Habana Leon Serie F No.2000 Monday, Jul 25 2011 

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Country: USA
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto

This is an old Pepin Garcia brand that is made in his Miami Shop. I found it buried in the humidor tonight. I don’t even know if this cigar is made anymore. It is an excellent smoke. Medium bodied with notes of pepper, earth and cedar complimented with a slightly sweet undertone and a smooth creamy texture. Makes me wish I had a few more of them.

A. Fuente 8-5-8 Rosado Tuesday, Jun 7 2011 

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Country: Domincan Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Rosado
Binder: Dominican
Filler: ?? Same as the other 8-5-8’s whatever that comprises
Size:  6.0′ x 47 ring

Fuente 8-5-8’s generate a lot of conversation among avid cigar smokers.  The Natural, bleh…  The Maduro, eh….   The Sungrown, heck yeah!!…  The Rosado, Woo-hoo!!! Gimme some!!

That is generally how it goes but can vary depending upon who you are talking to.  I do enjoy the black ribbon Sungrowns when I can find them, but even rarer than those are the 8-5-8 Rosados.  When it is Fuente and it is rare, it generates buzz.  For this cigar it is warranted.  It is a really fantastic smoke.  It highlights how dramatically a good wrapper can impact the overall experience of a blend.  As far as I know all the Flor Fina 8-5-8 cigars are the same blend of tobaccos in the filler.   If this is true this line of cigars is a good example to highlight the role a wrapper plays in the flavors of a cigar.

The 8-5-8 Rosado is smooth and delicious.  Floral notes are complimented by distinct flavors like cinnamon, and espresso.  There are also more robust flavors that develop later in the smoke like leather and spice, yet it always remains smooth with an almost creamy texture to it all.  This is a great cigar,  I wonder why it is that Fuentes best stuff always has to be rare and hard to find.  The cynic in me says to keep prices and sales up.  But I don’t know if the wrapper is just hard to come by or what.  I just wish they would make some of their better stuff a little easier to find.  I have grown disenchanted with the brand and no longer feel the need to go out of my way to constantly chase down these special releases even though I feel like I am missing out from time to time.

Illusíone Singularé 2010 Phantom Tuesday, May 24 2011 

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Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Toro 6.0′ x 50 ring

The Phantom is the 2010 version of Illusione’s Limited Edition “Singularé” cigar line. It is a refined looking toro with a handsome wrapper that has the look of fine leather. It is a mild to medium bodied smoke.  Not much spice to be found here which is unusual of a cigar that uses all Nicaraguan tobacco. It starts off light and mild with creamy flavors of cedar and toasted tobacco with a subtle bit of earthiness. Eventually it picks up a bit. The flavors are consistent but develop more body and there is an added floral undertone and a bit of sweetness that adds some complexity. This was an excellent smoke and a very different profile for Illusione.  I found it to be even lighter and more mild that some of the Epernay line. Still mild doesn’t mean flavorless as this stick had plenty to offer. I feel like I use this word a lot when talking about various cigars from Illusione, but it fits so I’ll use it again… Elegant. This cigar has a very refined and elegant feel to it. Grab some if you can still find them.

A.Fuente Hemingway Signature Rosado Tuesday, May 3 2011 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Sun Grown Rosado
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Size: Perfecto 6.0″ x 47 ring

Lately I haven’t been able to hangout at my local cigar shop or on the online cigar forums as much as I once was.  Life happens and with a wife, a dog, and two small kids my free time is nearly non-existent.  So I was very surprised when I walked into my local shop after being gone for a while to find these new Hemingways sitting in the humidor.  I guess I have fallen a little out of touch.  after letting sit in my humidor for the past month I am ready to spark this thing up as see what we have here.

I know very little about this version of the Hemingway.  Is it a one time deal, a very rare release, or only somewhat rare like the Maduros?  I have no idea but I bought a couple just in case I never see them again.  Glad I did.  the Rosado wrapper is a nice change-up for this smoke.  The Signature Maduro is probably my all time favorite Hemingway Series cigar.  I like this size and the Maduro wrapped version is just spectacular.  The Rosado is nearly as good in a completely different way.  It has a mild spice with a touch of cinnamon in there, all stacked on top of a core of leather and wood.  I even picked up some subtle flashes of what I’d describe as applewood at times.  It is a smooth medium body smoke and a real treat.

Punch Rare Corojo 10th Anniversary Wednesday, Apr 27 2011 

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Country: Honduras
Wrapper: CT Corojo
Binder:  CT Broadleaf
Filler: Honduran, Nicaraguan, Dominican
Size: Robusto 5.0″ x 50 ring

I have never been a fan of the Punch Rare Corojo.  It seemed an OK enough cigar but it just never struck my fancy which I thought strange because I generally enjoy Corojo cigars.  I had no idea until very recently that the Punch Rare Corojo doesn’t even have any Corojo tobacco in it.  I thought the wrapper was Corojo but apparently it was a Sumatran leaf of some kind.  Learning that fact kind of annoyed me.  Why the hell do they call it a Corojo if it isn’t?  But ultimately I came to the conclusion that I really don’t care especially since the cigar has largely remained off my radar…

Enter the the Punch Rare Corojo 10th Anniversary Edition.  Wonders never cease, this one actually uses a Corojo wrapper leaf.  What’s more it is a Connecticut grown Corojo wrapper.  I didn’t even know they grew Corojo in Connecticut.  Well there’s lots I don’t know but still, I was surprised by it. General Cigar sent me some samples of the new limited edition of the Rare Corojo and its make-up is intriguing to me so I looked forward to giving this one a try.  I have to say, it is a much better cigar that the previous sticks to carry this name.  It starts off with leather and earth and an undertone of what I would describe as spiced vanilla, giving it a subtle sweetness and creamy characteristic to the flavors.  It builds in body as you progress and it starts to exhibit more spice and gets a little woodsy and tannic at times which may just be a bit of youth shining through, or the Honduran filler dominating the blend (I often get tannic notes from cigars with Honduran tobacco).  Overall the cigar was quite enjoyable and it held my attention nicely with well defined flavors.  It may be a limited edition cigar but it doesn’t carry a limited edition price tag so I would say it is definitely worth trying if you run across them.

Redux: Tatuaje Monster Series “The Frank” Friday, Apr 22 2011 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Sungrown Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Double Corona 75/8″ x 49 ring

I read on a discussion board somewhere that someone was saying hurry up and smoke The Frank because it has peaked and is in the decline.  I thought, OK lets smoke one and see how they are doing.  I still have the better half of my box left.  I’m glad I picked the box I did because my Franks are certainly not in a decline.  They are smoking wonderfully.  True they have lost a bit of their oomph, and a little bit of the spice they had when they were newborns but these dark double coronas still have plenty to offer me.  They still start off with a blast of pepper but perhaps not the full on punch in the palate that it once was.  It also still has plenty of the “sun grown twang” that I love from sun grown broadleaf wrappers.  The black pepper and spices are much more subtle now and the coffee and cocoa flavors are more prevelant and I was occasionally getting an nutty, almost almond like flavor from it from time to time.

I can’t say if these cigars will decline, maintain, or improve as time goes on.  I just don’t know.  I do know that right now they are fantastic.  I think they are even better now than they were when they first came out.  That is saying something because they were fantastic fresh.  So given this most recent experience with a nicely aged version of The Frank,  I am not sure how much longer these will last in my humidor so I probably won’t have to worry about how they will continue to age.  They probably won’t have an opportunity to do so for much longer. Perhaps then, the discussion board warning still has had its intended effect, to get me to smoke my Franks…

Macanudo Reserva Dorada 2010 Tuesday, Apr 12 2011 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: 1997 Vintage Maduro
Binder: Honduran
Filler: Nicaraguan, Brazilian and Dominican
Size: Toro 6.0″ x 54 ring

The Macanudo Reserva Dorada is a dark maduro with an earthy aroma and a shiny metal band.  It is an eye catcher on the shelves.  I have to be honest.  I am not a fan of Macanudo in general (although I was recently impressed by the new Gran Cru), but when I saw this cigar with that big metal ring on it, I had to buy it just to try and also to have that band.  For what I don’t know but i had to have so I guess the gimmick worked.  The flavors are mild and classic maduro, a slight sweetness with chocolate an coffee flavors.  The flavors were a little thin though with not much body to speak of.  The draw was a little looser than I prefer but it did produce plenty of thick aromatic smoke.  The burn was a little tricky at time requiring one or two touch ups and the ash was very loose and flaky so I had to keep an ash tray near by.

The final verdict, while it was an OK smoke, it was too mild for my tastes and too thin in the body department.  The ash was kind of troublesome too.  However, the flavors were good and in the end I guess I enjoyed enough to be happy with the purchase though I probably won’t be looking to smoke another.  However, if you like mild smokes and that classic maduro sweet flavor, this cigar is right in your wheel house.

La Gloria Cubana Serie N JSB Tuesday, Apr 5 2011 

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Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatran Oscuro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler : Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto 5.5″ x 54 ring

This is a new cigar from General Cigars.  The folks over there were kind enough to send me a sampler of thier new product along with a press release about thier virtual cigar tasting that happened back in late march.  Apparently they use some social media outlets and invited fans of the brand to smoke the cigar along with the makers of the blend and they had an interactive discussion about the cigar.  Very “2011”…

The Serie N is a thick oily looking cigar with a near pitch black wrapper on it.  I wasn’t sure what to think about it but once I put a flame to it I was pleasantly surprised.  I found it to be an excellent cigar with rich and robust flavors.  Lots of earth and cocoa and leather and a subtle bit of what I can only describe as dark fruit (don’t know if that will make sense to anybody else).  It had a very typical Nicaraguan profile which is right in my wheelhouse.  The rich flavors were balanced nicely with its moderate strength and full bodied feel.  The last inch or so get to be very full bodied with a good bit of spice and pepper almost overpowering the other flavors.  It finishes off with a punch to the gut.

I thought it was a very, very good cigar.  One I enjoyed thoroughly and will smoke again very soon.  This ranks as my favorite LGC cigar and I think may be one of the best that General Cigar makes.

Tatuaje Reserva Petite Cazadores Monday, Feb 21 2011 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Petite Cazadores 4.0′ x 40 ring

Everything I love about a Tatuaje packed into a 30 minute smoke.  This little guy has classic Tatuaje flavor.  Plenty of the Nicaraguan earth and toasted tobacco, great black coffee notes, and just enough black pepper for some spice.  The construction is impeccable and the format is just perfect for when I want a Tatuaje but perhaps don’t have a whole hour to hour and a half to spend with one.  I will be buying a cabinet of these.

Illusione ~hl~ (Holy Lance) Maduro Tuesday, Feb 15 2011 

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Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Maduro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Lancero 7.5 x 40 ring

The standard Illusione ~hl~ is a favorite of mine.  I consider it the single best Lancero on the market right now.  Whether you agree with me or not on that point, there is no denying it is an excellent cigar.  Recently Illusione added a Maduro and Candela version of this elegent Lancero.  I smoked a few of the Candelas recently and it proved to be an excellent version of the Holy Lance.  One I enjoyed very much.  It seemed only natural that I finish the cycle and try the third and final incarnation of the Lance.

I really enjoyed the ~hl~ with the maduro wrapper.  The flavors were very rich and very different from the others.  It was earthy with very nice dark chocolate notes and subtle bitter/semi sweet component to it.  It was perhaps not as complex as the other two.  It never really changed much but the thing about is that it doesn’t need to.  The flavors are deep and delicious. It is a great smoke that I enjoyed and never got bored with.  It is a total change of pace from the Rosado and the Candela ~hl~’s.

La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Tabaqueros Toro Monday, Feb 7 2011 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Connecticut Shade/Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Unknown
Filler: Dominican and Honduran
Size: Toro 6.0″ x 50 ring

This one is a bit gimmicky but it does exactly what it is advertised to do.  This cigar uses two wrappers, a Connecticut Shade wrapper at the foot with an abrupt transition to an Ecuadorian grown Sumatran wrapper for about the last 2/3rds of the cigar.  It starts off fairly mild with creamy coffee notes and a bit of hay and then picks up in strength and body once you hit the Sumatran wrapper where there is a bit of pepper and leather and earth with a what I thought was a slightly overbearing finish.  Maybe even a little harsh at times.  I found it to be a well made cigar.  The burn was amazingly slow.  It took a long time to smoke this Toro.  I’d rate this stogie overall as “good”.

There was something about the two wrapper setup and that transition from the mild smoke to a more medium bodied experience that I am unsure about.  I cannot put my finger on it, but it is different from the changes and nuances of a well blended and complex cigar that only uses one wrapper.  I’ve struggled with it but haven’t come up with a good explanation for my feeling on it. Still, this LGC is a decent smoke and the gimmick is legit and so it it is worth trying at least once for the experience.

Avo Heritage Toro Monday, Jan 31 2011 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sungrown
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Size: Toro 6.0 x 50 ring

The Heritage is a full-bodied offering from AVO.  That probably surprises a lot of folks as AVO cigars are generally known to all be mild to medium bodied smokes.  This cigar shares the same wrapper leaf as my all time favorite AVO the Compañero, also known as the LE09.  Since it sports the same wrapper, not surprisingly it shares some similarities with that smoke. It has that same exotic spice at the start and it comes on strong.  The flavors are full and rich with earthy notes of must and cocoa, balanced with creamy flavors of nuts and oak/wood.  The flavors are definitely AVO, but it comes in a non-typical robust delivery with a bit of strength behind it as well. By the time I finished this smoke, I found myself wanting to go and light up another.  This is a stellar cigar.

Illusione ~hl~ (Holy Lance) Candela Sunday, Jan 23 2011 

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Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Candela
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Lancero 7.5″ x 40 ring

I have to believe that this cigar is a first in the Modern Cigar Era.  A Candela wrapped Lancero.  I recently reviewed the Illusione ~88~ Candela which kindled a spark of interest for this wrapper that I largely ignored in the past.  Like I said in that review of the ~88~, Candela wrappers seemed to be reserved for use on bad cigars.  The regular Illusione ~hl~ sports a rosado wrapper and is probably my number one favorite Illusione cigar.  The standard ~hl~ is the definition of elegance and balance.  The Candela ~hl~ is a different animal.

I don’t know if the blend of this cigar was tweaked or just entirely different from the blend used for the standard Holy Lance but this green version tastes nothing like the original. The Candela is heavy on the palate with a strong spice.  The Candela wrapper imparts a crispness with a slight grassy note and a subtle sweetness that is almost complete over powered by the spice and tobacco flavors.  The heaviness of the flavors is backed up by a fairly stout punch in the strength department.  I found the ~hl~ Candela to be a bit rough around the edges but still a really good robust smoke.  If you asked me to pick a favorite of the Candelas I think I’d have to give the nod to the ~88~. One I will certainly enjoy again. Still, I thought the Lancero was excellent and offers a different Candela experience.  It is a cigar I will certainly enjoy again soon.  My Local just got a bunch of boxes in so I should be able to stay in good supply.

H.Upmann Magnum 46 (2008) Wednesday, Jan 19 2011 

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Country: Cuba
Size: Corona Gorda 5.6″ x 46 ring

Follow along here and I think I can describe to you in a meaningful way what smoking this cigar tasted like.  Imagine you brewed a nice robust pot of Antigua Guatemalan coffee.  Next you lighten it with some half and half and then to top it off you put just a dash of Romana Sambuca in it. Now take a big swallow of that coffee and and imagine what the lingering finish of that swallow tastes like.  Next remove that slight bit of sweetness that the Sambuca gives it…

There you have this cigar.  A subtle bit of earthiness with strong flavors of coffee and cream and hint of anise.  It was smooth, creamy and perfect from start to finish.  The burn and draw were perfect.  The ash was perfect.  This cigar was perfect, like smoking a cup of coffee.

Illusione ~88~ Candela Wednesday, Jan 12 2011 

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Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Candela
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto 5.0″ x 52 ring

Green is the new Brown…  Or something like that.  Dion Giolito of Illusione Cigars seems to be single-handedly championing a return of the Candela wrapper to premium cigars.  Once a mainstay of American cigar smoking, the modern smoker tends to look down on the green cigar wrapper as being too mild, near flavorless, or too grassy.  The truth is they are right.  Just about any candela wrapped cigar you find on the market today just isn’t very good.  It turns out that perhaps this is because no one bothers to put the wrapper on a good cigar.  That is until Dion started putting it on his Illusione cigars.  The first to get the green treatment was the lancero, the ~hl~ or Holy Lance.  Now you can also find the Candela on the very large  ~888~ and the beefy robusto ~88~.

When I saw the Candela ~88~ on the shelf and I was intrigued.  I hadn’t tried a Candela wrapped cigar in ages and none I have ever had were any good, but this time the wrapper was on a cigar/blend that I knew I really enjoyed so I had to give it a try.  I was amazed.  The wrapper dramatically changes the cigar when compared to an ~88~ with its normal Nicaraguan wrapper.  It was crisp and smooth.  The Illusione core flavors of Earth and leather are still very much present, but they are expertly balanced with a slight sweetness and tea notes.  Later in the smoke I started to pick up a floral component to the flavors as well.  It was an amazingly good smoke, complex in flavor and visually interesting with its bright green wrapper.   This is one Candela that is certainly worth trying.

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