89

La Gloria Cubana Medaille d’or No.3

When I started smoking cigars I was a fat guy, 400lbs/180kg, and I liked big cigars, robusto or thicker and refused to smoke thin cigars as I didn’t have the skills to truly enjoy them yet and because of the way it looked, I had a bowling ball shaped face and a thin cigar just looked strange I thought. But the owner of the shop that I frequented all the time, Marjolein Hartman from Hartman Cigars & More in Amsterdam, kept saying I needed to try this Cuban slim panetela, the La Gloria Cubana Medaille d’or #3. I said no a few times but because I trusted her judgement and knowledge I finally bought one and lit it. That cigar was a game changer for me, so flavorful, so dynamic and thats when I fell in love with thin cigars. I smoked the cigar in the shop and brought the box home, the box date was June 2002. This review is the last cigar I had left from that specific box.


Now back the bigger vs smaller ring cigars. I keep hearing that the popularity of big ring gauge cigars is because people get more tobacco for their money but I disagree. At Intertabac 2016 I had an interesting conversation with Steve Saka as he disagrees too but we both have a slightly different reason. Steve says its because most of the modern cigars aren’t mild to medium but medium plus to full bodied the bigger ring gauges, that tend to be milder compared to the thinner cigars, are more popular because they are milder and thats still a major part of the consumer base. I say its because a thicker cigar is easier to smoke, the burning temperature is lower so the cigar won’t overheat and won’t turn bitter (exactly the same reason why I always direct novice smokers to a robusto or thicker). On the other hand, why do other people love thin cigars so much? Because the wrapper to filler ratio is much better, wrapper gives the most flavor to a cigar, up to 80% sometimes, and if you have less filler you taste more of the wrapper plus the cigar gets way more dynamic, more evolution but you have to smoke slowly to prevent the cigar from overheating. It takes experience and skill to truly enjoy a thin cigar.


Now the cigar itself, as I said, it is a thin cigar, thinner than my beloved lonsdales and lanceros, much thinner with a ring gauge of 28 while a lancero has a ring gauge of 38. If you don’t know how to measure that, it is measured in 1/64 of an inch, so this cigar is 28/64 of an inch wide which is less than 2/3rd of my pink and I have slim fingers. The length is Lancero size though, close to 7 inch. The wrapper has a bit of a rustic look to it, get the band of, leave it on the grounds in the woods and you might even think it belongs there due to the veins, but I guess thats part of the charm too. The wrapper is mild oily and chocolate milk colored. The cigar feels evenly packed, well constructed and its very hard to roll a cigar this skinny and to apply a triple cap. The ring is cute, a yellow circle with the portrait of a woman in a red cape, black letters La Gloria Cuban with a relatively big golden ring around it with at the bottom black letters Habana. The sides have the golden lining too with a red and white striped pattern and two golden medals on each side. Not a spectacular ring, but the tiny size makes it very cute. The aroma is quite mild and I smell a soapy flavor, some pepper and a little bit of a barnyard.


Due to the skinny size it is impossible to punch the cigar so I grabbed my Xikar cutter to find a tight draw that has a little pepper. I lit the cigar with my soft flame and straight from the start I taste a beautiful mix of leather, coffee and a mild chocolate. After a centimeter I taste mild salty nuts. After a third third I taste some cedar, some bitter herbs and a mild metallic flavors. Halfway I am surprised by the amount of pepper I taste. After two thirds a nutty flavor joins the pepper, I also taste some salt.


Due to the difficult draw the smoke is thin too and not too much either. The ash is quite dark gray, layered and reasonably firm. The burn is straight as a line. There is a lot of evolution, as can be expected from a skinny cigar. The cigar is medium in both body and flavor. The smoke time is an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? They are discontinued, Habanos is moving more and more into the big ring cigars. And my preferences changed I guess, I’m not liking this as much as I used to and that counts for most Cubans.

Score: 89
89

Categories: 89, Cuban cigars, La Gloria Cubana (Habanos), Partagas Factory | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Santiago Connecticut Robusto

At Intertabac 2016 I met the guys of Santiago cigars who shared their booth with Gerard from Nicoya. As we were talking about cigars, about their brand, a private label made by Plasencia as so many others they gave me a few of their cigars to review. I had very good cigars made by Plasencia, I had bad ones and I probably had a lot of Plasencia cigars without even knowing they are made by this very influential family that are the biggest growers of tobacco in Nicaragua and Honduras with huge cigar factories on both sides of the border too. If you ever happen to be in Esteli, try to visit the cathedral of tobacco as the Plasencia factory is being called by everybody and do yourself a favor, peek at the daycare centre Plasencia founded across the street too, if you’re lucky the kids will sing a song and do a dance for you, its adorable.


Now Roberto from Santiago handed me their three blends, a habano, a maduro and a Connecticut. I warned Robert as I hate Connecticut. To me it’s a demonic invention and I picture hell as a huge hipster filled cigar shop with nothing but Connecticut shade cigars, an alcohol free bar and only vegan food. But, and I have heard this from many manufacturers including some big names, Roberto swore me that their Connecticut shade is different than all other. None of the manufacturers that said this to me were right though, there is something about Connecticut shade that makes me despise it, the musty taste, the pale look, its not my thing but the same tobacco grown broadleaf is a whole different thing though, that I love.


The Santiago Connecticut Robusto is a 5×50 box pressed cigar, made in the Nicaraguan factory of Plasencia with Nicaraguan filler, a double binder, both from Nicaragua and a Connecticut Shade wrapper from the Talanga region of Honduras. The wrapper is typical Connecticut shade, pale, thin and it has a few veins. The construction is flawless though with a beautiful triple cap. The ring is beautiful, its a dark green, close to grey, with golden linings and white letters Santiago de Los Caballeros Nicaragua but what makes the band stand out is the shiny, black and slightly raised cross. The bottom ring is the same greenish gray with golden lining and red letters Connecticut, something I would have done in white to make it matching. This is the exact same comment as I made for the Habano version of the cigar btw and I do understand why they didn’t do it in white but in different colors to make the cigars stand apart more in a humidor, but I think the different colors of the wrapper should already do that. The aroma is a like walking into a dry barn where the farmer just put down some fresh hay before the sheep or cow come back in.


I punched the cigar and the cold draw is great. The flavor is mellow except for a strong pepper on my lips. I lit the cigar with my vintage Ronson, my favorite lighter. The flavor is actually quite nice, sweet coffee with some cinnamon except I also taste a little bit of the typical Connecticut Shade mustiness. After a centimeter I taste some cedar with a little bit of salt and sweetness but unfortunately the mustiness gets stronger too. After a thirds the mustiness is getting to the level I expect from a Shade cigar but surprisingly I also taste a pretty strong red pepper. Halfway the mustiness tones down, I now taste cedar again with cinnamon, some sweetness and a nice amount of pepper. Near the end I taste the mustiness again with some pepper and nuts.


The smoke is medium thick and medium in volume. The ash is light colored, dense and firm. The draw is just perfect. The burn is fine, not razor sharp but also not crooked. The cigar is mild bodied but medium plus flavored. The smoke time is an hour.

Would I buy this cigar again? No but if someone gifts me one I will smoke it again and that I don’t say about a lot of Connecticut Shade cigars. Roberto was right when he said that this cigar isn’t the same as other Shade cigars.

Score: 89

Categories: 89, Nicaraguan cigars, Santiago | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Don Labalet Robusto

After I came back from Intertabac 2016, where I met some old friends, made some new ones, I looked at all the cigars that have been given to me and cataloged them in my online humidor at Stogierate.com. Some of the cigars have been reviewed in the last few months, some others will still be reviewed. The information on most of the cigars was easy to find but I had one cigar, Don Labalet Robusto, that was just no information to be found on and I tried hard but couldn’t remember who gave it to me. And with no information I mean literally no information online I just didn’t have a clue what it was, who made it and where it was from. Fast forward two weeks later, I got a message from Kevin Dooms who works at Gajane, a distributer of premium cigars in The Netherlands, I’ve known Kevin for a few years as his parents own a nice tobacco shop in Zwijndrecht and I used to visit them as a sales rep for The Longfiller Company. At Intertabac we spoke about me being unemployed at the moment, and that I needed a contract to bring my Singaporean wife, whom I just married, over to The Netherlands.


So Kevin, his employer Steph, his colleague Cees and I meet up for lunch at their office and after lunch they give me a cigar, guess what, its a Don Labalet Robusto. And then I found out more about the cigar. Gajane is not only active in The Netherlands but also in Sweden and France and in Sweden they also produce snus (known as dip in the USA) and cigarettes. One of their employees is a Cuban refugee, Osmel Lavalier Castellanos, and it turned out that he used to be a cigar roller back in Cuba. So now, next to his regular job at Gajane, he rolls cigars for and at events. Gajane Netherlands brought him over for a few events and the moment Osmel landed at Schiphol airport he asked “do you have cigar rings?” and that was countered by “do you have a name for the cigar?”. They settled on the name Don Labalet, as that is Osmel’s second name and had bands printed quickly. As far as the blend, I have no idea what tobaccos are used for this specific cigar.


The wrapper has a milky brown wrapper and a very flat head, that makes it great to punch. There is a little damage and I can see a much darker binder. The cigar has a double band, the foot ring is bronze colored with 3 golden stars and black lettering that says “Don Labalet” while the regular ring is black with red and yellow, a white D and a black L. The construction feels great and you can see the Cuban influence in the beatiful triple cap. The cigar has a mild sweet aroma. I’m smoking this cigar during the day instead of my regular routine of reviewing in the evening.


As I said, the head is very flat so I punched the cigar and the cold draw is great, I taste a mild spicy raw tobacco flavor. I light the cigar with my Ronson varaflame. The first flavor is a mild coffee, more latte than regular coffee. After a centimeter i taste a mild and muted cinnamon and a caramel like sweetness on top of a wood flavor. After an inch I lost the caramel but instead I taste a mild milky chocolate with the wood and the muted cinnamon. Halfway it’s a dry wood, muted cinnamon and a dominant caramel sweetness again. After two thirds the wood gets replaced by nuts, the cinnamon is gone and the caramel is still dominant. Soon after there is a herbal spicy flavor too with the retuned cinnamon and the caramel. The last few puffs are peppery.


The smoke is medium thick but I get a lot of smoke. The ash is beautiful light gray, almost white, with some darker accents and quite firm. The draw is perfect and the burn is straight. The cigar is mild to medium bodied and medium flavored, a great morning cigar that I think, would not be suitable after a dinner. The cigar is well balanced and for an ‘event only’ cigar not related to any brand this cigar surprises me pleasantly. The smoke time is little over an hour.

Would I buy this cigar again? That will be impossible since its an event only cigar and I don’t know if the same sort of tobacco is available for the next event.

Score: 89

89

Categories: 89, Don Labalet, Dutch cigars | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fratello Boxer Box Pressed Torpedo

The first time I ever heard of the Fratello brand was in may 2015 when I was visiting the Joya de Nicaragua factory in Esteli, Nicaragua and I spotted the brand. I didn’t know what it was, so I asked Juan Martinez and he explained that it was a private label for a gentleman named Omar de Frias. Fast forward a year later, due to the new then pending TPD2 regulations the company I worked for bought 2 boxes of everything of all the brands we distributed and Joya de Nicaragua included every possible size of Fratello and Sobremesa too just to be sure and have these cigars registered on the Dutch market. Included were two boxes of Fratello lancero, a size that we don’t get a lot but as a lover of that vitola I snagged both boxes for myself


In september of last year I met Omar at the Joya de Nicaragua booth at Intertabac, we chatted a bit and he said “let me give you my favorite cigar” and handed me this 6 1/2×52 Fratello Boxer box pressed torpedo. A quick look on their website taught me that the cigar is made with filler from Nicaragua and Peru, a Ecuadorean Sumatra binder and a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper. As the name suggests, the cigar is box pressed. The wrapper has a nice medium dark wrapper, to reminds me of a bar of chocolate, with a few veins that rolled in a way you don’t see them on the face of the cigar. The ring is great, not a ‘straight’ ring with a diagonal written text but a true diagonal ring with a vibrant red color, white letters and black lining. The footboard is black with red lining and white letters.


The construction of this cigar feels very good, I can’t feel any plugs or soft spots but then again, I can’t recall ever having a bad rolled Joya de Nicaragua cigar. The aroma isn’t strong and quite spicy, a bit like paprika powder and other kitchen spices, quite unique. I used a flat cut to cut the cigar. The foot band was stuck to the cigar so I damaged the wrapper taking the ring off. The cold draw is great and I taste spicy raisins. I use a soft flame to light the cigar. I taste roasted coffee beans and an earthy flavor.


After a centimeter the coffee disappears and I taste that earthy flavor with a nice dose of refreshing lemon. The lemon tones down a little and I taste a little bit of cocoa with it. The earthy flavor is still the base of it all. After a third the earthy flavor is all I taste. Halfway the coffee returns with a little bit of lemon. Slowly the cigar gets a little spicy with a little parsley and pepper. The lemon gets stronger again. The pepper is slowly taking the overhand. I also taste a faint cocoa again. Near the end I taste pepper and a bit chocolate with a little nuts.


The draw is good even though I cut the cigar very close to the top and therefore not opening up all smoke channels. That does effect the smoke, that could be thicker and more luscious. The ash isn’t very pretty at the start but the color and the structure gets better along the way, it’s relatively firm. The burn is pretty straight. The cigar is medium full bodied and equally flavored. The smoke time is two hours exactly.

Would I buy this cigar again? I liked the lancero better.

Score: 89

89

Categories: 89, Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua, Fratello, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Joya Black Robusto

Joya de Nicaragua is the oldest factory in Estelí, Nicaragua with a huge history. I’ve been blessed and had the opportunity to visit the factory several times (including a trip for the Cigaragua book by Marcel Langedijk and Jesaja Hutubessy). In 2014 Joya de Nicaragua tried to rejuvenate their look to attract a new group of aficionados with the release of the Joya Red, a cigar with a modern look and feel and it was very well received. The next step is the Joya black, a little stronger version of the Red with a Mexican San Andres Negro wrapper over Nicaraguan fillers and binder with the same sort of artwork as the Joya Red but in black of course. I smoked a few pre-releases at an event in the Netherlands a few months prior to the release at the ipcpr 2016. The 5¼x50 robusto that I’m smoking for this review I got from Juan Martínez at the Intertabac trade show in Dortmund. And to keep it all in theme I’m using my Joya de Nicaragua branded Xikar cutter and my Joya de Nicaragua stinky ashtray painted by Subculture Studios.

Let’s start with the band, that has certainly the look and feel of the successful Joya Red. The band is modern but in a way that also honors the history and the historic artwork of the older Joya de Nicaragua blends. The wrapper is dark and have a few veins, it’s evenly dark. The construction feels good, no soft spots or plugs. The cigar has a distinct aroma, barnyard but with a burned wood finish. The cold draw is good, a little of the tight side of good. I taste some dry dark chocolate.

Since I don’t have a Joya branded lighter I used my trusted vintage Ronson varaflame to light the cigar, which was pretty easy. I taste a bit of a smoky barbecue flavor, not fire cured barbecue but still. There’s also a little sugar like sweetness. The sweetness gets stronger while the barbecue fades away and makes place for a grilled chili pepper flavor.

After a third I taste the sugary sweetness (which is mild and balanced) with some wood and toast. Halfway the wood gets stronger and there is a tangy citrus flavor on my tongue. After two thirds I also taste a minty freshness in the aftertaste. The mild sugar returns near the end too.

The smoke is white, thick and abundant, 100% score on the smoke and it makes my air cleaner work overtime. The burn is good, a little crooked at the start but it corrects itself. The ash is white and quite firm. The draw is better after lighting than in the cold draw. The smoke time is about 90 minutes. I would call this cigar medium plus to full.

Would I buy this cigar again? I think I prefer the Joya Red, especially the half corona which is an amazing cigar.

Score 89

89

Categories: 89, Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua, Joya de Nicaragua, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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