Tabacalera Esteli

Karen Berger, Esteli, Nicaragua

Don Kiki Platinum Label Toro

Don Kiki Platinum Label Toro. This is a cigar that is not an annual limited edition but also not a regular production cigar. Cuban Crafters, the retail outlet that is part of the Don Kiki Berger emporium describes this as ‘only available once in a while. There are several sizes when available, but for this review, we are selecting the 6×50 Toro. The Don Kiki Berger empire includes tobacco plantations, Tabacalera Esteli, Cuban Crafters, Don Kiki Superstore, and K by Karen Berger. Karen is Don Kiki’s widow and she’s one of the leading ladies of the cigar industry.

The Don Kiki Platinum Label came on the market in 2015. Currently, it’s available in a select number of countries but Karen Berger is expanding international distribution. When the cigar was first available, the label was different but the blend of the cigar is still the same. It’s all Nicaraguan tobacco with an Ecuadorian Maduro wrapper. The filler is a mixture of tobacco from Esteli, where the factory is located as well.

The label is all silver and platinum. Either matte or glossy. The background is matte, with the Don Kiki logo and the words limited edition in glossy. The foot ring has a bit of a diamond plate look with Don Kiki 1957 embossing. The wrapper is oily and dark, hearty. The cigar feels very well constructed with a nice triple cap. The aroma of the cigar is medium-strong. Dark wood with some barnyard aroma is the best way to describe the smell.

The cold draw is fine with a little nutty flavor, but a bit dusty. After lighting the cigar opens with straw and sweetness. There is a hint of spice in the retrohale. A few puffs later a little leather shows up with some pepper. The sweetness is close to confectioners’ sugar. Slowly there is some wood and nuttiness. The nut and sweetness become the main flavor. The sweetness in the retrohale is almost cinnamon. There is still a bit of leather. The cigar is buttery creamy. Slowly more pepper and wood show up. And there is a hint of citrus to tie all the flavors together. The sweetness is still there. There are also more green herbs. Wood is still there, as the base flavor. The leather gets a bit stronger and the flavors turn a bit Cuban. Then the nuttiness is coming on strong, with a hint of coffee.

The draw is good, maybe a little too good, but all within margins. The smoke is thick and lush. The light gray ash is like a stack of dimes. The burn is straight and slow. This cigar is medium in body but full in flavor. The smoking time is three hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes I will

Categories: 91, Don Kiki, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera Esteli | Tags: , , ,

K by Karen Berger Habano Salomon

K by Karen Berger Habano Salomon. Karen Berger is born and raised in Esteli, Nicaragua. And Esteli is the epicenter of the largest cigar exporting country in the world. But she wasn’t born in the industry. Her late husband, Don Kiki, was. And together Karen and Don Kiki were building an empire. With a factory and farms in Nicaragua, plus a multi-million dollar retail outlet in Miami. But then Don Kiki passed away. Karen continues the legacy up until today and even has her own brand now: K by Karen Berger.

This is the all Nicaraguan Habano version of the K by Karen Berger. And in a wonderful vitola, a 6x52x58 Salomon. To make it even more special, the cigar is box-pressed as well. There is also a Maduro version of the K by Karen Berger and a Connecticut Shade version. Both lines will be reviewed at a later time.

The cigar is a looker. The shape, the oily Colorado color of the wrapper. The beige secondary ring and the detailed yet fresh-looking main ring. This cigar is something to look at before cutting and lighting it. The box press feels good. The aroma is mild though, sawdust.

The cold draw is good. It is very spicy though. The first puffs are straight in your face. Leather, coffee, dark spice, and sweetness. The spice and sweetness, with the leather, remain. But then the flavor turns more to cedar with a faint milk chocolate flavor. The later part of the first third goes back to leather with a nice mellow sweetness. Halfway the cigar has a nice balance between spice, sweetness, and acidity. The sweetness is almost marzipan, the acidity is a mild lemon, with white pepper spice. Slowly the dark spices return. The cigar gets a little stronger. The sweetness is more honey-like. With wood, spice, and pepper.

The draw is very good, even from the start. Often the burn and draw are an issue at the beginning with a vitola like this. The burn is good. The smoke is light gray, it’s a little thin but the volume makes up for it. The light gray ash is frayed but firm. This cigar starts out medium in strength but grows to be full. The flavor is medium-full too. There is balance. The smoke time is two and a half hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes, I like it

Categories: 91, K by Karen Berger, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera Esteli | Tags: , , , , ,

Don Kiki Brown Label Figurado

Don Kiki Brown Label Figurado. For those that are unaware of who Don Kiki is, read the article on Industry Legends: Don Kiki Berger on Ministry of Cigars. It is a story about a second-generation Polish Cuban who came to America and built a retail empire in Miami. But also became a cigar manufacturer and a tobacco grower in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, Enrique ‘Don Kiki’ Berger is no longer with us but his widow Karen Berger continues to dominate the Miami retail scene and runs the cigar imperium. With Don Kiki cigars, but also her K by Karen Berger line.

This Don Kiki Brown Label Perfecto is a small, funny-looking Figurado. Almost a Perfecto size, but with a semi-box press and not exactly a perfecto shape. Thus figurado is the perfect name. As for the term figurado, all non parejo shaped cigars are figurados. So every torpedo, perfecto, pyramid, etc is a figurado. And this specific one is a Nicaraguan puro. But all the tobacco comes from Cuban seed. Some of the tobacco comes from the farm located right next to the factory Tabacalera Esteli in Esteli.

This is a cute-looking cigar. A nicely figurado shape. Very thin at the head and then a perfecto shape at the foot. The head is flat, and the wrapper looks a bit lighter at the foot. The cigar is partially round and partially box-pressed. The Colorado Maduro color of the wrapper is good. The ring is very dark brown, almost black. There is also a Don Kiki Black Label line, but the Brown Label has golden letters, where the black label uses silver. So that makes the lines easy to differentiate. The unique shape makes this cigar score high on looks. The aroma isn’t very strong. It is a stable aroma.

The cold draw is fine and leaves a citrus flavor on the lips. Almost sparkling, like Sprite. After lighting there is a lemony sweetness with coffee, earth, and leather. There is a hint of vanilla in the retrohale. The cigar remains fresh with that lemon-like acidity and a nice sweetness. There is also some dark spice and some leather. Suddenly, below the sweet and sour lime, there is a hint of walnuts. The balance between sweetness and citrus is perfect. Add the walnuts and some black pepper and this cigar exceed expectations. The second third starts with that sweetness, leather, citrus, and baking spices. The baking spices are stronger in the retrohale. Slowly the cigar gets a bit more of a leather and leaves flavor. There are subtle changes in the flavor, but it all remains smooth and mellow. In the last part, there is more of a nutty flavor. The lemon and sweetness tone down a lot. Leather returns. The final puffs have a nice dose of pepper and a hint of wood.

The draw is great, especially for such a hard vitola to roll. The stack of dimes ash is great to look at. It’s salt and pepper in color. The smoke is good in both volume and thickness. The burn is straight and slow. This is a medium body and medium flavor cigar. Smooth, subtle, and delicious. The smoke time is two hours and fifteen minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? It’s delicious and cheap so the answer can only be ‘hell yeah’

Categories: 91, Don Kiki, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera Esteli | Tags: , , , ,

Berger & Argenti Mooch Maduro Minnie

Years ago, I met Albert Argenti and when I was in Miami one day we had a few cigars at Cuban Crafters where the Berger & Argenti office had their space. Berger & Argenti was the company of Kiki Berger and the brother Michael and Albert Argenti and Joey Oliva worked for them. I fell in love with the entubar series and especially with the quad maduro, what an amazing cigar that was.Later, when I started working in the industry, I convinced my employer to get in touch with them to start distributing the cigars. They struck a deal and we ordered a big number of cigars, a five digit number in dollars, we paid (pre payment is not uncommon in the cigar industry, especially with new relationships) but then it was all quiet from the B&A front. After pushing, pulling, other influential parties got involved we recieved a shipment but value wise only half what we ordered and not the products that we ordered. On top of that, al lot of the cigars were damaged and unsmokeable. Soon after Berger & Argenti vanished at all, I know Joey Oliva left de industry completely, Michael Argenti tried it with the La Gran Llave cigars that is now owned by A.J. Fernandez for a while and I haven’t heard anything from or about Albert Argenti after I replied on his Facebook question “what is your favorite bible quote?” with a ‘thou shall not steal’.


So far about the Argenti brothers scum, lets talk about the cigar. I bought this years ago, the Berger & Argenti Mooch was their budget like created as a hand out for people who mooch cigars from you. The price tag is on the paper wrap so I know this petit corona sized cigar was $3.99. They had a Connecticut shade version too. As Kiki Berger was involved I’m guessing the cigars were made at his factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, which is now run by his widow Karen Berger and she’s starting to build a name of her own. Haven’t been lucky enough to try any of her cigars yet but who knows what the future might bring.


The cigar looks great because the foot is wrapped in an in and a half long copy of a newspaper of the day that the embargo was installed. The newspaper is topped with a small brown ring and copper colored letters mooch. Then there is the normal ring, small and brown with the company name in beige and a thin line in copper. Especially the piece of newspaper would make me pick up this cigar at a cigar shop. The construction feels good with a nice round head. The wrapper is nice and dark, with some veins and a little tooth. The aroma reminds me of chocolate, but maybe thats my mind playing because the cigar looks like chocolate.


I cut the cigar due to the small ring. The cold draw is good and starts sweet with a strong peppery aftertaste. I lit the cigar slowly with a soft flame and I taste a coffee flavor with pepper. After half an inch I taste some caramel, peanuts and pepper. After a third I taste a lot of pepper, some cheap chocolate and soft fresh wood. Halfway I taste a metallic flavor with pepper. The final third starts harsh but with some sweetness.


The draw is good, no complaints on that department. The light gray ash isn’t very firm. The smoke is great though, thick and plentiful. The burn is straight. This cigar is medium bodied and medium flavored, not a lot of evolution and has a classic budget cigar taste. The smoke time is little over an hour.

Would I buy this cigar again? Discontinued since the company went belly up but I wouldn’t buy anything from the Argenti thieves anyway.

Score: 84
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Categories: 84, Berger & Argenti, Tabacalera Esteli | Tags: , , , ,

5 Vegas Triple A

This 5 Vegas triple A is released in one size and one size only, 5 x 56. The filler contains Cuban seed Nicaraguan from Jalapa and Condega tobacco and the oily wrapper is a Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro tobacco. I think I picked this cigar up during my trip through the USA, but it could also have been bombed to my by one of my American friends.
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The thick and oily broadleaf maduro wrapper has a couple of nice veins. Both the band and the band protecting the foot of the cigar are grotesque. The construction feels a bit hard but the predraw is fine and leaves a bit of a raisin flavor in my mouth. The cigar has a firm, deep and rich barnyard flavor. The wrapper is so thick that it makes this cigar hard to punch.
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I can taste coffee, mildly bitter and a little bit of chocolate. This flavor doesn’t change for two inch when the chocolate becomes stronger, but the coffee remains the main flavor.

Halfway the coffee changes into wood and the chocolate disappears after ⅔. I couldn’t nub this cigar as it had a turning point with about an inch and a half left. Even though I purged, and got a big flame while doing so, the cigar gets too bitter to continue smoking.
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It took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to finish this full flavored, full bodied cigar. I got a great draw and a nice amount of smoke, although it is a bit thin. I had a little bit of a crooked burn. The ash is light colored and quite firm.
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Would I buy this cigar again? Yeah, maybe, if I run into them at a B&M for a reasonable price

Appearance: 8 / 10
Construction: 7 / 10
Draw: 7 / 10
Burn: 7 / 10
Smoke & ash: 7 / 10
Aroma first part: 7 / 10
Aroma second part: 7 / 10
Aroma third part: 7 / 10

Categories: 5 Vegas, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera Esteli | Tags: , ,

Berger & Argenti Quad Maduro Robusto

I got in touch with Albert Argenti of Berger & Argenti on facebook and when he heard I was coming to Florida he invited me over to Cuban Crafters to smoke a cigar. I did and he gave me a Berger & Argenti quad maduro double corona which blew me away. At the end of my trip I ended up at Corona Cigar in Orlando and bought a few more of these and the robusto, which was 11 dollar. The cigar is rolled with the patent pending Entubar method.
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This boxed pressed 5×56 cigar has a dark wrapper, which is oily and has a bit of a leather look. The band is big, but the bright yellow foot band draws most attentions. I don’t see any real veins. The cigar has a unique smell, a bit like charcoal and a barnyard. The predraw is fine and I taste raising with pepper in the aftertaste.
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I taste a spicy coffee flavor with a hint of sweet but dark chocolate. The chocolate slowly becomes stronger. After half an inch I also taste herbs and all flavors are full. The chocolate is the main flavor with herbs and coffee in the aftertaste. After a third I taste more herbs and the coffee disappears.
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Halfway I taste a little bit more sweetness and dark chocolate. Somewhat later these flavors are accompanied by wood and some nuts. After two thirds I taste more of a nutty flavor and herbs on the background, the flavors are dry. The last few puffs give me some coffee again.
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This cigar lasted me an hour and twenty five minutes. The draw was great, just like the burn. The white ash with black spots is quite firm. This cigar is full flavored and medium to full bodied. I got a decent purge. I did hear the cigar burn, sizzling sounds every now and then.
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Would I buy this cigar again? I told a Dutch cigar distributer to contact Berger & Argenti, I want to be able to get these cigars in my local cigarshop.

Appearance: 10 / 10
Construction: 8 / 10
Draw: 8 / 10
Burn: 8 / 10
Smoke & ash: 7 / 10
Aroma first part: 8 / 10
Aroma second part: 8 / 10
Aroma third part: 9 / 10

Categories: Berger & Argenti, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera Esteli | Tags: , ,

Berger & Argenti mooch robusto

When this cigar was released, our friends at Toasted Foot held a contest for the best tag line. The contest made it to Cigar Asylum where Kreth and I bantered a bit and I said ‘if you win the contest, let me mooch some cigars from you’. To cut a long story short, Kreth won the contest and shipped me a few.
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The cigar is a 5×50 cigar with a double band, one at the place where you’d expect a cigar band, one in the middle and the foot of the cigar is wrapped in a print of an old newspaper bringing the news of the Cuban embargo. The wrapper is a bit yellow brown with lots of small veins. The construction feels a bit soft. The cigar also has a mild straw smell and an easy predraw. The cigar is made from Nicaraguan tobacco with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper
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I taste a full earthy flavor, a little bitter and acidic and some sweetness. The bitterness disappears after a quarter of an inch and now I taste straw and chocolate, mild sweet and a tad acidic. After half an inch the cigar also gets a bit spicy and the acid flavor is gone. The looks and the taste of the wrapper confirm that it is Connecticut, a wrapper I dislike a lot.
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After a third I taste more herbs, sweet and spicy with a hint of chocolate and that characteristic Connecticut flavor that I dislike so much. After two thirds I get an unpleasant bitterness with some chocolate and wood.
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This cigar was good for an hour and I got a good amount of thick smoke. The ash is light gray colored but not firm at all. The burn and draw are good. This cigar is medium flavored and medium bodied.
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Would I buy this cigar again? No I wouldn’t

Appearance: 8 / 10
Construction: 7 / 10
Draw: 7 / 10
Burn: 7 / 10
Smoke & ash: 8 / 10
Aroma first part: 6 / 10
Aroma second part: 6 / 10
Aroma third part: 6 / 10

Categories: Berger & Argenti, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera Esteli | Tags: , ,

Exile perfection No.1

I bought this cigar when I was in the USA last year and it was the packaging that caught my attention. I love the combination of the name Exile and the print of the New York Daily Mirror front page of the day that Kennedy announced the embargo on Cuba. The Exile cigars were made by Nicaraguan American Tobacco S.A. for Cuban Imports, which was then owned by Mike & Albert Argenti, who now run Berger & Argenti. The brand is now discontinued. I paid $ 6.50 for this smoke.
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When I unwrap the cigar I see a dark, almost black and leathery Ecuadorian sun grown wrapper which is quite oily. The band is tasteful. The construction feels good but the predraw is a bit on the hard side. I taste some raisin and tobacco. The cigar has a mild hay smell.
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I taste a strong coffee flavor without becoming bitter and I also taste some cedar wood. The flavors are rich and deep. After an inch the coffee disappears and all I taste is a dry and smooth cedar flavor and a pleasant flavor I don’t recognize.
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Halfway the flavors gain some strength and are joined by some leather. After two thirds I also get some cacao and some nuts. The leather becomes the dominant flavor with a herbal background. All the other flavors have disappeared. The nut flavors makes a strong comeback though, with some power.
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The smoke time of this 5½x49 figurado is an hour and fifteen minutes. The draw is a bit on the hard side but it gets better the longer I smoke. The ash is compact of structure, white of color and firm. I got a decent amount of smoke, but the smoke is a bit thin. The burn is good. This cigar is medium to full flavored and medium bodied.
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Would I buy this cigar again? They are no longer made, so I might have to pick up a box somewhere

Appearance: 9 / 10
Construction: 7 / 10
Draw: 7 / 10
Burn: 7 / 10
Smoke & ash: 7 / 10
Aroma first part: 7 / 10
Aroma second part: 7 / 10
Aroma third part: 7 / 10

Categories: Exile, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera Esteli | Tags: , , ,

5 Vegas A archetype

I heard a lot about 5 Vegas so I decided to light up a 6 x 50 archetype from the A series.
The cigar is wrapped with a piece of cedar in cellophane. The Costa Rican maduro wrapper has one big vein but is nice and oily. The binder comes from Nicaragua and the filler is a combination of Dominican, Nicaraguan and Honduran tobacco. The predraw is firm and the cigar feels firm too.
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Sweet mellow chocolate, that’s what I get and after a little over an inch I get a nutty flavor with mild chocolate aftertaste. The flavors grow in strength after an inch or two. Halfway the chocolate disappears and near the turning point I only taste ash and wood.
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The smoke is thin and several shades of gray. I don’t get a lot of snow either. The draw is on the firm side and the ash is quite dark. The burn is great. This is a mild flavored mild bodied cigar and I didn’t like it a lot.
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Would I buy this cigar again? Never again.

Appearance: 8 / 10
Construction: 7 / 10
Draw: 6 / 10
Burn: 8 / 10
Smoke & ash: 6 / 10
Aroma first part: 6 / 10
Aroma second part: 6 / 10
Aroma third part: 5 / 10

Categories: 5 Vegas, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera Esteli | Tags: ,

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