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Drew Estate Swamp Thang and a Natural Box Pressed Toro Cigars

Swamp Thang RobustoI’ve been waiting to get my hands on the latest in the MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured line, the Candela wrapped Swamp Thang and Swamp Rat cigars. These were featured at last year’s IPCPR show, and I only recently received some in a care package from Drew Estate. The Swamp Thang is available in Robusto (5″x54) and Toro (6″x52) sizes, and I started with the robusto. I’ve been hot and cold on the Kentucky fire Cured line, when I first sampled it in Nicaragua in 2013 I wasn’t a fan, it was too “camp firey” for me. I’ve found with some humidor time these are much better and I actually really enjoy them now. As a fan of the occasional candela, I was anxious to see what the blend did with that wrapper. I believe these are made at Joya de Nicaragua, and they are rolled in the style of the Joya de KFC_SwampThang_RobustoNicaragua Cabineta, with the candela cigar made in the traditional way, and then, in this case, the dark fire cured leaf is added in the final two inches, making a striking contrast. This is used on the regular Fentucky Fire Cured line, but it’s much less apparent since the San Andres wrapper is similar in color to the Kentucky. I found the grassy flavors typical of the candela to be quite understated, and the robusto was a very tasty and well made cigar. It burned perfectly, drew perfectly and was a really nice smoking experience. I was so enthralled with the cigar that I tried the Swamp Rat, the 6″ x 46 size a couple of nights later. I’m going to reserve judgement and not talk about that one now because it wouldn’t burn right and aggravated the heck out of me. I will say that the Candela flavor was more present in the thinner ring gauge, but I’ll come back to that vitola at a later date. Thumbs up on the Robusto though, I really liked that one.

 

Natural_Lounge Exclusive ToroTonight I toyed with the idea of trying the Swamp Thang Toro, but the Swamp Rat scared me off for now, so I went with a cigar from a couple of years ago, a Natural Soft Box Pressed Toro that was a Corona Cigar Company Drew Estate Lounge Exclusive. I’ve had good luck with the Natural line, it features a bunch of non-traditional tobaccos, from places like Syria, Turkey and Perique from Louisiana, which make for a very interesting and pleasing flavor. There are loads of unique spices that work really well together, at least to my palate. I’ll have to see if my friends over at the Wooden Indian have the lounge exclusives or if they are still exclusive to Corona. Wooden Indian has a Liga Privada lounge. the lounge exclusives are all box pressed, the Liga Privada No.9, Undercrown and Herrera Esteli are all sharply square pressed, while the two Tabak Especial varieties and this Natural have a soft press. I’ve smoked most and they have all been quite good.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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Undercrown Shade, Tabernacle, and Herrera Esteli Cigars

Undercrown Shade Gordito I know, I know, nothing new here, but it’s been a busy week and I’ve been selfishly playing it safe smoking cigars I like and enjoying the hell out of them.  This started with a go-to Connecticut Shade wrapper cigar that I grab when I don’t feel like deciding on what to smoke, the Undercrown Shade from Drew Estate. At some point over the last year I came across a good deal on a five-pack of these in a the 6″ x 60 Gordito size, I can’t recall the details, but it was an offer I couldn’t pass up. While 6″ x 60 isn’t normally a shape I go to in a Connecticut, it works in this cigar.  Funny how one company’s “gordito” is different from another’s. I know one particular example where a Gordito is 4″ x 48. If my very rudimentary understanding of the Spanish language is even close, “gordito” is the diminutive of “gordo”, which means “fat”, which makes me wonder what the dimensions of a potential Undercrown Shade Gordo might be? Anyway, the Undercrown line is one of my favorites, and the Shade is one of my favorite Connecticut wrapped cigars, it’s got that nutty, creamy component, and has a good core of rich tobacco flavors to go with it. It’s not an Undercrown with a shade wrapper, although one might wonder what that might be like. Good smoke.

 

Tabernacle_RobustoIronically, I chose a Tabernacle Robusto from Foundation Cigar Co. for my next cigar. I say “ironically” because the Tabernacle is made by Nick Melillo, who probably would have been in charge of blending the Undercrown Shade if had still been with Drew Estate and Willie Herrera hadn’t stepped into his shoes. Most of my readers probably know that, but background included for those who don’t. Believe it or not, everyone isn’t as obsessed with the minutia of the cigar business as I might be. Tabernacle is the full-bodied, Connecticut Broadleaf blend that everyone expected Nick Melillo to make, and it’s not disappointing. I smoked the Robusto as it was later than normal and I didn’t want to be up all night with a cigar. I would have loved this in a 4″ x 48, I wonder what Nick would have called that size? The 5″ x 50 robusto was great, although I probably prefer the toro, more of a good thing. It burned great, was about an 8 on the strength meter, with sweet rich coffee and cocoa flavors, right up my alley. I love the color of the band, which features an image of Haile Selassie, who was the emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. It seems like an odd figure to feature on a band, but he is considered a god incarnate by the Jamaican Rastafarians, as a matter of fact, Selasie’s birth name was Tafari, so the movement is named after him. If you know Nick Melillo’s affinity for Jamaica and Reggae, you’ll get the connection. Where the name Tabernacle fits in is that it’s long been rumored that the Ark of the Covenant, which  is stored in a box called a tabernacle, is in a chapel in Ethiopia. I could probably write more about the history, but plenty of other people already have.The Tabernacle cigars are great (I’m still working up the courage to smoke Nick’s Upsetters line, it’s hard for me to talk myself into smoking infused cigars) . If you love Tajuaje’s Broadleaf blends, Liga Privadas, Mi Quedridas, Nica Rusticas, you’ll love the Tabernacle. I do.

 

HerreraEsteli_TAA ExclusiveI seem to have followed a path of related cigars once again, choosing a Herrera Esteli TAA Exclusive 2016. Last year I received a generous package from Drew Estate (as did many of my esteemed colleagues in the world of cigar blogs) which had all sorts of lounge and shop exclusives, and new items. It must have been the beginning of 2016, as it seems like a long time ago. Was it 2015? Time is moving too quickly!  I still have some cigars from that sampler, and this Herrera Esteli looked like the size I wanted and I decided to smoke it. Unlike the Herrera Esteli line, which features a Habano wrapper and is a great smoke, by the way, this TAA (Tobacconists Association of America) Exclusive has a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, with Brazilian Mata Fina binder and Nicaraguan fillers. I like the regular Herrera Esteli line, it’s a great smoke, but this one, with the sweetness from the Broadleaf and Brazilian tobacco really is more in my wheelhouse. I smoked one of these in May of last year and got a meaty flavor that I didn’t get this time around. Perfect burn and draw, of course, and rich flavors that entertained me on my evening walk, and provided a great end to the week! I really didn’t need another $12 cigar to like. I guess it’s lucky for me there aren’t any TAA retailers close by!

 

Today is Father’s Day, which I have mixed emotions about given the fact that my father and father-in-law both passed in the last few years. My kids always do something nice for me, and I look forward to seeing them today, and enjoying my traditional Father’s Day cigar,  this year an 18-year-old cigar. I bought a box of Esperanza Para Los Niños toros in 2000 for Father’s Day and have one left, which I’ll smoke last. I’ve had some generous gifts of various sizes of these over the years which I save for Father’s day. I think I’m good until 2020 or so. In 2002 I found my self unemployed, and wouldn’t you know some online retailer bought the remaining inventory of these cigars (that were made by Christian Eiroa for charity) and was blowing them out for a great price, although it was a lot more than I could afford being out of work. I was pretty pissed that I couldn’t afford another box, and by the time I could they were gone. Anyway, that’s on my agenda for today. That’s all for now, until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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RoMEo Añejo, Aging Room DeSocio and a Liga Privada Aniversario

RoMEo_Anejo_TorpedoI have said many times over the last year or so that the RoMEo Añejo is a cigar I want to like. I don’t know exactly why I want to like it, perhaps its to find something in the Romeo y Julieta portfolio to call a favorite, or the fact that it has a Broadleaf wrapper and I “should” like it.  I tried my third one this week, a Torpedo, and I didn’t have the tight draw problems I’ve had in the past, or the over-humidified steamy smoke. Granted, this is less of a manufacturing problem and more of a storage problem, but who has the time to identify and segregate cigars that happen to smoke better at a lower humidity? If I can’t keep all my cigars (or a retailer for that matter, because at least one of the previous cigars I had trouble with came right off the retailers shelf) in the same humidor and have them smoke well I.m not happy. So I lit up the Añejo torpedo and had a nice, reasonable draw, and upon lighting it up I had mouthfuls of potent, rich smoke. I thought the line had redeemed itself in my eyes, until I hit a dead spot in the middle of the cigar. Once again, I want to like this cigar, but three strikes, ya know?  Fortunately the RoMEo 505 came along filling the void left by the Añejo, I really like that one!

 

AgingRoom_QuatroF55_DeSocioYesterday was  a beautiful Saturday with unseasonably high temperatures, so after getting some things done around the house and running some errands, I sat down with a fun looking little cigar that had been in the humidor for a while, I’m thinking since IPCPR 2015. I believe it was from the 2015 show because the Aging Room Quattro F55 DeSocio is an exclusive for the Alliance Cigar wholesaler group, and I remember meeting folks from that company in the Boutique Blends booth. The DeSocio is a 5¾” x 47 perfecto with a pigtail cap and a box press, so it seems smaller than the numbers would let you believe. Something about a lot of the Aging Room cigars has a tendency to effect me negatively nicotine-wise, not sure why, so I tend to let them age for as long as possible before I smoke them. This was a tasty little treat, with a Sumatra wrapper, and Dominican Habano filler and binder. It started out with a concerningly tight draw, but after about 30 seconds it opened up and was perfect. It had some sweetness and spice in the flavor and was very enjoyable. I did take a nap afterwards, but that didn’t have anything to do with the cigar. Like I said before, the box press makes this seem smaller than it is, I think I smoked it for an hour and a half. As with the majority of the output of Tabacalera Palma, this is a very good cigar.

 

LigaPrivada_Anniversario_ToroLast September, probably, I was at a Drew Estate Event at the Wooden Indian, and I did something I don’t usually do. Part of whatever deal they had going was that if you bought so many cigars you were allowed to buy a special cigar, in this case I ended up with a $16 Liga Privada Anniversario toro. I fell for it, I figured I liked Ligas, so chances were good I’d like it and it mike make for an interesting blog entry. This was one of those cigars that they had to get out into the market before the FDA deadline of August 8 last year, they were on display at the IPCPR show, and there were rumors that they were also releasing a 100th anniversary cigar thinking ahead to the future (this one, presumably, was for the 10th anniversary). I’ve been looking around for information on this cigar, the overall appearance is prettier than the No.9 wrapper, it’s more smooth and consistent, less rustic. Smoking it is a little more refined I think, there’s something smoother about it than the regular Liga 9. It was a good smoke, it functioned well, had a good burn and draw, and was satisfying, but it lacked the “pop” to me that No.9 has. I’d be interested to see more information on this cigar, there’s no mention of it on the Drew Estate Website, or the Diplomat app. I suppose I’ll have to harass the new social media guy there about this. It was a good cigar, I think for the price I should be amazed and not just satisfied, but that’s just me. While I don’t regret the purchase, I stick with my assertion that I’d buy two Nica Rusticas to one Liga every day of the week.

 

Today I’m thinking back six years to the time I met Guillermo Leon of La Aurora Cigars at the Wooden Indian after the birth of my first grandchild. We’ll be paying her a visit t, and will likely smoke something from La Aurora today at some point. I celebrated the birth of both my granddaughters with La Aurora Puro Vintage 2003s, and I have two more in the humidor. Not that I envision any more grandkids anytime soon, I hope, but they are there waiting for the day. Anyway, that’s all for today, until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Natural from Drew Estate, Imperia, Don Juan Urquijo and Padilla Cigars

Drew Estate_Natural_NDBAll I really wanted to do this week was smoke some old favorite cigars, you know how everyone has that comfortable old shirt that is worn out but you can’t get rid of, and wear every chance you get?  I have one, I wore it yesterday. Anyway, I wanted to, but I ended up smoking cigars I hadn’t smoked before instead, I kept thinking, if I just smoke familiar cigars, what am I going to blather on about in my Sunday post? So I started out with a Drew Estate Natural “NDB”, a cool 7″x 44 shape. I’m sure I had smoked something from the Natural line in the past, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t infused or anything, but I knew it used some unique tobaccos. It looks like there’s tobacco from Syria, Turkey and St. John’s Parrish (Perique) and Nicaragua. Toar Campbell of CigarSmoke.net made a comment on Facebook, simply saying “desert?”, which I found a very fitting description for this cigar. It had a sweet cap, which doesn’t thrill me, but I can get past it, and the overall flavor of the cigar was rich and sweet in the sense that a German Chocolate cake is rich and sweet. I quite enjoyed the cigar to tell the truth, I can see this working itself in to my “go-to” list. The flavors were varied and interesting and I found it to be a satisfying cigar. It looks like the blend varies by size, so perhaps some more sampling is called for, but I liked the 7″x 44 size. I think I have a couple in a robusto size floating around somewhere. This was probably my pleasant surprise of the week.

 

Imperia_PitaFriday night I ventured into another new-to-me cigar which came courtesy of George, my secret Santa this year. George has been healing from a surgery and part of me feels bad for smoking his cigars while he has been taking a break to heal, but part of me thinks he’d want me to enjoy the cigars so he could enjoy them vicariously. I prefer to think the later, because it would be douchey to throw it up in his face and I try not to be a douche.  Anyway, I had really been looking forward to trying the Imperia by Mike Belody, of MLB Cigar Ventures, since I hear it advertised on quite a few podcasts, and have heard Mike on some shows and almost feel like I know him. Unfortunately, our paths haven’t crossed yet, but I hope they do soon. Anyway, the Imperia was a corona size, which was perfect since I was getting a late start, forgoing my evening walk for just sitting on the porch. Unfortunately, winter decided to make a return and it was cold and windy, and I don’t like walking in the wind with a cigar. The porch is enclosed, reasonably warm and windless. The Imperia is made at the Quesada factory, with  High Priming Dominican Havana Vuelta Arriba (HVA) wrapper, Dominican binder and
fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.  This was an amazing cigar! Full of great flavors and performed perfectly with a punch cut,  giving me a very relaxing hour of delicious smoke. For a cigar with a blue band this was pretty darned great! I got some dark coffee flavors with a little pepper and or citrus zing. Quite a great cigar and I thank George again for sharing it with me! Have to vent a little about one of me pet peeves though, please, manufacturers, put the available sizes on your website! I searched for this information for too long and almost gave up (couldn’t find an online retailer with it either) but I did finally find a 2014 Halfwheel post with the sizes, the corona is called the Pita listed at 5½” x 44.

 

DonJuanUrquiro_Perique_toroYesterday I selected a Don Juan Urquijo Perique from a recent sampler from Daughers & Ryan, the US distributor for Tabacalera in the Philippines. I really like the 1881 Perique blends from this company, and I was surprised with the Don Juan Urquijo Pyramid I smoked last November. So I figured this Don Juan Urquijo Perique toro might be a good bet. Let’s circle back to preconceived notions for a bit. I had a bias against Filipino cigars for a long time, but I gave them another show and found these, at least, to be pretty darned good (the Don Juan Urquijo and 1881). In what I’m told was a factory error which has been addressed, this Don Juan Urquijo Perique came in cellophane with a convenient tear strip, which, to my admittedly jaded and cigar snobbish mind signals a less than desirable cigar. Is it wrong to feel this way?  I don’t know, but perception is reality to some, and for me it was hard to get past, despite reassurances that this it was a premium, hand-made product wrapped by machine. I hate to admit that it took me some time to talk myself into pulling the ripcord on this one (literally and figuratively), but I did. Just goes to show how much packaging and presentation can play into one’s perception of quality. Anyway, I kinda liked the cigar,  not quite as much as I liked the 1881 Perique or the Don Juan Urquijo Pyramid, but it was a pleasant cigar with that little bit of an extra exotic spice the Perique tobacco adds.  Not bad…not bad at all.

 

Padilla_small batchI found myself with an hour to kill last night so I went searching for another shorter smoke and came across the five-pack of Padilla Single Batch Perfectos that I bought several months ago when  Cigars International offered them for $1 delivered. That’s right, this was a 20¢ cigar, how often do you admit to smoking a 20¢ cigar? I’ve bit on a couple of the five cigars for $1 deals, I can’t figure out why they do this since it obviously costs more than $1 to ship the things to me, heck it costs them way more than that to pay someone to put them in a box, not to mention the cost of the box…this is a loser for CI for sure,  and since they are out of stock of these my mentioning them here isn’t doing them any good. Either way, it’s worth a dollar to me to see what these are all about, if I lit each one with a dollar bill I’d still be ahead of the game. The little bowling pin shaped perfecto burned better than some $10-15 cigars I’ve smoked, it had a perfect draw and straight burn. Very impressive. The flavor was OK, I found it to be on the “floral” end of the spectrum, I’ve tasted a lot worse. Surprisingly, the blend is an Ecuador Sumatra wrapper, Honduran binder and Brazilian, Dominican, Honduran, and United States fillers.  So, it is possible to get a pretty good cigar cheap! I feel a little guilty buying these, like I’m stealing…

 

Anyway, that’s enough from me for now, stay tuned for another contest coming up featuring a ticket to an upcoming Philadelphia area cigar festival!  More on that later, but until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Merlion Maduro, Arandoza Defcon and Norteño Edicion Limitada Cigars

The cold I managed to get after traveling to California somehow morphed into a sinus infection mid-week, so I took a few days off from cigars. In truth, smoking was the last thing I wanted to do. But before that all set in, I smoked a Merlion Maduro robusto from La Sirena Cigars. These are made at the La Aurora Factory, and are the maduro version of the Merlion made at the same factory. This was Merlion_Maduro_Robustoa sample from the 2016 IPCPR show where I got to spend a little time hanging out with Arielle and her family, who are all involved in the brand. Previous to this release, the only glimpse we had at what a Merlion Maduro might be was the single maduro version that was in the limited edition Sea Lion box. The Sea Lion is a cool little perfecto cigar, and I finally smoked the maduro version last year and was amazed by it (which was my fear, considering these were impossible to come by). Luckily, this years Sea Lion release, although limited, is the opposite, with nine maduros and one with the original Ecuador Corojo wrapper. So I was excited to smoke the Robusto, and put a box of the toros in the humidor anyway.  The maduro wrapper in a San Andrés from Mexico, and the Brazilian Sumatra binder and Brazilian, Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers from the original release stay the same. To be honest, I liked the Ecuador Corojo Merlion, but about as much as I like a lot of the La Aurora output, which is to say I want to like them, but most don’t suit my preferred flavor profile. However, slap a San Andrés wrapper on it and I’m in. I found the smoke to be milder than I thought it would be, but that could have been the impending nose condition. I love the sweet earthy flavor and  look forward to smoking this in the toro size with healthy sinuses and maybe  warmer weather. I have almost filled the top shelf of the cabinet with La Sirena cigars, I haven’t found one I didn’t like yet. I still have some of the old My Father made Churchills and Salamones hanging out there too, and I need to get some of the new Connecticut Shade to have on hand as well.

 

Arandoza_Defcon_SuperToroMy first cigar back after the sinus thing eased up was an Arandoza Defcon from the 2015 IPCPR show. This was too strong a cigar for having taken a few days off, but it’s a great smoke and I really like Robert and Pilar Arango, they are super nice folks and it was great spending some time with them at the show last summer. They are dog people too! The Arandoza line is made at La Zona, and it I had been smart and motivated, I might have taken a drive up to CI in Hamburg where Erik Espinoza was doing an event. I needed a home day though.  I love the Arandoza line, especially the Red, which is also quite strong, but I think it’s sweeter than the Defcon, with the Defcon having more savory flavors. As I said, it was a poor choice for the first cigar back after a few days hiatus. Maduro Broadleaf wrapper on this cigar.

 

HerreraEsteli_Norteno 2015 LEYesterday I went with another  San Andrés wrapped cigar, the Herrera Esteli Norteño 2015 Edicion Limitada, a pressed Churchill from Drew Estate. The Norteño line has the Mexican wrapper, a Honduran binder and fillers from Esteli and Jalapa. It’s got a flat, tongue depressor, kind of feel to it, comfortable and fun to smoke. Again, perhaps my taster is off, but this one struck me as “savory” more than sweet. It was a really satisfying cigar though, nice amount of smoke, rich and tasty. I’d smoke more of these if they weren’t so darned pricey.

 

As I’m getting ready to head in to Philly today to see the Philly Pops play Sgt. Pepper, and probably stop by Holt’s, I’m going to keep this brief.  I’ll probably look  for some of their exclusives, the Tatuaje Maduro that is a Holts exclusive looks very interesting, or the San Cristobal or La Aroma de Cuba. I tend to default to either Tatuaje or Fuente when I’m at Holt’s for some reason. Anyway, until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

 

 

 

 

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