Category Archives: Cigar Reviews

Distinguishing a great cigar.

great cigar

These words are being written down longhand as I’m thinking through them while I making my way from the garage.  This overwhelming feeling was engulfing me as I was wasting my life scrolling through Facebook in the garage.

It was almost a physical sensation that crept into my conscious id, an almost physical, alien assimilation that there is a foolproof way to know whether or not I like a cigar.  And it was – if I may re-use a phrase from AA – a moment of clarity!  A solid realization.

Do you know what that way was?  Do you know what I uncovered as I was mindlessly scrolling my life away?  Wait for it.   I never paid any attention to the cigar I was smoking.  I never once thought of the cigar.  Everything about it was a crystal clear concatenation of cigar characteristics that were rolled together to make this serendipitous, faultless smoke a part of me.

great cigar full

That cigar was the perfect fitting, hand-made Caraceni suit fashioned from the most luxurious fabric ever sewn together from Vicuña wool.  I had discovered the unbeaten trail that veered away from all that pretentious, descriptive verbal bullshit that no one believes anyway and found myself an option where I would be free from ever having to write a sanctimonious cigar review again.  I knew I had stumbled upon the Holy Grail of appraisals because I tasted no friction of spice, tinges of leather, earthly essence of the forest floor, moth balls, cherry licorice, and wooden, non-sulphurated match head sticks.  

I had just found the most complete cigar that was so sensuously satisfying that my emotions welled up inside of me.  I felt warm liquid at the corners of my eyes.  Freedom. Oh, how I relish the crest of a creative conclusion.  Without having to say so.

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Guerrilla Flavors by Isabela.

isabela colors

Sixty ring gauge cigars were supposed to be a fad.  Instead, they have become one of the most popular sizes.  I find them to be too much girth to handle comfortably in my mouth. And the cigar has a tendency to turn sour due to the huge amount of filler.  Worse, the cigar becomes boring.  

Except for one.  Recently I took on a line that offers a 60 ring gauge that by-passes all the aforementioned negatives mentioned above – The Guerrilla by Isabela.  Yes, I rep it.  And yes, I offer many other cigars with a 50 plus 10 ring.  So before the other manufacturers get their panties in a wad, I always offer all my cigars to the customer – but I just keep my opinion to myself.

isabela tree

Why is this one different?  Flavors.  There are so many changing piquancies that explode on your palate, some evolving slowly rumbling past what you think you’ve just experienced, others popping in a contrapuntal, erratic symphony indicative of the works of Austrian composer Alban Berg taking on the bursts of eruptions like fireworks in the middle of the street during a Chinese New Year’s celebration.

Some flavors sizzle, some scatter, some entice, some entrance, some mesmerize, some surprise, some hypnotize, some appear, some disappear with such rapidity it is impossible to grasp them.  I defy anyone who is true to their palate to deftly paint a canvas of what they are experiencing that is coming from this simple, barber pole of aged tobacco.  Guerrilla makes Jackson Pollock’s White Light (1954) appear to be a study of columns and straight lines.  It is an overt prism of an erotic experience that even Helmut Newton could not duplicate.  It would be inconceivable for even the great John Updike to conjure up the right words on the page to limn the whirling mixture of flavors – sweet, savory, umami, bitter, delectable, and embarrassingly sexual that this cigar offers.

isabela gorillaNo, this is a treat beyond your imagination. There is only one way for you to trip on this cigar and that is to light one up.  A psychedelic ride that rivals the symbolic surge (“Star Gate”) through space at the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey” to arrive back to this earth without telling someone else where you think you’ve been.

(Cover photo by Bobby Doherty)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou6JNQwPWE0

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“She’s a Leidy.”

leidy final cover

How do I describe an indescribable cigar?  The word itself, “indescribable” is defined in the dictionary as “too unusual, extreme, or indefinite to be adequately described.”  So do I bother?  Or do I give it all I’ve got to draw you into this heavenly experience?  I wrote notes, of course.  “Box pressed.  Excellent draw.  Spicy introduction.  A frappé of flavors. Mellow.  Creamy.  Elegant bouquet.”

leidy working

I have been very anxious to try this blend.  I’m still in the dark as to what tobaccos are used.  It’s made in the Dominican Republic.  Factory unknown.  I met the woman who is responsible for this delightful experience by sheer coincidence.  

As she wrote, I will paraphrase – of all the millions of people I could have met on FB, I meet you.  Kinda throws me into the famous scene in “Casablanca” when Rick is alone, bottle next to him, a strained expression on his face when he slams his fist against the table and says, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”  But the meeting between myself and Leidy is one of joy, not melodrama.  An auspicious beginning.

leidy packI received the samples of the cigar, Reina del Nilo, with the help of an individual who lives in the Dominican and we arranged the drop.  A few days later, an envelope was delivered to my address.  I opened it immediately when I returned home and was transfixed by its whimsical presentation, especially when I unfastened the latch on the box and was met with a golden bow made of textured ribbon, an introduction card, and a poem.  Yes, I said a poem.

Leidy is passionate about cigars, but she is also taken by her sensual desire for words.  A match between us, I might add.  And she combines them with grace.

I took one cigar out of the five-pack and inspected the stick and was enthralled by its beauty – borrowed perhaps from the woman who created the cigar.  I was hoping for the best and I was visually met with the highest of quality.  I could not hold my curiosity in any longer.  I could not abstain from sharing this moment.

The toasting was our first meeting, and the draw was the sensuous satisfaction of heart-pounding excitement.  A fresh, autumnal sprinkling of spectacular flavors – though none distinct, save for the spice, met our passionate embrace.  Solid construction.  Perfect draw.  An even burn.  Medium bodied.  Nobel?  Again I go back to Bogie’s best when at the end of the film he walks on the rain-soaked tarmac saying to Louis, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

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Cocoa?  The bravery of bitters entered into the sweet, exotic, née erotic experience.  To quote Jahausa in “The Medicine Man,” “Ah, a beaut.”  Smiles, laughter, wide eyes – a bit of a romantic interlude that is no longer a secret.

leidy cigar

The glue is the spice.  Subtle umami seasoning is intertwined with those essences I cannot find the words without sounding foolish.  Yes, it is difficult to review a cigar with such a rush of minuscule molecular atoms banging against each other to produce this one curious blend.

Indeed, Leidy is delicate, as are her cigars.  I have never met her, but I can assure you that I am not far from the truth.  She is gracious.  Her heart is filled with a special spiritual lilt.  As I continued to enjoy this cigar, I cannot but think of her.  She has indeed infused her character into the tobacco leaves.  A miracle?  Or an inevitability? Her prowess I would guess.  An occasional drip of a single drop of water from the recent rain, splatters on the concrete, as do the flavors over and over and over again on my palate.  I am fortunate to enjoy this tinseled treasure.  I do not believe her cigars have yet to arrive in the United States – save for the one smoked by this “American Writer.”

tut ashThe matte that is produced draws me deeper into the arduous task of giving you, the reader, a tiny taste of this surprising blend.  If I have at least brought the Reina del Nilo to your attention, then perhaps my review is complete.

But the only way for you to gain entry into this world of fantastic flavors is to do what I have done.  I hope you get that chance.  I’ll do what I can to make that possible.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjJiFSPNG-4

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2012: by Oscar “The Rebirth Edition.”

ovct

There’s a time and place for everything.  And this night I had a few moments to smoke a 2012 by Oscar Valladares.  I picked the 60 ring just because it was the most accessible one in the trunk of the car.  I don’t normally care for that size.  But, I was in a hurry to feel what was left of the sun at the hotel I’m staying at and I didn’t want to futz around so – tag it.

I was alone outside in the back of the building where all the No Smoking signs are posted.  No one objected so I took advantage of the moment.  But isn’t that when most good things happen anyway?

Snip, flame on, and that cigar was in the wind.  What a flavor for a Connecticut.  I don’t like Connecticut wrappers.  I don’t care where the seeds are grown.  But this one seems to hold my attention.  It’s a soft box pressed beauty with a lightness that actually accentuates the delicate flavors of the Honduran binder, and is further complimented by the rich, sweet Nicaraguan and subtle Honduran fillers.

ovbaubles

I was going to write something about the history of the 2012 and how this was actually Oscar’s first cigar, not the Leaf.  But it was so near the end of the day, and with the wind blowing and the sun beginning to descend on the horizon, I just decided to put the pen down, sit back and let this cigar play out its magic.  And what a breathtaking performance it was.  

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Three Little Words: A Review.

1965 cigar

So I receive my copy of Cigar Aficionado (October 2017) and I place it on the pile of magazines I have yet to read and the hundreds of pages of torn out articles that are scattered to the left of my small writing space on my desk.

Several days go by and I just keep building the stacks of copy I will use someday in a story.  But today was different.  For some unknown reason, I decided to pull the issue out and strip off the protective plastic cover.  I take a quick look at the front of this cigar magazine.  “Inside the NFL: Who will win the Super Bowl?  Danny Sheridan picks the winners.  How to beat the Bookmakers.  Jay Glazer and Dean Blandino – The Fox insiders speak.  Super NFL Stadiums.  Featuring: Dick Butkus, Jason Taylor, Robert Kraft.”  Hmm.  I glanced back at the masthead – Cigar Aficionado: The Good Life Magazine for Men.

Cigars.  Cigars.  CIGARS!!!  WHERE ARE THE ARTICLES ON THE CIGARS?

Insouciantly I flip open the publication and my fingers happen to stop on page 124.  In the back – where the cigar reviews have been relegated.  Subhead:  Churchills.  I scan the first five to my left.  HEY!  Will you looky dat!  Third from the top.  Nat Cicco’s Anniversario 1965 Liga No. 4 Churchill.  Holy shit!  A 91!  A bloody good 91.  And I rep that line!  Would you look at that?  And I did.  You might say I stared at it.

The copy reads: Squarely, symmetrically pressed with an oily wrapper (Ecuador) and chopped pigtail cap (I can see that).  Up front acidity (?) disappears (Did it ever appear???)  for a leathery, meaty smoke sweetened by notes (What do-re-me?) of molasses and toffee.  U.S, $6.50.”  Well, I’ll be damned.  And wouldn’t you know it, I have that exact same size.  So what do you think I did?  Thaaaaaat’s right.  I went to my humidor and pulled it out.  Let’s see how close these guys are to the real thing.  (Read my Blog titles, “I think; therefore I am.” just to gain perspective as to why I’m doing this.)

1965 5

Ok.  The CA review has a photo of the cigar, so why bother to tell me it’s square-pressed?  Too, it’s quite evident that the pigtail has been clipped.  Agreed description so far.  But unnecessary to write down.  The wrapper is gorgeous, a chocolate-brown hue that invites your lips to start quivering upon entry.  Nothing said there.  Why?  

Now, here’s where the review goes awry.  Where does this taster come up with acidic?  Even though the “acidity” disappears, why bother to mention it because it isn’t there.

The reviewer tastes a “leathery, meaty smoke sweetened by notes of molasses and toffee.”  Ok.  I’m smoking this cigar.  I have put fire to the folded-in foot (not mentioned in the original review and should have been) and I’m drawing in some of the most luscious (meaty?) smoke produced by the combination of fire, tobacco and Mother Nature.

I get a refreshing dose of viscous chocolate syrup, a hint of cinnamon powder, and a squiggle of sassafras extract.  A bubbly blur of spice appears and hovers in the smoke for the remainder of the experience.  There’s even a bit of seasoned tobacco pipe residue taste upon the final exhale of smoke – the type of essence that one can get from the first crunch of the sizzling burnt edges of crème brûlée.  My palate does detect a dash of toffee.  Toffee, as you know, is “a hard but chewy, caramel colored noncrystalline candy made by cooking sugar, water (or cream or milk) and usually butter or other fat. Other ingredients such as nuts or chocolate are sometimes added (Google), but not in this case.  And what kind of toffee, Dark English Butter, English Butter Toffee, White English Butter Toffee and who knows how many more.  Each has their own unique flavor enhancements.

1965 bandAh, and don’t forget the bouquet (but this reviewer did).  One of the prime elements in the flavor of any cigar.  The bouquet, the whipped cream that tops a sundae with its drizzle of dazzle.  

Now I know the editors can’t go into so much detail and I dare say I feel like a jackass just writing this somewhat lengthy personal description.  So you know what I would have said had I had the chance to give this cigar a review?

Damn!  Great Smoke!

Ah, the serenity of sublime simplicity.  

Too, it should have gotten a 95 or better.

Ta!

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PepperHead packs a Wallop!

ph cover

Gorgeously constructed.  Look at that cap.  Perfect draw.  The tingle on the tongue indicates to me that something is up – and it ain’t mediocre.  I’m smoking the new Isabela PepperHead and I just got into it.  Wow!  Oh.  Creamy smoke.  Yaw za!!!  Delicate sweetness on the leaf that dissipates rapidly.  Not an intrusion at all.  Oh, boy!  What a power rocket this is.  Pepper down to the core.  Yet, velvety, not cracked with ragged edges.  An aroma that settles the bicameral mind.  It’s incredibly humid today so the smoke lingers in the air.  A sensuous, soft, lovely mix into God’s universe with human ingenuity.

ph beginning

Flavors.  Let’s smack dem lips.  Right now it’s too early, maybe even unnecessary to limn.  This is a sense-sational cigar.  Pepper is the dominant contributor.  The key that is unlocking the natural mix of, of, of.  Let’s see how many kinds of pepper do I know?

The transitions are quick to pop!  This is difficult. Tellicherry black pepper from India, of course, is the most common.  Veer over to Mysore green, which is more on the mild side due to its being unripened and quickly dehydrated.  Inch over to Malaysian white peppercorns. These give off a more intense zing due to the fermentation process.  The latter three I know.  I’m picking up pepper.  Powdered – not the rough mill grind.  Period.  I defy anyone’s palate to discriminates and identify one from the other two.

Speechless.  Wow!  This is a powerful blend.  Gesh.  I’m dizzy.  Maybe from all the travel, maybe from the cigar.  I ate.  So no blame on an empty stomach.  Perry Como was right when he sang Joe Shapiro and Lou Stallman’s 1956 hit “Round and Round.”

Then your love will hold you round, round, round

In your heart’s a song with a brand new sound

And your head goes spinning round, round, round

’cause you’ve found what you’ve been dreamin’ of

ph redWeeeeeeee!  Gotta take a sip of Mountain Dew® and root beer to douse this mutha.  What other varieties of dry pepper are there?  No vegetable peppers here.  No jalapeño, habanero, or ghost varieties.   It’s not that type of spiciness.  There are Brazilian pink peppercorns known for giving off a slightly sweet tang.  But they are really more of a berry than a pepper.  Ah, the black Malabar which is added for its bold flavor and aroma.  But I don’t know.  I don’t know them.  And there are more such as Cambodian black and red peppercorns and the black Lampong Indonesian variety but this isn’t a treatise on peppercorns.  IS IT!

ph butt

All I can say is the transitions are coming fast and furious like a Gatling gun – “Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat-rat-a-tat-a-tat-tat-rat-a-tat-tat-tat.  BAM!”  Crank that sucker.  “Che-che-che-che-che-che.  POW!”  “Holy Peppercorns, Batman!” “You’re so right spice boy.”  

I singed my fingers, lips, gums – and almost lit my beard trying to keep this cigar alive.  Please don’t go out!!!  I beg you!  “NOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooo.”

“It’ll be awright Ozzy!”

PepperHead.  Miss this!?  I wouldn’t.  You’d be a damn fool if you didn’t try one.

(Available ONLY in the Midwest via Irv CigarBroker)

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Is this the bitter end?

bitter cover

This cigar I’m smoking is bitter.  Not a good bitter such as Fernet-Branca, Regan’s Orange or Dale DeGrott’s Pimento.  I’m talking dull, dry-your-mouth-out, back-of-the-palate yuk bitter.  No accentuation, just, well – bitter.

It’s an expensive cigar and a disappointment.  But I’m a cigar man, and I’ll try anything many times before I make my final assessment.  Hell, my palate can change and so can the cigar.  Tobacco is what it is – a plant, a leaf.  God didn’t die-create the leaves.  Take into consideration the soil, weather conditions when the stalk was growing and the fermentation process and the variables multiply to the point of garnering a headache.

bitter irv color

The cigar has punch, lots of yummy tastes that mingle with each other to produce some very complex flavors. Cherry wood comes to mind, as does the extract of tree bark – an essential ingredient in bitters.  So it’s not a bad thing, I just can’t get past the bitter bitterness.

My tongue is also feeling as though it’s desensitized, but I think that comes from the spices that become quite dominant toward the middle.  The numbness is reminiscent of the final stages of shock from a ghost pepper.  Unfortunately, no flavor in that – only sensation.

If I could just tie all these various nuances together, but I think I have a better chance of weaving a rug out of the particles that make up the strands of mass in the string theory than I do coming up with an accurate descriptive explanation for this cigar.

bitter endIt could be I’m being a snit because it’s a torpedo, one of my least favorite shapes.  But really, I’m not that picayune to abdicate the cigar to the trash tray on account of its shape.  I have a robusto of the same blend. I will have to try it to see if what I’m getting with this one repeats itself.  If it does – then it does and then I’ll have to ponder about whether or not the blender created this cigar to taste like it does for a different palate – or it’s just a rough attempt at something different that tanked.

Ah, it’s late.  I smoked it to within an inch.  That’s a pretty good try don’t you think?  I do.

 The End.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSUIQgEVDM4

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