March 27, 2012

REVIEW: Patoro Vuelta Abajo Limited Extra Belicosos

Up for review tonight is a brand sold exclusively in Europe. I had never heard of Patoro cigars prior to my recent visit to the new Augusto Reyes factory in the Dominican Republic where they are produced. Patoro is a brand that was created by Patrick J. Martin and is sold at luxury prices in some of the best lounges in Europe. Patrick has a long history in the cigar industry; most notably, he is recognized for his work with early Dominican-made Davidoff products.

A quote from the Patoro website: luxury and good taste. Pure Cuban tobacco seeds, Dominican sun and the soil of Santiago create the valuable basis for each and every Patoro Cigar. The rich, nurturing soil combined with excellent experience in growing tobacco plants, gained over more then six generations, and the skillful hands of our master Torcedores, creates the unique taste of a masterpiece.

When I spoke with Patrick, he stressed to me the importance of the quality he demands of his product. He said he only allows a team of rollers to make 50 cigars a day (30 in the case of the Limited Edition, like in this review), and they must all go in the same cabinet for sale, if approved by quality control. As you can guess, these sticks are pretty hard to find, even in the European market.

Vitola: Belicoso
Length: 6
Ring Gauge: 50
Wrapper: Dominican
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Price: $40.90 (yup)
Smoking Location: my back deck
Beverage: water

The wrapper on my Patoro was a light brown color with a lot of tooth and texture. The pre-lit aroma was strong and smelled of hazelnut and sugary sweetness. The cap clipped with no problem and the cold draw was, again, very strong and tasted a lot like red wine. This was a shock to me because I'm not sure I've ever had a cigar with this flavor on the cold draw. I couldn't finish the pre-lit portion of this review without mentioning the very detailed and intricate design of the band. There are only two colors used (red & gold), but there was a lot going on. The big star on the band reminds me of something Russian. Nicely unique design.

First Third
The best way to describe the beginning of this cigar is to say it was rough. The draw was very loose and it made the stick burn very hot. When I say loose, I mean like sucking air through a straw loose. It was uncomfortable and made the cigar almost tasteless. What little flavor I could pick out was a little citrus-y on the front, with a mild pepper on the finish. The finish is long, but I think that mostly had to do with the hot burn I got from the draw. The nicotine strength was in the medium range.

Second Third
The second third was plagued again with the loose draw issues, but to counter that, the flavors did pick up a bit. The front of the profile was a twangy floral flavor that, much like the cold draw, was unique and the finish had a more pronounced black pepper taste. I liked the flavors, but the loose draw/hot burning issue made things unpleasant. The nicotine strength stayed in the medium range.

Final Third and Final Thoughts
The final third of my Pataro was actually the best part of the cigar. The flavors were the same as the second third (twangy floral front, black pepper finish), but the draw seemed to tighten up a bit. Maybe there was some buildup in the cigar that helped out? I'm not sure, but at this point, I was very happy to have things not burn as hot and mellow a bit. It was a nice way to finish the smoke. The nicotine strength moved a little higher in the final third, but I'd still call it medium to lower-full at the strongest.

Patoro Vuelta Abajo Limited Extra Belicosos? For a cigar that prides itself on quality, I can only think that I got a dud or that the travel from the pool deck in the DR to my house did something to mess the stick up. The flavors were pretty interesting when I was not being overrun with heat from the bad draw, so it was not a total loss.

Would I buy it again? I would like to get maybe one more of these, but with this experience and at that price, it will not be anytime soon.

Would I buy a box? See above


March 21, 2012

PRE-RELEASE La Dueña by My Father Cigars & Tatuaje

Today's review is a pre-release sample that I picked up on my recent trip to the My Father Factory. La Dueña (translates to The Owner in English) is a cigar line that is blended by Pete Johnson (owner of Tatuaje Cigars) specifically for Janny Garcia, the owner of My Father Cigars. This will be the first line of cigars to be made just for Janny's taste and, I believe, the first cigar Pete has blended for the My Father company.

I got a chance to smoke multiples of this cigar in all the different sizes (except petite lancero), so I think I have a pretty good take on the profile and what Pete and Janny were going for with this release. The sample I used for this review I actually got in Miami at the My Father headquarters, so I am going to guess it had a bit more age on it than all of the sticks I smoked in Nicaragua.

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

Vitola: Petite Robusto 
Length: 4.5
Ring Gauge: 52
Wrapper: Connecticut broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Price: $?
Smoking Location: New Havana Cigars
Beverage: water


The first thing I noticed when looking over my La Dueña were the visual differences in the broadleaf being used on the wrapper. Broadleaf tends to be pretty rough-looking in my opinion, but that was not the case with this cigar. The color was a consistent dark brown with virtually no variance in it at all. There were minimal veins and just a slight bit of tooth. Holding the cigar in the palm of my hand, it had some weight to it; so even with its small format, I didn't think it would be a super short smoke time. The un-lit aroma was very sweet, with hints of cocoa and earth. The cold draw was perfect with just a slight resistance and tasted heavily of dried fruit and sweetness. I actually commented that it reminded me of Fruit Roll Ups snacks.   

First Half   
My La Dueña lit up easily and and produced a lot of flavor from the first puff. The profile started out with a big bang of dark bitter chocolate and earth notes on the front, mixing perfectly with black pepper on the finish. The difference with this cocoa flavor is hard to describe, as it's not the same chocolate profile I tend to get from Mexican San Andreas wrappers. The taste seemed way more refined and clean. Speaking of clean, the peppery finish didn't lay heavy or feel like it was burning my taste buds, but instead left my palate nicely after a minute or so, making me want another draw. The construction was excellent and the the nicotine strength fell in the medium range. I do want to mention that this is not a cigar for a long ash competition. The ash holds strong for a little over an half inch and then starts to break.

Second Half and Final Thoughts
The second half of my La Dueña had some change-ups in the flavor profile which were most noticeable on the front. The dark chocolate turned into a sweet, dry cocoa flavor that really increased the the spice of the black pepper finish. For me, if the first half wasn't good enough, this took it to a whole new level. I love spicy cigars that maintain flavor balance and the second half of this cigar is a perfect example of exactly that. The construction was top notch the whole way, never needing a re-light or correction at any point during the smoking experience. Toward the end of the second half, I felt the nicotine strength of the cigar increased a little and I would put it in the medium- to lower-full range.

Final thoughts on the La Dueña by My Father Cigars? This is my favorite cigar out of all the new releases I smoked on my trip. There are a lot of other good sticks coming out this year from My Father and Tatuaje, but, for me, this blend was the shining star. The rich, deep flavors on the front turning lighter and sweeter in the second half with the addition of classic peppery finish was exactly what I found myself looking for when reaching into the bag of goodies Pete was carrying around. I'm foreseeing the future "Best of 2012" lists and La Dueña will be close to the top, if not the top cigar, for many of them.

Would I buy it again? All day, everyday.

Would I buy a box? Is there a waiting list? I'd like to be on it. Box purchase for sure.


March 20, 2012

REVIEW: General Cigars Special Blend #7

We have been having spring-like weather here in Columbus, which has been great. The other day was beautiful, so out to the back deck I went to smoke a cigar for review. I really hope winter has come to an end because an after dinner smoke on the deck is really something I enjoy. For review, I pulled out another stick that I picked up on my recent trip to the ProCigar festival. The General Cigars Special Blend #7 was given at the annual "white party" dinner on the second night in Santiago. The dinner parties are where all the manufacturers pass out the latest releases or special blends made just for the festival. I emailed Victoria McKee (Public Relations for General Cigar) to get some more info on this stick, but it seems they are currently being very tight-lipped on this one. 

A quote from Victoria McKee on the Special Blend #7 The cigar we gave out at the white party was actually a new blend that has never been released. We are not going to provide details because it's quite possible that we will release this blend in the near future.

That's all the information I have on this cigar, so I'm moving on to the review.

Vitola: Toro
Length:  6 
Ring Gauge: 50ish
Wrapper: proprietary
Binder: proprietary
Filler: proprietary
Price: $?
Smoking Location: my back deck
Beverage: water

The wrapper on my Special Blend #7 was a medium brown with a lot of red hues mixed in. There were a lot of visible veins, but the wrapper felt smooth and had a silky texture to it. The stick had a bit of a give to it when squeezed, although the wrapper was pulled very tight. I have a feeling if you squeezed this cigar even a little more forcefully than normal, the wrapper might crack. Luckily for me, this didn't happen. The aroma had a lot of dried fruit notes, which was a contrast to the cold draw, which tasted very woodsy. The draw was a little tight, but nothing of concern.

First Third   
Smooth is the first thing that came to mind after lighting this cigar up. The smoke texture was very easy on my palate, having left my mouth feeling clean after each exhale. The initial flavors on the cigar were a sweet, burnt sugar taste on the front of the profile with a candy-like cinnamon spice on the finish. Think of the candy Red Hots, but not as intense. The spice could really be felt on the center of my tongue. These flavors were tasty but mild in strength. The burn was a little wavy, but didn't require touching up. I would put the nicotine strength in the medium range.
Second Third  
The second third of my Special Blend #7 saw the first change in the flavor profile, with the addition of a wheat-like flavor mixing in with the burnt sugar in the front. It was a nice balance and, although not super strong, was enjoyable. The finish spice mellowed out a bit also at this point, but was still very clean feeling. I described this part of the cigar as "very easy to smoke". The burn evened itself out and was now perfectly straight. The nicotine strength was a consistent medium.
Final Third and Final Thoughts 
The final third of my Special Blend #7 got a lot darker in flavor. The bread-y sweetness from the second third turned into a molasses taste that heavily coated my palate. The nicotine strength of the cigar picked up a bit too and was more in the medium-full range. I like this because I like a bit more power at the end, but it could throw some people for a loop because of how consistent yet different the first two thirds were.The spice on the finish of the profile picked back up and was very noticeable through the nose. I nubbed this cigar without ever needing to relight or correct the burn.

My final thoughts on The General Cigars Special Blend #7? This is the most interesting cigar I have smoked from General Cigar in awhile. The flavor and strength of the cigar started out where any new or novice smoker could enjoy the experience, and finished up darker and more complex - great for a hardcore cigar guy/gal.  I think General Cigar could really have a winner here if this stick is put out as a major release. I caution them though: if this stick does see the mass market, I hope it's under a new line name and not just an extension to one of the many brand names they own, where it could get lost in the shuffle.

Would I buy it again? Yes, I would buy more of these. With that said, I don't know the price and that always comes into play.

Would I buy a box? This cigar is not as peppery as I like my everyday smokes to be, so I would hold off on a full box for personal consumption, but I think these would be box worthy for a lot of people.


March 15, 2012

REVIEW: Quesada Q D’Etat Molotov

Yesterday was a unseasonably warm day in Columbus, so I took advantage and sat on my back deck for the first time this year to do a cigar review. The stick was a sample I brought back from the ProCigar Festival - the Quesada Q D’Etat Molotov.These cigars were just recently released to the market and I read over at Tony Casas' site that they were limited to 1,000 boxes. I had the pleasure to watch a skilled roller at the MATASA  (Manufactura de Tabacos S.A.) factory make these cigars and it looked to be no easy task.

A quote from Terence Reilly (One of the what seems like 25 Quesada family members working in the business) about the Quesada Q D’Etat Molotov: The q d'etat line has a simple straight forward message: fight for your rights. Consequently the cigar is intended to have very Straightforward, distinctive flavors. In the case of the molotov, the shape offers the added bonus of seeing how the blend tastes in 3 distinct wrapper/binder filler ratios, as the cigar's ring gauge starts at 44, goes up to 58, and back down to 38

The new MATASA factory is a impressive building that the whole Quesada clan is just getting settled into. I'm sure by next year's ProCigar, it will be one of the most stunning factories in the Dominican Republic.
Vitola: "Molotov"
Length:  5
Ring Gauge: 44 - 58 - 38 in that order
Wrapper: Dominican
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Price: $7.95
Smoking Location: My back deck
Beverage: Water


What a interesting shape. The Molotov is one of the more unique vitolas I've seen in awhile and the cap is just as different. The little open brushed head on the end of the cap gives it the Molotov cocktail look they must have been going for, without being a stupid long wispy tobacco mess. The wrapper is a reddish brown color with only a few small veins. One negative I have on the look of the cigar is the secondary band that says the name of the cigar. Yes, I get it. Fire is cool, but this artwork just didn't do it for me. Thankfully, the primary black Quesada band is elegant and looks great. The aroma of the cigar is heavy on hay notes, with some pepper at the open foot. After carefully clipping the cap, the cold draw was a little sour. 

First Third   
After putting flame to this stick, any taste of sourness instantly disappeared and I began to get very pronounced flavors. On the front of each puff, I tasted a lot of toffee that faded into a spicy mint flavor on the finish. This mintiness had a lot of kick to it, but it also was cooling and left my palate feeling clean. The draw was great and the burn was quick until reaching the fatter part of the cigar, where it slowed down. Speaking of the bigger part of the stick, once I reached this point, the flavor profile changed up. The toffee I had experienced before was now more leather tasting, and the spicy mint finish turned into black coffee. Interesting. I smoked this cigar after dinner and at this point, I'd put the strength in the medium range.    

Second Third  
The second third of my Q D’Etat Molotov continued on with lots of leather flavor on the front and black coffee on the finish. For me this was great because I like a nice black coffee or espresso after dinner and this was filling in nicely. The smoke texture during this part of the stick was a little dry, but nothing that made me uncomfortable. One thing to note, and I'm sure you can tell from the picture, is the strength of the ash on this stick. I only ashed this cigar once the entire time smoking it, and there was a bit of a breeze outside. The strength of the cigar was still medium, but reached slightly into full.

Final Third and Final Thoughts 
I finished off the last section of this review talking about the strength of the Q D’Etat Molotov and I'll start this section with it, too, because it came on full boar in the last third. I'd love to see how this cigar was bunched because it seemed almost like a switch between puffs from med-full, to all out hit-you-in-the-gut power. It wasn't a heady nicotine buzz, but rather a full body feeling that got my heartbeat up and running. It was nice because it made me feel very satisfied at the end of the smoke, but I am also glad it wasn't this strong the whole time because that would be too much for me. The flavor in the final third was dominated by black coffee both on the front and finish of the profile. Again, perfect construction with zero problems.

My final thoughts on The Quesada Q D’Etat Molotov? This is a great after dinner cigar. The dark flavors of coffee and leather compliment a meal wonderfully. Be careful in that last third, as the strength really kicks into gear and hits you right in the gut. The construction was great and the cigar never gave me any problems with burning out or tunneling. Some might think I'm crazy, but, in my opinion, this is a far better effort from Quesada than last year's Oktoberfest release, which is the last cigar I have smoked from them.

Would I buy it again? Yes, I would buy more of these.

Would I buy a box? I don't think I'd smoke this everyday, but with a limited amount being made, I'd order a box to keep around no problem.


March 13, 2012

Tatuaje Group Trip to the My Father Factory Recap

So as one of my last posts stated, I recently made my way down to Esteli, Nicaragua with Pete Johnson (owner of Tatuaje Cigars), KC Johnson (Pete's brother), Dan Welsh (owner of New Havana Cigars), Casper (Owner/ Managing Partner at GoMerch, who does all of Tatuaje's swag/media), and a few great shop owners from lower Florida. (Smoke on the water, Prime Cigar, Harbor Cigars) It was a fantastic trip and, like every time I visit the country, I learn so much. Below is a break down of what we did and where we went on each day. I'm not including all the details because I'm sure I've forgotten some in the late nights of partaking on the rooftop of hotel Los Arcos. I also took a bit of video that, as soon as Mario has chance to edit it together, I will post up. I think I got some really nice footage of the factory and the farms, but we'll see. Anyway, on to the trip recap.
Day 1: Day one was not actually spent in Nicaragua, but in Miami. Dan Welsh and I traveled from Columbus mid-afternoon and were greeted by Janny Garcia and KC Johnson. We had plans to meet up with Pete Johnson too for a nice dinner to celebrate Janny's birthday, but Pete's flight had been canceled. The four of us didn't let that get us down, as we went to dinner and then on to the new My Father factory/headquarters in Miami. The new My Father place in Miami is awesome. It's a huge building with endless offices and a surprising number of lounges. (Do these people work?) I cannot forget to mention that Jose Ortega also joined us in Miami and took a shot of Dan, KC, and I sitting in his "hurricane lounge".
Day 2: Off to the airport after a few hours of sleep to meet up with Pete and Casper, who took the red-eye from LA. Even with the lack of sleep, everyone was in a great mood and spent most of the time in the airport lounge playing Words with Friends. The flight was the same as always (wait, not even close...I was in First Class boom!) and we landed in hot Managua. Unfortunately, here's where our trip took a little detour because of trouble on the Pan American highway. The drive that normally takes about two hours to Esteli took closer to four because the Pan American was closed due to protest and violence on the road. Two extra hours in a bus to make sure we are safe? Sounds like a good deal to me, even if it sucked at the time. So when we finally got to Esteli, we headed straight to the factory and were greeted by Pepin and Jaime Garcia. Pete gave a quick tour and we settled in for what would be one of many smoke sessions in the boardroom of the My Father factory. (Cigars smoked in this session: Frank Jr., La Duena, Cojonu 2012)
Day 3: This was a our big day at the factory. Pete and some of the factory managers (who's names I didn't write down and should have) showed us all the steps in tobacco processing from barn dried leaf, to fully fermented (there is only one fermentation of tobacco...don't believe the hype) ready-to-roll product. After a trip through all the processing, we saw the rolling floor and the packaging area. Oh and I can't forget the box factory. The box factory is seriously bad ass. This was like a wood shop, but making products you actually wanted to make. Minus a few pieces here and there, the My Father factory truly is a one-stop shop. After the tour, we headed out to Pepin's newest farms. What amazing countryside. After the farm trip, it was back to the factory for another smoke session. (Cigars smoked this session: Baby Face, Little Wolfie, Petite Cazadore Sumatra, La Duena.)
Day 4: Today we started with a little smoke session at the factory (smoked a NHC Surrogate - cat's out of the bag) and then headed out to visit some other facilities located in Esteli. The group took a trip to see the Plasencia tobacco plant where Nestor Plasencia Jr. and his team showed us around their great looking building, and then on to Oliva Tobacco where Gustavo Cura filled us in on what they do. These trips, especially the one to Oliva Tobacco, were very informative to me and I learned a lot. Not to say that Nestor Jr. isn't, but Gustavo came off to me as one bad ass tobacco grower. I could spend a month with him and still not come close to the surface of what this guy knows. Big ups to both Gustavo and Nestor Jr. for wonderful tours. After those tours we headed out to what can only be described as a very special place...Pepin's La Estrella farm. These fields of tobacco were enchanting and I understand why some fantastic cigars come from this farm. We had a great lunch and then went back to the factory where I got to see Pepin roll a cigar himself, (awesome and a highlight of the trip) and had a cigar rolling competition between all of us guests. After that, you guessed it: another smoke session that started at the factory and continued late into the night at the hotel. (Cigars smoked this session: La Verite 2010, a prototype of a new brown label that we called Negligencia Miami, Little Wolfie, La Duena, Avion 2012.)
Day 5: Coming home. Again, the Pan American was closed, so we left the hotel extra early, made a swing past the factory to say goodbye to Pepin and Jaime, and traveled on to the airport. I slept most of the way so nothing of any excitement to report. Plane ride, lay over(smoked on my curb at Miami airport again), plane ride, and here I sit back at home.

Overall: What a fun and educational trip. I want to deeply thank Pete Johnson, Janny Garcia, Pepin Garcia, Jaime Garcia, Jose Ortega, Nestor Plasencia Jr., Gustavo Cura, and all the factory managers and workers that showed us an amazing time everywhere we went. I also want to thank my fellow trip goers who made having these experiences even more fun. I can't wait to go back.

For more pictures check out our facebook page here.  Video to come soon.

March 1, 2012

Heading to the My Father Factory in Nicaragua

I know we just got back from ProCigar last week, but I'm off again on cigar adventure number two for 2012. Next week I am heading down to Nicaragua with my good friends Pete Johnson (owner of the Tatuaje brand of cigars), Dan Welsh (owner of New Havana Cigars) and KC Johnson (Pete's brother who I hung out with a lot last year at the IPCPR tradeshow.) I'm not sure what to expect on this trip because it's my first trip to the country that is not a formal "blogger" tour. I do know that when I asked Pete last week at ProCigar what we would be smoking, he had the best answer. He told me, "When we get up, you tell me what we're smoking that day." I'm sure he saw the big sh*t eating grin appear on my face. So, like the trip last week, the best way to get updates from me on my trip and to find out what we end up smoking, is via my twitter (reeve11). Also, you should follow Dan Welsh (NHCDAN) and Pete (tatuajecigars) if you don't already.

While I am gone Mario will continue with the updates from last weeks ProCigar festival. We've got a ton of footage so check back often. 

I'm very excited for this trip and haven't stopped thinking about it since Pete asked me if I wanted to go. Wish me luck and see you in a week.