Archive for November, 2009

The hypeThe Macanudo Gold cigar is a limited edition line of Macanudo cigars that adds an exclusive, innovative flavor to the nation’s best selling first-class cigar trademark. The Macanudo series is famous for its smoothness and consistency, whereas at the same time presenting diverse flavors to satisfy all tastes. The latest Macanudo cigar, the Macanudo Gold cigar, employs an exceptional golden Connecticut Shade wrapper to generate a characteristic, new flavor for first-class cigar smokers. The Macanudo Gold cigar is hand made with a golden wrapper from the first and second priming of Macanudo cigar’s especially grown Connecticut Shade crop, Macanudo Gold cigars are set apart with a natural sweetness. The wrappers are gracefully slender, however extraordinarily supple with superior veins. Their quality is particularly smooth, with no a hint of graininess. “Capa Especial” is the Spanish phrase for this wrapper of unusual tastes which, when mixed with filler and binder tobacco of harmonizing character, results in a premium cigar that lives up to the tradition of superiority that is a Macanudo cigar.”

macanudo logo

The review – This cigar has a blended filler of Dominican and Mexican tobaccos that are wrapped in a Connecticut shade wrapper. Macanudo carefully ages all their leaf

This is a very handsome cigar indeed. I’ve had a box of these beauties languishing in my humidor for about 3 years. Today was the day to see how well they have aged. I poured a glass of filtered water from my Smart Bottle system and settled in with my morning paper and this delightful robusto.

This is just a beautiful vitola, from the brown wrapper with delicate veinage to the firm texture and delightful prelight of alfalfa and cedar this one just oozes quality and class.

This cigar lit very easily and draw effortlessly while enveloping me in a beautiful haze of smoky delight. The smoke from this cigar is just classic goodness; gray and billowing while slightly acrid yet very comforting and soothing. The Duke of York yielded a delightfully spicy creamy flavor that  intensified after the 1st third. After 40 minutes of mildness, approaching the middle of the cigar I detected a hint of pepper that just added to the pleasure of the experience. After an hour, the flavor turned to toast and earth while still maintaining a pleasant mildness.

This is a great morning cigar that everyone should enjoy.

ci_MONTE_No2The Montecristo No.2 Piramide is a great Cuban cigar. After I left England and came to the USA, my access to these little beauties became somewhat limited. Our firm recently completes a labor-intensive project for a client in Canada and I was pleasantly surprised to have a box arrive via FedEx today. A hand-written thank you card was attached to a beautiful box of 25 of these Habana beauties.

The sticks slightly moist from storage, but I decided to indulge in one immediately to satisfy my hunger for Cuban goodness. The stick is well-constructed, firm and beautiful. This one was a little spongy from the extra humidity, but not moist enough to preclude me from smoking it.

Prelight aroma is moist earth and alfalfa with a hint of chocolate. I clipped the cap with my Xicar cutter and then fired it up. The cigar took light easily and created a light gray smoke that smelled great. Draw was effortless and I was soon surrounded by thick gray/white smoke and enjoying a mild spicy flavor that brought back  pleasant memories of my misspent youth. The cap produced a pleasant tingle and was quite neutral in taste. This particular cigar burned quite evenly and went out after about one inch, which is something that I attribute to the excessive humidity. After cutting off the first 1.25″ I lit it again and babied it the rest of the way, which resulted in a more even burn and an impressive gray ash that lingered over 2″ before dropping off. The flavor certainly intensified after the first half, more so than I remember. The smoke delivered overtones of cedar, spice and dark chocolate with increasing pepper until I was well into the final 3rd. Approahing the end, the draw became slightly bitter for a few moments and I noticed tar accumulation at the tip – I’ve never seen that on a No. 2 before so I suspect the excess humidity is again to blame.  I’m glad I had my trusty filtered water available to cleanse the palate as the bitterness lingered for a while. I let the stick rest for  a few minutes and tried again, blowing through it gently and snipping the cap slightly to remove the accumulated tar. The flavor improved significantly and I smoked this one down to the nub with great pleasure. Total smoking time was almost two hours, further evidence of a great experience. I’ll let the rest of the box normalize in the humidor for at least 6 months before I try another just to be safe. No sense in wasting these beauties. If you can get genuine Montecristo No. 2’s then don’t hesitate – you will not be disappointed.

The Hype“Occidental Reserve cigars are handmade, long-filler cigars created by Hendrik Kelner. Occidental Double Maduro is made from gorgeous double maduro Broadleaf wrappers grown in Ecuador, along with a Connecticut-grown Broadleaf binder and a long-filler combination of Dominican Piloto Cubano and Dominican Olor tobaccos. Naturally fermented for an extensive period, this wrapper combines to create an exceptionally rich, sweet and creamy taste. Medium-bodied.”

The Review – The Occidental Reserve Double Broadleaf  is a unique looking cigar. Veiny, toothy, and slighly irregular I was concerned that I wouldn’t have a good experience with it. I noticed the filler appeared to be a few shades lighter than the wrapper so I wasn’t expecting it to be too harsh. The Churchill felt slightly spongy in hand, but that’s probably just because I keep my Maduros around 72% in their own little humidor.  The prelight aroma was mild but intriguingly complex with hints of alfalfa, chocolate and a slight ammonia undertone.  I punched the cap with my narrow bullet cutter &  lit it using my new Colibri jet lighter and I was soon treated with delightful blue smoke cloud that smelt delightful. Very old-world.

The first puff was slightly harsh, but not disturbing to me. I kept puffing on it, but the draw was very tight. I pulled out my larger diameter punch that I use on my Robustos. This punch is barely 1/8″ wider than my narrow punch, but that did the trick. The cigar suddenly opened up to an effortless draw and yielded an intense coffee flavor. The 1st third of this cigar was delightful with pepper and cedar highlights. Ash on this stick was a medium gray that ran about 1.5″ and was flaky and irregular, but not so much that it was distracting or unpleasant.

Coming into the middle, the flavor mellowed even further and was leathery with oak and spice that smelled even better and was very satisfying. The finish of this cigar was so pleasant, I almost burnt my fingers on the nub. This is definitely one I will add to the list of “must-haves”.

I’m a man who appreciates fine flavors and aromas. I’m highly selective about my booze, my women, my cigars, and especially my food. I believe that I’m a true foodie; I enjoy choosing, preparing and eating fine foods. Since I travel a lot I get to sample flavors all over the world so my palate has been challenged by a number of interesting flavors…

I am especially partial to beef. Not the trash you buy at the supermarket, but artisan beef that has been carefully butchered and properly aged. I’ve tried many types of beef: angus, piedmontese, holstein, charolais, beefmaster, longhorn, brahman, limousin, maine anjou, hereford, simmental and of corse the wagyu (kobe). I’ve also experimented with organic, grass-fed, corn-fed, and even grass-fed/corn finished and come to some profound conclusions:

1. Different breeds of cattle do actually taste different.
2. Cattle taste like what they eat.
3. Proper dry aging makes a world of difference.
4. NEVER overcook beef.
5. Don’t drown beef with crazy rubs and overwhelming spices, let the seasonings compliment the real beef flavor not mask it.

My good friend (and fellow foodie) Greg gave me a sample-pack of “Viking Beef”. His friend owns the Viking Cattle Company, a Utah-based beef company. Greg wanted my opinion on whether this beef was good enough to market nationally.

What apparently makes “Viking” beef different is that the herd is a genetically controlled Friesland hybrid. I had to do some research on the Friesland breed as relating to beef, since I though tit was a dairy cow. Apparently the Friesland and the Holstein are “sister” breeds that originated from an area which is now in Holland. In the USA, the term “Holstein” generally refers to a high producing dairy cow that originated in Europe but now is exclusively American. The term “Friesian” refers to European stock beef cattle known for their large frame and medium yield of beef. So live and learn, I always though the black-and-white cows were for milk only, not beef.

Although I prefer buying beef fresh from the butcher, it’s hard to do that these days, especially with premium beef from far-away places. Greg sent the beef frozen with dry ice in a Styrofoam cooler and it arrived without a hitch yesterday. All the cuts were packaged cleanly and labeled so it was easy for me to choose some cuts to experiment with.

I left the sirloin steak to thaw overnight in my refrigerator and cooked it up today. My initial impression of the beef was upon unwrapping it. There was none of the fishy odor so commonly associated with “freezer beef”. My rancher buddies tell me the fishy flavor is from feedlots where they add animal byproducts to the feed during the “finishing” process.

The steak was uniformly red without showing brown spots, so evidently the aging was done properly. According to their website they age from 14-21 days. I’m a fan of dry aging to increase tenderness and enhance the natural flavor of the beef.

I rubbed the steak lightly with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and cracked black pepper. After letting it rest for 30 minutes, I broiled it in the oven about 6″ from the heating element in a pre-heated iron skillet.

This steak certainly smells fantastic during cooking, it has strong savory overtones and I started to salivate after just a few minutes. After cooking each side for slightly over 7 minutes I could barely contain myself. This cut cooked up beautifully, exhibiting a light brown pigment with none of the disgusting gray so common with cheaper cuts of beef.

I slid the steak gently onto my warmed plate and prepared for the promised culinary delight. I chose a nice NorthStar Merlot to accompany the meal.

My first cut into the steak surprised me, it was firm but yielding demonstrating the tenderness of the beef. Mouth-feel of this beef is very good, it wasn’t greasy or rubbery and yielded a complex juicy flavor.

It is clear to me that this beef is higher in iron than some of the other breeds like piedmontese or brahman. I demolished this steak in record time while still trying to pace myself and enjoy the flavors.

So how would I describe this steak?

  • It is tender, but not as tender as wagyu or piedmontese
  • It is delicious with a complex, rich beefy flavor that definitely beats angus and many of the other beef breeds
  • It is making me hungry for more

I’ll report on the other cuts as I try them, but so far I really like the Viking Beef!

I smoked a genuine Cuban Romeo y Julietta Belicosos after dinner to reward myself, I’ll post that review later….It was a good day.

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