Cabaiguan Maduro RX Monday, Sep 28 2009 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Dark Natural Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto 5.25″ x 50 ring

The Cabaiguan (kah-bei-gWAHN) is probably my absolute favorite Connecticut Shade cigar.  Not really mild, it is more of a medium bodied smoke with light yet assertive flavors.  I have been wanting to try the maduro version for a long while and I have finally got around to it.  Sometimes with the sheer volume of different cigars out there it is hard to get to everything you want to try.  Any way, from what I was able to find with some internet searches, it appears the Cabaiguan Maduro isn’t even really a maduro in the traditional sense.  According to Tatuaje’s site and I saw it again on a retailers site, the wrapper on this cigar is a naturally dark sun grown broadleaf wrapper.  If that sound familiar to you then you are probably familiar with the La Riqueza line of cigars from Tatuaje.  The wrapper for that cigar is described the exact same way.  So is it the same wrapper?  I have no idea, but I wasn’t able to find a wealth of information on the Cabaiguan maduro and what I did find wasn’t necessarily authoritative.  I suppose I could have dropped an email to Havana Cellars and get some details straight from the source but I didn’t.  Looking at the cigar I would guess that this wrapper is related at best but would not guess it is the same as those used on the La Riqueza.  This wrapper is much nicer looking.  The La Riquezas always look rough and lumpy and ugly.  This wrapper has a slight tooth and is generally smoother with an oily sheen.  If it is the same or related, the Cabaiguan got the pick of the litter.  it is still a rustic looking wrapper but it is much prettier than the La Riquezas I have seen.  One other item of note on the dressing if the Cabaiguan Maduro.  It has the same band used on the Cabaiguan Guapos which is a Nicaraguan natural sun grown wrapped cigar of a much lighter shade than these broadleaf maduros.

Right off the bat I could tell this isn’t really a Maduro.  Notes of dark chocolate and coffee bean are complimented by a tart sun grown twang that is one of my favorite things about a natural sun grown broadleaf wrapper.  The Tartness was the dominate flavor for the entire smoke.  I also picked up notes of cedar and a very subtle sweetness.  Overall not a terribly complex cigar but very robust and enjoyable.  If you are a fan of that sun grown twang then you’ll love this cigar because you get a lot of it.  Although I wouldn’t call this smoke a favorite, I definitely like it for an occasional change of pace especially when I am craving a sun grown.

Rating – B

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Casa Magna Colorado Torito Tuesday, Sep 22 2009 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Short Robusto 4.75″ x 60 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

Cigar Aficionado named the Casa Magna Colorado #1 on their Top 25 Cigars of 2008 (specifically the robusto).  They did so with a very controversial explanation, stating that the price point of the cigar played a large role in its selection due to the state of the economy. That sparked off a ton of impassioned debate across the cigar smoker world about what should or should not factor into proclaiming a cigar as the #1 cigar of the year.  Where ever you come down on that debate, the general consensus seems to be that the Casa Magna is a decent to very good cigar that carries a reasonable price tag.  Somehow I have managed to fail to get around to trying the Casa Magna up til this point, but today I fired up the beefy Torito to see what I think of this much debated #1 cigar of 2008.

There has been a ton of stuff written on this line of cigars given the hype and controversy that surrounded it earlier this year.  There are lots of places that detail the specifics of the cigar and its makers so I am going to save myself the trouble of rehashing it all here.  You’ve probably already have read all about it, and if not you’ll find the information is easy to locate with a quick google search.  So no more fluff, on to the review…

This short fat robusto is a handsome specimen.  Girthy yet elegant looking in its ornate band and oily rosado colored wrapper.  It’s like a football player in formal wear.  The cap is a little sloppy but that isn’t uncommon in my experience when dealing with these huge ring gauges so we can forgive it.  The filler looks like it is littered with several thick rib veins, another pitfall of a 58+ ring gauge.  it takes a lot of tobacco to create a cigar this thick and I guess you can’t be too picky when trying to get that much tobacco in it.  Hopefully it will not adversely effect the cigar.

The draw is very good and the burn surprisingly even for such a thick cigar.  It burns slow and cool which is certainly a plus.  The flavors seem a bit muted and hard to pick out.  I got notes of white pepper and some musty earthiness and a slight oakiness at times.  It was a fairly smooth smoke, creamy at times but not very dynamic.  I think perhaps that this blend does a lot better in a smaller vitola, but that is just a guess on my part.  It seems to me that some of its complexity and at the very least the core of its flavors get diluted and lost in the abundance of tobacco crammed into this monster.  This cigar intrigued me enough to want to try a more traditional size like the corona.  The Torito however leaves a little to be desired.  Besides, a 60 ring gauge is just so awkward to smoke and that doesn’t help any either.  It is a decent smoke though and those that enjoy big beefy cigar will probably enjoy the Torito.

Rating – B

Some other takes on the Casa Magna:

Liga Privada No.9 Parejo Oscuro Wednesday, Sep 16 2009 

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…by Drew Estate
Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Oscuro
Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
Filler: Honduran and Nicaraguan
Size: Toro 6.0 x 52 ring

I want to start off on this review by thanking a very generous BOTL over at SocialCigar.com for giving me this cigar.  JohnLongIsland is a first class brother of the leaf and a 1st class individual as well.  John is a big supporter of my fundraising efforts for the Ride for Kids and his generosity is always very much appreciated.  He sent me a little gift a short while back that included this fine cigar.  Thanks John.

It seems to be a trend that has developed over the last year or so.  A cigar comes out and it is proclaimed as a private blend created just for the owner of the brand, or as a “personal blend” made for someone high ranking officer in the company, and now for the first time it is going to be made available to the public.  The Tatuaje Black Label is probably the highest profile example of one of these “private cigars made public”.  This one was supposedly made for Steve Saka of Drew Estate and was intended to be a strictly private stock cigar .  The “no.9” supposedly denotes that this cigar was the 9th blend in a series of prototypes made when creating this cigar.  I have no idea how or why it became available for public sale.  Truth or hype, I leave it to you to decide if you care to do so.  Truth is, it is kind of irrelevant in the end.  What matter is… Is it any good?

If nothing else, this cigar is beautiful to behold much like it’s newer brother, the soon to be release Liga Privada T52.  The wrapper has a naturally dark brown appearance with a silky, oily sheen.  It is toothy,  a little bumpy, and veiny, but the wrapper is so perfectly applied and the cigar is so handsome you cannot call it rustic.  Say what you will about Drew Estate and their reputation among cigar purists, but they make some of the most visually beautiful cigars you can buy.  Speaking of their reputation, although known primarily for flavored and infused cigars, the Liga Privada is a traditional offering from Drew Estate.  It is not flavored or infused, and it doesn’t use any non traditional tobacco like pipe tobaccos in its blend.  This is a straight-up stogie and an excellently constructed one at that.

The Liga Privada No.9 starts off smooth and rich with a nice meaty flavor.  It mellows a little once you get past the first inch or so.  At first I though this cigar was going to be a full bodied smoke, but as it turns out it isn’t quite that robust.  It is a solid medium bodied cigar that delivers nice flavors of chocolate and espresso with a little black pepper on the finish.  The construction could not be better with a perfect draw and a razor sharp burn.  The salt and pepper ash is a very well formed and holds firm for more than an inch before needing to be tapped.

Overall this is a really enjoyable smoke with some great, easily discernable flavors.  However, there isn’t much complexity here.  Once it settles in after that first inch, the cigar never really changes again so it ends up being a bit of a one dimensional smoke.  Still, what it does deliver is quite good.  I think this cigar makes for an excellent social smoke when you are looking for a tasty smoke that you may not be giving your full attention, but when you want that smoke to be  better than some yard ‘gar.

Rating – B

Some other takes:

Showdown: Tatuaje Reserva Noellas – 2006 vs 2009 Wednesday, Sep 9 2009 

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Country: USA
2006 Wrapper: Aged Nicaraguan Corojo Ligero (Cojonu Wrapper)
2009 Wrapper: Nicaraguan Sun Grown Broadleaf
Binder (both): Nicaraguan
Filler (both): Nicaraguan
Size: Corona 51/8” x 42 ring

2009 has seen an exciting expansion to the Tatuaje brand with lots of new cigars including some new additions to the Reserva line of the Brown Label Tatuajes.  Pete Johnson’s seemingly ever broadening use of the sun grown broadleaf wrapper found its way onto two new Tatuaje Reserva cigars.  The Reserva Regios and the Reserva Noellas.  The new Reserva Noellas are particularly intriguing to me because this is not the first time there has been a Reserva Noella.  Back in 2006 Tatuaje offered to a number of its best accounts boxes of  Noellas cigars with a Reserva label on the box.  This label was applied just as it has always been on the boxes other Reserva cigars like the J21 and SW.  There were only about 200 boxes made.  The cigar is the same size as the standard Noellas but it has a different wrapper.  Instead of the standard Corojo wrapper that is used on the regular Noellas, these cigars are wrapped in an aged oscuro ligero wrapper just like what is used on the Cojonu line of Tatuajes and the Reserva J21.  Unlike other Reserva cigars this incarnation of the Reserva Noellas did not sport the second black and gold Reserva band.  They only had the normal brown Tatuaje band on them.  The only way to know it was a Reserva is to have seen the box it came from, or if you put it side by side with one of the regular Noellas you would see that the wrapper is much darker in color (note: I have found this to be truer of older Noellas which seem to have gotten darker in more recent vintages).  The 2006 Reserva Noella was tagged with a nick name, often referred to as a Noella Oscuro in online forums and websites.  After that initial run in 2006, Tatuaje never made this cigar again.  That is still true today even though we once again have a cigar bearing the Reserva Noellas name…

Here we are in 2009 and we once again have the Reserva Noellas available at many Tatuaje retailers.  But this 2009 edition is not the same cigar that was made back in 2006.  It is still the same size and same blend, but the wrapper has changed again.  The 2009 edition sports a sun grown broadleaf wrapper just like the Tatuaje Monster Series released last October.  It also wears the black and gold Reserva band unlike its predecessor and this one, while somewhat limited, is not restricted to just a one time run of 200 boxes.    I believe that this cigar is meant to be a mainstay in the Reserva line.  It along with its cousin the Reserva Regios have been nick named by some as “little monsters” because they share a very similar makeup to “The Frank” with their broadleaf wrappers around the original blends for those vitolas.

I thought it would be fun, since I happen to have a few of those old Reserva Noellas from 2006 in my humidor, to go ahead and do a side by side comparison of the two different cigars which bear this name.  I started with the 2006 edition… (more…)

Ashton Classic Corona Wednesday, Sep 2 2009 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Connecticut Shade
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Size: Corona 5.5″ x 44 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

Ashton and the Ashton Classic came on the scene back in 1994 I believe.  It is the brain child of Philly native Robert Levin.  He partnered with the Fuentes who manufacture many of the cigars that bear the Ashton name.  Known for superb quality and construction on all their lines the Classic seems to be no exception.

The Ashton Classic is dressed in a silky, creamy looking Connecticut Shade wrapper adorned by a very classic looking black and white band.  The Ashton name is emblazoned in gold across its face.  The filler looks expertly bunched, almost as if each leaf was placed in position purposefully.  It predictably had a perfect draw.  The flavors delivered by this smoke are a little mild but perfectly balanced making it a very approachable smoke for a beginner but delicious and engaging enough to satisfy even an old pro.  The first puff or two is a little harsh and grassy but it immediately settles into smooth flavors of cafe au lait and a subtle hint of vanilla. As I made my way through the smoke I picked up notes cedar and almond as well as the occasional flash of grassiness, but the creamy cafe au lait flavors remained dominate throughout.

The Ashton Classic is a very good, very well made cigar.  I enjoy these most in the AM with a cup of coffee.  Any time someone asks me what cigar they should try when they are starting out, or if someone asks me what cigar should they offer to people who aren’t “cigar smokers”  the Ashton Classic is one of the two cigars I always recommend.

Rating- B+

Other takes on the Ashton Classic:

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