La Gran Llave, Gurkha and Tatuaje, and a Stage V Clinger Contest!

LaGranLlave_TorpedoI’m getting ready to go away for a few days, so this will be early and brief!  I just want to touch on a few cigars I smoked this week so far, and have another little contest!  More on the trip when I get back.  Since it was in the cigar news last week that AJ Fernandez had acquired the La Gran Llave brand that they had been making for Michael Argenti I thought I’d revisit one of the box pressed torpedos that Michael had sent me last year when he launched the brand. There is no change in factory as the cigars were made by AJ Fernandez anyway, it seems that the company has been going crazy acquiring brands, also recently buying the Sosa brand, which had been made by Fuente for as long as I can remember. I really like the La Gran Llave Reserve, it’s a nice, sweet cigar with a beautiful San Andrés wrapper. The burn and draw were perfect and it was a satisfying smoke. I have a sampler with the other sizes that I will get to eventually, but this 6½ x 56 box pressed torpedo sets the bar pretty high. Jeff at my local JM Cigars recommended it to me to when I was there a couple of weeks ago and I passed as I had some in the humidor already. I failed to take note of the price, but I think the line ranges from $6-$9ish.

 

Gurkha_Cask BlendMonday I tried the Gurkha Cask Blend in the 6″ x 58 perfecto size, which came from the IPCPR show and has been resting in the humidor since July. This was a perfectly fine cigar, normal cigar taste that was neither offensive, nor exceptional. It seemed to have a Nomex wrapper, you  know, that stuff they wrap wires in so they don’t catch fire?  I had to refill the Tommy Bahama pocket lighter after I was done smoking it, because the darned thing wouldn’t stay lit!  I mentioned the storage before so you don’t think it was my fault, as I smoke from the same humidor all the time with no issues. Might have been a better cigar if it had burned right, but that part of the experience detracted from the overall enjoyment. Since its “wrapper, binder and filler are highly guarded proprietary secrets” I can only tell you it was made in the DR. If there was some booze component to it I have no frame of reference any more. When it burned, it wasn’t a bad cigar. I know many will say it was a Gurkha, what did I expect, but there are several cigars in the Gurkha portfolio that I think are quite good. It occurs to me that I smoked one of these in 2015 and didn’t seem to have the burn problems.

 

Tatuaje_Black_PetiteLanceroTonight,  since I’m on vacation for the rest of the week, I treated myself to a Tatuaje Black Label Petit Lancero, which I think was a gift from my amigo Goose at Goose’s Cigars in Limerick, PA. This is a 6″ x 38 cigar that was sans cello, and I’m weird, I like the protection of the cello in the humidor, I noticed this one had a chip in the wrapper at the foot, so it had to go! What a delightful cigar, thick, right smoke with sweet, earthy flavor that was terrifically satisfying for a rainy night while I was comfy in my enclosed porch. I used an 9.5mm punch (with is the Vansapproximate inside diameter of the ScrewPop punch, by the way) which is my go-to for a lancero. it was a completely yummy way to end the day and start the vacation. I also celebrated receiving my kid’s Christmas present to me today, an awesome pair of custom, one of a kind Vans!

 

Contest!

Stage V Clinger

Cigar not included. Actual color and branding may vary.

I slacked off on this one over the holidays, it was there for me to give away, and I failed. So you have a chance to win a Stage V Clinger cigar holder. I use one of these from time to time and find it to be a gentle way to hold a cigar on those occasions where a proper rest or ashtray isn’t available. This is designed for the golfer, but has many other applications. It has a strong pair of magnets, a hook and loop strap in case there’s no metal to “cling” to, and the jaws are gentle enough to not squish or damage the cigar. Leave a comment to enter, and I’ll announce a winner on Sunday. Thanks to Marissa at Stage V for offering this cool item.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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Cigar Federation’s The Collective, Leaf Maduro and Bobalu Doble Capa Cigars

Thursday was one of those days where through the course of the day I think  of a cigar I want to smoke in the evening, then forget bt the time I get home. I really should make a note to myself because it’s frustrating. Sometimes I remember as I’m rooting through this humidor or that, sometimes I don’t. Thursday I couldn’t remember. I came across the cigars that my not-so-secret Santa sent me and got me to thinking about him and how his recent surgery was  putting him on a cigar hiatus for a while, and figured smoking a cigar he gave me would be fitting. Of course, it could go the other way and seem like it was throwing it up in his face that he couldn’t enjoy a cigar, but I trusted that he’d appreciate the sentiment. Tangent: The Secret Santa we did with a few readers seemed to go well, there were only about ten participants, hopefully everyone felt good about the exchange?  The feedback I did receive was positive, and, in keeping with my experiences in cigar exchanges over the last 20 years, most cigar smokers have terrible math skills and can’t count. I know I have that problem. Anyway, if people enjoyed it, I’ll do it again next year and get an earlier start. Back to the cigar!  I smoked CigarFederation_The Collective The Collective, which was the first cigar from the social media site Cigar Federation. The Collective was blended by the guys at Ezra Zion Cigars, who founded Cigar Federation in 2011 and later sold it to Logan Lawler. the cigar is a box pressed toro, measuring 6¼ x 52 with a San Andrés claro wrapper and Nicaraguan fillers made at the Casa Fernandez factory in Miami. The production was limited to 250 boxes of 20, so I really felt fortunate to have been able to try this cigar. Too bad it sucked.  No, I’m kidding. It was the absolute polar opposite, it was a fantastic cigar!  I’m not sure if I remembered reading about this cigar a couple of years ago when it came out, but I kept thinking “Aganorsa” as I was smoking it, there was a unique flavor that I recall from some Casa Fernandez cigars present, it was loaded with flavor, and a very “clean” and refined cigar. Thank you George! (and Chris, and Kyle and Logan…). I’m sure these are rarer than hen’s teeth at this point, but worth trying if you have the chance.

 

LeafMaduroFriday I came across a Leaf by Oscar Maduro that looked like it needed to be smoked. This brand has really taken off from a house brand of Jim Robinson’s Leaf and Bean shop in Pittsburgh, to being on the shelves in something north of 400 stores. I think the reason it’s so popular is because it’s a really great cigar! Normally I’d lean towards the maduro, but I remembered that in this line of cigars, the maduro is near the bottom for me. It’s got a sour flavor that I don’t love, I actually like the Habano and Connecticut much more and have to remember that the next time I buy these. Don’t take this as a bash on the Maduro, it’s a terrific cigar if it works for your palate, the construction is awesome, and the Nicaraguan maduro wrapper is a thing of beauty once to peel away the tobacco leaf outer wrap (they use a leaf instead of cello). Also, this isn’t a great choice if you are a band collector, as they use a rough, homogenized tobacco paper which doesn’t come off in one piece. The plus side of the band is you can just smoke through it with no adverse effects. Oscar just released his own line, which I will pick up and try in the near future, it’s in a candela leaf outer cover, but isn’t a candela cigar. Leaf and Bean is on my list of shops to visit the next time I find myself in Pittsburgh.

 

Bobalu_DosCapa_toroSaturday I spent a lot of the day painting the newly drywalled living room, watching the Flyers lose, then watching the Flyers Alumni game against the Penguins Alumni, which was far more entertaining than the earlier game. To bring this on topic, Bernie Parent, who is a big cigar guy (BSB No.1 cigars by Rocky Patel), was in the broadcast booth in the third period and is hysterical, and Brian Propp, also a cigar guy,  played just a year and a half after suffering a stroke! I’ve featured both gentlemen on here in the past. So, logically, I should have selected a cigar from Bernie’s line to smoke, that would have made sense. I had my hand on one of his 40th anniversary cigars a couple of nights ago (the BSB No. 1 40th Anniversary cigars come in a box of twelve, with four each of three blends, the Vezina, the Conn Smythe and the Lord Stanley, celebrating the anniversary of Bernie winning all three of those awards in consecutive years, which has never been done before or since) but I decided against it. Instead, I selected a Bobalu Dos Capa toro, their barber-pole cigar. I bought a sampling of cigars from Bobalu a while ago, and this was a bonus that came with the purchase. I really like the Tres Capas, it’s a nice cigar, and this was pretty good too. It has  Connecticut and San Andrés wrappers applied in a spiral, so the flavors blend together well and make for a nice smoke. There’s the bit of a grassy flavor, along with the earthy sweetness of the Mexican maduro that is entertaining. Bobalu cigars are rolled in Austin Texas, making all three cigars featured here today having some US roots, an unintended coincidence.

 

If I may rant a bit on the above mentioned cigar maker…I was very close to not smoking the Bobalu cigar. I tend to avoid politics, for me it, like religion, is too divisive a subject to combine with  the relaxation that a cigar is supposed to give me. I received a relative deluge of e-mails from Bobalu Cigars advertising the cigar they created celebrating the President elect. I know that a lot of people in the cigar industry see the incoming president as their savior, and I hope that he does something about the onerous over-regulation that is being imposed upon the industry. I doubt it is a big enough blip on the radar for the administration to be concerned about, especially since it’s an unpopular product with well-funded opponents, and is one Mr. Trump doesn’t approve of anyway. My personal feeling is that electing a television personality makes us look foolish on the world stage, but it is what it is, and I am just hopeful that it all works out OK in the end. I suppose it did with Reagan, but he, at least, had some political experience. Anyway, my point is that I can do without the commemorative presidential cigar advertisements in my inbox, as it takes away from my personal enjoyment of the product. I’m sure I will be vilified for stating this, but that’s my opinion, feel free to disagree. I still like a lot of the cigars made at this factory and would visit if I find myself in  Austin, I just don’t need the political BS ruining my relaxing cigar time!

 

That’s more than enough from me, until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

 

 

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Villiger 1888, La Gloria Cubana, Inca Secret Blend and More Tommy Bahama Accessories

Villiger_1888_RobustoTrying to get back into the swing of things after the holidays still, and with the remodeling going on in the house, my cabinet humidor has been a little hard to get into without moving furniture. Fortunately, there are other humidors around that I can get to, so I’ve been grabbing cigars out of those. One of the cigars I selected this week was a new Villiger 1888 robusto, re-issued this year in new packaging. This was originally released in 2009 and was the first handmade, premium cigar that  had the Villiger name. This one has an Ecuadoran wrapper, Mexican binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers made in the DR. I found it to be a well made, flavorful cigar, which burned well. It had a bit of sweetness and a floral component and was on the mild side.  I liked this cigar.

 

La-Gloria_Serie-R_Esteli_Maduro_cigarI have one desktop humidor that just contains La Gloria Cubana and Foundry cigars, which was accessible. I’ve been smoking La Gloria Cubana cigars for twenty years, but the Serie R Esteli blends that have come out in the last couple years are my favorites, so finding the new La Gloria Cubana SErie R Esteli Maduro No. 54 right on top didn’t bother me at all.  This cigar has a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and fillers. As General Cigar has done with several lines, they have a brick and mortar version, the Esteli, and the catalog version, the black. With the original Serie R Esteli and Black having a Nicaraguan Jalapa wrapper, I thought the Esteli version had a deeper, more satisfying flavor, but the Maduro varieties I think are on a par with one another. The Esteli Maduro is rich, sweet and a very nice cigar.  I’m a maduro fan, but I love both varieties of the Serie R Esteli. Funny, I was never a huge fan of the regular Dominican Serie R, which was one of the original large ring gauge lines in the late ’90s.

 

IncaSecretBlend_MonumentoTonight I selected an Inca Secret Blend in the new Monumento shape, which is a classic 6″ x 52 torpedo. The Inca Secret Blend is the US market version of the Inka Secret Blend that was an exclusive to the UK market through Mitchell Orchant’s C-Gars Ltd.  The cigar is a Peruvian Puro, manufactured at Tabacalera del Oriente in Tarapoto, Peru. Gennaro Lettieri is the owner of the factory, and I’ve met him several times. I’ve told this story before, but I recall sitting outside the Casa Fuente in Vegas with Mitchell and Genaro in 2013 while they sampled test blends, which were all horribly plugged leaving ashtrays filled with cigars that had been smoked less than an inch. It wasn’t until the next year that I had the chance to sample the finished product, which came in a toro and 6×60 size initially. This year they released the torpedo, robusto and a 6″ x 40. I love cigars with Peruvian tobacco in the blend, and the Peruvian puro is surprisingly good. It’s on the mild side, and reminiscent of a milder Havana, with a sweet little twang, not surprising since one of the creators of the cigar has lived on a steady diet of Havanas for most of his life.

 

Tommy Bahama 4I’ve been taking a break from using my trusty Xikar tools for the last few weeks and using some of the Tommy Bahama line of lighters and cutter. Both lighters have detailed, embossed logos on both sides and the cutter has the Tommy Marlin design on one side, and the side with the switch to open the spring-loaded blades just has Tommy Bahama name and a little gold marlin.  These have a very classy gloss black finish. The cutter and pocket lighter have leatherish cases to keep them in good shape. the cutter has two very sharp blades which close effortlessly and provide a clean cut. It’s got some weight to it, and seems solidly built. The pocket lighter is also hefty, larger and heavier than the Xikar Xidris Ive been using, with a similar side trigger, but has two jets. Tommy Bahama 5This is the first dual jet lighter I’ve had, and I like it. Is it twice as good as one?  I don’t know, but it does a nice job and lights every time. It has an adjustment wheel on the bottom with a  flip-up turny thing. I filled it a week ago and it’s still ¾ full, which I can tell because there’s a handy little window which is very easy to see the fuel level. The table lighter is a beast, it’s  large, has four jets and twin side triggers. It really throws off some BTUs, I think I mentioned that holding it about six inches from the foot of the cigar looks like the foot of the cigar is re-entering the earth’s atmosphere like an Apollo capsule. The one thing it lacks is the fuel window, but I suppose the idea is that it doesn’t wander too far away from the can of butane, it being far too large to carry around. The folks at Island Lifestyle tell me these are becoming available in stores other than the Tommy Bahama stores, they are working on getting them into brick and mortar retailers. It’s nice to have good tools, and I think these are pretty good out of the box, I’ll keep using them to see how they hold up over time.

 

That’s more than enough for now, until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

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Padilla, San Lotano and Nestor Miranda Cigars

Padilla_Reserva_SanAndres_RobustoWinter has set in here in Pennsylvania, with the first snows over the last couple days, thankfully only an inch or two each time. I’m good with basically sweeping the snow off the driveway as opposed to the two foot heavy wet snows we get now and then.  Anyway, I smoked a few good cigars over the past couple days, although not all new to the market. I broke open a pack of Padilla Reservas that Ernesto Padilla gave me at the IPCPR show, which was the same pack he gave me at the previous year’s show, I think. I selected the San Andrès of course, there was also a Corojo, Criollo and Connecticut to choose from. This is a 5″ x 54 robusto made at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras, with the San Andrès wrapper, with Nicaraguan binder and filler.  I mentioned this cigar in a post last November, but I feel like this cigar was “dirtier” than the one I smoked before, or else I just didn’t mention that last year. It was like an espresso, strong, with some bitterness that was really enjoyable especially in the cold winter air. Loads of flavor for sure, and I liked it a lot. As I said last time, this is a cigar that’s priced right and well worth picking up if you like that in your face, down and dirty kind of cigar now and then.

 

SanLotano_Bull_ToroLast week I was in a local shop and picked up a few cigars that I hadn’t tried yet, but have been around a while. The AJ Fernandez San Lotano Bull caught my eye as  such a cigar. I love the San Lotano line, and am a little mystified that I hadn’t tried the Bull yet. So I picked up a couple and took one as my Friday smoke. This was the 6″ x 54 toro size, and the binder and filler are “AJF Select” Nicaraguan with an Ecuador Sumatra wrapper. As you can see in the picture, the cigar comes with a cedar sleeve with a bull on it, this must be removed prior to lighting (hard to believe, but I’ve seen it done!). This was another fairly strong cigar, lots of nice, sweet, creamy coffee and cedar flavors. Why, oh, why did I take so long to try this cigar?  I’m glad I bought more than one.  Again, nothing new here, I think AJ Fernandez released this in 2013.

 

NMCCorojoThis cigar is new this year!  I have enjoyed all of the Nestor Miranda Collection Robustos I’ve smoked, and I really should try other sizes, but the Coffee Break 4½” x 50 size is really appealing to me. It’s perfect for those nights when it’s too cold for a walk, but an hour on the porch with the propane heater is pretty comfortable. Such was the case last night.  This line has previously been offered in Connecticut, Maduro and Habano, all excellent, and all made in Don Pepin Garcia’s My Father factory in Esteli. This year they released the Corojo, which might just be the best in the line to my palate. This little cigar has a lot going on, a little sweet, a little coffee and a little nuttiness, in a perfect burning package. I smoked one a couple of weeks ago and was interrupted by something and had to put it down and it made me sad. This one was enjoyed until fingers started burning, so good. I’ve acquired some new tools from the Tommy Bahama line that I’ve been playing with, and so far I’m happy with the cutter and lighters. I used the table lighter to light this and holding the lighter about eight inches from the foot of the cigar made the foot look like an Apollo space capsule on re-entry. lots of horsepower in a large, quad-jet lighter. More on those tools later, but I’ve become a fan of the Tommy Bahama cigar accouterments from Island Lifestyle Importers. I just wish I were sitting on a beach lighting my cigars…

 

That’s it for now. Keep an eye on the CigarCraig.com Facebook page for the next contest, I’m going to try something a little different to mix things up. Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

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Happy New Year! An old Liga Privada, a Guáimaro and a Powstanie

Opus X CedarWrapped 5Well, I had an exciting New Years, mostly involving removing the old drywall and insulation from my living-room, putting in new insulation, all in preparation for new drywall which is going in now.  I managed to get a little cold in the process which, thankfully, seems to be short-lived. I celebrated progress on the house and New Years Eve with an Opus X that has been in the humidor for a few years. This was a cedar wrapped Opus X, but it was only 5¾ x 48 or 50, so I really don’t know which one it was. This one was given to me by Mitchell Orchant, who is the UK distributor for Fuente, so maybe it was a special size for the UK market. It was a really good cigar, whatever it was, a great way to end a year with a lot of changes for me personally, professionally and for the cigar industry.

 

LigaPrivada No9_TuboAfter a long day of tearing down a ceiling and putting up insulation, I dug deep in the humidor and lit up a Liga Privada No. 9 Tubo that Steve Saka gave me at the 2012 IPCPR show (I think). This year the tubos went into regular production, but at the time, the only way to get one was from Steve’s shirt pocket. This was probably the finest example of the No.9 toro I’ve smoked. It was smooth as silk and the aging in the tube didn’t hurt it one bit. In most cases, I’ll buy two Nica Rusticas over one Liga Privada No.9 every day, but it’s not every day you get to smoke a cigar handed to you by the guy it was blended for specifically. Truly a great way to start a year, you have to smoke a great cigar on New Years, right?

 

Guáimaro_RobustoI had Monday off in observance of the holiday, so I finished up the insulation (had to run out to Home Depot as I used all my staples the day before. Helpful hint: an electric staple gun saves potential carpal tunnel, a tool I inherited from my dad, who’s wisdom I appreciate and greatly miss.  I cleaned up and took a nice walk with a cigar I picked up at B and B Cigars in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia when I went there a few weeks ago to hang out with Saka. Vince recommended a few cigars made at Nica Sueno, which is jointly owned my Skip and Mike of RoMaCraft and Esteban Disla. The cigar I chose was the Guáimaro Robusto, at 5″ x 52 with a San Andrès wrapper, Brazilian Arapiraca binder and Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers (note to Will Cooper: I believe Nica Sueno is in Esteli, Nicaragua, not the Dominican Republic. See his excellent article on this line here).  If you like the offerings from Nica Sueno, give this one a try. It has some great dark cocoa flavors, but seemed smoother to me than, say, a Cromagnon. Perfectly put together and quite a pleasure to smoke.

 

Powstanie_Habano_BelicosoThe cold came on pretty hard Tuesday, so I went with something familiar and plentiful in my humidor, and I can’t recommend the new Fonseca Nicaragua enough. It had enough flavor to cut through the cold, but wasn’t overwhelming.  Feeling better tonight, I decided to venture into another cigar from Nica Sueno that I picked up at B and B.  The Powstanie Habano Belicoso is a 5 ¼ x 54 belicoso with a Habano wrapper, Indonesian binder with Dominican criollo, Estelí ligero and filler from Condega and Jalapa. This was made for Mike Szczepankewicz, co-owner of Cigar Hustler, and there is a Broadleaf iteration for his brother Greg,  which I need to seek out.  This line is being distributed nationally in a limited manner, and I think B and B is one of the few retailers, at least around me, that has them. I found this to be quite a good smoke, medium bodied with a load of flavor. It had a little burn deviation that fixed itself, otherwise it burned perfectly and was very enjoyable. Vince at B and B (not to be confused with B & B Tobacco) has curated a pretty amazing selection and ships. Check out their website and shop with confidence.

 

That’s about all for now, trying to get back in the swing of writing posts and not giving stuff away! Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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