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.