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03
May

Balmoral Royal Maduro Panatela

Balmoral CigarsOrigin : Dominican Republic
Format : Panatela
Size : 139mm (5 1/2 inches) x 37 (14.68mm)
Wrapper : Brazilian Arapiraca
Filler : Brazilian & Dominican
Binder : Dominican Olor
Hand-Made
Price : ~$6.5 EUR / 7.5 USD

Today we are publishing a guest quick smoke review from our long-time reader, Beneluxor! Enjoy.

Dutch company Balmoral dates back to the 1890s, and is distinctive in Europe for having both very popular ranges of short-filler machine-made slightly upscale cigars – like their ‘Sumatra’ line using Indonesian Java – Sumatra, Brazilian & Havana Remedios tobaccos – but also 5 lines of hand-rolled premium cigars, including this Royal Selection Maduro, which has quite won me over as a great favourite, one of the most satisfying maduro cigars out there.

A long-filler cigar hand-rolled in the Dominican Republic (Balmoral is part of Agio now), the wrapper is sweet dark Arapiraca from Brazil, the binder Dominican Olor, and the filler from both Brazil & the Dominican Republic.

The Balmoral Royal Maduro Panatela here is a unique elegant vitola, 37 ring rauge (14.68mm), and 139mm (5 1/2 inches) long. A great virtue of slender cigars is that the flavour impact of the wrapper can be heightened dramatically, as happens in smoking these lovely sticks.

It’s an exciting cigar, rewarding with wonderful explosions of flavours suggesting dark chocolate & espresso, rich but not over-strong, and tends to be very tasty well into the final third. It draws easily and makes nice ash. The amount of flavour burst can vary during the smoke and cigar-to-cigar, but generally stays in the upper end of flavour richness for maduros. The Balmoral Royal is for me, the top maduro value.

A singularly stylish & good-looking cigar too with the wrapper, the well-balanced sizing & the striking green cigar band, it’s not too pricey (around € 6,50 in my neighbourhood). With tobacco from their former Indonesian realms, the Dutch became great masters of the cigar business, and with this stick it’s clear that they still organise the making of great cigars today.

Thumbs Up!

Balmoral Royal Maduro Panatela (Quick Smoke Series)

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25
Feb

Where to Buy and Smoke Cigars in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh Ville

If you’ve ever found yourself in Ho Chi Minh City, better known as Saigon, you know that this is a fascinating city with a lot to see and do. There is beautiful French colonial architecture and a great deal of history to explore. But you may find yourself feeling a little bit lost when it comes to cigars.

This is because (to my knowledge) there really is basically just one decent shop. Thankfully there are a few classy bars, most of them located on rooftops (you might be able to buy cigars in some of those bars, but at higher prices). Here is the rundown so that you know where to go if you are ever in Saigon!

The Humidor

The Humidor shop in Saigon

This is that one decent shop I mentioned, also sometimes called “Humidor Shop.” You’ll find it in District 1. It’s in the Sun Wah building—look for Citibank and you should find it right nearby. It’s on the right side of the building. The shop isn’t very big, but don’t let that fool you; it’s very well-stocked. A lot of that stock isn’t actually on display, so you will have to ask for it. This may take some doing if you are not fluent in Vietnamese.

Humidor Shop in Saigon - the selection

In terms of prices, these cigars are less expensive than those you’ll find at the Duty Free shop in Hong Kong, but still not cheap. Here are some prices that I observed in January 2016:

You can buy accessories at the store too if you need them. One word of warning—you may find the cigars are a bit moist. This is a problem country-wide so far as I can tell, so be prepared to air them out a bit when you get back to your room.

Address: Sunwah Tower, 115, Đường Nguyễn Huệ, Phường Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam (Google Maps >)

Rex Hotel: Rooftop Bar

This bar at the Rex Hotel is actually only five floors off the ground, so it is hardly the highest in town, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it offers an excellent view of the streets below. It’s also right nearby the People’s Committee Hall and Saigon Opera House, which both feature stunning French colonial architecture.

View of Saigon (the Rex Hotel is in the foreground) from the Sheraton rooftop bar

In terms of ambiance and nightlife, this place couldn’t be better. There is mood lighting and a big wood floor which includes a dance floor and a stage. There is music and dancing after 8:00 pm, and the drink list is huge. It’s an awesome place to relax with a cigar from The Humidor or party the night away.

Address: 141 Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam (Google Maps >)

Shri Restaurant & Lounge

If you are looking to get away from the crowds, head for Shri in District D3. You’ll be away from the city center, which has a couple of benefits. First off, the atmosphere is a lot more tranquil and laid-back. Secondly, you arguably get a better view of the downtown area since you’re just outside of it.

You won’t find as much trendy mood lighting here and the feel isn’t quite so contemporary, but it’s a really lovely spot to smoke a cigar and watch the sun set over Saigon.

Address: 72 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, 6, 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam (Google Maps >)

Social Club / Rooftop Bar

The Social Club is the rooftop bar for the Hotel des Arts Saigon MGallery Collection. It’s actually located right across from the Shri Restaurant & Lounge in the neighboring Centec Tower, so if you stay here, you can check out both of them.

View from the MGallery rooftop bar

This place is pretty much unbeatable when it comes to atmosphere and design. The look is minimalist; you’ll find a rooftop pool surrounded by glass walls which offer an unobstructed view of the city. Sofas and lounge chairs offer a variety of options for comfortable seating. There is also a bar in the pool where you can sit on stools with your legs dangling in the water. As with Shri, you will feel like you have really gotten away from it all here.

Address: MGallery Saigon, 76-78 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, phường 6, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam (Google Maps >)

A&B Tower: Chill Skybar

You will find the Chill Skybar on the 27th floor of the A&B Tower. Since you are high up in the air, you get quite a few of the surrounding city. You are directly overlooking the financial district, and can watch the cars driving through the Ben Thanh roundabout. This is a very popular and trendy destination which can get to be pretty crowded, but you will feel like you are on top of the world while you are smoking here. Make sure that you wear close-toed shoes and long pants—the dress code forbids both sandals and shorts.

Address: AB Tower, 76 Lê Lai, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam (Google Maps >)

There are a ton of rooftop bars throughout Saigon, but those are the four that I am familiar with from my recent trip and which I’ve heard a lot of other smokers recommend as well. Head to the Humidor to shop, and then enjoy a smoke with a view!

You might be interested in these articles too:

Where to Buy and Smoke Cigars in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City

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19
Jan

Great Winter Smoke Sampler

A few weeks ago we published an article with a selection of our favorite short cigars for winter. Thanks to your comments, that article has since been updated with even more suggestions and became a truly valuable resource.

We went even further and partnered with our friends at Famous Smoke to give you an opportunity to purchase some of the cigars from our selection at a discounted rate. This is how the “Great Winter Smoke Sampler” was born. The 8-pack consists of the following cigars:

  • 2 x H.Upmann Sun Grown Short Churchill
  • 2 x Herrera Esteli Short Corona Gorda
  • 2 x Joya Red Short Churchill
  • 2 x Oliva Serie G Special G

The sampler is offered at $29.99 (~$3.75 per cigar), which is a 36% discount on MSRP. You can have a look and order here.

A Special Winter Smoke Sampler

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19
Jan

Great Winter Smoke Sampler

A few weeks ago we published an article with a selection of our favorite short cigars for winter. Thanks to your comments, that article has since been updated with even more suggestions and became a truly valuable resource.

We went even further and partnered with our friends at Famous Smoke to give you an opportunity to purchase some of the cigars from our selection at a discounted rate. This is how the “Great Winter Smoke Sampler” was born. The 8-pack consists of the following cigars:

  • 2 x H.Upmann Sun Grown Short Churchill
  • 2 x Herrera Esteli Short Corona Gorda
  • 2 x Joya Red Short Churchill
  • 2 x Oliva Serie G Special G

The sampler is offered at $29.99 (~$3.75 per cigar), which is a 36% discount on MSRP. You can have a look and order here.

A Special Winter Smoke Sampler

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29
Nov

Tatuaje Cojonu 2006

TatuajeOrigin : United States (Miami/FL)
Format : Torpedo
Size : 5.5 x 52
Wrapper : Shade-grown Nicaraguan Viso
Filler : Nicaragua
Binder : Nicaragua
Hand-Made
Price : ~$13
More info about purchasing Tatuaje cigars…

The Cojonu (ballsy in Spanish) series by Tatuaje is comprised of several blends, each released in a given year – it doesn’t mean that the cigar was produced during that year though, so we can’t really talk about “vintages” here. Some of the blends have previously been reviewed on the site: Tatuaje Cojonu 2003, Tatuaje Cojonu 2009 & Tatuaje Cojonu 2012.

Construction is absolutely flawless with this cigar. The roll is seamless, the cigar is firm to the touch with a little bit of bounce.

The draw is great on the Cojonu 2006 and the burn is even. The ash was nice and compact with no flowering but it was very weak and fell off at about the half inch mark. The body of these cigars is medium to full but the strength is full especially towards the end of the cigar where it gave me a little buzz.

Some nice deep rich flavors from the start. I get coffee beans, nuts and a toasty almost chary cedar flavor. There is some pepper but it is very balanced with the rest of the flavors. In the second third some sweet honey notes come in and out which gives the cigar a nice creamy texture in the mouth. The final third was much of the same with the addition of some cocoa flavors. The flavors also became more full and pronounced in the final third.

I really enjoyed the Tatuaje Cojonu 2006 blend. The price tag on this guy is way out of an everyday cigar, but would make a nice occasional smoke for most of us. The flavors were balanced and complex which is a must for a cigar that goes over $10. The one downside to this cigar is that it doesn’t vary much from the other Tatuaje Miami’s that I’ve smoked except for the fact that it is a little stronger than the regular line.

Above Average

Tatuaje Cojonu 2006 (Quick Smoke Series)

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22
Nov

Casa Torano Maduro

Origin : Nicaragua
Torano cigarsFormat : Robusto
Size : 4 7/8 x 52
Wrapper : Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Filler : Dominican, Nicaraguam
Binder : Nicaraguan
Hand-Made
Price : ~$6.50 per single
More info about purchasing Casa Toraño Maduro…

The Casa Torano Maduro is by far the darkest Maduro I have ever seen. This cigar has a jet black wrapper with virtually no veins and has a solid feel to it. The roll is seamless but has a sloppy double cap.

It has a nice draw with a bit of resistance. The burn is fairly even and the ash is a whitish grey color that is solid and has no flowering or flaking. The body of the cigar is medium as well as the strength of the cigar.

The Carlos Torano Casa Torano Maduro has a base flavor of wood and natural tobacco but features nice notes of roasted nuts, coffee beans, and a fruity sweetness that reminds me of maraschino cherries; you know the ones they put on your ice cream sunday, or in your Old Fashioned’s. However, as the cigar progresses, the cherry sweetness turns more to an apple flavor which is quite interesting. Overall the flavors are about medium in intensity on this cigar.

Overall I thought this was a nice cigar. It has some nice complexity to it and for $6.50 I think it’s a superb deal. This is usually not the style of cigar I smoke but I really enjoyed the Casa Torano. I am one of the Don Pepin, heavy hitting, fuller the better cigar smokers and I think that crowd may not like this cigar because it doesn’t have that pop or flare that those types of cigar typically have. However, I think if they are in the right mindset that this is going to be a delicate smoke I think they could really enjoy it.

Thumbs Up!

Casa Torano Maduro (Quick Smoke Series)

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01
Nov

Litto Gomez Diez Cubano

Origin : Dominican Republic
Litto Gomez Diez cigarsFormat : Robusto
Size : 5 x 50
Wrapper : Dominican
Filler : Dominican
Binder : Dominican
Hand-Made
Price : ~$10 each
More info about purchasing Litto Gomez Diez Cubano…

This is an average looking cigar with a smooth feeling, light brown colored wrapper. There are a few moderate sized veins in the wrapper but they should not be a problem. The cigar seems packed very well with tobacco and there are no noticeable defects with the cigar.

The Litto Gomez Diez Cubano has a nice draw with some resistance that produces an average amount of smoke. The burn was even with no touch-ups needed and the ash held well but was farily flaky. The body of this cigar starts off medium to full but mellows down through the cigar and dips down to the lower end of the medium spectrum. The strength of this cigar is medium to full.

The Cubano has a nice woody core with some floral notes, black pepper and a bit of leather. Some may think this cigar is a bit dry on the palate but there is just enough sweetness on this cigar to balance things out a bit. As the cigar progresses, the pepper backs down and is thrown in the background. Other than that there are no major changes throughout the cigar.

When all is said and done I did enjoy this cigar. The flavor profile was a nice change of pace but I got a little bored with it. For a $10 cigar, I was expecting there to be a little more complexity and a little more of a roller coaster ride but there was none to be had.

Verdict: Above Average

Litto Gomez Diez Cubano (Quick Smoke Series)

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18
Oct

Viaje Platino Chiva

Origin : Nicaragua
Viaje cigarsFormat : Robusto
Size : 5 x 52
Wrapper : Nicaraguan Corojo 99
Filler : Nicaraguan
Binder : Nicaraguan
Hand-Made
Price : ~$8 each

The Viaje Platino is a very nice looking cigar. The chocolate colored wrapper has a slight tint of red to it and has some very small veins running throughout. The seams are even and the roll looks great. The cigar sports a nice looking green, silver and white primary band and a silver cloth foot band which is a nice added touch.

The draw on this cigar was a bit snug compared to the others I smoked before this review but it gave me enough smoke to satisfy me. The burn was even for the most part and the ash, although a dark gray, was compact and had zero flowering. The body of the Viaje is medium to full while the strength is average.

The Viaje Platino starts off with some nice earthy coffee like flavors along with some red pepper spice. The flavors are very rich and pronounced and I really like that about this cigar. The flavors didn’t change much in the second third but the final third offered an even more intense flavor profile.

Overall I really enjoyed the Viaje Platino. The flavors are nice and pronounced and are definitely not shy. It is a good smoke for cigar enthusiasts who like Don Pepin / Tatuaje flavor profile with a different approach.

Thumbs Up!

Viaje Platino Chiva (Quick Smoke Series)

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11
Oct

CAO MX2

Origin : Honduras
CAO CigarsFormat : Toro
Size : 5.5 x 55
Wrapper : Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler : Nicaraguan, Honduran, Dominican, Peruvian
Binder : Brazilian
Hand-Made
Price : ~$7 each
More info about purchasing CAO MX2 cigars…

The CAO MX2 Box Press sports a dark brown wrapper with a contemporary looking black and silver band along with a secondary band stating “Box-Press,” just in case you couldn’t feel or see the sharp box press on this cigar. There are some pretty big veins on this cigar which pop out from the rest of the wrapper. The wrapper also has a wrinkled look in some areas especially near the head of the cigar.

The cigar has a nice medium draw that produces thick billowing clouds of smoke. The burn line is slightly uneven and is rather thick and somewhat bubbly. The ash is a medium gray color and has just a bit of flowering, but held on quite well. The body is medium to full and the strength is average.

The CAO MX2 Box Press offers a light earthy core with heavy notes of chocolate and espresso. There is some slight pepper to this cigar but is balanced pretty nicely with the rest of the cigar. The flavors don’t change much throughout the cigar but overall very good flavors.

I’ve smoked plenty of the regular MX2’s and have not been overly impressed. This cigar however, is a winner. I’m not sure if it’s the blend with some different tobacco in it, or if it is the box press that gives it a different flavor profile, but the flavors are much more rich and pronounced.

Thumbs Up!

CAO MX2 Box-Press (Quick Smoke Series)

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04
Oct

San Cristobal Clasico

Origin : NicaraguaSan Cristobal Supremo
Format : Robusto
Size : 5 x 50
Wrapper : Nicaraguan
Filler : Nicaraguan
Binder : Nicaraguan
Hand-Made
Price : $7-8 each
More info about purchasing San Cristobal cigars…

The San Cristobal is blended by the illustrious Don Pepin Garcia and is rolled in his factory in Estelí’ Nicaragua for Ashton Cigars. This was Pepin’s first cigar with the Levin’s (owners of Ashton) and was debuted at the RTDA (now known as IPCPR) back in 2007.

The first thing you notice about the San Cristobal is the gorgeous band that this cigar sports. A very intricate band with a lot of color and a lot of gold accents, this cigar band is one of the best in the business in my opinion. The wrapper on the cigar is darker brown in color and has minimal veins. The roll is good and sports a Cuban style triple cap; a very nice looking cigar.

The San Cristobal has a nice free draw that produces a ton of smoke. The burn is quite uneven and required some touch up’s but nothing out of the ordinary. The ash is a medium gray color and has minimal flowering that does flake off in some areas.

Right off the bat you can tell this is a Pepin cigar. The San Cristobal starts off with some red pepper spice which mellows down after the first inch. After the initial blast the cigar settles into a nice combination of sweet cedar, coffee, and roasted almonds. Overall the cigar is nicely balanced and though the flavors do not change much between thirds, they have nice complexity on the palate. The body is medium to full as is the strength of the cigar.

I’ve smoked through quite a few of these San Cristobal’s and this cigar never disappoints. The flavor of the cigar is great and it balanced nicely. The only gripe I have is that for the price it could offer some a little more complexity between the thirds of the cigar, however this had never stopped me from picking up more of these cigars.

Thumbs Up!

San Cristobal Clasico (Quick Smoke Series)

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