Category: Cigar of the Week

Cigar of the Week: Fittipaldi Gold Toro

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Fittipaldi Gold Toro cigar

Brand: Fittipaldi
Line: Gold
Vitola: Toro 6 x 50
Origin: Dominican
Wrapper: Connecticut
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Body: Medium
Strength: Medium
Box Price: $151.69 (Box of 25)

I happened to be doing a search recently for small, independent cigar brands, when I ran into this one. I had never heard of Fittipaldi Cigars before, but I figured I’d give it a try.

Since they’re named for Emerson Fittipaldi, one of the top Formula One drivers of the 20th century, it was no surprise to learn these cigars are mainly sold in Europe. (He was F-1 world champion twice in the 1970s, and he even won the Indianapolis 500 twice during the 90s.) In 1997, after his career was over, Fittipaldi, a longtime cigar smoker, teamed up with cigar maker Augusto Reyes, who would oversee Fittipaldi’s stogie production. (Thanks to Josh at Arango Cigar Co. in nearby Northbrook, Ill., for sending me this one; Arango oversees Fittipaldi distribution in the U.S.)

The Fittipaldi Gold a handsome cigar; it’s not toothy, and it has a good-looking band that features dual checkered flags. Pre-light, I noticed the Gold was a complex cigar, as it was chocolaty, with hints of cinnamon. I know I’d be in for a wild ride.

Once I lit up, I noticed the cinnamon went away. The chocolate stayed, and it was joined by hints of leather and coffee. I was quite pleased by the cigar’s complexity.

The Fittipaldi Gold had an awesome draw, feel and burn, but I noticed the ash kept falling off after about an inch and a half or so. Perhaps this isn’t a big deal to you, but I’m an ash-hole; I like to see how big my butt can get. This, I can honestly say, was the only disappointing part of the cigar.

Verdict: Complex, complex smoke. Tasty, and good. It’s a bit hard to find in the states, but it’s worth digging around for a couple.

Similar cigars: The Connecticut/Dominican version of a Carlos Torano Exodus 1959. (I just love those Chocolate flavors!)

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

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Nat Sherman Metropolitan

Brand: Nat Sherman
Line: Metropolitan Selection
Vitola: University (Toro) 6 x 50
Origin: Dominican
Wrapper: Connecticut Shade
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Body: Medium-to-full
Strength: Medium-to-full
Box Price: $79.95 (Box of 25)

Next up for Nat Sherman: its Metropolitan line. (Thanks, once again, to Mike Holba from Nat’s for sending me this one.)

The Metropolitan is one of Nat’s best-selling lines, and I can see why. It’ll start you off with a nice toasty flavor, but as you progress through the cigar, you’ll get hints of coffee a touch of spice. It’s not as sweet as its brother, the Host; it’s a bit more balanced, and quite sophisticated.

I did notice, however, that one of the Metropolitans started to fall apart towards the head, mainly around the band. The second Metropolitan I smoked, however, did not.

Verdict: Once again, a consistent smoke throughout with the taste of a slightly more expensive cigar. I paired this one with a Stella Artois — I like some cigars with beer; sue me — as it’s a good smoke to have after a heavy dinner. (I stay away from heavy, heavy smokes after big meals.) As I said earlier, there were some structural issues with one of the cigars, but you may find there aren’t any. Either way, I wouldn’t let this scare me from buying a few.

Similar cigars: I’d compare this to the Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real.

Cigar of the Week: Nat Sherman Host Harrington (Corona)

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Nat Sherman Host

Brand: Nat Sherman
Line: Host Selection
Vitola: Harrington (Corona) 6 x 46
Origin: Honduran
Wrapper: Connecticut Shade
Binder: Honduran
Filler: Honduran
Body: Mild-to-medium
Strength: Mild
Box Price: $74.95 (Box of 25)

Man, it’s been a while since I’ve smoked a Nat Sherman Host. These take me back five years, to the summer after my freshman year of college. I used to stop by here perhaps once a week to pick up a couple of stogies for the week. It’s amazing what can happen in five years, no? (I’ll be reviewing each of the company’s three main lines over the next several weeks. Thanks to Mike Holba from Nat’s for sending them out to me.)

Nat Sherman, located near the main branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan (remember that building at the very beginning of Ghostbusters? That’s the one.), is one of the oldest tobacconists in the city. The store has been open for a while, but for me, the brand has always had a certain allure and classiness about it. Speaking of which, former president Bill Clinton is known to have enjoyed a Trafalgar No. 4 every once in a while. (Consequently, Monica may have as well…)

Anyhow, the Host is a handsome cigar, smooth in texture, with Nat’s Sherman signature clock adorning its red, green and gold band.

Taste-wise, it’s a mild-bodied cigar, but it doesn’t fall short in flavor. It’s sweet–almost caramel-flavored–but not overpoweringly so, and after about an inch or so, I noticed hints of almond. The sweet and nutty flavors continued all the way down the cigar and, if anything, I noticed the cigar got even sweeter into the second half.

The Host had a steady, even burn and a full draw throughout, and I didn’t have to relight the cigar. The Harrington, which is a Corona-sized cigar, took me about an hour and a half to finish.

Verdict: It’s a consistent smoke throughout with the taste of a five- or six-dollar cigar. At only a couple of bucks apiece, however, the Host is one of the better deals you’ll find in New York. I’d pair this one with a cup of coffee, as it’s a stellar morning smoke. I smoked it down to the nub. You probably will too.

Similar cigars: Almost A dead ringer for the Macanudo Gold.

Cigar of the Week: CAO Black VR Moby (Toro)

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

CAO Black VR #1

Brand: CAO
Line: Black VR
Vitola: Moby (Toro) 6 x 50
Origin: Honduran
Wrapper: Brazilian
Filler: Nicaraguan, Mexican
Body: Full
Strength: Full
Box Price: $116 (Box of 20)

A little while ago, I reviewed the CAO Black for CigarJack. Now, it’s time for its younger sibling, the CAO Black VR. Once again, Steve from Cigars International came through with this one.

The CAO Black VR is a good-looking cigar. Everything from the band, to the cigar’s oily sheen, all the way down to the extra Jackson Pollock-esque band at the opposite end of the cigar. (Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ugly CAO.)

When I lit into the stogie, it floored me with a nice 1-2 punch of a full body and a signature maduro spicyness — something I’m used to getting halfway into the cigar. I kept puffing away, a bit nervous about what the rest of the cigar had in store for me.

Then, a funny thing happened: the Black VR mellowed out a bit, giving the Brazilian wrapper a chance to sweeten the deal for me–literally. I got some hints of chocolate and leather, but as I continued, the stogie’s complexity continued to impress me.

Once again, even burn, nice white ash. A good all-around cigar.

Verdict: I enjoyed the Black VR; however, this cigar isn’t for everyone, as it doesn’t strike me as a “traditional” maduro. If I’m smoking a cigar this dark, I tend to enjoy bigger ring gauges, something this line doesn’t offer.

Similar cigars: Partagas Black

Cigar of the Week: CAO Black Gothic (Torpedo)

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

CAO Black cigar #1

Brand: CAO
Line: Black
Vitola: Gothic (Torpedo) 6 x 52
Origin: Nicaraguan
Wrapper: Ecuadorian
Binder: Honduran
Filler: Nicaraguan, Honduran, Mexican
Body: Medium
Strength: Medium
Box Price: $118 (Box of 20)

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted a review, but I’m glad to be back!

Steve from Cigars International sent me a few of the CAO Black and CAO Black VR (stay tuned for that review later) stogies to check out. (Thanks, Steve!)

Now one of the top brands in the industry, Nashville-based CAO really started on what would become its road to fame in the mid-90s, when the company released the Black. After smoking this, you’ll be able to see why the company became a hit.

As you can see, it’s a good-looking cigar. When packed, it’s wrapped in a thin slice of cedar wood, but after peeling back the cedar, I noticed the wrapper was especially smooth.

Upon lighting up, the cigar had a very even draw and produced a ton of smoke. The Black tasted sweet and nutty at first, but as I continued smoking, it turned a bit spicy…cedary too. (Although that could’ve just been from the way it was wrapped.) All in all, the CAO Black throws a lot of different flavors at you, but I found that it’s a good, well-balanced smoke.

Now about its structure. With many of my past CAO smokes, I’ve noticed they all burn quite evenly and have solid, white ash. The Black is no different; it’s solidly-constructed and is a low-maintenance cigar.

Verdict: Nice medium-bodied, complex smoke. I’d certainly smoke the CAO Black again!

Similar cigars: Rocky Patel Vintage 1999

Lighting Up: A good cigar can add a touch of class to your smoking regimen

By Daniel B. Honigman

On Jan. 1, Chicago’s new smoking ban officially snuffed out people’s ability to light up in bars and restaurants. And since this winter is already in full chill, standing outside your favorite spot to have a quick cigarette is, well, no fun.

But instead of freezing your ass off to enjoy a Camel Light, why not enjoy a nice cigar at home? “People don’t buy cigars because they’re must-buys,” says William O’Hara, owner of Jack Schwartz Importer (141 W. Jackson, 312/782-7898). “People buy cigars because smoking them makes the event much more memorable. You can be celebrating a party, a birth, a graduation—whatever. It’s an occasion.”

If you’re going to take the plunge and enjoy a handrolled cigar, there are a few things you should know first. When picking out a cigar, O’Hara suggests you give it a squeeze. “If the cigar is stored properly, you’ll find it has just a little bit of give,” he says. “You don’t want it to be too dry, because it won’t smoke properly, but you don’t want it to be too moist either. You’re looking for a smooth draw, because if you fight with the cigar, it won’t be as enjoyable.”

Because there are hundreds of cigar manufacturers in business, choosing the cigar that’s right for you is a very personal experience, says Raki Mehra, owner of Hubbard State Cigar Shop (6 W. Hubbard, 312/670-0687). But there are a couple of things you’ll want to consider: Cigars vary in length (they can range from four inches long to seven or more); thickness, which is measured in ring gauge (a cigar with a 64 ring gauge is one inch in diameter, and most cigars fall between 32 and 52); and, of course, flavor.

A cigar’s flavor has a lot to do with its wrapper (the tobacco leaf wrapped around the filler tobacco), and darker cigars will generally taste heavier and spicier than lighter cigars. “ The darker and [more] shiny a cigar looks, the more complex the flavors will usually be,” Mehra says.

Time is also a huge factor in picking out a cigar. A bigger cigar—a seven-inch Churchill, for example—can take up to two hours to finish, which is way too much time in the winter for most. A four-and-a-half-inch petit perfecto, on the other hand, takes as
little as 30 minutes. (Smaller cigars are also lighter on the wallet.)

Also, if you’re new to cigars, you probably don’t want to turn three shades of green. As much as you’re tempted, lay off that super-dark, Tony Soprano-esque double maduro cigar, no matter how cool you think it’ll make you look.

If you decide to become a full-time cigar smoker, you can’t just leave them laying around: Store them in a humidor, which runs anywhere from $20 to tens of thousands of dollars depending on how many cigars you want to store. You’ll also need a humidifier and a gauge.

The investment, says Mike Maddaloni, 40, a Loop-based web consultant, is worth it. “ When you’re smoking a cigar, you’re not running around or doing anything fast-paced, and it adds to a good experience,” he says. “I’ll smoke a cigar, and I’ll spend more money on that than people would on a pack of cigarettes, but in the long run, it’s cheaper.”

Quick cigar suggestions

The CAO America ($6-$8) is a beautiful-looking smoke. It’s not too full-bodied and has a bit of a chocolatey, earthy taste.

Since it’s cold outside, the Punch Champion ($3.50-$4.50) is a good short smoke.

For folks looking for a good budget cigar, the Occidental Reserve by Alec Bradley (roughly $2 on CigarsInternational.com) is a sure thing.

If you have $20 burning a hole in your pocket, you may want to check out the Graycliff Professionale. It’s worth every penny and is good for weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduations—or if you’re trying to kiss up to your boss.

This story originally appeared in the Jan. 8 issue of UR Chicago Magazine. You can pick it up from a UR Chicago box in downtown Chicago or you can read it here.

Cigar of the Week: Flor de Oliva Torpedo

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Flor de Oliva cigar #1

Brand: Oliva
Line: Flor de Oliva
Vitola: Torpedo 6 x 52
Origin: Nicaraguan
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Body: Medium
Strength: Medium
Box Price: $42.00 (Bundle of 25)

Several weeks ago, I reviewed the Occidental Reserve, a bundle offering from Dania, Fla.-based Alec Bradley. Since then, I’ve smoked some fairly expensive stogies.

But it’s time to get back to reality. So for this installment, I give you the Flor de Oliva [link to whatever].

If you’re looking for a go-to cigar that’s easy on the wallet, this may be it. The Flor de Oliva is Oliva’s bundle offering, but instead of hitting up the rest of the line (gotta love that Serie O maduro…mmm), you may be happy with this as your everyday smoke.

It’s not the smoothest-looking cigar. Walt over at Stogie Review recently checked out the FO Corojo and described its toothy texture. You’ll see some of that with this cigar, but against its red, white and blue band, it’s not bad-looking — it’s just a bit rough around the edges.

Instead, you’ll have to kiss this frog to see it become a prince, or in this case, a princess.

Taste-wise, the Flor de Oliva is extremely complex for a cigar of its price. It’s earthy, cedary and tangy. One warning, however: the cigars seem to be dipped in some sweet substance before they’re shrink-wrapped. (If any of you can figure out what it is, I’ll give you a shiny new nickel.) It’s not overpowering, and there’s not too much of it. Personally, I think it actually adds a layer of complexity, but I certainly didn’t expect this when I bought the damn things. If you don’t like your smokes a touch sweet, I’d think about staying away; however, I sure as hell think it’s worth a test drive.

Flor de Oliva cigar #2

Look at that handsome, handsome guy; he’s got a good-looking cigar there.

And then there’s its construction. For a cheap-o cigar, I got some of the best construction I think I’ve ever had. (See photo…and note the comfy chair; I recommend all cigar smokers get one!) The burn was even, the ash was white, and, as you can see, it stayed on. What more could you want from this killer two-hour smoke?

Verdict: If my humidor weren’t full, I’d order more of these babies right now. It’s one of the best value cigars I’ve ever smoked.

Similar cigars: Can’t really think of anything quite like it, but I’ll keep you posted.

Cigar of the Week: Graycliff G2 Churchill

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack. And yes, I know this isn’t a new week, but I really don’t want to post this next week!)

Brand: Graycliff
Line: G2
Vitola: Churchill 7 x 48
Origin: Bahamas
Wrapper: Ecuadorian
Binder: Costa Rican
Filler: Costa Rican, Nicaraguan and Philippino tobaccos
Body: Medium
Strength: Medium
Box Price: $170.99 (Box of 25)

Another day, another Graycliff. But who’s complaining?

Several weeks ago, I reviewed the Graycliff Professionale, a mighty tasty cigar. At $20 a pop, though, who has the cash to smoke these on a regular basis?

With this in mind, the company, which features Cohiba vet Avelino Lara
as its go-to cigar blender, has a budget (read: normal-priced) offering, the G2.

Basically, the G2 is a good, mild (daresay luxurious?) smoke. But here’s where it gets interesting: It’s full-bodied, but really, really creamy-tasting. I was taken aback a bit, I won’t lie. As the cigar progressed, I was struck by its intensity, and while most cigars may become more nutty and a bit darker, this one stayed consistent throughout. If anything, it got a tad spicy towards the very end.

The cigars burn evenly and have a nice draw. Also, one thing I’ve noticed with G2s is that the ash is always superb. It looks super, super delicate and flaky, almost to the point where it looks like it’ll fall off. For some reason, though, it seems to hang on.

Verdict: If I were a Graycliff guy, I’d say this one is right up my alley.

Similar cigars: Compare this to the AVO 40.

Cigar of the Week: CAO Cameroon L’Anniversaire Belicoso

Brand: CAO
Line: Cameroon L’Anniversaire
Vitola: Belicoso 6 x 54
Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Cameroon
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Body: Mild-to-Medium
Strength: Mild-to-Medium
Box Price: $133.95 (Box of 20)

Description: In 1998, Nashville-based CAO released its box-pressed L’Anniversaire line to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary. Now, I don’t smoke too many box-pressed cigars, but I inherited a humidor full of CAO Maduros when I was 17, and I feel nostalgic whenever I smoke one.

The CAO Cameroon was introduced in 1999 to some critical success, but I occasionally tend to be on the late end of the cigar adoption bell curve, so I’ve never tried one. Until now, that is.

When I think of a CAO cigar, I think of quality, and the Cameroon is no exception. The cigar looks pretty good. It’s leathery-looking and doesn’t have too many veins. Now–some of you may hate me for this–but with Toro-shaped cigars, I use my cutter to take only a teeny bit off, and then I chew the crap out of it. So when I lit this stogie up, I got a really nice, even burn, and an amazing draw. (A couple of days later, I had one that, due to my own negligence, was a bit dry. I found the burn was no less brilliant.)

When I started the CAO Cameroon, I found it to have hints of cinnamon; but as I smoked it down, it smoothed out all the way to the nub. With this cigar, you’ll really able to appreciate its caramel and coffee overtones. I recommend pairing it with a cup of coffee.

Verdict: This tasty cigar is smooth as hell. There’s no question why it’s one of CAO’s more popular cigars.

Similar cigars: Taste-wise, you’ll find the Arturo Fuente Don Carlos line to be similar.

(This post originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Cigar of the Week: Graycliff Professionale Pirate

(Note: This review originally appeared on CigarJack.)

Brand: Graycliff
Line: Professionale
Vitola: Pirate (Torpedo) 6 x 52
Origin: Bahamas
Wrapper: Indonesian (Java)
Binder: Indonesian
Filler: Brazilian, Honduran and Nicaraguan tobaccos
Body: Medium-to-full
Strength: Medium-to-full
Box Price: $374.99 (Box of 25)

The nice folks over at Graycliff sent me a couple of cigars for a piece I’m currently working on, but I figured I’d share my reviews with you first!

Graycliff Professionale 1

Graycliff, a resort in Nassau, started making cigars to compliment its luxury brand. They enlisted the help of Avelino Lara, creator of the original Cuban Cohiba, and he, in turn, has turned Graycliff into one of the cigar biz’s premium brands.

I’m not lying when I say this: The Graycliff Professionale is unlike any cigar I’ve ever smoked. It’s solidly constructed, burns evenly and has a good draw.

Graycliff Professionale 2

It’s also pretty damn tasty. The first half of the Professionale was sweet and creamy; almost mocha-flavored. The second half added a touch of spice, making it taste — to me, anyway — like a friggin’ mocha latte. (Call me crazy, I know. But it was pretty damn good.) The end was even spicier, but it didn’t hit me in the head.

When I was finished, I thought, “So this is what a $20 cigar tastes like.” And it tastes goooood.

Similar cigars: I’ll have to agree wtih Mike Salisbury, who thinks it tastes like his Perdomo Reserve Cuban Cafe Series, so I’ll go with that…for now)