Category Archives: Editorial

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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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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Introduction to the Joys of the Premium Cigar – Padron 1964 Anniversary

I got distracted and forgot it was Wednesday, so I’m reproducing the first article I had published in Prime Living Magazine three years ago. I featured the Padron Padron1964 Anniversary Exclusivo Maduro, and, considering the recent passing of Jose O. Padron yesterday, I thought this would be appropriate. My sincere condolences to the Padron family on the passing of their patriarch, an impressive man by any standard.

 

Premium cigars are something I’ve grown to love over the last eighteen years. I see hand rolled cigars as an affordable luxury, a daily vacation, if you will, not something I need to have every day. Of course, these are more than just a bunch of leaves rolled up, and when you understand the time and artistry that goes into the cigar, it magnifies the appreciation. As I hold a favorite cigar in my hand, for instance, a Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Exclusivo from Nicaragua, I realize that the seeds for the leaves in this cigar were planted a minimum of three years ago!

 

In the short two or three months the plant takes to mature, it’s tended to by people in the fields. Over the course of about a month, the leaves are harvested by hand, carefully and meticulously from the bottom of the plant to the top. After the leaves are picked, they are hung in barns to cure, again, by hand. Once the leaves have turned brown in the barn, another one or two months, they are sorted and placed in piles, called pilons, where they ferment. The temperature in the middle of the pilon is monitored, and it’s rotated, by hand, perhaps several times over several months until the temperature stabilizes and the leaf has the desired color and texture. The leaves are re-sorted, always by size and color and baled up to be stored in a climate controlled warehouse for a year or more. It’s important to realize that, by this point, perhaps one hundred or more people have been involved in the process.

 

At some point in this whole process, some tobacco genius has figured out that somewhere between three and up to ten different tobaccos from all over the world, different places on the plants, and different levels of fermentation will taste good together. These tobaccos need to be rolled into cigars by skilled artisans, and it’s not as easy as you’d think. In the simplest terms, the roller has to take all the leaves in the cigar’s “recipe” and fold them in such a way that air may be drawn through the cigar, and the leaves are distributed evenly so every cigar tastes the same. Then he has to do this 150 to 300 times a day! AND, other rollers have to do it to! Box after box, year after year. When you think about it, it’s a miracle that cigars can be as affordable a luxury as they are.

 

At the beginning of this article I mentioned the Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Exclusivo, a 51⁄2” x 50 ring gauge cigar from Nicaragua. This is a cigar that can be counted on to always have bold flavors of coffee and cocoa, cigar after cigar, year after year. The company that makes these has been around for 50 years, and continues to produce exceptional cigars.They have a bunch of special editions besides this one (look for a 50th anniversary edition this year), and they continue to produce consistently great cigars which are a widely available and a good example of what a Nicaraguan cigar should be. Understanding the myriad steps involved in the manufacture of a hand rolled, premium cigar really enhances the pleasure and appreciation for me.

 

It’s important to understand that this article was written for a mainstream publication, it was meant as an introduction for those who may not be familiar with the art of the cigar. Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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A Camacho Criollo and a Reader Question Answered

Sunday I mentioned that I had a cold coming on, and I was right, it put me out of commission Sunday, then Monday I left work early, something I never do. Obviously I took a break from cigars, my tongue felt like it had been walked on with muddy boots and my sinuses and bronchial passages were not cooperating at all. It was fairly fast moving, fortunately, so tonight I thought I’d try taking a walk with a cigar. Of course, since we messed Camacho_Criollo_Churchillwith the clocks over the weekend, it’s dark by 5pm which thrills me very little.  I was in a quandary as to which cigar to smoke. It has to be something reasonably familiar, to properly gauge the recovery of my taste buds, and it has to be something I have multiples of. I recently received a four pack of Camacho Criollo Churchills, a traditionally good smoke that’s on the medium bodied side. The fools  good folks at Cigars.com inexplicably offered this four-pack for $1 delivered, so I figured what the heck, I’ve spent a dollar much more foolishly. I honestly don’t know why they do this, it costs them much more than a buck to box and ship the cigars. So I figured blowing a quarter on tonight’s smoke wasn’t too much of a loss. Sad to say, my tasters are still impaired, but the cigar worked right, and didn’t taste awful. I’ll smoke another one (or three) when I’m back to what passes for normal and see if the cigars are worth what I paid for them.  What really surprise me was that when I ordered the cigars they were backordered, I wouldn’t have been surprised or upset if they had canceled the order.

 

I often get questions in the comments that I forget to answer, so I figured I’d answer one here since I don’t have a lot else to talk about. Last week Dan asked about AJ Fernandez:

“I must be behind in my “Cigar Current Events” class, too. It seems that A.J. Fernandez’s name is appearing on more and more different brands. What did I miss? I don’t remember seeing anyone else doing this “nomad” routine. I do see some but just not quite like A.J. Any information about that? Is he a hired gun?”

Here’s my take on the question: AJ Fernandez is one of the hot factories out there, they’ve  really come on strong in the last couple years. I want to say Abdel really made his mark producing cigars for Cigar International maybe 10 years ago, has a ton of great blends under his own name and makes a lot of cigars for a lot of people. He’s giving Placencia (ironically, I believe Abdel’s father had a long career with Placencia) a run for their money. They made the Deisel and Man O War for CI, and, not surprising since CI is owned by the same parent company, made Hoyos and Foundrys for General. Before that there was the Emilio AF1 ad AF2 lines that were all the rage five years ago. There have been cigars made there for Nick Melillo’s  Foundation Cigar Co. and Robert Holt’s Southern Draw as well as some in the Nomad line. It got interesting (to me, at least) when Altadis started having line extensions in the Montecristo, H.Upmann, Gispert and RoMEo lines made there. I was surprised because of the companies strong ties to Scandanavian Tobacco Group, Altadis being their largest competitor. They’ve also opened another factory in Nicaragua and are making some of Espinoza’s cigars. So I think Abdel and the AJ Fernandez factory is firing on all cylinders, and, to my palate, making great cigars. I’m sure I’ve missed some brands. Funny thing is that there are some brands that I don’t really care for, except those cigars made at Tabacalera Fernandez! Hope that is an answer. I’ll try to be more timely, and less verbose, in answering questions.

 

That’s enough out of me, hopefully cigars taste better tomorrow!

 

CigarCraig

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Tobacco Shop Etiquette Tips from Tobacco Express in Claymont, Delaware

The folks at Tobacco Express in Claymont, Delaware reached out to me and asked me to post this tobacco shop etiquette guide. I don’t generally do guest posts, but I recently read a similar piece by my friend Matthias of FineTobaccoNYC.com and this seemed like it was a good way to spark some discussion. I’m not 100 percent on board with the “Dress the part” part, I’m a jeans (or shorts) and t-shirt kinda guy, but there are some good points. It’s also important to point out that the sponsor if this post has a shop in Delaware, where indoor smoking is very rare, many cigar shops don’t allow smoking.

 

Tobacco Shop Etiquette

Entering any tobacconist can be deemed a sacred experience, whether you’re a hobbyist or a first time smoker. Like dining in a fine restaurant or walking through a museum, there’s a code of etiquette to follow when you’re in a tobacco shop.

Respect the regulars. If you’re a new customer, exhibit patience when you enter a tobacco shop. Most often, some of the shop’s regulars will be present when you decide to go. Because these frequent customers bring in a lot of consistent business, the tobacco shop’s staff will most likely be catering to their needs to keep them coming back. Rest assured that you will be given the attention you deserve – it may just take a minute.

Dress the part. You don’t have to walk into the tobacco shop in a suit and tie, but you shouldn’t be in swim trunks or sweatpants, either. Think casual Fridays at work – wear jeans and a blazer or button down to fit in to the crowd.

Get to know the tobacconist. Like having a good tailor or a go-to barber, the in-house tobacconist will serve as your lifeline in the world of tobacco and tobacco products. Forming a relationship can help you stay in the know when new products come in, when special events are being held around the store, or small perks like free lighters or cigar cutters.

Act calmly. Enter the shop quietly and be mindful of other customers around you. They’re at the shop to relax and enjoy their time, so avoid a bustling, booming entrance. Always make sure that the doors close behind you when you’re moving throughout the shop. Temperature and humidity are of paramount importance in the tobacco industry, particularly in the humidor. Be mindful of this area and make sure the door shuts tightly behind you.

Introduce yourself and make friends. Like the tobacconist, the shop’s regular customers can make product recommendations, show you tips and tricks that they’ve picked up throughout the years, trade tobacco products or accessories, and be a source of friendship and camaraderie in the shop.

Don’t light up without the shopkeeper’s consent. While it may seem arbitrary, it’s proper to ask before lighting up your tobacco product in store. Other things you shouldn’t do in a tobacco shop include: light up in the humidor, bring your own selection of tobacco products, or haggle prices.

Familiarize yourself with this code of conduct and you’ll be welcomed into a tobacco shop anywhere, any time.

These tobacco etiquette tips brought to you by Tobacco Express, a tobacco shop in Claymont, DE.

 

Thanks to the folks at Tobacco Express for sharing this. I’ll try to get down to Claymont to visit one of these days, it’s not too far away!  One more thing: the Philly Cigar Festival will be happening this Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 in Pottstown, PA.  I’m not sure I’m going to make it, but I’m told there may still be some tickets left. You may recall that this was scheduled for last spring then postponed, and I hope the winners of the contests I had earlier in t the year can make it.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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