Friday, September 28, 2007

Retro-Smoke: CAO Criollo Mancha

By Gary Korb

Here's a cigar I really haven't smoked in a long while. The 5 5/8" x 46 CAO Criollo Mancha. Pronounced, "cree-yo-yo," this is another cigar that I found at the bottom of my humidor while rotating my cigars last month.

One thing you can say about CAO cigars is they have some of the most attractive wrappers, and this blend of diverse Nicaraguan filler & binder tobaccos is nicely complemented by an oily, buttery-textured Criollo '98 leaf grown in Ecuador and capped with a neat little Cuban-style pigtail.

I smoked the Mancha Wednesday night with a friend on his back porch under the full moon with a glass of Offley Porto 20 Year Aged Tawny. The cigar was much fuller in flavor than I had remembered, too. Earthy-woody flavors predominated with spicy chords, not "notes," and traces of dark roasted coffee in the mix. The cigar built in complexity, strength and spiciness during the last third, yet the smoke was never completely overpowering.

Listed as "medium to full-bodied," I think this spicier CAO cigar might be a little much for new smokers, but for the more experienced, I would recommend the Mancha if you're looking for a robust after-dinner smoke.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

SCHIP Update: It's never too late to call, even to say “thanks”

This posting may be a little too late, because I was out of town yesterday, and the Congressional vote on SCHIP has already been tallied, but here goes.

What follows is the gist of an email from Nick Perdomo that was forwarded to me:

“I have been in meetings all this week with several key Congressmen and Senators. Tell the people to call their Congressmen and Senators and to ask for their legislative assistants who are on the SCHIP bill, particularly the large cigar tax portion. These people need to know that this will destroy a complete industry in our country, not to mention putting over 400,000 people out of work in Central America. Also when leaving your message, thank them for removing the floor tax on large cigars.”

To call your Congressmen, click here.

To call your Senators, click here.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has followed through by putting the pressure on in an effort to keep this bill from breaking the back of the premium cigar industry.

Monday, September 24, 2007

My Weekend Cigar: Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Toro

By Gary Korb

This past Saturday was a wash-out in the Lehigh Valley, but the skies cleared up in the afternoon, so I spent the better part of two hours Saturday night out on the deck with a Rocky Patel Old World Reserve Toro Corojo (6½" x 52) and a glass of Barefoot Shiraz, a good, modestly-priced wine from California.

I've smoked a fairly decent number of the Olde World Reserve since their debut a couple years ago. They've been amazingly consistent, which is one of the primary reasons they've remained on my Top-10 list. The smoke is silky-smooth, robust, and marvelously complex with Rocky's signature creaminess throughout. If I had to compare them to another Rocky Patel blend, taking a line from Rocky's promotional literature, it's like "the Vintage on steroids," because they can be quite heady, as well. But I think what really distinguishes this blend from the Vintage line is the leaf selection and the aging process. Plus, the Corojo wrappers are pristine, like smooth, perfectly-tanned leather.

True, it is similar to the Vintage, but it's also "bigger and sharper" in terms of flavor. A better comparison might be the difference between watching regular TV and widescreen HDTV. You definitely taste a lot more flavors in the Olde World Reserve. And because it's not as heavy as Port, the delicate mix of fruity and tangy flavors in the Shiraz complemented the cigar well.

Please note, because this cigar made in limited edition, it's only available at the retail counter. But if you're looking for a great after-dinner or evening cigar, it's well worth stopping-in for.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Retro-Smoke: Diablo Pimiento

By Gary Korb

With the reemergence of this cigar that debuted in 2004, I thought I'd take another look at Diablo. The cigar I selected was a Diablo Pimiento, a 6½" x 45 Lonsdale, not a shape I normally smoke, but I figured if I liked the Lonsdale, the others should be pretty nice, too.

The cigar was very attractive with a thick, dark Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. It was rolled a bit tight, but the draw was OK. It lit perfectly and burned clean all the way down with a light-grey ash.

Made with a Nicaraguan and Dominican filler blend, it's supposed to be a "spicy" cigar. From the get-go the cigar was actually quite mild, but what was spicy was the aroma, which I liked very much. I suppose the best way to put it would be "tangy."

As it smoked the cigar took on a more medium-bodied flavor, and then at about one-third up, the cigar did get spicier with sort of a mild, red-peppery taste. From that point on the cigar was very consistent, well-balanced, and pretty flavorful with a note of sweetness on the finish.

As good medium-bodied cigars go I would recommend the Diablo, but probably more as a warm-up for newer cigar smokers who want to crossover to the more full-bodied and genuinely spicy fare.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thursday, September 20 is National Fax Day - No New Cigar Taxes!

Earlier today I recieved an important message from Chris McCalla, Legislative Director of the IPCPR (Imported Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association), formerly known as the RTDA. He wanted to remind cigar smokers that “Congress has decided on a framework for the Federal Cigar Tax proposal, but much work is left to finalize the legislation. Opportunities exist for further compromise.”

Moreover, as part of an inter-industry coordinated assault on Capitol Hill, September 20 will be “National Fax Day” to Congress. So take a moment to fax your Senators and Congressmen and urge them not to pass any new cigar taxes. You can do so now by clicking here.

Thank you,

Monday, September 17, 2007

My Weekend Cigar: Oliva Special S Diadema 7x48

By Gary Korb

This past weekend was very interesting with regard to the variety of cigars I smoked. If you include last Friday night, I could add the Padron 1964 Anniversary Maduro Monarca. But I'll start with Saturday where I attended an outdoor party in New Jersey held annually by close friends of our family. Their home, which is in one of the more pastoral parts of "The Garden State," provides the perfect setting for at least a couple of good cigars. I don't know about you, but I usually have a hard time deciding what cigars to bring to these events. After some careful deliberation I decided to bring a Partagas Cifuentes Winter Blend Enero, an Oliva Special S Diadema 7x48, and a Padilla Miami 8/11 that had been given to me by a good customer a while back. This was a 6"x60 monster, which must have been a special edition or something, because I've never seen an 8/11 in that size. Plus, it had a 2" band, not at all like the black, gold, and red band on the 8/11.

I smoked two of the three cigars that day, having given away the Partagas Cifuentes to a BOTL who forgot to bring cigars. I had a few more back at the ranch, so I didn't mind parting with it. The Padilla Miami 8/11 was awesome. Flavorful, but powerful. There's a lot of tobacco to smoke through and I really felt it afterwards. But the cigar that really rocked me was my first cigar that afternoon - the Oliva Special S Diadema 7x48, and I say so because there's also a story behind it.

This cigar was one of three Special S Diadema 7x48's Jose Oliva had given me when he came to introduce the brand to a group of us at Famous last year, just prior to its RTDA debut. The Oliva Special S cigars are blended with a Nicaraguan Habano filler, Nicaraguan binder and a flawless, sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper aged five full years. This series is also the priciest of the Oliva line extensions, so Jose was very concerned about our opinion. If I could describe the cigar's flavor I would say, imagine a Nicaraguan version of a Davidoff Aniversario No.3. The flavor was great, the balance perfect, great aroma and all that, but the first two cigars did not burn well, which I reported to Jose a couple of weeks later. I also told him that I'd prefer to keep the last cigar in my humidor and let it settle before I gave him my final opinion of the cigar. Well as luck would have it, somehow it wound its way down to the bottom of my humidor, and I didn't discover it again until a few weeks ago while rotating my cigars. This last cigar, which I paired with a vodka & tonic, was just as I had remembered it, and even better, for it had not only mellowed beautifully, but it burned perfectly, even with the little blustery wind we had on Saturday. I can now say with confidence that this is truly a wonderful cigar that should be experienced, especially in this unique, old Cuban-style shape.

On Sunday, I took out an unbanded handrolled cigar finished with a Cuban pigtail on the cap that had been in my humidor for at least a year. This one was found along with the Oliva Special S, and I believe it was a Tatuaje I picked up at the Jose Pepin Garcia booth at RTDA Las Vegas last year. It looked like a Tatuaje Cabinet Especiales, but the cigar was closer to 6 inches in length and ring was about a 42. Whatever it was, the smoke was full-bodied and very flavorful with a dark, earthy character and a long finish.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Retro-Smoke: Carlos Toraño 1916 Cameroon and Virtuoso

By Gary Korb

Last weekend, Michael Gant, regional sales rep of Carlos Toraño Cigars stopped by the Famous Smoke Shop Retail store to present some of the company's finest wares. Included among them were two cigars I haven't had in quite a while: The 1916 Cameroon Robusto (5½" x 52) and the Carlos Toraño Virtuoso Encore (4¾" x 52).

The 1916 Robusto is a true delight. A creamy, mellow smoke with a pleasant mix of earthy, toasty and sweet tobacco flavors that remain consistent all the way through. This is a very relaxing cigar that's perfect in the morning or afternoon when you want something a little lighter, yet rich in flavor.

The Virtuoso Encore, which not surprisingly holds a Famous Customer Rating of 9.45, is exquisitely dark, and brimming with rich, creamy, complex flavors, not unlike some of the better full-bodied pre-embargo Cubans. I reviewed the Virtuoso Forte a while back and scored it a "93." The Encore is equally outstanding. This cigar hits on all cylinders and is the perfect full-bodied after-dinner contrast to the milder 1916. A true "espresso" of a cigar that, while very robust, is not overpowering.

If you haven't had the pleasure of smoking a Carlos Toraño cigar, depending on your taste preference, these two selections are a great place to start.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Perdomo Habano cigars bow at Famous Smoke Shop

By Gary Korb

The highly-anticipated Perdomo Habano® Corojo and Maduro selections have finally begun appearing on the shelves at Famous Smoke Shop. Now in stock are the Gordo (6" x 60), Presidente (7" x 56), and the Torpedo (6½" x 54), with the Toro (5½" x 54) and Robusto (5" x 52) coming soon. Note, they are taking backorders in those sizes.

In case you missed it, here's what I wrote in my August 17th blog about the Perdomo Habano Toro Maduro: "This new creation from Nick Perdomo has been one of the most impressive in terms of my personal taste preference. It's beautiful to look at, too. The wrapper is dark, even in color, and oily. Plus, the detail on the extra large band is a piece of artwork unto itself. Thick, creamy smoke emanated from the head as the room filled with a hearty, sweet aroma. The flavor was primarily woody with a trace sweetness and a modicum of spiciness on the palate. (The cigar actually looks much stronger than it is.) The smoke is extremely smooth, perfectly-balanced, and full-flavored without the heaviness of a full-bodied cigar."

I recently got around to smoking the Perdomo Habano Toro Corojo and was equally impressed, but found it a little spicier.

If you'd like to learn even more about these stunning cigars from the man himself, check out the video of Nick Perdomo, who described the Perdomo Habano to me at the RTDA last month.

Check 'em out, and after you've had one, please write in and let me know what you thought.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Weekend Cigar: Don Lino 1989 Robusto

by Gary Korb

This weekend I had the pleasure of smoking a sample of something that should be arriving in stores in the not-too-distant future: The Don Lino 1989 Robusto. The cigar was well-packed and embellished with a rich-looking, embossed red and gold band. The outer wrapper was a beautifully silky, even toned Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf that was virtually flawless. The smoke was equally silky with a wonderfully rich, creamy, medium-bodied flavor that was nutty, toasty and naturally sweet. The smoke also had an excellent balance of flavors. Very consistent, never turning bitter or hot, and I smoked as much of it as I could short of burning my thumb. A very impressive cigar. Stay tuned for this one. If you're not a regular smoker of Don Lino cigars, I think you will be soon.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Plasencia Reserva Organica Cigars Meet “The Mets”

By Gary Korb

On Wednesday evening, September 5, I made what was now my third cigar presentation to The Metropolitan Society cigar club in Fairfield, NJ on behalf of Famous Smoke Shop. The cigars I chose for this occasion were the Plasencia Reserva Organica selection. I've been wanting to present these cigars to an impartial group of avid cigar smokers for a long time, and The Metropolitan Society's monthly cigar dinner provided the ideal setting.

When I got to the club with a box of 100 Plasencia Reserva Organica Robustos (including a load of Famous Smoke Shop catalogs), I was greeted by Metropolitan Society Treasurer, Ben Amoruso, who was seated behind a poker table checking-off names of the members as they arrived (see above photo) . To my surprise and delight, on the table were two open boxes of cigars: Olor Nicaragua and Olor Classic, both of which are brands exclusive Famous Smoke Shop. As is the custom for the monthly Society dinner meetings, as each member signs in they're entitled to their choice of a mild or full-flavored cigar. With my box now on the table, I joined Ben by handing out the Plasencia's and catalogs.

The dinner started promptly at 7:00 PM, and many of the members were already toking on their PRO Robustos. After the group had been served dinner, club President, Dan McCarthy, took care of all required club business, then he introduced me and I did my spiel. During my presentation I asked for a show of hands among those who had been smoking the cigars and asked for their honest take with a thumbs-up or down. Fortunately, it was almost unanimously thumbs-up. Were they just being nice because I was there? I don't want to assume anything, but I did receive a number of one-to-one compliments from many of them on the cigars later that evening.

In case you're not familiar with The Plasencia Reserva Organica cigars, they are Nicaraguan puros created by Nestor Plasencia Jr., in which the tobaccos are grown under "certified organic" conditions. The smoke is mild to medium in body with a rich, cedar-aged flavor that finishes with a very pure, natural flavor on the palate.

All-in-all, in was a wonderful evening, so at this juncture I'd like to thank Nestor Plasencia Jr., my boss, Arthur Zaretsky, and Famous Smoke Shop GM, Hal Odzic, for providing the cigars, as well as the following Metropolitan Society Board members: Dan McCarthy, Bob Lesnick, Ben Amoruso, Rich Camy, John Cito, and George Koodray, who helped make it all possible, and all the other Metro Society members I had the pleasure to meet. I look forward to doing it again next year.

(Middle photo, L-R) Metropolitan Society VP, Bob Lesnick, President, Dan McCarthy, and Yours Truly

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My Weekend Cigar: Lighting up for Labor Day

By Gary Korb

My Labor Day plans included spending the entire weekend with my wife and boys at my parent's house at the Jersey Shore, and concluded with a Labor Day Monday Bar-B-Q at my brother's house, much closer to home, which also helped beat the hellish New Jersey Labor Day traffic.

For the three day weekend, I came very prepared. Arriving late Friday night, I loaded my Csonka Valet with 12 cigars, and here's how things panned out.

Saturday morning I started out at the pool with a Los Blancos Criollo. This is their cigar with the green band. The smoke was smooth, creamy and flavorful with a rich, nutty taste. During the afternoon I had a Camacho Select Robusto. A great-tasting, full-flavored cigar with plenty of spice on the finish.

Saturday night I didn't get the chance to smoke a cigar. We went to a nightclub in Sea Bright, NJ called "ELEMENTS the lounge," but as you New Jerseyans already know, smoking indoors is a no-no. I also got to meet Elements' manager, Dimitri who happens to be an avid cigar smoker and looks like he belongs in the cast of Entourage. I just happened to have my travel case and a Famous Smoke Shop catalog in the car, so I brought them in. I asked Dimitri what he likes to smoke, and the first cigar he mentioned was Avo XO. Just his luck, I happened to have an Avo XO Intermezzo on me and gladly handed it to him along with the catalog. During our conversation, he told me he had never had a Rocky Patel cigar. I shot him a quick glance of amazement, but he was in luck again as I handed him a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Toro. "If you've never had a Rocky Patel cigar, then this is probably the best cigar to start with," I said. Dimitri was very grateful and in turn, treated my wife and I to a couple of drinks. He's got a great place. If you're ever down the shore, stop in and check it out.

Sunday morning it was a Perdomo Reserve Champagne R. What a great cigar. Rich, earthy and creamy with a nice little kick to it. I spent the afternoon on the beach with a Famous Nicaraguan 3000 Torpedo. This cigar had been in my humidor quite a while. They were a bit too strong out of the bundle when I bought them, but the cigar had mellowed somewhat while maintaining that nice kick of dark spicy tobacco flavor with a quiet little note of sweetness on the finish. It held up really well under the windy beach conditions, too.

Sunday night I lit-up a Graycliff Espresso President out on the terrace. Man did that cigar live up to its rep. Spicy, spicy, spicy! I had it with a small glass of Lemoncello over ice. Talk about a heady experience. I think this cigar would have been better paired with an espresso, but I might not have gotten any sleep. It was very flavorful, but I think I'm more partial to the fairly milder Graycliff Professional series.

Finally, Monday at the Bar-B-Q, I kicked back with a Partagas Cifuentes Winter Blend Enero. I just love this chunky, creamy-smoking Dominican puro, which is now getting harder to find. The cigar is perfectly balanced with toasty, cedary flavors, naturally sweet, moderately spicy, and very aromatic. What a great way to wrap up a sunny and not-too-hot holiday weekend.