December 28, 2011

REVIEW: Trinidad Short Robusto T LE 2010 (Cuban)

Happy Holidays everyone! For this special time of year, I thought I'd try something new for my site. Last year, and again this year, my friend from Japan Kenji Fukui (@madoqa on twitter and his blog sent me a nice little Christmas present consisting of some Cuban cigars. The difference between last year and this year is, after I sent him a thank you note, he responded with a "review them" request. SO Kenji, here is your review, and consequently my first Cuban cigar review posted on this site. I hope you enjoy it.

A brief history on Trinidad Cigars (From Wiki):
According to Adriano Martínez, a former executive of Habanos SA, in Min Ron Nee's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars, the Trinidad brand was first produced in 1969 at the El Laguito factory in Havana. In the early 90's, the cigar received much attention in Cigar Aficionado after an interview with Avelino Lara (formerly the manager of El Laguito, and a producer of cigars for the Graycliff Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas until his death on October 27, 2009). In the 1992 interview, Lara claimed that Trinidad was an ultra-exclusive brand that only Fidel Castro was authorized to hand out as diplomatic gifts. Lara also claimed Trinidads were of a higher quality than the much-lauded Cohibas that had formerly been diplomatic exclusives before their mass-market release in 1982.

The cigar for today is the 2010 Limited Edition release from Trinidad and happens to be in one of my favorite sizes. (Due to the size of this cigar, this review is only in two parts instead of the traditional thirds.)

Vitola: Short Robusto 
Length: 4
Ring Gauge: 50
Wrapper: Cuba
Binder: Cuba
Filler: Cuba
Price: $15 and up
Smoking Location: New Havana Cigars
Beverage: Water


The short robusto format is one of my favorite sizes in cigars and the Trinidad LE 2010 is a perfect example of the size. The one aspect of the cigar that stuck out the most visually was the tiny pigtail added to the head of the cigar to finish the cap. The wrapper of my Trinidad Short Robusto was a nice chocolate brown color with a few small veins. The prelit aroma was very faint with just a slight odor of mild tobacco. The cap clipped easily and the draw was nice with a flavor that tasted berry-like...a bit like a mixed berry compote.

First Half
The first half of my Trinidad Short Robusto had a two distinctly different flavors. It began with a very light/mild wood tone...not quite cedar, but something in that area. The smoke left a very cobwebby texture on my palate, which I tend to get almost every time I smoke a Cuban cigar. As I burned further into the first half, I started to pick up some coffee notes on the finish. It was mild, but very much there for the tasting. The construction was excellent and as you can see in the photos, the ash was solid as a rock. The strength was in the medium range.

Second Half and Final Thoughts
The second half of my Trinidad Short Robusto was very entertaining and enjoyable because it was quite a bit different than the first half. The flavors took a turn for the more spicy side and I picked up a powerful, yet refined white pepper. I hadn't expected this flavor at all because the first half was very mellow. The finish of the cigar still had just a hint of coffee, which made an interesting mix with the spicy front end. Again, the construction did not fail me and I was able to burn this cigar well into the hot-finger-tips zone.

Final thoughts on the Trinidad Short Robusto T LE 2010? This stick started out a little boring for me, but then turned it up a notch about half way through. The stick doesn't have a very strong "Cuban twang" that so many reviewers talk about when it comes to Cubans. Was it the best Cuban cigar I have ever smoked? No. Was it the worst? Not even close. Overall, I enjoyed the experience and want to say thank you again to Kenji for the wonderful present.

Would I buy it again? If I had to choose between this cigar and the regular Trinidad Robusto T, I think I'd go for the non LE edition. It's a similar smoking experience, but with even more flavor.

Would I buy a box? For the same reasons above I would not buy a box of these.



December 23, 2011

REVIEW: Casa Miranda by Miami Cigars

Today's cigar review is on a stick I have had sitting in my humidor for awhile now. A few months back, I was sent a very generous package from Miami Cigars which , amongst some prototypes and some other new releases, included a pair of Casa Miranda robustos. I have no excuse as to why it took me so long to smoke this, other than there are so many new cigars coming out each week and once a stick goes into my humidor, it might not see the light of day again for weeks or months.

The official Press release from Miami Cigars about Casa Miranda: Rolled exclusively by level 9 rollers from world re-nown factories in Cuba. The cigar is being manufactured in historic Calle Ocho by Titan de Bronze blended by master blender Willy Herrera. 

What makes this cigar special is that it is 100% handcrafted in Miami and will be Miami Cigar & Company’s first ultra boutique cigar with the tagline of “A new approach to an old school tradition.”
This was a good looking cigar that I really didn't know a lot about. I do know that they were on display at the 2011 IPCPR, but these are the first two that I've had the opportunity to smoke.
Vitola: Robusto 
Length: 5
Ring Gauge: 50
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Price: $10
Smoking Location: New Havana Cigars
Beverage: Water

The wrapper on my Casa Miranda was medium to light brown in color with some large, thick veins. There was a little tooth present, but mostly the texture on the leaf had a waxy feel to it. The pre-lit aroma was of hay and natural tobacco. The cap clipped easily and the cold draw had a sweet taste to it with some hints of plum. I would also to mention the artwork on the band of this cigar because I think it's a bit different than what we normally see and I like it. It is a bold design with lots of different elements, but I don't feel it's over done or cheesey. Nice job.

First Third

Lighting up my Casa Miranda was an easy task and, right away, I started to get some enjoyable flavors. The front of the profile had a not-too-spicy, yet distinct black pepper. The finish was a little more interesting in that it had a strong taste of bread or oats. I am able to pick out this bready flavor in a lot of cigars, but this one was slightly different. Now that I think about it, it was more a raw grain taste than of baked bread. Interesting, to say the least. The burn was great and the draw had zero issues. I'd put the strength of the cigar in the medium range.

Second Third  

The second third of my Casa Miranda was similar to the first third, but the black pepper flavor completely disappeared unless I pushed the smoke through my sinuses. I missed a bit of the spice from the first third, so I found myself reto-haling a lot during this portion of the cigar. The finish returned with the oats/grain taste which, although heavy, left my palate feeling clean. Toward the end of the second third, a bit of sweetness began to creep into the finish. The construction was still spot on and the strength maintained in the medium range.

Final Third and Final Thoughts 
The final third smoked exactly how the second third left off all the way to the nub. The heavy grain with hints of pepper and sweetness dominated the palate from draw to exhale. Even though this stick burned quite quickly and produced a lot of smoke, it never got hot or harsh, not even toward the end of the smoking experience. Strength stayed consistently in the medium range.
My final thoughts on the Casa Miranda by Miami Cigars? This is a solid release from Miami cigars and I will go on record as saying that it may be the second best cigar they have ever made. (I'm still a big fan of a fresh La Sirena.) It's not crazy complex, but it's an easy cigar to smoke with some interesting flavors.

Would I buy it again? Yes, I would buy more of these. I think it's a great stick to share with friends because it has real cigar flavors, but will not kill any new smoker with nicotine.

Would I buy a box? I don't think I'd buy a whole box for myself, but I would go in on a split.


December 18, 2011

Dan's Best of 2011 Cigars

Every year most blogs put out a end of the year "best of" list.  I myself haven't ever done one before, so this is my first attempt. All of the opinions in this list are my own and do not reflect my partner's favorites of the year. Maybe I can talk Mario into making his own list but I can't make any promises. So here we top five cigars of 2011.

#5 - My Father El Hijo
The My Father El Hijo was the third release in the Smoke Inn's Micro Blend series made exclusively for their shops in Florida. I was completely blown away by this cigar and I will write it again like I did in my full review: in my opinion, this is the best cigar ever made with the My Father brand name attached to it. Lots of spice, cedar and a robust caramel flavor fill this cigar's taste profile making it flavorful and unique.  Full review here.

#4 - Emilio Cigars Grimalkin
I smoked two different blends from Emilio Cigars this year and, while both were decent sticks, the second one I tried (Grimalkin) gave me what probably was my biggest surprise of the year. I had heard about this cigar and the rumblings of who may or may not have made it, but I never felt any real urgency to smoke the samples I had. If I only knew then what I know now. The Grimalkin had a distinct vegetable-like flavor profile mixed with more traditional black pepper. My smoking partner and I both nubbed these and were equally stunned by our findings.  Full review here.

#3 - Padron SI 15 Maduro

Just like my #5 cigar of the year, the Padron SI 15 comes from the Smoke Inn Micro Blend series. This stick proved just how wrong I could be about my constant proclaiming that smaller ring gauge cigars are always better. Coming in at a 6 x 60 vitola the Padron SI-15 is every bit as massive as it sounds, not only in physical size, but also in flavor. Dark chocolate and coffee notes dominate the flavor profile (and with a lot of strength to back it up.) I would put this stick up against any Padron Family Reserve release and say it would beat it.  Full review here.

#2 - Illusione Epernay Le Taureau
For the last few years, every time I smoked any size of the Illusione Epernay I always asked myself, "Why don't I smoke more of these?" Well in 2011, I did just that and put the Epernay line into the front of my normal rotation of cigars. Toward the end of this year, New Havana Cigars got a small shipment of new sizes of the Epernay and I think one of them (the Le Taureau) is the best vitola yet in the line. This 56 ring gauge cigar has a ton of power, but even more than that, it has a ton of flavor. I will still hold to my statement in the review that the Epernay is the single-most balanced blend on the market today in premium cigars.  Full review here.

#1 - Tatuaje La Vérité 2009
Taking the number one spot for me this year (and on my first ever top 5 list) will come as no surprise if you have talked to me about cigars in the last 6 months, have seen some of my twitter updates when people are talking "best of", or if you happened to catch my guest spot on Kiss My Ash Radio. I've not been able to stop praising this cigar and I honestly think it is well deserved. The Tatuaje Vérité 2009 is clearly the stand out cigar of the year. The blend is extremely complex in flavor and the experience of smoking one of these makes you feel like you are enjoying something special. Pete Johnson and the team at My Father cigars outdid themselves on this one and I am very happy that I have a decent supply. I can't begin to express how much I am looking forward to the 2010 version. Full review here.

Well that's it. Thanks for reading my top five cigars for 2011. I hope that you agree with some and maybe disagree with others.  Please leave a comment and tell me what you think. I'll wrap up this post with a few honorable mentions that just barely missed the list.

Honorable Mentions:
Surrogates Cigars Bone Crusher - Very strong cigar that is perfect when looking for something heavy. Not in limited quantities like a lot of other releases this year, which is a plus.  (review)

Subculture Studios MY UZI WEIGHS A TON - Another 6 x 60 sized cigar, but another easily enjoyed. Easy to smoke and solid medium strength, flavorful cigar.  (review)

Illusione MK Ultra - This is the cigar I was most excited to be released this year and it delivered. Classic Illusione taste ramped up into a  more powerful cigar.  (review)


December 13, 2011

REVIEW: Padron Family Reserve 85th

Every year there are a couple annual releases I really look forward to smoking. Like I've mentioned before, the Monster series from Tatuaje, the Holiday Blend from Viaje, and the Opus X are always on the list. With that said, the release that might top this year's list is the Family Reserve from Padron. Everyone has heard of Padron cigars. Padron has been a staple in the industry for producing extremely high quality cigars for decades. The Family Reserve line is their crème de la crème cigar each year.

Quote from Jessica Padron about this release: The Padrón 85th was released to commemorate my grandfather's 85th birthday. Jose O. Padrón founded Padrón Cigars on September 8th 1964. Recently, we celebrated our 47th year in business. We hope you enjoy this cigar along with the history and tradition behind Padrón Cigars.

Two years ago, the Padron Family Reserve 45th was awarded the Cigar of the Year title from Cigar Aficionado magazine.  I thought last year's release the Padron Family Reserve 46 (which I reviewed here) was even better. Now on to the smoke...

Vitola: Robusto
Length: 5 1/4
Ring Gauge: 50
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Price: $20.00
Smoking Location: House of Cigar
Beverage: Water

I've been lucky enough to smoke my fair share of the previous Family Reserve releases and the thing that stuck me right away when finally getting to hold an 85th is just how much smaller it is than years' past. The 5.25 by 50 slightly box-pressed stick is a great size but took me a little off guard. The wrapper leaf was a very dark brown color with tons of tooth -- definitely the most tooth I've seen on a wrapper in awhile and perhaps all year. There were some visible veins here and there, but nothing too dramatic or overly ugly. The pre-lit aroma consisted mostly of hay, but had some hints of coffee as well. The cold draw had a strong oak flavor.

First Third

My Padron Family Reserve 85th started out with a very strong blast of spicy black pepper. It was very strong and tasted like I'd just chewed on a peppercorn or taken a teaspoon of fresh grinds and poured it on the center of my tongue. This cigar wakes you up right away. The nicotine strength was also noticeable from the start and I would say it was in the lower full range. After burning around an inch, I started to pick up some coffee notes on the finish that mixed in with the spice, which was still very strong, but at this point, some flavor profile changes were starting to happen.

Second Third  

The second third took a dramatic turn in flavor and lost almost all of that very strong black pepper. It was a nice change because, although I love a spicy cigar, it was getting pretty one-dimensional and I generally expect more from a Family Reserve release. The flavors now took on a very rich dark cocoa on the front of each puff with black bitter coffee on the finish. The two complimented one other, creating a nice flavor combination. The strength of the cigar seemed to keep increasing and was now, even though only halfway through the stick, well into the full range. I could feel it in my chest as my heart beat picked up a little.

Final Third and Final Thoughts 
The final third was delicious, but man it beat me up a bit with the power. The full strength of this cigar hit me pretty hard during the final third and made me think I should have had a bigger dinner. The flavor profile, however, was not secondary to the strength and the mixture of dark cocoa and coffee was still very enjoyable. I didn't mention before because it almost goes without saying, but the construction was perfect and the burn/smoke volume was precisely what one would expect of a Padron release. 
My final thoughts on the Padron Family Reserve 85th? This is a strong in power and strong in flavor cigar that ranks right up there with the other Family Reserve line releases. Would I say it's better than the 46 or 45th? I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it's close. The new size format is really pleasant and I would love to see Padron keep this trend going with these releases and stay away from the bigger sticks. It keeps the price a little lower and makes it easier to find the time to smoke one.

Would I buy it again? I will pick up a few more of these when I can find them.

Would I buy a box? This is way out of my price range for a box purchase. But if you have the scratch, it's worth it.


December 6, 2011

REVIEW: MUWAT BAIT FISH by Subculture Studios

Up for review today is a brand new cigar from Subculture Studios (a subsidiary of Drew Estate) that has been discussed in length on many cigar message boards. Instead of restating all of the info about this release, I'm going to copy and paste a quote from Jonathan Drew that he posted on the BOTL website that sums it all up nicely:

Quote Jonathan Drew: MUWAT "BAIT FISH", is a 4x44 in the MUWAT "EF" Collection. The EF represents Fuerte due to the increase in strength from the other BAIT FISH blends that we worked on AND the regular 60 RG collection that the brand is released in.

Please remember that the MUWAT brand itself, as originally released, is supposed to be truly medium bodied (seems to be a bit over medium). So when we began working on the BAIT FISH samples the blend was tweaked up from the beginning, to "M" and "F". The finished blend that was selected was the F, so I thought it would be logical to call this SPECIAL, EXCLUSIVE selection "EF" cause its got Extra from the Original MUWAT.

As I was introduced to Dan at NHC at this year's IPCPR we were able to spend a little while getting to know each other a bit better. I have been watching him as a truly passionate retailer and one who prides himself on good quality, special cigars in a boutique environment - I offered Dan the Exclusive for BAIT FISH. He seemed pretty jazzed about the concept, and we began to review blends.

I'm looking forward to the introduction of the 4x44 into the MUWAT line just as the weather gets cold. It should be 30 to 40 minutes of happiness for the people in the freezing areas. I hope that some of you guys enjoy them.

Now that we know more about this release, let's move onto the review to see how it held up.

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

Vitola: Petit Corona
Length: 4
Ring Gauge: 44
Wrapper: Mexican San Andreas
Binder: Connecticut Shade
Filler: Brazilian, Nicaraguan
Price:  $6.10
Smoking Location: New Havana Cigars
Beverage: nothing

Before I begin the smoking experience portion of the review, I want to mention the packaging for this release because it would be a shame to not at least touch on it. These sticks come packed in 5 count paper-wrapped bundles with the Bait Fish logo screen printed on the front. The design is so simple, yet comes off truly creative and different from what you would normally get in a premium cigar release. The pack is the perfect size to stick in a shirt or pants pocket, so carrying them to the park or while walking the dog will be a breeze. Kudos to Subculture Studios for the great packaging design.

The cigar itself had a very dark wrapper with an oily sheen to it. There was really only one visual line on the stick and it was from the edge of the wrapper leaf. Squeezing the body of the cigar, I could tell it was evenly packed but not tight or anything close to hard. The pre-lit aroma was of fresh tobacco which reminded me of the smell of a rolling floor at a cigar factory. The cold draw was sweet with hints of cedar and nuts.

First Half

The first thing that came to mind a few puffs into my Bait Fish was just how smooth the start of the cigar was. I normally smoke a lot of black peppery sticks that sort of hit you in the face right away and that was not the case here. It was very relaxing and an easy to smoke start. The main flavors I picked up were oak notes on the front, mixed with some warm cinnamon spice on the finish. The cinnamon was most noticeable on the roof of my mouth. The cigar tasted very clean and didn't leave any film on my teeth or tongue. The burn and the draw were great and it was easy to pull large amounts of smoke, which was nice from such a small vitola. I would put the strength of the cigar in a solid medium.

Second Half and Final Thoughts

The second half of my Bait Fish is where the strength that is advertised in the promos for this cigar started to show. It was not a knock your head of strong nicotine buzz, but it was significantly stronger than the first half. The flavors of the second half also changed up and I finally got a taste of what many others have written about but I had never experienced before...I would say the main flavor now was very meaty and dark. It was so meaty that I almost felt like I should be able to chew the smoke. Again this is a new taste for me, so I'm not that well versed in describing it. I'm sure some others who pick this up a lot will have a better way of putting it, but I will say I was enjoying it. This flavor was dominant both on the front and the finish, but even with such a strong taste, the finish was very clean. I smoked this cigar all the way to the nub and it never got hot which is what I normally experience in small sticks at the end. Full strength now.

My final thoughts on the MUWAT BAIT FISH by Subculture Studios? I was like a lot of other people with the original MUWAT release in that I liked it, but wished it was smaller and a bit stronger. Well that is exactly what the Bait Fish was, with the meaty flavor added in as a twist. If you're a fan of the MUWAT line you are going to love this. For this time of year, when the weather is cold up here in Ohio, this is a perfect smoke.

Would I buy it again? This is going straight into my small winter cigar rotation. I will be buying a lot more of these.

Would I buy a box? Bundles of 25 sticks for $130 bucks? This is a no-brainer to me. I will grab more than one bundle.

Side Note: These are a New Havana Cigars exclusive release and will go on sale this Wednesday, December 7th in the evening. I'm not sure what the special is, but Jonathan Drew and Dan Welsh (owner of NHC) told me that there will be some sort of promotion pack that will come with these cigars on release day.