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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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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Panacea Red 560 Maduro/Habano Wednesday, Oct 20 2010 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Brazilian Maduro
Binder: Dominican Habano
Filler: Seco Cubano, Ligero Piloto Cubano, Ligero Olor Dominicano, & Ligero Nicaragua
Size: Robusto 5.0″ x 60 ring

The Panacea Red is the second blend from the Flatbed Cigar Company.  Billed as a bolder more full bodied blend their website tells us we can expect all the great flavors of the Panacea Black Maduro only in a fuller, stronger experience. Read about my experience with the Black Maduro here, and if you are unfamiliar with the Flatbed Cigar Company and Panacea cigars, check out my review of the Panacea Black Natural here.  The Red changes things up a bit with the introduction of a Habano binder and plenty of Ligero tobacco.  The wrapper is the same dark Brazilian Maduro that is used on the Panacea Black Maduro.  The 560 is a big beefy cigar and the guys at Flatbed decided it needed its own band that is more appropriate for a cigar of this girth, “We also gave it a different style Black Label band better suited for a big-ole cigar.”

Now it is no secret I think a 60 ring gauge is just to damn big.  I don’t like it.  I find cigars this large awkward and uncomfortable to smoke.  At 5’11” and 225 lbs (the gym is paying off, I’m smaller than I use to be, but yet), I’m not a small guy.  I just think a 60 ring is excessive.  I also have found in my own experience that cigars often lose something when they are made this big.  Flavors become muddled, the subtleties of a blend get lost in the massive amounts of filler it takes to make a cigar this large.  I also acknowledge though that there are some examples of blends that just “work” in these larger formats.  I hope the Panacea Red is one of those blends, but we’ll see.  Regardless I think I may order myself a sampler of the reds in one of the more standard sizes to see what I think of the blend regardless of what my opinion turns out to be of this particular vitola.

The Panacea Red 560 has a noticeably “light” dark brown wrapper for a Maduro, especially for a Brazilian maduro.  It has a handful of small veins running across its surface.  The draw is excellent but predictably the ring gauge is a bit awkward.  It starts off very light and almost mild but quickly bolsters.  The flavors were medium-full with a light to medium strength.  It is a very well-balanced cigar with creamy notes of toasted wood and a hint of sweetness complimented nicely by more robust flavors of earth and coffee.  The finish is medium bodied and doesn’t linger long.  The flavors stay pretty consistent from start to finish.  What it lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in just good solid flavors and a nice finish.  It did seem to pick up in strength a bit in the last third adding a bit of peppery spice to the mix.  I was surprised that this wasn’t a stronger cigar given all the ligero that is in the blend and the Habano binder.  I wonder if that was a side effect of the exaggerated ring size.  I really enjoyed this cigar and very much want to try this blend in a more traditional size like a corona or robusto.  If you are a fan of big girthy cigars than I think you’ll love this one.  It is an excellent smoke.

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