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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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A Fratello Cigars Event, a La Aurora, a L’Atelier and a Contest!

FrFriday evening we took a family trip over to the Wooden Indian cigar shop in Havertown, PA to have a visit with Omar de Frias and his amazing Fratello cigars. When I say family, my wife sometimes joins me on these trips, but this time my son Corey came along, and, at the invitation of the shop owner, Dave, Macha joined us too. Macha loves these outings as she gets a lot of attention and loves everybody. She was well-behaved, most of the time just laying down and relaxing, something I wish she’d do at home when we get back from a long walk and I just want to finish my cigar and she wants to play in the yard! Anyway, she had a great time, and I smoked one of my favorite cigars from last year, the Fratello Bianco Boxer. This is a box pressed torpedo wrapped in a beautiful San Andrés wrapper,  Dominican binder and fillers from Pennsylvania, Nicaragua and Peru. What distinguishes the Boxer from the regular Bianco line, and this holds true with the regular and Oro Boxers as well, is that they use a little extra ligero in the blend. Not only does the cigar smoke perfectly and taste amazing, it’s got a little extra kick! I picked up a few more for the humidor, along with some other goodies, and enjoyed a great evening at the Wooden Indian with my buddy Omar. It was the fist time I’ve seem Omar without his goatee, is that the breaking news here? Omar Shaves Goatee!…only at CigarCraig.com, Sorry Halfwheel and Cigar-Coop, I was first with this bombshell!

 

LaAurora DE ParkYesterday was a beautiful Saturday to go to the track, and my daughter decided to have our grand-daughters joint birthday party in the picnic grove at Delaware Park. We got there early to secure a spot, and while we were waiting for everyone I smoked a La Aurora Preferido Corona in the Diamond or Broadleaf wrapper. Since I smoked this the first time over two years ago the pungency and cloying flavor I got then has settled down and it’s more like what I would expect from an aged Connecticut Broadleaf. It was a little over the top the last time I smoked it, but it was slightly underwhelming to me yesterday. Honestly, I forgot that I didn’t really like this cigar the first time around, but was looking forward to a tasty Broadleaf cigar. I usually don’t choose my granddaughters events to enjoy a cigar, but when it’s reasonably appropriate, like at the track 45 minutes before they arrive, I go for it, and it’s usually something from La Aurora because Aurora is also my daughter’s name and how could she get mad at me, right? It works in my head. Anyway, I didn’t lose all my money, had a nice day playing the ponies and hanging with the family.

 

L'Atelier_LAT38SpecialLast night I rummaged through the Lancero tray and came up with a L’Atelier LAT 38 Special. This 7½” x 38 Lancero was a beauty, with a dark, Sancti Spíritus Ecuador wrapper, binder and filler from Nicaragua rolled at the My Father Factory in Nicaragua. I wanted to smoke something from the Johnson family of cigars, but I was only finding rubustos, and I craved more than that. I have a ton of rubustos in the humidor and should probably just go on a rubusto bender and work them down. There was a time when that was my vitola of choice, but I’ve either gotten more patient or have more time because I want a toro or larger more times than not. I digress, theLAT 38 was a beauty, and the flavor was outstanding. It had the savory and sweet flavor I’d expect more from the Broadleaf than the Sancti Spiritus that the L’Atelier line is known for. I can’t remember when I got this, it may have been at an event at a shop in Colorado I was at back in 2014, but it was good. I haven’t found many cigar in any of Pete Johnson’s portfolio that don’t satisfy my palate. My only complaint with this cigar was that it suffered from Nomex Wrapper Syndrome (Nomex is the stuff that electrical wiring is wrapped with so it doesn’t burn) it required a lot of attention with the lighter, and I was being careful not to overheat the cigar since Lanceros can easily be ruined by smoking too aggressively.  The humidor these are in stays in the mid to low  60s so it wasn’t wet.

Contest!

June PrizeSince we got to the track early yesterday they were giving out hats, and since I’m not a huge hat wearing guy, I figured it might be a good time to have another giveaway. I’ve assembled some odds and ends that have been collecting for a while to go with the Delaware Park hat. There are a couple of bottle openers including one for your key chain from Nomad Cigars, a torch lighter from El Artista, a couple cutters, a highly collectible Matt Booth Room 101 punch cutter, a Ninety Degree magnetic cigar holder and a nice Balmoral flask. As always, a few cigars might fall into the box as I’m packing it up, it happens, I can’t help it! So the usual rules apply, must be of legal smoking age in your municipality, one entry by way of leaving a comment on this post, and have fun! I’ll pick a winner next Sunday, June 11, 2017. 

 

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

 

CigarCraig

 

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Romeo 505, Gispert Intenso and a Foundation Cigar Event

I went to a couple of events this week, although both visits were brief.  Thursday I stopped in to my local CigarCigars shop, which is on my way home and just about 2 miles from my house. Since it was before dinner, and while it takes five minutes to get home from this particular shop at five o’clock on a weekday, it takes practically a half an hour to get there since all of the rush hour traffic is headed west bound. This is one of the main reasons I chose the location of my new job last year, the commute is awesome.  Anyway, they were having a RoMEo 505 event at the shop with the local Altadis rep, and when I saw this displayed at the IPCPR show last year I was RoMEo_505_Piramidesintrigued and disappointed that there weren’t samples! Astute observers of my smoking habits will note that I don’t feature a great many Altadis cigars here, mostly it’s because there aren’t many that I like, quite honestly. I really wanted to like the RoMEo Añejo, but every one I smoked had a terrible draw, and I haven’t found an H. Upmann that I really liked in 20 years. I love the Henry Clay Tattoo and Stalk Cut and a couple of Montecristos, but I haven’t had good experiences with the new Yarguera (technically an Upmann, I guess. Anyway, I keep trying, and I picked up a few sizes of the new RoMEo 505, another Añejo, a new Gispert and Steve, the manager at the shop shared a new Upmann made by A.J. Fernandez that is on the schedule for this week (I’m not entirely sure it’s on the market). I immediately went home, grabbed some dinner and hit the streets with a RoMEo 505  Piramides, a 6 ½” x 54 figurado. 505 is the area code of Nicaragua, I can think of at least two other cigar lines that have used telephone area codes in the naming of cigars, but, heck, cigar names are tough to come up with. This is a Nicaraguan puro made at the Placencia Factory in Esteli, with Habano wrapper, binder and filler from Jalapa, with additional Habano in the filler blend from Condega and Esteli. The choice to wait until I ate was a good one, as this was a pretty heavy-duty cigar! it was aggressive with a load of sweet spice and earthiness. This was a cigar that is up my alley!  I enjoyed the crap out of this cigar, and look forward to smoking it again. This isn’t probably going to appeal to the typical Romeo y Julieta smoker, but it certainly will appeal to someone who loves strong, bold cigars. My gut instinct last July was right, this is a cigar that captures my interest.

 

Gispert_Intenso_BelicosoFriday I had to try the Gispert Intenso Belicoso with its dark and oily broadleaf wrapper calling to me. This is another collaboration with A.J.Fernandez, who seems to be making great cigars for just about everyone! Gispert is a very old Cuban brand name going back before the revolution, but was phased out over the years. The Altadis Gispert line was a milder cigar in my recollection, but this Intenso version is not. I found another Altadis cigar that’s very much to my liking. It has a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers. This actually reminded me a lot of the previous RoMEo 505 in its boldness, and sweet spice. I loved this, it burned my fingers, and  for a cigar in the under $7 range, it’s a big winner in my book. Whattaya know, I’m two  for two with Altadis cigars! Last time that happened was when I smoked the Henry Clay Tattoo and Stalk cut back to back to see what the difference was (I think the Tattoo is richer due to the higher primings used, otherwise they both use the same tobacco varietals and are fairly close, I like them both). So the Gispert Intenso weems to be another winner…it’s got a nice box press too.

 

TabernacleYesterday we happened to be attending an Earthday event right near the Wooden Indian Cigar shop in Havertown, PA, where Nick Melillo was visiting with his Foundation Cigar Co. brands. I bought a few Tabernacles and El Güegüense, and sat down with a Tabernacle Torpedo for a bit. I picked up some El Güegüense in lancero and short lancero, the latter of which was a BOTL.org exlusive. The Tabernacle is another A.J. Fernandez collaboration. featuring Connecticut Broadleaf which Nick is famous for using in his days at Drew Estate where he created the Liga Privada series for Steve Saka. The little 4½” x 52 torpedo is a heater! Rich, sweet broadleaf goodness with some power behind it. It’s unfair to make comparisons, but one can’t help putting the Tabernacle and Steve Saka’s Mi Querida on the same playing field, and they are both terrific. I’m quite happy to have a handful of Tabernacles in my humidor now, yet another cigar that is everything I want in a cigar, great construction, beautiful presentation, great taste and overall experience. It was fun catching up with Nick at the event, I think I’ve known him for about fiver years, and he’s a terrific cigar maker and a fun dude. Twin Engine Coffee was also represented and paired well with the Tabernacle. Another high quality event by my friends Dave and Dan at the Wooden Indian!

 

Don’t forget to circle back to my last post and enter the contest to win some cool General Cigar Co. Goodies!  Also, please keep one of our readers, Patrick, in your thoughts as he goes through some medical stuff over the next few days. He always signs his comments with the tag line “Life is Good”, and we want that to remain true for him!  That’s all for today, 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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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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