The Keepers of the Flame Padron Roundup Friday, May 30 2008 

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Lucky7 and Cigarfan over at The Keepers of the Flame have recently honored me with an invitation to participate is a great project that they are undertaking, and it is a huge undertaking. They are putting together a vertical tasting of the entire Padron Series of cigars. They are calling it the Padron Series Roundup and together with a collection of reviewers from the cigar blogging community, they will be compiling tasting notes on every size offered in the Padron Series line in both the natural and maduro wrappers. I have been called upon to cover the #3000 natural and maduro in this line and I will also be contributing to the tasting notes on the Ambassador as well. This project will span the next 2+ months so be sure to check out The Keepers of the Flame periodically for the full reviews, and I’ll be posting some updates about the project along the way as well.

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Purchase: Tatuaje Black Ceramic Jar Wednesday, May 28 2008 

So here it is at long last. I have been obsessing over this thing for months now and I finally have it. The jar is beautiful and of course having already smoked the cigar before, the cigars will be a joy to smoke. I could clumsily try to describe it in words but instead I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Each can be clicked for a large version or click the picture above for a slide show.

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Oh my…

A couple notes about the above pictures. The Blacks have been in production for a while. They are not new cigars. They were up until this point Pete Johnson’s private line of Tatuajes made exclusively for him, and why not, he owns the brand after all. That is why you see the name Private Reserve in some of the pictures above. The bottom of the jar has Pete’s signature on it. The fourth picture down in the first column is the inside of the jar lid. I have to say this jar has lived up to the hype. It is one of the most beautiful presentations I have ever seen for cigars. It is truly special and I am one happy cigar smoker today.

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Don Pepin Garcia Cuban Classic Lancero Tuesday, May 27 2008 

Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Habano Rosado
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Lancero 6.875″ x 42 ring

The Lancero is not a regular size in the Cuban Classic line of Pepin Garcia’s Name brand. The Lancero is a very limited release available in one of two presentations. There is a Holiday Sampler pack that sports two Lanceros in each of Don Pepin’s lines, the Blue Label, the JJ, the JJ Maduro, the Centurion, and of course the Cuban Classic. There were also just 100 cabinets of the Black Lanceros containing 50 cigars (I’m not 100% on that quantity but I think it was a 50 count). Part of the thinking behind the limited release of the Lancero size in all his lines was to give his fans a format for them to experience all the subtleties and complexities of the wrappers used in each of his line. The old Cuban purists believe that to experience the true essence of a blend you need to do so with a Lancero, Lonsdale, or a Corona. Who am I to argue with those guys. Those three sizes happen to be among my favorite vitolas, the Lonsdale being my absolute favorite. Some of the most complex and best smokes I have ever had have been in one of those formats.

Lanceros have a reputation for being a tough vitola to make, bring prone to various construction issues like plugging or splitting. I think it is an unfair reputation because if they are made right by skilled rollers they don’t have these issues. I think cigars with these issues are not isolated to just Lanceros, but you’ll find these problems in other vitolas of the line as well. The problem in my opinion is a lot of cigar makers don’t regularly produce Lanceros because in the US market they don’t seem to sell as well. Since they don’t produce a lot, they sometimes don’t do it well when they do make one. This cigar is very well made and the draw on it is perfect. It sports a smooth creamy brown wrapper and has a Cuban style triple cap tipped with a small pigtail.

It starts off with blasts of black pepper and a robust woodiness. About an inch or so in, it smooths out quite a bit. It is woody with a creaminess that has a buttery feel in my mouth. The aroma produced by the cigar is a rich smell of dark roasted coffee. Past the halfway mark it developed a rich earthiness with pepper and a slightly grassy finish. I have to say the end of this smoke was a little disappointing. The flavors became very muddled and not very distinguishable and it lost some of its body.

Even with the lack luster ending, the Black Lancero is a very good smoke. Medium to full bodied most of the way, it was a complex and engaging smoke. If I can find the cash, there are still some of the Holiday Samplers out there to be had, and I’d like to pick one up so I can try this size in Pepin’s other lines.

Rating – B+

What Others think of the DPG Black:
The Stogie Guys give the Robusto 31/2 stogies
Lucky7 at Keepers of the Flame liked the Robusto “Very Much”
The Stogie Baby wasn’t impressed with the Petite Lancero

Ashton San Cristobal Supremo Monday, May 19 2008 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Toro 6.0″ x 50 ring

I have been looking forward to trying this new smoke from Ashton for a while so when CigarsDirect.com sent me one to review I knew I wouldn’t wait long to put it to flame. Still it wasn’t the easiest choice considering the amazing quality of smokes they sent me in the latest batch.

Bearing the name of the famed Cuban marca, the San Cristobal is made for Ashton by my favorite cigar maker Jose “Pepin” Garcia who also makes my favorite brand of cigars, the Tatuajes. By now everyone who smokes cigars is aware that Pepin is the hottest name in cigars right now. His portfolio has grown exponentially yet it seems everything he puts out is made of gold. As highly anticipated as the release of the ESG, the San Cristobal was 2 years in the making.

Released last year shortly after the RTDA (now called IPCPRA), it sports Pepin’s wrapper of choice. It is a leathery, dark brown Nicaraguan Corojo. The Supremo is a Toro and the 50 ring gauge is the perfect size for my new favorite cut, the butterfly cut. The butterfly cut was created by a friend of mine. It is a double V-cut. After making the initial V-cut you rotate the cigar and make a second V-cut perpendicular to the first. I really like this style of cut on larger ring gauges. This cut draws very nicely and it looks cool. Everything about this cigar says “top-shelf”. The wrapper is flawless and there is no sign of any rib veins in the head or foot. The bunching looks perfect and you can tell by the firmness and heft that it is packed full of tobacco. The band is beautiful with the vibrant colors of the Macaw and elegant gold trim on a background of an ancient map.

This amazing cigar is very different from any other Pepin cigar I have tried to date. It starts off so smooth and silky. Right off the bat it is very full flavored, woodsy with leather and spice, and nutty undertones. Notably absent is the trademark “Pepin Pepper” but it isn’t missed at all. This cigar is amazingly complex with a smooth finish. I read on CI’s site some tasting notes that referenced cherry flavors. I have never tasted anything like cherry in a cigar, so I was really surprised when at about the mid way point I detected flashes of cherry. It was amazing and truly unique. I found myself disappointed (in a good way) when those flavors faded as I got a little further into the smoke. I really wished that the cherry flavors hung around longer than they did. Towards the end, the leather and spice began to build to dominate the flavors with a woody finish.

This was an amazing cigar that engaged me from start to finish. The construction is impeccable and the burn razor sharp. The ash was a little loose and flaky which was surprising but didn’t detract from the experience. The San Cristobal has earned a spot on my list of favorites. This cigar is an absolute must try for any serious cigar smoker.

Rating – A+

Sneak Peek: Upcoming Reviews Friday, May 16 2008 

I just wanted to give everyone a sneak peek into what the upcoming reviews will be in the next several months…

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Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature Maduro Tuesday, May 6 2008 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Broadleaf Maduro
Filler: Dominican
Size: Perfecto 6.0″ x 47 ring

As if the Cameroon wrapped Hemingway cigars weren’t special enough, The Cigar Family makes an extra special, aged, limited release of the Hemingways with a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. Like the Anejos, the Hemingway Maduros are usually released around the holidays as a special treat for the fans and customers of Arturo Fuente cigars. I gave some more background on the Hemingway line of cigars in my review of the Hemingway Best Seller so click on over and check that out while you’re here.

The Signature Maduro has a oily, dark, toothy wrapper that is simply gorgeous. It has the look of old, well worn leather. Like all the Hemingway’s the foot tapers down to a slightly odd looking nipple. The Hemingway and Hemingway maduro provide an excellent example of how much a wrapper can affect the flavor of a cigar. The maduro is a completely different and unique experience compared to its Cameroon wrapped sibling. The Cameroon version provides a classic Cameroon flavor with a sweet spice. The Signature Maduro starts off with flavors of cedar and a slight sweetness typical of a maduro wrapped cigar with flashes of black tea. As the smoke develops it gets very creamy and mellow. In the last third it starts to exhibit black pepper with a unique earthiness that I find hard to describe. It makes me think of wet earth, almost like I am tasting the rich damp soil the tobacco was grown in.

The construction, as is always the case with any Hemingway was superb. The burn was razor sharp and the as was grey and rough looking but held firm. It produces thick clouds of white smoke with a rich aroma. There is just nothing bad to say about this cigar. It is a wonderful experience from start to end and as good as the Cammie version of this cigar is, it pales in comparison to the complex experience that the maduro delivers. The Signature Maduro and the Work of Art Maduro are by far my favorites of the Hemingway line. If you have never had one, you simply must find one and try it. I usually don’t give maduros this much love, but this is a superb cigar.

Get yours at CigarsDirect.com: Arturo Fuente hemingway Signature Maduro

Rating – A

Ride for Kids 2008 Recap & The Winners!! Monday, May 5 2008 

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This year’s Ride for Kids was a great success. It is amazing to me how fast his event has grown over the past 5 years. This year we had over 1000 motorcyclists at the event and raised a lot of money. Thanks to friends, family, and all the generous BOTL that donated this year I raised $3180 beating my goal of $3000. That put me in the top 10 of individual fundraisers at the event for the second year in a row. It says a lot about the growth of the event when I can bring more than twice as much money than I did last year and yet I ranked about the same in terms of individual fundraisers this year. I will have to work hard to keep pace for next year. The event raised in total, $138,280.00 for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Darth Vader and some Storm Troopers showed up. It was a cool treat for the kids. The top fundraiser of the event this year was a guy who is an illustrator for Lucas Arts and he brought out the Star Wars Characters. There were several “Ride Stars” at the event. A Star is a child who has either beaten, or is battling a brain tumor. They are great kids that a full of personality and do a fabulous job entertaining and inspiring the crowd every year. Here are a bunch of pictures from the event…

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