Happy Thanksgiving! Thursday, Nov 27 2008 

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Just a quick Happy Turkey Day to all my BOTL and SOTL out there!  Hope you’re smoking something good today.

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Debt Free!!! Wednesday, Nov 26 2008 

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A quick personal announcement of joy…..

It took 16 months of discipline and focus but my wife and I are now debt free (except for our mortgage)!!!!!  We made the last payment on her car today and now we are out of debt and ready to move on to the next step which is saving for retirement and the kids’ college.  We are doing all this on the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover.  It’s a great book and a great system for getting your financial house in order.  I recommend the book as a must read for anyone who carries a balance on a loan or credit card.

Unfortunately, I am out of town and away from my humidor, otherwise I would be digging out an extra special cigar to celebrate this momentus occasion.  But I did pack and El Truinfador Lancero so I spark that up today.  It isn’t a bad subsititue in the absence of my best smokes.

Cruzado Marelas Tuesday, Nov 25 2008 

Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Criollo
Filler: Nicaraguan and Honduran
Size: Perfecto 55/8″ x 46 ring

The Cruzado is brought to us by the same people who make the Illusione line of cigars.  I previously reviewed the Cruzado Elitas which I found to be an amazing smoke.  In that review I laid out all the details of the Cruzado line so rather than repeat all that in this review, just click here if your interested in those details.  Today I am smoking the Marelas.  The Marelas is a perfecto and a skinny one at that.  I mentioned before one of the things about the Cruzados is that not a single stick in the entire line tops a 48 ring size and that includes this perfecto, which at its thickest is just a 46 ring.  I am partial to the thinner ring gauges.  In my opinion the 42-48 range for ring size is an ideal size for a cigar allowing for the best balance of flavors between wrapper and blend.

After having such a great experience with the Elitas I smoked a few more of them and each was equally impressive, so when I lit the Marelas I was a little surprised.  Two things account for this.  The first was an initial bast of metallic bitterness on the first few puffs.  The second was that this cigar seems a bit milder in strength and body.  Thankfully the metallic taste went away quickly.  It was replaced by earth and leather.  The aroma is rich and earthy as well.  It has a Delicious sweet finish.  Once I worked past the bulge near the foot, the flavors became rich and creamy, full of sweet spice and a hint of pepper.  This was the best that it would get though.  Unfortunately it became a bit bitter again.   The bitterness kept coming and going in between pleasant notes of earth and leather and this continued all the way until the end of the smoke.  I’m not sure what happened here.  Although the size and shape of a cigar can effect the flavors of a blend, I was expecting this to be at least similar to the Elitas but it was not.  It showed promise when the bitterness was absent, but because of it I didn’t enjoy this vitola nearly as much as the Elitas.  My hope is this was a fluke, and I’ll give the Marelas another try.  If my experience is any different I’ll report back on it.  For this reason I am going to hold off on giving this cigar a rating for now.

Oliva Master Blends 3 Churchill Wednesday, Nov 19 2008 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Sun-Grown Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
Filler:Nicaraguan Ligero
Size: Churchill 7.0″ x 50 ring

The third installment of the limited Master Blends release from Oliva, the Master Blends 3 doesn’t seem to be all that limited.  I had heard it is now a regular production cigar and it certainly seems that way given that they seem to be abundantly available.  It kind of goes against the whole premise that the Master Blends were predicated on, using limited supplies of very high quality tobacco, they were never intended to be regular production cigars.  It seems something has changed…

I am huge fan of the original Master Blends release.  I recently had the privilege of meeting Jose Oliva and got him to sign my original Master Blends box.  The original was a Nicaraguan Puro and it is a fantastic cigar.  The Master Blends 2 sported an Ecuadorian grown Sumatran wrapper and was a little disappointing to me.  The Master Blends 3 has a sun-grown broadleaf wrapper which raises my hopes for it as I find Sumatran wrappers to be very hit or miss.  I do enjoy a good sun-grown wrapper though.  This one found its way into my humidor from my friends at CigarsDirect.com.

The MB3 is dressed in a dark brown, toothy wrapper with an oily sheen.  Missing is the laser tattoo that adorned the first two Master Blends.  The boxpressed churchill is a firm cigar with a good heft hinting at the abundance of tobacco that is packed into it.  The construction on this and every master Blends cigar I have smoked is impeccable.  An ideal draw and an ash that holds its shape and hangs on tight.  You have to break the ash off rather than simply tap it.   Each puff delivers a thick cloud of smoke.  The MB3 starts off with a short blast of pepper but very quickly mellows out.  It is smooth and creamy with a slightly dry finish I like to refer to as “sun-grown twang” as it is a flavor I pick up on a lot of cigars with sun-grown broadleaf wrappers.   About midway through the flavors get very woody.  Lots of oak mixed with leather.  In the beginning I thought this cigar would be on the mild side of medium but the further in I got the more it picked up, becoming more of a medium-full bodied smoke.  The last third of the smoke was peppery and had a bit of a bite to it with a very dry finish.

I enjoyed the Master Blend 3 a good deal more than I did the MB2, but after a few of the MB3’s I have come to the conclusion that the original Master Blend is still the best of the series.  But the Fact is the original MB is no longer available and the MB3 seems to be in abundant supply.  It is a good smoke and sure to be a hit with anyone who enjoys a good sun-grown broadleaf wrapped cigar.  I recommend giving it a try.  At the very least you’ll enjoy it as a good smoke, and depending on your tastes you might find a new favorite.

Get your Oliva Master Blend 3’s at CigarsDirect.com

Rating – B+

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  • Cigar Command files a CER on the MB3

Cruzado Elitas Tuesday, Nov 11 2008 

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Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Criollo
Filler: Nicaraguan and Honduran
Size: Corona 6.0″ x 44 ring

The Cruzado is the newest creation from the man behind the immensely popular Illusione cigars, Dion Giolito. This new line is billed as being medium-bodied/medium strength in comparison to the full-bodied, powerful Illusione. Apparently to tone down the blend Dion chose to use the viso leaf instead of using ligero. Viso is the priming right below ligero on the tobacco plant.  The Cruzado is made at the same factory as the Illusione, at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras. They are available is six sizes:
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  • Avalitos 4″ x 46 – petit robusto
  • Dantes 5″ x 48 – robusto
  • Domenicos 5 5/8″ x 46 – corona gorda
  • Elitas 6″ x 44 – corona
  • Marios 7″ x 47 – churchill
  • Marelas 5 5/8″ x 46 – perfecto

One thing about this line that immediately jumps out at me is the ring gauges.  Not a single one of these cigars breaks 48 in ring size, not even the perfecto.  I applaud this.  In an age where big, fat, jaw breaker cigars with 50+ ring gauges seem to be all anyone wants to make, I am happy to see a line of cigars made in more traditional sizes.  I happen to think that cigars in the 42 to 48 range of ring sizes is ideal, allowing for an optimal marriage between the filler blend and the wrapper leaf.  I am very excited to see the smaller ring gauges in this line of cigars and I look forward to trying all of them.

First up is the Elitas.  A 6″ x 44 corona, this seemed like the perfect place to start.  Afterall, you can’t get more traditional than the Corona.  I am going to use a word, probably more than once, that I am beginning to feel I over use a bit, but it is the best word I can come up with in those situations that I use it.  Rustic.  The Criollo wrapper on the Cruzado is very rustic looking.  It is rumpled looking, dark, and bumpy.  It has a strange little pigtail on the head.  It almost looks like a half-pigtail.  Like they started to give it a pigtail cap and then just decided, “nah, never mind” and clipped it off leaving just little stub of the tail behind.  The band has a medieval look too it.  The silver looks more like steel and it is trimmed in gold that looks more like riveted brass.  The font used to spell out Cruzado looks like it was lifted off of a knights coat of arms.  All told it is a cool looking stick.  I feel like I should be wearing some shades to be cool enough to smoke it, ha ha.

My initial draw delivers a blast of pepper and spice.  This is supposedly a medium bodied cigar which makes me chuckle because this cigar has the volume turned up to 10, full bodied at least at the start.  As I worked my way into the smoke it does settle down a bit but this is still a full bodied smoke and it packs a nice little punch in the strength department as well.  The flavors are spicy with a slightly sweet finish, full of earth and leather.  There are flashes of chocolate and something else I can’t identify.  Maybe a slight tinge of citrus.  What a complex flavor bomb.  Not even half way through the cigar and I am blown away by this smoke.  Chocolate, spice, earth, and a sweetness I cannot place keep swirling in and out with each puff all capped off with a long satisfying, citrusy finish.  I have never smoked a cigar like this.  It is truly unique.  This is as good as any super premium cigar I’ve tried.  Thick clouds of smoke billow out with each draw and the aroma is rich and decadent.  The Burn and draw were perfect.  The only negative thing I can say about this stick is the that the ash splits and curls off.  tapping it frequently is a must to keep the ash out of your lap.

From start to finish this is an amazing smoke.  This is nothing like an Illusione which is an outstanding cigar in its own right.  Dion has come up with a completely different cigar with the Cruzado and it is a spectacular cigar.  The Cruzado was billed as a medium bodied cigar, flavorful but a little less robust than the Illusione.  If you ask me this is as full and strong as an Illusione if not more so.  This may be the best cigar of 2008 and is possibly the best cigar to come out since the Tatuaje Brown Labels hit the scene.  It is a MUST try.

Rating – A+

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601 Serie Oscuro La Punta Wednesday, Nov 5 2008 

Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Perfecto 51/2 x 52 ring

Today I am enjoying another excellent smoke courtesy of my friends at CigarsDirect.com.  EO’s 601 Serie cigars are made by the red hot Jose “Pepin” Garcia and are available in four flavors each denoted by it’s own band color.  There is the 601 Red wrapped in a spicy habano wrapper, the Ecuador Connecticut wrapped Black Label, a sweet maduro Blue Label, and the dark and oily Green Label Oscuro.  The EO brands are the realization of a dream of two friends, Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega.  Their partnership with Pepin Garcia have produced a handful of excellent cigars.  In addition to the popular 601 Serie cigars their collaboration also brought about the Cubao and Mi Barrio which are also beginning to generate some buzz in the industry.

The Green Label 601 has a dark oily wrapper laced in very small veins. Although it is a perfecto, the taper isn’t very severe except right at the foot. The taper to the head of the cigar is shallow and if it weren’t for the nipple at the foot it would look very much like a pyramide. As you would expect from a cigar made by Pepin Garcia, the construction is excellent. It has a near perfect draw and burn. It has a good heft to it so you know it is packed full of tobacco. It burns slow and cool producing firm pepper gray ash that wants to hold on for ever.

The oscuro is supposedly the strongest most full bodied of the 601 line. Personally I found that wasn’t the case. While certainly a full bodied smoke, I think the Red Label Habano is fuller and much stronger packing a bigger punch than the Green. Where the Red is a blast of pepper and spice, I found the Green to be smoother with a maduro sweetness, just a bit of spice and little or no pepper. That said it is still an excellent smoke. At the start there is lots of cocoa and coffee with notes of cedar and leather all wrapped in that sweet maduro flavor. At about the halfway mark most of those flavors fade and all that remains is a sweet core with occasional hints of coffee. As the smoke progresses it doesn’t change much. Sweet with a creamy feel and a bit of leather. At the start I was expecting a real complex smoke and though it is by no means one dimensional, it lacks the complexity of the Red and doesn’t have anywhere near the strength I was expecting. I know it sounds like I am a little disappointed with it and in some respects I guess I am, but I still think it is a very good full bodied and enjoyable smoke. It is an excellent cigar if you are looking for a full, flavorful cigar that won’t kick you in the pants.  Of course that is just my opinion.  A lot of people think this is a powerhouse smoke.  I gravitate to strong smokes so my opinion may be skewed.

Get your 601’s at CigarsDirect.com

Rating – B+

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