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."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fuente Fuente OpusX The Lost City

6.75x48 "Toro"

During the production of Andy Garcia's 2005 film, The Lost City, about life in Havana before and around the time of the Revolution, there came a request to the Fuentes to allow the shooting of scenes to be set in a tobacco field on their vast farm, Chateau de la Fuente, home of the world famous Opus X wrapper leaf... Problem was, at the time shooting was to occur, the crop would have already been harvested, and there would be no plants to shoot among, thus destroying the beautiful mise-en-scène on which the entire sequence rests... Lucky for Mr. Garcia, he has been a friend of the Fuente family for a while, so they planted a special off season crop such that the plants would be the perfect size for the shooting date... Lucky for us, they harvested this crop, and aged it, and found it was pretty darn good, so they decided to roll some special Opus X cigars using this tobacco, and called it The Lost City line to commemorate this special off season growing and filming. As with all Fuente products the blend is pretty secretive, but it is obviously similar to the regular Opus X blend, but uses the off season crop grown for the film. Beyond that, I can find no details regarding the difference in blend. Due to the finite amount of tobacco harvested in that given year, this is obviously a limited production cigar, having now been released in the early winter of both 2009 and 2010 in quantities of several thousand boxes spread over seven vitolas. There seems to be disagreement regarding whether or not certain vitolas actually use the Lost City crop, or are simply double banded Opus X cigars in irregular vitolas (given that the Lancero and Love Affair are the sizes in question, and neither is a regular, large release Opus X vitola... The debate remains, though plenty of discussion and argument can be found on the subject on various Cigar forums).

The appearance of this cigar is nothing less than stunning. It features a variation on the infamous Forbidden band, black and coppery gold in color, with splashed red accents here and there, as well as a second band bearing the Lost City icon, as well as the line "Directed by Andy Garcia at Chateau do le Fuente, July 2004". The wrapper leaf itself is a dark, chocolate brown color, with less red than the normal Opus X Rosado wrapper. It also has a less sun-grown appearance, a slightly smoother texture than the regular Opus wrapper leaf. The pack seems great, with no soft spots, and a generally firm feel. It has only a few noticeable veins. The seams are tight and clean, and the triple cap is flawlessly applied. The body of the cigar has a powdery chocolate aroma to it, which reminds me very much of (yes, you can laugh) Cocoa Puffs cereal. The foot of the cigar gives a sweet woody character, with a touch of that same cocoa powder, and an overripe almost spoiled fruit aroma that I commonly find in good Dominican tobacco. The cap cuts very easily to reveal a lightly snug draw, and flavors of dry cedar, powdery cocoa, and leather, all very dry on the palate. There is also just a hint of spicy pepper on the tongue.

Lit at 2:40pm

Right away, after toasting and lighting, the flavor profile consists of a thick, oak wood flavor, that moves into some oily leather, and finishes with a long, slow, medium pepper that just gently smoulders at the back of the palate. The draw is a little tight, but not problematically so at this point. The burn looks good too, so far. Smoke production isn't anything to write home about, but it also isn't a problem or anything. The one thing I think every time I smoke one of these is how it feels like half the blend is regular Opus X, and the other half is a blend that delivers just a really thick, syrupy, dark, sweet oak wood flavor, which dominates. So far, that is holding true for this example. The ash through the first third is a brilliant, bright white color, almost completely solid, no breaks. It hold for well over an inch before falling as well.

Heading into the second third, the flavor profile has sort of thickened. The spicy pepper continues to make up the long, lingering finish, and the draw brings first a slightly tangy, bittersweet charred oak flavor. This is a departure from the "typical" Opus X profile, in that it has none of the cinnamon and fruit that I associate with the regular like. Instead this is a darker, both more bitter and sweeter cigar. The burn on this stick is perfect, almost razo sharp, and the ash is firm, again, holding over an inch at least each time it falls. The body and strength on this cigar are lighter than the regular Opus X. That isn't to say this is a mild cigar, it is full of flavor, and does have some strength to it, but it falls more in the medium-full area rather than the full on balls to the wall range you might expect. A bit over the halfway mark the draw suddenly opens up, and I am getting great mouthfuls of billowing, white smoke.

I think the strongest aspect of this cigar is the balance and way the sweetness plays off the bitterness, one after the other. The flavor profile is not overly complex, or subtle, but what it lacks on that front it makes up for in bold, defined character. A little past the band point some cinnamon joins the sweet oak flavor on the draw, which makes for a nice change to a profile that has otherwise been pretty much consistent.

Ended at 4:20pm for a total smoke time of an hour and 40 minutes, which for a toro is great, but I maybe was hoping for a longer burn given the price point on these cigars (actually, honestly, even if it burned for 24 hours straight and came with a bottle of Dom Perignon, it still might be a bit pricey). That might be a bit harsh actually, as the Lost City offers big flavors, in a well balanced package that definitely feels and tastes special, even if the blend isn't as complex or powerful as its regular production counterpart. For me these represent an interesting experiment in agriculture, and it is a success. For those looking for the high octane nicotine and spice punch combo of the Opus X, look elsewhere, Lost City is not for you. Lost City offers a smoother, darker, sweeter aspect of Chateau de la Fuente. What will really be interesting is to see how this particular vintage of tobacco ages over the next decade... Only time will tell.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

La Gloria Cubana Medaille D'or No. 1

La Gloria Cubana Medaille D'or No. 1
7.3x36 Delicados Extra
Code: OSU JUL 02

Alright, I'll be the first to admit that any cigar with this kind of age on it is a treat, regardless of origin, blend, brand, etc. For a cigar to survive, properly stored, and cared for, without being smoked, for almost a decade is awesome. When that cigar is one of my favorite sizes (or close to it at least), from one of my favorite Marcas, it becomes something exciting every time I light one. This cigar is one of those cigars. La Gloria Cubana is a brand established in Cuba in the 1880's, and sadly, is one of the many smaller Marcas in the Habanos S.A. portfolio which seems to be suffering more and more cuts every year. In fact, La Gloria Cubana consists of only two cigars as of 2011, The M.D.O. no. 2 and the M.D.O. no. 4. (The churchill sized Tainos was recently announced as a deletion for this year, tragically, and the other Medaille D'or sizes were cut in 2010). To me, the removal of these cigars represents two negative trends in Habanos marketing strategy... the cutting of classic sizes from classic marcas, and the cutting of long or thin cigars from any marca, in favor of a move towards the Americanized, short and fat is better, who cares if you can taste the wrapper, and who cares if it burns well, as long as it is an 85 ring gauge behemoth attitude.

Anyway, enough about the politics of cigars, and on to this excellent example of an aged Cuban long and skinny... The first thing I notice is obviously the size. At 7.3 by 36 ring, this is a little shorter, and a little thinner than a classic lancero, a size that has fortunately gotten a fair amount of attention among connoisseurs lately. It features a lightly toothed, butterscotch colored wrapper, with no large veins, but what I would consider a fairly visible vein structure. The construction is great, though when squeezed, it is a touch spongy (a common occurrence among cigars of this size). The seams are tight, the wrapper does not appear to have been stretched at all, and the triple cap is well applied. The aroma from the body of the cigar is just a mild earthy note, while the foot gives a strong nutty character, with a touch of a floral scent, like rose blossoms. The cold draw reveals just a slight resistance, which is a relief, since this cigar was rolled coming right beyond the time period when Cuban cigars were notoriously poorly constructed, with some smokers anecdotally referring to boxes in which half of the cigars contained within would be plugged too tight to draw from at all. The flavors present on the cold draw are more robust than I would have first expected, given the mild reputation that the LGC marca has, presenting a combination of citrus peel, cedar, wet earth, roasted almonds, and again that rose blossom/wet garden note.

Lit at 9:30pm.

Right away the flavor profile is a smooth, heavily creamed coffee core, with roasted nuts and a tart citrus peel on the outside, and a sweet cedar that runs through the finish. I will admit that the burn is wild. It is wavy as can be. I'd say choppy waves even. That said, from draw to draw, each area that is behind catches up, so with each draw it kind of keeps pace with itself. The smoke production is great, not overwhelming, and between draws it doesn't continue like a chimney, which is a good thing (I hate nothing more than setting my cigar down, only to choke on an inadvertently inhaled gulp of smoke coming from a cigar sitting two feet away on the table!). There is a sweetness that sort of coats the mouth, and lingers. The ash holds on for about 3/4 of an inch, which is fine for so small a ring gauge, you just have to be attentive. With flavor like this though, it is hard NOT to pay attention.

Around the two inch mark, maybe a little past, the profile starts to transition, with the creamy coffee lessening, and a burnt wood taking over as the core flavor on the draw. Citrus, sweet cedar, and roasted nuts continue to make themselves known here and there, but they are notes on the edges. On the finish a long, syrupy caramel (and I mean the kind you get from actually burning raw sugar in a pan at home) lingers long after each draw. This is a solid, medium bodied smoke. No strength, but the robust flavors and heavy mouth feel serve to bolster it.

Even at this point, maybe 3 inches in, I am impressed by the legs I think this cigar has left to age into. Often, by this point in the aging process, a cigar has gone beyond its peak, or is close to it, but frankly, for a brand generally billed as mild, this cigar still has years left in it before I think it will have really mellowed out beyond its prime, and I am not even half way through smoking it. The flavor profile continues much the same, burnt, wet, smokey wood on the draw, followed by a dazzling array of floral, citrus, and nutty notes, with a thick, caramel sweet finish, and maybe a touch of twang and spice in the back of the throat now. The wild burn line has also sorted itself out after an inch or two, now staying relatively even all the way around.

On to about the band point nothing further changes, but the complex intermingling of various flavors just continues to keep this a very interesting smoke. I typically watch a film, or read a book while smoking, even when reviewing cigars like this, stopping now and then to take note of further developments, but in the hour and a half I have been smoking this cigar, I have only watched 37 minutes of the film I have on (Kurosawa's late masterpiece, KAGEMUSHA), which serves as a testament to how engaging this blend is. Perhaps the only downside is that when cigars of this size get hot, they do so quickly, and are hard to save. A short way past the band, it becomes hard to keep this one from getting hot, and alas, it is time to set her down and let her die with dignity.

One thing is for sure, this stick still has potential to age for years to come, and what I hope will happen is that the floral, nutty, and citrus type notes will continue to develop, while the dark burnt earth and wood mellows out, and the caramel syrup sweetness maybe becomes more delicate and refined, but sweeter. This is just what I hope, and I am glad I was fortunate enough to get a full box of these when I did, because I very much look forward to seeing where they are in another 3, 5, 9, or more years. Also, haters be damned, Rob Ayala is on to something when he says that cigars of this size just make him "feel smarter". Maybe he feels smarter for having learned just what phenomenal complexity and richness of flavor these tiny ring gauge cigars can offer! If you come across these, grab as many as you can, send me some, smoke a few for yourself, and lay the remainder down for a few more years. They are something special!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Alec Bradley American Classic Blend

5x50 Robusto

Not actually using any American grown tobacco, the American Classic Blend seems to be an attempt to create an old school, American "style" blend, in this case, probably considered as such due to the use of a Connecticut seed wrapper (albeit, a dark Connecticut, grown in Honduras), around Nicaraguan fillers from Esteli and Condega, and a Nicaraguan binder. Conceived also as a bit of a budget cigar, like many others in this price range, it is made at the Plascencia factory, in Esteli, where most of Alec Bradley's cigars are made at Raices Cubanas in Honduras. A complex, and interesting combination of tobaccos, hopefully it will deliver. The only thing that turns me off about this cigar is the band, and artwork in general. I am not generally a fan of overly stylized bands, and especially those with catch phrases on them... Anything more than the name of the cigar, the name of the brand, and maybe at most the name of the factory location... fine... but the American Classic blend has such tacky phrasing as: "LIBERTAS" "AEQUITAS" and "LIVE TRUE" emblazoned around it, along with an American pastoral scene, and a mountainous Southwestern image.

The cigar itself is an attractive medium brown, with a smooth velvet feel, like lighter shade grown Connecticut, a moderate vein structure, and a good looking, even double cap. The packing of the foot looks alright, but the cut appears a little uneven. The smell from the foot is a simple wood character primarily, along with just the slightest nuttiness. The cold draw is just a touch firm, not tight, just a little snug, and offers a rustic, earthy core, with a peanut butter element that, actually, I associate with Honduran tobacco more than anything else. Underneath that, there is just a little bit of a sour funk, like rotten fruit. Hopefully that will not come through once lit.

Lit at 8:57pm

There is considerably less MMph! behind this blend than I expected, given the Nicaraguan guts, and Honduran wrapper, and heavy, earthy prelight flavors. In fact, once lit it goes straight into... mild. Core flavors are a delicate cedar, a toasty tobacco, and just the slightest black pepper through the finish. Mostly, a straight forward, medium, toasty tobacco dominates. There is a very little bit of earthy character, but nothing near what I expected. Burn, draw, and smoke production are all satisfactory here at the beginning, so to be honest... I have no complaints. Just straight forward as can be...

Ash holds well, through most of the first third. The flavor profile remains much the same except that as the burn progresses, the peppery spice gradually builds a bit more, leaving some heat in the back of the throat through the finish, likely a symptom of the Nicaraguan fillers in this blend. The mouthfeel is a touch oily, maybe a little harsh at times as well. The balance of flavor though, from a soft cedar, gradually getting heavier to the spice on the finish is a nice progression with each draw.

A little beyond the halfway point a leathery character, as well as what I can only describe as the musty old lady's handbag (maybe a touch of mothball) jumps in here and there. The leathery note is good, and fits perfectly with the generally earth and wood profile... but the mothball is not cool. Not cool at all. The burn and draw however continue to be great. The construction seems just fantastic on this stick, which is awesome for such a budget priced cigar.

Not much happens through the end of the cigar. I know this is a pretty short review, but this just isn't an overly complex cigar. It has a straight forward, earthy, woody flavor profile, that aside from a few additions and subtractions of notes here and there, is pretty consistent from start to finish. Ended at 10:26, so the robusto lasted me an hour and a half, which is about normal for me and a well built 5x50. I will be smoking more of these in the future, and look forward to seeing if the slight harshness dissipates with time. I definitely think this is a great, wonderfully priced cigar for guys looking to get that earthy flavor, in a mild/medium bodied smoke that they can enjoy while doing something else. Definitely not a yard 'gar, or maybe the best yard 'gar... Box worthy? Maybe. For me there are a few other similarly priced cigars I would buy a box of first, but these are definitely worth trying.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Man O' War Puro Authentico


The Man O' War Puro Authentico is a mareva made by A.J. Fernandez in Nicaragua, using all Nicaraguan filler, and a Habano wrapper, grown in Esteli, was originally conceived as Abdel's personal, day to day smoke. It features a neat little pig tail cap, and a closed foot (wrapper extends beyond, and folds over the foot). This Particular example features a slightly reddish, chocolate brown wrapper, with almost no visible veins, and tight seams. The cap seems expertly applied as well. The band is a simple glossy black, with a simple gold helmet (the same style used on the other Man O' war bands). The aroma from the foot is spicy, with a mix of woody notes, and barnyard type smells. The cold draw reveals a strong sweet cocoa flavor, a touch bitter, with a fair amount of spice. In fact, the wrapper itself gives off some heat on the lips and tongue. The draw itself offers a touch of resistance, just right.

Lit at 10:30pm

The first few puffs bring not a lot of complexity, but certainly big, bold flavor. There is a woody, very slightly sweet core, a touch dirty, with a long, very spicy, hot, black pepper finish. This is one tough, cute little cookie. The draw is perfect, and smoke production is outstanding. The mouth feel is oily and thick, befitting a strong, full bodied Nicaraguan powerhouse, even if it is in a small package. In fact, I might go so far as to say this is the spiciest cigar I have had in quite some time. One must be careful retrohaling nasally with this one, as just a very small amount of smoke brings a substantial scorching heat.

The ash holds for the first segment for just shy of an inch, falling in a solid chunk into the tray. The flavor profile doesn't change a whole lot in the first few inches, with the only variant being the coming and going of sweetness and bitterness. The bitterness is not acrid, rather more of a coffee bitterness, though I can't say there is much coffee flavor. The spicy finish remains impressively potent, not something that often happens. Most spicy cigars mellow out after the first inch or so, but the Puro Authentico keeps the heat cranked up. The body is equally heavy, as is the strength. By the two inch mark, I am feeling it in my gut a bit.

Ash holds for the second time for closer to an inch and a half. Through this period, noticeably, things get a bit earthier, and darker. I cannot honestly say that this is an overly complex cigar so far, but the boldness, strength, flavor, and body all are making for an interesting, if rustic, and maybe a little rough around the edge... combination. Construction and performance as relates to it have been virtually perfect. The burn line is straight, the ash tight, the draw perfect, and smoke production bountiful. The flavor profile reminds me quite a bit actually of a recently popular sort of chocolate bar, one that combines 72% dark chocolate and hot chili pepper. An odd combination that actually works very well, and I would say is well represented here.

There is almost no change from that point to the end, though that can hardly be called a bad thing, as pleasant as the combination of flavors, sweet cocoa and wood, with an earthy core feel and taste, and a long, slow hot pepper finish, has been. The burn line, draw, and smoke all remain wonderful through the final inch or so, when heat and squishiness forced me to end this cigar. The strength remains a constant factor through almost the entire cigar, and it is quite full in strength, so not a cigar for those who do not care for a little kick from the nicotine factor. Of note is that weather present while I smoked this stick. A recent review on one of the more popular review sites mentioned humidity as a major potential factor in tar and color bleed from this stick... Well, it was raining off and on (100% humidity...) as I smoked, and the temperature was in the high 80s fahrenheit, and I suffered no such problems, nor have I ever had any such issues with the handful of these cigars I have previously smoked, and enjoyed. I think this may be an example of the necessity of smoking several samples for a review, as a dud is not unheard of in cigar production.

Ended at 11:42pm, for a total smoke time of one hour, 12 minutes, which for a petit corona is a fantastic burn time. This is not a cigar for the lover of mild cigars. It is however a fantastic, rustic, earthy, spicy powerhouse, suited well to those who like strong cigars, but not the recent trend towards behemoth vitolas. The price, and presentation also both make the MOW Puro Authentico a cigar quickly working its way into my "regular" rotation, as they are in no short supply, are readily available at a couple of the big online houses, and come conveniently packaged in inexpensive boxes of 10 (great looking boxes too, I might add). For me, and this is where personal opinion comes into these reviews, these cigars represent a great way to enjoy a strong, rustic, straight forward smoke, suited to reading a book, or watching a film while enjoying good flavor that doesn't necessarily require one's full attention to appreciate a plethora of transition. Great smoke.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Davidoff Classic No. 2

6x38 Panetela

A truly classic size, in the classic Davidoff line, and apparently Zino Davidoff's vitola of choice. One of the original sizes, originally a Cuban Puro, Davidoff moved to the Dominican Republic, and stopped using Cuban tobacco in 1991. Davidoff represents, as a brand, the finer things in life. Davidoff does not make inexpensive cigars, but they also don't make cigars of low quality. Davidoff, and the other brands made at Tabadom, their factory, are well known for their quality control, which is extremely meticulous. Davidoff also does not make large ring cigars. They make cigars in classic, traditional Cuban sizes, Lanceros, Rothschilds, Coronas, and of course, the descendent of the famous Davidoff Dom Perignon, in a Churchill size. This classic panetela is a prime example of the kind of cigars Davidoff makes... thin, elegant cigars.

This particular cigar, which came packaged in a cedar lined aluminum tube, featured a delicate, medium brown Ecuador grown Connecticut seed wrapper, around Dominican filler and binder. The construction is impeccable, with tight, even seams, a balanced, firm, but not too firm pack, and a tightly rolled pigtail cap. Not to mention the band, that famous white band, with its simple gold script. The aroma from the body and foot offer the musk that Henke Kelner (master blender at Tabadom) is known for blending into his cigars. There is also a delicate oily leather scent, and a touch of wood. The cold draw offers a similar musky, aged tobacco, with a wood and leather core. While the wrapper doesn't appear particularly oily, it feels very oily on the lips. Pre-light, the draw is a little snug. I will cut more off later if this proves to be an issue at any point.

Lit at 10:28, with cedar spills.

I only really take the time to light with cedar spills when a cigar is something special, and as my experience with Davidoff has been great (and the pricetag is... big), it seemed appropriate to light this slender, elegant cigar in the most elegant way possible. Right away, the flavor profile is smooth, and delicate, a mild sweet wood flavor making up the core, with a musky "old" flavor/aroma through the nose. There is no pepper or spice to speak of at this point, and I would be surprised if any appears. Davidoff generally produces mild to medium bodied cigars, of lighter strength, and initially here, the Classic blend is sticking to that. The blend is so gentle in fact, that I am able to cycle all of the smoke from a draw through my nose, with no harshness or burning sensation. Don't get me wrong though, just because the cigar is mild, and I keep using adjectives like delicate and gentle, the flavor profile is big, and bold... but smooth.

The ash holds for surprisingly long given the small ring gauge, over an inch before falling in my ashtray. The burnline is straight, and relatively slow. Smoke production is great, despite a firm draw. In fact, the smoke is quite thick, and oily in the mouth, and linger beautifully in the air. The flavor profile towards the end of the first third starts to change a bit adding a substantial sweetness, though it is still a wood flavor at its core. The wood flavor is cedar, very sweet cedar. Through the nose things remain musky, and now slightly floral. The ash is a gorgeous dark gray color, with a great stacked... well, dimes appearance (not quarters, given the ring gauge)

The body has gradually increased over the last two inches, moving towards the final third, moving well into the medium range. Still no nicotine strength to speak of, but the general mouth feel and profile has gotten a bit darker, and heavier, with a touch of black pepper becoming apparent in the finish, towards the back of the throat. This increase in body is kind of a surprise, but an interesting and pleasant one.

In the final third, the flavor continues to progress similarly, getting a bit earthy, and with the black pepper becoming stronger. The musky aged tobacco remains, but the sweet cedar has pretty much disappeared. Nothing else really changes though through the final third.

Ended at 11:38 for a total burn time of one hour ten minutes. For the size, this is about how long I expected. What a cigar! Delicacy, elegance, and complexity all are fit to describe this cigar. I see why Zino Davidoff smoked this cigar personally. The length and ring gauge offer a complex, flavorful experience from the beautiful Ecuadoran Connecticut wrapper. I highly recommend this cigar to fans of small rings, mild cigars, and big flavors. I also think this would be a fantastic cigar for those who have any preconceived notions about either Davidoff or mild cigars.