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 or, 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