Monday, January 25, 2010

My Weekend Cigar: Kinky Friedman "Kinkycristo"

Yesterday I stopped by the Famous Smoke Shop cigar store to have a smoke and watch the first of the two NFL division championship football games. Before I head for the store, I go through this ridiculous process of choosing "what would be a good cigar for today?" I must inspect at least a dozen or more cigars from each of my three humidors until I've found the right one. Sometimes too much choice can be a problem.

Let's see: A big game. I'll need a fat, long-smoking cigar; something with a lot of flavor, but I'm not in the mood for a full-bodied cigar. Whoa! I forgot I had this gorgeous Kinky Friedman Kinkycristo, a 6 ¼" x 54 Torpedo modeled after the famous Montecristo No.2 cigars. The blend consists of a very delicate Honduran Habano wrapper rolled around Honduran and Nicaraguan longfiller tobaccos with a Costa Rican binder.

Unfortunately, the wrapper had a few little tears, probably from being moved around too much. Otherwise, the cigar seemed fine, so I plucked it out and off I went.

Once I got settled-in, the draw was effortless with a sweet, earthy, herbal pre-light flavor and the cigar lit-up well. I paired it with a bottle of Calypso Mango lemonade (my first bottle - and not bad, either).

The cigar produced plenty of thick, creamy smoke. The flavors were evident from the start: notes of nutmeg, almond, cocoa and coffee with an equally redolent aroma, like a big chewy candy bar.

I had some burn problems due to the tears in the wrapper, but I can't fault the cigar. Even so, each puff was delicious and smooth right down the the nub. Having come in just before the end of the first half of the Jets-Colts game, the cigar lasted the entire second half.

I've been a big fan of the Kinky Friedman cigars ever since they washed-up on our Famous Smoke Shop shores last year, and I can't recommend them highly enough. OK, they're a little pricey. But for a rich-tasting, complex, and quality-made smoke they're hard to beat, and well worth a try.

Although the Jets let me down, my Kinkycristo didn't.

~ G.K.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

An allegorical glimpse of Haiti

Today I want to digress from the usual cigars-oriented content.

Several months ago I began reading the "Memory of Fire" trilogy, Eduardo Galeano's fictionalized history of Latin America. Beginning with Columbus's discovery of what is now Haiti, year-by-year it meanders through five centuries of what might best be described as perpetual turmoil.

Although Mr. Galeano and I are worlds apart politically, I admire him as a writer. His ability to paint such vivid murals with a modicum of words is astounding to say the least. I began reading the book, 1) because I've always enjoyed reading South American authors, and 2) having met so many Latin American people in the cigar business over the years, I wanted to gain a better understanding of their cultural backgrounds and histories.

"Memory of Fire" is an intoxicating read, but due to its breadth, it's hard to explain. This excerpt from the Publisher's Weekly editorial on efficiently sums it up: "In this Uruguayan journalist's epic tapestry, stitched together from hundreds of historical cameos, the destinies of North and South America are darkly linked...As Galeano replays the obscenities and horrors of modern history, he lays bare the fractured soul of Latin America."

Written in short, pithy, and beautifully lyrical chapters or "scenes," Galeano jumps around a lot. One moment you're in Mexico, the next in Brazil, then Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Nicaragua etc., including the island nations of Cuba, The Dominican Republic and Haiti, which brings me to today's post.

A few days ago, I read the following chapter from the third volume, Century of the Wind, which covers the 20th century from 1900 to 1984. Although the scene takes place in 1943, from an allegorical perspective, it offers a menacing snapshot of Haiti today:

1943: Mount Rouis
A Little Grain of Salt
In a bar, surrounded by kids with bloated bellies and skeletal dogs, Hector Hyppolite paints gods with a brush of hens' feathers. Saint John the Baptist turns up in the evenings and helps him.

Hyppolite portrays the gods who paint through his hand. These Haitian gods, painted and painters, live simultaneously on earth and in heaven and hell: Capable of good and evil, they offer their children vengeance and solace

Not all have come from Africa. Some were born here, like Baron Samedi, god of solemn stride, master of poisons and graves, his blackness enhanced by top hat and cane. That poison should kill and the dead rest in peace depends on Baron Samedi. He turns many dead into zombies and condemns them to slave labor.

Zombies -- dead people who walk or live ones who have lost their souls -- have a look of hopeless stupidity. But in no time they can escape and recover their lost lives, their stolen souls. One little gram of salt is enough to awaken them. And how could salt be lacking in the home of the slaves who defeated Napoleon and founded freedom in America?

© 1986 by Eduardo Galeano
Think about it.

~ G.K.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Weekend Cigar: Rocky Patel 1961 Toro

Last weekend I joined the regulars in the Famous Smoke Shop cigar store for a Rocky Patel Cigars event. One of the featured cigars was one of Rocky's latest creations, the 1961 series, which he introduced at IPCPR New Orleans last year. Rocky's production manager, Shawn Bussler was kind enough to treat me to a Rocky Patel 1961 Toro which weighs-in at 6" x 52. And it really has some weight, too, being very solidly packed, while allowing an easy draw.

The first thing you notice is the striking black, white and red two-piece band, but it's the dark, oily Ecuadorian Habano wrapper that gives these cigars their panache. The aroma of the wrapper leaf alone is enough to make your mouth water.

The cap clipped-off easily and the pre-light flavor was sweet and spicy on the tongue. Looking at the foot you can see an ample amount of Ligero (the core is all Nicaraguan with an Honduran binder). It took a little longer to toast-up as a result, but once it got going that wonderful aroma revealed all of its redolent beauty.

The first few puffs were quite peppery (cayenne comes to mind) and earthy with a subtle nuttiness and sweet wood flavor on the finish. Now THIS is a full-bodied cigar.

During the second act, the pepper rounded out and more of the nutty-woody flavors began to take over with some leathery notes sneaking into the finish. The cigar remained pretty consistent into the last third building somewhat more in strength, so I strongly recommend you take your time with this cigar and let it smoke itself somewhat to prevent it from becoming too overpowering, or worse, bitter and tarry. It's very complex, and you'll want to savor every puff.

This is an ideal after-dinner cigar for relaxing with a long-aged single malt or even a sweet Port as a counterpoint to the spicy tobacco flavors. And here's a little cigar trivia for you: 1961 was the year Rocky was born, hence, the source of the name.

Highly recommended, especially if you've got a well-educated palate.

Appearance - 10
Construction - 9
Draw - 9
Burn - 9
Aroma - 10
Flavor - 9
Balance - 9
Total Score: 9.2

~ G.K.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Weekend Cigar: Famous Private Selection 70th Anniversary by Rocky Patel Robusto

There was a lot of chatter on Facebook, the cigar community sites, Twitter, et. al. last week about what cigar smokers were going to smoke on New Years Eve, or New Years Day. Several customers in the store also asked me what I was planning on enjoying, and to my surprise, it wasn't the cigar I ended up smoking. Of course, if you read the title to this blog you already know, and to tell the truth, I don't know if I could've come up with anything better.

It all started at about 4:00 P.M. on Thursday, Dec. 31. One of my coworkers had just picked up a box of Famous Private Selection 70th Anniversary by Rocky Patel Robusto and was kind enough to hand me not one, but two! Interestingly enough, this is one of the few Famous 70th Anniversary cigars I had not smoked in its final version. That was reason enough to go for it.

Now I know there's always the risk of sounding like a shill when I review a cigar made expressly for Famous Smoke Shop, but damn if this wasn't one of the best cigars I smoked all year, and you can think whatever you like. (If I had smoked it sooner I probably would have mentioned it in Our Most Impressive Cigars of 2009 article.)

Rocky's cigars seem to improve year after year, and it looks like there's no ceiling in sight. This limited edition 70th Anniversary selection offers an extra-long-aged longfiller blend of various Nicaraguan tobaccos, a Honduran binder and a gorgeous Ecuadorian-grown Cuban seed wrapper leaf that adds a lot of flavor to this full-bodied blend. If that sounds a bit cryptic, blame Rocky; I think he wanted to keep the Famous 70th by Rocky Patel cigars blend in his designer suit pocket. Moreover, just today read the following applicable quote by Rocky in a recent online cigar review: "I don’t make a blend and give it to 10 people - I trust my palate and I know what I’m looking for." (Why am I not surprised?)

From the first puff this cigar was right in my wheelhouse. The smoke was intensely aromatic and flavorful; rife with earthiness, sweet spices (nutmeg, for sure) all underscored by a rich woodiness. Each puff was amazingly creamy, easy, and every bit as flavorful as the one before. The ash was very firm with a clean burn, too. I paired it with a glass of Tawny Port, which made a great match, as well.

I let the cigar rest between puffs. There was no way I wanted it to get tarry or bitter and it paid-off. Even by the last third the cigar remained smooth and creamy and glowing with caramelized flavors. If you like complex flavor, there's plenty here for you. I'll stop there, only to add that I hope your first cigar of the New Year was as enjoyable as was mine. Now I can't wait to try the other one.

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

Feel free to chime in on your New Years cigar.

~ Gary Korb