Nicaraguan cigars

Don Fernando Corona

Years ago, while very active on Cigar Asylum, I met Andrew Wood. He just finished high school and teamed up with an exchange student from Nicaragua and his brothers to make cigars in the small factory their family had. At least, that is how I remember the story. That small company, Guillen Diaz Wood aka GDW Cigars and the factory Guillen Cigars made two blends that because very popular very quickly on the board, Reserva Miraflor and Goviado. Popular in a way with a certain crowd that I can only compare to the decidation of the Jas Sum Kral crowd. And maybe, if Facebook would have been as big as it is now, those brands would still be around. But unfortunately they are not and Andrew has moved on to be a tobacco broker in Texas, Tabacos Mundial, and he helps quite some brands to get their goods to the US Market.

Now back in that day I helped Andrew a few times with planning, with the set up of group buys and I also arranged some group buys from The Netherlands, my country of origin, as Reserva Miraflor and Goviado became quite popular here too. And Andy appreciated it, he showed that in a very special way.


In may of 2009 I went on my first trip to the USA, with 3 other guys I did a road trip all along the east coast, we flew to Orlando, drove to Key Largo and from there all the way up to upstate New York. From there we flew to Las Vegas to spend the last few days of our trip. And about 30 other people from Cigar Asylum decided to come to Vegas too, to herf with us, including Andrew, with an amazing gift.

My nickname on Cigar Asylum is Don Fernando and Andy had a special blend made for me and gifted me a box of Don Fernando cigars with the Dutch flag incorporated on the box and on the ring. In total he had 24 boxes made, 6 boxes of Corona, Torpedo, Toro and Robusto, the other boxes were sold on the forum. I still have a few of the cigars left and it seemed appropriate to review the Don Fernando Corona on my birthday.


The wrapper feels silky but has a few veins running over the medium dark and oily wrapper. The construction feels good, and I must add that I had never had a cigar from Guillen Cigars that had any construction issue. The cigar is well capped with a triple cap. The ring is printed on shiny paper and is red white and blue colored, like our flag, with a silhouette of a cigar smoking man wearing a panama hat, as I did in those days. On the side it says Don Fernando and the ring has a double outline in black. The aroma is still quite strong, it reminds me of wood and pepper.


I cut the cigar and the cold draw gives me a perfect amount of resistance. I taste a little raisin flavor, pepper and spices all before lighting. After lighting it, with a soft flame ofcourse, I taste a nice coffee with a little bit of chocolate. I also taste some toast. After a centimeter I taste wood with toast and some sweetness. After a third it’s more of a dark chocolate flavor with a good amount of pepper in the back of my throat. Halfway it’s mostly pepper with a hint of dark chocolate and some metal. After two thirds it’s full on pepper but now with some nuts.


The smoke is thick and plentiful, just how I like it and the draw is perfect. The ash is almost white, dense and firm. The burn is sharp as can be. The evolution is fantastic. The smoke time is an hour and thirty minutes. This cigar is medium full bodied and full flavored.

Would I buy this cigar again? I wish that was possible, I would love to have a few extra boxes.

Score: 94
94

Categories: 94, Don Fernando, Guillen Cigars/GDW, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mi Querida SakaKhan

When I met Steve Saka at the Intertabac Trade show he gave me two cigars, the Sobremesa Short Churchill, which I reviewed back in January and rated 93, and this 7×50 Mi Querida Churchill nicknamed SakaKhan. Now I’m looking forward to smoke this beautiful looking cigar with the Connecticut River Valley broadleaf wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos but for this review I decided to google some background information and I glad I did otherwise I would have been writing some wrong information here, for example naming the wrong manufacturer.


I know Steve has tight connections with the guys at Joya de Nicaragua, I know Juan Martinez pretty well and he always praised working with Steve. When Steve Saka was CEO at Drew Estate they started working together with a distribution deal in the USA where Drew Estate up till today is distributing Joya as well and Joya producing some cigars for Drew Estate at their facilities, and once he started his Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust he went to Joya for the Sobremesa. So I was surprised to find out that the Mi Querida isn’t produced by Joya but by NACSA, a manufacturer that produces for more companies, for example they also produce Asylum for Christian Eiroa & Tom Lazuka’s Asylum Cigars. I asked Steve why and he explained that he picks the factory that suits the best for that specific blend, and in this case it was NACSA.


The cigar looks majestic, the combination of the length, the dark smooth wrapper with the flattened veins, the beautiful triple cap and the simple yet tasteful ring just scream elegance yet power. This is a cigar I would pick at the cigar shop if I didn’t know anything about cigars and just shopped on appearance. The ring is dark blue with thick golden outline and a swirly font saying Mi Querida in gold as well. The ring has gear wheel like edges that set it apart from all other simple bands and can only be done on thick paper. The construction feels great, evenly filled, not too soft or too hard. The cigar has a mild ammonia and forest aroma. I punched the cigar and get a good cold draw with a peppery flavor. My trusted Ronson varaflame lit the cigar.


Right from the start i taste a very pleasant coffee flavor with sweetness, like espresso with a sugar cube. After a centimeter the flavor is woody, with some caramel and some pepper. Slowly i start to taste spices too. After a third the cigar gets sweeter. The flavors are not strong but so beautifully balanced, it’s amazing. Halfway I taste chocolate with a little cayenne pepper. There is also a honey like sweetness along with the other flavors. The sweet chocolate is getting stronger. After two thirds I taste some dark wood again, mild spicy, honey and a very mild citrus. Near the end the flavors all grow in strength with a nice, balanced dose of pepper. The last centimeter is pepper and nuts.


The smoke is medium thick at the start but is slowly gets thicker. The draw is great. The white ash is beautifully layered with some black smears. The burn is slow and just a little bit off. This medium full bodied and full flavored, extremely well balanced cigar gave me two and a half hours of cigar enjoyment.

Would I buy this cigar again? Without a doubt, I thought there wasn’t much room for improvement at the Sobremesa but this Mi Querido is even better.

Score: 94

94
edit: Steve Saka responded to the review on Facebook: “The manufacturer is NACSA – a very well known factory in our industry for producing value priced cigars. About 2 years ago they decided they really wanted to step up their game which included a total retrofit of their facility, a wholesale change over of their top and key personnel and the decision to work with a total pain in the a$$ – me. Many people in the industry said I was crazy, but imo they are just lazy and do not understand potential or what is needed to push a factory into being its best. I got the wacky-tabacy factory to make Liga Privada, while JDN has been a great factory on their own merits I was able to get them to expand their horizons flavor and blending wise, so working to improve an economy factory into becoming a factory that could craft true premiums was a walk-in-the-park particularly since they wanted to change, to do more and they took aggressive action to do so… many people forget that master cigar makers like Fuente and Padron originally started out as bundle cigar operations. And through hard work and dedication to the craft they have become two of the very best in the world. IMO, Mi Querida is the finest cigar every produced at NACSA, but it will not be their last – they have the right people and practices in place now to make exceptional handmade premiums in addition to maintaining their value priced production cigars.”

Categories: 94, Mi Querida, Nicaragua American Cigars S.A., Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Padilla Habano Artisano

Last year I lost my job, very unfortunate not only because I was unemployd but my it happened 2 weeks before my then girlfriend now wife, who’s from Singapore, had the results of the language test she had to do at the embassy before we could apply for her access to the country and I need to have a job to get her here. That was a major setback, but that has nothing to do with this review though. But because I lost my job I had time to reorganize my walk-in humidor, which was a huge mess and bugged me a lot, put everything into a database on stogierate.com and in the process I found a lot of hidden gems that I didn’t know I had anymore. Including this wonderful Padilla Artisan Perfecto.


I remember buying these cigars at the Padilla factory & shop in Miami on Calle Ocho when it was the Padilla factory, nowadays its no longer a factory or owned by Padilla but just a beautiful shop called Little Havana Cigar Factory. Padilla made these cigars for events and later sold them at his own shop and at cigarsinternational. I bought a pack just for the looks and I did a review years ago, but now that I found one in my humidor, my last one, I will do a redux and see if I still like it and what a 8 extra years of age have done to it.


The cigar looks amazing, I mean, have you ever seen a cigar like this on the market and for a reasonable price of around 8 dollars? I mean, I have seen some exhibicion sticks from La Flor Dominicana and Fuente with this form of art but haven’t seen any of them on the market like this one used to be. The Connecticut Shade, Habano and Connecticut Broadleaf wappers are wrapped around the cigars in a perfect pattern that its more like art than a regular cigar and it shows the skills of a highly trained roller. The construction feels good and even after 8 years the cigar still has a medium strong barnyard aroma. Too bad the ring isn’t of a high quality, the golden Padilla letters are a bit blurred just like the habano letters under the red & golden logo on a yellow background. The rest of the band is brown with golden decorations but the gold print is of a low quality. Too bad as a cigar with these looks deserve a much better looking ring.


Because of the shape I had to cut the cigar and I used a flat cut. The cold draw is a bit tight but that has to do with the shape of the cigar. I taste some pepper and some raisin, and the flavors feel a little meaty. I lit the cigar with my vintage varaflame as I usually do.  I’m surprised by the flavor right from the start, coffee with dried chilies and some cocoa beans. Slowly the flavors turn to fresh wood and pepper and the amount of pepper surprised me for a 9 year old cigar that was never known for its strength. The wood changes to a mild bitter kind and the pepper is now on my lips and I’m not exactly liking the flavors a lot to be honest. Probably because Connecticut Shade is used more than I prefer. Halfway the cigar gets a little better with a little salt, some pepper and wood but it’s still not a flavor I like. Near the end the pepper gets really strong.


The draw is great, after the first puff I felt something pop and the draw opened up immediately. The smoke is quite thick and plentiful. The ash has a bit of a brownish gray color. The ash is light gray with some darker smears. The burn is straight. The cigar is medium bodied at most and medium plus flavored. The smoke time is an hour and ten minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? It’s impossible but if I got the chance I wouldn’t.

Score: 87
87

Categories: 87, Nicaraguan cigars, Padilla | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oliva Master Blend 3 Torpedo

After the 2003 release of the Oliva Master Blend 1, the 2005 release of the Master Blend 2 Oliva released a third Master Blend, the Master Blend 3 in 2006. The company did not disclose how many cigars were released but next to the box releases in the robusto, torpedo and Churchill sizes they also released a sampler with those three vitolas and a 5×54 double robusto.


The cigars aren’t tattooed as explained in the Master Blend 2 review which I published yesterday. And in the last 11 years there has been no follow up to the Master Blend series, so we are still waiting for the Master Blend 4. The Master Blend series consisted of 3 vitolas, I smoked the Churchill for the Master Blend 1  review, the robusto for the Master Blend 2 review so lets go for the torpedo for this Master Blend 3 review, then I covered all vitolas and all releases


The sharp head of the cigar is what I notice first, combined with the box pressed with rounded corners it makes the cigar quite unique in shape. The ring is almost identical to the Master Blend 1 and 2, except for a little difference in color and a 3 of course. There is no mention of the number of released cigars though and the tattoo is missing. The construction feels good and the dark wrapper feels a leathery. The cigar has a strong aroma, it smells like walking through the woods early morning after a rainfall, wood, plants and animal droppings.


I cut the cigar. The perfect cold draw is spicy and peppery with sultanas. After lighting it with a soft flame I taste a nice smooth mixture of coffee, honey, cedar, cumin and lime. After an inch I taste cedar, nutmeg, pepper and lime. Halfway the pepper gets stronger with cedar. The final third starts with wood, a little pepper and a little lemon. Near the end I taste coffee again.


The draw is fine and the smoke is medium plus thick, medium plus in volume and beautifully white. The ash is dense and white but not too firm. The burn is pretty straight. The cigar is medium plus bodied and full flavored. The smoke time is an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? It’s a good cigar but I like the 1 and 2 better.

Score: 92
number92

Categories: 92, Nicaraguan cigars, Oliva, Tabacalera Oliva | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oliva Master Blend 2 Robusto

I explained the history on the Oliva Master Blend series in the review of the Master Blend 1 Churchill which I posted yesterday so I won’t repeat myself on the limited tobacco story. Where the Master Blend 1 was released in 2003, the Master Blend 2 came out in 2005. Where the Master Blend 1 saw a production of 375,000 cigars the Master Blend 2 is even more limited with 120,000 cigars, 2,000 boxes of each size.


Now I have a bundle of the private stock of the Oliva family, those are not tattooed but I also had a commercial released one with the tattoo. The tattoo is beautiful but Oliva stopped with tattooing the cigars because it caused at least a 10% damage rate in perfectly good cigars, costing a lot of money and wasting a lot of good tobacco.


The first difference I notice is the ring, its almost identical except it has a 2 right above the half circle cut out and the total production is on the side instead the back. The wrapper is more rustic, thick with veins and discolorations but the tattoo makes up for it. The construction is flawless, again the box pressed with rounded corners like in the Master Blend 1 review and a well placed cap. The aroma is strong, cocoa mixed with hay and straw, very nice.


I punched the cigar. The raisin flavored cold draw is fine. I lit this vintage cigar with a vintage lighter, soft flame. I taste coffee with sugar and lemon, the aftertaste is red pepper. After half an inch I taste earth with a little lemon and a faint of chocolate accompanied by a peppery aftertaste. After a third I taste earth with a little nutmeg, lime, salt and pepper. The flavors change to cedar, soil, chocolate, salt and pepper. The final third starts nutty with salt and a nice dose of pepper in the aftertaste. The pepper slowly grows and I taste a hint of mint too.


I found that the draw was close to perfect. The ash is light gray with thick layers. The ash is firm too. The smoke is medium thick, I would have liked a little more of it though. The burn is beautiful. The cigar has a slow but steady evolution, its complex and medium bodied while being medium full flavored. The smoke time is an hour and forty five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? I wish!

Score: 94
number94

Categories: 94, Nicaraguan cigars, Oliva, Tabacalera Oliva | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Oliva Master Blend 1 Churchill

Tobacco growing companies often experiment with tobacco, new crops, hybrid tobaccos etcetera and sometimes with fantastic tobacco as a result but those tobaccos aren’t always suitable for further exploitation maybe because of a low yield or that they are prone to disease. Oliva is one of the companies that both grows and makes cigars and in 2000 they had crop of experimental tobacco. They decided to put a Habano wrapper around it and called it “Master Blend 1”, with a total limited production of 5,000 boxes in three sizes (robusto, torpedo and Churchill), so 15,000 in total and released it in 2003.


Now these cigars are nowhere to be found anymore but I have a friend at the factory and when she came over for a trip to Amsterdam I offered her my guest bedroom which she gladly accepted. As a gift she brought me a bundle of Master Blend 1 Churchills, Master Blend 2 Robusto and Special S Perfecto. She knew I wanted the Master Blends, I begged her for those both of the times I visited the factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. Now the Master Blend 1 and 2 that were commercially released have a tattoo on the wrapper but the ones I got don’t have the tattoo, they were rolled and stored for personal use of the Oliva family.


The cigar has a nice colored habano wrapper, medium dark, silky with one vein but its been pressed before rolling so it doesn’t destroy the look of the cigar. The ring is gorgeous, burgundy red with golden details and letters, a green picture of tobacco fields and at the back is says the total production of 375,000 cigars. At the bottom of the ring there is a half circle cut out for the tattoo, that is missing on my specimen but I explained why. I love the shape of the cigar, its box pressed but with rounded edges, therefore it falls in between what you would expect with a box pressed cigar and a regular cigar shape. The construction feels great too, a bit hard but evenly packed with a nice placed cap. The smell is still strong after all these years and is a strong barnyard aroma.


I punched the cigar and the draw is a little tight, so I might have to cut it later. I taste hay and raisin. I lit the cigar with my soft flame. After lighting I taste raisin and floral flavors with a little pepper. After and inch I taste floral flavors with nutmeg, toast and white pepper. I also taste some walnut. Halfway I taste nuts, some chocolate, some mild pepper, cedar. The age took care of any harshness, this cigar is so smooth without becoming dull. The final third is a smooth nut with a little bit of white pepper and a hint of nutmeg. The pepper slowly gets a little stronger.


The draw is good, better than the cold draw. The ash is white, dense and firm. The smoke is thick, white and full in volume. The burn is straight. The cigar is smooth, complex and if I had smoked this blind I would have known that it is a vintage cigar. I would call it medium bodied and medium to medium full flavored but very smooth. The smoking time is two hours and fifteen minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? I wish. Maybe I can bribe my friend at the factory with some stroopwafels.

Score: 94
number94

Categories: 94, Nicaraguan cigars, Oliva, Tabacalera Oliva | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Don Pepin Garcia Series JJ Maduro Sublime

On July 22nd of 2007 Jerry Cruz from the famous Stogiereview website had a son, JJhis little robusto as he called him, but only three and a half months later tragedy hit and little JJ passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The first cigar Jerry smoked after little JJ was born was the Don Pepin Garcia series JJ and for the first few years stogiereview had a “Smoke a JJ for JJ” day on july 22nd. I don’t know if that still takes place, but I felt I had to smoke and review this cigar on JJ’s 10th birthday even though I have never met Jerry, we are still part of a community and I hope he finds comfort in the knowledge that little JJ is not forgotten. Jerry, brother, this is for you and your wife.


I had this cigar in my humidor for years, so it is aged and depending on your definition of vintage it might even qualify for that. The cigar is made by My Father cigars ofcourse, and it is a Nicaraguan puro, with a Nicaraguan maduro wrapper, Nicaraguan Corojo and Criollo filler and a Nicaraguan binder. The JJ comes from José and Jaime, the father & son team from My Father, José ‘Don Pepin’ Garcia and his son Jaime. By the time this cigar was released it was the first maduro wrapped cigar under their own name and still, up to today, the Garcia family doesn’t use a lot of maduro wrappers for their own production, the only other line I can think of is the Flor de Las Antillas Maduro but correct me if I’m wrong. They do use and have used maduro wrappers on cigars they produce for other companies though.


Once I take the cigar out of the cellophane, that started to discolor, I see a beautiful dark wrapper with lots of tooth, that makes it feel like leather and a sparkle from the minerals. The wrapper is gorgeous, nothing more nothing less. The same goes for the rings, instead of full white as My Father used for the regular JJ series, the maduro series uses the same rings but then in beige. Like I said, this cigar has been aged so it has the older rings. The bottom ring is small and just says “Series JJ Maduro” in beautiful golden letters on a beige ring with a thin red line and golden dots as decoration. The other ring is curved, it has a beautiful curly font saying Don Pepin Garcia with golden and red decorations around it. On one site there is a small image of the Cuban flag and a Cuban shield while the other side has the American flag and the statue of liberty. Behind that there is a decorative figure with the letters DPG that remind me of Pete Johnson’s logo after he learned he couldn’t use the Flor de Lis no more. The print quality of the rings is immaculate too. The cigar feels quite hard, but that doesn’t have to be an issue and the triple cap is nicely done. As for the aroma, as a teenager my little sister was having horse riding classes and sometimes I had to pick her up from the stables, the aroma of the cigar reminds me of those stables and it is medium strong.


I punched the cigar, the cold draw is great and tastes like a mix of raisin, milk chocolate, pepper and lemon. As usual I used a soft flame to light the cigar and I taste a mellow coffee with a little lemon. After just a few puffs I also taste some leather and slowly the coffee disappears. After an inch it’s all leather with some lemon and added pepper. After a third the pepper gets stronger while the lemon turns to lime. Halfway the leather gets weaker while cedar shows up, the lime and continuously growing pepper are still there too. Halfway the leather replaces the cedar again, although the cedar lingers around in the aftertaste. After two thirds it’s leather with pepper, a hint of vanilla and a minty aftertaste. The final few puffs gave me nuts.


The smoke is medium thick. The ash is white, dense and firm. Even in the ash you can see some sparkles of the minerals. The draw is excellent. The burn is pretty straight. This cigar is medium full bodied and equally flavored, there is a good balance between flavor and body and enough evolution. The smoke time is little over an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? I’m glad I still have a full box of these puppies.

Score: 91
91

Categories: 91, Don Pepin Garcia, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jas Sum Kral Da Cebak/Seljak

For those of you that read my reviews regularly it is not a shocking confession if I say that I love Jas Sum Kral. The Red Knight, Maduro, Zlatno Sonce and Crna Nok all got 90+ ratings and today it’s time for another JSK  cigar, the limited edition Da Cebak or Seljak as the USA spelling is. This cigar is different than the others, not only by blend, size and packaging but also by factory. Unlike the Red Night, Maduro, Zlatno Sonce, Crna Nok and the shaggy foots that sometimes pop up, which I haven’t had the chance to get my hands on for a review, this Da Cebak isn’t made at Tabacalera NOA in Esteli but somewhere else, at a factory that brand owner Riste Riatevski wouldn’t disclose to me.

 


As I said above, the size is different than any other Jas Sum Kral as this is an A sized cigar. For Jas Sum Kral that means 9 1/4 inch long and a ring gauge of 48. I like those sizes. I know, I said many times that I love the lancero, corona and lonsdale like classic sizes and this cigar is thicker than all those vitolas but the length is also bigger and therefore the vitola looks so majestic, the length vs the thickness is perfect, just like with the lonsdale and lancero. To me an A sized cigar is a lancero on steriods. The packaging is also sweet, a coffin of two cigars, nothing new as Drew Estate does that too but the laquered box with nothing than de name in a beautiful font and the size on one side is simple yet pretty. And the cedar shavings inside the box, to help the cigars blend with the cedar smell during aging, is a nice touch.

 


I open the packaging and take one of the cigars out and the first thing I notice is that Riste doesn’t stray away from the pig tails and the closed foot even though these are made in a different factory. The closed foot is a bit different though, much more pressed than the ones from Tabacalera NOA. Another difference is the ring, not the beautiful Jas Sum Kral ring designed by Nuzli Hakiim but more of a home made ring combined of some classic Macedonian stereotype pictures printed on a simple laserjet in Riste’s basement. Now for this extremely limited run for some insiders, that was only sold on the Jas Sum Kral website that’s ok, if this was a more commercial release I wouldn’t go with this ring, and I bet Riste wouldn’t do that either. But I take the rest of the packaging into consideration too, so the cigar doesn’t lose too much on this part. The wrapper is mild oily, only has two minor veins and on a cigar this long that’s good. The construction feels good. The smell is a little bit sweet, vanilla like but it could be that the aroma is mild and that the vanilla scented soap I used an hour ago is overpowering the cigar.

 


I cut the cigar and the cold draw is tight but I think that’s because of the tightly closed door. The flavor is quite spicy and peppery. Lighting the cigar is easy with my soft flame and my conclusion that the tight cold draw was caused by the closed foot was right. I taste leather, coffee and an earthy flavor, very Cubanesque but a little stronger. After half an inch it’s mainly leather with a tiny hint of dark chocolate. Little over an inch it’s still mainly leather but now with a little lime freshness and some dark chocolate. A little later I also taste a little vanilla too. Slowly a little pepper shows up too. After a third it’s leather with vanilla and a little pepper, this reminds me of the Cubans I smoked when I just started smoking and the Cuban quality was much higher than nowadays. The vanilla gains some strength and it’s a perfect match to the dry leather. Halfway the sweetness and the vanilla flavors are stronger than the leather and it reminds me of puffed rice candy I had as a kid, very tasty. A little later I also taste a little nuts and the pepper returns too, black pepper. After two thirds I taste vanilla cake with cedar, a little nuts and pepper. The cigar gets stronger, spicier but the vanilla still makes it a very easy smokable cigar. Near the end I taste a minty aftertaste too.

 


The smoke is medium thick at the start and gets thicker along the way. The draw is amazing, especially for a cigar this long. The light colored ash is dense and firm. The burn is razor sharp from start to finish. The cigar is very subtle and complex. The cigar is medium bodied yet full flavored. The smoke time is two hours and forty five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? I wish! I hope Riste does another batch of these and possibly in a smaller size so it doesn’t take a special occasion and a lot of time to smoke it.

Score: 94
number94

 

 

Categories: 94, Jas Sum Kral, Nicaraguan cigars, Undisclosed | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ilja VIII

For the last few months I’ve been posting my reviews every wednesday, sunday and 15h of the month plus on april 17, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my blog. So today shouldn’t be a review day but I decided to review a special cigar, the Ilja VIII. Now those of you that don’t know the story behind the Ilja cigars, it is a sad story. Ilja van Horssen was a third generation tobacco wholesaler, his grandfather started a wholesale company in dry cigars and roll your own tobacco, his father build the company further up and Ilja and his younger brother Sasja started working for the Van Horssen BV company too. About 20 years ago they saw the future of the cigars in The Netherlands and decided to start a new source of income for the company: premium longfiller cigars from the Caribbean. So they started ‘Longfiller Company’ under the J. van Horssen BV umbrella. A few years later Ilja left the company to start his own retail store, Cuesta Rey, in The Hague and also bought the famous Dutch Brand G. de Graaff and the shop with the same name. Ilja created a huge reputation for himself because he was able to find many hard to get cigars that even his brother Sasja, as the official distributer for those brands like Fuente and Padron, couldn’t even get his hands on. Sounds like a success story right? Here’s the downer, Ilja got sick and died way too young at age 36 on july 14 2006, leaving two young children and his wife behind. His widow ran the shop for a number of years before she turned into the first La Casa del Habano in The Netherlands, the LCDH The Hague.


To commemorate his brother Sasja decided to release a hard to find cigar every year, 36 boxes as Ilja only made it till 36, and the proceedings would go to charity. After a few years the concept changed a little, the cigars are now released on a special event, invitation only and you can only buy one of the boxes if you’re invited to that event by Sasja personally, the proceedings still go to charity though, to Pronica. Now I’m not part of the family, but I’ve worked close with the family for some years and was even involved with some of the Ilja cigars, like the Ilja VI (Liga Privada A), this Ilja VIII and the Ilja IV. If you’re afraid that I’m bias because of this, don’t worry, I wasn’t involved in the blending process, I only asked the manufacturers what they could do for the Ilja cigar and picked sizes. When I was in Nicaragua early 2014 I had a meeting with Rosa Vilchez, our contact within My Father Cigars, and I asked her if My Father Cigars could do something for the next Ilja. She called Jaime, who was in Miami at the time and immediately they agreed, they were actually honored to be asked and came up with a new blend and in an 9 1/4×48 A size like I requested. The cigars are all bunched and rolled by Jaime and his father Don Pepin self. I wanted to review this cigar for a while and what date is more suitable to post than the 14th of july, the day Ilja moved on. If you want a full list on the Ilja releases, check out Halfwheel (and add a Joya de Nicaragua twist on the cuatro cinco blend to the list as Ilja IV).


The cigar has a dark chocolate color with beautiful small veins and a triple cap, just the looks of the wrapper makes my saliva work. The wrapper feels leathery and the cigar has a strong barnyard aroma with a little acidity and ammonia even though it’s 2 years old. The construction feels good and the band, what can I say? The ring is so personal for the family, the picture of Ilja, the quality of the printing is great, and I mean, I know the family so well, I know how much this ring means to them, how hard it was for Sasja to do see the rings roll of the press the first time and color proof it, I can only give it the full amount of points available in my rating system. The cold draw is great and I taste raisin in the front of my mouth and spices in the back of my throat.


The first flavor I get is a nice sweetened coffee and I smell a nice pepper without breaking out in a sneeze. I also taste some honey and some vanilla. After a centimeter I taste chocolate, dark chocolate like I’m sucking on a small piece and the flavor is sticking to the top of my throat. After an inch I still taste the chocolate but now with cedar and a little bit of chili. Slowly the flavors change to a charred woody barbecue flavor with a hint of lime but still with a little bit of chocolate although is fading away.

After a third the chocolate is back, a bit sweeter this time and with some spicy toast on the back. The overall feeling of the flavors is meaty. There is also still a lime flavor, slowly that acidity grows a little bit. The flavors are now creamy, like ice cream with a hint of vanilla and some chocolate. The aftertaste is still a bit barbecue like. The spicy barbecue flavor is the main flavor after I reach the halfway point but I taste a nice honey and chocolate flavor every time i take a sip of water and over the duration of this cigar I almost drank a liter of water. After two thirds I get a lot more pepper with a smoky flavor soon to be accompanied by a raspberry vinegar. I’m still having that tasting chocolate after water experience. Near the end i also taste spices and herbs with an oaky aftertaste. The last few puffs give me salted nuts, macadamia and hazelnut with a nice dose of pepper.


The draw is great, the smoke is cool due to the length of the cigar. The smoke starts out relatively thin, but beautifully blue white and decent amount. The smoke slowly gets thicker. The ash is light colored and firm. The burn is straight as a line. This cigar is full bodied and full flavored. It’s a long smoke but it never gets boring. The cigar lasted me 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Unfortunately that’s no longer possible but I know Sasja has plans to release this blend in a robusto and gordo size in the near future.

Score: 94

94

Categories: 94, My Father, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Tatuaje Cojonu 2012 Capa Especial

A few days ago I wrote about, and reviewed, the Tatuaje Cojunu 2012 and in the past I would have used the same introduction for this cigar, but late last year I decided to upgrade my blog, not only with a 100 point scoring system, a regular schedule of reviews, a monthly lancero review but also decided that my reviews needed to become a bit better, less lazy, more personal so I can’t get away with that anymore, and I don’t even want to get away with that anymore. So for the background story on the box and the Cojonu, please check my review from a few days ago.


Now the Tatuaje Cojonu 2012 Capa Especial, what’s so special about it? Well, first of all, its special because of the wrapper used. Instead of an Ecuadorean Habano that was used on all previous Cojonu releases Pete Johnson decided to make a trio of cigars, one with the regular Ecuadorean Habano but also one with a Connecticut Broadleaf (see previous review) and this one, with a Sumatra wrapper from Ecuador. The size is, just like the Connecticut Broadleaf version 6 1/2×52 and box pressed. The wrapper is a little lighter in color than the broadleaf version but still relatively dark and it looks quite leathery, but still beautiful with no big veins. I do feel a little dent in the cigar right in the middle, hopefully that won’t affect the draw, smoke and smoking time. I have the same issues with the ring as with the Reserva, the bottom ring doesn’t fit the regular Tatuaje ring although because of the color white instead of black it’s less of an annoyance. The aroma is quite nice, like an earthy cacao aroma, medium strong.


Once again I used my punch, which has lately been my favorite way of decapping a cigar. The cold draw is great, with a mild taste or raisin and some ground white pepper. I used a soft flame to light the cigar and I taste a soft coffee with milky chocolate and nutmeg. The cigar is friendlier than the broadleaf version. The nutmeg replaced the coffee completely, the chocolate is still there but very weak, i also get some citrus. There’s also a hint of cinnamon in the flavor palate. The flavors are quite dry.


After a third I taste some toast with some hazelnut and still some of the spices. Halfway the cigar gets more toasty with some cedar and a cinnamon nutmeg mixture. Every few puffs I taste chocolate too. The cigar also gets spicier with mild pepper on the background. After two thirds I taste cedar with spices, a mild white pepper, citrus and a little freshness but it’s all replaced soon with nuts, pepper and citrus.


The smoke is medium thick and a decent volume. The draw is great. The ash is white, dense and firm. The burn is straight, but not as slow as the reserva. The cigar is very well balanced with plenty of evolution. The smoke time is an hour and forty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? I prefer this blend over the reserva with the Connecticut broadleaf.

Score: 92

92

 

Categories: 92, My Father Cigars, Nicaraguan cigars, Tatuaje | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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