5th Anniversary Review: Cohiba Robusto Reserva (2003) Wednesday, Jun 23 2010 

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Country: Cuba

Today my humble little blog turns a whopping 5 years old. In internet years that is old. Sites on the internet come and go like leaves in the wind and it seems to be especially true of cigar related blogs. Considering that, I am rather proud of my little corner of the internet and how long it has managed to hang on, or more accurately perhaps; how long I have managed to hang on and stay committed to keeping this thing going. So today I celebrate 5 years of cigar reviews and mediocre writing with a very special smoke that my readers helped me to pick. During the first half of June I posted a poll asking my readers to help me decide which cigar I should review to mark this special milestone. There were 5 stellar cigars to choose from and in the end the Tatuaje Reserva SW Maduro was just barely edged out by an equally special Cohiba Robusto Reserva from 2003. So here we go, to celebrate Matt’s Cigar Journal’s 5 Year Anniversary, I give you the Cohiba Robusto Reserva…

In 2003 Habanos, SA release a special edition box of Cohiba cigars.  It was the Cohiba Selección Reserva and it contained 30 cigars in an assortment of sizes including six robusto sized cigars.  To see photos and get all the vital statistic of the cigars that came in this box check out the Cuban Cigar Website by clicking here.  I find it a very useful reference for information on Cuban cigars.  My sample was very generously given to me by Brother of the Leaf who happened to own a bar in Denmark.  I had always hoped to make it over there and check out his bar and smoke a cigar with him but as it happens we have lost touch and I am not sure where he is anymore.  I have been saving this very special cigar for a special occasion and I am happy to be finally putting it to flame in celebration of 5 years of blogging about my passion for fine hand made cigars.

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This Cohiba has a very classic looking wrapper like light brown leather.  It is adorned with a normal Cohiba band and a second black and gold band displaying the Reserva designation.  The draw is absolutely perfect.  I used Gordon Mott’s  “Three Match Technique” to get the cigar lit.  Right from the very start this cigar is smooth and buttery.  There were creamy notes of vanilla and hint of citrus with a nice floral aroma.  It wasn’t long before it starts to change up.  The flavors became woody and leathery with a bit of spice and I started to get a bit of salt and pepper on the lips.  The aroma is still very floral.  Underneath it all is that classic Cuban earthiness and twang.  Half way through and this is already one of the most amazing cigars I have smoked.  There are flavors I can’t even figure out how to identify.  As I made my way through the smoke the cigar kept changing.  there were flavors of coffee, nuts, vanilla, honey, fruit, leather, and more.   There was lots of that Cuban earthiness mixed in as well and the cigar went from sweet to spicy and back to sweet, the flavors always smooth and creamy on the palate.  The flavors were full and rich but never overpowering and it had only a mild nicotine punch.  The cigar was an absolute joy to smoke from start to finish.  I can’t imagine a better choice of cigar to celebrate my blogs 5 Year Anniversary.

Poll: 5 Year Anniversary Review? Tuesday, Jun 1 2010 

So later this month, Matt’s Cigar Journal will be turning 5 years old.  Five years in Internet age is like 50 in human years.  Sites come and go virtually every second on the web, so for me to have kept this thing going for 5 years feels like an accomplishment of sorts for me.  A big anniversary like this deserves to be celebrated so I am going to review a special cigar for that day and I am going to look to my readers to help me decide what it will be.  Please take a moment to answer the poll question and let me know which of these cigars you think is most appropriate for Matt’s Cigar Journal’s 5 Year Anniversary Review. You can leave comments on this post if you’d like to elaborate on your vote.  I only possess one of each of the cigars listed in this poll so it will be a special event when I smoke it.  The review will be posted on June 23rd, the day my blog turns 5.

I will shut down this poll on June 16th and announce my selection.

The White Band Project 2010 Wrap-Up Friday, Feb 5 2010 

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The White Band Project, the second annual blind review series between Matt’s Cigar Journal and Zen & the Art of the Cigar has come to a close. It is now time to reveal what all six of the cigars were in the project and discuss the results. If you want to read up on exactly what the White Band Project is just click here for the project criteria and rules.

In a nutshell, Jamie and I exchanged three cigars each. We re-banded the cigars with our own numbered white bands and told each other nothing about the cigars. This time all we knew was that we were each giving the other three cigars made by a single cigar maker. Neither of us knew what cigar maker the other had chosen. We smoked them and wrote reviews of our experiences with them, and then hazard a guess on what they were. Now we find out how we did… (more…)

White Band Project 2010 Blind Review #6 Thursday, Jan 28 2010 

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The White Band Project 2010 is the second annual blind review project between Matt’s Cigar Journal and Zen & the Art of the Cigar. You can read about the project, its criteria and rules by clicking here.

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Cigar number 6 is a big beefy torpedo.  The wrapper is very handsome.  It is the dark brown of a leather bomber jacket with a very slight tooth and an oily sheen.  A cold draw delivers some black pepper and musty earth flavors.  Upon lighting it up it starts off with a sharp black pepper bite.  It doesn’t take long for the black pepper to fade to the background and notes of warm hardwoods and dark chocolate dominate complimented by a subtle, sweet undertone of vanilla and spice.  The draw is perfect and the burn jagged but even.  Smoke has a rich, heavy, cedar aroma.It is a very robust smoke, not quite full bodied with a stout nicotine punch. (more…)

White Band Project 2010 Blind Review #4 Thursday, Jan 21 2010 

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The White Band Project 2010 is the second annual blind review project between Matt’s Cigar Journal and Zen & the Art of the Cigar. You can read about the project, its criteria and rules by clicking here.

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Cigar number 4 is a dark, oily, rustic cigar.  It looks like a maduro or an oscuro wrapper and measures 5 inches Long.  I’d say it is a 50 ring gauge, your standard robusto.  The first inch or so of this cigar was very harsh and bitter and very powerful.  Thankfully it mellowed out a bit after that.  It was a medium to full bodied smoke with strong flavors of earth and leather and wood with a slight sweet undertone. At the halfway mark the smoke developed a chewiness to it but the flavors became a bit muddled. There is quite a bit of strength in this cigar, packing a fairly strong nicotine kick. The flavors and the strength have me thinking this is a Nicaraguan cigar. The last third was surprisingly mellow (considering how robust the rest of the smoke was)  with flat notes of burnt wood.

The construction was excellent. A good draw, even burn, and a well formed ash that held well. It didn’t finish very strong but overall it was a very nice smoke.  This cigar seemed very familiar to me.  I could very well change my mind after smoking the third cigar but at this point I think these cigars may be made by Oliva. I’ll even go as far as to say this particular cigar, if it was indeed an Oliva may have been an El Cobre Robusto.  It was far too robust to be an “O” Maduro and besides not really tasting like a “G”, it also isn’t box pressed like a “G” would be.   That said, I’ll reserve my final verdict until after I smoke the last cigar. Boy this could get embarrassing if I’m wrong……

Check out the review of Cigar #3 on Zen & the Art of the Cigar.

You can also read Jamie’s review of Cigar #1 here and my review of Cigar #2 here.

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White Band Project 2010 Blind Review #2 Thursday, Jan 14 2010 

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The White Band Project 2010 is the second annual blind review project between Matt’s Cigar Journal and Zen & the Art of the Cigar. You can read about the project, its criteria and rules by clicking here.

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Cigar number 2 has a wrapper that is pretty easy to identify visually. It is a Connecticut Shade wrapper. I’m not sure if it is Connecticut grown or Ecuadorian. I measured the cigar and it is 6.5 inches long. The ring gauge appears to be about 44 or 46 which makes this cigar a Lonsdale. I guess it could be a Churchill but usually they are a full 7 inches and the ring gauge usually a little thicker so I am sticking with calling it a Lonsdale which just happens to be my favorite size. The wrapper is smooth and buttery looking. The color is uniform and it has very few veins on it. Looking at the cigar I immediately thought of an Ashton 8-9-8. Lets light it up and see what it tastes like. (more…)

The White Band Project 2010 Thursday, Jan 7 2010 

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The time has come once again for me to team up with my friend Jamie of Zen & the Art of the Cigar for a series of Blind Reviews.  Last January Jamie and I each exchanged three cigars for the other to review, but before we handed them over, we removed the manufacturer’s bands and replaced them with our own plain white bands numbered 1 through 6.  You can click here to read about last years blind review series and you’ll find links there to the actual reviews.  Last years series involved us each selecting 3 different cigars that were differentiated by price range.  We each prvided the other with a bargain cigar, and mid-range cigar, and an expensive top-shelf premium cigar.  This year we are changing the rules. Taking a page out of Camacho’s book we are going to run this series of reviews kind of like Camacho’s Black Band Project.  This time we are each selecting one cigar maker and will then select three different cigars made by that manufacturer.    For example, I could choose Camacho as the cigar maker and then I would provide Jamie three different cigars by Camacho.  For the sake of this example lets say I would give him a Camacho Select, a Triple Maduro, and a Room 101.  Then I’d remove the bands, number them and hand them over to Jamie to review.  He’d select some other cigar maker, or the same, I’d have no way of knowing nor would he.  He will give me three different cigars from whatever cigar maker he chose and I would review those cigars blind.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the concept of a blind review, all it means is that we will be smoking each of these cigars without knowing who made the cigar and what the name of the cigar is or anything else about it besides what we observe with our own eyes and tastebuds.   The idea is that we will give unbiased accounts and opinions of the cigars without be influenced by any prejudices we might have about a particular brand or line of cigars.  We had a lot of fun doing this last year.  The results were interesting and it generated a lot of great conversation at the cigar shop.  So here we are, doing it again.  This time I cooked up a fancy new Logo for the series and some fancy bands for the cigars.  Jamie and I meet tonight to exchange cigars. The reviews will be published on Thursdays over the next three weeks followed by a wrap-up that will include the big revelation of what each of the cigars actually was. Be sure to check back weekly to keep up with the project.

Here is a picture of the three cigars Jamie will be reviewing…

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UPDATE[01/10/2010]:

Here is a picture of the cigars that Jamie gave me to review…

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Below is a list of the reviews for this project. As the reviews are posted this list will be updated with links to each of the reviews.

Coming Soon: The White Band Project 2010 Tuesday, Dec 15 2009 

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OK.  Not very original, but it conveys the message…

I am teaming up once again with Jamie from Zen and the Art of the Cigar to do another Blind Review Series.  Last year Jamie and I exchanged three cigars each. The criteria for which was price range.  We each selected one bargain cigar, one mid range, and one expensive premium cigar for the other to sample blind.  We each removed the manufacturer’s band and replaced it with a plain white band with a number on it.  Then we each went off, smoked the cigars and wrote our reviews.  After that was all done, we got together and revealed what it was that each one of us actually smoked.  It was a lot of fun, very interesting, and popular among our readers.  We decided we wanted to do it again, but this time we are switching up the format a bit.

Taking a page out of Camacho’s book we are going to run this series of reviews kind of like Camacho’s Black Band Project.  Again we are going to exchange three cigars each, but this time all three cigars are going to be from one manufacturer but they will be three different blends from that cigar maker.

All of this will be happening soon.  The plan is to exchange cigars shortly after the new year begins so be sure to check back and follow the series.  These are always a lot of fun and the results are always interesting.

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…)

‘Gar Tunes: Paris to Cuba by Mario Grigorov Monday, Jun 15 2009 

I recently had the opportunity to listen to a sampling of new music from the composer and musician Mario Grigorov.  His new album is called Paris to Cuba.  This is what Mario has to say about his inspiration for the album…

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Every time I go to Paris, I get inspired. I start thinking about ways I can embrace the city and absorb its magic…

This album takes me back to my time there, and I reflect on how I have always enjoyed traditional and classical French music – been intrigued by the use of melody and sultry textures.  I started playing with some melodies on the piano; inspired by the Parisian mood and architecture, I was trying to re-create the buildings I had seen that stood like frozen compositions. The compositions I began to write would soon lend themselves to a melding with the energy and simplicity of the music I also love from Cuba, along with all of its influences.

It’s not always easy to combine styles of music from their technical anatomies, but I was in no way trying to do that here.  This album, inspired by my appreciation of both styles, came about from the feel-good spirit that both Paris and Cuba share. I must admit, working with my good friend Melissa Newman brought it all together; she embodies the spirit and beauty of these musical cultures.  Her voice created the perfect accent for this project.

The four songs I had the opportunity to listen to were great. Two were instrumentals, “Cuban Soil, Cuban Sun” and “Ice Hotel”, with a decidedly Latin sound but with a “big band” jazz feel to them. The second two songs, “Every Little Movement” and “Snake Eyes” had female vocals that were were sultry and classic.  Those two songs sounded just like something you would hear in an old school smokey jazz club and they were a lot of fun to listen to. From what I have heard from this album, it is an excellent accompaniment to a relaxing evening sitting back with your favorite cigar and sipping rum. I would recommend checking it out especially if jazz with a Latin influence sounds like something you would enjoy.

Here is some more “official” information about the album and the artist… (more…)

Updated Top 5 list Friday, Mar 20 2009 

I was looking at my Top 5 List and figured it was far enough out of date that it warranted an update.  There is a new number 2 and a new number 5 resulting in two very good cigars falling off the list.  The original Oliva Master Blends and the Perdomo Edición de Silvio Cameroon still rank among my favorite smokes, but the Hoyo and the Cruzado that now rank in my Top 5 are superb cigars.  Truth is, trying to rank cigars that are this good is a difficult exercise so really this list reflects my feelings at the time I am writing it.  As I have said before, it is a very fluid thing that changes in my head far more often than it does on this site.  If you are interested, you can find Version 2.0 of my Top 5 the same place it has always been.

The Edge Series Wrap-Up Friday, Mar 13 2009 

A couple interesting things came from this mini series of cigar reviews.  One involved the results of my “What’s your Favorite Edge?” poll.  The other has to do with what I experienced when smoking these cigars.  First, here are the links to the reviews if you haven’t read them already…

I found all three of these smokes to be decent cigars, and I’d even go a little farther with the Lite and say that The Edge Lite is a very good cigar.  It was my favorite of the three.  I thought the flavors were well balanced and crisp.   It was a very flavorful mild to medium bodied cigar and the construction as with the other two was impeccable.  The Corojo and Maduro just didn’t live up to the hype in either fullness of flavor or strength.  Although they are certainly robust and strong smokes, the hokey warning label cautioning that these cigars are for professional smokers is a little silly and inaccurate.  While not necessarily an ideal choice for someone new to cigar smoking, I have had plenty of cigars I would deem stronger and more robust than these.  That said, they were still decent smokes, just not something I would plan to revisit.  The Lite however is something I plan to smoke again.

As for the poll, response was a bit tepid, but there were still some interesting results I think…

For one thing, it appears that the petite “Missile” format is not a favorite among those that responded. Neither version received a single vote. The rest seem pretty much split evenly amongst you.  The exception being the maduro.  I actually tried to find the Sumatran this past week so I could add it last minute to the series, but I was not able to find it locally.  I did find a review of it over on StogieReview, so click on over there and check it out if you are interested.

Thanks to CigarsDirect.com for providing the cigars for this mini series of reviews.  This was fun.  Perhaps if another line of cigars jumps out at me as a fit for this kind of feature, I’ll do it again sometime.

Poll: Which Edge is your Edge? Tuesday, Mar 3 2009 

Since I am doing a mini series of reviews based on a line of cigars this month, and since this isn’t something I’ve done before, I figured I should really mix things up.  I anticipate doing this mini series will be fun, but to make it even more fun I want to make it even more interactive than just the normal post and comment format.  It is a perfect opportunity for another poll.  So Poll No.2 at Matt’s Cigar Journal asks this simple question.  Which Edge is your favorite?  The poll will remain open until the sometime after the last of the three reviews in this series is posted.  Lets see which one is the most popular amongst my readers…

Rocky Patel – The Edge Monday, Mar 2 2009 

This March I have decided to do a mini series of reviews on Rocky Patel’s “The Edge” line of cigars.  I will be smoking The Edge Corojo, Maduro, and Lite.  These reviews are all made possible by my friends at CigarsDirect.com.  I have decided to get all the fluff out of the way first and provide the background info on the cigars in this introductory post so when the reviews go up, I’ll be jumping right into the meat of it, writing about the construction and flavors of the individual cigars.

Believe it or not, at the time of this writing, I have never smoked an Edge cigar of an variety.  Surprising perhaps because of the immense popularity of this line of smokes, but also maybe more surprising to those that know me and my preferences in cigars.  I love a good, powerful, robust smoke.  So how is it I have made it all the way to 2009, 5 years after the release of this line of cigars, to get around to smoking them?  I don’t have a good answer for that one except to say I just never got around to it.  I have smoked other of Rocky’s cigars over the years and truth be told I have never found them to my liking.  A lot of his cigars are highly regarded and they are very popular but something about them has never really suited my palate.  As a result, I have never made it a priority to try The Edge.  I have been curious though and had planned to get around to them eventually.  Eventually is now it would appear.

The original release of The Edge included a Corojo and a Maduro wrapped version.  Later the line was added to with the Edge Lite wrapped in an Ecuadorian Shade Grown leaf and a Sumatran wrapped version was also added.  In addition to these line extensions, Rocky also added The Edge Missile which is a smaller, shorter torpedo version of the cigar.  I am excluding the Sumatran and the Missile from this series for now.  I may visit those two cigars at a later date.

The Edge Corojo and Maduro from Rocky Patel are touted as ultra full bodied, ultra powerful cigars.  The box even has a clever marketing gimmick on it in the guise or a warning label stating “Professional Smokers Only”.  Billed as being a bold, full bodied, full flavored smoke that will leave even seasoned smokers “weak in the knees”, these cigars have a bit to live up to in terms of their strength and the hype around it.  The binder is Nicaraguan and the blend for the filler is a secret.  According to Rocky, if you watch the flash video for The Edge on his website, the blend for the original two Edge cigars utilizes tobacco from an undisclosed country which apparently no one else uses tobacco from.  Seems like yet another clever marketing gimmick used in what looks to be a very gimmicky line of cigars.  The Edge is a large cigar too, each size being six inches in length and boasting beefy ring gauges.  They are available in three sizes:

  • Toro 6.0″ x 52 ring
  • Torpedo 6.0″ x 52 ring
  • Batallion 6.0″ x 60 ring

I will be smoking the Corojo and Maduro each in the Toro size.

The Edge Lite came later, though I am not sure how much later after the 2004 release of the original Edge cigars.  The Lite seems like an odd choice for a line extension for cigars whose main theme is power.  Power in strength and power in flavor.  The full bodied cigar market is only a very small portion of the cigar smokers market so I guess economics may have played a role in this one.  The Edge only appeals to that 15 to 20 percent of cigar smokers that enjoy bold full bodied smokes.  To reach out to the rest of the market, i guess it would make sense to offer a toned down version of the cigar, thus giving it access to all the revenue available by appealing to that other 80%.  This is all speculation on my part.  Truth is I have no idea the real reason behind the addition of The Edge Lite to the line.  Besides being wrapped in a shade grown Ecuadorian wrapper this cigar also has its own blend for the filler consisting of Nicaraguan and Honduran long filler.  It shares only the Nicaraguan binder with the original Edge cigars.  On his website Rocky boasts that The Edge Lite is the perfect Golf Course cigar.  He says you can sit this cigar down for 10 to 15 minutes and when you pick it back up it will still be lit and ready to smoke.  I may just have to put this claim to the test because I have to admit I am skeptical.  We will see first hand if the cigar can live up to the claim.  The Edge Lite is reported to be a smooth, mild, and creamy cigar with rich flavors and excellent construction.  It is available in four sizes:

  • Robusto 5.0″ x 50 ring
  • Toro 6.0″ x 52 ring
  • Torpedo 6.0″ x 52 ring
  • Double Corona 7.5″ x 52 ring

For this series I will be smoking The Edge Lite Torpedo.

So that’s the run down on these cigars.  My plan is to knock out these reviews in short order so they will be available over the next week or two weeks so stay tuned in.  And remember, you can pickup your own Edge cigars online at CigarsDirect.com.

The Reviews:

Blind Review Wrap-Up Sunday, Jan 25 2009 

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So now it is time to reveal the results of the Blind Reviews.  A big thanks to Jamie of Zen and the Art of the Cigar for doing this with me.  The project was a lot of fun.  Jamie and I had a great conversation this past Thursday night as we went over the cigars and talked about the results of the blind tastings.  The results were very interesting and made for some great conversation.  One thing we discovered is that even when doing blind tastings it is possible for other influences outside of just knowing what the cigar is that can bias a review.  We also learned some of the things that make blind tastings so challenging.

Let’s start with the outside influences.  I believe the fact that I have such a strong preference for Pepin made cigars and have smoked so many of them, may have had me looking for some of the things I expect for those cigars.   By the same token, Jamie explained to me that the fact he knew I was such a big fan of Pepin had him looking for the same things and influenced him on how he approached the cigars he was smoking.  Much to his surprise I didn’t include any Pepin made cigars in the samples I gave him to smoke.   But more on that soon.

Now as for the unique challenges of a blind tasting.  I think I discovered that a big part of tasting cigars is in fact knowing what to expect.  When smoking a Pepin smoke you look for the black pepper at the start and the robust earthiness at the core of a lot of his blends.  If you smoked a new cigar from him and it didn’t have those tell tale flavors you’d notice it right off and start to focus in on what it was you are tasting.  It is a different game when you have no idea what to expect, no idea what to look for.  It raises the degree of difficulty in confidently identifying what it is you are tasting.

(more…)

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