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Xiphos NR Habano

In my previous reviews of Xiphos I explained that the brand is made in two countries, and in the review of the Nicaraguan made Xiphos Maduro I promised to review the other Nicaraguan blend, the Xiphos Habano too. Well, here it is, a review of the Xiphos NR Habano Robusto.


The cigar is made with aged Nicaraguan filler, an Indonesian binder and an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. Only the wrapper is different from the Maduro, so if you really want to see what difference a wrapper makes, get both of these cigars and smoke them back to back. I have done this with a Studio Tobac cigar, two identical cigar and a skilled roller only changed the wrapper, it makes a huge difference.


The ring on this 5×54 robusto is exactly the same as on the other Xiphos made in Nicaragua, black with red and silver, only the text on the secondary band is different. The latte colored wrapper is smooth and mild oily. The cigar feels good, no soft spots and the cap is nice.  The aroma is quite strong and definitely a stable aroma.


I cut the cigar. I taste a fruity and peppery flavor is the cold draw, blackberry, and the only time I ever tasted that before in a cigar was in the original release of the Don Pepin Garcia Cuban Classic. After lighting the cigar with a simple soft flame I taste a sweet toast with the blackberries I tasted in the cold draw. The toast turns to cedar yet the blackberry flavor remains and I like it. Halfway the cigar gets stronger, more spicy and the blackberry mellows out. The spice mellows out again.


The draw is great. The light gray ash is dense and firm. The burn is straight as an arrow. The smoke is medium in thickness and volume. This cigar is medium bodied at most, smooth and medium flavored. The smoke time is an hour and twenty five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? I hope they will become more widely available so I can easily get more.

Score: 94
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Categories: 94, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera Noa, Xiphos | Tags: , , ,

Don Lino Africa Kifaro & Gorilla Knuckle

Nestor Miranda from Miami Cigar & Co and owner of the Don Lino brand, is an avid hunter and one of his hunting trip in Africa gave him the inspiration to create the Don Lino Africa line. It has been a few years since I smoked one, as they are discontinued, but I remember that I used to love this blend of Cameroon, Mexican, Dominican, Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco.

The Don Lino Africa line didn’t come out with cigars, all African named of course, but also cool accessories like ash trays and humidors with African prints. As of the African names, think of Kifaro, Duma, Tembo, Punda Milia and all those names come from the Massai and are names for the big African animals. As far as I know My Father Cigars produced the cigars for Miami Cigar & Co.

Don Lino Africa Kifaro


This is a 6 1/4×52 torpedo with a dark, oily Nicaraguan Habano wrapper that looks great, the color is dark chocolate and I see a few minor veins. The construction feels great and the tip of the cigar is straight. The ring is beautiful, it has a very African color pattern with zebra stripes on the background, some burgundy, a lot of yellow and a big curly and stylish A on the front and Don Lino Africa on the side on a high quality paper and print. The cigar even has an African smell, or well, as I would expect an African savanna to smell in the morning.


I cut the cigar, the cold draw is fine with a toasty, raisin, peppery and minty flavor. After lighting I taste a peppery and sweet minty toast. After half an inch I taste spices, toast, lime and honey. After an inch I taste nutmeg with toast and pepper, all well balanced. Halfway I taste a strong pepper with honey and a little lime. The honey disappears and is replaced with a nice dose of lemon.


The draw is fantastic and the smoke is thick and full. The white ash is dense. The burn is decent but not perfect, it went rogue a little but it corrected itself. This cigar is full bodied and full flavored, well balanced with great evolution. The smoke time is an hour and a half.


Would I buy this cigar again? I wish they made a comeback.

Score: 94

 

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Don Lino Africa Gorilla Knuckle


I bought a box of these when the cigars were discontinued and these were the only remaining vitola, usually I wouldn’t buy a cigar with a 58 ring gauge but hey, I wanted some Don Lino Africa while they lasted. The ring is just as pretty as the kifaro as it’s the same ring but the wrapper looks a tiny bit lighter, just a shade though and has more veins. The tip also looks to be more in a curve and the cigar has a dryer aroma, more hay and straw than the Kifaro.


I cut the cigar, punching was no option because of the size. The cold draw is fine, I taste a mild raisin sweetness. After lighting I taste a sweet espresso with cinnamon. The espresso fades away, the cinnamon grows stronger and gets a little harsh edge, but it’s still very enjoyable. After a third I taste sugar and vanilla. In the final third I taste vanilla, cinnamon, wood and a peppery aftertaste, a little harsh but still enjoyable.


The draw is great. The smoke is thick, full, voluminous and white. The burn is a little uneven. The light colored ash is dense and firm. The cigar is medium plus bodied and flavored. The smoke time is fifty minutes.


Would I buy this cigar again? Impossible

Score: 89
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Categories: 89, 94, Don Lino, My Father Cigars, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , ,

My Father 9/11 Ecuador Rosado Habano Robusto

As we all know, on september 11th 2001 the western world got shocked by an attack on our freedom by terrorists. The World Trade Centre in New York City was targeted by two airplanes and in the chaos 3000 people lost their life, including 343 brave fire fighters who came to the rescue. 10 years later My Father Cigars and Casa de Montecristo teamed up to commemorate their brave offer with a limited edition box, 343 made, with 9 Ecuadorean Rosado Habano and 11 Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro wrapped cigars and all the proceedings from this box went to charity. I was lucky enough to buy a box of a fellow aficionado in need of some cash a few months later. I had smoked a few but never reviewed one, and there isn’t a more appropriate day than today.

 


The box, white with a custom logo that looks like a fire fighters batch with the twin towers on the shield says “we will never forget” both on the top as on the front of the box and it is hand numbered. My box in box 233 of 343. inside there is a piece of paper with the following text: ‘In tribute of the fallen heroes o 9/11 and in the spirit of remembrance, honor and hope My Father Cigar Company and Casa de Montecristo join to comemorate the 10th anniversary of the 343 fallen firefighters of 9/11. Presenting our special limited production blend of My Father Cigars with 9 Ecuadorian Habano Rosado and 11 Nicaraguan Habano Oscar in each box. 343 boxes are produced to honor the 343 fallen firefighter heroes’.

 


The cigars are naked, and with that I mean that except for cellophane, they have no rings. Now usually I give points for rings too, that is impossible now so instead I gave points for the box and the whole thought behind this limited edition and just because of that I have given it the full 50 points. The cigars can only be kept apart by the color of the wrapper, and thats only a slight color difference. The wrapper is quite dark with a little tooth, a long thin vein and some oil, it looks beautiful but a ring would have finished it. The construction is immaculate, the triple cap is flawless and the cigar has a strong barnyard aroma, even after 6 years I still smell some ammonia.

 


I punched the cigar and when I try the cold draw, which is flawless, I taste a very spicy, peppery and acidic flavor. The first flavors I taste after I lit the cigar with my soft flame are dark roast black coffee with some toast. Quickly some sugar appears with spices. After an inch the flavors have changed to coffee, nutmeg, pepper, a hint of cocoa and some citrus. Then all of a sudden the flavors change to toast, pepper and chocolate with a citrus aftertaste. And after that I taste nuts with pepper. After two thirds the pepper becomes the main flavor.

 


The draw is great, quite flawless. The ash is rough, silver gray in color with black smears but it’s firm. The burn is a little crooked. The smoke is quite thick and plenty in amount. This cigar is full bodied and full flavored with a lot of evolution. The smoke time is an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? I wish! I hope My Father releases this blend as a new regular line.

Score: 94
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Categories: 94, My Father, My Father Cigars, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , ,

601 La Bomba Napalm

This is an addition to the 601 series that every cigar aficionado knows or should know. The brand has a bit of a history, first owned by Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega at EO Brands and made at My Father cigars, then made by Rocky Patel when he distributed EO Brands and when EO Brands fell apart, Espinosa got the brand and now makes the cigars at his own La Zona factory downtown Esteli. And he created this new La Bomba line.


Now I was trying to find some information on the blend and I read about Ecuadorean wrappers, Connecticut Broadleaf, Nicaraguan Habano, so I’m confused, some websites even say it’s a Nicaraguan puro and the Espinosa website is ‘coming soon’ at the time of writing this review. All I can tell is that I bought it at one of the Smoke Inn locations back in 2014, after I returned from Nicaragua and spend a week in Florida before I flew back home.


The dark wrapper is dry and leathery, but what stands out is the long pig tail, that looks like a flint that is on a stick of dynamite, kind of like the firecrackers that the Two Guys Smoke Shop has made as a yearly limited edition by different factories. The wrapper is flawless, The construction feels good and the long flint makes the cigar quite unique. The ring is bright yellow with a 601 print of which the 0 is a bomb, a white banner saying la bomba, the brightness of the yellow is great. The aroma is quite strong and smells like barnyard with manure.


I cut the cigar because of the flint on the cap. The cold draw is a bit easy and has a well fermented tobacco taste with a spicy undertone. I lit the cigar with a single torch. I taste coffee, full and strong. After a quarter of an inch I taste wood and pepper. After a third I taste cedar, pepper and cinnamon, all strong and bold. Halfway the pepper toned down a little and I taste wood with a strange but tasty carrot flavor. The final third starts very peppery again.


The draw is loose, too loose for my liking. That makes the smoke a little thin. After a few puffs the draw and smoke get much better. The frayed ash is almost white. The burn is pretty straight. This cigar is one of the strongest cigars I have smoked in a long time and the flavors are equally strong and bold. The smoke time is an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? In the future I’ll be singing La Bomba every time I hear Ritchie Valens or Los Lobos. Great cigar.

Score: 94
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Categories: 601, 94, La Zona, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , ,

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: , , , , , , , , ,

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: , , , , , , ,

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: , , , ,

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: , , , ,

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: , , , , , ,

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: , , , ,

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