October 31, 2011

REVIEW:: My Father Commemorative 9/11 blend 343

I just received a few samples of this cigar from our friends at Top Quality Cigars. I first heard about them when my business partner Mario returned from a trip to Chicago where he hung out with some of the people involved in the project.

A quote about the project and the cigars form the Top Quality Cigars website: "This whole process has been very secretive; Jeffrey Holst, a Battalion Chief from Firehouse No. 1 in Lombard, IL brought to us the idea of doing something special to commemorate the 343 fallen Firefighters of 9/11. We approached Jaime Garcia with this idea and he graciously accepted to blend and create this highly special extremely limited cigar, each box will contain 9 Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapped cigars and 11 Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro wrapped cigars. The size best described as a Toro 5 1/2" x 54. This will be a special size created by Jaime just for this cigar. $40.00 from the sale of each box will be donated to a designated charity of the fallen heroes of 9/11, these cigars are rich complex with medium to full body, everyone will enjoy, so buy them while they last"

For this review I'm trying out the Habano Rosado wrapper version.

Vitola: Robusto extra?
Length: 5.5
Ring Gauge: 54
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Rosado
Binder: Undisclosed
Filler: Undisclosed
Price: $10.00
Smoking Location: my back deck
Beverage: Water


The 54 ring gauge of this cigar was deceiving because when I held it in my hand it felt bigger. Maybe my hands are shrinking because I seem to be thinking that a lot lately. The wrapper was dry and very smooth with a few decent sized veins that didn't look as if they would have any impact on the burn. The color of the cigar was a medium to light brown with reddish tints. The pre-lit aroma was faint and smelled the most strongly at the open foot of fermented tobacco. Clipping the cap was no trouble and the cold draw had a strong black licorice taste. 

First Third

When first lit I was blasted with a strong spicy black pepper that I have grown to love from My Father Cigars. The spice most most noticeable on the roof on my mouth and on the sides of my tongue. The finish on the profile was also full of black pepper but left a dry feeling on my palate, not unlike the dry feeling you get after drinking something like apple cider. The draw was great and the construction top notch. About an inch into the smoke, the lovely pepper was still going strong but I started to get some harshness on the finish in the back of my throat. This was not very pleasant. The strength was in the medium range.

Second Third  
The second third of my My Father 9/11 was still dominated by black pepper on the front, but on the finish I got some slight hints of coffee. This was nice, but unfortunately with that coffee came some bitter taste that only added to the uncomfortable harshness on the end of each puff. I started to smoke the cigar slower than I normally would do and this seemed to tone down the harshness a lot, so I would recommend to anyone getting some unpleasantness from this cigar to take it slowly. Just like the first third, the draw was great and the construction perfect. I'd say the strength by this point was leaning more into the full area.

Final Third and Final Thoughts 
It didn't get any better for me in the final third of my My Father 9/11. The pepper that I normally love was being overpowered by the bitterness from the finish and actually made each draw kind of rough to take. I continued to smoke the stick because every now and then I got some nice coffee tastes, but not enough to make me take it all the way to the nub. The strength was definitely in the full power mode and the amount of smoke the stick produced seemed to ramp up even more.
My final thoughts on the My Father Commemorative 9/11 blend 343? I'm not sure if these still have some aging to do or if I got a bad stick, but this was not the normal precision flavor blending that I know come out of the My Father camp. The cigar seemed unbalanced and rough around the edges. I have a sample of the Oscuro-wrapped version of this stick, so I look forward to seeing what that will bring and see if is more to my liking.

Would I buy it again? I would buy another single to see if the experience is the same or if something was just off with this particular stick

Would I buy a box? At this point I would not buy a box


October 26, 2011

General Cigar Company Blogger 2011 Dominican Republic trip

Last week me and fifteen other cigar bloggers were invited down to the Dominican Republic by General Cigar Company to tour all assets of their operation. No stone was left unturned and we were treated to viewing every aspect of their cigar production from farming, aging, fermenting, to rolling and so on. It is no secret to General Cigar Company that most of us "geek" cigar smokers do not rave online about about most of their products on a weekly basis like we do with some of the other smaller boutique brands, yet they still treated us with the utmost respect and hospitality, wanting to share and teach us about what they have going on. If anyone from General Cigar Company is reading this, I commend you for reaching out to us.

Every person I met was extremely friendly and knowledgeable in the cigar business and I learned a lot. I would say that if there was one (unwarranted) opinion that changed for me about General Cigar Company from the last week,  it's that they do NOT cut any corners in their cigar production. Everything they do is carefully planned and executed right down to the last leaf. Just because they sell over a 100 million cigars a year, it does not mean they rush any aspect of the process nor force anything until it is just right to them.

I could write up a day by day break down from the trip, but Bryan at http://cigarobsession.com/ nailed it so, I suggest you check out his site for the details. I would like, however, to share my favorite part of the trip: the intense blending session presented to us. The staff at General Cigar Co. laid out around fifteen different types of tobacco for us to sample and provided us with a expert roller to quickly whip up small cigars for us to try with tobaccos we had chosen. I think I tried around nine blends before I found one that I thought fit my flavor profile. To me it was good, but I don't think I'll be giving up my day job anytime soon.

In closing, I want to thank everyone from General Cigar Company for providing me with this opportunity and teaching me more about my passion for cigars. I especially want to thank Victoria McKee for providing us with anything we asked for and keeping us all in line (most of the time).  I also want to thank all my fellow bloggers, some who I had met before and some for whom it was the first time. You guys feel like family and not just writers on the other side of the Internet. There really isn't very many better ways to spend a week than with 14 other guys who share the interests and drive that I do. The fact that we can talk for hours (and into the early hours of the morning) about cigars and tobacco issues is mind boggling. I hope there are many more of these trips and I hope to see you all again very soon.

Here is a link to my photos.


October 11, 2011

REVIEW: Tatuaje Wolfman (pre-release)

It's my favorite time of year. The weather is getting cooler. The trees are starting to change color. College football is in full swing. I could go on and on. With autumn being my gem of a season, it's not a shocker that Halloween ranks at the top of my favorite holidays to celebrate. And with Halloween comes probably my most anticipated cigar line release of the year: the Tatuaje Monster Series. Some of them have been better releases than others in the line, but in my opinion, they have all been pretty solid. I'm happy to see that Pete (@tatuajecigars on twitter) has moved away from the Mexican wrapper of last year's THE FACE and gone with the Sumatra that did wonders on the Tatuaje The 7th Cappa Especial and the NHC Cappa Especial.

Quote from Pete Johnson about the Tatuaje Wolfman: This year's Monster was based on the Wolfman and I wanted it to have a slightly unfinished gnarly feel to it. It comes in dress coffin boxes of 13, or ten count boxes just like last year. The sticks are wrapped in foil... silver bullets.. get it?

With these shipping this week I thought it was time to light up my other sample from last July's trade show. I smoked one other sample of this stick a few months back, but it was after a long day of smoking many cigars. Let's see what the Wolfman can do to a fresh palate.

Vitola: Box-pressed torpedo
Length: 7.5
Ring Gauge: 52
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Price: $13
Smoking Location: My Back Deck
Beverage: Water

First thing I noticed when holding my Tatuaje Wolfman is how long the cigar feels. The short unfinished foot (longer than the El Hijo, but not as long as something we saw last summer from another company) adds some length, but I think it's the tapered head that gives the impression that it's even longer than a 7.5 cigar. The wrapper is a reddish brown color that has lighter shades of brown closer to the veins. There is a slight tooth to the wrapper, but it feels very smooth and has a waxy-like coat to it. The pre-lit aroma is very leathery with some black pepper at the open foot. The cold draw was excellent and tasted of cedar with hints of plum which added some sweetness.

First Third

I tend to torch my cigars pretty well so I only got one or two puffs off of the cigar before I started to burn into the wrapped part of the stick. The first few puffs of just filler/binder had a mild spice both on the front and the finish but not much else. The draw was perfect and the cigar produced a good amount of smoke. Once I was a inch or so into the main body of the cigar, the front of the profile got very woody in flavor. The finish still had the mild spice that I tasted mostly on the roof of my mouth. Burning even further into my cigar, the finish changed up and picked up a dry cocoa taste. This worked nicely with the mild spice from before. The strength was in the medium range.

Second Third  
The second third of my Tatuaje Wolfman had a big change in flavor from the first third in the finish of the profile. Gone completely was any sign of spice and now I was getting a lot of sweetness that left my mouth feeling syrupy. It was very interesting to say the least. The front of each puff changed a little also, but not in flavor more in the balance of taste. The dry cocoa from the start had picked up and was now equally as strong as the woody cedar flavor. Just like the start of the cigar, the construction/draw was excellent and the strength was on the medium side. 

Final Third and Final Thoughts 
In the final third of my Tatuaje Wolfman, the front of the taste profile took a change like the finish did previously. Now on each draw, I was hit with a big bouquet of floral flavors that lasted well into the finish and added even more to the sweetness that was already there. There was no spice that I am use to with Tatuaje, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment. Just something to take note of if you are looking for that Tat pepper blast. It is not here. The strength of the cigar ramped up a little here and I would say it was in the lower end of full. I also only had a small dinner before smoking tonight, so that might have something to do with it. Perfect draw with just a slightly wavy burn all the way to the nub.  
My final thoughts on the Tatuaje Wolfman? This is not what I was expecting from this release and I'm happy to say I am pleased anyway. This was a departure from what normally comes out from the Johnson/Pepin tandem and will throw some for a loop, but I like to think of it this way: It's a fun release that is not part of the core Tatuaje line. Why not change it up and go in a different direction? In my opinion it's a solid cigar and a nice addition to the Monster series 

Would I buy it again? Unlike last year's release, where I was not really hunting too hard for more of the cigar even though I love Halloween and all things related, I'll be on the search for more these.

Would I buy a box? With a 10 (or if you're lucky, 13) count box this is not a huge investment. I would love to have a box and let them sit for awhile. I recently smoked a Tatuaje Boris (another Sumatra-wrapped cigar in the Monster Series) and it was phenomenal. I wonder if these can turn from good to great like those did?