Thursday, July 23, 2009

Don Pepin Garcia - El Rey de los Habanos (Red Label) Robusto

A really nice cigar, and quite a well-kept secret as far as reviews and Pepin products go. I've been smoking one of these every few months for two years now, and I swear that every time I go to the local tobacconists that carry them (John B. Hayes in Fairoaks, and Leesburg Pipe & Cigar) it seems like the box has gone untouched since the last time I grabbed two or three of these cigars. Surprising, because I find these cigars to be the equivalent of Sauternes, or Frankish eisweins. Younger they tend toward a honey, oaty and vanilla character that wafts over a foundation of hay, smoked meats, raw peanuts and traces of yellow mustard (Nicaraguan tang). After a bit of time in my humidor (a little over a year for this last piece) I noticed much less of the hay and meatiness amidst the honey and oats. An interesting combination of warm milk and strawberries was also apparent on several occassions, as well as what can only be described as the presence of Kelloggs Smacks which blasted into the profile quite nicely twice--initially just short of the midpoint, then again before the final third. The mouthfeel was slightly oily which led to a long, wonderfully complex and chewy finish that often defied description. Prior to lighting, these smell fantastic, similar to the honey, floral and melon notes I get off of well aged Cuban wrappers, and while these don't render the hearty gourmet nuances of well aged Cubans, they are nonetheless extremely fine (I'm thinking gourmet desserts as opposed to all seven courses). With a little more age these cigars could soften into a more nebulous (less punchy) profile, but I have to admit that I am a fan of its rather young concentrated, kaleidoscopic nature--hence, the comparison drawn above. I've never had any construction or burn issues, though this last piece was dropped some time ago, I think as I removed the cellophane sleeve to place it in my humidor, and the wrapper flaked off near the label. The resulting blemish wasn't further exacerbated by smoking (down to the nub), and I'd say that's quite a testament to this cigar's construction quality.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Oliva "O" Coronas

Been smoking one of these a month for a little over a year, and have found them to be extremely reliable and lively cigars. The first few (spring/summer 08) exhibited leather, vanilla, Nicaraguan tang and some spice, which was followed up with caramel, Irish cream and cinnamon nuances. Throughout the fall and winter of '08, these cigars veered toward a pleasant, unique marshmallow & cashew affair mingled with dark tree fruits and berries, and they still managed to show the caramel, Irish cream and cinnamon backdrop during the finale of each smoke. This sweetness has been nudged aside in recent smokes, giving way to a buttery, citrus-y and effervescent quality that is quite wonderful--think of the fizz in Orangina, or extremely fresh pineapple juice that gets that nice foam on top when it is poured (NOT like what you get out of a Dole can). Also some hints of cherry cola emerging. Still some spice left in these cigars as the aging process continues. I have about ten left and I'm looking forward to each one. I've come to expect at least 3 defined flavor manifestations in these pieces, with haunting elements lingering throughout (the dark fruits I mentioned earlier, as well as citrus rind & truffle). Construction is wonderful in these elegant, nearly vein-free cigars and I've yet to encounter burn issues. Unfortunately, Oliva has told me they are unable to date their boxes, so getting an approximate age doesn't seem possible. Fortunately, these cigars have only been getting better. They're a slightly less aggressive alternative to the heavier-hitting/biting Nicaraguans, and these don't lose their charm as they age, which some of their brethren are often wont to do.

And, as I recall, this box cost me just under $100 at Leesburg Cigar & Pipe.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Argiolas - Costera - Isola dei Nuraghi : 2006


Still considerable tannins, but pleasant--and a good sign, as we'd like to have some of this around for the future. Liquorice, some mint and a nice mineral tease toward the finish, which turns somewhat salty and ought to go well with darker chocolate. Very strong aromas of sun-warmed strawberries and cherries. There is a delightful pepper presence, as well: a bit of spice in the nose when exhaling with a mouthful, and some spice in the back of the throat. Very juicy, a bit of tobacco--but dark, possibly aged, like an Amsterdam blended rolling tobacco, not like a Turkish blend. Well done. We're fans.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

J. Fuego "Delirium" [Robusto]

Brazilian Habano maduro; Costa Rican Corojo binder; Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers.

Good, solid construction. With some veins, a mottled appearance (similar to the contrasts in dark-stained, well aged mahogany) and a hint of plume, this cigar is rather attractive. In a couple of instances the veins keep the wrap from disappearing and creating a "seamless" effect. However, the jagged & somewhat rustic look that results is not without appeal. The triple cap is decent.

Starts out sweet with some truffle and grass. A refined and distinct introduction--less hay and grass than something I'd rather be eating. Moving on, as this cigar gains body and momentum it becomes primarily sweet. Cherry and other dark fruits move around and create an undertone. In the smoke, a nose of bread pudding, so I'd say caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, custard. On the finish, at this point, are a handful of minerals. The finish is also lively on the sides of the tongue, as coffee beans would be. Some Irish cream settles in after the 1/3. Then I get a gleam of espresso rubbed steak--not so much the meat itself (though smoked meats do creep in and out of this cigar's profile), perhaps more the espresso grounds with cooked fillet juices. So, the refinement keeps up. Good, solid ash. Very nice burn, as well, though at halfway there's a bit of tunneling (apparent after ashing) that eventually relents. Overall, a dry mouthfeel. The nose gets leathery around 2/3 and hints of Maryland-style crab crop up as an undertone. At this point the cigar is going from semi-sweet to mineral in no time flat, which is very interesting, and at the end the smoke's texture caresses much like nicely cooked, moist & flaky fish.

Very nicely balanced. Well-managed acidity all the way through, with subtelty that one can't often find right out of the box.