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.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Man O' War Armada

6.5x56 'Toro Grande'

The MOW Armada seems to be the CI camp's attempt to enter the super-premium cigar market, one that they otherwise don't usually compete with, staying more in the bargain/discount 3-5$ range. At 20$ for a single, or 500$ for a "box" (actually a humidor of 32 sticks), the Armada strays far from the other Man O'War lines. It features an Ecuador Sumatra seed Maduro wrapper, around fillers that I can't find info on anywhere. The Armada is offered in 2 sizes that I know of, a 6.5x56 "toro grande", and a 5x44 petite corona (not on the website, I have only heard about it, and had it offered via emails). The Armada may be available in other sizes in samplers from CI and, but I'm not positive on that.

What I am positive about is how great this massive cigar looks. I'm a devoted fan of tiny ring gauges, so the 56 ring is a bit beyond my comfort zone and preference, but the wrapper leaf, with its reddish dark chocolate color, and heavy tooth, is enough to make me look past the girth. The construction looks good as well, though for 20$/stick, a triple cap would be nice (a complaint I also have with Padron...) The seams look great, though the cap is a bit lopsided. The pack is even, and firm, and looking at the foot, the different leaves are clearly identifiable (lots of ligero...). The aroma from the foot is not overly complex, just a meaty, rich tobacco, with a slightly musty character to it. The cold draw however is awesome. One of the most defined chocolate flavors I have ever gotten. Not a bitter cocoa, but straight milk chocolate. There is also a wet, earthiness to it, that reminds me of really dark, nutrient rich potting soil. Surprisingly, there is just a touch of spice, not the overwhelming heat I expected.

Lit at 1:25pm.

The massive Armada lights easily enough under my torch, but once fully lit, the smoke production is not all that enthusiastic. Kind of disappointed by that. The flavor however, is awesome. I'm getting everything from milk chocolate, to hot peppers, and even a unique smoked pepper flavor, that reminds me of Mexican spices. Very strange, but awesome. About a half inch in, the burn line is a little crazy, but that could either be because of the big ring gauge, or the humidity here near the James River in Virginia in the summer (steamy, swampy, etc.).

The ash is pretty impressive, probably because of the size, and has held so far for almost 2 inches and is a mottled white and gray. The burn line has evened out by the end of the first third. The flavors have also shifted, now producing a more bitter chocolate, rather than the milky character initially present. The spicy heat has also picked up actually, and sticks around for a long time, mingling with some sweetness on the finish, which as I said, is impressive and really long.

Some strength starts to become apparent to me around the halfway mark, which is also about an hour in. It isn't overwhelming, but just enough nicotine to know it is present. The high ligero content, and the fact that (after doing some research while smoking), the wrapper is actually apparently a ligero leaf, is probably the culprit. Not unpleasant, just lets you know it is there. The sweetness remains, mingling well with the spicy finish. The specific flavors I'm picking out at the halfway point still include interesting dried chili peppers, bitter chocolate, and now a bit of coffee bean.

At the band point, the only adjective that immediately springs to mind is wet. The flavor profile, mouth feel, all of it, everything has taken on a wet, dark character. Like when you throw a wet log into the fire. There is a little bit of mushroom character as well becoming apparent. Removing the band (which comes off easily, and cleanly, reveals a small crack in the wrapper, maybe 1/4 inch long. It doesn't seem to be problematic at this point though.

Approaching the end, a big blast of cinnamon comes out of no where. The complexity present here is, I have to admit, a little surprising. For the price, I am glad it is present, but for a brand sold exclusively through... well anyone, it is something special. I know it is produced by AJ Fernandez though, and he has made some awesome cigars (though not everything he has done has been gold, there are some real gems in his portfolio), so I guess I shouldn't be entirely surprised. Great blender using great tobacco... bound to work, right? In this final third a surprisingly hot spice also kicks up through the nose. Up until now, the spice has mostly been the kind that jumps around, mostly in the back of the throat though, while through the nose it has been mellow, smooth... now hot and spicy (significant "burn"). The crack in the wrapper burns through just fine, without a hitch. Actually, the performance has been great, considering that about halfway through, the weather went all fucked up, and it starting storming, raining, the works out here.

Ended at 3:20pm for a total smoke time just shy of 2 hours. I think I pretty much have summarized my feelings already, but for those who skip to the last paragraph... what a great amount of complexity! Also, I will admit to a bit of nicotine sickness for almost 30 minutes after finishing smoking this. The Armada is a strong smoke, no doubt about it... but the flavor and complexity, as well as the great performance make it worth a little suffering after the fact in my opinion.