Mbombay Gaaja Maduro Torpedo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina

Binder: Ecuadorian Mata Fina

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

Country of Origin: Costa Rica

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hand Rolled. A film about cigars

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

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

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

Check it out here:

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

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

No donation is too small.

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

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

https://www.cigarrights.org/

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

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

https://www.boutiquecigarassociationofamerica.com

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

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

Local Spotlight. Ford on Fifth, Scottsdale, AZ.

I am very happy to introduce my first local cigar lounge spotlight feature. This is something that I have wanted to do for some time and it is finally starting to come together. Local shops are the heart of the industry and are so vital to the cigar community. I try to visit local shops every time I go to a new place. When I travel for work I have found some great shops that I visit almost every chance I get. You get the opportunity to talk with new people, try new sticks you may not find at your local shop, and just take in the experience in a new environment. There are some places that I go just to escape and enjoy some quiet time and I know what shops offer me that chance. Others I know it’s going to be a large group of regulars and the conversations will range greatly. It all depends on the mood. One thing you will always find in any lounge, is like minded people wanting to hang out and enjoy that one equalizer, quality cigars. No matter what your background, social status, income, ethnicity, religious belief, sexuality, etc. once you step into a lounge and light up a smoke, I have found that all the rest simply does not matter. I have seen it, said it and heard it so many times “If the world was a cigar lounge, it would be a beautiful place”. There is so much truth to that statement. Have you ever seen the need for bouncers in a cigar lounge? I haven’t. Why? Because it’s just not that type of environment. I have had total strangers give me some great cigars, I have given cigars to total strangers, and made total strangers friends. This is why I love this community and being involved, if only a very small part, and doing things like this is my small contribution and a way to give back.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days down in Phoenix, Az and from the minute I knew I was going, I started making plans to visit Ford on Fifth. Anthony and Melanie Cantelmo are well known throughout the cigar industry and Anthony recently took over Ford on Fifth. If you are not familiar with them, follow them both on Instagram and Twitter. Unfortunately, Anthony and I’s schedules just didn’t match up and we did not get the opportunity to sit down, have some sticks and do the interview but we still managed to make it happen.

So here we go. A few questions with Anthony Cantelmo of Ford on Fifth.

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 When did you personally get into cigars?

I smoked my first cigar on my 18th Birthday, back in 2000, and have been part of the industry ever since. My first job in the industry was in 2006, I started as a retail night guy at my local B&M.

 What is it about cigars that you enjoy the most?
I love the aroma, the flavor, and the craftsmanship of cigars, but to be honest it’s the camaraderie that I really love about cigars. The friends and people I have met, because of my love of the leaf has been a fantastic journey. I think there is such a richness in conversation that generally happens when people sit down and unwind with a good cigar.
How long have you been involved in the industry?

I have been involved since 2006. In the beginning I was a teacher, so it was only as part time work that I participated in the retail side, but in 2010 I transitioned full time and also ran a news blog for the industry too. In late 2012 I started my first position as a rep for the manufacturer’s with La Flor Dominicana and worked with them plus a couple others until November of 2016 when the shop opportunity presented itself.

 What made you decide to open your own shop?

I think for me it’s always been a dream to do it, but it wasn’t something I was actively pursuing. To be honest I was content with my sales brokerage and doing well in that field. The shop opportunity fell into my lap though and it was too good not to go after it. The life balance it provides for me and my family is priceless and it’s great to be part of a shop community again.

 Tell us about your shop.

Our shop is a fantastic small retail spot in the middle of historic downtown Old Scottsdale in AZ. One of the most unique aspects of our shop is that it’s the oldest shop in AZ for tobacco. It was founded in 1958. Our philosophy is “a new tradition” which embraces the past, but also looks forward to modernizing some elements and building our community.

 What’s the best part about being a shop owner?

Being part of the community is my greatest joy. Our shop is truly a “Cheers” environment where everyone know’s your name. I always tell people how thankful I am for our community and the great guys that we have. Nothing is better than that!

 What are some of your favorite cigars?
My favorites are always changing, but some of my current favorites are Villa Sombra by Warped, Muestra de Saka by Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust, La Rosa by HVC, and Bishop’s Blend by Black Label Trading Company.
 What’s it like having a spouse that is so recognized throughout the industry?

It’s great to have a spouse in the industry because you have a common ground when you talk about the in’s and out’s of the business. From a notoriety stand point it’s has its up’s-and-downs, but the best part is having a voice and reach when we want to talk about or share information about our business. My goal is to have a global community with our BOTL’s and SOTL’s for our shop and Mel is a large part of that.

Anything else you want to add.

We Ship to Canada and Australia right now, and have a website that we are constantly working on at www.fordonfifth.com

 

I want to thank Anthony for taking the time to work with me on this and I want to thank Ben for helping me when I stopped in and hooking me up with some great sticks. If you are in the Phoenix, Scottsdale area, do yourself a favor and stop in. They are in a great area with a lot of shopping all within walking distance so if your spouse doesn’t want to hang out, there is plenty for them to do.

Check out some of the great specials they have available online right now also. Be sure to follow them on social media as they are doing some outstanding giveaways as well.

I hope you enjoyed this piece. If you have a local shop that you visit that you would like me to feature, drop me a comment and let me know. There are many great shops out there and we really need to give them some support. I will always make it a point to support them here.

Until next time everyone, long ashes and full glasses friends. If you stop in at Ford on Fifth, tell them you read about them here. Thanks in advance!

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.”

 

Deliverance…no, not the movie. Get the banjos out of your head.

Ever since they were released, I have been on the hunt to locate and pick up some of the Black Label Trading Company Deliverance Nocturne. My local shop didn’t get any and others sold out so I was thrilled to see these at Ford on Fifth in AZ this week.

bltc-podcast

Deliverance – The action of being set free. As with all of the BLTC cigar names, they are always very fitting to the feel of the cigar. This one is no different. James and Angela Brown have been cranking out some of the best blends to hit the market over the past few years but seem to really have hit their stride over the past year or so. So many great releases coming from the BLTC Label and also the Blk_Wks Studio (Black Works Studio) brand. I am constantly impressed with the quality and consistency of their products. Having met James last year, he told me big things were in the works and this certainly held true. If you aren’t familiar with the brand, I encourage you to take a look. You wont find the same type of feel from a traditional cigar company. The image is dark, grunge, fresh, new and edgy. Personally that is what drove me to them, then I smoked some of their cigars and I was sold. Check out the website http://blacklabeltrading.com/blog/ Stop by their merchandise store as well because they have some of the coolest gear and accessories in the industry. The zippo lighter and cutter are on my list of wants for sure!

With that being said, let’s jump into this long awaited cigar and see what we get.

Blend Profile:

Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf

Binder: Nicaraguan Habano

Filler: Nicaraguan and Pennsylvania

Origin: Fabrica Oveja Negra (Nicaragua)

Size: 4 3/4 x 40 x 56 Short Salomon

Appearance: Very unique baseball bat shape. Dark brown with nice veins and very tight seams. It is oily with a nice sheen. The band is always one of the strong points of any BLTC cigar. The very cool praying skeleton with the ornate design black and white design just screams of grunge and goth. There are great stories behind the name and I am sure this one is no different. I am sure the design holds meaning to the name as well. I have my own opinion of it but I don’t want to speculate. The foot is flat and a really prominent round cap.20170409_104424-01[1]

Pre-light: The cigar feels nice in the hand. Even with its unique shape, it doesn’t feel awkward to hold. The cigar is firm with no soft spots that I feel. I pick up a few faint notes from the body and foot but not much is revealed.

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Cold Draw: I used a straight cut and the draw offers some resistance. I pick up a few notes of pepper and tobacco with a hint of bitter cocoa. 20170409_104338-01[1]

1st Third: I got things going with my dual torch lighter and I pick up pepper, sweet cocoa and cedar wood. The draw offers resistance but not super hard to pull through. It is a unique blend that is rather hard to identify. At least for me. As I move more into it, pepper is definitely there but the wood mixes with a sweetness that I cannot pinpoint. The burn is a little jagged and the ash is holding on tight. Interesting blend that is starting out medium bodied. I am sure that will change soon.

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2nd Third: More cedar and a earthy, grassy notes take shape. It is not hay but certainly more of a grassy flavor. I am still getting pepper notes and it is trending more towards a full strength smoke. The draw is still a little tight but given its size and shape, too full of a draw and it would likely burn hot and too fast. The blend has not changed much and it is still pretty complex to sort the specific notes I am getting.

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Final Third: I find the burn slowing a bit and touch it up a little. The draw has continued to offer some resistance and I am not getting much smoke from the pull. I am getting more cedar, the grassy notes are almost that of clove or mild mint leaf maybe. There is an earthiness towards the later part of the cigar that takes the forefront. The strength has certainly stepped up like I expected it would. Don’t go too fast with this one.

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Final Thoughts: As a big fan of BLTC I had very high expectations for this cigar. The problem with so many great cigars that just continue to come out of Fabrica Oveja Negra is that the bar just keeps getting set higher and higher. For me, this was not my favorite cigar from Black Label. I would not go as far as to say it wasn’t good or enjoyable, it just wasn’t my favorite blend.

That being said, it is still a really good smoke and I encourage you to pick one up and give it a try. Especially if you are not familiar with the brand, you may find this is one of the best smokes you have ever had. That is exactly what happened to me when I tried my first BLTC cigar and then they just kept getting better and better. James and Angela do not make a bad cigar. They just don’t.

The Deliverance Nocturne is complex with a number of different things going on. I wouldn’t advise beginners to jump feet first into this cigar but certainly take your time and give it a couple of hours. It doesn’t look like it would take that long to smoke but it does, and it packs a punch. More advanced smokers would enjoy this cigar as well. No crazy transitions or weird changes. I found the draw to be a little bit tight for my personal liking but nothing I had to really struggle with. The burn was a little jagged but did settle in and burned evenly. I needed one small touch up which was partially my fault. As the cigar tapers down in size it required a little bit more attention than I gave it. After that it was fine.

I would like to compare the Salomon Snub Nose (6 1/4 x 36 x 56) and the Perfecto to really get a better feel for the blend and compare them equally. Would I smoke this cigar again, yes. With so many heavy hitters in the line up between BLTC and BLK_WKS, you really cannot go wrong with any of their cigars. The Deliverance Nocturne is worth checking out.

Pairings: I paired this cigar with high quality H20 since it was my first time trying it. Pair this with Spiced Rum, Whiskey, Bourbon or Scotch and you better be on your A game. This one hits back and I could see it really giving some problems if you don’t take your time with it. I think it would be a great cigar with a nice red wine as well. That is something I have started doing recently and I must say that I didn’t think of the combo as something I would like, but I do and it works out nicely.

I hope you enjoyed the review. Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments and reviews here. I would love to hear what other people thought about this cigar.

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.”

 

 

The Third and Final Round…The Rebel Signature

Hope everyone is off to a great new year and staying warm. I read that there was snow on the ground in 49 states. Crazy. Here in Northeast Pa it is your typical Jan. Temps have been in the teens for over a week with a little snow and wind chills in single digits or in the negative. This of course means the heaters are going around the clock and the air inside is very dry. Humidity for cigars in this climate is very tricky. I for one am ready to pack up and move further south. Birds are much smarter than us, they know when to head south!

Tonight I decided to brave the extremely cold temps and got the heater up cranked up in the garage for a bit so I would not become a frozen statue until Spring. I decided it was time to try the third and final cigar I received from The Rebel Cigar company. The Signature series is there premier cigar and looking at this cigar I can see why. This cigar has a very elegant look and feel to it. I love the twister style with the medium and dark brown swirling wrapper.

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The RC Signature – 6 x 52

An intriguing, complex, and hand-rolled mix of leaves derived from the remote regions of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Infused with 100% premium Cuban-seed filler, our Rebel Cigars are flawless creations accompanied by dark and light Nicaraguan Habano wrappers, for an exotic and dangerously sophisticated experience.” (Taken from The Rebel Cigar website)

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The cigar feels light and firm throughout with no soft spots. It smells of barnyard hay, cedar and earth. Off the foot I pick up more of the same with a subtle semi-sweet cocoa. The combination of the light and dark Nicaraguan wrapper really comes together to make a very nice looking cigar.

I use a straight guillotine cut and the cold draw offers a little resistance and I get notes of cedar, hay, and earth. I used wooden matches to get things started and finished with a dual flame torch lighter. Once I got it nice and toasted the initial draw provides me with a very strong cedar wood profile and a little sweetness. As I move into it a little, the straw makes an appearance. The strength is on the medium side with a nice flavor profile. It is very woodsy with a nice smooth finish. The first third performs well with the draw still offering some resistance but not too tight, the ash is holding well and the burn is even.

As noted in other reviews, the extreme cold here plays hell on cigars and is far less than ideal for them. As a result of being in a propane heated garage the burn line is affected and when I go outside it straightens out very nicely however the brutal cold causes some issues with cracking because it is just far to dry and far too cold. Anyone that smokes in the cold knows what I am dealing with. I don’t care what cigar you have and what temp and humidity you store them at, once they get into single digit dry climates, there will be issues. This was no different. My cigars are kept in a humidor in an interior closet in the winter with a humidifier and typically stays at a constant 68 to 70 degrees with 69 to 71% humidity. I am very meticulous about caring for my investments. The issues I experienced with this cigar say nothing about the quality or construction of the cigar.

All that said, I did experience some small cracks in the wrapper. Nothing serious and it only effected the cosmetics of the cigar. I have mentioned before that I should go to a local lounge but I am pretty methodical about how and where I do reviews. I find doing reviews in a smoke filled lounge is not ideal as the other cigars tend to find their way into the cigar I am reviewing and it doesn’t allow for an accurate tasting experience.

Enough about the climate issues, I’m turning into John Kerry…Geez. As I made my way through the second and last third of this cigar not much changed. The flavor profile stayed very steady and consistent throughout with certain profiles taking the forefront and then falling back when another took its place. The main flavors of cedar, smoky wood, hay, earth and cocoa stayed consistent. I personally would have enjoyed a little pepper or spice blended into this to really open the profile up a bit more but that is only my personal preference. I am a big fan of spice and pepper. That’s my Louisiana heritage working it’s way in. Cayenne and spice are at the heart of everything we do so I never shy away from pepper and spice in a cigar. I understand that not everyone likes that. For many of you this blend will be perfect.

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Overall thoughts. This was a nice, smooth, well constructed medium bodied cigar that had a very woodsy flavor profile and mixed well with the other notes I described. I paired this cigar with water but this cigar would pair very well with a great bourbon, rum or scotch. Any of these would add that spice I mentioned and would really bring out the flavors in both the liquor and the cigar. The look of this cigar is elegant, and luxurious. I could easily see this being a go to smoke in a nice after dinner setting with cigars and drinks. It is mild enough so that you could smoke more than one and it looks terrific. Great for social gatherings or as a after dinner smoke. I enjoyed this cigar a lot. Smoke time was right at 2 hours. This is where that resistance in the draw comes into play. It never allowed the cigar to get really hot and burned nicely.

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So that completes the Rebel Cigar series for me. Overall, for a company new to the market they have potential. The only recommendations I would offer (as a consumer) is offer different sizes at some point and I would play around with the band colors. One thing I had a hard time with was taking a picture that showcased the brand and cigar name and it was always a challenge regardless of lighting. The dark red or maroon makes it very hard to display and the light always seems to reflect and takes away from the shot. As a new company, the one thing you want is attention and to stand out. If I took this band off in a social setting, someone would have to pick it up and find the right lighting to figure out what it was. The cigars themselves are really good. The price point for the size are good. The construction is solid, the performance is great, the flavor profiles are very consistent. Don’t expect radical changes throughout. The Light, Medium and Signature by Rebel are worth trying for sure. Visit them at https://www.therebelcigar.com/

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I would like to thank Rebel for giving me the opportunity to review their products and I wish them much success on their journey into this wild and crazy market. I think they will do fine with the right exposure.

I hope you enjoyed the review and I look forward to your comments and reviews if you care to submit them. Until next time friends, as always, long ashes and full glasses. 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 reviews or feedback for this product and receive no compensation for doing so.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigars

I initially wanted to start this review with information taken from the Foundation website but this information is very easily accessible with a quick click here http://foundationcigarcompany.com/the-tabernacle/ You can find out all of the info behind this masterful blend. Nick Melillo is the man behind Foundation Cigars and is known as the “Chief of the Broadleafs” and for good reason. Being from New Haven Connecticut and working with farmers there for over 10 years, in his words “Broadleaf is more than tobacco for me. It is something sacred.”
You may recognize the name from many of the top selling Drew Estate cigars. Nick is the man behind those masterful combinations. Liga No 9, Dirty Rat, Nica Rustica, Feral Flying Pig, etc… Plain and simple, the man is one of the top blenders in the world.
I walked into Famous Smoke Shop a few weeks back and asked one of the guys I know there to pick out a nice quick smoke that wouldn’t cost me a fortune. I wanted something I could easily smoke in under or right at 1 hour in the very cold temps we have here in Pa. He picked out the Charter Oaks by Foundation for me and I was blown away. For a petite corona under $5.00 you simply can’t beat it. Of course this got me interested in learning more about the company, as I always try to do, and I found out why this cigar was so good. When I realized who was behind the brand, I felt like an idiot for not picking up the Tabernacle and the El Guegurnse “The Wise Man” (Pronounced El When When Say). So on the bright side, I made another road trip to Famous. When life hands you lemons…
Now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s get down to why you are reading this page shall we?
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The Tabernacle Corona- 5 1/4 x 46 Price $9.00
This work of art features Honduras (Jamastran Valley) Nicaragua (Esteli & Jalapa Valley) fillers, a Mexican San Andres binder, and wrapped in a beautiful Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.
This is a very dark chocolate wrapper that really stands out against the very unique and elegant black and gold band with super high quality printing. This thing screams elegance and produces notes of rich dark chocolate, almost espresso like, earth and pepper from the broadleaf wrapper. I pick up more dark chocolate (cocoa), a woodsy cedar, earth and pepper from the foot. I decided on a straight guillotine cut and the cold draw reveals a sweet blend of cedar, pepper and earthy notes. The draw offers some resistance. The wrapper is rolled very nicely with very tight seams. It feels firm and solid which explains the resistance on the draw.
I used regular wooden matches to get things going and immediately I pick the familiar cedar and a very smooth cocoa blend. The pepper makes an appearance about a quarter of an inch into it. It blends very nicely with the cedar and the sweetness. The blend is very good and I am enjoying this one a lot. The draw is still a little tight but not bad. It is producing some nice smoke. The ash is holding very tight and is white in color. At the end of the first third, the pepper fades a bit and the dark chocolate and earth notes come to the forefront.
The second third brings more of the same and I am good with that. No huge jumps in flavors moving through the transition. As I get more into the halfway point the full flavor of the blend comes together very nicely. The cedar, earth, pepper and cocoa really pull together and I am reminded of other cigars that utilize tobacco from the Jamastran Valley. The spice of the San Andreas really starts to come through but never enough to overpower the flavor profile.
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(Sorry for the lighting but it is under flood lights around my house) The final third is a continuation of the first 2 thirds. Sweet cedar, cocoa, pepper and earth close this cigar out. The draw remained a little tight throughout but helped to extend the burn time to 1 hour 40 minutes. I was outside in a damp, freezing rain (light drizzle) about 38 degrees for the first half of this cigar like a crazy person grilling steaks and burgers. Dedication is something I pride myself on. Lol. The ash held very tight for most of each third and the burn was a little uneven but this is due to the harsh outside conditions and breeze. When I went into my heated garage, it evened out very nicely.
Overall thoughts. This cigar was delicious. Almost dessert like in a sense. The rich dark chocolate mixed with the sweet cedar wood profile is very good and hard to put down. The strength is medium moving into full towards the end but never got harsh or bitter. It certainly ramped up towards the end and I was warned of that prior to having it so I was prepared. The flavor profile is full for sure.
The overall look to this cigar is simply elegant, the construction is great, the draw was a little tight for my personal liking but not bad, the burn was great, the ash held tight, and the flavor was just fantastic. This is an immediate box worthy cigar for me and I would put this into my rotation today. They come in 6 sizes and in boxes of 24 with the exception of the Lancero which comes in a box of 13. This is the second cigar I have tried by Foundation and I can say that I am more than impressed and I am a fan of Foundation Cigars. The hype behind this one was very well deserved which is rare these days. I highly recommend this cigar.
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I am going to start adding this declaimer here at the bottom in response to internet warriors that are cowards and hide behind the safety of their computer screen in mom’s basement in their underoos and find ways to try and troll people. If you met them in the streets they would want to buy you a cigar or if confronted, piss themselves. Either way, the more I thought about doing this or not, I decided it is actually a great addition to let people know that I am not being paid, or compensated by these companies to promote their product. I offer EVERYONE the same opportunity after EACH review to leave their own comments, thoughts, AND REVIEWS. No one has sent me one so I can’t post what I don’t have but I have made that offer since day 1. Will their review differ from mine? I certainly hope the hell so. I also don’t block people comments. I approve all of them regardless of content. People can disagree with my review, ultimately I am telling you what I experienced, not what you are going to experience. I would imagine your taste will be different than mine. Sorry for the rant, just felt like I needed to explain that some.
Leave your comments, thoughts and reviews here and as always, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace!
“This cigar was purchased by me for the purpose of my enjoyment. I did the review on my own for the purpose of providing a true, honest opinion on the product. I am under no obligation to provide favorable reviews for this product and receive no compensation for doing so.” Cigar Hawk
P.S. If it wasn’t great, you would read that also. I just don’t bash peoples work, I can do it tactfully.

 

The Rebel RC Medium

Happy 2017 everyone. Hope everyone had a safe and Happy celebration with friends and family. 2016 was a year with a lot of changes, a lot of tragic events across the globe, new FDA regulations on the cigar industry, one of the craziest election seasons in the history of the free world, and a year of some of the best cigars in the world being released. A lot of new companies launched, many existing companies sped up releases to get around some of the new regulations bringing some of the best blends into the market. I tried many new brands and even more new cigars this year than in previous years. This was for a number of reasons. 1) I was really excited about a lot of the new releases 2) My palate has developed enough that I had a much better understanding of what I was actually experiencing 3) I really fell hard for boutique brands and trying cigars that don’t get much exposure. All of these things really played into my cigar buying, smoking and enjoying cigars this year more than ever. Being a relatively new smoker in the sense that I only got into it about 3 years ago and really into it less than 2 years I have really advanced my expectations and far too often I found myself disappointed by the major name brand releases.

With all that said, (if you follow me you have read this before) I decided to dedicate this blog to those smaller up and coming brands that need a platform and hopefully get them some exposure. I don’t ask for anything other than spreading the word about this page and to provide me some feedback. The response so far has been great and I am very thankful for that. I hope that 2017 brings some great things for this blog and specifically the companies, people and cigars I review here. I try to be honest and as descriptive as my palate allows me to be.

One of the companies that I reached out to about the page was The Rebel Cigar company. You can read my first review of the Rebel RC Light here also. They were nice enough to send me 1 of each of their blends to try and review.

The RC Medium 6 x 52 size

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This is the second of the 3 I received. The product information card they sent states that their cigars feature “Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos infused with 100% premium Cuban-seed filler. The RC Medium Cigar is wrapped in a Dark Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro Leaf”. This is a very nice looking cigar that is a nice, dark brown with a rugged wrapper featuring nice veins. There was a minor defect in the cap which I cut with 0 issues (this was likely from the shock of the change in climate and shipping). The cigar feels light in my hand with no soft spots. Construction is solid and I pick up notes of semi-sweet cocoa, hay and earth from the foot.

I used a v-cut and the cold draw brings heavy notes of straw with a hint of cocoa. It was very interesting how much straw/hay it presented. I used a match to get things started and once toasted I picked up some nice red pepper that hit my palate followed by a very nice woodsy profile. This cigar has a very earthy feel to it and is producing some nice white smoke. The flavor profile is very natural with a bit of spice that tones down pretty rapidly moving through the first third. Draw and burn are both very good. This is a medium bodied cigar.

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As I move into the second third the transition is very subtle with more of the cocoa mixed with a nice wood flavor. It is likely cedar but it is smoky and mixes very nicely with the sweetness of the semi-sweet cocoa. The profile really does not change all that much, and for me that is great. As I stated before, this misconception that a cigar needs these huge flavor transitions at every third is ridiculous to me. I actually prefer consistency over huge shifts. This cigar, so far is very consistent. If you like the first third of this cigar, you will enjoy it throughout. If you don’t, you won’t find much else in regards to major changes. The ash is holding over 1 inch and is grey in color. The burn is a little jagged but I am outdoors in low 40 degree temps with a breeze so this is going to effect the performance. When I go into my heated garage, it tends to straighten out but the heat and lack of humidity really makes it starve for air. Admittedly these are less than ideal conditions to do a true review in regards to performance. Because the climate I am in is so harsh on cigars I always make it a point to state this fact. When you see pictures and it looks jagged, this is rarely (almost never) due to the construction of the cigar. Moving on.

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The final third brought more of the same with the exception of the return of the red pepper spice coming to the forefront with the cocoa taking a backseat but really mixing into a really nice smooth finish. The smoky wood profile really makes a statement throughout this cigar as the dominant flavor for me. That’s the beautiful thing about cigars, they are unique to the individual smoking it. My perfect 10 may very well be the worse cigar you ever smoked so always keep that in mind when you try a cigar based on a review.

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Overall, this was a solid cigar that was medium in strength and flavor profile. The construction was great, nice open draw, good burn that required no touch-ups with a very natural profile. It was very woodsy with just the right amount of spice and subtle sweetness. The blend was very consistent throughout with no major swings or shifts from one third to the next. I think newer smokers would enjoy this cigar which is a step up from milder smokes but the flavor is enough that more advance smokers would still enjoy it. This is a great choice for a morning smoke with coffee or perfect for a nice lunchtime smoke. I really enjoyed this cigar and I would certainly smoke it again. So far 2 for 2 from Rebel Cigar in my book. At an $8.00 price point, this is a great looking, great performing, intriguing cigar that will satisfy a variety of smokers from new to old.

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I hope you enjoyed this review. As always, comments, suggestions and your thoughts are always welcomed. I encourage you to check out https://www.therebelcigar.com/ for more information. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses friends. Peace.

Outlawed Luxury…Run with The Rebel

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and all the other many holiday greetings that we celebrate. Hope everyone had a great weekend with friends and family. I was home alone as I sent my wife and son to Louisiana to be with family and our daughter that moved back in the spring to attend school. Being an adult sucks sometimes but it was worth it seeing the photos and hearing the happiness in their voices. This is also why I have the free time to do a review on Christmas. I am not THAT dedicated. Lol

Anyway, awhile back I had a company start following me on Instagram so I followed back. I saw them posting from time to time, and as I got the blog up and running I reached out to them and asked if they would be interested in being featured here. As they are growing and recently released their cigars, I intend to do a piece on the brand and the people behind it. In the meantime, they were nice enough to send me a 3 pack sampler to review for them. That is always a very humbling thing for me and I truly appreciate it.

I received the RC Light, RC Medium, and the Signature yesterday (Merry Christmas to me!) and I couldn’t wait to try them. I decided to give them a night in the humidor to warm up because they spent some time traveling from Las Vegas to the much cooler Northeast. This factor will come into play during my review. Today was sunny, in the high 40’s which is warmer than it has been here so I decided to start with the RC Light.

The Rebel Cigar (RC) Light – 6 x 52 size

The company included a nice folding card with info about the company and the cigars. The cards states the cigars “are a mix of leaves from remote regions of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Infused with 100% premium Cuban-seed filler and accompanied by a Light Nicaraguan Habano Claro leaf wrapper.”

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The cigar is medium brown in color with small veins and the seams are slightly raised. It feels firm with no soft spots. The band is black with gold and a deep red (maroon) Cowboy hat, mustache and cigar logo.I picked up notes of really good tobacco, straw and a sweet cocoa off the foot. I used a straight guillotine cut and the cold draw was open with a little resistance. I picked up some earthy barnyard notes mixed with tobacco.

I used a match to get things started and it lit very easily and tons of thick, white smoke poured from this cigar. Once I got it nice and toasted, the first puff produced some pepper spice that hit the back of my palate. I did not expect this as I didn’t pick up any of that from the foot. The next couple of puffs revealed some leathery earthy notes with some pepper and a subtle cocoa in the background. First impression was impressive. Great draw, tons of smoke, a solid and complex flavor profile. As I moved into the first third a bit more, the pepper really toned down a lot and a subtle woodsy (oak/cedar mix possibly) came into the mix. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come because it is very pleasant.

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As stated prior, coming from Las Vegas into the colder North presented some minor issues which is not uncommon. The cold temp can cause the leaves to tighten up a bit and there were some minor breaking in the wrapper. It was also a bit windy and the burn was slightly jagged. I attribute both of these issues to the climate and not the cigar. The ash held almost the entire length of until a nice gust of wind removed it for me. The construction of this cigar is solid.

The second third brought exactly what I hoped. The woodsy flavor that started to appear really takes front and center now and adds to the complexity of the blend. There is still that earthy element with a light cocoa mix. So far this is a medium bodied, full flavored cigar. I am really finding it hard to put it down and the blend really has me intrigued by what is offered. The wood profile really blends well. The ash is over 1 inch and holding strong. It is white/grey and flaky. The draw tightened up just a touch offering just the right amount of resistance. This could be from the cold also. Either way, its still a nice, easy draw and this cigar is still producing a lot of smoke.

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As I move into the final third, the pepper spice makes a nice return. A few spots were a slight bit harsh but I attribute that to me smoking away like a crack fiend and not giving this cigar time to rest. 2 reasons for that…1) the cigar is REALLY good 2) it’s in the 40’s and I have been out here almost 2 hours! The cigar ends with the same profile it started with. A bit of spice mixed with the other great flavors mentioned. The final third moved into the medium-med/full range but stayed very smooth.

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Overall thoughts. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this review. What I came away with is that this is a great cigar. Solid construction, great performance, complex and flavorful profile, medium to med/full strength that is smooth throughout. This was a very enjoyable cigar that lasted right at the 2 hour mark even with me puffing away on it. This tells you about the construction of the cigar. Even with that amount of air flowing through it, it stayed cool and the burn lasted. No touchups were needed. The burn line was slightly jagged but again, I am outside on a windy day.

The price point on the RC Series runs $8.00 and the Signature Series is priced at $12. $8 for a 6×52 of this caliber and size is very fair. I would spend that much for this stick and feel good about it knowing what I am getting. I highly recommend trying this cigar and I look forward to reviewing the next 2. The 52 is a bigger ring gauge than I typically smoke so I hope they look to bring in some different sizes as they grow. This is a solid cigar and I would certainly smoke this cigar in my rotation. Very nicely done Rebel Cigar. Much success in the future!

If you are interested in checking them out or placing an order, please visit www.therebelcigar.com

As always friends, your thoughts, comments and reviews are welcome. Next time we have “Something Special” to review. Long ashes and full glasses. May you all have a very Merry Christmas.

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A great find…for a great price!

 

I stopped by Famous Smoke Shop the other day to pick up some accessories and while I was there I picked up a few cigars that I hadn’t tried before and some that I had tried but wanted different sizes. I came across the Charter Oaks Petite Corona by Foundation Cigars.

“Charter Oak cigars are an affordably-priced premium cigar edition from Nicholas Melillo that reaffirms his passion for U.S. Connecticut cigar tobacco in both shade-grown and broadleaf maduro selections. Produced at Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars in Nicaragua, the core blend consists of fillers from the Estelí and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua, with a Sumatra binder for the shade version, and a Nicaraguan Habano binder for the broadleaf.” (credit Famous Smoke Shop for the description)

The El Gueguense (highly rated award winner) along with the Tablernacle, are also from Foundation Cigar Company. I have not tried anything from them yet so I decided to go with the smaller Charter Oak simply because it is freezing here in Pa and I wanted a smaller, shorter smoke.

The Petite Corona Broadleaf is 5 1/4 x 42 and features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper with Nicaraguan filler and binder. It is a mild to medium strength. It is a nice maduro dark brown with the foot folded over. I pick up notes of earth, hay, cedar and a faint sweetness. The band is very cool featuring the image of a historic Oak tree from Hartford Connecticut paying tribute to state Nick was born and raised in.

With the foot being covered you can’t pick up much from it. I used a match to get started and it lit quickly. Straight guillotine cut (I almost opted for the V-cut) and off we go. Right off the bat, the semi-sweet chocolate mixes with earth and some cedar. There is a little pepper left on my palate but blends nicely. The draw is nice with a bit of resistance which is good for a cigar this small. The burn line is forming and is nice and even. The flavor profile remains basically the same. A bit of chocolate with that earthy, cedar wood, and a touch of pepper spice. The pepper doesn’t really build much but is enough to let you know that it is there. For a cigar that is priced under $5, I am VERY impressed with it. I did not expect this much complexity and flavor from this stick.

The second third adds a bit of leather and a nice creamy feel to the blend. The draw is still great, the burn got a bit off but I attribute that to the swirling heat from the heater in the garage. I walked outside in the brisk, cold air for a couple of minutes and the burn evened out immediately. I can’t believe the flavors coming out of this smoke. This cigar rivals cigars I have paid double the price for. Very impressive. Still picking up the earthy, cedar, leather and spice with faint sweetness that pulls it all together.

The final third there is a subtle sourness that comes in but is not overpowering and blends in with the sweetness. The pepper and wood notes are still around and this cigar ends with a very nice, very complex flavor profile. I expected this to be a quick, short smoke but the resistance on the draw really kept this cigar from burning too hot and I got a little over an hour with it. 1 hour 15 minutes and there was little sitting time. I could not put this cigar down. I can’t say enough about this cigar. For the money, I absolutely did not expect to get this much quality and flavor from it. Unbelievable smoke for around $4.50.

“I wanted to create an economy-minded, everyday smoke for connoisseurs; something tasty and delicious but didn’t break the bank”, says Melillo. Mission accomplished sir!! Well done!

Overall, I have to say this cigar completely exceeded the expectations I had for it. Construction was solid, draw and burn were both very good. The complexity of the blend was very interesting and made it hard for me to put down. It never changed so much that it waivered from the initial profile, but enough to make it interesting. This one is an absolute no brainer for me. This is a box worthy purchase any day of the week at this price point. The only other cigar at this price that edges this Charter Oaks is the Rorshach by Black Works Studio. Do yourself a favor and pick up a few of these great cigars. They are available in other sizes as well. I did not pick up the Shade version of this because I am much more a broadleaf guy but I would imagine it is good probably not as complex. This was a mild to medium smoke for me and would be great for beginners looking for a flavorful change, but it is complex enough that experienced smokers would enjoy as well. I am certainly getting more of these and I want to step up into the Tabernacle as well.

Paired with water for the first 2 thirds and Dreaming Tree Crush Red wine for the final third. Paired very well and I could certainly see this pairing with a scotch, rum or bourbon.

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I hope you enjoyed this review. Feel free to leave you thoughts, comments or reviews and as always, long ashes and full glasses. Peace!

 

Its not a cigar…its a 1502. Blue Sapphire review

“Global Premium Cigars is a tobacco company Proudly Nicaraguan, which owns the most renown and prestigious brand 1502. Truly a Nicaraguan treasure.

In our Premium brand 1502, you will find three tobacco lines with the highest quality, where the sowing process, harvest, curing, aging and selection of each tobacco leaf is our major concern. It takes more than five years from the time of its sowing until the time you can enjoy one of our fine cigars; this is why patience is one of our greatest virtues in the art of tobacco production.

In our brand 1502, you will find three lines totally different from each other, being 1502 Emerald the “Fina Fuerte” (Fine Strong), 1502 Ruby of medium strength and 1502 Black Gold with strongest character. Three spectacular bindings that exclaim the Nicaraguan flavor, which will delight at all times and will make an unforgettable experience. So Why 1502? When Christopher Columbus discovered Nicaragua in 1502, he not only discovered a paradise land where natives with their rich cultures lived, he also discovered a new world full of riches.”  (Taken from their website.)

I was unfamiliar with 1502 in the sense that I had not tried any of their cigars until the past few months. I purchased the Emerald, Rudy, Black Gold, and Blue Sapphire. I tried all of them with the exception of the Blue Sapphire in a short amount of time and I can say that 1502 makes a great cigar.

I let the Sapphire age a few months in the humidor and I finally decided it was time. Looking at it, it is a beautifully constructed cigar that is completely Nicaraguan. Wrapper, Binder and Filler are all Nicaraguan which I found very intriguing. Unlike the other 1502’s the Blue Sapphire is not a box pressed stick.  It is a 6×52 Toro Gordo and retails for around $13. It is nice dark brown which really makes the beautiful blue and silver band stand out. There are some medium veins and I pick up faint notes of earth, straw and cocoa from the foot.

I decided to try a new cut with this one. I used a v-cutter and made 2 cuts making the X cut. It worked out well and the draw was open with a touch of resistance. The cold draw produces notes of earth and cocoa. I used a match to start and touched it up with a dual flame torch.

The first draw provided woodsy, earthy and cocoa notes. I picked up a little pepper but overall the flavor was nice and medium in strength. As I moved into it a bit, the wood and pepper picked up a bit and made for a nice mixture. This wasn’t something I picked up on the cold draw so it was a nice surprise.The burn line was uneven in places but evened out in time and the ash held for about 1 inch but was prone to dropping off without much notice.

As I moved into the second third, it was very much consistent with the first third of this cigar. The burn and draw were great. Moving into the final third, the flavor really revealed itself.

The final third produced a combination of woods (maybe cedar and oak) with a nice pepper, earth, and a subtle cocoa. The pepper and wood really take over through the final third making this more of a medium-full strength.  As I closed in on the 1 hour 50 minute mark, this cigar ends with a nice woodsy cedar, cocoa and pepper. 20161218_151829-011

Overall this was not a very complex blend with a ton of crazy changing flavor profiles as you transition from third to third. It stays relatively consistent with some subtle back and forth from the cedar/oak taking the forefront to the cocoa/earth moving up with a subtle pepper in the background. I thought it was a solid cigar with a nice flavor and a medium to medium-full strength. I would smoke this cigar again. The price point of this cigar makes it hard to be a box worthy or rotational cigar for me. I think beginners could transition into this cigar pretty easily and more experienced smokers would enjoy it for what it is. A medium to medium-full Nicaraguan cigar.

I paired this cigar with water for the first half and Angels Envy bourbon for the final third which really brought out the pepper in the bourbon and the cigar. As a fan of spice, I enjoyed the pairing.

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As the man Enrique Sánchez says, “Relax and Enjoy” this cigar and let me know what you think. Drop your comments, reviews and thoughts here. Be sure to follow us here and on social media. Until next time, long ashes and full glasses. Peace.

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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!