January 23rd, 2015
Sindicato’s Casa Bella Maduro blend shows that, at its core, it’s about making affordable cigars that don’t taste like value sticks. This is the fifth blend released by the company, and its $2 price tag is sure to make aficionados skeptical. This is understandable, but smokers who give it a chance will realize it bucks a lot of value cigar trends, producing a nice mix of flavors worthy of a cigar three times its price.
The Casa Bella Maduro has an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, an Indonesian binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. It’s made extremely well for a value stick and is smooth to the touch with a little tooth and give in some areas.
The flavors start out slow, but they soon hit their stride, evoking notes of cedar, nuts, hay, salt, cream, leather and toast. The cream, hay and cedar flavors tend to be the most apparent throughout, though the salt and toast play off the sweet cream and cedar flavors nicely. For the most part, it’s a mild stick, so it’s not going to challenge a smoker with its strength, but it performs extremely well and offers enough flavors to stay interesting throughout. For $2, that’s a tough deal to beat.
January 22nd, 2015
AJ Fernandez produced the Ave Maria cigars years ago, and they still haven’t won a lot of attention among smokers. This doesn’t mean this is an inferior smoke, though, as aficionados who try it generally agree that it is a superb stogie. At least part of the reason for its ability to avoid radars is the fact that it is only available through limited releases. Still, it is worth the trouble to track down and will reward smokers who put in the effort to find it.
The Ave Maria cigars have a Habano wrapper from Ecuador, a Nicaraguan binder and fillers harvested out of Honduras and Nicaragua. The wrapper is reddish brown and mostly smooth, with only a couple of veins making any kind of visual impact. The wrapper, however, does stand out and features a Knight Templar ready for combat with sword and shield in hand.
Flavors in the stogie include black pepper, cedar, coffee, oak, earth, vanilla, grass, leather, cumin and even some chili pepper. The cedar and oak flavors are featured the most, though the black pepper and coffee notes make big impacts as well. In all, it’s a medium stick that offers a lot of spice and heat, making it a strong choice for an after dinner experience.
January 22nd, 2015
The Miranda family has had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get their company to the level it’s at now, and the Miami Cigar Company 25th Anniversary cigars are how they remember it all. At one point, the brand’s sticks were sold out of the back of a car, so to say they started at the bottom is an understatement. Fortunately, for the Miranda family, they’re now on top of the tobacco world and have a chance to share this excellent blend with aficionados.
The Miami Cigar Company 25th Anniversary cigars are being produced by My Father Cigars, and they have a San Andreas Mexican wrapper and a number of Nicaraguan tobaccos inside. It has an ash brown color and a couple of medium veins. It only comes in a single size, a 5 1/2 x 54.
Flavors in the stick include some punchy black pepper, a Miranda tradition, some earth, chocolate, and cedar. While it isn’t the most complex smoke around, it does an excellent job of moving the flavors around and giving them additional depth to keep the stick interesting. From start to finish, it hovers in a comfortable medium and because it’s a My Father stogie, it has an immaculate construction. In all, it is a beautifully made and blended stick that lives up to the Miranda name.
January 22nd, 2015
Cheap electronic cigarettes may seem like a bargain at first, but it’ll eventually become clear why some devices are basement priced. Over time, inferior devices will require more battery replacements and will produce weaker vapor, making for a frustrating vaping experience overall. If a smoker is serious about transitioning to vaping, they will need a device that offers steady performance and a strong battery for extended vaping. Fortunately, there is no shortage of options out there.
In general, cheap electronic cigarettes are disposable and are not meant for prolonged use. Devices with reusable batteries have better parts and designed for heavier use. Most companies offer a starter kit for their reusable devices. These typically include a battery, an atomizer (if the device has a reusable atomizer) and an accessory like a car charger. Smokers should expect to pay at least $30 for a kit as anything less suggests inferior parts.
There are two standard designs for vaping devices. A three-piece design has a reusable battery, atomizer and a tank for holding e-liquid. A two-piece design consists of a reusable battery and a disposable cartridge with a built-in atomizer. Two-piece designs tend to be more expensive as they offer more convenience, but a device that uses a refillable tank can save about $2 per refill over a cartridge. It is, therefore, possible to save money while getting the full experience of a quality product.
January 22nd, 2015
Blends come, go and then revived again all the time in the world of tobacco and some of the newest sticks to get the throwback treatment are the CAO Columbia cigars. Initially released in 2008, these puros were a short-lived blend that had a sizeable following, but before long, were pulled. Now it’s making a comeback, though there have been some tweaks to its formula. It preserves the look of the previous blend, but it offers a new set of flavors with superior craftsmanship.
The CAO Columbia cigars are not puros, and instead consist of a wrapper from Honduras, a Cameroon binder, and Columbia fillers. It is lighter in color and is mostly free of veins and visible seams, giving it a smooth feel and look. The band has the same esthetic as the 2008 version, consisting of the same red, yellow, blue, white and black colors and featuring the name of the blend and company mark.
The stick’s flavors consist of some sweet grain, oatmeal, vanilla, leather, spice, orange, sugar cookie and juniper notes. The sweet grain maintains a dominant position for the most part, though the real star is the rich background and its interesting mix of flavors. In all, it’s a medium-full stick that proves that, once in a while, the sequel is better than the original.
January 21st, 2015
Back in 2013, CAO scored a hit with its Angry Santa and Evil Snowman lines, both modified versions of the brand’s successful La Traviata blend, and the trend continues with the CAO Nasty Nutcracker cigar. Unlike previous sticks in the blend, it is not adapted from the La Traviata, but from the Gold blend, another highly popular stogie. Fans of the Angry Santa and Evil Snowman will still find a lot to like, including the dark, cartoonish aesthetic that have garnered a bit of attention.
The CAO Nasty Nutcracker cigar is made with a Connecticut wrapper, but the rest of the blend’s details haven’t been released. It is available in only one size, a 6 1/2 x 52 and has a light brown color to it. There are a few pronounced veins and some magnesium spots, but what catches the eye is the large band. It depicts an unfriendly looking nutcracker chomping down on a stogie of his own, and it takes up nearly half of the stick.
Flavors in the stogie include some strong cream notes, along with cedar, hay, leather, earth and even some peanuts. White pepper delivers some heat from the retrohale, and the overall profile is sweet. For the most part, it hovers between mild and medium, so it’s a good choice for people who appreciate developed flavors that don’t necessarily pair with a ton of nicotine.
January 20th, 2015
In recent years, boutique cigar makers have exploded in popularity, including Black Label Trading Company and its Royalty blend. The brand got its start in 2013 after James Brown, an avid adventurer and explorer, took to tobacco after spending many years in Central America. His inspiration led to a half dozen releases out of the gate for the young company, and all of them have received some measure of acclaim. This includes the Royalty, which is noteworthy for its unusual, yet perfectly developed flavors.
The Black Label Trading Company Royalty has an Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper, a binder from Honduras and Nicaraguan fillers. It comes in three vitolas, including a Robusto (5 x 54), Corona (5 1/2 x 42) and Gran Toro (6 x 60). It has a dark earth color to it and is laced with tiny veins, though it is smooth overall. The primary band is about 2 1/2 inches deep and features a crowned skull and intricate ornamentation. The secondary band shows off the name of the blend.
The flavor mix includes sweet, cream, cinnamon, coffee, meat, leather, cocoa, nuts, spice and cedar notes. It develops in many ways throughout the smoke, and regularly puts up a sweet and savory mix that is hard to execute well, but greatly appreciated by aficionados when it is. Some reviewers even detected peanut butter in the profile, so it’s one to remember. It also manages a down the middle medium, so it prioritizes flavor over strength. With so many excellent notes to choose from, it’s a wise decision by Brown and his team.
January 8th, 2015
The Epoca blend has a hallowed spot in Nat Sherman lore. Back in 1929, Sherman bought out Schwab Brothers & Baer and this blend was the first to be officially owned by Sherman. And like any blend that’s been around for decades, it has received more than one update. The most recent one was with the help of the Quesada family, a frequent partner of Nat Sherman. The company also tweaked the profile with the help of some feedback Nat Sherman received during a prototype reveal. As a result, the blend has been meticulously put together.
The cigar features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper and comes with a Dominican binder and a couple of fillers from the Dominican and Nicaragua. The Epoca is beautifully put together, and some reviewers said it was one of the smoothest cigars they had ever seen. Both seams and veins are hard to spot, and its finish is with a sharp looking cap. The red, white and gold band is minimalistic and only features the name of the blend in plain white type.
Flavors in the blend include wood, sweet fruit, spice, cream, black pepper and cedar. The profile is sweet overall, though the wood and fruit are the strongest notes. With the light profile, it barely registers as a medium, though its strong flavor development makes it a great choice for aficionados as well as novices. The perfect construction just adds to the experience, as the cigar performs beautifully.
Eighty-five years is a long time for any blend to hang around, but with the update, this cigar is still welcome in humidors around the world.
January 8th, 2015
When a company rebrands itself from the ground up, the results aren’t always pretty, but the Aging Room Bin No. 1 is an example of what can happen when rebranding goes right. Hank Bischoff and Rafael Nodal transitioned Oliveros Cigars in Boutique Blends a couple years ago because the owners wanted to steer toward small batch releases. It was a bold move at the time, and aficionados didn’t know what to expect in the end. Bischoff and Nodal executed the shift perfectly, however, and it shows with this blend.
The cigar has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and an Aged Cuban Seed Dominican binder and filler. The Aging Room Bin No. 1 has a dark color to it and is mostly smooth, with only a few visible veins. The band takes up a few inches’ worth of cigar and features the name of the blend in cursive type on a parchment background.
Flavors in the blend include sweet tobacco, spice, sugar cane, vanilla, red pepper, white pepper and black pepper. The tobacco and vanilla notes are the most apparent, while the pepper mostly stays confined to the retrohale and finish. Though there isn’t too much complexity with the flavors, it’s a medium-full stick that offers strong performance and well-developed notes. In all, it’s another sign that Bischoff and Nodal knew what they were doing when they made the transition to Boutique Blends.
January 7th, 2015
The brand has been quiet for nearly ten years, but the Ashton Symmetry cigars are an exciting return for a storied line of smokes. Blended by Carlos Fuente Jr. and rolled at Tabacalera A. Fuente, it is an incredibly well-built stick that offers a lot on the flavor side as well. In fact, four years of planning and blending have gone into the stick, though there was a delay by an additional year due to a warehouse fire that consumed many of the plants. All’s well that ends well, though, and aficionados will likely forget where the time went once they try one of these.
The Ashton Symmetry cigars have an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Dominican binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. In comes in five vitolas, some with unusual names. They include Robusto (5 x 50), Belicoso (5 1/4 x 52), “Prism” (5 5/8 x 46), “Sublime” (6 x 52) and “Prestige” (6 3/4 x 49). It’s a light brown stick that’s mostly smooth and finished with a colorful, traditional looking band.
Toasted cream, nutmeg, white pepper, leather, earth, butter, boysenberry, cocoa and sweet cedar are some of the flavors reviewers detected, and together they produce a sweet profile. It’s a straight down the middle medium, and it performs extremely well.
Ten years is a long time to wait for a stick, but aficionados will have to wait no longer to experience Ashton’s celebrated return to a respected line.