Monday, February 9, 2015

Rocky Patel Nicaraguan Toro (6x52)

Rocky Patel cigars and I have an interesting history.  It all started several years ago when I was introduced to the Olde World Reserve, it remains to this day one of the best cigars I have ever smoked, well the original version anyway.  In recent years though the bloom has fallen of the rose.  The offerings have become one dimensional and pedestrian at best, and just downright foul at worst.  It is real shame, but nothing can be done by me, so I motor on and write reviews.

This particular cigar is a house blend for Famous Smoke, you can find them here.  The cigar itself is a nice looking, dark presentation and everything you would expect from a Nicaraguan cigar.  The band work looks like something from a Truck Stop humidor, you know the ones, some random bundle of dry leaves for ten bucks.  In the defense of house blends though, I have never seen a band on a house blend that was worth anything of note, and it certainly does not dictate the quality of the smoke in many cases.  I have smoked some excellent house blends in my day.  This cigar has little veining and seems to be well constructed, I can't find any issues along the length of this smoke.  The pre light aroma is full of earth and pepper notes.  The pre light draw shows notes of coffee and some hints of wet earth.

The cigar opens with a profile that is reminiscent of Truck Stop coffee, to continue the metaphor from above.  You know this coffee all too well I think, the tar that comes out of an old pot served to you by someone named Flo or Polly.  Don't get me wrong, I actually like this coffee.  It is robust, it has flavor and it has character.  It's not some seven dollar over filtered swill with fancy Italian sizes I don't understand.  It comes in a cracked mug, it's hot and it costs about a buck.  This cigar has strong coffee notes, very strong and I like it.  There is not much else on the front of the palate at this point, but the coffee notes are right in my face.  The back of the palate shows some pepper and earth.  The draw is very fluid and delivers nice, satisfying mouthfuls of smoke with each slight draw.  The burn is right on the money.

The first half of the cigar continues to show strong coffee notes, but there is sweetness coming in here that hearkens to dark fruit and maybe some cocoa.  The back of the palate continues to show earth and pepper notes that really don't fully develop well.  All in all this has been a well above average experience thus far.  The draw continues to perform well to this point.  The burn is also still solid.

The final half of the cigar actually falls off a bit.  The coffee notes turn sour and then bitter, this has an almost acidic quality to it.  The back of the palate also becomes slightly metallic and detracts from the experience.  The draw and burn are solid right through to the end.

The finish was a bit short and had some bitter notes, however the coffee flavors were still identifiable.

At the end of the day this was the Rocky Patel cigar I have smoked in some time, all though the competition is not what it once was when considering this frontmark.

Appearance- 83 kind of cheap looking
Taste- 86 really good until the last half
Construction- 93 a very nice performance
Strength- 87 a nice medium/full
Overall- 88 a nice performance buoyed by construction

Friday, January 23, 2015

Romeo y Julieta 1875 Exhibicion #1 (8.5x52)

A cigar from the past is a lot like a woman from the past.  There are some fond memories, good times, wistful reminiscences of a simpler time during younger days when there was less to choose from but it seemed to all be of quality.  Alas, we grow and move and expand our horizons and these ideas from the past get left in the dust bin of history.  You meet the hotter woman, you smoke the hotter cigar and this lasts for a while, but then more maturity hits and another transition is upon you.  You meet the woman that is right for you, she puts up with all of your B.S. on a daily basis, she bears your children, you build a life together.  You smoke the cigar that is right for you, it relieves stress, it becomes the steady go to in your humidor.  Sure you still branch out every now and again, but the old cigars that you once had a relationship with fall by the wayside and occasionally you see someone smoking one and think, they still make those?  Occasionally you see the old relationship, you see her with a date and you think, people still date her?  Maybe there is a reason for all of this.

This monster cigar was sent to me to do a guest review, never one to turn down the opportunity to put the hairy eyeball on something I decided to get right to work when they arrived.  Then I remembered the size, this thing is labor intensive.  At over eight inches, this is more than a nine holer (to use a golf reference).  It is everything, visually, that I remember.  Dull brown wrapper that has some dusty qualities with some prominent veins?  Check.  The standard old RyJ band work, red with the white, so classic? Check.  The cedary aroma?  Check.  Some wispy notes of cinnamon and cedar in the pre light draw?  Check.

I fire it up, and much like taking an old flame to lunch after ten years, I start to think about all the times we had together.  During the boom years (both in cigars and in my dating life), I smoked this cigar all the time.  It was stable, it was known, it was good, it was a shining beacon in a field of cigars that were so crappy you went out of your way to get one.  Something most people won't say anymore about this smoke.  It has nice flavors, nothing of real impact, but a steady dose of light cinnamon, cedar and some hints of wheat.  The back of the palate shows more cedar impressions and I settle in for this seemingly nice walk down memory lane.  The burn is workmanlike and plods along nicely.  The draw is solid and delivers plenty of smoke with ease.

The first half of the smoke is much like the first half of the lunch date I mentioned above.  There is some remembrance of times past, almost some chemistry and excitement, as the two of us explore old worlds and old times.  The flavors continue to deliver nicely, as does the conversation.  There are hints of cedar and cinnamon still present in the cigar.  There are mutual hints of prior romps and jaunts with the old partner at the lunch table too.  The back of the palate still shows mostly cedar notes as well.  The back of the mind is nagging at you about the woman sitting across from you, there was something wrong with her! Remember!  Similarly the back of the mind is whispering the same thing about the cigar.  The draw and burn still perform well.

The final half of the smoke is where it all flies apart.  The cigar is now just too mundane for my aggressive palate, I like spice, I like profile shifts, I like ligero.  The woman is also just too mundane for my aggressive palate as well, I like adventure, I like aggressiveness.  I realize that neither the cigar or the woman offer what I need now.  There is an awkward moment near the end when everything I remembered and everything I now know collide in my head.  I decide sometimes it's just best to move on and leave the past in the past.  With women that is.  As for cigars the occasional walk down memory lane is just fine, just be prepared for the possibility that your journey has carried you away from what you once new and the reminiscence will leaving you wanting for something more.

All in all this is still a sturdy cigar that delivers exactly what you would expect.  Unless of course you are new to the game, then you should buy some and begin the love affair.

Appearance- 87 nice, but nothing special
Taste- 86 a solid performance that needs to be more, but it never will be
Construction- 91 very well made
Strength- 85 very mild for my tastes
Overall- 87.75 an above average smoke, I just want more out of my cigars right now

Sunday, November 23, 2014

601 Steel Girder (6x52)

A few years ago people in the know about boutique offerings were sucking the 601 cigars up wherever and whenever they could find them.  If you were not in the know then you were out in the cigar wasteland with the rest of the cigar sheeple, blissfully ignorant of the wonderful offering that was put together by Espinosa and Ortega with Don Pepin Garcia.  After some woeful times, there was a relationship with Rocky Patel that led to a horrific gas station cigar rebranding, Espinosa is back and making cigars bearing this frontmark again, and the branding is back to the old way, just the way I like it.  You see, I am one of the ones in the know about boutique offerings, some would even say that I am an acclaimed member of the boutique cognoscenti (self acclimation counts in my world!), and I was actually very happy to see this brand back where it belongs.  I have been hoarding my old 601 Red's and Blue's because they were just that good and they were gone forever.  Now I need not be so parsimonious because I can always get some 601 Steel, so can you by the way, and whether you are in the know or an ignoramus, you can get them here.  It's that simple, anyone can click a link...

The cigar presents with some interesting visuals.  The exterior is ruddy, much like I would envision unfinished steel, there is some roughness to the wrapper (some would call it tooth, they would be wrong).  The band has the old 601 style and a nice steel gray finish that adds oomph to the nomenclature of the smoke.  Visually I would say this resembles more of a knock around cigar than an accomplished premium, but then the 601 name comes back to mind and I realize that I am likely in for taste roller coaster.  The pre light draw shows some signs of dark fruit and pepper and the pre light aroma has some hints of anise and spice.

The cigar opens with all sorts of power up front.  I am actually a bit taken aback by this show of teeth right up front.  The core profile is full of heady blasts of nicotine and the palate tingles from the get go.  The flavors show some wonderful bursts of black pepper and black cherry and I am not sure I have had this combination present itself in a cigar before.  At the back of the palate there is a very satisfying dark wood note that combines with a licorice note that is initially interesting, but then becomes a bit too much.  The draw is superb at this point, delivering big cloudy bursts of smoke.  The burn is slightly wonky, but I don't believe I will need a touch up at this point.

The first half of the smoke proceeds nicely, though the power recedes and I wish it would have hung around for a bit.  The core profile takes on a more fruit laden quality with notes of black cherry and orange peel coming through.  The back of the palate has begun to show some more licorice type notes at this point and I would really like to have more of the dark wood from earlier in the presentation.  The draw continues to perform very well.  The burn has continued to be a touch off, but I am resisting the reapplication of flame, as I so often do, because a fine cigar should correct itself.

The final half of the cigar really comes home strong.  The core profile continues to show measured allowances of black cherry and orange, but there is some very solid black pepper coming back into the mix and taking over the overall impression.  The back of the palate really shortens up and becomes a more solid mix of earth and wood, with a slightly metallic impression that will slightly hinder the score.  The draw was solid all the way through.  The burn did have to be touched up, I hate that, I will score accordingly.

The finish was long and powerful showing pepper and dark cherry notes.

All in all I am very pleased with the return of this frontmark.

Appearance- 88 a bit rustic for me, but still not bad
Taste- 91 a fine experience here, could have used more body in the front half.  Metallic notes late hurt the score
Construction- 87 can't go any higher with a cigar that I have to put flame back to, but the draw was outstanding
Strength- 89 a very nice full bodied and flavorful smoke
Overall- 88.75 worth grabbing some ASAP

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Montecristo Relentless Toro (6x50)

It has been awhile since I have graced the retinal portions of your eyeballs with a cigar review.  Your collective sighing does not fool me, I know that I have been missed, after all I have not received any hate mail or threats of bodily harm in over a month.

For this glorious return I have been asked to review something new from Montecristo.  The name alone caused me to heavily speculate about the cigar before I even had them in my hot little hands.  Relentless as an appellation certainly allowed the mind to wander about as I waited for them to show up in the mail.  What could it possibly mean?  Was it going to be full bodied?  That would certainly be something new for Monetcristo as they are known for more mild and medium offerings.  Was it going to be expensive?  A relentless assault on your pocketbook as Montecristo has done in the past?  A million questions came immediately to mind and as I was about to retire from my day job my brain had the ability to really mull this over for several days.  I am sure you think as my wife does, and would speculate that I was wasting time while I could have been doing things around the house or whatever it is women think men should do when we have nothing else to do.  I say hooey to all of that jazz, if I am sitting around throwing cigar conjecture around in the box that I call my head then I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing brothers and sisters.

The cigar presents well, the wrapper is a nice medium brown Connecticut from Ecuador which is nice, because I actually prefer the Ecuadorian variety of this particular wrapper.  The construction appears to be pretty solid, but it is hard to tell with the overwhelmingly large band that is draped all over this bad boy.

A note on this, what is the deal with the huge bands?  What is the manufacturer trying to hide?  Or is it more about catching the eye with some fancy art work?  Let the cigar speak for itself for crying out loud!  Additionally, the larger the band the more pectin is required to secure it and the more potential there is for wrapper damage when it is finally disbanded.  Alas, on this cigar there are actually two overlapping bands! Insanity!

The pre light aroma smacks of light wood and cinnamon.  The pre light draw shows some white pepper notes and some thoughts of dry wood like balsa and cedar.

The cigar begins with a profile that has some real zest in the front notes.  There are some sharp blasts of pepper right off the bat, the smoke is a bit dry in the early stages and there is a woody note that contributes to the dry feeling.  At the back of the palate there is a slight grassy tone that is not quite off putting, but it is not the best either.  The draw is tight, at this point I realize how thick the end cap was.  One shallow snip, which is my preferred cut, will not do it on this cigar.  You will need to cut deeper, but don't get too deep and cut through the shoulder.  The burn is razor sharp and nice gray ash is forming.

The first half of the cigar moves along relatively well delivering a nice experience.  The core profile has warmed considerably and there are notes of cinnamon and other spice here over a nice under layer of white pepper that has toned down from the opening moments.  The back of the palate continues to show a nice balsa wood tone with the occasional splash of cedar.  The grassy notes are hanging around a bit, but they are not hurting the cigar at all.  The draw is now wide open, I did a little more cutting after the initial tightness, and it delivers very nice amounts of smoke.  The burn continues to be very solid.

The second half of the cigar shows some issues.  First, as I approach the band and it becomes time to remove it the wrapper starts to crack, I hate this when it happens because it will derail the experience as the cigar continues because the wrapper will unravel or not burn correctly.  As I remove the band my earlier fears are realized, it is stuck to the wrapper!  Oh the calamity!  My long experience helps me get through this without doing too much damage, but there is still some cracking and subsequent running that takes place.  The overall profile continues to be pleasant.  Cinnamon and spice notes dominate the front of the profile, I do wish there was some more complexity here, but it is a nice presentation of the flavors that are there.  The back of the palate continues to be mostly wood notes with some hints of grass every so often.

The finish was bit short and had some bitter notes, but also showed a nice warm cinnamon flavor as well.

If you would like to get some of these cigars you can buy them here and get them shipped right into your greedy paws...

Appearance- 88 a nice looking and well made cigar
Taste- 87 could use some more depth and complexity of flavor, but it was solid offering
Construction- 83 I have to take away points for the horrible band work which led to performance issues
Strength- 88 a nice medium smoke
Overall- 86  a slightly above average experience that could have been better

Monday, September 1, 2014

C.A.O. Amazon (6x52)

At this year's I.P.C.P.R. my colleagues and I spent a great deal of time wandering around wondering where all the new smokes were.  Sure there were some new brands and blends here and there, but it seemed as though there were many fewer new options this year as opposed to years past.

We happened into the General Cigar area to say hello to Rick Rodriguez, an old friend of ours, and he layed all the new C.A.O. stuff on us.  Since Rick has taken the reigns of this frontmark he has hit .666 in my mind.  OSA and Concert were both unique and special cigars in their own right, while the Flathead fell flat for me.  The two new cigars he presented us with on this day both seemed to hold promise, but General cigars seldom hit the mark for me so I was skeptical.  Rick mentioned that the Amazon was a real powerhouse and this got my attention.  I am often found to be intrigued by this bold statement of cigar power because of two long standing Czar truisms.  One, cigars that claim to be powerhouses usually are not even close. Two, cigars that meet the claim are often strong just for the sake of being strong and lack nuance, flavor and balance.  I always endeavor to uncover the one cigar that will defeat this theorem, alas I have not.

On our last night in Vegas my partners and I decided to hit old Vegas and walk the Fremont path to the dingy old casinos of yore, and dingy they are by the way if you haven't been don't go, take my word for it.  During our Fremont walk we decided to light these Amazons up and give them a spin.  In the interest of full disclosure of my three friends only one is a guy that could handle a powerhouse cigar on a regular basis, the other two (while cigar smoking chaps) prefer a milder sort of fare on the regular.  I was interested to see how long this would last amongst the four of us if the cigar did in fact turn out to be the powerhouse as it was billed.

The cigar is huge, it seems much bigger than it's bona fides suggest, but a quick measure in my Cigar Ring App shows that it is as advertised.  The band work here is meant to look like a rope of some sort which is pulled off by using a twisted tobacco leaf and adhering it to the cigar (more on this later), it is interesting and while I usually rail against these types of gimmicks, this is not so bad.  The construction seems nice, but there are some loose spots in the bunch that have me concerned.  The pre light draw is of heavy raising and spice.  The pre light draw has some pepper, dark fruit, plum and raisin.  This really fires up the palate early on.  All four of us are commenting on this profile before we even put flame to leaf.

The cigar opens with a profile that can only be described as a POWERHOUSE, this is exactly as billed, all nicotine and straight tobacco flavors that inundate the palate with blast after blast of power. Clearly the makers want your attention, and now they have mine, which if you have read my blog may not be the best idea.  There is no nuance or flavor here, sadly this cigar has all the early hallmarks of being strong for the sake of being strong.  My friends are noticing this too and one of them has already set it down and is complaining about the number it has done on his palate.  I can't blame him one bit at this point.  The draw booms out thick clouds of voluminous smoke.  The burn is a touch akimbo, but it is showing signs of evening out.

The first half of the cigar continues to punch the palate with indiscriminate abandon and no subtlety ever develops.  The flavors are showing some hints of dark wood, tobacco and spice.  However, the overall tenacity of the strength kills any chance of being anything other that a cigar that is trying too hard to be the big boy on the block.  The draw continues to be well above average.  The burn canoes slightly and requires me to retouch the light, this leads to the docking of points in my world.  I look over just in time to see another friend turn green and put the smoke down.  Two down, two still trucking.

The final half of the smoke claims the third victim almost immediately and I am left to continue to the struggle, ever the persistent warrior.  In this case struggle is accurate.  The profile never picks up any of the early promise and the strength just keeps on pounding away.  Still showing some hints of wood, tobacco and spice they are never able to breakthrough and show anything outside of all the damn power.  The draw stays solid to the end, but the burn requires more attention as I draw near the make shift band.  On that note, while the band is visually catchy, it can't be removed so the cigar is done when you get to the band.  I tried to smoke through it, but it just burned right under the twisted leaf.

The finish was bitter and short, showing charred notes of tobacco and card board.

Appearance- 92 an interesting cigar to look at
Taste- 78 strong just to be strong, no balance or nuance at all
Construction- 81 burn issues kill the number
Strength- 70 too strong and the strength kills the experience all together
Overall- 80 a miss, however bold, is still a miss

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Arturo Fuente Opus X Forbidden X 13 God's Whisper 1924 (7.2 x 41)

It is not everyday that I smoke a cigar from deep inside the depths of the special places in my humidor.  When I do there is usually some sort of occasion attached to the smoke so it becomes significant to the event, place and time.  In this case I was just in the mood for something bold, and special and whilst writing my latest political diatribe in my political blog (, I fired up this selection from the dark recesses of the lower trays in my generous humi.

Opus smokes are often what the individual smoker makes of them.  Much too strong for the regular Fuente smoker, in my opinion, they are a reserve smoke for those of us out here that like to experience the power of a cigar, while also understanding the subtle nuances.  I am an arrogant SOB (most of you should know this by now) and I am a cigar elitist (most of you should know this as well), so I will come off as pedantic when I say if you can't understand the finer nuances of a fine smoke you should stick with whatever chicken bones you normally smoke until you graduate into the upper echelons.  This takes years of hard work, and smoking, and smoking things that would make a goat puke, but you will eventually get there and when you do you will appreciate the finer smokes out there with the level of gravity and attention that they deserve.  Of course I am just F'in with ya (or am I), you can smoke whatever you want (just don't expect to be offered something from my stash of specials).

The very name of this cigar inspires the imagination before it even breaches the wizened and yellowing cello.  God's Whisper?  I think I hear it as I get ready to smoke this bad boy.  It's saying pay attention my son...  The band work is excellent, the attention to detail here is wonderful.  The wrapper is evenly and expertly applied by the hand of a master.  The reddish hue and the wonderful dusty feeling are something to behold.  An examination shows nary a blemish, soft spot or area too firm.  The pre light aroma is a dazzling essence of French Toast from a food artisans kitchen.  The pre light draw shows magnificent illuminations of pepper and wood.

The cigar opens with a profile that is full of cinnamon, maple and light wood essences.  I am struck by the profundity of it all right off the bat.  This complex array of flavors dances across the palate with the delicacy of a Joffrey trained ballet ingenue.  There is so much balance and nuance that I struggle to figure it all out in the early moments.  At the back of the palate there are wonderful hints of crisp tobacco and light earth that bind the sweetness of the front portion of the smoke wonderfully together.  The draw is a dream and delivers booming clouds of smoke that lazily drift o'er head as I blog away on the idiocy of our elected officials.  The burn is rock solid and the ash holds on wonderfully as the smoke progresses.

The first half of the smoke is wonderful.  The core profile maintains some nice cinnamon flavors, but a slight hint of citrus zest has come in here as well and makes for an interesting flow.  The back of the palate has picked up the syrupy, maple flavor with some wood and tobacco notes that complete a wonderfully balanced package of flavors.  The draw maintains all it's glory as it churns out scads of smoke.  The burn continues on unhindered as if in a slow directed march to the finish on a course that can not be deviated from.

The final half of the cigar is nearly legendary, and this is where the true Opus power and nuance come into full view.  The core profile becomes a wonderfully peppery presentation that keeps building and building until it is slapping the palate with powerful bursts of pepper flavor.  The palate reaction to this phenomenon is unique, most smokers would not be ready for this rapid turn of events in a cigar that had exhibited so much sweetness for the better part of the smoke.  I truly enjoy turns of events like this and it excites me as a smoker.  The back of the palate continues to deliver wood and tobacco notes as a base upon which the experience can lie.  The draw was exceptional to the finish, as was the burn.

The finish was a fine array of pepper and wood, but came off a bit sharp.  Having that as my only complaint I am willing to rate this as one of the finest smokes I have ever had in 25 years of smoking.

Appearance- 98 a wonderful looking smoke
Taste- 99 one point lost at the finish
Construction- 100 flawless
Strength- 97 a powerhouse, but wonderful
Overall- 98.75 a classic smoke no matter how you cut it

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Victor Calvo Gold Robusto (5x50)

It has been a long, long time since I have written a cigar review.  Hell, it's been awhile since I wrote anything other than an article or two for a newsletter about being a new daddy.  In case you didn't know, my wife and I welcomed a son into the world in late January, and my life has not been the same since...

Smoking cigars has gone from a twice daily necessity to a twice weekly luxury it seems.  I have still been at it, but I have not been smoking anything new at all.  I have been sticking to the old knock arounds with religious verve of late.  However, recent travels have taken me to some locales that have allowed me to get my hands on some things I don't see very often.

This smoke is one such selection.  I don't see this smoke on the regular, as a matter of fact I can't say that I have seen it at all anywhere until I found it in Ft. Lauderdale.  I bought several, all of which I intend to put the hairy eyeball on with one of my famous reviews.  It might be 2035 before I get to them at the rate I have been going, but I am going to give it the old college try.

This cigar presents with a sort of mundane everyday appearance about it.  Nothing screams out, smoke me!  The band work is jejune at best and does not add to the overall impression at all.  The wrapper is somewhat toothy, but it has a lot of veining and seems loosely applied in some areas and that makes me concerned about burn issues as we move along with the show.  The pre light draw shows some hints of pepper, but there is a metallic thing going on here that has me on edge.  The pre light aroma has some hints of wood, mainly cedar, and some touches of earth as well.

The cigar opens with a profile that is unforgettable, in that it is so vile and bile churning that you will never be able to purge the palate punishment from your neural pathways.  You will try, with electroshock, a lobotomy, heavy drinking, pills and other methods such as forced bleeding, leeching, witch doctor visits and the like, but it will not work!  You will never forget this awful opening.  The flavors are a putrid mix of something like borax and water from a mason jar that old pennies have been sitting in.  Some have accused me of hyperbole in the past, but in this case I need to be able to describe the horrific scene in full detail.  The draw, sadly, is great.  It is wonderfully fluid and delivers plenty of smoke, so much smoke in fact that I am hoping for a plug ASAP.  The burn is a monstrosity, canoeing from the get go with large segments of wrapper falling unsmoked into the tray and onto my pants.

I soldier on though, ever the weary warrior in the struggle against cigar mediocrity and unfortunately nothing really changes in the first half.  The taste of old pennies has blessedly left the picture, but what is left is not great either.  There are some hints of old, dusty wood here, kind of like something from an old attic.  There are still some notes of some sort of soap or detergent here as well, not quite floral but definitely soapy in nature.  The back of the palate gives some impressions of earth, but there is a muddled quality here that has me struggling for answers.  The draw continues on and my palate is molested with scads of inferior tasting smoke.  The burn is slightly better, but still temperamental.

The final half of the smoke is a futile search for something to like, alas I can only like it once I have extinguished it in the ash bin of cigarbage.  The profile never shows anything worthwhile.  The flavors just continue on, unhindered in their putrescence, as if the maker of this smoke hates people with any type of taste at all.  The draw is solid to the end.  The burn had issues throughout.

The finish was a gift from the higher power.  I usually don't react so viscerally to a smoking experience, but this one was just that bad folks.  Do yourselves a favor and smoke something else.

Appearance- 85 mundane
Taste- 70 the lowest I can go, all though I had considered going lower
Construction- 74 the burn was disaster
Strength- 75 medium maybe, hard to tell when everything is so bad
Overall- 74.75 one of the worst I have smoked