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…

Ashton VSG Wizard Tuesday, Jul 20 2010 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sun Grown
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Size: Toro 6.0″ x 56 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

There isn’t much left that hasn’t been said about the Ashton VSG.  It is an extremely popular line of cigars made for Ashton by the Fuentes.  If you are new to the VSG, then surf on over to my review of the VSG Sorcerer and read the background info on this smoke there.

The Wizard is the largest of the VSG family at least as far as the ring gauge goes. It is also one of the very few vitolas that does not sport a box press.  It uses the same dark and leathery Ecuadorian Sun Grown wrapper as the rest of the line.  Long time readers of my blog already know that I am not a fan of this large of a ring gauge on a cigar.  I feel that the Wizard is a prime example of why that is.  All the wonderful flavors that you’d expect from a VSG are muted and muddled in this format.  There are still notes of earth and leather and sweet spice but they are not as sharp or intense.  The cigar overall is milder and weaker than the other vitolas in the line.  It is a good cigar in a line of great cigars which makes it a bit of a disappointment for me.  Of course, YMMV.

Avo Compañero (LE09) Thursday, Apr 29 2010 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Cuban Seed Ecuadorian Sun Grown
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Three types of Dominican Ligero and a Peruvian Seco leaf
Size: Toro 6.0″ x 54 ring

The Compañero is Mr. U’s 83rd Birthday Cigar.  Most everyone who is into cigars knows that every year Avo releases a Limited Edition cigar to celebrate Mr. Avo Uvezian’s birthday.   Last year in April of 2009 I had th honor of attending one of his many birthday parties.  Even at 83 Mr.U is still touring the country celebrating his birthday with his fans.  At this celebration I picked up a box of the LE09’s [l-ee-oh-nines] as they are also known as. 320x240Mr U was gracious enough to sign the box for me.  The party was a lot of fun and many great cigars were smoked, the greatest of which was the Compañero.  I decided that night that the LE09 would become my son’s birthday cigar…  that is, it would be the cigar I smoked to celebrate my son’s birthday in April each year until my box was gone (there are 10 cigars in a box).  As it turned out, I was sick this year for my son’s birthday so I decided to hold off and smoke the cigar to celebrate both his and my birthday, which happens to be today.  So Happy Birthday to me.

It is a handsome cigar with a dark wrapper and a good draw.  It starts off with a blast of pepper followed up by earth, leather, and spice.  Easily the most robust Avo I have ever smoked, it does mellow a little as you near the second third of the cigar and develops notes of coffee and cream and a bit of  wood/cedar.  There is also a subtle sweetness now that may have been hidden by that initial onslaught of rich and peppery flavors.  In the last third it really picks up again with lots of leather and earth and it finally starts to exhibit that tell-tale Kelner mustiness that is often associated with Avo cigars. It has a bit of pepper on the finish at this point as well.

The Compañero is a great smoke and easily my favorite Avo of them all.  I look forward to next April when I smoke my next one.

Redux: Liga Privada T52 by Drew Estate Friday, Mar 19 2010 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Stalk Cut Sungrown Habano
Binder: Brazilian
Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan, and Honduran
Size: Toro 6.0″x52 Ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

Drew Estate has been making quite the splash as of late on the cigar world and especially in the online cigar community and it is not for a type of cigar you would typically associate with the brand.  Recently they have had two very successful and very well received lines of cigars and they are not flavored or infused in any way.  They are traditional cigars and they are sold under the name Liga Privada.  First came the No.9 and most recently the T52 which a lot of cigar smokers are raving about.  Not that long ago I was able to smoke and review a pre-production version of the T52.  Specifically “blend #3” which was supposedly selected as the final blend for what would become the production version of the T52.  Now I have heard second and third had, that Drew Estate actually tweaked that final blend a bit at the last minute using a hybrid of the pre-production blends #3 and #4.  I have no idea how accurate that is if at all but I heard it said often enough that I thought it worth mentioning.

Since I smoked that pre-production version of the T52 I have been looking forward to revisiting the smoke in its final off the shelf incarnation.  I was very surprised by that first T52 and thought it to be a stellar cigar.  You can read my review of it by clicking here.  One of the unique features of this cigar is it’s wrapper.   It is a one of kind wrapper leaf not used on any other cigar.  It is grown in Connecticut and it is harvested in a unique fashion.  You can read all about it in that review of the pre-production stick.

Visually this cigar is just as beautiful as the pre-production version.  Dark and oily, and virtually flawless.  This one was a little different in the flavor department though, and that is not a bad thing.  This T52 starts off with very full and robust meaty flavors.  You feel like you just sat down and began eating a four course meal.  It was wonderful, but I knew if it kept up for the entire smoke it would be too much.  Thankfully it calmed down a bit after the first inch or two.  The I was treated to rich and decadent notes of chocolate and espresso with the occasional flash of licorice.   I don’t recall ever smoking a cigar with such a distinct chocolaty flavor to it.  It would switch back and forth between the thick meaty flavors and the slightly lighter chocolate and espresso.  Towards the end it became very full and robust again with a bit of black pepper on the finish.  I smoked this one down to the nub.  Construction was absolute perfection .  Perfect burn, perfect draw, perfect ash.  I don’t think you could construct a cigar any better than this. I have to say I enjoyed the T52 immensely and found it to be even better than I remember the pre-production blend #3 to be.  This is a must try for any lover of stout, full bodied cigars.  It has earned a spot on my “Matt’s Favs” list.

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…)

Rocky Patel Sun Grown Toro Thursday, Jul 16 2009 

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Country: Honduras
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Brazilian, Dominican, and Nicaraguan
Size: Toro 6.5″ x52 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

Rocky Patel’s Sun Grown has been around for a while now.  It is unique in my opinion because it seems to be  universally respected among cigar smokers as a good, tasty, quality cigar.  Yet it doesn’t have any of the hype or pomp and circumstance around it that other widely respected cigars have, like the VSG or even the Oliva Serie V just as an example.  It seems to fly just below the radar, but ask someone about it and you will almost always here “That’s a great smoke, one of my favorite Rockys!”  Don’t ask about it, and you’ll probably never hear it mentioned.  That just strikes me as odd an unique.

This specimen sports a handsome looking, rustic, rosado colored wrapper.  It has a toothy, dry look to it.  Now, the RP Sun Grown Petite Corona is my hands down favorite vitola in this line.  I think is is an excellent smoke.  A robust, powerful little spice bomb.  I have enjoyed them so much over the years that it wasn’t until now that I have ever bothered to try another vitola, but this time I am smoking a toro.  It starts off with a bit of black pepper and a spiciness that is reminiscent of the Petite Corona only not quite as sharp or robust.  The flavors seem to be muted or muddled in the translation to the large ring gauge.  I get hints of the coffee, earth, and spice that I love in the Petite Corona, only they are faint and muddy and not as pronounced.  I was a bit disappointed with this one.  It seems to me the blend does much better in a smaller format.  Still it was an enjoyable cigar even though it didn’t live up to the standard set by its little brother.

Rating – B

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