Archive for June, 2009

I got my new Jaguar today, Stock photo-new xjso I just had to go for a drive. I figured a British car called for a “British” smoke, so I broke out some of my new John Bull Prime Minister cigars for the trip. I also brought along the Bobkin travel ashtray I recently purchased from Heartfelt.

The hype – “Mellow but flavorful Connecticut-wrapped lovelies….for an incredible price. The best part about this cigar is the quality-to-price ratio. There are better cigars out there and there are far more pricey cigars out there….but if you want a good quality, mild handmade at a tremendous price, this is an ideal ’everyday’ option.
Oh my! John Bull combines a silky Connecticut Ecuador wrapper with an aged combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos. Together this holy cocktail delivers a pretty smooth, mild to medium-bodied bouquet. The cigar billows with thick, creamy, voluminous clouds, consuming the palate in rich fashion and leaving behind pleasant notes of cedar and toast. Hey, for an everyday mild handmade, John Bull is an enjoyable and satisfying solution, brother. Packed in big, chunky, cedar boxes of 30 cigars….all at a price that’ll keep you coming back for more, a dozen times over.”

The review – I had never heard of the John Bull brand, but I saw a good deal on cigarbid and thought I’d buy a 5-pack and “see what happens”. This Presidente sized vitrola is a full 7.2″ long in approx 54 ring size that feels substantial and looks like any high quality stick. Prelight aroma is definitely grassy with an an ammonia undertone, much like any other mild cigar. This stick lit easily and the draw was uniformly easy. Flavor is surprisingly good for a “cheap” cigar. There is a creaminess that is quite enjoyable with hints of nuts, leather and vanilla. This vitrola ashed very evenly (light gray) and ran about 3/4″. The smoke from this cigar is most enjoyable, smelling like any of my “top-shelf” cigars. The flavor was consistent to the nub, which is unusual, especially on a discount cigar. I took this one down to the nub and then imediately lit another… I smoked four of these today over the course of a 230 mile round-trip and over lunch. This is an excellent mild cigar that I’d be comfortable giving to anyone, from a novice to advanced smoker. It tastes good, smells good and is decidedly pleasant. I just ordered myself a full box!

The hype – “Half cigar, half amazing. Drew Estate cannot be touched when it comes to top-caliber infused cigars with deliciously unique aromas. With Tabak Especial they’ve taken the coffee-infused cigar to bold new heights that thrill the taste buds. Jonathan Drew has carefully influenced Esteli-grown long-leaf tobaccos with the robust nuances of Nicaragua’s finest coffee beans. The result is a rich tobacco core layered with savory espresso notes and a touch of milk chocolate, all perfectly balanced by by a sweet, velvety aftertaste. The regular Tabak Especial is available in two varieties. Dulce, which employs a silky shade grown Connecticut wrapper; Negra, a dark broad leaf maduro-wrapped beauty.  The special Cafe Con Leche blend fuses these two into one spectacular offering….highly recommended!” – Cigars International

The review – This is another Jonathan Drew creation. Although I’m not a huge fan of the Acid series, I certainly do admire the man’s passion for tobacco as well as the innovations he has made in infusion technologies. Prelight on this one is certainly unique. It smells like mocha coffee with hint of cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate. This cigar seems to hold more moisture than others;  it is “squishier” and appears moister (probably a byproduct of the infusion) like the acid series. The labeling style makes it look exotic & alluring with an old-world flair. The filler extends past the wrapper, hinting of the foam layer on top of a cup of espresso. The stick is uniformly firm and the maduro wrapper is almost flawless with slight veinage. The cap is sweetened and has a very pleasant coffee taste with a slight tobacco tingle. Draw is slightly tight, but not unpleasant, bringing the first puff with a volley of strong tobacco flavor. The aroma of the wispy gray smoke is magnificent with all the best of a pipe tobacco and a fine cigar. I’m impressed. The cigar tastes great, with the meaty goodness of a maduro and the coffe infusion providing an undertone of flavor that isn’t overpowering like so many other “flavored” cigars. There is a note of white pepper that reminds you that you’re smoking a medium bodied cigar. Ash of a firm white mass that lasted to approximately1 inch. My drink of choice is Smart Bottle filtered water from my home system; I find that this is consistently my favorite palate cleanser when trying a new cigar, especially the infused ones. After the 1st third, the flavor tended more towards a burnt coffee flavor which was a little too bitter for me. The bitterness mellowed after a few minutes and it went back to maduro goodness. At approximately halfway I went more than 90 seconds between puffs and she went out, confirming my suspicion of excessive moisture. I relit again at 2/3 which was a little irritating as like to “get in the moment” when I’m smoking and not have to get my lighter out after I light the vitrola the first time.Towards the 3-finger mark, flavor started to get bitter again but it relaxed again after a few strong puffs. The lip-tingle intensifies as I smoke this, and by the 2-finger mark I feel like I’ve just downed a strong thai curry; not unpleasant, just very noticeable. I snuffed this one afer a total smoking time of 1 hour, which was fast for one this size – I think I was puffing faster than ususal to keep it alive. Good cigar, not on my personal a-list but worth keeping around. Best price I found was from Cigars International.

The hype “Gold Honey by CAO distills the essence of the highest quality orange blossom honey in the world. Each spring these flowers secrete sweet nectar from the lushest orange groves in Florida. We compliment this floral honey with well-aged tobaccos, creating a fusion of heavenly perfume and subtle earthiness. Let the sweetness of Gold Honey warm your heart and renew you like springtime”.

The review – I got this little stick as part of a CAO flavors sampler from the Tinderbox.  So far the CAO Moontrance is my favorite CAO flavor, and my impression of flavored cigars is less than stellar based ont he other that I’ve tried.  I was bored today after lunch and thought I’d take crack at this little corona. The prelight aroma is pure orange blossom honey with a hint of alfalfa, smells wonderful. The stick lights easily and the draw is effortless. The cap is sweetened and smoke smells great. Smoking this little cigar was surprisingly pleasant. I drank still mineral water throughout as a palate cleanser. This was an enjoyable smoke that was consistent all the way down to the nub. There was a lingering white pepper tingle mingled with the honey and spice. I would definitly smoke one of these again.

“The unique Cigar Oasis XL is a small electronic humidifier that is fully automatic. Just plug it in using a paper thin power cord that fits between the hinges on the back of the humidor, or connect the optional battery pack and it’s ready to go. The integral hygrometer displays the humidity in the humidor and also is used to set the controls point which is factory set at 70% RH, but can be adjusted to your own personal taste.

The Cigar Oasis XL

The Cigar Oasis XL

The unit comes with a refillable, replaceable water cartridge that will last up to one year before it needs water, depending on how often the humidor is opened. The Cigar Oasis XL has a built in system, which accurately monitors the humidity and uses a quiet fan to filter and circulate the air in the humidor eliminating “musty” odors so common in well-sealed humidors. Cigar Oasis XL is designed to always keep your cigars fresh.

I bought this handy little humidifier to help maintain humidity in my cabinet humidor.

I keep about 300 cigars in this cabinet and I’ve been concerned that my humidity levels aren’t uniform throughout. I’d read about using a fan, but had hadn’t done it yet.

I ordered a few extra hygrometers and stuck them at the top, middle and bottom of the humidifier and let things sit for 72- hours.

In this 8 cubic foot cabinet that I’ve been trying to keep at 65% using heartfelt beads, my calibrated hygrometers showed the following humidity data:

Upper: 58%

Middle:63%

Lower: 69%

Front Door:65%

So…the existing method was clearly not doing a good job.

I unboxed the Oasis XL and filled the reservoir with reverse osmosis purified water, attached the battery-pack and placed it centrally on the bottom of the humidor. I set the humidity to 65% and walked away from my babies for another 72 hours.

After 72-hours, my humidity data was:

Upper:64%

Middle:65%

Lower: 66%

Front Door:65%

I like this little humidifier. It obviously is doing a good job of moving air around and seems to be able to act as a reliable humidity control mechanism. My heartfelt beads are still in the humidor so they’re obviously contributing to the overall scheme, but the oasis is rounding things out nicely.

The hype“The Camacho SLR (Special Limited Reserve) is a fantastic blend made with a hefty dose of corojo filler and wrapped in beautiful Honduran grown Cuban seed wrapper. This superbly balanced blend offers a ton of flavor, with noticeable coffee and woodsy notes. The superior construction leads to a consistent burn every time, each producing a perfect draw, a long firm ash, and a room full of pleasing and voluminous smoke” .

The review – I’ve had this SLR in the humidor for about six months tempting me each time I open the door.  I decided to enjoy it tonight and so I retreated to the deck with my bullet cutter, butane lighter and a pitcher of Smart Bottle filtered water. The prelight aroma is woodsy with a hint of ammonia indicating that this one has been well aged. I toasted the foot and immediately smelled the Corojo filler; it has a pleasantly acrid note that is easily recognizable. I took the first puff and enjoyed an easy draw that was FULL of flavor. Camacho advertised the SLR as full-bodied and they weren’t wrong. My palate was engulfed in a myriad of classic tobacco flavors with strong cedar and leather. As I continued to smoke this little beauty, I began to enjoy an espresso aftertaste and the aroma of leather. Smoke produced from this little gem was a billowing gray cloud that engulfed me in singularly pleasant aroma. At the halfway-point, I noticed a slight tar taste so I blew through to burn it off and it faded. I smoked this one right down to two fingers while enjoying the water and fresh mountain air. Ash was a tight white/gray thatextended to about an  inch. This is a delightful cigar – highly recommended.

The hype – “The Edge by Rocky Patel is a full-bodied cigar with a great deal of flavor. The edge is considered to be one of the most robust cigars on the market. With a full-bodied and full-flavored aroma, this cigar is anything but simple. Each cigar is hand rolled in Honduras and passes through thorough quality control process that ensures only the best cigars are put out onto the market. The Edge remains the hottest cigar in the country based on its strength, price point and fresh-from-the-factory box packaging.”

The review – I bought a box of these from cigarbid.com at a price that was too good to refuse, and they’ve been sitting in the humidor for the last 6 months beckoning to me. I was a little apprehensive, so so many people say this is a very strong cigar, and Rocky’s “smoke while sitting down” warning didn’t help either. I finally cast caution to the wind and extracted on of these to enjoy with a glass of Guinness. This is certainly a beautiful cigar. The dark wrapper is almost flawless with an oily sheen and distinctive aroma – earthy and aromatic. This one was difficult to light; I might have the humidity a little too high in the humidor it was in. Once lit, it emitted billowing blue/gray clouds of smoke that smelled good, but had a hint of turpentine to them. The draw was a little tight on this one, but nor unreasonable at all.

Flavor profile is peppery and slightly bitter with a definite espresso aftertaste that is quite pleasant. After about an inch, the turpentine aroma intensified and my palate was assaulted with a petroleum aftertaste that I didn’t enjoy at all. This went on for about 10 minutes and I chucked it in disgust. I’ll try another on tomorrow and see if this is a fluke.

The hype – “As one of the most famous brands in the world, this Dominican version of the Montecristo has a golden Connecticut wrapper that encases a medium bodied blend of premium Dominican long filler tobaccos. In old Cuba, it was common place for cigar rollers to be entertained with the reading from stories and books to break up what was typically a long day. One such story that was a favorite among the factory workers was the tale of the Count of Montecristo. Legend has it, that the reading of this story is what paved the way for the Montecristo brand. Relatively speaking, Montecristo is a newer brand, making its start in Cuba in 1935. The Dominican version debuted in the United States in 1995, during the peak of the cigar boom. They are medium bodied with a moderate finish. As one of the most recognizable names in cigars, this newer Dominican version lives up the prestigious reputation, combining an enticing aroma with flawless construction. This cigar is an icon in the cigar industry. Also available is Montecristo’s Habana 2000 (H2000) cigar. The wrapper used in the H2000 was produced by blending Cuban Corojo and Connecticut shade tobacco seeds. Grown in Nicaragua, the cigars have a medium body with spicy and earthy undertones.

The review – “Beautifully packaged in its yellow wrapper, this 5×40 corona is very inviting. This vitola behaved more like a maduro than a classic shade conneticut; prelight aroma was chocolate and leather. The light was easy and drew effortlessly producing delightful gray smoke that had a lingering leather/spice scent. This is definitely a strong little cigar, with a tingle that dances in the mouth. Smoking time ran about 70 minutes and the ash was dark gray, holding together very well to about an inch consistently. I need to get a box of these for special occasions.

The Hype –  “Cusano 18 should be on everyone’s list to try. Its complex and appealing aroma make it a favorite among all aficionados. RATED 91 BY CIGAR INSIDER! Mike Cusano has always made giving the cigar enthusiast a great value his top priority. His mission has carried over to his premium lines, where hand rolled premiums with big ratings can be had at everyday low prices. Each cigar he makes has a special attribute, be it the filler or the wrapper, and every cigar is expertly rolled by hand in the Dominican Republic.  Rich, creamy, and packed with flavor, Cusano 18″s filler is composed of Dominican Oro harvested eighteen years ago. The extraordinary flavors of this rare filler are blended with a potent Cuban Piloto and a mouth watering San Vicente Olor. A creamy Connecticut Shade Binder leaf and a second, very flavorful Connecticut Shade wrapper produce an incredible volume of richness and an exquisite creamy finish.”

The Review – I got a few of these from Cigar.com about six months ago. I threw them in the humidor and didn’t think about them until today…I drove to Las Vegas today with my business partner, so we had a little time on our hands to think, and smoke.  The Cusano 18 is a tightly-packed, uniform beautiful cigar. Prelight aroma is woody and earthy with a slight nuttiness – very nice. The vitrola lights easily and has a distinct espresso odor.  My first 5 or 6 puffs were a little bland after which the flavor intensified and continued the earthy theme, with hints of cedar, leather and a little wood. The smoke smells good and almost smells like an infused cigar, but still has the “real” tobacco scent.  After I was halfway through this cigar, it becan to exhibit some white pepper, which was just enough to tingle and excite the palate. Leather permated throughout to the nub. I smoked three of these during the trip, drinking Pepsi and bottled water. All three were uniformly good, with relatively consistent flavor profiles. Mouthfeel was good and aftertaste was a toasty coffee that I can still taste. Well, off to dinner and a Drew Estate Tabac Especial….

The Hype -“Showing off the milder side of CAO, CAO Gold is a mellow blend that was counted among the first premium lines in the CAO portfolio of blends. Introduced in 1996, CAO Gold features an Ecuadorian shade-grown, Connecticut seed wrapper with an aged Nicaraguan binder and fillers. While it is one of the only mild Nicaraguan cigars on the market, its taste is still full of flavor and has been rated as one of the best cigars from Nicaragua by Cigar Aficionado Magazine. CAO is a home run brand. Every line they have produced has been very well received by even the most critical aficionados in the industry. From top blends to trendy and cool packaging, they have created a completely new image for cigars. CAO Gold was one of the first brands in the CAO lineup, helping CAO get on the map and earn its esteemed reputation. It is a mild to medium-bodied Nicaraguan premium. While the cigar is not particularly strong, it lacks nothing in the flavor department. The Gold goes head to head with brands like Ashton and Perdomo in terms of taste and strength, but it is in a league of its own when it comes to price. In addition, CAO Gold Maduro offers a slightly more robust flavor and a strength that remains mild to medium in body, with a rich aftertaste that fills the palate with notes of cocoa and espresso. Don’t miss your chance to try the cigar that helped lay the foundation for one of the most famous cigar makers today. CAO Gold is one of the nation”s best selling boutique cigar brands. CAO Gold is loaded with creamy textures of vanilla and nutmeg, top-noted with a subtle nuance of sweet spice.

The Review – I’ve enjoyed the CAO gold series for a while, and thought today was a good excuse to smoke one  and write an actual review.  I’m in Toronto today, sitting watching a storm roll in and drinking Hennessy cognac with this cigar.

This particular robusto is from a box I purchased about 1 year ago and has been aging nicely in my humidor. It made the trip to Canada in my nifty new otterbox cigar case.  Prelight aroma is alfalfa, with a light hint of ammonia; an aroma I have come to enjoy, as it is usually the promise of a very pleasant/mild smoke. I punched this one with my larger punch and toasted the foot. The foot darkened nicely from the torch and lit after a few moments. First few puffs were almost too easy and I quickly inspected the stick to see if I had any damage..no damage, just an exceptionally easy draw on this one. The first few puffs are nutty and leathery as the ash begins to build around the tip. After the ash has grown to 1″, the flavor becomes slightly stronger, but is still creamy and mellow;  leather, vanilla and mild spice permeate throughout with a very pleasant espresso aftertaste on the exhale. The smoke smells very good, not stinky at all. Past the half-way mark, flavor is uniform and quite delicious, with the faintest of pepper in the background, just barely enough to tickle the tongue, but no tingle. approaching the 2-finger mark, there is a slight alcohol taste, reminds me of ketone solvents – not unlike a mature shiraz wine. I ran this one to the nub until it was too hot to hold, enjoying every puff until the last.

The CAO gold is a mainstay in my humidor and I always keep a box or two on hand, especially if I have a neophyte to introduce to the brotherhood of the leaf. I have a box in the humidor that I purchased in 2000 that I’ll smoke next year, I’m looking forward to taste the benefit of an additional 10 years of aging.

Draper Valley Vineyard

Draper Valley Vineyard

Draper Valley Vineyard is one of the few “juice only” vineyards in the world to produce actual varietals that truly represent the vintners art. These are not dealcoholized wines like the offerings from Jung or Fre, and I thoroughly enjoy these juices. They have a strong heady flavor and are beautifully packaged.  You can purchase Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Cabernet Sauvignon and experience rich bold flavors like never before. Draper Valley Vineyard doesn’t adds water or sugar, just the natural goodness of the wine grape. Take for example the deep red Draper Valley Pinot Noir, its rich flavor is reminiscent of black cherry, currents and black berries. Perhaps the rose-colored Draper Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is more to your liking, with its lighter taste of strawberry and cherry, with hints of peach and raspberry. The Draper Valley Chardonnay is a light blend of Granny Smith apple, pear and peach flavors, while their Riesling tastes like Golden Delicious apple, mango, and hints of honey & lemon.

The Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling are particularly great accompaniments to a fine cigar. You can order directly from their website, and Al Curtice the vineyard owner is frequently available via telephone or email to handle questions and customer support issues.

The Hype – ” Drew Estate’s Acid Remi line holds within it the cigars most widely desired by Acid aficionados, including the renowned Blondie. Ringed in metallic blue, this line is the careful combination of mild cigar tobaccos deliciously infused with all natural herbs, essential oils and an extra touch of their floral botanicals. These cigars are the smokes of choice for those seeking total relaxation from the daily rigors of life.

The review – Another Drew Estate creation from my Acid Sampler tin. I removed the cello from this one and really enjoyed the aroma; ginger, citrus, jasmine very exotic without smelling artificial. I cut the cap and toasted the foot. There must be a small amount of sugar on this one (like the c-note), since it blisters and crackles around the edges when exposed to the torch. Smoke is light blue/gray and wispy. Smoke aroma is quite pleasant and would be quite socially acceptable around non-smokers.  Draw is effortless and this little petit corona cigar tastes better than most other flavored cigars I’ve had the displeasure of smoking.  Although many say this is a 20 minute smoke, it took me about 45 minutes to run it to the nub. The infused flavor lasted throughout, but got slightly peppery during the final third. I like a cool smoke, so I favor larger ring sizes, but this one didn’t overheat until about 3/4″ from the nub.

I still prefer real cigars and although certain infusions are fun like Tabac Especial, I just can’t take the Blondie seriously. It’s not bad, it’s just not good…I won’t be buying this one again.

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