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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How do you define a truly great cigar?

There are A LOT of cigars out there. There are A LOT of really good cigars, A LOT of decent cigars and A LOT of mediocre cigars out there. I think that without a doubt the majority of us will agree on that point if nothing else. When I started with cigars I tried everything that I could get my hands on basically, and I fell for the big brand advertising online and in the magazines telling me just how great this new cigar was going to be and I went out in search of it and paid too much money only to get it home, light it up and go “Eh, not really all that great”. Then I thought, well, the people advertising and promoting these have been smoking WAYYYYY longer than I have, maybe it’s not the cigar at all, maybe my palate just isn’t up to par. And the vicious circle continued for awhile. Then I tried my first boutique cigar and it hit me, this is what I have been searching for. I started researching these hidden gems and learning about the companies, the brands, and the people behind them. It became a passion for me, and it still is today. Along with this new research came the wave of all new cigars to try, so many so that I had to purchase a new beautiful humidor to house them and segregate them from the “big box brands” everyone raves about. In a way, I have become a cigar snob. I really thought I was building a nice collection of great smokes with the humidor of big name brands I have. (They are available for purchase at a great price if anyone would be interested, just throwing that out there)

I have a very hard time putting money down on big brands anymore because the market is saturated with mediocre cigars and the majority come from a handful of big name factories. I am not saying that there aren’t so truly wonderful, consistently great sticks on the market. I have a select few names that if I need to, I will pick up and have no worries with what I am smoking. In the rare occasion that I am traveling without my own or I end up in a place I haven’t been before, I always spend money locally and will make a purchase in the local shop. (For anyone that is new to cigars, this is not a written rule, but it is a courtesy to always make a purchase of some sort when visiting a new lounge or shop if you plan to smoke there) If they carry boutiques, I am going for them, but if not, I can always find something that will get me through. It’s just courtesy. If they have a house blend, sure why not. I did that at Primings in Nashville and it was a fantastic stick. (Free plug for them, lol)

One thing I have found through all of this, is that boutiques have made me super picky about what I like and what I will spend money on. As of now I have only a handful of brands that I will purchase on a regular basis. Well that limits you from trying a lot of great cigars. No, it means I know the difference between mediocre bullshit and quality. Nothing is stopping me from trying anything except the choice I make to put my money down or not. I do not ask cigar companies to send me samples to review, I do not review the next trendy cigars, I have not been to IPCPR (although I would love to go for different reasons), but if someone sends me a cigar and ask me to review it for them I certainly won’t tell them no. I also won’t sell myself out and give it a high review if I didn’t enjoy it simply because there is some obligation to the manufacture who sent it. Unfortunately there is too much of that already and it’s the reason I had many cigars I didn’t care much about.

So, all of this leads me. As I said in previous reviews about Felix Assouline, I was told about this company from a BOTL awhile back and just never really got around to ordering online. They are not available in my local go to shops so it just fell off the radar. One day I saw a very cool post of the II Saints cigar and I made the decision to place the order. Just so happens that the online store was down. Bummer. No, not really. The man himself, Felix reached out to me via Messenger and we went back and forth for a bit and he took my order personally and took care of me. It was a blessing in disguise because how often, in this day and age of digital, online ordering, do we actually get to interact with the owner of a company? On Monday I received a message with my tracking info, an apology for the store being down and a thank you for doing business with FAC. WOW! Again, not often we get that these days, but the thing that really blew me away was that Felix told me he was sending me something special for my troubles. Great I thought. It really wasn’t much trouble but I certainly appreciate it regardless. Little did I know that I would be receiving something TRULY special.

My order came in and I opened the box and as ordered were all of the cigars with one exception. There was one extra that I didn’t recognize from the website. After some messages with Felix, I found out that this gem was from his personal stock of a 17 year old cigar that he had made for himself and select friends and customers. Well I must say, I was truly honored. I thanked him and told him I would save that for a very special occasion. His response was, I would appreciate it if you would review it for me! Needless to say I am honored and told him I would. I was a little skeptical about it because in my mind I am still very green to this and still working on developing my palate. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this cigar. Felix never gave me much input about it as to try and sway me in any direction. All I knew after smoking 3 of the other brands he made, all of which were fantastic, this was 17 years old and from his private stock, so I anticipated a truly great cigar.

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The CSB Vintage Habano 98′. First things first. It’s right at 18 years old. I have a son that was born in 98′ so this thing is ancient for a cigar right? As you can see from the pic, the cellophane has turned orange but when you remove this cigar, it is just as fresh and smells like it was just taken off the rolling table. This particular cigar (as with all of FAC cigars) are made with tobaccos grown by them on the farms in the Jamastran Valley in Honduras and in Jalapa Nicaragua. This is a full bodied, full flavor cigar.

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Wrapper: Jalapa Habano Crillo 98′ Binder and Filler: Jamastran Honduras. Since I had tried 3 other cigars from Felix with Jamastran tobacco in them, the notes from the foot were not as foreign to me as it was the first time I smelled it. This tobacco is unlike anything I have tried in any other brand. There is a scent and a flavor profile to it that is so hard to pinpoint but to me, it reminds me of almost a pine or evergreen. I may be completely off base with that description but that is the closest thing I can come up with. I pick up notes of barnyard, earth, leather and a sweetness like dark chocolate or cocoa. The cigar, as stated, for being almost 18 years old, looked great. Rustic, dark brown wrapper with small veins. The band was a simple golden orange color with CSB lettering. Nothing fancy or flashy. That was left to the cigar.

I decided to change it up and used my Xikar hole punch to get things going. I started with a wooden match to heat the foot and followed up with a dual flame just to finish it off. Initial draw of this cigar was simply one of the most unique flavor profiles I have had in a cigar. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what I was tasting as I was not expecting that I had. After a few puffs, I was able to wrap my head around that Jamastran flavor profile which is very woodsy, almost evergreen-ish, with some pepper like spice, earth and a sweetness at the end that blended amazingly with the profile. The pepper stuck with me for a bit but was never harsh. This was the TRULY GREAT cigar I knew was out there and I thought I had found it a couple of times, but this cigar raised the bar for me. Thick, greyish, white, smoke poured off of this cigar and the ash, as you can see held for the entire first third of the cigar. It only fell because I made it.

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The second third brought me more of the same wonderful flavors I had been experiencing. The pepper dropped off and I was met with more of the chocolate/cocoa or espresso flavor, but they were not so noticeable that it made the cigar sweet. It remained a full flavored, full bodied cigar, but the subtle hints of sweetness really smoothed the second third out. Again, the ash held throughout, the draw was simply perfect, the burn lines were sharp and only got a little off when I stepped outdoors for a minute. (Keep in mind that it is in the 30’s and I am in a heated garage).

The final third brought all of the flavors together for me. Earth, leather, pepper, sweetness, and of course that wonderful woodsy flavor. The profile of this cigar never got fully away from where it started but changed enough to keep you very interested in where it was headed. As you can see, I nubbed this cigar for all the right reasons. Even going that far down with it, I never hit any nicotine bitterness nor did it burn super hot. These are 2 factors that really speak to the quality of the tobacco and the construction of the cigar. I did not pair this cigar with anything except water so I got the full profile of only the cigar. Wise decision but I can easily see this blending with a great Scotch or Bourbon. This cigar would make spoiled milk shine, ok maybe that’s pushing it a little…If you get the chance to score one of these (see below) be sure to let me know what you think.

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What else can I say about this work of art? Felix Assouline has some terrific cigars in his portfolio and I was completely sold on all 3 of the cigars I had tried prior to this. After going back and forth with him about a number of different things, I will say this, he truly outdid himself with this cigar and I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity to try it. I am truly honored that he asked me to review it and I hope I did it justice. If you follow him on Facebook and join the family, tell him you read this review. I am sure that he will take care of you and you may just get lucky and score one yourself. (Facebook Felix Assouline Family) Let him know I sent you.

I apologize for the long post but something like this doesn’t come along often.

At the end of the day, everyone enjoys a great cigar and we all have our favorite sticks. The great thing is that we don’t all like the same exact thing and even better, we don’t have to. I encourage everyone to try all the new cigars you want and venture out of your comfort zone. You may be surprised at what is out there but be careful, once you find it, it may ruin many others that you thought were great. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace.

 

CSB Habano Oscuro by Felix Assouline

As I sit down with a nice Woodford Reserve Double Aged bourbon neat and some Johnny Cash playing I decided to write the review for the second Felix Assouline cigar I received on Thursday. I can tell you without a doubt or incentive to say so, these truly are world class cigars and if these are not on your list of go-to cigars, you really owe it to yourself to visit the website and pick out a few. The price point for these cigars are far below other cigars that claim to be what these cigars actually deliver. Here is a quick link to the store. http://felixassouline.com/store/

Wait, you are still here? Get back on that link and place your order, you can read this review anytime. Go, NOW! You can leave me a message and thank me later.

So I sat down and enjoyed this beautiful CSB Habano Oscuro work of art yesterday. As you can see from the pics, this a beautiful cigar. (Photo editing may have changed the color some depending on what you are viewing it on)

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This cigar is Nicaraguan that is Medium to Full bodied with a Ecuador Connecticut / Jalapa Habano Criollo 98 wrapper, with Jamastran Binder and Filler. The wrapper is rustic brown color with nice veins and tight seams. There are no soft spots anywhere on this cigar. The band art is gold with black. Simple yet classy.

As I removed the cellophane wrapper I get notes of barnyard hay, earth, and a touch of wood (kind of sawdust like).

I opted for a straight guillotine cut and matches to light it. I touched it up with my Xikar dual torch to get it going. (One thing to keep in mind during this review, the weather was wet, damp and cold so I was forced into my garage where a propane heater elevated the temp to a nice, dry, 70 degrees Fahrenheit). This fact will come into play later in the review.

As I took my first draw on the CSB I picked up the very familiar Jamastran that was in the II Saints the day before but it was very different in this blend. I will say that I was caught off guard at just how flavorful this cigar is. A wonderful blend of wood, earth, and some notable pepper hit my palate. The combination of the exceptionally aged wrapper mixed with the Jamastran filler is something to experience. As with the II Saints, I am sure more experienced palates would be able to pick up specific flavor profiles but for me, all I will say is that it was a damn good blend. Complex and full flavored, but smooth with a creamy finish. As I made my way through the first third I started to have some burn issues. I attribute this to the environment I was in. I stepped outside for a bit and the cigar performed very differently. As the cold and damp started to set in again, I went back inside the garage and it changed again. I had to touch it up to get it going again and we were right back on track.

As I went into the second third, the blend remained consistent with added notes of cocoa and a faint hint of spice like a cinnamon or nutmeg. This addition smoothed it out even more than before which was a nice change on the palate. A bit more of a burn issue so I went outside again and the cigar started to even itself out. It is not liking the warm, dry air in the garage. I have to agree with it as I would much rather be outdoors myself. As photo proof to the construction and quality of this cigar, even with burn issues and 2 touch ups, the shot below shows how the cigar came around and straightened itself out.

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As I went into the final third, back inside to defrost a bit and enjoy the last of this great smoke. The flavor profile that is started with makes a strong return and the pepper notes really picked up. The first 2 thirds gave me a medium strength smoke but it turns more towards a full bodied smoke at the last third. The flavor and strength ramp up some but surprisingly it stays very smooth and has no harsh notes anywhere throughout this cigar. The cocoa and spice take a backseat to the woodsy, earthy and peppery notes but the complexity of this cigar really shine at the end.

Again, as someone that is still developing my palate, this cigar was complex and flavorful to me and kept me interested from start to finish. Some of you may pick up a lot more notes that I was able to identify but smoking this cigar was great for me. Because I have never smoked this cigar prior, I chose to pair it with only water to enjoy the flavors. I could easily see this being a fantastic pairing with my beloved bourbon or a great scotch (where I am even more of newbie).

So there it is. The CSB Habano Oscuro by Felix Assouline. This is a terrific cigar that is priced well enough to be an everyday smoke (Between $6 and $8 on the website!) I have smoked cigars in the $12 to $15 range that weren’t in the same stadium as this cigar. Box worthy for sure and one you will want to have in rotation. This is my second FAC cigar and they are 2 for 2 for me. Very impressed with both I have tried.

Here is the link again if you waited. http://felixassouline.com/store/ Be sure to tell him you heard about them from the blog.

I hope you enjoyed the review. As always, comments, thoughts, questions and your own reviews are always welcome here. Up next…The Havana Sunrise by Felix Assouline. Until then, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace!

 

Havana Sunrise Reserve…Felix Assouline Review

So this is my third review of Felix Assouline. I typically don’t do so many reviews back to back but the opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it. The thing about FAC cigars is that each cigar is very  different from the others so getting 6 different cigars makes it interesting. I was going to review a different brand but the first 2 FAC’s I had were so good I had to keep it going. With that said, I present the Havana Sunrise Reserve Blaze. This cigar is available in 5 sizes and is priced nicely between $5 and $8.00. This price point is fantastic for a cigar of this quality.

The Havana Sunrise Reserve Blaze is a 56 x 6 Medium to Full bodied, Nicaraguan cigar with a Habano Criollo 98′ wrapper, Indonesian binder and the Nicaragua / Honduras filler. It is  a box pressed cigar that is a nice cocoa brown with small veins and tight seams.

I pick up notes of barnyard hay, wood and cocoa, almost like dark chocolate from the foot. Going with my usual straight guillotine cut and matches to start with a dual torch to finish toasting the foot we are off and running with this one.

First third: Right off the bat I am met with a perfect, easy draw that allows tons of smoke into my palate and I am hit with a flood of pepper! Wow! This has some bite to it and being from Louisiana, I absolutely love the spice. Tons of thick, white smoke come off of this cigar as I work through the first few puffs. The pepper remain but cocoa and some leather balance it out nicely. The weather was absolutely beautiful outside, sunny and about 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

The transition into the second third brings the same spicy, woodsy blend with hints of leather hints and a touch of coffee or espresso possibly. As I move into the second third a bit more, there is more of a woodsy profile (oak maybe) but the blend remains complex and flavorful. Still picking up pepper but not as prominent.

As I move into the final third, the burn has been sharp, ash has been holding over 1 1/2 inches even with a slight breeze and it produces a large amount of white smoke with each puff. The draw is still perfect and easy. I still have that peppery, woodsy profile with hints of leather and earth. The changes were not dramatic and the original flavor profile stayed with this cigar throughout the 1 hour 25 minutes.

Overall, I really loved the heat and spice profile from this stick. The pepper was a nice change of pace and made this cigar stand out. I found it easy to smoke, medium to full strength with a full flavor profile. If you do not like spice or pepper, DO NOT smoke this cigar. You will not enjoy it. On the other hand, if you want something bold but not too strong with a great flavor and some heat, look no further. The Blaze stand up to its name and for me is easily a box worthy cigar that I would put into my rotation. As you can see from the pic, I didn’t want to put it down.

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Another top notch cigar by Felix Assouline. I can’t believe it took me so long to come around to them, but there is no turning back from here. This company has easily jumped into my top 5 cigar manufactures. If you have not tried them, put them on your Christmas wish list, or just treat yourself to one or two. You can thank me later.

http://felixassouline.com/store/ Just in case you want to take me up on that sampler offer http://felixassouline.com/store/Robusto-Perfecto.html

Hope you enjoyed the review. Feel free to comment, ask questions or drop your own review experience here. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses. Peace

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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.

Black Label Trading Company and Black Works Studio Cigars

Where do I start with this one? My love for boutique cigars started with the Crowned Heads brand and I started doing some research. I came across the BLTC website and clicked on it. Something about the imagery, the feel, the vibe, the grunge intrigued me about this brand. As I read more about their cigars the more I knew I had to try them. So I made some calls and checked all the stores listed online and only 1 small place told me they had them. Time to load the wife into the car and bribe her with a night out for dinner and some casino fun, with a small pit stop along the way. We arrived at the Wooden Match (awesome old train station converted into a humidor and restaurant) and I bought what they had in stock. I threw caution to the wind and hoped that I actually liked the cigars but if not, well I guess some friends were getting some cigars gifted to them. Lucky for me these cigars were everything I hoped they would be and then some. With names like Salvation, Redemption, Benediction, Last Rites, and Lawless…how could I go wrong? The hardest part was figuring out which one to smoke first. Lawless it was and with that, my love for Black Label was born. These cigars were unlike anything I had tried before and that was a good thing! I started looking online for reviews and seeing what other people thought about them and to my surprise, there wasn’t a lot of info available. How could that be I thought? Such a great product from a great brand (in my eyes anyway) and then it made sense. Boutique brand that is pushing the envelope, not doing very commercial packaging and kinda had that “Outlaw” feel to what is accepted. This made me like them even more.

As I tried the rest of the cigars I had gotten, I did some research on the people behind the brand, James and Angela Brown and Stephanie Harris. I won’t give much away in this post because I am hoping to feature them as this blog grows and I want to do a feature piece on them, but I was amazed at where they came from, how they got started and the passion and courage they had breaking into the industry. When we talk about brands and cigars, seldom do we stop to think about the people behind them and their stories. This is something I am hoping to change because to me, the people are the true story and the cigars are their way of telling the world about themselves. Artistry and expression in the form of a cigar. It wasn’t very long ago that one of my favorite cigar shops held a Black Label, Black Works event and I was able to meet James and enjoy a couple of cigars with him and talk about all of this. You could not ask to meet a nicer, more down to earth guy.

So…Black Works Studio. Yeah about that. Founded by James, Angela and crew and out of their Fabrica Oveja Negra factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, come some of the best boutique cigars to hit the market. As if BLTC weren’t enough already, the BLK WKS come out swinging and they don’t miss! For those that know James or follow on social media, you have seen the references to the Wu-Tang Clan and you will also notice the reference with the Killer Bee cigars, and so forth. I can appreciate that as I was and still am a big fan of when hip hop was great and totally unlike most of the non-sense that is currently being sold as “good music”. This year I have picked up the Green Hornets, Killer Bees, Bishops Blend (contender for Cigar of the Year in my opinion), Rorschach, and I am picking up my Santa Muerte cigars tomorrow and I cannot wait to try them. I have not reviewed these cigars as of yet but I can say this with all honesty…Try them all! Bishops Blend is a standout for me. Even before the hype and the ratings from Halfwheel (Great rating and well deserved 94) and others, this cigar was way at the top of my list of must have cigars. Everything that is produced in this factory is outstanding. Nomad is produced there also and if you haven’t tried the Martial Law, well, you need to have that in your life. By the third draw of the first third I was looking for a box of these.

My goal is to be able to take a trip down to Esteli within the next year and visit the factory and hang out with James and the crew for a few days. That would be an amazing experience and for those that agree, you can reach out to James and Angela and she will forward you the itinerary and the pricing. I would love to get a group of us together and make the trip so if you are interested, hit me up.

Although I want to do a more in-depth post about these 2 amazing brands, I wanted to do something now and showcase some of the great products they have on the market. I know that Cigars on State, Cigar Federation and some others have them in stock. I also know that they both ship and have great deals available. I hope that you will take the time to enjoy some of their cigars and that you would drop some comments or reviews here and let others know what you think.

I can tell you that without a doubt both of these brands are a staple in my humidor and anything they put out is a great choice for a “go to” cigar. Now that it’s getting colder out and being outside isn’t always ideal, the Rorschach is the perfect choice for an outstanding smoke when you don’t have much time. For a cigar of this quality to come in under $5 it’s a no-brainer for me.

As always, please share and leave your thoughts, comments and questions here. Until next time, long ashes. Peace.

Killer Bees, Bishops Blend and Last Rites.

Trying new brands and some tips for beginners.

So the past 2 weeks have been super busy and crazy for me but I have had the opportunity to try some new brands and that is always a good thing. I placed an order with the fine folks at http://cigarfederation.com for some amazing boutique cigars recently and I will review them at a later date, but I have to say that all of them (so far) have not disappointed. I have heard great things about them and it’s good to know that it wasn’t just hype.

First up was the 1502 Emerald Box Pressed Torpedo 6.5 x 52, then the Ezra Zion Tantrum PA 6.5 x 44, followed by the Illusione f9 6.25 x 44, and lastly the Surrogates Crystal Baller Corona Gorda 6.5 x 46.

Yesterday I stopped by http://cigarsonstate.com/wp/ to pick up some cigars I ordered back at the Black Label Trading Company event with James Brown. Killer Bees, Green Hornets and 1502 Blue Sapphire and Black Gold. I have a nice collection of some really great smokes and of course the weather is now freezing and talk of snow flurries in the am so my ability to get out and try them will be limited.

I try to stick to a ritual as much as possible when I am trying new cigars or reviewing one. Being in a group of people, mixing their smoke with yours, can skew your flavor and experience with the stick so I try to do it when I am on my deck and can really take my time and enjoy the experience. I am far from a master reviewer but I am trying to expand on that and develop my palate some. For me cigars fall into a limited number of categories. 1) Box worthy (Exactly what it means. It’s good enough for me to buy an entire box) 2) Definitely will smoke again (Worthy of a 5 or 10 pack and something I want in my collection) 3) Eh…(It was ok but I wouldn’t spend money on it again) Almost every cigar I have tried recently fall into the first 2 categories with very few falling into the last. That is the difference between boutiques and large, big brand cigars. I can honestly say that I had more cigars that were just “Okay” and fell into that 3rd category based on my taste and liking. I am one of the few people on the planet that really didn’t fall head over heels with the OPUS X. Many people swear by them and they have a cult like following but I got one for my birthday this year and I didn’t really enjoy it. Call me crazy but it is what it is.

So for those of you that are new to cigars, I recommend starting a journal or cigar log. Write down the brand and the cigar name and write down what you think about it. You don’t have to know every exact thing you are tasting or even how to describe it, just if you like it or not and why you do or don’t. Simple characteristics of things you notice in the cigar can help. Take that list with you next time you go to your local shop or research similar cigars online prior to going and try to buy cigars with those traits. I went crazy and tried so many cigars from one end of the spectrum to the other and I really did myself a disservice (and spent a ton of unnecessary cash) on cigars I really didn’t like. When you are trying a cigar for the first time, I recommend staying with something mild and then moving into the mild – medium range. Take your time smoking it and don’t puff too often or you will get sick. Keep some water and or Coke/Soda, Sweet Tea etc nearby to help regulate your blood sugar if you start to feel lightheaded or nauseous. Jumping right in to a full bodied cigar can really be a turn off and ruin the experience for you.

Didn’t mean to drift off to Cigars 101 but I know a few readers are new to cigars so I thought that might be helpful. Now that I have been smoking for awhile, I can tolerate almost any strength cigar but being a smaller guy, I can’t smoke cigar after cigar like I see many guys doing. It also screws up my taste buds and sinuses. One thing I have noticed also is now that I started smoking a pipe, I find the tobacco very mild compared to what I am use to with cigars. Maybe it is the blends I am smoking but they seem very light in comparison.

When I first started out with cigars, you could not find 2 of the same brand cigars in my humidor because I wanted to try everything. I would see something online or a catalog and I wanted to try it. I didn’t know enough to research what it was, strength, etc. Now that I am more informed, I find myself sticking to a few trusted big name brands and a lot of boutique brands. I did some humidor maintenance today and I noticed that I have certainly limited my selection as of late. I have a lot of great cigars but it took awhile to get here. Hopefully this will help some of you save some cash and frustration from trying a lot of cigars you really don’t like. Invest in what you enjoy and build from there. There are SO MANY cigars out there to choose from and even now it is overwhelming for me so keep a log, ask questions, research and don’t be afraid to spend a few extra bucks on a good boutique cigar. I can tell you that you will be less likely to be disappointed with that purchase than dropping 4 or 5 bucks on a big brand stick. No one said this hobby was cheap, but if you truly love it, the time and money invested in that stick will be very much worth it.

As always, feel free to drop some comments. Tell us what brands you are smoking and what you like about them. Until next time, long ashes and stay smokey friends. Peace