't the agent know this?

Me: How about a smoking area by the pool?
Agent: The entire area by the pool is non-smoking
Me: That is not good, that would be a deal-breaker
Agent: Don't worry, there is a smoking area away from the pool area (Agent points to a small area with a couple of upright ashtrays with no seating, no canopy, and of course no pool).

The net result was I passed on the timeshare property.   While I knew you couldn't smoke in the rooms, the question mark about the balcony was disturbing.   The idea of not having a smoking area by the pool was completely unacceptable.  Ok, I don't like the idea of a segregated smoking area, but I could live with it.  The fact that I could not enjoy a cigar by the pool was my breaking point for what I was willing to put up with.

The property agent was really pushing back on me with the pool situation.  When I informed the agent that I was unhappy with no area to enjoy a cigar by the pool, the agent really tried to sell an the idea of the smoking area away from the pool area.   He explained to me that lots of cigarette smokers make use of it.   I tried to explain that cigar smoking is very different than a cigarette smoker.  A cigarette smoker can get away with a small area and no seating.   A cigar enthusiast is not looking for a quick smoke.   The cigar enthusiast is looking to relax with a cigar - smoke one for 1 to 2 hours, and enjoy some of the fellowship of other cigar enthusiasts.   As much as I explained this to the agent, the agent just didn't get it.  The agent seemed more to subscribe to the cigarette smoking model as opposed to the cigar enthusiasm model.

This got me thinking about the area that was proposed to be to enjoy my cigar in.   The idea of a small area with no seating was not acceptable under ANY circumstances for a cigar enthusiasm - namely because it was just impossible to relax with a cigar.    Suppose it rained in the area?   Well suddenly I would be out of luck to enjoy a cigar because that particular area was uncovered.   If this area was in a cold weather region, would there be heaters so I can stay warm?   Just think of how many outdoor smoking areas lack heating for the winter months.

It's time for Cigar Enthusiasts to unite.  It's time to demand proper smoking facilities from places we do business with.  This means seating, covering (or indoors), and heat.    If we are not going to have the proper facilities, then let's find businesses who WILL be willing to do this.   Nothing wrong with pushing back somewhat on our employers with their facilities now.  If we don't make our voices known now, we won't only gain these rights, but we run a severe risk of losing more rights.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cigar Pre-Review: Felipe Gregorio W20

One reason why I have opted for a "Pre-Review" as opposed to a full review is because there are times I am missing information to do a detailed assessment.  My detailed assessments include I liked the cigar or not, but it also includes information about the blend and the vitolas available for the cigar.   The Felipe Gregorio W20 is one of those cigars that falls into that category.  This is a cigar that I received a few months ago and I had sitting in my humidor.  When I finally lit this cigar up, despite a crack in the wrapper - this provided a very positive experience for me.  I also figured by documenting my experiences on this cigar, I could generate some interest in this cigar.

I don't have a lot of information on the blend.  I do know the wrapper is Habana 2000 wrapper, but I don't have details of the origins of this.  I have heard there is ligero in the filler; but again did not find information in regards to the origins either, so I'm not going to venture to guess.

I have used the good ol' internet to find details about the vitolas available.   Casa Felipe Miami does have these cigars for sale and I was able to pull out some information here.

Magnum Marron: 6 x 62
555 Marron: 5 x 55
Superbo Marro: 7 x 60
Maxibusto Marron: 4.5 x 54

Being that I prefer I big ring gauge, I would have love to try the monster Magnum Marron or the long Superbo Marron, but the sample I got was the Maxibursto - a chubby Robusto.   Still I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth as I did receive this cigar as a sample.

While I mentioned, I did not have details of the blend, the other reason I did go with a Pre-Review is because of the crack I had in the wrapper.   However, the cigar was sitting long enough, so I decided to go and give it a try.

After putting a punch in the cap and toasting the foot, I was pleasantly surprised by the burn.  The cigar was holding its own despite the crack.  The cigar was generating quite a bit of smoke, but this could be because of the crack.   The flavors start off with some cedar-like sweetness.  Eventually I began to detect notes of pepper, nuts, and even cherry-like sweetness to complement the cedar.   The cigar was advertised to be be a full-bodied smoke.  From my point of view, it was definitely full strength (it definitely packs a punch), but from a body standpoint I'm still more inclined to put this on the upper end of that Medium to Full range.

As I mentioned, despite the crack, the burn was fine.  It required a couple of touch-ups, but overall it was low maintenance to keep a good burn.   No draw issues either as this was fine as well.

Given the punch of this cigar and the nice flavors, I would definitely not hesitate to reach for this cigar again.  I would not hesitate to give this to the seasoned full strength cigar enthusiast.  My goal is to find more information on this blend and follow-up in the near future.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cigar Review: Don Pepin Garcia Vegas Cubana

Not the best lighting - the Vegas Cubana
When the name Don Pepin Garcia is mentioned, two things often come to mind.  The first is "peppery" and the second is "Nicaraguan" tobacco.   I would say this is very accurate as this has become his signature for many of the cigars he is involved with blending.   So, when I started looking at his "Vegas Cubana" line, I was a bit curious as I had heard this cigar was on the milder side compared to most of the blends Pepin has been involved with.  The end result was a smooth smoke that is something that one who has a milder profile may enjoy.

The Vegas Cubana is not a new stick - it has been out for some time.   It is still branded under the "Don Pepin Garcia" family name.   I have had some rumors that the "Don Pepin Garcia" branded cigars might become re-packaged under the "My Father" umbrella, but I don't have any information other than some buzz and I don't know what sticks could be impacted by this or when/if this will occur.   The Vegas Cubana is an affordable cigar - falling into the magic $5.00 - $7.00 range.

As with this case with most Pepin cigars, the Vegas Cubana is Nicaraguan through and through.  Let's look closer at the blend:

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
Binder: Nicaraguan Criollo
Filler: Nicaraguan Criollo and Corojo

The cigar is available in six vitolas:
Corona 5.5" x 44
Delicias 7.0" x 50
Generosos 6.0" x 50
Imperiales (torpedo): 6.1" x 52
Invictos 5.0" x 50
Magnates 7.6" x 49

For this review, I opted to sample a the Invictos size - which is basically your classic Robusto.   For the cigar I based this review on, I opted to put a straight cut into the cap and then went for a traditional lighting of the foot of the cigar.

The cigar actually hits me with a traditional Pepin pepper blast and a touch of sweetness from the Corojo wrapper.  Given that this is a milder cigar, this is not going to overpower you in any way.   The pepper blast quickly subsides and eventually the dominant note is going to become a wood and toast.   There is going to be a touch of peppery/cedary spice mixed in with the wood as well.   I did not find this to be a very complex cigar, but I did find it to be a smooth one.   The wood, toast and spice flavors will be the dominant notes throughout the majority of the smoke.   I've read some reviews where people have seen the spice become more dominant, but I did not find this the case each time I smoked this cigar.   The burn is good and the draw is excellent.   I got a wonderful cool and firm finish to the smoke.

In the areas of strength and body, this is definitely in the mild to medium range.   You aren't going to get a lot of nicotine out of this one, and the flavor notes are more subtle.   As I did mention, this particular smoke does smoke very smooth.

From a quality standpoint, this cigar is constructed very well.  I've read about some burn problems, but with the Vegas Cubana, I have not had this happen.   The draw is excellent on this cigar - it is not going to take a major effort to work this cigar.   Given the mild to medium profile and the excellent draw, I found this to make the perfect morning smoke.

If there is one area this cigar does fall short, it is in complexity.  I've come to expect more body and more flavor variations from a Pepin cigar.   I'd also give this to a newbie cigar enthusiast as a good way to introduce some of the "classic Pepin profile" to that person.   For more seasoned, cigar enthusiasts, I'd recommend this either as a morning smoke, a smoke for one that is in the mood for something milder, or for someone prefers things on the milder side.
Burn: Good
Draw: Excellent
Strength: Mild to Medium
Body: Mild to Medium
Assessment: See What You Think

Cigar Pre-Review: Fonseca Especial

The name Manuel Quesada is well-known to the cigar community. And when you've met him, you know about the passion that he brings to the table.  In the past couple of years, Quesada has been associated with the highly successful Quesada and Casa Magna brands, but it was the Fonseca line where Quesada had his start.    Today, I explore a 2010 addition to the Fonseca line - this one is called the "Fonseca Especial".  This is a pretty powerful cigar that was the brainchild of Quesada. Since I've only smoked one of these, I've opted to Pre-Review this.

This cigar might prompt a little confusion with a limited edition cigar called the "2003 Fonseca Reserva Especial" that was released a few years ago.   The "Fonseca Especial" has different banding and a different blend.   I'm not sure how long the run of these cigars will be.   I can say that these have been released in limited quantities and it has not been a cigar that has been very easy to find.

Let's examine the construction of this cigar.  It has a most interesting blend of tobacco:

Wrapper: 1998 Honduran Criollo
Binder: 1998 Dominican Criollo
Filler: Dominican Ligero

This cigar is currently only available in one vitola - a 6 x 54 Toro.

For this initial smoke, I opted to punch the cap of the beautiful oily Honduran Criollo wrapper.   There is a good part to this smoke and a bad part to this smoke.   On the positive end are the flavors and complexity.   This cigar produced as good a flavor profile as I've seen from any Quesada smoke.   There is a terrific sweetness at the start of this smoke.  In fact, it almost has a coke-syrup like flavor to it.   I also detected some coffee notes that balance the sweetness nicely.   About 10% into the smoke, the syrup taste fades (but doesn't disappear), and a leather/coffee combination emerges with a hint of cedar.  Around 20%, there was an introduction of some cinnamon and wood notes as well.   As the smoke progresses to the halfway mark, the sweetness does re-emerge from time to time, and at other times the leather/coffee/wood notes will be more dominant.    It is around the halfway point, where I really saw a cedar spice kick in.   The spice combined with wood notes will be a part of the second half of the smoke.  This smoke is definitely a full bodied/full strength smoke.

On the negative side, I did have burn issues with this cigar.   I constantly was having to touch up this cigar.  During the second half, the burn issues were more pronounced and this led to some chiseling and tunneling of the smoke.   The end result was a very harsh finish to the cigar.   In the end, what started out as a promising smoke did not finish as I would have liked.

Overall, I'm inclined to think this might be an isolated incident with the burn issue.  The cigar was pretty promising at the beginning and had excellent flavors.   I'm hopeful to try another few of these and then be able to make an assessment.  In the meantime, I'll let this  pre-review document my thoughts on this cigar.  I'm curious to see what other folks think.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Camacho Fire (Dated News)

This is some dated news that was reported in Cigar Aficionado, but still noteworthy to mention.

A fire occurred this past December 23rd at the Camacho Cigars' warehouse in Danlí, Honduras.   While nobody was hurt in the fire, it did destroy quite a bit of Connecticut-seed Ecuadorian tobacco.   This tobacco is used to as wrappers for several well known-lines.  The lines impacted are: Baccarat, Camacho Connecticut, and El LegendArio Connecticut.

According to Camacho Cigars' head Christian Eiroa, there will not be an interruption in production.   I've posted a link to the Cigar Aficionado article here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

State of Cigar Rights Post by Cigar Rights of America

The following is an article published by Cigar Rights of America Executive Director Glynn Loope.  It documents the "State of Cigar Rights" currently in the United States.   The article references battles against the Pleasure Police on taxation and smoking rights.   This should be required reading by any Tobacco Enthusiast.

Click here for the Article.

As Mr. Loope mentions, this is already a busy year in the area of cigar and tobacco rights.  A few of my comments:

1.The potential battles of statewide smoking bans in Indiana, Kentucky, and Texas are huge.   These require close watching by Tobacco Enthusiasts as we cannot afford to lose battles in these states.  At the same time, we must hold the Governors of Kansas and Wisconsin accountable on their campaign promises to ease up on such restrictions.

2.The battles at the local level are taking place in many areas of the country.  These battles need support at the grass-roots level as they could make things more difficult to enjoy a tobacco product.  The term "Outdoor Smoking Ban" is a scary prospect for many of us - and it is becoming more common and real every day..   We all know much of the "dangers of second hand smoke" are clear myths - these dangers for all practical purposes have been manipulating and fabricated.

3.We cannot afford to take our eye off the taxation issues.  This is putting the entire cigar and tobacco industry at risk.   I'm already hearing from some New York retailers who wonder if they can continue to be in this industry for 2011.  Yes, we can all get cigars online cheaper at times;  but without helping to keep the lights on with the local retailers, this industry could end up in grave danger

4.The Pleasure Police are well-funded.   This is why the CRA really needs your help.  Sign up if you haven't already.  These guys are working hard to fight for our rights.

5.It is important to hold every politician accountable for smoking ban and taxation issues.   I encourage you, if they are voting for these measures against tobacco enthusiasts to show them the door at the voting booth at the next election.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011 Preview: Master by Carlos Toraño BFC (New Vitola)

Last year was a terrific year for the Toraño Family Cigar Company.  Not only did Toraño to take back control of its own distribution, but they also released three new cigars in 2010.   The one cigar that most excited me was the Master by Carlos Toraño.   This cigar rated #17 on my Top 30 Cigars of 2010 - an outstanding rating considering how competitive 2010 was with new releases.   Today, I saw some information on the Toraño Facebook page that a new vitola is about to be released - this vitola is called the BFC.

The most exciting thing to me about this Vitola - it will be a 6 x 60.  For those that know me or follow me here, they know that this is my "go to" size for a cigar.  Given how great this cigar was, I'm even more pumped to give this new vitola a whirl.

Side note - If you haven't tried the Master, I'd encourage you to do so - you won't be disappointed.

Click here to see a picture of the this stick posted on Toraño twitter.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cigar Review: El Primer Mundo Connecticut Shade

El Primer Mundo Connecticut
A few months ago, I was blown away by AJ Fernandez's San Lotano Connecticut cigar.  I ended up ranking this cigar #8 for 2010.   This cigar proved to me that a Connecticut Shade wrapper can be something special.  I've now found a second cigar to join this club - the El Primer Mundo Connecticut Shade.   If you are looking for a smoke that is not too heavy, yet packed with flavor - this cigar is for you.

El Primer  Mundo is a company based out of Atlanta, Georgia by Sean Williams.  To blend his cigars, Williams is working with the legendary Nestor Plasencia and his family -getting the tobacco from the Plasencia farms and using the Plasencia family to hand-roll the cigars.

There are three cigars that comprise the core El Primer Mundo line.  The focus of this review will be on the Connecticut Shade:
1.El Primer Mundo Connecticut Shade
2.El Primer Mundo Habano Criollo Maduro
3.El Primer Mundo Rosado Oscuro

Let's take a closer a look at the blend (I had to research this a bit, but believe I got this accurate)
Wrapper: Connecticut Shade (Nicaraguan)
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan ,Honduran, Peruvian

The cigar is available in two box-press vitolas:
Robusto: 5 x 50
Toro: 6 x 52

For the purposes of this review, I will focus on the Robusto.  For this smoke, I punched a hole into the cap and then gave the foot a nice toast with the lighter.

One thing that I loved with the San Lotano Connecticut is how it gave me flavors right at the start - and the great news is that the same can be said for the El Primer Mundo Connecticut Shade.  Immediately, I started getting notes of cinnamon and wood.   The cigar definitely had a mild start, but that was not unexpected.  The cinnamon notes are not overpowering, but very smooth.   About 1/3 of the way through the smoke, a sweetness begins to emerges from the cinnamon.   The sweetness has notes of cherry - again not overpowering.  I also detected some of the cream that were advertised with this cigar - again very smooth.    At the halfway point, a wonderful cedar spice layers over the sweet notes.   This spice stays with the cigar for the duration.    The finish to this cigar has a nice kick - something that is always enjoyable to me with a Connecticut shade cigar.  The finish to the stick was a little soft, but it was cool (and not hot).

Smoothness is a key characteristic of this cigar - and combined with the wonderful flavors it makes for a very pleasant cigar experience.   The strength of this cigar isn't going to overpower you as I would definitely categorize this a Mild to Medium for the majority of this smoke (mild at the very beginning, medium at the very end).  The body of this cigar is actually closer to the medium range as the flavor notes are very pronounced.   The burn was flawless throughout this smoke - burned like a champ the whole way through.  The draw was good too.

An Indie (boutique) cigar needs to bring something special to the table.  Clearly, Sean Williams and his brand have succeeded with doing this with the El Primer Mundo Connecticut Shade.   I'm hoping to see this cigar in more retail stores in 2011.

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Good
Strength: Mild to Medium
Body: Medium
Assessment: Memorable

Yellow Alert Update: Opinion Page: IPCPR Urges Courtesy, Not Ban for Raleigh Outdoor Smoking Ban Proposal

Some more commentary - short and simple on the Raleigh NC Outdoor Smoking Ban Proposal.  How about going back to fundamentals and using good old common courtesy?

The IPCPR issued an article on this.   This might seem obvious to many, but at the same time it can be effective.  I can't speak for cigarette smokers, but from my personal point of view, most Cigar Enthusiasts already execute common courtesy every single day.   I guarantee the percentage of Cigar Enthusiasts that have been asked to move or put out a tobacco product is less than 1 percent .  Perhaps some extra guidance or signage as opposed to "regulation" could even reduce that percentage more. 

So here is a great example of saying "NO" to more government regulation and intrusion.   I encourage everyone to read the article issues by the IPCPR by clicking here.

Side note: For those who think this is a great thing, I ask you - what are you doing to reduce the hazards of exhuast smoke from vehicles?  I guarantee that is much more of a health hazard than second-hand smoke from a tobacco product.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Yellow Alert Update: Raleigh Council Delays Outdoor Smoking Ban Vote

An update on the Raleigh Outdoor Smoking Ban....

The Raleigh City Council voted 6 to 2 to develop delay the vote on the Outdoor Smoking Ban until a ordinance is developed.   Although the ban has delayed, this is not great news for tobacco enthusiasts - namely that an ordinance is being drafted.  Yet buying some time has some positives.

According to the article below, the ordinance would be geared at smoking and "not other tobacco products" (I assume chewing tobacco).   The ordinance would allow smoking  in parking lots at city parks and venues and anywhere in Nash Square and Moore Square downtown.

As reported yesterday, Councilman John Odom did vote against the proposal.

Any restrictive ordinance is bad news for tobacco enthusiasts - whether in Raleigh or not.  It's important that tobacco enthusiasts nationwide make their voice heard here.  I've been told that a petition will be issued by the Cigar Rights of America.  Stay tuned to Cigar Coop for more details.

Click here to read the update.

Side note: 6 to 2 vote....that implies 75% support for this.  I'd love to see a straw poll done in Raleigh and see who thinks this is a good idea.   I guarantee its a lot less than 75%.  Hey they rammed Obamacare down our throats, why should this be any different?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Yellow Alert: Pleasure Police Seek Outdoor Smoking Ban Proposal for Raleigh NC

As I mentioned previously, we need to keep a very close eye on the Outdoor Smoking Ban proposal going on in New York City.  The fear I have is if this is passed, many other municipalities will follow suit.  In fact, this has already been happening in several plans - like Asheville, NC and Great Neck, NY.   But at the same point, we must keep a close eye on some of the larger markets and right now a battle is brewing in Raleigh NC about a proposed outdoor smoking ban.

The article below outlines things well.  One thing it mentions is that when North Carolina passed the statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants, it gave a green light for local municipalities to override this and make it more restrictive.  This is an example of what Asheville already did and what Raleigh's Outdoor proposal is doing.

The good news is, I've seen some facebook posts from Cigar Rights of America Executive Director, Glynn Loope.  Last week Loope posted, the Raleigh City Council is "slowing down" on this vote to analyze this further and mentioned that Councilman John Odom said he would vote against it.  However, Armageddon is Tuesday 1/18 so not sure why this did move quickly.   My feeling is that there will bea battle, but fear a compromise could still hurt tobacco enthusiasts.

Classic case - give an inch to the Pleasure Police and they come back demanding more.   Case in point, smoking ban passed in bars and restaurants and now they want outdoor bans....

I must share an additional story about the city of Raleigh and my personal experience.  About 3 months ago, I walked into Sullivan's Steakhouse in Raleigh to meet a friend for drinks.   In the restaurant they had a small humidor with cigars in it.   I inquired about getting a couple of cigars.   I then asked, "where was the area to smoke them?"   The reply given back was that "there is no area inside or outside to smoke them".   At that point, I declined the purchase of the cigars.   The manager was on duty at the time and told me, "it's not his fault as that's the law".  I proceeded to tell him that he needs to put pressure on his local politicians to get some of this nonsense overturned if he wishes for someone like me to want to purchase a cigar.  I for one am not going to buy a cigar that I cannot enjoy in the establishment.

Anyway - just my two cents.   Check out the Outdoor Smoking Ban Proposal in Raleigh by clicking here.

Fight for your rights and stop this nonsense!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Night of Cigar-ebrities - Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and Jeff Borysiewicz

Cigar Coop (L), Ernesto Perez-Carrillo (C), Lissette Perez-Carrillo (R)
Jeff Borysiewicz (L), Cigar Coop (R)
The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind to say the least.   Tonight I attended the E.P. Carrillo Cigars event at Corona Cigar Company in downtown Orlando.  It was an evening where I got to meet and talk to two true cigar-ebrities and heroes of mine: Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, the legendary cigar-maker; and Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of Corona Cigar Company.

Ernesto is famous for creating one of the great brands in the cigar business - La Gloria Cubana.   As many know, after General Cigars acquired La Gloria Cubana, Ernesto stayed on for a while before launching his own family business - E.P. Carrillo Cigars.   The quality of the sticks are there - his Short Run was my #15 Cigar for 2010, (a great ranking for a year that I consider an all-time year for cigars) and his E.P. Carrillo Elencos Edición Limitada 2010 ranked #8 on Cigar Aficionado's 2010 list. I had a great conversation with Ernesto on cigars in general.  I also got to meet Ernesto's daughter Lissette - who also knows the business very well.

Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of Corona Cigar Company is a guy who I have always wanted to meet.  I had visited his Sand Lake drive store several timea, but this was my first visit to downtown - and the first time I got to meet Jeff.  Not only does Jeff have an outstanding franchise, but he is one of the true champions of Cigar Rights.  If you are a Cigar Enthusiast, you need to thank Jeff for the hard work he has done to protect our rights.   On a busy night, I was very appreciative that Jeff took time to talk to me - and even found out he's read a couple of things on Cigar Coop!   Jeff knows this industry and he understands tobacco legislation.  He's one of the hardest working guys in the business.

Ernesto Perez Carrillo and Jeff Borysiewicz

The conversations were great - and of course, so were the sticks.  Perhaps the most special moment is when Ernesto said to me, "I have something for you...."    I couldn't imagine what it was.   He comes back to me and hands me the "soon to be released E.P. Carrillo Maduro".   I was blown away!!!  Thanks guys!!!!

E.P. Carrillo Maduro - coming soon!

Got this message this morning on Twitter from Ernesto.   This was a nice surprise as the only thing I put out was a link to this post.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Larry Amoruso

Larry Amoruso of Florios
It is with great sadness that I have learned that Larry Amoruso, owner of New York's Florio's Restaurant and Three Little Indians Cigars has passed away.

I learned this information from a friend a little while ago and was able to confirm this on Florio's Hollywood (Florida) Facebook page that Larry had indeed passed away.

For those who don't know, Larry owned Florio's Restaurant and Three Little Indians Cigars.  He was the owner of my Cigar Club when I was located in the New York area.   Located at Mulberry and Grand in the heart of Little Italy, this place epitomized what Little Italy was all about.

Larry had a passion for life as great as anyone.  His love of country was second to none.   When military people would visit his place, Larry would roll out the red carpet and treat them like gold.  The cigar lounge upstairs from Florios was decorated with lots of military paraphernalia.

Larry also did battle against the Pleasure Police.   He was a huge defender for the right to enjoy a cigar.  Many times he went toe to toe with the City of New York to fight for these rights.   Watching him in action was always a joy.  

I started going to Florios back in 2006 with a friend of mine who was a cigar enthusiast.  We eventually became members of the cigar lounge upstairs.   I originally joined the club just enjoying the cigar scene, but actually would never smoke a cigar.    Eventually, I became hooked.   Larry always treated me first class.   In fact, many times when I couldn't get back to my office, he would open the club, let me connect to his wireless, and I would work up in the club - several hours before it actually opened.   Larry got me started with cigars - the Florios barber-pole is still one of my favorites.  Even after I relocated to North Carolina,  Larry always welcomed me back in and continued to allow me use of the club.

If you remember the "Welcome Back Kotter" lyrics - "we tease him a lot, because we got him on the spot" - that was Larry!

I cannot begin to express the sadness that I feel right now.   I want to think of a longer term tribute to Larry in the upcoming weeks on Cigar Coop.  My prayers and thoughts are with his family right now.

Nice Article on Florios.

Update (4/11/11): Click here for my longer tribute - my return to Florios.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bill Paley of La Palina Cigars on Fox News

Cigar Coop with Bill Paley (L) and Glynn Loope (C)
Readers of Cigar Coop have heard me rave about La Palina Cigars.  I rated two of his sticks in the Top 10 - including one at Number 5 and one at Number 7.  Today Bill Paley was a guest on Fox News and did a terrific interview.  I met Bill back in October in Roanoke.  I was touched by his story, his brand, and him as a person.

The story behind La Palina is terrific.  A nice little tidbit revealed is that Bill is looking at a lower priced stick to add to the line.   The interview is terrific and Bill gives some great insights on Fox about business as well.  Bill discusses his commitment to supporting the Cigar retailers as well.   Finally,  it also was nice to see the media not "Anti-Smoking".   Way to go Fox News!!!

I believe in Bill Paley and his brand.  I wish him nothing but the best as he continues to grow his line.

Enjoy this interview - please click here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cigar Review: Macanudo Vintage 1997 Maduro

The Macanudo brand has been well-known among cigar enthusiasts and cigar novices for some time.  Macanudo's reputation has basically been built on cigars known to be on the milder side.   About two years ago, Macanudo sought to change that image by introducing the full-bodied Macanudo 1968. - a very good cigar.   This year, Macanudo continued the trend toward moving away from milder cigars with the introduction of the medium-bodied Macanudo Cru-Royale and the medium to full-bodied Macanudo Vintage 1997 Maduro.  I'm pleased to report that Macanudo has continued their trend of being able to successfully penetrate into the area of cigars outside the mild spectrum.  I was so pleased with the 1997, I ranked it as my #24 cigar for 2010.

The cigar contains a beautiful oily Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper that has been aged for thirteen years.  For a limited time, there is an extra bonus - a metal band as opposed to a paper band. The band contains the words "Reserva Dorado 2010" on it.   There is also a second paper band toward the foot of the cigar.  The plan is for a paper band to also replace the metal band in 2011.  The cigars are sold in boxes of 12.

The Limited Metal Band

Here is a closer look at the blend:

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro (13 years old)
Binder: Honduran
Filler: Brazilian Mata Fina, Nicaraguan Ligero and a combination two types of Piloto Cubano long filler tobacco from the Dominican Republic

The cigar is available in two vitolas:

Perfecto: 6 x 49
Toro: 6 x 54

For the purposes of this review, I smoked the Perfecto.   Therefore, I put a straight cut into the cap, toasted the foot of the perfecto (after removing the second band from the foot), and began the smoking experience.   For as beautiful the metal band is, you are going to need to remove it.  The metal band is quite weighty and it will make for an awkward feeling as you smoke the stick.

The initial flavor notes are going to have a tone of roasted coffee - kind of reminds me of percolated Chock Full o' Nuts coffee on the streets of New York.   Eventually some sweet notes are going to layer on top of the coffee - namely a combination of black cherry and raisin.  This makes for some nice Maduro sweetness. These sweet notes will eventually become more dominant than the coffee notes.

The cigar was advertised as having spicy fillers, but I really didn't get any spice until about halfway through the smoke, where I got a hint of black pepper over the sweet and coffee flavors.   At the same time, there also were some wood notes that emerged.   The pepper notes won't last very long as they will fade toward the background along with the Maduro sweetness.   The wood notes and the coffee eventually are the flavors that bring this cigar to a finish.  The cigar finished with a cool, but soft finish (I kind of expect this with a Perfecto).

Overall, I'd categorize this as the high end of the medium strength category (a notch just below that Medium to Full range) and a Medium to Full in terms of body.  The draw and burn were good on this cigar.  The burn particularly got better as these cigars have aged.

These cigars come in slightly above the value-priced range at $8.00 to $10.00.  Considering this is a good smoke and the metal band is limited, I can live with this price considering what this cigar brings to the table.  The Macanudo Vintage 1997 Maduro was an enjoyable cigar.  I've given this to some people that like full-bodied, full-strength cigars and they appreciated what this particular Maduro brought to the table. In fact, some folks told me while the metal band was nice, they would also enjoy this cigar with a paper band.  I would concur with that assumption.

Burn: Good
Draw: Good
Strength: Medium (High end)
Body: Medium to Full
Assessment: Nice to Have

Monday, January 10, 2011

Event Recap: Matt Booth in Charlotte at Outland Cigars

Cigar Coop and Matt Booth
Matt Booth took Charlotte by storm as he was the guest of honor at a Room 101 Cigars event hosted by Outland Cigars.

Matt had been scheduled to fly to Charlotte for this event back in December.   Due to a family emergency, Matt had to fly back to the West Coast the right before the event at Outland Cigars.  One thing that I learned was that when this occurred, Matt personally called the management team at Outland Cigars to tell them.  He did not go through a cigar rep or third party.   Matt committed to reschedule a visit as quickly as possible.   Matt's personal handling of this situation and his honoring of this commitment show what type of man he is.

My first encounter with Matt was back in New Orleans at the 2010 IPCPR.  If you need another testimony what a great guy Matt is, please check out this link.

The Room 101 brand was founded by Matt Booth who gained fame for making jewelry, accessories, and clothing for the Hollywood scene.  Booth soon extended his "lifestyle" to include a line of premium cigars.   It is Camacho who blends his cigars for him.  The idea was to have a cigar line to reflect the Hollywood scene that the Room 101 had become known for.

For the past 18 months, Matt's Room 101 line really has been a buzz in the cigar business.   First with his core line and then with his Room 101 Limited Conjura.

The beautiful box-press of the Room 101 Limited Conjura
Of course the cigars were a staple of the event, but I think everyone in attendance was really touched by Matt's hospitality.   Outland Cigars has truly built a special club with its members and customers in Charlotte and Matt's warmth was almost a natural fit.

Now from a personal standpoint, I was blown away again by Matt.  One surprise I had when he arrived is as soon as he walked into the club, he asked "Where's Coop?"   Man! I was honored and humbled.   I got to learn that Matt had read the post I wrote about him from our meeting at IPCPR (and I imagine an additional post or two in Cigar Coop).   I got to hang with Matt a bit after the event and what you see is what you get - the guy is as real and genuine as they come.  It reflects how special the cigar industry is.

Matt's a fan of Cigar Coop ....
Personally, I was also impressed with Matt's knowledge and depth of the cigar industry.   While some may think of him as the "jewelry guy", I can tell you this is not the case.  He really knows this stuff.   We all are excited to see what's next for Room 101 Cigars.  I think the folks at Outland are anxiously awaiting another visit by Matt to the Queen City in the near future.

One thing I also did was present Matt with an Alec Bradley New York cigar.   New York is my hometown and this is a cigar that is being done to help the cigar retailers back there.  I wanted Matt to have something from my hometown and what better idea than this cigar.  Not only was Matt appreciative, but smoked and enjoyed the cigar.  He commented that this was a great thing that Alan Rubin and the folks at Alec Bradley were doing.  It's great to see this mutual respect among the different manufacturers.  It is what sets the cigar industry apart from any other

The Alec Bradley New York - I gave Matt one of these

Finally, Matt put this on Twitter as he was leaving Charlotte.  Again, I should be the one thanking Matt - awesome dude!

Link to Interview with Jon Huber formerly of CAO

Back in December, the cigar industry was rocked when one of its icons, Jon Huber announced he was leaving the CAO brand.  Huber was the Director of Lifestyle Marketing and had a lot to do with the "edge" that CAO brought to the table in their products.

I just saw a link to an interview done on About.Com with Huber.  It's a brief interview, but in it he reflects on his time at CAO, mentions his reasons for not continuing with General Cigars, and a tiny glimpse into the future.

Click here to read the full interview.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cigar Review: Ortez y Turrent Dos Familias

Back in May, I attended a Cigar Dave event in Charlotte and got to sample the world premiere of the A. Turrent Triple Play.   The Triple Play was a Triple Maduro that was created by Alejandro Turrent.  I was very pleased with this cigar and in the end I ended up selecting this as the #20 Cigar for 2010.   At that event, I learned that Turrent was in the process of also collaborating with Omar Ortez on a cigar.  I've also been a fan of Ortez's work and selected his Warlock as an honorable mention for 2010.  Therefore, upon hearing about the Ortez/Turrent collaboration, I was pretty excited to try the "Ortez y Turrent Dos Familias".    I recently have been sampling this cigar, but unfortunately I cannot be as positive on the Dos Familias as I would have liked.    This cigar was a major disappointment for me.

First let's take a look at the blend of this cigar:

Wrapper: San Andres (Mexico) Criollo
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua, San Andres Negra

The cigar is also available in several vitolas:
Churchill: 56 x 7
Toro: 56 x 6
Belicoso: 52 x 6 1/8
Robusto: 52 x 5 1/4
Corona: 44 x 5 1/4

For this particular review, I opted to smoke the Churchill.  Now as a disclaimer, while I was excited about the collaboration, I'm not the biggest fan of the Criollo wrapper.  However I did go into this cigar experience with an open mind.  I also will say that I have an open mind when it comes to Mexican Tobacco.  I love the Mexican tobacco in the Triple Play and recently reviewed the Gran Habano Azteca - a stick that has a heavy dose of Mexican Tobacco.

Starting out with the smoke, I was treated to a very short quick blast of salt.  Normally I find this with all Nicaraguan sticks, so I was a little surprised with that.  The salt blast is quick and the cigar goes right into a very earthy, woody taste.  I normally am fine with earth and wood flavor notes, but these just did not set me on fire.   As I progressed with the smoke - particularly through the first third, I was waiting for something exciting to happen.   Around the 1/3 point, I did get some pepper spice - nothing overhelming.   The pepper spice would increase somewhat, but it never really grabbed hold of me.   Toward the final part of the cigar, it got pretty harsh.   I did smoke this for two hours, so a long smoke can lead to some harshness.   This could have been the case with this.

The cigar finished cool, but was soft.   I usually prefer a firmer finish - but again this could be from the length of the smoke.   Overall, it was a good burn and good draw - it needed several touch-ups, but these were minor in nature.  From a strength and body profile, I categorize this as medium in terms of both. 

In the end, I end up assessing this as a "Pass".  This cigar while a "value priced" cigar in the $5.00 - $7.00 range, just never did anything for me.  With there so many good "value priced" cigars out there, this just wasn't one I would reach to.  I'm still a fan of Ortez and Turrent, and would love to see them take another crack at things.   Right now, this stick isn't for me.

Updated (1/17/11): Other Cigar of the Year Choices: What the Rest of the World is Thinking

As I approach the announcement of 2010 Cigar of the Year and runner-up, I thought it would be interesting to see what other people are listing as their top cigars.  Everyone had different criteria.  While some people included Cubans, I opted not to since they are not generally available.

The amazing thing is how different each of these lists are.   I'll try to put some more up as I find them.  While not of these lists are wrong, we all know the Cigar Coop Top 30 is the most accurate :-)   Seriously, it is how all of our lists differ that make this stuff so much fun.

Cigar Coop - Top 30 Cigars of 2010 with #1 named as the Avo LE 10.

Tom's Cigars - Lists Top 5 and names Quesada Tributo #1 stick

Cigar Feed - Lists Top 8 and names Tatuaje Pork Tenderloin #1 stick

A Cigar Smoker's Journal - Has a fan picked Top 10 and names La Aurora 107 #1 stick and their Top 15 for 2010 naming the My Father Limited Edition 2010 #1

Classic Cigar - Lists Top 10 and names Punch Churchill #1 stick

Tiki Bar Online - Two Lists:  Lists 7 Cigars in no particular order as new cigar picks for 2010, and a Top Ten in two parts: Picks 4-10 and Picks 1-3 naming Guillermo Leon Signature as the #1 stick

Toasted Foot - Has a Top 10 list and distinguishes that from a Top 5 New Release List;  the Tatuaje El Truinfador is named the #1 stick.

Casa Fumando - Has a  Top 10 list and names the recently released La Sirena as the #1 stick

Cigar Nut - Also Top 10 list and names Cohiba Robusto the #1 stick

AskMen.com - Has a "slideshow" like Top 10 and names Cohiba Sublime the #1 stick

Havacigar - Lists Top 10 and names Davidoff Puro d'Oro #1 stick

Scott Smyth's World of CigarsLists a Top 10 and has a Three-Way Tie for #1.

Fire Up That Cigar - Lists Top 25 and names Tatuaje Reserva J21 as the #1 stick.

Mike's Stogies - Lists Top 10 and names Illusione Eperney as the #1 stick.

LasVegASH.tv - Lists five sticks in no particular order as Best New Cigars of 2010  and a Top 20 smoke list for 2010.

CigarFan.net - Lists Top 10 Sticks for 2010 and names Benji Menendez Partagas Master Series Majestuoso as the #1 stick.

Puffing Cigars - Lists a Top 10 in no particular order. 

Smoking Stogie - Lists Cigars 10 to 6 and separately lists 5 to 1 naming Liga Privada Dirty Rat as the #1 stick.

Nice Tight Ash - Might have had the most intriguing list, there is a Top 12 list and the #1 Cigar is the Viaje Satori!

Cigar Blog - Has a Top 10 list and names the Tatauje Face as its Top Cigar.

Top Ten Cigars - Has (of course) a Top Ten list and names the Padron 44th Anniversary as its top Cigar. 

Stogie Review - Has several lists:   Don has a list of Top 10 cigars and names Tatuaje Verocu #5 as the #1 cigar; Walt has a Top 10 and names Liga Privada T52 Flying Pig #1; Mike has an unordered list of 10 Cigars for 2010; Brian has a Top 10 list and names J.Fuego Reserva Corojo as the Top Cigar;

The World According to Stew - Has a Top 10 list and names Liga Privada #9 Robusto Oscuro as the #1 cigar.

The Good Life Diaries - Michael Herklots, General Manager of Davidoff of Geneva discusses 10 new cigars that had an impact hitting the shelves in 2010.

Cigar Review: Padilla Cazadores

Lately I've been exploring Ernesto Padilla's line and I have made some very good discoveries.   The Padilla Cazadores is the latest in the Padilla brand that I managed to try.   What I discovered was a pretty good stick at a real good price.

I consider a "value priced" stick in the $5.00-$7.00 range.   Pretty much, from what I've seen the Cazadores falls under $6.00 a stick.  Don't look at the price to judge this cigar. When I looked at the construction of this cigar, there were no corners cut.  This looks and smokes like a premium style cigar.

As always, let's take a closer look at the blend of the cigar:

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

The Cazadores is available in 5 vitolas:

Churchill: 7 x 48
Toro: 6 x 50
Robusto: 5 x 50
Toro Grande: 6 x 60
Torpedo: 6.25 x 52

For this review, I opted to sample the Toro size.   I opted to punch cut the beautiful cap, toast the foot and began the smoking experience.   The initial puffs gave me a taste of cedar.   However this wasn't a heavy cedar spice that I've found in a lot of cigars, but more of a natural cedar taste.   I found an interesting transition as I approached the 40% mark of the smoke - notes of black tea began to emerge.  The black tea notes become the dominant flavor tone over the cedar.    As the cigar approaches the second half, a spice emerges and eventually overtakes the tea notes.   This spice can best be described as a combination of baker's spice and cedar spice (now this is what I was expecting from the cedar notes up front).  The spice notes increase in the second half and give you a kick toward the end.   In fact toward the end, the spice even has some pepper notes.   The finish was wonderful - cool and firm.

I mentioned this cigar smoked very well for the price - this includes the draw and the burn.   As for the strength and body, I'd classify both in the medium range (although toward the end of the cigar, the body probably is medium to full).

One way to summarize the Cazadores is that this doesn't follow the typical flavor profile of a Nicaraguan cigar.  I found some unique flavors with this cigar.  While I'm not doing handstands over the black tea notes or the early natural cedar flavor - I did like how this cigar uniquely brought these notes to the table.   If you are looking for an "under the radar", change of pace and value priced cigar - the Padilla Cazadores is one to check.

Burn: Good
Draw: Excellent
Strength: Medium
Body: Medium (although medium to full at the end)
Assessment: Nice to Have

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cigar Review: La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Obelisco

If you have read Cigar Coop on a regular basis, you probably know that I feel General Cigars had a heck of a year - particularly the La Gloria Cubana brand.  In fact, on my Top 30 list, La Gloria Cubana placed 3 of the Top 16 cigars.  Thus far I have covered reviews on the La Gloria Cubana Serie N and the La Gloria Cubana Artensanos de Tabaqueros.   I thought given the great year that La Gloria Cubana had, it would only be suitable that I also give justice to the Artesanos de Obelisco - the third cigar released by LGC in 2010.

The Obelisco is actually the third (and from what I've heard final installment) of the Artesanos series (the other two being the Artesanos de Tabaqueros and the Artesanos de Miami).   The thing that makes the Obelisco unique is the vitola.   The concept behind this was to create a cigar shape to replicate the "Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration" located in Santiago, Dominican Republic.   The end result is a a uniquely shaped pyramid cigar.

The blend complements the shape of the cigar very nicely.   This is a pretty interesting permutation of tobacco:

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Dominican and Double Nicaraguan Ligero

The vitola is a 5 x44 x 57 - this is the only size available at the time of this review.

With the blend described above, I expected a level of complexity on this cigar and I clearly was not disappointed with what this cigar delivered.  The initial smoke produced notes of earth, wood, and roasted nuts.   A few minutes later, flavor notes of cedar spice and tang were added to the already existing.  As the cigar progressed to the second half, a unique sweetness emerged.   There also was a slight hint of cayenne pepper.    As the finish to the cigar comes, the sweetness and pepper levels off and I notice a return to the initial earth tones.

For such an unusual shape vitola, the burn on this cigar was very good (although I do get a little flowered ash from time to time).   The cigar basically never needs to be touched up.   The draw was a little tight and times - but basically it isn't too bad.  I'm wondering if some of it was me trying to get used to working this vitola.    A lot of ways, I consider this a lancero that smokes like a box press (chalk this up to the unusual shape)..   While I've read some folks had a warm/soft finish, this has not been the case for me - it has consistently been cool and firm giving me a terrific nub,   I chalk up the the quality of the burn to resulting in this great nub.   As for the strength, I would categorize this as medium to full and for body this is definitely full-bodied.

I ended up ranking this #16 for 2010.  Overall, in a highly competitive year for cigars, this is a very good ranking - and it probably outranked a lot of what was on Cigar Aficionado's Top 25 list.    Don't look at this cigar as a marketing ploy - despite the unusual shape, this is a very good cigar and one that I would recommend.

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Fair to Good
Strength: Medium to Full
Body: Full
Assessment: Nice to Have

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cigar Review: Viaje Oro Reserva VOR #5

January 4, 2011 will be a day Indie Cigar Maker Andre Farkas will never forget - it was the day his company Viaje Cigars was put on the map in the cigar world.   It was also the day Cigar Aficionado magazine named the Viaje Oro Reserva VOR #5 its #2 Cigar of the Year.   In reality since a Cuban cigar was named #1, this was the top cigar that is available to us living in the United States.   I must give credit to Outland Cigars in Charlotte, NC.  16 months ago, they had the vision to see what Farkas was doing with his line of cigars - and have brought this line of sticks into the store.   This has allowed me to have access to what still is a very hard brand to find.   The good news is that I was very satisfied with the Reserva VOR #5.   While I still think the Viaje Satori was a superior cigar in 2010 (it was my #3 Cigar of the Year), this cigar more than satisfied me.

A little about what Viaje Cigars is all about.  For many of their releases, Viaje has been employing a "micro batch" process for its cigar releases.  Namely, it is producing the majority of its boxes in small batches (i.e. under 500 boxes) for a release.   Such cigars that have been a part of this micro batch process are the Satori, Skull and Bones, the Holiday Blend, TNT, and the Summerfest.    At the same time Viaje has developed a core line of cigars that are (for the most part) not subject to the micro batch limitations.  This includes the Platino, 50/50, and Oro lines.

While the Oro line was introduced prior to 2010, it was in 2010 where the Oro line was tweaked with the introduction of the Reserva.   Let's take a look at the composition of the Reserva.

Wrapper: Nicaragua Corojo 99
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

The Reserva is slightly different in that the tobacco contains older leaf and ligero.   There is only one vitola available for the Reserva - 5.5 x 52 box-press.  The core Oro line contains a similar composition, but is not available in box-press and doesn't not contain the aged ligero.   The Reserva to some extent is intended to be limited in terms of production - plans on to roll this about twice a year (but not subject to the extremely limited micro batches).

After I put a punch into the cap and toasted the foot, I took my initial draws of this cigar.  I was treated to a salt blast that I often get with Nicaraguan cigars.   However, it didn't take long for sweet cocoa/coffee flavors with a hint of spice would emerge.   Around 20 percent into the cigar, I got a hint of black pepper.  The black pepper was subtle and did not over-power.    As the cigar progressed toward the mid-way point, the black pepper flavor would increase and become on-par with the cocoa sweetness in terms of body.   The finish to the cigar was a bit warm and soft - I would have preferred it to be cool and firm.

The cigar was very smooth - much smoother than the core Oro line.  It's body and strength are both definitely is in the medium to full range  The burn and draw were excellent on this.

Overall, I'm very pleased this cigar got a #2 from Cigar Aficionado.   It's great news for Viaje and I firmly expect more great things.  I do think this is a good cigar for the novice or seasoned smoker as well as the traditional or trendy cigar enthusiasts.   I will also say, if you like this cigar - you are going to love the Satori.

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Strength: Medium to Full
Body: Medium to Full
Assessment: Nice to Have

Opinion Page: Cigar Aficionado's #11-25

While most of the gripes I've had with Cigar Aficionado's Top 10 are still valid, there were some pleasant surprises in the remainder of the Top 25.  I was pleased there were at least two of my Top 30 sticks to be mentioned.

I didn't go and comment on every stick, just the ones that I felt were noteworthy.

Rank Cigar Comments
12 Carlos Toraño Exodus 1959 50 Years Box Press I've had this cigar. I believe the box-press vitola is new for this year, but this is a blend prior to 2010. My buddy Stace loves this stick and named (the non box-press) his Cigar of the Year.  I really liked it too, but also need to try the box-
14 A. Turrent Triple Play Belicoso New stick for 2010. I preferred the Gran Toro size.  Cyberworld did not give this cigar the respect it deserved. This ranked as my #20 cigar for 2010.
15 C.A.O. La Traviata Divino Prior release for 2009, but heard it missed the deadline last year. In my opinion the Interpedo (Churchill size) is the better vitola.  This cigar was my #2 Cigar for 2009.
16 My Father No. 2 Belicoso Not sure if this is a new vitola or not, I had the My Father ranked #12 for last year.
17 Brick House Robusto I did not like this cigar. It also is a 2009 release. Personally I cannot see how this made anyone's list.
18 Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial While Oliva is a staple of the Cigar Aficionado list, I'm not surprised this made the list, this is is a pretty good stick.
19 Rocky Patel 15th Anniversary Toro New stick for 2010. I agree with Cigar Aficionado on the vitola here. This was my #23 cigar for 2010.
24 Casa Magna Colorado Churchill How the mighty have fallen...two years ago the Robusto was #1. I wonder what has happened.  I still prefer the Oscuro that Manuel Quesada came up with.

A few other points as we summarize the Top 25 from Cigar Aficionado:

  1. What a year for Team La Gloria Cubana, yet they were shut out of the Top 25 list on Cigar Aficionado.  This was a shame.  These were 3 of my Top 16 cigars.
  2. The three sticks that I felt were on the bloggers Top 25 - La Aurora 107, Tatuaje Pork Tenderloin, and Liga Privada Dirty Rat were not included.  Although I did not rate the 107 or Pork Tenderloin (I didn't try the Pork Tenderloin, but was indifferent on the 107), a lot of folks liked these and they should have not be overlooked.
  3. Very disappointed La Palina did not rate on the list - they were two of my Top 7!