Felix Assouline Cigars…II Saints Review

 

Who is Felix Assouline you ask?

Felix Assouline (Taken from their website)

Felix first started out in the cigar business in 1997 on the retail side. His first store in Dania Beach, Florida sold all the premium brands and launched him into 3 additional stores in South Florida over a 6 year span. During that time he also ran a successful wholesale cigar business. Felix’s passion for a great smoking cigar drove him to try every cigar he possible could and as he did, he developed an intricate knowledge of cigar construction and how different leaves affected the flavor of the cigar.

With that insight, Felix opened his own factory in Danli, Honduras in 2004 and began making his own cigars. Felix introduced 2 successful brands, one of which being the original EGO, which received a 90 rating in Smoke Magazine in the September 2006 issue.

In 2007, Felix decided to sell everything and focus all his attention on his greatest love, his family. After enjoying incredible family moments for 6 years, he decided it was time to get back into the cigar business. This time, Felix wanted to focus all his efforts on fulfilling a dream of creating his own blends to achieve one goal: create the best premium cigars on the market…

The story is much more involved and I hope to do a spotlight on Felix and FAC in the upcoming weeks but for now I want to spend some time on reviewing a few of their world class cigars.

I was told about FAC through a BOTL on social media and he spoke very highly of all of their cigars. As life got busy I sort of forgot about them until I saw a post online for the II Saints cigar. Felix replied to one of my comments and directed me to the online store which happened to be down that day. We struck up a conversation and I placed an order via DM and we have chatted a couple of times since. Felix is a great man and very down to earth. I received my order yesterday and could not wait to try them all. First thing I noticed was the construction of the cigars. These are some of the most well constructed cigars I have seen. Right away you can see the quality of the cigar and the artwork of not only the bands but the sticks themselves.

I decided to try the cigar that sparked my interest in the first place, the II Saints. This cigar is available in 5 sizes but I chose one in particular and for a very specific reason. The La Petite Mort 5 x 52. Why you ask? If any of you follow me online you know that I am a music head. I love all types of music (well mostly) and if you are fans of Metal you may have heard of a band from Flint called King 810. Their sophomore album is titled La Petite Mort or A Conversation With God. For that reason alone I had to go with it. I exchanged a couple of messages with Felix and he asked me if I knew what La Petite Mort meant in French and I said yes and told him. He said “Yes, but the French use it in a much different way”. I found that it means “the brief loss or weakening of consciousness” and in modern usage refers specifically to “the sensation of orgasm as likened to death”. The expression comes from French, in which it literally means “the little death”. When you smoke this cigar in this votive you will clearly appreciate this history lesson. LOL.

Made in Nicaragua the II Saints features a beautiful dark brown Jamastran Criollo 98 wrapper with a Jamastran binder and Jamastran / Jalapa filler. Never heard of Jamastran? I hadn’t either so here is a little info on that.

“II Saints is produced in our factory in Esteli, Nicaragua with Tobaccos grown from our farm in Jamastran, Honduras.
The valley in Jamastran is known for its flavorful tobaccos which feature a sweetness and strength inherent in each puff. II Saints Cigars are all box pressed like most of our brands. II Saints feature a Lijero dark wrapper marking the cigar as a unique find in the cigar world.”

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So before I get too far into this let me preface this by saying that I had every intent of giving a detailed review on this cigar, however…Apparently my palate needs some serious work and expansion because this cigar was unlike ANYTHING I have ever tasted before. Holy     $!#@. As you can see from the photos, the cigar is a beautiful dark brown with an awesome band (shown above credit halfwheel) and it smells of barnyard hay, earth and a faint sweetness. I used a Xikar guillotine cut and matches to get it started, finished with a Xikar dual flame to finish. The first draw hit the me with a ton of flavor. There were certainly notes that I have had in other Nicaraguan cigars but the Jamastran adds and different level to this cigar. I can’t pinpoint what it is or really how to explain it so you just have to try it for yourself. There is a spice that hits the tongue and lingers for awhile but is balanced by a sweetness that makes it creamy and smooth. It is certainly full bodied and full flavor for sure. I was surprised at how complex and different this cigar truly was. As I made my way through the first third, the flavor remained the same throughout. Tons of flavor, sharp burn line, draw was good with a bit of resistance, and a good amount of white smoke.

As I moved into the second third, it turned just a bit to more of a woodsy/spicy blend. I didn’t pick up as much sweetness but the flavor was still complex and kept me interested. Ash held for more than 1 inch before I initially dropped it. I was in my garage with the heat on due to the cold weather and the cigar seemed to need that extra air to keep it going. The burn line stayed completely even throughout the cigar which demonstrates the quality of the construction of this cigar.

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Moving to the final third of this beauty and it stayed true to the first 2 thirds. A bit of the sweetness returned and the flavor never truly changed but it was complex enough to remain enjoyable for the entire smoke.

Warning: I found myself not wanting to put it down for long trying to figure out what I was tasting and I will say this, as a medium to full bodied smoker, this cigar does pack a punch and will test you if you are not use to full bodied smokes. Take your time with it. You have been warned. I did not get sick but this stick is very capable of it if you rush it or are not use to a smoke this strong.

Final thoughts. I really enjoyed this cigar. It was full bodied and has a lot of flavor from start to finish. I smoked this cigar down to less than 1 inch and the flavor profile remained true to the end. The blend is complex and tasty and people with a more experienced palate may be able to pinpoint all of the flavors, I could not. I will say that the Jamastran / Jalapa filler adds a level of flavor that sets this cigar apart from anything I have tried and I was not the least bit upset by that. I would recommend this cigar to anyone. Felix Assouline has a reputation of making World Class Cigars and I have heard this from many people I respect in the community. Again, proceed with caution on this one as far as strength goes but it is a Box worthy smoke for me for sure.

Hope you enjoyed the review and as always, I welcome comments, other reviews, questions etc. Now the challenge is, which one to try next? Felix sent me a special gift and asked me to review it so maybe we go with that one next. As always with cigars, so many great choices, so little time to smoke them all! I can think of worse problems. Have a great one folks. Peace!

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It’s not a cigar…It’s a 1502

I  heard the brand 1502 being talked about in a few shops and online but I had never gotten the opportunity to try them. After exchanging a few comments with Enrique of 1502 on social media and placing an order through Cigar Federation, I finally had the opportunity to try 2 from their line-up.

First up was the 1502 Emerald. 6.5 x 52 box pressed torpedo. Made by Global Premium Cigars  Country of Origin: Nicaragua Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Corojo Binder: Nicaraguan Filler: Nicaraguan (Esteli, Condega) & Mexican (San Andreas)

Looking at the cigar it is caramel brown in color with a nice Emerald green (duh) and gold wrapper, and had minimal veins and super tight seams. I picked up notes of pepper and wood from the foot. Straight cut and match to start the burn, touched up with a dual flame torch.

The draw was very nice with a touch of resistance and produced a lot of smoke. Pepper (maybe a mix of black pepper and cedar) mixed with a coffee or cocoa blend hit my palate. As I move through the first third, I find the cocoa has a slight dark chocolate bitterness (in the good dark chocolate way) that evens out the pepper and spice nicely.

Going into the second third, the earthy, spice (cedar and pepper) take over and remained through the final third of this cigar. I found this to be a nice smooth blend throughout the entire cigar and it was a mild to medium strength cigar to me.

The ash never got more than 1/2 to 3/4 inches and the burn was even and sharp. I had no issues keeping it lit with no touchups required. With so many great cigars coming out of Nicaragua these days, adding the Mexican San Andreas sets the flavor profile of this cigar apart. It has a nice cedar woodsy flavor mixed with some spice. I really enjoyed this cigar and I think it would be a nice addition to any humidor. If you are newer to cigars and want something with a slight kick and flavor, I would recommend trying this cigar. Total time was 1 hour 50 minutes. Paired with Water. 20161128_1937051

Up next was the 1502 Black Gold Toro. 6 x 50 Wrapper: Sun Grown Maduro Binder and Filler: Nicaraguan

As the name suggest, this cigar is a dark brown maduro wrapper with a Black and Gold band. It also has barley visible seams and the foot is partially covered. It smells of leather and spice with earth notes. Guillotine cut and match lit with dual flame touch up produced a nice draw with some resistance and lots of smoke.

I am met with a lot of cocoa and spice to start out the first third. The cocoa was almost like an espresso with a bit of spice mixed in. The burn was a little jagged and uneven but not too bad.

Moving into the second third the earth notes come in nicely and there is a subtle sweetness added to the blend. I am not sure I can pinpoint it but it reminds me of dried fruit of some sort. It is complex enough to make it interesting but not overwhelming and it is flavorful for sure. I find it to have a lot of flavor but is medium to full in strength.

As I get into the final third, I still have the dried fruit flavor with the espresso or cocoa flavor mixing with the spice. The spice hangs on for a bit. The burn and draw were both good throughout and no touch ups were needed.

This was a good cigar that leans towards the full flavored and full bodied strength. As a fan of the maduro, I would smoke this cigar again. I would certainly pick up a 5 pack and put it into my rotation. Total smoke time was 1 hour 45 minutes. Paired with Buffalo Trace Bourbon.

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I have a Blue Sapphire in the humidor and I hope to review it soon. At the price point, it isn’t an everyday smoke so I am hanging on to it for a nice occasion.

I will say that I enjoyed both of these cigars a lot. They were a nice change in flavor and strength and I would smoke them again for sure. They make an XO which I would love to try as I am a huge fan of the Balmoral Anejo XO, both of which are 18 year aged. I would be interested to compare the 2.

Feel free to check them out at http://www.globalpremiumcigars.com/ and leave your comments and reviews here.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out the reviews. Until next time…Peace.

So what are some Boutique Brands? What is your Favorite Boutique and why?

 

So tonight I want to open it up to anyone that reads and/or follows the blog. What is your favorite boutique and what makes it special? Loaded question isn’t it? With so many fantastic boutique cigars on the market today how can you possibly choose A favorite cigar? I can honestly say that I could not narrow it down to one certain cigar. Every time I try a new brand or new cigar by brands I already know, its like they just keep getting better. Then I go back to cigars I haven’t had in awhile and its like trying it again for the first time and it is better than I remembered it. How many of you can say that about the last big box brand you had? Granted I have had some good big name cigars that were impressive to a point, but to go through the entire line up and say without a doubt that each one was as consistent as the first or better, I would have a hard time. I can think of probably 2 major brands that I can honestly say, I have never had a cigar from them that I didn’t like.

So some of the boutique brands that I want to feature here tonight are brands that I have either personally tried, or they have come Highly recommended by friends and people I interact with on a regular basis. Some I will be ordering very soon since I have found a website that carries a very good boutique selection and are super awesome to deal with. That would be the great folks at www.cigarfederation.com (Free plug because they rock). I encourage you to visit their site and throw all of your money at them because they don’t sell anything but the best. Their Color Project stuff I hear is off the charts good. I am hoping to get some of them soon! They also carry every one of the brands I am going to mention. (I have no affiliation with them, not sponsored or employed by them, just showing love to those that deserve it)

Ok, brands. These are also companies that I hope will allow us to feature them on a weekly spotlight we are looking to start very soon. I have 2 companies lined up now, just working out the details.

1502 Cigars. Have not tried them yet, highly recommended to me by several people I know and trust.

Balmoral Cigars. Personal top 5 cigars for me. 18 year aged given to me by my wife on our anniversary and after the first third I called my friends at www.cigarsonstate.com (Clark Summit Pa free plug cause they rock too) where she found them and ordered a box without hesitation. You won’t regret dropping the cash on this stick.

BLK WKS Black Works Studio. Created by James and Angela Brown of Black Label Trading Company. They are dropping so many fantastic sticks, I am considering a second mortgage on my house. Killer Bees, Green Hornets, NBK, Bishops Blend, Boondock Saints, Sindustry, Rorschach, phew what did I miss? Everyone I have tried has been head bangers. The vibe and feel of the brand, James is one of the coolest, down to earth people you will meet and they are making INCREDIBLE cigars.

Black Label Trading Company – The one that started it all for me and my love for boutique cigars. Lawless, Redemption, Deliverance, Benediction, Morphine, Last Rites and more. Fantastic brand. Love their vibe, love the feel to the brand, and love their cigars even more. Lifetime fan for sure. Some of my favorite go to cigars on a regular basis.

Caldwell Cigars – Caldwell has released some great cigars that I have enjoyed a lot. Blind Mans Bluff, Eastern Standard, The King is Dead, are all really good cigars. He just did a collaboration with Jon Drew called All Out Kings. I have not tried it yet but I hear good things about it.

Crowned Heads – Jon Huber and crew make some of the best cigars on the planet in my opinion. Based in Nashville, the music vibe and theme for their cigars, along with the blends they are doing are just incredible. My first cigar from them was the Mason Dixon and I have been hooked every since. Headley Grange, Jericho Hill, JD Howard, Four Kicks, La Imperiosa, Las Mareas, are some of the many great cigars they make.

Crux – Hearing a lot about this brand as of late. I have only had one of their cigars and I really enjoyed it. I am hoping to try more of what they have out. #GoCruxYourself

Ezra Zion – I have not tried these however, I found them in stock online and they are mine! Do not try to order them I am calling dibs now and I licked everyone of them! Back off! I have been searching for them at a few local spots and they are always gone. I am guessing there is a reason for that. They come highly recommended.

Illusione – What a mysterious brand. Visit their website and see for yourself. Very intriguing company. I have heard some great things about their cigars. Looking forward to trying them very soon.

Nat Sherman – New York New York. I just killed that Sinatra impression…turn your speakers up and you will hear for yourself! I have had a few of these and they are terrific cigars. I actually have 2 or 3 in the humidor that I have been eyeing for the last few days. Maybe this weekend my friends. Start spreading the news… Yep, I did that.

Nomad – Fred Rewey is not your typical cigar maker. Says it right on his website. And boy am I happy about that fact! This guy is KILLING it. When I met James Brown last month he recommended the Martial Law which just so happened to be in stock, so I took it home. The next day I cut the cap and took a cold draw, what the what???? I couldn’t light it fast enough. The initial draw hit my taste buds and back of my throat like a dose of cayenne pepper from my home state of Louisiana, and then blended so perfectly and smooth. Next up was the C-276. Another fantastic stick that I really, really enjoyed. I found more Nomad online and plan to try many more from them soon.

Room 101 – Started by Matt Booth I have tried a few 101 cigars. Payback, Johnny Tobacconaut, Daruma Gold and the San Andres. All of which I enjoyed very much. The big Payback was a bit on the larger ring gauge spectrum for me but it was a great smoke. Matt also makes some incredible jewelry. Think West Coast meets Far East tradition. I recently won a nice Xikar Room 101 cutter that I use on a regular now. Thanks Matt, Xikar and Famous Smoke Shop for that!

Surrogates – I heard about them through my brother in law recently and started doing some research. So far I am seeing nothing but great reviews and looking forward to picking some up to review and try.

Tatuaje – What can you say? This company is so highly regarded in the boutique world and for damn good reason. Pete Johnson has created some of the best cigars at the My Father Cigar Factory in Nicaragua. I had a 10th Anniversary on a cruise recently that I enjoyed, Tatuaje Black, Fausto, Havana VI, and Tattoo are all wonderful sticks.

So there you have it. These are just a FEW of the many, many great boutique brands that you will find out there. Like I said, I started with these because I am either very familiar with them, smoke them regularly, or they have been very highly recommended. I am talking with a few other brands now that I am hoping to feature very soon. I hope you got some info from this. Please feel free to comment, share and drop us your favorite brands. ALL are welcome here and we would love to do a feature piece on each and every one of them in the future. Please send them to the page and have them contact us at the top of the page. Until next time, smoke em if you got em. Peace!

 

 

 

 

Welcome to CigarHawkBlog

Hey! Thanks for stopping by! Let me start this by saying I am in no way, shape or form a professional writer, blogger or social media mogul. I am just a guy that got into cigars a couple of years back and it has become a passion of mine. I most recently got introduced to pipe smoking and although I enjoy it, cigars are, and will remain my passion. Not to take anything away from the pipe folks, but for me, cigars is where its at. We can debate that all later on.

So why a blog? With so much available on social media (follow me on Twitter, Insta, and FB, shameless plug right there) I wanted something more. I wanted a place where people who enjoy premium cigars and pipes can visit, learn about new products, current events, trends in the industry, updates to the FDA bull$@it that we are fighting, share reviews of products and most importantly to me, support smaller boutique brands and companies that are making some of the highest quality products on the markets but don’t have the marketing budgets that the big brands have.

I stumbled upon Black Label Trading Company through a web search about a year and a half ago and I went on a mission to find them in my local area. After many disappointing phone calls and stops at local shops, I was able to track down 1 shop that had them in stock. I took the 45 minute ride out and bought everyone they had. Why? What was it about this product that I have never tried or heard anyone talk about before that made me rush out and drop $100 + on their product? Honestly, the truth is simply their website and imagery. They looked and felt so much different from the traditional cigar companies we have all seen on every website, magazine and article. They had this dark, edgy, kind of a hip-hop/rock star/grunge, in your face type of vibe that made me want to stand out from the crowd of traditional cigar smokers. Although that image is rapidly changing, more  younger people are into cigars and it’s become more socially acceptable, for me, the image of sophisticated, wealthy groups of old guys stood out to me. I personally do not fit into those stereotypes and BLTC spoke to me.1467911127284

So I purchased a bunch of cigars I had only seen online before and got them home. Now what? What if I light them up and realize I just dumped a lot of cash into a garbage, gimmick cigar and I am stuck trying to pawn them off on people? Lucky for me that wasn’t an issue. From the moment I cut the cap and took my first cold draw on the Lawless cigar I picked, I knew this was something special. I lit that cigar and from that moment on, I was a fan of BLTC for life. The rest of the line-up was just as good and consistent as the first cigar I tried from them. As time has gone by, I have had the privilege of sitting down and enjoying a cigar with the man that started BLTC, James Brown, and he was by far one of the most down to earth, humble, generous people on the planet. I have met some of the Big Brand guys and although they are nice, you never get that comfortable feeling with them that they are just regular people making cigars. They always have that Big Brand feel about them. And rightfully so, as most of them have been in the industry their whole life and have built upon their families reputation and turned them into mega-brands. I will never say that the big name companies don’t make some great cigars, however, I will say that more times than not, when they release a new cigar, they dump tons of cash into marketing and advertising, branding and hype, and I finally get my hands on this new “game changing” cigar only to be left feeling like I paid for a Top Shelf Bourbon and was given Mad Dog 20/20. Not to say the effects of drinking too much of both aren’t the same, but…at the end of the day, I expected much more.

So my love affair with Boutique cigars started by accident and I was sold on a brand. Next step, find more boutique brands and see how they stacked up to the big boys. Next up for me was Crowned Heads Cigars from Nashville. Nashville? Cigars? That’s like salsa from New York City right? I figured what the hell? What’s $8.50 for a cigar I never heard of right? Ultimately unless you have been smoking cigars for 20 years, almost every trip to the local humidor is a crapshoot anyway. I picked out a Mason Dixon by Crowned Heads and gave it a shot. Again, right out of the gate I knew I had discovered another gem. Since then I have tried almost every cigar they have made with the exception of a few that I cannot find. My wife and I are heading to Nashville in a month so my plan is to stop by and visit their office and see if Jon has any unicorns he will part with. On top of making great cigars, Jon Huber is a big fitted hat guy and they make some awesome head gear. I continue to try anything and everything Crowned Heads makes and every time I think I have found my favorite, they put out a new stick and it blows my theory of “go to” cigar all to hell and I am left going online to figure out what box to order. I could think of worse choices right?

Since then I have been on a mission to try out new brands and blends as I can find them. Blk Wks (Black Works Studio) is also from James Brown of BLTC and right now they are dropping so many amazing cigars I am thinking about taking a part time job to make extra money to buy them…As I always tell my wife, I should have been born rich instead of so good looking. Yeah, she laughs at me also. FML.

Nomad by Fred Rewey is making cigars that are just incredible. Haven’t found one yet that I haven’t added to the instant favorite cigar list. 1502 Cigars, Emilio Cigars, and Ezra Zion Cigar Company are some that I have not yet had the opportunity to try, I am hearing great things about and look forward to experiencing.

Leaf by Oscar is another cigar that I am currently a huge fan of. My first impression of the tobacco leaf wrapped packaging was 100% gimmick cigar. WRONG! Wow what a smoke. I have had 3 of the 4 blends and all have been excellent.

So switching gears here a bit, I hope that you will come back and visit as I start to do this on a more regular basis as work and life allow me to. I will be reaching out to some boutique reps, owners, reviewers, and bloggers and trying to get some outside help to build this page and spread the word about everything cigar and pipe related. My goal is to make this thing a trusted resource for legit info and reviews about smaller brands and help them grow their business. I am not doing this for money or anything like that. I am doing this because I believe in the people behind these amazing products and I feel that the cigar world is missing out on some great products that in reality may cease to exist in the very near future because of the recent FDA rulings. I think it is an unfair, absolute travesty and the main reason I am an Ambassador for Cigar Rights of America. I invite and encourage all of you to at the very least, visit the website www.cigarrights.org and sign the petition, and if you like what we are about and want to help us fight, become a member. Please put my name Scott Hawkes in the referral box if you do. I would greatly appreciate that and CRA would appreciate your contribution and membership.

Again, thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings. I hope that you will stop by and check us out as we get this started. I hope to have a lot more content for you in the very near future. Hopefully some decent reviews, maybe some guest blogs or some Q&A with some of the reps, or owners if they feel so inclined. Feel free to drop some comments, you can email me at cigarhawk16@gmail.com anytime. Until next time, light em if you got em.

Peace.