Ambos Mundos by Tatuaje Thursday, May 28 2009 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrappers:  Ecuadorian Sumatran / Nicaraguan Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto 5.0″ x 50 Ring

Ambos Mundos, which means both worlds is the newest line of cigars from Pete Johnson and Tatuaje. Made, like all of Pete’s cigars, by Pepin Garcia this line of cigars is an economy cigar whose release is aptly timed given current economic conditions. Pete had this to say about it:

“My original idea for the Tatuaje brand was for it to be not as expensive as it turned out to be,” said Johnson, “but having it made in Miami kind of set that expensive precedent, so I made this cigar partly due to the economy and partly because this is where I originally wanted the cigar to be priced.”

I find that to be interesting. I am not sure how a cigar the quality of the original Tatuaje could ever be a cheap economy cigar regardless of where it was made so this doesn’t make much sense to me. It implies to me that if the Tatuajes were made in Nicaragua they would be $5.00 cigar. Boy I wish. I am sure that isn’t exactly what he meant but anyway… (edit: The more I read that quote from Pete the more I am convinced I just misread and misunderstood it.  He obviously wasn’t saying he originally intended the Tatuajes to be $5, but rather was pointing out that is where he wanted the Ambos Mundos to be.  He was just saying that he wanted the Tatuajes to be cheaper than they are, but the fact they are made in Miami precluded that.  So now I get what he was saying and my original comments look kind of stupid to me now…)
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The Ambos Mundos are long filler cigars that use tobacco from the same farms as the Tatuajes but instead of the Grade A tobacco used for the Tatuajes, these use grade B and C tobacco. It is tobacco that might have cosmetic differences or might need additional fermentation. That is the how and why the price points are where they are. They are available in two sizes and two wrapper types. All of them use Nicaraguan filler and binders, but one version uses a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper and the other an Ecuadorian grown Sumatran wrapper, hence the “both worlds”. The sizes you have to choose from are a bit boring in my opinion. They are the cliche 5×50 Robusto and 6×50 Toro. The Toro is $5 and the Robusto comes in a quarter cheaper. The Ambos Mundos were released this past February (2009). They suggest that you age these cigars a bit to allow the tobacco to finish fermentation due to the use of the lower quality tobacco. That might explain some things, but really, who wants to age an economy cigar?

I smoked the Habano wrapped version with the creme colored band first. Both of the samples I tried were Robustos. The Habano is a Nicaraguan Puro. I have to say, I found this cigar to be nearly unsmokable.  It was sour and bitter and very unpleasant.  I did my best to try and smoke the whole thing but a little more than halfway through I had to give up on it.  This is the first cigar I have tried that is made by Pepin Garcia that I thought was a bad cigar.  I find it hard to believe that anything about this smoke is at all related to the Tatuajes I love so much.  Maybe it really does need to be aged some but I am not sure how much help that would be to this cigar.  To truly age it in any meaningful way means you need to set them down for at least a year, closer to two years probably.  Anything less isn’t aging, it is merely acclimation to your humidor.  Plus, like I said, who wants to age a $5 economy smoke.  The humidor real estate is too valuable and better used aging a box of quality top shelf cigars.  As it is today, I have to give this cigar an F.

Next up is the Sumatran which sports the dark red band.  Wow what a difference a wrapper can make on a cigar.  This was a much better experience.  Still not what I would call a good smoke, at least this one was enjoyable enough to smoke the entire cigar.   I could see the potential for this one to become a fairly decent smoke if it were allowed to age.  It had a spicy bite with an earthy core complimented by notes of cedar and flashes of coffee.  There were still occasional hits of sour flavors but it was not nearly as harsh and bitter as the Habano.  Because of the potential I can see for this cigar to get at least a little better I can rate this version of the Ambos Mundos as a C.

I wish they didn’t associate this brand so closely with the Tatuaje brand.  These are not Tatuajes, and they don’t taste like even a distant cousin to the Tatuaje brand.  It hurts me to say it because I am such a huge fan of everything else Pete and Pepin have done, but these cigars just don’t live up the standards they have set with their other lines.  Truth is, I find the mixed filler Tatuaje P Series to be a far superior cigar and they cost about the same amount, cheaper in some cases as they are available in a better choice of sizes.  I think the concept for these cigars was a nice idea, but I also think it is really hard to make a good cigar at this price point.  Fact is, nobody I have come across does a better job at a $5 cigar than Oliva.  That is probably because they have a huge advantage given the large quantity of tobacco they have at their disposal (and yes I mean the Oliva Cigar Family and am not referring to the other Oliva tobacco famliy).

Rating – F (for the Habano)
Rating – C (for the Sumatran)

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Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Diplomatico Maduro Wednesday, May 20 2009 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper:  Nicaraguan Maduro
Binder:  Nicaraguan
Filler:  Nicaraguan
Size:  Double Corona 7.0″ x 50 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

The Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series line was introduced in 1994 to commemorate the Padrón Cigar Company’s 30th anniversary. The line consists of ten sizes that are all available in sun-grown natural and maduro wrappers and all the sizes are box pressed. All tobacco used in these cigars is reportedly aged for four years.  Due to the immense popularity of this line of cigars, it has become one of the most counterfeited non-Cuban cigars in the world. To help protect their brand and their customers Padrón introduced a few security measures to make counterfeiting more difficult.  They added a specially designed double band featuring an individually numbered guarantee label. The back side of the labels are also printed.

These are amazingly popular and highly sought after cigars.  Time and time again they receive stellar ratings in just about every cigar publication out there.  So as you can expect with high ratings , glowing reviews, and immense popularity comes a pretty hefty price tag as well.  The Diplomatico sells for around $15 a stick making this one of those smokes you reserve for a special occasion unless you last name is Gates, or Jobs, or something equally impressive.  Then maybe this is you everyday, after lunch cigar.  For the rest of us the Padrón ’64, or the PAM or PAN as the are commonly referred to, is a special treat.  Another side effect of the kind of popularity that this line of cigars enjoys is all the conjecture and rumor and debate that seems to swirl around it.  There are all kinds of wild theories out there regarding the makeup of this cigar, and they are all generally unsubstantiated.  One of the most popular is the rumor that this really isn’t a Nicaraguan Puro, but that Mexican tobacco is used in the cigar.  I have heard it said the the wrapper is Mexican, or that the filler contains Mexican tobacco.  It seems there are no shortage of rumors about it, but no one ever has any proof or even a nameable source for the claims.  Anyway, I try to just ignore the wild speculation and I let my taste-buds to all the judging for me.  I am mostly concerned about one thing.  Do I like it, or do I not like it?  There is an easy way to find out.  Now where’s my lighter…

The PAM has a dark brown oily wrapper with a trademark sloppy Padrón cap.  i don’t know why but Padron torcedors seem to be incapable of apply a neat, good looking cap on a cigar.  Otherwise the construction on these cigars is impeccable.  It has a perfect draw with a perfect burn.  Smoking a PAM is like smoking a chocolate bar.  A chocolate core is complimented by smooth notes of earth and coffee.  it starts off a little mellow and picks up in robustness and strength as you make your way through the smoke.  In the last third it developed an amazing creamy and nutty finish.  It is a fantastic cigar from start to finish.  The Padrón 1964 Anniversary never disappoints.

Rating – A

Gran Habano 3 Siglos Robusto Tuesday, May 12 2009 

Country: Honduras
Wrapper:  Nicaraguan Shade Grown
Binder:  Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, and Colombian
Size:  Robusto 5.0″ x 52 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

The Gran Habano line of cigars is made in Honduras by GR Tabacaleras Unidas which is a father and son operation of Guillermo Rico and his son George. The 3 (Tres) Siglos line was first introduced in 2006 and is reputed to be a complex, full-bodied, spicy addition to the Gran Habano family of cigars. The key aspect of this blend is the use of three different types of ligero tobacco in the filler. This cigar features ligero from Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, and Colombian tobacco. I am making the assumption that this is why the number “3” is used int he name of the cigar so it got me curios about the word “Siglos”. I never had given any thought to that word until now and I discovered that siglo is the Spanish word for century. So that makes the name of this cigar (translated by me) “three centuries”. I’m not sure if there is any significance there. The company was founded in 1995 so it certainly isn’t three hundred years old. It may not have any significance at all, or it refers to something I was not able to ascertain. Really, I guess it is all irrelevant since what is important here is this question – “Is the cigar any good?” Well, lets find out…

The shade grown wrapper on this cigar is a very nice rosado in color.  It is a little veiny with an oily sheen to it and has a neatly applied cap.  The 3 Siglos seems to be well filled and very well put together.  It sports two elegant white bands trimmed in gold leaf making for a very a handsome and elegant presentation. The smoke starts out very smooth and creamy with a hint of vanilla and very little spice on the finish. The first third of this cigar had me wondering if this really was all ligero in the filler. As I moved into the second third I was still asking myself that same question. The flavors were excellent with notes of creamy toasted nuts and a little bit of a musty earthiness, but still very little spice and none of the pepper I’d expect from a cigar with a lot of ligero. At this point I’d describe the cigar as a mildly complex and very enjoyable medium bodied smoke. It burned slow and cool. The ash was a bit flaky, dark grey and black with swirls of brown in it.Things finally began to pickup a little bit in the last third with addition of more black pepper notes and a little more robust profile.

Overall this was a really enjoyable smoke with excellent flavors.  Based on it’s makeup I was expecting it to be a fuller smoke than it turned out to be.  I think maybe the shade grown wrapper contributed to toning it down a bit.  Even though it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was still a very good cigar and I recommend giving it a try.

Rating – B+

Ride for Kids 2009 Recap & The Winners Monday, May 4 2009 

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Another great year for the Triangle Area Ride for Kids. The weather was idyllic and the crowd was great. A lot of motorcycles showed up for the event again this year. The ride itself was great. The organizers picked a great route and the Chatham County Police did a wonderful job escorting the ride and taking care of the traffic for us. The ride was a non stop 50 or so mile ride through beautiful country that included a loop around the traffic circle in Pittsboro, NC. The loop through that circle is neat for the kids riding in the sidecars at the front of the procession because it allows them to loop back and see all the hundreds of motorcycles riding behind them. This year I had the honor of being among the top 5 individual fund raisers at the event. I was called up on stage with the other 4 individuals. Thanks to all the people who supported me and gave so generously I raised $3,220 for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation this year earning me fifth place among the top fundraisers. It was quite an honor and a big thrill. I share that honor with all of you who donated, because without your generosity and caring it would have never happened. So thank you once again everyone for your support. The ride this year raised $126,207.95. If memory serves this is the second highest amount in the Triangles Ride’s six year history. (more…)

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