Cigar reviews, news and ramblings by Kevin

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Hey, I Shot That!


Through a curious chain of events, I recently had the opportunity to shoot this El Sol Nicaraguan Primeros Reserve Maduro for a local business journal. Having never shot for real publication before, I’m amused as hell. Aside from that, the El Sol is an excellent smoke, as is the Ybor City-made La Herencia de Cuba White Label featured in the interior spread.

December 1, 2008   95 Comments

JFR Corojo Robusto


I’m a sucker for a pigtail cap and an unfinished foot. There’s just something about the rustic, right off the roller’s table look that stands out when I’m scanning shelves in a walk-in. It didn’t hurt that I’d read modestly favorable reviews of the JFR (Just for Retailers) courtesy of Cigarfan at Keepers of The Flame and Jesse at CigarJack. So I had no reservations at all about snagging one of these corojo robustos.

Though I didn’t verify the dimensions, it appears to be 5.5″ x 50. Aside from the novel foot and cap, it’s ordinary in appearance. It has a light sheen, nut brown hue and a couple prominent veins. Though it’s difficult to nail down info about these, it seems these are Nicaraguan puros made by Tabacalera Tropical in Danli, Honduras. Cigarfan has more on their provenance, including this blend’s rumored connection to Don Pepin Garcia.

To start, it’s not difficult to believe that Don Pepin had a hand in creating the JFR. It has a familiar leathery core with pepper and nutmeg on the finish. After a few minutes, however, I also note a thin grassiness indicating youth. It’s not enough to spoil the occasion, but I can see why Jesse suggests resting these for a couple of months.

At the one-third mark it remains predominantly leathery, but with increasing dashes of earth. Unfortunately, I’m also running into a construction hitch. The burn is straight, but the bunch now has a ‘donut hole’ that’s resulting in a hot draw.

Meanwhile, it’s getting stronger and a little more complex with the addition of nuts, but the texture is getting dryer by the second. I’m forced to hit my Brazilian coffee with increasing frequency.

The tunneling issue resolves itself by the final third, but now the flavor develops some bitterness. I keep at it for another half inch, but the pieces just aren’t coming together for the JFR. It has its merits up to a point, but it is marred by a series of problems — grassiness, dicey build and finally the premature onset of bitter char.

CONCLUSION: In a nutshell, not very good. The JFR’s flavor components were there, but its overall performance was held back by its apparent youth and sub-par build. I appreciate where Tropical was going with this — a Pepinesque, med-full budget smoke — but they came up short in the execution. Even at the reasonable $4.00 price tag, I can’t see myself reaching for another.


November 13, 2008   53 Comments

Saint Luis Rey Serie A


Though I smoke more robustos than anything else, the corona gorda is my favorite size. I’m not talking about the 6″ x 50 that is occasionally referred to as a corona gorda, but the real deal at 5.62″ x 46. Perfectly comfortable in the hand. Thick enough to offer some complexity, yet thin enough that the wrapper flavor always comes through. And a perfect duration for impatient smokers, clocking in at 45 minutes to an hour.

There’s no shortage of storied Habanos in this vitola — the Punch Punch, H. Upmann Magnum 46, Hoyo Epicure No. 1, and so on. It’s no wonder the Saint Luis Rey Serie A is overlooked.

According to more experienced smokers, age is everything with the SLR Serie A. Some suggest that smoking them with less than five years of rest is to waste them. Others say the “sweet spot” is 3-5 years. I won’t be able to confirm either view (yet), as mine are relatively green with a box date of FEB07.

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November 7, 2008   97 Comments

Oliva Serie O Robusto


Back in olden times, I thought the original Oliva O was one of the best cigars on the planet. Remember those over-the-top embroidered bands? I was partial to the 6″ x 46 Omni, though I went through box after box of whichever size I could find. They were rich, complex, consistent and affordable.

Then things got screwy. Oliva split the O line into two variations, “Classic” and “Bold.” I vaguely recall some controversy as to whether the Classic was really the same blend as the original O. I thought not. Then the Olivas re-branded yet again, folding all their lines into the Series O, V, G and S we now see on store shelves.

The current incarnation of the Serie O is a Nicaraguan puro featuring Habano seed grown in three regions — Esteli, Condega and Jalapa Valley.

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November 1, 2008   88 Comments

Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 Perfecto


So I’ve been doing the bloggy thing for eight months and haven’t reviewed a single smoke by Rocky Patel. In political parlance, I guess that makes me out of touch with the values of herfing America? I figured there were more than enough RP reviews to go around already. But this is the season for pandering, so at long last I bring you a Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 Perfecto.

For the most part, I find Rocky’s smokes to be okay. But after the Vintage 1990 and 1992 lines, he just started producing too much stuff for me to keep track of. It’s what I now call “Gurkha syndrome.” My branding background tells me that flooding the market with line extensions of varying quality is a bad idea. I assume Rocky’s bank book tells a different story.

This 4″ x 48 perfecto is a cool little size, wrapped in dark, Honduras-grown Connecticut Broadleaf. The binder is Nicaraguan and the filler is a blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan.

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October 21, 2008   88 Comments

Hey, Remember Those Seedlings?


Some of you may recall my seedling experiment. When you last saw them, the largest was all of about three inches in height. Here’s the second priming from the largest of my Goose Creek Reds, which now stands at 5′ and change. This leaf measures 27″ by 14″.

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October 18, 2008   55 Comments

Litto Gomez Small Batch No. 2


When box shopping online, I’m the most deliberate consumer on earth. And then an entirely different guy comes out when I’m in the B&M’s walk-in humidor. I become the most impressionable, impulsive sucker on two feet.

So it was my most recent idiot spree that made me owner-operator of this $16.00 Litto Gomez Small Batch No. 2. It was the easiest sale Edward’s Pipe & Tobacco had all day. The friendly salesperson asked, “Have you tried the new Litto Gomez Small Batch?,” gesturing toward a box the size of an ammo crate. I peeked inside. Game over.

In my defense, this 6.5″ x 54 Dominican puro is stunning to behold. Though the dark Sumatra seed wrapper has a rugged texture, the veins are thin and it is practically dripping with oil. The filler and binder are grown on La Flor Dominicana’s own farms. Only 30,000, or 285 boxes, will be produced.

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October 15, 2008   73 Comments

Liga Privada No. 9 by Drew Estates


So I’m finally getting around to trying one of last year’s “it” smokes, the Liga Privada No. 9 by Drew Estates. I had seen rave reviews, but hadn’t run across a single stick in a B&M until July. It makes sense, since Drew Estates president Steve Saka says only 40,000 were produced (estimates I found elsewhere pegged production at 80,000). The friendly guy at Tampa Humidor says only 42 merchants carry it, so I’ll consider myself fortunate to have landed any at all.

The Liga Privada No. 9 is quite a salad. Saka told Cigar Weekly’s ElkTwin that it includes seven different tobaccos. After poking around the net I believe I’ve pieced together the contents: Connecticut Broadleaf Ligero wrapper, Brazilian Matafina binder grown by Jose Fuego, and a filler blend of three different Nicaraguan tobaccos, Jamastran Valley Honduran and Dominican.

This 6″ x 52 toro is ruggedly handsome in that Broadleaf kind of way. The wrapper has some tooth, as evidenced by the photo. It is a “city roast” brown color with an inviting sheen.

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October 13, 2008   55 Comments

Sabor Cubano Corona Gorda


I have already heaped praised upon Luis Sanchez in previous reviews of his La Tradicion Cubana Deluxe Ann’y and JML 1902. Today, I’m revisiting a brand from his original portfolio, the Sabor Cubano.

This sample comes from a “fiver” I snagged on special more than a year ago. Though there was nothing to suggest they needed more age, I’ve gone to them sparingly on the assumption that they’d only get better.

The Miami-built 6″ x 52 Corona Gorda features a five year-old Mexican San Andres wrapper, Nicaraguan and Dominican filler and an Ecuadorian binder. It’s good looking and impressively packaged. It is wrapped in a cedar sheath, then cellophaned. Stripped of its packaging, it is hefty and firmly packed. The wrapper is a dry, chocolate brown.

Blindfolded, I can’t swear I’d peg this for a maduro at all, let alone a Mexican-wrapped one.

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October 6, 2008   55 Comments

Tatuaje Havana VI Nobles


Okay, so I’m reviewing two aged Don Pepin Garcia smokes in a row. Kind of a cop-out, I know. But I am still craving predictability. In the process, I’m earning my stripes in the DPG/Pete Johnson kiss-ass brigade.

So it’s without hesitation that I reached deep into the end-table humidor for my box of Tatuaje Havana VI Nobles date stamped SEPT 2006.

For the uninitiated, the Havana VI (aka “Red Label”) was Pete Johnson’s first extension of his Tatuaje brand. It was designed to be a cheaper, readily available alternative to the Miami-made Cabinet (aka “Brown Label”), crafted at Don Pepin’s then-new TACUBA factory in Nicaragua. Like the Brown Label, the Havana VI is a Nicaraguan puro, but the blend is markedly different, featuring a darker, more oily corojo wrapper.

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October 2, 2008   70 Comments