A Toraño, an Undercrown, a Cain and Hockey With No Cigars!

ToranoVault_A008_ToroThursday I took a half day at work because I won tickets to the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo center in Philly from our local NBC TV Station. So, in preparation,  I took a walk with the dog and a Toraño Vault A-008 toro thst I believe came out of the 90+ sampler that Jack Toraño sent me last year (many thanks again, Jack!). The cigar has a flawless shade grown Nicaraguan wrapper, and there’s some filler from Ometepe that gives it a distictive flavor. The cigar lit and burned perfectly and was an excellent after lunch smoke. These Vault releases are unique in that they are blends that the Toraño family have had tucked away for years. This one is a really nice smoke and I give this a 98 on the new CigarCraig scoring scale (more on that later).

 

I had expected to have a cigar in the cigar bar at the Wells Fargo Center, but apparently you can’t have indoor smoking in a CIGAR Bar at a NCAA event. Sell all the beer you want, but smokers are relegated to a fenced off area outside, which is where I enjoyed a PDR A. Flores Gran Reserva Half Corona between games (a 97 on my scale, a great short smoke). I also was able to prevent a horrific injustice from happening. As we were standing there, a FrozenFourcouple guys walked out with BSB#1 Bernie Parent by Rocky Patel HOF 84 torpedos and started lighting them up. These are expensive cigars, in the $12 range in a shop, if they bought them at the arena they would have been nearly double that. Much like the Toraño Vault, they have a foot band, and I had a feeling the one guy was going to try lightning his without removing the band. It turns out, I was right,  and I intervened at the last second, yelling “wait!” (imagine it in slow motion for dramatic effect), and telling him that smoking the band isn’t the best way to appreciate the flavor of that particular cigar. Meanwhile, his buddy smoking a cigarette was howling with laughter as he apparently had told the guy that lighting the cigar that way was the right way to do it. I chastised him for his transgressions and finished my smoke. All the games were great,  I hadn’t paid any attention to college hockey and it was really entertaining. We also went to the finals last night and saw a really good game. Too bad the cigar bar was no smoking, it was packed with people drinking though!

 

Undercrown_DogmaFriday evening I decided to break out one of the samples of the Drew Estate Undercrown Dogma, which was recently released in very limited quantities and celebrates the one year anniversary of the Cigar Dojo Community app and website. Sadly, I just can’t seem to find the time to dig into another cigar community, and I’ve never been a big fan of web forums. The time required to keep up with them is more than I care to spend. So the Undercrown Dogma is a 6″ x 56 box pressed toro that is based upon the blend for the Corona Viva, which is slightly different than the regular Undercrown line in that the ratios of the fillers were tweaked to fit into the corona gorda format, resulting in a little different taste. I personally like the Corona Viva the best of the line and have smoked them the most.  So, I was interested in trying this new size. This is a spectacular cigar, and I hope they broaden the distribution of these, and make them a regular product. It’s rich and delicious, with a little bit of power. I don’t know Eric, Master Sensei at the Dojo manged to pull this off with Drew Estate, but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to try this (Thanks to JB at DE), although it bums me out a little that I won’t be able to get my hands on them easily!  This is a 99 on my new scoring scale.

 

I few weeks ago I was interviewed by a gentleman for an article on SpareFoot about cigar storage. I didn’t make a big deal about it at the time, as it happened to be published about the same time I made a little rant about “experts” and I certainly don’t consider myself one.  However, I find myself in good company in the article, with Patrick Ashby of StogieGuys.com and Tad Gage, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars”.  The article is at  www.SpareFoot.com and you can also read it below.

Title: Tips From the Experts on How to Store Cigars

 

Cain_Daytona_LanceroYesterday, before the Flyers beat the Penguins, and I went to the NCAA Finals game, I slipped in a Cain Daytona Lancero on a nice, Saturday afternoon walk.  This is a cigar that’s hard to get a hold of, and I was the fortunate recipient of a couple of these from my formerly local, former Oliva rep a couple years ago.  The Daytona blend is probably about my favorite of the line, although I do enjoy most of them for one reason or another. I find the Dayona to be slightly more refined than the rest of the line, and this Lancero is probably the most refined of the bunch. Great burn and draw, outstanding flavors and lasted a good hour and a half.  I’ve long held the belief that the length of a cigar is more of a determining factor in the smoking time than the ring gauge. This burned for easily an hour and a half, straight as an arrow and perfect from start to finish. If you see these, snag them up. I think the No. 4 corona is a reasonable substitute, as it’s right up there. Definitely a 98 on the scale.

 

I’ve decided to play around with a scoring scale.  My scale will be a little different as it will be a 10 point scale from 91 to 100, with a 91 being a really terrible cigar to a 100 with is the pinnacle of perfection in all aspects.  I can hear you now, “CigarCraig, that’s the biggest bunch of BS I’ve ever heard!  Why not just do a 1-10?”  Well, I hear you, and all I can say is that for one person to assign a score to a cigar, however arbitrary the method, is relatively useless, so I’m just making my useless scoring look really good to whoever happens to look at it at with pre-conceived notions.  So, if you see someone advertising that “CigarCraig gave our Perro Cohete Gran Reserva a 91!”, you’ll know to stay away!

 

That should make up for Wednesday’s weak post!  Enjoy the day! Un til the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

 

 

 

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A Hex From Sindicato and an Ora Vivo from Legacy Brands

Sindicato_Hex_FiguradoIt seems like only yesterday I was posting about smoking that enormous 7” x 70 Asylum 13 Ogre, and here it is Wednesday already and I find myself with little to report! Yesterday I revisited the Hex from Sindicato Cigars in the Figurado (5¼” x52) size. Honestly, I wasn’t certain what I wanted to smoke, and this was on the top of the humidor and I grabbed it and lit it up. This is from a batch I bought on National Hex Day back in January. These are made at the Ortez factory in Condega, Nicaragua, and use a dark, almost maduro, Ecuador Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. What they ended up with was a really sweet, rich smoke that is very satisfying. When I smoked this on Hex Day the example I smoked was on the wet side, and wasn’t the best representation of the blend. After some humidor time, it was a really tasty, well behaved smoke. The perfecto shape and the curly-cue pigtail cap are visually appealing details. I like these, and I look forward to trying their new eponymous line (called Sindicato) in the near future.

 

OraVivo_5x54Tonight I selected an Ora Vivo 5 x 54 that I got at the Ora Vivo dinner I attended last fall in New Jersey (story here). I only have one or two left, and I would have had a box of them, but at the event they were only taking cash and I came woefully unprepared.  Helpful hint for those hosting cigar events where cigars are for sale, if you can’t accept credit cards remotely, please let people know before hand that you are only taking cash so we can be prepared!  Anyway, I’ve smoked several of these cigars and find them to be exceptional cigars. These are made in Honduras by Victor Vitale’s Legacy Brands, but are Nicaraguan puros. This certainly isn’t a powerful cigar, it’s refined, smooth and well balanced.  This is a cigar that’s on a par with the best out there.  It’s not an inexpensive cigar, I think I paid $9 for one when I bought one on my New Hampshire trip last fall. It’s a cigar that’s not heavy on the palate, you could, theoretically, smoke these one after the other.  One of the reasons I had this cigar on my mind was that Armand Assante was a guest on The Cigar Authority last Saturday.  If you have a podcast habit, like I do, give it a listen.

 

 

Getting a late post out on Sunday and skipping my evening cigar on Monday for various reasons makes for a short installment tonight,  my apologies.   I’ll endeavor to do better in the future. Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Arandoza, Rosalones, Nica Puro and an Asylum 13 Ogre Cigar

Arandoza_Blue_RobustoI started out the second half of the week revisiting the Arandoza Blue Label Robusto from Arandoza Cigars.  This brand is made at Erik Espinoza’s La Zona factory in Esteli, it’s a Nicaraguan puro with a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and fillers. I smoked some of these last year and enjoyed them quite a bit, as I enjoyed this one again. They’ve fancied up the bands on these, making them harder to get a good picture, but the cigar is a really nice, well balanced smoke, with a little sweetness.  Now that I’ve smoked a few cigars from La Zona, I’m quite confident that I’ll enjoy just about anything made there.  The Arandoza is a little known gem.

 

JdN_Rosalones_448Friday evening I got off to a late start, so I went for something on the smaller site for my evening walk.  The Rosalones from Joya de Nicaragua was a surprise find last year at Cigar Safari. None of the assembled bloggers I was with had heard of this, and we were told it was for the European market.  Not too long after that these showed up at Cigars International, which is where I picked up a few of these well priced, really tasty little cigars. The 448 is 4¾” x 48 and it’s another Nicaraguan puro. The wrapper is a Nicaraguan Habano Criollo and it’s a medium bodied little flavor bomb. Of course, as just about everything from JdN, it’s perfectly constructed. For a couple bucks a piece, these are really quite excellent cigars, and if you look back at some of my blogger brethren’s trip reports from last May, you’ll see that these were the talk of the trip. These are a bargain, and I’m not sure, but they may be a CI exclusive.

 

AlecBradley_Nica Puro_ToroSaturday was a pretty nice, spring day, although a bit breezy.  After getting some much needed  yard work done (it’s never really done, but I was done!), I picked out an Alec Bradley Nica Puro for my afternoon walk.  I’ve exclusively smoked the robustos in this line up until now, and it’s one of those cigars that I can grab and enjoy the heck out of on those occasions where I need a solid, no-nonsense cigar that I can just love and not have to think about much. A few weeks ago at the Filthy Hooligan event at Cigar Mojo I picked up some toros just to change it up a little.  Lucky for me, it’s the same great tasting smoke in a longer format.  Unfortunately for me, it was a bear to keep lit, for some reason. I’ve had this happen in the past when I’ve picked out the cigar about an hour prior to smoking, took my pictures (because I’m nutty that way) and put it in an aluminum tube for a little later. Ironically, I’ve also had burn problems when I’ve taken a slightly different route than I normally take. It’s hard for me to believe that the route has any effect, but I’ll abandon the tube for the Black Delrin Transporter Tube  in the future (check out the Indiegogo campaign and get behind this guy, these are really nice tubes! Time is running out.). I remain a fan of the Nica Puro. It gives me a satisfying smoking experience the majority of the time, and the flavor is yummy.

 

Asylum13_Ogre_7x70Today I decided to pull out all the stops. Last June, on the occasion of our second granddaughter’s birth, we happened upon Black Cat Cigar‘s shop on our way home from the hospital. I picked up the Asylum 13 Ogre there, it was fairly new on the market, and I figured I should smoke it some day anyway. It’s an absurdly large cigar, 7″x70, and is a barber pole wrap of Habano maduro and Candela. I really like the green and brown appearance of this, but it’s size kept it buried in the humidor until such a time as I could devote a few hours to it’s smoking. For those who don’t know, this is made at Fabricas Unidas, which is Christian Eiroa’s factory in Honduras.  I’m thankful that these are being released in more manageable 6″ x 60 and 5″ x 50 sizes, because I really enjoyed the flavors in this cigar. The Candela gives it a little bit of that refreshing flavor, and the maduro (the best I can tell, the candela is an over wrap on top of a completed maduro cigar) gives it the coffee/cocoa flavor I like. The draw was very free, and it actuallly burned a bit quicker than I anticipated.  Apart from a little bit of flaking of the delicate candela leaf, the burn was pretty even. I used my Xikar MTX scissors on this, because I don’t think any of my cutters would accommodate the ridiculous girth of this cigar. As I said, I’ll be on the look out for the robusto size in this line.  I really got a lot more flavor than I thought and it certainly isn’t a novelty cigar. (note: The websites for Asylum Cigars, Fabricas Unidas and CLE Cigars all return a message stating that they “encountered a fatal error” at the time of publication, perhaps Christian forgot to pay the bill? :-) )

 

I’d also like to take this opportunity to welcome Black Cat Cigars to the CigarCraig family of supporters. Click the link on the right sidebar and check out their Mayhem Deals. The first time I came across Black Cat was an evening long ago when we met a friend in Philly for dinner.  We stopped in the little shop on Sansom Street on our way to the Sam Adams Brew pub, where we ended up running into another couple friends and smoking cigars with them all night. Their new shop in East Norriton, PA is pretty nice, stop in if you find yourself in that area.

 

That’s it for today, back to enjoying a relaxing Spring Sunday. Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Partagas 1845 Extra Oscuro and Extra Fuerte Cigars

I’ve been sampling the new additions to the Partagas 1845 line this week. The regular 1845 was released about 2 years ago and I really enjoyed them, I thought it was a solid addition to an already excellent line. This year they’ve come out with two line extensions, the Extra Fuerte and Extra Oscuro. As they’ve recently done with the La Gloria Cubana Serie R Esteli and Black, they’ve earmarked the Extra Fuerte for Brick and Mortar stores and the Extra Oscuro for the Internet and catalog retailers. I’m not sure how I feel about that, by the way. On the one hand, it gives each outlet something special and exclusive, on the other hand, it makes one have to go one place or the other to buy and splits the sale. If you were morally opposed to online shopping, you can’t get one, and if you have no other option than to order online, you miss out on the other. I suppose General Cigar Co. knows what they are doing, or they wouldn’t be so huge. I received samples of each from General Cigar Co. last week and couldn’t wait to smoke them.

 

Partagas1845_ExtraOscuro_Robusto GordoSo, you all know which cigar I had to smoke first, right? Monday I grabbed an Extra Oscuro and took it for a walk. The Robusto Gordo is 5½ x 52, a very good size for my tastes. It has a Connecticut Habano Oscuro wrapper which is very dark and oily. The purple band looks very nice on this dark wrapper. This reminded one of a bit smoother version of another favorite Partagas, the Black. Back in October of 2011 when I visited the General Cigar Factory, one evening at dinner we were given some unbanded samples and tasting sheets to complete, and I remember one of the cigars had a nice, dark wrapper that I mentioned to Jhonys Diaz, who runs the show for General in the DR, that I thought it was the same wrapper as the Partagas Black and he nodded and winked. I wonder now if those were early blend samples of the 1845 line? Anyway, this cigar had the coffee/cocoa flavors that I so enjoy and had a perfect burn and draw. This is a winner, it’s almost too bad these aren’t available in the brick and mortar stores.

 

Partagas1845_ExtraFuerte_Robusto GordoTuesday evening I thought about smoking something foolish in honor of April Fools Day, but that Partagas Extra Fuerte practically jumped out of the humidor at me. I had no choice but to fire it up. Just about the only similarity between this and the Extra Oscuro is that they use a unique barrel aging process in aging the filler, in the Oscuro it’s the Dominican filler that’s Barrel aged, in the Fuerte it’s the Nicaraguan. I remember seeing this barrel aging when I toured the facility, and I’ve seen it at Drew Estate as well. The wrapper is a high priming Ecuador Habano, and is a nice, dark brown. It’s got an oily sheen and is quite tasty. Again, I enjoyed this one, although I thought that it needed a little more humidor time to really shine. The flavors were maybe a little bolder than the original 1845. This one will be available on your local shops and not online.

 

The folks at GCC continue to make some very good cigars as far as my palate is concerned. I dig the new La Glorias, CAOs as well as these Partagas. I was poking around one of the coolerdors and came across a sampler from my 2011 visit that had a Benji Menendez Partagas Master Series that I may have to smoke one of these days (along with the other 4 nicely aged cigars that are in there). I have trouble breaking up cool samplers like that for some reason. It’s a disease.

 

That’s it for now, until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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A Relajado, a CAO Flathead, and a Byron Cigar

Relajado_RobustoThursday I revisited the Relajado Robusto, which is a house brand from Best Cigar Prices. The cigar is made by General cigar, the trademark rounded head gives that away.  Despite the band being pretty cheesy, and looking like a cheap bundle cigar instead of a reasonably priced boxed cigar, this was pretty darned nice. It reminded me a little of the Macanudo Cru Royal…a little…it has an Ecuador Habano wrapper and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. This is a mild to medium cigar that has some sweet leather flavors.  It burned OK, not razor straight but not needing correction. Nice smoke, but the band kills me on this, Based solely on presentation, I’d definitely pass this up on the shelf (figuratively, this is only available at Best Cigar Prices).  I’ve mentioned this to Jason there, so I’m not blind-siding him.  I hope to get up-state to Drums, PA to visit these guys one of these days. Thanks to Jason for sending these along to try, so far I’m quite impressed with the exclusive cigars from BCP. I really like the Six-Sixty and the Alec Bradley Star Insignia too.

 

CAO_Flathead_CarbA few weeks ago I lied to you.  I said that I had the CAO Flathead Big Block 770 in my humidor, when I actually had the Carb 660. I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.  I took Friday off from work to get some things done, and one of the things I got done was taking this CAO Flathead Carb 660 for a walk.  Our dog and I took a nice long walk while I smoked this 6″ x 60 square pressed cigar. I am going to have to bite the bullet and get one of the 7x70s just to complete the set, I suppose, as I really enjoy the dark roast coffee, cocoa flavors these cigars have. I think I like the Camshaft the best of the bunch, 5″X 56 is just an all around more manageable size and of the three of four sizes I’ve smoked I liked that one the best in terms of balance. I can make the assumption that the 7″ x 70 won’t be as good as the 6″ x 60, but I like to collect the data first hand.  That’s not to say I didn’t like the Carb, I did.  The square press makes it feel smaller than the 60 ring, and it burned unusually well. This line is loaded with Connecticut Broadleaf goodness. I know there are loyalists and purists who poo-poo the CAO line in the General Cigar era, but they are missing out. Rick, Ed and their team have really made some good cigars for CAO, and the Flathead line is, so far, my favorite. I purchased this Carb, as well as the Piston I smoked previously, and I’ll buy them again.

 

Byron_LondinesesSaturday was a rainy day, so my plans to do some yard work were put off once again.  I ran a couple errands and took a chair out to the garage and lit up a cigar I’d been trying to find a good reason to smoke since Dave Garofalo, of 2 Guys Smoke Shop, gave this to me at the IPCPR show last year.  The Byron line of cigars is made in Costa Rica by Nelson Alphonso.  Señor Alphonso is the gentleman responsible for most of the modern Habanso S.A.  packaging, the jars and humidors, all the fancy stuff. He started making cigar in Costa Rica under the Byron, Attabey and Bandolero marques a few years ago. I smoked the Byron Londineses, which is 5½ x 54.  These are seriously pricey cigars, they come in a beautiful ceramic jars, not unlike the Cuban special editions. As far as the tobaccos involved in these, it’s a big secret, but I seem to recall hearing that they color sort the filler leaves to make sure the flavor is consistent. This certainly adds to the cost of production.  I knew going in that this was a pricey cigar, but I had no idea it was a $30 cigar.  You know me, I’m a cheap bastid, I think the most I’ve paid for a cigar is around $12.  I did smoke this with an open mind and a clean palate and it was a wonderful cigar.  At one point, I swear I had a hint of buttered popcorn in the middle of the cigar.  It came and went quickly, but it was there. The rest was a buttery smooth, flavorful cigar that burned perfectly.  This was quite a nice smoke and I appreciate Dave giving me the chance to try a cigar I certainly wouldn’t purchase for myself.  I was told once that a small amount of Cuban product is allowed by law based on weight, so the heavier the packaging, the more Cuban ingredients could be used.  I found this to be hard to believe, and I haven’t been able to verify it, but I’ve smoked the Byron and Bandolero and there’s a little “Twang” in both that is reminiscent of Cuban tobacco.  Considering Señor Alphonso’s close ties to the Cuban cigar Industry, he certainly has access to Cuban tobacco, or he was able to find other tobaccos that replicate this profile. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know, and if anyone knows anything about this loophole in the trade embargo, please let us know!

 

That’s it for today. I’ll be looking for a cigar later today to either celebrate the Flyer’s victory, or console myself. I hate weekend afternoon games, I have so many better things I could be doing. I suppose if it’s rainy like it is today it makes it a little easier to handle.  Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

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