Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Q&A: Kevin Phillips on Sudeste Cubano

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"A full year after starting this project we have finally released our very own line of cigars. All of our cigars are hand crafted in the USA (Little Havana, Miami) by “Level 9” rollers all of whom have worked for world-renowned factories such as Romeo y Julieta®, Corona®, and Partagas®. Each cigar is made in the traditional Cuban style of tubing the filler (entubado) and then finished off with a beautiful triple cap. Each “tarea” (days work) is then inspected by another Master Roller/Blender to ensure the cigar is of the highest standard for the aficionado. Due to the high standards placed upon our rollers our cigars are made in small quantities to ensure quality and consistency that only a boutique manufacturer can produce. The cigars are very rich with with noticeable spice on the tongue. With only a total of 10,000 cigars made per year this is truly a limited production cigar. Look for many reviews by customers to be posted soon. This is my personal size cigar that is only available via singles. Each cigar is blended a little different depending on the size and this one is the strongest of the Sudeste Cigars. The people that have smoked the pre release samples referred to it as the MindRiot (like my forum handle) due to the strength."


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Wrapper- Ecuadorian Sun Grown Habano


Binder-Ecuadorian


Filler- Nicaraguan


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HH- What is the significance of the name "Sudeste Cubano"? I know that your store is located in Knoxville, TN... are you of Cuban descent?


KP- The Sudeste name was a natural fit for us because it means southeast, which is where we are located. The Cubano came from the particular factory that is making the cigar for us. All the rollers and employees are of Cuban descent so we pay homage to them. The official name of the cigars are Sudeste Cigars and if we do different blends then we will add a name to it. And no, I am not of Cuban descent.


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HH- How long have you been in the cigar business?

KP- I grew up on a farm and we raised tobacco every year, from 1 to 10 acres each season. Once I left home I worked at a graphic design/web firm and then went into the cigar business. My total combined experience is over 12 years in the cigar business, but I consider myself to have been in the tobacco business most of my life.

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HH- Tell us about your first cigar experience and which cigar did you first fall in love with?

KP- My first cigar experience was actually a hand rolled custom blend before the cigar boom. I thought it was way too harsh and overpowering. It almost kept me from wanting to pick them back up. Then a friend actually gave me an Arturo Fuente and I was blown away by the flavors and balance. I was hooked ever since.

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HH- How long did it take for you to find your signature blend?

KP- We worked on this blend since last December. Originally we started at a different factory and just was not happy with the quality and blend. After scrapping that one, I decided to go with a true low production unique blend that has some familiar flavors but is unlike anything else on the market.

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HH- Was the process of creating your cigar easier or harder than you imagined? Please elaborate.

KP- This is my third cigar project. I have worked with Pete (Johnson) at Tatuaje on a custom cigar for a store I was working at. Then I created another cigar for the same store which they still have and do very well with. I find creating a cigar is as easy as the people you're working with. If the blender is good and I can relay to him what I want, it makes all the difference. I would say it is not easy but it is a lot of fun and very rewarding for me to see that I am not the only person to like them.

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HH- Who designed your cigar band?

KP- The band and logo is a take off of Silo's flame logo and turned into an industrial/post modern look. I worked with a graphic company to perfect the over all screening and final look. I was really nervous about the final image because a flat image is completely different than an embossed gold foil band printing. I just had to make the call and roll with the final image and hope I made the right choice.

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HH- What is your favorite vitola size in general and why?

KP- Hands down the Corona Gorda size. To me, it is the perfect size to taste all the different components of the blend. If you can make a great tasting Corona Gorda, then you have an awesome blend that can shine in all sizes. I will only release the Sudeste Corona Gorda in singles because the cigar is just special to this entire project and it takes on a life of its own.

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HH- Are you planning on creating more blends for Sudeste Cubano in the future?

KP- Yes, I am experimenting with a Maduro and a Fuerte (stronger version) right now. Like this blend I am sure it will take some time to get what I want.

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I would like to thank Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions about his new Cigar brand available now at Silo Cigars.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Pinar Del Rio Habano Oscuro

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After giving my taste buds a rest lately, I was ready to take on a "sledge hammer"-type of cigar. Bring on the Pinar Del Rio Habano Oscuro! This cigar is the creation of messrs Abraham Flores and Juan Rodriguez. It was named for the famous province in Cuba considered the mecca of tobacco cultivation and cigar production. This cigar is manufactured in Tamboril, Santiago Dominican Republic at the Tabacalera Don Leoncio factory. Four traditional vitolas are offered: robusto (5x50), toro (6x50), torpedo (6.5x52), and churchill (7x50).

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The robusto size was sent to me by the wonderful folks over at Silo Cigars. Silo Cigars stocks some of the best boutique brands available today. The robusto is priced $5.40 a single or $135 for a hand crafted wooden box of 25. Click here for prices on the other vitolas.

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This cigar contains Nicaraguan and Dominican filler, a Dominican Habano binder, all wrapped by a Dominican Habano Oscuro leaf. The wrapper looks "fresh off the farm" rustic yet appears tightly rolled with a neatly done cap. The color shade is a pretty reddish brown with nice oils and plenty of tooth to impart a slight coarseness to it's surface. The cigar aroma is strong and emits notes of dark chocolate, earth, and sweet cedar. The pre-light flavor is indicative of rich spicy tobacco. I recommend having some water handy before lighting up.

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The initial flavors are smoky cedar, vanilla, and cayenne pepper. It starts off smooth and vibrant with a long spicy finish. The cigar then develops some nuttiness with the cedar morphing into rich chewy leather. The flavor is a little on the salty side with any sweetness being overshadowed by the heavy cedar and leather overtones. This cigar is full-bodied and full-flavored and shows wonderful aging potential.

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The cigar performs effortlessly with a perfect draw generating lots of flavorful smoke. My only complaint is that cigar seemed to be smoking fast, so care should be taken to avoid overheating the tobacco and causing it to turn harsh. The resting smoke is pungent with sharp wood and spice scents. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. The ash is "exhaust fume" dirty and flowery like a peace lilly but it manages to hold on at least to the one inch point.

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Overall, the Pinar Del Rio Habano Oscuro will never be mistaken for a wimp. It comes out throwing haymakers like old Mike Tyson and stays hard hitting until the very nub. This cigar is for grown folks with seasoned palates or young bucks who like their cigars strong and assertive. It also makes a great candidate for humidor aging.

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Please excuse the chipped manicure. It's the result of having to pry open my tightly sealed humidor!


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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cuba Aliados Anniversary

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This is the third of five cigars given to me by Mr. Frank Santos of Reyes Family Cigars to sample and review. So far I have smoked and reviewed the Cienfuego and the Reyes Family Classic.

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The Cuba Aliados Anniversary cigar was introduced in 2007 to celebrate the more than 100 years of the Cuban Aliados brand which originated in Cuba. This cigar uses six year aged tobacco and is available in a natural Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper and a Nicaraguan Corojo maduro wrapper. Both contain an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and a filler of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos. There are four vitolas available. I happened to smoke the "Magico", which is a toro sized 48 ring gauge by 6 inches. This cigar retails for about $175 for a box of 20 and I've seen the singles priced just over $10 a stick.

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For such a premium price my expectations were pretty high for this cigar. The appearance of the cigar was pretty average. The wrapper had a dry "paperbag" brown shade to it with a few medium sized veins running vertically along the cigar's length. The cap was neat and I saw no lifting anywhere along the seams. The weight of the cigar seemed pretty light and I anticipated and received no problems with a tight draw. The wrapper feels paper smooth and spongy when lightly pinched.

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The cigar itself had a very faint earthy aroma which was unimpressive. The pre-light draw flavor after using a punch cut was like gingerbread. After lighting the cigar, the immediate flavors were black coffee with a sprinkling of mild cinnamon and a touch of caramel on the finish. The body was mild to medium as was the flavor intensity. I would classify this cigar as a "late bloomer". The flavors don't really begin to deepen until late into the second third and well into the last third when it gets more leathery and nutty. I would advise against trying to smoke this cigar too fast since this would overheat the tobacco resulting in nasty bitter flavors.

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The cigar's burn line started off wavy but then corrected itself pretty quickly. The ash formed is nice and compact and holds on well until tapped off. The color of the ash is mostly light gray in color.

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Overall, I did not feel the cigar justifies it's high price tag. Premium prices demand high quality and complex tastes and I feel that the Cuba Aliados Anniversary fell short of the mark. At best, it is a smooth smoking cigar with consistent average flavor. Like the regular Cuba Aliados which has gone through several re-blendings over the years, this one needs to be taken back to the drawing board.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Leon Jimenes 300 Series

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The Leon Jimenes 300 Series cigars were created to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of Leon Jimenes cigars. The cigar contains tobacco from the Dominican Cibao Valley and Nicaragua. The wrapper is an African Cameroon from 2001. The tobaccos were fermented and aged in wood barrels prior to rolling and after they were rolled they were aged an additional 300 days. Introduction of these cigars were actually delayed a year because the manufacturer was not happy with the packaging... or so they say.

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This brand comes in four sizes. I smoked the churchill size which is 50 ring gauge by 7 and 1/2 inches. The churchill retails for around $10. All the sizes are available in boxes of 25.

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This cigar is absolutely gorgeous. The aged Cameroon wrapper itself is worth every bit of the $10 price tag. The wrapper is light brown with a yellowish tint. It's oily, toothy and has a wonderfully exotic look to it. The aroma of the cigar is like wet earth with sweet cedar detected at the foot.

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The cigar feels heavy and tightly packed. The draw was free but had more resistance than I normally prefer. The smoke is mild to medium in body.

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The initial flavors are toasted hickory, sweet cinnamon and creamy vanilla. The opening lacks a peppery bite but instead lets you know this is going to be one smooth and relaxing ride. After a few puffs, nice cocoa and dark coffee undertones present itself, leaving a pencil-lead residue on your palate. The finish is tea-like and would go well with a fine Earl Grey.

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The second third contained sporadic notes of hops but overall remained toasty and woody along with a dry roasted nut flavor. As the cigar progresses it develops a nice richness with hints of mild spice that can be described as sophisticated and elegant. Even the scent of the smoke is pleasant. It truly smells like fine aged tobacco of the highest quality. My husband even commented at how good it smelled, and he normally avoids being down wind like the plague! I think my husband would love the mild, yet complex flavors of this cigar.

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The last third is richer yet, with flavors of cashew nuts, cedar, mild vanilla and at times a soapy quality. Towards the end, the aged tobacco flavor remains quite refined with the last two inches showing lots of rich leather.

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The cigar burns perfectly straight with a sharp burn zone. The ash is fascinating for cigar geeks such as myself. You can see the tiny toothy nubs all over the light gray ash. The ash itself holds on very well despite being flowery.

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Overall, this is a must smoke for all connoisseurs of the leaf. The additional aging leaves you with a very smooth yet flavorful rich tobacco. It is a nice change of pace from cigars which scorch your taste buds. If you are looking for a classy and sophisticated smoke, then look no further than the Leon Jimenes 300 series. It's a work of art in construction and blending.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Chateau Real Maduro

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The Chateau Real line of cigars is being touted as Drew Estates answer to Macanundo. As most of you know, Macanundo is known for making good mild cigars. The Drew Estate website calls this cigar "ultra smooth, naturally sweet, and deliciously creamy. Refined and elegant, it is the epitome of a relaxing cigar."

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After smoking the Chateau Real Maduro Gran Templar (52 ring gauge by 6 inches, corona gorda), I can't help but agree with most of their descriptions. The cigar is quite handsome right out of the cellophane. It has a rich, oily, grainy, chocolate color that just looks scrumptous. The aroma is also pretty tasty with notes of rich earth on the wrapper and sweet red wine (think Beaujolais Nouveau) at the foot. The maduro wrapper is from San Andres*. I had difficulty getting accurate names for all the tobacco. Some sites call the wrapper San Andres Negro Oscuro, which may just be variations of the color shade. The filler consists of Nicaraguan Criollo and Dominican Piloto long fillers.

*As an aside, I think it's funny and a little sad that manufacturers will not mention San Andres and Mexico in the same breath. I guess Mexican tobacco still has some bad stigmas it needs to work out.

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This cigar actually feels like it has some heft to it. The rolling construction of the wrapper looks sharp and I saw no obvious flaws along it's length. However, I did feel a few soft spots which caused me some concern. But overall, this cigar looked well constructed for a maduro costing less than $6 a stick.

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The cigar took a little bit of fuel to get lit evenly. The draw was free with very slight resistance. The amount of smoke I was getting with each draw was disappointing. I attribute this to the soft spots I felt earlier in different places along the cigar, especially the foot. This is a good example of how underfilling a cigar can affect the draw negatively. So to make up for this, I had to puff like a locomotive train to get the cigar stoked for adequate amounts of smoke. It's hard to feel "refined and elegant" when your getting a workout during your smoke. I wouldn't exactly call my experience "relaxing".

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Luckily the flavors were nice and smooth. The cigar started off with a nice sweet mocha taste along with some "twangy" wood flavors. There was a slight scratch of pepper to the back of the throat, more cola-like than "Pepinesque". The finish was clean with some slight pencil lead residue left in the mouth. Eventually I also tasted roasted peanuts, some cedar and highlights of black cherry. The finish was "whiskey"-like but not at all harsh. As the cigar progresses, the mouth residue goes from pencil lead to more wine-like.

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The body of the cigar is medium throughout and the strength level is mild to medium in my opinion. I'm sure strength for others is subjective. I also noticed when I ashed the cigar that there was no cone of ligero. Usually, ligero is more resinous than the other tobaccos in the blend and burns at a slower rate. Ligero is also responsible for the strength of the cigar.


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I also noticed a gaping hole in the middle of the ash which shows the affects of underfilling a cigar.

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I don't claim to be an expert, so if anyone knows other reasons for this, please comment below.

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Overall, the cigar showed consistent enjoyable flavors despite the weak draw. It never got too hot or too harsh. The strength was mild to medium and easy to tolerate, so it could be smoked in the morning. I have to smoke more of these cigars to really come to an adequate conclusion about the burn issues. This cigar did have a soft cakey ash which fell in my lap before the one inch point. The burn line was fairly even. The underfilling of tobacco was annoying because you had to really work at getting a full mouth of smoke. Chomping down on the cigar helped a little at the end, and thankfully the cigar was sturdy enough to withstand that.

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With the price point being fair and the taste being enjoyable, I would recommend this cigar to others. The under filling may not be a consistent problem so I really can't draw my opinions to an absolute conclusion just yet. But if you are looking for a great tasting cigar and you typically like mild to medium smokes. You should definitely give the Chateau Real Maduro a try.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reyes Family Classic

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This is a quick review of one of the cigars given to me by Frank Santos of Reyes Family Cigars. It's a hefty looking stick that is either the 56 ring gauge or 52 ring gauge by six inches. I don't normally like to smoke fat cigars but since it was free, what the heck. The cigar contains filler leaves from four countries (Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Nicaragua), an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. The cigar retails for between $5 and $6.

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The wrapper has a rustic look to it. You can see and feel little bumps throughout and there are a few thin veins protruding . It does look dry, but I saw no signs of lifting any where on the wrapper.

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The initial flavors were toasty and woody with notes of bitter hops and roasted almonds. The body was mild to medium and the strength was fairly mild. After a few puffs I tasted dark chocolate and the wood flavor became tangy or acidic. The flavors overall are smooth and should be well tolerated even by beginners.

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While this cigar may not be very exciting for the lovers of full bodied cigars, it is pleasant tasting and would be ideal as a morning smoke or for sharing with those who are new to cigars.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New Sponsor!!!

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I am very pleased to announce that Silo Cigars has agreed to be a sponsor for Her Humidor Cigar Reviews.

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I have personally done business with Silo Cigars and find that they provide excellent top-notch customer service. Every time I had a cigar related question, a problem, or needed a recommendation I would call them (1-865-951-2704) and every time I received friendly, courteous and informative answers.

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What I like about their website:

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It has a simple and easy to manuever layout. Unlike many other sites, you can get the cigar list from their home page and avoid multiple clicking.

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Their prices are competitive, especially when it comes to buying singles. Silo Cigars does not charge a premium for buying singles like other retailers. I know I don't have humidor space for boxes and I feel good knowing that I still got the lowest possible price.

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They typically stock quality boutique cigar brands that are difficult to find anywhere else. Kevin, the owner, has a great palate for good cigars. So if something new comes out, he is usually one of the first to stock them.

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Not only do you they process your order fast, but they pay attention to details when they ship their merchandise. The cigars are well protected in the box and they add a humidifying agent in each package. You also may get an unexpected bag of pretzels and a red hot candy included. It's caring like this which makes me a repeat customer of theirs.

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He also does some interesting interviews with people in the cigar business. I like that he stays on top of the trends and knows specific details about his merchandise. The biggest turn off for me is walking into a cigar shop and the owner/clerk has never heard of a cigar you're looking for. Like recently, when I walked into my local B&M and the manager says he's never heard of 601 cigars and had to look them up! I couldn't believe it.

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So if you haven't already, Add Silo Cigars to your favorites and keep them in mind when you are looking to try something new.

Friday, September 19, 2008

G.A.R. by George A. Rico (Corona Gorda)

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G.A.R. is a new cigar by George A. Rico, maker of the Gran Habano line of cigars and 3 Siglos. I really could not get much information about the cigar from the GAR cigars website, except that it is "tailored for the style he is known for today and will be known for in the future". Searching further on retailer websites, I find that this is one of his first box-pressed cigars. It is made in Honduras with an Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper, Ecuadorian Connecticut binder and Nicaraguan filler tobacco. There are four sizes available. I happened to smoke the Corona Gorda size which is 46 ring gauge by 6 inches. This size retails for about $7.45 a stick and all sizes are available in boxes of 20.

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At first glance, the thing that stands out the most about this cigar is it's blinding white band at the foot. Being a woman who notices the slightest of details, I could not help but be distracted by this eyesore. Unlike Illusione cigars simple yet elegant black and white band, this one is down right thrifty looking. Either tone down the white, or dress up the black or better yet, just remove the darn thing and sell it naked, it will improve it's look one hundred percent. But enough ranting, I'll get on with the review...

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The cigar itself looks nice. It has an oily sheen covering a reddish brown, practically vein-free wrapper. It feels smooth to the touch and has a pillow-like softness covering a firm core. The cap is triple layered and slightly un-even.

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The cigar has a wonderful aroma. It's like a very pleasant woody scent with a touch of clean earth. By clean, I mean it doesn't smell funky like most cigars with an earthy aroma.

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I chose to barely clip the end of the cigar with a Palio cutter and the resulting draw was free with a nice "tug" to it. The pre-light flavor was sweet, fruity and woody. After lighting the cigar with a torch lighter, I immediately got a smoky hickory taste with dark caramel and pepper on the finish. The spicy heat could be felt on my lips. The flavors were really interesting and should satisfy most experienced smokers. The body of the smoke was nice and creamy. When you exhale out through your lips, you feel like the cloudy stream would never end. It feels wonderful and relaxing to smoke a cigar like this. The Corona Gorda size should also feel extra comfortable in a woman's smaller hand.

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The flavors make one transition in the first third to cedar and floral. I like that the cigar maintains it's caramel sweetness and touch of spice throughout for a balanced and smooth taste. I'm curious as to whether the cigar contains Nicaraguan Criollo, because the floral notes are similar to what I found in other cigars which contain Criollo.

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Overall, the flavors remained consistent most of the time. Sometimes I tasted roasted nuts and cinnamon, but mostly it was sweet cedar, floral notes, caramel and pepper. This cigar is one of those cigars that is perfect right out of the box. My previous two cigars (different brands) were powerful monsters that I would probably let rest for six months to a year before I thought about picking them up again. But don't get me wrong, this isn't a wimpy smoke (as evident by it's large cone of ligero with each ash). It just keeps it's power in the background to allow you to appreciate the terrific blend of tobacco in this cigar. I highly recommend that you try G.A.R. If this is the style that Mr. Rico will be known for in the future, then I am definitely looking forward to it.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tabak Especial Negra Balada

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This new Drew Estate coffee-infused cigar did look a little roughed up when I got them... but hey, it's all about the flavor anyway right? This cute perfecto measures 50 ring gauge by 5 inches and contains Nicaraguan Criollo filler, a Sumatra leaf binder all wrapped up by a deep dark two-year aged Connecticut Broadleaf. Your taste buds will appreciate the flavor of Nicaraguan estate grown coffee, mixed with roasted nuts and a touch of pepper on the finish. A surprising touch of rich cedar comes on at the finish to make this medium bodied cigar reach touchdown into full. Like the Redskins last game, the Tabak Especial Negra is a winner in the end.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Colombian Gold by Bravo Cigars

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Colombian Gold by Bravo Cigars is a Colombian puro made with tobacco grown in the Northern Andean region in Colombia, South America. It is the first of five brands to be introduced by this brand new company. To learn more about Bravo cigars and Colombian tobacco visit: http://www.bravocigar.com/.

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Thank you to Bravo cigars for sending me a sample pack of four sizes. So far I have smoked the torpedo and churchill sizes and found that I really liked the churchill size the most so far. The robusto smelled a little young with traces of ammonia so I rejected that one quickly. The toro I will keep and review down the road.

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The Colombian Gold is a great beginner's cigar. It lights up easily without having to take a draw. The scent of the smoke is sweet and pleasing that I can't imagine anyone being offended by it. The flavors are mild most of the cigar to medium in the last third. There really wasn't much strength or spiciness in the blend to scare anyone off.

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The cigar is average looking. It's not the best looking shade wrapper I've ever seen but it wasn't horrendous either. The cap was sloppy and a little soft. When I punched it, it seemed a little mushy. A few areas on the wrapper had wrinkles which made me question the leaf's quality or the rollers attention to detail. There were also some bumps present on the wrapper which may have been from the binder underneath, but I'm not sure. The wrapper is of Ecuadorian seed origin and a Connecticut seed descendant grown in Colombia. (Keepers of the Flame has a great write up of this cigar which you should read as well.)

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The aroma of the cigar smelled like grassy compost along with some sweet hay notes at the foot. The pre-light draw was like tea and hay.

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The initial flavors were milky and sweet with notes of light coffee and vanilla. The finish was short and clean and had a "pencil lead" quality to it. At times the coffee tasted a little muddy but eventually it does settle into a nice smooth taste for much of the smoke. I found the second third to be the best in terms of balanced flavor. A nice bouquet of creamy roasted nuts is added in to the cafe au lait body. You can really relax quite well with this cigar's flavor profile and would be great to smoke on a Sunday morning while reading the paper.

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The last third of the cigar surprised me with it's jump to a medium bodied, full on leather taste. I took my time at the end and was rewarded with a smoke that didn't turn harsh or bitter.

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Overall, I was satisfied with the flavor of this cigar. I wouldn't hesitate offering this cigar to someone who normally doesn't smoke cigars. I would be confident that they could actually finish this cigar and not feel like they've been hit with a two-by-four. The construction could use some improvement however. Hopefully the factory doesn't have a high turnover rate at their facility so the rollers can continue to get some experience.

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I think it's exciting for the cigar industry to have other countries try their hand at growing tobacco. Hawaii and Colombia have shown they can grow some satisfactory crops. But, is it too early for them to make puros though? I think the best blenders are like head chefs. You have to constantly taste to know how to season your product. If you know it's missing something, why not add the tobacco it needs (regardless of where it's from) to make it right? It should be interesting to see the direction that some of these new companies take.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Liga Privada No. 9

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How many times have we heard it before? A cigar made just for the owner of the company that is now available for sale to the general public. Makes you want to question the story's authenticity. But in the case of the Liga Privada No. 9, I am inclined to believe it. If I was president of a cigar company, I wouldn't mind having this cigar as my private stash.

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The wrapper is a USA Connecticut Broadleaf. I'm not sure if it's maduro or oscuro, but it sure is dark. I've seen some ugly Connecticut Broadleafs lately, so I was surprised to find that this one was more "Brad Pitt" than "Steve Buscemi" in terms of looks. (My apologies to Mr. Buscemi, I love your movies!) The cigar had nice oils and a dark toothy appearance. It was neatly rolled and looks hefty with dark ligero centered perfectly at the foot. The binder is a Matafina from Brazil grown by Jose Fuego, father of Jesus Fuego creater of J. Fuego cigars and Defiance cigars. The filler is aged long leaf Cuban seed tobacco from seven different farms in Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

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Steve Saka, President of Drew Estates and the person whom this cigar was created, said they created ten different basic blends each with it's own four different blends for a total of forty. They tried all of them. It wasn't until they got to #9 that he found a blend that he liked.

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The Liga Privada No. 9 is a corona gorda measuring 52 ring gauge by 6 inches. This cigar has a nice rich cedary and dark earthy aroma. The retail price is between $9 and $11.

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I clipped the cap with a Palio cutter and found a perfect draw with slight resistance. The tobacco taste was both sweet and spicy. The cigar lit easily and evenly while the draw produced incredible amounts of creamy full bodied smoke.

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This cigar wastes no time displaying it's complexity. It starts off with notes of dark chocolate and charred wood. Then creaminess sets in with spicy roasted nut flavors. Then the chocolate turns into espresso and combines with wood to make up the body. Sweetness on the finish was a late bloomer but developed more as the cigar progressed. Notes of cinnamon and flashes of cherry were detected before the one inch point. I was truly impressed with the flavors of this cigar.

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After the one inch point I started getting leather and an extra dash of pepper which tickled the back of my throat. The cigar stays balanced with creamy roasted nuts and caramel sweetness on the finish. The second third showed a decrease in sweetness while the leathery body got "chewier".

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The final third is rich and earthy. The pepper is at it's maximum but not excessive. The flavors of smoky leather, nuts, spice and caramel are all in harmony right through the long finish.

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Overall, I was really wowed by this cigar. It was satisfyingly complex and smoked with true elegance. The burn line was even, the draw was perfect and the smoke was luscious. Even the ash was attractive and matched the cigar's light gray and black cigar band. Speaking of cigar band, the only negative was that it was a little hard to remove.

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This is a cigar I think everyone should try at least once. It truly is the complete package.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cienfuegos Engine No. 7

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First off, I wish to thank Mr. Frank Santos (Marketing Director for Reyes Family Cigars) for sending me a sampler pack consisting of five cigars: Cienfuegos, Puros Indios Viejo, Cuba Aliados, Reyes Family Classic and Reyes Family Premier. I look forward to smoking and reviewing all the cigars.

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Today, I felt the Cienfuegos Engine No. 7 calling my name so I decided to smoke that first. The Engine No. 6 size recently received a 90 rating from Cigar Aficionado. Puros Indios Cigars introduced the Cienfuegos in 2003. The Spanish name "Cienfuegos" translates to 100 fires. This cigar comes in six sizes all with names with a fire station theme. The Engine No. 7 is a churchill which is a comfortable 48 ring gauge by 7 inches. It's funny, when they first debuted, Cigar Aficionado had an article which described these cigars as "bargain priced". The expected retail cost of Engine No. 7 was $2.80. Flash back to today, this cigar retails for around $10. After smoking this cigar I would say that it is worth more the later than the former price.

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The Cienfuegos are hand rolled in Danli, Honduras. The wrapper is an Ecuadorian four year aged Habano 2000, the binder is Nicaraguan and the filler is from the Dominican Republic. When I found out that the wrapper is a Habano 2000 leaf, I automatically assumed the worst. I vaguely recall reading that this type of tobacco has burn issues. Let me assure you that once I lit this cigar it burned like a charm. The burn line was sharp and even and did not require any re-lights.

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Visually the cigar has an attractive hue, reminiscent of red clay. There were dark brown blemishes throughout and some rather gnarly looking veins here and there. Regardless, the cigar had no issues with burning un-evenly. The aroma of the cigar was earthy with some sweet chocolate notes at the foot. The surface of the cigar felt lumpy and the body was nicely packed with some give.

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The cigar clipped and lit easily and evenly. The initial flavors were very nice. Rich mocha and spice which left a tingle on my lips and tongue. The flavors were smooth and not harsh. The body of the smoke was medium to full. The finish had a nice caramel sweetness along with a touch of pepper. After about an inch in, the cigar showed nice complexity and balance with dark chocolate, cedar and roasted nuts doing a nice transition on my taste buds. The spiciness stays present throughout the entire smoke and so the name "Cienfuegos" seems highly appropriate for this cigar. After about three inches in, the cigar displayed rich leather, roasted nuts and a sweet and spicy finish. This flavor continues to intensify into the final third with a nice "chewiness" that coats the mouth. I put the cigar down with less than two inches left when some bitterness and harshness came out.

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Overall, I was very impressed with my first taste of a Reyes Family cigar. The cigar showed nice complexity which kept my attention the whole time. I highly recommend this cigar for those who are not familiar with Habano 2000 wrappers. It was incredibly rich, earthy and very spicy. This cigar should put to rest any concerns with burn problems associated with the Habano 2000 name. At least the Reyes Family found an answer to it. Searching on-line this cigar may be hard to find. Serious cigars is the only one I found which has the churchill size in stock. If you can find it at your local retailer, definitely pick one up. You might want to also pick up a bottle of water to douse the 100 small fires that will be set across your taste buds.



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Monday, September 8, 2008

601 Habano Oscuro La Punta

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Everything about United Tobacco's 601 Habano Oscuro says quality. Starting with the appearance of it's beautifully constructed perfecto, called "La Punta" or the point. The cap was neatly applied without any wrinkles or excess glue. The pointy tip of the cigar was not frayed even after being handled and shipped from the retailer. The wrapper showed no heavy veins and was tightly rolled with no imperfections. The cigar feels solid and packed with tobacco.

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The wrapper, as stated in it's name, is a Habano Oscuro from Nicaragua. I learned from a well written article from "Doc" (David Diaz) of Stogie Fresh along with Jose Blanco (National Director of Sales for La Aurora) that Oscuro wrapper leaves are taken from the uppermost part of the tobacco plant called the corona. These leaves have been exposed to the maximum amount of sunlight and so end up darker, thicker, richer and more flavorful. Unlike maduro leaves which go through a longer fermentation time at very high temperatures, oscuro leaves go through a shorter fermentation time at lower temperatures. After fermentation, oscuro leaves are aged causing the leaves to turn darker, sometimes appearing totally black. The process by which a leaf is fermented determines whether it is a maduro or an oscuro.

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The 601 Habano Oscuro wrapper is dark brown with black mottling throughout. It's toothy and feels slightly coarse to the touch. The scent of the wrapper is earthy with notes of dark chocolate and the small opening at the foot is the same but also smells spicy.

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I had to clip the cap generously to get a satisfactory draw. The flavor on the pre-light draw was spicy with hints of dark chocolate and raisins. The cigar lit easily and the draw began to open up once the ash began developing. The draw was then free and clear but still had some limitations as to how far you could pull on it.

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The flavors initially were dark mocha, black pepper along with a tangy flavor reminiscent of Nicaraguan Corojo. I also detected a slight cinnamon spice and roasted nuts. The cigar lacked sweetness but it miraculously never crossed over the line into bitter. The flavors were smooth and blended very well. Rich leather makes it's presence after the one inch mark. The body of the smoke was medium to full. (I think my limited draw kept me from generating heavy smoke because otherwise it would probably be full bodied all the way.) The flavor intensity was definitely full. The peppery spice left a nice tingle in my mouth and on my lips but was not overwhelming in any way. You get nice strong Corojo and black coffee flavors in the second third and rich leather and spice in the last third. The finish on this cigar is long and satisfying.

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The quality of the tobacco is incredible. Even though the cigar felt like it was burning hot at the half way point, the flavors never got harsh or bitter. Lesser cigars would have me cringing with it's bitterness if it ever got too warm. This cigar just kept delivering fantastic flavor with each draw. The ash is beautiful and maintained it's shape well. It was mostly salt with just a sprinkling of pepper. The burn line was sharp and even.

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The quality of this cigar even continued in it's attractive cigar band. The paper used was heavy and the decoration was very elegant with lots of gold accents and many attractive emblems adorning it.

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But the best part of all this is the price. I got these cigars for $7.85 a stick. Hello? It's made by Don Pepin Garcia. It's well made. It tastes great. It burns great. It looks expensive. It is worth every penny of that price. Would I recommend this cigar? Hell yeah!!! If you don't want to pay a premium for a perfecto then get the corona for $4.92. I deem this cigar a masterpiece.



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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Island Prince Light Momona

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What do you get when you cross a Hawaiian with a Nicaraguan? The answer is you get a cigar called "Island Prince" by Kauai Cigar Company. A gentleman by the name of Les Drent, company president and grower of tobacco for Kauai Cigar Company was inspired to grow tobacco in the volcanic soil of Kauai after seeing a tobacco plant in a friend's ornamental garden. His initial experiments produced poor quality leaves, according to an article in the September 2008 Robb Report. Mr. Drent then consulted with the Oliva tobacco family of Miami and was able to obtain old generation Cuban Pinar del Rio seed as well as Cuban seed Habano, Corojo, and Criollo. The company also grows Connecticut Shade and Broadleaf seed which may result in an upcoming Hawaiian puro. In fact, the company plans on doing just that sometime next year with a cigar called the Grand Alii made entirely of Hawaiian tobacco and rolled in Hawaii.

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Right now, the only cigar that is available for purchase is the Island Prince (rolled in Esteli, Nicaragua) which comes in two wrappers: a light cigar using a Connecticut shade leaf from Ecuador and a dark cigar which uses a Nicaraguan Habano leaf. Both cigars can be purchased direct from the Kauai Cigar Co. website or at Silo cigars online. There are three sizes of each cigar with cute Hawaiian names like Momona (50 by 5 3/4), Luana Iki (46 by 4 1/2) and Bumboocha (52 by 6 1/8).

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I ordered a three pack of each cigar because they came in a really cool looking wooden cigar case with the name Kauai Cigar Company on it, along with a handsome green certification sticker denoting that it contains authentic Hawaiian tobacco.

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The cigar looks nicely constructed with no veins on this very smooth, lightly oiled, buttery tan wrapper. The cap was neatly applied and I noticed two tiny water spots near the foot of the cigar. Otherwise the presentation looks flawless. The Momona feels solid and packed with tobacco. The aroma of the cigar was disappointing as I detected traces of ammonia throughout. (I suspect that this young company may be rushing production to meet demand after it's recent press in the media. It went from normally producing 36,000 cigars a year to 100,000 cigars this year!) The cigar cliped easily and the firm draw tasted of ammonia as well.

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After lighting the cigar, I detected mild spices on my lips. The body of the cigar was pleasantly full and creamy despite the draw seeming firm on the pre-light. The draw was actually perfect and showed nice resistance. The initial flavors were sweet cream, vanilla, cinnamon and light coffee. The flavor level was mild but very pleasant and smooth. The creaminess took on a more macadamia nut tone, along with a slight floral quality. The finish was spicy and clean but not overwhelming. The mid to final stages of the cigar showed light cedar and spice with a touch of honey sweetness on the finish. I would classify this cigar as being mild to medium flavored. The last third did start to lose some body as the draw became firmer and harshness developed which started to irritate my throat.

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The cigar burned fairly evenly with a sharp burn line. The resulting ash was gray and flaky but it held on nicely well past the two inch mark. The cigar also puts out a pleasing aroma which is light and fragrant.

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Overall, I think this young cigar company shows great promise and should develop into producing better quality cigars in the future. Patience and longer aging is needed to rid these cigars of that distracting ammonia taste. I was actually enjoying the smoke once the ammonia burned off and the mellow, well balanced flavors kicked in. However at the end of the smoke I could taste the lingering ammonia in my mouth which made me want to reach for different cigar to get rid of the taste.

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At this point, I would hold off purchasing any more Island Prince cigars until future reviews show that these cigars are properly aged. I might want to add that my batch may be the exception, as far as the ammonia problem goes. If any one has different experiences I would love to hear it. I will eventually do a review of the dark Nicaraguan Habano wrapped Island Prince cigar. But after this experience, it may be a while.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Don Pepin Garcia Series JJ Maduro Selectos

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Introduced in 2007, the DPG Series JJ Maduro sports an oily dark brown Nicaraguan Corojo Maduro wrapper, a Nicaraguan Criollo binder and Nicaraguan Corojo and Criollo filler. If this cigar sounds like an a*s kicker, let me assure you, it is.

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The cigar is well constructed as you would expect from a Don Pepin cigar. The cap is triple layered and the wrapper showed no visible imperfections. The cigar feels firm with only one slight soft spot. Running your fingers across the wrapper, you will find that it has a slight gritty feel to it. The aroma is delightful. It smells rich and earthy and the foot displays a nice sweetness along with a red wine-like scent.

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The cigar lights easily and produces a profound amount of creamy full bodied smoke. The initial flavors are dark semi-sweet chocolate, cedar, roasted nuts and black pepper. You can feel the tingle on your lips and tongue right from the start. Eventually the chocolate fades out and leaves mostly cedar, nuts and pepper. The second third was the sweet spot when the heat faded out a little and allowed you to taste more roasted nuts with a honey sweetness on the finish. But alas, this cigar won't let you forget it's Nicaraguan heritage as the pepper heat returns once again to make it's presence felt. The last third showed a transition from roasted nuts to chewy leather as the smoke coats your mouth like syrup and leaves a long finish that feels like you have rinsed your mouth out with red wine. My only complaint about this cigar was that the draw felt too loose. With just 2 and 1/2 inches remaining the smoke started to thin out so I had to resort to biting down on the cigar which helped to generate more smoke. Thankfully this cigar was well constructed and had enough firmness to keep from getting soft.

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The cigar burned evenly most of the way and started to waver in the last third. I had to touch it up a couple of times with my lighter to even it out. The ash was gray and black and looked flaky, but it held on well until I tapped it off into my ashtray.

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Overall, I found this cigar to be an enjoyable smoke. It captures your attention from the moment you light it up until the very end. However, I wouldn't recommend it to beginners unless I wanted to scare them away from cigars. It is definitely spicy and has strong full flavors from beginning to end. This cigar is one of those that would age quite well in the humidor, if nothing else but to allay some of that peppery heat. The cost of the Selectos, which is a 5 by 50 robusto, is around $8.40 a stick. I think it's worth it and I wouldn't hesitate to buy some to keep in my humidor to enjoy for special occasions.

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Check out other great reviews of this cigar:

Jerry, from the Stogie Review and Lucky7 from Keepers of the Flame




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