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Te-Amo World Selection Series Robusto

A few years ago, while working for a Dutch cigar distributor, we released the Te Amo World Selection series in the robusto size on the Dutch market, dirt cheap premium cigars (premium as in hand made longfiller cigars).. They came in 5 different blends, a Cuban, Dominican, Honduran, Mexican and Nicaraguan blend, all with some tobacco from that country except for the Cuban blend, they used some Cuban seed tobacco for that. Boxes of 15 cigars and we mixed them up at our office so customers could get 3 cigars of each blend.  A box came at 33 euro, making the cigars €2,20 each. And they sold like hot cakes until Turrent decided to raise the price by 40%, that killed the line and caused my (by then ex) employer to say goodbye to all Turrent products. I will be reviewing all 5 blends in one big review, in alphabetical order

Te-Amo World Selection Series Cuba Blend Robusto

 

Cuba, the birth place of the modern day cigar industry and once by far the best cigar producing country in the world. But that changed when Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries gained power and nationalized everything. A lot of knowledge fled the country and started making cigars in the Dominican Republic, Canary Island, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the USA. Without the revolution the cigar industry wouldn’t be as big there as it is today, but also the condition of the Cuban cigars would be much higher as then there would be competition so companies would push each other to great heights instead of a decline you see nowadays in the quality of the construction, the quality of the tobacco, the lack of rest, the under fermentation and mono culture. Cuban cigars are no longer the best in the world and haven’t been for a decade, which is a shame as the Cuban soil is unique when properly taken care off. But this cigar doesn’t contain Cuban tobacco, only Cuban seed but grown in Mexico.


The wrapper looks dry, feels silky and it would have been more aesthetically pleasing is the veins were rolled before applying the wrapper. The ring is nice, it looks like two rings but it is one, one regular ring in beige with the Te Amo logo in red and a brown outline to it with some text in white and then what should look as a ring underneath in yellow with vertical red stripes and the letters Cuba Blend. The construction feels and looks good, no complaints there. The aroma is quite strong, hay, barnyard and wet autumn leaves come to mind while smelling the cigar.


I punched the cigar and the cold draw, with a mild dry vanilla and raisin flavor, is fine. After lighting I taste a mild harsh and musty coffee and dirt flavor. After half an inch the harshness grows in strength with musty cedar and spices. Halfway I taste vanilla and nuts but still a butt harsh, very unrefined and unbalanced. Near the end I taste pepper too.


The draw is fine. The smoke is white, thick and good in volume. The ash is almost white and quite firm. The burn has some issues but corrects itself. The cigar is medium bodied and medium full flavored. The smoke time is very short with forty five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? It is safe to say the answer to that question is NO.

Score: 79
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Te-Amo World Selection Series Dominican Blend Robusto


This is the one I fear most, because of the Connecticut Shade wrapper in combination with the price, I mean, you can’t expect a top shelve product for this price and then with my least favorite wrapper, that’s a combination that won’t make me jump up of excitement on forehand. The filler is Dominican.


Oh boy, that wrapper, even though its quite dark for a Connecticut Shade it is butt ugly. Big fat dry veins and a very dry touch. The ring is the same as from the Cuba blend but with the same beige on the bottom where it says Dominicana blend as on the rest of the ring, where the Cuba blend had a dark yellow band. The construction feels good, the right amount of elasticity and a nice rounded head of the cigar. The aroma is quite strong and very ammonia or urine like.


I punched the cigar and cold draw great, I taste a mild musty and very faint chocolate with raw tobacco. After lighting, with a xikar jet flame this time, I taste a sweet, musty and peppery wood. A quarter of an inch in I taste a harsh nutmeg and herbs with a hint of chocolate. After a third I taste a harsh, musty, peppery walnut flavor that is not very nice. The final third is very peppery, chili pepper with cayenne.


The draw is fine, nothing to complain about. The smoke is thick and full. The burn is off though, uneven and after an inch I notice a burn spot halfway the cigar so there is a tunnel burn. The ash is dark, layered and ugly but still firm. The cigar is medium bodied yet full flavored. The smoke time is relatively short with just an hour, the tunnel burn has got to do with it.

Would I buy this cigar again? No, not a chance.

Score: 76

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Te-Amo World Selection Series Honduras Blend Robusto


The Te Amo World Selection Series Honduras Blend is made of Honduran filler, a Mexican binder and a Honduran Wrapper. Like all others the cigar measures 5×54. If I would have had to make a prediction in which order I would rate the cigars before smoking them, this would probably be my number two, behind the Nicaragua blend. But let’s see how the list turns out after I reviewed all five of them.


The wrapper isn’t the prettiest wrapper I have seen to put it mildly, rough, big vein but a nice deep brown with even darker smears. The construction feels good, evenly packed, just the right amount of sponginess and a all rounded head. The ring is just like the others but with a brown backing color for the text Honduras blend. The aroma is quite strong and is a acidic stable, like a urine drenched hay floor after the cows went outside for the day.


I punched the cigar. The cold draw is perfect and I taste raisin and wood. After lighting I taste nutmeg, oak and a little pepper. After half an inch I taste dull oak, very muted, with a little pepper. After a third the cigar gets a bit of a nasty flavor, kind of like a dry vomit flavor but thankfully that flavor changes quick to a mild harsh oak and a faint cocoa powder. The final third starts out with a full blown pepper, good flavor.


The smoke is thin and low in volume. The draw is good though. The ash is light colored and dense, but flaky. The burn is okay, not good and not bad. The cigar is medium plus bodied and full flavored. The smoke time is an hour and forty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? If the middle part wouldn’t be so disappointing I would. The finish is really strong and good.

Score: 80

Red balloons with ribbon - Number 80

Te-Amo World Selection Series Mexico Blend Robusto


This cigar is made competely with Mexican Criollo 98 tobacco according to the Te Amo website, and all from the San Andres region according to other sources online so I’m going with that. It’s been years since I smoked these cigars and in my memory this is the one I liked most even though my experience with Mexican puros isn’t that good, so I am wondering if my memory might be wrong. Only one way to find out……


The wrapper is dark and rustic, it could pass for a Brazilian wrapper with the thick veins and the dark yet dry looking wrapper. The cigar looks mean and tough. The ring is simple, the same as the other rings but this time with a green bottom part saying Mexico Blend in white letters. The construction feels good, the cigar is a bit hard but evenly hard with a nice rounded head. The aroma is mild to medium strong and is a bit of a musty barnyard aroma.


I punched the cigar and the draw is loose, very easy. I taste raw tobacco and hay. The first thing I notice while lighting the cigar is the unpleasant smell. The first puff is a coffee flavor but not very refined with some sweetness. The sweetness is getting strong after a few puffs, it’s confectioners sugar. After a third I taste a harsh sweetness with nutmeg and pepper. Without the harshness it would be really nice. The harshness disappears halfway, I taste wood, nutmeg, honey and pepper.


The draw is easy but the smoke is thick and full. The ash is a little coarse, but light colored and beautifully layered. The burn is good. The cigar is medium bodied and full flavored, with a decent evolution. The smoke time is an hour and fifteen minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? As a cheap yardgar yes.

Score: 85
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Te-Amo World Selection Series Nicaraguan Blend Robusto

Nicaragua, my favorite cigar country, most of the cigars that I like are coming from Esteli and I visited the town twice so far. Not that I dislike cigars from other countries, just look at the Cornelius & Anthony Cornelius from Miami or the Balmoral Anejo Lancero from the Dominican that both scored high this year, but if there is one country that has more hits in my book than any other, it’s Nicaragua. So the expectations are high, higher than the other blends. The cigar is made with a Corojo wrapper from an undisclosed country, a Mexican binder and Nicaraguan filler.


The wrapper isn’t a looker, its not bad either but just a dry, medium brown wrapper with a few thin veins. The ring is equal to the others but I have to say, the red used to recognize the Nicaragua blend from the others is the best looking color of the whole series. The cigar feels hard but evenly packed everywhere. The aroma is strong, but not the nicest smell I ever smelled, like the toilet of a mall after hours.


I punched the cigar and the cold draw is a bit tight so I decided to cut instead. The cold draw is peppery with some raisin. I lit the cigar with a soft flame and taste chocolate with toast. After a quarter of an inch I taste wood and spices, but not the best I ever tasted. After a third I taste an ashy, salty flavor with some musty wood and a hefty dose of pepper. Halfway I taste mostly pepper with some wood. The pepper is getting stronger and stronger.


Due to the cut the draw is good. The burn is pretty straight. The ash is pepper and salt colored with nice layers and pretty firm. The smoke is too thin to my liking. This cigar is full bodied and full flavored. The smoke time is an hour and fifty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? As a cheap BBQ cigar, why not?

Score: 86
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Categories: 76, 79, 80, 85, 86, Mexican cigars, Nueva Matacapan de Tabacos, Te Amo | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

708 Barber Pole Shaggy & Juniors

Recently I was visiting the headquarters of a company that is thinking about going into cigars and the owner gave me a few cigars to try, amongst them were these 708 Shaggy & Juniors Barber pole by Brothers Cigars. I knew nothing about the brand so I googled and it turns out it is a Dominican made cigar named after the area code of Chicago where the brothers Zaid & Firas Eid have their shop.

As I said, the cigar is made on the Dominican Republic and I’ve seen and smoked several barber pole cigars, mostly with two kinds of wrappers. This cigar is actually made with three wrappers, Connecticut Shade, Habano and Maduro, so that sets it apart from the others. The Shaggy Barber Pole measures 7 1/2 inch but the bottom part is shaggy, and the ring gauge is 52 while the Juniors Barber Pole is a 4×44 petit corona.

708 Shaggy Barber Pole


I like the look, 3 different color wrappers of which the Connecticut shade has the least appealing look because of a vein. In the shaggy foot I can see different colors of tobacco too. I wouldn’t call it a real shaggy foot though, just uncut, as it is pressed and firm, not shaggy. The construction feels great, the head is well rounded and the cap is applied perfectly. The only comment I can give is that the different tobaccos aren’t all applied in an even thickness, the Babano wrapper is a smaller strip than the Maduro or Connecticut. The ring is simple, Beige in the centre fading to brown with a simple brown logo saying 708 cigars in a handwritten font. The secondary ring has the barber pole style and says Barber Pole, just in case you hadn’t noticed. The rings are printed on nice glossy paper. The aroma is very strong, hay, straw and barnyard.


When I wet the cap to punch it I notice the sweetened cap, that’s not a positive in my book. The cold draw is fine and all I taste is that chemical sweetener. After carefully lighting the cigar I taste that sweetness with a little coffee, but it’s so overpowered by that naar sweetness that it’s almost not detectable. After the shaggy foot I just taste that nasty sweetness, I’m afraid this will be a long and painful review. The sweetness is fading a little bit and instead I taste a harshness of poor quality tobacco and a hint of chocolate. After a third the sweetness has faded to an acceptable level and I taste cheap chocolate and some soil. The flavor doesn’t change much, the second third starts out with the earth flavor and the chemical sweetness. Halfway the sweetness is finally gone, I taste green herbs, spicy, like rucola salad. The final third it’s wood with earth, pepper and herbs. The final few puffs are spicy and peppery.


The draw is fine. The smoke is white but too thin for my liking. The light gray ash is firm. The burn is good, quite straight. This cigar is medium bodied and medium flavored, the evolution picks up halfway. The smoke time is three hours.


Would I buy this cigar again? I still have one, guess I’ll have to cut the whole sweetened tip off before lighting it. The sweetened tip caused the score to be at least 5 points lower than it would have gotten without that nasty sweetness.

Score: 82
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708 Juniors Barber Pole


The day after, the next 708 Barber Pole but this time the 4×40 Juniors. Just as the Shaggy this cigar has three different wrappers, Connecticut Shade, Habano and Maduro and again the strips of tobacco are different in size, the maduro is way thinner than the others. The ring is a carbon copy of the Shaggy and the construction is equally good. The aroma is just as strong as the shaggy, very strong for a petit corona, and again hay, straw and barnyard.


Due to the thin size I cut the cigar instead of punching it. I’m smoking outside in an almost wind free spot of my garden for a change due to the perfect summer weather, so I will light the cigar with a jet flame. The cold draw is a bit loose and I taste some of the sweetness from the sweetened tip but not as strong as on the shaggy and some raw tobacco. I taste a spicy coffee and earthy flavor with just a hint of sweetness, the first puff is so much better than the shaggy. After a quarter of an inch the cigar gets a little harsh. After a third I don’t taste any sweetness just a sharp, spicy and mild salty fresh wood flavor and some earth. Slowly the cigar gets a little harsh again with more pepper. Near the end I taste more wood.


The draw is fine and the smoke is thick, white and there’s a lot of it. The ash is salt and pepper colored and firm. This is a medium bodied medium full flavored cigar with not a lot of evolution but then again, it’s too short to have a lot of evolution. The smoke time is forty five minutes.


Would I buy this cigar again? I would pick this over the shaggy but won’t pay for it.

Score: 85
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Categories: 708 Cigars, 82, 85, Dominican cigars | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Antonius Red Label Robusto

Antonius is made at Intercigar, the factory of the Dutch cigar manufacturer Maurice Koks. His grandfather used to make Dutch dry cured shortfillers in The Netherlands back in the day and Maurice decided years later to step into his grandfathers footsteps and make cigars too. He packed up all he had and moved to the Dominican Republic and that’s something I admire and respect, moving away to another country to chase your dreams takes balls especially when you downgrade when it comes to luxury, social security, safety, healthcare and income, although when moving to the Dominican you upgrade in climate and relaxation I guess. It’s something I always wanted to do but never had the guts to do, and when I finally had the balls and the reasons, after I married my Asian wife, she decided she rather lives in The Netherlands instead of me coming to Singapore so here I am. Not that I’m complaining though, I have a nice house with my man cave, walk in humidor, waterfront garden, little speed boat and friends & family close so life is good.


Well, Maurice created a cigar and named it after his grandfather Antonius. For The Netherlands he signed a deal with a group of retailers, all independent retailers but they work together in a cooperation, called Compaenen and at my local Compaenen shop I saw these new cigars years ago, I guess its 7 or 8 years ago by now. There were two different blends available, both in 3 packs for €12 per pack, which made it a €4 cigar. I bought them, smoked one of each and gave the others away with a warning that they were horrible. And I guess I wasn’t the only one with that opinion as it took the Compaenen group years and years to get rid of their order, they couldn’t even give them away, that’s how bad they were received by the Dutch public. I found the red label in my humidor recently and decided to see what age did with it. The wrapper is a habano rosado over Dominican and Nicaraguan filler and it’s made at the Dominican Republic.


The cigar comes wrapped in both cedar and cellophane which is a nice way to protect the cigar and I hope that the cedar rubbed of after all these years and improved the flavor of the cigar. The downside of the cedar is that the cellophane didn’t turn yellow, something I always like when I unwrap a cigar that has been aging for a long time. The wrapper is quite pale but smooth and oily. The construction feels good although at the head I can clearly see a vein of the binder sticking out like a pimple on a teenager. The aroma is nice, manure with some cedar and quite strong for an aged cigar. The ring is nice, burgundy top with a crest that has the logo of Den Bosch, the Dutch city where Koks grew up, and the logo of Santiago , where he spends his time now. All with golden details. The bottom is yellow with a red banner and white letters Antonius.


I punched the cigar and the cold draw good, I taste dried raisin and some pepper. I lit the cigar with my Ronson varaflame and I taste a musty flavor that reminds me of Connecticut Shade wrapper with some pepper. After a few puffs I taste fried egg (!?!?) with lemon. After a centimeter I taste sugar, harsh cedar, pepper and lemon. Halfway I taste cedar with some chocolate and a metallic lemon flavor. After two thirds the mustiness is back, some harshness is still around and the pepper grew stronger.


The smoke is good, thick and plentiful. The draw is great, no complaints there. The ash is white with black smears and firm. The burn is crooked though. It’s a medium bodied, medium plus flavored cigar. The smoke time is an hour and twenty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? No, I won’t. I wish I could write something different but I can’t. It got better over the years but it’s still not good enough for me.

Score: 85
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Categories: 85, Antonius, Dominican cigars, Intercigar | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Asylum 13 Ogre 770

This is a review I dread, not because of the blend of the cigar or the brand but because of the sheer size. I like the classic sizes, lancero, lonsdale, corona, robusto but anything over ring 55 is 99 out of the 100 times to big for me, unless its a torpedo or perfecto, then it might just work. So this 7 by 70 is way out of my comfort zone. Actually, when we got these cigars in, I worked at the Dutch distributer at that time, and I walked into our retail location in Rotterdam, my employer was there and asked me if I wanted to try one. My initial reply was “if I want to suck a donkey dick, i’ll go to the petting zoo”. But the other day I found one in my humidor, probably left over from a sample I gave to a retailer, so I decided to smoke it. The 7 by 70 was the initial release of the Ogre line, before all the line extensions, and it was in the early days that this happened.


The cigar itself is a cigar made at NASCA in Esteli, Nicaragua for Asylum Cigars, the company of Christian Eiroa and Tom Lazuka. I do like the regular Asylum 13 robusto and I always like the way barber poles look so if this was a robusto size I’d be quick to try one, especially since its a barber pole that doesn’t use Connecticut shade as a contrast wrapper, most of the times that kills the cigar for me because I hate Connecticut shade even more than I hate big ring cigars, although they come pretty darn close to each other.


The cigar, first of all, I love the name, its big, its green, so its an ogre. And it doesn’t come wrapped in cellophane but to protect the foot the foot is wrapped in a piece of wrapping paper. The ring is big, simple, shiny black with white lettering saying Asylum 13 and little drawings of something, but I don’t know what, could be a flower, a cloud of a mental patient from an asylum mooning me. They are all connected by a red dotted line. The ring doesn’t make any sense to me, but maybe thats deliberate to match the name. The quality of the printing is fine though. Then the wrapper, the brown wrapper is nice and dark, like dark oak and mild shiny while the candela wrapper is more rustic with more veins. They make a nice contrast. The construction feels good, and the dark cap is placed razor sharp on the top of the cigar, creating a beautiful horizontal line on the parts with the candela wrapper. The cigar has a mild and fresh smell to it, a little grassy too but I guess that comes from the candela wrapper.


I cut the cigar instead of punching it because I felt punching it wouldn’t be enough. The cold draw is great and tastes a little bit of raisin and a lot of pepper. Because of the ring gauge I opted for a torch flame and it still took a minute to get the cigar properly lit. I taste coffee with grass and pepper. I also taste a little sweetness. After half an inch the cigar gets creamy like butter with a lot of pepper. After an inch and a half I taste some vanilla and with the cream I think of vanilla ice cream but with lots of pepper. Near the end I taste nuts and pepper and the flavors are still creamy.


The smoke is medium thick and medium in amount. The draw is a little too easy, but that’s expected from a 70 ring cigar. The ash is light gray and frayed but very firm. The burn is uneven, but I never had a barberpole with an even burn, the different wrappers all burn with their own speed. I actually have to work to keep the cigar lit. As expected there isn’t a bit of evolution as is always the case with big ring gauge cigars. The cigar is medium bodied at most and medium plus flavored. The amount of pepper surprised me though. The smoke time is less than I expected, only two hours but it’s long enough for me.

Would I buy this cigar again? No, but I would try the lancero or the robusto if they ever make it to The Netherlands

Score: 85
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Categories: 85, Asylum, Nicaragua American Cigars S.A., Nicaraguan cigars | 5 Comments

H. Upmann Half Corona

In 2011 Habanos released a new H. Upmann vitola, and since H. Upmann is my favorite Cuban brand I was excited to hear the news, especially since it wasn’t a 55+ ring release but a small cigar, a 3 1/2×44 Half Corona. At first they came in dress boxes of 25 cigars but the big boom came a year later when they released the same cigar in beautiful tins of 5 cigars each. The tins were perfect to take cigars with you and fitted right into your shirts pocket. The tins were so popular that they sold out quickly and it took a long time for Habanos to restock the Dutch market.


Now I don’t smoke a lot of Cubans, there is too much to complain about when it comes to the aging of tobacco, the quality of the rollers, the quality of tobacco and especially the myth that the Cuban cigars are the best in the world. They used to be, there is no denying that and yes, Cuban tobacco has a specific flavor you won’t find in tobacco elsewhere just like Ometepe tobacco has specific characteristics, like Pennsylvania Broadleaf has specific characteristics and so on, but hardliners only talk about the characteristics of the Cubans like Cuban tobacco is divine and I happen to have another opinion. My take is that yes, Cubans used to be the best and I even think that Cuban cigars have the potential to be the best again but right now they are not and if the regime and mentality on Cuba doesn’t change they won’t be the best ever again. They rush the tobacco and cigars out, the fermentation of the tobacco and the aging of the cigars are not properly done, the quality control is poor (only 4% of the Cuban cigars are tested for quality) and the land is depleted due to mono culture and a lack of fertilizer. And it’s a shame, the quality of Cuban cigars could be out of this world if everything was done right. I could write a whole editorial about this if I want, but then again, this is a review blog so let stick to reviewing and hope that that Habanos sees their problems and deals with them accordingly.


The Half Corona that i’m smoking for this review comes from a box with the box code of april 2013. Now stamping the boxes with a code is something I love about the Cuban cigar industry. If I owned a factory or brand I would do the same, of go even a step further with a stamp that mentions the month and year the cigars are rolled but also the year of the crop of the wrapper, binder and filler just to inform the consumer on the age of the tobacco and cigars. The wrapper is a nice medium brown, like milky chocolate, with few minor veins and the triple cap is beautiful. What I do notice about the cigar is the way the foot has been cut, its not straight, if I put the cigar on its foot the cigar had the same tilt as the leaning tower of Pisa as you can see in the picture above. When I touch the cigar I feel a soft spot at the head of the cigar, which actually doesn’t surprise me considering the low quality control on Cuba. The band is the regular H. Upmann band, not fancy, very classic. The cigar has a manure aroma to it, medium strong. I punched the cigar and the cold draw is a bit on the tough side.


I light the cigar with my trusted Ronson varaflame which is older than I am.  I taste coffee and a wooden flavor but it’s mild to medium. After a short time I taste a very mild peanut flavor, unsalted peanuts. Slowly the flavors are a little bit stronger and I taste now some earthy flavors with the peanut. After two thirds I taste earthy flavors with some white pepper on my lips. The flavor than changes to nuts. At the end i alsof taste some citrus.


The draw has a little more resistance than I like, but I’ve had worse, especially in Cubans. The smoke is thin, gray and not a lot of volume. The ash is light gray, firm and dense. The burn is quite good, not razor sharp but good enough. This cigar is mild to medium bodied and medium flavored. The smoke time is about 50 minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? I still have half a box and even though I love the size I rather smoke the Joya Red Half Corona if I want this vitola.

Score: 85

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Categories: 85, Cuban cigars, H. Upmann (Habanos), H. Upmann Factory | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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