Cigars by factory

Epic Maduro Lancero

A few years ago the Epic brand showed up in The Netherlands and to be honest, I did smoke a few and they weren’t to my liking. But a few friends of mine love the cigar and keep raving about the Epic Maduro line and the lancero in particular so I decided to give it another go and bought a lancero if this line. And I hope that I like it, because it means that I smoked a good cigar and I have met owner Dean Parsons a few time and wish him nothing but success.


Dean chose the Charles Fairmorn factory as his partner to make the Epic cigars and that’s not a bad choice, one of my favorite Dominican brands, Kristoff, is made there too. The Epic Maduro is made with Nicaraguan and Dominican filler, a Cameroon binder and a Brazilian Arapiraca maduro wrapper and just from that blend I expect some sweetness, spices and strength. The sticker on the back shows that it’s a little longer and thicker than the Cuban lancero size, which I see as the official size with an extra added 2 ring gauge and half an inch making this a 7 1/2×40 cigar.


The wrapper is dark but you can see a lighter color under the darker smears and that makes me wonder if the wrapper is cooked, the amount of oil and the way it shines enhance that feeling. The cigar feels well rolled, I do see a few veins and a little imperfection at the cap but I know from experience how hard it is to apply a cap, especially on a cigar so thin. The rings are nice, I like the fact that the black and silver Epic ring, with a nice red accent, isn’t a regular shaped ring but a cut out of the cursive Epic logo. The ring is well printed. The secondary ring has the same black and silver letters with a red accent and red rings on the top and bottom, I personally would have made the red lines smaller but who am i? The cigar has a medium aroma of manure but with a strong and surprising mint smell.


Due to the small ring I had no other option than to cut. The cold draw is fantastic. I taste a little toast, mild spicy. After lighting it’s a dark and earthy flavor profile with mud and coffee. The Brazilian Arapiraca Maduro wrapper provides some sweetness too, a sugar syrup like sweetness. After almost an inch i taste acidic wood with a creamy chocolate on the background and a faint vanilla. Before the first third ends I taste wood and toast with some herbs, all still with a acidic flavor but the chocolate cream is gone. The herbs are gaining strength and that’s probably the Cameroon binder weighing in. Halfway I taste wood with dirt again, no sweetness and a little vinegar. Soon the nuances change again, the dirt makes places for winter spices. The final third starts with pepper and gingerbread. Slowly I get more spices and pepper.


The draw is flawless and the ash is white, which gives a nice contrast with the dark wrapper. The ash is layered. The light gray smoke is thick and full. This is a medium plus bodied cigar, and the flavor is medium plus too. The smoke time is ninety five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? The construction is top notch, the cigar has plenty of evolution but it’s just not for my palate.

Score: 90
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Categories: 90, Charles Fairmorn, Dominican cigars, Epic | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Kristoff GC Robusto

I met Kristoff owner Glen Case a few years ago at the Intertabac trade show in Dortmund, Germany right after my then employer decided to distribute the brand. And it sold, like hotcakes, due to the cool look with the closed foot and the pigtail, the packaging with the loose tobacco, the quality of the cigars, the flavor and the price. It was a home run and ever since we always have a little chat even though I no longer work for that company.


The GC series never made it to The Netherlands though, so I was glad that Glen gave me a robusto at the most recent intertabac trade show to review and he said that it was his favorite Kristoff offering. Now I haven’t smoked all of them and so far the Cameroon blend is my favorite but maybe this one will change that, keep reading and you’ll find out. The cigar is available in four vitolas, a robusto, torpedo, churchill and a gordo.


The Brazilian maduro wrapper looks great, dark and a little rough but the roughness fits the color. The pig tail and closed foot are Kristoff signatures by now and add that to an evenly packed cigar for a great construction. The ring is burgundy with golden letters and a silver & white banner. The medium strong aroma reminds me of charred wood and manure.


I cut the cigar since punching isn’t an option with the pigtail. The cold draw is fine, I taste licorice, raisin and pepper. After lighting I taste a strong and full coffee with earthy tones and a sugar sweetness. After half a centimeter I taste wood, sweetness and a hefty pepper. Halfway I taste a wood with a little licorice, some pepper and a little lemon in the aftertaste. The flavors are very meaty and peppery. The final third is peppery with a great dose of lemon.


The draw is good. The smoke is a little thin, light gray but the volume is good. The silver gray ash has beautiful rings, is dense and is firm. This is a full bodied, full flavored cigar with a perfect burn. The smoke time is an hour and fifty five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? I hope this cigar makes it to the Dutch market.

Score: 91
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Categories: 91, Charles Fairmorn, Dominican cigars, Kristoff | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Balmoral Añejo XO Gran Magnifico

Last year, when I smoked the Balmoral Anejo XO Lancero, I told the story on how the Balmoral Anejo line surprised and shocked me. I never thought highly of the Balmoral longfillers but that Anejo 18 and the Anejo XO that followed the Anejo 18 made me completely change my mind, great cigars. When I was a novice cigar smoker the short filler Balmoral Dominican Selection was one of my go to cigars though, and it’s a great company, but the Anejo 18 & XO elevated the company.


Now maybe you’ve seen the video of my mancave, and every now and then friends come over for an evening of cigars. Last time I had friends over, one of them handed me the latest limited edition of the Balmoral Anejo XO series, the Gran Magnifico, a 6×56 figurado made with Dominican and Nicaraguan filler, Dominican binder and a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper, all aged tobacco and after rolling the cigars get a minimum of six months to rest so the flavors can get married. Only 14,000 cigars were made, 1400 boxes of 10.


The clean ring is great, just three colors, gray and white, with some gold in the lettering, high quality printing with a matching foot ring to protect the foot of the cigar. And the construction is fantastic too, the foot has a 46 ring, then the cigar gets to a 56 ring at a third of the length to end in a torpedo shaped head. Unique and probably very difficult to roll, yet the construction feels flawless. The coffee colored wrapper is glossy and dull at the same time with a few veins but then again, Brazilian wrappers are never the best looking wrappers but the taste matters. The cigar has a strong and deep aroma of straw, hay, barnyard and manure.


I cut the cigar, the cold draw is peppery and perfect. After lighting I taste chocolate, pepper and an earthy flavor.  The balance is great. After an inch I still taste that dark chocolate with straw, hay and wood. Slowly a mild pepper shows up. Halfway it’s straw, pepper and with that dark chocolate on the back. I also taste some peanuts. Later I taste some natural sweetness. The final third starts nutty, walnuts and hazelnuts with pepper.


The draw is great, could be a little touch tighter but only a very little touch. The smoke is white, thick and full. The layered ash is light gray and firm. This cigar is subtle and well balanced. I would say it’s medium plus bodied and full flavored. The smoke time is two hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? If they are still to be found, yeah!

Score: 93
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Categories: 93, Agio Caribbean Tobacco Company, Balmoral, Dominican cigars | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gurkha Ghost Shadow

I have done a handful of Gurkha reviews and to be honest, most weren’t that impressive to me. I think the problem with the brand is that they don’t have DNA, their cigars are all made in different factories, the brand focusses on marketing and does crazy stuff with super expensive cigars dropped in super expensive alcohol and other marketing tricks. That doesn’t help the reputation of the brand amongst serious cigar smokers like me. But this Gurkja Ghost, I always thought that one was quite enjoyable, maybe because it’s made at PDR, a factory I like.


Now, even though most of the cigars are a miss, I can’t say the same about their sales manager Juan Lopez, I met him years ago in Miami in a cigar bar, the next day me and my friend went to the Gurkha office and that’s beautiful. From the outside its a boring office building, the first floor is just cubicles but then upstairs a beautiful lounge, like you’re back in 1800’s Asia, with a huge bar full of expensive liquor and a secret room where all the blends are kept. And Juan hooked us up with cigars, backpacks, knives and all sorts of cool items. So it was cool to see Juan at Intertabac this year, where he handed me a few cigars to smoke.


The wrapper is typical Brazilian arapiraca, a bit rough to look at with sturdy veins, not thick but sturdy. The color is dark and even though, so that makes up for it and the ring fits the wrapper. It is black and silver, with the Gurkha logo and scary lettering saying ghost. The ring is different than what you usually find in humidors. The construction is great, the triple cap is straight. The cigar has a strong earthy smell, earthy as if you’re walking in nature, early in the morning after a good rainfall.


I cut the cigar with a butterfly cutter from Xikar. The cold draw is good. I taste tobacco and some pepper. I taste a strong coffee after lighting the cigar with my soft flame lighter. A few puffs later I taste a mild acidic oak with cocoa bean. Halfway I taste a mild pepper with some lime and wood. A little later some honey sweetness shows up too. The final third I taste a nice, mildly sweet, wood with some spices, all balanced though. The flavors become very nice, wood, mocha, sugar, chocolate all in a creamy way.


The draw is great, the light ash has beautiful rings and it’s firm. The smoke is medium thick, medium full. The burn is close to perfect. I would call this cigar medium bodied and medium flavored. The smoke time is an hour and twenty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? It’s a pleasant cigar, not the best I had but enjoyable.

Score: 91
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Categories: 91, Dominican cigars, Gurkha, PDR Cigars | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

C.A.O. Fuma em Corda

I love CAO and I hate CAO. I love their creativity, how everything comes together with the cigars and the packaging, the names and all but somehow their cigars aren’t for my palate. No complaints about construction, not even about the quality of the tobacco, everything is good, they are just not for my palate. Until Rick Rodriguez gave me the Amazon Basin, now that was a cigar that I did like and I rated it with a 92 score.


Now at Intertabac I met up with Stijn Elbersen and Rick Rodriguez and they handed me the rest of the trilogy, the Fuma em Corda, named after the way the farmers fermented the tobacco, rolled up like a rope and the Anaconda. The cigars are made in Nicaragua, where the arapiraca tobacco was blended with Brazilian Braganca tobacco and Honduran and Nicaraguan filler. Add a Cameroon binder and a Honduran Corojo wrapper and you have the CAO Fuma em Corda. I smoked the toro, the vitola that was exclusive to the online retailers.


The wrapper is dark brown but not evenly brown, some darker smears here and there but it fits the whole look with the piece of rolled up tobacco as a ring, with a little imagination you can see yourself smoking this cigar in the rainforest. Where the Amazon Basin had the string as a ring, the Fuma em Corda has it crossed over the front.  When you walk into a cigar shop, this is the cigar that will stand out. The cigar feels evenly filled, firm to the touch and the cap is nice, something I always look at. The cigar has a strong smell, poop and some minty freshness is what I get from sniffing the cigar.


I wanted to punch the cigar but I just sat down with a bottle of water, my preferred drink while reviewing, the latest episode of The Walking Dead was loaded and then I realized my punch was at my desk, I had a cutter in my reach so I cut the cigar instead. The cold draw is a bit loose. After lighting the cigar I taste coffee with a very spicy, peppery aftertaste. After half an inch i taste herbs and spices with a little sweetness. After a third the flavor completely changes to wood with licorice and herbs. There is still a peppery undertone with a little citrus. Halfway the licorice and pepper are the dominant flavors. Slowly the wood returns. Near the end the pepper grows in strength and overpowers the other flavors.


The draw is a little loose yet the smoke is thick, full, white and plentiful, it made my air cleaner work overtime. The pepper and salt colored ash is firm. The burn is straight. There is a lot of evolution, a lot of flavor changes in this medium full bodied, full flavored cigar. The smoke time is little over two hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? I hope there will be a new batch of these or that the trilogy will be a standard offering.

Score: 93
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Categories: 93, C.A.O. Fabricos de Tabacos Nicaragua, CAO, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Romeo y Julieta Capuletos Limited Edition 2016

During my last visit to Singapore I met up the very talented designer Nuzli Hakiim, we’ve been Facebook friends for a while and he designed the fantastic Jas Sum Kral rings. He also posts the best pictures on instagram, so if you’re on instagram, follow him. I handed him some swag and a cigar and in return I got this Romeo y Julieta Edicion Limitada 2016, a cigar I have never smoked since I don’t buy Cubans.


In Singapore, where tobacco is very expensive and there is only a very limited cigar culture, Cubans are still the bulk of what’s being smoked and bought but it’s a new market and the more people get educated, the more knowledge they gain and the more non Cubans become available I am sure that people will start smoking better quality cigars in Singapore too. Yes, that is a bias statement but I’m not a big fan of overrated Cuban cigars, poorly fermented tobacco that’s being used without proper aging and all the bullshit Habanos keeps feeding the public. I do appreciate the gift though and smoke this cigar with that nice lunch at ‘Fumee by Habanos’ in Singapore in mind.


Back to the cigar. The wrapper feels soft and oily, it’s quite dark for a Cuban cigar with some discolored spots and a vein on the back. The cap is done perfectly and the cigar feels evenly packed with the same resistance or sponginess all over. The ring is the regular Romeo y Julieta ring with a secondary limitada ring added. The aroma is mild, very mild and smells like a barnyard.


I used a double guillotine cutter to decap the cigar. The cold draw is fantastic, I taste raisin with sharp herbs. After lighting I taste a pleasant and full coffee with a little splash of nutmeg. After a third I taste cedar with pepper and nutmeg, the flavors are sharp. Little over halfway I still taste the sharp, harsh, cedar with herbs but now also with some nuts. The final inch is a vanilla cedar flavor, still a little harsh.


The draw is amazing, especially considering the reputation of Cuban cigars. The burn is not straight though. The smoke is medium full in volume and thickness. The fragile ash is quite dark. This medium bodied, medium flavored cigar has a smoke time of an hour and twenty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Nope!

Score: 86
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Categories: 86, Cuban cigars, Romeo y Julieta (Habanos), Romeo y Julieta Factory | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Plasencia Alma Fuerte Generación V

Up until recently, if you weren’t in the industry the name Plasencia would probably not have rung a bell, yet without doubt you have been smoking a cigar they made or at least tobacco they grew. Five generations of tobacco growers, owners of three major factories and an octopus in the industry as Jonathan Drew calls them endearingly, since they have their hands in anything. Everybody and their mother buys their tobacco, a lot of brands have cigars made by Plasencia and now they are ready to make their name a household name for cigar smokers.

 


Nestor Plasencia sr never produced cigars under his own name because he didn’t want to compete with his customers which is a noble idea but almost any factory produces private labels for others and still produce cigars for their own company too and why not? It’s double the margin. Plasencia tested the water in Europe with the 1898 and the Reserve Organica lines and decided to hit the American market too with a few new blends, of which this is the first to hit the shelves.

 


I love this box pressed figurado and it’s huge, 7×58 , with a dark, chocolate like, wrapper that has a little oil. The thick rings, there are three in total, are well printed. Lets start at the foot, a small golden ring with black outlines and black letters saying Alma Fuerte. The gold really pops, that is very difficult to print and it shows its a high quality job. Then the normal ring, matte black with the same popping golden letters in a P logo and the name Plasencia. Then a small ring above that, black with the golden P logo in a circle around it. The shape is awesome, the cigar feels evenly packed, it’s just mouth watering. The aroma is mild, it reminds me a little of saw dust.

 


I cut the cigar to find a perfect cold draw. The taste I get is spicy, herbal tobacco. After lighting I taste coffee, earth and spicy herbs like nasturtiums. The cigar is very peppery, strong Nicaraguan pepper.  After a third I taste the pepper but underneath I taste a little bit of chocolate. Halfway I taste also some wood and herbs with the pepper, the chocolate has gone. The final third starts a bit floral but with spices, pepper and a faint vanilla. All of a sudden the pepper gains strength again.

 


The draw is flawless and the light gray ash is firm. The smoke is white, thick and there is plenty of it. The burn is nice and straight. This cigar is well balanced, it’s a medium full bodied cigar, full flavored. The smoke time is two hours and forty five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? It’s expensive so it won’t be a every day cigar but for special occasions yeah, it will rival with an Opus X or Padron 1964.

Score: 93
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Categories: 93, Nicaraguan cigars, Plasencia, Tabacos de Oriente Nicaragua | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Xiphos CR Habano Lonsdale

Late october I smoked and reviewed my first Xiphos cigar and today I’m reviewing my second Xiphos. Same brand, same factory but a different size and blend. This 6 1/2×42 Xiphos Habano Lonsdale is made in Costa Rica with an Ecuadorian hybris Habano wrapper, a Peruvian binder and filler from Peru and the Dominican Republic. The factory is the Tobaccos de Costa Rica in Puriscal where a few other well praised brands are made too.


Now Xiphos doesn’t only do business in Costa Rica, the brand also has two lines made at Order of the New Ages factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. That is the factory of Noel Rojas who owns the Guayacan brand too and the factory of Jas Sum Kral, a brand that I recommend highly and will be in my top 25 without a doubt. Both Nicaraguan made Xiphos lines will be reviewed in 2018.


Once I release the cigar from the cellophane prison I find a smooth and silky, chocolate brown wrapper with a nice glow and thin veins. The rings are gorgeous, a deep blue with silver letters and details and Greek styled letters. The construction feels good and the cigar is well shaped with a nice round head and a good triple cap. The cigar has a strong and dark aroma, barnyard, horse, hay, straw and manure.


I cut the cigar since it’s too thin to punch. The cold draw is great and I taste raisin. After lighting I taste espresso, full flavored and strong. After half an inch I taste oak with a little lemon and cedar. Halfway the flavors tone down a little in strength. I taste some wood, a mild pepper and herbs. The final third lacks pepper but I do taste a hint of vanilla with the wood. At the end I taste nuts too.


The draw is fenomemal, the smoke is medium plus in thickness and volume. The light gray ash is flaky. The burn is pretty straight. The cigar is medium bodied and flavored, with a nice evolution. The smoke time is two hours and ten minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Much to my surprise I would go for the short panatella instead of the lonsdale, but I would not mind smoking this one again either.

Score: 90
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Categories: 90, Costa Rican cigars, Puriscal Factory of Tobaccos, Xiphos | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

CAO La Traviata Angry Santa

Yesterday I wrote a review on the CAO La Traviata Maduro Evil Snowman Limited Edition, the limited edition that CAO released in 2013 for the holiday season. But the Evil Snowman wasn’t the only limited edition as STG, the parent company of CAO, released the Angry Santa too at the same day. Where the Evil Snowman is the La Traviata Maduro the Angry Santa is a limited edition of the La Traviata but a little modified.


The modifications are not huge when it comes to the wrapper, as its the same Ecuadorian Habano but just from a higher priming, the blend however is different according to the CAO website. I wonder if this will be as good as I remember the La Traviata to be, that was by far my favorite CAO although the Amazon Basin was good too. I didn’t care for any other CAO though, so I’m hoping they didn’t screw up the blend but then again, if they did, its only a limited edition with a small number of cigars released.


Just like the Evil Snowman the Angry Santa has a huge ring, half the cigar is covered with a ring on black shiny paper and an image of an evil angry santa that makes Billy Bob Thornton looks good as Bad Santa. This santa gives children nightmares. The santa is smoking a La Traviata and the smoke is forming the letters CAO. Th wrapper is oily and shiny with a reddish brown shine. The construction feels good and the cigar is beautifully shaped. The aroma is a mixture of wood, mint and herbs and medium strong.


I punched the cigar and find a loose cold draw, mild spicy. After lighting I taste spices like cinnamon with cedar, lime and some sugar. After an inch I taste cedar with nutmeg. Halfway the lime is getting stronger. The final third starts with spicy cedar


The draw is a little loose but not as loose as the cold draw. The smoke is thick and white and the ash is white too. The cigar is medium bodied yet full flavored. The smoke time is an hour and fifteen minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? No, first of all it’s a limited edition from a few years back and secondly I remembered the La Traviata to be better.

Score: 89
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Categories: 89, CAO, Nicaraguan cigars, STG Nicaragua | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

CAO La Traviata Maduro Evil Snowman

In 2013 CAO releases two limited edition versions of their La Traviata line, one of the only CAO lines that I like. I found both of the limited editions, Angry Santa and Evil Snowman, at Corona Cigars in Orlando, at the downtown location in February 2014 and I bought one of both 6 1/2 x52 Toro sized cigars just to try, as I do with every new CAO line as I do love their creativity in lines, packaging etc although most of their lines turn out to be a disappointment for me. But La Traviata was a good one, so my expectations for this limited edition is quite high.


The Evil Snowman is based on the La Traviata Maduro line, the cigar is made at the STG factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. The wrapper is a Connecticut broadleaf, the binder is from Honduras while the filler is from both Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Only 21.000 cigars were rolled so I guess I was quite lucky that I was able to buy one of the last singles Corona had lying around in their huge humidor and that for the very reasonable price of 7 dollar even though that was little over the MSRP of $6.60


The wrapper is dark, smooth, oily but the construction is a bit wrinkly, yet evenly firmed and the head is beautiful. But lets not kid anybody, the ring catches the eye first. Donald Trump would say “it’s huge” and he’s right because the ring is over 3 inch long. Its shiny black with an image of an angry, evil snowman that could come straight out of a Tim Burton movie and the snowman is smoking a CAO La Traviata. The smoke forms the letters CAO. The aroma is medium strong and reminds me of dark chocolate and hay.


I punched the cigar and the cold draw is perfect. I taste a very mild raisin flavor before lighting the cigar with my vintage Ronson. After lighting I taste a full coffee. After half an inch I taste spicy, peppery wood with a little citrus. Soon after it’s wood with a pepper on the back of my tongue and a metallic flavor. After a third I taste pepper, wood and a faint cocoa powder with a soil flavor. Slowly the cocoa gets stronger and a little more of a chocolate flavor. With an inch and a half to go I taste nuts, spices, pepper and wood with a little lime.


The draw is almost perfect. The light gray ash isn’t really firm but it sure is pretty. The smoke is medium full in volume and thickness. The burn is straight, no touch up needed. The cigar is medium bodied and medium full flavored. The smoke time is an hour and forty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? No, but I never found the CAO la traviata Maduro worth getting again so that’s no surprise.

Score: 87
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Categories: 87, CAO, Nicaraguan cigars, STG Nicaragua | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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