September 21, 2011

REVIEW: Lou Rodriguez MF

I'll be straight up. Until my business partner Mario got back from the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival a few weeks ago, I had never heard of Lou Rodriguez cigars. I try to read as much as possible and talk to as many people as possible about cigars, but I'm sure more than a handful of cigar brands slip through the cracks of my knowledge. This was the case with Lou Rodriguez.

In the past few weeks I have tried several of the blends from this company and have found them to be quite a nice little surprise. Then Mario and I received a package in the mail of a limited edition stick from Lou called the Lou Rodriguez MF.

A quote from Lou Rodriguez about the MF:
Dan great speaking with you tonight. Just wanted to give you a little bit of info about what you were smoking tonight. It is the Lou Rodriguez MF (MF for Matafina). It is also been referred to as our secret cigar since we do not advertise this on our website or brochures. It is tobacco which I have set aside from long term aging from Nicaragua along with a Brazilian Matafina wrapper. We only rolled 2000 of which 1500 are for sale to exclusive retailers only. Each with a dated box to show the vintage. 

It was nice to talk to you also Lou. Now, on to the review.

Vitola: Box-pressed torpedo
Length: 6
Ring Gauge: 52
Wrapper: Brazilian Matafina
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Price: $?
Smoking Location: House of Cigar
Beverage: Water


First thing I noticed when holding my Lou Rodriguez MF was how nicely box pressed the cigar was. I'm not normally not a big fan of box pressed cigars, but for this vitola it seemed to work well. The second thing that really stood out was the elegant band design. I know who designed this band and I am a fan of his work. This is another good example of it. The cigar's wrapper had a medium brown color with some simple veins that were not too distracting form the over all look. The pre-lit aroma made my nose tingle and smelled like a barnyard. I used V-cut on this cigar (another thing I don't normally do) and the draw on the cigar was excellent. The flavor I got from the unlit cigar was a strong cedar taste. 

First Third   
Lighting up my Lou Rodriguez MF was very simple and and the draw pulled large amounts of smoke right from the beginning. Like I said above, I don't normally do V-cuts, but the draw it created on this cigar was so nice that I might do more of them in the future. The most prominent flavor I was picking up from this stick was not on the front of the profile but on the finish and that was a nice cinnamon note. If you've read any of my reviews before you will know that I love this flavor in cigars. What I did taste on the front of each draw was some slight cedar, but it was mostly muted and had just a creamy smoke taste. The cigar settled in right in the medium range. A good start.

Second Third  
The second third of my Lou Rodriguez MF was pretty much a clone of the first third. I was still tasting a lot of cinnamon on the finish of the cigar and the front, mostly smoky cedar. If anything did change I would say that the flavors maybe got a little richer and deeper. That's an odd way to describe things, but for my fellow experienced cigar smokers, you will know what I mean. The construction was top notch and the ash held solid until I knocked it into the ashtray. The strength again was right in the medium range. 

Final Third and Final Thoughts 
I'm not sure what happened in the final third of my Lou Rodriguez, but it came out of left field. The flavor profile that I had been enjoying completely changed up. Gone was the smoky cedar-y flavor. Now on the front of each puff I was greeted with a white pepper spice mixing with some bitter cocoa. It was almost like I had a different cigar. It was so drastically different that I was wondering about my sanity. The finish still had some cinnamon flavor, but that also was mixing with the pepper from the front which added some more enjoyment. Another thing that really changed was the strength of the cigar. For the first two thirds this stick was a solid medium, in the last third we were well into the full range. Nothing overpowering, but I could feel it for sure. The draw was still dead on and the burn never needed any touch-ups.

My final thoughts on the Lou Rodriguez MF? This was a solid average cigar up until the final third where it really took off into something above average. The additional flavors in the final third added some complexity and really kept me interested in finishing the stick. The strength really sneaks up on you at the end also so be careful not to hoover it down.

Would I buy it again I have no idea how much these cost, but if the price was right, I'd pick up a few to smoke and a few to share.

Would I buy a box? Since it's a small box count of ten, I could see me grabbing a box. But again, a lot depends on the price.


September 18, 2011

Room 101 One Shot One Kill Pre-release

A few weeks ago I attended one of the first stops on the Room 101 Cigars Cigarmaggedon tour at The Village Tobacconist in Fairlawn Ohio. (Here's some video Matt Booth (owner of Room 101) shot of me and my friend Dan.) I had a great time, as always, hanging out with the guys and smoking some new sticks. While I was there I was handed a sample of a new cigar still being tweeked by Matt Booth and still in pre-release stage named One Shot One Kill. At least that's what the band says, so I am guessing that will be the name. This is a pre-release so who knows. I asked Matt for a quote about the cigar or any specifics and here is his response.

Quote Matt Booth: "I refuse your request sir."

If you know Matt this will not come as a surprise to you because, I can assure you, he meant nothing harsh by that comment and that he's just being his normal joking self. So with all of that said, this review will be pretty much uninformed and just what I thought of the stick.

Due to the size of this cigar, this review is only in two parts instead of the traditional thirds. 

Vitola: small figurado
Length: 4.75ish
Ring Gauge: 50ish
Wrapper: ?
Binder: ?
Filler: ?
Price: $?
Smoking Location: My back deck
Beverage: Water

What a fun little shape. Those are the words that first came to mind when sitting down to write this review. I have smoked other cigars with this similar size and shape in the past, but they are few and far between. The wrapper of my One Shot One kill was light brown with a very reddish hue to it. I'd guess some sort of rasado wrapper, but I'm not going to spend this whole review speculating what this cigar is made of. The cigar was overall well constructed except for the cap, which looked to be applied in a pretty sloppy fashion. Hey it's a pre-release. Who cares right? The pre-lit aroma smelled of straight natural tobacco, but the cold draw was a bit more interesting. The strong and somewhat robust flavors on the cold draw were of Brazil nuts and dried fruit. Interesting start.

First Half  
I lit the foot of my One Shot One Kill with a soft flame lighter and the flavors started to bellow out in a very smooth and non-abrupt way. Again it's kind of hard to explain some smoking experiences in words, and this ease or mellowing into tasting the flavors is another one of those times. Anyway, the flavor profile consisted of warm allspice and orange peel on the front. On the finish, more allspice, but this time with more of a nutty kick mixed in. I can say right now that I loved it and you can stop reading the rest of the review if you like. The construction of the cigar was top notch and the amount of smoke I was easily able to pull from stick was pretty significant. Something also to mention is the strength of the ash on this little guy. I had to knock the ash of this stick before it fell naturally because it was windy outside and I didn't want to wear it. I think in a calm environment, this cigar's ash would hold past the band. The strength of the cigar was in the medium range.

Second Half and Final Thoughts  
The second half of my One Shot One Kill was similar to the first half with really two major changes. The first change was in the flavor profile, but more specifically in the finish of the profile. The front still had a lot of warm allspice and orange peel, but the finish took on a very "bready" taste. At this part of the cigar I was thinking "wow, this is great cigar for fall" because it's short on time to smoke (could be cold outside) and it has flavors that remind me of that time of year. Like I said above, I loved it. The other major change was the strength of the cigar shot right up the ladder and well into the full range. I could really feel the nicotine in my system and my heart rate went up for sure. It was not too full power, but if it was larger vitola, I would have been wishing I had a bigger dinner. Full strength and full flavor all the way to the nub.

My final thoughts on the Room 101 One Shot One Kill? Matt Booth really has something rolling this year. The Namakubi release was my sleeper hit from the trade show. The Room 101 Connecticut didn't blow me away, but it's a solid release not to be overlooked. And now this little guy...this was the powerhouse of the group. I really enjoyed the spiciness that was unique and the balance between flavor and strength was perfect. If you're looking for a strong cigar in a short format, this should be your go to stick.

Would I buy it again? If the blend stays the same from pre-release to full production I will for sure be picking up more of these. I am a fan of small cigars and this is another great one to add to my rotation.

Would I buy a box? Depends on the price, but I would say it is box worthy.


September 1, 2011

REVIEW: Surrogates Cigars Bone Crusher.

The news of Surrogates Cigars has finally hit the public! (cigarfeed press release here) Living in Columbus, Ohio, home of New Havana Cigars (who these cigars are made for), I was lucky enough to get the scoop and a couple samples of these a couple months ago. With that said, the "scoop" still contains a lot of mystery. Dan Welsh (owner of New Havana Cigars) is keeping a tight lip on where these cigars are coming from, what they are made of and who is making them.

Some history behind the Surrogates Concept.
Quote Dan Welsh: I was curious, given my business model, how much hype goes into our smoking and buying decisions. Although I am thoroughly an advocate of educating ourselves as to what we are smoking, eating or drinking - so as to develop our palate and make better decisions when choosing future things - I also think that when we try something new without the hype of a limited release, or a certain manufacturer or claims of aged tobacco or 100% ligero, etc., that we come across a more authentic tasting experience.   So, being that it is not limited - this seemed like a great opportunity to tell everyone 'try it and decide'.

So as you can see Dan has put some considerable amount of thought into this release, and why he wants to do it this way. Time to review the mystery cigar...

Vitola: Bone Crusher
Length: 5.25
Ring Gauge: 54
Wrapper: ? broadleaf
Binder: ?
Filler: ?
Price: $7.50
Smoking Location: New Havana Cigars
Beverage: Water


Black band, dark wrapper and intimidating name. Those are the first three things that pop into my head when looking over my Surrogates Cigars Bone Crusher. On a lighter note, you know that candy that you can get at Halloween where each place is shaped like a different bone from a skeleton? For some reason the bone image on the band of this cigar takes my mind right to that. That's not scary right? The wrapper on my cigar was a very even, dark brown color with minimal veins. For broadleaf, it did not have that normal gnarly texture to it. The pre-lit aroma consisted of earthy sweet scents. The cap clipped clean and the cold draw was nice and free. The flavor on the cold draw was different and had a port wine element to it. I don't drink much port wine, but what I have had tasted similar to this.

First Third   
POP! goes the black pepper in your face. Wow. The first couple puffs on my Bone Crusher were like taking a pepper mill and grinding some fresh pepper corns on my tongue. Both the front and the finish of the stick was pure spice. This cigar wakes you up right away for sure. (Also, take note that during this part of the cigar, if you retro-hale you will have very watery eyes lol) I tend to get this strong pepper on a lot of cigars for about the first three puffs, but on this stick it lasted almost the entire first third. The pepper kept pouring in and I was digging it. At the end of the first third, the stick did seem to back off a bit with the spice and I started to pick up a few other flavors. The strength was in the medium to full range. The construction was top notch and the burn line very even.

Second Third  
Like I mentioned above, at the end of the first third and definitely into the second third, the flavors started to switch up. The front of the profile took on a very strong baking chocolate taste, but still with that black pepper kick mixing in. It was in interesting mix and was growing close to that hot chocolate ice cream I have mentioned in other reviews. The difference was this chocolate flavor was not very sweet and tasted much darker. The finish during this part of the cigar had a pretty much the same flavors as the front, but I have to mention how clean the finish left my mouth feeling. With a heavy strong cigar sometimes I get that "I'm going to taste this in the morning" thought. With this cigar, I could tell it wouldn't kill/dirty my taste buds after the smoking experience was over. One other thing worth mentioning in this part of the review was how, in the second third, the volume of smoke really picked up. My smoking partner and I were blowing huge clouds of smoke into his high-ceiling office. We joked that you could fill a car with smoke off of this stick in about 2 minutes. The strength was starting to pick up and I was starting to feel it more, but in no way was it overpowering.

Final Third and Final Thoughts 
Two main changes happened in the final third of my Surrogates Cigars Bone Crusher. First, the smoke that I mentioned above was still in great volume on the draw and in the air, but it now took on a buttery feel on my palate. I'm not saying it felt dry before, but in the final third it definitely had a lot more body to it. Second, on the finish of the cigar I started to taste some vegetable garden sweetness. I never saw this coming and it made for a interesting twist toward the end of the smoke. The front was still powering along with the baking chocolate and black pepper flavor. I guess I should have said that there were three main changes, not two, because I would be crazy if I didn't mention that during the final third of this cigar the strength really ramped up. I was still in my high nicotine comfort level, but I could feel my heart beat pick up.

My final thoughts on the Surrogates Cigars Bone Crusher.? In my opinion this is how bold, strong cigars can still be full-power, but have balance and great flavor. From the first few puffs that hit you right between the eyes with pepper, to the mellowing down in the second half and the evolution of flavor, I was happy from start to finish. I'm not really into guessing who makes this or where it's from because there are so many people out there making good cigars these days, it would be so hard to tell, but I will say that if it's not primarily, or even fully Nicaraguan, I'd be surprised.

Would I buy it again That's the great thing. My last three posts when I've gotten to this section of my review and said something like, "good luck these are all gone."  Well with Surrogates they will keep making them as long as we keep buying them. I will be picking up more.

Would I buy a box?  I like this cigar enough to buy a box.