Cigar reviews, news and ramblings by Kevin
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Category — Cigar Reviews

La Rosa Especial Piquin

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It’s the end of the road yet again for La Rosa Especial. The first version of this brand was produced for JR Cigars by Nestor Plasencia in the late 90s. It was billed as “the strongest cigar on Earth.” It wasn’t. They were, however, pretty good aside from a spotty build. I was mildly disappointed when the brand was discontinued after couple of years.

In 2006, Lew Rothman and Plasencia brought La Rosa back to life, this time as a more powerful blend. Again, no one was buying. These went on closeout this week. And despite never having tried the new blend, I love a closeout as much as the next guy. I scored my 20-count box of 5″ x 50 Piquins for the low, low price of $33 shipped.

It features a dry looking Honduran wrapper, Costa Rican binder and a four-nation filler blend. At first, I’m struck by the easy draw and clouds of smoke. But shortly thereafter, I realize there’s no flavor to speak of. I smack my lips on the finish, but I’m coming up empty. It is definitely peppery, particularly in the sinuses on retrohaling. There is just a hint of brown sugar and bread on the finish. In this way, it reminds me of the Don Kiki Brown Label, though the Brown Label has far more flavor.

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September 7, 2008   70 Comments

Maria Mancini Robusto Larga

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The H2000 wrapper was a peculiar chapter in recent cigar history. In a nutshell, it was the New Coke of the tobacco world.

Nestor Plasencia was the first outside of Cuba to experiment with the Cuban seed-Connecticut Shade hybrid. His test crop, planted in Esteli in 1996 and harvested in 1997, looked to many like the leading edge of a wrapper revolution. It was hardy, resistant to disease, produced huge leaves and was easy for rollers to work with. Then there was the flavor — Cubanesque, spicy and earthy, but not so overbearing that it shouted down the fillers. A blender’s dream.

Of his experimental crop, Plasencia said, “It was the perfect leaf.”

Lew Rothmann of JR Cigars declared it “the next great wrapper.”

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August 24, 2008   66 Comments

Mysterioso Maduro Enigma

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Some time ago I reviewed the outstanding Old Powder Keg Maduro Robusto from Connecticut Valley Tobacconist. Today we have another limited release from brand owner and blender Mike Tarnowicz, the Mysterioso Maduro Enigma.

As to be expected, this maduro is cloaked in Broadleaf grown only a few miles from CVT. These wrappers were aged for seven years before production, which makes them nearly 10 years-old today.

But Tarnowicz’s creativity and knowledge as a leaf broker are most evident in his choice of filler — the rare Louisiana perique.

Perique was once a common pipe tobacco, but production has declined in recent decades. St. James Parish, LA was once home to 1,100 acres of perique fields. Today, fewer than 40 acres are under plant, nearly all by a single farmer, 90 year-old Percy Martin.

When cured, perique is moist and nearly black. Too overpowering to be smoked on its own, it has always been used as “seasoning” in pipe and cigarette blends. Pipe connoisseurs speak of Perique’s fruity and pungent quality, noting it lends hints of plum and pepper to a blend.

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August 21, 2008   58 Comments

El Original Maduro Robusto

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If you remember when these made a splash, you’re officially old school.

The El Original, made in Miami and Key Largo, FL, was a cult smoke during mid-late 90s. At the time, it was one of few non-Cubans to deserve the label of full-bodied. Most manufacturers were conjuring up medium-bodied blends for intermediate smokers stepping up from Macanudos. Master blender Santiago Cabana, meanwhile, was steps ahead, making them strong five years before anyone else thought to double dip into the ligero pile.

Senor Cabana came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1993. His web bio states that has been in the cigar industry for six decades, and plied his craft at none other than the Partagas Factory in Havana. Shortly after his arrival in Florida, Cabana began producing cigars for Key Largo’s Island Smoke Shop. First was the eponymous Santiago Cabana, which I’ll be reviewing soon. Later came the El Original, which blew the doors off of 56 other maduros to grab top honors in Smoke Mag’s Winter ‘99 taste test.

The 5″x 50 El Original Maduro Robusto uses a dark brown Mexican wrapper to cloak a Nicaraguan binder and a complex blend of Dominican, Peruvian, Honduran, Mexican and Nicaraguan fillers. Though the stick isn’t particularly heavy in the hand, a glance at the foot shows it to be jam packed with leaf.

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August 14, 2008   57 Comments

Padilla Habano Robusto

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The Padilla Signature 1932, 1948, and Miami 8&11 blends are seemingly everywhere. Because they are (or were) crafted by Don Pepin Garcia, they get all the ink and the B&M shelf space that goes with it.

And then there’s the Padilla Habano. Despite having been around since R.T.D.A. 2005, it gets little buzz on the boards. Even the Padilla page on Cigar Live, where Ernesto sometimes posts, doesn’t have a single thread dedicated to the Habano. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I even found a B&M that had a full box on hand.

I can only assume the Habano line has a low profile because it was not made by DPG. Instead, the blend is the collaborative work of Ernesto Padilla and Gilberto Oliva. This Nicaraguan puro is rolled in only three sizes, Robusto, Churchill and Torpedo, at Tabacalera Fernandez in Esteli.

These are nice looking sticks. The wrapper, a five year-old Habano from the Oliva estate, is nut brown, smooth and slightly oily. Most tantalizing, however, is the abundance of jet-black ligero filler visible at the foot.

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August 11, 2008   67 Comments

Camacho Havana Petit

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Remember simpler times when Camacho only had two, count ‘em, two lines on the market? There was the Corojo which started it all, and the Criollo-wrapped Havana blend.

Now, Camacho has gone the way of Gurkha and RP, with a new release every Tuesday. I can’t can’t keep track of any of them without a scorecard and a decoder ring. I stopped caring a couple years ago.

My box of 5.5″ x 42 Petits came from one of those “yellow cello” deals. Some time ago, Cigar.com announced the discovery of a “forgotten” stash. Allegedly, they’d been festering in Camacho’s aging room since 1999. (Oh, really? Anything like those pristine bales of pre-embargo Cuban wrapper that keep turning up in Trenton, NJ warehouses?)

Whatever. The introductory price was not outrageous — $80.00/box, as I recall. So I really didn’t care if they were from ‘99 or from last week.

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August 8, 2008   62 Comments

El Sol Nicaraguan Primeros Maduro Reserve Parejo 5X

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As a cigar smoker, there’s a lot to like about living in the Tampa Bay area. You can walk down Ybor City’s 7th Avenue and see dozens of cigars you simply can’t get anywhere else. Every shop has a house brand. Some sell only their own wares. And many shopkeepers offer you a fresh, complimentary Cuban coffee before you’ve even made it to the walk-in. For the stogie-obsessed, it’s Disneyland.

One of the must-stops is El Sol Cigars. An Ybor City mainstay since 1929, El Sol is the oldest smoke shop in the city. It is operated by Bob Saitta, grandson of El Sol founder Guy Saitta. After decades of small-scale production in Ybor City, the company now owns factories in Nicaragua, the D.R., and Honduras. The Nicaraguan Maduro Reserve is a standout among many blends under the El Sol banner.

The Parejo 5X is an average looking 5″ x 50 robusto. The CT Broadleaf wrapper is toothy and dark, but a little dull.

It’s anything but dull upon lighting, however. This is a quick starter, flavorful up front with the spicy-sweet zip typical of the wrapper type. Mr. Saitta is cryptic about the content of his blends, but it’s impossible to miss the tangy, rich backbone of corojo in this one. The finish is long and woody. It will immediately remind you of the original release Padilla Obsidian, but with a little something extra.

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August 1, 2008   67 Comments

Cigar.com Corojo Label Torpedo

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This is a first here at The Box Press. I’ve reviewed plenty of cheap smokes, bundle smokes and house blends. But I’ve never slummed quite like this — a mixed-fill or “sandwich” cigar.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Mixed-filler cigars are the potted meat of the stogie universe. They burn like lit fuses, but don’t taste as good. I, too, used to avoid them like broke relatives. But two smokes in particular have reminded me to never say never — the short-fill Cuban Fonseca and the mixed-fill Corojo Label by Cigar.com.

The Corojo Label is a 2007 addition to Cigar.com’s line of mixed-fill house blends. (No, I haven’t tried any of the other blends, though the reviews are pretty awful.) What made this one worthy of a blind purchase is that it’s made by Don Pepin Garcia in Nicaragua. That, and it was insanely cheap. I can’t recall the exact deal, but there was an e-coupon involved, getting the price down to two bones per stick.

So here we have a DPG “yard gar” made with table cuttings from Garcia’s many premium smokes, surrounded by long fill, binder of unknown origin (though Nicaraguan is a safe bet) and topped with a Nicaraguan corojo wrapper.

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July 30, 2008   2 Comments

Tatuaje Reserva SW

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This Tatuaje Reserva SW is from my very first box of Pepin Garcia-made smokes. I’m unable to date them precisely because I didn’t save the box, but I’d guess they are four years old.

Tatuaje was mostly a rumor to me at the time. I’d smoked only one before, a Cojonu 2003 snagged by chance at Holt’s Center City. I was floored. So much so that I vowed to find a box as soon as I could spare the humidor space. When the time came, my online search turned up only one vendor with box quantities. And no Cojonus. Unaware of the difference between the Reserva line and the Cojonu, I took this box of 7″ x 47 SWs and considered myself lucky to have found any at all.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was once mildly disappointed in these. My point of reference being the uber-strong Cojonu, I was surprised to find less muscle in the Reserva. A nice smoke, I thought, but not the eye-opening powerhouse that was the Cojonu.

Today, I see that my hasty Reserva SW purchase was among my most fortuitous. I have since smoked more than a box of the Cojonu 2003s, while it’s the SW I reserve for special occasions.

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July 25, 2008   69 Comments

Partagas Black Clasico

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When I was working up north and fleeing to FL for the off-season, I used to make the long drive south on I-95. The only thing to look forward to during the mind-numbing trek was a stop at the JR Cigars Outlet/Tourist Trap in NC. I’d load up on cheap cigarettes to last the winter and hope to find a nice box of closeouts.

I occasionally found something unexpected, like five year-old JR Ultimate MMs. But as often as not, I’d just grab something that caught my eye. That’s how I acquired my box of Partagas Black Clasicos in late 2004.

I had previously smoked a few Blacks and was intrigued. They had all the makings of a superb smoke but lacked balance. So the idea behind the buy was to see if a lie-down could bring the Black’s flavor components into line. I had high hopes.

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July 20, 2008   4 Comments