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CigarCraig’s Top Five Memorable Cigars of 2017

This is a little early but Sunday’s post just might be another contest and I don’t want to confuse things! I was trying to get this posted Wednesday, but things weren’t working out the way I wanted them to! Just like last year, my criteria is simple, a cigar that I consider “Memorable” is one I smoked, made a positive impression on me to the point where I really want to smoke more of that cigar.  I noted last year that this format, in no particular order, would keep me off Halfwheel’s Consensus list, but I just recently came to find out that my 2016 was included on their 2016 Awards: The Consensus Top 25 Cigars which included at least three of my five most memorable. So, without further ado, here’s my list of memorable cigars of last year.

 

LaGloriaCubana_Colección Reserva_PresidenteI’ve been a fan of La Gloria Cubana cigars since the mid-nineties when I started really getting into the premium cigars. Back then they were made by Ernesto Perez Carillo in Miami and later the Dominican Republic and were excellent. Time has passed, along with ownership of the company, and Ernesto has gone on to do his own thing, but he came back to partner with General to make the Coleccion Reserva. one a side note, the current contest running now until Sunday includes ten of these great cigars, and let me tel you it’s going to be hard to let go of them! I kid, I’m happy to share such great cigars. These are manufactured at Ernesto’s  Tabacalera La Alianza in the Dominican Republic using materials from both companies. I like them so much I bought a box of the Presidente size for full retail! This cigar exemplifies the cooperative nature of the cigar industries where competing companies work together. It doesn’t always work, but in the case of the La Gloria Cubana Coleccion Reserva is does. Smoking one with Ernesto at a local event puts it at the top of my most memorable list ( I know, I said it was in no particular order!).

 

CorneliusandAnthony_SenorEsugars_RobustoCornelius and Anthony makes an appearance again this year, I still go to the Cornelius Toro as my “go to” special occasion cigar, but there aren’t a lot of cigars in their portfolio that I don’t like. OK, I don’t think there are any that I don’t like. OK, OK, there aren’t any I don’t like! This year they released two new lines, the Aerial with a Ecuador Connecticut Shade wrapper,  and the Señor Esugars with a San Andrés wrapper, which is my second selection on my memorable list. These are made at the La Zona factory in Esteli. I really dig this cigar, which, like the Aerial, has a super secret US grown binder. they are tight-lipped about the origin of the leaf they use, but considering the Bailey family has been growing tobacco in Virginia for 150 years, one cant help but think it’s grown in Virginia. It certainly adds a unique component to the cigars, and the Señor Esugars hits my palate just right. There’s a super cool dog on the box too. Full disclosure: Cornelius and Anthony is an advertiser on CigarCraig.com, but the only effect that has on my opinion is in that bearing contacted by them to advertise put them on my radar, and meeting Steven Bailey and his team adds to the memorability.

 

SouthernDraw_Jacob'sLadder_GordoSouthern Draw Cigars has been on my radar for a while, but at this year’s IPCPR I finally got to meet Robert Holt, his wife, Sharon, and their family. Upon meeting, Robert did a convincing job of knowing who I was and was generous with his time.  Robert is a gentleman, a veteran, a spiritual man and is behind some of the best cigars coming out of Tabacalera AJ Fernandez.  New to me this year was the Jacobs Ladder, his Pennsylvania Broadleaf flavor bomb. The name hints at his commitment to family and faith, and the cigar is awesome. I’m currently on the hunt for more, because it’s one I want to smoke more of, and it’s an especially good choice for the cold weather we’ve been having as the weight of the flavor cuts through the crisp air.  The Rose of Sharon is also a stellar offering in the Ecuador Connecticut wrapper (there should be little doubt by now that a maduro is almost always winning out over a shade wrapper with me!), it’s among the best out there (the above mentioned Aerial and the Fratello Oro get honorable mentions).  So that makes the Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder my third memorable smoke of 2017.

 

OscarHabano_SixtyNext up is another cigar I really enjoyed this year, the Oscar Habano. Funny think about this one is that I had bought some of the Toro  and Gordo sizes an really enjoyed them, but it wasn’t until  I had the Robusto that was part of 2 Guys Smokeshop‘s Contenders pack that I really saw the beauty of this cigar. Listen to The Cigar Authority tomorrow (Saturday 12/30) to see if they get it right and select this cigar as the Cigar of the Year. As I think about it, I may dig out the one toro I still have and smoke it today. Oscar makes some great cigars, the Leaf by Oscar line is very good (there’s another Ecuador Connecticut cigar that’s really good!), it’s nice that he made something exceptional to put his name on (wait…his name is on the Leaf by Oscar isn’t it?) Great smoke, I hope 2 Guys Smokeshop makes the right call on this one.

 

FSG ToroFinally, I really can’t get enough of the Florida Sungrown from Drew Estate. This uses tobacco that’s grown on Jeff Borysiewicz’s (Corona Cigar Co.) Farm where he’s growing Corojo tobacco, the first time Cigar tobaco has been grown in Florida for something like 40 years. Willie Hererra blended the cigar using Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos with the Florida leaf adding that little something different in the flavor.  I have to admit, it was a toss-up between the FSG and the Undercrown Sungrown, both are exceptional and I really dig them, but the FSG has a great story and inches out the Undercrown by a hair. Drew Estate continues to bring new and interesting cigars to the market, I have to admit that I rather liked the new Acid Kuba Candela too. While I’m more of a traditional cigar smoker, this one was a treat, the bitterness of the candela wrapper offset the sweetness of the infusion. Good stuff.

 

That’s it for my five most memorable cigars of the past year. There were probably others that I thought were excellent but didn’t have the little extra to make them stand out. The La Palina El Año 1816 was on my list too, I just need to smoke a few more before I can make a strong recommendation (the La Palina Classic Maduro I smoked last night was really quite tasty too!).  Hopefully 2018 brings some new and interesting cigars. Once again, thanks to all the readers and sponsors, without whom I’d be typing for my own entertainment!

 

That’s all for now, don’t forget the contest! Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gurkha, La Palina, Avo and a Quick Draw Cigar

 

I took the easy way out on Wednesday with the La Sirena video, so I have a bunch of cigars to talk about this week. Not unexpectedly, the video is now in the number three spot in views on my YouTube channel, behind a La Sirena interview from the 2012 IPCPR. That shows something, I have to figure out what that is…Anyway, I started the week with a teeth cleaning followed by a Gurkha Founders Reserve in the Rothschild 6×58 size.  That’s what the box (of 10) that they gave me at the IPCPR show says, Gurkha_FoundersReserve_RothschildI initially thought it was the XO size, 6″ x 60, like there’s a huge difference between 58 and 60…and usually reliable sources list the sizes as   Robusto (5 x 50), Rothschild (6 x 55) and XO (6 x 60), yet it says 6 x 58 right there on the box, and I measured one and it was close enough to the 60 hole to make me think it was a 60 (my ring gauge checker is old, it jumps from 56 to 60 and doesn’t go any larger). Gurkha fails to list the sizes on the website too, which is frustrating. I’ve bitched about it before, but the manufacturer’s website should be the last word in specifics on a cigar, not blogs of retailers. I’m worked up now, maybe I need to smoke another of the Gurkha Founders Reserve  whatever size it is, because it was a really tasty Connecticut shade wrapped cigar. I really enjoyed the crap pout of the cigar, it was a really tasty medium bodied cigar with a great burn and draw. I suspect this is a brick and mortar exclusive, like the cellar reserve line, and is in the $10 price range, but it very enjoyable. Here’s a few pictures I took a the Gurkha booth at the show.

 

 

LaPalina_Nicaragua_OscuroMy eye was drawn to the La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro robusto next. La Palina’s website gives the sizes and nothing else. This is a 5″ x 52 Robusto, made at the AJ Fernandez factory in Nicaragua, and wrapped with a Ecuador Oscuro wrapper with Nicaraguan fillers. I’m not sure what “Ecuador Oscuro” exactly means, and the rest of the make-up is vague. Again, it hardly matters as it’s a tasty smoke. It’s up my alley with the rich, coffee/cocoa flavors I like, with a hint of spice. It burned well, had a good draw and was a very nice experience. I smoked a prototype of this a few years ago I think. On a side note, I’ve been obsessed with the Adorini Double Punch cutter, and have been using it all the time. It features two punches, 9mm and a huge 13mm. I find myself using the 13mm (which is about a half an inch, or 32 ring gauge) almost all the time, it opens up the cigar almost as much as when I use a guillotine cutter. It’s sharp and has a strong magnet that keeps the three pieces together. It’s a quality piece and I’m using it a lot. The La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro is a good smoke, I look forward to smoking the Nicaragua Connecticut.

 

Avo_SouthAmericaRitmo_SpecialToroNext up was a new offering from Davidoff’s Avo line, the Ritmo in the Syncro line. I’ve smoked a few Avo cigars, most aren’t in my wheelhouse, frankly, I don’t “get” a lot of them. Some people love them, everyone has different tastes, most of the Avos don’t do it for me. This one, on the other hand, was delicious. This cigar boasts a seven country blend, Ecuador wrapper, Mexican binder and fillers from Peru, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Brazil and Honduras. Yep, that’s seven, I counted. I really enjoyed this cigar, it was very good. Did I mention the size? It was the 6″ x 60 Special Toro, and the box press was very comfortable. It was creamy, with some wood and citrus notes, as well as some spice and bitter chocolate. This was definitely my favorite Avo ever. It’s sad that Avo isn’t with us any longer, and I hope Davidoff continues to pay homage to him by creating great cigars in his name.

 

SouthernDraw_QuckDrawPennsylvaniaFinally, I got home late last night and took a quick dog-walk with a Quick Draw Pennsylvania Petite Corona from Southern Draw. This is a 4½” x 44 cigar with a pigtail cap and a covered foot. This was perfect for my late walk. The Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper really has some oomph! It’s grown about 20 miles from where I live, so I’m drawn to cigars with Pennsylvania tobacco in the blend. Since this one had the pigtail cap, I skipped the punch and lopped off the cap with a Palio, and took torch to foot without toasting to get that blast of the PA Broadleaf that the covered foot offers. This was an hour of bliss, it had a nice kick, certainly satisfying and really quite a cigar. This is another cigar from Tabacalera AJ Fernandez. I don’t think I’ve had a Southern Draw Cigar that I didn’t like a lot. I’m sad that I missed Robert Holt on his recent swing through PA, I need to hurry up and become independently wealthy so I’m not stuck at work when all the fun stuff is happening!  This little cigar has a big flavor and had an impressive burn time, I think I spent about an hour with it!

 

That’s all for now. Thoughts continue to be with our friends in the Houston area, as well as the many friends we have in Florida,  which is being pummeled by mother nature as I write this. I hope everyone get through safely and with minimal destruction. Give what you can for the relief efforts, people need help.

 

Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

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IPCPR 2017 – Southern Draw Cigars

At the IPCPR show this year I finally had the chance to meet Robert Holt of Southern Draw cigars at his award-winning booth. The booth had an inviting back porch feel, and as I was standing at the booth waiting to introduce myself I met his in-laws (I hope I’m right remembering the relationships) who were helping man the booth. Lovely folks giving the Southern Draw company the family feel that is consistent with what I’ve heard of the company. When Robert finished he came and greeted me like an old friend, already knowing who I was. I can’t get used to being recognized, I was similarly surprised earlier in the week by Mickey of Blind Mans Puff, who is a long time reader and former contest winner. Anyway, as it was the end of the second day of the show, we agreed to meet first thing Thursday morning when the show opened.

 

SouthernDraw_RoseofSharon_GordoSouthern Draw featured three new cigars this year, the Jacobs Ladder, the Rose of Sharon and the Quick Draw with a Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper. I smoked the Rose of Sharon at the show, it’s named after Robert’s wife Sharon. Since I can’t really make any kind of judgments on cigars smoked at the show, I smoked another one last night in the Gordo format, a generous 6.5″ x 60.  The wrapper is Ecuadorian Sun Grown Connecticut (Ecuador has perpetual cloud cover, so the sun  grown description is accurate, but the wrapper is indistinguishable from a shade grown Connecticut wrapper). The binder and filler are Nicaraguan, based on the information on the website I don’t think there’s ligero in the blend. (edit: after watching the video again, Robert said that it has 25% ligero! Still smooth and flavorful!) As with all of the Southern Draw cigars, this is made at the AJ Fernandez factory. The Rose of Sharon is buttery smooth, with loads of flavor. It has the signature nutty/grassy shade wrapper flavor with a level of richness and depth that was really enjoyable. I enjoyed the heck out of the Rose of Sharon at the show, and even more on last night’s walk and for an hour or so after getting back.

 

SouthernDraw_Jacob'sLadder_GordoRewind to Thursday when I selected the Jacobs Ladder, again in the 6.5″ x 60 Gordo size. This new cigar isn’t yet listed on the company website, but it is listed at Famous Smokeshop, which says it has a PA broadleaf wrapper and Nicaraguan fillers specifying Esteli ligero and Ecuador Habano binder. The name is both a biblical reference and another family name as Robert and Sharon have a son named Jacob (middle name). The importance of family was abundantly clear in the IPCPR booth. I didn’t like the Jacobs Ladder.  I LOVED it. Holy crap this is a great cigar! Strength, flavor and balance like crazy. It’s not a morning smoke, or a cigar for the faint of heart.  The PA broadleaf (incidentally, grown in the next county to the west of where I live). It hit on my favorites, cocoa, espresso, with some spice and earth from the broadleaf. I appreciate the signature closed foot on Robert’s cigars, as it SD_JLgives an initial blast of wrapper flavor at the start, that is, unless you toast it like you would a finish footed cigar. I go straight to the mouth with the closed feet cigars so I don’t miss anything (let to a burn hole in a shirt once…). This is another gem from Southern Draw, I think that makes them five for five with me now, I dig the Kudzu, Firethorn and Quickdraws too (although I’m behind on sampling the Quickdraws, haven’t had the Connecticut or PA Broadleaf yet). Generally the cigars coming out of AJ Fernandez appeal to me and these cigars from Southern Draw are at the top of the heap. Well done, Robert Holt!

 

 

Speaking of Famous Smoke Shop, they have a new Cuban Cigars Hub on their site. Since it’s now permissible to buy Cuban cigars in countries where they are legally available (most) and bring them in to the U.S., The folks at Famous have put together this hub to further educate consumers on not only the cigars, but the rules and the history of the Cuban Embargo and all it encompasses. Head to http://cubancigars.famous-smoke.com/, there’s a lot of great information they’ve put together. 

 

MiQurida_MasSuciaFinally, I stopped in to my favorite local shop, the Wooden Indian, Friday night for there Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust event with Steve Saka. Of course, if my old friend Steve is in my ‘hood, I feel compelled to visit, buy his cigars and hang out and smoke with him for a while. As a bonus, his wife Cindy was there too. I smoked the new Mi Querida Mas Sucia, which is an enormous 7″ x 58 which generally more of a good thing in the Mi Querida line. It started mellow and built over the two and a half hours I smoked it. Odd that I smoked all very large cigars this week, but why not? I enjoyed them all! I also managed to score a never released Liga Privada No. 9 with a Connecticut wrapper with my purchase, which will be a very interesting cigar, considering it’s seven years old.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

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First Wednesday Contest Two Days Late, and a Kilo Cigar

I missed the Wednesday post, it’s been a hellish week at work, so I blew it off. I asked on the Cigarcraig.com Facebook page if anyone minded if I posted it late and the sentiment was positive.  It seems people love the chance to score some freebies!  So I rummaged through the humidor and pulled out about 10 cigars and found some other odds and ends. More on that later, I have a couple of cigars I want to talk about first!

 

 

Kilo_RobustoI signed up for The Cigar Authority Care Package, which is a monthly care package of cigars that they are going to smoke on the show during the course of the month, so I dropped the folks at 2 Guys a note asking to include a couple of the new Kilo cigar (and charge me for them) that is the creation of Barry Stein. Barry created a version of this cigar when he was working for Miami Cigar and Co., and it’s been re-imagined through the United Cigar Group and made by Noel Rojas who makes the Guayacan line.  I received the care package along with the Kilo cigars last week and smoked a robusto this week.  The cigar is made up of an Ecuadorian habano wrapper,  with Nicaraguan Corojo 2006 binder and three ligero fillers from Aganorsa and Rojas’ farms.  This is a strong cigar, with lots of flavor.  It burned perfectly, much like the Guayacan toro I smoked later in the week to compare. Kudos to Barry for realizing a dream and bringing a very nice cigar to market. Good smoke, but not for the feint of heart. The idea behind the care package is to smoke the cigar that corresponds with the show, preferably while watching The Cigar Authority show live on Saturdays. I generally find myself listening to the podcast version during the week, so I try to remember to smoke the cigar while listening. there have been some spectacular cigar included in the packages I’ve received. It’s an entertaining show and is in my regular rotation.

 

Contest

 

contestI pulled some favorites out of the humidor, as well as a sampler of Southern Draw cigars, and a Stage V Cigar Clinger.  The Southern Draw sampler includes a Kudzu, a Firethorn and a Quick Draw Pennsylvania, all tasty smokes from the A.J. Fernandez factory. Also included is a Nica Rustica Belly, an Arandoza White Robusto, a Classic Cigar Habano Blend from East India Trading Co., a Tortuga Reserva Cedro Belicoso, a Buena Vista Short Churchill, a Six-Sixty Robolo and a Black Abyss Toro (the last two from the factory that makes Aging Room and Señoreal).  All cigars I like to smoke.  It’s hard to say what else might fall into the shipping box when it goes out. Usual rules apply, if you’ve won in the past few months you’re out, just leave a comment here to enter. I’ll pick a winner next Wednesday (maybe), November 11, 2015.

 

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

 

CigarCraig

 

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A Byron, a Maxx, a Recluse, Quick Draw and an Indian Motorcycle Premium Cigar

Don’t forget to enter Wednesday’s contest to win some great Gurkha cigars.  To answer a couple of questions and maybe dispel a myth or Gurkha_The Cask Blendtwo, I am working my way through the sampler (another one, not the one I’m giving away, duh…) and these are very nice cigars. These are predominantly Brick and Mortar exclusive cigars that you won’t find in mail order outlets. The Cellar Reserves have been pretty terrific, I smoked the Cask Blend and it was a good, mild cigar, and the Classic Cigar is actually on my go-to list, I like them a lot. I’ll get to the other two this week.  Point is, they are good quality cigars which are eminently smokable.  You can accept them for free with confidence!

 

Byron_Seri SigloXIX_PoemasOn to the week’s smokes.  I signed up for The Cigar Authority Care Package which is four cigars that go along with the cigars that they smoke on the radio show.  Dave Garofalo is losing his shirt on this deal, or at least not making any money.  This week’s selection was the Byron Serie Siglo XIX Poemas, a 4 7/8″ x 52 cigar made in Costa Rica of undisclosed ingredients. these are sold in beautiful porcelain jars. Nelson Alphonso is the man behind Selected Tobaco and these cigars, and he’s the guy who designed the Pardon 50th Anniversary humidor as well as the Cuban Cohiba Behike packaging and tons of other Habanos special release packaging.  The care package costs $20 a month delivered, and this is a $25 cigar. I’m ahead of the game already. The guys on the show rave about this cigar, and it’s certainly a perfectly crafted cigar and visually appealing.  I found it to be a good cigar, the flavor doesn’t “wow” me, it’s nice, medium bodied and inoffensive. I guess this is another for the list of cigars I just don’t get, or the hype made my expectations too high. I will try them again, for sure, who knows if it just wasn’t the right cigar for the moment or what, what do I know. If this is a cigar that is the best cigar you’ve ever smoked, who am I to say you’re wrong, it just wasn’t a good match for my preferences. I do encourage everyone to tune in to the Cigar Authority show, it’s entertaining and informative, and the Care Package is a hellofa deal.

 

AlecBradley_Maxx_FixxLast week when I went to the Alec Bradley event at Cigar Brothers one of the cigars I came home with was the newly re-banded Maxx in the 5″ x 58 Fixx size.  The One Thing I noticed about this cigar was the dark and oily Nicaraguan wrapper. I can’t really say if I’ve smoked the Maxx before other than the Brazilian version that was a Cigars International exclusive, so I don’t know if they’ve changed the blend along with the packaging (on second thought, I’ve smoked the Maxx Connecticut in the Best Cigar Prices exclusive Robolo size). This was a really tasty smoke.  It’s a blend of tobaccos from Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico and was full flavored and medium bodied. The flavor was rich and well-balanced and much to my liking.  These are priced around $6 in PA, and well worth it.  If you asked me if I’d rather have twenty of these, or four Byrons for the same price, I’m sure you know what my answer would be. The Maxx is a great value.

 

Recluse_AmadeusHabano_ToroNext up was the newest offering from Recluse Cigars, the Amadeus Habano. this was their new release at the IPCPR show, where I ran into Scott Weeks and J.R. Dominguez a few times. I got in on the ground floor with these guys thanks to Will Cooper‘s introduction, and have really enjoyed all the cigars they have come out with. This cigar is a Habano wrapped version of the Amadeus, which came out last year with an Ecuador Connecticut wrapper. I let these rest a while because the first one I smoked a couple of months ago didn’t smoke right, and that’s been unusual in my experience with the brand. The Amedeus Connecticut is an excellent cigar, and the Ecuador Habano wrapper adds a little bit of a richness and zing to the flavor, and I’m sure the Mexican binder helps out a little too.  This is another winner in my book, love the look of the holographic band too, this has a lot of curb appeal and delivers on the flavor side too. I do have one gripe though, and it’s my usual…its been a few months since this was displayed at the IPCPR show, update the website with the details, please!
SouthernDraw_QuckDrawSince I smoked my first cigar from Southern Draw Cigars a month or so ago, I have been interested in sampling their Pennsylvania wrapped Quickdraw.  Of course, the name reminds me of the cartoon character from the early sixties, Quick Draw McGraw.  If they come out with a size called “El Kabong’, I’ll know that that’s where the name came from! Another reason it might be called the Quickdraw is because it’s a 4 3/8” x 44 petite corona, and the company is based in Texas, so there’s the wild west theme going on, along with the fact that it’s a short smoke. These also come in a Habano wrapped version, but since I live in Pennsylvania, this one was the one I wanted to try. This is a great little smoke, loads of deep, espresso and cocoa flavors along with some nice sweet spice from the PA Broadleaf.  These are made in the AJ Fernandez factory so the construction was top-notch. So far I have really enjoyed everything I’ve smoked from Southern Draw, the blends are in line with my preferences, and the factory that makes them might have something to do with that, but it might also be that Robert Holt is a man of excellent taste and refinement.

 

IndianMotorcyclePremium_RobustoLast night’s cigar was another new cigar from the IPCPR show.  Phil Zanghi started Indian Tabak cigars in the 90s, eventually partnered with an entertainment lawyer from LA, who took the brand and ran with it, which was a springboard for Rocky Patel Cigars. Recently Phil got the trademark back, but instead of reviving Indian Tabak (which was originally an homage to Indian motorcyles, nothing to do with his partner’s ethnicity, that was a happy coincidence), he came out with the Indian Motorcycles Premium Cigar. In Phil’s both, which also highlighted his Debonair brand, he had a beautiful Indian motorcycle on display. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Phil much at the show, but I’ve heard plenty about this in other media outlets. This cigar had a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper that was oily, almost gritty, to the touch, unique to me, and I liked it. The cigar burned reasonably well, it wanted to run up the bottom a bit, but that’s what lighters are for, to fix the occasional errant burn. It had a very open draw, and, again, rich flavors of sweet cocoa and coffee.  Another winner in my book and I can’t wait to get some more. I believe these have been hitting shelves as Phil was touring New England recently for the release, making the official debut at Kurt Kendall’s newest Twin’s Smoke Shop location, the perfect place given Kurt’s appreciation of nostalgic motor vehicles.

 

That’s enough for today, I may have to go back to posting twice a week so I don’t have to spend so long Sunday mornings typing! Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

 

 

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