Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cuenca y Blanco - Lonsdale

Tale of the Tape:
Brand: Joya De Nicaragua
Series: Cuenca y Blanco
Vitola:  Lonsdale
Size: 6 1/2"
Ring Gauge: 44
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Nicaragua & Peru
Cigars Smoked for Review: 1

An offering from Joya De Nicaragua; the Cuenca y Blanco is the latest release from the Nicaraguan masters. The cigar is a blend that comes from the joint efforts of JdN President, Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca and new Vice President, Jose Blanco.  Blanco is well known in the industry after spending some two decades at La Aurora.

JdN's press release gave a lot of information on the cigar.  So here is it in their own words.
"Departing from Joya de Nicaragua’s traditional puros of all Nicaraguan tobaccos, the Cuenca y Blanco had been blended to be a cigar comprised of air-cured black tobaccos from four different countries of origin. This unique recipe is handmade with aged filler tobaccos including Habano Seed lead from Nicaragua’s EstelĂ­ Valley and the volcanic isle of Omtempe, Piloto Cubano from the La Canela region of the Dominican Republic and an aromatic visa from Peru’s famed Tarapoto region. The cigar is expertly finished in a beautiful Grade 1 Ecuador Habano wrapper. This complex blend is the fruit of nearly a year of ceaseless experimentation and has resulted in a very flavor smoke with a tantalizing aroma."

I may be one of the luckiest smokers out there, in that I have a small cigar shop 200 yards from my front door.  There isn't a lounge or a huge selection; but they keep a pretty sweet selection.  That being said, I knew the blogosphere was buzzin' about this CyB (Cuenca y Blanco) by JdN (Joya de Nicaragua).and I saw a fresh box at my local shop.  Surprised the little shop picked up such a 'hot' item so quickly I jumped at the chance to try it.

First Third:
The cigar is extremely mild but tasty.  It doesn't have any predominant flavor that I can pick up, but there are nutty and woody notes.  haha woody.  As the cigar burns it starts to pick up a little bit of body, but it is definitely milder than anything in JdN's collection (I haven't smoked the Clasico).  At this point I'm a little disappointed, but I guess they are going for something completely different with this line.
Second Third:
The second third is much better than the first.  I've now accepted the fact that this is a mild-medium smoke and I"m not getting a full-bodied experience this go-round.  But its still just a medium bodied smoke with no remarkable flavor profile.  The cigar is requires a little touch up, but nothing crazy; I picked up my lighter twice.  The retrohale and resting smoke has a sweet aroma to it; the flavor profile is dominated by nutty flavors and a little bit of earthy notes.
Last Third:
The final third redeems the cigar.  Honestly, this cigar was a bit of a disappointment for my taste.  There is a time and place for mild-medium cigars - you know - sunday morning after a light breakfast, sipping  a coffee.  But as a smoker that loves full-bodied and full-flavored smokes, the CyB just isn't my cup of tea.  The cigar is well balanced and smooth; its well-made and while it might not be my style - it might be your favorite.  So give it a try.

Final Thoughts and Grade:
  • The cigar is well-made and a balanced, smooth mild-medium stogie.
  • I'm going to try this in a larger ring gauge.  The 44 ring on this Lonsdale leads to the Dominican wrapper carrying this smoke.  I'm usually a fan of small ring gauges but I'd be interested to smoke this in a larger ring gauge to get more of the filler flavor.
  • While I wasn't blown away by this smoke, its interesting to see Jose Blanco's influence on JdN.  I can't wait to see their next offering.
  • JdN is solid on quality and consistency, the CyB could be a favorite for medium smokers out there
B - 80 points 
The cigar gets top notch ratings on quality, craftsmanship and balance.  The lower ratings pertained to my personal preferences of flavor and body

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Oliva V Serie - Melanio Blend - Petit Corona

Tale of the Tape:
Brand: Oliva
Series: Melnio - Series V
Vitola:  Petit Corona
Size: 4 1/2"
Ring Gauge: 46
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuadorian grown Sumatran
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Cigars Smoked for Review: 2

The Melanio
This is no regular Serie V.  Oliva is known for quality and consistency at a fair price.  The Serie V is one of the most solid go-to cigars on the market.  A true full bodied, full flavored smoke.  Personally, I don't care for the Serie V, but I respect the cigar.  I realize the quality and value in the Serie V, but the cigar is just a bit much for my taste and always leaves me with a dizzying nicotine buzz.

The Melanio, is a cigar that stands on its own; no Serie V connection needed to prop up its credentials.  Named after Gilberto Oliva's grandfather, the cigar is a tribute to the man that the Oliva family can trace their tobacco heritage back to.

As I mentioned, the normal Serie V cigars are not my cup of tea.  They are great cigars, and its hard to beat them at the price they are offered at; but I don't smoke many because they are just too much.  Don't get me wrong, I am a full cigar smoker, but I reach for other stogies more often than not.  But with all the fanfare surrounding the Melanio, I had no choice but to give it a try.

I picked up the Petit Corona. 4 1/2" X 46 ring; a size I enjoy..  The wrapper is smooth and a medium dark brown hue.  A few visible veins, but otherwise smooth to the touch.  The construction is flawless, from appearance to last puff.  A razor's edge burn that requires no touch ups.

The first half of the cigar is surprisingly milder than the normal Series V.  Leaning toward medium on a medium-full scale; the cigar is smooth and creamy.  Slightly sweet with a little pepper on the lips, the smoke is aromatic and I taste hints of coffee and burnt cedar.  From what I understand, Oliva chose its most aged tobaccos for the blend, and the subtle sweetness of the Ecuadorian Sumatran shines through.  The filler and binder are Nicaraguan and it is obvious that the Melanio blend is more than just a Serie V with a Sumatran wrapper.

The draw is a tad tight; but the smoke production is adequate.  Usually a tight draw will ruin a cigar for me, but the ample amount of smoke keeps me from having to strain to smoke it.  It is truly a non-issue.  In fact it resulted in a slow burn; keeping the cigar cool and releasing a lot of flavor and nuances in the blend.

The second half of the Melanio keeps that smooth and creaminess to it.  There is a peanut taste that is really enjoyable and seems to be the predominant flavor of the cigar.  The cigar takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to smoke; a considerable amount of time for such a small stick.

As the cigar moves to its last 1 1/2" it never gets harsh like a lot stogies.  The  sweetness slowly morphs into a peppery spice , but it is not a main feature of the smoke.  I know I mentioned it before, but this cigar is smooth.  This cigar is easy to smoke and stays cool throughout.  Not super-complex, but a lot of little nuances that make it an interesting smoke.  Hands down a good cigar.  I really want to try the figurado size and see how it stacks up.

Final Thoughts and Grade

  • Smooth tasty cigar with a slightly restricted draw that keeps the cigar cool and slow
  • Different from the normal Serie V line in many ways - still a lot nicotine in Oliva's tobacco
  • Aromatic and tasty - a lot of depth to the flavors
  • Leans towards medium body in a medium full profile
  • Great value at $7.50 - my new favorite Oliva - will buy and smoke many more
A - 91.5 points

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tatuaje Avion - Short Perfecto Update Smoke

Tatuaje - Avion Update
Winter Thoughts - Feedback Time
Its the dead of winter a glimpse of the sun had me wishing it was warm out.  But no fear...spring is right around the corner and with that......smoking weather!
Here is a picture of me enjoying a cigar or at the end of last summer.  I was smoking a Pete Johnson made, Avion Short Perfecto.  I'm a fan of most of Pete's creations; but the Avion left me a little.....unsatisfied.  Read the original review here (Avion Short Perfecto).

So, as I mentioned, my first experience with the Avion left a bad taste in my mouth; literally.  I chalked it up as a fluke; a bad seed, a young smoke in need of aging.  Almost 6 months of aging later and I don't think the Avion was made for my palette.

A beauty of a perfecto, ballooning from 48 to 52 ring gauge and a length of 5 5/8"; the construction is drop-dead gorgeous.  The wrapper is smooth; curves tight and sexy.  The nipple...well, its a nice nipple.
Just like the my first go-round, the Avion burned evenly; a considerable feat for a semi-boxpressed perfecto vitola.

The cigar isn't bad.  It just isn't for me.  I liked it a bit more after 6 months in my humi.  There was a little more fermentation and its done some good things for the cigar.  My main complaint about the first Avion was its lack of complexity.  Originally, this cigar was a bland one-trick pony; now its got a little more character.  The cigar still only has two main stages, and the flavors just seemed muffled.  An odd choice for flavor description, but it seems like there is potential that just won't come out.

I've got two more in the humidor.  We'll see how another two months does one of these stogies.  In the $10-$12 range there are just too many great cigars for the Avion to even be considered a good smoke.  If looks were the only measure of a quality cigar; she'd take awards left and right.

But don't let me be the judge for you.  Perhaps its just not my flavor profile. The cigar is a mix of hickory and smoked meats.  It has a chewy mouth-feel with a tired volume of taste.  With such a beautiful roll and sexy curves, this girl is going to let her Avions marinate a bit longer before she throws in the towel.

As the weather warms, more cigars shall be smoked.  My favorite place to be is on my rooftop, tanning- stogie and note pad in hand.

Its like Pete is the parent of a seemingly intelligent child that has the looks to charm.  So eager to see how smart the kid really is, he enrolled the kid a year early in school, only to have his experiment held up in the front office paper work.
Its worth a try, as I said the construction is impeccable, and your B&M's box probably has a few months rest on it now.
Quick Review Grade - Incomplete (cigar sent back to humidor for being to young)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hot Girl Of the Day: BATMAN!

De ne de ne de ne de ne, de ne de ne de ne de ne....Boobies, I mean Batman!  With headlights like that, Gotham could have saved some money on their Bat Signal Electric Bill.  Bruce Wayne is no playboy like Tony Stark (IronMan), but he is rich bachelor.  The new boobies bat signal would settle Robin's sexuality question very quickly.  He'd either show up, ready to fight crime, saying, damn Batman, did you see that bat signal.  Or he'd show up complaining that it wasn't bright enough to see and that the girl is a tramp.  That is all , you be the judge.

Illusione CG4 - Corona Gorda

Illusione CG4
I've never been disappointed in an Illusione product.  They've got that new-school edge with old-school attention to quality.
The CG4 is a Corona Gorda; one of my favorite vitolas for any cigar; its just a great length with a ring-gauge that highlights the blend and the wrapper leaf equally .  The CG meaning Corona Gorda, the 4 a reference to the 4 horseman of the apocalypse.  Just a little more of that dark Illusione imagery.  That dark imagery all the new brands use.
When are they going to put a 'Sunshine and bubblegum' brand on the market.  With such cigars as the 'Feel Good', 'Long Walk on the Beach Cigar', but I digress.
Dark imagery seems to be a winning formula for the likes of Tatuaje, Illusione, Room 101.....there are more, I just can't think of them at the moment.

Initial Thoughts
The cigar looks great.  Well-made, a smooth wrapper leaf, seamless and flawless. A firm spongy, yet full feel  throughout the cigar is a sure sign of freshness and nice tobacco distribution.  However, one thing caught my attention enough that its worth noting....the wrapper leaf was a very light shade.  Supposedly Nicaraguan wrapper leaf, this thing could have passed for a Connecticut Shade.  It just looked mild.  A little rugged, but mild all the same. If my memory serves me correct the CG4's I've smoked in the past had a darker hue to the leaf.  Not a maduro dark, just a typical Nicaraguan wrapper color.  Generally, I don't have much to say in the color dept. of Nicaraguan wrapper leaves, but this one was so damn light it bothered me.
The cigar had a grassy, hay-like scent on the foot prior to lighting it.  The cigar itself also had a hay smell to it, with a little sting of pepper and strong tobacco.
Once lit the resting smoke was slightly peppery with a creaminess to it.  The retrohale was creamy and a little sweet.  The cigar's aroma didn't vary much, but picked up some spice towards the end.
Smoking it
As with most Illusione products, the cigar burnt well.  No need for touch ups; the cigar burned even and smooth.  But that is where my expectation of Illusione and the reality of the cigar in my hand stopped being a match.
Two years ago, even just a year ago, Illusiones were complex cigars that evolved throughout the smoke.  This CG4, while good by any standard, did not meet what I've come to expect from Illusione.  The flavor profile was rather one-dimensional.  I tasted a little spice on the front end and some sweetness halfway in.  But a hay, aka barnyard flavor reigned as the predominant flavor throughout.
I enjoyed the cigar and by no means did I dislike it, but it failed to meet my expectations of what an Illusione should bring to the table.

Decline of the Wonder Brands
The cigar, while possibly a fluke is a sad testament to what I've noticed as  a trend with some newer success story brands.  Basically these new 'edgy' brands that took smokers by storm in the past 4 or 5 years came out with limited offerings that people couldn't get enough of.  With such demand, it is only logical (and smart business) to extend your offerings.  The problem with going from a few things you're really good at to a bunch of things that you are unproven at, is that quality seems to suffer.  There is only so much good tobacco you can get your hands on, and when you've got to fill orders, you may pick up a batch of tobacco you may have passed on at an earlier time.
I'm no hater.  More power to these guys.  I admire their business acumen and ability to work the industry.  But I hope some of them put enough cash in their pockets to stop the  paper chase and get back to their roots.  Make stogies that you're proud of.  Make stogies that you would personally guarantee is as good as any cigar you've ever made.  There are enough fan-boys and ass-kissing bloggers out there to keep these guys blind to the faults in their ways, but time cures all, and this ailment is no different.
Guys like Pete Johnson (Tatuaje, and a million others now) and Matt Booth (Room 101) hit this industry at the right time and found a lucrative niche that has changed the industry.  I pray these guys (no one in particular, as Matt Booth has not done this, I'm speaking 'guys' in a very general sense) let their love of a good stogie with their brand on it take precedence over having 8 brands of mediocre cigars that are forgettable.
Yeah, every new brand will get the fanfare because your original cigars were un-frickin-believable, but mediocre cigars can only ride the coattails of your original success before they shred up your jacket and ruin all the goodwill you created and deserve.

The Fall of the Epernay
The Epernay (the 'medium' Illusione offering which received rave reviews and even a spot CigarAficianados Top 25 list) was a fantastic cigar.  Tons of flavor, great craftmanship (althought craftmanship is never really an issue with regards to the topic at hand) - all around a great cigar.  But after the first 2 or 3 shipments my local B&M received, the cigar was not the same.  It tasted different, had a different shade wrapper; it was a different cigar in my opinion.  Illusione had pulled a bait and switch.  They probably made a shit-ton of money riding the coattails of the high quality cigar they had originally sold under that name.  To this day, an Epernay is not a true Epernay. Say what you will.  Thats my opinion.  Also see Nestor Miranda, Coffee Break.

The CG4 I smoked disappointed me for many of the reasons I wrote about above.  Illusione is still in the early stages of over-extension and it can be stopped and managed.  They have enough solid stogies with good names to keep them a main player.  They don't need new cigars to increase sales, they need to keep at what they do best.  Its better to be the master of one thing then ok at a bunch of things.  Poor analogy, but you catch my drift.
This CG4 was lackluster and no where near the quality of the CG4s I smoked 1-2 years ago.  Its like, they put out an initial run of cigars that are to die for then once the really good tobacco runs out they buy the next best thing (which isn't comparable) and hope no one notices.

Grade: C+