Thursday, December 20, 2012

Liga Privada No. 9 Review



Information:
Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper origin: Connecticut
Wrapper type: Connecticut Broadleaf Oscuro
Filler: Honduran & Nicaraguan
Length: 5”
Ring: 52
Cost: $13.00



Appearance (0-20): Liga Privada cigars have become the unicorn in the cigar world for some people.  They are rarely seen at some Brick and Mortar stores, and you need to grab them while you can.  The most notable thing for me is how beautiful the wrapper is on this thing.  The very deep, rich brown color of the wrapper makes your mouth water.  Examining closely, you will notice a very grainy wrapper, which is loaded with oils.  The band around it is somewhat simple, yet still very well done.  The signature Liga Privada symbol is adorned on the side, along with the LP No. 9 written in script.  How would you not want to pick this up and buy it?

Score: 20

Construction (0-20): The No. 9 seemed to be very well constructed.  I clipped off the cap, yet it seemed to unravel a bit.  The good news was that it seemed to have a double cap, which peeled off without having any issues.  The cigar lit up quickly and evenly, probably because of the large amount of oils in the cigar itself.  While the burn wasn’t razor sharp, it was pretty even throughout the smoke.  Even when it burned uneven, it did correct itself without worry.  The draw was excellent, and produced HUGE amounts of smoke.  Additionally, the ash was a beautiful white color that really held on for close to 2 inches.


Score: 19

Strength (0-20): Listed as full, I don’t think it ever really got all the way up that scale.  It was a solid medium-full cigar, but never 100% full.  That could also just be me, but I’ve only come across a few cigars that hit that totally full factor.

Score: 18

Flavor (0-20): After lighting up the cigar, the first inch was somewhat harsh.  Not that it was terrible, but the smoke was very dense and the flavor was quite bitter.  Luckily, things seemed to open up and the flavors were more robust throughout the smoke.  There was an overall theme of a bitter dark chocolate flavor, coupled with some coffee and sweeter milk chocolate mixed in.  The flavors were nicely done, yet it seemed to have no real complexity once you get into the cigar.  The chocolate picked up a bit in the last third, and burned right to the nub.  While I never really got the great complexity and transitions that I truly enjoy in a cigar, the flavor were still nicely done.
Score: 17

Value (0-20): In the LP line, I’ve only smoked the FFP, No. 9, and Undercrown thus far.  They are all different smokes, but I still enjoy the Undercrown for its value/flavor combo.  While the No. 9 was a strong cigar in its own right, pushing up to $13 retail gives you an enormous variety of other cigars that you can buy. I’ve heard from many people, that you may enjoy the T52 much more if you didn’t enjoy the No. 9 (and vice versa). 

Score: 16

Additional Notes: Smoked at Cigars International paired with coffee.

Overall (0-100): Well looking back at the review, I truly did not do that on purpose.  The scores go from 20, 19, 18, 17, and 16.  I feel as though there is a lot of hype around these smokes, and that can add to anticipation and willingness to grab one to try.  The cigar itself is beautiful and constructed very well overall.  My main two issues were that the flavors were somewhat stagnant during most of the whole smoke, and the higher MSRP.  Once you hit $13, I could pick probably 5 cigars that I might smoked before I grabbed a No. 9.  That is not to say that the cigar isn’t good, it’s just that I am very high on price/value/flavor combo.  I always go back to the Ramon Bueso Genesis, that in my opinion, the absolute best cigar on the market for the price.

Score:  90



Monday, December 17, 2012

Ezra Zion Reagan Honor Series



Information:
Wrapper: Cuban Seed Sun Grown Habano
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua, Cuban seed
Length: 6”
Ring: 52
Cost: $12.50


Appearance (0-20): I enjoyed the presentation right off the bat. I’m a sucker for a good box pressed cigar, and this has all the makings of one. The habano wrapper has a very nice tint to it, and it is wrapped very well. There were very few small veins along the exterior and it was very silky to the touch. The black and gold bands portray something almost royal, backing this being part of the honor series. The top band actually reminds me a lot of an upscale designer label for clothing or cologne – again giving the impression of something of status. The bottom band is what denotes this as being the Reagan, part of the Honor Series. This is a good beginning to the cigar for sure.
Score: 19

Construction (0-20): The initial feel was prefect. I couldn’t locate any spots to be concerned with when pertaining to either over or under stuffing of tobacco. The initial cut yielded almost no excess tobacco at all. After cutting, the draw was absolutely perfect, with just the slightest resistance and a touch of some kind of chocolate. So far, so good. The Reagan lit up easily, striking an even balance. Had it stayed like this I would have been absolutely delighted with the construction. The unfortunate thing is – it didn’t. The cigar canoed on me. Taking a look at the side, you can see that it appeared to be an issue with how the tobacco was set. I touched this up a bit and got it back to an even state. From there the ash held extremely well (2 inches+) and it burned completely evenly.
Score: 16

Strength (0-20):  I haven’t seen too much on this out there just yet, so given that it’s a habano wrapper with Nicaraguan tobaccos, I expected a medium to full sort of cigar. I would say it delivers that very well.
Score: 18


Flavor (0-20): The initial puffs have a natural sweetness to them with a beautiful spicy counterbalance on the retrohale. Its sugary taste has something of a vanilla undertone and its extremely creamy. The prelight taste comes through also, mixing some chocolate into the mix before long. As you progress, the vanilla begins to morph and a distinct caramel taste comes out with the spice on the retrohale fading back just a tad. There are some interesting background flavors that blend in too, giving both a leathery flavor and a slightly smoky accent. In the home stretch, I found the chocolate flavor to come back in full force, blending perfectly with the caramel tones. This was truly an enjoyable smoke with masterful transitions.
Score: 19

Value (0-20): Given the intense flavors in this, and even despite some construction issues, I would still consider this to be a good value at $12.50. Although it doesn’t top a couple of other cigars in the price range, I still believe it belongs in the top tier of the $10-20 range.
Score: 18

Additional Notes: Smoked at Cigars International, paired with water.


Overall (0-100):  If you have smoked an ACID cigar in the past and thought it was a little too overwhelming – perhaps this is a better cigar to look at. This Ezra Zion offering has all of the sweet characteristics of an infused cigar without the overpowering nature to it. The flavors are woven perfectly, giving a really unique and enjoyable smoke throughout, especially considering the transitions are nearly seamless. At $12.50, it’s a bit pricey but well worth every cent. While there was a construction issue with mine, I would actually ponder grabbing a few more of these to test it out before giving a final verdict if that is indicative to the entire line, or if I just got a bum stick – though there are some other factors that should be considered anyhow: box pressed cigars are notorious for construction / burn problems, this could simply need some time to sit, etc. But again, even with the canoeing, I still found this to be a delightful smoke and would recommend it to others. 

Score: 90

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Emilio AF2 Review




Information:
Country:
Wrapper origin: Ecuador
Wrapper type: Ecuadoran Habano Oscuro
Filler: Nicaragua, Pennsylvania Ligero
Length: 6.5”
Ring: 52
Cost: $7.50

Appearance (0-20): Being the first Emilio cigar that I am smoking, I really didn't know what to expect.  This particular stick, the AF2, is sporting a dark brown habano oscuro wrapper.  There are no noticeable blemishes, soft sports, or prominent veins that are of any concern.  The rolling of the cigar also seems to be very well done.  The band is kept quite simple, using only a copper background and some text to signify the Emilio AF2 blend.  I’m not going to dock any points for the band, but it could use some artwork to grab some attention.

Score: 17

Construction (0-20): Being the first Emilio cigar that I am smoking, I really didn’t know what to expect.  This particular stick, the AF2, is sporting a dark brown habano oscuro wrapper.  No blemishes to speak of as mentioned earlier, and the rolling of the cigar also seems to be very well done.  The band is kept quite simple, using only a copper background and some text to signify the Emilio AF2 blend.  I’m not going to dock any points for the band, but it could use some artwork to grab some attention.

Score: 18

Strength (0-20):  Accompanied with excellent flavor, this stick gives you a decent kick as well. Med-full to Full, you will enjoy a full flavored and full bodied cigar.

Score: 18

Flavor (0-20): Right off the bat, you are sprayed in the face with a pepper blast.  There is a nice compliment of chocolaty sweetness to accompany it during the first third of the cigar.  The pepper flavor subsides a bit for the second third, and balances out with a vanilla bean and caramel, before bringing back some spice for the final third.  The blend was enjoyable throughout the whole stick, and has my personal favorite of a very spicy stick with great sweet balance.  The flavors were full, and mingled very well together as they transitioned through the cigar.
Score: 20

 
Value (0-20): $7.50 for a torpedo!? Sign me up immediately for a 5 pack, and potentially a box.  The blend was excellent, and there were no negative factors that were of note. Great pricing!

Score: 19

Additional Notes: Smoked at Cigars International, paired with coffee.  After some further reading, it turns out that my favorite blender, AJ Fernandez, created this particular cigar. 

Overall (0-100): Well I smoked this cigar blindly, never hearing about Emilio cigars before.  This cigar was excellent to my standards, and I will likely be buy a 5 pack or box to start some aging on them. I look forward to the next bunch of Emilio cigars in the reviewing pipeline.  I also want to thanks Gary Griffith, of Emilio cigars, for giving my brother and I the opportunity to smoke and review some sticks!

Score:  92



Friday, December 7, 2012

L'Atelier Surrogates Crystal Baller





Information:
Country:
Wrapper origin:
Wrapper type: Ecuadorian Habano
Filler: Nicaraguan
Length: 5.75
Ring: 56
Cost: $8.00

Appearance (0-20): I tend to smoke darker and fuller cigars, but this was suggested to me by a friend at Cigars International.  Out of the 4 “Surrogates,” he said that I would enjoy this one the best.  Inspecting the stick, it had a light brown habano wrapper.  There are some small veins on the wrapper, but nothing that is worrisome.  The wrapper was fairly simple, only using simple text and one yellow “crystal ball.” While nothing really jumped out to me, nothing caused me any concern either.

Score: 17

Construction (0-20): The cap didn’t seem to be fully wrapped on, but it clipped off easily without any issues.  The cigar light up very easily, while giving way to a nice smooth draw.  The burn line was even right down to the nub, and the ash held on extremely well.  The ash was a light gray color, and tapped off easily at close to 2 inches. 

Score: 18

Strength (0-20): This one sits smack dab in the middle of medium, and it just works!  Any more strength wouldn’t give the flavors full development, and any less would make it bland.  Spot on.

Score: 18

Flavor (0-20): Right from the initial light, I got some great creamy flavors.  There was no harsh start to the cigar, just some very subtle bits of spice.  The smooth creamy definitely will stay with you the full length of the cigar, but you’ll encounter some other notes that really give a nice balance.  The second third of the cigar gave off some sweet wood and vanilla flavors.  The notes were somewhat hard to pinpoint, but they complemented each other extremely well.  I enjoyed the blend so much, that I burned it right down to my fingertips. 
Score: 19

Value (0-20): At $8.00, I think this competes well with anything else on the market.  The smooth flavors were robust, and lasted from beginning to end. Well done!

Score: 18

Additional Notes: Smoked at Cigars International, paired with Southern Tier Pale Wheat Ale

Overall (0-100): As mentioned before, I most likely wouldn't have ever picked this stick up unless recommended.  Luckily I did, because this cigar was fantastic.  With little to no expectations, this Surrogate was quite memorable and will be a repeat purchase.  The flavors blended well, the burn was great, and the price was right.  I’ll probably delve into the rest of the Surrogates lineup.

Score:  90


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Guillermo Leon Signature


Information:
Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper Origin: Ecuadorian
Filler / Binder: Brazil, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Peru, Cameroon
Length: 5”
Ring: 50
Cost: $9.00


Appearance (0-20): Although the wrapper choice is not my typical (I usually prefer a rich maduro), there’s a lot to like about the Guillermo Leon Signature. It’s wrapped well and had a nice contrast between the wrapper and the band – with a good choice of colors there. The red, black, and silver of the band along with a lion’s head look elegant but not overdone. No major veins are visible, no cracks, blemishes, etc. The wrapper felt both soft and silky.
Score: 19

Construction (0-20): Initial cut revealed quite a bit of excess tobacco, though the cut was clean. The feel of the cigar was decent, though it felt slightly loose. That same loose feeling traversed over to the smoking realm, as the prelit draw was also a bit too… open? There just wasn't enough resistance through the entirety of the cigar. Okay, not a huge deal overall, just more a preference. While the burn remained straight, the ash didn't hold well and was very flaky.
Score: 15

Strength (0-20):  This is noted as being medium to full, and I think it strikes a nearly perfect balance between the two.
Score: 19

Flavor (0-20): The initial light gave some slight pepper flavor with a mixture of earthy tones. When moving throughout I felt that the earthy tone increased and added to it some leathery undertones along with some woodsy flavor. Along the final third those flavors backed off slightly and gave way for a taste of roasted nuts, coffee, and a slight sweetness.
Score: 19

Value (0-20): A $9.00 stick? For the flavors, spot on strength, and appearance – this is a solid buy.
Score: 18

Additional Notes: Smoked at Cigars International, paired with water.

Overall (0-100):  I’ll be honest – this one snuck up on me. This Aurora blend is both interesting and solid and I likely wouldn't have picked it up unless it was on the recommendation of a friend. It’s got very solid and complex flavors, which is to be expected with the array of tobaccos that are used in it. There’s nice pepper with a gradual decline of it that coincides with an upswing of sweetness. The smoke is thick and luxurious. So the knock on this one? Construction. In 3 out of the 4 of these I have had, I've had some sort of construction problems. While it definitely hurts the score, this one still had the backing to be able to sneak in with a 90 overall.
Score: 90