Gran Habano ZuluZulu, Black Dalia, La Conquista and Corojo No. 5 Maduro Cigars

GranHabanoSTK_ZuluZuluWhite_CoronaGordaThis week had me smoking through some Gran Habano offerings that I hadn’t smoked before. Gran Habano has been around a long time, although I don’t see them in a lot of my local brick and mortar shops (CI might have them, I never thought to look, and their website indicates a couple nearby shops, I’l have to look again!).  I’ve enjoyed many cigars from George Rico and his father, Guillermo, and their Honduras factory.  I started out this week with the corona gorda (5-5/8″ x 46) sized ZuluZulu Mas Paz White.  This tasty cigar has a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper with a Nicaraguan Habano binder, and Nicaraguan fillers.  This is part of the S.T.K. Miami line, but all indications are that they are rolled in Honduras. I really don’t care where it was rolled, it was a damned fine cigar. I thought it was smooth and creamy, with some earthiness, coffee and caramel. The cigar comes in a full sleeve, I don’t know what to call the material, glassine paper, maybe?  It is translucent to a point where one can see the band underneath. The artwork featured on the packaging is by  Colombian-American artist, “Mas Paz”, a friend of George Rico.  The S.T.K. Line was originally George Rico’s private blends. This one was very good.

GranHabanoSTK_BlackDalia RobustoThe next cigar I smoked was also from the S.T.K. line was the Black Dalia Robusto. I was drawn to the beautiful band on this one, it was striking, although I’m not certain what exactly it is. It looks like maybe some sort of headdress with gold leaf, a black flower (presumably the Dalia) and light pink. The band shouldn’t matter, but first impressions do play into the perception of a cigar’s quality. I’ve smoked many great, premium cigars that have bands that look like bundle cigar bands and it did take away from the experience for me. I suppose I’m a snob in some ways.  Anyway, this Black Dalia smoked very well.  It was a 5″ x 52 robusto with a Nicaraguan Shade Grown Corojo wrapper, a double binder of Habano and Nicaraguan and fillers from Nicaragua, Columbia and Costa Rica. Gran Habano lists Habano often in their literature with no indication of where it’s grown. The wrapper is beautiful, the cigar has nice flavors of coffee with some spice and nuts.  I think I liked this less than the Zulu White, but it was still very tasty and left me satisfied.

GranHabano_LaConquista_RobustoThe next cigar that was new to me from Gran Habano was the La Conquista, presented with a cedar sleeve.  Again, I smoked the 5″ x 52 Robusto with a Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan, Colombian and Costa Rican fillers.  This and the Black Dalia are listed as Full Bodied, but they were solid mediums for my jaded palate.  The cedar sleeve seemed to impart a very woody flavor to the first half of this cigar, it’s a flavor I don’t much care for in a cigar, but just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean others don’t. When it comes to food, there are a lot of normal things I don’t like the flavor of, potatoes, for example (unless they are crispy), lots of vegetables, I’m weird. Once the wood note faded eventually and I really did enjoy the cigar. It went from woody to leathery, which I guess makes sense.  It lacked the sweetness I like in a cigar, but it burned well. I’ve been shying away from robustos lately because I seem to need a little more time with a cigar lately, but the Gran Habano offerings I’ve smoked in that size seem to last a good amount of time, maybe an hour and a half?  Impressive.

GranHabano_CorojoNo5Maduro_RobustoI still have the S.T.K. ZuluZulu Black to try, as well as the staple #5 Corojo and # 1 Connecticut to revisit, but I had to go Maduro for yesterday’s cigar. The Gran Habano No. 5 Maduro was my kinda cigar!  This is presented in the style of the Havana Partagas Serie Edition Limitadas, with the red band and the gold secondary “LE” band. I often fantasize about being the kind of cigar smoker who has a rotation of 8 or 10 staple cigars, and this would probably be among them. If I were able to be that kind of smoker it would save me a lot of time with selection and taking pictures and stuff, but it would be very boring for you.  Anyway, this is listed as the strongest in the Gran Habano portfolio and I tend to agree. It’s espresso and dark chocolate all day long and like Maxwell House, it’s good to the last drop. I think I put this one down with less than a half-inch left.  This has a Nicaraguan Maduro wrapper (assuming it’s a Corojo, as the band says “Corojo No. 5”), Habano binder, and Nicaraguan and Costa Rican fillers. This is a really tasty smoke and I don’t think they break the bank price wise.  Great cigar, for my palate, at least.

I need to vent a little.  I got a mess of press releases this week, and my fellow bloggers and cigar media brethren are orders of magnitude better at posting news than I am.  That’s not my area of expertise, and I’m happy to point people to other outlets that excel in that area. Cigar-Coop, HalfWheel, Developing Palates, BlindMansPuff, Cigar Dojo, the list goes on. One “news” item that mystified me this week was that Crowned Heads was releasing a line of new…..hats! OK, when Rocky Patel announces that he’s got 8 new lighters coming out, that’s weird but cigar related.  Granted, I’m neither a fan of hats for the most part, or Crowned Heads (I fall into the apathy category about the brand if I’m honest), and maybe this is why I don’t care much about the brand (although I apparently care enough to bitch about it).  Hats….seriously? This is worthy of cigar news?  Macanudo is celebrating its 50th anniversary. News. Famous Smoke Shop upgraded their Cigar Monster auction site. News. Gurkha has a new lounge exclusive cigar. news. A company that sells good cigars adds to their baseball cap line?  Are they a cigar maker or a hat company?  People will argue that they make great cigars (they have great cigars made), and they are “cool”, but I don’t get it, and it doesn’t interest me. That’s enough of this edition of “you kids get the hell off my lawn”, until the next time,

CigarCraig

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Murcialago, Providencia Trinitas and Cornelius Lonsdale Cigars

Murcialago_RobustoLast week one of the cigars I picked up at Cigars International’s Espinosa event was the new Murcialago. I remember when this came out int the EO Brands days, it was Eddie Ortega’s go-to, made at the My Father Factory with a rich, dark San Andrés wrapper. These had a red bat-shaped band, appropriate since murcialago is Spanish for bat.  Seems like a long word for bat, but that’s neither here nor there. I remember the original release being sometime in the 2011 area. In the Ortega/Espinosa amicable divorce, Erik got custody of the Murcialago brand, and it hibernated for a few years. Recently the brand has re-emerged, and I grabbed a few of the red banded robustos, as well as a silver banded Churchill. I know the latest release, with the silver band, is being made at AJ Fernandez’ new San Lotano factory in Ocotal, Nicaragua, but I’m not sure if the red banded cigars were made there or La Zona. I suppose it would have been prudent of me to ask that question of Erik while I was talking to him.  The Robusto is a box pressed 5″ x 54, and, given my recent avoidance of robustos, I’m surprised I didn’t get the toro instead, perhaps they were out.  The cigar smoked as one would expect it would, perfect burn and draw, dark, rich flavors of espresso and some spice. I recall really liking the old version, but it’s been so long since I smoked one I can’t really draw a direct comparison, but it was good and I liked it.

 

Providencia_The TrinitasYesterday afternoon I decided to give the Trinitas from Providencia Cigars a try. These cigars are made in Honduras with Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco. This cigar came to mind because I know two of the company principles are from the Philadelphia area and are big Eagles fans. Apparently the Eagles won a big game, and were recognized with a parade in Philly last week, and I’m sure Ray and Jim wish they had been there. All this Eagles stuff in the news made me think of Providencia cigars for some reason, so I pulled out the Trinitas to give it a try. This is a beautiful 6½” x 52 perfecto with a box press, and has “Triple Ligero” on the band.  Curiously, their website notes that it has Lijero, whether this is a typo or linguistic difference, I don’t know. I give them points for keeping their site up to date, so I give them a pass.  This Trinitas was only recently released, and is a small batch cigar, and is offered in boxes of ten or bundles of 11.  I was expecting a much stronger cigar, given the triple ligero descriptor, but what I got was a medium bodied, very refined and well-balanced cigar that was really very good.  It had some sweetness, and earthy/nutty flavors that were quite enjoyable on a rainy Saturday on the porch watching the Olympics.  These are not widely distributed, but I’ve had very good experiences now with all three of their lines, the El Padre and El Santo are also excellent. Even though they aren’t in a lot of shops, they do offer their cigars for sale on their site. These cigars are worthy of sampling, in my opinion.

 

CorneliusandAnthony_Cornelius_LonsdaleLast night I came across my last IPCPR sample of the Cornelius and Anthony Cornelius Lonsdale. I received a couple new samples last week, and I’m sure it’s common knowledge that this brand, is on the top of my list recently. I cracked a box of Señor Esugars toros earlier in the week and am really going to have trouble not smoking them all up real fast, the cigar was awesome. I’ll smoke another one soon and give it more attention here. For me, in all six Cornelius and Anthony lines, the toro is the size that does it for me. That being said, this year’s release of the Cornelius in the Lonsdale size intrigued me. I recapped my IPCPR visit along with a video with Steven Bailey back in August, you can check that out here. My initial impression of the cigar remains the same as the first smoking, the 6½” x 42 Lonsdale may seem a little stronger than the Toro largely because a narrower ring cigar is going to burn a bit hotter, making the flavors sharper. People always think there’s some magic wrapper to filler ratio that makes smaller ring cigars taste different, but it’s the heat. Certainly the blend proportions have to change across a range of ring gauges, but if proportions were exactly the same, the thinner cigars would still have a sharper flavor, easily confused with more flavor, because it inherently burns hotter. It’s a fact. This Lonsdale presents all the elegance and subtlety of the Toro, but with a little more oomph, making it a similar, but different experience.  I like it, I like it a lot.

 

I’ve been slacking on my midweek posts over the last couple weeks, winter blues, I guess, but, if you watch my Instagram feed, I’m still enjoying a daily cigar, although I’ve been quite hedonistic in my choices lately. I get home from a long day at work and want to relax with a cigar and just enjoy it without worrying about thinking of something to write about it. I’ve always been pretty open about the fact that I’m in this for the enjoyment, when smoking cigars, or writing this blog, feel like work, it’s not fun anymore!  Anyway, it’s time to get on with my day, until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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An Espinosa Comfortably Numb Cigar at Cigars International Superstore in Hamburg PA

Espinosa CIYesterday was a big day at the Cigars International Superstore in Hamburg, PA.  Erik Espinosa was on hand all day selling his cigars there, and there was a line wrapping around the building of people waiting to but their CigarFest tickets. I understand that tickets sold out in under a minute on-line, and I also was told that people started lining up at 4pm Friday! The crazy part of this (or one of them) was that it was brutally cold out, the very crowded CI store looked like a ski lodge with all the people bundled up.  I understand that Espinosa Comfortably NumbCigarFest is a big event, something like 3000 people per day over two days, with many making a weekend of it, but that kind of crowd isn’t my bag.  But a lot of people dig it, so more power to them!  I made for a crowded store, it was hard to find a seat, what with people leaving their coats and stuff on seats and tables and socializing elsewhere, which is in very bad form, in my opinion. Some patrons like to sit and relax, some like to wander and socialize, but you can’t have it both ways.  We found a table by the door, which was constantly opening so it wasn’t very comfortable. I had bought a selection of Espinosa cigars, and lit up a CI exclusive that was recommended to be by a CI staff member called Comfortably Numb Vo,. 1. The band on this is in the classic Bob Masse ’60s Comfortably Numbconcert poster style, very psychedelic. This 6″ x 52 Toro has an Ecuador Habano wrapper, Corojo binder and Nicaraguan fillers. The wrapper is milk-chocolate-brown with very fine veins, it’s an attractive cigar.  I was very surprised with this cigar, pleasantly so. It was perfect for early in the day, the flavors were smooth and creamy, with some sweetness akin to a coffee with cream and sugar (which paired nicely with the cup of black coffee I enjoyed). I really should have grabbed another handful of these, but I had spent too much there already! Great cigar.

 

Espinosa CI 2Erik Espinosa is one of those guys in the cigar industry that I don’t know as well as some, however, when I walked into the store he walked up behind me and greeted me like an old friend, as did Juan Cancel from Cubariqueno Cigar Co. and Jose Galvez, our local Espinosa sales guy. While I haven’t smoked a ton of Espinosa branded cigars, Some brands made at his La Zona factory in Esteli are among my favorites.  Cornelius & Anthony, La Sirena are in my list of go tos, and I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Arandoza cigars too, and I’ve bought plenty of 601 La Bombas in the past, going back to EO brands days. One of the cigars I bought was the 601 Steel, which was an exclusive for Famous Smoke Shop, oddly enough. At some point that exclusivity agreement ended, and CI took on the line.  Considering CI is headquartered in Bethlehem, PA, which was known for it’s steel mills, it makes sense 601_Steel_Girderfor CI to carry it. It’s a reasonably priced cigar, and while it’s billed as full-bodied, I didn’t find it to be that at all.  It struck me as medium at best, but what do I know. It’s listed as having a dark Habano Oscuro wrapper and Nicaraguan fillers and binder. I didn’t find the wrapper to be all that dark.  It had a nice flavor, burned a little off, but OK, and was a perfectly nice smoke.  I also picked up some Murciualago (with red bands and silver, a Dread, and another event exclusive that looks like an Ecuador Connecticut wrapped cigar.  I’ll get to some of them in the near future. We left the shop after the one cigar, it was just to noisy and crowded for my liking. It was nice of Matt Cook, who’s the Director of Retail Operations, to stop by and say hello. I probably wouldn’t know Matt if we didn’t have a mutual friend.

 

In related news, it was announced this week that Thompson Cigars has been acquired by the parent company of Cigars International.

Scandinavian Tobacco Group today signed an agreement to acquire the business of Thompson and Co. of Tampa, Inc.  “Thompson”). The purchase price amounts to USD 62 million and the acquisition will be financed by existing cash at hand. The closing of the deal is expected to take place by the end of March 2018.

There’s a lot more to the press release, which is at many of my colleague’s sites, but I’m going to offer my unsolicited $0.02. Over the last year or so Cigars International’s mail order division had a major problem with a new computer system, which damaged their brand significantly in the eyes of the consumer.  I’m sure many retailers in both the brick and mortar and mail order spaces rejoiced. Thompson has been selling cigars for over 100 years, I ordered a special out of a magazine add in 1996 and am still on the mailing list, and have gotten plenty of phone calls from them (I wrote about their auction site back in 2012, the story is here), and never was a fan of dealing with them. Other’s have had great experiences, and, given the history, many must like them. So from my biased perspective, a company that had big problems buys a company with a questionable marketing reputation?  I don’t get it, but the people spending the $62 million are much smarter than I am.  I’ve never had an issue with CI, granted I live close by, and it’s nice to visit their stores, but I like visiting most stores (see last weeks post!).  With plans to also open a superstore in Texas announced by CI, and Altadis’ parent company and Davidoff  buying and opening stores all over the place, clearly the trend is to go direct to consumer.  Will Swisher be looking to go this route? What’s the future hold for the mom & pop shops? Kinda sounds like how Walmart killed small business a little, doesn’t it?

 

That’s all for now.  To those afflicted, enjoy Super Bowl Sunday! I know as a resident of the Philadelphia are I should be excited, but I’m not a football fan. The Flyers better get their shit together though! I have some of Bernie Parent’s cigars that I want to smoke in honor of a Stanley Cup win one of these days!  Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Smoking Some “Comfort Food” Cigars and a Weird Retail Experience

I’ve been defaulting to some favorite cigars over the last week, just needing the comfort of an old friend. Winter blues? Other stuff going on in life?  Whatever it is, I’ve been gravitating toward cigars I really like. This week it was a La Sirena Devine, in honor of La Sirena founder Arielle and her husband welcoming their first child.  Great cigar made at La Zona, supplies are dwindling, might be time to restock!  Then I went to a Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo El Martillo in honor of that company’s 50th anniversary.  I followed that up with a Tabernacle Toro from Foundation Cigar Co., I love the rich broadleaf yumminess of the Tabernacle line. Yesterday I had a small window of opportunity between running around and having the grandkids over, so I dug out an oldie, but goodie.  I bought a box of the Chateau Real Maduro Small Club Coronas for some ridiculous price as they were phasing them out of production. I recall this being around 2010 or thereabouts.  I was poking around my archives looking for verification, and ran across my interview with George Hamilton, the Hollywood icon with a penchant for tanning.  I got to re-reading it…what a treat it was to talk to George on the phone, I still have his number…I can’t believe that was so long ago.  Anyway, it’s just a damned shame Drew Estate discontinued  the Chateau Real line. The Connecticut shade wrapper version was a nice, mild smoke, and I enjoyed the crap out of the San Andrés maduro version, I had a box of the perfectos too. Fortunately, eight years in the humidor have been kind to these, as it burned perfectly, and tasted rich, clean and was perfect for the time I had, 45 minutes or so.  I miss these, and hoard the last couple I have in a miserly fashion.

While running around yesterday, we found ourselves in center city Philadelphia on Walnut Street. I feel compelled to stop in the Holt’s location on Walnut Street when I’m there, and I will finally admit that I’m disappointed in one way or another almost every time I visit, and I’m going to resist the urge to compulsively visit in the future. Yesterday’s experience was this: my wife and I are looking around and I’m picking out a few cigars, usually I opt for Holt’s exclusives or Fuentes, but this time I had a couple Mi Queridas in my hand, not that I didn’t have any at home, but more like I didn’t have enough at home. My wife says to me something along the lines of, “I wonder if they got any Muestra de Saka Unicorns?”, and goes and asks the guys working the counter. I overhear the Holts1272018purchaseexchange, and when she comes back I asked her if the guy really just told her that they don’t generally carry his stuff. That’s what he told her! Now, I’m wondering if this guy is treating a woman in a cigar shop like she doesn’t know anything (or hasn’t known Steve and Cindy Saka for 20 years), isn’t familiar with the Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust product line and provenance, or what. For the first time I’m considering putting the cigars I had in my hand back in the box and walking out, and if it had been any other cigars but a friend’s cigars, I would have. The “we don’t carry his stuff” guy ended up in the back of the  store and I asked him if I had heard right that he told my wife that “we don’t carry his stuff”, he confirmed that, so I offered to educate him on Saka’s cigars, showing him the several boxes of Sobremesas and Mi Quedridas that they “didn’t carry”. He back peddled, and sarcastically thanked me for the education. I wanted to tell him perhaps I misinterpreted his “we don’t carry his stuff” as “I don’t know what I’m talking about”, but I held my tongue. I’ve worked in retail, and being a douche is not the way to endear oneself to the customers. I picked out a couple of Cromagnons and an Aquataine, in keeping with the buying friend’s cigars theme, and checked out.  Maybe I was being a dick, but my wife asked an educated question, and it was simply out of curiosity as to whether Holt’s, as a purveyor of Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust cigars, received any of the Unicorns and, if so, what the plan was for them. They could have just said no, they didn’t get them, and been respectful. This is not the first time I’ve experienced the arrogance of the staff there either, there was a guy who worked there who I found genuine and friendly, and he was promoted to the front office. I’ve even had a scenario where I pointed out a moldy box of La Gloria Cubanas and was told it was plume and it was good (as the clerk wiped the cigars off) I have worked with Holts.com on several occasions, and purchased from them many times, with great success and satisfaction. I just don’t think I need to stop in the store every time I’m in the area anymore.  It’s unusual for me to be negative, but I couldn’t let this one go, it was a bad way to treat customers.

That’s enough from me for now. Until the next time,

CigarCraig

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News: Best Cigar Prices Cigar Lounge, Store and Blog

Best Cigar Prices announced this week that it is opening a lounge and retail store at their Drums, PA location (looks like I’ll have to take a drive north one of these days!).  Best Cigar Prices has been around a long time, I can remember getting their e-mail specials in plain text in the late 90s, under the name New Global Marketing. They’ve come a long way.  CigarCraig.com is proud to advertise for Best Cigar Prices, and you can get 20% off orders of $125 or more with the code CraigDeal20.  Here is the press release:

DRUMS, PA. (PRWEB) JANUARY 24, 2018

Established in 1997, Best Cigar Prices has come a long way from its starting point of operating out of the trunk of a car in upstate New York. Now based in Drums, PA at its 25,000 sq. ft. headquarters since 2011, the company has made leaps and bounds in becoming the premier cigar source on the web, and the retail space is the next logical step for this fast-growing business.

However, they’re not looking to be “just another cigar shop.” Far from it, according to BCP Director of Merchandising Jeff Brown. “Our vision is to deliver a state-of-the-art cigar lounge experience unlike any in the area,” said Brown. “We want our customers to feel like their every need has been taken into consideration when they step foot into our store, and so far I think we’ve hit that mark.”

In addition to the typical cigar store amenities such as a Spanish Cedar-lined walk-in humidor, large cocktail bar, and comfortable, smoke-friendly indoor and outdoor lounge spaces for patrons to enjoy, Best Cigar Prices’ retail operation will have quite a few accommodations that will set it apart from the pack.

Aside from the business’s high-tech approach to the traditional lounge environment with touch-screen browsing stations, monitors giving shoppers a direct view of orders being processed inside the humidor, and ample wireless charging stations throughout, perhaps the most obvious advantage is the fact that the store is directly connected to the company’s massive humidor warehouse. Customers at the store will have direct access to one of the largest cigar and accessory inventories in the country, with over 7,000 unique items from more than 600 top brands including flavored cigars, cigar humidors, lighters, and cutters from Padron, Rocky Patel, Montecristo, and many more.

Cigar and beverage Pairing Menus will be made available to visitors of the lounge and updated regularly to recommend specific cigars with particular brands or styles of whiskeys, craft beers, and other spirits that complement their unique tasting profiles. “Everyone knows that Romeo y Julieta 1875 is a great, classic cigar, but what is the best drink to go with it?” Brown remarked.

Plans to have a conveyor running from the warehouse to the store will guarantee that cigar-lovers in search of items that are not stocked on store shelves will have their order in under five minutes, complete with a countdown timer that will display real-time order progress.

The store will be fully staffed by educated cigar professionals who specialize in the often-difficult task of making cigar gift recommendations, but will also offer self-serve kiosks for those that know what they want and don’t need help from an associate. Alternately, customers will be able to place orders remotely via phone or online and then pick it up at a designated time, similar to a food “to go” order.

The Best Cigar Prices retail store had its official “soft” opening yesterday, with the official Grand Opening scheduled for September of this year. In the words of company CEO Greg Fox, “Our customers have a deep appreciation for the artisan nature of the products we carry and often form lasting bonds with each other that might not be possible without the unifying factor of a fine cigar. We’re beyond excited to bring this new level of comfort, convenience, and camaraderie to them,” adding, “it’s their support that has allowed us to thrive and this is the least we can do to say ‘thank you’.”

Fox also alluded to other “surprises” that Best Cigar Prices customers can look forward to, including the possibility of a large-scale cigar event held at the new store at some point in the near future.

Also this week on the Best Cigar Prices blog, they published their “Why Do You Smoke Cigars?”article, featuring myself and 10 of my fellow blogger types.

That’s all for today, until the next time,

CigarCraig

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