Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ventura Cigar Archetype Initiation Corona Review

Information:
Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua, Ecuador
Length: 5
Ring: 46
Cost: $10.49

BackgroundComing from the same set as the Axis Mundi, the Initiation is part of the Archetype line from Ventura Cigars. In conjunction with Drew Estate, they have put out a total of 5 cigars that are meant to walk through major archetypes from Joseph Cambell's work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The popularity of these smokes has been so high that they pushed out a second iteration of both the Axis Mundi and Initiation, matching the original cigars.


Appearance (0-20):  Following the same mold as the other Archetype cigars, there is both an upper and a lower band. The upper band is a silver and black foil band with a blood red dragon/demon figure. Again matching the other cigars from the Archetype lines, it has Archetype on the back along with the name of this one - Initiation. The foot band on this is silver, with the Archetype logo on it in white. There is a light habano wrapper to this with minimal small veins.
Score: 19

Construction (0-20): For a second time, the construction of the Archetype cigar line has impressed me. Much like the previous review on the Axis Mundi, its got some real weight to it for a corona. The wrapper is soft and silky to the touch, but the cigar is packed very well. The cut was completely clean - so much so that i snapped a shot to show there is literally no loose tobacco at all. The draw is nearly perfect with just the slightest amount of resistance to it. It loosened up just a bit during the smoke.
Score: 19


Strength (0-20): Medium is where they are marketing this, and again the Archetype stays pretty true to how it is billed. The beginning of the cigar is a little below the medium range, but builds throughout the cigar and ends up sitting in the heart of medium strength.
Score: 18

Flavor (0-20): Complex. Complex complex complex. If you need me to say it a few more times I will, because this thing is layer on layer of flavors. The first puffs set the stage with a bit of wood and pepper. It isn't quite the normal pepper and seems to have a bit of a lasting quality on the tongue. There's also a small note of something herbal that I can't quite place. But the fun doesn't stop there. There's other flavors that tough on the palette in small droves - some sweetness, leather, and some cream. Some are more fleeting than others of course. At around the one third mark, I caught something that reminded me of a really good spiced rum. That is until I caught a bit of dark chocolate - bitter, but easily discernible.

The pepper flavors ramp up a bit more in the second half of the cigar. However its somewhat short lived. The wood and sweetness continue to remain as mainstays, but there's something of a charred citrus that comes through. It reminds me a lot of a when you have a mixed drink at an upscale place, and they char a bit of orange peel before it gets mixed into the drink. Its sweet, smoky, slightly bitter, and absolutely citrus. The final notes have a bit of the pepper, but its just a subtle hint.
Score: 18

Value (0-20): Again, I have a bit of an issue with the price topping over the $10 mark for this size of cigar. If it dropped to somewhere between $7-8, this would be a true value buy. Even at $9, it would still perform well... so a few points have to go here again.
Score: 16

Additional Notes: Paired with water. Cigars provided by Ventura Cigars.

Overall (0-100): I am going to reiterate a few thing that I said in the Axis Mundi review. The construction and appearance are quite outstanding to the point where you can really tell they put some true care into making these sticks. The strength builds and sticks directly in the midpoint range, which is nearly exactly what you would expect. The other thing I will reiterate - I don't like the price for a corona. But again, it may be worth it for the complex experience that this cigar provides. If we are likening this to say, a band... this thing is an orchestra of flavors to the point where I know I missed a number of them in the 3 different run-throughs I had with these. It is absolutely worth a smoke, and in fact its worth quite a number of them.
Score: 90

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ventura Cigar Archetype Axis Mundi Corona Review

Information:
Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua, Indonesia
Length: 5
Ring: 46
Cost: $10.49

BackgroundLet's consider this like a recipe - one part Drew Estate, one part Ventura Cigars, one part Jungian principles, and one part Joseph Campbell mythology. Mix it all together and what do you get? What you get is a really interesting cigar line. I will be honest, I cant explain it much better than Cigar Aficionado did, so a simple link to them should suffice if you would like to partake in some light reading...

Appearance (0-20):  Tow bands flank this cigar - the normal top band, which sports a crimson and black foil backdrop has a gold embossed tree struck across the center. On the back of one side is the word "archetype", while the other side is "axis mundi". The second band sits on the foot, with a nice matching crimson color with the archetype emblem and title. It all is presented well against a nice rich looking Ecuadorian Habano, which has only small sized veins of note, but they are somewhat prevalent throughout. All in all, its a nice presentation.
Score: 18


Construction (0-20): The construction on the Axis Mundi is downright exceptional. When picking up the cigar, there is honestly a moment where the sheer weight of it surprised me. I could tell, in no uncertain terms, that this corona was tightly packed. Everything felt well distributed, and the wrapper was soft to the touch. The cut was clean, with just a small amount of debris, and the prelit draw was perfect. Thankfully that remained through the entire smoke too. As for the burn and ash - it was near razor sharp and held for almost half of the cigar before ashing.
Score: 19

Strength (0-20): This is listed as full strength on the Ventura site, and I am inclined to agree that it does hit that. I believe it begins at the top of the medium to full range, and builds strength quickly into full, were it stands.
Score: 18

Flavor (0-20): I don't often comment too much when it comes to the prelit flavors, but this one had a very distinct barnyard hay kind of flavor. The reason I want to mention it is that it doesn't show up anywhere in the actual smoke as a flavor - which is interesting to me... however, lets get to what I did find -

The immediate flavor base is one that is a bit nutty, with a bit of some charred wood behind it. Layered over is a nice amount of sweetness that I can't quite identify, but it balances the nuts and wood perfectly. On the retrohale there is a decent amount of spice coming across, but it fades as the stick progresses. Moving to around the halfway point, there's a bitter coffee component that enters along with the other base flavors, pushing the sweetness down further, but melding it expertly.

From a complexity standpoint, on a scale from 1 to 10, it may hit a 7. Its not ridiculously complex, but its perfect for the corona size that it is. The flavors work completely harmoniously, and balance one another outstandingly well.
Score: 19

Value (0-20): $10.50 is a bit heavy on the price for a corona. Personally I would likely be more inclined to toss an extra dollar or two down in order to get my hands on the toro or churchill. Taking into consideration all aspects, the price is slightly high for what you are getting but its not absurdly priced, even if it isn't strictly a value.
Score: 16

Additional Notes: Paired with water. Cigars provided by Ventura Cigars.

Overall (0-100): I wasn't really sure what to expect with this smoke, but I am happy that I was able to try one. You can tell that these were lovingly cared for, with the construction and appearance being nearly immaculate. They are well wrapped and the design is clean and draws the eye to it. Its definitely a strong cigar, with an increase in strength from the beginning to the end... and if you haven't eaten something it might just make you regret it. But the flavor section is where this one shines the most. Nuts, charred wood, sweetness, coffee, and some spice all come across in very distinct droves. Moderately complex, delicious... and harmonious. The only knock I have on this at all is the price. Over $10.00 for a corona hurts my soul, but there is something to be said of paying a premium price for a premium product. And I will be purchasing more of these.
Score: 90

Black Label Trading Company announces Last Rites Box Press Robusto

April 13, 2017 — Black Label Trading Company is pleased to announce the release of Last Rites Box Press Robusto as an R. Field Wine Co. exclusive.


“I’m very excited to see the return of the Last Rites Box Press Robusto. R. Field Wine Co. does a great job promoting boutique cigars in Hawaii and the Last Rites will be a great addition to their exclusive portfolio. This cigar is robust, rich and earthy with tons of complexity. Many of our customers have been awaiting it’s return. We will be launching the cigar at an R. Field Wine co. event in Honolulu, April 28th, 2017,” said James Brown, creator of BLTC and partner at Fabrica Oveja Negra.

LAST RITES BOX PRESS ROBUSTO will be available at R. Field Wine co. Honolulu, HI.
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano Maduro
Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras
Robusto Box Press – 5 x 54 (20 count) MSRP $10.00
           
Black Label Trading Company is redefining the standards for cigar making. With a “less is more” philosophy, Black Label Trading Co. creates hand crafted premium cigars of the utmost quality in small batch, limited quantities. BLTC cigars are available for purchase through Boutiques Unified.  More information can be found at www.BlackLabelTrading.com

Alec Bradley MAXX "The Fix" review

Information:
Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Filler / Binder: Columbia, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico
Length: 5
Ring: 58
Cost: $5.60

BackgroundWe have reviewed quite a number of Alec Bradley products across the history of our site (and smoked a number more that we didn't review). They have scored as high as a 91 on the Black Market but as low as a 79 with, oddly enough, the older banded MAXX The Vice. So for this review, we are giving the MAXX another chance to see if the cigar has improved over time, and if the newer banding (re-banded in 2015 after 10 years of production) and a difference in size makes any difference to our experience.

Appearance (0-20):  Looking back at the former review, there wasn't a whole lot we didn't like on it in terms of how it looked. Where the old version of the band was a coppery / black mixture, this one is a little more bold and modern. The white backdrop of the band has MAXX stenciled out in black with Alec Bradley in grey. There are additional grey lines in symmetrical patterns along the side of the band. More importantly, of course, is that the stick below the band looks good. There are no noticeable veins at all and the wrapper is clean and clear of any blemishes. The coloration is a slightly dark caramel. The wrap itself appears relatively tight, so no real issues there either.
Score: 19

Construction (0-20): The feel of the stick is pretty solid throughout, with no gaps that I can feel. The wrapper is slightly oily. Looking up and down the cigar, as was noted in the appearance, there is nothing to really worry about. The cut only revealed a small amount of debris, but the prelit draw was a little on the tight side of things. Post lighting, the draw opened up a little more but it didn't quite hit that sweet spot where its perfect. It sure did get close though. The burn line wasn't quite as sharp as I would prefer, but the ashes did hold for multiple inches at a time.
Score: 17

Strength (0-20): One of the gripes from the previous iteration was it lost strength gradually throughout the smoke. For this particular size, it didn't do that. Billed in the medium to full range, this one actually its right around that range. It does slowly slide in strength throughout the stick, but its a slow slide from the top of the range to the bottom, resting just a hair above medium by the end.
Score: 17

Flavor (0-20): The lighting of this cigar will greet you with wood and leather and just the smallest bit of pepper on the retrohale. There is an inherent sweetness that comes through and balances it out. From time to time I was able to pick up some earthy and coffee flavors, but for the most part this offering from Alec Bradley is really quite upfront and consistent.
Score: 17

Value (0-20): $5.60 for a smoke wont break the bank, but it also doesn't quite make this one a steal either. Its pretty appropriately priced for what you're getting here.
Score: 17

Additional Notes: Paired with water.

Overall (0-100): When comparing this to the MAXX The Vice, its really evident that the size of the cigar will absolutely make a difference in your experience. Where the original MAXX was alright, it may have suffered a bit in terms of how it smoked. This doesn't have that problem, and with a revamped band, its all that much more palatable. The flavor profile on this is really good - leather, wood, and some sweetness with just the smallest bit of earth, pepper, and coffee. That doesn't mean this is complex though, but if you're looking for something pretty cut and clear, this may be the one for you. Its kind of an odd size, but at the same time its nice for when you want a "fix" but don't have time for a giant stogie and at under $6, its a good one to keep around.
Score: 87

Monday, April 10, 2017

Black Label shipping Bishops Blend vintage 2017 this week

April 10, 2017 — Black Label Trading Company is pleased to announce they are shipping Bishops Blend vintage 2017 to select retailers this week.


It’s great to get Bishops Blend back in the market. This is a very special cigar. It is a representation of how I have grown as a cigar maker. I’m happy that the time and dedication that went into creating this blend has translated to our customers and made it one of our most sought after cigars. The 2017 Bishops Blend has an extremely rich and sophisticated profile. It is a bold cigar with exceptional balance and complexity. Subtle spice is combined with earth, bitter sweet chocolate and anise. The smoke is creamy and dense with a long rich finish,” said James Brown, creator of BLTC and partner at Fabrica Oveja Negra.

BISHOPS BLEND will be available in limited quantities at select retailers.
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano Maduro
Binder: Ecuador Habano
Filler: Nicaragua, Connecticut & PA Broadleaf
Corona Larga – 6.25 x 46 (20 count) MSRP $10.50
Robusto5 x 48 (20 count) MSRP $10.00

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