Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CAO Italia "Ciao" (robusto)

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C.A.O. is one of the more exciting cigar companies in the world today. They like to experiment with new blends of tobacco from places other than the main growing areas we have come to know and love. One example is the C.A.O. Italia which uses an Italian grown Habano seed from the Benevenuto region of Italy (in the south between Rome and Naples) in the filler, in addition to tobacco from Peru and Nicaragua. Both the wrapper and binder is from Honduras.

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The Italia is available in seven different vitolas. I sampled the 56 by 5" robusto named "Ciao". This cigar comes boxed in 20's with a retail price around $92.50, or $5 and some change for a single.

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The first thing I noticed about this cigar was it's beautiful reddish brown hue. The wrapper had nice oils and a "toothy" appearance. The veins were thin and unobtrusive and the seams were darkly outlined but smooth all the way around. The cap was neat and had a nice rounded shape. Overall, the construction appeared top notch.

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The texture of the cigar was slightly coarse and the feel of the cigar was very solid and felt evenly packed. After clipping the end with a guillotine cutter, the resulting draw was very firm and I immediately felt a spicy tingle to my lips and tongue.

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After lighting the cigar, the body starts off in the medium range. Smoky charcoal with underlying notes of dark chocolate set in. The flavor is rich and earthy with some new wood sharpness tasted on the finish. I could not say that I really enjoyed the cigar's opening act. Some slight cedar/leather enters in but the tone was definitely on the tart side with very little sweetness for balance. The first third smoked dry like burnt toast.

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It wasn't until well into the second third that I began enjoying the cigar. The primary flavor was rich cedar with no spice thrown in. The heat that I felt on the pre-light draw must have been my imagination because I detected no pepper in the smoke. The body moved up into the full range with a long toasty finish. The cigar remained smooth throughout with no bitterness but the lack of complexity was a little disappointing.

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The burn characteristics were above average. The firm draw due to the packed filler caused the cigar to smoke slowly which resulted in an even burn line the entire smoke. The burn zone was razor sharp and the ash was very compact and light gray in color with hardly any black carbon deposits mixed in.

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My overall impressions of the C.A.O. Italia are mixed. I didn't mind the firm draw because I was still able to generate a nice volume of smoke. The flavor was too dry and woody without much balance. It really wasn't enjoyable until late in the second third when the cedar flavor deepened and took on a slight sweetness. The price is right for this cigar, in my opinion. It was well constructed and packed full of tobacco. I would recommend that everyone try this cigar just to say that you smoked a cigar with Italian tobacco. (I have a similar philosophy about trying new wines.) Afterall, you never know what YOU like until you try it.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Puros Indios Viejo Nacional

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Puros Indios Viejo is a limited edition cigar introduced in 1999. Only 50,000 cigars were made and aged for four years. This cigar is offered in boxes of 15 and come in five sizes. The "Nacional" is a lonsdale sized cigar measuring 45 ring gauge by 6.5 inches. The wrapper is a ten year aged Ecuadoran Sumatra, the binder is Ecuadoran Sumatra and the filler is made up of Dominican, Nicaraguan and Brazilian tobaccos.

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This cigar was provided to me by Mr. Frank Santos of Reyes Family Cigars. Take a look at some of the reviews I've done so far on his company's cigars.

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The single cigar Mr. Santos provided me looked like it had some age on it. From my photos it looks like some plume was starting to form on it, which is a good thing. The cigar had a rustic appearance which doesn't bother me as long as it is flavorful. The wrapper had an "olive wood" color to it, along with some dark brown blemishes. It's texture was like suede and it had a slight lumpiness all over.

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The pre-light draw tasted of white pepper and some black licorice. After easily lighting the cigar, I noticed that the body of the smoke was a little thin to start off. The initial flavors were predominately woody, with touches of vanilla and cream. The smoke had some tart acidity and a slight bitterness which fortunately was not long lasting and may have been due to a lack of humidity in the room I was in. The cigar then took on a hint of roasted nuts and some leather, with the second third settling down nicely into a more harmonious blend. The flavors intensified nicely, showing some tasty warm spices like spicy cinnamon and nutmeg, while remaining primarily toasty and dry. The body of the smoke moves up into the solidly medium range and remains consistent through to the last third.

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The cigar burned slightly un-even at first, but then self-corrected without any touch-ups. The ash formed was incredibly clean and white. It was firm and compact and held on strongly until I was ready to tap it off.

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Overall, I found the Puros Indios Viejo a pleasure to smoke. Despite the tart and slightly bitter beginning, the cigar managed to settle down nicely into a nice cedary/leathery smoke with tasty warm spices mixed in. The Nacional proved to be the perfect size to enjoy the smooth concentration of aged tobacco from four countries. Looking at on-line prices, I found a box of 15 Nacionals going for around $69.20. That is not bad for a limited edition cigar!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rocky Patel Renaissance

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This review is sponsored by Silo Cigars.

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Just because you see a gazillion Rocky Patel brands floating around doesn't mean he doesn't produce some incredible gems of a smoke. The latest Rocky Patel Renaissance is an example of a truly exemplary cigar. This cigar uses a four year aged Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, a binder from Jalapa, Nicaragua and a blend of rare tobacco from Nicaragua, along with ligero from an undisclosed region of Central America. Due to the limited quantities of this exceptional tobacco, only 6000 boxes or 120,000 cigars will be produced annually.

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This review is on the robusto size, which is a traditional 50 ring gauge by 5 inches long. The cigar was beautifully constructed with a nicely formed cap and even firmness throughout. The wrapper was Colorado Maduro in color with some dark brown blemishes mixed in. The veins were thin and posed no problem with the burn properties. The cigar band is attractive and matches well with the cigar's overall appearance. The robusto retails for around $121.50 for a box of 20.

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Right from the first light, I knew that this cigar was a winner. The smoke volume was nice and thick and the draw was absolutely perfect and effortless. The initial flavors were clearly defined with strong notes of rich mocha, sweet cream, and spicy pepper. It was absolutely tasty. I also tasted hints of cinnamon and sweet raisin, along with a slight roasted nut flavor. The cigar showed nice balance and smoothness and didn't waste any time giving me a nice long finish.

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The delicious flavors stayed consistent through to the beginning of the second third. Then, at the "sweet spot" the cigar's flavors deepened further to a sweet creamy leather, roasted nuts and nice aged tobacco taste. The spiciness fell to the background and allowed me a nice pleasant smoking experience. The finale of the smoke brought back some of the pepper but not like the beginning, the flavors remained deep and rich with no hint of bitterness. The cigar smoked nice and cool to the very nub, and I guarantee you, you will definitely want to nub it!

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The cigar burned evenly with a nice sharp burn line. The ash formed was salt and pepper in color and held on nicely until I was ready to tap it off at the one inch mark. I did get some lifting along a small portion of the wrapper seam near the cap, but I will blame this on seasonal conditions with low humidity.

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Overall, I would absolutely recommend this cigar to all smokers who enjoy medium to full bodied cigars. The strength was easily tolerated by me, as I smoked it in the morning on an empty stomach. I think you will find this cigar to be a very elegant smoke with incredibly rich flavor.

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The Rocky Patel Renaissance is available at Silo Cigars. You can order by phone at 1-865-675-7456. They offer outstanding service and speedy shipping. What more can you ask?

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

El Titan de Bronze Gran Reserva Maduro

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This review is sponsored by Silo Cigars.

The El Titan de Bronze Gran Reserva Maduro was introduced in 2007 along with two other wrapper versions, an Ecuadorian Habano and a Cameroon. They are available in six sizes and come packaged in boxes of 25. This review is of the corona, which is a comfortable 48 ring gauge by 5.75 inches.

The tobacco used in the El Titan de Bronze Gran Reserva Maduro is a Brazilian Maduro wrapper, an Ecuadorian binder and a Nicaraguan Santo Domingo (Cuban seed) filler. The appearance of my Maduro corona was nothing to write home about. It's rustic looks are typical of what I've seen on other Brazilian Maduros. It's veiny and coarse looking. There were a few wrinkles here and there, as well as a few tiny water spots. Luckily, it does have a dressed up looking red, white and gold cigar band to improve it's presentation. Because the environmental conditions in my house are cold and dry, the wrapper did look a little pathetic. There was some noticable lifting along the seams and a tiny flap of the wrapper was lifted up. But I'm sure that was due to the lack of warmth and humidity.

The aroma of the cigar had heavy earthy and woody scents. It was usual smelling but not unpleasant. The pre-light draw was free and clear. Lighting the cigar was easy and the resulting body of smoke was nice and heavy. The flavor intensity was in the medium to full range.

The initial flavors started off with a nice dark coffee taste up front, followed by cedar and a nice caramel sweetness in the background. After several puffs, the coffee disappears and is replaced by a pleasant roasted almond flavor that takes over the body of the smoke, along with some hints of vanilla. I was actually surprised that the cigar tasted a lot better than it looked. The only negatives was the quickness of the burn and the "pencil lead" residue left in my mouth. Also, because of the apparent underfilling of the cigar, the flavors at times, seemed "airy" and hollow, with not a lot of depth. But this was noticeable for just a short period in the cigar.

The second third remained nutty, along with some cedar flavors which continued to build in strength as I smoked the cigar. The finish, which was short and toasty in the beginning, began to grow as well, to a nice long lingering taste in my mouth. The second third was not as sweet as in the beginning and the slight peppery tickle to my throat disappeared as well. The last third showed the same consistent taste, with deeper cedar flavors and a return of some sweetness for a nice show of balance to the blend.

Overall, the cigar had a pleasing taste which stayed smooth throughout despite being a fast burning cigar. The burn qualities were okay. The burn line was slightly un-even but didn't require any touch ups or re-lights. The ash formed was light gray in color and slightly flowery, but it held on until I tapped it off at the one inch point. I would recommend this cigar for those who like easy smoking medium bodied Maduros. For a cigar made by real Cubans in Little Havana Miami, I think it's a great value.

These cigars are available at Silo Cigars. You can call them for current prices and availability at 1-865-675-7456. They also sell the El Titan de Bronze Redemption, which is a fabulous full bodied cigar.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Carlos Torano Tribute 2008

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The Carlos Torano Tribute line is a limited edition brand created to honor Carlos Torano and his contribution to the art of fine cigars. It has been four years since the last Tribute has been unveiled. The 2008 Tribute was aged for six months and comes in three sizes: churchill (47x7), robusto (50x5), and torpedo (52x6.1). Only 1200 boxes of each size will be released and 60,000 of them will be sold in the U.S. market.

The tobacco used in the new Tribute will be a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper, a binder from the Pueblo Nuevo farm in Nicaragua, and long fillers from Esteli and Jalapa in Nicaragua. This review is on the robusto which will retail for about $175.50 for a box of 20, with singles priced between $8.78 to $9.20.

This cigar had a rustic look to it, with a slightly veiny and lumpy appearance that I have seen before on other Brazilian Mata Finas. The wrapper was the shade of dark rich soil, which was appropriate to it's actual aroma. Notes of dark bittersweet chocolate and black pepper were also detected at the foot. The feel of the cigar showed some un-even packing but this fortunately did not affect the draw or burn qualities when I smoked the cigar. The label presentation was classy with it's color scheme of glossy black with gold accents. It was understated enough to be elegant.

The body of the cigar was medium to full. The initial flavors were woody and peppery but then it developed a nice creaminess and touch of sweetness which I really favor. After several puffs, the pepper fades to the background and notes of mocha, roasted nuts, cinnamon and vanilla come through to a dry finish.

The flavors in the second third were really delicious. The body was still creamy and slightly sweet with notes of cinnamon and raisins. The pepper was still present but just as a tickle to my throat on the finish. The primary flavors at this point were chewy leather, mocha and roasted nuts. The cigar remained smooth and flavorful through to the last third, with profound cedar, leather and roasted nut flavors continuing on to the very nub. What a tasty smoke!

Overall, the cigar burned extremely well. The draw was easy and free but not too loose. The burn line was relatively even throughout and the ash was picture perfect, being mostly salt with pretty dots of pepper mixed in. The ash stayed compact and held on well until ready to be tapped off.

This cigar is worthy of being a "tribute" cigar to a fine cigar artesan such as Carlos Torano. While I probably won't be buying a lot of them due to it's premium price, I would certainly pick up a stick or two on occasion( if I can find them) to appreciate it's well made earthy blend.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

La Riqueza No. 5

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Tis the season for short flavorful smokes. The La Riqueza No. 5 at 42 ring gauge by 4 and 3/8 inches, fits this profile suitably. It utilizes a naturally dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, along with Nicaraguan binder and filler to deliver rich earthy flavors of dark coffee, vanilla, toasted cedar, leather and dry roasted nuts. The ash is bright white and burns with a sharp even burn line. Don't let it's rustic good looks fool you, it's a premium cigar with a premium price of $163.15 for a box of 25. Silo cigars offers a five size sampler pack for $43.50 if you want to take it out for a test drive first.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Casa Magna Colorado (robusto)

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This review is sponsored by Silo Cigars, home to rare cigars, aged cigars and hard to find boutique cigars. I smoked the robusto size, which is 52 ring gauge by 5 and 1/2 inches.

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The Casa Magna Colorado cigars are the brainchild of Manuel Quesada (known for his Fonseca brand) and Nestor Plasencia (famous for his tobacco used in many well known brands including his own). The cigar is a Nicaraguan puro using Cuban seed tobacco from Mr. Plasencia's farms in Esteli and Jalapa, plus utilizing rollers from his Segovia factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. The August 26, 2008 Cigar Insider rated the robusto an impressive 92 points.

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The highlight of this cigar is it's gorgeous oily Cuban seed Colorado wrapper. I sat outside in unusually warm and sunny 73 degree weather and just admired how inviting this cigar looks. The cigar has a slight tooth to it, as well as a scattering of dark brown blemishes and a few minor natural dings which gives it a nice organic appeal. The texture of the surface is slightly coarse, but certainly not to the point that I could file my nails on them. The feel of the cigar is solid, heavy and evenly packed.

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The pre-light draw after clipping the cap is firm yet clear. Strong notes of white pepper, aged tobacco and dark chocolate come through to tempt my taste buds. The cigar itself has clean earthy aromas and a touch of cedar, sweet tobacco and spices at the foot.

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After lighting the cigar, I noticed that the firm draw forces me to smoke the cigar slowly, which is not a bad thing considering the smoke starts off very flavorful and creamy. The body starts off medium and does grow to full in the second to last third. The ash is medium gray in color and is mostly compact with slight flowering, but it does hold on past the one inch point when I chose to tap it off. The burn line, while not straight, was relatively even throughout the whole smoke and did not require any touch ups or re-lights.

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The initial flavors showed a nice dark caramel sweetness, creamy body, and a nice balance of pepper, rich cedar and dark mocha. At about the one inch point, the flavors deepen but remain harmonious through to a very long finish. I would characterize the blend as classy and elegant and ideally suited for the cigar connosieur looking for balanced complexity.

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The second third adds a nice aged tobacco flavor, with cedar, pepper and caramel rounding out the flavors. Leathery notes begin to develop and does a nice tango with the cedar. The resting smoke of this cigar smells delicious. Warm spices, aged tobacco and hints of dark chocolate caress my senses. This is the type of cigar that you want to bring to a special gathering involving dressing up. Tailgating and casual poker games would just distract you from enjoying it's nuances.

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The last third brings on rich leather, roasted nuts, black coffee notes, along with aged tobacco. Resting between draws is essential to keeping the smoke cool and smooth.

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Overall, I agree with the high rating that this cigar has earned. It shows complexity that many cigars lack, plus it's heft and quality construction makes you think you are getting more cigar for the money. The prices of all the cigars in the Casa Magna Colorado line are an outstanding value. The MSRP ranges from $4.75 (corona) to $6.00 (gran toro and belicoso). ("Are you kidding me!") I'm afraid to say that they are worth so much more for fear that the manufacturer will think that they made a mistake and start charging more for them. Even the quality paper cigar band and handsomely adorned cherry stained wooden box used for this cigar makes you wonder how they can charge so little for them!

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If you see them at your local B&M, you must grab several of them before the word gets out. Or, you can call my friends over at Silo Cigars and place your order over the phone (1-865-675-7456). I believe SAG Imports does not allow the sale of these cigars on-line. I plan on giving a box of these cigars to my cigar smoking father-in-law for Christmas. They should age just fine for him to enjoy on his sailboat when the weather gets warmer next year.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Father No. 3

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The latest cigar from El Rey de Los Habanos Inc. is the My Father cigars created by the father and son team of Don Pepin and Jaime Garcia. This cigar features a binder and filler of tobacco grown from the Garcia's very own farm in Nicaragua that they have been harvesting for the past two years. This is not their typical Nicaraguan puro. They use an Ecuadorian Cuban seed wrapper from the Oliva Cigar Co. The cigar comes in four vitolas that they number one to four. The number three is a unique size which they call, "The Cremas". This shape was first seen in the Cuban Edmundo Dantes El Conde 109 that James Suckling of Cigar Aficionado raves about. Basically the Cremas is a toro (6x49) with a tapered head.

The number three is an elegant looking cigar. The wrapper is oily and medium brown in color with near invisible seams. There are a few thin veins running the length of cigar but I doubt you would be fixated upon it. Instead, your eyes should be drawn immediately to the gorgeous and ornate looking cigar band. It is a true work of art with blush colored accents, gold foil medallions, and touches of green in the background. The band seems to lean towards a more feminine appeal, which makes you wonder why they don't call it "My Mother" instead. ;-p

The feel of the cigar is somewhat lumpy with the interior feeling evenly packed with a slight give. The cigar's aroma is not overly strong, but I did detect a wheat-like or grain-like scent. The pre-light draw tasted the same with strong notes of white pepper. Hot spices are immediately felt on the lips and tongue.

The initial flavors show mild spices, dark caramel, woody notes and a creamy body. The flavors are clean and crisp and the finish is toasty. For a DPG cigar, this one doesn't go full force on the pepper, which is really a nice change. After about one half inch into the cigar, flavors of Nicaraguan Cuban seed tobacco starts in as a whisper. Then about another half inch in you start getting some nutmeg and slightly more pepper. The body remains toasty with just a hint of sweetness.

The second third builds to a more leathery and nutty flavor. The cigar remains balanced and refined. The "dry as French Champagne" body seems to hint at turning bitter but thankfully always falls short of it. Still, care should be taken to smoke the cigar slowly to nurse the maximum amount of smooth flavor from it. The last third is just a continuation of the same full leather flavor.

The My Father cigars are available at my favorite retailer, Silo Cigars. I purchased the My Father Sampler from them for $43.50. You get all four sizes which includes my favorite, a Cuban style "panatela" (38 by 7 and 1/2") that they call a lancero. All the cigars come in gorgeously decorated boxes of 23. This cigar will be a regular production brand. This year, only 50,000 were made, but production should increase in the coming years as more tobacco is harvested.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Los Blancos Connecticut

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This Los Blancos Premier Selection has a Nicaraguan grown Connecticut shade wrapper, a Honduran binder and a Nicaraguan filler. It was created by Cesar and David Blanco in 1998 along with three other styles: a Criollo (green), Maduro (yellow), and Sumatra (red). They come in seven different sizes. I smoked the toro size which is 52 ring gauge by 6 inches. All sizes come in boxes of 24. The MSRP for a box of toros is $140.



The cigar had an attractive appearance. The Connecticut shade wrapper was smooth in texture and had a nice even color. The construction was neat and the cigar felt nicely packed with the exception of one minor soft spot near the cap. The aroma of the cigar was reminiscent of barnyard hay with some dried fruit detected at the foot.



The cigar had a nice draw feel after being clipped by a Palio cutter. The flavor of the draw was similiar to the cigar's aroma- sweet, fruity, notes of hay. After lighting the cigar, the initial smoke volume was disappointingly thin. The flavors in the first third were just as unimpressive as the smoke volume- sharp bitter wood flavors with an acidic tinge. Not even the slight honey sweetness could overcome this bad taste. The cigar seemed to lack the creaminess that I have come to enjoy in mild cigars.



The second third, on the other hand, showed a dramatic improvement in the flavor profile. There was more depth and richness that seemed to be lacking in the first third. While not complex, the strong cedary overtones and long slightly peppery finish were very enjoyable and much more relaxing than the abrupt acidic flavors at the start of this cigar. I would classify the body of this cigar to be mild to medium.



The burn characteristics of this cigar were just above average. The burn line was slightly slanted, but didn't need to be touched up. The burn zone was sharp and the ash formed was light in color, strong and compact past the one inch point. When I ashed the cigar, I could see that the ligero leaf was off center which explained the slanted burn line.



Overall, this cigar starts off slow, but once you get past the first third the flavors are actually pretty enjoyable. The price point of these cigars seems fair considering the cigar has good quality characteristics. If you enjoy mild to medium cigars, I would recommend you try the Los Blancos Connecticut.


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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Macanudo 1968 Churchill

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It's been about two and a half months since I smoked the Macanudo 1968 robusto that came in a package of three cigars being promoted by General Cigar Co. If you go to their website you can get three sizes of Macanudo 1968's for $7.95. The last time I did the review, I didn't let the cigars rest in my humidor, which was a big mistake. This time around, I found the flavor profile of this cigar to be a lot better than before.

I smoked the churchill size which is 49 ring gauge by 7 inches long. Once again, the tobaccos used in this cigar include- a Honduran San Agustin Havana seed wrapper, a Connecticut Habano binder and a filler of Dominican and Nicaraguan tobacco including tobacco from the island of Ometepe which is exclusive to General Cigar Co.

My churchill had a tasty aroma of bittersweet chocolate and earth. The appearance of this toothy cigar was leathery-looking and veiny. The color shade was reddish brown with dark brown splotches all over and the feel of the cigar was lumpy and slightly coarse in texture.

The initial flavors were noticeably salty and woody, with notes of sweet vanilla cream, and mocha. The cigar then picked up flavors of leather and roasted peanuts, with a sprinkling of pepper on the tongue in the second to last third. The saltiness was prevalent throughout the entire smoke.

The strength of the cigar was in the medium to full range. The smoke volume was nice and thick and the spiciness was not overwhelming. The resting smoke was was pleasant with a nice spicy wood aroma.

The cigar drew well with just a slight amount of resistance. The ash formed was attractive, light in color, compact and strongly holding on until I tapped it off past the one inch point.

Overall, I found the cigar pleasant to smoke. The burn characteristics were above average with a sharp and even burn line. The flavors had a nice earthiness to it, although I really didn't care much for the overwhelming saltiness. (I would have to smoke more of these cigars to see if this is in fact the case and not the exception with all the cigars.)

This cigar retails for around $175.99 for a box of 25. Considering Macanudos other more mild offerings, this may be the only Macanudo I would care to pick up again.

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