February 26th, 2015
The 2013 Hammer & Sickle Icon cigars earned CigarAficionado and possibly the industry’s most coveted award their first year of production. At the Tobacos Dominicanos factory in Santiago, Hendrick Kelner creates an incredible stick with a beautiful light color and a fabulous medium flavor. Company owner Eric Hanson intended this release to astound the mild enthusiasts, and ended with an excellence in flavor and strength that any aficionado would find desirable.
The success of Hammer & Sickle’s sixth release comes from an expert pairing between the Connecticut wrapper and binder tobaccos. Aged four years, a U.S. grown Connecticut Shade wraps local Dominican tobaccos aged between three and five years. Out of the box, the golden brown Icon appears marbled and polished due to a minimal vein complex and oils from an expert aging. The aroma is of natural vanilla and earthy oak. The craftsmanship and burn of this stogie is truly admirable. The seams are almost completely hidden. The burn line is razor thin and remains even throughout.
The flavor of the Icon makes it easy to understand how this stick gained esteem so quickly. The first drag tastes of both hay and oak. These flavors continue dominance until the halfway point. During the second third, background tastes of salted sweet cream and roasted cashews gain strength. The halfway point piques high interest as a natural licorice spice becomes deliciously present on the retrohale. The cigar finishes with the oak and sweet butter softly dancing in the background, while the cashew flavor has grown into a delightful honey roasted taste. This couples nicely with the fennel spice on the retrohale. The Hammer & Sickle Icon cigars embody flavor, construction, and a feel that even the most experienced enthusiasts would love.
February 6th, 2015
The Fernando Leon Cigars represent several generations of history, dating back to the time when tobacco was grown, rolled and sold by individual farmers and their small operations. The line is put out by La Aurora, headed by Guillermo Leon, and is homage to his father, a man who only revealed the blend to those closest to him. The story of the family, though, is much bigger and is more than a century old.
Long before the Fernando Leon Cigars were even an idea, Guillermo’s grandfather, Eduardo, was busy establishing the family name with a factory in the Dominican. Established in 1903, the factory used tobaccos grown by Eduardo’s father, a trade he learned from his father. Until the 1930s, Eduardo produced small batches of smokes out of his factory and four-man operation, selling only to local shops. Before long, though, Eduardo was forced to transport his stogies by donkey to Santiago and other major cities as his operations grew. To compensate, he moved the family factory into Santiago proper, and there it has remained since.
And though the family and their La Aurora brand has achieved success in a number of areas in addition to stogies, tobacco is still their first love. And, aficionados hope, this will continue for many more generations.
February 6th, 2015
Back in 2012, the Perdomo 20th Anniversary Sun Grown cigar was released, and it’s still a best seller in many markets. Reviewers often make a big deal about how complex a blend is, but it takes a real master to make something interesting out of a handful of flavors. That’s what this stick is about. It uses a clean mix of simple flavors to build a sum greater than its parts. It also shares the same binder and fillers as a Maduro put out by Perdomo, so it’s a strong example of how much pull the wrapper can have on a stick’s flavor.
Wrapped in a Cuban Seed Sun Grown wrapper with binders and fillers from Nicaraguan plants, the Perdomo 20th Anniversary Sun Grown cigar is smooth and heavy to the touch. It comes in five formats, among them a Robusto (5 x 56), Epicure (6 x 56), Gordo (6 x 60), Churchill (7 x 56) and Torpedo (6 1/2 x 54).
The flavors are established early and developed into rich notes over the life of the stogies. These flavors include black pepper, sweet citrus, natural tobacco and wood. The sweet citrus and black pepper are the dominant notes, for the most part though all of the flavors have a chance to shine.
It’s a medium smoke that performs well and works towards perfection. It’s the kind of stick that only a company that’s succeeded for 20 years could produce.
February 6th, 2015
James Brown has never been afraid to try new things, so it’s only natural that his company, Black Label Trading Company, and its Morphine blend are both unique in their own right. This stick is one of the few to run with two wrappers, but that’s not what sets it apart. What really makes it different is the fact that these wrappers are stacked on top of each other, leading to an interesting smoking experience. It’s a good kind of interesting, though, with distinct flavors that will challenge an aficionado.
The Black Label Trading Company’s Morphine has a pair of wrappers. The outside wrapper is a Mexican San Andreas, while the inside wrapper a Maduro from Ecuador. It is dark chocolate in color and has a silky smooth feel to it, though what will draw eyes right away is the band. It’s large and features a moth with a crowned skull instead of a head.
Though there are only a few flavors in the cigar, they contain a lot of nuances and are developed over the course of the smoke. These flavors include black pepper, mocha and black licorice, and all three bounce back and forth between dominant and secondary throughout the stick. The black licorice, in particular, is focused on intensely and contains a lot of layers itself.
Most reviewers consider this a medium smoke, but its deeper flavors better suit an experienced palate. Anyone who can handle it, though, will find it to be a novel experience that doesn’t sacrifice flavor for its unique construction.
January 29th, 2015
The Punch Bassmaster Tackle Box cigar set is a nice way to get introduced to the company’s most popular and best-executed blends. Every pack comes with four sticks, one of each of the brand’s best blends, and a limited edition fishing lure. Among aficionados, this stogie maker is known for its powerful blends and its amazing history. The company dates all the way back to the 1840s and though it has changed its tune a couple times along the way; it still produces a number of accessible and affordable blends for smokers of all tastes.
The four blends included in the Punch Bassmaster Tackle Box cigar set are the Gran Cru Maduro (5 1/5 x 50 Robusto), Gran Cru Natural (5 5 1/5 x 50 Robusto), Gran Puro (5 1/2 x 54 Rancho) and Natural (5 1/5 x 54 Magnum).
The Gran Cru Natural is the lightest blend of the bunch, but all of the sticks are at least medium bodied. Honduran, Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers are in three of the four blends, with the Gran Puro being the only exception as it is a Honduran Puro. There are a lot of sweet flavors in play here, though the Natural sticks to a traditional mix of tobacco, leather and spice notes.
All of the blends have excellent construction and will not disappoint with their performance. And there may only be four sticks in the set, but they all work so well that it will feel like a brief visit from a good friend.
January 29th, 2015
Named after the legendary tobacco man, the Fernando Leon Family Reserve cigar has been around since the 2012 IPCPR Trade Show and is still going strong. The blend has a good story in that it was the family’s personal blend, only brought out when treating family and close friends. Now, the curtain is being pulled back, and every aficionado has a chance to enjoy it. As one would expect from such a personal blend, it produces a range of interesting flavors.
A Dominican Corojo graces the wrapper and binder in the Fernando Leon Family Reserve cigar, and it has tobaccos from Brazil, Peru, and the Dominican. It has a medium brown color and some visible veins, along with a bit of oil. The band is red, gold and white and has a traditional look to it, featuring the name of the blend and company icon.
The flavors present in this stick include cedar, wood, black pepper, spice and an unexpected taste of grapefruit. At first, the profile is sweeter, but it eventually takes on a tart and savory combination that is relatively uncommon. Overall, it’s a medium that plays up a few notches in spots with the flavor complexity, but it’s accessible to all. Along, with a strong burn and draw, it’s a smoke that could only be made by someone who has lived tobacco for a long time.
January 29th, 2015
The Black Label Trading Company’s Salvation is one of a handful of blends produced in the company’s freshman effort. Established in 2013 by James Brown, the small boutique has a clearly defined vision of what it wants to be. And, if its first blends are a sign, Brown has the right idea. All of the brand’s cigars are crafted to produce unique flavor combinations, and every blend is only available in a few vitolas. This cuts down operating costs and allows the brand to focus solely on the mixtures that work best with each cigar.
An Ecuadorian Sun Grown Habano covers the Honduran binder and Nicaraguan fillers, and it’s a reddish-brown. The stick is slightly rough in appearance and darkens the closer it gets to the foot, something that is rare. The Black Label Trading Company’s Salvation is only available in a Robusto (5 x 54), Toro (6 x 52) and Gran Toro (6 x 60).
The cigar’s flavors develop in a number of ways though the focus is on a mix of caramel, chocolate, coffee, earth, and citrus notes. With the caramel and chocolate, the cigar starts off sweet, but it adds in some savory flavors by the middle third, including hickory smoke and charred wood flavors.
It’s the kind of flavor profile that will give anyone an enjoyable ride, including experienced aficionados. For those out there who like a little challenge with their cigar, this is the one for you.
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.