Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fuente Fuente Forbidden X Heart of the Bull 1957

5 1/4 x50

2012 marks a big year for the Arturo Fuente cigar making family. They have been in business for 100 years now, and certainly few can make that claim, even fewer are more worthy of 100 years of success than the Fuentes. In their hundred years they have suffered as much great tragedy as they have enjoyed great success, from hurricanes to large scale fires, and humble beginnings to top rated blends. In addition to their success as a business, and a cigar maker, the Fuentes play a key role (ie. half partners) in the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, a joint effort with the J.C. Newman family brand, that has done wonders in Fuente's base country of the Dominican Republic to help children in need, from schooling, to clothing and feeding them. A few weeks ago, word starting appearing around the web of 13 count boxes of Forbidden X cigars in new sizes, with names worthy of chapters from the Egyptian Book of the Dead (ie. LONG) showing up at some of the top Fuente accounts. The cigars are packed in large, varnished boxes, and in addition to the standard Forbidden X band, they have a second, smaller band depicting the same clock shown on the Don Arturo bands (Roman numerals around the edges, arabic numeral 1 and 3 as the "hands" of the clock).

The Heart of the Bull 1957 is a roughly Robusto sized cigar, with a slight box press to it, and a dark, chocolate brown wrapper (not a maduro presumably, but easily categorized as Colorado Maduro or darker). The construction is flawless, showing tight seams, and a clean looking triple cap. The foot bares a couple of fat looking veins, but none that look as though they may be problems. The cold aroma is very pungent, offering a well defined raisin and cinnamon combination, with a little bit of fresh baked, yeasty bread, and, to a lesser extent, some leather. The cold draw shows just a touch of resistance, and tastes of the same pungent cinnamon and raisin, as well as a surprising blast of spicy pepper.

Lit at 4:30pm.

Right away, the flavor profile is surprising, combining a dusty cocoa powder, oily leather, and an interesting raisin note, the spice I expected is not really prominent at this point, and the body isn't quite as big as I figured it would be either. There also isn't any sweetness really at all. It is a very dry profile in that regard. These may well still be a touch wet, as lighting took a little more effort than cigars stored in my preferred humidor conditions take. Smoke production is awesome, putting off billowing clouds of white smoke. The flavor profile rounds out a bit after about 1/4 inch, with things getting heavier and oilier on the palate. The burn line is a little funky too, but again, these may well be a bit wet still. Additionally, by about a half inch in, the expected spiciness has arrived in spades. Not overwhelming, but leaves a pleasant heat lingering in the rear on each draw, that works wonders to balance out the other nuances present. One thing that is really impressive is how slowly the Heart of the Bull is burning. At 30 minutes, I have probably only burned 3/4 of an inch, almost an inch at most.

The ash holds through the entire first third, and actually almost to the smaller secondary band before falling, which is impressive. Getting into the second third, the flavor profile has taken on a bit of bitterness as an undertone, which again points to wetness to me. Hopefully this will either go full on as a coffee flavor with some down time, or fade out. Regardless, as it stands, the flavors continue to be combination a baker's cocoa, leather, raisins, and even a dark wood, like oak, now. The burn line that was off initially has sorted itself out well, and now is perfect.

Throughout the final third not much changes. The cinnamon that was so powerful in the cold draw and aroma builds to play a significant role in the finish, and the wet bitterness becomes more noticeable, but otherwise, things stay pretty much the same as the second third. Ended at 6:25, with about an inch left. This was a very enjoyable stick, with a fair amount of complexity, that I think will only improve as rough edges are ironed out over time, and flavors that are muddled a bit now become more defined with time. I think it is safe to say that the 2012 Forbidden X cigars will be sought after for a good while to come, and that if they are all smoking this well right now, they will be classics some day...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rafael Gonzalez Corona Extra

5 5/8 x 46
JUN 08

Rafael Gonzalez is a marca I literally have NO experience with. I know very little about the brand, and before receiving this particular stick as a gift recently, I had never even seen in real life. That, for me, is enough to have sparked interest and excitement, but more than that, Rafael Gonzalez is an old brand, and sadly is one that has gotten no love of late from Habanos (the Corona Extra was actually cancelled in 2010, leaving only a handful of sizes remaining in the line, much like other classic brands that are categorized as "Local Brands" in the Habanos portfolio). The Corona Extra is a classic corona gorda in size, and was first introduced before the Revolution. The marca itself has been around since the late 1920's, though according to Trevor's "Cuban Cigar Website" ( production actually stopped on the RG brand from the early 60's until 1965 when it was reinstated. I hate to turn these opening paragraphs into rants as often as I do, but Habanos treating classic brands, that have a century, or more in some cases, of history the way they do, cutting sizes, whittling brands down to nothing, is just shameful. The Cuban cigar industry is one of phenomenal HISTORY, though it seems lately, all Habanos S.A. cares to do it hop trends, slashing classic lines to bits in order to add a hot new 3x60 piece of maduro trash to one of the major share brands (read: Cohiba or Montecristo), that may appeal to the casual smoker, or the uninitiated, but is downright offensive to those who have a vested interest in "old school" "old world" classic Cuban cigars, which certainly does not have room for the junk trends that the American market is eating up right now.

Anyway, the Rafael Gonzalez Corona Extra I have here in my hand features a very reddish brown, almost clay colored wrapper, well oiled, with only very fine veins visible. The stick has taken on a slight box press from its presentation and packing in the unique looking Rafael Gonzalez dress box. The band is one of my favorites, a simple light brown strip with no decoration, only straight forward white text that tells everything you need to know... the name of the marca "MARQUEZ FLOR DE RAFAEL GONZALEZ" and the origin "HABANA". These simple brown bands (with similar designs found on several other classic cigar brands) have long been favorites of mine, in their understated simplicity, and rustic old world design. This cigar to me is about the tobacco, not the fancy-pants frills and dressings. The seams are tight, and the triple cap is flawless in its application. The bunching feels even and just slightly firm, though the cigar itself does not feel particularly heavy in the hand. The cold aroma from the foot is a toasted bread, slightly sweet, and a very subtle herbal note. The cold draw is a touch tight, but offers a very sweet vegetal tobacco note. The sweetness is like molasses. Hopefully the draw will open up a bit once lit.

Lit at 2:30pm

Right out of the gate, the Rafael Gonzalez offers a bit of burnt toast, black coffee, and sweet cream. There is no spice whatsoever, and the body is a delicate mild to low medium. Smoke production is awesome, and the draw, despite feeling a bit snug, is actually plenty productive, and works out fine. Maybe 3/4 of an inch in, a little tang (that Cuban "twang" I guess) works its way into the mix which balances the sweetness already present. The burn line isn't perfect, but it actually is performing better, from a technical standpoint, than the Behike I smoked a few days ago.

Over the course of about the last half inch, a milk chocolate sweetness (not bitter sweet, but milky sweet) has arrived, and now plays a major role alongside creamed coffee, burnt toast, and a slight herbal flavor. I'm not sure if this flavor combination is my favorite necessarily, but it has been nothing short of very interesting so far. Performance through to at least the halfway mark remains great, not a razor sharp burn, but good enough. The smoke production, and draw is now pretty much flawless, despite having been a bit tight at the start.

Getting into the final third, unfortunately there isn't much to say that hasn't already been said. Nothing has really changed after the addition of the milk chocolate flavor early in the second third. The herbal quality as well as the 'Cuban twang' have both intensified a bit, and the sweetness of the chocolate and cream have fallen off. The toasted bread flavor has pretty much remained consistent the entire way through. This may not have been the most complex, or in your face cigar in the HSA portfolio, but what it lacks there, it more than makes up for in interesting, unique character, and old school, rustic charm. This is a cigar that I would love to have in my regular rotation to mix it up from time to time, and I would love to see how it pairs with a few different spirits (especially heavily peated Islay Whisky, or a very floral Irish whiskey).

Let this one go out at 3:55pm, so it lasted for an hour and a half, which is about what I expect from a Corona Gorda that burns at the right pace. I really found this enjoyable. Thanks for readin'.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cohiba Behike BHK52

4.7 x 52

The Cohiba Behike... Ahh... the name rings true with prestige, scarcity, quality. Originally the Behike name was used for the Cohiba 40th anniversary cigar, a 7.6x52 mammoth, rolled entirely by one roller, packaged in gorgeous custom humidors of 40 cigars, with only 100 humidors total being made. These cigars fetch well over $1,000 US EACH today. Starting in 2010 however, Habanos released an entirely new line of regular (albeit annually limited) production cigars under the Cohiba marca, the Behike BHK series. Available in three sizes, the BHK line makes use of the Medio Tiempo leaf, a small pair of leaves that sometimes (and not always) appear at the very top of a tobacco plant, apparently imbuing the BHK with a unique flavor element. The Medio Tiempo is a component that had fallen out of use in Cuban cigar production, often sorted in with the rest of the ligero, or discarded entirely, because it is small, and only occasionally appears on a plant. The folks responsible for the BHK came upon the medio tiempo in old blend books, and decided to reinstate it, and thus the Behike BHK was born. The BHK 52, the smallest size, was named Cigar Aficionado's cigar of the year for 2010, and has received great praise (or hype?) since coming to market in early 2010. Having just celebrated a birthday, I figured it was as good an excuse as any to light one, and give it a really close, in depth look.

This particular example of the BHK 52 features a caramel brown wrapper, with a dusting of tooth, and almost no visible veins. The flag tailed cap is beautifully, evenly applied, and the general construction, as Cohiba should be, is pretty much flawless to look at. In the hand it is fully packed, but light, firm to squeeze, but not hard. The aroma from the foot is a gentle toasty tobacco, with just a slight hay and dirt to it. The draw offers just a slight snug resistance, and tastes of hay, cream, almonds, and a very slight honey. A quick bit about the band, which is absolutely gorgeous, in its intense contrasting black and white, with beautiful gold accents and lettering, as well as the holograms which not only serve as aesthetic embellishment, but also as a counterfeiting deterrent.

Lit at 2:40pm

Right away the flavors explode on the palate, though it is not an overly strong cigar, or full in body, the tastebuds are greeted with a dark caramel and sweet hay, followed by leather, and finally a little cinnamon spice, that lingers through a long, cedar and almond finish. This particular stick may be just a TOUCH under humidified, as the wrapper seems a little delicate. The burn ran a touch for the first few draws but within about 10 minutes everything has sorted itself out to an even line. The draw is great, and smoke production is... voluminous. The finish seems to have actually gotten spicier, more heat involved, just over the course of the first third. The ash is dark, mostly black, and dense. It has held already for over an inch, and not yet fallen.

Getting near the halfway mark the mouthfeel has gotten thicker, like a fresh, whipped cream. The flavor profile has also taken on a woodier, nuttier character than was present at the beginning. There is still a sweet cream and honey on the draw, but they quickly move into a slightly tangy cedar, and roasted almond, with a cinnamon and pepper on the finish that is maybe just a little rougher around the edges than I expected. That said, these are still not very old cigars (September 2010), and Cohiba as a rule seems to benefit from at least two or three years, so I would say this is actually performing wonderfully.

Moving to the final third, things sort of ramp up a bit. The flavor profile gets darker, with caramel getting a touch burnt, the cream and honey fading, a bit of leather becoming more apparent, and the almonds getting roasted a little darker. A little dark chocolate also joins the mix for good measure seemingly, which is a nice addition, and adds some certain complexity to things. The draw remains open but firm, and smoke production continues to be outstanding. The burn line throughout the cigar has wavered at times, getting crazy for a few draws before eventually evening back out. The ash continues to hold for pretty much an entire third of the cigar at a time. The finish has gotten significantly spicier, a little bit of hot pepper, balanced by cinnamon and/or nutmeg at times, really bringing everything together.

In the end the only thing I can think is that I wish I had more of these on hand, to really be able to see where they go in a year, or three, or five. The BHK 52 is smoking beautifully right now, with a touch of youth popping up here and there, but ultimately, it already has achieved a phenomenal balance of flavor, body, and feel, and in my opinion has the potential to only get better from here. I only pray that they continue to maintain this level of quality in the future. Ended at 4pm on the dot, for a total smoke time of one hour twenty minutes. I wish that maybe it had burned slower, but it is also a little cold out today, so my finger tips are glad it is a shorter vitola.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A. Fuente Don Carlos Lancero

A. Fuente Don Carlos Lancero
7 1/2x41 "Phantom"

There isn't a whole lot of information out there about the Don Carlos Lancero (or "Phantom" as the Fuentes call their lanceros). The fact of the matter is, the Don Carlos Lance is one of those cigars that the Fuentes seem to produce intermittently, to hand out at events, as part of special humidor releases, and occasionally to sell at Casa Fuente in Las Vegas. Regardless, the consensus seems to be that these are just the regular Don Carlos blend, adapted to the lancero vitola. Carlito has said that the lancero is the "best cigar [he] makes", meaning the vitola in general across the several lines it is available in. As for the blend, again not a whole lot of information, other than Dominican tobacco, with a Cameroon wrapper. Cameroon tends to be a kind of ugly wrapper, but the Don Carlos line seems to get some of the better Cameroon the Fuentes source, so that probably won't be an issue here. Other than that, they tend to be secretive about actual blend information.

The Don Carlos Lancero comes wrapped in a cedar sleeve with a black band on the foot, a combination usually denoting a sungrown wrapper, which is not the case here. Removing the cedar sleeve reveals a really consistently colored, milk chocolate brown wrapper, with tight seams, and very small veins. The head features a flag tailed triple cap, which does not appear to have any of the excess glue that sometimes comes with Fuente cigars. The band is the new black bottomed design, used on current production Hemingways, Don Carlos, and Sungrown cigars. The cigar is fairly firm to the touch, pretty tightly packed. The aroma off the body of the cigar is a really distinct nutmeg and sweet cedar (cedar from the piece of wood it was wrapped in, no doubt). The foot offers a creamy coffee and nutmeg combination. Clipping the cap opens a snug draw that offers sweet cinnamon and raisin flavors, along with a little milky coffee.

Lit at 4:21pm

Right away the DC Lancero bombards the palate with a combination of toasted almonds and dessert spices (cinnamon and nutmeg especially, specifically). The draw that felt firm is indeed firm, but is producing massive amounts of smoke. The small ring gauge only takes a brief second to toast up evenly, and that prevents any scorching from taking place, leaving the flavor at the start untainted. The finish brings a tangy, sour cedar, but no heat. The ash holds firm for over an inch, a miracle at 40 ring gauge, and is tight, flakeless.

As the DC Lancero burns down further, the draw opens up a bit, and the flavors get a little darker with a dark coffee joining the roasted nuts and spices. The technical performance here is outstanding. Between the length which the ash hold firm, the razor sharp burn line, and the amount of smoke being produced... just flawless. The complex combination of flavors helps too... The ash holds for well over an inch the second time it falls as well. It is a shame these are hard to find, and pricey when you do.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a lover of Arturo Fuente cigars, and one thing they do well is use Cameroon wrappers. Well, in the lancero vitola, the Don Carlos blend, which uses the Cameroon wrapper famously well, really shines, and I think that the ratio of filler and binder being so large to the filler is what causes this. The flavors present are nothing unusual for Fuente cigars, but in this size they are really concentrated, and powerful. Anyone who says they cannot pick out specific flavors, I challenge you to (well first find one and then) smoke one of these, and tell me you don't taste, specifically, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and roasted nuts here. I tend to speak highly of balance in cigars, and this too is an exemplary example of that very trait. No one flavor of characteristic is overwhelming here. Nothing is subtle about it, that is for sure (except maybe the strength, which is nearly non-existent, body is medium at most, and there is no nicotine present), but all of the bold, complex flavors here work in harmony with one another.

Getting close to the final third a little heat becomes apparent through the nose, and an oily leather joins the array of flavors on the draw. The coffee flavor that developed during the second third becomes more predominant, and the sweet spices and cedar fall off a bit. The roasted nut flavor continues to play a major role though, something that I attribute to that gorgeous Cameroon wrapper.

With about 3/4 of an inch left, it is time to let this one go out, though I regret doing so. The Don Carlos lancero really shines. One of those cigars where everything comes together to turn a melody into a symphony of flavor and just downright pleasant smoking. Ended at 6:18pm, so almost two hours. If you find yourself in Las Vegas at Casa Fuente, or at one of the few big events the Fuentes host every year, and these are present, do yourself a big favor and get one, or a few, or if you can swing a box (which seem to be boxes of 37, a strange number), don't hesitate. Just make sure that when you light one, you have time, and the right setting, to really enjoy it, and pay attention to all of the little nuances and treasures it has to offer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Padron 45th Natural

"The Little Hammer"

The Padron Family Reserve series was originally conceived of and produced as a cigar to be smoked at Padron hosted dinners, and special events that members of the Padron family attended. This is actually how the Padron Family Reserve 44th came to be, and was originally distributed. Eventually, I think the family realized how special the cigar was that they had created, and decided that they had to share it with the public, so the 44th was born, and sold in Humidors containing the cigar, and eventually also in boxes. Annually since then, the Padrons have released another size in this line commemorating another year in the industry. These cigars have gotten some serious praise, being named in the Top 5 cigars of the year by the Lifestyle magazine, and being among the top cigars of the year on a lot of the big blogs. Today we are looking at the 45th, released in late 2009, in a box pressed (as all Padron cigars are) toro, in two different wrappers (again as the Padrons do), a Natural and a Maduro. The tobaccos used in this Nicaraguan puro are said to have been aged 10 years before being rolled, which is a pretty impressive length of time.

The 45th Natural features a caramel brown colored wrapper, with a very small, fine vein structure, and a few wrinkles here and there (as is typical of the Padron box press for whatever reason). The seams are tight, nearly invisible, and the pack is dense and firm. Frankly the only complaint I have about the appearance or construction of this cigar is the same complaint I have about all Padrons... the single cap. Why on earth they would make such a flawless looking (and expensive cigar) without giving it at least a double cap (though I would prefer even more, a triple cap please), is beyond me. But they do it that way, and it works I guess. The aroma from the body of the cigar is a tangy cedar and earthiness, while the foot offers the addition of a sweet creamy coffee with that tangy cedar. The cold draw offers a concentrated blast of Nicaraguan tobacco... dark, bitter coffee and cocoa, and dirty earthiness, and on top of that a musty, musky, old leather (that truly aged tobacco flavor). The draw is not as free as many Padrons, but this thing is jam packed with tobacco... and it isn't problematically tight at all. As expected the cutting of the cap was precarious, given its singularity, but the resulting mess should hold.

Lit at 1:22pm.

The cigar opens with a big blast of pepper heat across the tongue, accompanying a core of chewy, oily leather, and a touch of cedar. I mean a serious layer of spiciness. It just coats the tongue, and lays there. After about 1/4 inch this heat dials back a few notches, and becomes a long, low finish. I can't help but make note of the fact that the ambient smoke in the air smells strongly of raisins. I know that sounds like BS, but I assure it is not. The flavor profile at this point, now that it has calmed down from the light, consists of a stiff black coffee, that mingles in and out with some bitter dark chocolate, followed by a really oily, musty leather, and finally a finish that combines that low and slow pepper heat, with a sweet wooden (cedar I think) note. Really great complexity, and definition of flavor.

The burn line, as is my luck with box pressed cigars, is a little uneven, favoring one side more than the other. A quick touch up fixes this, but also causes the ash to fall for the first time (no problem, held solid for over an inch). Getting a little further in, into the second third, the retrohale takes on a sweet, milk chocolate aroma/flavor, and the flavors across the palate become noticeably sweeter. At a recent seminar I attended that included tasting this cigar, the speaker noted that he felt the natural wrapped version was actually sweeter than the maduro. I'm not sure I agree with this, but there is definitely more sweetness than I expected from a version of this cigar that lacks the natural sugar the maduro process produces.

By the halfway mark, the burn line is completely sorted out, razor sharp. The ash holds solid for a little over an inch at a time. The flavor continues to just be a really well defined series of bold coffee, chocolate, and pepper/wood finish. To mix things up, right around the time it burned to the first band, I poured a small dram of Highland Park 12 year old Scotch, to see how the two work together, and was pleasantly surprised. Well, not surprised so much, as I had a sneaking suspicion the two would be great together, but pleased for sure. The Scotch has a bit more body than many Highlanders, and certainly more than the Speysiders I drink so much of, with a bit more peat and smoke, and earthy character to it, that really hold up well to, and compliments the earthy character in the Padron. Unfortunately there seems to be a bit much glue applied to this smaller, first band, and removing it takes a little wrapper with it. I am kind of surprised how thin the wrapper seems to be, something I hadn't noticed until now, almost like Shade grown tobacco, rather than the hearty sungrown stuff it seemed to be. Not a problem though, and no smoke is leaking or anything as a result of the small tear.

Getting down towards the nub, the strength and body starts to kick up, and I am starting to feel it in my gut, despite having eaten a decent lunch before lighting up. There are no two ways about it, this ten year old tobacco still has balls, or rather has me by the balls. The flavor has started to fall off a little bit with about an inch and a half left, turning towards a sort of muted leather, and not much else. Symptoms of it being time to let this one go gracefully in the ashtray. Ended at 3:18pm, so just shy of two hours of smoking enjoyment from this one. I think balance is the key here. There weren't a ton of different flavors present, but the handful that were presented themselves in such a way that they were bold, defined, and balanced. They played together well, and in the end made this a fantastic cigar.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rocky Patel Fifty

6 1/2 x 52 Toro

Anyone who knows me knows that I talk a lot of trash. I probably also talk a lot of trash about Rocky Patel. What I cannot, no matter what, deny is his success. The guy is a beast in the industry. He makes a million cigars, sells a million cigars, and makes millions in revenue. No matter what I think or say, people dig Rocky Patel. I recently had the pleasure of attending the CA Big Smoke in Las Vegas, and a lunch hosted by Rocky Patel and family was a part of that trip. As a part of that lunch, we were given a gorgeous box containing four cigars from the Rocky Patel co. world, including this newest cigar, the FIFTY, which is being produced to commemorate Mr. Patel's fiftieth birthday (where the 15th and Decade were made to commemorate years in the industry... no, Rocky has not been in the cigar biz since he was a neonate). According to the info received there, the cigar is made up of Nicaraguan filler, Nicaraguan binder, contained within an Ecuador Habano Oscuro wrapper, all made at Rocky's newest facility, in Nicaragua.

It really is a great looking cigar. The wrapper has a great oil sheen, a dark reddish chocolate brown color, and almost no visible veins. The cigar has a fairly extreme box press to it ("Nimish sat on the mold"). The bands are complex pieces of orange, gold, and silver artwork. It is a fairly firm cigar when squeezed, with no soft spots whatsoever, though just a tiny bit of give to it here and there. The cold aroma from the body of the cigar is just a touch of coffee and wood, while to foot has a touch of burned cedar (that specifically pungent tang), along with some black coffee. The cold draw... WOW. I would almost swear this cigar was in some way infused. It has such a strong milk chocolate flavor to it. It might have just a touch of ammonia to it as well unfortunately. There is something chemical underneath. Hopefully that is just a hint that will fade once lit. The draw itself is a touch firmer than I usually think of Rocky Patel cigars as being. He claims that literally every single cigar they make is draw tested, where most factories only draw test cigars randomly... Who knows, but if true, that is an impressive claim.

Lit at 4:28pm.

The Rocky Patel Fifty lights up easily, and produces a ton of smoke right off the bat, though the burn line almost instantly goes wonky on the underside of the cigar. I kind of attribute this to the box press, which in my experience tends to cause funny burn lines more often than not. Nothing that has any negative effect on smoking experience though. The flavor profile is right away a medium to full bodied, rich, and dark animal. There is a milk chocolate sweetness with a mildly floral perfume to it that dominates, with some wet burnt wood not far behind, and a pretty heavily peppered finish that lingers for a few minutes across the palate.

Interestingly, by about the one inch mark, all of the spice has faded away, and what is left is a sort of syrupy thick, bittersweet, wet, dark wood flavor. The burn line moves very slowly though, which is a plus for anyone who pays MSRP for these cigars ($21.00 for the Toro...). I'm kind of disappointed that things fell off so quickly from a start that was so intense and bold. Hopefully it comes back.

The ash is a little flakey, and falls for the first time at around an inch and a bit. The flavor profile by the two inch range has turned to what I associate with cigars that are just downright too wet from rolling. It is a bitterness that I associate with my job (in a pharmaceutical compounding lab, where I often get tiny particles of substances like quinine in my mouth, which for those who are unaware, is palate-ruiningly bitter) actually. It is not that great bitterness you get from coffee, it is not a coffee flavor... it is a wet, green flavor, and it has taken over this cigar that started with such great promise. It is a damned shame, but for science, I smoke on!

I am happy to report that the intensity of the bitterness fades past the halfway mark, and things take a turn towards dark coffee and that same old burnt, wet wood. So the transitional complexity comes just from the arrival and departure of a horrible bitterness, but at least it includes a departure. At this point, flavors are just what I think of a solid, core Nicaraguan tobacco flavors. Earthy, dirty, and dark. The hot finish has made a return of sorts... in a slow, mellow heat that lingers after each draw.

And things really don't change again, at all, through the end. This cigar was a bit of a roller coaster, and unfortunately, I can't report that it was one of the great thrill rides of my cigar smoking experience... it was more like jumping off the top of the highest point of a roller coaster with no bungee cord or anything to pull you back up. It started wonderfully, big, strong, concentrated, bold flavors, complexity and exciting... and then it quickly turned into a soft, bitter, muddy mess, and stayed that way for an hour and a half.

Ended at 6:10pm, and honestly, for $21.00 I will be passing on these in the future. I still have another single in the humidor that will smoke at some time in the future, just to make sure this wasn't some fluke. I feel like I gave this cigar a fair shot, especially since I will admit that I am no Rocky Patel fan... It just did not deliver what it promises. In the future when I want to spend more than twenty dollars on a box pressed Nicaraguan toro, there is a cigar with a hammer on the band that will be getting my hard earned dollars.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tatuaje Wolfman

7 1/2x52 Box Pressed Torpedo

Alright! That time of year is here again. No, not Halloween... Tatuaje Monster series time! The time of year when everyone gets their panties in a twist for a few weeks, worrying about scoring a box or three, and then in the end everyone chills the F out, and realizes there are plenty of sticks to go around... after all of the name calling and trash talking are said and done. This year the cigar is an ode to possibly my favorite of classic movie monsters, The Wolfman. The cigar is a rustic box pressed torpedo with a sort of ugly Sumatra wrapper, and a blend based on the Cojonu series, with an uncut foot (about a half inch of filler and binder protrude beyond the wrapper). It's a good looking stick, and as with previous years, it does a good job representing the monster it pays tribute to, with its shaggy hairy foot, and pointy fang head. While doing this review, I'm putting on the classic 1941 Universal pictures version of the tale, starring Lon Chaney, jr. and Claude Rains.

This particular stick is packaged in cellophane, and came from a 10 count boite-nature. It has a great looking brown and red band that suits the theme well. The pack feels a touch soft, at least in a few spots. The filler seems to be beautifully bunched, with the different tobaccos being clearly visible in the foot. The seams and cap are flawlessly applied, tightly, and evenly. The foot gives off a slightly spicy aroma of peanut, wood, and cinnamon, a combination that I have come to associate very closely with several cigars Pepin has made in the past. Took a decent but off the head with my scissors, and have a nice, free draw, offering similarly nutty dry flavors, with a bit of black pepper across the tongue. Very pleased with the draw, as box pressed torpedos tend to give me hell, but this is nice and open. Not getting much sweetness, which I was kind of looking for from the wrapper. It is nice and spicy on the lips however, which is pleasant.

Lit at 7:55pm.

The first two or so draws offer an interesting experience, burning only the binder and filler, something I always find interesting, since it gives you the chance to taste the addition of the wrapper. Without the wrapper, I certainly taste dry cedar, and some peanut, and pepper. Once the wrapper ignites though, there is a great oaky sweetness that brings a balance to things. Along with this is a little bit of milky chocolate, and a hint of bitterness. All of the flavors I have come to expect at various times from either a Cojonu or a Sumatra wrapped Brown Label... pretty impressive start here, and the transition from wrapperless to wrappered make for a cool touch of complexity in flavor right there at the beginning.

The ash holds for the first segment for a little past an inch, taking its place all over my shirt while drawing... Great. It was a good, banded light and dark gray in color, and somewhat flakey in texture (though no flakes fell off prematurely). Smoke production is ideal from this cigar, tons of thick, dense smoke on the draw, and almost none while idling in the ash tray between draws. The burn line is not particularly sharp, but these cigars only arrived today, and while they were packed with a Boveda, who knows what their trip was like(?), so the burn may be attributed to that. Hasn't needed a touch up or anything though, so not problematic, just a little erratic. Complexity continues to develop on the palate here, with the flavors remaining largely a dry cedar on the draw that moves into a sweet oak and smoked nut core, followed by a bit of bitterness, and a slow, smouldering heat on the finish. Digging it so far. I will say that even at this point, I am sort of surprised by how quickly it seems to be burning. Time wise, it is actually about right, but just watching the burn line as I draw, it seems to jump fairly quickly.

I think the strongest point that the Wolfman has going for it right now flavor wise is the sweet, earthy, oak, or maybe even maple that comes in after the draw. It really coats the palate, and makes for a wonderful balance between the dry woody character and the slight bitterness that follows. I'm only at the halfway mark right now, but I think it is fair to say that the Wolfman offers the most balance and complexity so early in its life (ie. just released) of the Monsters I have had the pleasure to smoke young. It also has enough body (albeit, only medium full at most) to suggest that it has the potential to really blossom with some down time, like... maybe by next Halloween it may evolve into a true gem, loved and praised (and sought after) like the Frank or Boris.

As the stick has progressed, it has only gotten sweeter. Not cloying, or artificial in its sweetness, but rather a thick, maple syrup, and earthiness that really coats the mouth, and contrasts beautifully as the peppery finish starts to burn its way down the back of the throat. The peppery finish is not a powerful, overwhelming one, but a smooth mellow spice that just simmers, with a fair amount of longevity after the draw. Really nice. Another cool element of the peppery finish is that it comes and goes. Not every draw is concluded with heat, just every once in a while.

Alright. I knew it was too good to be true. With about 2 and a half inches left, I just took a nice big draw... and BAM. What is that AWFUL taste? Yes ladies and gents, Tar. I got tar balled. A nice, brown, gooey, BP oil spill to the tongue. Now, I have found that wet cigars, with maybe too shallow a cut, and an already tapered head (torpedo) are more prone to this, so Hopefully it is just a symptom of my not cutting enough, and not letting these sticks rest adequately before lighting one. A small snip from the head (1/8 of an inch or so more) clears this up totally though, so it was fortunately a one time problem. It happens, let us move on. One good thing as a result of the extra cut... the draw has opened up even more. I hadn't really noticed, but it had tightened up as it had burned, but now it is wide open.

Through the last third things are starting to get a little less sweet, less syrupy, and more of a dark earth takes over. The bitterness also becomes more prominent, in a burnt coffee bean kind of way. Finally became too hot and soft at 9:54pm, so pretty much 2 hours exactly... Despite seeming to burn quickly, this isn't the case at all and it burns for a good long time. Really impressed with this cigar, especially right out of the box like this. I can only imagine how well these will progress with time and proper storage. This is going to be a hit, so get them while they are out there, and get them quickly! The shaggy foot also makes for a great little transition (or more appropriately... transformation!) right at the start. The flavors are bold, and there are lots of them, while the body, despite being based on the Cojonu blend, remains medium full even at the end. I know there is a lot of "hype" built up around these cigars, but they really do deliver.

"The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Your suffering is over, My son. Now you will find peace."