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Don Fernando Corona

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

Mi Querida SakaKhan

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


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


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


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


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

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

Score: 94

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

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

Oliva Master Blend 2 Robusto

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


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


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


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


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

Would I buy this cigar again? I wish!

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

Oliva Master Blend 1 Churchill

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Jas Sum Kral Da Cebak/Seljak

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

 


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

 


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

 


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

 


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

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

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

Ilja VIII

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


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


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


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

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


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

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

Score: 94

94

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

Undercrown Manifesto

Now here’s a cigar that needs a little bit of an introduction, well, not the cigar itself but how I got it and where I smoked it. The cigar itself is just a Undercrown in an incredible vitola, 11 inch long with a ring gauge of 40, so sort of a double lancero, but it’s a unique size and only available at events so rare. And even though I worked for the Dutch Drew Estate distributer before Agio took over and that I spend a lot of hours with JD in the car, visited his home, the Drew Estate offices in Miami and the factory in Esteli several times I never was able to get my hands on this cigar. Not that i’m complaining though as Jonathan and the other guys from DE have always been very generous with me.


So, as I said, I worked for a cigar distributor and one day I heard about a convenience shop, a franchiser part of a group of shops called Primera in the pittoresk town of Hoorn was thinking about a walk-in humidor so I dropped by. Owner Bjorn didn’t know a lot back then but had great plans and a few months later he had build a fantastic walk-in humidor in his shop, he visited Nicaragua and Cuba too and is now a knowledgeable and passionate tobacconist. Together we picked a nice assortment for his shop and promised to be easy with exchanging cigars if they wouldn’t sell as I wanted him to succeed. Well, he did, he turned an empty space on the attic into a smoke lounge but that happened after I lost the job. Last week someone posted a picture of the Manifesto in the Balmoral/Drew Estate group on Facebook and I replied that I had never smoked that cigar. Two days later Bjorn reached out to me, said he had a coffin of two Manifestos and said “come see my new lounge and we will both smoke the manifesto”, an offer I couldn’t refuse for four reasons: the manifesto, my curiosity about his smoke lounge, it’s nice to smoke a cigar with people that are passionate about tobacco and Bjorn is a nice guy. So here I am, at the lounge of Primera Grooteman in Hoorn, about to light and review the Undercrown Manifesto.


The cigars come in a pair in a coffin and when you open it you see two cigars completely wrapped in a blue paper. The cigar is long and thin, the binder has a lot of veins and it shows under the wrapper. The wrapper is mild oily with a reddish glow. The construction feelers great and I love pig tails. The blue and golden ring is pretty with the lion on top of an upside down crown, the drew estate logo on the side and the Undercrown name at the back. The aroma reminds me of a barnyard and is medium strong.


Due to the thin size I had to cut the cigar. I used my Joya de Nicaragua branded xikar cutter. The cold draw is flawless and I taste raisin with a spicy and peppery aftertaste. I lit the cigar with a classic soft flame, this long and thin cigar deserves some class over a jet flame. I taste a sweet yet spicy coffee flavor, very tasty. After half an inch I taste a strong mix of cedar, nutmeg and walnuts with a nice hint of pepper. The walnuts grow stronger with some spices with a little vanilla. I love the cool smoke because of the length of the cigar. After a third the cigar gets a little stronger. Halfway I taste some pepper, not overpowering though, with green herbs, spices and a faint mint. The pepper slowly grows in strength. Near the end it’s pepper and cedar with pepper as the main flavor. Right before I put the cigar away the pepper disappears and I taste a nice wood with cinnamon flavor.


The draw is amazing, especially when you consider the difficult vitola. This shows excellent skills of the torcedor. The smoke is classic Drew Estate, that means there is a lot of thick smoke, only the color isn’t perfectly white but I’m not bothered. The light colored ash is pretty but not too firm. The burn is fantastic. This is a medium full bodied and full flavored cigar. The evolution and complexity it great. The smoke time is two hours and fifteen minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? I wish, the vitola makes this cigar more subtle and complex than the regular Undercrown without losing strength or flavor. Thank you Bjorn for sharing this cigar with me!

Score: 94
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Categories: 94, Gran Fabrica Drew Estate, Nicaraguan cigars, Undercrown | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kilo Toro

Yes I know, almost exactly 2 years ago I reviewed this cigar too, so lets call this a redux. I wanted to review this cigar with my 100 point scoring system before they were all gone so this was my last chance. Here’s the story, years ago I met Barry Stein when he worked for Miami Cigar & Co when I went to visit Nestor Miranda and Jason Wood at the office and we stayed in touch, actually, everytime I went to Miami Barry and I made time to smoke a stick or two so when I saw him post on Facebook that he was brining back his brand that he was working on before he joined Miami Cigar & Co I asked for more information.


All Barry said that the cigar was being made in Esteli, a town I would visit soon after the conversation and after a little push Barry told me who made the cigars but I had to promise not to tell before he publicly announced it. It was Noel Rojas, back in his old factory Aromas de Jalapa, nowadays Noel works from Tabacalera NOA and Barry was kind enough to get me Noel’s contact information. This all led to the introduction of the Rojas, Sabor de Esteli and Guayacan brands in The Netherlands 18 months later but that’s a side step. I visited Noel at the factory and he gave me a bundle of the Kilo Toro and Barry asked me for pictures because he had not seen the complete cigars with the rings.


Now I can’t tell you anything about the blend as I simply don’t know, but I can tell you all about the looks. The cigar looks cool, the wrapper is has a deep dark brown color with a light oily shine and no noticeable veins, the construction feels great and you can see Noel’s Cuban heritage with the triple cap. The cigar ring is one of the best i’ve seen, high glossy paper, pitch black with a thick golden outline that really pops, white chemistry drawings and KILO in golden letters. On the back you will find the United Cigars logo, think Route 66 with 3 white stars in blue and the classic American red & white stripes. The aroma is great, deep and it reminds me of the rolling tobacco my father used to smoke when I was a kid and before his health made him stop. There is absolutely no acidic aroma at all, no ammonia, nothing.


I decided to punch the cigar. The cold draw is fine, I taste a little raisin with a little spice and honey. I lit the cigar with a soft flame as usual. I taste coffee with some leather and jalapeño pepper. On my lips I taste a very mild honey. After a few puffs I taste pepper, a mixture of spices and some honey with a leathery aftertaste. After a centimeter I taste some cedar too.

After a third I taste some pepper, some cedar, some honey and a little cocoa. Halfway the cigar gets a little bitter on the tip of my tongue and I taste some spices, a little nutmeg, a little cinnamon, and also a little citrus. The flavors are quite dry, I need to drink a lot of water with this cigar. The cigar also gets a little peppery again. Near the end I also taste some freshness and the pepper is gone. There is also a mild nutty flavor


The draw is fantastic and the smoke is too, thick, plentiful and white. The ash is firm, dense and light colored. The burn is a bit crooked though but not too bad, so I don’t need to correct. The cigar is medium full bodied and full flavored. The smoke time is an hour and 50 minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? That would be impossible as Barry has sold the rights to the name and the cigar has been discontinued.

Score: 94

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Categories: 94, Kilo, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera Noa | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

La Sagrada Familia Robusto

La Sagrada Familia, you might only know that name as the masterpiece of Spanish architect and artist Antoni Gaudi, since late 2016 its also a cigar brand from a Dutch entrepreneur, Tom Mulder, who blended this cigar with the master blenders at Joya de Nicaragua, the factory where his cigars are being made. Now I have known Tom for years, I tried several test blends, smoked the pre-release and I was there when he and Sasja van Horssen (cigar distributor in The Netherlands, owner of Cigaragua, the worlds only “all Nicaraguan” cigar shop) talks about making a brand together, later on they decided it was better if Tom did the brand on his own. From day one the idea was to give a donation to a Nicaraguan charity for each cigar sold, an idea that eventually evolved into pronica but that didn’t stop Tom from still donating $0.10 per cigar sold to another charity, a project with single mothers that recycle paper into postcards but his charity will change every year. My idea of including a postcard in every box didn’t make the final cut, still think it would be a nice touch but it was too complicated to make it happen Tom told me. In another conversation I heard them brainstorm on how to get the message across on the charity, and what charity Tom picks every year because advertising tobacco isn’t allowed in The Netherlands and Tom can’t make a La Sagrada Familia website. I interupted them and asked “what about just a charity website?” and that’s what happened (click here).


Now the cigar, it is a 5×50 robusto, there is also a 6×50 toro and a 6×60 gordo, and its made with Nicaraguan habano from different regions as binder and filler with an Ecuadorean habano as a wrapper. I know this isn’t the exact same blend as the test blend that was chosen or the pre release versions I smoked, later in the process Tom decided to change the wrapper to the Ecuadorean habano that is used now. The cigars are cellophane wrapped and this robusto has a €8 price tag in The Netherlands. I took the cigar out of the cellophane and feel a silky smooth wrapper that looks good, a few thin vins and its quite oily, the color is medium light, like the crust on a loaf of white bread. The cigar feels firm, well packed and has a nice cap. The ring looks big, but actually isn’t, I don’t know what it is, the color scheme or the design, I don’t know but it looks bigger to me than it is. The base colors of the ring are a dark blue and gray/silver that are supported by two thin white lines. On the front there is white lettering with the La Sagrada Familia name and a silver logo that represents the La Sagrada Familia towers in Barcelona but instantly made me say Rolex. I don’t know if Rolex used the La Sagrada Familia for inspiraton but the resemblance is striking. On the sides it says handmade and nicaragua in blue letters. Its a nice ring but it could use a bit more finesse to make it really pop since the design is also quite simple. The aroma is medium strong and warm, no ammonia at all, just hay, wood and sawdust.


I punched the cigar and the cold draw is perfect. I taste hay with raisin and a little bit of white pepper on the background. I light the cigar with a soft flame and taste espresso with a hint of licorice. The licorice disappears quickly and after a centimeter I taste coffee with a faint chocolate flavor. Soon after I taste white pepper with some wood. After a third the pepper is pleasantly strong with a mild lemon in the aftertaste. I also taste the licorice on the tip of my tongue again but it’s faint yet very pleasant. Later on its pepper with leather, the leather is cubanesque but the pepper makes it too strong and too flavorful to be Cuban and that’s a good thing in my book. I also taste a wood flavor.


The smoke is rich and full, just the way I like it and the draw is perfect. The ash is light colored, firm and dense. The burn is straight as can be. This cigar is full bodied and certainly full flavored. The evolution is good. The smoke time is an hour and a half.


Would I buy this cigar again? No doubt, this will be a staple in my humidor.

Score: 94

94

Categories: 94, Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua, La Sagrada Familia, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cornelius & Anthony Cornelius Toro

A few years ago, while working for a cigar importer/distributer I met Courtney Smith who was working for one of the brands we distributed, La Palina. Courtney left La Palina, I left the company I was working for but at intertabac last September we ran into each other again. Courtney gave me a few cigars of the company she’s with now, Cornelius & Anthony. I smoked most at the show but kept a few samples for reviews.

Cornelius & Anthony is quite new to the premium cigar game but not new to the tobacco industry. The family behind the brand has been growing tobacco in Virginia for over 150 years and 5th generation Steven Anthony Bailey decided it was time to branch out to the premium cigar business and honoring the first Bailey to enter the business he named the brand after him: Cornelius and added his own second name Anthony to it. They came out with 4 lines, 3 made in La Zona in Esteli, Nicaragua and one by El Titan de Bronze in Miami. And the last one I’ll be reviewing today. The line is called Cornelius and the cigar is made from Nicaraguan and Dominican filler with a binder and wrapper from Ecuador. I smoked the 6×50 toro. The band is very detailed and beautifully designed, just like the artwork on the boxes. The wrapper has a beautiful color, only a few small veins, a light shine and a silky feel. The triple cap on the well rounded head finishes the looks of the cigar. There is a distinct barnyard aroma. The construction feels good and the cold draw, that leaves me with some pepper on my lips, is flawless.

Lighting the cigar with my trusted vintage Ronson soft flame is very easy and at first I taste a nice full but medium coffee flavor and after a few puffs I also taste a nice nuttiness. After half an inch it’s still mainly coffee what I taste. The nuttiness disappeared but I taste some spices instead and some pepper on my lips.

After a third i taste a nice wooden flavor, the coffee is completely gone. I also taste a nice amount of chili pepper. Halfway the pepper mellows out, it doesn’t disappear but it’s not as strong as before. There is still wood though. After two thirds I still taste wood with some pepper but there is a nice fresh minty aftertaste that I like a lot. At the end I taste some nuts again.

The burn is straight with a beautiful light colored ash. The draw is fantastic, just the right amount of resistance. The cigar is medium bodied and it gave me a nice amount of thick smoke. The ash is reasonable firm, but not firm enough for a long ash competition. The cigar is well balanced, the body – flavor ratio is spot on. The cigar lasted me for over an hour and a forty five minutes and I needed to bring out my cool JSK nub tool.

Would I buy this cigar again? If only they were for sale in Europe, which will probably never happen due to high import taxes on tobacco shipped from the USA.

Score: 94

94

Categories: 94, American cigars, Cornelius & Anthony, Tabacalera El Titan de Bronze | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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