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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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La Gran Llave, Gurkha and Tatuaje, and a Stage V Clinger Contest!

LaGranLlave_TorpedoI’m getting ready to go away for a few days, so this will be early and brief!  I just want to touch on a few cigars I smoked this week so far, and have another little contest!  More on the trip when I get back.  Since it was in the cigar news last week that AJ Fernandez had acquired the La Gran Llave brand that they had been making for Michael Argenti I thought I’d revisit one of the box pressed torpedos that Michael had sent me last year when he launched the brand. There is no change in factory as the cigars were made by AJ Fernandez anyway, it seems that the company has been going crazy acquiring brands, also recently buying the Sosa brand, which had been made by Fuente for as long as I can remember. I really like the La Gran Llave Reserve, it’s a nice, sweet cigar with a beautiful San Andrés wrapper. The burn and draw were perfect and it was a satisfying smoke. I have a sampler with the other sizes that I will get to eventually, but this 6½ x 56 box pressed torpedo sets the bar pretty high. Jeff at my local JM Cigars recommended it to me to when I was there a couple of weeks ago and I passed as I had some in the humidor already. I failed to take note of the price, but I think the line ranges from $6-$9ish.

 

Gurkha_Cask BlendMonday I tried the Gurkha Cask Blend in the 6″ x 58 perfecto size, which came from the IPCPR show and has been resting in the humidor since July. This was a perfectly fine cigar, normal cigar taste that was neither offensive, nor exceptional. It seemed to have a Nomex wrapper, you  know, that stuff they wrap wires in so they don’t catch fire?  I had to refill the Tommy Bahama pocket lighter after I was done smoking it, because the darned thing wouldn’t stay lit!  I mentioned the storage before so you don’t think it was my fault, as I smoke from the same humidor all the time with no issues. Might have been a better cigar if it had burned right, but that part of the experience detracted from the overall enjoyment. Since its “wrapper, binder and filler are highly guarded proprietary secrets” I can only tell you it was made in the DR. If there was some booze component to it I have no frame of reference any more. When it burned, it wasn’t a bad cigar. I know many will say it was a Gurkha, what did I expect, but there are several cigars in the Gurkha portfolio that I think are quite good. It occurs to me that I smoked one of these in 2015 and didn’t seem to have the burn problems.

 

Tatuaje_Black_PetiteLanceroTonight,  since I’m on vacation for the rest of the week, I treated myself to a Tatuaje Black Label Petit Lancero, which I think was a gift from my amigo Goose at Goose’s Cigars in Limerick, PA. This is a 6″ x 38 cigar that was sans cello, and I’m weird, I like the protection of the cello in the humidor, I noticed this one had a chip in the wrapper at the foot, so it had to go! What a delightful cigar, thick, right smoke with sweet, earthy flavor that was terrifically satisfying for a rainy night while I was comfy in my enclosed porch. I used an 9.5mm punch (with is the Vansapproximate inside diameter of the ScrewPop punch, by the way) which is my go-to for a lancero. it was a completely yummy way to end the day and start the vacation. I also celebrated receiving my kid’s Christmas present to me today, an awesome pair of custom, one of a kind Vans!

 

Contest!

Stage V Clinger

Cigar not included. Actual color and branding may vary.

I slacked off on this one over the holidays, it was there for me to give away, and I failed. So you have a chance to win a Stage V Clinger cigar holder. I use one of these from time to time and find it to be a gentle way to hold a cigar on those occasions where a proper rest or ashtray isn’t available. This is designed for the golfer, but has many other applications. It has a strong pair of magnets, a hook and loop strap in case there’s no metal to “cling” to, and the jaws are gentle enough to not squish or damage the cigar. Leave a comment to enter, and I’ll announce a winner on Sunday. Thanks to Marissa at Stage V for offering this cool item.

 

That’s all for now, 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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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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Yargüera, Tatuaje, Padilla and La Palina Cigars

Yarguera_TorbustoI’m not  going to rail on about the FDA thing, although I will continue to make comments about it. I’m afraid if I start every post with a rant it will get old and the message will be lost completely. So I’ll continue to talk about the cigars I’m smoking, even though many of them won’t be available in a few years, and the people who made them will be destitute thanks to our government’s lack of anything resembling common sense. The first cigar I want to talk about is maybe the only one that could weather FDA regulation because it comes from Altadis, the Yargüera H. Upmann in the Torbusto size, a 5 ½” x 56 short torpedo with the same cinnamon bun cap like the Toro and Robusto in the line. The wrapper is shade grown in Honduras from a hybrid of Criollo 98 and a seed that came from Cuba in the 60s.  I was told when I picked this cigar up that the Toro and Robusto were perceived as better by the shop patrons, I suppose I need to try them now too. This wasn’t a bad smoke. It had some trouble staying lit, even though I had it in the humidor for about a month.  It had a pleasant enough flavor, which, combined with the fact that I paid $9 and change, kept me interested. As I said, I’ll give the other sizes a try, maybe the folks at the shop were right in saying the Torbusto wasn’t as good as the others. I will admit that there really hasn’t been much released under the H. Upmann brand over the years that had really excited my taste buds.

 

Tatuaje_TAA2015Friday I made a momentous life decision, which I’ll talk more about as things progress. No offense, but there are a few other people I need to tell before all of you! It doesn’t involve cigars except that I wand to smoke some great cigars to celebrate. So I grabbed the Tatuaje TAA 2015 that was a generous gift from reader Dan C. I was glad to have a chance to try this cigar again. I smoked one last year right after they hit the shelves when I found myself hanging out at The Humidour in Maryland for an afternoon. I really enjoyed the cigar, but, like the Henry Clay Tattoo I smoked there, it was a little bit wet, and they were both reasonably new releases at the time. So I was happy to smoke this after six or so months rest, and I have no doubt Dan keeps his cigars right.  What a perfect smoking cigar, a nice flat ember, and straight burn with an even burn, requiring no touch-ups. The flavor was wonderful, with that initial blast of broadleaf from the closed foot, through the espresso and cocoa flavors I love.  The only way to improve upon this cigar would be to offer it in a double corona size,  it was gone too soon.  Than you again to Dan for sharing this with me, it’s much appreciated. If the FDA gets its way, no more TAA cigars. Tatuaje cigars are working their way into my rotation.

 

Padilla_LaPilar_noSaturday was a rainy mess of a day, so instead of napping the day away I had a cigar on the porch. I’ve been making plans to go to the IPCPR show, and I realized I still had some samples from last year’s show, so I grabbed a cigar that Ernesto Padilla gave me when I met him. Funny I hadn’t met him before, so Victor Vitale introduced us as they are good friends and make cigars in the same factory. The cigar is a Padilla La Pilar Series No. 4 Robusto, a 5″ x 54 Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapped, slightly box pressed little beauty. I enjoyed this cigar quite a bit as I sat in my enclosed porch listening to the rain and dreaming of a day with sun and warmth, it’s been a crazy spring here in PA.  This cigar was well-behaved and had a nice, nutty-woody flavor.  These are reasonable priced at about $5 a stick, even though it has two bands!  Don’t visit the Padilla website though, there’s something funky going on there, Ernesto is a graphic guy, it’s hard to believe he doesn’t have that squared away.  I linked to Famous’ website if you want further information.

 

LaPalina_Nicaragua_prereleaseLast night I lit up a pre-release cigar  that Clay Roberts of La Palina Cigars gave me a month or so ago when I met him at a Wooden Indian event. La Palina has been a great friend of the site for several years, and while I haven’t smoked a bunch of their higher end cigars (because I’m a cheap bastard), I really enjoy a bunch of the “normal” priced lines, especially the Maduros. So the unbanded cigar Clay gave me is a new La Palina Nicaraguan, which, I believe, will be released at the trade show in July. I hope so, because this was a spectacular smoke.  It had a dark and oily wrapper, and that’s about all I can tell you about the blend. I can tell you that it was loaded with dark flavors, the usual espresso/cocoa that I love, along with some spice and maybe some dark fruit. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of these. It will be a monumental shame if cigars like this one can’t be produced, or cost a fortune if they are, thanks FDA.  This new La Palina Nicaragua was exceptional. While I’m thinking about Nicaragua, when all the people in that country are left jobless due to regulation, who do you think their government is going to turn for aid? The US, or, worse, China, who is already putting a canal through Nicaragua to compete with the Panama Canal.  Should a Government Agency have the right to destroy foreign economies?

 

That’s it for now. I have a lot of things to worry about over the next few weeks, thank goodness I have a few cigars to distract me. We’re off the a Philly Pops show in Philly today, not sure if a Holt’s visit will be on the schedule or not, but we always have fun.  Until the next time,

 

CigarCraig

 

 

Please, if you haven’t already, go to the following links and sign the petitions.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/do-not-enact-fdas-option-1-final-rule-premium-handmade-cigars

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/prevent-fda-overreach-and-stop-them-their-attempts-regulate-premium-cigar-industry

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