I save every band off of each cigar I smoke. And they are placed in an envelope in the order I smoked them. No notes, I have a good memory from the band (most of the time). This was my busiest year for trying new cigars. I didn’t count the number of cigars, but I can tell you by the bulging envelope, it’s been a respectable year for testing.
Each cigar has its merits, some good, and some bad. For example I just finished a Belmore. This is basically a European cigar that’s never quite made its mark in the US. Why? I can’t say for sure because it’s tasty and well-constructed. The packaging is unique in that it comes in a ten-count box made of cardboard. But that’s only one of the many I tried this year. I thought for fun I’d list some of the brands that I tried last year:
There was The Torch by Veritas; The Leaf by Oscar, a cigar that many thought its wrapping of a tobacco leaf around the stick was a gimmick to attract and then endure the big letdown when it was lighted up. But to the surprise of many, the cigar held up and it’s become one of the more popular brands in the market.
I tried The Imperia by Mike Bellody; Big Pa Pi; Enki; Kings Cigars; Duo by Lucky Leaf – here’s one I can’t remember anything about. MBombay, one of the new kids on the block that has made headway into the market place but has had its challenges dropping anchor due to the pricing.
Daniel Marshall’s Red Label has been a Nicaraguan puro that’s been around for years, but it too has had a challenge finding a spot on humidor’s shelves. I went and tried the Kafie 1901; Marrero, a great Costa Rican blended cigar; T.L. Johnson’s Legend Reserve 63 (can’t say for sure they are still in business); PIO, a wonderful smoke that needs exposure; Santiago de los Caballeros; Brun Del Re; Garo; Southern Draw’s Kudzu, one of AJ Fernandez’s creations distributed by a cigar lover in Texas; Guillermo Pena, an inexpensive cigar that will surly find its niche in the coming months.
Inca was introduced made unique in that its blend is 100% Peruvian tobacco; Luj – the Fugitive, made by one of the industry’s most gregarious cigar lovers; Heritage 1492, from GMD, a company that had too many cigars and no plan to distribute them; Las Verdad; Via…Havana; the eponymous Bill Bromley; the 1881 Perique from Daughters and Ryan; Castillo Del Morro; Trill; Villager; La Capitana, (another I have no clue what it was like); or the Tobajara; and Matilde.
Then rumbled the awakening of the gothic Black Label Trading Company’s assortment of cigars – The Royalty, the Benediction, the Salvation, Lawless, and Last Rites. Then from the offshoot company Black Works Studios appeared a trio of Small Batch Cigars – The NBK, the Killer Bee, and Rorschach. Watch these cigars folks. The labels alone will capture your imagination and you will be drawn to them.
Sabor Cubano by the magician himself Luis Sanchez; Guayacan by Noel Rojas; the Spirit of Art; the tried and true J. Fuego; Dissident’s BLOC; Eric Espinosa’s home run Laranja Reserva; Wilson-Adams by Brandon Wilson, one blend that will reach the cigar firmament in no time at all; Don Lucas, a hidden treasure that has been uncovered; Dictador, the silent creeper that will get under your skin like “The Tingler;” Sabor de Esteli; Zabala’s 1936; Kolumbus, another European traveler that has to find a place on the shelves here in America considering he founded the country it’ll be a back to the future enlightenment; Isabella, a sweet- tipped creamy cigar that has all that it needs to succeed in one wrapper; Protocol; JSK, a stick that’s a mystery how it has gotten so much press without ever being released.
I’ve already mentioned the Belmore, maybe the folks in Europe will be willing to spend some time (read money) on advertising and this go around it will stick; my favorite old-timer El Roi Tan; Esencia; and AKA – and on and on and on and on.
Know this, the rules are changing. The FDA has slithered its tentacles deep into the machinations of the cigar industry. The laws that are proposed could kill the bulk of the above and the boutique business will die like those in Tarantino’s newest epic – “The Hateful Eight.” Lots of dialogue, but you know the bloodshed will be an integral part of the plot line.
And so we head into 2016. I’ve already had three manufacturers contact me with hopes of distributing their cigars. No samples have been sent and the jury will be out until that happens. But even as I write this article, there are hopefuls that are running back and forth to the DR, Nicaragua, and Honduras with stars in their eyes to blend they think will be the next Miracle.
I’ll try as many as I can and I will help build as many brands as I can. I know I gave it my all in the last twelve months and I don’t intend to stop now. . . .