Don Kiki Platinum Label Toro

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

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

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

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

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

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes I will

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

Acid 20 Robusto

Acid 20 Robusto. Just like a few days ago, a review of the ACID 20 Robusto. But the last Acid 20 was smoked safari style to avoid the artificial sweetness of the sweetened cap. That worked in a way, as the sweetness wasn’t stuck on the lips. But the cigar still wasn’t very nice. Let’s see of smoking the same cigar, but this time in the way the blenders intended will create a different experience.

The ACID 20 is a cigar that celebrates 20 years of Acid. It is a popular brand that took the United States by storm and made Drew Estate a serious player. Slowly ACID is becoming available in more countries and has an international following now. Some people love it, others loathe it. The cigar has a Mexican San Andres wrapper. The binder is Indonesian and the filler Nicaraguan.

The flat cap is nice to see. The almost chrome ring with the black 20 is nice. Only the foot band mentions the brand name and the line. The dark wrapper looks intimidating because of a vein on the face of the cigar. The aroma is strong. It’s floral like some shampoo or detergent, not natural. The construction feels great.

Just licking the cap before cutting leaves an artificial sweet flavor on the palate. With some spice. The cold draw confirms that these are the two flavors. The cold draw is fine though, but that artificial sweetness is so overpowering that it makes the experience a bit unpleasant. Once lit, the sweetness seems to tone down a bit but it remains prominent. There is an earthy flavor in the background. The sweetness isn’t as overpowering as in other Acid cigars we smoked. There is a floral flavor, some herbs, leather, and cedar. Smoking the cigar in the direction it’s intended creates a different experience. The second third starts quite mellow. A little bit of soil, a few herbs, some floral notes, and sweetness. There is some pepper but it is extremely mild. There is a lot of balance in the flavor. Unlike many infused or flavored cigars, where the artificial flavors overpower the natural flavors of tobacco. In the final third, there is more soil and a little more pepper. The floral and artificial sweetness remains. The end has some earthiness again.

The draw is fabulous as is the smoke. But the smoke is always great with Drew Estate cigars. The burn is great and the ash has a browning yellow color. It is not too firm. The cigar has way more balance if you smoke it this way instead of safari style. It is much more pleasing to the palate. The smoke time is two hours. This cigar medium in both body and flavor.

Would I buy this cigar again? I still don’t like the artificial sweetness.

Categories: Nicaraguan cigars, 90, Gran Fabrica Drew Estate, ACID | Tags: , , ,

Acid 20 Robusto Safari style

Acid 20 Robusto Safari style. I don’t review a lot of infused cigars. But when I do, I always spot one big issue that makes us dislike the cigar. That is the sweet cap, artificial sweetness. So for this ACID 20 Robusto review, I am doing something else. We will smoke this Safari style. That is something from the Drew Estate Cigar Safari, where you smoke a cigar from the wrong end. That should solve the issue with the sweet cap. To make it fair, I will also smoke one as the blenders intended and post that review as well.

The Acid 20 was released in 2019. And as the name suggests, it was to celebrate 20 years of the Acid brand. Acid is the best-selling premium cigar in the United States according to Drew Estate. The infused cigars are immensely popular, yet a lot of smokers of traditional cigars can’t stand the infusion. The Acid 20 is made at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate with a Mexican San Andres wrapper. The wrapper has a sweet cap. The binder is Indonesian around Nicaraguan filler.

The cigar is square. Not just box-pressed but square. The black and silver ring pops. The cap is flat and it makes the cigar look more squarish. The wrapper is dark and oily. The construction feels great. The cigar has a strong aroma, cloves, flowers like hibiscus, none of it smells like a traditional cigar.

Since I am smoking it safari style, there isn’t much of a cold draw due to the cap. The cold draw is slightly sweet and flowery, like rosewater. The first puffs are dark roast coffee with aspartame and floral sweetness. Slowly some spice shows up in the flavors as well. The floral flavor makes the mouth feel dry. A muddy clay flavor shows up, yet still with a bit of sweetness and floral flavors. There’s a hint of chili pepper as well.

At the beginning of the second third, the cigar turns more into a traditional cigar. Pepper and soil, with a tiny hint of floral flavors. But the floral sweetness doesn’t taste artificial anymore. Some citrus sourness shows up as well, but still with pepper and soil. These flavors remain, although for a while there was a very faint vanilla flavor on the background. Even when you smoke a Drew Estate cigar safari style, the smoke is out of this world. The draw is good, and much to our surprise, the burn is good as well. We were afraid that smoking the cigar in the opposite direction would affect the burn negatively, but not at all. The ash is quite dark and frayed. The infusion isn’t that strong when you smoke the cigar safari style. But it still gives some artificial flavors that do not sit well with our palates. The cigar is medium in body, full in flavor. The smoke time is two hours and ten minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? If I do, I won’t smoke it safari style

Categories: 89, ACID, Gran Fabrica Drew Estate, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , ,

K by Karen Berger Habano Salomon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HENK Maori La Doña

HENK Maori La Doña. For the last two years, HENK cigars made it to the top 25 of Ministry of Cigars. The Henk Maori Haka was the #4 of 2019 and the HENK Maori Gaudi and Masterpiece made the top 10 of the Top 25 of 2020. There are three more vitolas in the HENK line-up. All limited and rare, but I have them all and reviews will follow.

The HENK Maori La Doña is 6½x50 in size. That’s a little shorter and thicker than a classic Churchill, but that doesn’t stop HENK from saying this is the Churchill of the HENK Maori cigars. All tobacco is aged, or even vintage. It comes from the tobacco library of A.J. Fernandez who also makes the cigars. Didier Houvenaghel of DH Boutique blends is the master blender behind this project. But the final approval is in the hands of HENK owner Heiko Poerz.

HENK cigars always look cool because they don’t have a cigar band. Instead, they have a tattoo that draws inspiration from Maori culture. The small pigtail adds to the aesthetical appeal. The Colorado color of the wrapper is even. The wrapper is from the 2009 crop. The construction feels great. The aroma is medium in strength but balanced and warm. Animal aromas with soil.

The cold draw is great. The flavor in the cold draw is quite dry but has hints of raisin with white pepper. The first puffs are full flavor. Wood, coffee, soil, and spice. Then there is more earthiness with some leather. All well balanced. The tobacco is vintage and that is clearly noticeable. It’s smooth, yet with character. The cigar remains smooth, but now with some nutmeg, cedar, leather, and a little pepper. After a third, there is a slightly toasty flavor with cedar, salt, and herbs. The flavors intensify. Slowly there’s more toast, leather, spice, and white pepper. Even at the beginning of the second third, it is possible to retrohale the cigar. The flavors are subtle yet strong. A little more wood in the final third.

The draw is close to perfect. The light-colored ash is firm. The burn is sharp. The light gray smoke is decent in volume. This cigar is smooth yet flavorful. Extremely balanced, yet without losing character. Full in body and flavor. The smoke time is two hours and twenty minutes.

Would I buy this again? Once in a while. It’s fantastic, but comes with a price tag.

Categories: 93, Henk, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , , , ,

San Lotano Requiem Habano Gran Toro

San Lotano Requiem Habano Gran Toro. Even though A.J. Fernandez was already blending and producing cigars for years, he was only producing for others. And a lot of his blends were hits on the market. So it was time to release a brand for himself. Drawing inspiration from his family’s past in Cuba, Abdel Fernandez came up with San Lotano. That’s the name of the brand his family had before the revolution. Since the release in 2010, San Lotano has seen many offsprings in different blends, and even in oval sizes.

The San Lotano Reqiuem comes in a Habano, Maduro, and Connecticut version. For this review, we picked the Habano in a 6×60 size. Fernandez names it Gran Toro, others call it a Gordo. But the name doesn’t matter, it is a monster of a cigar. The cigar consists of Nicaraguan and Honduran filler. The binder is Nicaraguan with a Brazilian Habano wrapper. San Lotano is also the name of a farm and a cigar factory in Nicaragua. Both are owned by A.J. Fernandez, but the San Lotano factory isn’t the large factory in Esteli.

This cigar is a monster with its 6×60 size. It feels heavy. And for a Brazilian wrapper, it actually looks good. Often Brazilian tobacco looks a bit rough, but there are only two veins here that attract the eye. And they are not even that thick. The construction is good with a perfect triple cap. The green and beige ring is beautiful, the secondary ring matches the top ring. The cigar has a strong aroma of forest smells, wood, and dark spices.

The cold draw is good with a flavor of wood, spice, and pepper. Once lit it is raw wood with cinnamon toast on the palate. The sweet toast is very nice. There is some leather in the retrohale. Slowly but surely pepper shows up. Black pepper. The cigar has balance, but due to the filler wrapper ratio, it misses a bit of character. Halfway wood gets stronger with a hefty dose of Nicaraguan pepper. This is the kind of pepper that both Nicaragua and A.J. Fernandez are famous for. The sweetness is more powdered sugar now. But there is also a roughness in the back of the throat. Wood gets stronger again with some leather and hazelnut. The final third is all pepper, pepper, and pepper.

The draw is a tad easy. The smoke is thick and there is a good amount of it as well. The ash is white and dense. The burn is straight. This is a cigar that is medium-full in body and flavor. The signature of A.J. on the inside of the ring is a nice touch. The smoke time is two hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? In a smaller vitola yes, in this 60 ring gauge no.

Categories: 90, Nicaraguan cigars, San Lotano, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , , , , , ,

EPC Pledge Prequel

EPC Pledge Prequel. A little over a year ago, a new cigar from Ernesto Perez Carrillo hit the market. The EPC Pledge. It is part of the Perez-Carrillo series, a series where the generations before Ernesto Perez Carrillo jr are honored. The other cigars in the series are the critically acclaimed Encore and La Historia. “With each sample of the six different blends for Pledge I worked on, I asked myself, ‘Is this cigar worthy to follow La Historia and Encore?” said Perez-Carrillo in a press release. “And I was very pleased when I found the one.”

The cigar comes from Perez-Carrillo’s factory in the Dominican Republic, La Alianza. For the blend, the cigar industry legend uses a Connecticut-grown Habano wrapper over an Ecuadorian binder. The filler is all Nicaraguan. For now, there are only two vitolas available. Those are the Prequel, a 5×50 Robusto, and the 6×52 Sojourn. The prequel became the #1 cigar of Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 of 2020.

Let’s start with the box, deep blue with a beautiful tattoo style print. But when you open the box up is when the magic happens. The cigars, one row of ten pieces, lay on blue fabric, creating a very luxurious presentation. The cigars come in cellophane with a ‘cigar aficionado cigar of the year 2020, rated 98’ sticker on the foot. The foot ring is gold color fabric. Then there are two blue rings. The top one has different types of blue, with gold and white while the secondary ring mentions Perez Carrillo in clear white letters. Just in looks and packaging, this cigar looks great. The wrapper is oily, and Colorado Maduro in color. The oil gives it a shine like it’s lacquered. The cigar itself is a soft box-pressed with a fairly round head. It is leathery to the touch, but without noticeable plugs. The aroma is strong. Chocolate, barnyard, and the smell of horses.

The cold draw is fine. There is a mild spicy hay flavor with cinnamon. The first puffs are leathery and earthy. Those flavors remain for a while, but with some dark roast coffee and dark chocolate as supporting flavors. The chocolate turns more into cocoa, with a dry mouthfeel. And it gets stronger as well. There is an earthy flavor in the retrohale. Slowly some spice and pepper show up as well. The cocoa remains with some toast and a little bit of natural sweetness. The flavors so far would pair well with a dark stout, such as Guinness. Halfway the cigar gets too strong to retrohale pleasantly. There is still cocoa, pepper is growing and there is some acidity. The flavors are mild creamy. There is also some cedar and a spicy flavor that comes close to smoked paprika. There is a caramel-like sweetness in the aftertaste with a strong pepper, almost like chili padi, or bird’s eye chili as it’s called in the United States. But the chili isn’t overpowering, the rest of the flavors, especially the cocoa and earthiness keep it in check. There is a mild peanut flavor as well. A little more sweetness and acidity, with creaminess. Cocoa is the dominant flavor from start to finish. The peanut flavor gains some strength. The end is that earthiness again, with cocoa, peanuts, and green herbs.

The draw is great. And the natural oils in the wrapper make this cigar very smoky. Thick white smoke. The burn is straight. The ash is medium in color. It isn’t very firm, this isn’t a cigar for a long ash contest. This cigar is full in both body and flavor, with an intense start. The palate is quite unusual and you can taste that this cigar is made with well-aged tobacco. The smoke time is two hours and forty-five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes. Honestly, I am not the biggest fan of EPC cigars, but this one is very enjoyable.

Categories: 92, Dominican cigars, EPC, Tabacalera La Alianza | Tags: , , , , ,

ADVentura The Royal Return King’s Gold Robusto

ADVentura The Royal Return King’s Gold Robusto, a cigar from ADV & McKay Cigars. ADV & McKay Cigars are Henderson Ventura and Marcel Knobel. They came up with a beautiful story of an adventurer, ADVentura, and his companion McKay who set sail to the new world in 1490. And with every release, another chapter of that story is written. The Royal Return is the 4th chapter.

The Royal Return is available in two blends, Queen’s Pearls, and King’s Gold. The King’s Gold comes in a Robusto and a Toro, this is a review of the 5×52 Robusto. It is made with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper from the United States. The binder comes from San Andres, Mexico. And the filler comes from the United States, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. Tabacalera William Ventura is responsible for making the cigars. ADVentura is also a sponsor of the Project Piece of Heart charity.

The thick and dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper is oily, greasy almost. The backside is beautifully marbled due to a thin, but visible vein. The band is not a paper band but a metal alloy. It is rare, but not unique. The Norwegian brand Viking and Chinook Cellars Terroir use something similar. But it is rare, and it looks great. It’s like an old, weathered seal including patina. The construction feels good with a pretty flat head. The aroma is strong, wood and spices. It’s like walking on a souk, past one of those spice stalls.

The cold draw is fine. It leaves both a salty and a sweet flavor on the lips, with spice on the tongue. After lighting there is a bitter and salty taste, burned nuts. But that is gone after three puffs, leaving a nice muddy clay flavor with pepper behind. It’s quite a spicy start. But then it mellows out, the spices and pepper are still there, with coffee and caramel. But much milder, calmer. Like when you enter the safe and calm harbor during a storm. The mouthfeel is even a little creamy. The clay flavor is quite unique. At the end of the first third, the sweetness turns to honey. The second third starts with wood and spices. There are also some nuts. Halfway the flavors are sweet wood with spices and cream. Very interesting, smooth, and completely in balance. The final third sees the return of soil, with wood and lingering pepper. The cigar feels hot in the last third.

The draw is fine. The smoke is thick and plentiful. The burn had to be corrected once or twice, but that was no surprise with such a thick and oily wrapper. The thickness of the wrapper also makes it a slow-burning cigar, it lasts long. The ash is white as snow. This cigar has balance and plenty of evolution. The smoke time is two hours and forty-five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? It is quite interesting so yes, and I want to explore more ADVentura

Categories: Dominican cigars, 92, Tabacalera William Ventura, ADVentura | Tags: , , ,

Fonseca Delicias 2014

Fonseca Delicias 2014. A review of the same blend and size as our review recently. But from a different vintage. And the reason for this is a conversation with a fellow cigar enthusiast about the aging of cigars. Our conversation partner says that the Fonseca Delicias get stronger with age, unlike any other cigar. That’s worthy of a test. So last Friday’s review was a young cigar from 2019. The review of today’s Fonseca Delicias is a cigar with a production date of 2014.

Thanks to La Casa del Habano Kuala Lumpur we were able to get one Fonseca Delicias from 2014 and once from 2019. The Fonseca Delicias is a pre-1960 vitola, but it’s only a premium handmade cigar since 2002. Before it was a machine-made petit corona. The cigar measures 4 ⅞x40. Unfortunately, we do not have the box code, so we can’t say from which factory or which month this cigar came. We only know it’s a cigar from 2014.

What goes for the 2019 version goes for the 2014 version as well. The cigar is not visible due to the white wax paper. The ring is on the outside of the paper, so once you remove the paper it is a naked cigar. Compared to the sample from last Friday, this wrapper has more veins. The color is also a little dull. But the construction feels better. The aroma is mild, with a bit of an old, dry wood smell.

The cold draw is fine, with a nice dose of pepper. After lighting there is a hint of coffee but the main flavor is honey. There is a hint of wood and some white pepper. The sweetness continues to be dominant, but in the background, there’s wood, spices, and leather. There is a bit more pepper in the flavor profile than in the younger version. After a third, there is a wood flavor with sweetness. But it is a bit dry and dusty. There is also a hint of pepper. There is less balance but more character than in the younger version of this cigar. It is still a sweet cigar, but not as overly sweet. The sweetness is no longer honey, but more sugar syrup. In the retrohale, there are a few green herbs. There is a hint of vanilla. Some citrus shows up as well. The wood and leather return, but the sweetness remains the base of this cigar. Near the end, there is leather, pepper, and marzipan sweetness.

The draw is fine. The smoke is good. The ash is light in color and firm. The burn is great. The cigar is medium in body and flavor. It is slightly stronger than the younger Fonseca Delicias, but it remains a medium cigar at most. There is definitely more character in the older version. The smoke time is an hour and thirty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes, they are cheap and pleasant.

Categories: 90, Cuban cigars, Fonseca (Habanos) | Tags: , , , ,

Fonseca Delicias 2019

Fonseca Delicias 2019. Not too long ago, Ministry of Cigars was talking to a fellow cigar enthusiast about the aging of cigars. And how some cigars age well, others don’t. That some blends are great for aging, and others aren’t. One thing that came up was that aging mellows cigars over the years. Our conversation partner said that only with the Fonseca Delicias he feels it’s different. That these cigars are stronger with a few years of age. This sounds intriguing, so we are putting it to the test.

Thanks to La Casa del Habano Kuala Lumpur we were able to get one Fonseca Delicias from 2014 and once from 2019. The Fonseca Delicias is a pre-1960 vitola, but it’s only a premium handmade cigar since 2002. Before it was a machine-made petit corona. The cigar measures 4 ⅞x40. Unfortunately, we do not have the box code, so we can’t say from which factory or which month this cigar came. We only know it’s a cigar from 2019.

At first, you can’t see the cigar because of the wax paper. This is the only Cuban marca that comes in was paper. And even one of the sizes of the Nicaraguan Fonseca by My Father Cigars comes in wax paper as a tribute to the Cuban version. The ring is red, golden, and white. Classic in style and shape. The ring is around the wax paper so once it’s removed, the cigar is naked. The wrapper is quite dark for a Cuban cigar. There are a few veins, but nothing thick or ugly. The cigar feels a bit hard. There is an earthy smell to the cigar with a little bit of ammonia.

The cold draw is tight. With a bit of a dark spice flavor. Once lit the draw is fine. There is a leathery coffee flavor with some cloves. The flavor then turns to mud, with a thick mouthfeel and a bit of sweetness. The sweetness is enhanced in the retrohale. A little pepper shows up in the same retrohale. The sweetness is mild, yet still the strongest flavor. The cigar is a bit creamy. The sweetness is still there halfway with some pepper and spice. Vanilla and pepper take over, with a hint of wood. The evolution is subtle. In the end, the cigar gains a bit more pepper, more strength, and there is even a nutty flavor.

The draw is fine. But the silver-gray ash isn’t very firm. The cigar is mild and smooth. Quite sweet. An early morning cigar. Not a cigar to blow your mind, but pleasant. It fits the price range. The smoke is fine. The burn is great, nothing to complain about. The cigar is mild to medium in body. The flavor is medium. The smoke time is one hour and thirty-five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? It’s a great cigar to start the day

Categories: 90, Cuban cigars, Fonseca (Habanos) | Tags: , , ,

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