Category: Cigar of the Week

Cigar of the Week: Cuba Libre Magnum

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Cuba Libre Magnum cigar

Brand: Cuba Libre
Line: Cuba Libre
Vitola: Magnum (Robusto 5.5 x 55)
Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Body: Medium-to-full
Strength: Medium-to-full
Box Price: $75 (Box of 20)

Famed tobacconist Nestor Plasencia must have received news of Fidel Castro stepping down before the rest of us.

Well, that’s probably a stretch, but the Cuba Libre is a fairly new offering from Plasencia, who left Cuba at a young age, and is being offered at a decent price pretty much all over the Web. (Thanks to Steve from Cigars International for getting this out to me.)

The box-pressed “Magnum,” or robusto, has a slightly oily wrapper that’s toothy — but extremely attractive — and is highlighted by the cigar’s red, white blue and gold band. It’s a good looking cigar.

It has an easy, slightly creamy prelight draw. Once I lit the sucker up, it peppered up a tad on me, but the spice was smoothed out by its nutty, almost earthy, sweet finish. (Gotta love that Corojo wrapper!) The Cuba Libre stayed this way through the end.

There were no burn, ash or draw issues here, as I smoked it down to the nub. (Through several of these, I’ve found they stay cool.)

Verdict: While it doesn’t pack the punch of the Punch Rare Corojo, it makes up for it with its smoothness. It’s not an overly complex smoke, but I have to say I enjoyed this one from start to finish. My question: What’ll happen when the other Castro steps down? Will Plasencia stop making these cigars? I hope not.

Similar cigars: Most medium-bodied Plasencias.

Cigar of the Week: Nat Sherman V.I.P Selection Carnegie

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Nat Sherman VIP cigar

Brand: Nat Sherman
Line: V.I.P. Selection
Vitola: Carnegie (Toro) 6 x 48
Origin: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Connecticut
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Brazilian, Dominican
Body: Mild
Strength: Mild
Box Price: $134 (Box of 25)

Another day, another Nat Sherman. Oh well, things could be worse.

This time, it’s the Nat Sherman V.I.P. Selection. As you’d imagine, for a cigar with vitolas named after famous New Yorkers like Andrew Carnegie, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jacob Astor, Cornelius Vanderbilt and J.P. Morgan, it’s a luxurious smoke.

It’s an extremely light-colored, smooth cigar, not toothy at all, and has a good prelight draw. I found that once I started it, it was buttery and sweet, with an incredible burn and a creamy finish.

Verdict: I think I’ve found my new mild-bodied cigar. It is, by far the smoothest mild-bodied smoke of the Nat Sherman collection. Very enjoyable.

Similar cigars: I’d go so far as to compare it to the Davidoff Special Series cigars.

Cigar of the Week: Nat Sherman 1400 Series Omerta

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Nat Sherman Omerta

Brand: Nat Sherman
Line: 1400 Series
Vitola: Omerta (Torpedo) 6 x 54
Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Body: Medium-to-full
Strength: Medium-to-full
Box Price: $36.00 (Box of 6)

Man, the Omerta. I remember smoking this one as I was wearing my New York Giants Superbowl championship hoodie the other day. (Yeah, I have to gloat a bit.)

Omerta, as you probably know, is the mob code of silence. But I don’t think I can be quiet about this one. The Omerta is the torpedo size of the Nat Sherman 1400 Series line, named to commemorate the store’s original location at 1400 Broadway in New York.

As soon as I took the box-pressed Omerta out of its cellophane wrapper, I was struck by its hearty, earthy prelight scent and its stellar construction. (I love a good cap, and the Omerta delivers.) It also has a gorgeous dark Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, which is highlighted by its silver-and-black band. (Sorry about the blurry picture on this one, guys!)

Once lit, the Omera gave me a heavy dose of black pepper at first, but about a third of the way in, it smoothed out into a heartier cigar, but had an aftertaste reminiscent of cacao beans.

The cigar produced very solid, white ash. It started burning a tad unevenly about halfway through, but the burn self-corrected after about half an inch. Towards the end, for some reason, the draw got very tight.

Verdict: At about $6 a stick, I’d say this is a good buy. It’s a nice change of pace for Nat Sherman, which tends to make milder-bodied cigars. I like the company’s darker side. Fuwahahaha.

Similar cigars: The EO 601 Maduro Blue Label. Both dark Nicaraguans; both sweet once you get to know ’em.

Cigar of the Week: Hoyo de Tradicion Epicure

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Hoyo de Tradicion

Brand: Hoyo de Monterrey
Line: Hoyo de Tradicion
Vitola: Epicure (Robusto) 5.25 x 50
Origin: Honduran
Wrapper: Honduran
Binder: Connecticut
Filler: Honduran, Nicaraguan, Dominican
Body: Medium
Strength: Medium
Box Price: $101.25 (Box of 25)

The Hoyo de Tradicion is a cool-looking cigar. Smooth, rosado wrapper with barely visible veins. Box-pressed. Handsome white band. It’s a newer release from Hoyo de Monterrey, which has recently garnered some attention for its Excalibur Maduro line. Jesse sent me this one, so I was eager to see how it was. (Thanks, man!)

Taking a prelight sniff, I found the HT was spicy enough to sting my nostrils a bit when I inhaled. Maybe I was stuffed up, or maybe I inhaled too hard, but I liked it. I also got a touch of cinnamon at the end.

Once lit, you’ll find the HT has a tremendous burn, along with a good draw and , which allow hints of spice, cinnamon, peanuts and leather to pass through.

Verdict: It’s a good cigar for $4-$5. But for this price, I’d probably pick up the Partagas Spanish Rosado.

Similar cigars: I’d say it’s a slightly milder version of the Partagas SR.

Cigar of the Week: Los Blancos Primos Maduro Torpedo

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Los Blancos Primos Maduro

Brand: Los Blancos Cigar Company
Line: Primos Maduro
Vitola: Torpedo 6.5 x 52
Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan (Habana Criollo Maduro)
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Honduran, Nicaraguan and Peruvian
Body: Full
Strength: Full
Box Price: $2.50 per individual cigar

I recently wrote an article for a local magazine about the Los Blancos Cigar Company, which has recently made some waves in the cigar community. Los Blancos, based in my hometown of Chicago, has received some critical acclaim for its lines, especially its Primos Maduro bundle line, which was recently reviewed in the March/April issue of Cigar Aficionado. (Fellow CigarJack-ite Jesse reviewed its brother, the Primos Criollo line, a couple of months ago.)

Now, I like supporting local businesses and all of that, but they have to have a good product. Los Blancos does, as the Blanco family are cousins with the famed Plasencia family, pretty much the biggest tobacco growers in Nicaragua. I was talking to David Blanco, one of the Los Blancos heads, and he told me they have a big release coming up this year. Anyway, I’ll probably have a Q&A with him sometime soon.

Back to the Primos Maduro. With a wrapper aged for three years, it has a complex prelight scent that’s spicy and woody. It has a beautiful band and a toothy, veiny, rustic-looking texture. But through this, you can see it’s well-made.

Once lit, it settles down to have a woody, very earthy taste. In the second half, it spices up a bit, but not too much. I was able to get a good draw out of these suckers, but there were definitely some burn issues here. Like my fellow reviewer St. Jimbob, I had to touch it up a couple of times.

Verdict: The Blancos Maduro tastes good, and I really love its earthiness, but I’m not sure I want to wrangle the uneven burn each time I light one up. Because it’s local, I think I’ll try one again in a few months to see if the it’s gotten any better, and at a price point of $2-$3, it’s definitely worth a shot.

Similar cigars: Towards the beginning, its earthiness reminded me of the Perdomo Reserve Maduro, except the Primos Maduro isn’t as sweet.

Cigar of the Week: Zino Platinum Scepter Grand Master

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Zino Platinum Scepter photo

Brand: Zino Platinum
Line: Scepter Series
Vitola: Grand Master (Robusto) 5 1/2 x 52
Origin: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
Binder: Connecticut
Filler: Dominican/Peruvian
Body: Mild-to-medium
Strength: Mild-to-medium
Box Price: $140 (Box of 12)

There are very few cigar brands that are able to cash in on their name alone. CAO comes to mind. Montecristo is another. But very few brands rival Davidoff in reputation.

With this in mind, I set out to try Davidoff’s Zino Platinum line. For this review, I’ll tackle the ZP Scepter Series, blended by Davidoff guru H. Kellner. (Thanks to Richard Krutick from Davidoff for sending this one out to me.)

You can’t miss the Zino Platinum Scepters in your store’s humidor; they come in tins of 12 cigars. The distinctive Zino band, with its silver and black shield, is flat-out regal. This theme is continued in the Zino’s art, paintings of funny-looking dogs in Louis XVI-type getups. By all measures, it seems to be a serious brand, but the paintings show me that it can take itself lightly.

Pre-light, the Zino Platinum has a pleasant aroma of cocoa and butter. Once you light it, and as you progress through it, the cocoa scent will intensify into a strong mocha flavor, as it’s joined by hints of coffee, almond, cedar and a touch of spice. For a mild-bodied cigar, you’ll find its complexity — helped by its year-aged binder and the one year-aged wrapper — almost refreshing. It’s anything but overpowering, and it has a smooth aftertaste.

The Scepter is a well-made cigar that burns evenly, has a good draw and will produce a thick plume of bluish smoke. This one will require very little, if any, maintenance, and will take you about an hour to get through.

Verdict: At $15 a pop, it will set you back a bit. But make no bones about it: the Zino Platinum Scepter is an exceptional smoke. Kellner made a good one here. Pair it with a nice Pinot noir for a great post-Valentine’s day treat.

Similar cigars: Even though this one has a Connecticut Ecuadorian wrapper, and is a touch sweeter, I’d compare it to the Graycliff Professionale.

Cigar of the Week: CAO Vision Prana/Catalyst

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

CAO Vision Prana cigar

Brand: CAO
Line: Vision
Vitola: Prana (Torpedo 6.25 x 52), Catalyst (Robusto 5 x 50)
Origin: Dominican
Wrapper: Domincan
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan, Brazilian
Body: Medium
Strength: Medium
Box Price: $320 (Box of 20)

I’m always for lighting up a much-hyped cigar. And few have been hyped more than the CAO Vision, Cigar Aficionado‘s #9-ranked cigar of 2007.

In the cigar blogosphere, CAO seems to have a reputation for flexing more marketing muscle than other companies. For the Vision, perhaps it’s justified.

It’s CAO’s first Dominican-made cigar, and it comes in some rather innovative packaging: a high-tech humidor complete with a built-in hygrometer, a digital display and neon blue LED lights. It’s an impressive-looking thingamajig, and the cigars are equally impressive.

The Vision has a veiny, four-year-old Dominican Corojo wrapper, an earthy, leathery scent, along with a good prelight draw. Both the Prana and Catalyst vitolas continued to draw extremely well as I smoked them down. They continued to taste earthy, but they smoothed out towards the middle, as hints of cream and roasted peanuts were added to the mix, probably from the aged wrapper. At the end, the Vision got a tad spicy, which I also enjoyed.

Verdict: The burns on these were even, but slow, so I smoked the Prana for almost two hours, and the Catalyst for about 80 minutes. The Vision is extremely consistent through these two vitolas — I didn’t try the Epiphany (Toro, 6 x 50) — but I think you’ll find it’s a pleasant cigar overall. With a price tag of $12-$16, it’s a good medium-bodied, special-occasion smoke.

Similar cigars: The Graycliff Crystal, which I’ll hopefully have a chance to review soon!

Cigar of the Week: Bobalu Wedge

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Bobalu Wedge

Brand: Bobalu Cigar Company
Line: Wedge
Vitola: Belicoso 6.5 x 50
Origin: United States
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Ecuadorian
Filler: Dominican
Body: Medium
Strength: Medium
Box Price: $105.00 (Box of 25)

Continuing on my recent string of independent and boutique cigar companies, the Bobalu Cigar Co. is a great story. Based in Austin, Texas, it’s a cigar shop that features about a dozen of its own lines, ranging from spicy Ecuadorian cigars to smoother Dominican stogies.

Bobalu seems to pride itself on the skill of its rollers, which are available for events. Most of the time, you can even watch them roll cigars at work on the Live RollerCam. Company manager John Haddad sent me out a few of his cigars to try, and the first one is the maduro Wedge.

Pre-smoke, you’ll notice the Wedge’s interesting shape. There’s something to be said about a cigar that naturally looks like it should hang, gangster-style, out of your mouth. You’ll find it smells nutty, mainly, with hints of chocolate.

The Wedge starts out spicy, but once it smoothed out, I found it was smooth and creamy, with a nutty aftertaste. It was so fragrant and tasty, I smoked it all the way to the nub. (The cigar’s shape helped me out with that one as well, but when Mollie, my girlfriend, comments on the cigar I happen to be smoking, that’s a good thing.)

Bobalu’s rollers did a good job with this one too. After a jagged burn to start, the Wedge corrected itself after about 3/4 of an inch, and I didn’t have to touch it up at all.

Verdict: If you like supporting local rollers, there’s nothing better than going with someone in the good ol’ U.S. of A. I really enjoyed this one, and I look forward to Bobalu’s other cigars.

Similar cigars: A stunt double for La Flor Dominican Double Ligero Maduro Chisel shape-wise, but it tastes like the Camacho SLR Maduro.

Cigar of the Week: Nat Sherman Metropolitan Maduro Selection University (Toro)

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Nat Sherman Metropolitan Maduro

Brand: Nat Sherman
Line: Metropolitan Maduro Selection
Vitola: University (Toro) 6 x 50
Origin: Dominican
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Body: Medium-to-full
Strength: Medium-to-full
Box Price: $80.08 (Box of 25)

Last week, I reviewed the Nat Sherman Metropolitan Selection. To round out the Nat Shermans, I bring you its darker Sicilian cousin — or, in this case, its Connecticut Broadleaf-wrapped cousin — the Metropolitan Maduro. (Thanks to Mike from Nat’s.)

Pre-light, the cigar was as subtle as its cousins. It smelled a touch spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. In fact, I was struck by its sweetness. Upon lighting up, I noticed hints of cinnamon and oak, but as I progressed through the cigar, it got a bit peppery. But for a Broadleaf, I wasn’t hit in the face. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised; it is a Nat Sherman.

Like the other Nats, the construction was quite good. With Broadleaf wrappers, I’ve found, I’ll sometimes get uneven burns. The Maduro burned evenly and didn’t go out once.

Verdict: Like the Metropolitan and Host selections, the Maduro is consistent throughout. It’s not overly complex, and its sweetness enhances the taste, rounding out the sharpness you would expect from a maduro. But if you like your cigars dark, this one is not for you. It would be a good beginner’s stogie, however.

Similar cigars: I’d compare this to the Occidental Reserve Double Maduro.