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:

Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du Roi Tuesday, Feb 17 2009 

Country: Cuba
Box Code: SUA JUN2000
Size: Corona 5.54″ x 42 ring

This cigar has a classic Cuban appearance and comes in a traditional presentation. Unbanded in a cedar cabinet of 25 cigars, the wrapper is light brown and silky looking with a few puckered veins running across its surface. It has a triple cap and once I clipped it I could see an expertly done bunching of the tobacco that mirrored what I saw in the foot. I was concerned that the draw might be a little tight and I was right but it was still manageable. I have found many of the Cuban cigars I have smoked to be  excellent smokes, but only after they have been aged properly do the begin to truly shine. With eight and a half years under its belt this cigar demonstrated why many cigar lovers consider Cuban cigars to be the best in the world.

The Le Hoyo du Roi starts off smooth and creamy with pronounced flavors of cafe au lait and wood. There are hints of black pepper and that Cuban earthiness that we all crave from a Habano. The pepper notes are subtle. It’s like the cigar wants you to know its there but it doesn’t want to overwhelm your palate, allowing you to enjoy all the subtitles it has to offer. The aroma is rich and decadent and the flavors have a chewiness to them that is simply fantastic. The smoke started off almost mild but continued to pickup as I progressed becoming a medium to almost full bodied smoke. It developed more spice but maintained its creamy/chewy characteristics. There were several flavors I picked up along the way that I couldn’t identify, subtle notes that weaved in and out making for an engaging and very enjoyable smoke. I am convinced that smoking a Habano while it’s young is such a waste. I have had the pleasure of a few aged Habanos over the years and they are always amazing smoking experiences and this cigar was no exception. The only negative thing I have to say about it is that the draw was just a bit too tight. I wish it were a bit looser making it a bit easier to smoke. The draw made me work a bit harder than I want to. I think that this was due to the fact that the cigar seemed over humidified.   It was too wet, so I hope some time in my cabinet at 62% to 65% RH will help the draw issue.

This du Roi was very reminiscent of a 1999 Hoyo du Prince I smoked last year which I’d rank as one of the best cigars I ever smoked. The 2000 du Roi ranks pretty high on my list as well now.  I feel like I have handed out more A+ ratings than usual lately but looking back over it, I have had the pleasure of some really stellar smokes recently.  There is just no way, even with the draw issue that I can score this any lower.  Everything else about this cigar was perfect and the flavors were out of this world.

Rating – A+

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