Cigar reviews, news and ramblings by Kevin

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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

Bauza Pyramid

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In the midst of the cigar boom, Bauza was a bargain hunter’s staple. For a while, at least, it wasn’t widely known to be an A. Fuente product. The happy result was that while others were throwing elbows in the walk-in to grab short-stocked, marked-up Hemingways and DCs, you could have all the Bauzas you wanted at MSRP.

Over time, I even found that I preferred Bauza to the Cameroon-clad Fuentes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t too far ahead of the hordes. Before long my size of choice, the 5.5″ x 55 Pyramid, was backordered at JR. Bummer.

Mostly out of nostalgia, I revisited these about four years ago. Amazingly, the price was unchanged — $100.00/box 25. They were not as I remembered them, however. I found them bland and grassy. Maybe my palate had outgrown them or they were just young. I laid them down and didn’t pay them much mind.

Now, after a long rest, I figure they’re as good as they’re likely to get.

So is the Bauza Pyramid still the value it was a decade ago?

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July 17, 2008   42 Comments

El Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme (Cuba)

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Respected, but not quite coveted may best sum up the reputation of the El Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme. I never hear anyone badmouth it, but it doesn’t show up on many wish lists, either.

Perhaps this Hermoso No. 4 (5″ x 48) is unheralded because it lacks the power of the big three robustos, the Partagas D No.4, Cohiba, and Bolivar Royal Corona? Or because it lacks the novelty of more recent entries such as the Montecristo Edmundo and RyJ Short Churchill?

Probably some of each. But as I become more militant about the virtue of balance over power, I find myself more enamored of the ERdM Choix Supreme.

My SLB of 50 is date stamped ABR 07 and first graced my humidor last November. The first samples showed an over-the-top floral, powdery component up front. Each settled into a more agreeable profile after an inch, but these needed some time. I’ve tried one every couple of months since with better results each time. Now, after 14 months of rest, it’s time for another go.

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July 9, 2008   2 Comments

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

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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

Joya de Nicaragua Antano 1970 Consul

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I owe the Joya de Nicaragua Antano 1970 a debt of gratitude. It was this line that made me understand that pure power is a limited virtue.

Upon the Antano’s release in 2002, I sought only two qualities from a new smoke — stronger and cheaper. Early reviews of the Antano seemed to place it squarely between the Opus X and VSG, the market’s priciest, most coveted powerhouses. It earned impressive accolades, including a 91 mark from Cigar Insider and a 90 from Cigar Aficionado. This Nicaraguan puro may lack the sophistication of the Opus and VSG, I thought, but it should satisfy my lust for a cheap kick in the tastebuds.

And that it did. I bought a box of Belicosos, but each left me with the feeling Hunter S. Thompson once described as having one’s tongue chewed by an iguana. The tingle of spice I usually enjoyed was instead presented as a sting. The complexities of the blend, which I was sure were in there somewhere, were overwhelmed by raw bite. Was I turning soft? Or had my palate finally acknowledged the limits of pure power?

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June 27, 2008   3 Comments