Monday, December 28, 2009

Tatuaje Black Tubo

Its christmas (yeah, i know this review isn't posted on Christmas but that's when I sat down to review this stick) and its time to pull out something special for the holiday! Today's review is of the new Tatuaje Black Tubo. The black blend first showed up on the market under the radar in late 2007 as a Corona Gorda, and then was released in jars of 19 in 2008 in a very limited quantity. Well, Pete is at it again with another special release with the black blend in a 6 1/8 X 52 Torpedo.(this time not quite so limited, but still not nearly as available as most would like) The black blend is Pete's personal blend, as in these were originally made just for him to smoke before he started doing small releases of them. The blend is a big secret, but it contains Nicaraguan Tobacco.

Visually this is an ugly cigar, but purposefully so. Pete picks ugly, mottled wrappers to give this cigar the look he's after, and leaves it with a shaggy foot. I love the simple black Tatuaje band and the tubo's are probably the nicest I have ever seen.

The predraw shows a perfect draw and a nice earthy aged tobacco flavor. Upon lighting, WHAM! Loads of black pepper spice and earth. The first few draws are really interesting, because you are mostly just tasting the wrapper leaf from the shaggy foot. After getting a little more into this cigar, the spice drops into the background, and a woody flavor comes up front with the dank earth flavor that I am definitely enjoying. The burn isn't very even, but I think that is due to the fact that I didn't even give this a week in my humidor to settle. I know for a review you shouldn't have anything strong to drink with a cigar as it will effect the flavor, but I don't care! Its Christmas and Remy Martin VSOP it is! The sweetness of the Cognac works wonders with the spicy flavor of the Black Label. The burn ended up evening itself out at the halfway point with no other problems after that.

I really enjoy the Tatuaje Black blend. These have some of the hallmark Tatuaje flavors, such as black pepper and earth, but with something else in there that makes them very unique. This is a bold cigar, but not overwhelming. I would classify it as medium/full bodied. I love the very rustic look of this cigar. The shaggy foot is one of my favorite things about the Black label blends, it makes this cigar really stand apart visually from the rest of Pete's products. These are available in boxes of 10 for $140. Not cheap, but then again not very easy to come by so buy them up if you see them!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Favorites of 2009

Like every other cigar review site out there, I am coming up with a list of cigars that were my favorites of the year. A lot of sites only do cigars that came out this year, but not me. This list is of cigars I smoked this year that really wowed me, whether they were out this year or 3 years ago. I didn't include any special/limited releases in the list because I wanted this list to be comprised of cigars that are readily available for anyone to go out and try. What I will do is add a small list at the bottom here of limited release/hard to find cigars that I had this year and really enjoyed. These cigars are in no particular order (as I tend not to rate things like that). Here were my favorites of 2009!

First off is the only Cuban on the list, the H. Upmann Mag 50. This cigar started off as an Ediction Limitada in 2005, and was re-released as part of the standard lineup for H. Upmann in 2008. Of all the Cubans I have smoked over the last year, this is the one that really stood out. This is a velvety smooth, medium bodied cigar that is surprisingly complex given its youth.

Oliva V- This became one of my go to cigars over the last year. I always reached for this cigar when I wanted something full bodied and affordable. I have smoked countless Vs this year and was very rarely let down. (had 1 plugged one that I remember, but that was a really weird fluke I think) This is a cigar I could smoke almost everyday and not get tired of.

Illusione mj12- This was a new addition to the Illusione lineup this year, and a welcomed one for sure! Normally I am not fond of cigars with a ring gauge this large (54) but this is an exception. In fact, I might as well say that all of the Illusione line belongs on this list. Dion's cigars have definitely become of my favorites this year.

My Father Le Bijou 1922- This side addition to the My Father line was another home run by Don Pepin Garcia. I really enjoyed the My Fathers, and when the Le Bijou came out, they were even better! This cigar is very rich and full bodied, with a very nicely balanced blend that is good all the way down to the point where you are burning your fingers trying to hold onto it.

Alec Bradley Prensado-This was one of the new lines by AB this year, and within the first five minutes of smoking it, I was impressed. It's no secret that this year I have really become a fan of ABs cigars, and this blend really fit the profile I look for in a cigar. Prensado has the most complexity of any of Alec Bradley's many offerings, and is the fullest in body of anything they have put out so far.

Tatuaje Cojonu 2003-This cigar is always one that brings a smile to my face. This is definitely not a new cigar for the year, its been around for a while now. So far this is my favorite of all of Pete Johnson's cigars and when I want to spend a little more money for something really spicy and complex, this is the cigar I go with. Just looking at this cigar you can tell how much care goes into making it. The wrappers are always dark and attractive, with no visible flaws whatsoever. This will probably always be one of my favorites.

Special/limited release cigars that really stood out to me:
Tatuaje T110-This cigar was only released for a shop in Hawaii and is comprised of all Ligero tobacco. This was a very tasty, very full bodied cigar that I was fortunate enough to get a single of.

Nosotros preproduction-Dion gave me a sample of the Nosotros, which will be released early 2010. When you see these, buy them. You will definitely be pleased with this cigar.

Partagas Tres Petite Corona 1998-This cigar came from my buddy Dre, and was the oldest cigar I have had the pleasure of smoking. Its amazing what age can do to a great cigar like this. Fantastic.

There you have it people, of all the cigars I smoked this year, these were the few that really impressed me! There are plenty that I loved that aren't on this list (Tempus, San Cristobal, Tatuaje Verocu no.9 to name a few) that are great cigars as well, but the few listed above really stood out on top as my favorites. There are a few new cigars that came out this year that I had hoped to review, but just didn't get a chance to try yet, so look for those in the coming months if I can get my hands on them.

I look forward to what 2010 brings in the world of fine cigars!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Alec Bradley Tempus Magistri Maduro

Todays review is yet another cigar from Alec Bradley! This time it is the Tempus Maduro, which was released last month in very limited quantities. Only 20,000 cigars were made, released in boxes of 20. 1000 boxes is NOT alot in the cigar world, and it wouldn't surprise me if these are basically sold out (I am sure there are some here and there, but not at the shops I go to). The maduro is only available in the Magistri size, a 6.5 X 54 figurado. This cigar has the same makeup as the regualar Tempus line (a mix of Honduran and Nicaraguan), but with an amazingly dark and oily maduro wrapper. This is probably one of the most attractive maduro wrappers I have seen in a long time.

The predraw flavors are of strong, sweet tobacco with just a touch of coffee. Immediately after lighting you can tell that the maduro wrapper is going to be a huge component in the flavor profile. The Tempus usually starts off with the classic woody Alec Bradley flavor profile, but with the maduro, it starts out with rich coffee, earth and a little bit of dark chocolate. Its always fun to try a cigar you like with a different wrapper. I am always amazed to see the difference it makes and how much flavor the wrapper adds to the blend. The burnline is a little uneven, but with cigars shaped like this, that tends to be the case until you get past the perfecto tip. This seemed to be a solid medium bodied cigar. This cigar just screamed for something nice to drink with it, so i grabbed a Goose Island Oatmeal Stout, and the coffee flavors in the beer really work nicely with those in the cigar.

The flavors remained very consistent throughout this cigar and were very nice! Loads of rich coffee, earth and dark chocolate on the finish. The maduro wrapper was very influential to the flavor of this cigar. I have smoked a ton of the regular Tempus, which all have the woody flavor I usually get with Alec Bradley's cigars, and it was not present with the maduro. This blend worked really nicely with this wrapper. I am normally not a very big maduro smoker, but this is definitely one I would like to smoke again. Too bad I didn't buy more when I had the chance because they are gone now! The burnline had to be touched up a few times, but I think that was due to the thicker and oilier maduro wrapper. If you are able to get your hands on these, definitely do so, but I am pretty sure they are sold out nationally at this point. I paid around $10 for this cigar, and for such a limited release, I didn't think this was a bad price.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Alec Bradley SCR

Todays review is of the Alec Bradley Select Cabinet Reserve Robusto. This 5X50 cigar sports a huge band and a smaller one on the foot, which is a little overkill but I actually like the packaging on most of Alec Bradley's cigars. The wrapper is Honduran, the binder is Honduran/Indonesian, and the filler is a mix of Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco. I am always impressed with the blends Alec Bradley comes up with. This is a nice looking cigar, even with a slightly veiny wrapper. I found no soft spots and it seems to have a very even roll to it.

The predraw shows some cocoa mixed with musty tobacco flavors. The classic woody flavor I usually find at the core of Alec Bradley cigars is present right away, with a very prominent and pleasant leather note. There is also a light coffee flavor here, nothing too dark, but nice and creamy with just a little spice on the finish. This is a very smooth cigar, hovering right around medium bodied, but definitely full flavored. At the halfway point, a cinnamon/sugar cakey flavor shows up to the party, and was definitely welcome.

This was another tasty cigar by Alec Bradley. I bought this one at an event for around $6, and will definitely be picking up a few more. This a very smooth, flavorful cigar that probably won't wow you, but definitely won't disappoint. For me, this is another great afternoon cigar.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Alec Bradley Prensado

Today's review is of Alec Bradley's new line for the year called Prensado. From what I've heard, this cigar has been in the work since 2007. I am smoking the Corona Gorda, which measures in at 5 5/8 X 46 (a favorite size of mine). This cigar is made up of a very dark 06' Honduran Corojo wrapper, a Nicaraguan Jalapa binder, and a mix of Honduran and Nicaraguan filler. This cigar appears to be very nicely constructed, and falls into what I have been calling the rustic look. This meaning that its not the prettiest wrapper, showing a few veins, but is attractive in its own way. Alec Bradley seems to love big ornate bands, but they always seem to suit the cigar. They are vibrant, but not overdone.

This is a box pressed cigar,but it has a light box press compared to some with sharper edges from other cigar companies.

The predraw shows just a hint of sweetness and light tobacco flavor, . However, after lighting, this cigar is definitely not light on flavor. The woody flavor I have come to expect with AB's cigars is again at the core of this cigar, but with this one it's a deeper and darker flavor. The finish is a mix of sweetness and spice. This is starting off fuller in flavor and body that most of the Alec Bradley's I have smoked. There is definitely some leather and bitter cocoa flavors mingling in here as well. So far this is a nice and full flavored cigar, in the medium to medium full bodied category. The blend is nicely balanced, showing clean flavors that are working really well together. The burn and draw have been fantastic.

The Prensado is yet another home run by Alec Bradley. After smoking two of these, they have joined the Tempus as one of my favorite cigars by Alec Bradley. These are more full bodied than the Tempus, right up there in the medium/full range, and very full flavored. This line is a little more expensive than the Tempus, I think i paid $9 for this one. At that price I won't be smoking it nearly as much as the Tempus, but I can definitely see myself keeping some of these on hand. Alec Bradley is one of the company's i have really been impressed with over the last year, and I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pinar Del Rio Habano Sun Grown

Today's review is a new cigar to me, the Pinar Del Rio Habano Sun Grown. This cigar is made at La Fabrica Don Leoncio in Dominican Republic and is blended by Abraham Flores and Juan Rodriguez. This cigar is a tribute to the Pinar Del Rio region of Cuba, which is very well known for its tobacco. The filler is a mix of Dominican and Nicaraguan, with a Habano Sun Grown wrapper. This is a standard robusto, measuring in at 5x50. It isn't the prettiest cigar, with some veining in the wrapper, but it seems to be very well constructed .

The predraw flavors show a musty, earthy flavor with just a touch of cocoa. After lighting, this cigar hits your palate with tongue tingling spice and leather, with a slightly earthy characteristic. After the first half inch, the spice really tones down and a nice cedar and slightly sweet caramel like flavor joins the mix of leather and musty earth. The burnline is wavy, and the ash fell at just over an inch, which is about what i expect for a nicely constructed cigar.

The Pinar Del Rio Habano Sun Grown was an enjoyable cigar. It wasn't the most exciting thing I've smoked, but one I will probably pick up again. I received this cigar from a really generous guy named Warren at Burning Leaf cigars. They sell for between $5-6, and are great for that price. This was a nicely constructed cigar with a great draw.I found it to be a solid medium-full bodied cigar with core flavors of leather, musty earth and a sweet finish. That blast of spice I tasted upfront never really returned, but it certainly grabs your attention at the start!

Monday, November 16, 2009

CAO La Traviata

Todays review is of the new CAO La Traviata Radiante (toro). This chunky cigar measures in at 6x52. This cigar has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Cameroon Binder, and Nicaraguan/Dominican filler.

The slightly bumpy wrapper on this cigar feels really nice and oily, and the cap was applied a little sloppily. The predraw shows a slightly loose draw with flavors of leather and cedar. After lighting, I am definitely tasting that leather and cedar flavor I got on the predraw, but with an additional sweet creamy flavor. I am also getting just a hint of spice on the finish. This cigar might be a little young, which might explain why it is slightly harsh on the back of the throat.

Most of my friends in the cigar world know I used to smoke a ton of CAO, but pretty much gave up the brand a few years back. To be honest, I got tired of all of the companies effort going into marketing and the cigars being sub par. I don't mind if a company wants to do all kinds of flashy marketing to draw people in, but you better have a great cigar to stand behind all of the flash. I don't buy cigars because the boxes look cool, all i care about is the cigar inside! This is the first CAO I have purchased for a very long time, and it just so happens to be the simplest packaging they have done.

Ok, back to the cigar. The construction seems great, the ash is holding on nice and strong and the draw isnt as loose as I had originally thought. CAO's have let me down in the flavor department many times, but never in the construction, I have to give them credit there. The leather, cedar and the slightly syrupy sweet flavors seem to make up the dominant taste to this cigar.

The CAO La Traviata really surprised me. While it isn't going to become one of my favorites or a staple in my humidor, I will probably smoke it again. The biggest draw to this cigar is the pricepoint, its nice to see a cigar that smokes well and has some nice flavor for under $5. While in general I am still not a fan of CAO's cigars, this is the one to pick up if you want a CAO.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Alec Bradley Family Blend

The Family Blend is one of Alec Bradley's new lines for the year. This cigar is only available in one size, a 5.5 X 50 Robusto with a Cuban style pig tail cap. These were originally made as a tribute to the fathers of the company's three principle executives, and were only available at Alec Bradley cigar events. They were so popular, they finally started selling them this year. This cigar has a Honduran Wrapper, Indonesian Binder, and Honduran/Nicaraguan filler.

This cigar seems to be very well constructed, with no soft spots, and I love the pigtail cap. There is a nice reddish hue to the wrapper as well. The predraw flavor has a woody and definite earthiness to it. The draw is pretty much ideal. After lighting, there are definite wood notes, a bit of sweetness and maybe just a little leather in there as well. This definitely tastes like an Alec Bradley. Their blenders really seem to love that hard wood characteristic. I have been smoking more and more Puros (cigars made up of tobacco from one country) these days, so its a nice change to mix it up with a cigar blended from a few different countries. The first half inch had a slightly uneven burn, and after dropping the ash for the first time, needed a little touch up.

The flavors remained pretty consistent through this cigar, mostly that nice woody characteristic, with some leather and a touch of sweetness. The smoke has a nice, creamy mouth feel. The burn had to be touched up a few times, but it never got out of hand. The woody flavor was a little overwhelming at a few points, but seemed to calm down the further I got into this cigar. This was a medium bodied cigar, that would work well for me as an early afternoon smoke. If you are a fan of Alec Bradley's, then you would probably enjoy this one. They are available for around $7 a piece. While I did enjoy the Family Blend, I think i prefer the Tempus if I am going to buy an Alec Bradley cigar.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Now working at Bull and Bear Tobacco shop!

Its no secret that I have been wanting to work in the cigar business for quite some time now, and now I am! I will be working at one of my favorite cigar shops, Bull and Bear in St. Charles a few days a week starting this coming week. My schedule is going to be crazy now that I am working 2 jobs, but having this as a second job will be fantastic! I finally get to put my cigar knowledge and experience to some use! The group of people working at Bull and Bear are great, and I am really looking forward to joining the team they have there. So, anyone in the St. Charles area stop by for a few cigars in the lounge and keep an eye out for our upcoming events. Ill try to remember to post a blog for every event we are having. There is one coming up Friday, November 27th for the Punch Upper Cut, but I won't be there unfortunately.

1 W. Illinois Street - Fox Island Square - Saint Charles, Illinois

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cruzado Domenicos

Todays review is of another cigar by Dion Giolito, the man behind Illusione. This is his second line of cigars, called Cruzado. I am smoking the corona gorda, a 5 5/8 X 46 cigar. This is a Nicaraguan Puro like the Illusione, and has a dark Criollo wrapper with a really nice looking pigtail cap. Dion said he toned these down by using Viso leaf instead of the stronger Ligero.Visually this is a great looking cigar with a much more ornate band than on the Illusiones. I really like the silver and black with the gold trim.

The predraw flavor is of dank earth. After lighting, there is definitely some spice to this blend, along with dark chocolate and something similar to citrus zest on the finish. After getting a little further into this cigar, a leathery flavor shows up and seems to be the flavor at the core of this cigar. That citrus zest disappeared quickly and a slight sweetness joins the mix. This is a very complex cigar with an amazing array of flavors that are constantly shifting around the leathery backbone of the blend. This is not a cigar you will get bored smoking with flavors that change after every few draws. The burnline is dead even and the ash isnt the strongest, falling off at a little under half an inch. I am blown away at how clean and crisp this cigar's flavors are.

Smoke this cigar. Find out if your local has them, if they dont, order them. I am a huge fan of the Illusione, and wasn't sure if this line would be able to live up to them, and it does. It is a very different smoke compared to the Illusione line, but definitely as good. It is a solid medium bodied cigar with a very full, complex flavor. The construction on these is flawless. Dion's cigars have become a definite favorite for me, right up there with Tatuaje. These aren't cheap, around 9 bucks a piece if i remember correctly, so I won't be smoking them everyday. Even saying that, I am definitely going to try to get a few more to have in my humidor.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cain Maduro Torpedo

I previously reviewed the Cain Habano torpedo, and todays review is of the Maduro Torpedo. This is the same size as the Habano, a 6x54. The Maduro wrapper on this cigar is very dark and nice and oily. The cigar feels very firm in hand, and the white band at the foot creates a nice visual of contrasting colors with the wrapper. I am not going to go into detail about the blend, as I already did that in spades with the Cain Habano review.

I had to cut a little more off than i prefer on a torpedo because the head was cracked from shipping. The predraw flavors are very similar to the Habano, with plenty of leather and earth, but with a slightly sweeter edge to it. Once lit, this cigar starts off nice and smooth with a sweeter flavor profile than the Habano. There are some definite semi-sweet chocolate flavors, mixed with a woodiness at the core of this smoke. Maduro wrappers tend to lend that rich, sweet characteristic to cigars in my opinion. (this isn't always the case, it depends on the blend they are wrapped around and how that flavor plays with the other leaf) There is a little bit of spice on the finish, along with a leathery and earthy flavor. The burn is slightly uneven, but a few passes of the torch fixed it right up.

After the first inch or so, this cigar settles down to a pretty typical maduro flavor, and is a solid full bodied smoke. To be honest, the flavor of this cigar is a little boring to me at this point. This is definitely not a very complex cigar, and I have already come to the conclusion that I prefer the Habano if I am going to smoke a Cain. These are really well constructed cigars though and have a very strong ash that holds on for well over an inch. This is one of those cigars I kind of wish I had smoked outside, the smoke is very heavy and a little on the acrid side.

If you like full bodied cigars and maduro wrappers, then you might like this one. Compared to the Habano, this cigar fell short in the flavor department, and wasn't as full bodied either. To be perfectly honest, this cigar didn't really do much for me. The Habano was a much better cigar as far as my palate goes. The flavor was on the one dimensional side with a typical maduro flavor, nothing special. The habano wasn't the most complex cigar, but it had more going for it than this one. The first inch of this cigar was promising, but after that it didn't really go anywhere. I may be a little bias though, as I definitely prefer a habano wrapper to maduros. Ill pass on this cigar in the future.

Here is a side by shot of both the Habano and Maduro to really show the difference in wrappers:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cain Habano Torpedo

The Cain is a new cigar for the year by Sam Leccia (maker of the Nub)/Oliva cigars. This cigar is supposedly a strait Ligero cigar, Ligero being the strongest/most full flavored of the different grades of leaf. Now, when I first heard this, i figured this would be unsmokable and way too powerful to even enjoy. The way they were able to make a strait ligero cigar was by triple fermenting the leaf. I copied this next paragraph from the Cain website to helps explain this process:

"Fermentation is where the real magic occurs. After curing, the tobacco leaves have all their potential locked inside. It is through patient and vigilant handling that the leaves are brought to the desired result. The tobacco leaves are placed into groups of 20-25 leaves called "Manos". The "Manos" are then stacked in large piles called, "Pilones". Inside these "Pilones" the tobacco can reach temperatures as high as 120 degrees. The inner most tobacco generates the most heat. The "Pilon" is rotated often to allow for even heat exposure. No automation is used in this critical process. It is the work a tobacco man and his instincts. Triple Fermentation is a process by which we bring the tobacco up to temperature three seperate times. This was imperative in making Cain because of the mission to make a Straight Ligero cigar. The Ligero tobacco can take sustained temperature as a result of its thicker character. Through this careful process we brought out all of the deepest richest flavors of the Ligeros. This also allowed us to smooth the jagged delivery of flavor into a very full body yet smooth curve."

As to the blend of this cigar, it has 3 types of Nicaraguan Ligero leaf (Ligero comes from the top leaves of the tobacco plant and receives more sunlight, which darkens and thickens the leaf). The first is Esteli Ligero, which is the strongest of all Ligeros. The second is Condega Ligero, grown north of Esteli Nicaragua and is supposed to be a little tamer and add a rich complexity. The third and final ligero is Jalapa and is grown in the northern most part of Nicaragua in a valley, so it receives less sunlight than the other 2. This ligero is supposed to be the smoothest with a very complex array of flavors. (after doing a little research, i found that this is technically not a 100% ligero cigar, but more like 82% because a strait ligero cigar would have major issues burning correctly)

I am reviewing the Habano (they also make a maduro) in the torpedo size, measuring in at 6x54. The construction on this cigar looks fantastic, with a nice toothy and oily Habano wrapper. This is a very solid cigar, just loaded with very rich smelling tobacco. I am expecting a very full bodied cigar, but am hoping, especially with Oliva behind this one, that it will not just be a one trick pony. A lot of these very full bodied cigars suffer from just being strong with no complexity or enjoyable flavors.

The prelight draw shows an earthy, leathery flavor, with no apparent spice. This lack of spice certainly isn't the case once you light it! Right away you get a very earthy, rustic flavor with plenty of spice to back it up. This has a deep, dark flavor, but is surprisingly very smooth to start. So far this is an enjoyable cigar, definitely full bodied but not overwhelmingly so. The smoke is so thick its as if you could almost chew it. The burn and draw are pretty much perfect at this point. I have a feeling that the strength of this is going to sneak up on me and smack me over the head...

After getting into this cigar a little further, a slightly sweet characteristic joins the flavor profile, as well as something similar to black cherry. It may just be that this cigar is a little youthful, but there is just a touch of roughness from it on the back of my throat. After about 2 inches, I am definitely starting to feel the strength of this cigar. While it is still smooth and tasty, It has me just a little jittery. This is not for the faint of heart. I am used to smoking full bodied cigars, but for someone who isn't, this would be a bit overwhelming.

Overall, the Cain Habano is a tasty cigar, but not an everyday smoke. All that ligero makes for one powerful cigar! This is not a cigar to have while doing anything other than sitting back and enjoying it after a big meal. If you are a fan of powerful cigars, but still want a heavy dose of flavor to go along with it (and dont mind losing control of minor motor skills while smoking it) than this is definitely one to try. This isn't the most complex cigar on the market, but doesn't suffer from all power and no flavor like some out there do. I don't know yet if this will become a regular in my rotation, but I will probably keep a couple on hand for when I feel like getting my ass handed to me by a cigar. (I have smoked 2 of these so far, the first being the one i reviewed. The 2nd Habano I smoked had a little less power and was a more enjoyable cigar. This shows a little inconsistency with this line, but I think it could be due to them pushing them out of the factory early and just needing some more time to rest)

As a side note, if the Cain isn't powerful enough for you (if its not, you have some serious issues) they make another called the Cain F, which stands for Fuerte. (strong in Spanish) This is the Cain on steroids and I definitely do not recommend it if you aren't a seasoned cigar smoker who enjoys full bodied cigars. They are VERY powerful.