Category Archives: Cigars

Boutique Blends G5 by Rodrigo Cigars

Hola Amigos!

That’s how George Rodrigo, head Amigo at Rodrigo cigars greets his customers.  And I’ve gotta say, I’m glad to be an amigo here.

Rodrigo G5Rodrigo 5X56
The prelight draw coated my mouth with chocolate raisin flavored air.  I suspected this new blend was going to be interesting.  So far, only a few cigars have I had, gave raisin notes – more  likely were dark fruits.
The initial draw is good. Cigar is a little harder than I expected but presentation has no major veins or flaws. Sweet but pronounced wood flavors start the palate off along with almost milk chocolate?
The construction is solid with a mostly even burn.  The line had to be corrected once but after that, it burned well.    The first third showed strong white pepper but that dissipated as the cigar burned down to the second third.
The final third, that’s where that red chili pepper taste emerged, a smokiness that was not boring.

Cigar Spot in Birmingham, MI!

That’s right, you read that correctly.  A cigar bar, aptly named Churchills is located in downtown Birmingham, Michigan.  I don’t know the area very well, but I was out there yesterday for a speaking engagement and upon finishing, decided I’d find a local spot.

IMG_3620One of the women I had talked to had told me she knew a few spots, but this one was probably the one still opened at this hour.  It was after 10 PM when we were heading out.

After a short drive from my hotel, she dropped me off.  I walked in to this rather large space, sort of like Highland Cigar Company, but arranged more with tables and booths, rather than couches.  I have only the one photo of the place, as it was late and I was sleep deprived.

Huge leather chairs decorated the place, along with a sizeable walk in humidor.  It looks more or less like an Ashton sponsored cigar bar.  Decorated with Ashton artwork and ashtrays, a premium selection of Davidoff cigars, among others, the place carried a varied clientele, even at that late an hour.

I sat down and perused the extensive drink menu.  Settled on Founders IPA and a glass of bourbon to finish with while the staff cut and lit my cigar for me.

I was left in relative peace – fine for a newcomer in my current mental state, but for the waiter coming by to tend to my drinks.

Awesome spot overall.

Cigar Review – Nestor Miranda Danno One Life Edition

Nestor Miranda Danno – a Nicaraguan blend with a broadleaf wrapper and pig tail cap.   The cold draw produces flavors of light dark fruit with something mellow, maybe spice?  The wrapper looks a little rough, few IMG_3578veins.  Very dark chocolate color. 
The first few puffs start off with wood flavors-the dark fruit is definitely present along with muted spice. Not that power heavy stuff one gets from cigars from My Father factory.   In fact, I tasted plum on the initial few puffs.
Hints of leather appear along with a stronger sense of black pepper. This is just the first third. It actually paired well with the Laughing Skull beer (IPA) I had that night with it.
Starting the second third, the flavors give way to wood and the spice takes a back seat. The burn was slightly uneven.
The wood notes grow slightly in intensity. The smoke is cool. I was surprised at the construction.  If you’ve seen my rants on FB or twitter, you’ve seen that a number of cigars close to this size I’ve smoked have been duds, a disappointment considering they’re coming from some of my favorite makers.  Regular sizes (Toro, proper Churchill, etc) smoke just fine.
IMG_3579The final third is a mellow version of all the previous spices, chocolate and balanced bitters bonus the deep wood from earlier.  The burn line self corrected. Overall, a well made, tasty release with plenty of complexity from Nestor Miranda.

Cigar Review: Ava Maria George

Ava Maria George’s – starts off with leather and pepper followed by strong baking spice. The cigar has an even draw,producing gray clouds of smokeAva Maria. Around the end of the 1st third the coffee flavors pick up. I expect them to intensify along with the mellowness of the cigar.

The second third brings forth sweet coffee and wood nights, not quite cedar.

The spice returns on the final third – only more intense on the baking spice notes.
Interestingly enough, I found this while researching this cigar.
Ava Maria 2“I find it to be a cigar that has a wonderful strength. Because it’s not overpowering, but it’s not mild.”

– Manuel Quesada (Fonseca)  So that’s cool.  And Mr. Quesada is right.  It has a good strength that doesn’t overpower.  Usually for a cigar of this color leaf, I tend to avoid them, thinking there is way too much wood, but this cigar did not show that at all.  It held more balance in the end.
An even burn with plenty of smoke, gray ash and solid construction made it one I’ll want to have more of in my humidor.

Cigar Review: EP Carillo La Historia

EP Carillo has been making waves in the cigar industry ever since the release of La Gloria Cubana.EP Carillo La Historia

La Historia is no exception.  A firm, light brown wrapper graces the cigar with very few veins.

Starts off with solid wood and Cocoa flavors with light leather in the mix. The first third was consistent until I tasted dark roast coffee flavors.

Next came the nuttiness.  More like an almond sweetness danced beautifully across my tongue and the cigar started to burn unevenly.  A light touch up with matches helped but not much until the final third of the cigar.

La Historia employs a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, Ecuadorian Sumatra binder, and Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers.  That explains where teh sweetness comes from, and the spice, along with the gentle balance this cigar has.

I pulled off the bands and continued smoking.  I was surprised by light wood flavors and the fact that this cigar didn’t clash with the IPA I had at the time.  An excellent smoke.

Cigar Review: Vivalo Exclusivo Gordo

Vivalo Cigar Co., has been established since 2013 with the inaugural release “Serie Exclusivo,” which is comprised of 100% Nicaraguan tobacco from the two most esteemed growing regions, Esteli and Jalapa.

The Vivalo Exclusivo Gordo starts off with a peppery draw that has coffee on the back along with hints of sweetness. Almost nutty flavors.

The pre-light draw is awesome, that rich coffee flavor. The cigar has a great draw, whereby the pepper backs off to give way to sweeter notes of coffee properly sweetened.

The burn line is awesome after the initial pepper blast, the cigar flavors became coffee and chocolate. The sweet chocolate takes a prominent place in flavor on the end of the first third and the burn line stays pretty even.

Cigar Review – Camacho Triple Maduro

I’d managed to snag this cigar in the Atlanta area, at a liquor store of all places.  I’d been wanting to try it and see what the hype was about and was honestly surprised to find it in a well kept humidor in said liquor store.  

Considering my first true triple Maduro was the Tres Maduro by ACC Cigars, the bar had been set pretty high. The two cigars could not be further apart in taste!

While we won’t get into comparison because it’s simply unfair, I will mention the similarities include entubado bunching method used to roll the Camacho and they end there.  Touching the cigar revealed it pliable in all the right ways a cigar should be.  The wrapper is dark and has a rugged appearance to it, like little flecks of spice on the leaf.  When I clipped the cap and took a test draw, the cigar had a great draw and revealed odd notes for a cigar.  Plum and fruit undertones, along with tobacco and a slight sweetness that had nothing to do with fruit, wet my palate.  The cigar itself smelled of sweet and spice.

Upon lighting up, the cigar revealed mellow undercurrents of tobacco and strong pepper tones.  The flavor of dark fruit was evident, something I thought I’d never taste in a cigar.  Starting off this way was a stark contrast to the Tres, which had dark cocoa and chocolate notes.

The burn line started off even and stayed pretty much the same for most of the first third.  The second third of the cigar had a solid burn too.  Black pepper, surpassed the fruit, though it still remained evident.  During the second third of the cigar, the spice had taken a back seat.  The cigar is pretty in your face.  A definite chalky taste appeared and reminded me of what one would find pleasant in a an old world wine.

The ash held on pretty well but every time I moved to take a photo, the ash fell.  I do have video that I’ll upload and link back here once I do.

An hour and a half into the cigar, intense white pepper had encompassed most everything, almost like a bomb, though not quite like something you’d find in a JDN or LFD cigar.  Notes of leather are more present.  This is definitely a heavier cigar so make sure you eat a full meal.

This review originally appeared on StogiePress.com. 

Scotch Whiskey Tasting – Notes from Highland Cigar Company

While in Atlanta, I’ve been checking out Highland Cigar Company, usually going on Sundays.  Last week, the 28th of June, the folks there hosted Simon Brooking, from Beam/Suntori and we tasted some nice Scotch Whiskies.

Simon’s a knowledgeable guy about both Whiskey and the history of many different brands, plus the wet past of Scotland.  His tales were amusing, his toasts, heartwarming and jokes, well any good Scotsman would be proud. Plus, for once, I wasn’at the only one wearing a kilt at Highland 😉

IMG_3347
From Left to Right – Auchentoshan 3Wood, Bowmore 12 year, Laphroaig Select

Now, onto the juice.

Three different scotches paired well with the Antonius Robusto – a mild to medium bodied Dominican cigar that had been rolled and “forgotten

Antonius Robusto
Antonius Robusto

about” for about 8 years.  The blend had more power than expected, but was mild enough that a novice smoker could enjoy it, along with it not balancing well with the whiskies.  To be honest, I was shocked that the cigar paired so well with an Islay whiskey, but that’ll come up in my notes shortly.

The first whiskey was Auchentoshan 3 Wood.  Matured in Bourbon, Oloroso Sherry and PX Sherry casks, this scotch had really refined flavors and a lovely finish with a pleasant finish.  I found it balanced and it blended well with the Antonius, complimenting the wood notes of the cigar.  This was a favorite at Highland, due to the lovely, sweet finish.

Next was the Bowmore 12 year.  Listed as an Islay, I found this to be rather pleasant compared to what most folks think of when someone says Islay  Scotch.  The mild citrus notes came upon me at the end of the drink, along with mild peat and sea.

Last was the Laphroaig Select – a masterful blend of various scotches hand picked by a “select group” of tasters.  This is honestly the lowest peated scotch they make.  Peat has been a bone of contention for me for years, due to the effects it has on my stomach (I suppose I could drink less but where’s the fun in that?  LOL!) But this whiskey shows reserve on the smokiness, adding more balance and less of that gasoline taste that tends to put drinkers of whiskey off.  The finish of the IMG_3350Antonius went very well with just enough backbone and intensity to compliment the Laphroaig and not be overpowered.

Overall, the Antonius was a solid choice for this whiskey pairing.  Balanced with wood notes, hints of spice and vanilla appeared on the palate.  Firm in the fingers, the draw was delightful.  A cold draw brought in flavors of cinnamon and baking spice.  Construction was also solid, though I forgot to get pictures for the blog.

There were two other whiskies we’d tasted but sadly, my notes are not legible – typical of being a published romance novelist.  They were both Laphroaig, however, and wonderful in their own right.  I’d lit up a second cigar at this point.

Currently, Highland Cigar Company is doing tastings on Tuesdays throughout the summer.

For a different experience in Scotch Whiskey, see my notes about the Balvenie Masterclass held back in San Francisco a few years back.

Smooth Cigars for Beginners

I’d recently been invited to give lessons on cigar smoking and talk about the basics, including taste, construction, care for and ultimately, enjoyment of, cigars.  We’re talking mostly to new smokers and the question usually comes up about the harshness of Cuban cigars.

I usually explain the flaws with Cubans, starting off with improper fermentation, lack of care for the soil, and too rapid production, and finish with how other countries produce cigars of similar or better quality than Cuba lately.

A favorite of mine back in the day was the Arturo Fuente 8-5-8 arturo-fuente-858-maduro-corona-gordaMaduro.  This 6X47 cigar delivers a smooth taste with light notes of cocoa and tobacco throughout the entire cigar.   Famous-smoke delivers A. Fuente Smokes Online

One of the staples in many cigar smokers opinions of quality, smoothness, and taste is the Oliva Cigar Company.  Yeah, they’ve had a huge hit lately with the Melanio and Melanio Maduro but for folks unfamiliar with Oliva, the standard is the Oliva Serie V.  A little more robust than the cigar I’m about to suggest, a good standby in any humidor.  The Serie G however features an Afraican Cameroon wrapper to add not only notes of cedar but a little kick in the flavor profile.   Pick this up in the robusto size for a short, flavorful smoke.  Also, the box press allows for more tobacco to be packed in for an even bigger flavor kick.  Get your hands on Oliva Cigars among other Premium Stogies Online

A newcomer to my rotation early on was something that required a few more dollars but was justified by intense flavors o f dry cocoa Patel90powder and a hint of spice as the cigar finishes.  The Rocky Patel Vintage 1990, particularly in the robusto size is a solid addition to the Patel line.  Definitely a favorite among those loyal to Patel.  Looking for Rocky Patel, Check out Famous Online

We’d covered these three cigars with the additional discussion of some of the larger boutique brands and while I’ve hyped some of my favorite here, there are plenty of other cigars the new cigar smoker could get into.  What are some of your favorites?

Luxury Cigar Reviews: Propio Veneno by ACC Cigars

From ACC Official:  PROPIO cigars are the most innovative

Unique Acrylic and Aluminium tubes with an air-tight glass seal

cigars in the market today. Using aged and carefully fermented tobacco leaves, ACC has spent years creating  new blends and flavors including wild grown tobacco from the rain forests of Ecuador and Peruvian Pelo de Oro. The result is something new and exciting giving cigar smokers a totally new experience.

What I noted in the unique smell of the PROPIO line was that it was replicated ‘almost’ as if the owner had given Jonathan Drew something to aspire to in his Undercrown and Liga blends, due to the very similar sweet room notes.  While Liga Privada is sought after and hard to come by, nothing can compare to the extravagance of PROPIO.  Plus, they were both developed for different clientele so..

PROPIO VENENO

I mentioned PROPIO in an earlier review when talking about the Leon, a personal favorite of mine.

The PROPIO cigar brand was developed with a fast pace, modern look and feel, included in both the revolutionary acrylic and  aluminium tube packaging for the PROPIO cigars, but even their accessories showcase uniqueness among their peers.

The VENENO or Venom, is no different.  A blend all its own, it stands out from the Leon by having more spice, power.  Designed to imitate (and surpass) Cuban blends, the VENENO features a rich Habano leaf, and Santa Lucia, a leaf indigenous to the tribes of Ecuador.  On it’s own, Santa Lucia is a powerhouse and cannot be smoked but if paired with the Ecuadoran Habano leaf, one not only gets the power, but finesse created by skillful blending.

PROPIO Leon by ACC Cigars
Cigar Travel humidor by ACC Cigars from the PROPIO line- Ferrari Red

More of a fuller body cigar than the Leon, the VENENO draws and burns well, is smooth.  Pepper comes across, along with hints of cinnamon.  A medium to full finish complete the cigar, complimented with plenty of spice, and a pleasant, sweet smell when burned, the PROPIO VENENO is literally every cigar smokers dream.  Uncomplicated, inventive, luxurious.