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.

Scores:
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

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cigar Review: Jameson Red Toro


By Gary Korb

Country of origin: Dom. Rep.
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
Filler: Dominican
Binder: Honduran

This cigar is a new discovery for me. It's one of two line extensions made by Jameson; the Jameson Red series which is a medium-bodied blend; the other, the full-bodied Jameson Black Maduro series. I'll start by giving you a little teaser: if you enjoy cigars like Macanudo and Arturo Fuente, you'll probably appreciate what the Jameson Red has to offer.

The cigar sports an attractive Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper with a buttery, latte-hued patina. My sample was virtually devoid of veins except on one side, but it didn't detract all that much from the overall appearance. The packing of the cigar was impressive, with hardly any soft spots, while a neatly-affixed triple cap tops the cigar with a somewhat flat head. The cap clipped-off cleanly, exposing a good portion of tobacco, and permitted a very easy draw. The pre-light flavor was somewhat nutty and toasty, which is why the Mac immediately came to mind.

Once lit, the smoke was mellow and creamy with an earthy-woody base and a pleasant aroma. The toasty-nutty flavors seeped though with a hint of sweetness on the finish for an enjoyably mellow first act.

By its midpoint, the cigar peaked to a medium-bodied character, while the creamy, toasty elements remained steady. The ash had a fine grain and held firm for close to an inch before each ashing. I also gave the cigar high marks for balance, roundness, and aroma.

During the last scene of Act III the smoke began to turn a little sharp, which soured the experience a little for me, but since it was so late in the game, I gave it a pass.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely, if you're a mild cigar smoker looking for a high-quality, medium-bodied cigar with more flavor (and kick) than you're used to.

Scores:
Appearance: 8
Construction: 9
Burn: 9
Draw: 9
Flavor: 8
Aroma: 8
Final Score: 8.5

If you've smoked a Jameson Red, please let me know what you thought by leaving a comment.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: G.A.R. Vanguard Gran Consul

As you may already know, last month Famous Smoke Shop had their annual Cigar Expo, and many of the manufacturers brought samples of their new cigars. Among them was George Rico of G.A.R. Cigars, who handed me a 4" x 60 "Gran Consul" from his new G.A.R. Vanguard series. Let me say upfront, that I haven't smoked a Gran Habano or G.A.R. cigar that I didn't like, so my expectations were high.

It was Saturday night, just after dusk. The night threatened rain, which made me hesitant to pull out the Vanguard, but I had to smoke something new for this week's column, so I said, "What the heck," pairing it with a cup of coffee.

The G.A.R. Vanguard is an all-Nicaraguan-leaf puro with lots of ligero, and even though it was somewhat wider that I usually prefer, I liked the chunkiness of this particular shape. The wrapper was a dark Colorado, virtually free of blemishes and veins. The cap is a beautiful triple style and when clipped the cigar drew easily. It toasted-up nicely, and when I blew on the foot, I could see thick black shadows of ligero suspended in the red glow. The smoke was creamy and predominantly earthy as is the signature of Gran Habano/G.A.R. blends. The strength was medium to full and well-rounded with loads of earthy-woody flavor laced accented by note of nutmeg and coffee bean. I also picked-up a note of lemon-pepper on the finish during the early stages.

Just past the one-inch mark, I saw the lighting flash in the distance. Damn! No rain drops just yet, so I sweated it out until the storm clouds got too close for comfort. The cigar was burning perfectly with a really firm ash to its credit. I wanted to keep it burning just to see how long it would hang on, but common sense dictated I move inside and let it go out in the house. It was hard to resist not picking it up a couple of more times for a few indoor puffs and the ash continued to hang-on (see photo above).

Then I decided to give it the ultimate test: would the cigar be as good the next day? I had to know. Once the cigar cooled, I took it into the kitchen and carefully scraped out all of the ash from the foot with a toothpick (I didn't have a cutter wide enough to cut it back.)

Sunday I took the cigar back outside and re-lit it, now pairing it with a glass of Bitter Lemon. To my surprise, it held up! It even resumed its perfect burn. The smoke became much more robust in the final act, but when you start with 3 inches there isn't far to go, yet the base flavors of the smoke remained consistent. I eventually left a three-quarter-inch stub in the ashtray.

I look forward to smoking another G.A.R. Vanguard uninterrupted at IPCPR New Orleans in a few weeks. Another nice job by Mr. Rico and highly recommended for you full-flavored fans.

Here are my scores:
Appearance: 9
Construction: 9
Burn: 10
Draw: 9
Aroma: 9
Flavor: 9
Final Score: 9.1

If you've also smoked any of the new G.A.R. Vanguard selections, please leave a comment.

~ Gary Korb

Friday, July 10, 2009

The "must-reads" of the week: CigarCycolpedia's Retailer Roundtable

Get used to seeing a lot of Rich Perelman this weekend, especially if you subscribe to our newsletter. But that's neither here nor there. Today I want to draw your attention to a three-part series of interviews the CigarCyclopedia.com ace reporter did with three of the cigar industry's biggest names in retail: Arthur Zaretsky of Famous Smoke Shop, Lew Rothman of J-R, and Keith Meier of CI.

Mr. Perelman focuses on three areas that are of most concern to cigar retailers: the future of cigar stores, brands and makers, and finally, what the future holds for the industry. I found it to be one of the most enlightening series written on the industry in quite some time. It's not everyday you get to hear what the head honchos really think about the state of the cigar business.

So kick back, light-up a good cigar, and enjoy these "must reads." ~ G.K.

Roundtable I: The Future of Stores

Roundtable II: Brands and Makers

Roundtable III: Today and Tomorrow

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: Alec Bradley Select Cabinet Reserve Robusto

During the recent Famous Smoke Shop Cigar Expo 2009, I received a Robusto sample from Alec Bradley's new Select Cabinet Reserve cigars courtesy of Alec Bradley Cigars prez, Alan Rubin. Having spent the entire July 4th weekend down the shore, I don't usually like to smoke anything on the beach that I plan to review, since it's always blustery and I'm often distracted. So I waited until I got home last night when I could light-up my "SCR" in privacy out on my deck under an almost full moon without interruption.

Besides the elegant band at the head, plus a second band at the foot, the SCR dons a beautiful, dark Honduran Trojes wrapper, similar to that used on the award-winning Alec Bradley Tempus cigars line and several other cigars the company produces. (I'm really starting to appreciate the flavor properties of this wrapper leaf, too.) As for the cigar's construction, it was well-packed with an attractive cap that clipped off perfectly exposing just the right amount of tobacco at the head. I paired it with a glass of bitter lemon rather than my usual Port, which worked out quite well.

At first, I had some trouble lighting the cigar, since it appeared that there was a lot of ligero at the foot. So, short of scorching the poor thing to death, I let the cigar go as it was, and sure enough, all the tobacco took to an even burn within the first quarter inch forming a dark, firm gray ash. The first few puffs had a mellow, earthy, toffee-like flavor, and if I were to compare the smoke to real cream, it would be "heavy cream."

Based on my experience, the cigar falls into the medium to full range, with the needle pointing toward full. The smoke was predominantly earthy, woody, and in no way hot-peppery, with a "dark" sweetness throughout. Notes of coffee and sweet spices were whipped evenly into the mix making this one of the most well-balanced cigars I've smoked recently, too.

This is an very "full-flavored" cigar that's also extremely mellow. That seems hard to imagine, but the best way I can describe it is: you get all this dense flavor flowing into your mouth that melts like butter on the palate, leaving a long, chewy, and complex finish. This cigar was right in my wheelhouse. (I also found that letting this cigar rest a little longer between puffs made it that much more enjoyable.)

Due to a particularly stubborn ligero leaf in this particular sample, the cigar didn't burn as evenly as I expected. It wasn't off all that much to file a major complaint, but worth noting, and eventually it redeemed itself in the third act.

By comparison to other Alec Bradley cigars, the best way I could sum up the Select Cabinet Reserve would be: take the Alec Bradley Medalist, double the flavor and intensity of that cigar; toss in the best elements of Tempus, and you've got one helluva smoke. Comparisons aside, this new blend stands on its own, and I'm very curious to see how it will be received in a few weeks at IPCPR in New Orleans.

Here are my numbers:
Appearance: 10
Construction: 9
Burn: 7
Draw: 9
Aroma: 9
Flavor: 10
Final Score: 9.0

As always, your comments are welcome.