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Cigar Review: A Monumental Tribute to America

29 Oct

CAO America MonumentCigar Name: CAO America Monument Torpedo (6 1/4 x 54)

Cigar Description: Connecticut Shade and Broadleaf Maduro around filler from Dominican, Nicaragua, Italy and USA

Cigar Strength: Full

Review of the Cigar itself: After getting back from Baltimore, my humidor is even fuller than before. It is definitely time to step up with more reviews and free up some space so I can enjoy more and.. Hrmm.. Sounds rather like a cyclical thing, eh? Ah, the things one must do to help the economy. The Monument was the last of the barbershopped dark with light stripes cigars from the Fourth of July Sampler. The cigar itself had a sweet smell that highlighted the cool, wet weather we’ve been experiencing in NYC of late. I could almost see the leaves change before my eyes as the aromas of the unlit cigar’s tobacco filled my senses. The cigar’s construction was good and nearly flawless with few, if any, veins. The wrappers were obviously done with enough care that I could barely make out where the maduro started and the shade ended. It was a seamless layering of colours.

The actual tobacco is packed densely within the cigar, giving it a solid feel. The maduro wrapper in particular had a nice oily sheen on it. I easily slipped off the band at the foot of the cigar and cut the pointed end at the head. The light was easy and the draw creamy. I almost wanted to say it was “meaty” in flavour but it wasn’t quite that. It definitely had a nice flavour of mixed spices to it. A good stout would be a nice thing to pair with the cigar. Although the flavour didn’t change much — occasional twinge of nut and wood flavours — it was nice and enjoyable.

The burn at the start was a bit uneven but it did eventually even out as time went on. The overall smoke at times was a bit voluminous but it wasn’t anything bad. The white smoke produced a nice, spicy and creamy scent. As I sat back and watched the rain “pour” sideways,  I carefully tugged the band off and ponder what makes the US great. My experience last week in Baltimore highlights it: it’s the people. All countries have monuments, museums and historical buildings but it really is the people and how they interact with those from outside that make the difference.  Monument is defined as “a structure intended to commemorate something which either needs no commemoration or cannot be commemorated.” To me, this cigar commemorates the average American who is often forgotten in the wild activities of celebrates, politics and the like. It is that Average American who made up this at the first 4th of July and continues to make it something special for him/herself and their family.

Enjoyed with: water

Smoke time: approximately 110 minutes

Final Review Rating: 8.6/10

Monument Factoid: There are 3 “Monuments” in the US: one is in Colorado, one in Pennsylvania and one in Oregon.

 

Quick Review: CAO America Robusto Box Press

01 Oct

CAO America Robusto Box Press

CAO America Robusto Box Press

Cigar Name: CAO America Robusto Box Press (5 1/2 x 55)

Cigar Description: Connecticut Shade and Broadleaf Maduro around filler from Dominican, Nicaragua, Italy and USA

Cigar Strength: Full

Review of the Cigar itself: As I continue through the Four on the 4th of July set, I decided to give the Box Press a go this time. The construction of the cigar was good, although there was a weird “fold over” near the cap. It didn’t take away from the cigar but just seemed to be less attention to detail. The pinstripe wasn’t as noticeable as found on the Potomac. The lighter Connecticut Shade was actually a bit dark.

The cigar had a very mild sweet smell, more milder than I expected. It was kind of surprising given that it’s a full cigar. The actual smell was reminiscent of a sweet woody smell, almost like a cedar. I punched it and lit the foot. The white-blue smoke that wafted up had a nice black pepper scent to it while the initial taste was a light leather with hints of cedar and damp earth tones.

As I got into the 1st third the cedar tastes continued throughout the cigar with hints of the earth, less damp at times. This combo proved to continue through the rest of the cigar until near the end where the tastes became more pronounced. While it was nice to finish with the cedar and leather, it seemed more milder than I expected. Hopefully, the others prove otherwise.

Enjoyed with: water

Smoke time: approximately 110 minutes

Final Review Rating: 8/10

 

Cigar Review: A visit on the Potomac

18 Sep

Taking the time to enjoy a Potomac

Taking the time to enjoy a Potomac

Cigar Name: CAO America Potomac (5 x 56)

Cigar Description: Connecticut Shade and Broadleaf Maduro around filler from Dominican, Nicaragua, Italy and USA

Cigar Strength: Full

Review of the Cigar itself: Since moving to the USA, I’ve become more and more fascinated by America and the people that make up this vast and varied land. What has struck me the most is generally how friendly Americans are. The more I’m here, the more I want to stay. Since I’m enjoying it so much, I figured I’d continue along the 4 part series I did with the Los Blancos and do a four-parter on the Fourth of July Sampler. Yes, I know. Not quite the holiday yet. But I’ve always believed that one shouldn’t wait for a holiday to celebrate something. Barberpoling or pin-striping on cigars has always fascinated me. It’s basically a double-wrapped cigar with two different coloured wrappers (usually a maduro along with a lighter dairy chocolate coloured wrapper). For the Potomac, it appears that it was attempted to be a pin-stripe but some of the “stripes” are thicker than others. Sizing inconsistency aside, when looking closely at the cigar you’d be hard pressed to discern that the lighter stripe was a separate wrapper. I thought at first that it was a strip but even closer inspection shows otherwise.

Additionally, the cigar is thick and solid, feeling very packed. The initial smell and taste is that of spring hay. It makes me think of the many farms that initially made up the heartland of the US. The initial light took a bit to get going. I suspect this is a result of the packed, dense feeling that the cigar gives. The draw is tight and even a poke down the middle with a toothpick relieved only a little bit. So, I tried again, only going deeper with the toothpick. That worked and the cigar performed better. I did begin to notice one thing: my jaw was hurting. The size of the cigar, 56, is definitely a mouthful. The initial tastes came out as a nice, gentle creamy leather. The ghostly white smoke gave off the scent of roasted peanuts (and made me hungry for a PB&J for some reason).

A balancing act

A balancing act

The construction is definitely good. Although at one point I thought it was going to tugboat/tunnel, it self-corrected pretty quickly and efficiently. The solid ash is a motley of white with patches of black, dark grey and light grey. The more I got into the first third, the more it loosened up and the easier the draw became. At one point, the ash got so long I was concerned about it dropping it mid-draw, so I kept the little single ashtray under it and, as luck would have it, it fell on it’s own in the ashtray as a solid inch and a half mass. As it continued into the middle of the cigar the flavour got more pronounced. Occasional earthy tones and strong zings of pepper started to come through.

I, of course, got mildly distracted and forgot to watch the ash. I tumbled on my vSphere book and I had to clean it up. Thankfully it wasn’t too serious a tumble. The last third showed a more meatier taste to it and a generous but not overpowering pepper flavour. The leather had tapered off somewhat while a nice smokey cedar taste started to come through. Although it felt mild at the start, it was finishing with a nice somewhat sweet taste towards the end. I ended up using a toothpick for the nub to keep going right to the last little bit.

Enjoyed with: water

Smoke time: approximately 110 minutes

Final Review Rating: 8.8/10

Tidbit: The Potomac River was designated as an American Heritage River in 1997.

Fun Bit: I couldn’t help but look for good ol’ School House Rock Videos. I remember these as a kid as one of the ways I learned about the US (also learned some US history in Canada — something about some war in 1812 that Canada won ;) )

 

Cigar Review: Double the Fun with Lx2

23 Jan

CAO Lx2 Robusto

CAO Lx2 Robusto

Cigar Name: CAO Lx2 Robusto (5 x 52)

Cigar Description: Nicaraguan wrapper enveloping 100% Ligero Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers

Cigar Strength: Full

Review of the Cigar itself: Ah, the weekend. It kinda started early for me today since I finished teaching early. And since I got rave reviews from my students, I figured I was more than deserving of a good cigar. I had recently seen through a variety of twitter cigar folks discussion about CAO’s LX2 cigar and I figured this would be one that would fit into that classification. I soon discovered that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

The wrapper is a beautiful dark, dark chocolate-like oily wrapper. The dual-bands displayed elegant detail around an extremely well constructed cigar. As I lit the foot and took my first draw, I couldn’t escape the bitter-sweet mocha taste that tickled my tongue and lit up my taste buds. Oh my. This was a great start and it was one that would eventually convince me that I had a new favourite CAO cigar. That first draw was a tad difficult but once it got going,

Enjoying it too well...

Enjoying it too well...

it was wonderful. The aroma was a wonderful earthy spicey and mocha scent, wrapped with deeper allusions of coffee. Since mocha coffee is one of my regular coffee choices when possible, this was almost like smoking my favourite coffee drink.

I blathered away with some BOTL via twitter and went to take pictures when I noticed how quickly the cigar seemed to disappear. I had been enjoying the wonderful flavours so much that the cigar had nearly dwindled away. There were a few moments of rich smoke but these didn’t take away from the cigar. In fact, they added to it as they were infused with a rich, deep earthy scent twisted with hints of paprika and wood. The cigar maintained its burn well, even when I got distracted.  I was able to puff a little and get it going again. Only once did I actually need to fire up my Blazer a second time to get it going. The ash remained solid until I forcibly knocked it off.

As I got down to the last third and nearly to a nub, the sweet mocha savoriness remained on my tongue, almost like my tastebuds were trying to capture the flavour for later enjoyment.  I tasted bits of walnuts and cedar. The nub gave me very distinct black pepper taste. Since I’m often over-sensitive to pepper, this would normally cause me reason to pause but this was actually a pleasant taste. For whatever reason, it made me think of when I put pepper on my salty fries — a very tasty and mouth-water thought (for those of you that eat meat, think peppery steak).

A good burn..

A good burn..

For a full cigar it wasn’t overwhelming. This is, to me, an indication of a well-designed and excellently constructed cigar. If you can enjoy it without having to worry, then the manufacturer has found that “sweet” spot. I almost regretted sending the 2nd stick I had to someone else as part of a cigar bomb but I’m also glad I did send it. They would also get to enjoy this as much as I did. This will be put on my list of top 5 cigars I enjoy: DCM #2, AF Hemingway Short Story, Padron Anniversary 1926, Lieb 100 and now CAO’s Lx2.

The one downside I did find with it was the occassional tugboating that the cigar would do.

Burned my fingers again..

Burned my fingers again..

Often it would self correct but sometimes I did have to nudge it a bit. In fact, that and the initial draw were the only problems I ran into with this cigar. Both, however, were easy to work around. Oh.. there was another. This cigar was so enjoyable that I burned my fingers on it.

If you haven’t picked up one yet, definitely add it to your list of cigars to enjoy this year.

Enjoyed with: water and a bag of Miss Vickies Smokehose BBQ chips.

Smoke time: approximately 90 minutes

Final Review Rating: 8.9/10

 
 

Cigar Review: A sweet Criollo

07 Jan

CAO Criollo Pato

CAO Criollo Pato

Cigar Name: CAO Criollo Pato (4 7/8 x 50)

Cigar Description: Criollo 98 wrapper around Nicaraguan-grown, Cuban seed filler.

Cigar Strength: Full

Review of the Cigar itself: Not sure where I got this one (perhaps from my Secret Santa on CigarPass) but it’s an interesting cigar. The wrapper is,  pronounced ‘cree-yo-yo’, a Criollo 98, Cuban-seed sweet, earthy tasting wrapper. When I first read the label I thought to myself, Oh, cool! I creole cigar. Being Acadian, this appealed to me in a heritage sense. In actuality, it means someone of pure European Spanish decent, although sometimes is translated to mean creole. The usage of it suggests, when referencing an object, that it has been made or grown locally. Perhaps a better definition is that it’s simple in it’s creation. And sometimes simpler is better.

Piglet Tail

The Piglet Tail

That is the case with this cigar. It has a nice sweet flavour to it (not an overwhelming sweetness) with a gentle twinge of leather and nuttiness in the background. The head or cap of the cigar is twisted off into a little “piglet tail”.  I had gotten into the habit of laying the head flat on my desk while cutting it so this meant I’d have to hold it and cut carefully. It actually cut quite well. The construction felt a little loose and there were a few veins along the chocolate brown wrapper but it still looked appealing. I toasted the end of it as I listened to a colleague on my Skype headset. One of the advantages of my job is that I get to work from home and often get to enjoy a cigar at my leisure while working.

criollo4

Now that's a burn

The aroma from the cigar was mild and pleasant but, sometimes, was overwhelmed by the amount of smoke that it generated. At one point, when I went into a long discussion with my colleague, the cigar went out and I had to relight it. It was as if nothing had happened. It re-lit with ease and continued to burn perfectly. Rarely do I find a cigar that can be re-lit on the first go and continue so easily. Construction appearance aside, it’s well made. This also has to be the one cigar that I got such a single long ash on, especially after a relight. The sweetness dissipated near the end, only to be replaced with a rich peppery taste. Tied in with that peppery was a stronger leather taste while the sweeter taste was relegated to the background. For a relatively small cigar, it packed a nice taste to it.

One thing that both disappointed me was the band. While I liked the simpler paper band and it was loose enough to remove, it did tear too easily. Next time I’ll just slip it off. All-in-all, a nice little discovery for myself and yet another cigar to add to my “I like list”.

Enjoyed with: Coffee and water

Smoke time: approximately 75 minutes

Final Review Rating: 8.5/10

 
 

Sunday Quick Shots: a Punch, a BestSeller and a Cameroon

17 Nov

Today is a “work” day for me, largely for my other writing projects. I kinda have to focus on a security article as well as my novel. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a cigar while I write. So I thought I’d do some quick reviews of the cigars I smoked.

Punch Maduro Rothschild: very nice, mild cigar (although listed as a full bodied cigar). Well constructed Honuduras and Nicaraugan filler with a nice US Connecticut Maduro wrapper that results in some nice nutty flavours in the background. It was a bit smokey at times, which was a bit of a turn-off. Still, it’s a good smoke and probably worthy of a 8/10 review. This would work well as an “every day” cigar (about $2/stick if you buy a box of 50).

Arturo Fuente Hemingway Bestseller: much like the Short Story, this is a very pleasant and enjoyable cigar. The creamyness of the cigar comes through and it relaxes my mind as I churn out words for my novel/biography. I can understand why Hemingway always had a cigar as he wrote: when the mind relaxes, words fumble out far easier. If I had the ingredients for a mint julip, I’d make one to compliment the tiny mint flavouring that tickles the edges of the cigar taste. 9/10

CAO Cameroon Robusto: Unlike the CX2, this is a pretty basic flavoured cigar. As much as I enjoy my Cameroon wrappers (probably why I like the Hemingway line so much), this isn’t comparable in flavour or quality. Don’t get me wrong. It’s an ok cigar but not something I’d treat to everyone and certainly not something I’d have every day. The flavour was pretty bland and simple. I’d put this one at a 7/10.

 
 

Quick Review: Cameroon to the Max with a Cx2

28 Oct

Cigar Name: CAO Cx2 Toro (6 x 54)

Cigar Description: Cameroon wrapper over Cameroon filler

Cigar Strength: Medium

Review of the Cigar itself: I’ve always loved Cameroon cigars. They have this creaminess that just tastes right. I had heard that the Cx2 by CAO and this definitely didn’t disappoint. I had purchased this yesterday at Tinderbox and after the long day I had, it seemed an appropriate dessert. The constructions was solid, firm and very much a meal on it’s own. It did make me think of a Guiness stout that is often a meal on it’s own. Cutting it was perfect, with not a single tear or piece of tobacco hanging out. I was able to take the band off without a tear on wrapper or the band.

As I toasted the end, I got a wonderful whiff of a sweet, creamy sensation. What I liked was that it wasn’t an over powering sensation but more like a subtle hint as to what was to come. The first draw was a gentle sweet flavour that I’ve come to like from the Cameroon wrappers but was more consistent since it was also in the filler. And I didn’t want to stop. The ash burned perfectedly and the cigar never needed a relight. The taste stayed very subtle for the first half of the cigar but as I got deeper into it, I got hints of leather and sweet herb.

It’s nice when one has a well-made cigar to enjoy. It becomes a nice side focus for the evening and often, is rather unobtrusive. As I got down to the nub, a minty sensation. It was a pleasant ending to the evening.

Enjoyed with: Water, Coca-Cola and some sunflower seeds to snack on.

Smoke time: approximately an hour and a half

Final Review Rating: 9.5/10

 
 

Quick Review: CAO Ying Yang (50-50) Box Pressed Cigar

25 Oct

To finish my day off yesterday, I decided to get one from the CAO Ying Yang sampler I got. It came with a CAO Black and a CAO VR and then 3 cigars that were blended with tobacco from each, at varying levels: one has more Black than VR, one has more VR than Black and one has a 50-50 split. I had the 50-50 split, the “true” Ying Yang. Visually this is a nice, box pressed cigar and is well constructed. I toasted it up, got my water ready and relaxed.

The aroma that it exuded was pleasant, with a hint of nuts and pepper in the background. The taste carried the same along with a creamy texture/flavour to it. I was surprised it wasn’t more flavourful or more powerful on the flavour given that it had the CAO VR as the first half. As it switched into the 2nd half, the CAO Black, I began to taste a licorice flavour (fennel, perhaps) and it became rather strong. Hidden behind that was a slight leather taste that would burst out now and again. I’d clean my palate many times to ensure I wasn’t imagining the flavours but soon realized that this was, in fact, what was there. Not a bad cigar for a medium-full mixture but not something I’d have all the time. Certainly interesting to say the least. If you do find one of the samplers, give it a try.

 
 

Cigars for newbies

11 Oct

This can be a challenge to determine what cigars are best for newbies. It does depend on your taste buds. I’d say it’d be worthwhile trying only a stick or two at first. If you really like something then you can buy a box and put them into your humidor or tupperware-dor. One of the things you should invest into is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars, 2nd Edition, an excellent book that recommends and breaks down the finer points of cigars and the world of cigars.

Also, where possible, visit a local B&M cigar store so that you can look at and touch the cigars. There should be a firm give but not like a wet sponge. Remember that cigars are kept at 70/70 range (70F and 70% humidity). If they respond like a wet sponge, then the store has too much humidity. If they don’t respond at all and feel like wooden, dry stick, then likely they are too dry. Also check for a bluish tinge. If you see that or perfectly round holes, then go to another store. These are indications of mold look almost like the mold you’d find on food — fuzzy and slightly coloured. If you see a white tinge and it’s not quite mold, it’s likely that you have bloom or plume. This is an indication of a nicely aged cigars. I found these photos elsewhere that show mold on cigars so you can get a feel for it.

Plume or bloom is the release of the oils from the cigar and because of the wrapper, they get trapped inside drying and turning into a white powder. You can see the difference in this photo. Plume is not a bad thing as it is a natural occurrence and does indicate an aged cigar. All you have to do is wipe it gently off with your fingers and you can smoke it fine.

Generally speaking, most cigar newbies start off with mild or slightly flavoured cigars. This helps to develop the palate and as time passes, you’ll find you’ll get into the more bolder cigars. You can ask your local B&M for suggestions. Personally, I would start with a sampler of sorts from a local B&M or online store.

If you have a sweet tooth I’d definitely suggest the Drew Estates or Acid lines. The Dirt and Krush are definite ones to start out trying. They tend to be mild and the wrappers are literally dipped in a sugar, which gives them a sweet flavour throughout the cigar. This isn’t something that everyone would enjoy.

If you’re not big into flavour but want to start off mild look to the Macundo (Gold, Cafe or Maduro), CAO Gold, Ashton or one of my favourite brands, the Rocky Patel Connecticut. I’d also stick in the Georges Reserve that I like so much (these can only be obtained from Famous Smoke) These cigars will range in price (depending on your area and tax rate) from about $2-$8 per cigar. Many of these come with a natural or a cameroon wrapper.

For a medium flavoured cigar, you can’t go wrong with many of the sun grown varieties from the likes of Arturo Fuente and Perdomo. You also may want to try Perdomo Lot 23 or the Ashton Heritage or Cabinet lines. These will all give you more of a flavour punch when it comes to tasting the nutty, creamy flavours that I’ve talked about (and literally, that’s what you’ll taste). When I first experienced this, I finally understood what I had read elsewhere.

If you’re really adventurous and want to go out and try a full-flavoured cigar, I’d suggest first making sure you’ve eaten a full meal (and I mean a full meal). Try it after dinner and not after working 72 hours non-stop. Ensure you’re rested. I suspect most people get sick on their cigars when they try them on empty stomachs and when they are exhausted for the first go. Have water or a nice mild beer nearby. For these cigars, look to the CAO Brazilia, Rocky Patel Sungrown (very nice), Perdomo Cameroon Reserve (again, a nice cigar), Gurkha Triple Ligero and the CAO Lx2. If you have a few extra bucks, look to the Ashton VSG for a great experience.

For me personally, I’ve found I like the cameroon wrapper and often look for cigars that have that. If you like a spicer flavour (you like hot wings and such), look for peppery wrappers like the rosado wrapper found on the Partagas Spanish Rosado, the Rocky Patel Rosado or the Perdomo Cuban Parejo. These can be trickier to find at times but are often well worth it. Now, you may have noticed that I’ve stuck with some major brands. It can be worthwhile to try those out first, figure out what you like (mild, medium or full) and then try other brands as recommended by friends or on whims. I personally tend to try a lot of a variety of things, although I do tend to stick almost exclusively with handrolled cigars.

Expect to spend about $4-$15 per cigar and plan in advance. Cigar smoking can be an expensive hobby at times and if you get deals, a humidor can bring those prices down (e.g., the Georges Reserve I like so much sometimes have a two-for-one deal thus effectively cutting the price in half — a humidor ensures that these will be a wise investment).

Whatever you’re choice is in the end, remember to take the time and enjoy it. It is the time spent with friends and family while enjoying a cigar that makes it more than just a smoke.