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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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Some Tatuaje Cigars, a Cromagon, an Event and a Disappontment

Killing a little time with a little Tatuaje Verocu at Holts. - @holtscigar @tatuajeincThursday evening my wife and I went into Philly for a show, and stopped into Holts for a quick cigar before hand. I picked out a Tatuaje Verocu No. 5 and we hung out in the lounge and watched the beginning of the Flyers home opener. The Verocu No. 5 is a 4″ x 40 little guy, with tons of flavor. It has an Ecuador wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler and is a terrific little treat. It went great with a cup of black coffee, and a relaxing hour in Holt’s lounge. It had that great cocoa and strong, black coffee flavor I love, with a hint of spice. These are very good cigars. Pete Johnson happened to be doing an event at Holt’s other location the same night, and was going to be in the downtown store Friday. I was sorry I didn’t catch up with him, but we had a nice evening anyway.

 

Friday I decided to give a reasonably new cigar a second chance, since to first one had some construction issues. I’m not going to name names in fairness to the cigar, as my experiences may have been atypical, but I will talk about the experience. Clever readers who folow me on social media will be able to connect the dots. This cigar has been resting in the humidor, along with all the other cigars I regularly smoke, since it came home from the IPCPR back in July. Basically, it burned and smoked like it was wet. Perhaps this particular wrapper, which is touted as a new hybrid leaf, just holds a lot of moisture and needs to be dry boxed or stored at a lower humidity. It just seemed wet to me. It wouldn’t stay lit, and when it was it had that steamy quality to Tired of fighting with the last cigar, switching to a Dunhill Aged Maduro - @alfreddunhillthe smoke. It was one of those rare cigars that makes me wish I carried a back-up on my walks.  When I got home I did something I rarely do and abandoned it and lit up a short robusto from Dunhill, their new Aged Maduro.  This just looks like a delicious cigar, but it had a funky flavor that I wasn’t expecting. I’m going to give this one a second chance as maybe my palate was out of whack from the first cigar, it’s not fair to make a judgement under those circumstances.

 

At Cigars International in Hamburg smoking an Avion Perfecto at a Drew Estate Event! @drewestatecigar @cigarsinternational @tatuajeinc @jonathandrew1 @drewestatepedro @drewestatedave @herreraesteliYesterday I went up to Cigars International in Hamburg as they were having a big Drew Estate event, and it was a rainy, ugly fall day. The CI store there is a destination, and adult Disneyland, and it’s hard not to spend five hours there. I went up with Mike C., and met an old friend there, and said hello to a bunch of my Drew Estate friends. I couldn’t decide on a DE cigar to smoke, it seems I’ve smoked everything I wanted to smoke from them, and had plenty in my humidor at home, so Mike and I went off the menu and picked out a couple Tatuaje Avion 11, a 6¾ x 52 perfecto. This was a beautifully crafted cigar with an Ecuador wrapper again, and Nicaraguan binder and filler much like the aforementioned Verocu. It started off with a blast of spice, settled into a rich Fomorianespresso and cocoa flavor, and finished of with some more spice. I noted that the burn was just about perfect, with a nice, flat ember that I really enjoy, as it shows the care that went into blending a cigar in a way that all the components burn at the same rate, a rare feat. After that I picked up some RoMaCraft Cromagnon Fomorian candela robustos, to finish off the afternoon. While this probably should have come before a full-bodied cigar like the Avion, it still has the horsepower to keep up, and I like the refreshing kind of feeling the candela wrapper gives this cigar. Of course, Jonathan Drew was scheduled to be at this event, and hadn’t shown by the time we left. It was nice to see a lot of my DE friends though, and we had a nice afternoon of conversation and cigars.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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Another Bobalu Cigar, a Tabak Especiale, New Fonseca and Crossfire Cigars

We’re getting into my least favorite time of year, autumn. People can argue with me all they want, but I don’t like the cool crisp fall days and the leaves turning. Summer is too short, at least it goes by too fast, I’m not a big fan of winter, but at least you know spring is coming, Autumn gets me down. The only upside is that it’s not quite as cold on the cigar porch as winter is, so that’s something.  I still Bobalu_BoxPressedMaduro_Toroprefer sweating over shivering. Anyway, the seasons don’t much effect my consumption, I might smoke more robustos and coronas in the winter, but I always like my evening cigar, and the cooler weather has always made me want more maduros. I smoked a couple this week that didn’t taste too maduro to me, not that they were bad cigars, just not what I expected. First was a Bobalu Box Pressed Maduro toro with a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper. As you know I’ve been working my way through some cigars I purchased from this US-based factory located in Austin, Texas. So far I’ve found the construction has been pretty darned good in all the cigars I’ve smoked from them and the service has been excellent.  While this maduro wasn’t what I expected it to be, it was better in that it surprised me with some interesting flavors.  The box press is very square, making the 52 ring gauge feel much smaller, it was very comfortable. Besides the Mata Fina wrapper, the rest of the cigar is aged Piloto Cubano (Dom Rep.) Ligero, Nicaragua Viso, Olor Viso (Dom. Rep.) Nicaraguan Ligero and Habana seed (Dom. Rep.)ligero. Considering the three Ligeros in the blend I found this to be medium in strength at best. I’m liking the offerings of this cigar factory, once again, it’s on my list of places to visit.

 

TabakEspecialeNegra_Exclusivamente DE LoungeThursday was some kind of coffee appreciation day, our regionally popular convenience store chain, Wawa, was giving away their coffee, so I figured it was a good excuse to smoke the Drew Estate Tabak Especial Negra Box Pressed toro, an Exclusivamente Drew Estate Lounge cigar. Drew Estate has several lounges, one at the Wooden Indian that I frequent, so they made a series of box pressed toros just for sale at those lounges. I want to say that they were originally just for the Drew Estate lounge at Corona Cigars in Orlando, but I think they’ve filtered out to the others. Two of the offerings are the Tabak Especial in the Negra (maduro) and Dulce (Connecticut). Of course, I chose the Negra, and I’ve occasionally enjoyed these coffee infused cigars over the past six or seven years, truth be told, I really like them. They have a sweet cap (something I could take or leave), and the coffee flavor that I really like in a cigar is there in abundance. What more can I say about this cigar but that it’s a good smoke with a sweet coffee flavor. I don’t like too many infused cigars, but I’ll smoke these all day long.

 

Fonseca_Nicaragua_ToroFriday’s treat was a cigar that I smoked on the IPCPR show floor (one of the few), and was really impressed with. New from Quesada Cigars this year is the Fonseca Nicaragua, made in Esteli by the Placencia factory with Nicaraguan tobacco from Ometepe, Jalapa and Esteli. This is a very reasonably priced cigar to start with, in the $6-7 range, and is really quite tasty. It’s got a nice spice and some good coffee/cocoa flavors. This actually made a Robb Report piece in early August of the five Nicaraguan cigars you have to smoke. While I don’t  necessarily agree with all five I think this new Fonseca is a must try. I was impressed at the show, and I am impressed at home. It’s a yummy smoke.

 

Crossfire_Maduro_MagnumFinally, yesterday I was looking through the dwindling supply of trade show samples that I consider interesting, and I came across a sampler from Crossfire Cigars. These guys have an interesting story, and do a lot of good things in the Dominican Republic with the proceeds of the brand’s sales. I should probably keep this to myself, but I have a cynical opinion when it comes to “faith-based” charities, I think doing good for the sake of doing good is the thing to do, which I always hope is the case. I guess some things feel like “I’ll do something good for you if you follow my way of thinking”. I could devote an entire site to this discussion, but if I were to start another site it would center around something way more entertaining than my religious opinions. Bottom line, there’s nothing wrong with helping people less fortunate, which is what this cigar is based around, and as long as they keep making good cigars, I’ll promote their brand. Off of my soapbox, let’s get back to the cigar. I really appreciate the new bands on  these which actually say what the cigar line is, rather than their old bands that had a secondary band.  I selected the Crossfire Maduro first, in the 6″ x 60 Magnum size. This was another maduro that was not a typical maduro. The Ecuador Habano sun grown wrapper was not very dark, but it did look like an Ecuador Habano sun grown, which is probably too much to put on the band. The smoke was smooth as silk and seemed like a very mild cigar to me, but it did build up in strength near the end. It has a bit of that sourdough bready flavor I get once in a while, which I find interesting. Binder and filler are Dominican, which I suppose explains the mildness a bit. This was a really nice smoke, I look forward to trying the other four varieties, especially the San Andrés.

 

That’s all I have for now, in fact, I’ve probably said too much. Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Davidoff and Bobalu Cigars and a Wooden Indian Drew Estate Event

Davidoff_Yamasa_ToroAnother week is in the books, and I felt the urge to revisit the Davidoff Yamasa toro on Thursday. I smoked this at a launch party that Davidoff had at their lounge in Las Vegas, which, of course, was not nearly large enough to contain the crown there in air-conditioned comfort, so a large part of the event was outside. I kinda like the Las Vegas heat for a while, it’s not totally uncomfortable, but add in some misting fans, loud DJ music, and a crowd, it’s not any kind of environment to get a good handle on a cigar. I had a busy week at my day job, so I figured it was time to give the Yamasa Toro another go.  To recap the Yamasa story in a nutshell: 20 years ago Henke Kelner decided to try to grow tobacco in a swampy area in the Yamasa Valley in the Dominican Republic. After many years Davidof_Yamasa_Samplerof trying, apparently they got it right and produced the Davidoff Yamasa into their Black Label series this year. It’s a good smoke. It’s as elegant and well made as one expects from Davidoff, and it’s got a lot of flavors of earth and wood, with some spice.  This is another Davidoff cigar I received a sampler of in ridiculous (meant in a good way), over the top packaging.  The pentagonal box, containing a five sided star-shaped box which unfolds to reveal the four sizes in the line and a box of cigar matches is amazing, yet highly impractical! I’m told the Pyramid is the best of the bunch, not sure why I didn’t select that one…another time.

 

Bobalu_Tres Capa_toroFriday I decided to dig into some of the cigars I recently purchased from Bobalu Cigar Co. in Austin, Texas. I featured some of their cigars a few months ago and felt like they had some offerings that intrigued me enough to make a purchase. Remember, there’s a special deal just for my readers where you can get a free triple flame lighter with a purchase (I forgot to take advantage of this when I ordered!). Their Tres Capa caught my eye, I have to admit, the combination of the Candela, Connecticut and Habano wrapper leaves in a barber pole configuration makes for a very attractive cigar. I don’t seek out barber pole style cigars, but I liked the look. This was a really nice, milder cigar, with some great, smooth flavors. They didn’t ask me to say this, but they have a special on their site for a 10 pack for $39.95 with a torch lighter, which is a nice deal for some very good, made in the US of A cigars.  I got a box pressed maduro and an Oscuro lined up to try to so stay tuned. I have a few reasons I’d like to visit Houston someday, and now Austin is on my list, not that they are close to one another, are they?

 

NicaRustica)_2016DE-WI EventYesterday I stopped in to the Wooden Indian Cigar shop in Havertown, PA where they were having their annual Drew Estate Charity Event and pigroast. It was a packed house and featured Pedro Gomez from Drew Estate, Broc Jackson, the young man who makes the jewelry that all the Drew guys wear, as well as many others in the cigar industry, and Hollis Thomas, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and is on the local sports radio station (apparently, I don’t follow football at all, but I sat down next to this guy, not knowing who he was and he seemed like a fun guy. His go-to smoke is a short story, which I found interesting as it showed he was in it for the flavor and not the look, as it’s hard to find that little cigar in his formidable hands…). I bought some cigars, and lit up a Nica Rustica El Brujito and schmoozed for an hour or so. Every year they have this big event with auctions of great Drew Estate cigars and artwork by Jessi Flores at Subculture Studios, and this year they raised over $6000 for Drew Estate Charities, as well as raising $800 in cash and cigars for Cigar For Warriors. In the picture here you can see some of the auction items in the background. Dave and his staff at the Wooden Indian always have great events, it’s probably my favorite shop in the area.

 

That’s all for today, I smoked another IPCPR show sample last night, but I didn’t really dig it, so I’m not going to mention it…probably not the cigars fault, it just wasn’t for me, an I was disappointed because I though it would be! I hate it when that happens. Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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Merlion, Undercrown, Rocky Patel, Viaje and RoMEo Cigars

Pre-IPCPR post, by the time you are reading this I’ll be either on my way to Las Vegas, there already, or home, depending on when you happen to read. I’m anticipating a busy show, and have made some appointments, but there’s literally no way one can schedule meetings and get to visit everyone one wants to visit, there’s not enough hours in the day. I’ll do my best to bring you something different than my esteemed colleagues in the cigar blogosphere, whom I’m hoping to commune with as well. I’ve got packing to do, so I’ll try to keep this brief! Here are some interesting cigars I smoked this week:

 

Merlion_Sea Lion_maduroOne of the cigars I’m looking forward to at the IPCPR show this year is the release of the Merlion Maduro from La Sirena Cigars. A few years ago I got my hands on one of the limited edition boxes of the Merlion Se Lion, which came in a box with nine Sea Lions and one Maduro Sea Lion. The Sea Lion is a unique shape, it’s a 5½” x 47 perfecto with a shaggy foot and a very pointy head. It was all I could do not to smoke this when I go them, as you can well imagine.  It has not gotten tot he point where they are releasing a regular line of the maduros, so I figured it was time. These are made at La Aurora, and the cigar smoked beautifully. It was rich and full of all the great flavors I look for in a cigar. I can’t wait to smoke this is other sizes, but the Sea Lion size is unique and interesting to smoke. They only produced 500 boxes of these, so I imagine the chances of getting more are nil.

 

Undercrown_ExclisivamenteI have been playing around withe the Drew Diplomat app, and I just don’t get it. I can’t figure out how to really interact with people, find people, or anything. I think there are much better “community” apps out there, and I get that this is a marketing tool. So I’ve been choosing Drew Estate cigars to smoke and log on the app a little more lately, which I suppose is the point of the app anyway. I picked out the Undercrown Exclusivamente, which is a square pressed toro exclusive to Corona Cigar Co.’s Drew Estate Lounge in Orlando. There are several cigars presented in this form factor for the lounge, including a Liga 9, a couple of the Tabak Especiales, Natural and Herrera Esteli. In addition to being sharply pressed, they have a flat cap, which lends itself well to punching with a reasonably large-bore punch.  I’ve smoked a lot of Undercrowns, and I think this was my favorite size/shape of the bunch. Sure the Corona Viva is the stand out in the line to me (better yet, the larger Dogma, a Cigar Dojo release that’s long gone. I haven’t smoked a Manifesto yet), but I think this surpasses even those. It’s a terrific smoke, a fun shape, and quite worth picking up if you find yourself in the Orlando area (or on the Corona Cigars website).

 

RockyPatel_Edge_SumatraMonday evening I went with a cigar that was gifted to me last week by one of our friends who joined me for Desnudo Sunday. Nik is a noted local (Wilmington, DE) singer/songwriter/performer who is a cigar nut as well. It was a very generous and unnecessary thing for him to do, but I understand and appreciate his eagerness to share something that I hadn’t smoked yet. I can probably count the number of Rocky Patel Edge cigars I’ve smoked on one finger. Why this is, I have no idea. I’ve seen them on the retailers shelves for years, I just never picked any up. He gave me his favorite, with is the Sumatra 6″x 52 Toro, and it was very good with a savory, woody, leathery flavor with a little sweetness. It was well-behaved, and a very satisfying smoking experience. I’ll have to make an effort to further explore the Edge line. Thank you, Nik, for the great cigar!

 
Vieje_SummerfestI’m finding I have more to say than I thought, the downside of skipping my mid-week post.  I smoked a Viaje Summerfest 2015 that I bought last year at J. Shepherd Cigars in Louisville, KY. This cigar was interesting in that the first inch or so is without wrapper, so you smoke binder and filler only for the first 15 minutes, then there is a noticeable change. Viaje is another one of those brands I don’t follow closely, but I seem to recall the first release of theirs being the 50/50, which was designed with two distinct blends merged together in the middle. I never smoked one, but it sounded intriguing.  So this limited edition cigar was very nice, and it really did showcase the amount of flavor the wrapper gives a cigar. It smoothed out noticeably when the wrapper started burning. Fascinating. Of course, these are only released in the summer, and I don’t recall seeing anything about one coming out this year. I don’t think this was too awfully expensive either (or I probably wouldn’t have bought it!, and I bought two and smoked one there I think).

 

RoMEo AnejoFinally, last night I grabbed a cigar that I had been siting on for a year or more. When the RoMEo Añejo cigars came out I really wanted to like them. 2010 Connecticut Broadleaf for a wrapper, a 2008 Olor from the DR for a binder, and Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers from the 2009 crop.  The first few I smoked seemed over moist, they tasted great, but the steamy quality to the smoke and associated difficulty with draw was off-putting and frustrating. So, like a dummy, on the hottest, most humid day of the year, I forgot all that and decided to give this cigar another try. I was encouraged with the initial draw, but after a few minutes on the porch in the humidity, it started getting that steamy feel to it again. That thick broadleaf wrapper is like a sponge, I suggest putting these in your humidor if you have a humidity spike, as they will suck the moisture out in a short amount of time.  I still love the flavor, but one must be very careful about conditions in which these are smoked. I’ll keep trying as I’m a sucker for broadleaf.

 

That’s all for now, I’m off to Vegas, so watch for reports from the show here, and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Periscope for up to the minute reports. Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

 

 

 

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