As you may or may not know, my father, Paul Vanderslice, passed away on Thursday morning, he would have been 81 today. I am honored to present not one, but two reviews from honorary Craigs today. These two gentlemen generously lent their talents to give me a day off, which I greatly appreciate. The upside for you, the reader, is that you are treated to some actual cigar reviews. My dad was a career music educator, US Navy veteran, lover of baseball and Moosehead beer, and a good dad. He touched a great many lives in his career, and he worked right up until the end of his life as a church choir director. We will miss him, and, although he was almost 81, he left us too early. I’ve been dipping into some of my best cigars over the last couple days as I think about life. Please enjoy these reviews from honorary Craigs for a Day, Anthony and Jeff, many thanks to them.
The Brick by Toraño – by Craig Anthony Lund (Agent 86)
I just want you to know my prayers and my brothers prayers are with you. We had the same kind of situation a couple years ago and it is one of the hardest things to do. All I can say is to think of all the good times. I know my brother and I talked about all of the great times we had with our father, most of which involved cigars (at least for the last 10 years or so).
For tonight I decided to revisit one of my regular favorites, in fact one that Craig has already reviewed, though he was having some dog issues that night. I don’t pretend to have quite as exciting of a review as that one, but I am quite content to be enjoying my cigar from the sedate location of my couch while watching Expedition Unknown. This cigar is The Brick, from Toraño. This one is in the Churchill size because, quite frankly, I’m somewhat of a size junkie with cigars lately and would much rather be having the 6X60 BFC but my local B&M doesn’t have it right now. The Brick is a nice, big, box pressed cigar with a dark, chocolaty look. The wrapper is a nice even color with a couple of prominent veins. The smell fresh out of the cellophane is the rich smell of a recently turned field of dark soil.
Upon using my punch the wrapper cracked, this is a problem I have seen a few times with this cigar, I believe it has to do with Toraño using a thin wrapper. Of course this particular one had been in my humidor for a while and apparently I had let the humidification level drop a bit. Hopefully this won’t affect the flavor. Right after taking my first draw I noticed the sweet flavor and large amounts of smoke. Not a lot of cigars give quite the level of smoke that these do, the larger one puts out even more. As it burns the ash is a nice light grey and holds together really well. The flavors are strong in chocolate and coffee with just a hint of a peppery taste. The burn remains pretty consistent as it goes, with just a little bit of canoeing that required a touch up from the lighter. As I smoke this cigar, there isn’t a huge change in the flavor profile or strength. It is exceptional at remaining completely consistent beginning to end. The pepper notes rise and fall but the chocolate and coffee flavors remain steady throughout. As I got past the mid point the ash did flake up a bit and I wound up ashing my keyboard a couple of times.
As I reach the end this cigar remains as just a nice pleasant smoke with a great flavor. It doesn’t really vary in taste or intensity as it reaches the end. All in all this is a really great cigar with a solid, medium body and a consistent medium flavor until the end. The best part of this is that the cigar is priced right. I find it rare to find such a good, solid stick for under 5 bucks. Also, this is one of the least marked up cigars in my local area coming in at $4.60. The Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper is thin, but holds together pretty well, though I have had some cracking and splitting on other ones I’ve had. I have in the past really disliked Sumatra wrappers but with this cigar it really melds well with the Honduran binder and filler. I really lean heavily toward the Nicaraguan made cigars, and this is one out of Nicaragua that really shows why. If you’re looking for a really solid stick at a great price this is the one. It works perfectly for a good every day smoke and works well in every situation as long as you have the time, it does burn pretty slow and steady.
Viaje Exclusivo Double Edged Sword II – by Craig Jeff Oda (jjo)
Hello all. I am an unofficial member of the Casas Fumando cigar review website, and a long-time fan of Cigar Craig. When Craig put up his last post alerting us to the condition of his father and asking for a contribution of a review, I didn’t hesitate to volunteer what little I could for a guy who I consider to be not only a great BOTL, but a good friend. We have communicated via email over the last few years, and I have always had a great deal of respect for not only his blog, but for his viewpoints on ethics and life in general. I have not yet met Craig in person, but hope to someday, and I am honored and grateful that he would allow me to contribute to his blog in a time of need. I would like to dedicate this review in honor of Paul Vanderslice, and hope that you will all join me and Casas Fumando in wishing the all the best to his family. With that in mind, I scrapped the review that I had originally had set up, and went ahead with one of a limited release that carries a bit more cachet to it.
The Viaje Exclusivo Double Edged Sword II was released in 2013 as a more widely available (700 jars of 19 cigars) follow-up to the ultra-limited 2010 Double Edged Sword, of which only 125 boxes of 25 were released. The 2013 version comes in a slightly different vitola: a 6.5×50 open footed perfecto, as opposed to the original’s 5.75×52 double torpedo shape. According to halfwheel.com, it was manufactured at Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas S. de R.L. While the price of this cigar is something that would normally cause me to hesitate in grabbing one, this one was generously sent to me just over a year ago by Mike Forry of Stogie Review and Stogie 411 as part of a pay-off of a wager on last year’s Super Bowl, so a big “thank you!” to Mike.
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Criollo
Size: 6.5×50 Perfecto, with an open foot
Smoking time: 1 hour, twenty minutes
Pairing: Silver City Brewery – The Giant Made of Shadows Belgian strong ale
The Viaje Double Edged Sword II comes draped in a reddish milk chocolate brown wrapper showing some minor veins and a few soft spots, including a rather large one just above the lower band which identifies the cigar as a part of the Viaje Collector’s Edition series. There are also a couple of minor cracks present in the wrapper. There is not much of an aroma to the wrapper, but that may be due the fact that it has been sitting un-cellophaned in my humidor for over a year. The scent off the foot is mostly a mild tobacco. Upon clipping the sharply pointed cap, I experience a nice draw, with light, mild spice, tobacco, and a hint of cedar.
Firing up the $18.63 Double Edged Sword II with my trusty $2.69 Hong Kong torch, I’m greeted by light charred wood, pepper, and cedar, all of which are surprisingly light on the retrohale. A half inch in, the cedar had moved to the forefront as the charred flavor recedes, and the pepper has strengthened on both the palate and retrohale. A slightly sweet spice plays in the background, while the burn that started out quite wavy is trying to even itself out. While the Double Edged Sword II started out needing double puffs to get a good amount of smoke, by the 1” mark, this is no longer necessary.
Rolling into the second third of the Viaje DES II, the cedar continues to lead the way, with toasty bread, white pepper, some aged tobacco mustiness, and the lightly sweet spice also in the mix. The ash had held on for the entire first third, but not wanting to tempt fate, I tapped it off into my ashtray. Subsequent ashings would be in the 1” – 1-1/2” range, with one of them landing unceremoniously in my lap. The burn has continued to waver, but I have not had to think about touching it up, and it has burned through that largish soft spot without a problem. At this point, it has been right at a solid medium in terms of body, and at the lower end in strength. The smoke has been smooth both on the tongue and retrohale, but has been leaving a peppery tickle in the back of the throat.
Entering the final third of the DES II, the burn has continued to meander, but has not been a problem at all, nor have the few cracks and soft spots affected the smoking characteristics of the cigar. The flavors have remained pretty much unchanged, although they have gotten a bit deeper and more cohesive, and I’m beginning to feel a slight nicotine kick. With 1-1/2” left, some char has re-emerges, but a quick purge takes care of that. I’m duly impressed by the lack of harshness and how cool it smokes all the down to a little nub.
The Viaje Double Edged Sword II was surely an enjoyable smoke that behaved quite well despite my misgivings on construction when I first did my extended once-over. I can’t say, however, that I think it is worth the $18+ asking price. A more realistic $10 – $12 would be more in my ballpark, but if Mike wants to send me another, I would gladly smoke and enjoy it, lol! I would also add that based on how slowly the first third went, I was expecting it to be an hour and a half smoke, but the middle section went pretty quickly.
Although I know that Craig is a teetotaler, I wanted to salute his father properly, and in my world, that is with a proper alcoholic beverage. The Giant Made of Shadows from Bremerton, WA beer crafter Silver City Brewery is a limited seasonal release Belgian style strong ale aged in Temperanillo wine barrels, and sports an ABV of 9.9%. If I didn’t already know that it had sat in wine barrels, I probably wouldn’t be able to identify the flavor that the barrels impart to the beer, but it is definitely there. The Belgian fruitiness and deep malt give it a nice sweetness and makes for a nice match with the flavors of the Viaje Double Edged Sword II, without overwhelming it, while the wine barrels contribute a depth of flavor and roundness that goes quite well with the cigar. I think that any Belgian style beer, and even a Dunkel, would provide a good complement to the DES II, as well.
Once again, thank you to these two great friends and long-time readers. Their contributions are always welcome here, along with anyone else who would like to be a Craig for a day. I also appreciate all the thoughts and encouragement you’ve provided me with over the last very difficult week.
Until the next time,