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A Tatuaje and L’Atelier Event and the Philly Cigar Festival Contest Winner

Tat1Monday evening I found myself again at Cigar Mojo in King of Prussia, PA at the Tatuaje/L’Ateliar “Oh F*ck I’m Lost” bus tour stop. This was a huge event, as you might imagine. Pete Johnson, Casper Johnson and Dan Welsh were on hand for the event, they’ve been travelling around in a beautiful tour bus and visiting stores along the tat2way. Cigar Mojo had tons of stock on hand, and appear to have had a good sales day!  I picked up a couple singles and the tour special pack with five cool cigars that I haven’t yet taken the time to identify. If someone would fill me in, I’d be grateful (what can I say, I’m lazy). I lit up a Tatuaje Reserva K222 and went about schmoozing with friends old and new. On hand was a vintage travel trailer fitted as a bar mixing drinks and a BarBQue tat3trailer serving food. They had boxes of Pork Chops, bundles of Pork Tenderloins and  Le Vignoble available with the purchase of another box of qualifying cigars, all of which sold out. I chose the K222  since I’d smoked it before and would be distracted. It was and is a great cigar, Ecuador Habano wrapper and made in Miami. It was a great event, lots of great folks and I enjoyed the evening. tat4

Tatuaje_Cojonu2006

Last night I smoked the Tatuaje Reserva Miami Cojono 2006, a 5½ x 52 belicoso. Another great smoke, rich, complex flavors of espresso and earth. It, like the K222, had a great burn and draw, and I very much enjoyed it. Tatuaje cigars have always been special occasion cigars for me, so the last couple days were pretty special. I look forward to smoking my way through the  “Oh F*ck I’m Lost” sampler. Pete and his crew are a great bunch, it’s always a treat to spend a little time with them, and I’m glad I finally got to meet Casper and Dan and was sorry KC wasn’t there.  Cigar Mojo did a good job considering there were easily a hundred people there at a time, and while the shop is a good size, that’s a large crowd.

 

It’s time to choose the winner of the ticket to the Philly Cigar Festival, happening June 3, 2017 in Pottstown, PA. I’m looking forward to hanging out with the winner at the event!  Out of the 21 entries (adjusted for those who commented that they wouldn’t be able to attend), the random number generator at Random.org spit out the number 19, which corresponds to Michael shore. Please send me your full name and contact information so I can pass it on to the event organizers to get your ticket processed.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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La Aurora, a Cornelius and Anthony Event, Avo and a CAO Cigar

Don’t forget to go back to Wednesday’s post and enter to win a ticket to the Philly Cigar Festival being held on June 3, 2017! I will select a winner on Wednesday, so if you think you can make the trip to south-eastern Pennsylvania, put your name in the hat! This promises to be a very cool event!

 

So, I smoked a few cigars this week, I’ll mention a few of them, there were some I won’t mention either because I’ve talked about them before, or there was something strange going on…for instance, one cigar I really enjoyed in the past had a very strange and awful flavor about mid way through akin to burning plastic. My guess is that a piece of the plastic string they use to tie the hands of tobacco together in the fermenting process may have gotten mixed in the bunch somehow, at least that’s what I want to believe. It’s easier to wrap my mind around that explanation than think of what other foreign objects might have made their way in there. Stuff happens and it’s just unfortunate that it was my last example of this particular cigar. Fortunately, there are plenty of other great cigars to choose from! Mi Queridas seem to be smoking very well, and a 2015 LG Diez Lusitano from La Flor Dominicana was a real treat this week.  Another treat was a La Aurora 1903 Cameron robusto, the third new cigar from La Aurora’s Time Capsule series, following the LaAurora_1903Cameroon_Robusto 1987 Connecticut and the 1962 Corojo. This has a Cameroon wrapper, Ecuador Sumatra binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. I have a special affinity for the La Aurora line, it’s special to me personally, but that’s not to say I enjoy a great many of their cigars. I half expected this one to remind me of the first box of cigars I bought back on 1996, the La Aurora Bristol Especiale (I think it was around $40 for the box). I never really took to those, they seemed to have a vegetal flavor that I didn’t care for. I didn’t find that to be the case at all with the 1903 Cameron, it had that unique Cameroon sweetness (Camerooniness, I call it), and was a very pleasant cigar. I know I’ve enjoyed the Connecticut in the past, but that’s coming up in the rotation real soon, I think, as I somehow failed to make mention of smoking it in the past. Good stuff from La Aurora and thank you to Jason at Miami Cigar and Co. for keeping me up to date on these.

 

stevenbaileyFriday evening I finally made it back to Cigar Mojo in King of Prussia, PA for a Cornelius and Anthony event where I finally met Steven Bailey, the owner of the company.  I’ve been pretty high on this newer brand for the better part of a year now, with the Cornelius toro making an appearance on my end of year memorable cigars list, and will be the subject of my Cigar Notes feature in the May/June issue of Prime Living Magazine (due on Texas newstands in May). I learned a few things about Steven, who has a successful cigarette CorneliusandAnthony_Meridian_torocompany which basically bankrolls the premium cigar start-up. Steven has experience with the FDA, having one of two cigarette brands that has been approved by the FDA, out of something like 12,000 applications. He has the experience (and the financial wherewithal) to keep his four excellent lines on the market. Of the four lines, I like the Cornelius the best, with the Meridian a close second, with the Daddy Mac close behind.  I haven’t smoked enough of the Venganza to make a good judgement yet. The Cornelius is made at El Titan de Bronze in Miami with the other three coming from Eric Espinosa’s La CorneliusandAnthonyTableZona factory in Esteli. As I sat chatting with Steven, Todd Vance and Jose Galvez (Steven’s faithful minions), I smoked a Meridian toro, which I liked better than the robusto, and I liked the robusto a lot. In the toro I think the strength was tempered a little, and there was an interesting cinnamon note midway through. I think buying a box of these is in my future. It was a great time at Mojo, great cigars, and very happy to meet Steven and his crew. Cornelius and Anthony is a brand to watch, and is high on my list.

 

AvoSyncroYesterday I smoked a little Avo Syncro  robusto since Avo Uvezian passed away on Friday at the age of 91. I never had the pleasure of meting Avo, but many people I know knew him and spoke highly of him. The Avo line (not unlike many of the La Aurora cigars) doesn’t line up with my particular tastes all the time, but he’s certainly left a legacy with many fans of his cigars. I do like the Syncro, perhaps the Nicaraguan component works better for my palate than the Dominican. Not only did Avo lend his name to cigars, but he also wrote “Strangers in the Night” for Sinatra and was obviously an accomplished musician. I never shook the man’s hand, but he was beloved by many, another cigar industry icon has left us (at an advanced age if that says anything).

 

CAO_AmazonBasinLast night I finally got around to smoking a CAO Amazon Basin. I recently picked up the last one in a box at a local shop, and this is from the second generation of the line I would think. These got rave reviews, it’s certainly unique in its presentation, with a band made from what I guess to be twisted tobacco coiled around the cigar. CAO is another brand that I really love a couple of their lines and other’s are just “eh”, sadly this one fell into the second category. Give me any Flathead over this any day of the week. Not that it was a bad cigar, although it took a bit of coaxing with the lighter to get lit right, then tunneled a little on my at the midpoint. I didn’t find it to be spectacular, although the last third was getting there and by the time I peeled off the band it was pretty hard to put down. Not sure if  I got a flukey one or it need more time in the humidor or what. I am an optimist when it comes to cigars, and it takes a lot for me to give up on a cigar, usually seeing it through to the end, with worked in this case, because the cigar redeemed itself, but it’s sometimes tough to poser through when a cigar starts out questionably. CAO’s Rick Rodriguez was in the area Friday night at another of my favorite shops, sadly I missed him this time around.

 

That’s all for today, don’t forget to enter the contest! Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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A Visit to Holt’s and Some of Their Exclusive Cigars: Tatuaje, Punch and Rocky Patel

Tatuaje_HCSReserva_MaduroSunday I stopped into Holt’s store on Walnut Street in Philadelphia after an excellent Philly Pops concert. I had gift card burning a hole in my wallet and I didn’t want to spend any of it on shipping (turns out I could have used it on the box of Room 101 Uncle Lee I bought yesterday on the website, would have made it $23 instead of $43…at $43 it was a deal too good to pass up if you like the cigars, which I do, and they will never be made again since Matt Booth left the cigar business). So I walked through the shop and picked up some of the Holt’s exclusive cigars they have. I already knew I wanted to get a couple of the Tatuaje HCS Reserva Maduro, a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapped cigar made at the My Father factory. I smoked one when I got home, and it was very good. It had some spice and some dark chocolate and I kinda wished I had stopped there and just got some more of these!  The size is a 5½” x 50 with a box press and was really a nice smoke. I’m told that the Tatuaje Verocu started life as a Holt’s exclusive, and that’s one of my favorite Tatuajes, although I really enjoyed the crap out of the HSC Maduro.

 

SanCristobal_Quintessence_RobustoMonday night I went with another cigar I got at Holt’s, although I don’t think it was exclusive to the store, but it caught my eye any way. The San Cristobal Quintessence is made again by Don Pepin Garcia and is distributed by Ashton, which is owned by the same parent company that owns Holt’s. I smoked the robusto again, another 5½” x 50, with an Ecuador Habano wrapper. I found this cigar to be milder than I thought it would be, with some flavors that aren’t really in my wheelhouse. It was fairly rich, with a dried fruit sweetness, and I’m sure a lot of people will love this, but it wouldn’t be one I reached for. The build was excellent and it performed well. Maybe some lingering sinus funk is to blame.

 

RockyPatel_Ocean ClubTuesday I went with the Rocky Patel Ocean Club, which has been a Holt’s exclusive for many years. Again with 5½” x 50, with a gentle press, where as the San Cristobal was round. Apparently I was buying cigars that fit easily in my pocket to minimize damage on the train rid home. This one had a very loose draw, and made me think of a Connecticut shade wrapper instead of the Nicaraguan wrapper, it was very light in color. This one I also found to be mild, with a different and interesting flavor. Still, I would trade this and the Quintessence for the Tatuaje, but that’s just my personal preference. I found it to be fairly mild, and the open draw made for a pretty quick smoke. As is my normal routine, I bought two of each, so I’ll revisit them at a later date. Since these have been on Holt’s shelves going back many years in my memory, I imaging they sell well enough, so whether I liked it or not is hardly relevant.

 

PunchVintage_Maduro_25I did grab some Arturo Fuente Best Seller Maduros, because I can’t seem to help but pick up something Fuente when I ‘m there. But the cigar I smoked tonight I have no regrets about. This was the Punch Vintage #25 Maduro, in the Corona Gorda (5½” x  46) size. First off, it’s a great size,  I don’t smoke enough corona gordas, but I’ve always been a fan. This is made in Honduras, with a blend of Honduran, Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers, and Connecticut Broadleaf binder and wrapper. This was like smoking a chocolate bar, I dug it. I would have been very happy just getting the Tatuaje and the Punch, both were up my alley and I really  liked the Punch Vintage Maduro.

 

I love stopping into Holt’s when I’m downtown, it’s a great place to pick up a few cigars and the lounge is a nice place to relax with a cigar. I still haven’t stopped into the Ashton Lounge upstairs, I’ve been to the predecessor, Mahogany, plenty of times, and I hear the new place is really nice. One of these days. Thanks to the folks at Holt’s for sponsoring a contest here a couple of months back as well as the helpful staff at the store! Also noteworthy was seeing Steve Saka’s Sobremesa and Mi Querida on an end cap.

 

That’s all for now, 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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Nat Sherman Timeless and Metropolitan Cigars and Secret Santa

The Nat Sherman company started out in 1930 with a tobacco store in the garment district of Manhattan, at the height of the Great Depression. Over time, the Nat Sherman store became a destination for tobacco lovers, hosting celebrity clientele such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and John F. Kennedy Jr., as well as being considered “neutral ground” by members of organized crime families. The company remains family owned with the third generation of Shermans running the business, along with Michael Herklots,VP of retail and brand development.  Nat Sherman is an iconic brand, and their flagship store is a Townhouse on 42nd street which is a must visit if you find yourself in New York City. I remember getting the catalog from Nat Sherman in the early 80s, not sure how I got on the mailing list, but I was a fan of their MCD cigarettes. Of course, at the time the cigars were quite the luxury item, not that the cigarettes weren’t, they were probably a very exorbitant $2.50 a pack. I was in a “smoke less, but smoke better” place, I guess, plus I had very few expenses while living with my parents and working three jobs.

 

Michael Herklots of @natshermanThursday evening I had the pleasure of attending an event at my local CigarCigars store with Michael Herklots where he led a tasting of the Nat Sherman Timeless Dominican by having everyone smoke puros of the four filler components.  I arrived late, but was on hand to see the participants trying various combinations together, with two or three little cigars in their mouths at once. It was interesting to see some components smoked together appeared to taste really bad, but the combination of all four tasted really good. The Timeless Dominican, the first cigar that Michael blended when he joined the company, is made at the Quesada factory and comes in about nine sizes, and has Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers and a Nat Sherman Timeless Dominican RobustoHonduran binder. I smoked the robusto size and was very happy with it. Aesthetically, it had a great burn and ash, there was a very thin black line at the perfectly straight boundary between ash and wrapper. The ash had to be almost forcibly removed. It had a load of great flavors, and was a medium to full-bodied cigar. I left satisfied, although I wished the cigar were larger! I solved that by purchasing a couple in the Churchill size, which I look forward to sampling.

 

NatSherman_TimelessNicaragua_660Logically, I followed up the Timeless Dominican with a Timeless Nicaragua. I bought a few of these in the 660 size, with the box press that they use on the Nicaraguan line (as opposed to the round Dominican), it seemed less girthy. Obviously, this is a 6″ x 60 cigar, and its a Nicaraguan puro, with a dark Nicaraguan Habano wrapper that was very appealing to me. This cigar didn’t have the razor-sharp burn that its Dominican counterpart did, but it evened itself out after a while. The cigar had some of my favorite cocoa/coffee flavors along with a woody/meaty component. I liked it. Fortunately, when I go to an event I generally buy more than one of each cigar for a variety of reasons. Mostly so I have at least one to take home if I decide to smoke one at the event, where it’s hard to fairly judge a cigar, and because ya can’t buy just one, am I right? Anyway, another winner from the Iconic Nat Sherman.

 

NatSherman_MetropolitanHabano_ToroI love watching hockey, but I hate  Saturday and Sunday afternoon games as they seem to get in the way of getting things done. I suppose I should embrace them as an excuse to relax on the weekend afternoons, which is why I grabbed a cigar and the tablet and watched the game on the back porch (which has been enclosed for the winter). Continuing the theme, I selected a Nat Sherman Metropolitan Habano toro. The Metropolitan series comes in Habano, Maduro and Connecticut, with the later two being made in the Dominican Republic, and this Habano from Nicaragua. I broke tradition and chose this over the Maduro, as it just looked so good and I really wanted to smoke it.  I’d save the Maduro for later. The Metropolitan Habano was my favorite so far. It had a great sweet, medium bodied flavor and hit me just right. I think these are priced in the $6 range too and worth every penny. This is one of those cigars that I would buy two of for every one $12 cigar all day long. It burned perfectly and lasted through the second period and half way through the third. Good game, great cigar.

 

NatSherman_MetropolitanMaduro_UniversityFinally I got around to that Metropolitan Maduro for my evening walk. This one has a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, comes in about eight sizes consistent in shapes and names with the Connecticut shade counterpart. I selected the 6″ x 50 University. This cigar was on the milder side of medium, and it had more of a savory maduro flavor than the sweet. It was different enough to be interesting and pleasurable, but perhaps would be better suited to warmer weather. Again the construction was great and it burned with the nice flat burn that I appreciate as all the components are burning at the same rate. Perhaps I should have stuck to my maduro first tradition as this cigar might have been better earlier in the day, but that Habano was so good…

 

So it’s been brought to my attention that I am a little late to be trying to organize a Secret Santa, but, I’m an optimist, and if anyone is interested in participating, e-mail me (craig@cigarcraig.com) your mailing address before Sunday, December 11, 2016 and I’ll match people up and send out assignments ASAP. We’ll keep it simple, four cigars, with no expectation of having it delivered by Dec. 25, we’ll shoot for New Years. We can still have some fun with this, how’s that sound? I do have a couple of tricks up my sleeve for some giveaways, so don’t despair! 

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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