Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Weekend Cigar: Davidoff L.E.'09 Especial SeleccĂ­on 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.