2011 Triangle Area Ride for Kids Friday, Mar 11 2011 

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As many of my readers know, every year I raise funds for the Ride for Kids and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation of the US. I have been raising money for this worthy cause for eight years now. Last year in very large part to the generous support of Cigar Smokers everywhere I was able to raise over $5200 for the PBTFUS. It was amazing to see how so many people found it in their hearts to help. As a result a lot of money went to the PBTFUS to help the sick children who suffer from brain tumors, and I was awarded as a “Ride for Kids Champion” and was the 4th place individual fundraiser for the the Triangle Ride. It was a great feeling and nice to be recognized for my efforts and in recognizing me; really they were recognizing all of you because you are the ones who helped me raise all that money. So thank you again for that help.

It is time again to begin my fund raising efforts for the 2011 ride. The past few years I have been giving away some amazing cigars like whole boxes of Opus X and whole boxes of other really great cigars. Unfortunately this year I will not have the big prizes I have had in the past. Circumstances dictate that I simplify things a little this year. I still hope you can find the means and desire to help these children and donate to this very worthy cause. This year my goal is to raise $2000.00 for the ride and I know I can do t with your help. After the Ride which takes place at Jordan Lake in North Carolina on May 1st, I will put the names of all the people who donated into a hat and draw one out to win a 5 pack of my best cigars from my personal stash which will Include a Tatuaje Frank, and an Opus xXx(Power Ranger). So there is still a chance to win some nice smokes while helping out these kids. Really this 5 pack give away is just a small way for me to say thank you to all the generous Cigar Smokers out there that help out every year. I never cease to be amazed at how giving and friendly the cigar smoking community is. You guys and gals really are some of the most generous people on the planet and I always am very appreciative of your help. Here is the link to donate to this years Ride:

Click Here to Donate

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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.

Eddie Abbott – A True BOTL Sunday, Jan 16 2011 

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This past Friday the cigar community lost one of the truly great Brothers of the Leaf.  Eddie Abbot was taken from us far too early after a battle with a brain tumor.  Eddie was a beloved husband and father as well as a beloved member and friend to the guys of Blowinsmoke.net and cigar lovers in general.  He was a proud father who took every chance he had to brag on his kids and was a truly generous soul.  He made friends of everyone he came in contact with.  Proof of that was evident to all the guys who got to know him on the cigar forums.  Most of us never got a chance to meet him in person, a few were blessed to have met him and spent some time with him.  I only knew him on the forum, but I still consider him a friend.  He was one of the most generous Brothers I’ve met.  Eddie loved good cigars and I know he really enjoyed a good Opus X cigar.  He even loved to share them with his fellow BOTL whenever he had a chance.  If you were ever lucky enough to be surprised by one of his generous “cigar bombs” chances are there was an Opus in there for you to enjoy.  Today is an unseasonably warm day after an extended bitter cold snap here in NC.  I think that this warm day is courtesy of Eddie so that I could have an opportunity to go outside and enjoy an Opus with him because I am sure he is up in heaven smoking one with me now.  I’m smoking this 4 year old Opus X Super Belicoso in honor of Eddie.

Rest in peace Eddie.  You are going to be missed, and may God bless you and your family.  My prayers are with you and them.

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.

Cain F 550 Wednesday, Jan 5 2011 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Triple Ligero (Esteli, Condega, Jalapa)
Size: Robusto 5.75″ x 50 ring

A full-bodied, full-strength cigar.  Typical Nicaraguan profile of spice, earth, and leather.  Some coffee notes as well.  Finishes the same as it starts and remains consistent throughout.  Just straight forward flavors in a very robust package.  Excellent construction, with a even burn and an excellent draw. Not a bad smoke, but nothing special either.  Not much more to say about this one except to apologize for forgetting to take a picture.

El Triunfador Lancero (original release) Monday, Dec 20 2010 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Broadleaf Maduro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Lancero 7.5″ x 38 ring

This is a rustic looking lancero. It has a very dark brown wrapper that is veiny and oily. The cigar is bumpy looking and topped off with a small pigtail cap. The draw is excellent for a Lancero. Don Pepin has some skilled rollers because he seems to put out a consistently good lancero no matter what line of cigars it is a part of. I saw online somewhere that this version of the El Triunfador is basically a Cabaiguan Maduro. I don’t know about the accuracy of that assertion, but I can tell you this is a darn good smoke. It packs a nice punch even after spending about 2 years in my humidor. It is a smooth smoke with strong flavors of wood and earth. It mellows a bit in the middle becoming predominately earthy with a bit of a coffee flavor in the background. The last third or so picks up again with lots of wood, earth, spice, and a subtle bit of licorice on the finish. I only have one more of these excellent cigars left. I’ll need to pick up a couple of the more recent vintage and see if they can live up to their forefather.

Cohiba Coronas Especiales Thursday, Dec 16 2010 

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Country: Cuba
Size: Panetela 6.0″ x 38 ring

This was a gift I received a few years ago from one of the best BOTL’s on the planet.  AndyMiami is one of the most genuinely generous people on the planet.  He’s a good cook to boot.  Just check out his blog Andy’s Diner and you’ll see what I mean.  Just a friendly warning, don’t look at it while you’re hungry. I decided I have held onto this stick long enough and it is time to enjoy it with a nice glass of Zaya Rum to sip on.  Andy sent me this back in January of 2007 so this stick is at least 4 years old at this point so I figure it is probably ready.

The cigar is beautiful.  Cohiba’s seem to have a unique shade of light brown that no other cigar seems to duplicate.  It is topped with a small pig tail and dressed in the Cohiba band, it looks the part of an elegant and expensive cigar.    After clipping off the pigtail I took a test draw and predictably it was a little tight.  I find a tight draw to be very common with Cuban cigars.  It is annoying to me really, but this one wasn’t so bad as to cause me any issue.  It starts off better than any cigar I can think of.   Right off the bat the flavors are smooth and creamy with slightly sweet notes of vanilla and honey perfectly balanced with subtle brine and that classic Cuban twang.  During the course of the smoke I also picked up on coffee notes, as well as toasted bread and some occasional burst of pepper near the end.  The last third of the smoke was very robust and the strength of the cigar just continued to build and by the end it was quite a strong smoke.  The cigar was very complex and I enjoyed the way it built up in strength and body, starting out with creamy somewhat mild flavors and gradually transitioning into the more robust and earthy flavors near the end.  This cigar was a real treat.  Thanks Andy.  You ‘da man.

Slowing Down Tuesday, Dec 7 2010 

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Some of my more regular visitors have probably noticed I have slowed down quite a bit on the reviews lately.   I was excited to see my blog turn 5 years old this past June, but in a way it was bitter-sweet.  I have really enjoyed publishing this blog but lately I have felt a little burnt out.  Writing the reviews has started to become more like a chore rather than the fun it once was.  Because of this I want to take a step back for a little while, but I do not want to just go and kill this site that I have loving labored on for over 5 years now.  I have come up with an idea that I hope will allow the blog to survive until I am ready to get back into this again full-bore.  It may be on life support but I won’t let it die out completely.

I plan to continue to publish reviews as regularly as I feel the need to.  The difference is, most of them will be much shorter and without all the background information I usually put into a write-up on a cigar.  It will just be a brief description o the cigar and its flavors, and perhaps my opinion.  I’ll try to include photos with each short review as well.  This will hopefully keep fresh and new content coming up on the site yet not be so labor intensive for me as I research cigar and company to provide the kind of detailed reviews I have in the past.  Who knows, this could even lead to more postings if this turns out to be a fairly easy and fun way for me to post reviews.

Panacea Green Robusto Monday, Nov 8 2010 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf
Binder: Dominican Habano
Filler: Triple Ligero Blend(Piloto Cubano, Olor Dominicano, and Nicaragua)
Size: Robusto 5.0″ x 50 Ring

I have been working my way through a sampler of cigars sent to me by Paul Bush of the Flatbed Cigar Company that contained each of their four Panacea cigars. I chose to try them in the order that they were released since the inception of the company and the brand. I started out with the mild and delicious Panacea Black Connecticut, followed that up with it’s brother the Panacea Black Maduro, and then smoked the large and robust Panacea Red 560. So now I come to the last cigar in the sampler. The Panacea Green is the blend I have been looking most forward to. It is the newest edition to the Panacea brand. According to their website they worked on this blend for over a year before it finally debuted in February of this year.

The Panacea Green is a three ligero blend covered in a mottled brown Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper that has a nice oily sheen.  The band is a bright leprechaun green.  To be honest, it is not the prettiest of bands which detracts a bit from the aesthetics of the good looking wrapper leaf.  The cigar was firm and well filled and a test of the draw before lighting reveal a nice even pull.  From the very first puff on this cigar I was impressed and intrigued.  It has a wonderful spice to it that is very well balanced with notes of toasted tobacco and leather and a robust earthy finish.  he construction was impeccable.  The burn was nice and even and the ash seemed to hold on forever.  I only tapped the ash on this smoke 3 maybe four times and only for my comfort.  It seemed like it would have held longer than I was leaving it.   The flavors seemed to build in intensity as I progressed through the smoke.  There were notes of wood, leather, caramel, and tobacco.  In addition there was always that fantastic, unique spice that captivated me at the very start.  I cannot say for sure, but I am attributing it to the wrapper.  I wish I could be a better job at describing it.  Whatever that spice was and however it might be described, I really enjoyed it and the cigar as a whole.  I found it to be an excellent cigar, and one that I certainly want to smoke again.

Box Purchase: The Face by Tatuaje Friday, Oct 29 2010 

Halloween time means it is time for the Tatuaje Monster series.  This years grizzly beast is The Face.  Number 3 in the limited edition series.  Early reports speak very highly of this cigar so when the opportunity to pick up one of the 10 count boxes presented itself, I jumped on it.

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