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14
Feb

Can you believe that it’s already 2018? 2017 sure went by in a flash! Let’s take a look at some of the top stories from the industry this year.

Personnel Changes at Major Cigar Companies

Let’s start by talking about major personnel changes. There were quite a few staff changes at the top of major cigar companies this year.

For starters, in January, Drew Estate’s co-founder Jonathan Drew became the company’s president.

At Davidoff in August, Andreas Schmid and CEO Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard both made their departures while Domenico Scala Beat Hauenstein took over as new chairmen for the company.

Meanwhile, Mark Pursell departed his role as CEO of IPCPR in September. In October, Janelle Rosenfeld left her post as VP of Marketing for Altadis U.S.A. Terence Reilly, National Sales Manager at Quesada, departed his company as well.

That same month, Michael Giannini joined Ventura Cigar Co. as Creative Director. In November, Swisher International selected John Miller as President.

Miscellaneous Industry News

  • We lost several industry greats this year. Gilberto F. Oliva Sr. passed away at age 86 this December, as did José Orlando Padrón at age 91. This March, we also lost Avo Uvezian, who died just two days after his 91st birthday. While we lament the passing of these legendary men, their legacies will live on through their celebrated brands.
  • This year marked the 25th anniversary of Cigar Aficionado, the industry’s most prominent publication.
  • On a related note, Apple Inc. decided this year that it has a beef with cigars. The company decided to remove Cigar Aficionado’s popular Where to Smoke app from the App Store. Apple argued that the app was in violation of its TOS despite the fact that it does not promote or sell specific products.
  • Room101 branched out into spirits in November. The famous cigar brand now has its very own gin label.
  • Hurricane Irma took its toll on cigar companies in Florida in September. Many were forced to temporarily shut down their operations until the storm passed. Nonetheless, the industry was very generous with helping out the broader community in the wake of the storm. Both Tabacalera USA and a boutique cigar company called EPC Cigar Co. donated substantially to relief efforts.
  • A few companies made notable expansions this year. Casa de Montecristo has new locations in Arizona and Florida. Davidoff opened up a brand new Camacho Factory. La Flor Domincana expanded its Tamboril factory in the Dominican Republic.

Cuba

Now that we’ve gone over some general industry news, let’s talk a bit about developments concerning Cuba in 2017. Let me go over the timeline:

  • First, let’s put things in perspective. In 2016, 4 million tourists visited Cuba. The Ministry of Tourism in Cuba reported that was a jump in 13% over the prior year. It was also a record. Many of those travelers came from the USA. After Obama opened up relations with Cuba, there were finally flights scheduled between the US and Cuba on a regular basis again.
  • Early in 2017, a number of airlines decided to either restrict their flights to Cuba or end them altogether. These included American Airlines, Spirit, Frontier, JetBlue, and Silver Airways.
  • In June, Trump announced a new set of limits on trade and travel relations between Cuba and the US.
  • In September, unusual circumstances at the US embassy in Havana resulted in the State Department culling back personnel so that only emergency staff would remain on hand.
  • In November, yet more restrictions were announced by Trump’s administration. You can still transport cigars from Cuba to the United States, but you must “fit into the revised travel categories” in order to do so.

So while the doors are not totally closed, they are moving in that direction. It has once again become challenging to find flights to and from Cuba, and many hotels in Cuba no longer accept US citizens.

On top of that, you can only visit Cuba if you fit into one of the previously mentioned “travel categories.” These include:

  • Family visits
  • Government business
  • Journalism
  • Business-related travel
  • Education
  • Religious travel
  • Public performances
  • Support for the people of Cuba
  • Humanitarian ventures
  • Private foundations
  • Information-related imports and exports
  • Other select exports

So can you still take a flight to Cuba, get off and buy cigars, and return home with them? Sure, but you will need to have a legal excuse for your presence there.

On the Legal Front

The easiest way to go over legal highlights from 2017 is just to review them chronologically as well. Here’s the rundown of major events:

  • April saw the publication of a scientific research study in The New England Journal of Medicine. The FDA provided funding for the study, which demonstrated that kids are not smoking premium cigars. Yes, we all knew this—but the FDA didn’t, so this research is important.
  • Several states raised their legal smoking age to 21 years. This included New Jersey in July, and Maine and Oregon in August.
  • In August, it was announced that the cost of cigars in New York City is set to increase significantly.
  • There was some actual good news in September in the House of Representatives. An act called “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act of 2018 (H.R. 3354)” would prohibit the FDA from regulating the premium cigar industry. It passed in the House, but still needs to pass in the Senate.
  • In October, International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers, the Cigar Association of America and the Cigar Rights of America all filed motions against the FDA concerning product labeling rules. The FDA filed back on October 24th. On December 15th, the case went to court, and is still awaiting a ruling. The case is titled, Cigar Association of America, et al. v. United States Food and Drug Administration.
  • Also in October, the FDA clarified that free samples of cigars are not completely banned. They simply cannot be given out until a customer purchases a cigar.
  • 29 Republican congressmen submitted a letter to Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in December. The letter requested that premium cigars be removed from the FDA’s regulatory sphere. There is also a relevant bill in Congress (Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2017 (H.R. 564) which has garnered 133 bipartisan co-sponsors. It has yet to be passed by either the House or the Senate.

Now you are up-to-date on all the biggest events to shape the cigar industry through 2017. While there have been some losses on the legislative front, particularly with regards to Cuba, the industry overall has been strong. There are a lot of exciting cigar releases awaiting us in 2018, so it should be a great year ahead!

You might be interested in these articles too:

2017 in Review: Cigar Industry Highlights

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13
Feb

Origin : Dominican Rep & Nicaragua
Format : Cañonazo
Size : 52 x 6″
Hand-Made
Price : ~17€ (20$)

Bought at Mellgrens Fine Tobacco, in Sweden.
Aged in my humidor for 3 years, so this cigar have the old style bands.

Tasting

Location: This review was made indoor in a cigar lounge.

Wrapper: Milk chocolate, oily smooth with tiny veins.

Construction: Firm even feel.

Cold draw: Light dry hay note with a touch of citrus.

1st third:
Starts of with a light cedar note, a touch of medium roasted coffee and a finisher of milk chocolate of the creamy variety.
There is also a smooth creamy nougat taste.

2nd third:
Keeps the same creamy notes but with a citrus under tone which is quite subtle but perfect contribution to give an interesting twist.

The burn: Burns sharp, amazing white stable and firm ash.

Smoke: Smooth creamy voluminous smoke, white and cool.

3rd third:
The coffee notes emerge and are more promoted now than in the beginning. Still very enjoyable and smooth. Keeps the wonderful flavors from previous parts, all the way till the very end.

Conclusion:
Such a wonderful cigar, very rare to come across a cigar this well balanced between parts. Medium in bodied and power wise.

Result: In my book this is a 96 point cigar.

/Cigarmaster André

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Cigar Review – Bespoke Cigars Basilica C No.1

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13
Feb

Origin : Dominican Rep & Nicaragua
Format : Cañonazo
Size : 52 x 6″
Hand-Made
Price : ~17€ (20$)

Bought at Mellgrens Fine Tobacco, in Sweden.
Aged in my humidor for 3 years, so this cigar have the old style bands.

Tasting

Location: This review was made indoor in a cigar lounge.

Wrapper: Milk chocolate, oily smooth with tiny veins.

Construction: Firm even feel.

Cold draw: Light dry hay note with a touch of citrus.

1st third:
Starts of with a light cedar note, a touch of medium roasted coffee and a finisher of milk chocolate of the creamy variety.
There is also a smooth creamy nougat taste.

2nd third:
Keeps the same creamy notes but with a citrus under tone which is quite subtle but perfect contribution to give an interesting twist.

The burn: Burns sharp, amazing white stable and firm ash.

Smoke: Smooth creamy voluminous smoke, white and cool.

3rd third:
The coffee notes emerge and are more promoted now than in the beginning. Still very enjoyable and smooth. Keeps the wonderful flavors from previous parts, all the way till the very end.

Conclusion:
Such a wonderful cigar, very rare to come across a cigar this well balanced between parts. Medium in bodied and power wise.

Result: In my book this is a 96 point cigar.

/Cigarmaster André

You might be interested in these articles too:

Cigar Review – Bespoke Cigars Basilica C No.1

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13
Feb

Origin : Dominican Rep & Nicaragua
Format : Cañonazo
Size : 52 x 6″
Hand-Made
Price : ~17€ (20$)

Bought at Mellgrens Fine Tobacco, in Sweden.
Aged in my humidor for 3 years, so this cigar have the old style bands.

Tasting

Location: This review was made indoor in a cigar lounge.

Wrapper: Milk chocolate, oily smooth with tiny veins.

Construction: Firm even feel.

Cold draw: Light dry hay note with a touch of citrus.

1st third:
Starts of with a light cedar note, a touch of medium roasted coffee and a finisher of milk chocolate of the creamy variety.
There is also a smooth creamy nougat taste.

2nd third:
Keeps the same creamy notes but with a citrus under tone which is quite subtle but perfect contribution to give an interesting twist.

The burn: Burns sharp, amazing white stable and firm ash.

Smoke: Smooth creamy voluminous smoke, white and cool.

3rd third:
The coffee notes emerge and are more promoted now than in the beginning. Still very enjoyable and smooth. Keeps the wonderful flavors from previous parts, all the way till the very end.

Conclusion:
Such a wonderful cigar, very rare to come across a cigar this well balanced between parts. Medium in bodied and power wise.

Result: In my book this is a 96 point cigar.

/Cigarmaster André

You might be interested in these articles too:

Cigar Review – Bespoke Cigars Basilica C No.1

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View full post on Cigar Reviews and Ratings at Cigar Inspector

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09
Feb

Origin : CubaH. Upmann
Format : Robusto
Size : 124 x 50 ring gauge
Hand-Made
Strength : Light to Medium
Price : ~ € 13 / $ 15 each
More info about purchasing H. Upmann cigars…

H. Upmann cigars are classified by Habanos S.A. as light to medium strength and as a global brand in their portfolio.
The brand was first introduced in 1844.
The Anejados concept was introduced first in 2015 with the Romeo Y Julieta Piramides Anejados. Since then Cuba has released few cigar with a double band mentioning the concept name: Anejados. All these cigars have been aged in Cuba for 5 years or more, allowing the blend to be rounded and mellower when released.
Se far I haven’t had a very impressive cigar coming out of this new range from Habanos S.A.
Let’s see what the H Upmann Robusto tells us…

Draw : 5 out of 6 stars
Burn : 4 out of 6 stars
Flavour : 4.5 out of 6 stars
Aroma : 4 out of 6 stars
Strength : 3 out of 6 stars

Tasting

The cigar starts quite strong for an H Upmann. The brand characteristic develops creamy texture and light to medium strength. The beginning brings some spiciness in the back f the tongue. The draw is perfect but the cigar sometimes shows signs of weak burn even though the ash quickly reveal a great construction by standing long.
The draw is sometimes too easy. I have always liked a bit of resistance to my cigars and do not enjoy a fast burning cigar so much.
The strength decreases on the second part of the cigar turning light to medium and a slight creaminess finally appears after the bitter and vegetal first part.
The vegetal part also linked to fresh cigars sometimes is present until half way but do not bother me much as the balance is very enjoyable. Not at all a typical H Upmann flavour profile.

Past half way the cigar really opens up and wonderful flavours come up. I can read on my tasting notes “SO GOOD”. Creaminess, sweetness, lots of nuts, and roasted almonds appears. Allowing a round feeling yet very complex. It is a nice journey as the cigar evolves a lot even though it isn’t one of these big format.

Until the end, the intensity is high, the strength balanced and the flavours very rich. It reminds me of the 2005 Magnum 46 in packs of 3 we could still find not long ago in some cigar shops.

The last third is quite impressive. No bitterness, high acidity allowing the flavours to linger for long on the palate. Very interesting intensity. Stronger than expected but great nutty flavours and creamy structure.

Conclusion

Probably the best anejados cigar from Habanos. Very promising cigar, great size and nice complexity. It should get rounder and rounder over the years.

You might be interested in these articles too:

Cigar Review – H Upmann Robusto Anejados

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29
Jan

Origin : CubaPartagas
Format : Dalia
Size : 170mm X 43
Hand-Made
Price : UK price £22, 13.80 Euros online
More info about purchasing Partagas cigars…

This particular cigar takes his name from the way it is boxed. Indeed, the box contain 3 lines of cigars: the bottom and top lines are made of 8 sticks and the central line is made by 9, thus 8-9-8.

Appearance : 5 out of 5 stars

The Partagas 898 has a fantastic presentation, yet very classic with a beautiful maduro claro color dressed with the red and golden band by Partagas which makes it very elegant and classy. The wrapper is of a top quality, a bit veiny, but soft and silk with not much oil left on the stick. A suer smooth wrapper.

Construction : 4 out of 5 stars
The cigar is well rolled, the head cap holds the stick tightly and is perfectly applied. It comes off very easily with a straight cut, merit of the high quality leaves used to roll this beauty but more especially the roller work. The pre-draw already reveals the nature of the flavor profile, barnyard aromas, hearty and woody even if the tobacco is not burning yet.
Toward the smoke, the hash is a bit flaky and tends to drop from the foot every centimeter and half roughly.
The cigar is very easy to light and during the smoke it never felt plugged or tight to puff, once lit it will go all the way on his own, almost without the need of a lighter anymore.

Flavour : 4.5 out of 5 stars
The start of it is surprisingly mild, as I was expecting more power. The cold smoke at the very beginning is very pleasant as I can taste every single note distinctly, kind of hay and barn characteristic, with some cedar wood and vegetal notes coming through also, a touch of green pepper presents for the entire smoke.
As I continue to smoke and reach the second third, the smoke becomes denser and warmer, giving a sense of creaminess, missing at the beginning, with a touch of saltiness balancing this nice vegetal bitterness very persistent on the palate. I can now get notes of cereals, previously mentioned, pepper, mineral character, leather at some peaks, coffee beans and raw cocoa flavors.
At last, the cigar is at his full strength moving from medium to medium to full, the smoke now fulfill the palate touching every part of it and showing more and more complexity, creaminess and balance between mild acidity and creaminess. The flavor profile remains the same, cereals, vegetal, spicy and hearty characteristic just with more power and persistence.

Overall Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars

This is a great cigar. I particularly enjoyed the size of the 898, which is very elegant and reflect on the smoke also. The leaves used were of an excellent quality and the stick was very well rolled, as I only use the lighter once during the entire smoke. It is a wonderful cigar for an after meal smoke, especially at evening time.
Is not a cheap cigar, but the quality, the construction and the experience delivered totally justify the price which is not very expensive either.
I would love to have this cigar with an aged champagne or a spicy white wine such an Austrian grüner veltliner or an Alsatian gewürztraminer.

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Cigar Review – Partagas 8-9-8

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21
Jan

DavidoffOrigin : Dominican Republic
Format : Panetela
Size : 6″ x 38 ring gauge (152 mm x 15.08 mm)
Ring Gauge : 38
Origin : Dominican Republic
Hand-Made
Price : ~€20.90 – $25.50 each
More info about purchasing Davidoff Nicaragua cigars…

Draw : 4 out of 6 stars
Burn : 4 out of 6 stars
Flavour : 6 out of 6 stars
Aroma : 6 out of 6 stars
strength : 3 out of 6 stars

Introduction

The Davidoff 702 Series Signature No 2 – with the tri-Cuban-seed 702 Ecuadorian wrapper updating Davidoff’s Classic (now Signature) No 2 – offers a unique, really perfect, sweet and multi-dimensional flavour experience, tho it is somewhat fast-burning and perhaps a bit too mild given the luxe price.

Cigar history fans will recognise this long panetela vitola, as the exact preferred cigar shape & size of both Zino Davidoff himself, and Cuba’s Comandante Fidel Castro, two men who worked together for 3 decades.

Zino no doubt told successful revolutionary Fidel about how, as a boy working in his father’s Geneva, Switzerland cigar shop, young Zino had filled the tobacco requests of another successful revolutionary, a radical Russian exile named Vladimir Lenin.

Zino’s favourite Classic No 2 – recently renamed the Signature No 2 – has long been the Davidoff rival to Fidel’s identically-sized favourite, which Cohiba calls the Corona Especial, pictured in the second photo here alongside this new Davidoff No 2 with its dark and sweet 702 Ecuadorian wrapper. It’s natural to compare these identically-sized premium cigars, and so I’ll do so below.

Tasting
There is much that is great about this new dark-wrapper Davidoff offering, starting with the moment you pick up the cold cigar and bring it near your nose. There is an immediate lovely sweet aroma promising great things ahead, and that wonderful quality of aroma stays right through the smoke, as feminine opinion in the house confirmed to me.

With just the right extra oiliness and firmness to the touch, and with its black-ish good looks, it is a joy in the hand as one begins to prepare this pigtail-cap Davidoff for a first puff. Pre-draw is sweet and a bit leathery, tho I was later pleasantly surprised to find that there was no excessive leather taste during the smoke, as was my slight complaint with the Davidoff 702 Series 2000 using the same dark wrapper.

Initial puff was quite in cigar heaven. Superb flavour, sweetness amidst roasted coffee and nuts, just a delight. By contrast, the Cohiba Coronas Especiales – great cigars, certainly enough – tend to start out with quite mild and subtle flavours, especially in the first third.

One of the things I was looking for here in this Ecuadorian wrapper No 2, is what one experiences very distinctively in the regular Davidoff Classic – Signature No 2: A special ‘dimensionality’ in the cigar, where the sensations are on a couple of different spatial levels.

And very wonderfully, that was here too in this 702 No 2 Davidoff. All at the same time, one can feel a tingle high up in the nose, in the back of the palate, and on the tongue, so that your taste seems to be expanded in 3-D. This makes the cigar seem very ‘full-bodied’, even tho – especially with the ordinary Signature No 2 – it is a somewhat mild cigar. That sensation, is a major reason why every now and then I’ve picked up a No 2 Davidoff.

As the smoke proceeded with this 702 No 2, I had some minutes of a somewhat un-Davidoff-like tight draw toward the end of the 1st third, which also marked the introduction of some at first strong bitter fruit flavours. Later those flavours eased a bit, but remained and lent some sophistication to the overall sweetness.

The great virtue of this cigar was its excellent, delicious, evolving, sweet-tinged flavours. Second third was very rich, and so was the final third, at moments more of coffee or cocoa or roasted nuttiness. Toward the nub the bitterness heightened once again till it gave the ‘time to say farewell’ signal.

Had a chuckle about one aspect being the same both with this 702 No 2 Davidoff and the Cohiba Corona Especial – the varying in ash longevity. In both cigars, the ash usually didn’t hold that long in the first third – about 1.5cm – but became more solid in the 2nd third, holding over 2.5cm before dropping off. Ash was quite strikingly white from the Davidoff.

But in most ways, these two cigars are hugely different experiences. The 702 Davidoff has truly rich, Brasil-tobacco type sweet flavours that are very strong and pleasing throughout the cigar. The flavour palette in the Cohiba is certainly a pleasant one, tho much milder, more of cedar with a bit of honey and a fair amount of spice and pepper.

Somewhat significantly given the higher price of the Davidoff (€21 vs €19 for the Cohiba in my neighbourhood), the Davidoff burned much more quickly, too quickly really, so I get 40% more smoking time out of the identical-length Cohiba. Both cigars draw well, Cohiba being one Cuban marque that often has near-Davidoff construction quality.

But the Cohiba has a greatness that the Davidoff really didn’t, the Cohiba having superb Cuban cigar headiness and strength, whereas the Davidoff here – placing the new 702 wrapper on a quite mild cigar to begin with – remained a somewhat less forceful smoke.

With the Cohiba Corona Especial, after an often-very-mild first section, the latter two-thirds of the stick tend to place one quite squarely in pure Cuban cigar dreamy-thought-land. Between that and the slower burn, the Cohiba is totally satisfying despite its sometimes leisurely start, truly a world-class cigar.

With the Davidoff, however, tho I am enjoying very rich, sweet flavour throughout, I don’t quite get the cigar impact I would crave for this tariff, whilst the cigar also disappears into smoke much more quickly.

This was a contrast with my experience with the Davidoff 702 Series 2000 Corona, where I had some more Cuban-style cigar headiness with that slightly thicker stick. That cigar had a slightly excessive leathery taste for me, but given its much lower price point (€16 vs €21), I might recommend the 2000 as a better value for the experience of the 702 series sweet Ecuador wrapper.

Most other cigars in the 702 series, are thicker cigars from the stronger Aniversario line used as a base for the Ecuador wrapper, and no doubt there is some good cigar headiness to be found amongst them.

For the ‘sweet flavour’ experience on its own, I’d suggest some of the Brasil-wrapper cigars as from Balmoral Royal Maduro or CAO Brasilia, both under €10.

Despite top-class, unique aroma and flavour here in the Davidoff 702 Series No 2, in the end I am a bit hesitant about this very tasty stick, given the price point. That strongly ‘dimensional’ aspect of the flavouring, tickling you from nose to palate to tongue, is something worth experiencing, but I’d tend to suggest the regular Davidoff Signature No 2 at the lower price level (€17 vs €21) to enjoy that in a ‘purer’ form.

And though lacking the Davidoff’s rich, sweet flavours, the Cohiba Coronas Especiales, given the vivid Cuban headiness they provide, have still not been knocked off their panetela pedestal.

You might be interested in these articles too:

Cigar Review -Davidoff 702 Series Signature No 2

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16
Dec

Origin : CubaH. Upmann
Format : Cremas
Size : 5 1/2″ x 40 ring gauge (140mm x 15.87mm)
Hand-Made
Strength : Light to Medium
Price : ~ € 4,50 / $ 5.40 each
More info about purchasing H. Upmann cigars…

H. Upmann cigars are classified by Habanos S.A. as light to medium strength and as a global brand in their portfolio.
The brand was first introduced in 1844.

Draw : 2 out of 6 stars
Burn : 3 out of 6 stars
Flavour : 3 out of 6 stars
Aroma : 4 out of 6 stars
Strength : 3 out of 6 stars

Introduction

The Herman Upmann Majestic is a modest-priced long, fully hand-rolled Cuban cigar, with a mild, pleasing tho sometimes fading flavour palette, but too often a very tight, laborious draw.

At the Habanos shop, it’s a tempting purchase, given that amongst long Cuban cigars (5 1/2″ – 140mm or more), the Upmann Majestic is not only from a famous Cuban global brand, but usually the lowest-price hand-rolled long Cuban stick for sale, in a wider-than-panetela thickness. Looking very substantial, the ‘light-to-medium’ strength Majestic suggests a long, pleasant afternoon smoke, but the frequency of very tight draws with this 40-ring-gauge cigar, diminishes its value for money.

Given the low price point for a hand-rolled long-filler Cuban, it’s not surprising the Upmann Majestics can be a bit rough and varied in appearance. The one here has a darker wrapper than usual, which I selected in the hope – true as it turns out – there might be some additional sweet flavour in it.

A severely tight draw, was true in this case as with some other Majestics I’ve had. This is a problem generally with slender-gauge Cubans, frustrating for a panetela-type guy like myself. With narrow Cubans, I think there tends to be some over-packing as the cigar is reinforced in the band area, where your fingers would grasp it. This often needs to be loosened up.

What saved the smoke with this Majestic, was my trusty cigar-piercing tool, an item which I heartily recommend to all Cuban stogie aficionados. The single blade on mine is 7cm (2 3/4″) long, and has saved many a ‘plugged’ cigar from the dustbin. Not all cigar merchants have these, but mine was less than €20 at a Habanos shop.

Tasting

Pre-draw after punching had the appealing Upmann wood with creaminess, and a bit of sweetness too. But after lighting, my battle with the draw began, extending through nearly all of the first third of the cigar, the stick needing several pokes and twists of my cigar tool.

When I could coax some smoke, there was some nice but mild cedar, some cream, bitter but pleasing fruit rind, a bit of spice. I overheated the cigar at moments with all my puffing work. At the end of the first third I finally won the battle with the tight draw, and then could proceed to a normal cigar enjoyment.

The other aspect of these Majestics that is negative, is some flavour fade. Upmanns sometimes keep more aroma than flavour, and that was true here. Flavour in general is a bit mild, but sometimes goes missing in action.

But as the draw eased, the middle third showed some good flavour richness at points. Adding to the woodiness and bit of cream, were some hints of coffee and even a bit of caramel, perhaps from the unusually dark wrapper here. Along with flavour bursts there were moments when flavour was barely there … and then new mild bursts appeared, more cedar and now with some citrus along with the bitter fruit rind.

The final section had more rewards, as if to repay me for all my hard work in the first third. There were more spice notes, some roasted nut sensations that at moments was decently strong. After some final bursts there, flavour went missing again approaching the nub, signalling time to say farewell.

Burn was a bit uneven but not too bad, slowed of course by the tight draw. Ash on this one was a bit odd and zebra-like, black and white and grey, holding fairly well and leaving a nice point after drop-off.

Given the draw issues that recur with the Majestics, I’m inclined to suggest alternatives to it, despite its low price for a hand-rolled long Cuban. For a battle-free session with a 40-ring-gauge Cuban, I would suggest going big in price, as with a curly-cap Trinidad Reyes (40 x 110mm), or a Cohiba Siglo I (40 x 102mm). Or alternatively, for an even lower price than the Majestic, the short-filler but hand-finished (traditional cigar cap) medium-strength Quintero offerings in 40 ring gauge, the Londres or Nacionales, usually easy to puff if less subtle in flavour. Another good short-filler value to consider here, is the Por Larrañaga Panetela (37 x 127), in the same ‘light-to-medium’ strength category as H. Upmann.

For a better introduction to Cuban Herman Upmann cigars and their satisfying, creamy flavour palette, with less likelihood of draw problems, the 42-ring-gauge Petit Corona Mareva (129mm) or Corona Major (132mm) are good choices, and also the short 44-ring-gauge Upmann Half Corona (90mm), all ones I would suggest before the Majestic.

Upmann cigars are quite storied, being one of the very oldest still-produced Cuban cigar marques, dating back to the 1840s, when banker Herman Upmann, seeking his fortune in Cuba, tried to start a shipping business, and selected cigars which he sent to Europe with his name on the box … Herr Upmann found that what people requested from him, was not shipping services, but ‘more of those great Upmann cigars’.

Noted Upmann smokers include US President John F Kennedy, who in 1962 notoriously delayed signing off on the USA’s Cuban cigar embargo, so his aide Pierre Salinger could raid all the local shops and buy up over 1000 Upmann cigars for JFK’s personal stash.

You might be interested in these articles too:

Cigar Review – H Upmann Majestic

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13
Dec

Origin : Nicaragua
CAO CigarsFormat : Robusto
Size : 4 1/2″ x 46 ring gauge (114mm x 18.26mm)
Wrapper : Brazil Bahia
Filler : Nicaragua
Binder : Nicaragua
Hand-Made
Price : ~ € 7,00 / $ 8.40 each
More info about purchasing CAO Flathead…

Draw : 3 out of 6 stars
Burn : 4 out of 6 stars
Flavour : 4 out of 6 stars
Aroma : 6 out of 6 stars
Strength : 4 out of 6 stars

Introduction
The CAO Brazilia Piranha is a satisfying, slow-burning, short thick corona, with a pleasing, full-bodied, tho not varied flavour, marrying the sweetness of a very dark Brazil Bahia wrapper, with heady Nicaraguan binder & filler tobacco.

CAO cigars take their brand name from the initials of the company’s founder, Cano Aret Ozgener, born to Armenian-heritage parents in Istanbul, Turkey, Ozgener later moving to Nashville, Tennessee, USA where the company began.

Tasting

A striking cigar in appearance, its very black Brazilian wrapper signalling to us Brazil tobacco fans that there is likely some of the famous Brasil tobacco natural sweetness to be enjoyed here. An interesting vitola too, in the classic ‘corona gorda’ 46 ring gauge, most always rolled in quite long cigars, but here in a nice compact 4 1/2″ (114mm) package. In a nice bow to its Brazilian character, the colourful CAO Brazilia cigar band declares ‘Feito à mão’ – ‘Made by hand’ – in Portuguese.

Packaged in cellophane, the cigar seemed a bit over-firm at first, but a few days to mellow in the humidor with cellophane removed, readied it for a smoke. Wrapper not super-smooth, and not as oily to the touch as one might expect in this stick, but very clearly Brazil.
The aroma of this cigar was exceptionally delicious both before and after lighting. During the smoke one had the feeling of being at a ski lodge in front of a warm wood fire, with a pot of melted caramel simmering nearby.

Pre-draw brings the taste of cocoa to the lips, pleasing those of us who have a tobacco sweet-tooth. It does surprise me that these cocoa-caramel-hinting Brasil cigar wrappers, are not even more popular in the cigar world.

The oily Brasil cigar wrappers are noted for sometimes having burn problems, and this was one of those sticks where that occurred, complicated by a stick just a bit too tightly rolled in part, so the first 10 minutes were a real battle here. Initial draw was very tight, to the point I had to use the cigar-piercing tool I keep handy for the narrow-vitola hand-rolled Cubans. Burn at first was wildly irregular, needing some touch-ups, and there was at first much less flavour than I expected.

But after 10 minutes, the crisis was over, a big puff of smoke signalled a better draw, and the burn became beautifully regular, remaining so until the end. Nice white-grey ash, and one of the slowest-burning sticks I have smoked in a while, too.

Initial flavour was that of cocoa matched with some woodiness. As the initial draw and burn problems subsided, there was more of a sense of a wood fire going, co-ordinate with the sweetness, and that remained the dominant sense throughout. Tho the flavour was satisfying, it did not vary much. There was an initial burst of spice and pepper notes after the draw eased, and an occasional mild return of spice afterwards; and a bit of coffee and nuts in the final third before harshness set in at the nub. Some slight harshness also showed up in the middle, nothing major.

But very attractively, the pleasing if simple flavour combination, felt very full-bodied. The cigar was also reasonably heady and medium-strong, strength on the level of a Montecristo firing on all cylinders, tho with a less-sophisticated and simpler flavour palette. One interesting thing I could do during the smoke, was dial the flavour level versus headiness up-and-down. A gentle puff and I got more sweet flavour, like drinking hot chocolate in front of a fire … a stronger puff and there was a bit less flavour but much more headiness, that stronger-cigar feeling.

A natural comparison of the CAO Brazilia Piranha, is to the comparably-priced, also hand-rolled long-filler, thinner but longer (37 x 139mm), Balmoral Royal Maduro Panatela, also with a Brasil Bahia wrapper, but with Dominican & Brazilian filler and Dominican binder, giving it a very different character. In the Balmoral Royal, the Brasil-Dominican tobacco combination gives a little more of a subtle and sophisticated and milder smoke, whereas the CAO Brazilia has less subtlety but more strength and headiness.

For me – admittedly biased in favour of slender sticks generally – I would give the nod to the subtler Balmoral, tho I understand many would prefer the CAO Brazilia with its more potent, even if simpler, profile. The CAO Brazilia seems to have what I often see in cigars designed for the USA market – a bit more of in-your-face cigar flavour that is consistent, but this extra flavour overwhelming the sense of progression and subtlety some of us in enjoy in Cuban sticks, or more European-designed hand-rolled cigars such as those from Davidoff or Balmoral.

You might be interested in these articles too:

Cigar Review – CAO Brazilia Piranha

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05
Dec

CamachoOrigin : Honduras
Format : Petit Panetela
Size : 4″ x 32 ring gauge (102mm x 12,70mm)
Origin : Honduras
Hand-Made
Price : ~ € 3,30 / $ 4.00 each
More info about purchasing Camacho Corojo cigars…

Draw : 5 out of 6 stars
Burn : 4 out of 6 stars
Flavour : 4 out of 6 stars
Aroma : 3 out of 6 stars
Strength : 3 out of 6 stars

Introduction

The Camacho Corojo Machito is a small, fully long-filler, hand-rolled Honduran cigar, offering rich flavour and great value for the modest price, if not quite the depth of more expensive sticks.

The brand takes its name from Simon Camacho, the company’s 1960s founder. ‘Corojo’ is the name of a legendary Cuban tobacco wrapper leaf, no longer cultivated there in its ‘pure’ form due to disease vulnerability, the Corojo-seed leaves in Honduras being the defining tobacco of this all-Honduran cigar.

‘Machito’ is the term used by Camacho for these petit panetelas, a word often meaning ‘riding high’ or ‘well-placed’. Typically sold in tins of 6 cigars, the Davidoff stores – Camacho is now a part of Oettinger-Davidoff – sometimes also sell these Machitos individually.

Tasting

The cigar as a whole seems slightly thicker than its official 32 ring gauge, comparing more with the 33-34 ring gauge cigars in my humidor. Wrapper is smooth and pleasant to the touch, tho with some quite different colour patches affecting the appearance, especially once that too-wide cigar band is slipped off.

Pre-draw after punching is delightful, with spice & sweet citrus, tho I am surprised afterwards in that there is not so much spice in actually smoking the stick.

With lighting, lots of flavour is immediately on the scene, giving the sense that this cigar is a great bargain. Citrus with nuts and a wood fire in the first few minutes, then just mostly sweet citrus and the woodiness, with an occasional touch of a barbecue flavour. Draw is great, tho the first half burns a bit too quickly, reversing the usual image of Corojos as rather burn-resistant.

The middle third begins with glorious flavour richness and a sense of a full-bodied cigar, belying the slender ring gauge. This is the real sweet spot of the cigar, which alas burns away too quickly. As the mid-point of the cigar begins, the flavour shifts to a somewhat darker tone, bitter tho not unpleasant, as if one is tasting the pits of fruit, or the walnut shell instead of the walnut.

That bitter-but-ok tone fades as the final third begins, and now a pleasant nutty flavour begins to dominate, a little bit of the citrus fruitiness also nudging in now and then.

Remained quite good getting down to the nub, but I couldn’t resist cutting it open to verify this really was a long-filler cigar, and indeed it was, lovely wrapped filler leaves there to be seen.

Ash was a nice grayish white, holding for a half-inch or so, ok for a slender cigar like this.

A very nice short smoke for the price, lots of flavour and interest thru the smoke. But in some ways this small Machito hit me as a bit of a candy-store cigar, lots of flavour there, maybe not the depth I would find in more sophisticated (& expensive) smokes. The Camacho Corojo did not seem particularly strong in this small package, it’s a good way to get introduced to this rich flavour palette.

It’s common for cigar makers now to offer their shortest cigar like this as a panetela, but my thought is somewhat the opposite … do a 4 to 4.5 inch cigar as a short corona, and then do a 5 or 5.5 inch panetela as well as a longer corona … a 34 to 38 ring panetela thickness is a great way to have a longer but lighter smoke, and a very elegant cigar appearance-wise, whilst short sticks satisfy more if a little thicker.

You might be interested in these articles too:

Cigar Review – Camacho Corona Machito

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