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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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A Cain F Lancero, an Aging Room Event and a La Boheme Cigar

Cain F LanceroThursday evening I had  a craving for a favorite, so I picked out a Cain F Tubed Lancero form a box I picked up a few years ago, and have been rationing out sparingly. Ten count boxes are great, but they don’t last long, ya know? I have been a little concerned about these cigars. A few weeks ago I smoked a tubed Cain Habano that had been buried in the humidor for several years. I was deeply disappointed in the flavor of the Habano, it was heavily cedar flavored, obviously from sitting for so ling in the cedar lined tubo. Cedar is one of those flavors that I recognize in a cigar, but isn’t particularly a favorite of mine, you know by now that I’m a pushover for bittersweet chocolate and coffee. Anyway, I wanted to check on the Cain F Lanceros to see if I needed to un-tube them for further storage, as it would be a shame if these spectacular cigars changed flavor. I determined that I can leave these along for the foreseeable future. the Cain F Lancero is probably my hands down favorite lancero. The specifics on this cigar: 32% Esteli Ligero, 25% Condega Ligero and 25% Jalapa Ligero in a 7″ x 38 non-pigtailed format. Simple math tells us that there’s another 18% of something in there, I have to assume it’s a neutral seco leaf to keep all that ligero burning.  It’s got a refined combination of sweetness, spice and some earthiness that really works for me. Sadly, these went out of production in 2014, but I think there are still some out there, at least in the non-tubo variety. They were very fairly priced in the $6 range.

 

Friday I went to the CigarCigars store two miles from my house for an Aging Room event with Mr. Rafael Nodal in attendance. This store is know for having events on Thursdays from noon to three, and I’m quite pleased that they’ve started having some evening events that I can actually make it to, which they have been doing recently. I went in hoping that they would have the new Oliveros All Aging Room Bin No. 1 G-MajorStars which I really liked, but, sadly, they only had Aging Room and La Boheme offered. I picked up some Havaos, some La Bohemes and a couple of the Bin No. 1 G-Major, which I smoked while there.  The Aging Room Bin No. 1 G-Major is a giant cigar, 6¼” x 63, I know, 63?  I wanted to ask Rafael why 63 ring gauge, but he was busy talking politics with the regulars. The cigar features an Ecuador Habano wrapper and Dominican Habano fillers from 1999 and 2001. It has a huge band, but fortunately it has a smaller band underneath so I could remember what it was I was smoking. It was a nice, rich smoke with great refined flavor.  It had  lot going on with some spice a creaminess. It did require some touch ups as the burn wasn’t as perfect as I’d like in a cigar at this price-point, but we are talking about a natural product here, it didn’t retract too much from the experience. Rafael is one of the nicest guys in the industry, and very patriotic. I was happy to spend a few minutes with him in my neighborhood. Thanks to Steve and the CigarCigars folks for having events at times I can attend! It’s a little bit of a catch 22, you know. I need to go to work to have money to spend at the events, if I bag work to go to daytime events, I don’t have money to spend at them! Overly dramatic, of course, but you get the jist.

 

LaBoheme_MusicaYesterday afternoon was beautiful for late November in PA. How often can you be outside in a t-shirt this time of year? That changed dramatically in the evening, but the afternoon was perfect for sitting on the porch with a cigar and the Flyers hockey game. I chose one of the La Boheme Musico cigars I just picked up, it’s another big cigar, 6¼” x 60, and smoked well beyond the disappointing hockey game. This cigar has an Ecuador Habano wrapper and Dominican fillers much like the Bin No. 1, obviously with less age on the fillers. I thought it was a fine smoke, like the Bin No. 1 without the refinement that the aged fillers bring. I’d smoke this again in a heartbeat, preferably while watching a winning effort by the home team! For the most part, I’ve had good luck with the Boutique Blends stable of cigars, and most of what comes out of Jochi Blanco’s Tabacalera La Palma. Sure I’ve had a clunker here and there, and for some reason many of the Aging Room cigars I’ve had have been way stronger than I was prepared for. Good smokes though, I’m happy to have some in the humidor.

 

Here’s a little plug for my friends at Custom Tobacco, who I met with at the IPCPR show three years ago. I can’t believe it’s been that long, but I wrote about their Briarmont cigar in November of 2013, and liked it a lot, even if it hadn’t had a CigarCraig.com logo on the band!  They do some really nice work if you are interested in custom banded quality cigars. Adam and Rachel are top-notch and will certainly take care of you. This is an unsolicited plug. There are other companies I’ve run across that do similar things, Bobalu and CigarCountry come to mind, all of them offer a little different twist. I can personally vouch for the quality of Custom Tobacco, and the people behind it.

 

At CustomTobacco.com, you can create and purchase the unique, memorable and fun gift we all struggle to find: fully customized premium cigars, including a private label cigar band that can include any messaging, logos, color scheme, etc. We also offer a free concierge service in which customers can call or email us and we can both design the cigar band and help select the cigars free of charge. 2016 has been a great year for Custom Tobacco, with media outlets including Sports Illustrated, The Daily Beast, American Way (American Airlines’ Magazine) and the Los Angeles Business Journal highlighting our unique offering. With your continued support, we hope to make this our best holiday season yet.

customtobacco

 

That’s about it for now. I have a bunch of new cigars that I’ll be getting to in the next couple weeks, and I’m working on a new idea for this years contests. The FDA has made things difficult as far as getting boxes of cigars to give away, but I’ve got some other ideas up my sleeve. It’s just a matter of getting it all worked out. Of course, if you guys don’t want the chance to win goodies…

 

Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Davidoff, Tatuaje, and Surrogates Cigars and an Event

Davidoff_NicaraguaBox Pressed_robustoTo start of today I have to rewind to last Sunday, when I wrapped up a nice day in the city with a Davidoff Nicaragua Box Pressed Robusto, one of the new cigars in the line this year. If I was impressed with the toro, I was really impressed with the robusto! This one measures 5″ x 48, which feels even smaller with the box press. It features tobaccos from four growing regions in Nicaragua: Condega, Jalapa, Ometepe and Esteli, with the ligero coming from Esteli. As with the Toro, it burned perfectly as one would expect (or, dare I say, demand!), with a great draw, tons of rich, tasty smoke and a firm ash.  This is a special cigar, right up my alley in terms of flavor and strength, but  priced outside my personal comfort range, but for special cigars, my price threshold has been expanding recently. I would certainty recommend this cigar as a special occasion smoke. As I said of the toro, it’s yummy.

 

Tatuaje K222Fast forward to Saturday, when I went back to one of my favorite shops, the Wooden Indian, where they were having a Halloween party of sorts, along with a combined My Father, Tatuaje, L’Atellier, Surogates event with KC Johnson on hand. I introduced myself to KC, apologizing for not having met him before, I saw him at the IPCPR show and I suppose he was with someone at the time or something, I just felt weird for not having met him before. He’s a super nice guy, friendly and knowledgeable and a good fit for the cigar business. While I was there I smoked the Tatuaje Reserva Miami K222, new this year, and an homage to Pete Johnson’s dog Kona, who lost his battle with cancer last year after losing a leg to the disease. I have a soft spot in my heart for three-legged dogs, and offered words of encouragement to Pete when Kona was losing his leg. In our dog’s case, when lost her leg to a bad break, not cancer, but it’s amazing how animals adapt, within days they are getting around fine. Anyway, I felt compelled to smoke the K222, and it’s a fantastic smoke. Take the afore-mentioned Davidoff, kick the strength up a notch, and the sophistication and subtlety down a notch, and you have the Tatuaje. If that sounds like a dig, it’s not, it a different experience but no less satisfying. The K222 is 5 7/8″ x 52 with an Ecuador Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and fillers and is made in the El Rey de los Habanos factory in Doral, Florida. Obviously the “K” stands for Kona, Pete’s Rottweiler, who passed away at 2:22 on April 22, hence the 222 in the name. It’s yet another great cigar from the Tatuaje line.

 

Surrogates_Animal Cracker_AC550While I was at the Wooden Indian, I kind gave Dave, the owner, a little grief about the inappropriateness of his Native American costume, with cultural appropriation being currently out of fashion. PC BS, nobody was insulted back in my childhood when we dressed as hobos, old ladies or banditos, I was even a mafioso once Halloween with a toy machine gun, offensive on several levels in today’s world. I guess if Dave had been standing outside his store with a bundle of cigars in his hand I would have gotten it, but I was slow on the uptake and only “got it” this morning. Anyway, I bought a Tatuaje Monster Series The Krueger, and I’m wondering if I should smoke it tomorrow evening, Halloween, or put it away for a while?  What do you all think?  I also picked up a couple of the Surrogates Animal Cracker AC550, as I’ve enjoyed several cigars in that line and hadn’t tried this one yet. I set one on fire last night and it’s a powerful, full flavored cigar. I loved the closed foot, it feels like it’s plugged on the Cold Draw (one of my favorite podcasts currently, BTW, an unsolicited plug), but upon setting fire to the foot it opens up and is perfect. This one has an Ecuador Habano Oscuro wrapper, burns well, produces lots of smoke and is a great cigar if one likes strong cigars (or needs a little help and doesn’t like taking laxatives, TMI?).  So far I’ve tried and liked the Broadleaf wrapped Skull Breaker and Bone Crusher, so I guess the Tramp Stamp and Crystal Baller are next on my to try list. These are made at the My Father factory in Esteli, and blended by Pete Johnson and the L’Atelier team. These aren’t subtle, the are aggressive, as the names might suggest, but are worth trying f you have a strong constitution!

 

That’s enough for now, I have a busy week, I’ve got a Prime Living Article deadline coming up, a weekend getaway that I need to write and schedule a post for, and various other preparations to make. since I was lazy last week and put off my usual Wednesday post for Friday, I’m going to make every effort to get back on track this week and not be a slug. So, until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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