I’ve been doing some traveling lately, and haven’t had a chance to record a full review or first impressions (shame on me). However, I have had an opportunity to smoke some really great cigars during the last month, so if you’re disappointed not to see a video here today, consider this as your consolation prize. It could be worse… you could receive the play-at-home version of the Stogie Review game show (featuring a Ben Lee action figure with 7 and a half points of articulation), a lock of Mike’s silken hair, or an all-expenses-paid staycation for two on Brian Hewitt’s pull-out sofa. I’ll save those prizes for my “top cigars of 2012” giveaway early next year, so you’ll have to be content with this Month in Smoke edition for now.
My standard Month in Smoke disclaimer: Here’s a recap of some of the cigars I’ve smoked since my last Month in Smoke, in addition to any I evaluated for a full review or featured first impressions. Some of these cigars may have already been reviewed by myself or another member of the Stogie Review crew, while others just might make it into a full-length review sometime in the future. Enjoy!
San Lotano Oval Maduro – The original San Lotano Oval was one of the first reviews I did for StogieReview.com, and it appears in the list of my top five cigars of 2011. I’m a big fan of AJ Fernandez and generally enjoy a maduro wrapper, so this new version of the Oval had a lot going for it before I ever lit one up. Things got off to a great start with the maduro as well, with the dark wrapper offering up the inviting aroma of a damp, old woodpile. The draw and smoke were great — a bit on the snug side like sipping a milkshake through a straw, but the dense smoke it produced was just as thick and satisfying. Flavors were interesting and enjoyable, too: a combination of rich, syrupy molasses and corn chips. However, in the second half the burn became crooked, the streaky salt & pepper ash became fragile, and a relight and multiple touch-ups were required. My thoughts on the Oval line mirror my sentiments with the regular San Lotano series: the maduro is good, but the Habano version is better.
AVO 85th Anniversary Limited Edition 2011 – The veiny wrapper on this handsome perfecto gave off a wonderful aroma of freshly-baked fudge brownies. Right from the start, the smooth draw produced tons of creamy smoke. I detected flavors of prune, leather, toasted marshmallow, and cedar. Though I found the smoke to be a bit dry, it paired surprisingly well with a glass of Charles Shaw cabernet sauvignon — yes, you read that right… this is a cigar that cost about five times as much as the bottle of “Two-Buck Chuck” that I paired it with. Call me crazy, but they went really well together.
Tatuaje Little Monsters Mini Mum – A toothy, seamless Sumatra wrapper adorned this fun-sized version of the newly-released latest edition in the annual Tatuaje Monster Series. During pre-light inspection, I got sweet hay off that wrapper, earthiness off the foot, and some fruity notes from the open cold draw. Once lit, I noted tons of baking spice and a terrific white pepper finish. The slightly flaky ash was salt & pepper-colored, while the absolutely perfect draw produced a lot of smoke having a somewhat gritty texture. Other than a momentary unpleasant rubber taste, the flavors were quite nice, with spiced wafer and Cheerios cereal developing towards the end. The entire Little Monsters box provided a great smoking experience, with the Mini Mum being special in that it provided a sneak peak of what was yet to come, rather than a nostalgic look back like with the other Halloween miniatures.
Tarazona XTC – The gorgeous light brown wrapper on this cigar carried a single vein and lots of tooth. I picked up sweet hay off the wrapper, while the foot was more of a spicy earth and the open cold draw presented straight earthiness. Right from the get-go, I was greeted with some really interesting and enjoyable twang and tarty flavors, and a pleasantly-long red pepper finish. The solid, medium gray ash held on for well over an inch each time, and the burn, draw, and smoke were all excellent throughout. I’ll definitely be looking to try some more of these.
Rocky Patel Freedom – I don’t smoke a lot of Rocky Patel cigars, and I didn’t have the chance to visit their booth at IPCPR this year, so when I was offered a sample of their new Freedom cigar at the 2012 Delaware Cigar Festival last month, I was interested to see what I’d been missing out on. The wrapper was a beautiful dark brown color and gave off a substantial leather smell. The foot presented earthy chocolate, while the cold draw proved to be far too snug for my liking. Once lit, the Freedom produced some very nice flavors, including dark fruit, dark chocolate, earthy leather, and twang. Towards the end, things started shifting towards milky and nutty flavors. While this was definitely the best flavor profile I’ve enjoyed from a Rocky Patel product in some time, unfortunately the construction problems didn’t end with the tight draw. The burn was ugly, little smoke was produced, and the ash was dark & skeletal-looking. Still, the flavors were pleasing enough that I’ll probably give it another try and see if the sample I had was merely a little road-weary.
Emilio AF Suave – When I traveled up to Delaware in August to interview Gary Griffith, he handed me a few of the corona-sized AF Suave that had just landed on retail shelves. In my first impressions video earlier this year, based on a pre-release sample, I found the AF Suave to join the EP Carrillo New Wave Connecticut in being part of a new generation of cigars that will shatter your expectations of what a Connecticut shade wrapper can be. The wrapper used on the Suave is veinless and is the color of coffee with a double-dose of creamer. Despite it’s lighter appearance, the wrapper smells of milk chocolate, while the foot adds some earthiness to the chocolate aroma. The cold draw offers just the right amount of resistance, along with flavors of dark bread. While smoking, the flavors are primarily woody joined by some creamy goodness, with a gray ash holding on for an inch and a half. I think the NWC still has a slight edge, but the Suave is something I’ll reach for ahead of almost every other Connecticut shade-wrapped smoke. It’s is a great mild-medium cigar for mornings with a cup of coffee, and it’s a wonderful addition that helps to round-out the offerings from Emilio.
God of Fire by Carlito, Double Corona 2008 – Keith Park, proprietor of Prometheus and God of Fire, is a very generous man. He recently sent a few of us each a God of Fire 20th Anniversary Assortment, along with a gorgeous Prometheus triple-flame torch lighter. My previous experience with God of Fire cigars had been somewhat limited, but as soon as I cracked open the box, I started salivating. With a long, unaccompanied car ride ahead of me this past weekend, I reached for the largest cigar in the assortment: a double corona coming in a 7.625×49. The mottled wrapper on this big boy carried a couple veins and a lot of tooth and sheen. I noted a very strong barnyard aroma from the wrapper itself, which was joined by woody notes from the foot and earthiness from the long, cold draw. Once I got things going with my new Prometheus lighter, I was greeted by lots of thin smoke, with cereal and cream flavors accompanied by a woody twang. Burn and draw were both great, while the ash was solid and impressively white, holding on for over two full inches. There was a nice evolution of flavors, with a transition to sweet floral notes, sweet cedar, and a very clean white pepper finish. Strength and body were both medium throughout most of this cigar, with a ramp up to medium-full towards the very end. All in all, absolutely outstanding, and I can’t wait to try the rest of the sticks in the God of Fire anniversary set.