Celebrating 243 years of one sweet victory….and American whiskey!

Whiskey claims to itself alone the exclusive office of sot-making.

Thomas Jefferson
A Stolen Throne Crook of the Crown with a 13 year old WhistlePig Rye Whiskey from the Bourbon Society of Central Florida.

It is July 5th. Independence Day is over. Although for some reason I do not want to stop celebrating that sweet victory that is 243 years old. Independence Day is my favorite holiday. I love it more than Christmas. Hell, I love it more than my own birthday. Which leads me to one massively important point. American Whiskey is the best whiskey to ever grace this planet.

Without our Independence from Great Britain, we would have never been gifted what the Founding Fathers spent so much time working on. I know what you’re thinking, the Declaration of Independence….WRONG! It was whiskey. You see, the way I look at it is quite simple: the Declaration of Independence was simply a document to give America the freedom to distill the best liquid to grace Earth.

Now, now, I am moderately joking. It serves as one of the greatest historical documents of all time (taxation IS theft). The greatest country in the history of mankind formed as a result. The freedom to write this piece is evidence of that. Yet, for some reason I always come back to whiskey. So with that, I believe a toast with some fine rye whiskey is in order. George Washington did it and he arguably drank more than any other President. Something about it must be good, right?

So toast we will to the greatest country in the world. To all those who did and continue to sacrifice so much for our freedoms, we say thank you. I will always love Independence Day. Cheers everyone!

Cigars or Bourbon? I say both!

If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go.

Mark Twain

My name is Bryan. Bourbon is just my thing.

State of distillation: Florida

Rick house: Tampa

Floor: 33614

Taste profile: Forward, a good kick in the mouth, with subtle hints of citrus, cut to the chase, and good laughs.

My name is Bryan Brantley. In 2016, my bourbon love affair began, or as some may call it, my date of distillation. Bourbon is unique as we all know, yet most of us didn’t start by drinking bourbon. We usually picked up another cheap spirit and called it a day. This is what makes bourbon so beautiful. We all end up here. Bourbon is meant to be a spirit we enjoy in brotherhood (or sisterhood – shoutout to the bourbon women!). Enter my goal: to bring more people together over this brown water that is so cherished.

As I embark on this blog journey I encourage all of you to try something new. After all, that is how it all begins. For those who may not be familiar, I will post weekly bourbon reviews and suggestions of what is available at different price ranges. Once a month I will dive into my favorite pour and smoke pairing during that time. I will also post pictures of what I find along the way.

I want to personally thank Scott for inviting me to join the Cigar Hawk blog. I am roughly a year into the cigar game but thoroughly enjoy my humidor being full. As the Hawk himself would say, “Long ashes, and full glasses!” Cheers everyone!

Morphine 2017…Black Label Trading Company

Thanks to Matt O’Hop at Cigars on State in Clark Summit, Pa for hooking me up with the newly released Morphine. I was able to get all 3 vitolas and plan to review each of them. Check out http://cigarsonstate.com/wp/ for all your cigar needs and great info. Matt does a nice job on his blog keeping you up to date with things going on in the industry.

For those of you that follow me on social media, you have seen my post of Black Label Trading Company and Black Works Studio cigars. It is no secret that I am a big fan of both brands and the cigars they produce. I also had the pleasure of sitting down with James Brown when he visited Pa last year. James is a great guy and he and his wife Angela live in Nicaragua  full time where they run Fabrica de Oveja Negra in Esteli that they opened in 2015. The following is from the BLTC website and talks a little bit about the factory.

Oveja-Logo

“As the name suggests, Oveja Negra (Black Sheep), will do things differently.

“Starting our own factory was a natural progression of the brand. We needed the freedom to be as creative as possible and to have ownership of every process that goes into making our cigars. We have always been involved in every aspect of our production but now we can take it to the next level and ensure 100% quality from seed to ash,” stated James Brown, creator of BLTC.

Oveja Negra offers its clients a factory where small batch production is the norm, and quality is the priority. At Oveja Negra smaller brands and retailers wanting private labels can make a cigar without huge minimum orders.

“This is a tough industry for small companies. Its hard to get the attention you need to create a premium product. Our goal is to help support other boutique brands and grow the premium-cigar market,” stated James Brown.

Black Label Trading Company is re-defining the standards for cigar making. With a less is more philosophy Black Label Trading Co. creates hand crafted premium cigars of the utmost quality in small batch, limited quantities.”

Oveja Negra is also responsible for producing cigars for the Nomad brand and is currently working on a project with Veritas Cigar Co. I can tell you that everything I have had so far from that factory is solid and consistent. It feels like every release that comes out is better and better. If you haven’t had any of their cigars, I highly recommend them. Be sure to follow them on social media and check out some of the amazing works of art they are creating.

So with all of that out of the way, let’s review a cigar shall we? Up first from the bunch is the latest release of Morphine. This is the fourth release of this cigar and I am anxious to try it. It was one of my favorite cigars of last year and I enjoyed all but 1 because I wanted to make sure I had one until I got the 17’s in. Well, mission accomplished and now I can go back and see what some aging did to it and compare. Win, win.

Morphine 2017 Corona 5 1/2 x 42 (18 count box)

MORPH

(Also available this year in Lancero 7 1/4 x 42 12 box count and Short Robusto 4 1/2 x 50 20 box count) 400 boxes of each will be available for 20,000 cigars total.

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Blend Profile:

Wrapper: Mexican San Andres Maduro

Binder: Nicaraguan habano

Filler: Nicaraguan

Origin: Esteli, Nicaragua

Appearance / Construction: Keeping true to form, this years version is dark, rugged and rustic. The dark brown maduro wrapper presents a few bumps and veins with tight seams. The cigar feels solid with no soft spots. The foot is open and the cap is rounded with a small “nub” on the end. There are 2 black and white bands that blend nicely with the wrapper. One is the logo artwork band and the second has the name on it.

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Pre-light: I decided to keep this one in the cellophane until I was almost ready to smoke it. Once I remove it I am hit with heavy barnyard notes, manure, and hay. I let it sit out for a minute or so and breathe a bit. Once I go back to it, I pick up pepper, chocolate sweetness, much less barnyard, hay and earth. On the foot I get more of the same with a grassy undertone. Using a straight cut I remove the cap and the cold draw is open with a slight resistance. I get a nice pepper, wood and hay profile from the cold draw. Time to get this one toasted.

1st Third: Right away the old familiar sting of red pepper/spice hits the throat and nose. Ah….I take a few seconds to enjoy it. Once things calm down a bit I pick up a nice woodsy cedar profile. There is a subtle undertone that reminds me of the smell of damp, freshly cut grass. Crazy I know but that is the only way I can describe it. As I work through the first half inch or so, there is a lot going on here and it’s all really good. There is a little hint of sweetness here and there and the pepper still finds it way in at times. So far this blend is really enjoyable to me. The draw is good. Open with a little resistance but nothing too tight. The burn is good. A little wavy but nothing unmanageable. And here comes the rain! Damn, time to move into the garage. I was trying to beat it and I lost!

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2nd Third: As I move into the halfway point, more of the same great notes. This is a very consistent blend. Nothing that shifts and changes in crazy ways but complex enough to keep things interesting. Still very woodsy, earthy, spicy (though not as much as the start), and very smooth. This is a full bodied smoke. The strength is certainly in the full range. One thing about most BLTC is they often pack a punch. Thus the name Morphine! Takes all the pain away! I am getting nice smoke from this stick and so far I am really feeling this year’s release.

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Final Third: Again, no major shifts here. Consistent and delicious. As I watch the rain pour down, I am thinking back to last years release and for as good as that one was, I think this years blend has turned things up a notch. No real changes in the profile as I work my way down to the nub. More of the same cedar wood, grassy, pepper, earthy notes that started all blended together in a perfect presentation on the palate. The sweetness still makes an appearance here and there and the much more subtle pepper still lingers but not as forceful as before. I end this one 1 hour 15 minutes in.

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Final Thoughts: I really wished the rain had held out and I could have sat on the deck and really taken my time with this one. I didn’t rush it but being forced into the garage due to a downpour makes for a less enjoyable experience. That said, this cigar was really, really good. I have found that I am a fan of the San Andres Maduro and it is featured in a lot of cigars that I really enjoy. This one was no different. There is a sweetness to it and blended with the heavy wood and pepper notes, this makes for a great smoke. As I stated in the review, I think this years release turned out better than its predecessor from last year. I do not recommend this cigar for beginner smokers. If you tend to like more mild or medium cigars, ease into this. This is a full bodied, full flavored smoke with a punch. Another great release from BLTC.

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Scoring:

 Appearance / Construction: Rugged, rustic San Andres Maduro wrapper with the standard Black and White BLTC bands work for the look of this cigar. The construction is solid, no major flaws. For what this cigar is meant to be I score it 18/20.

Performance (Smoking Characteristics): The draw was open with a touch of resistance that kept things cool all the way down to the nub. The burn got a little wavy at times but no real issues. No touch ups required. I did have to relight it once, only because it went out as I scrambled to get moved into the garage during a heavy rain. Other than a wavy burn line I had no issues. I score this a 23/25.

Flavor: Complex, consistent and good. A well balanced blend of cedar wood, spice, earth and sweetness. I really enjoyed the profile of this cigar and appreciate that is wasn’t all over the place in terms of changes or transitions. Complex enough to hold your interest and not a one dimensional cigar. I score this a 25/25.

Overall Experience: I really liked this cigar. The corona size is that great in between size that you can pull off in an hour. I am anxious to try the lancero and the robusto but I enjoyed my time with this cigar. No real performance issues, great flavor, consistency. What more do you need? I scored this a 28/30.

Final Rating: 94

96 – 94: Excellent cigar. I would add this to my collection of must haves.

So there you have it. My review of the BLTC 2017 Morphine. I hope that you enjoyed it. I welcome your thoughts, comments and reviews. Feel free to share it and make sure to follow me on social media. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace.

 

 

Umbagog: Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Steve Saka and Dunbarton Tobacco, let’s get you up to speed with some info directly from their website. http://www.dunbartoncigars.com/aboutus

Steve Saka – Our master blender and catador de puros, Steve Saka, demands the most exact standards be honored at all times. Regarded as a cigar expert throughout the industry, he is credited as being an experienced cigar maker, a prolific author regarding cigars and black tobaccos, a forefather within the online media segment and a dynamic tobacco industry executive. In 2000, he worked directly for Lew Rothman, the former owner of JR Cigar, as an executive consultant for four years and he subsequently served as the President, then CEO of Drew Estate from 2005 through 2013. In 2015, he fulfilled a lifelong dream by establishing the family held Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust to craft cigars without any compromises.”

download

“Puros Sin Compromiso”

” Cigars without compromise: This is an expression of our closely held ethos and states in just three simple words everything we wish to accomplish here at DTT. Cigars are more than just a passion for us; they are our life. We want to create puros that pay respectful tribute to the long, vaulted history of handmade vitolas, honor the dedicated works of all the vegueros, torcedors and artists who dedicate their labors to this timeless craft. Our goal is to always offer the connoisseur an unparalleled smoking experience bar none.”

Steve has been in the industry a long time and is behind some of the best cigars on the market today in my personal opinion. The Umbagog is the third release following the Sobremesa and the Mi Querida. I have tried them all but this is the first review I have done of the three. The Sobremesa and Mi Querida will follow soon.

I had the pleasure of meeting the man himself recently at Famous Smoke Shop and it was an honor for me. If you follow cigars and the history of the industry, Steve is a legend in the business and has forgotten more about cigars than I will likely ever know.

That all being said, let’s jump into this review and see what we get.

The Umbagog is almost the same cigar as the Mi Querida except the wrappers did not meet the standards used on the Mi Querida. Is that a bad thing? Let’s find out.

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UMBAGOG – TORO TORO 6 X 52

Blend Profile:

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf

Binder / Filler: Nicaraguan

Appearance: Named after a lake, the rugged look of this “Seegar” is very fitting for what the cigar is. The rustic, reddish brown Broadleaf really shows some veins and tight seams. The Olive drab colored band with white lettering really stands out against the discolored wrapper. It has an open foot and rounded cap. The cigar feels full with no soft spots anywhere. The look works with what the cigar is. This looks like a cigar that should be smoked while outdoors hiking, fishing, or boating.

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Pre-Light: I pick up a really pleasant scent from the barrel of this cigar. It is like a mix of maple syrup, cedar and grass if I had to try and sort it out. That’s about the best I can describe it. It is earthy, very woodsy, some subtle sweetness and subtle pepper on the foot. I used a V-cutter to open the cap and the cold draw reveals a resistant but not tight draw. I pick up sweet cedar wood, hay and some pepper on the draw. The draw is a little tight for my personal liking but it could very well open up once I heat it.

1st Third:  I used a cedar spill, which is something I need to do a lot more often, and get things toasted. Immediately I get that maple/molasses sweetness followed by heavy cedar and some black pepper notes. Wow. This combo is really nice. It is earthy, grassy, very woodsy. The burn is a bit wavy, the draw is resistant but not so tight that I feel I need to work on it. The smoke production is nice. This is a complex blend with a lot of flavors coming and going. Overall it is, to me, heavy on cedar and earthy notes. Moving through the first third, the pepper is still around on the retrohale and some leather notes start to take shape. Strength is medium to full and very smooth.

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2nd Third: Moving into the halfway mark I find a shift more into earth, leather, wood, and less cedar and pepper. This cigar has a very natural, outdoor feeling to it. As I am enjoying this aspect of the cigar, how fitting is it that a whitetail deer decided to come over for a visit and lay in the yard. (Look in the background of the pic)  As I take in the flavors of this smoke, the draw has opened up nicely and performance is cruising along. No touch ups needed so far. The burn was a little off and wavy but has since corrected itself nicely. Strength is more medium plus – full.

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Last Third: As I move into the last third of this cigar, it has moved into a charred wood, nutty profile with hints of cedar, and grass showing up from time to time. About half way into the last third, the cedar and pepper ramp up a touch and take the forefront again. I am 1 hour 40 minutes into this cigar and overall I really enjoyed it. Strength finished at a medium plus – full for me.

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Final Thoughts: This was not intended to be a “pretty” cigar. It is everything it was made to be in my opinion. It is a rugged, rustic looking cigar with great flavors and a very outdoor feel to it. It won’t win any beauty contest but I would certainly add this into my rotation of go to smokes when I want something different. If you like the Mi Querida, for the price, you cannot go wrong with the Umbagog as a less expensive option. Packaged in bundles of 10, these are a great pick up for the money. They are available in other sizes, I have the gorda gorda to try next. Steve is quoted to have said “This is a cigar that doesn’t pretend to be special or seek to elicit the oohs and aahs of the cigar snobs.” I for one agree with him and I personally think he hit the mark with this one.

You can find this cigar at retailers across the US. I recommend Ford on Fifth and Famous Smoke Shop. You can click here for both.

https://fordonfifth.com/

https://www.famous-smoke.com/

Scoring:

Appearance/Construction Score: The look of the cigar fits what it is. Construction is solid. I score this a 13/15.

Performance Score: I had some issues with the draw being a bit tight and the burn being a little off but as I got into the cigar more, they both corrected themselves. I score this a 27/30.

Flavor Score: This is a complex smoke. Lots of natural, earthy, woodsy, sweet notes with enough pepper to make it interesting. I enjoyed the flavor profile of this cigar. I score this a 24/25.

Overall: I enjoyed my time with this cigar. The flavor profile works, the blend is nice. Performance was overall good with no need to touch up or fight with the burn or draw. I score this a 28/30.

Total Score: 92

93 – 90: Great Cigar. Worthy of a 5 pack or better. I would smoke this regularly.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this review. Feel free to share it on social media and follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace.

Changes, Updates and Contest

When I started out doing this blog awhile back I really had no idea how I or the blog would be received. After all I am just a guy that enjoys cigars and decided to start doing reviews. Little did I know the response would be overwhelmingly positive and it has really taken off for me. I want to take a second to say “thank you” to all of you that follow me, share my reviews and my social media content etc. Without you, none of this takes place. To the cigar companies that have reached out to me, supported me and helped me along the way, it’s because of you that I do this. I am always amazed when I am contacted about doing feature pieces on a business or company or to do a review.

It has always, and will continue to be, my number one goal to provide my honest, PERSONAL opinion about a product. I am not going to absolutely love every single cigar I smoke. If that happens then you know this is all BS and it doesn’t matter. That said, I will never slander or destroy someones work simply because it wasn’t the cigar for me. I encourage anyone that read blogs, reviews, media releases, etc, to never fall into the trap of allowing ratings and popularity to guide your decision to try new cigars and products. What I have found is that what I don’t like, others may love. I would say that if you do base your decision on a cigar you read about here or other places, is to have the review at the ready when you smoke it and compare what is written to what you experience. From there you can quickly determine if your taste fall in line with the reviewer and you will know after a few times of doing this where to base your opinion. I have read reviews from people that have a huge following in the business and my palate and their’s are on totally different planets because I get nothing in the sense of what they are describing to me. Does that mean they are wrong? No, it means they experience things differently and that is what this is all about. So if you see a really high or not so high rating on a cigar, take the time to explore others thoughts and see why it is rated like it is, but above all, keep an open mind.

So with all of this said, I have been told that “success brings change” and that is certainly true. So it is time for some change here as well. In order for this blog to continue to grow and gain some traction in the realm of cigar reviews that matter, I feel it is only right to move towards a rating system. We all know that just about every site out there has a points or letter system assigned to a cigar review. I plan to move towards that as well but I am looking for some help. More to come on that later down the page.

I will be basing my review points on a number of things.

Appearance/Construction: The look and feel of the cigar. Wrapper quality, veins, seams, caps, artwork, etc. This is rated at a max of 15 points.

Performance: Draw, burn quality, is it too hot, does it burn to quick, does it require touch ups, etc. This is a big one for me because I don’t care how good a cigar is if I struggle to keep it lit, or if I have to suck my cheeks inside out to get anything from it. This is rated at a max of 30 points.

Flavor: Simple right? Not really. Liking the flavor of something or not is easy to say. But if we are being honest and fair shouldn’t there be more to it? Yes. Complexity of the blend, or not, consistency, transitions, huge swing in flavors, bitterness, does the blend flow well together, is it one dimensional, etc. This is rated at a max of 25 points.

Overall Experience: Summing all of this up into a total experience. Did I enjoy my time with this cigar? A lot of factors come into play with this one. I will always pair a first tie smoke/review with water so that it is a true reflection of the cigar itself and no outside influence. I have always done my reviews in a place where I am the only one smoking and it is not tainted my other lingering elements. For me, this is the truest representation of the product. Being in a lounge with other people smoking has effected my cigar experience before and you cannot be 100% truthful when you are reviewing a new stick and your buddy just lit up a Drew Estate Acid next to you. Let’s be honest here. While I absolutely love the aroma of said Acid cigar, it really takes over when I am trying to smoke a Padron 1964.

These point totals will add up to a total score with 100 being the highest obviously. Where I need your help is taking those point categories and pairing them in a way that continues with the Cigar Hawk theme. So basically, something that rates 1 97-100 is in a class on it’s own called “__________” and so on for the following:

100 – 97:

96 – 93:

92 – 87:

86 – 83:

82 or under:

Thinking Birds of Prey, or something around that thought process. Leave your comments and suggestions here and if I pick your suggestion, I will message you for your address.

I have some new companies reaching out to me so look forward to more things to get posted and reviewed soon. I have an event with the Master Steve Saka coming up this week that I am looking forward to, new reviews I am working on. A new pairing review coming up with the Protocol and Layne Coffee collaboration coming soon.

Again, Thanks to all of you for the continued support and following. I am open to new ideas, things you want to see, reviews you want to read, topics about cigars in general, topics outside of cigars, whatever. I am looking to start doing some joint reviews with a couple of people soon. We have discussed it a little but just haven’t really moved forward.

Don’t forget to drop your comments on the rating system here and social media. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses! Peace.

Probable Cause Lancero

Cubariqueno Cigar Company recently held a soft release of the newly added Themis, and the Probable Cause Lancero in May. Unfortunately I was out of town and could not attend the event but I was able to meet up with Juan Cancel and discuss the new releases. He was nice enough to allow me to try them before their official IPCPR release.

If you aren’t familiar with Cubariqueno Cigars, Juan Cancel or Bill Ives,you owe it to yourself to check them out. http://www.cubariqueno.com/ They released the Protocol, followed by the Probable Cause and now the Themis joins the ranks. The Protocol was released in a lancero version and it was Cigar Federations Cigar of the Year, and for good reason. With the success of that cigar, it only made sense to follow it up with a lancero version of the Probable Cause.

Cubariqueno is making a big name for themselves in a relatively short amount of time. Making their debut at IPCPR 2015 in New Orleans and working with Erik Espinosa and the La Zona Factory, they have come out swinging and it looks like they have no intention of slowing down.

I reviewed the Themis yesterday and I looked forward to the Probable Cause all night. It is a beautiful, warm, sunny day here in NE Pa and a perfect day to get outside and review a cigar. So let’s jump in here and see what we got.

Probable Cause Lancero

Blend Profile:

Wrapper: San Andreas Maduro

Binder: Nicaraguan

Filler: Nicaraguan

Factory: La Zona Esteli, Nicaragua

Size: 7 1/2 x 38 Box Pressed (Also available in 5 x 52 Robusto and 6 1/2 x 48 Churchill Box Pressed)

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Appearance:

Right away the Red, Silver and Black logo and dual bands catch your eye and really work with the rustic look of the cigar. A nice medium brown maduro wrapper contrasts nicely with the artwork of the bands. There are some small veins, and tight seams throughout. You notice the box press on the slender, long body. This is a 38 ring gauge which is not often seen in a lancero. Most of the lanceros I have are a 40 ring gauge so this is a bit different. Overall, I really like the look of this stick. It has an open foot and a rounded cap.

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Pre-Light:

The cigar is firm with no soft spots. I pick up notes of barnyard, dry hay, earth, light notes of chocolate and black pepper from the barrel and foot. I used a straight cut to open things up. The draw is nice with a slight resistance. I pick up earth, hay, and cedar from the cold draw.

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1st Third: Once I get the foot nice and toasted, the initial draw reveals sweet cedar wood, some grassy notes, black pepper and chocolate notes. The first 1/4 inch is all about trying to process the many complex flavors I am picking up. It is a combo of sweet cedar wood, spice and sweetness. It is much like the larger sizes but dare I say…even better? The draw is open with the right amount of resistance, the burn is even, and the ash is holding on nicely. I am getting a nice amount of smoke from this cigar. I pick up notes of dried fruit about mid-way through the first third. There is a nice amount of pepper on the retro-hale. I am really enjoying this smoke so far.

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2nd Third: As I move into the halfway mark, the pepper tones down but still lingers in the retro-hale. I pick up more of earthy notes mixed with a nice charred wood and that subtle sweetness that hangs around. This is a complex blend that really shines in this vitola. The blend stays consistent with the first third but a few notes change place from time to time coming to the forefront and then falling back. It makes it tough to put this cigar down because it is really good.

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Last Third: More of the same notes make their way into the final third of this cigar. It is still mostly cedar wood, earth, some spice and dried fruit. I pick up a hint of chocolate from time to time along with some grassy notes. As I come to the end of this cigar, I am really enjoying it as much as when I first lit it. I nub this one after 1 hour 45 minutes.

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Final Thoughts: I have been a fan of the Probable Cause since it was released and I have smoked both the Churchill and Robusto sizes a few times. This lancero edges them out for me because it really showcases the flavors of this blend and it works very well in this vitola. I was curious about the smaller ring gauge (38) and the cigars performance but that was a non-factor. This cigar was on cruise control with no touch ups, a nice open draw, and even burn lines. This cigar is complex, consistent, and delicious. It ended as a more medium-full strength, full bodied cigar. Tons of flavors that remained throughout the entire cigar but enough changes that keep you coming back to it. I would recommend this for anyone that wants to move into a more med/full experience but I think even the most experienced smoker would find this cigar highly enjoyable. Juan told me this was his new favorite cigar and I can see why. Sorry Juan but I am afraid a lot of people are going to buy this in bunches so you can’t keep them all for yourself.

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**Note** I did not originally rate this cigar at the time of this review. I started the rating process later in the week and thought it was only right to come back and rate this since it is a 2017 release and I want to score it. 6/18/2017

Rating:

Appearance / Construction: A really rustic, good looking lancero. The bands and artwork work very well against the wrapper and the construction was solid. I score this almost perfect at 19/20.

Performance: From start to finish this cigar was on cruise control. No issues at all with the draw or burn. No touch-ups were needed and the smaller ring gauge was a non issue. You can see by the pics that the burn got slightly wavy but not really enough to matter. I score this a 24/25.

Flavor: This is where the lancero version of this cigar really stands out for me. The flavors are just bursting as you move through this stick. Complex, rich and smooth. I don’t see how this cigar gets better. Perfect score of 25/25.

Overall Experience: I enjoyed this cigar as much or more than the original Protocol lancero and I wondered if I would. This cigar really stands out from the rest, for me anyway. Not to take anything away from the others because they are great. La Zona is doing some amazing things. I really enjoyed my time with this stick. I score this 29/30.

Final Rating: 97

100 – 97: A class of it’s own. Top of the summit.

I hope that you enjoyed this review. Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, reviews, etc here. I want to thank Juan Cancel for allowing me the opportunity to check out this great cigar before the official release. All I can say is, when these are available to you, Grab ‘Em by the P! These guys are making some amazing cigars!

Until next time friends, long ashes and full glasses! Peace.

 

 

Themis…Lady of Justice

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Juan Cancel of Cubariqueno Cigar Company last weekend at Famous Smoke Shop. It’s always great talking with the people that bring these great cigars to the market and find out some of the back story behind it.

William Agathis is the third man behind the brand and they set out to make a blend that was more to his liking, true to his Greek heritage, and his taste. Preferring a milder strength and having a more delicate palate, he went to work with Hector Alfonso Sr at the La Zona Factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. The outcome was the Themis. From ancient Greek mythology, she was the second wife of Zeus and is described as the “Lady of Good Consel”. You will notice the Lady of Justice symbol on the logo. Keeping true to the Law Enforcement theme that started with the Protocol (Juan and Bill both work in law enforcement), the Themis comes to the market at IPCPR 2017.

Protocol_Themis_by_Cubariqueno-Cigar-Company (1)

Juan told me they wanted a cigar that appealed to a larger number of people, because they are repeatedly asked if they have anything in the mild to medium range. Until now, the answer was no. If you have had the Protocol or Probable Cause you know this is true. I am not typically a Connecticut fan. Not to say that I haven’t enjoyed them or dislike them in anyway, I just typically smoke darker cigars. I always keep an open mind about any cigar and this was no different. So let’s jump in to this one and see how it turned out.

Protocol Themis:

Blend Profile:

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut

Binder and Filler: Nicaraguan

Orgin: La Zona, Esteli, Nicaragua

Size: 5 x 52 Robusto (Also available in 6 x 52 Toro)

Appearance:

The look of this cigar is just really appealing. The medium tan color of the cigar really works well with the Gold foil bands and the orange silk foot band. The color combos really work perfectly with this cigar. The cigar has some medium veins, open foot, and a rounded triple cap to finish things off. I really like the look of this cigar.

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Pre-Light:

I pick up notes of barnyard, leather, and cocoa from the open foot. From the barrel I get more barnyard, mostly dry hay, and earth. The cigar is light but feels firm throughout with no soft spots. I used a V-cutter and the cold draw reveals a nice open, airy draw. I pick up notes of earth, hay, and roasted nuts.

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1st Third: Once I get the foot nice and toasted, I get a nice big pepper blast right out the gate. Juan told me about it and even with advanced notice, I did not expect that from this cigar. Being a big pepper and spice fan, this was a great treat. I also picked up some earthy, nutty, and woodsy notes but overall the pepper takes the forefront. I am getting a ton of creamy smoke from this cigar. About 1/4 inch in, the pepper is there but really tones down and becomes a nice, smooth mild-medium strength, full flavored cigar.

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2nd Third: As I move into the second third, the transition into more of a woodsy, grassy profile starts to take shape. Not full on but it’s subtle and it’s a nice change. The grassy note flirts with an almost mint like taste. Like if you burned a mint leaf from a plant. Hard to explain but that’s what I got. The pepper note still lingers but blends very well with the other flavors. I pick up some cocoa at times and it just adds to the mix. This is a very complex Connecticut and I am having a hard time letting it rest. It keeps pulling me back to it to discover new notes. Performance is on complete cruise control. Draw is open and great, nice, even, slow burn, tons of smoke and the ash is holding like a champ.

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Last Third: Closing in on the final third it transitions into a silky smooth, creamy blend that is more of a mild-medium strength but bursting with flavors. The pepper has really toned down and taken a back seat to the roasted nuts, cocoa/coffee, and sweet cedar wood. I am really amazed at how complex this cigar is and how well the notes just flow from one to the next.

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Final Thoughts: This review was a bit different because Juan and I talked about the cigar almost a week before me trying it. He was absolutely right about it. This is a mild-medium, full bodied Connecticut that has that Protocol punch to it. Like I said before, I am not a big Connecticut smoker but I will have these in my humidor. I see myself enjoying these as a first cigar of the day with a cup of coffee or at an event as a great, light after dinner stick. I was a little concerned about loosing what I love so much about the Protocol and Probable Cause when I heard about them doing a Conni, but rest assure, it does not lack that Protocol kick. I am really amazed at how complex this cigar is and how well the notes just flow from one to the next. Nothing is out of place and the blend just works. Great flavor profile, great performance, great smoke. Very well done gents!

This cigar is great for new smokers or those that prefer a milder cigar, but it is complex enough for even full bodied smokers to enjoy. Yet another winner from Cubariqueno Cigar Company. The Themis completes the trifecta for sure!

**Note** I did not originally rate this cigar at the time of this review. I started the rating process later in the week and thought it was only right to come back and rate this since it is a 2017 release and I want to score it.  6/18/2017

Rating:

Appearance / Construction: This is a beautiful cigar. The gold band really tie this cigar together and make for a great presentation. It is close to perfect. I score this a 19/20.

Performance: This cigar was on cruise control after I lit it. Slightly wavy burn but no touch-ups required and a nice open draw. I score this a 24/25.

Flavor: For a Connecticut to really get my attention and hold it there, it has to be a special cigar. This was complex, flavorful, full bodied, smooth and really just a great stick. I score this a 24/25.

Overall Experience: From the moment I set it up to take pics, this cigar really stood out. Once I got it lit and settled in a bit, it really began to show me what it was all about. Juan said it was a Connecticut with the Protocol flare and it was every bit of that. Certainly not your standard and I am happy to see a few really good Connecticut smokes hitting the market. I score this a 29/30.

Final Rating: 96 

96 – 94: Excellent cigar. In the hunt but just missing the top level. Worthy of more than a single for sure.

Total time was 1 hour 20 minutes. I paired this with water as I always do with a first time cigar. I see this cigar pairing well with coffee in the am or with a nice wine after dinner.

Speaking of coffee. If you like pairing coffee and cigars, then you will want to check this out!

Cubariqueño Cigar Company is excited to announce the release of three Protocol branded coffees in partnership with Layne Coffee Co. The Protocol Azul, Protocol Rojo, and Protocol Oro have all been methodically crafted to be paired with each prospective cigar. Cubariqueño Cigar Company teamed up with Layne Coffee Co., which is a ”small batch” specialty coffee roaster, because of their focus on quality and consistency. Working hand in hand with Layne Coffee Co., Cubariqueño cupped countless coffees in order to bring an experience which would enhance and complement each Protocol cigar. Each coffee uses highly rated specialty beans and is sourced from respected growers all over the world. https://www.laynecoffee.com/collections/protocol-coffee

Coffee

I want to thank Juan Cancel for allowing me to check out this cigar prior to their release and for always helping me spread the word of the blog. I always enjoy getting to hang out with you when I get the chance. We have to do some more Smoked Juleps and cigars soon. Can’t wait to review the Probable Cause Lancero next!

I hope that you enjoyed this review. I really enjoyed this cigar and I hope that you will check it out. Please feel free to share this on your social media pages. As always, I encourage comments, thoughts, or questions. Until next time friends, long ashes and full glasses. Peace!

Flor Del Valle …Warped

Created in the renowned Casa Fernandez factory, Flor Del Valle is a revived old Cuban brand produced with 100% Aganorsa tobacco, a rare and extremely rich Cuban seed strain grown in Estelí, Nicaragua. Covering this exquisite filler leaf is an aged Jalapa Valley grown Corojo 99′ wrapper. Utilizing true Cuban production techniques such as entubado bunching for a smooth draw and slow even burn, and the classic Cuban triple cap you are in for an amazingly robust and flavorful smoking experience. (Credit JR Cigar website)

I decided to give this one a try based on recent Warped cigars I have tried. La Hacienda really stood out to me as a great stick so I picked up a couple of these.

Blend Profile: 

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 Aganorsa (Jalepa)

Binder: Nicaraguan Aganorsa

Filler: Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 and Corojo ’98 Aganorsa

Size: 5 1/2 x 50 Robusto Gran Valle

 

Appearance: Medium, leathery, oily brown that is bumpy, a little rough with small veins and a tight seam. The wrapper is cracked a bit due to me dropping it. It had no effect on the performance. It feels firm with no real soft spots. The band is very ornate with gold and light blue. The combination makes it fairly hard to read.

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Pre-Light: I pick up notes of leather, pepper, barnyard hay, and some cedar notes. Draw is nice and open and I get some herbal notes, hay and some faint wood notes after opening the cap with a V-cutter.

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First Third: After toasting the foot I get notes of wood, subtle sweetness of dried fruit, and then a big burst of pepper. I wasn’t expecting that. It is a good amount of pepper but I am good with that. A little more in and the pepper really fades and I pick up more cedar, oak, and a little bit of the lingering spice. The draw is nice and open, the burn is good, ash is holding tight. Not much changes the remainder of the first third.

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Second Third: As I transition into the half way point I am getting notes of grass, somewhat floral notes that mix in with the cedar. The pepper has all but disappeared. The strength is a solid medium. The flavor profile is certainly different. A bit of cocoa, toasted nuts and a touch of sweetness appears. This blend continues to surprise me. New flavors appear in the blend and then disappear. There are notes of citrus that appear and then fade. It certainly makes it intriguing.

Final Third: Moving into the final stretch everything sort of comes full circle. A bit of all the flavors come and go in a nice mix and a smooth, medium strength blend. No real flavor overpowers or stands out. It’s a nice combination of flavors on the palate. It can be a bit floral or grassy at times, then a little sweet, then smokey and woodsy at others. The draw and burn were perfectly fine throughout the hour and 35 minutes.

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Final Thoughts: This was a different cigar for sure. Lots of complex flavors that made for an interesting smoke. I did enjoy it a lot and I would smoke it again. Of the recent Warped cigars I have tried, La Hacienda is my personal favorite so far. This one is unique enough to bring me back to it but I am not sure it would be a go to for me. If the pepper had stuck around for longer, maybe. It became a bit grassy and floral at times but overall it was a very enjoyable cigar to try. Strength is a steady medium. Very flavorful and smooth. The performance was solid with no issues at all. I would recommend this cigar for anyone.

Thanks for checking out the review. Hope that you enjoyed in. Long ashes and full glasses friends. New things coming soon. Take care everyone.

 

 

A trip to the Amazon…

I saw the CAO Amazon Basin a few months back and I was super hesitant to pick one up. For me personally, CAO has been asleep at the wheel in terms of new blends and creations. They have some cigars that I enjoy but to truly say they have cigars that I just keep going back to, no. They have been in need of something new and different for some time in my opinion. Regardless, I did pick one up and had it in my humidor for probably 3 months or so now. I decided to review it today and I am regretting my previous decisions now.

Let’s take a look at the CAO Amazon Basin

Blend Profile:

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra

Binder: Nicaraguan

Filler: Brazilian  Amazon Braganca 40% and Nicaraguan

Size: 6 x 52 Toro

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This cigar is produced by CAO and General Cigar company and because this tobacco is very rare, it is only produced every 3 years. Only 5,000 lbs (roughly) of the Braganca tobacco was purchased so this is a very limited production cigar.

Appearance: This is a rugged, dark brown, oily, toothy cigar with nice veins and tight seams. It is bumpy in spots but is firm with no soft spots anywhere. There are braided strands of tobacco that form the “band” around the cigar. They are on there pretty tight so removing them may become a chore. This is a rustic looking stick with a lot of character.

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Pre-Light: I pick up notes of hay, earth, pepper, sweet cedar wood and dried fruit. From the foot I pick up hay, cedar, pepper and earth. Using a V-cutter, the cold draw is smooth with a little bit of resistance. I get notes of hay, slightly floral or grassy notes, leather, and a slight citrus twist. This is a really intriguing combo. Not what I expected.

1st Third: Using matches to kick things off and we are good and toasted, I get a flavor overload and I struggle to figure out what the hell is going on. So many different things hitting my taste buds from every angle. I can definitely pick out sweet cedar, mesquite wood, leather, cocoa, and a grassy maybe basil like spice undertone. As I get into it a bit further, I pick up coffee bean, a woodsy blend of different woods (mostly oak, cedar and mesquite), some citrus notes and earth. This is a super complex blend with a overload of combos. The draw is a little resistant but not bad, the burn is a bit wavy but of no concern. Lots of smoke coming off of this cigar. I am really blown away by the flavor combinations and complexity. Not at all what I expected. I want to put it down but struggle as I try unsuccessfully to pinpoint each different flavor.

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2nd Third: As I make the transition into the halfway mark, the blend changes a bit and I get more black pepper, some grassy notes, hay, earth and cedar. Still very good but not nearly as complex as it first started. It is a very intriguing blend profile and I am still trying to nail down certain things. The draw and burn remain the same. I did touch it up once mainly to straighten out the burn that got a bit out of line. It is very gusty outside today so that isn’t helping. The ash does not hold on past a half inch or so. The wind could be effecting it but twice it dropped on me pretty quickly.

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Final Third: Moving into the last third, things change up a bit again. There is a bit more spice and red pepper towards the back end. It is still very woodsy and notes of cocoa blend nicely with the wood and grassy notes. As I make my way towards the end of this cigar, I am deeply regretting not picking up more of these. 3 years is a long time for a new release and I could have used a box of these to get me through. I tried with no success to remove the braided tobacco band so I used a razor blade to cut through them and extend the life of this smoke a bit.

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Final Thoughts: I really had no expectations from this cigar going in. As stated, CAO has not really been on my radar over the past couple of years. I was hopefully but cautious and man was I shocked when I put flame to foot. The complexity of this cigar really blew my mind. I could not really pinpoint any one exact thing before another flavor begged for attention. I would have loved for the profile of the first third to carry through the entire cigar as it was my favorite third but the rest was solid. I was not disappointed by this cigar at all. As stated I am on the hunt for more so if anyone comes across some they want to part with or let me know, I would appreciate it greatly.

I forgot to mention in the review but this was a solid medium strength, full flavored cigar. It was smooth, flavorful, performed well and at the end I was left wanting more. You can never go wrong with that. I would certainly smoke more if I can get my hands on them. If you can find them, grab em!

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Pairing and time: As always, when I try a cigar for the first time I always drink water. I would pair this cigar with a bourbon, or scotch. The woodsy profile would really compliment the wood in a bourbon like Woodford Reserve. I would be very interested in pairing this with a nice glass of Lagavulin. Total time with this stick was right over 2 hours.

So there you have it. I wish I had done this review sooner and grabbed more. Keep this one on your radar for the next release. If they keep things the same or close, I will grab a box for sure. I am always open to donations or trades if you find some. Lol.

Working on something Warped and an interview with a beautiful SOTL that will be released soon. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace!

Absinthe? Infused? Absinthe Infused? What the ????

Ok, let’s just get this out in the open now . When I first started getting into cigars I was strictly an infused guy. I really enjoyed the flavors of many Acid, Natural, Java, Isla Del Sol etc. Nothing wrong with them at all. There just came a point that I really made a transition over to non-infused traditional cigars and never looked back. Recently, I had a guest in our home that is following the same path and really enjoys Acid Toast cigars. As we sat outside, I can say that I really enjoyed the aroma of the infused tobacco from that blend. However, trying to smoke one was like licking a sugar cube and I just couldn’t do it. I do not judge or frown upon anyone that smokes them. You like what you like and that’s totally fine by me.

When I was contacted by Alpha Cigar Company asking if I would review an infused cigar, I was hesitant to do so but after reading about them, I was intrigued. They were generous enough to make this review possible and I sat down yesterday with the Absinthe Maduro for the review. Before we jump into that, let me give you a little backstory and some information.

What the hell is Absinthe? That was my first question also. I am not going to provide the entire history behind the mystery liquid but you can find great info here. http://www.absinthe101.com/history.html It is actually very interesting and very much demonized and misunderstood.

Absinthe  is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs.

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Absinthe has often been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug and hallucinogen.[8] The chemical compound thujone, although present in the spirit in only trace amounts, was blamed for its alleged harmful effects. By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in much of Europe, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria-Hungary. Although absinthe was vilified, it has not been demonstrated to be any more dangerous than ordinary spirits. Recent studies have shown that absinthe’s psychoactive properties (apart from that of the alcohol) have been exaggerated. (Credit Wikipedia)

“Founded in 2014, Alpha Cigar Company is now one of the leading producers of premium, boutique Dominican Republic cigars. Leading the premium infused cigar category with its subtly aromatic Absinthe Infused cigar series, Alpha Cigar Company also offers traditional Cuban-style cigars of all shapes and sizes. Alpha Cigar company is dedicated to creating exciting cigars while respecting Cuban cigar making traditions.

To understand our philosophy better, we highly recommend you read The Alpha Cigar Journey Booklet.

Download the Alpha Cigar Journey booklet here

Founders Timothy Cavenagh and Justin Gao Mathson Hansen have created a company run by people that are truly passionate about cigars and spirits, with cigar lines that are smoked by true cigar connoisseurs around the world.

Founded on integrity and a desire to create an esprit de corps among cigar smokers worldwide, we extend a welcome hand to all who are curious about the world of premium cigars.” (Taken from the Alpha website)

So now that you know a little bit about Absinthe, Alpha and the story behind it, much like I did preparing for this review, lets get into it.

The Alpha Absinthe Infused Maduro

Blend Profile:

Wrapper: San Andreas Maduro

Binder: Dominican Republic

Filler: Nicaraguan

Size: 6.5 x 52 Belicoso

Appearance: This is a nice looking box pressed cigar that is a medium brown, oily cigar with small veins and very tight seams. There is a large band that is white with gold and features a 3 headed dog (Cerberus). There is a story behind that as well. The cigar feels firm and well constructed.

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Pre-Light: I pick up notes of wood, earth, and a slight sweetness. Not at all what I expect from a “infused cigar”. From the foot I get earth, cedar and floral notes. Using a guillotine cutter, the cold draw reveals a nice draw with a slight resistance. I am surprised that I am not flooded with sweetness or infusion. I do pick up a little oil from the cap. I get notes of cedar wood, floral notes, earth and just a touch of sweet. Not at all what I expected.

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First Third: As I get things started with wooden matches and the foot is nice and toasted, the first draw reveals a very earthy, woodsy, barnyard profile. I am very surprised at how subtle the infusion is. As I make my way through the first few draws it is almost as if there is no infusion but rather a very nice blend of the above mentioned flavor profiles. The infusion works that well with the blend that unless you knew it was infused, you may not even notice. The draw is perfect and the burn is even. The ash holds tight through the entire first third. As I work more into the first third, I pick up spice notes that are more floral like a basil maybe. There is a little sweetness that is more of a semi-sweet chocolate than sugar. I have never had Absinthe so I am not 100% sure of what the infusion brings to the table. I will say that this is a good cigar with a lot of nice subtle flavors that work well together.

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Second Third: As I move into the second third, I get a touch more of the floral, slight mint, and black liquorice notes. They are not overpowering and only stick around for a short period. I am getting a good amount of smoke and the flavors linger on the palate for a bit. The cedar wood works back into the mix and takes the forefront. Again, if I did not know this was an infused cigar, I would not be able to immediately say, this is an infused cigar. The subtle hints here and there remind you but overall it is very subdued and blending nicely into the profile.

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Final Third: Draw and burn are both still excellent. Ash is holding tight throughout the entire cigar. I dropped the ash a couple of times but you can see from the photos that this is a very well constructed cigar. Moving into the last third, I get some earthy, woodsy notes mixed with some leather hints. There are still floral notes mixed in but nothing overpowering. I did not need any touch ups throughout this cigar. There were really no huge transitions to write about. The profile gave you subtle changes from time to time but the last third was slightly different from the first third but not drastically. I really anticipated a heavy infusion and huge shifts in flavors throughout and that never happened. Their goal was subtle infusion and they certainly hit the bulls eye on that one.

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Overall thoughts: Totally not what I expected from an “Infused” cigar. I really had no gauge to compare as I have not had Absinthe before and I would really like to try another one of these in the future to compare it. They also make the Defuser series that uses the same blend without the Absinthe infusion and I would be very interested in comparing that to this one. I really enjoyed this cigar and the flavors I got from it. The performance was excellent from start to finish. I did have a small tear in the wrapper when I removed the band but nothing to really worry about.

If you want a great cigar that will prompt a lot of questions and conversations, this is a great one. The aroma is nice, the strength is a solid medium, and packed with flavor. I highly recommend trying this cigar. I would certainly pick these and the Defuser series to try. These would be a great addition to any rotation.

They are great for beginners and complex enough to hold the attention of an aficionado. Because the infusion is so well done and so subtle, I think everyone would enjoy trying this cigar. Very well done Alpha! Thanks for making this review possible.

Pairing and Time: I paired this cigar with water since I haven’t had it before. I did not make great note of the time as I should have but it was close to 2 hours for sure. I would think pairing this with Absinthe would work but since I never had it, don’t hold me to it. I could see myself pairing it with a nice red wine, or scotch. That’s the beauty of pairing spirits and cigars right? If you don’t like one, try something else.

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So there you have it. The Alpha Cigar Company Absinthe Infused Maduro Belicoso. I hope you enjoyed the review and the information. This one was fun because it made me do some research and learn about something I had no idea about. Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments or questions here. Check out Alpha Cigars at https://www.alphacigar.com/ Let them know you read about them here.

Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace!

Very Superstitious…Black Cat by Felix Assouline

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

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

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

Black Cat – Habano

Blend Profile: 

Wrapper: Honduran Jamastran Habano

Filler: Honduran and Nicaraguan

Binder: Not disclosed

Size: 6 x 54 Toro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Aging Room Cigars… Solera

So today we take a look at a new cigar for me. I have seen Aging Room Cigars around different places but never really made it onto my radar. I’m not exactly sure why.

“We are not producing cigars for everyone.  We are introducing new blends for educated consumers that are looking for cigars with complexity and character.”

Rafael Nodal (Taken from the Aging Room Website)

The Solera method of aging has been used for centuries in the making of wine, sherry, rum and brandy.  Now, for the first time, we are using the Solera system by combining different vintages of tobacco at different stages of the aging process to obtain a fuller flavor and more complex cigar. (Credit AgingRoom.com)

Aging Room has taken the position on a full boutique blend company and when you learn more about them, they have some highly rated cigars in their portfolio. The Aging Room M356 was in the Top 25 Cigars in 2011 and the F55 Concerto was the Number 2 cigar in 2013 by Cigar Aficionado.

I picked up this cigar on the recommendation of my trusted friend Sean at Famous Smoke Shop. For $7.50 I figured why not. So let’s jump right in and see what we come up with.

Blend Profile:

Wrapper: Dominican Sun Grown

Filler: Dominican Habano

Binder: Dominican Habano

Size: Fantastico 5.6 x 54

Appearance: Medium brown with small veins and tight seams. This is a very full cigar with some weight to it. It is very firm with no soft spots. I am hoping it is not too full and leads to a split or crack in the wrapper. The 2 bright yellow bands really stand out. One covers most of the cigar with the word SOLERA running horizontal down the cigar. The second band has Aging Room on it. Open foot with a pigtail cap.

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Pre-Light: After removing the large band, I pick up notes of pepper, wood, and a unique sweetness that I cannot really pinpoint. The foot offers more of the same with a earthy, sweet, pepper and cedar. It is an interesting combination that is really intriguing. I hope I pick up some of these notes once I light it.

Cold Draw: I picked up notes of dry hay or straw, pepper and earth after using my V-cut to open the pigtail cap.

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First Third: I used a dual flame torch to kick things off because the wind is ridiculous today. Temps are great for early April in Pa and the sun is shining bright but the wind is crazy! Once I get things toasted nicely I pull in a nice open draw with a little bit of resistance and I get a citrus like bitterness mixed with strong cedar wood and a mix of what I can only describe as dried fruit and cocoa. This is a complex smoke. I am getting a lot of smoke off of this cigar. Every now and then I get brief hints of black pepper added to the mix. The ash is super flaky and is blowing all over everything. As I move more into the first inch or so, this is a good medium strength, complex cigar. A very nice smooth blend that keeps you coming back to it.

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Second Third: Making the transition into the half way mark I get more of a woodsy blend, cedar and maybe oak mixed with a sweet almost mocha like note. Unfortunately the wrapper did split on me but other than not looking great, it smoked just fine and burned with no issues. The flaky ash issue continued and with the wind it is swirling all around me. I wouldn’t want this happening in a social setting for sure but for me at home on my back deck, it’s not a big deal.

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Final Third: Moving in to the last third, I get more of a woodsy, charred, nutty blend. It is a different smoke that what I first started with but it has been an enjoyable, complex blend throughout. I am not a big fan of huge flavor changes or transitions but this one works. It has remained a medium strength stick throughout. The draw has remained open and produces a lot of smoke. The burn has been a bit off but with the winds we are having today, it is to be expected. No touch ups were really needed other than to straighten out what the wind is messing with even with a split wrapper.

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Final Thoughts: I really didn’t know what to expect from this cigar or Aging Room. It started out very sweet, borderline infused but not quite, then moved into a woodsy cedar and finished with a charred nutty blend. There is a subtle sweetness and some pepper that appear here and there. Overall this was a complex, enjoyable smoke. I had some wrapper issues and the flaky ash was a bit annoying but overall, I really liked this cigar. At the price point around $7.50, I would certainly smoke it again. I think it would be a great cigar for beginners to advanced smokers. It is mild enough but complex enough to hold your interest. This is a great morning cigar to pair with a cup of coffee or easy after dinner smoke.

Pairing: I paired this with water as always when I try a cigar for the first time. I am boring I know, but I do things the same way for a reason. It gives me the truest representation of the cigar as a stand alone without any foreign flavors added into the mix. I would pair this with coffee, red wine, and probably a easy sipping bourbon like Angels Envy Port or Rum blend.

I picked this one up at Famous Smoke Shop (https://www.famous-smoke.com)like I said. As always, my man Sean didn’t steer me wrong. The crew there take great care of me and know what I like. Tyler, Sean, Allie and Nicole are truly great at what they do. They are also great people so that always makes the experience fun.

I hoped you enjoyed the review. Feel free to drop some comments, thoughts, or your own review here. I love to hear what other people thought of it. Until next time, Long ashes and Full glasses friends. Peace!

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