Category Archives: Review

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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EP Carillo Classic Series Dusk Solidos Cigar

EPCarillo_Dusk_SolidosYesterday I finally had the chance to revisit the EP Carillo Dusk. I smoked this a year and a half ago and really liked it, and was spending a few hours at the cigar store and this cigar caught my eye.  I’ve been terrible about sampling the EP Carillo range, there have only been a couple I’ve tried, which is weird considering my admiration for Ernesto’s past work (and present, the La Gloria Cubana Coleccion Reserva was one of my most memorable cigars of 2017).  I’m trying to remedy that, and am going to try to remember to pick up something from the EC range when I’m in the shop.  I met up with a couple friends at the local CigarCigars branch to kill some time, and started off with the EP Carillo Classic Series Dusk Solidos , the 6″x 60  offering.  I had previously smokes and enjoyed the “Obscure” double corona, so I figured I’d work my way down. I used my Adorini punch on this one, the 13mm side worked very well to open it up.  I smoked a second one later that I straight cut and I think I liked the punch better for this one.  Why, you ask? Only because there were a couple “flyaway” bits of cap that were a little annoying on the straight cut. This cigar has a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper (which drew my eye to the cigar in the first place), an Ecuador binder and Nicaraguan fillers. I lit this cigar up around 11 am, and didn’t find it to strong for the time of day, I actually thought it would be stronger. I was not disappointed by this cigar. The burn and draw were spot on, which is a testament to the conditions in the humidor. The first time I visited this shop a few years back the humidor was not great, there were cigars with wrappers coming off, some moldy cigars, ever-all it was off-putting. Over the years they have gotten it under control and it’s now a very nice humidor and shop, I don’t mind visiting there at all, and it’s 2 miles from home. Back to the cigar.  It’s good. Lots of rich espresso notes with some cocoa, just war I like. I ended up smoking the second one on my evening walk because I was talking and trying to get the Flyers game on the lounge TV, which turned out to be no easy feat. They have Dish Network which doesn’t seem to have the channel that the games are broadcast on, but Apple TV provided a workaround. I wanted to give the cigar my full attention.  It’s very good, and I look forward to meandering my way through some other EPC offerings. I think I smoked my first one in 2011, so I have some catching up to do. It was great hanging out with Bruce and Mike for an afternoon!

 

Tortuga Reserva Maduro No. 500I smoked another Tortuga Reserva Maduro El Coyote Negro, No. 500 yesterday too. The Frazer, PA CigarCigars shop has the better part of a box on a bottom shelf that has been there for some time. I grab a couple every time I go in, and I’m tempted to adopt the whole bunch and give them a good home, but what holds me back is that I really would like others to enjoy these, they just aren’t getting much of a chance down there at floor level. I also want to avoid seeing these on the deep discount table, that makes them look bad, and they are, in my humble opinion, exceptional cigars that deserve a better fate. I’m quite conflicted on this.  It’s not like they wouldn’t be shared if they were in my humidor, that’s for sure.  Maybe I’ll ask Steve, the manager, to throw a number at me…

 

Finally, here is an interesting infographic from the folks at Smokers Discounts. I imagine there isn’t anything new here for most of you, but there isn’t any bad advice, and the stats at the top are interesting, although I think the numbers probably include all cigars, not just the premium cigar we focus on here. I’d probably add a couple of parentheticals in the “picking the right cigar” part like don’t squeeze it enough to break it, and don’t wipe your nose all over it, especially before you buy it, but that;s just me.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

 

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Sweet Jane, Cornelius and Anthony and Partagas Cigars

Sweet JaneIt’s still cold here in Pennsylvania, so instead of taking my cigar for a walk, I’ve been walking Macha first, then relaxing on the porch in the glow of the propane heater. Monday I felt like I was in the mood for something unique, so I selected a Sweet Jane from Drew Estate and Deadwood Tobacco. The Deadwood “Yummy Bitches” line is basically a variation on the Natural (or soon ” Larutan”). This line, along with the Natural, uses tobaccos from Syria, Turkey and Louisiana, wrapped in a Nicaraguan Maduro wrapper. I don’t recall the Sweet Jane having as much of the saccharine sweetness on the cap that the Natural ( I should get used to calling it Larutan, I’ll blame dyslexia), which for me is a plus. The Cigar has tons of interesting flavor with exotic spices and richness. Like Drew Estate’s Swamp Thangs, I like the variety and change of pace.

 

CorneliusandAnthony_Aerial_ToroLast night I did take a cigar as it wasn’t bitter cold. I chose a Cornelius and Anthony Aerial Toro, it seems that I like the Toros across the Cornelius and Anthony line the best. One might think that an Ecuador Connecticut Shade wrapper would crack in the cold, but I had no such problem. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the brand in general, my least favorite in the line i like more than maybe 80% of cigars out there. As far as shade wrapper cigars go, the Aerial is up there with my favorites. It has loads of flavor and a great burn. Later in the evening I was honored to take part in Developing Palates Cigar Media 2017 Recap show, with Aaron and Jiunn, Charlie from Halfweel.com, Will from Cigar-Coop.com and Eric from CigaDojo.com. Obviously my style is quite different from the rest of the panelists, but I’ve known all these guys for several years. I hope I had some positive contributions. If you missed it live, check it out on Developing Palates or their YouTube channel, or listen to the podcast version (like I will). There was a lot of interesting discussion.

 

Partagas_Heritage_RothschildTonight I returned to my walk first, smoke later plan, fingers get cold trying to smoke even with gloves on. I gotta get some electric gloves or something. The upside of doing it his way is I get to smoke some of the robusto and Rothschild size cigars that used to be my go to size, but more recently I’ve had more time to enjoy larger vitolas. I’ve been wanting to revisit the Partagas Heritage Rothschild, so tonight presented a perfect opportunity. What’s interesting to me about the blend is the Olancho San Augustin wrapper ( CAO OSA Sol, Cohiba Blue) over a Connecticut Broadleaf binder, with fillers from Dominican Republic, Honduras and Mexico. This another tasty little bugger, rich, chocolaty with some spice. It has a fairly long finish, which I’m still enjoying as I type. The Honduran wrapper is fairly neutral in my opinion, but the rest of the blend is where the flavor is.

 

That’s all for now, I can’t think of anything else to drone on about. Until the next time,

CigarCraig

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