Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: Davidoff L.E.'09 Especial Seleccíon 702 Toro

I hope most of you had a chance to enjoy some special cigars on Christmas. I had to wait until the day after, but it was worth the wait. I received a sample of the Davidoff L.E. '09 702 Toro earlier this year, when they debuted. I figured there was no use waiting any longer to smoke it, and it did not disappoint. The 6 5/8" x 48 vitola sports a stunning, flawless and dark Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper that surrounds a perfectly balanced blend of Piloto Cubano, Olor and San Vicente Dominican tobaccos.

I smoked the cigar on Saturday with the regulars at the Famous Smoke Shop store: Gary, Mike, Bill W., Tony, Big Dave, Detective Jim, Keith, et. al. It was a pretty lousy day, too, as a relentless curtain of cold rain shrouded the Lehigh Valley. But spirits were high as we chatted, watched college football, and an old Sherlock Holmes movie. I paired my 702 with Sandeman Founders Reserve port.

Pre-light: As per, the cap clipped off in a perfect circle exposing just the right amount of head, which offered a smooth, easy draw. The draw was curiously complex. Sweet on the tongue with a notes of dark wood and very peppery, too.

First Act: The first few puff were smooth, creamy, peppery and medium-bodied with subtle notes of anise in the mix. The pepper and anise flavors quickly gave way to creamy flavors of sweet tobacco and cedar wood notes. The burn was clean with a semi-firm solid grey ash.

Second Act: The cigar remained consistent into the second half. Since the cigar was long, I let it rest a lot between puffs so it wouldn't get to tarry by the last third. The smoke was sweet, ultra-smooth and gained a bit in strength. The burn veered off-line a bit, but not enough to matter. Eventfully, it righted itself. The Port also offered a nice complement to the flavors in the cigar.

Third Act: In the last few inches the smoke had evolved to a full-bodied, complex buffet of sweet, woody flavors with subtle notes of raisins, cocoa and espresso on the finish. I was sure from the pre-light the smoke would be a lot more peppery overall, but such was not the case. I savored it down to about an inch-plus when I finally let it go after an hour an a half. (A couple of bitter puffs convinced me it was time to put it down.)

So are these cigars worth $26 a shot? As a special occasion cigar, perhaps, but I'd rather leave the jury out. However, due to its limited edition cigar status, it's probably worth the investment as a collector's item, and will surely age beautifully over time.

If you like the Davidoff Millennium Series, you'll probably enjoy the cigars in the Davidoff Limited Edition Series as well, and the 702 Toro in particular. Highly recommended.

Appearance - 10
Construction - 9
Draw - 9
Burn - 8
Aroma - 9
Flavor - 9
Balance - 9
Total Score: 9.0

~ G.K.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Smoke Before Christmas 2009

It's time once again for my annual posting of "The Smoke Before Christmas," which I've updated with some new cigar brands. Enjoy, and I hope Santa gives you what you want this year. - G.K.

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the casa,
Swirled the sweet smoke from my Liga Privada;
My humidor was placed by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Davidoffs danced in my head;
And Mom in her 'kerchief, and I in my robe,
Had just settled down for a long winter's smoke;

When out on the lawn dropped a Siboney bundle,
I sprang from my chair and started to stumble.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and reached for the stash;

Moonlight on the wrappers of fresh-rolled cigars
Gave them a luster like thousands of stars;
When, what to my wondering eyes was appearing,
Dozens of Nesticos, oh how endearing!

With my sharp cigar cutter, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment I'd light-up a stick.
More rapid than eagles the cigars they all came,
I whistled and shouted, and called them by name;

Perdomos! Conucos! Famous Dominicans!
On Flor De Gonzalez! On Acid! On Griffins!
To the top of the porch to the top of the wall!
I was smoking so fast, I had just smoked them all!

As long leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
My only obstacle, was keeping them dry,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of Hemingway Signatures, too;

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I sniffed I smelled smoke, and from what I could tell,
Down the chimney he came with a Rocky Patel;

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all covered with ashes and soot;
With a bundle of Dominique flung on his back,
He looked like a smoker and opened his pack;

The cigars - how they twinkled! Their wrappers how smooth!
Don Pepin Garcias, with nary a tooth!
His droll little mouth was red as a rash,
And the beard of his chin was as white as an ash;

With the stump of a Avo held tight in his teeth,
The smoke encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and took out a cutter,
Then clipped his cigar like a pro, smooth as butter;

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I watched as he placed a Padron on the shelf;
With a wink of his eye and a nod of his head,
That's when I knew I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled up my humidor, then turned with a jerk,
As I placed in his fingers some fine CAO's
In a huge gust of smoke, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, and whistled with glee
While he puffed with delight on an Oliva V
Then I heard him exclaim, as he took one last toke,

Friday, December 18, 2009

Digging around the humidor

Today I had a day off from work. One of the things on my to-do list was to get the humidity up in one of my cigar humidors. The crystals in the humidifier died and I had to do a little juggling. I replaced it with a standard, round green foam model I had lying around that held significantly more water than the crystals. Apparently, it didn't have suitably sized holes for releasing moisture. My humidity dropped from 65% to 60% in three days.

Searching again through my collection of spare parts, I found a small XiKAR crystal jar humidifier and decided I'd put it on the bottom of the humidor in the hope that the two units would bring the humidity back up.

In order to do this, I had to remove all of the cigars. It's amazing what you find when you start digging around. I totally forgot I had some of these cigars. I found a Cuba Aliados Limited Edition double perfecto with a cedar over wrap. A Gurkha Titan. A Camacho Liberty. Lots of Rocky Patels, like the last two Honduran Classic Maduro Double Coronas from a box I split with Hayward over two years ago. There was an Old World Reserve I got the wedding of an industry colleague, still in its cello. Printed on the cello are the names of the bride and groom. Since it's a keepsake, I may never smoke it.

Here's one I totally forgot about: A Carlos Torano Descandencia: a gorgeous cigar they debuted four years ago in New Orleans that was infused with chocolate sherry. (You can see it in its tube in the photo above.)

Another one I forgot about was a Troya Clasico blended by Don Pepin Garcia. That one's gotta be at least 4 years old, too. It's also obsolete.

The only buzz kill during the whole process was, the wrapper on my one and only Oliva Serie V Ligero Torpedo Maduro (YES, Maduro), was starting to come undone just below the band. (Maybe there's something to be said for smoking some cigars sooner than later.) Anyhow, I had no vegetable gum to properly reseal it, so I used a little polyglycol solution. Then I removed the cedar wrapper from an Arturo Fuente Chateau Rothschild, and it fit perfectly around the cigar to hold the wrapper in place for now. You can also see the Oliva V Maduro in the photo above. It's on the right with the green silk band at the foot.

Once I got all the cigars out, I noticed those on the bottom two rows were all very supple and well-humidified. The wood in the base looked like it had been well seasoned, too. I put the crystal jar in the right front corner (you can see the top of it in the shot), carefully replaced all the cigars in as reverse order as possible, and shut the lid. That was about two hours ago. Just before writing this I check the box and the RH is still only at about 62%, but confidence is high.

Just as certain songs bring back memories, digging through many of these cigars did as well. I'm curious if anyone else has had a similar experience. If so, leave a comment here, or on the Cigar Advisor Facebook page.

Happy smokes,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cigar Advisor does Facebook

Hey everybody!

For those of you who aren't already in the loop, Cigar Advisor now has a Facebook page. Visit now and become a fan. Better yet, become a friend and interact with me.

Let's talk cigars, and thanks in advance for "friending-up" with Cigar Advisor on Facebook.

Yours truly,

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: Flor De Gonzalez 15th Aniversario Robusto

Sometimes you look at a box of cigars and you just get a vibe from it. Sort of like when you look at a picture of someone for the first time and try to determine whether they're a nice person or not. That's how it was for me with the Flor De Gonzalez 15th Aniversario Robusto I sampled during a Flor De Gonzalez cigars in-store event at Famous Smoke Shop this past weekend. I just had feeling it was going to be a good smoke. So was it? Read on amigos.

The cigar is rolled to a 5" x 50, banded at the neck and foot, and has a beautiful color to it. The Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper is what they call an "desflorado," Spanish for "deflowered." According to Flor De Gonzalez's sales and marketing director, Roberto Alonso, when the plants bloom the flowers are removed from the top of the plant. This allows more sunlight to reach the top leaves, so they prime a little darker in color. But even more interesting is, by removing the flower the sugars that would normally feed the blossom are absorbed by the top leaves. The result is a much sweeter tasting leaf. However, because only the very top priming leaves are used, the yield is smaller, which is why these cigars are made in limited edition. The filler tobaccos are Dominican, Nicaraguan and Panamanian.

The triple cap clipped off perfectly. The pre-light flavor was earthy, a bit herbal, and sweet on the tongue - a fairly good preview of what was to come.

The cigar lit evenly and the first few puffs were creamy and earthy in flavor with some woody notes, plenty of sweetness and an equally sweet aroma. Nothing spicy or particularly hardy in flavor. Medium bodied.

The ash burned clean and was very firm during the first act (see above photo). Just as I was taking that photo, Pablo, the Flor De Gonzalez torcedor who was administering a cigar rolling contest, came over and stood the cigar on its ash (see below). I could see that he was very proud of his work.

During the second act the smoke remained well-balanced with a nice mix of earthy and sweet herbal notes. I noticed the cigar also became a bit more complex, but did not gain much in the way of strength.

In the last third the smoke became a littler heartier as expected, yet the core flavors were still intact: woody, earthy, herbal and sweet. I drank only water during the entire smoke, which lasted a good hour with no relights. I attribute this to the excellent packing of the cigar, so you're getting a lot of tobacco for your buck. And, for what it's worth, the Flor De Gonzalez 15th Aniversario is the only line extension that is rolled in Miami, FL. That's about as close to genuine Cuban cigar handcrafting as you can get.

Thanks to Yadi Gonzalez-Vargas and Roberto Alonso for hosting an entertaining cigar store event and turning me on to these well made and reasonably priced luxury cigars.

Appearance - 9
Construction - 9
Draw - 9
Burn - 9
Flavor - 8
Balance - 9
Aroma - 9
Total Score: 8.8

Have you smoked any Flor De Gonzalez 15th Aniversario cigars? Your comments are welcome.

~ G.K.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pay it forward with cigars

Earlier this week I stopped by the Famous Smoke Shop store to have a cigar and found the usual group of regulars hanging out. Among them were Big Dave, Mike, Tony, Gary, and a few others. After a few minutes of the usual "What's new, how 'ya doin'?" small talk, Mike directed my attention to a large carton filled will bags of cigars.

"What's up with this?" I asked.
"We're sending cigars to the troops again for Christmas," said Big Dave.
"We're making up bags of 20 cigars and shipping the boxes to a bunch of different units overseas."

Suddenly, for some reason a sense of "duty" came over me. After all, it's the giving season. I thought about the box of cigars. I keep in the back of Famous's humidified warehouse; it's overage from lack of space in my house. So I went into the warehouse, pulled down the box, and rummaged through the stash. When I returned to the store I put a bunch of good cigars in a cigar bag and dropped them in Mike & Big Dave's box. It felt good!

Over the years, I've received a lot of emails from soldiers, and cigars have become one of the primary forms of relaxation for the troops, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, Famous receives a lot of cigar orders from military bases overseas, while also having donated cigars for the troops.

A couple of weeks ago I ran a CigarAdvisor poll asking readers if they had ever sent cigars to the troops. It was pretty close, with 47% responding "yes." As I see it, that's pretty encouraging.

So let's keep paying it forward. Many of us have family and friends serving abroad, or know someone who's son or daughter is in the Armed Forces. And with a new "surge" heading to Afghanistan in the next six months, there's no time better than now, especially during the Holidays, to send cigars.

Neither Mike, nor Big Dave, nor the others who contributed this year (myself included), are looking for a pat on the back. Sharing cigars is what cigar smokers do. And sometimes it's also the right thing to do.

~ G.K.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Thanksgiving Cigar: Cabaiguan Guapos RX

By Gary Korb

I wasn't sure I'd get to smoke a Thanksgiving cigar yesterday, but miraculously the weather cooperated with no rain and a temperature of about 60 degrees. As last year, I spent the holiday with my family at my brother's house in New Jersey. I arrived about 3:15 PM with a Cabaiguan Guapos RX, and didn't waste much time getting outside to light-up, since the sun was already positioned just above the horizon.

The Cabaiguan Guapos RX is a 5¼" x 50 Robusto that came in a Pete Johnson Collection cigar sampler (below) I bought at Famous Smoke Shop this past summer. The difference between the Guapos RX and the Cabaiguan Robusto Extra is that the Guapos has a Cuban pigtail cap. The core is all dark Nicaraguan longfiller with a silky Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, and beautifully handcrafted by Don Jose Pepin Garcia.

Pairing it with a glass of The Macallan 12 year single malt, the cigar cued-up perfectly offering some sweetness and a short blast of pepper. At about the half-inch mark, the smoke rounded out to a very smooth, sweet, woody smoke with a medium body.

The ash was also impressive, hanging on for well over an inch before falling off. From that point on the smoke was very consistent, not wavering too far from its sweet-woody base. However, by the end of the second act the smoke acquired a distinct nutmeg flavor with some grassy notes, which remained into the last third.

I would classify the Cabaiguan Gaupos RX as a medium-bodied, full-flavored cigar with a mix of woody, sweet-spice and herbal flavors. The Macallan helped bring out some of the more complex elements in the smoke, too. Overall, an extremely enjoyable cigar, and highly recommended.

Appearance - 9
Construction - 9
Draw - 9
Burn - 10
Flavor - 9
Balance - 9
Aroma - 8
Total Score: 9.0

How was your Thanksgiving cigar?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kinky Friedman at World Café Live

Why am I writing a concert review when this column is supposed to be about premium cigars? Let's just say it's because the artist in question, a one Mr. Kinky Friedman, is rarely seen without a big cigar firmly planted between his teeth. He also happens to be a very gifted songwriter, performer and author, even if in some circles he's better known for his political punditry.

Kinky Friedman, who has his own line of Kinky Friedman premium cigars, performed at World Café Live in Philadelphia last night to a sold-out crowd. Playing as a trio with longtime band mates, Little Jewford (piano, melodica and vocals) and Washington Ratso (guitar and vocals), the unplugged set coursed somewhat jaggedly between songs, off-the-cuff comedy, and included a chapter reading by Kinky from his latest book, Heroes of a Texas Childhood.

Kinky appropriately set the mood by opening the show with "Before All Hell Breaks Loose." Other songs included, "Nashville Casualty And Life," "Homo Erectus," "Ride 'Em Jewboy," the classic, "Asshole From El Paso," and several covers, which included a stirring rendition of Tom Paxton's "Ramblin' Boy."

Other highlights of the show included solo performances by keyboardist and sidekick, Little Jewford, who played "When The Saints Come Marching In" in several modes, including a boogie-woogie version, a classical version a la Mozart, a "Jewish" version (one must hear it to get it), and even played the song behind his back - a feat I've never seen a keyboard player do. Later in the show, Jewford played Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag." Washington Ratso also enjoyed a solo spot, breaking away from the C&W mode for one song, while he deftly flat-picked an Irish jig.

In-between songs there was plenty of patter, including that of Kinky's upcoming run for Texas Governor again, this time as a Democrat. Although politically, Kinky is a self-proclaimed Independent, he said, "I decided to run as a Democrat because I couldn’t get elected as a Republican." For those who don't take him seriously, I can tell you, Kinky is very serious about running, and his love for the people of Texas comes straight from the heart.

On that note, during the last couple of songs, Kinky pulled out one of his 5¾" x 60 Kinky Friedman Governor cigars and pacified himself with it during solos by Ratso and Little Jewford. He ended the show by lighting it up, which took the crowd (and me) by surprise, but I loved it!

Having gotten to know Kinky a little by interviewing him at the IPCPR show in New Orleans this past summer, and at a Famous Smoke Shop in-store appearance earlier this year, it was great to see him in his element, on-stage, where he also seems most comfortable. If you have the chance to see Kinky Friedman on tour, be sure to pick up a ticket; you're in for a really great time. (Pick up some of his cigars, too; they're mighty good.)

* * *
Also appearing at World Café Live last night was a young and talented new bluegrass roots trio called Shotgun Party. The band features songwriter and guitarist/vocalist, Jenny Parrott, Katy Rose Cox on fiddle and vocals (man, the girl can play!), and Andrew Austin-Petersen on bass fiddle. You can learn more about them by visiting the Shotgun Party website.

~ Gary Korb

Above photo: Kinky Friedman (left) holding one of his Kinky Friedman Governor cigars, with two of his fans, and Little Jewford (right).

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: Oliva Cain Maduro Robusto

Two weeks ago I gave kudos to the Oliva Cain Habano Robusto, and yesterday I treated myself to the Cain Maduro Robusto. That now leaves me with sans Cains, but after yesterday's experience I'm going to be in the market for a box to show up either on CigarMonster.com or CigarAuctioneer.com, because I definitely want more.

Like it's brother, the Oliva Cain Maduro Robusto is rolled to a 5" x 50 with a triple-fermented, "straight ligero" core, but the wrapper is a dark, oily, Mexican San Andreas leaf. And like the Habano, the pre-light flavor was sweet, noticeably sweeter, with a leathery pre-light flavor, too. The construction of the cigar was also par excellence - well-packed with a beautiful cap that popped-off in a perfect circle when clipped.

Once lit, here again, when I touched my tongue to the tobacco at the head, the tobacco tasted sweet, but there was also more noticeable coffee bean flavor mixed in. The smoke was creamy, smooth, aromatic, and more medium-bodied to my palate; not peppery spicy in the least.

The burn was also consistent with the earlier Habano version; clean, but leaving a more rounded than pointed cherry (see close-up below).

Moving into the second act, the cigar remained very smooth and sweet, laced with coffee notes, when an appealing nutmeg flavor presented itself. A banquet of sweet spices were the order of the day on this cigar, which also made it more a complex experience for me than the Habano.

Everything about this cigar was on-target right through the last third. I would even go so far as to say it was a "perfect cigar," not unlike the Quesada 35th Anniversary I smoked last month. Some cigars have it, some don't, but the Oliva Cain Maduro definitely has it. Smoking it down to about an inch, the cigar never turned bitter, and when I was finally forced to leave it in the ashtray, I wanted another. Suffice it to say, I guess I'm now going to have to pick up a box.

I highly recommended the Oliva Cain Maduro cigars for those curious about "straight ligero" blends, and especially for cigar smokers who love sweet, full-flavored cigars.

My scores: (Note, I've added a new "balance" parameter to my scoring list.)
Appearance - 9
Construction - 9
Draw - 9
Burn - 9
Flavor - 10
Balance - 10
Aroma - 9
Total Score: 9.2

How was your Oliva Cain Maduro experience? As always, your comments are welcome.

~ Gary Korb

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: Capadura Cigars

This past weekend, the Famous Smoke Shop cigar store held an in-store cigar event for Capadura Cigars, an obscure, boutique premium cigar brand made in The Dominican Republic. Distributed by Luba Cigar Corporation, Capadura Cigars come in two varieties: Capadura 808, a medium-bodied cigar rolled in an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, and Capadura 898, a full-bodied cigar rolled in a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper. The core is a diverse blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan longfillers with a Dominican Olor binder. I was fortunate enough to have the time to smoke both versions in the Robusto shape.

The Capadura 808 Connecticut was very attractive in appearance, well-packed, and the cap clipped-off in a perfect circle exposing just the right amount of tobacco at the head. The pre-light flavor was somewhat nutty and sweet. Once lit, the foot took on an even burn and the early puffs were mellow with a nutty-woody flavor laced with some sweetness on the finish.

During the second act, the smoke became earthier in flavor and remained relatively consistent through the final third. The cigar turned a little bitter in the last inch, but at that point it was pretty much done. Pairing it with coffee, the smoke offered good balance, plenty of flavor, a very fine and firm grey ash. I would recommend this cigar for the morning or afternoon.

The Capadura 898 Maduro was a totally different animal, and also more rustic in appearance. Although it had a similar pre-light flavor, this cigar was considerably spicier, while maintaining the nutty, woody and earthy core flavors of the Connecticut. This cigar also displayed an excellent ash, clean burn, nice balance of flavors, and also went well paired with coffee.

By the third act, the smoke was quite peppery, a little much for my taste, but for those who enjoy rich, spicy, full-flavored cigars with a hint of sweetness, the 898 will certainly turn the trick. If I had to compare the Capadura 898 to a more popular boutique brand, it would be the Pinar del Rio Oscuro. This is more of an after-hours cigar that would go well with a single malt or a tawny Port, and a full stomach.

All-in-all, some nice new cigars well worth checking out.

Capadura 808 Connecticut
Appearance - 9
Construction - 9
Draw - 9
Burn - 9
Flavor - 8
Aroma - 8
Total Score: 8.6

Capadura 898 Maduro
Appearance - 8
Construction - 9
Draw - 9
Burn - 9
Flavor - 7
Aroma - 8
Total Score: 8.3

Have you smoked Capadura cigars? Please leave a comment.

~ Gary Korb

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Following the leads

If you've been following this blog, then you know that Cigar Advisor has been following a potential major cigar industry announcement, which may or may not concern a possible merger between Miami Cigar Co. and My Father Cigars, Inc.

The latest, according to our source is, Nestor Miranda and Rene Castaneda of Miami Cigar & Co., and Guillermo Leon of Tabacalera La Aurora and The Leon Group, will be traveling to Estelí, Nicaragua next week to spend a couple of days visiting with Jaime and Pepin Garcia.

Based on that information, there's no reason to believe the "visit" will be anything more than a typical business trip; inspecting the tobacco fields, visiting the factory, sampling cigars over cafecito - yadda, yadda, yadda.

However, none of the three travelers has discussed or even acknowledged the trip or its purpose.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: Oliva Cain Habano Robusto

By Gary Korb

As promised last week, I smoked one of the two Oliva Cain cigars over the weekend, in this case, the Robusto in the Habano wrapper. I smoked it in the Famous Smoke Shop Retail Store on Sunday with a cup of coffee, which made a nice mix. Before I lit up, John D., who happened to be sitting next to me said, "I hope you're smoking it on a full stomach," which I was, having just finished a pulled pork sandwich.

The Oliva Cain Habano Robusto weighs-in at 5" x 50, and has a 75%- 80% "straight ligero," triple-fermented, Nicaraguan filler blend wrapped in a flawless, dark Habano wrapper leaf. The pre-light flavor was very sweet. The cigar was well packed, too, showing virtually no soft spots. I also noticed that, at the foot, there was only one small section of very dark tobacco, which I'll touch upon later in this review.

Once lit, I was expecting a heavy wallop of smoke and pepper, but quite the contrary. The smoke was sweet, as in the pre-light, and when I touched my tongue to the head, the tobacco itself was sweet. Flavors of wood and a light nuttiness squeaked in, but for the most part, the smoke was exceptionally creamy and sweet.

The most impressive thing about this cigar was how incredibly smooth it was. I'd have to tip my hat to the triple fermentation on this, as there was no sign of bitterness, even down to the one-inch stub I left in the ashtray. Moreover, the burn was dead-on clean, exposing a pointy, perfectly centered cherry when ashed.

The cigar was consistent right through the second act; mainly woody and sweet, and a little nutty. I was also waiting for the headiness and that punch in the gut that's supposed to come with full-bodied cigars of this caliber, but it never came. (Maybe it was the sandwich?)

It wasn't until the third act that the cigar became noticeably stronger in flavor, yet the smoke remained so smooth it didn't seem to affect the overall character of the cigar. I was expecting a more "complex" cigar, but what the Oliva Cain Habano Robusto offered in terms of it's rich, woody, nutty and sweet flavors, that was fine by me. I'm wondering if the presence of only some dark ligero (noted above) is what made this particular sample a little less robust than advertised?

In any event, this sophomore effort by Sam Leccia hit on all cylinders for me, and I highly recommend the Oliva Cain Habano to both, experienced smokers who have a more developed palate, as well as those who are looking to move up to a super-smooth, full-bodied cigar.

My scores:
Appearance - 9
Construction - 9
Draw - 9
Burn - 9
Flavor - 9
Aroma - 9
Total Score: 9.0

How was your Oliva Cain Habano experience? Your comments are welcome.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Revenue Dept. will take questions on PA small cigar tax

This morning I was forwarded an email from Norman Sharp, president of the Cigar Association of America (www.cigarassociation.org) to all CAA member companies, regarding the Pennsylvania tax on small cigars. To help galvanize this effort, I thought I'd pass it along:
As we have reported, Pennsylvania will begin taxing little cigars at 8 cents each beginning November 1. The state defines a little cigar as those weighing 4 lbs. or less per 1,000. The legislation has raised many questions. Below is a message from Gerry Kupris, our lobbyist and executive director of the PA Assn. of Distributors, regarding a meeting which will be held in an attempt to answer those questions.

In an effort to address questions regarding the new little cigar tax, the Revenue Department will be available to PDA CAA members for a discussion and Q&A:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Harrisburg Hilton and Towers
2nd and Market Street
Harrisburg, PA


If you have questions, please call 717-236-0500 or e-mail pda@pa.net.
First little cigars, then medium-size cigars, then... Well, you get the idea. If you are or know a PDA CAA member, please heed the call and respond accordingly. - G.K.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: nub Cameroon 460

Back in June of 2008, I blogged about the nub Connecticut 460. Last night, I decided to decided to have a go at the nub Cameroon 460. Cameroon is one of my favorite wrappers for its natural sweetness, and this original Sam Leccia/Oliva creation, with its Nicaraguan filler and binder core, was right in my wheelhouse. One of the other reasons I decided to smoke the nub was, I've been preparing to smoke Sam's latest creation, "Cain," which he introduced in the Oliva Cigars, booth at this past summer's IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans. (I'll get more into why later on.)

Pairing it with what remained of my bottle of Tapeña 2007 Granacha, the cigar lit perfectly and burned clean and firm, despite a small wrapper tear that ran back about a half inch from the foot. The cigar also burned for well over an hour, as advertised, despite its 4-inch length. Due to the solid packing of the tobacco, this didn't surprise me, plus, I let the cigar rest between puffs. With cigars this short, even with a ring as wide as 60, you don't want to pull too hard or too often on it to keep it from turning bitter.

The smoke was extremely creamy and smooth with a solid, sweet-woody base, which didn't deviate until the final third. At that point I began to pick up some light spiciness. Although I prefer a more complex smoke, for what I would call a "one note song," the cigar was highly enjoyable for its consistency.

Now, here's why I wanted to smoke another nub before getting into the Cain cigars. Even though the cigars are completely different in terms of size and blend - the new Cain being a "straight ligero" - I wanted to re-familiarize myself with Sam's work. For example, when you're getting into a new band, it's always a good idea to listen to their first album, which is most often the band's "definitive" sound.

Based on the reports I've read and heard from others who have already smoked Cain, it's apparent that Mr. Leccia, like the best musical artists (those who have stood the test of time), has the ability to reinvent himself.

If you haven't had a chance to smoke any of the nubs by now, you should at least try a couple. There's also a really good selection of nub samplers called nub Club if you want to give the whole line a test drive.

So, this weekend I'm looking forward to moving on to Cain, and weather permitting, will report on it next week. In the meantime, I'm certain that nub will eventually become "a classic."

~ Gary Korb

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kudos to Mr. Koodray and The Metropolitan Society

Last night, I had the extreme pleasure of joining The Metropolitan Society in Fairfield, NJ for their monthly cigar dinner. This is the fourth year I've attended as a representative for Famous Smoke Shop, and it's always a great time accompanied by good food, drink, cigars, and warm friendship. As always, I brought cigars for the gang to smoke - a brand exclusive to Famous Smoke Shop, of course - and last night was no exception as I presented the Famous 70th Anniversary Private Selection by Plasencia Cigars.

But unlike the former events, last night I brought something, or more appropriately, someone extra: Famous Smoke Shop president, Arthur Zaretsky. The Metropolitan Society are good FSS customers, and their president, George Koodray, has been asking me to bring Arthur to the club for years. So, in light of this being Famous' 70th year in the cigar business, I finally convinced Arthur to come and meet some of his biggest fans in person. Joining us, too, was Famous Smoke Shop cigar sampler manager, Humberto Gonzalez, who is also a Metro Society member.

Arthur was given a dignitary's welcome, including an honorary membership. After some obligatory business announcements by Mr. Koodray, he turned the microphone over to Arthur who talked briefly about the history of Famous Smoke Shop and took questions. (Later, I overheard Arthur tell George what a wonderful time he had.)

One of the highlights of the evening was a presentation of Don Julio Tequilas which the members got to sample. (Try the 1942. Wow! Smooth as silk, too.) But there was also another nice surprise last night. Two lovely young ladies from Luba Cigar Corporation - company founder, Ruth Elizabeth Batista, and Juanny Dominguez - brought samples of their Capadura cigars to share.

So once again, on behalf of Arthur, Humberto, myself, and everyone at Famous Smoke Shop, our sincere thanks to George Koodray, John Cito, Ben Amoruso, Rich Camy, Pasquale Agatone, "Uncle Nick" Verdi, and the many other Metropolitan Society members for making last night another memorable evening. Until next year, or until I'm in the neighborhood to stop by for a good cigar...Ciao amigos!

~ Gary Korb
(Above photo L-R: Gary Korb, Arthur Zaretsky, George Koodray)

* * *

In other news: The "brewing" shifts to Nicaragua
If you remember my blog of September 30, Something may be brewing in the Dominican Republic, and it's not coffee, in which our source in The D.R. told us about the sighting of Guillermo Leon, Jaime Garcia, Pepin Garcia and Nestor Miranda in Santiago, another piece of the puzzle may be about to fall into place. Well, although we can’t tell you what brought those major cigar figures together; after receiving another report from our source, I can say it's safe to assume that something really is brewing.

According to our "correspondent," Guillermo León (León Jimenes cigars) will make his very first trip to Nicaragua, and we’re hazarding a guess that he will be visiting the Garcias. Although all of these intertwining relationships exist; Guillermo León and La Aurora is the new addition to the equation.

Whatever is going on, it's significant and only a matter of time before it becomes public. In the meantime, our man in Santiago, and our contacts in Estelí are keeping their eyes open. As soon as there is something to report, you’ll hear about it first on CigarAdvisor.com.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: CAO La Traviata "Divino" and Quesada Ltd. Edition 35th Anniversary

By Gary Korb

Finally, after a more than two week cigar hiatus due to a miserable sinus infection, I was able to get back in the smoking groove this past weekend. As I nimbly fingered through my humidors, I decided to try a couple of new cigars that debuted at this year's IPCPR Trade Show in New Orleans.

On Saturday, I sampled the 5" x 50 CAO La Traviata "Divina." Blended with a core of two different ligero filler tobaccos - one from Pueblo Nuevo in Nicaragua, the other from The Dominican Republic, a Cameroon binder, and a dark, mouthwatering Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, this cigar hit on all cylinders. The smoke was exceptionally smooth and complex with dark, earthy tobacco flavors dominated by strong woody notes, and laced with an appealing sweetness.

I paired it with a cup of coffee, which made a good match. The cigar was exceptionally creamy, well-balanced, and highly consistent from start to finish. Although CAO is marketing it as a "full-body" cigar, to my taste it was more medium to full; definitely "full" for the novice, but bearable, for it was never overpowering. Highly recommended!

* * *
On Sunday, I decided it was time to try the Quesada Limited Edition 35th Anniversary cigar. This is a box-pressed 6" x 49 Toro with an Ecuadorian-grown Arapiraca seed wrapper that caps a Dominican binder and a longfiller blend of Dominican, with Nicaraguan ligero at its heart.

As a big fan of Manolo Quesada's work over the year, this cigar did not disappoint. It was also one of the most perfectly balanced and flavorful cigars I've ever smoked. Paired with a glass of Tapeña Garnacha (2007), a nice fruity table wine, the cigar was a virtual kaleidoscope of flavor.

The smoke was extremely smooth, creamy and complex. Rich flavors of sweet cedar, cocoa and coffee prevailed throughout, and each puff was as succulent as the one that preceded it, as it didn't gather any significant strength until the middle of the final third. This is, no doubt, the definition of a "full-flavored" cigar, and belongs in the full-bodied category, too.

I was so impressed with this cigar that, like his #1 ranked Casa Magna of last year, I will not be surprised if the 35th Anniversary makes it into a least the Top-5 this year. Very highly recommended!

* * *
Unfortunately, both cigars are not yet available at Famous Smoke Shop, and the Quesada 35th, due to its limited supply will probably only be available at retail stores. In any event, if you've already had the opportunity to smoke either of these cigars, let me know if we're in sync by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Something may be brewing in the Dominican Republic, and it's not coffee

The premium cigar business is not the type of industry that lends itself to investigative journalism, nor is Cigar Advisor's function much more than to bring you industry news, commentary, cigar reviews, and other pertinent information.

Nonetheless, sitting around in New Orleans during the IPCPR, a couple of us concluded the time was right for something big to happen within the industry (lifting of the Cuban embargo notwithstanding). As the conversation continued, we speculated about the possibilities of a major retailer or brand acquisition that would be a real coup to a major distributor.

Conversation and speculation aside, in Santiago, The Dominican Republic the other day, an associate of ours saw Rene Castaneda, Vice President of Miami Cigar & Company, Don José Pepin Garcia, and Jamie Garcia with Guillermo Leon and Jose Blanco of La Aurora.

Of course, that's no surprise. Miami Cigar has become a serious customer of the Garcias with the success of their Nestor Miranda Collection. However, there's also a social networking connection to this story which may or may not be of any significance.

While doing a Facebook search for Don Pepin's daughter, Janny Garcia, one of her photos came up. Wearing a cute red dress, Janny is standing between her father and Nestor Miranda. This shot, I'm guessing, was most likely taken in Señor Miranda's office at about the time they were ready to release the Nestor Miranda Special Selection cigars.

On the other hand, could something more significant be afoot beyond Don Pepin just making cigars for Nestor Miranda? Perhaps some sort of distribution pact or, even more significantly, the acquisition of Pepin's company by La Aurora?

After mentioning this to a good friend of mine in the industry, he felt there were other companies that would more likely be candidates for such a move. However, if you factor-in the distribution of E/O Brands (601, Cubao, Mi Barrio - all made by Pepin), it would appear that Miami Cigar is more likely to walk-off with the prize.

In any event, something's going to happen, and I'm willing to go all-in by suggesting it will probably be the latter scenario. If I'm wrong, no harm done I suppose; I've acquired a taste for crow.

Finally, at this writing, Janny hasn't accepted my request to friend-up yet, but I hope she will. If what I predict really happens, I'd like to be one of the first to congratulate her.

~ G.K.

P.S. Wouldn't you know it, within 5-minutes after this posting, I discovered that Janny Garcia had already accepted my Facebook friend request.

Friday, September 18, 2009

If you're not interested in talking cigars, please keep your tweets to yourself

I'm in a ranting mood today. Maybe it's because I've been fighting off a sinus cold for the past week and haven't been able to relax with a good cigar. That would make any avid cigar smoker a little cranky.

So here's where my head's at today. As many of you know, Cigar Advisor has a Twitter page. This Twitter social networking thingamajig is a fantastic communication tool, and it can be a lot of fun, too. I wish I could post a lot more often, too, but since most of my tweets are done from work, I can only afford so much tweeting time, but I do have my TwitterFox running continually in case I want to chime in.

Just about every day I receive emails alerting me that a fellow "twitizen" (as I've dubbed them) is following me. It's nice to see that in spite of my low tweet-to-tweet ratio that someone out there actually cares enough to tweet their very best.

However, and more often lately, the follows are coming from all kinds of people who, when I click through to their Twitter page, seem to have little or no interest in cigars or cigar culture. They're online marketers, mostly work-at-home types, who just want to sell me their goods, services, advice, inspiration, and the fact of the matter is, I ain't buyin.'

Now I have no problem with the followers who are rock musicians, or jazz lovers, or wine and spirits gurus, food gurus, baseball fans, poker players, etc. In return, I follow many of them because I share a genuine interest in those subjects. Moreover, they usually have the word "cigars" listed under their profiles, so at least I KNOW we share an affinity for the leaf.

To be fair, some of the online marketers do mention cigars in their profiles. But here's an example of what I'm talking about: "we've helped tens of thousands of men and women worldwide build successful home businesses." COME ON, folks! Many of these twitizens show thousands of followers on their pages. How nice. Therefore I assume they're also all very successful, and I wish them the best.

Then you have the hotties who think I'm going to follow them because they take a good sexy photo. P'LEEEEEZ! If I really want to meet a girl who wants to pretend she likes me, I can go to a strip club and see her in 3D.

So here's the deal: If you want to follow my Twitter page, hey, that's great. I'll almost always send a little thank you note, even if I'm not following in return. It's the least I can do. Like this blog, the Cigar Advisor Twitter is predicated on our mutual love and enjoyment of premium handmade cigars, cigar-related issues and culture. If you're a cigar smoker, you know what I'm talking about and my Twitterland door is always open. But if all you're really interested in selling me a bill of goods or a pig in a poke, KEEP OUT and BEWARE OF DOG.

~ Gary Korb

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The power of the poker

This past Sunday night, Labor Day eve, I decided to smoke the third of three Havanas that were gifted to me by a friend not too long ago. The cigar in question was a Romeo y Julieta Cedros De Luxe No.1, and pretty tasty, too. The only problem was the cigar had a weak draw.

To backup for a moment, the ISOM I smoked several weeks earlier from the same friend, a long home-aged Fonseca No.1, also suffered from a tight draw. Shortly after smoking it I called him to say thanks. When I mentioned the draw problem to him, he told me he had similar problems and used a draw poker to loosen it up. I told him I neglected to do so because I'm not a big proponent of using draw pokers and eventually gave up on the cigar, opting for a 601 Blue Maduro as a replacement. Suffice it to say, the 601 was perfect in every way.

Getting back to the Romeo, it was obvious that the cigar had been rolled pretty tightly. The draw was not as tight as on the earlier Fonseca, but tight enough to be annoying after the first couple of inches. In an effort to not waste what I felt was a good experience in terms of flavor to this point, I got out my Havana Draw Enhancer (yes, coincidentally, that's the name!), which is made by Don Salvatore (see image above).

Very carefully, I proceeded to infiltrate the foot of the cigar, turning it slowly while continuing to apply pressure. Luckily I didn't puncture the cigar. After removing the poker the draw had opened up considerably, and although I had to do it again it a bit later, it saved the cigar.

As I mentioned above, I don't like having to use additional tools to make my cigars work, but there are always exceptions. The other reason I bring this up is, if you're going to use a draw poker, then I recommend the Draw Enhancer. The reason I like this particular tool is because it's very thin, has a flat head, is a little shorter than most pokers, and along the shaft are diamond shaped serrations that literally cut through the tobacco. I feel this design makes it a superior product, as I've had problems with the more common ice-pick design cigar pokers.

One other thing that may have helped was, since the cigar had smoked down a couple of inches, it was much more pliable, which made it easier to insert the poker into the cigar without harming it. Moreover, once I reached the point where I felt I better not push any further, I used a gentle "pull-push" reaming method, and could feel the serrations cutting through the blockage.

I rarely, if ever have draw problems with my cigars, but I'm glad I had this tool in my cigar accessories box. The moral of the story is, if you absolutely have to use a draw poker to loosen up your cigar, make sure you have one that's going to work properly.

~ Gary Korb

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Her First Cigar: A Mike Martinez Mystery

By Gary Korb

I TOOK HER VIRGINITY - in a manner of speaking, that is. I suppose the best thing to do would be to start at the beginning:
I had to get out of the rain, so I ducked into Tommy's Place to dry out over a scotch & soda. Cannonball Adderley was playing on jukebox. The place was a rat hole, but Tommy served hard drinks at cheap prices, and besides, I liked the atmosphere. That's when I noticed her. She was sitting at the end of the bar wearing a dress that advertised all her curves - all in the right places, too. I watched for a moment as she nursed her drink. She was one gone blonde, and the best kind of blonde - dirty blonde. I walked over and sat down on the empty stool beside her.
"Next one's on me," I said.
"You know how many times I've heard that line?" she said without looking up from her drink.
"Come on, the night's young, and the rain isn't letting up. Besides, what's a doll like you doing in a joint like this? A girl could get in trouble around here."
"I can take care of myself," she said as she turned toward me with a glare.
"I'm sure you can," I said, staring into her big green eyes. "I get the feeling you're running away from something, or more likely, some one."
"What are you, some kind of detective?"
"I guess you could say that."
"My father was a cop."
"Well, we have something in common then."
I turned away from her and took out a cigar along with my cutter and a Zippo lighter I picked-up during the war. She eyed the stogie and said, "He smoked cigars, too. I've always been curious about those things."
"Would you like to try one? I've got more. By the way, my name's Miguel. Miguel Martinez, but my friends call me Mike. I offered a handshake, which she reluctantly accepted.
"Soft hands," I said.
"Thanks," she said pulling her hand away.
"What about you?"
"What about me?"
"You got a name?"
"Lucy. Lucy Taylor."
"Pleased to meet you Lucy Taylor. So how about that cigar?"
"What do I have to do?" she said pushing her hair back behind her shoulders.
"First you have to relax," I said as I took another cigar out of my case. Figured I'd start her off with a mild one, an Honduran with a Connecticut wrapper.
I slowly ran the cigar under her nose. "Sniff it."
"Mmm...It's sweet."
"And it gets sweeter, too, Baby," I said with a wink, and she smiled back.
I held the cigar in front of her and leveled the head up to my cutter. "First you have to cut the cap," I said as I squeezed the blades together.
Lucy watched as the little disc of tobacco fell into the ashtray. Suddenly she looked right at me. I returned her gaze as I flicked open the lighter. Her eyes widened as I turned the cigar slowly near the flame. "Next, you have to toast it," I said. She leaned toward me, our shoulders touching as a silky thread of blue smoke rose between us.
"Open up," I said as I gently placed the cigar between her lips. "Now puff."
I held the flame just under the end of the cigar, watching as it took on a crimson glow. A thin veil of smoke ebbed slowly from Lucy's pretty little lips now parted in the shape of a perfect O.
"Mmm...That was nice," she said as she leaned back revealing part of a tattoo on her left breast.
"Keep it and enjoy it," I said.
"I will. It's so smooth and creamy," she added.
"Now you've had your first cigar," I said as I lit mine, a Nicaraguan puro. "Say, why don't we finish these over at my place," I said, pushing my luck as always.
"No Mike, let's finish them here," she said as she placed her hand over mine. "Besides, the night's young, and the rain isn't letting up."

* * *

Friday, August 28, 2009

Some thoughts on the 601 Habano Oscuro Tronco and beyond

As I was leaving the office last Friday to start a well-deserved vacation week, I stopped into the Famous Smoke Shop retail store to see what was happening. There's usually a good crowd in the store on Friday night. Under the flat screen TV is a PC that's usually showing the special deal on CigarMonster.com. Out of curiosity, I took a peak at the page and saw a 5-pack of 601 Habano Oscuro Tronco on sale for $19.95. It was hard to resist, and according to the Cigar Monster countdown clock I had less than two minutes to make a decision before it reverted to the regular $27.36 price. My gut said, "Go for it!" and next thing I know, store manager Dave Zayas is ringing me up.

I decided to smoke one of those cigars last night. It had been a long time since I'd had a 601 Habano Oscuro (a.k.a. "601 Green"). After last night's affair with this marvelous cigar, I've added the 601 Habano Oscuro Tronco (5" x 52) to my all-time favorite cigars list. From start to finish, this cigar chugged along dense with dark, chewy, complex flavors. It's really a cigar you have to experience yourself to fully appreciate. I'd also place it among Don Pepin Garcia's best cigars. I also concluded that each cigar Pepin creates is like a song. They all have a common thread stylistically, yet each blend is totally unique in its own rite. I don't think the cigar business has seen such a prolific pair of hands in quite some time, if ever.

That said, I really didn't plan on getting into a cigar review today. Instead, I wanted to point out something that crossed my mind last night as I was relaxing with my cigar. I was thinking that the 601 brand is going to be around for a very long time. Then I started to think about the company who produces them, E/O Brands. I think E/O is a good example of the kind of cigar producer with whom the current and next generation of cigar smokers are now beginning to align themselves.

I'm reminded of what happened in the movie business when independent filmmakers began producing more popular movies than the big studios, giving us edgy directors like Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez for starters.

This similar trend in the cigar business may be attributed to "directors" like Pete Johnson (Tatuaje), and more recently, Dion Giolito with his Illusione cigars. Moreover, I think Sam Leccia (nub, Cain) can also be counted among those "indies" who's stars have also risen.

Some other companies to consider are Alec Bradley, who's been free-rolling since releasing their highly-acclaimed Tempus cigars a couple of years ago. I also feel that Drew Estate's time has come in the traditional-blend cigar market. They've been working their Liga Privada No.9 cigars line slowly and steadily, and it's earned a well-deserved place among the finer limited editions.

So, is this the beginning of the end of the established, BIG cigar company brands? Will more new cigar smokers opt for the more unique rather than the conventional? Will brands like Macanudo, Partagas, Romeo y Julieta, H. Upmann, et. al., eventually be forced to fold up their tents? Certainly some interesting questions to consider, and I welcome your comments.

~ Gary Korb

Thursday, August 20, 2009

IPCPR 2009: One week later

It's now been a week since the 77th annual IPCPR convention closed its doors. I brought home plenty of new cigars to review, but that's a given. As I spent most of this week editing the three hours of video Hayward Tenney and I shot in New Orleans, I thought I'd share what else I took home from the show.

According to most of the manufacturers I met, although the show was under-attended, orders were strong. This being my 7th show, I couldn't help but notice that the hall was quieter, the aisles roomier and there were only a handful of exhibitors who had noticeably large crowds.

Although I didn't do a video interview with Jose Oliva of Oliva Cigars, as I have in the past, I spoke with him about nub cigars creator, Sam Leccia's new blend, Cain cigars. Referred to as a "straight ligero," Cain is rolled with 25% Estelí ligero, 27% Condega ligero and 30% Jalapa ligero for a grand total of 82%. Jose explained that no cigar can be entirely of Ligero. If so, it wouldn't burn, there must be at least 20% of other tobaccos which have better combustion properties to help the ligero along.

Another lesson I learned came from Jose Blanco of La Aurora Cigars concerning the making of Lanceros. The secret to rolling a good Lancero is the placement of the ligero. Because the cigar is so thin, the roller must place the ligero precisely in the center of the roll to achieve the proper flavor and burn.

Kinky Friedman is always a trip. In the Kinky Cigars booth, Kinky talked about making another run for Governor,. He believes the market should determine where one can smoke, not the government, and if elected, he'll fight for smokers' rights and try to restore some sanity with regard to our fundamental constitutional freedoms that are being stripped away by overly officious officials.

The latter issue was the most ubiquitous among all of the manufacturers I spoke to. Premium cigar smokers make up a very small portion of smokers overall, which means they have to speak that much louder. Most of the manufacturers survived SCHIP (this time), but the day-by-day domino effect of smoking bans being passed in virtually every state remains the biggest threat of all. Nick Perdomo reminded me that Perdomo Cigars is the only manufacturer who actually lowered his prices in spite of the SCHIP tax. It's seems to be paying off, too, as most of his cigars are now priced within most consumers' "comfort zone."

One of the highlights for me was doing a video interview with Jose Pepin Garcia. When you see the video interview you'll have a better understanding of why Pepin's cigars are in such high demand. His passion for tobacco is nothing short of Zen-like. In spite of his success Pepin remains ever the humble tabaquero because he's focused solely on blending great cigars.

Another cigar family made its debut this year, the EP Carrillo selection from former La Gloria Cubana creator Ernesto Carrillo. I've have spoken to Ernesto many times over the years, and he's always gracious. Just as impressive were his new business partners, his son and daughter Ernie Jr. and Lissette, respectively. They're both bright and talented (Lissette is a Columbia Law School alum), and I have every confidence they'll carry on the tradition and honor of the Carrillo name.

On our last night in New Orleans, our group had dinner with Yadi Gonzalez-Vargas and Roberto Alonso of Flor de Gonzalez Cigars. I mention this not only because they are two of the nicest people I've met recently in this business, but I finally had a chance to try the "official cocktail" of New Orleans, The Sazerac. It was a bit too sweet for me, and unfortunately I couldn't smoke a cigar with it in the restaurant, but at least I had "the experience."

My apologies to those with whom I didn't have the chance to spend more time, such as Jorge Padron of Padron cigars, Jon Huber of CAO Cigars, Charlie Toraño of Toraño Cigars, Christian Eiroa of Camacho Cigars, Manolo Quesada, Gene Arganese, Avo Uvezian, Pete Johnson, Dion Giolito of Illusione Cigars (who I would have liked to get to know better), Chris McCalla, legislative director of IPCPR, and Gary J. Arzt, who was covering the show as we were, but we just couldn't seem to find each other. Thanks also to Rich Perelman and Pat Harris of Cigarcylopedia.com for letting Hayward and I chill-out in their booth for some well-needed downtime.

Finally, I want to thank all of the manufacturers we spoke to for taking the time to grant interviews with us, not to mention Rocky Patel, Cusano Cigars, and Drew Estate who also treated us to some fine New Orleans cuisine during our visit. Special thanks to Catherine Llibre, Executive Director of ProCigar, and master blender, Hendrik Kelner, who granted us a video interview about the annual ProCigar Festival, and the organization's commitment to preserving the high standards of cigar making in the Dominican Republic.

And so another IPCPR show fades into a haze of blue smoke…

~ Gary Korb

Thursday, August 13, 2009

IPCPR New Orleans 2009 Wrap-Up

By Hayward Tenney

I attended my first-ever IPCPR show this year in New Orleans, and I must confess my sheer amazement. Sure, I tried to play it all cool in the weeks approaching the show, but nothing could prepare me for what would ensue.

Working in the business has been a joyride, but meeting these manufacturers face-to-face is easily among my favorite all-time cigar experiences.

Most of these guys are the salt of the earth; I am humbled by their graciousness, both with their time and their cigars. Perhaps most evident is the universal passion they share.

I made note of a few facts along the way, which I will now share with you. Enjoy!

Fact: NOTHING inspires camaraderie like good food, a stiff drink, and fine cigars.

Fact: I stand 6' 2", and I am seriously dwarfed by Dion Giolito of Illusione cigars.

Fact: Sam Leccia of NUB cigars (and soon Cain cigars) fame is among the most innovative people I've ever met in this business, or any.

Fact: Kinky Friedman and Little Jewford are funny as all hell.

Fact: Don Jose Pepin Garcia's eyes light up like Christmas trees when you ask him about tobacco.

Fact: Jose Oliva and Nick Perdomo's business acumen is surpassed only by their dedication to quality tobacco and craftsmanship.

Fact: Besides making wonderful cigars, Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley cigars is impossibly charismatic.

Fact: Abe Flores and Juan Rodriguez of Pinar del Rio cigars know how to throw a party.

Fact: The fine folks of Rocky Patel cigars, Drew Estate cigars, and Flor de Gonzalez cigars understand that the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

Fact: Eddie Ortega and Erik Espinosa of EO Brands (601 cigars, Cubao cigars) are more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Fact: Nestor Miranda could well be the world's most interesting man.

These are the facts, and they cannot be disputed.

Friday, August 7, 2009

CigarMonster.com invades New Orleans!

Starting Saturday, August 8, CigarMonster.com will be running "Show-Stopper" cigar specials throughout the day, every day, during the annual IPCPR Convention and International Trade Show, which runs through Wednesday, August 12. The Cigar-Deal-A-Day site has even created a special an IPCPR New Orleans-themed Cigar Monster graphic just for the show (shown).

The Show-Stopper specials will be coordinated with our IPCPR reportage via the CigarAdvisor.com website. Famous Smoke Shop merchandiser, Humberto Gonzalez, will be "programming" many of the specials on-the-spot, depending on where Hayward and I are during the show.

If we're with Pepin Garcia, for example, we'll contact Humberto and he'll post a killer CigarMonster deal on something like the Famous 70th Anniversary Garcia Family cigars. The same goes for many of the other manufacturers we meet during the show.

In the meantime, online specials will be running all day long on dozens of other major premium cigars including 601, ACID, Alec Bradley, Arganese, Rocky Patel, Camacho, La Aurora, Oliva, Perdomo, Cusano, Plasencia, Famous exclusive brands, and far too many more to mention.

Check out these monster-size deals by logging on to the CigarAdvisor.com home page or by going directly to CigarMonster.com. You can also follow Cigar Monster on Twitter.

~ Gary Korb

Monday, August 3, 2009

How I saved my first cigar humidor

My first cigar humidor was a Diamond Crown by Reed & Barton. It was a 25 count box which set me back about $150. The cigar store owner was kind enough to knock $25 off the $175 shelf price, since I was also buying a large quantity of cigars, and some other accessories. The humidor came with a CREDO humidifier and an analog hygrometer, and I kept the box on the mantle of the fireplace in my first house. It always kept the cigars fresh year-round, even in the summer, when it got pretty warm in that old, pre-central-air-conditioned house. By the time I moved from that house to my second house the box was pretty well seasoned. I was also ready for a bigger humidor. I still have that Diamond Crown cigar humidor, and here's why:

Once I got the bigger humidor, I kept it at home and moved my old Diamond Crown to the office for stashing my everyday cigars, sample cigars, and a few special favorites. One thing I hadn't known about when I bought that first cigar humidor was that the lid should close on a cushion of air, which mine never did. However, based on its shallow bottom and heavy lid, I don't think that was ever possible, yet it never gave me a problem until several years later, by which time I had also replaced the original CREDO with a green foam humidifier. The humidity level was always too low no matter how many times I refilled the humidifier. Since I go through cigars rather quickly at the office, it didn't seem to matter all that much, but it gnawed at me. How could such a well-made humidor fail? I finally decided to move the humidor into the Famous Smoke Shop warehouse where I knew the conditions were perfect. I left the Diamond Crown humidor in there for over three years, which gave it a pretty good seasoning to say the least. But once I returned it to my office it began leaking again. I tried the dollar test and it failed miserably. Let me be clear: I'm not knocking the Diamond Crown humidors. Believe me, they're among the best made in the world. I blame it more on the basic design and the years of wear and tear on the hinges.

By this time, XiKAR had released their new crystal-based humidifiers and I wanted to see if their humidifiers could help save my old humidor. After all, the box had sentimental value, and I didn't want to put it back in the warehouse where I couldn't see it. Well, sure 'nuf, within a day after putting in the XiKAR humidifier, the box was percolating away nicely at a comfortable 66% RH with a room temp of about 73-degrees - a good balance. When the temperature goes down, the RH goes up accordingly and vice versa. IOW, the product lived up to its advertising.

So what does this all mean? Over the years, I've received a lot of emails from readers who have had problems balancing the conditions in their humidors with green foam humidifiers. I'm now convinced that the crystal type humidifiers are the are the most dependable, not to mention the most convenient way to humidify your cigars (extra large and cabinet-type humidors notwithstanding).

For the record: I'm not saying they're the ideal solution, especially if you have a serious leak in your humidor. Different humidors present different circumstances in terms of dealing with their particular biospheres. Plus, in fairness to CREDO, their unit, which had more of a clay-like material in it, did a better job than the green foam, but although it had a good run, it eventually became clogged after several years.

Generally speaking, I believe using a crystal-type humidifier will fare much better for you in the long run, and the green foam type humidifiers will eventually share the same fate as the Dodo bird.

~ Gary Korb

Friday, July 31, 2009

The advantages of having a moochidor

I recently received the following email:

"Is it worth giving a really good cigar to a non-cigar-smoker? I'm talking about giving friends who are not cigar smokers really good cigars. I bought a friend who just got married a Fuente Fuente OpusX. He smoked half of it and said he'd finish it later. I probably could have given him a cheapo machine-made cigar, and he probably wouldn't have known the difference."

I'm sure many of you reading this can relate. That's why you need a "moochidor." A moochidor is a cigar humidor where you stash your under-par cigars and cigars you know you will never smoke for inexperienced cigar smokers, or those schnorers (Yiddish for "beggars"), who are always hitting on you for a cigar. Funny, how they always seem to leave their cigars in the store, isn't it?

When it comes to friends, however, you do want to be generous, and I can understand the writer's eagerness to give his buddy an OpusX as a wedding gift, even though he knew the guy wasn't an avid cigar smoker. I've even done so on occasion, my rationale being, if they take to it, at least I'm giving them a great experience. The writer may have been thinking the same thing.

In today's economy, it probably makes more sense to protect your investment and keep some low-budget sticks handy for those occasions when the moochers come a-knockin'. If you don't have a separate humidor, you can always section off part of your humidor with some undesirables.

For fun, use a little psychology, too. Hold the box in front of them, and as you reach in for the cigar say, "I've got a really special stick in here just for you." I bet you they'll relish that dog rocket.

~ Gary Korb

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon Robusto

By Gary Korb

Almost one year ago to the date in this column, I wrote about smoking the Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon Preferido. This weekend, Famous Smoke Shop had an in-store event with Cusano Cigars and I returned to the Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon, this time in the Robusto shape (which is referred to in my earlier blog). In fact, I had several over the weekend, and I must say, the Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon selection is my personal favorite of the Cusano premium cigar lines; and speaking for the Robusto alone, it's also one of the most well made and consistent cigars I've ever smoked.

The cigar is very well packed and coated with a pristine African Cameroon wrapper. The cap clipped off cleanly (for one cigar, I used a punch). The pre-light draw was effortless, while also sweet and woody, and the foot lit evenly across upon lighting.

The smoke was sweet and creamy with a woody base accented by notes of toasted nuts and a ripple of nutmeg. But what really impressed me about this cigar was the burn. The ash was one of the firmest, going for at least 2 inches before dropping off, exposing a perfectly round-headed cone. Another smoker sitting next to me smoking the same cigar had his burn almost the entire length of the cigar, and other customers noted similarly long ashes on their 59's, too.

This is a medium-bodied, full-flavored cigar with lots of natural sweetness (in the aroma, too), perfect for enjoying in the afternoon, as I did, or in the morning with a cup of coffee.

I think I still prefer the Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon Preferido, mainly for its shape, but the Robusto is a tried-and true winner. As you can see the by scores below, I enjoyed it immensely.

Appearance: 9
Construction: 10
Burn: 9
Draw: 9
Flavor: 9
Aroma: 9
Final Score: 9.1

If you've smoked any Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon cigars, your comments are welcome.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Music for cigars: Mario Grigorov, Paris To Cuba

By Gary Korb

Today I want to digress from the usual "cigar talk" by bringing your attention to a newly-released CD by pianist and composer, Mario Grigorov. Titled, Paris To Cuba, if there was ever an ideal soundtrack for relaxing to with your favorite cigar, this is it.

A press release cogently describes the album as follows: The ten tracks on Paris To Cuba are the embodiment of summertime…the album conjures up beautiful complexions, mid-afternoon mojitos, linen garments, and vintage Cadillacs. This is music that immediately evokes an aural landscape, a narrative of striking up a wandering romance with a stranger, a "paseo" through Plaza Vieja or a sunset on the Seine. Blending hints of Pink Martini and Buena Vista Social Club, the percussion section laps as a wave on an empty beach. It is easy for the listener to get lost in the guitar solos, mysterious accordion and nostalgic, sweeping strings. This is not your typical jazz or world record.

The album opens with "Cuban Soil, Cuban Sun," which immediately bought some of the old Perez Prado recordings to mind. The rhythm, which evokes the sway of a woman's hips, is led by a strident Hammond B3 organ, underpinned by rich trumpet flourishes, and sets the mood for all that follows.

Also appearing on the CD is singer Melissa Newman. Grigorov describes her voice as "a cross between Billie Holiday and Patsy Cline," but comparisons to the sultry vocal style of the late Peggy Lee are equally appropriate. Ms. Newman, a painter, poet and lyricist who studied opera under the tutelage of the legendary vocal coach, Marlena Malas, has an impressive live performance resume as well. She has also collaborated with well-known song and jingle writer, Robin Batteau, who introduced her to Grigorov. Her willowy phrasings are featured on three of the CD's tracks: I See," "Every Little Moment,"and "Snake Eyes."

Mario Grigorov, a prodigy of a pianist in his own rite, is best known for conceiving and creating the 1998 classical crossover hit, Aria, with composer Paul Schwartz. His groundbreaking debut record, Rhymes with Orange (1994) opened the door to scoring such critically acclaimed movies as Taxi to the Dark Side, which won a 2008 Oscar for Best Documentary, Leonardo Ricagni's El Chevrolé, and most recently, Lee Daniels' Sundance ('09) success, Precious.

"This album came about from the feel-good spirit that both Paris and Cuba share," said Grigorov. "I must admit, working with my good friend Melissa Newman brought it all together; she embodies the spirit and beauty of these musical cultures. Her voice created the perfect accent for this project."

You can listen to sample tracks from Paris To Cuba, as well as purchase a copy on the CD's website. (I recommend listening to the instrumental version of "Ice Hotel," to get the full impact of Mario's mind-boggling skills.)

So get out the cigars and your favorite libation, then plug-in to your iPod and kick back for a smooth, non-stop flight from Paris to Cuba.

* * *
For more information on Paris to Cuba and to purchase a copy, please visit www.paristocuba.com.

Additional links
Paris to Cuba at MySpace
Paris to Cuba on Facebook