Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ave Maria Argentum

Information:
Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf, Maduro
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua and Honduras
Length: 5
Ring: 58
Cost: $8.40

Background: A.J. Fernandez has done great things since breaking out a few years ago. Most of the offerings that have his mark on them have done well. The Ave Maria product line is no exception to the rule. And this particular Cigars International exclusive has a lot of good things going for it because of that. So how good is it? Time to find out…

Appearance (0-20):  So I’m sitting there looking at the 5 inch perfecto and thinking, this looks cool. It’s got the standard Ave Maria band on the top in silver and the bottom band has the namesake – Argentum. The wrapper, however, is deep in color and really sets well against the silver of the bands.
Score: 18

Construction (0-20): Perfectos are notoriously hard to get right. However, this small little bomb seems to be done pretty well. There are some minor veins along the wrapper, but nothing to get too worked up about. It’s tightly wrapped and feels firm to the touch. The initial cut revealed just a small amount of debris. After lighting up, it held the ash for about an inch and a half at a clip.
Score: 18

Strength (0-20): Medium to full. It sticks very closely to that range through the entire cigar, though has some more leanings toward the full range.
Score: 18

Flavor (0-20): The Argentum is an interesting one in terms of flavor. At first there is a heavy dark espresso flavor that mixes with a bit of hint of creaminess. Quickly you’ll find a dark chocolate join the fray to add to the already rich cigar. At about the midway point both the espresso and dark chocolate step back a hair and it allows for a leathery flavor to merge in. throughout you can taste a slight spice, but it’s barely noticeable unless you’re looking for it. Overall its clean and crisp.
Score: 18

Value (0-20):  $8 for a 5 inch perfecto? You would be surprised. This one is worth the cost.
Score: 19

Additional Notes: Paired with water. Provided by Cigars International.

Overall (0-100): The Ave Maria Argentum is a solid cigar. Now that we have gotten the obvious out of the way let’s get to the less obvious stuff. The guts of this cigar are similar to that of the original Reconquista. What does that mean to you? You are getting almost the same flavor profile and complexity that you received in a highly praised cigar. The difference is that it’s in a different wrapper, perfecto shape, and all of those flavors have been crammed into a 5 inch stick. It means a slightly toned down version with a lesser price tag associated with it. Instead of paying almost $17 a stick for a similar experience – you’re paying $8.40.

Score: 91





Monday, February 22, 2016

Romeo Y Julieta House of Capulet Toro

Information:
Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Connecticut / Ecuador
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua and Honduras
Length: 6
Ring: 52
Cost: $5.00

Background: Famous Smoke Shop has snagged a number of exclusive cigars, including some previous offerings from Romeo Y Juliet like the Romeo Y Juliet House of Montague. The House of Montague was a solid selection at a great price – so this one has a lot to live up to as the companion cigar to it.

Appearance (0-20):  Just like the House of Montague, the House of Capulet follows the normal Romeo Y Julieta mold. The colors are much the norm from their shop, but are basically a mirror image of what we saw in the companion cigar. This one has white bands with maroon embossing that claim this as the House of Capulet. The design on the additional wrapping stakes out the house with its full crest. Again, it’s flashy from a somewhat traditional company. The cigar itself, hiding under the additional wrapping, is an extremely light wrapper. Small veins are visible, but nothing of a major concern.
Score: 17

Construction (0-20): Picking up the cigar will give the feel of a softer wrapper. Its tight when tested and the initial cut revealed a small amount of debris. Taking a few puffs from the stick before lighting revealed a slightly tight drawl, and it didn’t change post lighting. It was just a hair tighter than it should have been…. But that’s still better than one that’s slightly too loose. Ash held well enough, but it was neither extraordinary nor subpar.
Score: 17


Strength (0-20): Medium. And really, it hammers close to that realm. For the most part I felt the stick hung at the lower end of the medium spectrum but it did deviate to almost the midpoint by the end of things.
Score: 16

Flavor (0-20): First puffs give off a nice spicy cedar tone. It’s not an overwhelming pepper, but gives just enough of a kick to let you know that it’s there. It becomes mostly just a background flavor with a nuttiness that is really thick on the tongue. There’s a slight creamy sweetness that begins creeping in about an inch into the smoke that continues into the second third of the cigar. At that point there is a bit of leather that joins into the mixture. That same leather fades back in the final third, with the bit of spice coming back into view.
Score: 18

Value (0-20):  At $5, it’s almost impossible to downplay how good of a deal it actually is. This is a solid smoke from a big name cigar company at a really nice price.
Score: 18

Additional Notes: Paired with water. Provided by Famous Smoke Shop.

Overall (0-100): People looking for a medium strength cigar will be pleased to get their hands on this one. Across the board it shows strongly with no real weaknesses. While I wouldn’t consider it to be super complex, it has enough depth to keep you interested throughout. Flavors range from pepper, cedar, and nuttiness to sweetness, creaminess, and leather. And lets be honest – at $5, its hard to beat.

Score: 86







Famous Smoke Shop Announces Exclusive Release of Romeo y Julieta Capulet and Montague 75th Anniversary


Easton, PA – With over 75 years of serving the industry, Famous Smoke Shop has been a leading online distributor of discounted premium cigars, with its humble roots tracing back to a small shop in New York City. The company specializes in offering the web’s widest selection of cigars at the lowest prices. It is with great excitement that Famous has just announced the release of two exclusive limited edition special-sized cigars to help celebrate Famous Smoke Shop’s 75th anniversary, both of which are line extensions of the widely popular Romeo y Julieta Capulet and Montague lines.   Offered in a rarely seen 6 1/2 x 54 vitola, the first shipment has just arrived at the company’s warehouse and is currently available for sale on their website. The company has expressed that the new brand will be available in limited quantities, but is not a one-time release and will be a consistent offering for the foreseeable future.

The Romeo y Julieta Capulet 75th Anniversary features Honduran and Nicaraguan longfillers, and a Nicaraguan binder, all wrapped in a massively flavorful Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper for a smoke that’s easy and smooth, yet loaded with enticing flavors. The Romeo y Julieta Montague 75th Anniversary is a bolder blend than its sister cigar with a hearty blend of Nicaraguan, Dominican, and creamy Brazilian longfillers, a Dominican Olor binder, and a Brazilian Maduro wrapper. The result is an astoundingly rich and complex cigar from start to finish.

“75 years is a major achievement for any company,” Cigar Advisor reviewer and Famous Smoke Shop copywriter Jonathan Detore remarked. “But to remain family owned throughout all those years makes this occasion that much more special. And what better cigar to celebrate with than the Montague or Capulet? Both have been stellar lines since their release, and this limited edition size will only offer more of that impeccable core flavor to the mix. I was especially excited to try out the Montague because of the Brazilian longfiller which was outstanding, but the Capulet was a rock star in my taste tests as well. Very well done by the men and women at Romeo y Julieta, and a big thank you for commemorating our anniversary with this specialty cigar.”
 
Both Romeo y Julieta Capulet and Montague 75th Anniversary cigars will be offered in a special 6 1/2 x 54 Double Toro. With Famous’ special full box pricing, customers can enjoy this new offering with individual retail prices which range from $5.85 to $6.40 per cigar respectively, with production being limited to 1,000 boxes in the Capulet blend, and only 500 boxes in the Montague blend. People interested in learning more about Romeo y Julieta cigars or Famous Smoke Shop should visit www.Famous-Smoke.com or call 800-564-2486.

Famous Smoke Shop
90 Mort Drive
Easton, PA 18040

800-564-2486






Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tatuaje The Jackal

Information:
Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua
Length: 6.75
Ring: 54
Cost: $13.90

Background:  One of the fun things about writing reviews is when we are able to get our hands on cigars that are exclusive to certain shops. It’s even more exciting when it’s a blend that comes from one of our favorite cigar companies. This particular smoke is blended by Tatuaje Cigars, but exclusively made for the Casa de Montecristo Cigar Lounge in the Chicago area.

Getting that out of the way – the Jackal gives a nod to Ancient Egypt, where jackals were an animal connected with both spirituality and the afterlife. Specifically, its often seen in the god Anubis… the god of funerals and death.

Appearance (0-20):  When pulling this cigar out of the pack it was one that stood out immediately to me. The black and gold label is simple and straightforward but shows off enough to get ones attention. Front and center is “The Jackal”, with the Tatuaje logo on the left and the wording “Tatuaje Exclusive Series” printed on the right. The cigar itself has a nice rich coloration to the wrapper, reminiscent of a regular milk chocolate bar. Small veins are there, but minimal in number. Very right seams. The most striking portion of this would be the foot, which is not quite a shaggy foot, but closer to something of an “unfinished” state.
Score: 19


Construction (0-20): Before even getting into the bulk of the constructional review, it’s important to note that this stick uses the Sancti Spiritus wrapper, which is a mainstay in the L’Atelier Imports lines. The feel is slightly oily but is firm throughout. The initial cut is clean. By clean I mean literally no debris (as shown in the picture). The prelit draw was perfect. Upon lighting, everything remained status quo. The ash held for 2+ inches at a time with only a little deviance to the line.
Score: 18

Strength (0-20): Listed as a medium to full smoke, this really does hit exactly where it should. As noted on the CDMCigars site, this one veers more toward the full range – and I’m more than inclined to agree. Be prepared to have this one hit you pretty hard and at a consistent clip after the first third or so. That first third though, is more of a medium. In the words of the movie Anchorman, “That escalated quickly!”
Score: 18


Flavor (0-20): When smoking a cigar that has any kind of unfinished foot, it becomes quickly evident just how much of a difference a wrapper can make. This one begins out with a slight spice, but it mainly has a sweet component that melds with a rich cedar flavor. And then the wrapper kicks in, bringing in a previously vacant creamy note. It’s a seamless melding of flavors that transition perfectly into the next portions.

Winding this one along, there is a hearty natural tobacco flavor, along with some notes of cocoa and black pepper. The sweetness that resided in the first bit sticks around but almost becomes caramel-ish in nature. There is still something slightly bitter there, akin to a weaker espresso, and earthy undertones. At times I can get a taste here or there of spiced nuts.

The final stretch finds the earthiness increase exponentially with the sweetness becoming an afterthought. The cedar and pepper still hide in there and will surprise you a bit if you aren’t ready for it. And that bitter coffee will take one last swing before all is said and done.
Score: 19

Value (0-20):  At nearly $14, this hits a price range that a number of people would shy away from… that is unless they are acquainted with the Tatuaje lines. Plus, it’s an exclusive cigar which puts it out of the reach of most people as it is. Still, it’s worth the price, even if I’d like to see it as a bit less.
Score: 17

Additional Notes: Paired with water. Provided by Casa de Montecristo Cigar Lounge, Chicago.

Overall (0-100): This offering from Tatuaje falls into the group I consider to be, “so let’s talk about what’s not to like about this cigar”… but that’s because it’s so good that its likely easier to talk about the few negatives than all of the positives. But alas, I will give you the actual wrap-up you deserve.

From a first look, the cigar is intriguing enough to catch the eye. The black and gold label is simple…. But it pulls you in. And the unfinished foot is something a little out of the ordinary to at least get you thinking about what it could entail. Everything feels good about the smoke when picking it up, cutting it, etc. The draw is perfect… and the ash holds on for multiple inches at a time.

And then the flavors take the full spotlight with this smoke. It’s got a nice amount of complexity and layers in multiple flavors in differing combinations to keep the smoke inherently interesting. Major flavor themes center on natural tobacco, earthiness, cocoa, and cedar. But without combining those with the secondary cast of pepper, sweetness, cream, espresso, and nuts – the cigar would be lost. It’s expertly blended and it shows through the smoking experience. It’s all balanced well in terms of flavor, strength, etc.

The only thing that might be a negative for some people is the price of $13.90 per stick. There are a lot of people who feel more comfortable in the $10 or less range. Those same individuals may want to think about going outside of their normal comfort zone and giving this one a try. Heck, it is simply a box-worthy smoke. Its complex, well balanced, and really… it’s a surefire homerun for Tatuaje and the folks at Casa de Montecristo – Chicago.

Score: 91

Monday, February 15, 2016

Rocky Patel Decade Toro

Information:
Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua
Length: 6.5
Ring: 52
Cost: $11.15

Background:  As mentioned in one of our previous reviews for the Ocean Club Toro, we are taking an individual look each of 5 cigars that are included in a sampler with various other Rocky Patel smokes. While this specific stick may not be exclusive to Holt’s, the sampler is.

Appearance (0-20):  Let’s just be honest – what’s not to like about this stick. Minimal veins, a nice rich color to the Sumatra wrapper, and really understated bands adorn this stick. The band coloration is toward a cream, with gold embossing to put forth the branding of RP and Decade. It’s simple, elegant, and well executed.
Score: 19

Construction (0-20): The nice oily wrapper on the outside is a good indication of where the smoke will go, and the foot being tightly coiled confirms more of the same. The initial cut was almost completely clean, though the prelit drawl was a bit tighter than I would have liked. Post light that drawl remained the same. However that tight drawl also had a direct correlation with the fact that it was able to hold an ash for 2 to 3 inches at a time.
Score: 18

Strength (0-20): Medium to full. I wouldn’t even argue with the one as it spans across two full ranges of strength. The Decade definitely varies throughout, making it harder to peg. I have had some instances (since I have smoked a number of these) where it hangs more toward the medium realm, whereas others went more frequently into the full range. The score here is indicative of the fact that it is truly in the ballpark that it cites, but will not consistently be one or the other.
Score: 17

Flavor (0-20): The Decade lit up easily and hit me with a blast of pepper on the first few puffs. That pepper drops rather quickly to just a footnote, leaving way for leather and woodsy notes. Minor notes of coffee and a light sweetness compliment the leather and wood. On the retrohale there is a distinct creamy flavor. The leather flavor becomes much more prominent as the smoke goes on, along with a nice rich tobacco backbone. These major flavors continued into the final third and were melded with a nutty tone and slight peppery spice. Other flavors that show up are something on the bitter side, as well as a touch of cinnamon.
Score: 18

Value (0-20):  At a little over $11 for a single stick, this is one that had to perform well in other categories to justify the cost. And it does to a large extent.
Score: 18

Additional Notes: Paired with water. Provided by Holt's Cigar Company.

Overall (0-100): Really solid smoke from Rocky Patel on this one. It’s got all the elements that you are looking for in a cigar. It looks good enough to want to snag one from on the counter, is well constructed, and in a decent price range in terms of value. The strength, while variant not only from stick to stick but also within the stick itself, is right on point with what it should be to help fully balance the stick.

Now on to the most important portion of the wrap-up – the flavor. Spoiler alert: it’s good. Like really good. There is almost a perfect balancing act that happens between the rich tobacco flavors, and inherent sweetness, and the bitter flavors. Couple with that the leather, pepper, wood, and other spices and it’s both complex and delicious… AND the transitions are clean and done well enough that they flow seamlessly.

Bottom line – it’s a really nice smoke that only becomes better when you can snag it in a deal that drops its price heavily.


Score: 90





Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Black Label Trading Co Joins Boutiques United

February, 9, 2016 - Vineland, NJ: Boutiques United is pleased to announce Black Label Trading Co. and it’s small-batch brand, Black Works Studio, will be joining as a distributed brand.

“Black Label embodies what we view as a successful boutique cigar company. They not only make a fantastic product, but their leadership team has the drive to get it into the hands of cigar smokers.” noted BU owner Scott Zucca. “The vision, character, and integrity of the BLTC team is a perfect fit in the Boutiques United family.”

Black Label Trading Co. was founded in 2013 with a focus on unique blends of small batch hand-crafted cigars. In 2015, BLTC launched their factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra, in Esteli, Nicaragua.

“We are very excited to be on board with Boutiques United. With both Black Label Trading Co. and Black Works Studio growing rapidly, moving sales and distribution to BU is a natural next step in the growth of our company.” stated BLTC owner James Brown.

BLTC and BLK WKS products are warehoused at the Vineland, NJ facilities and are available now for purchase through the Boutiques United sales force.

“Joining Boutiques United is an opportunity for us to continue focusing on what’s most important—making good cigars!” added co-owner Angela Brown.

James and his family will continue full-time in Esteli, Nicaragua managing operations at Fabrica Oveja Negra.

Black Label Trading Co./Black Works Studios join Ezra Zion, Nomad Cigars, 1502 Cigars, and Emilio Cigars as BU distributed brands.
For more information visit www.BoutiquesUnited.com       



New Joya Red Half



Esteli, Nicaragua – Joya de Nicaragua has announced that the Joya Red Half Corona (3¾ x 46) is now available for sale in the U.S. Joya de Nicaragua introduced this new vitola to the Joya Red cigar line last September during the Inter-Tabac trade show held in Dortmund, Germany. It had only been available in the European market until now.

The Joya Red Half Corona is designed to satisfy the contemporary smoker’s desire for a quick, but extremely pleasurable smoke. Joya maintained the same lower priming Nicaraguan tobacco blend as the rest of the Joya Red line. This new vitola comes in boxes of 20 cigars and 5 count “petacas”.

Joya Red is a medium strength smoke packed with flavor, outstanding construction and sharp burn. The brand was originally released in July 2014 as an invitation to rediscover Joya’s modern and fun side (#REDiscoverJoya) from the hands of its young executive team. It has quickly gained popularity with contemporary consumers, making it Joya de Nicaragua’s second best selling brand in the US market in only a year and a half.


About Joya de Nicaragua, S.A.

JOYA DE NICARAGUA S.A., is a family owned, Nicaragua-based cigar factory that handcrafts traditional cigars for the premium luxury cigar market. Founded in 1968, it is Nicaragua’s oldest cigar factory in operation and home to the legendary JOYA DE NICARAGUA® brand of cigars. JDN is regarded by many as the patriarch crafter of robust, unique puro blends of locally grown black tobaccos, and its cigars are sold in more than 40 countries around the world. JOYA DE NICARAGUA® and CUATRO CINCO® are registered trademarks of JOYA DE NICARAGUA S.A. For more information, please visit www.joyacigars.com

About Drew Estate


Founded in New York City in 1996, Drew Estate has become one of the fastest growing tobacco companies in the world. Under their mantra “The Rebirth of Cigars”TM, Drew Estate has led the “Boutique Cigar” movement by innovating new elements to the tobacco industry with their unique tobaccos and blending styles that have attracted new and traditional cigar enthusiasts. In their Gran Fabrica Drew Estate, the Nicaraguan headquarters, Drew Estate produces a variety of brands such as ACID, Herrera Estelí, Herrera Estelí Norteño, Kentucky Fired Cured, Liga Privada, MUWAT, Natural by Drew Estate, Nica Rustica, Nirvana, Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Cigars, Tabak Especial, Undercrown, and Java by Drew Estate.



Monday, February 8, 2016

Rocky Patel Ocean Club Toro

Information:
Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Filler / Binder: Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua
Length: 6
Ring: 52
Cost: $8.55

Background:  Rocky Patel has been a player in the cigar industry for over 20 years, and has created a number of memorable blends. This one comes courtesy of Holt’s Cigar Company, as it is exclusive to their store. It comes in 4 sizes – Robusto (5.5x50), Sixty (6x60), Toro (6x52), and a Torpedo (6.5x52). For the purposes of this review, we went with the Toro since it’s included in a sampler that will be the focus after all individual reviews of the sampler are complete.

Appearance (0-20):  The color combinations of the bands draw the eye in pretty quickly. The varying blue shades when set in a combination with gold lines is a good choice, with Rocky’s normal stamp on the top band in white. Flanking that stamp are two ships wheels, whereas the bottom band has the Ocean Club name. It does the correct job for me – since I feel like maybe this one should be smoked on a boat somewhere. The cigar itself has a couple of small items to note: there are some minor veins throughout, a bit of loose tobacco that seems to have been pressed into the wrapper during packing, and a small ridge or two that should likely have been smoothed out.
Score: 16

Construction (0-20): Picking up the stick gives you a lightly silky feel to the touch. It feels at least relatively well packed. The cut is relatively clean, though prelit draw seems a bit on the loose side. However it lit up really easily and oddly enough the tobacco beginning to burn actually helped to tighten it slightly (to the point where I was pleased with the resistance). The ash, while flaky, performed relatively well by holding on for at least an inch to an inch and a half at a time with no issue.
Score: 17

Strength (0-20): Holt’s puts this one at the medium strength area, and I think they are close to being right there. The strength actually varies quite a bit through the smoke. It begins off close to being full, but as the smoke progresses, it slowly ramps downward and almost hits the point of being low strength.
Score: 16
 
Flavor (0-20): The initial light was one of the most common flavors - pepper. It was really strong to say the least, but there was a slight balance of roasted nuts on the back end of things. It fades into the background, becoming a bit of an afterthought to the leather and rich cedar flavors that move to the forefront. There’s some inherent sweetness, but it’s almost barely discernible. The rest is much of the same with a bit of alternation between the leather and cedar flavors coming to the front of the line. It becomes more and more mellow and smooth though and by the end...
Score: 14

Value (0-20):  The MSRP of $8.55 is a price I personally wouldn’t pay for a smoke like this. While consistent with its flavors, it just doesn’t stand up against others of this price territory. BUT, people who enjoy something straightforward may find this to be right in their wheelhouse.
Score: 13
 
Additional Notes: Paired with water. Provided by Holt's Cigar Company.

Overall (0-100): Okay, so here is the skinny – the Ocean Club isn’t a terrible cigar, even though I’ve seen some middling reviews out there on it. The flavors, while a little one dimensional, are pleasing to the palate and actually work pretty well together. Combine that with the fact that it’s a lighter cigar, and you have another piece that works well within the confines of the cigar itself. Construction is decent, and the same can be said of the appearance. Where this falters is when you put it all together and try and place it up against some of the big boys in the $7.50 to $10.00 range.

For someone who wants something lighter that they don’t have to think about too much, this is a good choice. ANDDDDD if you were to take a look around at some of the other mixed packs that Holt’s has to offer, you would find a way to get this at a much more affordable price where it would be considered a bargain. I’d recommend starting there.

Score: 76