Cigar reviews, news and ramblings by Kevin
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Category — Random Cigar-Related Stuff

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

When “Florida Shade” Was The Rage


With an eye toward fall planting, I started browsing for tobacco seeds. I stumbled across a strain called Florida Sumatra, which is described as a shade wrapper, though it is suitable for binder or filler as well. Wrapper leaf? Grown in Florida? Hmm. Off to “the Google”…

After following a few fascinating links, I had an entirely new picture of the Florida cigar industry.

My understanding of Florida cigar history was limited to the production side in the Tampa area. What I didn’t know was that Gadsden County, Florida was, at the turn of the 20th century, the primary and original producer of shade grown wrapper leaf.

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September 1, 2008   61 Comments

Forum Foil-Hatters Rage Against CA’s Ratings


Most folks I encounter on cigar forums are pleasant, thoughtful and entertaining. But every community has its share of wankers. Conveniently, they seem to have grouped themselves into easily detected stereotypes. Stop me when one of these characters sounds familiar:

(1) The Cigar Bandologist who rejoices in telling everyone, based on a blurry cell phone photo, that their Cubans are counterfeit. See that little spec on the band below the letter H? (Lens dust.) Aha! Fake! Every time. You see, Dr. Bandology has a simple rule — your Habanos are all fake, and his are all real.

(2) The guy who has never smoked a Cuban cigar, yet insists they’re overrated. Further, anyone who enjoys them is a victim of James Suckling’s Mind Control Machine, which cranks out low frequency radio waves from a wine cellar in the south of France.

(3) Finally, the conspiracy theorist who seizes on the flimsiest excuse to start another “Cigar Aficionado’s Ratings Are Corrupt” thread. This proud LaRouche voter has it “from a big name in the industry” that manufacturers who don’t advertise in the magazine get no rating higher than 78, blah, blah. He never has any evidence, mind you. But anyone who doesn’t buy this foil hat muckraker’s BS is flamed.

It’s this last sort who got my attention this past weekend. I came across a thread entitled “Cigar Aficionado and Tatuaje,” which read as follows:

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August 25, 2008   84 Comments

Seedling Update 2.0: At Least They’re Not ALL Dead


Here’s a quick snap of a surviving seedling, now flourishing in an Earth Box. About half of the crop succumbed to the Florida summer sun (as did my habaneros and jalapenos). I’m thinking that’s not too bad of an attrition rate, though, given that I shouldn’t have planted any of these until October.

I have three that are robust like this one and another 10-12 that are smaller but seemingly healthy. So far, I’ve noticed no difference between those growing under “shade” (the lanai screen cuts about half the UV) and the box that’s in direct sunlight.

I’ll do some long overdue research and then order seeds for fall. Who knows? I might end up with a little pile of leaf after all.

August 16, 2008   65 Comments

Sneak Preview from KOTF’s Padron Roundup: Panatela M & N


As many of you know, cigarfan and lucky7 over at Keepers of The Flame are coordinating and hosting what must be the most ambitious review project in the history of blogdom — a 16-part series on the Padron “Thousand” line. It’s a veritable “We Are The World” collection of bloggers including Walt, Lisa, Brian, Inspector, Elvis, The Patricks, et al, all invited to weigh in on the legendary brand.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, do yourself a favor and go here immediately. About half the line has already been posted and the work is, of course, stellar.

My pieces of the puzzle are the Panatelas pictured above. To see how they smoked, check KOTF on July 18th. All the cool kids will be there.

July 1, 2008   7 Comments

Seedling Update: Don Alejandro Fears Me


As the sun sets over my magnificent vega, I envision myself receiving congratulations from my contemporaries — Robaina, Padron, Nunez. Never mind that careless placement of the dime used for scale above nearly wiped out the crop of 2008.

Anyway, Don Alejandro can rest easy in the Vuelta Abajo. For now.

June 17, 2008   4 Comments

I’m Back. With Seedlings!


It has been a crazy few weeks! Between travel, photographic gigs and other unexpected turns, I’ve barely had time to smoke, let alone report back. I shot a wedding, four days of muay thai workouts and BMX racing. Now, thankfully, things have settled down a bit, which allows me to return to regular posting.

Meanwhile, one of the more amusing developments is the birth of my tobacco “farm,” displayed in its full glory above. The seeds were a thoughtful gift from my girlfriend, and thanks to her knack for getting anything to grow under any conditions, I now have five varieties of seedlings springing to life. I don’t see myself riding horseback, Litto Gomez-style, through these lush fields anytime soon. But if these do half as well as our habaneros and Thai peppers out back, I’ll someday smoke an “estate grown” robusto. Frankly, I’d be happy to make a couple of cigarettes out of it. (Under-promise, over-deliver!) Stay tuned…

June 5, 2008   6 Comments

Dispatch from Bermuda II: Notes on The Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill


After two blustery days in Bermuda, I finally got a beachworthy one on Wednesday. It was perfect, in fact — bright, warm sun and a light breeze on Elbow Beach. Time for this Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill, purchased in Hamilton two days earlier.

The first half was easygoing, light and toasty with vanilla notes. Nothing like the in-your-face earthiness of the RyJ Tubos No. 2 I reviewed here previously. The Short Churchill developed the trademark Habano “twang” by the halfway mark, but never got far beyond medium bodied. The body was perfect for late morning, though I wonder if it has enough kick to satisfy later in the day. The build was excellent and the burn was slow. The Short Churchill is solid in every respect, though it doesn’t quite live up to its full-sized namesake, the RyJ Churchill Tubos.

For any BOTLs planning a visit to Bermuda, I recommend Chatham House on Front Street in Hamilton. The selection is average, though the staples were represented — cherry-picked vitolas from all the major marques. Their stock was well maintained and their prices reasonable. A Monte No. 2, Partagas Serie P No. 2 and the RyJ Short Churchill ran me $53.00. Fair enough.

The place to avoid is Churchill’s in St. Georges. Their stock was slim, picked over, and seemingly over-humidified.

Finally, not that any of us needed to be reminded why not to buy smokes in the hotel bar, but I’ll give you just one price comparison: Monte No. 2 at Chatham House, roughly $20; Monte No. 2 at The Veranda bar at Elbow Beach, $38.

March 21, 2008   43 Comments

Dispatch from Bermuda: Notes on The Partagas Serie P No. 2


My apologies for being absent of late. I penned a few notes from the road but was unable to get them posted. Such is the problem with being a one man blog show. Now that I’m back in the saddle, here goes…

The normal daytime high this time of year in Bermuda is 70-72. Well, today barely hit 60 with intermittent rain and gale force winds. (Yes, literally.) If I wanted to freeze my ass off, I could have gone to New Jersey for half the price.

Then again, you can’t get a Partagas Serie P No. 2 at your local Garden State tobacconist.

Since I smoked only one, I’m ill equipped to give you a full review of the PSP2. But I can say it performed well given the gusty conditions at The Veranda, one of Elbow Beach’s many outdoor bars. While my party sipped Havana Club Anejo mojitos and read from the bar’s impressive rum menu, I savored this torpedo.

It began leathery and nuttier than expected. Around the point at which I snapped this photo, the flavors turned deeper and darker with strong cocoa and earth notes. Despite this smoke’s reputation for being powerfully spicy, I found the spice to be more of an accent than the centerpiece. A rich, fulfilling Habano with surprising smoothness.

March 20, 2008   62 Comments

Cigar Ratings, Skeptics and Silly Science


The original idea was to use this post to explain my rating criteria. But with message boards teeming with debate over methodology and even the usefulness of ratings themselves, I thought I’d post a few general observations as well.

First, I know it’s unfashionable to say so, but ratings serve a valuable purpose — to help inform purchase decisions.

Yes, I’m copping to it. I’m not too cool to heed the recommendations of others, even when those recommendations come with a trite little number attached. That’s not to say any single rating sends me rushing to the B&M, but the sum of ratings takes the randomness out of my next purchase.

I use the 100-point scale popularized by Cigar Aficionado. Is it a better system than others? Probably not. But it is a familiar scale, which is reason enough to use it. More on this later.

The noteworthy difference between my rating methodology and CA’s is that they are tasting blind and I am not. I see two enormous benefits to non-blind, or informed, reviews: (1) an informed review replicates the smoker’s real world experience, which does include a brand bias; (2) an informed review allows the reviewer to consider value in the overall rating.

The latter point is critical, since price is an object for every smoker I know. For me, once a stick approaches $8.00 or so, I raise the bar. If it doesn’t show me something I can’t get from a $4.00 stick, the rating needs to account for that.

I use four of the five criteria used on Top25Cigar, weighted in the following order: flavor, construction, value, appearance. From there, I make a relative judgment that reflects my overall experience.

The scale generally mirrors CA’s:

  • 95-100 is the rare classic, the Dark Side of The Moon of cigars;
  • 90-94 is exemplary, among the best;
  • 85-89 is good-to-excellent, a respectable staple in any collection;
  • 80-84 is just okay. Probably wouldn’t buy it again, but would happily smoke if gifted;
  • 75-79 may have merit, but also has serious issues. Humi-fodder that eventually gets tossed;
  • <75 should be banished to the composter before it contaminates something.

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March 12, 2008   70 Comments