--> Cigar Coop: June 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cigar Review: Monte Pascoal

Monte Pascoal - Robusto (All Brazilian Puro)
I admit, when it comes to cigar blends, I tend to stick to what I am most familiar with - namely my Nicaraguan, Dominican, and Honduran blends (with some Ecuadorian wrappers thrown in as well).  However, recently I heard a discussion about how some soils of the Cuban farms have been depleted of much of the nutrients.  It got me thinking, if the same were to ever happen to the countries that are the staples of my cigar blends, it could have an impact on what I like to enjoy.   There are many secondary countries producing good tobaccos in the tried and true blends I enjoy such as:  Peru, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil.  I started to wonder how puro blends (meaning wrapper, binder, and filler all from same country) from these secondary countries would compare to my old staple puros.   As luck would have it, I was gifted an all Brazilian puro called the Monte Pascoal.   I had not ever tried a Brazilian puro, so here was my chance to answer the question.   I admit, I was a little skeptical, but this cigar turned out to be one of the revelation smokes I have enjoyed this past year.

The Monte Pascoal cigar is distributed by Tabacos Mata Fina.   The company itself is a business unit of a company called Orsi Family Group which is in the wine, steel, and real estate business.  It was established in 2007 with the mission to promote the Brazilian tobacco industry.  The cigars themselves are made in Crus sas Almas - Bahia, Brazil. Bahia is one of Brazil's 26 states and is located on the East Coast of Brazil.

Let's take a closer look at the Monte Pascoal Cigar:

Blend Profile

As mentioned this is an all-Brazilian puro, meaning wrapper, binder, and filler all come from Brazil.  Here is a breakfown of the specific tobaccos:

Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina
Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
Filler: Brazilian Mata Fina and Brazilian Mata Norte

Brazilian Mata Fina tobacco is well-known to many.  Mata Fina has been used as wrapper (ex. Gurkha Para La Gente, 7-20-4), Binder (Liga Privada No. 9, Liga Privada Dirty Rat), and Filler (Macanudo 1997 Vintage,  Macanudo Cru Royale, Joya de Nicaragua's My Uzi Weighs a Ton).  I admit I was not as familiar with Mata Norte tobacco.   From the Monte Pascoal web-site, they say this tobacco is what provided a more body to the smoke.

Vitolas Available

The Monte Pascoal blend is available in six vitolas:

Minutos: 4 3/8 x 42
Petit Robusto: 4 x 50
Robusto: 4 7/8 x 50
Corona: 5 5/8 x 42
Belicoso: 5 1/2 x 52
Double Corona: 7 5/8 x 49

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

I will preface this by saying I only smoked one sample and the Robusto was the one I sampled.  I opted to use a punch cut.   The pre-light draw wasn't overly exciting - I got notes of cedar and caramel.  I would not say these notes were very pronounced.   Once I lit this cigar, things soon began to change....

Flavor Profile

The initial flavor notes treated me to notes of leather with a little caramel.  I wouldn't categorize this initial caramel as overly sweet, but it made for an interesting start.   Shortly after, I detected some notes of coffee as well as a return of some of the cedar spice I had gotten on the pre-light draw.   This made for an interesting flavor profile early on.   As I got toward the end of the first third, I noticed the coffee notes began to transition to more of classic chocolate notes.  I also was able to sample the cedar spice through my nose.

As the cigar entered the second third, the chocolate notes moved to the forefront.  They chocolate began to get deeper and sweeter.  This was making for one smooth smoke.   The chocolate, cedar spice, leather, and caramel were the notes that would hold throughout the remainder of this smoke.   I got a nice nub on this cigar.  The nub was a soft, but it was not hot.  Best of all, the sweetness and smoothness of this smoke went right down to the nub.

Burn and Draw

This was a real surprise.   The burn on this cigar was as good as one I ever had.   The burn was near flawless for the whole smoke.  There were no significant touch-ups needed on this.  It burned at the right rate and right temperature.   The ash was white and very tight.   This cigar was outstanding in the construction department.  The photos below show the burn and ash.

White ash on the Monte Pascoal Robusto

Little fuzzy, but the Monte Pascoal Ash still firm as can be
The draw was a little tight to start, but then it opened up.   Overall, it was an excellent smoke to draw from.

Strength and Body

I did not know what to expect from a strength and body profile from this cigar.  The Monte Pascoal started mild to medium, but then settled into a medium in terms of strength for the majority of the cigar experience.  From a body standpoint, I would say it started out as a medium, but the flavor notes really got some good depth early on - and it remained like that.  I would definitely categorize the body as medium to full.  I categorize the Monte Pascoal as a cigar that makes for a great flavorful morning smoke.

Final Thoughts

The Monte Pascoal really impressed me.   This was an outstanding smoke and it told me that a great puro can come from a country other than the tried and true puros from the popular countries.   There are other cigars from Brazil and I would be curious to try them as well to see how it stands up to the Monte Pascoal.   This is a cigar I not only would recommend, but one I would buy a box of.   Retailers probably need to help sell this cigar as it a different blend and doesn't have the most flashy band (but that's what retailers are for -and I still love the band).     I'm looking forward to trying some more of these.

Summary

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium (Mild to Medium to start)
Body: Medium to Full (Medium to start)
Assessment: Memorable

Disclaimer: This cigar was gifted to me by a friend

Cigar Preview: Room 101 LTD Namakubi

Room 101 Cigars has posted information on their web-site about their third release, the Room 101 Namakubi.

Details can be seen on the Room 101 Blog about the background of the cigar.   It pays homage to Samurai culture.  Cigar Aficionado also put information on this.

Blend Profile

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Honduran Generoso seed
Filler: Dominican and Honduran “Vuelta Abajo"

The binder is the most interesting component of this blend.  I know the Generoso is used as the wrapper on the Camacho Super Limitado.  This was named after Christian Eiroa's (Camacho Cigars) grandfather.  It was Eiroa's father that worked on this tobacco through an experimental seed.  The experiment was not successful from a yield standpoint, but Eiroa feels this is a tobacco that developed great flavor.

Vitolas Available

Papi Chulo: 4x42 (MSRP: $6.00): 400 boxes, 50ct cabinetta style
Roxxo:  4 x 48 (MSRP: $7.00): 1000 boxes
Tiburon: 6 x44 (MSRP: $8.00): 1000 boxes
Sucio:  7 x 48 (MRSP $9.00): 1000 boxes
Monstro: 5 x 60 ($MSRP 10.00): 1000 boxes

Total Production: 100,000 cigars

The blog post says the cigar is medium to full in body.  Stay tuned for more information as this cigar makes its way into stores.

Press Release (and thoughts): ENTUBAR™ CRV TO DEBUT AT IPCPR 2011


ENTUBAR™ CRV TO DEBUT AT IPCPR 2011

MIAMI – Berger & Argenti Premium Cigars today announced the official debut of ENTUBAR CRV will take place next month at the 79th Annual IPCPR Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

ENTUBAR CRV (Connecticut River Valley) is a medium-full flavored, super-premium extension of the sensational ENTUBAR cigar brand. Blended with flavorful, deeply aged Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos ensconced in a U.S. Connecticut #1 Grade Shade-Grown wrapper, ENTUBAR CRV is delicately packaged in rustic Spanish cedar boxes of 20 cigars and available in five (5) distinct vitolas: Corona Macho (4 5/8” x 48); Robusto (5 3/8” x 54); Double Corona (7 5/8” x 54); Torpedo (6 7/8” x 56) and Gran Toro (6 5/8” x 54).

“ENTUBAR CRV is a natural step in the evolution of the ENTUBAR brand, using a top grade, shade-grown U.S. Connecticut River Valley wrapper,” said Michael Argenti, president of Berger & Argenti. “The blend exhibits a wonderful dichotomy of flavor – rich, bold and complex yet very smooth and creamy.”

ENTUBAR CRV is the latest ENTUBAR brand extension to pay tribute to the time-honored Cuban cigar making technique known as ‘entubado’ while also establishing a revolutionary new process of manufacturing premium cigars. Each deeply aged Nicaraguan filler leaf that comprises all ENTUBAR cigars are carefully rolled creating delicate ‘scrolls’ of rich, flavorful tobacco. This age-old method ensures open chambers of air flow from the foot to the head of the cigar. The ligero tobacco, which lends the cigar its unique full body, are bunched independently and then placed into the center of the remaining ‘entubado’ rolled filler blend. This ‘channel’ of ligero tobacco ranges the full length of the cigar and extends 3/8” beyond the finished trimmed foot, creating a startlingly unique ‘fuse like’ appearance that assures a superior draw, flawless conical burn with a long white ash, and a myriad of complex flavors channeled directly onto the palate.

Berger & Argenti Premium Cigars is a privately-held company headquartered in Miami, Florida with agricultural and production facilities in Esteli, Nicaragua. The company serves as the exclusive manufacturer, importer and distributor of world-class, super-premium cigar brands including ENTUBAR, ENTUBAR QUAD MADURO, CLASICO and MOOCH®. For more information, please call toll-free (800) 815-1155 or visit the Berger & Argenti website at www.bergerargenti.com.


Thoughts

Berger & Argenti is one of the few cigar makers employing the entubar rolling process.  

The Entubar rolling process is a more labor intensive process, but the end result is that it does make for a unique smoking experience.  The idea of expanding this line with a Connecticut wrapper will broaden the appeal of this cigar.  I'm curious to see what the ligero middle does for this smoke.

Disclaimer:  This press release was posted on Albert Argenti's Facebook page.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Update: Comptroller's Office in Maryland Won't Enforce Internet Cigar Sales Ban

An update on the Maryland Internet Internet Cigar Sales ban:

This past May 1st, a pretty significant restriction went into effect in the State of Maryland.  Simply stated - cigar enthusiasts in Maryland will no longer be able to purchase cigars on the internet.

The comptroller Peter Franchot received over 800 calls, letters, and emails complaining on this.  After receiving the complaints, Franchot came out and said he did not want to enforce the ban of internet sales of premium cigars.

This past week a letter was released indicating that he will refrain from enforcement of the law until the Maryland legislature votes on this.

A couple of points on the letter:
  1. This does not indicate the law has been repealed.  It just means that the Comptroller's office will not enforce the current law (so its a little ambiguous to say the least).  I'm not inclined to call this a victory over the Pleasure Police as of yet - just a step in the right direction.
  2. This most likely shows the calls, letters, and emails have had an impact on this letter.   I'm sure a lot of this communication indicated how cigars are a different item.   This is reflected in the text of the letter text stating: "these are unique, high-end products that are customarily sold within a community of aficionados. These products typically are not sold at convenience stores and other general retail outlets. Moreover, it is not uncommon for consumers to desire a particular brand of cigar that isn't readily available at local specialty shops."
I will keep on top of this story as more developments occur.

Here is the text of the letter:
Dear Concerned Citizen:
Please be advised that effective immediately, the Office of the Comptroller will temporarily defer enforcement of the online sales ban on premium cigars, as defined in Business Regulation Article 16.5-101 (p), until the Maryland General Assembly has had an opportunity to consider legislation that would permanently repeal the ban. 
As you may know, Comptroller Franchot expressed a preference to take this action --which would apply as well to telephone and mail orders of premium cigars --in a June 13 letter to the presiding officers of the legislature. His authority to do so was confirmed by a June 20, 2011 letter from the Office of the Attorney General, which states that "the Comptroller is fully empowered with the discretion to enforce or decline to enforce the online sales ban against buyers of premium cigars."
As you may know, the online sales prohibition was a provision of House Bi1l 88, which was passed and signed into law in 2010, with an effective date of May I, 2011. This legislation was introduced as a response to, and a remedy for, the widespread incidence of tax avoidance and illegal sales activity associated with "other tobacco products" (OTP), which includes cigars, little cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and moist snuff. The legislation established a long-overdue process for licensing those who distribute and sell these products in Maryland. Since this legislation was modeled to a large extent after existing cigarette statutes, it also included a prohibition on Internet sales.
It was not until this new law had been enacted that we were made aware of an unintended consequence -the ban on the online sale and distribution of premium cigars. Contrary to the other products that are included in the statutory definition of OTP, these are unique, high-end products that are customarily sold within a community of aficionados. These products typically are not sold at convenience stores and other general retail outlets. Moreover, it is not uncommon for consumers to desire a particular brand of cigar that isn't readily available at local specialty shops.
Simply put, our concerns about the illegal trade practices that motivated the introduction and passage of House Bill 88 are not pertinent to premium cigars, but it is the consumers of these products who are unintentionally, and disproportionately, affected by this provision in law. It was based upon his longstanding commitment to the principle of consumer choice, and his desire to devote the finite resources of his agency to far more critical priorities, that Comptroller Franchot has pursued this temporary stay of enforcement.
However, our concerns that these products have routinely been sold in the State of Maryland without the appropriate collection and remittance of taxes are wellfounded. In order to ensure a climate of tax fairness for Maryland-based businesses, and to ensure that the State of Maryland receives the revenue to which it is entitled, I must remind you to exercise due diligence in remitting the appropriate sales, use and orp excise taxes resulting from the sale of these products.
Finally, it is worth restating that this is simply a temporary stay of enforcement. It is Comptroller Franchot's hope that the legislature will enact a remedy that will permanently restore consumer choice in this area, while ensuring that we have the tools to collect the taxes owed. Should the General Assembly have an appropriate opportunity to do so, and choose instead to leave the terms of the current legislation intact, our office will once again act to enforce the letter of the law.
Should you have any questions about this action, or need additional information, please do not hesitate to call.

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011

E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011 (on a Short Run 2010 box)
If you have been either following this web-site or the cigar industry in general, you will know that 2011 is intended to be a huge year for the E.P. Carrillo.   Plans are for five cigar releases during the calendar year.   Earlier in the year, two extensions were released as a part of E.P. Carrillo's core line- the E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut and the E.P. Carrillo Elencos.   Now it is time to turn to one of the 2011 limited releases for E.P. Carrillo.   This one is the second limited run release under E.P. Carrillo's Short Run line and is appropriately titled the "E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011".   Once again, E.P. Carrillo steps up to the plate and delivers with a great cigar.

For the E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011, the expectations were high in my book.   The first Short Run release, the E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2010 was one of my favorite cigars last year - finishing as my #15 Cigar for 2010.   As implied by the name, "Short Run" implies limited edition - meaning the cigar is meant to be produced in a limited batch on a yearly basis.  The plan is for 1500 boxes to be produced for the Short Run 2011.

Let's analyze the E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011 and see what it brings to the table:

Blend Profile

As I mentioned when I previewed the E.P. Carrillo 2011 a couple of weeks ago, the blend has some similarities on the surface to the Short Run 2010.  The Short Run 2011 uses an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper as opposed to the Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper that was used on the Short Run 2010.   The Habano wrapper was intended to provide for a stronger smoke on the 2011 than the 2010.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan, Dominican

Vitolas Available

I'm a fan on how E.P. Carrillo uses creative names for the vitolas.  There are three vitolas for the Short Run 2011 and the names differ from the Short Run 2010.

Bombones: 4 7/8 x 50
Canonazos: 5 7/8 x 52
Inmensos: 6 1/4 x 60

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For this cigar experience, I sampled the Canonazos vitola.   I gently placed a straight cut into the cap.   It was on to perform the pre-light ritual.  The pre-light draw provided some notes of wood as well as subtle notes of mixed fruit and spice.  I was pleased with the dry draw I got from this cigar.  It was then on to toast the foot and see what this cigar brings to the table.

Flavor Profile

Upon the initial draws of the cigar, I was treated to notes of pepper and char (not a bitter char, but something more analogous to the char on a steak).   I also detected some notes of nut in the background.   The initial pepper notes were stronger at the beginning, but soon settled back.    It wasn't quite a "Don Pepin Pepper Blast", but it was close.

After the pepper and char notes subsided, more of a cedar spice emerged.  It was at this point that I also detected notes of nut.   On the 2010 Short Run, the nut flavors had a very buttery taste to them.  On the 2011, I noticed the nut had more of a cashew flavor to it.    By the 10 percent point of the smoking experience, even the cedar spice had subsided and I was left with mostly wood and nut.   At this point, I was a bit concerned the flavors had gone a bit flat.

Around 15 percent, I noticed a new flavor note that I had not gotten from an E.P. Carrillo smoke before - some floral notes.   It was at this point things started to pick up.   By the 1/3 point, the body had significantly increased.  The nut notes were definitely leading the charge with the floral notes going into the background.   I also noticed the spice picked up in intensity as well.   The cedar spice had morphed back into a black pepper feeling.   By the midway point the cashew and pepper flavors were holding and any floral notes were gone.    In the last third, the pepper eclipsed the cashew flavors - making for a lot of pop on the finish.    The finish provided an outstanding nub - firm and cool.

Burn and Draw

E.P. Carrillo consistently scores high marks in these categories.   The E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011 does not disappoint here.   The burn required only one or two touch-ups.   The burn rate and temperature and temperature were perfect.   As for the draw, no issues here - flawless from start to finish.

Strength and Body

One thing I can definitely say - the E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011 has more strength than the Short Run 2010.  I assessed the Short Run 2010 as a "medium", but for the Short Run 2011 I put this on the high end of a "medium to full" with the finish definitely crossing into the full side.   As for body,  like the Short Run 2010 this falls into the medium to full range, but can make the argument for in the first third the body was medium.

Final Thoughts

The E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011 is a very good smoke.   The obvious question is how does this stack up with the E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2010?   The 2010 had some wonderful butternut notes and a very subtle complexity.   I do think the 2011 isn't quite as complex as the 2010.  I also think the 2011 offers more in terms of strength - and that strength balances nicely with the flavors offered up.   If forced to make a choice, I would probably pick the 2010 version over the 2011, but this is not a knock on the 2011. This is still a cigar I'd reach for again.

Summary

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium to Full (Full at the end)
Body: Medium to Full (Medium at beginning)
Assessment: Nice to Have


Disclaimer: This cigar was gifted to me by a friend who made a visit to Corona Cigars in Orlando, Florida.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tampa Bay Rays are dishonoring Tampa History by modifying Tampa Bay Smokers Jersey

Photo linked to Tampa Bay Online, Original Jersey is on left
If you have listened to Cigar Dave the past couple of weeks, you have heard the story about the Tampa Bay Rays wearing a throwback jersey on their July 2nd game against the St. Louis Cardinals.  The jersey they selected was from an old Class B team that played in Tampa called the Tampa Bay Smokers. 

On one version of the Smokers' jersey, it consisted on a cigar on the logo.   The Rays have opted to wear a version of this jersey, but a modification of the original   They are omitting the cigar on the logo.

The Smokers were a team that existed when many of Tampa's cigar factories owned baseball teams.  It is a part of Tampa's history.  If you go to Ybor City in Tampa, you see how important the cigar industry has been and still is to Tampa.

The irony is they still are using the Smokers name, so what would the harm be in using the original jersey?  The Rays are a new team and should be doing everything possible to embrace the history of Tampa - especially given the fact they are struggling at the gate despite being a very good team.  I also don't buy the Rays' explanation in a statement they issued:

We have chosen to wear the Smokers' jersey to celebrate the rich heritage and traditions surrounding baseball in Tampa Bay and this version of the logo is intended only to be a slightly more contemporary version of that wonderful history.

It's a shame because this is a jersey I would love to wear if it had the cigar on it.   Thank goodness for Jack McKeon who is managing  Florida's other team - the Florida Marlins.   McKeon loves cigars and makes no bones about it.

Here is a local news report (video) on this.

Cigar Review: Alec Bradley American Classic Blend

Alec Bradley American Classic Blend - Gordo
I have to admit, when I got word of the new Alec Bradley Cigar - the American Classic Blend, I did not know what to make of it.   Part of me wondering if this was going to be an all-American puro.  It turns out that this was not the case.  With the American Classic Blend, Alec Bradley sought to blend a cigar that turned back the clock a century and had the feel of a smoke during the early part of the 20th century.  While I cannot assess whether Alec Bradley met this objective or not (namely I haven't had a cigar from that time period), I can tell you one thing - Alec Bradley has added a very good addition to their family of cigars.

It was only this past week where I have gotten the opportunity to sample the Alec Bradley American Classic Blend.  I had heard several reports over the past few weeks since it was released around late May/early June.  The most noteworthy thing I heard was how this was going to be a mild offering by Alec Bradley.   I immediately began to wonder with so many good mild cigars being released this year (the E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut, the JD Temptation Claro, and 601 White Label) whether the American Classic Blend would get lost in the shuffle.   After sampling this, it is clear that the American Classic Blend stands on its own.

The Alec Bradley American Classic Blend is the first cigar to be released with the new Alec Bradley logo.  Let's take a closer look at what this brings to the table.

Blend Profile

While the American Classic contains a Connecticut Shade wrapper, the tobaccos from this cigar come from Nicaragua and Honduras.  Most interesting about this blend is that the Connecticut Shade wrapper was grown in Honduras.

Wrapper: Honduran-grown Connecticut Shade
Binder: Nicaraguan Jalapa
Filler: Nicaraguan (Esteli and Condega)

Vitolas Available

The Alec Bradley American Classic Blend is available in five sizes:

Corona: 5 1/2 x 42
Robusto: 5 x 50
Toro: 6 x 50
Churchill: 7 x 48
Torpedo: 6 1/8 x 52
Gordo: 6 x 60

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

Naturally since there was a Gordo-sized vitola, I opted for it.   Many will know I fall into the minority of cigar reviewers because I love big ring gauge cigars.   I placed a straight cut into the cap and took some dry draws.   The pre-light draws were flavorful - a mix of wood, cedar, and slight undertones of mixed fruit.  It was a decent pre-light experience.   I then toasted the foot and prepared to enjoy the cigar experience.

Flavor Profile

After lighting the American Classic Blend, I was treated to an interesting mix of flavor notes: mixed fruit,  mild cocoa, mild pepper, cream, and some wood.   It didn't take long before mixed fruit notes moved to the forefront with the mild cocoa as a secondary note.

About 15 percent into the cigar experience, there are some flavor changes.   It is at this point that a baker's spice emerged.  Meanwhile the mixed fruit started to morph into more of a honey sweetness.   When the cigar experience entered the second third, I noticed the sweetness begin to fade and the baker's spice seemed to go back to a classic pepper taste.

Toward the end of the cigar experience,  the notes seemed to go back to wood and cedar again.   I had a very nice firm and cool nub, but the finish was a little harsh.   This sometimes is the by-product of slow smoking a big ring gauge cigar.

Burn and Draw

The burn did require a few touch-ups along the way, but for the most part it burned well.  The cigar did not burn hot and it burned at a near perfect rate.   I did find the draw a little tight.  While it didn't significantly impact the burn or flavor, it still was a little more difficult to work with than I prefer.

Strength and Body

I had to think long and hard, but I did not find this to be a mild strength or mild-bodied cigar.  In fact, I did not find this to be mild to medium in strength and body.  In both categories, I felt the Alec Bradley American Classic had just enough power and flavor depth to qualify as a medium in both categories.  This is the kind of cigar that still makes a great morning smoke, but offers a little more than your typical morning smoke.

Final Thoughts

As I said above, I don't think this cigar is one to compare to some of the other milder cigars that were released in 2011.   I can say, that this cigar does stand well on its own.  While I did struggle a bit on the draw, I would still smoke this cigar again.   The other positive thing is that this is going to be one of the best priced cigars in your retailer's humidor - you are looking at $4.00 - $6.00 depending on the size and tax in your state.  This also is a great cigar for newer enthusiasts to sample and experience some great flavor nuances.   Overall a nice addition to the Alec Bradley family.

Summary

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

Disclamer: The cigars used for this assessment were purchased from Charlie's Tobacco Outlet in Charlotte, NC.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cigar Review: Casa Magna Domus Magnus - Pre-Release Review

Casa Magna Domus Magnus - Optimus Vitola
In 2008, Cigar Aficionado awarded its Cigar of the Year award to Manuel Quesada's Casa Magna Colorado cigar.  While we can all be critical of Cigar Aficionado, the award does carry a lot of weight - and its always good to be a retailer with a cigar with this label on the shelf.   While I did enjoy the Casa Magna Colorado, I actually was more impressed with the 2009 follow-up - the Casa Magna Oscuro.   It's been almost two years since a new blend was added to the Casa Magna line, but it is now time for the third installment in this line.   This one is called the  Casa Magna Domus Magnus.  The release is intended to coincide with 2011 IPCPR convention - a time when many manufacturers unveil their new releases.    I was lucky enough to get an early sample this week.  After getting an opportunity to sample this new blend, I'm inclined to think that this might be the best blend in the line.

The Casa Magna Domus Magnus is another collaboration between Manuel Quesada and the Plasencia family.  It is a box-press cigar that will be sold in boxes of ten and it a small pig-tail on the cap.  The cigar will be sold in boxes of 10.   The plan is for 100,000 cigars to be produced (in other words 10,000 boxes).  From the appearance of the Casa Magna Domus Magnus, it personifies the definition of "cigar art".

Let's break down this cigar a bit more and see what it brings to the table. 

Blend Profile

The Casa Magna Domus Magnus is an all-Nicaraguan blend.  The blend differs from the other blends in the Casa Magna line.

Wrapper: Sun-grown Jalapa Wrapper (Nicaraguan)
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

Vitolas Available

The Casa Magna Domus Magnus will be available in two sizes.  I like how each of the vitolas were given a name.  Each of the vitolas are in a box-press.

Maximus:  6 1/2 x 55
Optimus: 5 3/4 x 52

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For this cigar experience, I had the opportunity to sample the Optimus vitola.  I gently placed a straight cut where the pig-tail is attached. (I usually do not like to "pull" the pig-tail off)   It was then on to the pre-light draw.   I got some interesting complexity on the dry draws - a nice combination of chocolate, tea, and wood.  I was pleased with the pre-light draw, so it was on to light the cigar and see what flavors would now emerge.

Flavor Profile

After lighting the Domus Magnus, the initial flavors gave me a combination of cedar spice and floral notes.   It didn't take long before a citrus sweetness emerged.  The citrus sweetness was complemented by the cedar spice.  The citrus and cedar notes formed an interesting combination going forward - making for a unique flavor.

It was around the 1/3 point where the Domus Magnus made a very sudden and interesting change in flavor.  It was around this place when some cocoa notes emerged quickly.   I would not categorize this as a deep chocolate, but more of a baker's cocoa. The sweetness also seemed to change from citrus to a more unusual sweetness.  The best analogy I can give is that the sweetness almost had a taste like Pez Candy.  I found the sweetness to be rather pleasant (despite my strange analogy). The cedar spice also remained.   Putting these flavors together - the unique flavors remained.

Around the midway point, the cocoa notes moved into the background while he "Pez" sweetness and cedar spice moved to the forefront.  In the last third, the spice took it up a level.  Some of the tea notes from the pre-light draw also re-emerged.    I got a nice firm nub as the cigar experience came to a close.  The nub was a little warm, but the finish was not harsh.

Burn and Draw

For the most part, the burn remained straight.   The burn rate was perfect and while the nub was a little warm, the burn temperature was satisfactory for the majority of the cigar experience.  My only knock on the cigar is that it did tunnel a couple of times.   The tunneling was not major and did not affect the flavors.  I was able to fix-up the tunneling quickly.

The draw was flawless.   This was a cigar that I really enjoyed smoking.

Strength and Body

When Cigar Aficionado posted a preview of the Domus Magnus, Quesada described this as a stronger blend.   I agree with Quesada's assessment of this.  I found this to primarily fall into the Medium to Full range in terms of strength, but I definitely feel the strength crosses over to Full by the end of the smoke.   As for the body, the flavors had depth and were robust.   It has just enough body to qualify for a full-bodied smoke in my book.

Final Thoughts

This was definitely my favorite cigar released under the Casa Magna brand.   The Domus Magnus is the kind of cigar that you will want to bring in as a retailer.  The price point should be around $9.00 -$12.00 depending on the size and how much the Pleasure Police slap you with a tax.   The Domus Magnus is probably a cigar that is going to be aimed at the more seasoned cigar enthusiast.   This is definitely a cigar I would reach for again.

Summary

Burn: Good
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium to Full (Full at end)
Body: Full
Assessment: Memorable

DisclaimerThis cigar was provided to myself from Manuel Quesada of Quesada Cigars during a visit to Outland Cigars in Charlotte, NC.  The cigar was offered to myself (Cigar Coop) in the spirit of camaraderie.    Cigar Coop is appreciative the sample provided but this plays no role in assessing this cigar.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cigar Review: Quesada Selección España


Quesada Selección España
This past February at the annual ProCigar festival in the Dominican Republic, one of the cigars that made a big splash was the Quesada Selección España.  The España as indicated by its name is a cigar that was intended to be made available only available in Spain.  Legendary Master Blender Manuel Quesada dropped by Outland Cigars for an impromptu visit and I was lucky enough to be offered a sample of this cigar from his brand.   I was more than thankful to get an opportunity to enjoy a cigar that is difficult to get and has gotten such positive attention.   The great news - this cigar lives up to much of the hype that surrounds this cigar.

When Quesada discussed the cigar, he portrayed it as being "Cuban-esque" in style.   Cuban cigars are sold in Spain and do very well in that market.  The idea was to bring an old-school cigar to Spain to compete with the Cuban cigars.

Let's take a closer look at what the Quesada Selección España brings to the table:

Blend Profile

The appearance of this cigar is highlighted by the beautiful Arapiraca wrapper.

Wrapper: Arapiraca (grown in Ecuador)
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican, Connecticut Broadleaf, Nicaraguan

Quesada talked about the wrapper.  He mentioned this is a similar wrapper to what is on the Quesada 35th Anniversary cigar.   The difference is the wrapper is taken from a lower priming (viso).   Quesada described the filler as all-Dominican, although I have seen some references mention that there is also Nicaraguan tobacco in the filler.

Vitolas Available

The España is available in three sizes:

Petite Robusto- 4 x 50
Robusto- 5 x 52
Corona- 5.5 x 42

These are definitely smaller cigars.  Quesada mentioned that the smaller vitolas were a deliberate attempt to capitalize on the European market.  In general, Europeans prefer smaller cigars.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For this cigar experience, I sampled the Petite Robusto.   I placed a straight cut through the beautiful cap.  The initial notes I got on this were coffee, but there was a slight sweetness and slight pepper notes that I detected as well.  There was a subtle mix of flavors from the dry draw that satisfied me.   It was then on to fire up the España and enjoy the smoking experience.

Flavor Profile

While I heard some reports that this cigar had a lot of flavor transitions, I didn't get that.  The Quesada Selección España wasn't the most complex cigar, but it did offer up a very interesting flavor profile.

The initial notes contained some pepper and cedar spice, but I was also treated to some significant notes of tea.   The tea flavors reminded me a lot of the signature tea notes found in Illusione cigars.  For the first half of the cigar, this was the flavor profile that pretty much held.  The spice notes mellow a bit after the first ten percent, but still are very much present during the smoke.

In the second half, I did notice an increase in the spice - and this time it took on more of a pepper spice.  Overall, the Quesada Selección España had a little kick and I liked it.   As the cigar experience came to a close, I got a wonderfully small nub that was cool and firm.   There were no harsh notes at the end.

Burn and Draw

Construction-wise, this was one of the best Quesada/Fonseca cigars I ever had.   The burn was razor sharp and required very few touch-ups.   The burn rate and burn temperature were perfect.   The draw was outstanding as well .

Strength and Body

This cigar had more strength than I would have thought from looking at it - and I was pleasantly surprised by this.  It has just enough power from the nicotine to qualify as a "Medium to Full" in terms of strength.  The same goes for the body.   The flavor notes had some nice depth to them - and I would definitely classify this as Medium to Full.

Final Thoughts

The Quesada Selección España proved to be a positive cigar experience.   I sincerely hope that Quesada does give some consideration to making this more widely-available in the United States.  I do think this is a cigar that probably the more seasoned cigar enthusiast will appreciate.   I would definitely reach for this cigar again - and look forward to trying the Robusto and Corona vitolas.

Summary

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

Disclaimer:  This cigar made given to me as an unsolicited sample during a visit by master-blender Manuel Quesada.   This played no role in final assessment given to this cigar.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pleasure Police Green Alert: Delaware (HB 178) and Nevada (AB 571)

One area I feel is important for this web-site to focus on is tobacco legislation.  It is important that everyone keeps a close eye on this  While some legislation might be outside your local jurisdiction it has an impact to all tobacco and cigar enthusiasts nationwide.   No doubt, 2011 is already a challenging year with fights on many fronts.   The good news is Cigar Rights of America is not backing down and is keeping the fight going.   While the battle might seem like pulling endlessly on a rope, there are victories being won.  Over the past week two significant victories have been won in the States of Delaware and Nevada.

While these wins are great news for all cigar enthusiasts, the fight must continue as new fires will most certainly emerge in other areas of the country.

Delaware

When HB 178 was sponsored by Representative Michael Barbieri, it proposed a raising of the OTP (Other Tobacco Product) tax on cigars from 15% to 68% percent - a whopping 453% percent.

A big thank you to Gary Griffith of Delaware Cigars.  Griffith is as passionate about this industry as anyone I have seen.  In addition to being a world-class tobacconist, Griffith serves as a CRA Ambassador.
With three days notice, Griffith led the charge down to Dover, Delaware and the good news is that HB 178 was tabled.   This is great news, but this also is a case where the eye cannot be taken off the ball.   If this should resurrect itself next year, cigar enthusiasts need to be prepared to go to battle again.

Hopefully the legislators in Delaware can see the damage cigar tax increases have done in other States like New York and quickly dismiss this bill should it resurrect again.

Here is a link to the CRA site with more information including those legislators who co-sponsored the bill.

Nevada

AB 571 was signed into law by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.  This law allows for free standing bars and restaurants in the state to allow smoking should they choose to do so - as long as patrons under 21 do not enter the establishment.    It's not ideal, but its a huge step in the right direction.  Sandoval signed this bill after it passed through the Nevada State House and Nevada State Senate.

Anti-smoking regulations are crippling businesses nationwide - especially bars and restaurants.  Nevada has been a state that has really taken it on the chin in terms of the recession.   The signing of AB571 into law will surely help a lot of small business in that State.  More States need to follow Nevada's lead.

Here is a link to the CRA site with more information including how the legislators voted on this.

Welcome Back Jack - Cigar Ambassador Jack McKeon

Jack McKeon with a cigar - photo linked from ESPN
Today, Jack McKeon was named the interim manager of the Florida Marlins.  For Cigar Enthusiasts around the world, this is a great thing.

First up, I will state from a baseball perspective, I am a huge fan of the Philadelphia Phillies.   The Florida Marlins play in the NL East with the Phillies and have been known to give us fits from time to time.  Yet, there is no one who wishes more success for Jack McKeon than myself.

Why am I taking this position?  It's very simple - Jack McKeon LOVES CIGARS.   When someone loves cigars, it doesn't matter what allegiance to a team they have.  Anyone who loves a good cigar is good for the cigar industry.

A few years ago, ESPN's Darren Rovell did a great article on McKeon's love of Cigars. I encourage everyone to read this article entitled "Smoke 'em if you got 'em".  

Cigar Aficionado also has a great article from 2004 on McKeon.

I sincerely hope that McKeon will still be visible with his cigars.   It's been several years since he's managed and the Pleasure Police have made great strides in preventing cigar enthusiasts like McKeon from enjoying cigars around the ballpark. (Remember the Pleasure Police in Cincinnati last year?)  Still the cigar community today must rally behind McKeon and let him know we appreciate what a great ambassador he is to this industry.

The article talks about how McKeon has smoked cigars for 55 years (and now its well over 60 years since the article is dated).  Yet, McKeon now 80 years old is healthy and ready to take the reins of the Florida Marlins.

Just don't win too many games for the Marlins Jack.....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cigar Review: Avo Lounge

Avo Lounge Cigar - Toro
One thing I like to do when I visit a cigar store or lounge is to sample something that is exclusive or hard to find.  On a recent visit to Corona Cigars in Orlando, Florida,  I knew one cigar that falls into that category - the Avo Lounge cigar was available there.   This is a cigar made by Avo that is only sold in his Avo lounges worldwide (Corona Cigars has an Avo lounge at its Heathrow location).  Whether a cigar is hard to find or not, the end result is always how good the cigar smokes and would I smoke it again.  For the most part, the Avo Lounge proved to be very positive experience for me.

Recently, I had a conversation with someone on whether Dominican or Nicaraguan tobacco makes a cigar better.  After I answered Nicaraguan, I was reminded that I do like a lot of Avo Cigars and they tend to be made up primarily of Dominican-blend tobaccos.  This is where the magic of master blender Henke Kelner comes into play.  I know when Kelner is in the equation the end result is going to be a good product.  Since Kelner blends for Avo, the Avo Lounge (like just about all Avos) fall into a profile that doesn't match my personal preferences.  Yet in 2010, I surprised a lot of people by giving my Cigar of the Year to the Avo Limited Edition 2010 - a cigar with not a drop of Nicaraguan tobacco.

Let's take a look at the Avo Lounge and see what it brings to the table:

Blend Profile

As mentioned above, no Nicaraguan tobacco in this cigar.   Here is an overview:

Wrapper: Ecuadorian 151 Sun Grown Wrapper
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican

Note: The Dominican tobaccos are a combination of tobaccos from Olor, San Vincente, and Piloto Cubano - three staples from Kelner's arsenal.

Vitolas Available

There are two sizes available in the Avo Lounge - both have a 50 ring gauge.

Toro: 6 x 50
Double Corona: 7 x 50

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For this cigar experience I selected the Toro size.  I placed a straight cut into the cap and was immediately pleased with the pre-light draw.   The dry draw had some very pronounced cedar spice to it.   There even was a touch of mint on the aftertaste of the prelight draw.   I liked how the Avo Lounge had a bold dry draw to it, so I was excited to take the next step and fire this one up.

Flavor Profile

The initial draws of the Avo Lounge treated me to a strong blast of spice.  It was interesting because a lot of times when I get a blast of spice in a Nicaraguan blend, it is usually black pepper (a.k.a the Pepin Pepper blast).  This spice was definitely more of the cedar spice variety - continuing what I got on the pre-light draw.  In the background I also picked up notes of earth and grass.

As the cigar progressed through the first third, I definitely noticed a cream taste emerge.  The cream eventually moved front and center by the time the cigar experience entered the second third.   In the early stages of that second third, I noticed on the draw I got the cream notes and the spice was pushed to more of an aftertaste from the draw.   I noticed the cedar spice began to subside significantly by the mid-point of the cigar.  It is around this point where the cream notes mesh nicely with the ever-present earth and grass notes in the cigar.

As the Avo Lounge enters the last third, I definitely noticed the cream notes subside and the cedar spice return.  The last third had a harsher taste than I normally would have liked.  It wasn't overly harsh, but it wasn't as smooth as I would have liked.  The nub finished soft and cool, but still had some of the harsh notes.

Burn and Draw

Except for a few minor touch-ups, the Avo Lounge cigar burned real well.  The burn rate and temperature were excellent too.   I don't think any of the harsh flavors I got at the end were due to burn issues.   The draw was outstanding throughout the whole smoke.

Strength and Body

I've heard mixed reports on the Avo Lounge as far as strength goes.  Some folks said mild and others have gone as far to say as medium to full.   I do think the strength falls squarely in the middle of the spectrum here.   It's a solid medium - providing just the right amount of pop to balance the flavors.   As for the body, the flavor notes definitely had depth throughout the smoking experience.  The Avo Lounge is definitely a medium to full in this category.

Final Thoughts

Except for some of the harshness I got at the end, I really enjoyed the Avo Lounge cigar.  I should re-emphasize that this wasn't overly harsh at the finish - just a little harsher than I would have liked.   It did provide some unique flavors and actually reminded me of something I was already aware of - Dominican-blend Cigars can stand up with my Nicaraguan favorites.   The nice thing about this cigar is I would give it to a novice or experienced cigar enthusiast.  This will definitely be a cigar I pick up again.

Summary

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

Disclaimer: This cigar was purchased at Corona Cigars in Orlando, Florida.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cigar Pre-Review: My Uzi Weighs a Ton - Pre-Release Sample 6 x 60

Joya de Nicaragua My Uzi Weighs a Ton - Pre-Release Sample
A few days ago, I posted some preliminary information on the forthcoming release on a new Joya de Nicaragua cigar called "My Uzi Weighs a Ton".    I happened to be at a Drew Estate event at Cordova Cigars in Pensacola, Florida and Jonathan Drew was kind enough to offer me a sample to try.   From all the preliminary information this sounded like cigar that was right up my alley,  therefore I couldn't wait to fire up this cigar.   This cigar did not disappoint - in fact while (right now) this technically is a pre-release, the "My Uzi Weighs a Ton" will be a contender in my race for 2011 Cigar of the Year.

The Uzi represents the first joint blending collaboration with Jonathan Drew himself and the folks at Joya de Nicaragua.  I know a lot of people seem to sour on 60 ring gauge cigars, but I love everything a big ring gauge cigar brings to the table.  Big ring gauge cigars showcase the beauty of a cigar.   With many blends, the 60 ring gauge does not work, however when it does work - it showcases the robustness and power of the cigar.  The Joya De Nicaragua Uzi is one of those 60 ring gauge cigars that fits the bill.

Tobaccos for this blend come from both the Drew Estate side and the Joya de Nicaragua side.   Jonathan Drew himself blended this cigar and it was rolled at the Joya de Nicaragua factories.  The "My Uzi Weighs a Ton" will be released in the Joya de Nicaragua family.

As with all pre-release samples, I will perform a "Pre-Review" which is nothing more than to give some initial impressions of the cigar.  Once the cigar goes into a formal release, I will come back and provided a detailed perspective and additional information of the cigar.

Blend Profile

Drew Estate confirmed some blend information on botl.org that was originally posted on the Cigar Feed on the blend:

Wrapper: San Andreas Negro
Binder: Connecticut Capote (Broadleaf)
Filler: Brazilian Mata Fina Oscuro & Nicaraguan Ligero Estelí, Viso Condega and Seco Jalapa

Vitolas Available

While the sample I received was a 6 x 60, there are plans to also release two other 60 ring gauge cigars - namely a 5 x 60 and a 7 x 60.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

As mentioned above, I received the 6 x 60 vitola.  Being that this is a big ring gauge cigar, I always default to a straight cut and for the Uzi this was no exception.  I performed a pre-light draw and got flavors of bittersweet chocolate with a touch of cherry sweetness.  I also detected some notes of wood as well.  The pre-light draw did satisfy me, therefore I was excited to fire this cigar up and see what it would bring to the table.

Flavor Profile

Right out of the gate, I detected sweetness once I stated to draw from the cigar.   These sweet flavor notes had a dried fruit taste to it.   I also detected secondary notes of cocoa and wood.    I noticed an interesting pattern to the draw and the reciprocating flavors that resulted.   Upon each draw, I definitely noticed the dried fruit flavors, however the aftertaste gave me a nice (and not overwhelming) pepper spice.

About 10 percent into the cigar experience, I noticed the secondary notes of cocoa emerge.   The pattern of the sweetness followed by the pepper aftertaste continued.   The flavor notes had more depth as the cigar passed the 15 percent point.

In the second third, the sweetness and spicy aftertaste that I got in the first third seemed to alternate on which more was more pronounced.   I also still detected the cocoa notes that I found in the first third.  By the the Uzi reached the final third, most of the flavor notes were still holding the same - although the spicy aftertaste did mellow a bit.

Burn and Draw

The big complaint I get from many people on big ring gauge cigars is that they often have burn issues.  With the Uzi, this was not the case.   The burn was razor sharp and burned at a perfect rate and perfect temperature.   Without a doubt, this is one of the best burning 60 ring gauge cigars I ever had from a burn standpoint.   The draw was a little tighter than I prefer, but I still consider this a very good draw.

Razor-Sharp Burn of the My Uzi Weighs a Ton
Strength and Body

When I saw Jonathan Drew in Pensacola, he described this cigar as "medium to full" and I would agree for this in both the strength and body categories.  From the strength profile, the cigar actually starts off more as a medium and slowly increases as the smoking experience of the Uzi progresses.  Toward the end of the cigar, you will feel some nicotine from this cigar. 

From a body standpoint, I could also say this falls into the medium to full classification - with the depth of the flavor notes strongest in the second third.

Final Thoughts

Over a year ago, I was wow'd by another amazing big ring gauge cigar called the Tatuaje Gran Cojonu and this finished as my #2 Cigar of the Year for 2010.   From its size the "My Uzi Weighs a Ton" does strike images of the Gran Cojonu, however this is a very different cigar.   This might not be the fullest or most complex cigar you are going to have, but what it will do is deliver a great smoking experience.

As I mentioned above, a good big ring gauge cigar can show the robustness and power that a cigar can deliver.  When I mentioned "power", it doesn't necessarily mean nicotine strength but all of the wonderful things that are delivered from a great smoking experience.

I would recommend the Uzi to experienced cigar enthusiasts and those cigar enthusiasts who enjoy big ring gauge cigars.   For novice smokers or those that tend to gravitate toward thinner ring gauge cigars, I think they will be surprised what this cigar brings to the table and I would encourage them to give this a try.   Finally, this is a cigar I would not hesitate in buying again.

Summary

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Good
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium to Full (Medium to Start)
Body: Medium to Full

DisclaimerThis cigar was provided to myself from Jonathan Drew of Drew Estate Cigars.  The cigar was offered to myself (Cigar Coop) in the spirit of camaraderie.    Cigar Coop is appreciative to samples provided but this plays no role in assessing this cigar.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cigar Preview: E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011

I've said this several times, 2011 is a huge year for E.P. Carrillo.  They have been very active in the release category.  Earlier this spring, E.P. Carrillo released two new additions to their core line - the E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut and the E.P. Carrillo Elencos (the rebranding of the E.P. Carrillo Edición Limitada 2010).  However, as they say on those infomercials - "but wait, there's more".   Just hitting the retailer stores is the new  E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011.

The E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011 is the follow-up to the E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2010.   As implied by the name, "Short Run" implies limited edition - meaning the cigar is meant to be produced in a limited batch on a yearly basis. I was a big fan of the E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2010 and rated this cigar my #15 Cigar of the Year.  

Here is a little preliminary information on the Short Run 2011.  One of my buddies just got a box for Father's Day and this made me realize that I should share some information on this cigar.

Blend Profile

The blend has some similarities on the surface to the Short Run 2010.  The Short Run 2011 uses an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper as opposed to an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper than was used on the Short Run 2010.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan, Dominican

Vitolas Available

As always, I love how E.P. Carrillo uses creative names for the vitolas.  There are three vitolas for the Short Run 2011 and these differ in names from the Short Run 2010.

Bombones: 4 7/8 x 50
Canonazos: 5 7/8 x 52
Inmensos: 6 1/4 x 60

The word is the Habano wrapper will provide a stronger smoke for the Short Run 2011 as opposed to the Short Run 2010.   Word is also 1500 boxes are being produced for this run as well.   Stay tuned to Cigar Coop as this will be sampled in the near future.

Updated (6/26/11): Corrected Vitola sizes.

Update (6/27/11)Here is my review of the E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Press Release (and Thoughts): Toraño Family Cigar Company to Distribute Sam Leccia Cigars


TORAÑO FAMILY CIGAR COMPANY TO DISTRIBUTE SAM LECCIA CIGARS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Miami, FL) June 13, 2011- The Toraño Family Cigar Company is proud to announce that they will be the exclusive distributor for the newly formed Sam Leccia Cigar Co. effective June 14, 2011. This distribution agreement brings together two entities with different styles and looks, but that nonetheless share the same enthusiasm and innovation in producing the highest quality cigars.

“We are excited about working with one of the industry’s most creative minds. Sam Leccia has a unique energy and approach to the cigar industry. We look forward to the collaboration between our two companies,” said Charlie Toraño, president of Toraño Family Cigar Company.

“I have always had great respect and admiration for the Toraño family.  Their expertise and history in growing tobacco and manufacturing great cigars is well known. Since their announcement last year whereby they took back control of the distribution of their brands, it’s clear that Toraño is focused on expanding its distribution company and providing tobacconists with the service and cigars they deserve. I strongly feel that this team will play an invaluable role for the growth of Sam Leccia Cigar Co,” said Leccia.

The newly formed Sam Leccia Cigar Co. (www.samlecciacigarco.com) was formally announced via press release to the world this past May 27, 2011. Leccia’s innovative style sets him apart from most, but his dedication to crafting handmade cigars with the finest tobacco is what drives him. Sprinting out of the starting blocks, the first creation for the new company is appropriately named “Debut.” The cigars are a twist of Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador and Santo Domingo tobaccos blended together, to give a unique smoking experience. Leccia is proud of his company’s first brand, and excited about working with this team. Retailers, if interested in Sam Leccia Cigar Co. products should contact their Toraño Family Cigar sales rep for pre-ordering.

After taking back their own distribution in August 2010, the Toraño Family Cigar Company underwent several changes, to include a successful rebranding effort, new ad campaign, several key hires, the introduction of three new brands, and a partnership with Graycliff Cigar Company. This new agreement with the Sam Leccia Cigar Co.  continues the recent trend of aggressive moves by the Toraño Family.
The Toraño Family Cigar Company will be present at this year’s upcoming IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, unveiling two new brand launches that will be announced in the coming weeks
.
A leader in the cigar industry, Toraño Family Cigar Company is a four generation company currently based in Miami, FL. It enjoys a rich heritage and history in tobacco growing and manufacturing.

For more information: www.torano.com. Please also follow Toraño on Face book: Toraño A family Cigar Company or on Twitter: @TORANOFAMCIGARS.

Thoughts

The past month has certainly been an exciting one for Toraño Family Cigars.  The recent announcement of the distribution for Graycliff and the announcement of two new cigar lines has shown that Toraño is on a path to steady growth.    I believe Leccia's new line will be in good hands with Toraño as they are not only committed to growth, but committed to maintaining true to their heritage roots as well as making quality products.

Disclaimer: This press release was made available via the Toraño Family Cigars Facebook page.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cigar Pre-Review: A.Turrent Triple Corojo

A.Turrent Triple Corojo - Gran Robusto Vitola
A. Turrent's Triple Corojo recently made its world debut at the June 4th Cigar Dave remote broadcast in Charlotte, North Carolina.  This follows the "Triple" theme that was set by last year's triple maduro - the A.Turrent Triple Play.   For the case of the A. Turrent Triple Corojo, the theme is obvious - this cigar is all-Corojo.   The Triple Play was one of my favorite cigars from 2010 - earning a #20 cigar on my 2010 Cigar of the Year list and #14 on the 2010 Cigar Aficionado list.  The Triple Play made an immediate impression on me when I first sampled it.   The question is - would the Triple Corojo do the same for me?   The answer is TBD - thus I've opted for a pre-review instead of a full assessment.  This also allows me to give some initial thoughts on the cigar in its "as is" state.

The A.Turrent Triple Corojo is not the first all-Corojo cigar being released this year.  The Martin Family of Cigars is releasing the Pedro Martin Corojo that will have Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper, binder, and filler.   However, the A. Turrent Triple Corojo will have a different blend.  Since the Turrent family is world-renowned for making good Mexican tobacco, this cigar leverages a lot San Andres Mexican tobacco in the blend. 

The Triple Corojo shows some promise, but its also a cigar that definitely needs some age.  I'll share my initial thoughts on this cigar here and update with a more formal assessment when this cigar becomes generally available following the 2011 IPCPR trade show.

Blend Overview

The A.Turrent Triple Corojo leverages Corojo tobaccos from three countries - Mexico, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Wrapper: San Andrés (Mexican) Corojo
Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo
Filler: Nicaraguan Corojo, Honduran Corojo, San Andrés Corojo

Vitolas Available

The Triple Corojo has 8 different vitolas:

Churchill: 7 x 54
Belicoso: 6 1/8 x 54
Toro: 6 x 50
Gran Toro: 6 x 60
Gran Robusto: 5 3/4 x 54
Robusto: 5 1/4 x 52
Short Robusto: 4 1/2 x 54
Corona: 4 1/2 x 48

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For this cigar experience, I smoked the Gran Robusto.   I went for a straight cut into the cap of this cigar.  Upon performing a pre-light draw, I got wood notes that almost had a sandy feel to it.   It wasn't that the dry draw was sandy, but it was just more of a feel for what I was getting (even though I had a razor-sharp cut through the cap).   I wasn't overwhelmed, so I figured it was time to fire it up and see what this experience would bring to the table.

Flavor Profile

The initial draws of the cigar provided a continuation of the wood notes I had on the pre-light draw.   The difference was the sandy texture to the flavor was no longer there.   It didn't take long before some secondary pepper and cedar notes emerged.  The cigar had a smooth feel to it to start.

Around 20 percent into the experience, I detected some notes of cinnamon.  At times, the cinnamon notes could actually be detected through the nose.   Through the second half of the smoke, it seemed to get less smooth.   The cedar, pepper, and cinnamon notes were still present, but the Triple Corojo seemed to lack the smoothness earlier in the cigar.   The pepper spice was more pronounced in the second half.   The cigar did turn harsher toward the end.  The nub was a cool, but extremely soft.

Burn and Draw

The Draw was excellent on the Triple Corojo as this wasn't a very difficult cigar to smoke.   The burn started out very good and razor sharp.   The second half, while burning evenly did tunnel a couple of times on me.  The burn temperature and rate seemed ok for most of the smoking experience.   The ash was not as white as I would have liked - it had more of a darker gray feel to it.

Strength and Body

The A.Turrent Triple Corojo is not a powerful cigar.  I would categorize the Triple Corojo as a medium strength cigar from a nicotine standpoint.   The body also wasn't as pronounced as Triple Play was definitely more full-bodied.  I also would categorize the Triple Corojo as a medium.

Final Thoughts

I don't think this cigar will increase in strength or body as it gets some age.   I do think some of the issues I had with the second half of the cigar in terms of smoothness, burn, and ash color could get rectified with a little more age.   Overall, I'm still not as confident this will stand-up as well as its predecessor the Triple Play or some of the other Corojo releases for 2011.  The cigar could use a little more in terms of complexity as well.   I'm also curious to try some of the other vitolas and see if I can find a better niche.  Stay tuned for a final assessment once these do get some age.

I had this cigar as my 11th overall pick in my 2011 Mock Cigar Draft.  Right now, based on "training camp", I might opt to trade this pick down, but this could still be a gem for someone with a little age. 

Summary

Burn: Fair
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Low
Strength: Medium
Body: Medium

Disclaimer: I was unable to make the Cigar Dave remote broadcast in Charlotte, but this cigar was included in the Cigar Dave Sampler pack that was made available for sale at the June 6th event.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cigar Preview: Toraño Family Cigars - Toraño Loyal and Toraño Vault


This past weekend, Cigar Dave released some high level info (that he got from Toraño) on two new Toraño Family Cigars.   As per Cigar Dave, this information was received from Charlie Toraño and he had permission to share with his audicence. These will make their debut at the 2011 IPCPR show.   The announcement was made on the second hour of the 6/11 show.  Here is a recap of the high level features.

Toraño Loyal

This is meant to be more of a value-priced cigar in the $5.00 - $5.50 SRP range.  The idea was to provide a cigar for Toraño's loyal followers. This cigar is intended to be more of a "medium" smoke.  It will be available in a 5 x 56 (Gran Robusto),  6 x 60 (BFC i.e. Magnum), 6 1/8 x 52 (Torpedo), and 7 x47 (Churchill). It features the following blend:

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan, Dominican

Update: We received the official press release on 7/1/11.  The above blend was corrected to include Dominican filler and some corrections to the vitolas were made.

Toraño Vault

This is intended to be more of a "full" smoke that will SRP for $8.00 or more.  The name is derived from the many blends that Carlos Toraño and Charlie Toraño have sampled over the years and put into a "book" that was kept in a safety deposit box.  Word is that this is one of the blends that they "kept coming back to" that was contained in that book.  The plan will be for three vitolas available in this cigar - 5 x 50 (Robusto), 6 x 52 (Torpedo), and 6 x 50 (Toro).

Wrapper: Shade-Grown Nicaraguan Colorado
Binder: Jamastran Honduras, Ometepe, Nicaragua
Filler: Esteli and Condega,Nicaragua

Here is the link to the podcast.  It is in the first 15 minutes.  As I get more details, I will post them or refer to other web-sites.

** Update 6/13/11: Added podcast link and vitolas for the Toraño Loyal.
** Update 7/12/11: Corrected vitolas for the Toraño Vault (included Toro, there was no Churchill)
** Update 11/3/11: Corrected blend information on Vault (not Nicaraguan Puro)

Video: Ron Melendi Tours New York State to Protect the Professional Tobacconists

This is a powerful video that not only New York State cigar enthusiasts and retailers need to take notice of, but all folks nationwide.

This video is a short documentary in which New York Tobacconist Association (NYTA) Ron Melendi (General Manager of De La Concha cigars in New York City) tours the State of New York.  During the tour, we learn the stories of how retailers are getting hammered by the insane New York State cigar taxes.   It is also meant to show why it is important for New York to pass the $1.00 tax cap (Bills A1093 and S3410) on premium cigars.

There is a lot to be learned here.   Watch the final scene where Melendi is standing on the New York/Pennsylvania border and shows the difference in the cost of cigars from one side of the line to the other.   This is something all states need to look at.   It's a proven fact that tobacco tax increases will consistently backfire and result in lost revenues.

Thank you Mr. Melendi for the hard work you are doing for New York and everyone nationwide.  While I don't live in New York anymore, I still love to be able to purchase from a New York tobacconist when I am visiting.  I was recently on a trip to Florida and I can tell you that folks 1000 miles away are proud of what you are doing.  This is a great proactive move. 

Cigar Preview: My Uzi Weighs a Ton by Joya de Nicaragua

Joya de Nicaragua My Uzi Weighs a Ton
On June 10th, Jonathan Drew was at a Drew Estate event at Cordova Cigars in Pensacola, Florida.   Along the way, he brought along some pre-release "My Uzi Weighs a Ton" cigars from Joya de Nicaragua.

This cigar represents a joint-collaboration by Drew Estate with Joya de Nicaragua.   Drew Estate and Joya de Nicaragua already have an established partnership.  In 2008, Joya de Nicaragua CEO Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca decided to end the distribution relationship he had with Quesada's company and entered into a distribution agreement with Drew Estates.   The Uzi represents the first joint blending collaboration with Jonathan Drew himself and the folks at Joya de Nicaragua.

Tobaccos for this blend come from both the Drew Estate side and the Joya de Nicaragua side.   Jonathan Drew himself blended this cigar and it was rolled at the Joya de Nicaragua factories.  This 6 x 60 cigar will be released in the Joya de Nicaragua family.

Drew had a lot of enthusiasm for the release.  At the event, he described it as medium to full with some sweetness to it.  I will be smoking my sample soon and providing feedback.

Plans are for limited release beginning in late June with a nationwide release planned in the fall.

The Sampler Bag

As you can see....Pensacola was pumped for Drew's arrival and his latest creation!!!!

Pensacola, Florida ready for the Uzi!


Update: Pre-Review posted here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cigar Review: Diamond Crown Julius Caeser

Diamond Crown Julius Caeser
A lot of times when I mention Diamond Crown cigars, I seem to get mixed reactions: "Super Premium Cigar",  "Too Expensive",  "Not full enough for me".  I've always found this line from J.C. Newman to be a very solid line.   When last year, Newman announced that the "Julius Caeser" was going to be added to this line, I was more than excited.   The question would be - how good would these cigars be?   It took me a while, but I was finally able to track down this cigar.   It might have taken me about six months since its release, but it was more than worth the wait.   This was one of the better cigars I've had in 2011.

First up, I did not misspell the name "Caeser".  It is spelled "er".   The cigar is technically named after "J.C. - aka Julius Caeser" Newman. - the founder of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company.   It is meant to commemorate the 135th birthday of Newman and the company's 115th anniversary.   The cigars are made by Tabacalera A. Fuente in the Dominican Republic.  The Julius Caeser cigars are currently only available at select 55 Diamond Crown lounges right now.   This was why it took me a while to get one of these.

Let's take a closer look and see why this is such a special cigar.

Blend Profile

The Newmans did not release a lot on this blend.   As I've written a lot on this web-site, I know that some folks look at that as a negative, but I think it creates some intrigue and excitement.   Remember according to some, curiosity killed the cat.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Havana Seed
Binder: Central American Tobaccos
Filler: Central American Tobaccos

Vitolas Available

The Diamond Crown Julius Caeser is available in four vitolas:

Churchill: 7.25 x 52
Pyramid: 6.5 x 52
Robusto: 4.75 x 52
Toro 6 x 52

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For this cigar experience, I selected the Toro.  I placed a straight cut through the beautiful cap and then began the pre-light ritual.   The dry draws gave me wood and coffee with a hint of pepper in the background.  It wasn't a terribly exciting pre-light draw, but it wasn't bad.   Therefore, it was on to toast the foot and begjn the smoking experience.

Flavor Profile

The cigar had a much of a woody taste upon the initial draws.  It didn't take long for some sweetness to emerge on the Julius Caesar.  I have the sweetness as a cross between sugar cane and honey.  The sweetness is not overpowering, but it is just enough to give the cigar a good taste.   As the smoke progressed about 10 percent through, I noticed the sweetness was slightly morphing more into more of a citrus/lemon-like sweetness.   In addition, there were also some coffee and cream flavor notes present.

As the second third of the smoke started, I detected pepper notes that could best be described as a cross between red and white pepper.  Like the sweetness earlier on, it is not overpowering.  The citrus-sweetness and coffee notes were definitely in the secondary category.  The wood and cream notes had pretty much diminished.

As the smoking experience of the Julius Caeser enters the last third, another note soon came into the picture - this time flavors of nut.  The nut flavors can best be classified as almond in my book.   It is the almond, coffee, pepper, and citrus sweetness that are the notes that will be present until the end.   The nub was a little softer and warmer than I would have liked, but the finish was not harsh.

Burn and Draw

The burn on the Diamond Crown Julius Caeser was excellent, however this is one of these cigars that has a bit of loose draw.   I mention this because if you are one of these people (like I am at times) who tend to draw a cigar hard, you will get a hotter burn.  This is the type of cigar where you will want to take your time smoking this one.   This experience documents my second smoke of the Julius Caeser and I can tell you it makes a difference to slow down.  Plus if you slow down, you will really experience the complexity this cigar has to offer.

The ash was a beautiful white and gray.  There was some flaking, but nothing major.

Strength and Body

This is one of these cigars where there is something for everyone - namely novice and experienced cigar enthusiast.   The strength isn't overpowering and neither is the body.  This clearly falls into the "Medium" category for both categories.

Final Thoughts

When I do my Cigar of the Year countdown, I usually consider cigars from Thanksgiving of the previous year to Thanksgiving of the current year I am counting down.  This allows me to use the month of December to countdown the cigars.  I mention this because I do feel this will be a factor in my end of the year countdown.  No doubt, I really enjoyed this cigar - it was my favorite of the Diamond Crown line.  It had a lot of complexity and great balance.   Yes it's a little pricey (figuring depending on vitola and where you are taxed - about $13.00 to $18.00), but I'd recommend this to others and would love a box for my collection.

Summary

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Good
Complexity: High
Strength: Medium
Body: Medium
Assessment: Memorable

Disclaimer:  The cigars for this experience described in this assessment were purchased at Corona Cigar Company in Orlando, Florida.