Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tastes change

By Gary Korb

A few weeks ago I wrote the following copy for an email sale on Independencia cigars: "I remember when Tabacalera La Aurora introduced Independencia in 2002. At the time I found them a to be too full-bodied for me. Now I'm in love with this cigar." The point being, that as you gain experience smoking premium handmade cigars, your palate matures as well. That spurred my interest in returning to some other cigars that were too heavy for me in the past.

Case in point is the Partagas Black Label cigars selection. The line was introduced in 2001, which also marked the beginning of a new wave of full-bodied cigars to come. Like the aforementioned Independencia, at that time I just wasn't ready for it. Other, more experienced cigar smokers all around me were raving about it, while I was left scratching my head in wonder.

So, about two weeks ago I picked up a Partagas Black Label Piramide. The wrappers are so ebony dark in color I can see why they might scare-off the typical tyro. I fired it up, and to my surprise it was exquisite. Thick, creamy smoke that was knee-deep in flavor, and not overpowering at all. I couldn't believe I had been missing out on such a great cigar all these years, and it wasn’t the cigar, it was me.

I'm sure I'm not alone. I'm curious to know what cigars others have returned to after a long absence and found that the experience was much more pleasurable than they remembered.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Every day's a Holiday"

By Gary Korb

Last night, just over a dozen or so avid cigar smokers and I attended one of the best herfs I've been to in quite a while. Famous Smoke Shop hosted a cigar dinner with Graycliff cigars at Silver Creek Country Club, and even though a lot more people were expected, it turned out that having a smaller group made it all the more fun.

First of all, there were a lot more Graycliff Professionale, Chateau, and Espresso cigars to go around, and it provided the opportunity for everyone to get to know each other a little better. By the end of the night, it seemed that we had all known each other for years.

But besides the phenomenal cigars, the great scotch, the wines, and all the good food we were served, the highlight of the evening was Graycliff cigars "ambassador," Jean Emond. This jaunty gent, who has also had a remarkable career in the cigar business, kept the cigars coming and everyone smiling.

Jean presented a short history about the Graycliff Resort and Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas, and how they began produing premium cigars with the help of Avelino Lara. Moreover, he talked about the exceptional quality and variety of the tobaccos they use in their cigars. Jean, who also lives in the Bahamas when he's not traveling all over the world doing cigar events, also pointed out that the hotel has one of the largest and most coveted wine collections in the world.

Jean was the perfect host, moving from table to table, making sure everyone was having a good time. But the catch phrase of the night, which Jean intoned repeatedly as sort of a toast was, "Every day's a holiday!"

And let me tell you. For a guy with a dream job like Jean's, every day really is a holiday.

Friday, April 20, 2007

New Cigar Review: Montecristo Serie C Belicoso

by Gary Korb

A couple of weeks ago, I received an Altadis U.S. A. press release announcing the new Montecristo Serie C cigars. According to a company spokesperson in the release, the new cigar is made with "ultra premium Cameroon leaves that Altadis U.S.A. alone was able to acquire." Coincidentally, I had received a sample of the Montecristo Serie C Belicoso several days earlier. I finally fired it up yesterday, and here's my impression in a nutshell:

The quote from the press release wasn't just "marketing speak." The Cameroon wrapper on this cigar is a real beauty. Dark, even in color, smooth in texture, and attractively oily. The cigar drew well with lots of creamy smoke that had a rich, sweet aroma. The flavor was primarily earthy, sweet, woody, and medium to full in body. By its midpoint, the cigar took on a more full-flavored and spicier character. By the last third, the smoke was considerably more stout, yet never overpowering.

An impressive luxury cigar in every detail. My complete cigar review and score of the Montecristo Serie C Belicoso can be found on the Reviews page at www.CigarAdivsor.com.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where in the world is Dave Blanco?

by Gary Korb

When my wife and I were in Nicaragua last December, we met a young gentleman by the name of Dave Blanco. Dave is the producer and distributor of Los Blancos cigars, a boutique premium cigar brand that was introduced by Cesar and David Blanco 1998.

Dave is a fascinating guy with an intriguing family history, too. The Blanco's have roots in the tobacco industry that go back to Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, and their cousins are the prominent Plasencia family who blend and manufacture Los Blancos cigars in EstelĂ­, Nicaragua. (Dave is also related to the renowned Oliva Cigar Family of Nicaragua.)

Dave has served in the Armed Forces in Afghanistan. He's also been a first-responder, as both a fireman and an EMT. Now he's concentrating his efforts full-time on making darn good premium cigars.

We spent the last night of our trip in the hotel bar with Dave and his girlfriend over drinks, and Dave offered me a private Los Blancos cigar that he personally blended for himself. The cigar had a Maduro wrapper and smoked with a well-balanced, earthy, medium-bodied flavor that I found very enjoyable.

Los Blancos offers four handmade selections, each with their own unique mild, medium or full-bodied blend. The blends are created using Piloto Cuban-seed, Nicaraguan, Honduran and Indonesian tobaccos, and the selections are presented in Sumatra, Maduro, Connecticut Shade, or Criollo wrappers.

Several weeks after we returned home, I tried to contact Dave at his office in Chicago. He wasn't in but I spoke to his father. He was very gracious and said he'd pass along my message to Dave who was back in Nicaragua at the time.

So far, I haven't heard from Dave. I don't take it personally. He's probably very busy gearing up for this year's RTDA in Houston, and I know I'm going to hear from him eventually. But if anyone out there reading this happens to run into him, please tell him that Gary from Famous Smoke Shop said "hello."

Los Blancos premium cigars can be found at local cigar stores and other fine tobacconists. For more information visit www.losblancos.com.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cigar Review: Avo L.E. 07

Avo L.E. 07 (Dominican Republic)
by Gary Korb

The highly-anticipated Avo L.E. 07 cigars have arrived in a limited edition production of only 4,000 boxes. The cigars, which are only available in local cigar stores, are presented cabinet style (no cello) in a wooden box of 20 cigars without bands.

The L.E. 07 sample I had looked freshly rolled, smelled sweet, and had a nice silky feel. The wrapper, an Ecuadorian Sun Grown leaf, was somewhat veiny, even in hue, and buttery in appearance.

The cigar had an excellent draw that produced a thick, creamy head of smoke. The flavor was was toasty with a semi-sweet, cedar-aged flavor and aroma on a clean finish. As the cigar smoked, the flavors became much more pronounced, yet remained very smooth and creamy.

Final analysis: A rock-solid, medium to full-bodied cigar, perfect for enjoying in the evening.

If you'd like to read my complete, detailed cigar review of the Avo L.E. 07, click here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Extra-aging cigars does improve their taste

I've always been a proponent of extra-aging premium cigars. Although most of the decent to high-quality premium cigars are "ready to smoke" out of the box, I always take a handful of cigars and place them somewhere in the back or bottom of the humidor so they're out-of-sight for at least a few months. Inevitably, I find they always taste better. But it doesn't always take months or years to "mellow" out a cigar. Sometimes just a couple of weeks can make a difference.

Case in point: About a month ago, I purchased a bundle of Dominican cigars with Connecticut wrappers. The price was irresistible, and I knew they were of good quality from a good factory, etc. So, I figured for everyday smokes they'd do the trick, and I placed them in my office humidor.

The next day, I lit-up one of the cigars to smoke with my morning coffee. To my surprise, it was not very flavorful at all and even somewhat bitter. I had had these cigars before with much more satisfying results. Next day, same thing. Day three, another blah cigar. At that point, I decided to let them sit and switched to something else. I also removed them from their cello wrappers, which is my normal practice, but I don't always do so with everyday cigars.

After just two weeks, the cigars had improved significantly in taste. It was probably a combination of two things: 1) The cigars needed the extra time to "settle." 2) By removing them from the cellos they had a chance to "marry" with the other cigars in the humidor.

Of course, sometimes you just get a bad box or bundle and there's nothing that will save them. I had faith in this particular blend, and all it took was some patience for them to pay-off. That said, had things gone the other way, I was happy I only paid $19.95 for the pack.

Moral of the story: Like the old "Chicken Soup" joke, extra aging may not help with some cigars, but it doesn't hurt. But from what I've tasted - and I think most other cigar smokers would agree - most of the time extra aging does improve a cigar's flavor.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

La Aurora cigars roll into Easton

Have you ever seen how they roll premium cigars, or smoked a freshly rolled cigar? It's pretty cool. If you haven't had either of these experiences, you'll have the opportunity this Saturday, April 7, from 12 to 4:00 PM as Famous Smoke Shop welcomes La Aurora cigars for a cigar tasting event - and one of their top torceadors will be there to roll cigars for your smoking pleasure.

In addition to the cigars, La Aurora will also be providing samples of El Presidente beer, the Dominican Republic's leading brew. As always, the store will have specials on La Aurora premium cigars, and raffle prizes will be given away throughout the day. If you live in the Lehigh Valley of Western NJ/Eastern PA, or are returning to the area for the Easter holiday this weekend, don't miss this fun and edutaining event.

Famous Smoke Shop's Retail Store is located in the Forks Township section of Easton, PA, right up the road from Lafayette College at 1100 Conroy Place. For more information please call 610-559-8800.