First Wednesday Contest Featuring Ventura Psyko Seven Cigars and Swag

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so it’s contest time, following a tradition that began last month!  But first I want to bore you with some tales of out latest vacation this week to Mountain Lake Lodge in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. We drove down Sunday and stopped at Luray Caverns on the way, which was expensive to get into , but spectacular to see. The organ they have down there that has strikers on pistons that strike tuned stalactites is a marvel. That was something to see, and we saw signs for half a dozen other caves and caverns on the drive south, buncha copy cats!  Anyway, Mountain Lake Lodge is the place where the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed back in the 80s, had we known that, we might have gone someplace else!  We ate in the dining room where Baby CAOColumbiagot put in the corner…big whoop…crappy movie. Anyway, it was a very nice place, and we had it mostly to ourselves. It takes exactly one CAO Columbia Vallenato to hike the trail which goes around the lake.  Spectacular morning cigar, the lake, not so much. It seems that once in a while the lake drains itself, it’s on a fault. It probably drains into one of those caverns they like so much around there.  Anyway, it apparently emptied itself out in 2009 and is starting to fill back up. The pictures of the resort with the lake make it look pretty cool, the lack of a lake wasn’t so cool, although if the place weren’t called Moutain LAKE Resort one may not notice. They did have a pool and a Jacuzzi that were deserted save for my wife and I, and one Tortuga Reserva Cedro Belicoso is just enough to get a little sunburn.  No pictures, I left my phone in the room.  We did some more hiking around the property, LeccaLuchadorand the food was very good in the restaurant in the lodge. There wasn’t a lot of night life with only 18 guests registered either.  On the way home we stopped by Jefferson National Forest and hiked the two miles to Cascade Falls. It takes exactly one Leccia Luchadore El Hombre to hike two miles, and the El Hombre remains one of my favorite cigars, even in the morning it was a great walking stick. The falls were pretty cool, 66′ drop and lots of cool little falls and rapids on the hike up. The weekend was a nice getaway with some exceptional cigars.

 

Contest

 

Ventura ContestA few months ago I received some pretty cook stuff from Ventura Cigar Co. in support of their really good Psyko Seven Maduro. I tried to find these guys at the IPCPR show, and managed to get in the Phillips and King booth (their distributor) when they were giving away a Rolex  watch (I didn’t win), so it was crowded. I had some tobacco infused coffee which was interesting, but didn’t manage to find the Ventura guys. I’ll catch up with them someplace, I suppose.  Anyway, the goodies in today’s contest are a nice ceramic Ventura ashtray, a Ventura single torch lighter with a flip out punch, a fun set of Rorschach Inkblot test cards so you can find out if you have an Oedipal complex or not, and two coffin boxes containing two Psyko Seven Maduro Robustos each (total of 4 cigars).  The usual rules apply, must be over 18 and must not have won in the last  months (sorry Matt Wells!). Leave a comment here to enter. I’ll announce a winner next Wednesday, September 9, 2015.

 

Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

 

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Ora Vivo, La Aurora, Atabey, AJ Fernandez Enclave and New World Cigars

It’s been such a busy week, ran the 5K without dying, tried to cut off my thumb, colonoscopy,  and a birthday, along with having our bathroom renovated and working on remodeling thee downstairs powder room.  If only I didn’t have a 9-5 job taking up valuable time during the day! (I’m looking for a new job,mine’s going away in a few months, so careful what I wish for, right?). Anyway, I still managed to get some great cigars in starting with  a Nica Rustica Belly after the 5K. I bought a bundle at the release party in Kentucky last month and the extra few weeks in the humidor has done well for them. I though maybe it was a bit wet in July, although it OraVivoEurope_CoronaGordamay have just been the cigars that handed out at the event.  They seem to be ready now and was a great two-hour warm down after the run.  Sunday afternoon I started the powder room project, and after getting some stuff done I took a walk with an Ora Vivo Armand Assante European edition, a generous gift from Kruk in New Hampshire. Kruk is probably a bigger fan of Victor Vitale‘s work than I am, and apparently  bought many boxes of the European Edition when they became available. He very generously sent me a couple, and I did my best to compensate him with a few cigars.  Anyway, the European edition comes in a Coronaish size, 5 ½” x 46ish, not too far off the 5½” x 48 Cedro No.5 size I like a lot.  This cigar burned perfectly, it had a smooth, refined Nicaraguan flavor and was very elegant. This is a great cigar for any time of the day, but I can easily see sparking one up with a morning cuppa joe.  I don’t have many negatives to say about this line in general, but this corona may be the best of the bunch.

 

LaAuroraUntamed_Extreme_RobustoMonday’s evening walk was accompanied by a new offering from La Aurora, a line extension to their Untamed line, the Extreme in a robusto.  I  really likes the Untamed, it was bold, had some strength, and was very satisfying. This Extreme takes it up a notch, with some more of the heavy, espresso and cocoa flavors and a kick. I would venture to guess that this also has a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, with was beautifully dark and oily. It’s a powerhouse, and I can’t find a lot of info on it at this writing.  I loved it, and I really liked the regular Untamed line as well. These may be my favorites in the La Aurora line (although the Preferidos are pretty good too…and the Puro Vintage…and the Corojo…).

 

Atabey_RitosI celebrated  a successful colonoscopy with a special cigar, the Atabey Ritos, the newest size in the line, a 6 1/8″ x 55 cigar that has what appears to be a beautiful Connecticut shade wrapper. These are made in Costa Rica under the careful supervision of Nelson Alphonso, the man responsible for the Cuban Cohiba Behike packaging as well as the designer of the Padrón 50th anniversary humidor. This was a trade show sample from David Garofalo, who distributes the brand. It’s not a cheap date, MSRP is around $33,  but it IS a spectacularly good smoke. It simply could not have burned better, the burn was straight with a flat ember and perfect draw. It had sweet woody, earthy notes and was quite the elegant cigar.  Often times high-end cigars are lost on me, I really don’t have a sophisticated palate, but this was a great smoke.

 

AJF_Enclave_RobustoI  followed that up on Thursday with a new cigar from AJ Fernandez, the  Enclave in a 5″ x 52 robusto size. This cigar has a Habano Rosado wrapper, Binder from Cameroon and fillers that are described as AJF Piloto Cubano and AJF Select Nicaraguan, which leads me to believe they were grown on the company’s own farms and are top-secret varieties. Is the Piloto Cubano Dominican?  Don’t know, bit what I do know is that this was a stout, powerful cigar with great flavor.  It was spicy and woody, and I really liked it. I think this is a winner, and AJ Fernandez has his share of winners in my book.  I will certainly sample other sizes in this line, there is a Figurado that looks really cool.

 

AJF NewWorld_NaveganteWithout even thinking on Friday I grabbed a New World by AJ Fernandez for my evening walk.  This one was in the 5½” x 55 Navigante size. While this isn’t a new cigar, it’s a good one, maybe not quite as powerful as the Enclave, but a super tasty blend of tobaccos from Esteli, Condega, Jalapa and Ometepe in Nicaragua.  this one had the coffee/chocolate flavors I really like in a cigar.  I want to say I remember this, as well as the Enclave, being a collaboration between Abdel and his father Ismael, and there are certain similarities, chief being I really like both of them!  The New World Connecticut is a winner in my book too, but that really doesn’t mean a lot considering I really enjoy most cigars from this factory. Abdel is a tobacco genius and is only in his thirties.

 
DECSCCBlend2013Saturday was my birthday (thanks in advance for any well wishes) and after a nice afternoon with my granddaughters and family, I picked one of my last three cigars I blended on my 2013 Cigar Safari trip.  These had a San Andres wrapper, Cameroon binder, and fillers from Brazil and Esteli if I remember correctly.  I thought it from the beginning, and it remains true, but there are just too many flavors going on in the blend, it’s very busy. That’s not to say I don’t like it a lot, and it always brings back memories of a great trip, as well as providing a relaxing celebratory smoke. I’m going away for a few days and packed some favorites to relax with, it will be nice getting away with no events or other things to do, it’s been a long time since we just went somewhere to be human beings instead of human doings.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

 

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Gran Habano, Cult, Foyle and Viaje Cigars

GranHabano_Gran Reserva No5 2011_RobustoIt’s been a bit of a busy week, I went out Wednesday and bought a new car, a Chevy Spark in Lime Green. I know, I’m a big ol’ dork who likes small cars and scooters…what can I say?  I got a good deal on what I think is a cool little car, so I’m happy. I did manage to smoke a few cigars this week, From Gran Habano, the Gran Reserva #5 2011, which arrived in the mail a week before the IPCPR show, which was handy because that was a few less cigars I had to lug back from New Orleans.  This  was a nice looking milk chocolate-brown cigar presented in a cedar sleeve. It’s listed as full-bodied, but I found it solidly medium, and it has a Corojo wrapper, Habano binder and fillers from the Jalapa Valley in Nicaragua. It’s apparently available in five sizes,Corona Gorda: 5 5/8 x 46, Gran Robusto: 6 x 54, Imperial: 6 x 60, CZAR: 6 x 66  and Grandioso: 7 x 70, however this example was a 5″ x 50ish robusto. Not sure what that’s all about.   It smoked very well, it was smooth, had a nice woody flavor from the cedar sleeve, and some sweetness.  This is certainly a cigar I’d smoke again.

 

Foyle_EpeeAfter getting home late from car buying on Wednesday, I took a quick walk with a Foyle Epee petite corona.  The Foyle line was introduced to us during the media tour of the Aging Room/Boutique Blends booth, and is basically a private label cigar made in Tabacalera Palma ( I believe, there were previous Foyle Cigars made at Raices Cubana, and the information listed on their website is quite vague) for Alliance Cigars, a wholesaler out of New York state.  This little 4″ x 40 cigar was loaded with flavor right from the start. The flavors were fairly sharp and focused, and it interested me quite a bit. I can’t really pinpoint the flavor, except that it intrigued me, so much so that I wanted to sample this in a larger format, which I did the following evening.  It was a very interesting little smoke.

 

CultClassic_ToroGenerally when one registers at the IPCPR show, one receives a bag with literature and this time it also had a couple of cigars included. It’s been my past experience that media did not receive these bags, but we did this year and I gave up on complaining.  One of the cigars was a Cult Classic in a toro size. It came packaged in a neat cult_boxcardboard display box with their booth number and a run-down of their line.  Unfortunately, the packaging is generic, so it was up to me to deduce that this cigar was the Classic Toro. I assume this was just somethingg they did for the trade show and not a retail packaging anyway. They list the ingredients as Ecuador wrapper, Indonesian Binder and Jalapa, Nicaragua filler.  I found it to be a nice cigar, smooth, nice flavors and I regret that I missed the booth at the show, I have no excuse, the booth number was right there on the box!  I would pick this brand up again.

 

Foyle_PudaoThursday I went to the opposite end of the Foyle spectrum, selecting the Foyle Pudau at 7″ x 52.  This was a pretty cigar with a slight box press and felt good in the hand.  The burn and draw were perfect, and it provided better than two hours of relaxation. It was markedly milder than it’s baby sibling, and the flavors were far more muted and mellow.  I actually had a hard time finding that same unique flavor I got in the Epee, but that’s not to say it wasn’t a very enjoyable cigar.  I think it definitely highlighted the flavor difference between large and small ring gauges, it’s just a different experience altogether. I really liked the Foyle Padua, as much as the Epee, but for different reasons, and look forward to trying it in the toro and perfecto sizes. I’m guessing this can be found at retailers who buy from Alliance Cigar, there’s a list on the Foyle website.

 

ViajeOro_ElPadreFriday I wrapped up yet another summer week with a Viaje Oro El Padre that I picked up a few weeks ago when we stopped in J. Shepherd Cigars in Louisville, KY. They were having a bit of an event with a special on Viaje, Drew Estate and Leccia, and I was going to just get some Nica Rusticas and Luchadors, but I decided I had a bunch of Luchadors, and I was headed to a Nica Rustica event, so I decided to dip my toe in the Viaje pool. I haven’t sampled many Viajes, and an Oro may have been one of the few I’ve tried, and it was very good. I grabbed some of the Summer Blends and Oros, and decided an Oro was a good choice for my Friday evening cigar.  I was right, it was good. This is a milder cigar with tons of rich, yet subtle flavors. It was super smooth and creamy and was a really nice smoking experience. the draw and burn were as perfect as I’ve had in a while.  It did build in strength, but never too much.  This is a  great cigar, and I will continue to sample the Viaje line as I come across them.

 

That’s about it for today. I’m off to run my first 5K today, the last time I did any running was when I had a stress test a few years ago :-).  I ran a few times this week, enough to get a feeling for what my run/walk ratio might be and how far off the winning time I’ll be, and I’m fine with it. I’m doing it for fun and charity anyway, and look forward to a nice cigar poolside when it’s all over!  Have a great week, until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Marrero Cigars, Flor de Gonzalez, Macanudo Estate Reserve and Cigars with Friends

Marrero TicoI’ve been working through some more new cigars from the IPCPR show, and I ran across some Marrero cigars that it took me a moment to remember. We ran across the booth late on the last day we were there and got to talking to Joel Vazquez Marrero about his cigars. My memory is hazy on this, but I think these are rolled at the same factory as Vegas de Santiaco, MBombay and Atabey, Byron and Bandolero. If this is the case it’s one more bit of proof that this particular factory is producing some excellent cigars. The Marrero Tico Pigtail is 6½ x 56, has an Ecuador Habano wrapper, Indonesian binder and what they call Costa Rican/Proprietary Blend as the filler, as well as a long pigtail, as the name would imply. The cigar was solid, firmly packed with a similarly firm draw, although it wasn’t annoyingly so.  I found it to be on the milder side of medium, with a nice flavor and burn.  It was a nice cigar for my evening walk. I look forward to trying the Tesoro Mio blend in the near future.

 

Flor de Gonzalez_20th MaduroOn Thursday I had a brief moment of wishful thinking that it was Friday, but reality soon slapped me in the face.  So Friday deserved what I hoped would be a special smoke.  Another booth we stopped at late in the show was Flor de Gonzalez.  We had a brief visit with Yadi, and she shared their 20th Anniversario cigars, which come in either a Ecuador Connecticut or a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. My natural inclination is to go with the Broadleaf, which I did and was very pleased. This was a rich, chocolaty smoke with a great burn and draw.  It’s a rubusto, but is 5½” x 50, a little more of a good thing than your traditional 5″ robusto.  I can’t wait to try the other one. I’ve always enjoyed the Flor de Gonzalez line, it seems to fly under the radar in a lot of places, at least around here.

 

We had some friends over last night, so we spent the better part of the day getting ready, and in the hour or so before people arrived, I sat down with a Macanudo Estate Reserve Jamaica 2015.  This is a very special Macanudo, here is what the folks at General Cigar have to say about it:

To experience Macanudo Estate Reserve is to savor a tradition that spans nearly half a century, for this exceptional cigar hearkens back to the very roots of the brand.
MacanudoEstReserve_closed_LRFor the 2015 release of Macanudo Estate Reserve, the artisans of Macanudo blended a 10 year old Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper from the sun-drenched, highest priming, with proprietary Jamaican tobacco cultivated on small, independent farms and aged exclusively for this year’s small batch offering. The dark, well-oiled wrapper adds a new dimension of complexity to the flavor that ignited the passion for one of the world’s most beloved cigars.
Jhonys Diaz, master blender and vice president of operations said, “We selected a broadleaf wrapper for this year’s release to deepen the flavor profile of the cigar. The wrapper delivers bold notes of leather and earth, while complementing the unique attributes of the Jamaican filler. This is a rich and complex smoke, one that will appeal to the true cigar lover.”
MacanudoEstReserve_open_LRThe Jamaican tobacco tells a story all its own. The varietal used in Macanudo Estate Reserve is called Silver Tongue, a native seed favored by locals. It is an extremely low-yield tobacco and is the most expensive long-filler leaf in the world.
Due to the scarcity of Silver Tongue, this exquisite cigar will only be available until the limited release of 1,800 boxes per size is depleted.
Macanudo Estate Reserve 2015 will be available in three frontmarks, each protected in 10-count boxes and shipping in October. They are:

No. 7 — 7 x 50; SRP per cigar is $17.00

No. 8 — 6 x 57; SRP per cigar is $18.00

No. 9 — 5 x 50; SRP per cigar is $16.00

 

Macanudo Estate Reserve 2015The presentation is beautiful and goes back to the Jamaican roots of the brand, which at one time was made in Jamaica. I remember having a box of Macanudo Prince Philip back in the 90s that was still made in Jamaica (won it on the CigarWorld.com website somehow, and that was a very long time ago when there weren’t a lot of cigar websites). Anyway, this Estate Reserve was really very tasty and had about the most perfect construction imaginable. The cigar was perfect in every way, and had a nice flavor of espresso and cocoa. I found it to be medium bodied, and I smoked to a very tiny nub.  It’s not a cheap date, but it is one of the most flavorful Macanudos out there.

 

MillenneumOne of our guests, my old friend Bruce, presented me with a very rare cigar, a Padron Millennium, claiming that he came across the humidor (these came out in 2000 in a humidor of 100, of which there were only 1000 made) in his basement. I believe he gifted me one of these nearly 15 years ago, but I smoked it long before I started documenting my daily smokes so religiously. This was a special blend of the 1964 series and had five year old tobacco at the time they were rolled in 1999. He was concerned that they had been neglected, but upon smoking the cigar all was well. If it was blended to be bolder than the 1964 series, the last 15 years might have tempered the original intent, but it was still a spectacular cigar that had a perfect burn, draw and the chocolate bar creamy sweetness that one would expect.  Quite a treat, and I can’t thank Bruce enough for sharing that special cigar.

 

TortugaOne of our other guests, Victor, brought some Tortuga Cigars, so I smoked one of my favorites from the line, the Cedro No. 5 as my last cigar of the night.  Talk about a trifecta of exceptional cigars to go along with a night of great friends, food and stories. It’s a treat when you can get three couples together, many of whom haven’t met, and go late into the evening talking about a myriad of topics. Anyway, the Tortuga line is obviously high on my list, and the No. 5, at 5½” x 48, is just about the perfect size and is a great representation of the blend.  After the pair of chocolaty maduros,  this spicy Nicaraguan puro it the spot, and never fails to satisfy. We don’t entertain much, but with our big screened in porch it is something we need to do more.  Thanks again to Victor and Rebecca and Bruce and Shirley for spending the evening with us.

 

That’s it for now, lots of food to eat from last night yet, some errands to run and some cigars to smoke.  Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

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Winner of the General Cigar New Releases Contest and the 2015 IPCPR Secret Question

What an excellent turnout we had for this contest. Who can blame the 97 people who entered though, it’s a pretty darned nice bunch of cigars! I almost had second thoughts about including some of them, but cigars are about sharing, and it’s as much fun to give than receive. Before I announce the winner (or to make you go to the trouble of scrolling down to see who won), A couple of years ago I put together a montage video from the IPCPR show, and I decided to do the same thing this time around, with a new and interesting question. The whole point is to keep things light and not to end up with the same interview videos that everyone else does. As always, I strive to be different. Credit goes to my wife, Jennifer, for the idea, and thanks to the thirty-something manufacturers for going along with it! So if you have twelve minutes or so, give this a watch, maybe have a laugh.

 

Contest

ContestOK, so I consulted the random number generator at Random.org and it spit out the number 43. I counted the entries and determined that Matt Wells is the winner! Please send your address so I can ship this load of cigars out to you. Thanks to everyone for entering, I think I’ll have contests on the first Wednesdays of the next couple months, so keep an eye open. If you’re on Twitter, follow @CigarContests for the heads up on my contests, as well as other contests going on. Whoever is running this is doing a nice job of curating cigar giveaways. Thanks again to the folks at General Cigar Co.!

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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