20 November 2009

CIGAR REVIEW: Hoya de Monterrey - Rothschild Maduro

I recently smoked the Hoya de Monterrey - Rothschild Maduro (4.5" x 50) by General Cigar.  This isn't one of my usual brands but I received a couple different vitollas from a sales rep earlier this year which have been aging in my humidor and I finally decided to give one a try.  Besides, I read a couple reviews that said they weren't a bad low-cost cigar that was good for "everyday" smoking so I was looking forward to it.

The Rothschild's capa is Equadorian Sumatra; its capote is Connecticut broadleaf; and its tripa is Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican.  Initial examination revealed a relatively consistent, near maduro color, with nice veins and texture.  It wasn't very firm, maybe even a little soft with a soft spot found under the band, and by the look of the foot, wasn't very well packed.  The pre-light aroma was of mild tobacco, pleasant but lacking any real notes.  Following a punch cut, I found the pre-light draw to be fine but the taste was of bland tobacco and not much of it.

The Hoya - Rothschild lit easily enough and produced plenty of grey smoke but was harsh tasting from the first puff.  Retro-exhalation was just not happening and made me want to cough.  As the first 1/3 progressed, a harsh, unpleasant taste covered my tongue and a strange, perhaps "tangy" sensation / taste developed that made me want to spit a lot.  It smoked a great deal while at rest which made me wonder if it was burning too fast but it did maintain an even burn until into the middle 1/3, at which time it started needing touch-ups.  The ash was medium-grey in color with different shades in different parts, was crispy and had lots of cracks, but it did hold on pretty well.  As I continued to smoke the Rothschild, its wrapper bubbled and flaked in places and a bitter taste dominated through to the end.

Many factors can affect an individual cigar including but not limited to its manufacture, the environment it is smoked in, and even the smoker themselves.  An individual bad cigar in a premium line can also be a fluke, which I myself have experienced in the past.  Let me qualify my remarks with this, I received this cigar some time ago and it has been in my personal humidor ever since, marrying with several drawers of super-premium cigars.  My humidor has an electronically monitored and controlled active humidifier that maintains optimal humidity levels.  This is important because over or under humidification can severely affect a cigar's taste and smoking qualities.  I smoked this cigar outside and by my self so no one else's smoke could have interfered and I also hadn't eaten or drank anything for a couple hours which could have altered the natural pH in my mouth.  All that being said, this was NOT a good cigar.  Everything about it was bad and at this point, I cannot recommend it to anyone.  As stated above, I acknowledge that this cigar may not be representative of the Rothschild line and to be fair I am willing to try another one; however, I certainly won't buy it.

17 November 2009

CIGAR REVIEW - NEW RELEASE: Drew Estate - Liga Privada T-52

I was recently given a new cigar to try by one of the lovely ladies of the Pecunes family, owners of The Humidour Cigar Shoppe in Cockeysville, MD and some of the most respected Tobacconists I know.  She said it was one of their favorites from the 2009 IPCPR convention and they were going to be selling them at their shop.  The cigar; the new Liga Privada T-52 from Drew Estate.  Well when I hear Drew Estate, what comes to mind is "flavored" and "infused", not necessarily premium cigars; however, I respect the Pecunes families opinion, so I settled back into a big leather chair in their cigar lounge with it.  Please understand that I am not being critical of anyone's personal taste, "flavored" and "infused" cigars just aren't my preference is all.  Don't forget, taste is subjective!

Liga Privada means "Private Blend" and Drew Estate claims it was originally intended not for general release but to be smoked by their President, Steven Saka.  They say that while looking for something unique, they discovered a farmer in Connecticutt who was experimenting with a new sungrown Connecticutt broadleaf stalk-cut varietal he called, "American Habano."  According to Drew Estate, this new American Habano capa (wrapper) is hand-fermented, not sweated; the capote (binder) is Brazillian Mata-Fina; and the tripa (filler) is a combination of Dominican, Nicaraguan, and Honduran tobaccos, with each finished cigar aged at least a year.  They are being released in various vitollas ranging in price from $10.65 to $14.20.  The one I smoked was a Toro, 6 x 52.

The T-52's wrapper was dark and oily with a color I put somewhere between colorado-maduro to maduro.  It had a nice texture with slight teeth and an almost slippery feeling.  The pre-light aroma was very mild but pleasant and a cut with a double-guillotine revealed a very good draw with an interesting flavor that left a slight sensation of pepper on the tip of the tongue.  The 52 lit easily and I noticed right away that the heat made oil extrude from the wrapper up to about 1/4 inch from the ember.  I have heard about some unreputable makers coating their cigars with adjuncts and claiming it was an oily wrapper, but I have to say, this looked like the real thing.  The flavor started off mellow with subtle notes that were hard to pin down; maybe cocoa, maybe coffee bean.  Retro-exhalation was pretty easy overall with mild to moderate spice sensations from around mid-sinus all the way to the end of the nose.  It produced a light-grey to almost white smoke with moderate amounts from the draw and lots from the foot making me wonder if it was burning too fast.  The smoke was cool and smooth though and by the end of the first 1/3, pepper notes began to emerge down the sides and on the tip of the tongue with the slightest note on the back of the throat.

I was more than 2 inches into it and the medium to dark-grey ash, which was crisp and grainy, was still hanging on.  I finally knocked it off just to keep from eventually making a mess of myself and looking like an amateur.  In the middle 1/3 a mouth watering flavor developed inside the lips and slightly more pepper emerged with the overall flavor picking up around mid-mouth and on top of the tongue.  I detected leathery notes around the mid-way point which I realized may have been one of the flavors earlier that I wasn't able to pin down.  Past the half-way point I detected creamy, chocolaty notes, and that mouth watering flavor progressed.  Into the final 1/3 a fair peppery spice emerged which carried through to the end.

The T-52 didn't require any touch-ups or re-lights until close to the nub and the easy retro-exhalation continued until the final 1/3.  There was some complexity of flavor, which while subtle throughout, was certainly present.  I have to say it, this was a good cigar and I recommend it.  I even tried one with a glass of ruby Porto and they went well together.  Drew Estate may not make most of their living in the realm of traditional cigars, but that doesn't mean they don't know how.  Good job guys.

16 November 2009

Notable Quote

"I like to drink in peace; however I see you're in need of a good beating and I'm always willing to help a poor bastard out."
-Anonymous Irishman

11 November 2009


Today, 11 November, is Veterans Day; a day to pay tribute to all those who have served our great nation.  Keep your politics to yourself and take a moment to give thanks.  If you know or see a Veteran, say thanks or just give a nod.  No matter what your personal feelings may be, without them you don't get to have an opinion.

Whenever they go, wherever they go, support our troops.
May GOD bless and protect them all.

10 November 2009

234th Marine Corps Birthday

Today is one of the most important dates of the year, the birthday of the United States Marine Corps.  The Marine Corps, America's expeditionary force in readiness and the most elite fighting force in the history of the world, was created 234 years ago on 10 November 1775 when the Second Continental Congress decreed that two battalions of Marines be raised for service in the War of Independence.  Captain Samuel Nicholas was appointed as their commanding officer and is considered the first Commandant of the Marine Corps.  Appropriately, recruitment for the Marines was conducted in a tavern and free beer was offered in return for enlistment; and so it began...

Yes, The Cap'n honorably served in The Corps before joining the Merchant Marine.

SEMPER FIDELIS (Always Faithful)

08 November 2009

B & M REVIEW: Davidus Cigars - Annapolis

The forces of good have established another toe-hold deep inside enemy territory!  Last night I attended the grand opening of the Castro brothers' newest shop in their Davidus Cigars chain located at 2134 Generals Highway in Annapolis.  Annapolis is the Maryland state capital and, I'm proud to say, home of the United States Naval Academy.  Unfortunately, it is also a bastion of the smoking-nazis who relentlessly attempt to destroy our Constitutional Rights, so they must have hated to issue the business license.

The event was enjoyable and catered with hearty Italian food, so if anyone left hungry it was their own fault.  That's the problem with Italian food, two or three days later you're hungry again...  The shop is spacious and offers a nice selection of humidors, lighters, pipes, tobaccos, and other accessories in the retail area.  The walk-in humidor (or should I say the walk around in humidor) was one of the larger ones I've seen and well stocked.  There was a very good selection overall which included many of the super-premium cigars from some of the best makers in the business.  The shop also boasts a large Diamond Crown Lounge, sponsored by - you guessed it - Diamond Crown Cigars.  The lounge was very roomy with several big leather chairs, two flat screen TVs, free wi-fi, a pool table, and an attached cigar locker room with 72 lockers for rent.  One of the things I liked about the lounge was that it seemed both conducive to friendly conversation and private relaxation at the same time.  All of the interior walls are glass, which adds to the spacious feeling and lets you see all the goings on.  The staff was pleasant and helpful and includes my good friend, Mr. John Vanore CRT, so kudos to the Castro brothers for recognizing the importance and value of hiring a Tobacconist University certified expert.

If you are a local or happen to find yourself in the Annapolis area, stop in, relax, and enjoy a good smoke.  Support your local premium brick & mortar Tobacconist!  Best wishes for success to the new shop.

Davidus Cigars Ltd. - Annapolis
2134 Generals Highway
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

07 November 2009

CIGAR REVIEW: La Flor Dominicana - Ligero Cabinet Oscuro

La Flor Dominicana - Ligero Cabinet Oscuro, by Lito Gomez, isn't a new release but it is a regular in my humidor so I thought I would share it with you.  It is their first full-bodied release and while not a true maduro cigar,  they tell me they obtained the oscuro color and full-bodied flavor profile by applying a new proprietary method of trabajando to the aged ligero leaves used to make it.  What was told to me by a representative was that the method is a company secret but try to imagine an overly ripe banana...  It comes in several parejo vitollas: L200 - 40 x 4 7/8, L250 - 48 x 5 3/4, L300 - 50 x 5 3/4, L400 - 54 x 5 3/4, L500 - 60 x 5 3/4, and one they call the Mysterio which is a figurado.

The Cabinet Oscuro is made with an Equadorian Sumatra wrapper, and Dominican binder and fillers from their own farm in La Canela, Dominican Republic.  It has a beautiful, shiny, oily wrapper (in fact probably one of the oiliest you will encounter), with nice texture and teeth.  It squeezed well, had no soft spots, and was obviously well packed.  It has a very enjoyable, sweet pre-light aroma that changes slightly as you go from head to foot and is more pronounced at the open foot.  I made a punch-cut and tested the draw which was smooth and easy and left a very mild, earthy tobacco taste on the lips and tongue.  After lighting, the flavor starts out with a very mild spice on the tip of the tongue which slowly begins to build.  It produces a grey, "stringy" smoke that looks like it is slowly pulling apart as it floats away.  As it burns it leaves behind a light-grey ash with dark undertones and highlights which flakes a bit, but otherwise holds on pretty well.  Retro-exhalation is pretty easy until you are near the very end and leaves pepper notes in the sinuses.  As the flavor profile develops, it becomes a little peppery which can be felt on the tongue and holds on throughout.  The pepper picks up some just past the half-way point but never becomes overwhelming and maintains a noticeable balance and consistency all the way to the dry, mild-spice finish.

The La Flor - Ligero Cabinet Oscuro is one of my favorite choices when the time and mood is right.  While it is upper-medium to full-bodied, it is not overly strong but definitely has enough to bring on the leading edge of a buzz so you should certainly eat first.  One thing to be aware of is that every one I have ever smoked required a fair amount of touching up and even re-lighting.  I don't think this is a quality issue like with some cigars, I sort of attribute it to being a side effect of the heavy oiliness of the wrapper which is a good thing.

05 November 2009

BEER REVIEW: Samuel Smith's - Imperial Stout

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout is a Russian Imperial Stout with an eye-catching, old style label reminiscent of its Victorian roots.  It is 7% ABV but other than that, they really don't tell you much else about it.  I first had it at a tasting event some time ago and enjoyed it very much but haven't gotten around to reviewing it until now.

It pours with an opaque, dark black color with the slightest ruby hints at the edges that could only be revealed by direct, bright light.  It developed a tall, light-brown head that was creamy and fluffy.  The initial aroma was very light and only of sweet malt which I thought was a bit odd.  That is when I realized that it had been chilled to standard refrigerator temperature which is well below its recommended serving temperature of approximately 60 degrees.  After allowing it to warm a bit, the aroma evolved into one you could really stick you nose into.  It was deep and complex but all its notes were subtle and required hunting, which is part of the fun for me.  The malty sweetness remained but I also detected slight notes of vanilla and chocolate.  The first sip doesn't disappoint either.  The mouthfeel starts with a moderate tingle on the front of the tongue which subsides quickly, developing into a thick, creamy feel all over the mouth.  The taste is initially slightly sweet which instantly gives way to the hops and alcohol, which blend excellently.  The flavor has complexity, but like the aroma, the notes are subtle and you have to work for them.  I detected bitter chocolate, hops, some roast, and smoke.  It finishes dry  with slight black coffee notes and lingers a little.

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout is an excellent beer.  It is right in line with the expected characteristics of this style while maintaining great balance throughout.  I recommend you use a sniff and sip technique while drinking and enjoy it slowly to get the most out of it.  It has the qualities to be enjoyed alone or with food.  It even has the legs to stand with a full-bodied, maduro cigar.

04 November 2009

BEER REVIEW: Brasserie de Cazeau - Tournay Black

Tournay Black is a bottle conditioned, Belgian stout brewed by Brasserie de Cazeau which is a farm-brewery located in the south of Belgium.  It was originally brewed as a winter ale under the name Tournay de Noel, but later became a year-round release.  They didn't provide much specific detail about how it was brewed except to say that it is made with water, malts, candi-sugar, hops, and yeast.  It is 7.6% ABV with a recommended drinking temperature of +/- 50 degrees.  The brewer states that the tasting notes are of, "roasted malts, coffee, bitter chocolate, earth, and cigar ash."  Well, I am a prodigious cigar smoker and I can't say that I would want to consume the ash.

Tournay Black poured with a very dark brown color and produced a tall, tan head which was pretty thick and lasted for a bit, but once it laid down, it totally disappeared; although it did leave fair lace behind at the top of the glass but not so much as it progressed.  The nose was sweet and malty with what may have been subtle caramel notes.  The mouthfeel was initially very crisp, especially on the tongue, perhaps due to the carbonation and alcohol content, but got a little creamier as the beer warmed.  I don't mean as each sip warmed in the mouth, I mean as the beer itself warmed as it sat so perhaps you should follow the brewers recommendations because I think mine was a little more chilled.  The taste had a pleasant, mild bitterness with perhaps very subtle notes of bakers chocolate and a lasting finish, but overall, not much complexity.  Additionally, shortly after finishing it a residual astringent / chalky taste and mouthfeel developed which persisted for a little while.

This was a decent stout in general and I did enjoy drinking it.  I wouldn't put it near the top of my list though and probably wouldn't buy it again, but that's my opinion.  There is some suspicion however, that mine may have been past it's "best by" date, but this isn't confirmed.

03 November 2009

BEER REVIEW: Atwater Block Brewery - Vanilla Java Porter

Atwater Block Brewery’s – Vanilla Java Porter is described as a “robust porter… sure to please” made with chocolate and coffee malts; U.S. Golding hops; vanilla and coffee adjuncts; and weighs in at 6% ABV.  Vanilla and coffee flavors in beer may sound a bit unusual to some, but I like both and they could go well in a porter if well made, so I figured I would give it a try.

Vanilla Java Porter poured with an attractive dark-brown color which when held to a light, revealed a slight ruby tint and a near opaqueness.  It developed a light-tan head, which laid down quickly and left practically no lace behind.  It had a sweet, malty nose with chocolate notes and slight hints of coffee and vanilla.  The first sip revealed a crispness on the front of the tongue with a creamy mouth-feel on the top of the tongue and roof of the mouth.  As it drank, a strange taste developed that I really couldn’t put a finger on but seemed almost “tangy”.  It was also thin and watery and not at all like a porter.

In my opinion (for what its worth) Atwater’s – Vanilla Java Porter did not live up to its own claims or my hopes.  “Robust”, no way; porter, not quite; I just can’t recommend this one.  The first time I tried it was at a tasting event and I thought it was OK and worth reviewing; however, there were 97 beers at this event and I was pretty far along at the time…