PROTOCOL RELEASES OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT

Cubariqueño Cigar Co. announces the release of the Protocol Official Misconduct. The cigars are being produced at Erik Espinosa’s LaZona Factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. Protocol Official Misconduct will be available in a 6×50 format in boxes of 10. The name continues with the Protocol theme of Law & Law Enforcement as owners Bill Ives and Juan Cancel are police officers & Bill Agathis an attorney.

The blend consists of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan fillers from Esteli / Jalapa. Kevin Keithan, National Sales Manager stated, cigars are being classified as medium plus in strength. Initial release will be at Cubariqueno’s 3 Year Anniversary event on May 12th at the Holiday Inn located in Clinton, New Jersey through Berkeley Humidor and pre-sales will also be available through BerkeleyHumidor.com initially. Cigars will begin to ship to retailers May 15th and head to the 2018 IPCPR this summer. Cubariqueno also announces a line extension in the Probable Cause line. Keithan stated that Cubariqueno has added a Corona Gorda measuring 5 5/8 x 46 to their portfolio. Those cigars will also be made available in boxes of 10 at the Anniversary event and will also ship to retailers on May 15th.

Official Misconduct Pricing –

MSRP- $98.90 per 10 count box

Probable Cause Corona Gorda Pricing-

MSRP- $97.90 per 10 count box

The Mova from Reserve Cigar Company

The following review is on the Reserve Mova Cigar done by my friend, SOTL and co-owner of Top Leaf Cigar Lounge here in Wintson Salem, North Carolina. I wanted to get a ladies perspective on this cigar and also to offer readers something different. I hope you enjoy.

First and foremost, I think it necessary to provide a little background on myself. My name is Bethany Miller. I grew up in a small town located in the foothills of North Carolina. The Village of Tobaccoville is home to RJ Reynolds Tobacco company and was in my childhood a place where tobacco was in large abundance. The smell of tobacco is as much of my childhood memory as the smell of my granddads after shave. Being raised in Tobaccoville, I am accustomed to the smell of tobacco growing, the steamy smell after a hard rain on a hot night, being stuck behind a tractor on the way to the warehouse, and have spent many long afternoons riding through fields of sticky leaves. Keeping that in mind, here is my review…

The Reserve Mova is a beautifully constructed Cigar. The wrapper is caramel in color and has a nice uniform feel as well as a velvety smooth wrapper.

Before lighting the Mova I spent quite a long time just smelling this cigar. It smells of earth and molasses. Closing my eyes this cigar flung me back to my childhood and I can picture myself barefooted on my bike riding though my hometown enveloped in the scent of home.

I chose to use a V-Cut (Colibri) and slowly toasted the foot of this cigar. Slowly. I took my time, not allowing the flame to touch the foot, but allowing the heat from the flame to deliciously roast. Scents of nuts began to fill my nostrils. Think roasted peanuts.

The first pull was an explosion of caramel, molasses, nuts, earth, and home. The creaminess is not overbearing but rather a great compliment to the nutty and slightly spicy filler.

As I made my way through the first quarter the ash is holding and the burn is even. No touchups have been necessary. This Cigar is burning like a dream and has me dreaming of my 10-year-old self, wandering through Tobacco barns during summer break. The flavors are mingling together and I’m picking up some notes of cinnamon and toast.

At the half way point I am in heaven. The longer I sit and smoke this Cigar the more I am catapulted back to my childhood. I am in a trance. The creaminess and delicious molasses continue to mingle together and tug at my memory. Never has another Cigar caused me so much emotion. I am literally taken back in time.

Three quarters of the way through and the burn is still even, ash is still solid. I didn’t think that the Mova could get any better but it has. The molasses and nuttiness has intensified. I am back in 1985. I am barefoot on a dirt road, I am walking through row after row of tall tobacco, I am chasing lightning bugs. I don’t want this experience to end.

Finishing up the Mova has been bittersweet. The experience of smoking the Mova has been mind-blowing. The construction is wonderful, the burn was even, the flavors are fantastic. Well Done! To me, this cigar tastes just like home. Bravo!

Thanks to Bethany for contributing to the website. I am sure the Reserve Mova will certainly be a great option for your Ladies of the Leaf nights at Top Leaf Cigar Lounge in the future. Contact Bethany at (336) 893-7307 for all the details!

Until next time, long ashes and full glasses!

2017 Las Calaveras…Crowned Heads

Ah the 2017 Las Calaveras. I picked up a few of these when they were first released last year. Excited to try one, I did right away and I felt like the cigar was too fresh and needed some time to relax and acclimate to the climate in Pa. I was not alone as I read numerous reviews, post and comments mentioning this same thing. I know this was a huge point of contention from co-founder Jon Huber. Sorry Jon. The intent for me, was not to be negative or to put down the cigar, I just honestly felt that the cigar had so much more to give than what I experienced. I still stand by that decision. I also stand by the decision not to post the review based on my experience at the time. I felt it would be best to let the cigar relax, age a bit and then revisit it. My goal was to go back to it before the end of 2017. Little did I know I would be transferring to a new state, selling a house, moving into an apartment, starting the home building process, etc. Needless to say this cigar, along with a number of others did not get reviewed simply because of my personal situation and trying to get settled in a new location.

If you have followed my blog for awhile, anyone that knows me knows a couple of things. 1) I am honest and will not bs anything in my reviews. 2) I am also respectful and tactful and would never bash anyone’s work. If I don’t like a particular cigar, that’s on me. I am not going to love every single cigar I try and neither will you. Just because something doesn’t review well by me or anyone else should never stop you from trying it if it interest you. This is a very opinionated, subjective thing I do and it is strictly my opinion. With all of that said, let’s get down to what we are here to do.

I have been a fan of Crowned Heads for some time now. Nothing has changed on that front. I was able to stop in and visit with Jon in Nashville for just a few minutes in 2016. I would have loved the opportunity to hang out with him and enjoy a smoke but it wasn’t in the cards. I always look forward to anything coming from Crowned Heads as they have been a staple in my humidor for awhile.

“Since we first introduced Las Calaveras in 2014, the marca has risen dramatically in popularity and notoriety,” said Jon Huber, Crowned Heads co-founder, in a statement to halfwheel. “One of the things I’m personally most proud of, however, is that the underlying message of the brand, i.e., to celebrate (rather than mourn) the lives of those who’ve passed on in the previous year, has been heard and received literally around the world.” (Taken from Halwheel.com)

Every from October 31 – November 2 in Mexico the country celebrates Dia de Muertos. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of friends and family friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. Somewhere between 1910-1913 Jose Guadalupe Posada created a zinc etching called, La Calavera Catrina that has become synonymous with the holiday. It is from this etching and holiday that Crowned Heads found inspiration for Las Calaveras.

Let’s jump into this one shall we:

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Maduro

Binder/Filler: Nicaragua

Size: 5 5/8″ x 46

MSRP: $9.75

Origin: My Father Cigar Factory in Esteli, Nicaragua

Appearance: The wrapper is a dark brown color with a reddish/orange hue in the light. It is a rustic leaf with tight seams and a lot of small veins. The black, orange and gold band works really well against the rustic leaf and dresses it nicely.

Pre-light: The cigar feels firm with no soft spots. From the barrel I pick up notes of hay, natural tobacco, pepper, cedar and earth. The foot offers a bit more pepper and earth notes. I use a straight cut and the cold draw offers a good draw with a slight resistance, notes of hay, earth, wood and pepper.

1st Third: Once I get things toasted, the initial burst is a familiar pepper note mixed with cedar, earth, and a mocha like sweetness. The pepper fades fairly quickly but is noticeable on the retrohale. The cedar, spice and sweetness blend together nicely. The draw is nice, the burn is sharp. I did develop a split down the side of the wrapper but it did not present any issues with the performance. Moving towards the end of the first third the strength is medium plus. I am getting notes of cedar, leather, earth, sweet cocoa and pepper.

2nd Third: As I make the transition into the halfway mark, the flavor profile opens up a bit more and this is what I was waiting for when I first reviewed this stick. Time definitely made a difference with this cigar. People can and will say what they want but for me the difference is night and day. The cedar notes are pronounced and a smooth caramel, mocha sweetness takes shape. The earthy notes move into more a nutty profile. The performance is still the same. No issues with the draw, the split proved to be a non issue and the burn is sharp. I am getting a lot of smoke from this cigar. The strength is medium plus to full at this point but it remains smooth.

Final third: Moving into the final third, the transition offers no real change. The flavor profile remains pretty consistent with the 2nd third. The performance is on cruise control. I still get a nice cedar, coffee/mocha/caramel, with a touch of pepper and earth. A slight bit of bitterness starts to show up as I come to the end of this one.

Final Thoughts: I am really glad that I came back to this cigar. While I didn’t find this one to be my personal favorite of the Crowned Heads releases, it certainly was better than the first one I tried. This release was overlooked on a lot of list (mine included due to circumstances) but it really has proven to be a solid smoke. To be fair, the portfolio that Crowned Heads has produced makes for some tough competition. I was super happy to see my local lounge get a box of Luminosa in yesterday! I found this years release to be a solid medium plus to full strength cigar that had a nice flavor profile, nice draw, sharp burn and maintenance free performance. I encourage you to try it and see what you think about it. Blind Man Puff put it as their number 3 cigar this year.

Crowned Heads remains one of my favorite brands and I really enjoy what they are doing with the “Set List” series. If you have not signed up to receive it, visit http://www.crownedheads.com/set-list/

If you happen to find yourself in Nashville, reach out to Jon and the team and try to stop by and visit them. They have a very cool headquarters there and they are super down to earth people.

I hope you enjoyed this review. Feel free to leave comments, questions or review request. I am happy to try new cigars anytime I get the chance. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends.

Gloria Bendita – Golden Ashes

My wife hooked me up with a cigar sampler from my friend Garrett Johnson of Smooth Draw Cigars. If you aren’t familiar with Smooth Draw, check out the feature piece I did on them recently. If you want ultra boutique cigars, this is where you go to find them. This was one that was included in my sampler. When I say ultra rare, the ONLY place you can buy this cigar in the U.S. is at https://smoothdrawcigars.com/product/gloria-bendita-golden-ashes-box-of-20/

Like many of the cigars Garrett has, I had never heard of Gloria Bendita cigars. I had to do some research and what I found was this.

“GLORIA BENDITA produce three different lines which are Golden Ashes, Connecticut and Oscura. Currently, the Connecticut line is still in production and should be available soon.
Similarly, the company offers the service of personalized cigars which gives customers the ability to create their own cigars or brands according to their requirements (blends, vitolas or sizes, etc.) no matter if you are a retailer or wholesaler.
The company started operations in the year 2015 and its factory is located in Tamboril Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. The company is represented by Mr. Xavier Fernández who is a passionate lover of the world of tobacco and cigars.
They produce about 500,000 cigars per year.
All of their cigars are long filler and manufactured in Dominican Republic entirely by hand by skilled craftsmen with the finest raw materials aged between 3.5 and 4.5 years.” (Taken from Smooth Draw Cigars website)

Let’s take a look at this cigar and see what we get shall we?

Gloria Bendita – 5 x 52 Robusto

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano

Binder/Filler: Undisclosed Dominican

Origin: Tamboril, Dominican Republic

Appearance: Dark brown wrapper with a lot of small/medium veins and tight seams. The band is gold with a light purple color and white lettering. It is a very simple, clean band but it works well with the cigar. A rounded double cap tops it off.

Pre-light: The cigar feels firm with no soft spots and is well packed. From the barrel I pick up mostly earth notes with hay and natural tobacco. From the foot I get more of the same with a light barnyard scent. I am not sure what to expect from this cigar for sure. I use a V-Cutter to split the cap and the cold draw presents a nice open draw with just a touch of resistance keeping it from being too airy. I pick up notes of hay, earth, and tobacco.

1st Third: Once I get things nice and toasted, I pick up a cocoa like sweetness, heavy cedar, and a faint pepper spice. There is almost a floral/grassy note that I cannot pinpoint. It may just be the lingering of the sweet cedar but it is a unique profile. It has a very earthy, natural feel to it. The draw is open, burn is a touch wavy, ash is holding nicely and I am getting heavy smoke production from this stick. As I move more towards the end of the 1st third the flavor really open up and presents a very tasty blend of cedar, cocoa, and a touch of spice. The strength is medium.

2nd Third: No real change during the transition. The flavor profile remains pretty consistent as I hit the halfway mark. Nothing really jumps out at you with this cigar but the flavor is very nice. It is natural and earthy but the blend works very well. I enjoy the cedar and spice with hints of sweetness here and there. The performance is on cruise control. The draw is still open, the burn is slightly wavy and the ash is holding tight. The strength is still a medium to me.

Final Third: More of the same as I finish this one off. No major changes in the blend. I don’t consider this a bad thing at all. It isn’t super complex and sometimes as a reviewer it is nice to get one that you don’t have to try and unravel and decipher. It is nice to just be able to smoke it, know what you have and enjoy it. And enjoy it I did, all the way to the nub. No burn issues, no touch ups needed, draw remained good throughout. Strength ended medium plus for me.

Final thoughts: I wan’t sure what to expect from this cigar as I knew nothing about it going in. I have seen the cigar online via Smooth Draw but other than that, there isn’t much out there about it. Once I started smoking it, it had a very straightforward flavor profile that remained consistent from start to finish. The performance was great and there was no maintenance required. Light it and enjoy it. If you want a super complex cigar, look elsewhere. This cigar offers a very nice flavor profile that doesn’t change up much at all but as I stated, is not a bad thing. I like the flavor profile and found it enjoyable. It is a natural, earthy, woodsy cigar that is easy to smoke, easy to enjoy.

I would definitely smoke this again. This would be a great cigar to pair with a cup of coffee in the morning or anytime of day.

I would love to try the Oscuro blend and see how it fairs. I encourage you to check this cigar out along with the other ultra-rare cigars offered at Smooth Draw Cigars. Be sure to tell them you read about it here.

I hope you enjoyed the review of the Gloria Bendita Golden Ashes cigar. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends.

Mbombay Gaaja Maduro Torpedo

I want to first start by apologizing to Mel Shah, owner of Bombay Tobak, for taking so long to get this done. I wanted to make sure I gave this the appropriate time to do this right. I appreciate your support and your patience.

I stumbled upon Mbombay cigars at a local shop here in North Carolina and was happy that I did. I have seen them online in a few places and have been intrigued to try them. They did not disappoint. What disappoint me was that when I went back to said shop, they were sold out! Fortunately I was able to score some and have been dying to review them. Finally that day has come. A little about Bombay Tobak before we jump in.

“Cigars, for us, are a way of life. The philosophy is simple – use the best tobaccos to make cigars of the highest quality.Our cigars aim to emulate the fabled cigar culture of Cuba. From selecting prime tobaccos to controlling the intimate details of the aging process, we take multiple factors into consideration to help produce a truly unique smoking experience. Our cigars are hand-rolled in Costa Rica by some of the most experienced hands in the industry and feature intricate bands representative of the artistic nature of our craft.MBombay was born at the hands of a former IT professional turned cigar store owner with a passion for tobacco. We apply that same attention to detail to each and every cigar, and have spent countless hours working to procure the finest tobaccos and produce a unique line of high-quality products.If asked why we began this journey, simply put – we felt something was missing. At Bombay Tobak, we concentrate on aging, proper fermentation, and the importance of patience. Using prime tobaccos and a process of experimentation, we’ve discovered creative processes to produce impeccable cigars at a reasonable price point. In a world of online discounts and freebie offers, we decided to walk a different path.We hope you’ll join us.” (Taken from the Bombay Tobak website)

Pronounced Gaa-ya, the Gaaja Maduro is available in 2 vitolas:

Maduro Torpedo (6 1/2 x 54) —$15.50 (Boxes of 10, $155)

MBombay Gaaja Maduro Toro (6 x 54) —$15.50 (Boxes of 10, $155)

Let’s jump into this one and see how it does.

Mbombay Gaaja Maduro Torpedo 6 1/2 x 54 MSRP $15.50

Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina

Binder: Ecuadorian Mata Fina

Filler: Dominican Criollo 98 Viso, Dominican HVA Mejorado Ligero, Ecuadorian Criollo 98 Viso, Paraguayan Hybri 2000 Viso, and Peruvian Hybrid Habano

Country of Origin: Costa Rica

Whew! That’s a ton of different tobacco! No wonder the original blend was a 4 year process!

Appearance: This is a beautiful box press cigar with a dark brown wrapper with very tight seams and small veins. The band really stands out against the silky smooth wrapper and gives it a very nice appearance.

Pre-light: The cigar feels firm with no soft spots but feels fairly light in the hand. The box press really works well and feels nice when you hold it. From the wrapper I pick up notes of natural tobacco, earth and a faint cocoa. From the foot I pick up wood, earth and hay. I use a straight cut and the cold draw offers a slight resistance but it is near perfect. I get notes of wood, straw, pepper and a light sweetness. It’s certainly intriguing. Let’s get flame to this and see what we get.

1st Third: Right out of the gate I get a ton of cedar, a cocoa/mocha note, some pepper and a floral, almost grassy note. Very interesting blend to say the least. As I move about 1/4 inch in, I pick up some spice, cedar, earth and pepper. The floral note is subdued but certainly still there. I cannot pinpoint what it is but it brings a unique flavor to the palate. The draw is perfect, not tight, not airy. I am getting huge clouds of thick white smoke from each puff. The burn line has a slight wave to it with a small ash flake. I am very intrigued with the flavor profile. Strength is a solid medium.

2nd Third: As I move into the halfway point a nice creamy cocoa/dark chocolate note appears, the pepper and cedar are a bit more subtle but still linger in the background. This is a creamy, smooth cigar with a ton of flavors. Burn is on cruise control. A bit wavy but nothing requiring a touch-up at this point. Performance is still excellent. Ash holds for about 3/4 of an inch. The chocolate, coffee notes really take shape with the pepper and cedar keeping the profile balanced. I am really enjoying this smoke.

Final Third: Another interesting transition as we head to the finish. The cedar and pepper take the front of the profile. The chocolate is more of a mocha/espresso type flavor. Although the flavors have switched up from time to time, the cigar remains balanced and nothing really jumps off the charts as far as changes. It all just works. The blend flows beautifully from third to third and certainly makes it interesting. The wavy burn worked itself out without and is slightly crooked but no issues at all. The draw remained perfect and the smoke production was the same as the first third. I had some flaking from the ash but nothing terrible.

As I come to the end of this cigar I am left still intrigued by it. It is certainly complex but remained smooth and never got above a medium – medium plus in strength.

Final thoughts: I really liked this cigar. It is a beautiful cigar that is very complex but stays smooth and enjoyable. I don’t think new smokers would pick up on the complexity of this cigar so I recommend this for experienced palates. It is a full medium to medium plus but is packed with flavor. This one will keep you intrigued. This was my first time with this cigar and I look forward to trying it again when I can sit down and just enjoy it. I paired this with water as I always do when I try a new cigar but this would pair nicely with a number of spirits. I am not sure I would go with anything super heavy as it would likely overpower the flavors in the cigar but I could see it going nicely with a nice port wine and perhaps a dessert whiskey like Bastille.

I recommend trying this cigar and see what you think. For me, I will certainly purchase more. The sticker price is a bit of a shocker until you fully understand what makes this cigar. This was a 4 year process with the finest tobacco from 5 different countries. I could see this cigar going for more and it would be worth it.

Mbombay has been under the radar for most people for awhile and I hope reviews like this one help to shine some light on a great brand making some incredible cigars.

I hope you enjoyed my take on the Mbombay Gaaja Maduro. Until next time…long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace.

Hand Rolled. A film about cigars

I am hoping that if you are reading this, you have watched the trailer and I ask that you share this on all of your social media platforms. Copy the link and help me get the word out. This project is about more than cigars. It is about something much bigger. The government of the United States is attempting to pass regulations that would have WORLDWIDE ramifications. We are not just talking about businesses and jobs in the US, but all across the world. If you are in the cigar world you know what I am talking about. If you don’t and you enjoy having the ability to walk into a cigar shop and pick out a cigar and enjoy it, then you need to do some homework.

This project is not just about the FDA but also about educating people of the history, industry and culture that we all know and love. They can’t do it alone. I met Pete Johnson at a CI and Famous event and we talked about this film and the importance of it. Pete and his companies believe in this project so much that they are helping in a number of ways to make it happen. If you have a cigar company and can help in anyway, I would ask that you reach out to these guys and get involved now. (If you are interested in a larger investment, please contact steve@handrolledmovie.com)

As consumers, we can help by supporting them on social media, getting the word out, purchasing merchandise through their online store and by simply donating. Click the links below to get involved.

Check it out here:

http://www.handrolledmovie.com/donate/

http://www.handrolledmovie.com/gear/

No donation is too small.

Something we all enjoy and love is being threatened by people that do not understand the very thing they are trying to regulate out of existence .

You can also join the fight by supporting Cigar Rights of America.

https://www.cigarrights.org/

At the end of the day we have the choice to sit idle and complain, wonder and guess. Or we can take action and have our voices heard. Contact your state representatives and congressmen and tell them you do not support what is going on. Invite them to come to your local cigar lounge and get educated on the subject so they can at least have some knowledge before making a decision they don’t understand. Cigars are not a Food nor are they a Drug so the FDA has no business adding us to this group.

The boutique cigar companies have the most to loose in all of this and I encourage all of them to get involved with Dr. Gaby Kafie and the Boutique Cigar Association of America. Collectively you can make a difference. For more information please check out :

https://www.boutiquecigarassociationofamerica.com

Again, I ask that you share this from time to time and help me get the word out. Please check out all of the links I have attached and support those that you can. Thanks for reading and sharing.

Together we can make a difference. Long ashes and full glasses friends. Cheers.

Very Superstitious…Black Cat by Felix Assouline

I was a little late to the party at getting my hands on these but my friend Felix hooked me up this week as he always does. The man knows cigars and customer service for sure. I have reviewed Felix Assouline Cigars in the past and I have been a fan of his work every since. As I patiently await his next release, today we take a look at the Black Cat Habano. (Also available in a Connecticut version)

“The Toro 6×54 Honduran Jamastran Habano wrapper Habano with Honduran Jamastran and Nicaraguan fillers are carefully blended for a medium to full smoke. An incredible smoke at any price at any time of the day.

The Toro 6×54 Ecuador Connecticut wrapper with Honduran Jamastran and Nicaraguan Jalapa fillers are carefully blended for a sweet mild to medium body smoke. Great to start the day or at any time.” Felix Assouline (http://felixassouline.com/)

Black Cat – Habano

Blend Profile: 

Wrapper: Honduran Jamastran Habano

Filler: Honduran and Nicaraguan

Binder: Not disclosed

Size: 6 x 54 Toro

Appearance: This cigar presents a dark, reddish brown wrapper with a colorful band featuring a black cat with an Egyptian feel and ornate design. It is firm with no soft spots, medium veins and a tight seam, open foot and triple cap to round off the top.

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Pre-Light: I pick up heavy notes of barnyard, hay, wood and some pepper. From the foot I pick up more of the same with a unique sweetness I cannot put my finger on. I use a V-cutter to open things up and from the cold draw I find a nice open draw and notes of earth, tobacco, wood and a hint of sweetness.

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First Third: Jumping right in I used a wooden match to toast the foot and take a couple of puffs to draw in the flame. Right away I get a heavy note of what I can only describe as grass or wet hay, smokey wood, and a hint of spice and pepper. This is a very “natural” blend meaning it has a very nature based profile of grass, earth, wood and leather. As I move into it a bit more, I start to pick up a blend of different wood flavors coming together. Mostly cedar, hickory and maybe a hint of mesquite. This is a smooth cigar with a nice draw that offers just the right amount of resistance. The burn is slightly wavy all the way around and the ash is holding tight for the first inch. Good smoke production coming off of both ends and mild to medium strength.

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Second Third: As I transition into the half way mark there is not much change. Consistent, good flavor and nothing radically changes. I do start to pick up more of a nuttier, smokey wood, leather, grassy blend with a slight coffee bitterness. The little hint of pepper I had has faded away (I am a little disappointed as I am a spice guy but that’s strictly personal preference). This cigar is performing nicely with a solid, slightly wavy burn, nice smoke production and an open draw. There is a familiarity with the blend and I believe the link to the other FAC cigars I have tried is the Jamastran tobacco. It is very distinct and offers a very unique taste on my palate. I am picking up heavy cedar, grass, coffee hints mixed with earth and leather notes.

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Final Third: I will not say that I transition into the final third as nothing has changed. This is a very consistent cigar with subtle shifts in flavors here and there. The slight bitterness I pick up is more of a dark chocolate as opposed to coffee beans at this point. The performance has remained steady and unwavering throughout. I am a bit surprised at how consistent the blend has remained from start to finish. The blend is good through and through and it stayed very smooth and finished at a solid medium strength for me.

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Final Thoughts: Another great cigar produced by Felix Assouline Cigars. As I said, this is a very “Natural” cigar with a lot of earthy profiles. I found it to be woodsy, grassy, earthy, with some nuttiness, leather, coffee, dark chocolate and hints of pepper.

These are very limited and the Connecticut version is already sold out so if you plan to try these, order today. I am glad I have 4 left and 1 Connecticut to review. I want to age these a bit and see if the complexity changes some. Overall, I enjoyed my 1 hour 45 minutes with this cigar. I was rudely interrupted by a short rain shower which cut off about 10 minutes. Curse you Mother Nature!

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There you have it. I hope you enjoyed my review of the Black Cat. If you order, please let Felix know you read the review. He is great at staying in touch with his clients and is a great guy. Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, or reviews here as always. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace

“The purpose of this review is to provide a true, honest opinion based on my own experience. I am under no obligation to provide favorable feedback for this product and receive no compensation for doing so. This cigar was purchased by me, for my own enjoyment.”

 

2016 Top Cigar List. And the problem with them.

Its that time again. Yep, now is the time for everyone to publish their top however many cigars of the year. I read through them, and without a doubt there are some really great cigars that make those list. My biggest problem with them however, is that virtually no one includes boutiques on this list! Seriously? How can anyone simply leave these terrific cigars out of the competition? Money. Plain and simple. I am not going to call out publications or other platforms by name because that isn’t my style, and as a consumer, and an Ambassador for CRA I have to be very politically correct because I could potentially have interactions with some of them.

I know that to be included for consideration or even featured in some publications, manufactures are faced with hefty fees, some I have heard are around the $25,000 mark. If anyone wants to send me a check for 10% of that, well, we can talk about making you #1 on my list as well. Money talks right? Wrong. I do not accept money, but I will gladly accept cigars to review and give my unbiased opinion on. Don’t judge me.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the top 25 that I have seen truly have some great sticks that are deserving of those kind of accolades, but to leave out boutiques is really unfair to not only the manufacturer, but even more so to the very people that read these list. As a consumer you should really find blogs and sites that offer a wider look into cigars. Some people could very well say that I am doing the exact same thing because I typically only feature boutiques on my blog. I wouldn’t say that you are wrong. I would simply say that this is a choice I have made to give smaller companies that cannot fund huge marketing campaigns and feature pages in the big publications a platform. The reason behind this is simple. If you want to read about big cigar brands, a simple web search will provide you with countless reviews and articles about almost any big brand you want. But if you want to read an unbiased look into lesser known cigars, brands and the people behind them, well you have to come to a place like this.

The other thing that I find amusing, but also annoying is the sheepeople posting photo after photo of them with the Top Cigar of 2016. We have all seen it, especially over the past few days. I have never been a big fan of bandwagons because it looks really silly when you fall off of them. It’s so funny to see the numerous post of the flavor of the day and in 3 months time, you never see them smoking it again. If it was so great, why don’t you have more than that 1? I guess I just don’t fit the mold of needing to be part of the “in crowd”. It’s great for the cigar company however, so smoke on and hashtag away with #1cigar and #topof2016, and most of all enjoy your cigar.

So the dilemma is, to do a top 2016 list or not. For the purpose of the blog I feel a strong obligation to do one, but at the same time, I feel there have been so many great cigars put out by so many great brands and I have enjoyed so many, how do I even begin?

I played with the idea of including viewers Top 10 list and I would love to see what cigars top your list. For the purpose of the blog, I have decided that I will list the top brands I have enjoyed this year. I will not limit it to a particular cigar because many of the cigars I loved over the past year did not get released this year.

So here we go with mixed emotions I present my Top Boutique Brands for 2016.

#10 Balmoral: This one was tough to put into this list. I have only had the Anejo XO and it was one of the best cigars I have tried period. Hands down, this 18 year aged work of art is outstanding. Because I only had this one, I had to put it lower on my list of brands but for single cigars it is easy top 5.

#9 Ezra Zion: I have more to try from them, but the cigars I have tried are all great cigars. All my Ex’s, Tantrum PA and the FHK, were very impressive. Perfectly constructed and great blends. I see myself trying more of these soon.

#8 1502 Cigars: This is a brand I tried later in the year and I must say that I was very impressed with them. The Ruby, Black Gold, Emerald were all very good. I have a Blue Sapphire in the humidor waiting for the right time to try it. I can see these becoming a part of my regular rotation.

#7 Nomad: From Fred Rewey and the Fabrica Oveja Negra factory (Black Label Trading/Black Works Studio) The Martial Law and the C-276 are outstanding cigars.

#6 Nat Sherman: This was an under the radar brand for me. I saw a few things about them from time to time but never decided to pick any up. I went into a local shop and they had the, so I inquired and purchased. Once I smoked one, I knew I had to try others and that I did. Very good brand and everything I have tried, I have truly enjoyed. Great smokes.

#5 Leaf by Oscar: From the famous Leaf and Bean in Pittsburg, the Oscar brand was by far some of the most enjoyable sticks I tried all year. The original 4 were the Maduro, Sumatra, Corojo, and Connecticut were terrific. Most recently the Oscar Habano hit the market and it was everything the first 4 were but turned up a notch.

#4 Crowned Heads: This one was tough because I am very partial to this brand. There are so many great cigars that Jon Huber and crew have put out over the past few years, many of which I have either a box or 5 pack samplers of. I love the feel of this brand, the stories behind the names, and the cigars themselves. They have teamed with My Fathers Cigars for a few sticks recently and they are really great. I will say that I have many Crowned Heads in the humidor and they are very much a BIG part of my regular rotation.

#3 Black Label Trading Company: From James and Angela Brown and the Fabrica Oveja Negra factory, this is a brand that I am truly a fan of. I stumbled upon their website one day and fell in love with the dark, edgy vibe that came from them. I sought out numerous shops to find them and once I did, I haven’t looked back. With the recent additions to their lineup, I am more of a fan today and they have a shelf in my humidor dedicated to their cigars. Last Rites, Santa Muerte, Lawless and the highly rated (although excluded from all major list) Bishops Blend sealed the deal this year. If you told me I had to pick a top cigar from 2016 the Bishops Blend would likely take that spot.

#2 Black Works Studio: Until very recently this was my number one brand and I never thought any brand would top it this year. The cigars coming out under this label are truly outstanding and the flavors being blended are mind-numbing. The Green Hornet, NBK, Killer Bee, and Rorschach are unique, flavorful blends that I truly love. All of these cigars are some of my favorite sticks from this year.

#1 Felix Assouline Cigars: Who? Yeah, that’s what I said a few weeks ago. And then I placed an order and Felix reached out to me to let me know the online store was down and he would personally take care of my order. True customer service and what a great guy. Then I got my cigars. Beautiful, hand crafted works of art. The quality and construction of each one was top notch. Then I put flame to foot and WOW! The tobaccos he uses in his cigars rival anything on the market. He included a 17 year aged cigar from his private stock for my “troubles” with the online store and if you haven’t read the review of the CSB Vintage Habano, check it out. Hands down the best cigar I have had. I still have a few more from his portfolio to try and review but the 5 I had (CSB, 2 Saints, Ego, Havana Sunrise Reserve, and the CSB Vintage) although very different, each were on a different level. I cannot say enough about these cigars. As much as I love the other brands I listed, the bar was raised with these. I am 100% sold that everything Felix puts out is world class and I am excited about things to come from FAC. Rumor has it something could be in the works soon. Stay tuned…

So there it is. MY personal opinion about the top brands I enjoyed. Personally I would take a cigar from any on this list and compare it to the big brands in a blind test and I think people would be very surprised at the outcome. Do not sleep on these boutiques! You are missing out on some of the best cigars on the market.

Hope you enjoyed the read. Please drop your comments and your list for everyone to review. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses. Peace!

Cigar Review. Ezra Zion FHK

Admittedly, Ezra Zion is a brand that is fairly new to me. Not to say that I haven’t tried some of their other cigars (Tantrum Pa and All My Ex’s) were both very good cigars but I did not review them at the time of enjoying them. I will eventually go back and do that for sure. After having the 2 previously mentioned sticks, I was impressed enough to pick up the FHK without knowing anything about it. I ordered this through the great folks at www.cigarfederation.com/store with a few other brands that were unfamiliar to me. Couldn’t beat the price and the free shipping at the time.

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The Ezra Zion FHK (Fathers of Hoover and Kelly) pays tribute to the 2 owners fathers which I respect and tells you a bit about who they are. I have not been in contact with them other than brief likes and comments on social media but researching the brand reveals a lot of great comments and reviews. This cigar is available in 4 different sizes. I had the box pressed 6 x 52 Belicoso. This cigar features a Mexican San Andreas wrapper with an Indonesian binder and Brazilian/Indonesian filler.

First impression is that this is a beautiful cigar. The dark brown wrapper has small veins and barely visible seams. There are 2 bands on this cigar. Both are black and gold and add a touch of elegance to the cigar. I picked up notes of wood, barnyard, leather and coffee from the foot. This wasn’t a very fragrant cigar and initially I didn’t pick up much from the cigar until I cut the cap. I used a straight guillotine cut and lit it with a match. I did touch it up with a dual flame to get it nice and toasted.

Right off the bat the draw was extremely tight and this continued to be a problem from start to finish. This almost always ruins the review process but I stuck with it. I got very little air through it, and the smoke production was almost zero. This surprised me because I know that Ezra Zion is known for it’s quality and construction. That being said, I have had bad draws from almost every cigar manufacture I have tried and these things happen. It makes for a frustrating experience but the show must go on right?

The initial notes I picked up were primarily woodsy, leather, a little pepper and a dark chocolate bitterness. Not bitterness in the sense of bad, but the bitterness that is found in rich, dark chocolate which I enjoy a lot. I fought through the draw with multiple small, quick puffs and finally got a bit of smoke to flow. I broke down and ran a draw poker through it and not much changed unfortunately. As I continued through the first third, the blend stayed pretty much the same without any radical changes in flavors. This was not a bad thing as the blend was flavorful and smooth. The ash held tight for over 1 inch and the burn was almost perfect. I was inside my garage with the heater blowing and it had little effect on the performance. Take that away and I would say the burn would be razor sharp and even all the way around.

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As I started into the second third, I picked up some subtle variations with a little more of the chocolate, maybe even coffee notes, with some pepper and the same woodsy flavor from the start. It is medium in strength and is very smooth. Nothing harsh and the profile is very consistent with a few shifts. The draw opened up for a bit and was a nice change from trying to suck the ash through the cap, but sadly returned to being tight again shortly after. I ran the poker through it again and it helped a little.

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As I started the final third, the draw finally broke and made the last bit of this cigar very enjoyable. I was able to pick up more of the pepper notes which blended well with the wood, leather and coffee. I read other reviews that claimed to pick up a ton of different notes that I certainly didn’t but that doesn’t mean much. We all taste things differently.

Overall, taking the tight draw out of the equation, this was a very good cigar. I enjoyed the blends a lot and I am a fan of the woodsy flavor that holds throughout the entire 1 hour 50 minutes. The strength increased a little in the final third but this could be due to the tight draw opening up and allowing more flow. This is a great cigar for beginners who want to increase their palates and move into a more complex blend. I also think that experienced smokers would enjoy this cigar. It isn’t super complex and there are no huge shifts in flavors but it is interesting enough to hold your attention.

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I would smoke this cigar again and I think it is certainly a cigar that I would be comfortable buying a 5 pack of. The appearance, construction and burn on this cigar was top notch. Another solid stick from Ezra Zion.

As you can see from the last 2 pics, the draw opened up and I smoked this stick to a nub.

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How do you define a truly great cigar…Part 2

I wanted to do a short follow up piece to the one I did a few days back. When it comes to cigars, every person will experience every cigar differently. This is a wonderful part of enjoying cigars. There is something intriguing about the entire process of cigars when you stop to truly think about it. The product in your hand represents a lot of different things that started in a field and grew into a wonderful plant that was harvested and through a very long process, sometimes involving years and years of trial and error and attention to every detail, carefully rolled by very talented and skilled individuals, packaged and shipped from other countries and making its way onto the shelf of your local humidor and kept under ideal conditions before finally making its way to you. The people that make cigars have dedicated their lives to this process. Some have been in the family business for generations, while others came into cigars some way or the other and set their own path to start a brand and make their own cigars. That takes a lot of courage, commitment, time, and money. When I look at a cigar I see a work of art. With so many people smoking cigars, every stick they put out means their name and reputation is on the line. Not to mention, people like myself that take the time to review and critique everything from looks, to taste, to performance, to packaging. It’s a tough business and with the new FDA regulations, things have only gotten tougher. Hopefully we can reverse course on this soon but who knows.

From a consumer standpoint, there is no better time to try so many amazing cigars. I have never had a true Cuban cigar, and honestly I don’t care if I ever do. Why? Because we have so many great cigars already on the market here. Because they have been the “forbidden fruit” for so long, there is such a huge interest in them. I won’t say I would never smoke one if given the chance but I really am fine if I never do. I have found a handful of boutique brands that I have in my rotation and that list continues to grow. My hope is that by doing reviews, others can take that information to their local shop and make an educated decision to purchase without having to guess and wonder about it. How many sticks did I drop good money on because the guy behind the counter said, “this is a great smoke” mostly because that is the newest thing on the market and you see all the pretty ads hyping them in the magazines and online. They aren’t always wrong, and I am sure there are people out there that would 100% agree. They tried it and they loved it.

At the end of the day, what makes a cigar truly great is…you. You can read every review and all the different things other people say they tasted and the experience they had but ultimately it comes down to your personal taste. Many things go into a cigar review. When I review a cigar, I am almost ritualistic in my approach. I will not review a cigar when I am with other people or in a lounge/bar setting. Too many factors can change the experience. And I have found that something as simple as having a few of the same cigars in the humidor and doing a review on one, coming back to it weeks or months later, it is completely different. Time and aging, seasoning if you will, changes the entire profile from what you remember. Another huge factor about cigars is the atmosphere and mood around you. Everything is better when you are having a great night out with friends and/or family. Drinks may be flowing, your favorite music is on, everyone is laughing and having a great time. My money says that you will likely enjoy any cigar you happen to be smoking. I am willing to bet that under those conditions, cigars that I didn’t care for much in a review would be completely different at that moment.

There are days when the world has thrown shit at me all day and shows no sign of stopping. That is probably not the best time for me to give a non-biased, truthful review. So I pick up something I know I have enjoyed greatly before and is a proven go-to for me, pair it with a nice drink of choice and tell the world, “You can pick this back up later, but for now, Fuck you, this is MY time and I will enjoy this”. And it always works. When you find cigars that can do that…You my friend, have found your truly great cigar.

Until next time. Long ashes and full glasses. Peace.

Las Mareas…The Tides.

I’ve tried surfing a couple of times in my life when I lived in Eastern Alabama or as most people refer to it Pensacola Florida. I can tell you that the beaches there are not know for their huge waves but it was a nice thing to try now and again. I can certainly understand how people get passionate about it.

If you know anything about Crowned Heads cigars and Jon Huber, you know that cigars is certainly a passion for him. Many of their cigars are named from inspiration, be it music, places or in this case, surfing.

The Crowned Heads Las Mareas is made in the My Fathers Cigars factory in Nicaragua. This cigar features tobaccos from the Garcia family farms in and around Esteli, Nicaragua. The wrapper is Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 with Nicaraguan binder and filler. I have the tuberia 4 1/2 x 48 size but it is available in 4 sizes.

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The cigar has a rustic look with a black band with white writing which contrast nicely with the brown of the wrapper. It is well constructed and looks great. From the foot I was able to pick up some earth tones with light hints of straw and leather. I used a straight cut and the cold draw was good with little resistance and notes of wood and hay.

I used good old wooden matches to get things moving and the first draw brought notes of cedar, some pepper and a sort of floral flavor that I can’t quite pinpoint. I am getting a nice amount of smoke off of this cigar. First third is a solid medium in strength and flavor. Nothing too complex but very smooth.

The second third I get a little more cedar notes with leather, grain and a hint of chocolate or cocoa. The flavor profile is enjoyable, nothing really complex or over the top but smooth and creamy.

The final third really brought more of the same until the very end of the cigar where the spice really came back to the forefront and finished strong. Nothing to harsh but certainly noticeable.

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Overall, I enjoyed the Las Mareas by Crowned Heads. This was a solid cigar that took me just over 1 hour and 10 minutes to finish. I only had water while trying this stick but I think it would pair nicely with a nice bourbon or rum. The spice from either would compliment this cigar well. I have a couple of the other sizes in my humidor and look forward to seeing how they compare.

I would say this is a good medium-full bodied cigar that is worth trying. Another solid cigar from Crowned Heads.

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EGO…Good or Bad? Find out here

What is an Ego? By definition it’s a person’s sense of self esteem or self-importance. We all know someone that has strong ego and it’s pretty much seen in a negative light by others around them. Not often does the word carry a positive connotation. Sometimes we could all use an ego boost or have someone stroke our ego. When it happens, you feel great, you feel a lift in your spirit, and overall demeanor.

When I saw the EGO cigar from Felix Assouline, I thought man that is ballsy. It takes a strong belief in a product to associate it with something often seen in a negative light and seen as cocky or arrogant. Sometimes you are just very confident and it comes across in the wrong way. I decided to keep an open mind when I purchased this stick. I was intrigued by the name and I wanted to see what it was all about. It was either going to silence the critics in my head or prove them right. Don’t judge me, you have those same voices in your head. If you say you don’t, one of you is a liar! 🙂

I decided to save the EGO Spirit for last. No real reason for it, it sorta just played out that way. This is the last of the bunch that I purchased and obviously this will be the last review of the brand until I get the Ringo and Something Special in my possession. I will say that everything I tried was absolutely top notch and FAC is doing it right!

So without further ado, let’s spark this EGO and see what we get…

The Spirit is a 6 1/2 X 54 (Belicoso) box pressed Nicaraguan cigar with a Habano Criollo 98 wrapper, Indonesian binder, and filler from Honduras and Nicaragua. It is available in 7 sizes and priced between $1.96 (Shot) and $10.30 (Passion).

The cigar is simply an elegant looking cigar. The box press is very nice, the color is a rustic, reddish brown with some nice veins. There was a minor defect in the wrapper (you may see in the photos) that was visible but had 0 impact on this cigar or the performance. The band is really nice. The red and gold really stand out and it has an Indian feel to the artwork. With the Indonesian binder, it fits for sure.

From the foot I pick up heavy barnyard notes, with a mix hay, cedar and cocoa (almost a dark chocolate). I use a straight guillotine cut and only matches to get this one started. (It was so cold out that the butane in my lighter would not ignite)

Immediately I am flooded with a woodsy, cedar like flavor, spice and cocoa. The Jamastran and Jalapa come through nicely. If you are familiar with Felix Assouline, these tobaccos are noticeable standouts throughout the portfolio. The process he uses to age these tobaccos are something I have only tasted in his lineup. No other cigar that I am aware of taste anything like this. I am a big fan of the flavor profile it gives to his cigars. That being said, they are on display nicely in this blend. It almost has a cedar, pine or evergreen flavor and I cannot pinpoint it but its distinct and it is good! The draw is perfect and the burn is straight and even (until I cranked up the heater in the garage and the swirling hot and cold air mixture created a small issue as you see in the pic). The ash hangs on through the first third and falls off with a little encouragement.

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As I transaction into the second third, the pepper and spice are on display but not harsh at all. The dark chocolate profile ramps up a bit and this settles into a nice medium strength with a medium-full flavor profile. The cigar is performing nicely and even under extreme cold and swirling winds from a propane heater blowing hot air all around the garage, I only have some minor shifts in the burn line. The flavor profile is complex enough to make it very interesting. I am about 45 minutes in at this point and so far, another great cigar. I am starting to think that Felix might just know a thing or two about making great cigars. 🙂

When I review a cigar for the first time I typically only “pair” it with water because I like to get a feel for the cigar and only the cigar. As I transitioned into the final third, I decided to take a chance (and because it was freezing outside) to break out some Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon and see how things changed.

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The cigar changed back to more of the pepper and spice with some earthy tones and a creamy smoothness but with more of a cinnamon or nutmeg spice addition. When I added some bourbon into the mix things got very interesting. The pepper notes flooded my taste buds and it really amped up the spice in the bourbon. Things got hot but I wasn’t complaining. I am a fan of hot and spicy things but not to the point of pain like people that love having tears in their eyes from peppers. Being from Louisiana, cayenne pepper and flavor are a part of what we do with everything.

The more I got into the final third, things calmed down and the sweetness took the forefront and really leveled out the heat from the bourbon. The draw stayed perfect throughout the entire smoke and the burn (had it not been for the swirling air being forced around by the heater) stayed relatively even. Take away the heater and the burn stays even throughout. The ash held for each third and I needed no touchups at all.

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Overall, this was a very good cigar and worthy of its name. This is a cigar I would smoke on a regular and a great addition to any rotation. It was roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes total and I enjoyed my time with it. I am curious to try the other sizes as I have heard others say they got more of the sweetness from one of the others making it almost a dessert cigar. I did not find that in this one but I could easily see it as there are certainly notes of it to be found.

After 5 wonderful cigars from Felix Assouline Cigars, I can say without a doubt that I am sold on the brands. I have 2 others left to try and I want to try these same 5 in different sizes for sure. For me, FAC belongs in the top 3 of my all time favorite cigar brands. I encourage all of you to follow them on social media and visit the website. Make sure you let them know you heard about them on the blog and feel free to come back here and leave your comments, photos and reviews. I would love to hear what you think about all of the cigars I review. I hope you enjoyed it.

Don’t be afraid to put your EGO on display and share it with the world! Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace!

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