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Getting back into the swing of things, I visited some old favorites - Ezra Zion Blessed Leaf Rhema and Illusione ~eccj~ from 2015 - and they're both as good as ever. Cool

I also recently tried a stick that got a glowing review from Patrick Lagreid from Halfwheel several months ago - the meticulously named Vegafina Robusto Extra Pigtail Añejados 7 Años. It has since gotten positive reviews from others as well. While I'm not nearly as over the moon as some are with this stick, I think it's an excellent cigar at an outstanding value. Clearly well-aged, smooth, creamy leather and wheat with occasional shots of black pepper form a nice base throughout. The last third adds a nice sweet tea note with a hint of nuttiness. The downside: either the wrapper is fragile or they're over-filled, as I've had two where the wrapper split during the process - not catastrophic, but still a minor problem. It might have been a storage issue before my purchase, so I'm planning to give them plenty more time to settle in my coolidor. They're still available from BestCigarPrices and JRCigars by the box at about $6.50 a stick! This could be a decent go-to to share with casual smokers. It doesn't break the bank, but it's more than respectable in quality, and it's not so potent to make for an automatic nicotine buzz.
quote:
Originally posted by stickman:
Getting back into the swing of things, I visited some old favorites - Ezra Zion Blessed Leaf Rhema and Illusione ~eccj~ from 2015 - and they're both as good as ever. Cool

I also recently tried a stick that got a glowing review from Patrick Lagreid from Halfwheel several months ago - the meticulously named Vegafina Robusto Extra Pigtail Añejados 7 Años. It has since gotten positive reviews from others as well. While I'm not nearly as over the moon as some are with this stick, I think it's an excellent cigar at an outstanding value. Clearly well-aged, smooth, creamy leather and wheat with occasional shots of black pepper form a nice base throughout. The last third adds a nice sweet tea note with a hint of nuttiness. The downside: either the wrapper is fragile or they're over-filled, as I've had two where the wrapper split during the process - not catastrophic, but still a minor problem. It might have been a storage issue before my purchase, so I'm planning to give them plenty more time to settle in my coolidor. They're still available from BestCigarPrices and JRCigars by the box at about $6.50 a stick! This could be a decent go-to to share with casual smokers. It doesn't break the bank, but it's more than respectable in quality, and it's not so potent to make for an automatic nicotine buzz.


Glad to see your off the wagon! Unfortunately, it could be another year before I can start up again. Will live vicariously through your fantastic reviews.
quote:
Originally posted by mdsphoto:
Glad to see your off the wagon! Unfortunately, it could be another year before I can start up again. Will live vicariously through your fantastic reviews.

'Sorry to hear of your extended abstinence, but thanks for your kind comment.

I dipped into my meager supply of 'favorite island' sticks to enjoy my last Por Larrañaga Exclusivo Asia Pacifico from 2008. Easily the best of all of my batch (i.e., these aged very well). The white on the band has become a well-earned, aged ivory. The first 3rd was only good, with mild cedar, soft leather, and just a hint of tanginess, but it gained weight and interest as it progressed. I happily burned my fingers more than once to a delightful mix of sweet oatmeal, grilled sourdough, baking spices, and a gorgeous floral aroma. Never more than medium-full bodied. I fought off a canoe a couple times, but the quality of the tobacco made it worth it. Literally, smoke 'em if you got 'em; I think these have peaked and are either holding on or starting to fade. 'Wish I had more, just so I could confirm. Big Grin Cool

Last night I enjoyed, thanks to stickman, an amazing Warped Maestro del Tiempo 5205 (from 2015).  Some time ago, I was disappointed with the same cigar from 2017.  However, either the 2015 is vastly superior or the 2017 needs time in the humidor to come around.  This 2015 vintage was phenomenal.  It is very well constructed.  Firm.  No blemishes whatsoever.  The draw was just a tad tight, but nothing to complain about.  Smooth, with mocha, licorice, dark chocolate, and hints of Asian spice.  Wonderful smoke!  93

Very rare for me, but I smoked a cigar two nights in a row.  Last night was a Herrrera Esteli toro (from 2013; $9.35).  Great cigar.  For me, Herrera Esteli and Illusione are the non-Cubans of choice.  Although I must say that the Warped Maestro del Tiempo that stickman introduced me to is also fantastic.  Soft “texture” or palate, with loads of mocha, creaminess, pepper.  It is very age-worthy.  92

haggis posted:

Last night I enjoyed, thanks to stickman, an amazing Warped Maestro del Tiempo 5205 (from 2015).  Some time ago, I was disappointed with the same cigar from 2017.  However, either the 2015 is vastly superior or the 2017 needs time in the humidor to come around.  This 2015 vintage was phenomenal.  It is very well constructed.  Firm.  No blemishes whatsoever.  The draw was just a tad tight, but nothing to complain about.  Smooth, with mocha, licorice, dark chocolate, and hints of Asian spice.  Wonderful smoke!  93

I'm ready to say that 2015 was really good for both Warped and Illusione, both of whom source tobacco from Aganorsa.  I recently had a Warped Lirio Rojo from 2015, and it's easily the best cigar I've had this year!  The 2015 Warped Sky Flowers were the best yet, and Illusione's original ~eccj~ 20th from 2015 are way better than the recent releases.  Maybe the recent releases will improve, but the 2015's were magnificent straight out of the gate.  'Glad you enjoyed it!

In the realm of cigars that were 'released' last year but didn't show up until recently (I'm still eagerly awaiting the Warped Grand Reserva 1988 and Crux du Connoisseur N0.4, among others), I tried Nomad's Fin de los Mundos (not a typo, and I'm not sure what Fred Rewey is getting at with end of the 'worldS').  It's got a PA Broadleaf wrapper (a personal favorite), but this blend is atypically NOT sweet.  Nomad cigars tend toward savoriness over sweetness, and this is no exception.  Wonderfully balanced, allowing lots of subtleties to be perceived, but there's a bit too much grittiness for my taste.  An admirable stick, but I got spoiled by Southern Draw's Jacob's Ladder (also PA Broadleaf wrapper), which has become difficult to find.  I still find Nomad's Martial Law to be their best release, with copious amounts of Ometepe tobacco, which imparts an eccentrically wild character.

I need to wait to post more formal notes on Bespoke's Daughters of the Wind cigars, but an online source has given a perfect score to the Pyramide, which Small Batch Cigars still has in stock but may not last long, so I wanted to get this out ASAP.  While I'm not as over-the-moon as Kohnhed is with this stick, I think it's phenomenal, despite needing some age IMHO.  The Dahman vitola (7x56) is too strong IMHO, and I haven't tried the Salomone.  According to Bespoke's website, 'flavours' emanate from "Peru, Ecuador, Cuba, and Nicaragua."  Web stores don't mention Cuban tobacco, so I'm not sure of the full story, but this is a unique cigar, absolutely packed with flavor and head-spinning complexity, and it's got an elite price tag in the $20+ region.  For a special occasion, where you want to compliment someone (maybe yourself) with the best the world has to offer, this is a top candidate.  I haven't met a Bespoke (Dominican entity, not the Cuban one) that I didn't like, and this is one of the best!

stickman posted:
... the meticulously named Vegafina Robusto Extra Pigtail Añejados 7 Años...  The downside: either the wrapper is fragile or they're over-filled, as I've had two where the wrapper split during the process - not catastrophic, but still a minor problem. It might have been a storage issue before my purchase, so I'm planning to give them plenty more time to settle in my coolidor...

An additional month and a half in the coolidor has done nothing to fix the problem; they're still splitting, and some of them ARE catastrophic.  It's a real pity to have such fine tobacco ruined by poor rolling.  

stickman2 posted:
stickman posted:
... the meticulously named Vegafina Robusto Extra Pigtail Añejados 7 Años...  The downside: either the wrapper is fragile or they're over-filled, as I've had two where the wrapper split during the process - not catastrophic, but still a minor problem. It might have been a storage issue before my purchase, so I'm planning to give them plenty more time to settle in my coolidor...

An additional month and a half in the coolidor has done nothing to fix the problem; they're still splitting, and some of them ARE catastrophic.  It's a real pity to have such fine tobacco ruined by poor rolling.  

Well, that's a bummer.  Does a buyer have any recourse?

wife is in Chicago visiting our daughters, so I took the opportunity to sit outside with a bottle of wine, some music, and snacks.  Oh, and an opportunity to try a Padrón 1964 Exclusivo Maduro  (corona gorda; 2013; $11.20).  This has a very easy draw, almost too easy.  At first, it seemed a  bit harsh, with burning on my tongue.  But, it smooths out with time.  A rather rich smoke (being a maduro), with licorice, Indian spice, black pepper, roasted corn, and something that I can only describe as a bourbon or whisky on the backside. As for the "smoothing out with time," this becomes positively smooth and creamy during the second half.  Stunning.  Overall, very nice, but a bit strong for my tastes. I appreciate the quality of the cigar.  It is box pressed; something that I don't really care about one way or the other, but I'm thinking at as I get older and if/when I get arthritic (please, no!), I will appreciate that format. This will age well, I think. 92pts.

Last edited by haggis
haggis posted:
stickman2 posted:
stickman posted:
... the meticulously named Vegafina Robusto Extra Pigtail Añejados 7 Años...  The downside: either the wrapper is fragile or they're over-filled, as I've had two where the wrapper split during the process - not catastrophic, but still a minor problem. It might have been a storage issue before my purchase, so I'm planning to give them plenty more time to settle in my coolidor...

An additional month and a half in the coolidor has done nothing to fix the problem; they're still splitting, and some of them ARE catastrophic.  It's a real pity to have such fine tobacco ruined by poor rolling.  

Well, that's a bummer.  Does a buyer have any recourse?

If I were more certain that the retailer had mishandled the cigars, maybe I'd press the issue.  My take is that the roller used too much leaf in the filler - they start out a bit stiff, and when the crack occurs, they open wide into a mess!  Like wine, sometimes you get a bad bottle; it's part of the game.  I'm currently consoling myself with an Ezra Zion Blessed Leaf Pesach - just wow-good!

I had previously posted my thoughts on the [b]Jas Sum Kral Red Knight[/b], and I wasn't nearly as impressed as the good folks who voted in Cigar Federation's tournament and made it their over-all winner.  Well, I had one a few days ago that sorta' blew me away.  [i]So[/i] much more nuanced and delicate, with a floral opening, savory spices throughout, a Cuban-like sophisticated earthiness, and just really well-balanced overall.  Not sweet; very, I dare say, aristocratic (Jas Sum Kral is apparently Macedonian for "i am King"). The extra year+ of aging has done wonders for this stick.  

I suspect something that occurs a lot in the cigar world: a cigar gets huge praise upon release, they sell fast, and so the producer rushes to make more.  Sometimes the next batch simply isn't as good (Warped Maestro del Tiempo and L'Atelier LAT 52 jump to mind); sometimes the next batch simply got rushed and didn't get the same amount of aging, but they improve with humidor aging (Illusione Haut 10 and Sobremesa are good examples).  I suspect the latter in this case.  I honestly thought the hype around JSK was just boutique snobbery, but I think there's more to JSK now.  I will be following it/them more closely.

haggis posted:

wife is in Chicago visiting our daughters, so I took the opportunity to sit outside with a bottle of wine, some music, and snacks.  Oh, and an opportunity to try a Padrón 1964 Exclusivo Maduro  (corona gorda; 2013; $11.20)...  At first, it seemed a  bit harsh, with burning on my tongue.  But, it smooths out with time.  A rather rich smoke (being a maduro), with licorice, Indian spice, black pepper, roasted corn, and something that I can only describe as a bourbon or whisky on the backside... Stunning.  Overall, very nice, but a bit strong for my tastes... This will age well, I think. 92pts.

I dig your notes (tried to like, but the new system won't let me).  The impression of roasted corn is new to me (interesting), but the rest of the description is very similar to the impression I get from this smoke.  FWIW, I often find that I prefer the larger ring gauges (52+) in Padrón's blends. 

Just finished an Illusione kadosh (thank you Stickman!).  As denizens of this thread know, I am a big fan of the Illusione line.  But, I had never tried the kadosh until now.  This is one fantastic cigar.  I didn't make any real notes, other than to note that there is a very nice mixture of cedar, cocoa, dark cherry, and black pepper.  I don't normally smoke to the nub, but in this case, I took it all the way to 1/2 inch.  It was a bit hot by then, but oh so worth it!  This burned beautifully; razor sharp.  I had to relight twice, but only owing to lack of attention (Mrs. Haggis was calling from Chicago to check in on things while visiting our daughters and granddaughters).  A great smoke.  When I'm not going Cuban, Illusione is one label that I am excited about.  Thanks again, Stickman, for this stick.  93pts

haggis posted:

What are your single flame/torch lighters of choice?  I'm not overly happy with my Xikar and am looking for an alternative.  

When I need a torch (very handy in Colorado winds), I use a Vertigo Hawk triple jet, and it works even at high altitudes.  You probably already know this, but just in case: make sure you turn the valve all the way open and use every last bit of butane/air possible (it helps to depress the valve stem to make sure), then turn the valve all the way closed, fill the reservoir as full as possible with the lighter and fuel source upside down, then open the valve to the appropriate degree to light.  Other than that, I think MDSPhoto's advice to get a Jetlite is sound; they just work!

Haggis, 'glad you enjoyed the Kadosh, and I concur on the ~r~, as well.  I've heard guys say they had burn issues with the ~r~, but I've never encountered that myself, and it punches way above its weight/price class IMHO.  Age helps too!

Speaking of age, I just had an Undercrown Sungrown corona gorda (Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper), and it was decidedly better than the first one I tried, when they were first released.  Very peppery and citrusy, with a bit of vanilla/toffee in the background.  Excellent with an iced tea on a hot day.

stickman2 posted:
haggis posted:

What are your single flame/torch lighters of choice?  I'm not overly happy with my Xikar and am looking for an alternative.  

When I need a torch (very handy in Colorado winds), I use a Vertigo Hawk triple jet, and it works even at high altitudes.  You probably already know this, but just in case: make sure you turn the valve all the way open and use every last bit of butane/air possible (it helps to depress the valve stem to make sure), then turn the valve all the way closed, fill the reservoir as full as possible with the lighter and fuel source upside down, then open the valve to the appropriate degree to light.  Other than that, I think MDSPhoto's advice to get a Jetlite is sound; they just work!

Thank you.  I will look into this one, too.  Much obliged, as always.

stickman2 posted:

Haggis, 'glad you enjoyed the Kadosh, and I concur on the ~r~, as well.  I've heard guys say they had burn issues with the ~r~, but I've never encountered that myself, and it punches way above its weight/price class IMHO.  Age helps too!

Speaking of age, I just had an Undercrown Sungrown corona gorda (Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper), and it was decidedly better than the first one I tried, when they were first released.  Very peppery and citrusy, with a bit of vanilla/toffee in the background.  Excellent with an iced tea on a hot day.

I have NEVER had burn issues with the ~r~.  Never.  Razor sharp every time.  And it holds the ash for a good inch and a half.   My daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law are visiting for a few days, so he, too, had the pleasure of the ~r~.  Tomorrow, it will Cuban night! 

Never had that Undercrown, but sounds fantastic!

mjraica posted:

Any humidor recommendations?  Currently have a Savoy 50 ct. but looking to upgrade to a 100-150. I haven’t had issues with the Savoy, but seems like the lid doesn’t fit as tightly as it should and am replacing boveda packs in it a little too frequently than I think I should have to. 

If I were going for that size I would probably look at a Daniel Marshall. A little pricey, but certainly not extravagant to protect $750-$1,000 worth of cigars. He often has scratch and dent sales, but guarantees the seal is tight. 

This is by far the funniest cigar related content I have ever read!

“The reputation of Cuban cigars has worsened over the years among true cigar aficionados. While you may still find a great regard for Cubans, it is not unlikely to find those that invest in cigars completely convert to only Gurkha’s once they have experienced our cigars,” says Danny Carroll, brand ambassador for Gurkha Cigars. “I have found that, quickly, their perceptions of where the best cigars come from are shattered.”

The other day, I smoked a Herrera Esteli Short Corona.  I have smoked a few of these in the past and very much enjoyed them.  However, this recent one was awful.  I don't know if I have held these too long or not long enough, or if there was something flawed and it was just an "off" cigar.  I bought them in 2013, by the way.  Suffice it to say, it was quite harsh.  There are nice notes of toasted hazelnuts, cocoa, cinnamon.  But, it was very hot, harsh, and burned my throat.  Could not finish.

Davidoff LE 2009 ‘Selección 702’

Not that good.  I have smoked several of these over the past few years.  In each case, it starts out pretty bad (to my tastes), but mellows out for the first half.  After that, it fluctuates wildly from very good to bad.  That was my experience today.  The first 5 minutes or so were harsh, almost chemically (whatever that means).  After that, loads of creamy smoke that was quite pleasant.  But, after the half-way point, it returned to harshness.  I will say that this one was better than the last (almost exactly one year ago).  I have one left.  Will likely give it away or....

Score:  high point 90pts; low point 80pts.

Last edited by haggis
mjraica posted:

Any humidor recommendations?  Currently have a Savoy 50 ct. but looking to upgrade to a 100-150. I haven’t had issues with the Savoy, but seems like the lid doesn’t fit as tightly as it should and am replacing boveda packs in it a little too frequently than I think I should have to. 

Matt!  Good to see you posting here!  Low on aesthetic appeal but high on performance are coolers, which I use.  Even cheap ones usually have good seals, and size is never an issue; it's actually best to get as close a size to the volume of your cigars possible.  (If you get a brand new one, soak it well in hot water and let it open for a few days to get rid of the plastic smell.)  Once your cigars are stabilized at a given humidity (I definitely recommend no higher than 70%), the cigars remain much more stable than the air around them, so as little 'extra air' as possible is ideal. Good luck, and if you pass through the Denver area, do let us know, and we'll pull out the good stuff!  

Haggis, usually the harsh notes that I get - especially in cigars that are blended to be lighter in body - can be attributed to over-use of stems in the filler tobacco, which of course is a roller's issue.  Generally I prefer Davidoff's richer blends from Nicaragua, but I've had good luck overall with Herrera Esteli.  Your bad experience with the Herrera I'd guess to be steminess, but your comment that it was particularly hot makes me wonder if it might be a little a bit dry.  Was the draw particularly loose?  I've never aged them that long, so I can't speak to whether they age well or not.

'Glad to hear you had such a wonderful experience with the Partagas Añejados!  That's the stuff that keeps bringing us back, right?

mdsphoto posted:

This is by far the funniest cigar related content I have ever read!

“The reputation of Cuban cigars has worsened over the years among true cigar aficionados. While you may still find a great regard for Cubans, it is not unlikely to find those that invest in cigars completely convert to only Gurkha’s once they have experienced our cigars,” says Danny Carroll, brand ambassador for Gurkha Cigars. “I have found that, quickly, their perceptions of where the best cigars come from are shattered.”

Wow... where to begin.  That any one producer would make a comment that aficionados would "convert to only" their brand is simply cringe-worthy, and they ought to be embarrassed.   :-\   Cuba has had some rough years weather-wise, but even a guy (like me) who loves Nicaraguans and international blends will still concede Cuba's rightful place as the home of some of the best cigars in the world.  You're probably wise to simply laugh it off.

Between travel and lots of ho-hum experiences recently, I haven't had much to write about, but I finally tried Southern Draw's Rose of Sharon Lancero - wonderful stick!  Its mix of earthiness and sweetness is delightful, and it seems to have a fairly relaxed draw for a lancero, which I really like.  Mix in an intermittent tanginess and nuttiness, and this is a real winner in my book.

Last edited by stickman2

A few observations I did for a cigar site that may be of interest.

The 2018 International Premium Pipe & Cigar Retailers (IPCPR) show took place July 13th-17thin Las Vegas. For those unfamiliar, this is the annual show where cigar companies roll-out new products to owners of retail cigar stores. This is my annual list of observations and interesting cigars that were displayed. Having read every review, watched every video available and browsed every blog post my expectations for this year’s show was about as expected.

Attendance: Depending upon whom you asked the number of attendees was up versus last year or it was down or there was some truth to both viewpoints. For the first time the IPCPR leadership announced some attendance figures for the show. The total number of attendees was up 3.3% and retailer badges issued (note this not actual attendance just retailers that requested badges in advance of the show) was up 6.6%. No daily attendance figures were provided, but most bloggers listed plenty of activity on day 1 with each day falling off considerably.

Trends/Observations: As expected with the FDA regulations still in limbo there were not a lot of new cigar releases. In order to generate buzz many manufacturers launched new sizes or new packaging of existing brands and some manufacturers decided to revive some long dead brands to skirt the FDA rules.

Sports celebrities continue to enter the world of cigars. Gary Sheffield, Mike Ditka & Big Papi have their own cigar brands and this year The Mailman, Karl Malone, has partnered with La Aurora cigars to launch the Karl Malone Barrel Aged Cigar.

While the last few year’s trends have focused on larger ring cigars, this year was all about “aged tobacco”. Many companies were touting cigars made with 10, 15 and 20 year old tobacco. Most notably General Cigar rolled out the Cohiba Spectre, a stick using 23-year old tobacco that will retail for $90 each!! For a non-Cuban that’s pretty rare air and something that is bound to get a snicker from most educated puffers.

Tatuaje, a brand I’m a huge fan of, showed a prototype cigar called Gran Tatuaje. While no price was provided, owner Pete Johnson stated the cost will be north of $50. While I love a great cigar, the ultra expensive have rarely lived up to the hype.

 And in the craziest thing from the show category La Aurora launched a 20” x 80 RG cigar as part of a $500 humidor collection.

 Cigars: Below is my annual list of “want to try” sticks from the show.

 Drew Estates Liga Privada 10-Year Anniversario

Tatuaje The Bride

Tatuaje 15th Anniversary

Bespoke Daughters Of The Wind Salomones

Casa Ferndez Anniversario Perfecto

Southern Draw Cedrus Belicoso

Warped Las Relatos

Jeremy Jack JJ14 Lancero

Pier 28 Oscuro Figurado

 

 

 

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