Friday, January 12, 2018

Crowned Heads Luminosa Toro

Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade
Filler / Binder: ???
Length: 6.5
Ring: 52
Cost: $8.50

Background: A friend of mine recommended giving this as a try for the first cigar of the day. His exact words were, “this is the perfect cigar to prime your palate, and goes great with a coffee or tea.” Where most Crowned Heads selections are a little more on the heavy side, this was specifically made to cater to the lighter end of the market.

Appearance (0-20): No qualms with the appearance here. The Connecticut shade wrapper is one that will show imperfections pretty easily but this one only has a few minimal veins of note. The wrap job looks well done as it’s all clean. Crowned Heads went with a simple band with a nice orange backdrop, a circular design on the band, and Luminosa in a bronze color across a brown swatch.
Score: 18

Construction (0-20): The Luminosa sports a soft but dry wrapper. The foot looks pretty good with what looks to be an even pack job. Feeling along the length of the cigar there are a couple of areas that I have concerns with because it’s under packed. My hope is it wouldn’t affect the overall smoke. The cut was a bit messy. When smoking though, it held together decently with about an inch at a time between ashes. The draw was perfect, and the burn line held close to straight.
Score: 16

Strength (0-20): Mild to medium in strength and it sticks there. It begins a bit more on the mild side and builds, though it never gets out of the mild to medium range.
Score: 19

Flavor (0-20): The first few puffs of the cigar have just the slightest bit of bittersweet chocolate with a really creamy base. Quickly you will find that a light cedar flavor works its way in and sticks around. It’s not overpowering by any means. As it continues there is a milk chocolate and maybe a slight bit of vanilla. The flavors pretty much continue along with the same ones that have been noted, melding seamlessly. The smoke is not absurdly complex, but everything works together very well.
Score: 18

Value (0-20): At a price of $8.50 per stick, it’s priced appropriately. This is a solid boutique cigar for the lower strength scale that’s well balanced.
Score: 18

Additional Notes: Paired with black tea. The cigar was provided by Holt's Cigar Company.

Overall (0-100): Admittedly, I am not too much of a lighter cigar smoker but if it’s one that is well done, I am willing to give it a shot. The Luminosa is one of those aforementioned cigars. It’s a great smoke for any part of the day, but I could see this one falling into a normal rotation for me as a beginning of the day cigar. The flavors are harmonious with milk chocolate, cream, cedar, and vanilla with a mild to medium strength that matches it very well. Again, this has an appropriate price for what it is.
Score: 89

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Torano Exodus 1959 '50 Years' Short Churchill (Toro)

Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Brazil
Filler / Binder: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Length: 6
Ring: 48
Cost: $5.60
BackgroundThe original Exodus line was created by Torano to commemorate the exodus that occurred in Cuba during the 1959 communist revolt, specifically with many cigar families fleeing the country to eventually set up operations elsewhere.
Appearance (0-20): The Torano Exodus 1959 has a nice rich looking Brazilian wrapper on it, but it shows quite a few smaller veins. They are nothing I am worried about when lighting up, but are worth noting. There are a few nicks in the wrapper and just giving it a quick glance you can see the wrapper itself is a bit on the thin side. On the inside there are absolutely some nice looking tobaccos distributed throughout. The dual bands have a nice elegant matching copper and black color scheme, embossed with the Torano insignia.
Score: 16

Construction (0-20): I don't like the fact that the wrapper has already cracked a bit but when I felt along it the actual culprit is that it is both thin and delicate. Because of that I didn't want to apply too much pressure to the stick at all. So from a packing standpoint, I can feel a few small gaps where there may be an issue but can't determine how big the gaps are without possibly messing up the wrapper. Despite the potential pitfalls, the cut was completely clean. The draw was slightly loose and remained that way throughout. The burn line was also pretty sharp, but the ash didn't hold terrible long before dropping off.
Score: 15

Strength (0-20): Medium to full, but falls a little short - sticking in the medium realm pretty solidly. However the medium strength works best for this cigar.
Score: 18
Flavor (0-20): When sparking this one up there is no doubt that this thing has some rich flavors waiting there for you. Deep earthy flavors and rich tobacco are mixed with a very distinct peppery spice. These continue through the first third with just the slightest bit of sweetness. Working through the cigar, the same flavors continue to be present, but in differing amounts, each taking a turn at the forefront. The flavors given enough complexity to be satisfied, but not so many that that it feels forced - making this just simply work.
Score: 18
Value (0-20): For the cost of $5.60, its a decent stick to snag. The flavors are there to make this worth the price, even despite some of the other issues that you may have with appearance and construction.
Score: 18
Additional Notes: Paired with water.
Overall (0-100): I know the box pressed version of this stick earned a whopping 93 from Cigar Aficionado, but for me it doesn't quite reach that kind of peak. In fact, it falls quite a bit short of that rating mainly due to the construction and appearance. The wrapper was extremely delicate and the packing was a little off which hurt the burn, hold of the ash, and overall experience. But that same wrapper is a large reason the flavors are so spot on for the smoke.... which of course is a redeeming factor here. The flavors and strength work well as a whole, with nothing overpowering happening and nothing too complex. The mantra here may be that simple is not always inferior, since it all works - pepper, earth, rich tobacco, and sweetness all in just the right amounts. And a sub $6 price tag? Yes please. This is the type of cigar that I am willing to fight through any issues on due to it being an affordable quality smoke.
Score: 85

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Alec Bradley Mundial Punta Lanza 5

Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Honduras
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua, Honduras
Length: 5.125
Ring: 52
Cost: $9.00
BackgroundAlec Bradley's offering is named Mundial, which means global in multiple languages. It took them five years of blending and putting together four different fillers to get the blend just right, which only comes in a perfecto shape.

Appearance (0-20): Characteristic of Alec Bradley, there are two bands that dominate the cigar. One band is oversized and contains the Alec name, logo, and a focused design that utilizes pearl, gold, and blue hues that are set across a compass / the sea. The secondary band gives the name of the cigar - the Mundial - without any additional fanfare, but still keeping with the same color scheme. The cigar beneath has a lighter Honduran wrapper with a couple of small veins and blemishes. Overall the shape and look is nice and well thought out, but not perfect.
Score: 17
Construction (0-20): Perfecto cigars aren't the easiest to produce, which isn't evident from the first glance on this. It looks well constructed and feels that way too. Aside from a small crack at the foot, there is nothing negative to note about this oily stick. The wrap is tight and there are no discernible areas where it may be under or over packed. The cut was relatively clear, and the burn was both straight and solid. I did, however, run into a bit of a problem about two-thirds of the way through, as the wrapper on it totally unraveled. Disappointing given how well constructed it was otherwise.
Score: 14

Strength (0-20): The Mundial is listed as a medium strength and is absolutely right on that throughout the smoke. There is very little in terms of deviation from that.
Score: 19
Flavor (0-20): There is no doubt that when you spark this up you'll find a nice cedar base with some chocolate and pepper. The sweetness is a nice balance to the heat, which also comes through on the retrohale. As you continue, you will catch varying hints of earth, leather, nuts, and even something akin to butter. None of the additional flavors are long lasting, but will pop in from time to time. This definitely has some really nice complexity.
Score: 17
Value (0-20): For a small perfecto like this, its a bit pricey, but the flavors are there. I can't call it a bargain, but I will say its priced competitively with other quality smokes.
Score: 16
Additional Notes: Paired with water. Cigar provided by Holt's Cigar Company.

Overall (0-100): Overall, we have had some decent success with Alec Bradley products across the history of our site, and this one sticks right up there with the rest. It isn't the best stick I have had, but the majority of that issue comes from the fact that it fell apart toward the final third. It is a real shame too, since its a complex smoke that otherwise checks all of the boxes. These are for sure worth trying since its a straight up medium smoke with good core flavors (cedar, chocolate, pepper), a good appearance, and a fair price. Hopefully yours doesn't unravel - because this would have been a few points higher if it would have stayed wrapped.
Score: 83

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Caldwell The T. Robusto

Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua
Length: 5.5
Ring: 52
Cost: $10.45
BackgroundMatt Booth closed the doors on the Room 101 brand a while back in the wake of the proposed FDA changes where each and every blend would need to be registered (via a very hefty monetary process). However he has been lured back into doing some blending / design work with Robert Caldwell (of Caldwell Cigars) with the Hit and Run, which we will be giving a review to in the near future too. Add to it that AJ Fernandez was in on the project for this smoke and you have our full attention. The T., originally called "The Truth", went through a quick name prior to release due to Tatuaje holding the trademark on that name.

Appearance (0-20): This box pressed Nicaraguan puro looks great. The wrapper is a rich chocolate color with minimal veins and a clean, almost indistinguishable wrap line. The mixture of tobaccos on the foot show off what this is packing. There are no blemishes. A prominent stone colored band is embossed with 3 different black skeleton keys (which I assume are meant to show the 3 differing personalities involved on the project) as well as a gold embossing that gives this the title, "The T." Matching gold embossing is on the secondary band with the initials of the three principal guys on the project (Booth, AJ, and Caldwell) and is placed on a green backdrop.
Score: 19

Construction (0-20): When picking up the stick, there felt like there might be some small deviations in how the tobacco was spread throughout. The wrap and triple cap on top were expertly put together. Post cutting there is literally zero mess - everything held together with no tobacco splintering out at all. The initial draw was slightly tight, but it opened up when smoking through the stick to the point where it was just the right amount of resistance. The burn line remained relatively straight, but the ash held for a bit less than I would have liked.
Score: 18

Strength (0-20): Medium to full is the billing, and it absolutely hangs in that range. It begins a little fit on the fuller end of things but settles down and hangs in just the right place.
Score: 19
Flavor (0-20): The beginning of this stick contains a hint of pepper that is really prevalent on the retrohale. On the tongue there is a dark chocolate / coffee flavor that grants a slight bitterness with a light sweetness and cream to balance it out. The flavors work harmoniously through the first third, with some leather and cedar in the backdrop as it enters the second third. The pepper drops almost entirely on the retrohale, and becomes just a mere hint on the palate. The flavors of leather and earth are more prominent, but it still sticks with the bitter dark chocolate. Transitioning to the final third and it seems to revert back to the flavors found in the first third of the smoke - and its truly delicious.
Score: 19
Value (0-20): $10.45 for a robusto isn't something that one would normally consider to be a "great value" unless it was a great cigar to go along with it. This one is the type that you'll be happy that you paid the price for - a premium product at a premium price.
Score: 18

Additional Notes: Paired with water.

Overall (0-100): I am a bit skeptical when I see a collaboration between multiple people that seems almost... gimmicky. So let's cut to the chase - the T. was definitely worth both the money and the time to smoke. In fact I would go so far as to say it is one of the best newer blends that I have had in a while. There really isn't anything to complain about when smoking this cigar - its look good, is well made, holds well, has a fantastic flavor profile (initial pepper that fades, dark chocolate, coffee, leather, sweetness, and cream), and is priced well for all you're getting. The trio that put this one together really did strike just the right balance and have produced a smoke that I will absolutely be going back to.

Score: 93

AVO Syncro Nicaragua Robusto

Country: Domnican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuador
Filler / Binder: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Peru
Length: 5
Ring: 50
Cost: $9.90​

BackgroundFamous Smoke Shop had a little bit of what we will call... an issue with the pricing of the AVO Syncro Nicaragua robusto. Namely, the boxes that are normally marked at around the $200 mark were priced at $7.98 per box. While Famous could easily have cancelled all orders due to the error, they decided to honor it with the conditions that only one box per person could be purchased and a shipping charge needed to be paid. For any cigar smoker, it was the kind of mistake / deal that only comes along once in a lifetime. So, needless to say, I purchased a box for myself and passed a number on to friends to share the wealth (so to speak). The other three of them went into this review....

Appearance (0-20): It's a bit odd to see a box pressed cigar coming out of AVO, but the execution is there. The Ecuadorian habano wrapper gives it a nice tan tone on the outside, with minimal small veins that are hardly of anything more than a footnote. The wrap appears tight, so again no worries there. The band is the standard AVO label, flanked in different shades of maroon. Overall its pretty well done.
Score: 18

Construction (0-20): Given that this isnt their norm with the box-pressed shape, I didnt expect it to hold up properly. Boy was I wrong. AVO may have taken extra care with the production of these sticks. This robusto felt filled to the brim with tobacco without being overstuffed. The initial cut was perfectly clean and the prelit draw was spot on. The draw continued to be just the right tightness throughout the smoke. Now onto the burn and ash - this is what cigars should aspire to. The burn line held straight from beginning to end and the ash held on there for 3/4 of the cigar. Superior construction for sure.
Score: 20

Strength (0-20): Listed as a medium to full smoke, I felt like this one fell a little short of that mark and sticks solidly as a medium throughout. It is still heavier in both body and strength (especially on the retrohale) than just about any other AVO cigar, which works well for the smoke - but again, it's a medium.
Score: 16

Flavor (0-20): The initial pepper blast on the Syncro is a heavy one, but it fades almost immediately to become just a background note. There is an inherent creaminess balanced with a slight bitter component that is reminiscent of coffee. As the stick progressed further, the flavors remained pretty consistent with some slight deviations as to which was in the forefront. There's also a hint of a leather flavor that peeks in from time to time, but it is not dominant at all. Toward the very end of the stick, the bitterness hops in the driver seat and overpowers the other flavors.
Score: 17

Value (0-20): It would be a bit unfair to rate this based off of the accidental price that Famous Smoke Shop had on their site. The normal price they charge is $9.90 per stick - so that is what we looked at for the overall value proposition. Solid stick that is worth the price you pay for it.
Score: 17

Additional Notes: Paired with water.

Overall (0-100): So let me first get this out of the way - kudos to Famous Smoke Shop for honoring the deal that they put out there into the world. With the massive number of orders that they received, they could have easily and simply cancelled those orders and posted the mistake. However, instead of doing that and causing a public relations disaster, they stuck to their posted pricing and made a compromise to keep people happy. While that doesn't have any bearing on the cigar rating itself, I felt it should at least be shared.

On the AVO Syncro Nicaragua - The construction on this thing is immaculate. But the perfection doesn't exactly stretch across all categories for the cigar. Namely the strength falls short of expectations, though not terribly so. The strength plays well with the flavor profile, and the creaminess and bitterness balance one another very well for the most part. The unfortunate portion is that it falls a bit out of sync during the last third of the cigar, with the bitterness taking over. Because of this, I can't call the stick a bargain, though it is priced very fairly. I see this as something I wont hesitate to smoke again, but I am also not running out to get another one immediately.

Score: 88