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27
Feb

Saint Luis Rey Marquez

Origin : Cuba
Saint Luis ReyFormat : Robusto Extra / Geniales
Size : 150 mm (5 7/8) x 54
Box code : SGA OCT 16
Hand-Made
Price : 15 CUC each in Cuba
More info about purchasing Saint Luis Rey cigars…

I was fortunate enough to smoke few of the Marquez already but never in Cuba. Just landed and I got welcomed with one of them. To be fully honest the first two I smoked were powerful and heavy. But as they say: “every cigars taste different in Cuba” and you will see.

I believe the choice of Saint Luis Rey is a great move from Habanos S.A. to revive the slowly dying brand that tends to disappear from our Shelves. 7500 numbered boxes of 10 in today’s very trendy vitola.

Appearance : 5 out of 5 stars
The wrapper of the Marquez really pleases me. I am very old school in my choice of cigars and tend to find the light colored wrappers more elegant and subtle. This claro wrapper has a great texture and feeling, extremely smooth and pleases my eyes. Everything you would expect from a high quality wrapper leaf from Cuba.

Saint Luis Rey Marquez

Construction : 3 out of 5 stars
Out of the three I have smoked this one is the tightest one. The draw requires some energy and makes it slightly complex to smoke. The burn is therefore extremely slow but strangely enough developing a large amount of smoke and stays lit for long.

I always say, life isn’t like a box of chocolate but more like a box of Cuban cigars: you never know what draw you will get. Sadly this one gives some resistance. The first two SLR Marquez I had were totally fine with an incredible construction.

Flavor : 3 out of 5 stars
The first third of the cigar is extremely complex and every puff is a new experience. The strength varies from medium to full with some very powerful areas. As explained before the draw is tight and requires some effort. The complexity of strength is reflected in the complexity of flavors and aromas. And this is clearly an unusual first third to me, but I enjoyed its complexity a lot. From strong freshness feeling of bitterness to very harmonious vegetal notes and a dark and intense coffee finish this start of the smoke is… interesting.

Talking about the second third of the cigar reminds me of the lesson I had recently by one of the world’s best sommeliers. It was about the fact that the acidity level of a wine doesn’t influence the sweetness of it. Some very sweet wines, like in Alsace or Germany, have an extremely high acidity level but they are true sweet wines. The acidity will create a mouthwatering effect generating a lot of saliva and will therefore enhance the flavor and the highest the acidity is, the longer the flavors will linger in the palate as the saliva brings them back to the palate. Long story short, the acidity level of the Marquez is very high and its finish is extremely long leaving a strong vegetal and fresh feeling on the palate that is very enjoyable.

The aroma of the smoke is a true delight. From far away you would recognize this smell as a high quality Cuban, the notes of roasted almonds and hazelnut in the air is truly magic!!!!

As we get closer to the end the draw gets way better and makes the cigar more enjoyable with less effort to puff. The burn is still consistent and the density of smoke remains high. Not surprised with the inconsistency of strength, that happens a lot with new Cuban cigars. Navigating from full bodied to medium to full requires a control of the draw not to feel overwhelmed.

However the flavors are completely different than the middle of the smoke as the cigar turned into a pure dark chocolate bar. The acidity is still very high, combined with the strength of the cigar is because a very masculine and “heavy weight boxer” smoke with lots of character.

As the draw was resistant it took me an hour and twenty minutes to smoke to big ring gauge cigar but the other ones I smoke took me a bit more than an hour.

Saint Luis Rey Marquez

Value : 4 out of 5 stars
You may be able to get it in Cuba if you are traveling there and therefore its value is great as I strongly believe that all this complexity is hiding a phenomenal smoke in few years. It is already smoking very well if you like “muscled cigars” that constantly changes.

I believe few shops in Europe have them for a fairly reasonable price especially for the size and the smoking time.

Overall Rating : 3 out of 5 stars
The Saint Luis Rey – Marquez will definitely bring back the Marca into my humidor as I like powerful smokes with complexity. You never get bored which is to me very important with a big cigar. It can be a bit too complex for some people. The high acidity and the strength of the cigar may overwhelm you if you are not used to fresh cigars but it is a great experience. And let’s be honest, when was the last Saint Luis Rey cigar you smoked? Mine was a vintage Lonsdale found in a small cigar shop of Covent Garden few years ago.

You might be interested in these articles too:

Saint Luis Rey Marquez (Cuba Regional Edition)

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16
Oct

Visiting Cuba?  You Can Now Bring Back All the Cuban Cigars You Want

With elections just around the corner, the Obama administration has given one last gift to the cigar community domestically and abroad—and that is a complete lift of the ban on Cuban cigars and rum.

As of Monday, you will now be able to bring back as much Cuban rum and as many Cuban cigars as you want when you visit Cuba and return to the US. You also can purchase Cuban cigars in other countries and bring them back. So long as you are importing the cigars and rum for your own personal consumption (and not for retail purposes), you are good to go.

The only restriction still standing is on online sales. Sadly you do still need to travel in person to pick up your cigars. You cannot buy them through a website and have them shipped to you stateside.

This is the latest step in the normalization process announced by US President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17th, 2014.

On Friday, Obama also charted a path for the future which will hopefully cancel out the economic embargo on Cuba altogether. The goal is to build numerous ties between the US and Cuba so that the fates of the two countries are positively intertwined. This will make it difficult for any future administration to try and reinstate the embargoes and cut off relations.

As you may be aware, some action was already taken in January of 2015 to reduce restrictions on Cuban rum and cigar imports. But previously, you could only bring back $100 worth of cigars and rum in your carry-on. Now there are no restrictions, save for this: “normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply.”

Speaking on the change, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said, “These steps have the potential to accelerate constructive change and unlock greater economic opportunity for Cubans and Americans.”

There is no doubt that this will be a game-changing boon to the cigar industry. While the benefits will center on Cuba and the US, there will be a positive ripple effect which stimulates cigar sales throughout the world!

You might be interested in these articles too:

Visiting Cuba? You Can Now Bring Back Cigars & Rum

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20
Dec

Will the United States Normalize Its Relationship with Cuba?

On December 17th, the White House released a statement outlaying a plan to normalize relationships with Cuba. This is a huge change after decades of Cold War policies in place, and follows a recent exchange of prisoners between both countries. President Obama, speaking about the changes, said, “Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.” He goes on to add, “We are taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba.” There is finally going to be a U.S. embassy in Havana. It will be the first time since January 3, 1961 that America has operated an embassy inside Cuban borders, so this is again historic news.

This is also fantastic news for cigar enthusiasts! It is now legal for the first time in decades to import Cuban cigars. If you travel to Cuba, you can bring back $400 worth of goods, including $100 worth of tobacco and alcohol products—including Cuban cigars. This is still pretty restrictive. You won’t be able to bring back much in the way of boxes, but at least now you can legally transport back a few stogies of your choice, and perhaps one of the cheaper boxes. What’s great about this too is that now it is legal to smoke Cuban cigars in the U.S. While obviously people have been doing this for decades without consequence, it was technically a violation of the law, and now it isn’t. The U.S. is the largest market for Cuban cigars already, despite the trade embargo. With restrictions lifting, the industry might thrive even more.

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Will the United States Normalize Its Relationship with Cuba?

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11
Mar

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva Maximo

Origin : NicaraguaLa Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva
Format : Robusto Grande
Size : 5.5 x 54
Wrapper : San Andreas, Mexico
Filler : Nicaragua
Binder : Nicaragua
Hand-Made
Price : ~$8 each
More info about purchasing La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva cigars…

La Aroma de Cuba is made by Jose “Pepin” Garcia & Co. and distributed by Ashton. Mi Amor Reserva gained some press at the IPCPR in 2012 where it was featured prominently. If the name “La Aroma de Cuba” looks familiar to you (or the ornate band on the cigar), it is likely because you have seen older entries in La Aroma de Cuba before the Mi Amor Reserva sub-line was released.

Appearance : 4 out of 5 stars
Dark brown with a few prominent veins, the cigar’s appearance is dominated by the colorful and elaborate band. The band stands out nicely because it contrasts so readily with the dark color of the Mexican wrapper leaf from San Andreas. The leaf is highly textured, and has a bit of a “rustic” quality as a result. Some smokers may consider this to be an annoyance, though to me it simply seemed a sign of the cigar’s handmade origin.

Construction : 4 out of 5 stars
The draw is excellent. The burn was a bit uneven at times, but it always managed to correct itself without me having to take any action. The ash is firm, and the stogie produces a lot of aromatic smoke.

Flavor : 4.5 out of 5 stars
On pre-light, I smell cocoa intermixed with cayenne pepper. When I light up, I taste cedar, a dark, earthy backdrop, and notes of cream, cocoa, and nuts. I may even be picking up a bit of mint mixed in there. The pepper is not as prominent as I would have expected, given the pre-light aroma, but it’s in there in the backdrop. In the middle third, I taste maple syrup very distinctly. The mint is coming through more prominently now. That cayenne pepper is also more noticeable, but not overwhelming at all. In the final third, the spice becomes even more prominent, while the mint fades to the back. The cocoa, earth, and maple syrup are all nicely balanced. Body is medium to full.

Value : 4 out of 5 stars
For $8.00 a stick, this is quite a nice purchase. The quality is very high, and the price is quite reasonable.

Overall Rating : 4.25 out of 5 stars (4.25)
The only reason I deducted a point for appearance is that I know the rough texture of the leaf may bother some smokers. Aside from that, there is not much to complain about with the almost-perfect construction and the wonderful flavors. The maple syrup note in particular is very distinctive, and really adds something to the experience.

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La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva Maximo

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26
Dec

La Aroma de Cuba #1

Origin : Nicaragua
Format : Robusto
Size : 5 x 54
Wrapper : USA/Conn. Broadleaf
Filler : Nicaragua
Binder : Nicaragua
Hand-Made
Price : $6 each
More info about purchasing La Aroma de Cuba cigars…

Distributed by Ashton Cigar Company, the La Aroma de Cuba brand is now made by Pepin Garcia in Nicaragua (he already had ties with Ashton’s San Cristobal and Benchmade brands). The brand now consists of eleven vitolas including the Monarch that we previously reviewed.

The pre-light ritual was not perfect for this cigar but pretty close. Wrapper had a dark chocolate look complimented by an oily sheen and lots of veins. Pre-light smell was easily identified as barnyard and hay with the easy flowing cold draw reinforcing the scents. Cap was a lumpy triple seam however the band and piece of red fabric on the foot of the cigar made for a nice presentation (the cloth used to not be part of the packaging on this brand).

Pre-light score: 8 pts.

La Aroma de Cuba #2

The La Aroma de Cuba robusto opened up full-bodied with loads of thick white smoke. The draw on the cigar was effortless and just perfect. Loads of cream and sweet chocolate were certainly present throughout the entire first third. The aroma of creamy sweetness was also pleasantly relaxing.

The second third of this robusto transitioned from chocolate to a cedar, woodsy tone. The draw remained magnificent but the burn became a bit wavy at the start of the second third. The ash proved to be a soft gray throughout the first half of this cigar.

Into the last third of my La Aroma de Cuba robusto my palate was teased with dark coffee and the cream could still be detected until the end. This cigar can be defined as a cool smoke and full bodied throughout. In fact I appreciate the fact that it was a full-bodied experience without being overly harsh.

Smoking score: 8 pts.

La Aroma de Cuba #5

I cannot say that I’ve ever had a bad experience with the La Aroma de Cuba cigar brand. This is another fine example of another great product from the Garcia family. If you’re looking for a defined flavor profile with lots of cream I highly recommend the La Aroma de Cuba Robusto. For the price you’ll never go wrong with this one!

Overall Experience score: 8 pts.

La Aroma de Cuba Robusto Rating

Pre-Light: 8 pts.
Smoking: 8 pts.
Overall Experience: 8 pts.

TOTAL: 24 pts.

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La Aroma de Cuba Robusto

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09
Jul

La Aroma de Cuba EE No.5 #1

La Aroma de CubaOrigin : Nicaragua
Format : Belicoso
Size : 5 1/2 x 52
Wrapper : Ecuador
Filler : Nicaragua
Binder : Nicaragua
Hand-Made
Price : $8.00 each
More info about purchasing La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial…

Supposedly being the go to brand for Sir Winston Churchill, La Aroma de Cuba first originated in… Cuba. Today, the Cuban version still exists but there are also non-Cuban LADC’s produced. The La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial are rolled and blended by Jose “Pepin” Garcia for Ashton Distributors. At the time of their making Pepin was crawling into new territory by using the Ecuadorian wrapper instead of his traditional Nicaraguan standard leaves.

Cigar Aficionado did rate the La Aroma de Cuba Edición Especial No.5 its #4 cigar of the year in 2008 (which to some means absolutely nothing) however it certainly encouraged me to pick a couple up to try. And that’s exactly what I did back in 2009. Since then these cigars have sat in my humidor (4 years) almost as a long lost friend. So, today is the day I pull them out to see if these once lovely cigars are still making our hearts and palates wanting more.

On to the review…

La Aroma de Cuba EE No.5 #2

The pre-light on my La Aroma de Cuba Edición Especial No. 5 was perfect (not something that happens often). Smell had heavy barnyard and tobacco accents. The wrapper was an absolute gorgeous smooth light sandy brown, just perfect! An excellent point was constructed on the tip of this belicoso and the foot was completely jam packed full of leaves. The band was appealing to the eye with its colorful detailed artwork. The cold draw showed small hints of spice with the perfect resistance leading to sweet tobacco and cocoa notes.

Pre-light score: 10 pts.

La Aroma de Cuba EE No.5 #3

The cigar immediately opened as an unexpected spice bomb however quickly settled into silky sweet chocolate tastes. The perfect draw lead to a wonderful powdery salt and pepper ash. Cigar had an alluring creamy aroma and settled nicely into the medium-full bodied range.

The second third of the La Aroma de Cuba Edición Especial No. 5 continued to have a perfect burn. The cigar released a lot of thick creamy white smoke and tastes turned to a bready cream and vanilla with an undertone of cocoa on the finish. Cigar really had a good mouth feel while smoking. Absolutely a true pleasure to smoke!

Moving into the final third the cigar continued to perform nothing short of perfect. Tastes continued along the same cocoa creamy profile while adding touches of wood to the palate. Aroma ended in a relaxing woody, leathery, creamy mixture.

Smoking score: 9 pts.

La Aroma de Cuba EE No.5 #6

My Final thoughts on the La Aroma de Cuba Edición Especial No. 5 are nothing short of great. This cigar was exceptional in every aspect and I highly suggest not passing on these sticks. It’s reassuring to know that a once great treasure is still an excellent choice to this day. I will certainly be buying a box or two of these in hopes that they sit and mature as these review examples have. You won’t go wrong with these cigars!

Overall Experience score: 9 pts.

La Aroma de Cuba Edición Especial No.5 Rating

Pre-Light: 10 pts.
Smoking: 9 pts.
Overall Experience: 9 pts.

TOTAL: 28 pts.

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La Aroma de Cuba Edición Especial No. 5

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03
Jul

La Flor de Cuba Maduro Robusto

Origin : Puerto RicoLa Flor de Cuba cigars
Format : Robusto
Size : 5 x 50
Wrapper : Habano 2000
Filler : blend of 5 tobaccos
Binder : ?
Hand-Made
Price : $100 per box

I’ve received a couple of La Flor de Cuba Maduro Robusto from JFC Tobacco Corp, a company based in Puerto Rica that seems to be mostly producing flavored cigars and rolling paper to roll your own sticks (!). La Flor de Cuba is dubbed as a full-bodied, strong cigar, designed for the American smoker. Although I have never heard of the brand and I couldn’t find much info online, according to JFC it recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Appearance : 3.5 out of 5 stars
This is a good-looking robusto. Under the toothy maduro wrapper with thin but visible veins one can find a blend of five different tobaccos from Brazil and Nicaragua among other countries. My only reproach is that the band lacks personality, I have the impression that I’ve already seen something similar several times.

Construction : 4.5 out of 5 stars
Both samples behaved very well in a calm environment. The burn line was more than satisfying and the draw, that some people may find too open, was just as good.

Flavor : 3.5 out of 5 stars
Unlit, the cigar smells of cedar (it was stored in a cedar sleeve), there’s also some delicious sourness near the foot. The generous pre-draw is spicy. I proceed to toast the foot and bam! Indeed, this cigar is quite powerful! I wouldn’t recommend smoking it on an empty stomach, unless you like taking chances. Even after a spicy Thai meal, the 1st third pepper is more than perceptible, pleasantly complementing the subtle sweetness. This sweetness is quite different from what I am used to encounter in some maduros, it’s really delicate and not sugary at all. In the second third, La Flor de Cuba settles down in terms of spice but not in terms of power. It’s full-bodied and the main flavors are leather and, as we approach the end, oak.

La Flor de Cuba Maduro Robusto

Value : 4 out of 5 stars
I don’t have the exact price for this line, but from what I understand they can be bought at $100 per box (on the other hand, I don’t know how many cigars there are in such a box – 25, 24, 20?). In any case, at ~$5 per stick that’s a pretty solid value if you enjoy strong maduro cigars.

Overall Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars
I would like to thank Paola for sending these cigars to me. This is the first time I had a cigar rolled in Puerto Rico and it was a pretty good experience. I don’t know much about La Flor de Cuba‘s availability across B&Ms, but do not hesitate to pick up a couple if this flavor profile sounds like your cup of tea.

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La Flor de Cuba Maduro Robusto

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30
Sep

Short trip from Varadero to Cayo Blanco by catamaran.

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18
Sep

On the road and still smokin!

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07
Aug
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