Muestra de Saka Unstolen Valor

Muestra de Saka Unstolen Valor. We feel that Steve Saka doesn’t need any introduction. The first cigar blogger back in the day, then a consultant for JR Cigars. Former CEO of Drew Estate, where he changed the course of the company from infused cigars to a hugely successful portfolio of traditional cigars as well. And since 2015 owner of Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust, his own company. With fantastic blends, several of whom ended up in the Ministry of Cigars top 25 of 2019 and 2020.

The Muestra de Saka line is a selection of unique blends and vitolas. The 2020 Muestra de Saka release is different than other years though. Why? Well, it is the blender. Where all Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust blends are from the capable hands of master blender Saka himself, this cigar is the vision and skill of Raul Disla. Disla is the factory manager of NACSA, one of the two factories that make cigars for DTT. This blend of Nicaraguan cigars is so good that Saka deems it worthy to carry the Saka name. And to give credit where credit is due, the name is unstolen valor. Unstolen, because Disla gets all the credit, Steve Saka isn’t shy telling people that this is a Disla blend.

The wrapper on this cigar is stunning. Dark, oily, no thick veins, just a beautifully almost lacquered wrapper leaf with thin veins. Like the skin of an African goddess. The lack of a ring makes the appearance of the wrapper even more noticeable. The only ring on the cigar is a bright yellow cloth ring on the foot with Muestra de Saka and Unstolen Valor printed. The cap is perfect, and the cigar feels evenly filled. The aroma is strong, barnyard, hay, and moist soil.

The cold draw is a bit loose but flavorful. A spice bomb. Once lit it’s a spice bomb too, pepper, herbs, but with coffee, and soil. Full, in your face as only Nicaraguan cigars, can be. After a few puffs, the initial blow is over. The flavors are still there, but with more nuance now. It’s then when some wood and sweetness make an appearance. The cigar then becomes woodier, with leather, herbs, and cocoa. The leather slowly takes control, with pepper as its lieutenant. And where the cigar was in your face at the beginning, it’s subtle and nuanced now. Yet without losing any of its strength. The pepper mellows out, the cigar is now all about leather and wood, with a tiny supporting role for earthiness and cocoa. The rest of the first third is a beautiful mixture of leather, cocoa, wood, earthiness, with just enough spice and pepper to keep it very interesting. The leather gains strength, thick, dark leather. There is a faint vanilla flavor. The final third has a lingering metallic flavor, and wood takes over from leather. There are some spices, but the most predominant spice is pepper.
The cigar ends as it started, strong, bold, in your face with coffee, earthiness, and a lot of pepper.

The draw is fantastic. The ash is like a stack of dimes. And a good, stable stack as well. The burn is straight and slow. The smoke is decent, quite thick and full but not Drew Estate style smoke. This is a full-body cigar, full of flavor too. The smoke time is three hours and twenty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes

Categories: 93, Muestra de Saka, Nicaragua American Cigars S.A., Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , ,

Plasencia Year of the Ox

Plasencia Year of the Ox. This year Plasencia is one of the many brands that jump on the Chinese Zodiac Calendar bandwagon. And it’s the first time that the Nicaraguan cigar mogul does it. It’s been only a few years since Plasencia made the call to create cigars with the family name, but with their knowledge, background, and reputation they were able to secure a good portion of the market. And this year they want some of the Asian market as well.

From the moment the press release of this cigar came out, I was intrigued. Not because of the story behind the cigar, but because of the €35 price. Yes, there are more expensive cigars. We even reviewed more expensive cigars. But all those cigars had something that justified the price. Vintage tobacco or rare tobacco for example. There is nothing in the press release or information that justifies this price, so there’s only one way to find out if this cigar is worth it. One thing is for sure, you’re getting a lot of Nicaraguan tobacco in this 7×58 Figurado.

The looks are impressive, a 7×58 Figurado is always a head-turner. The milk-chocolate brown wrapper is oily and smooth. There are three rings, all with the same red and gold color scheme. Red and gold are important colors that stand for wealth in Chinese culture. The shape is immaculate. The aroma is surprisingly mild, just some wood and hay. Lack of cellophane around the cigar did cause some damage during transport on the head and the foot.

The cold draw is fine despite the damage on both samples smoked. Wood, sultanas, and raw tobacco are the flavors in the cold draw. The first flavor is cedar, with a lot of pepper and some caramel. The sweetness then turns more to a marshmallow sweetness with mild spices like cumin in the retrohale. There is also some toast and vanilla, with a bit of white pepper. Mellow, balanced, sweet but mostly interesting. The cumin flavor gets a little stronger. Ceder slowly shows up. The sweetness turns more to molasses, with more cedar, spices, and a bit of white pepper. There is a hint of old book flavor that is classic of Connecticut Shade tobacco. But it is very mild. Around halfway there are baking spices, like gingerbread spices, but still with sweetness. There is also a little bit of leather. The flavor profile is quite unique. The sweetness is consistent, different kinds of sweetness but overall a constantly sweet cigar. Natural sweetness and very pleasant. In the final third there’s more leather, cedar, spices, and pepper. Even till the final puffs, it’s easy to retrohale the cigar. The very last few puffs have dark chocolate and mocha with pepper and cedar. But the mocha is fantastic.

The draw is great. The light gray ash is a bit coarse but seems to hold on nicely. The burning cigar has a nice toasty aroma to it. There are some issues with the burn. It had to be touched up a few times. The smoke is nice and thick. This cigar is balanced, smooth, and very tasteful. Medium in strength, full in flavor. It is a great smoke, high-end for sure. Does it justify the high price tag? Partially yes as it is a unique cigar with tremendous tobacco. The smoke time is three hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? I loved it, but €35 is a lot of money.

Categories: Nicaraguan cigars, 92, Plasencia, Tabacalera del Oriente | Tags: , , ,

Mustique Blue Robusto

Mustique Blue Robusto. Earlier we did a review on the Mustique Red Robusto. A value cigar from the Dominican Republic. And guess what, we did not care much for it. And that’s an understatement. If every cigar was like the Mustique Red, we would quit smoking cigars today. But fortunately, there are many good cigars out there as well. Today it is time to try the brother of the Red, the Blue.

Just as the red version, this cigar comes from Tabacalera de Garcia. The largest cigar factory in the Dominican Republic, and possibly even the world. It has an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over Dominican filler and binder. It measures 5×50.

The Colorado-colored wrapper has a nice shine to it. It looks a bit leathery, especially at the foot. The appearance is much better than the red version. The cigar feels a lot better as well, not as spongy. But the aroma is not as good. It smells a bit like lovage after someone emptied his bladder on the plant.

The cold draw is good. There is a little spice in the flavor, with green herbs. That lovage that’s also in the aroma, fortunately, the pee aroma isn’t in the taste too. Once lit there is leather, wood, herbs, and pepper. The flavors slowly change to cedar with a mild walnut flavor and black pepper in the background. Not unpleasant. Halfway the cigar gives cedar, soil, leather, and hay. With some black pepper in the background. For the price, this isn’t a bad cigar. It is so much better than the red version. The nuttiness picks up, hazelnuts with pepper. The flavor intensifies with more wood and black pepper. But there is earthiness and leather too.

The draw is a bit tight. The burn is straight. Due to the tight draw, the smoke isn’t big either. The ash is light gray and quite strong. The construction of the cigar is decent. The body of this cigar is medium-full with medium flavor. The smoke time is two hours and five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes, this is a decent budget cigar.

Categories: 89, Casa de Garcia, Dominican cigars, Mustique | Tags: , , , ,

Hoyo de Monterrey Primaveras

Hoyo de Monterrey Primaveras, a cigar for the Chinese zodiac calendar. For the Year of the Ox. It is the second official Habanos release for the Chinese zodiac calendar after the Romeo y Julieta Maravillas. Although the Spanish distributor tested the water a year earlier with a Cohiba Robusto in special packaging. Since the Ox is a strong animal, it is kind of surprising that Habanos went for one of the milder cigars, Hoyo de Monterrey, and not for a bold Bolivar. My expectations are low, as I never liked Hoyo de Monterrey.

The size is a Hermosos No.1, a size that is not used for any regular production. I received the cigar from Pacific Cigar Company after being invited to the world wide virtual premiere of the cigar. The special packaging for this even included a beautiful cardboard tube with Chinese prints. But the cigars for commercial release come in a stunning box. A box worthy of a display and up to par, or even better looking, than the Behike packaging.

There are rumors that Cuba has a problem with growing wrappers for the last few years. And that that is the reason why larger cigars are so hard to find, as production numbers are low due to the shortage of wrappers. And looking at the wrapper of this Hoyo de Monterrey Primaveras, it could be true. The wrapper isn’t what you’d expect from a limited, expensive Habanos release. It’s a little rough, with lots of small veins. The wrapper also lacks oil. It has the classic Hoyo de Monterrey band with a red and golden ‘Year of the Ox’ foot band. The cigar feels a little spongy. The aroma is mild, wood and sawdust are the smells.

The cold draw is good. It has a bit of a salty peanut flavor. The first puffs are typical Cuban. It’s that Cuban leather that you can’t get in any cigar from anywhere else. There’s also a little bit of coffee in the flavor profile and some honey. Slowly some herbal and peppery flavors introduce themselves. The cigar slowly gains some strength. For a Hoyo de Monterrey, this is quite a strong cigar although it’s still nothing compared to full body Cubans such as Bolivar, Partagas, or even Cohiba. For the fans of Nicaraguan cigars, this is a medium body at max. The second third starts with that Cuban leather again, with a little soil, coffee, and pepper. here is also a wood flavor, but it’s not cedar. And a mild sweetness that comes close to honey. In the final third, the sweetness gets more pronounced and there is a nutty flavor. Slowly more pepper shows up as well. The cigar also has a herbal freshness. The finale is strong, much stronger than any regular production Hoyo de Monterrey.

The ash is silver-gray like the hair of an elderly gentleman. It’s not too firm though. The draw is fantastic. It is obvious that Cubatabaco and Habanos really invested in improving the quality of the rollers and quality control in the last few years. Plugged Habanos aren’t as common as they used to be. The burn is a little wonky but corrects itself every time. The smoke is good. The cigar is medium in body and flavor with a strong finish. The smoke time is two hours and fifteen minutes

Would I smoke this cigar again? No, even though this is an enjoyable Hoyo de Monterrey, it is too darn expensive.

Categories: 91, Cuban cigars, Hoyo de Monterrey (Habanos) | Tags: , , , , , ,

The T Toro Grande

The T Toro Grande. Collaborations in the cigar industry are not uncommon. Balmoral with La Flor Dominicana and Ernesto Perez Carrillo for example. Or Drew Estate with Robert Caldwell. A.J. Fernandez with Altadis. The list is too long to write down. But a collaboration between three cigar makers? That’s unique. That’s what The T is though. A collaboration between Robert Caldwell, A.J. Fernandez, and Matt Booth.

Room 101 and Caldwell Cigars don’t own their own factories. Caldwell mainly uses Tabacalera William Ventura, where is using several factories after parting ways with Davidoff. Abdel Fernandez owns one of the most famous, and largest, factories in Esteli, Nicaragua. So it’s pretty logical that the cigars are made there. All the tobacco in this cigar comes from Nicaragua, making this cigar a puro. The Toro Grande from this review measures 6½x56 but other sizes are available as well.

The cigar looks good. An evenly Colorado Maduro colored wrapper with a little tooth. Dry but good looking. The main cigar band is gray with three different old keys on it, and a golden print saying The T. The secondary ring is thin. Olive green in colors with the initials of the makers. The box-pressed cigar feels well constructed. There is a barnyard aroma coming from the cigar, medium in strength.

The cold draw is all about leather with some pepper. It’s a smooth cold draw though. Once lit, the leather is still there but with a nice sugary sweetness. The retrohale also reveals some cedar. There are hints of soil, coffee, and pepper. The flavors are intense, complex and full of nuances. This isn’t a powerhouse as you would expect from a Nicaraguan Puro. This is a cigar with balance and character. The wood flavor is getting stronger, and there are some dark spices. The complexity and smoothness don’t change. The flavors are getting even more intense. Licorice, cedar, leather, green herbs, and a little bit of pepper. There is also faint saltiness. Wood gains strength with leather as a backup. A faint coffee is on the background with green herbs and spices. The sweetness disappears. The finale has a little more pepper.

The ash is light colored but not firm. It dropped on the desk pretty early into the cigar. The draw is fantastic and the burn is good. The smoke is thick and full. This cigar is well balanced. Medium to full in body and full in flavor. Extremely complex and balanced. Because of the shape, it does not feel like a ring 56. The smoke time is two and a half hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes, love this smoke.

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

Flor de Selva Year of the Ox

Flor de Selva Year of the Ox. For the last few years, Flor de Selva is one of the many brands releasing a cigar to celebrate the Chinese zodiac calendar. And just as others, Maya Selva and her team choose to go for a bigger cigar for this year. It is the Year of the Ox, and an Ox is known for its strength and size. So going for a 6×56 Toro Extra does make sense.

It is a very limited release, with most of the boxes going to China and Hong Kong. But special boxes of two cigars were made for relations such as cigar media. And I was one of the lucky recipients of a box. The cigar itself is made in Honduras, with a Honduran binder. There is also Honduran tobacco in the filler, together with Nicaraguan tobacco from Jalapa. Jalapa is bordering Honduras. The wrapper is Nicaraguan as well.

It is a good-looking cigar. Big and impressive. With a nice Maduro wrapper from Nicaragua. Smooth, oily, and no distracting veins. The off-white Flor de Selva ring looks great on the dark wrapper. The Year of the Ox ring stands out because of the yellow and red. But the two rings clash a little. The construction feels great. The cigar has a strong aroma of charred wood with hay and straw.

The cold draw has some freshness, but also green herbs and a mild salt flavor. The draw itself is fine. The cigar starts with a nice, spicy yet sweet coffee and earthy flavor. The coffee gets replaced by cedar very quickly. The flavors are smooth, flavorful but smooth. Leather and coffee return, with a nice Maduro sweetness. The second third has a thick, dark chocolate flavor with some dark spice and pepper. Slowly there’s more wood, leather, and some hay. But the spice is never far away. It is all balanced and smooth. In the final third, there is more black pepper and more leather.

The draw is great. The light gray ash is like a stack of quarters. The smoke is decent in volume and thickness. This is a medium to full-body cigar. The flavor is full, yet smooth. The burn is straight. The smoke time is two and a half hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? If possible

Categories: 92, Flor de Selva, Honduran cigars, Tabacalera del Oriente | Tags: , , , , ,

La Sagrada Familia Maduro Robusto Extra

La Sagrada Familia Maduro Robusto Extra. The second blend of the Dutch cigar brand La Sagrada Familia. Dutch cigar enthusiast Tom Mulder fell in love with cigars on a trip to Cuba. Back home he became a regular at the Van Dalen Cigars shop in Den Bosch where he met Sasja van Horssen. After many years of friendship, Mulder approached Van Horssen with a question. That question was “can you introduce me to cigar manufacturers that can produce a cigar for me?”.

Mulder and Van Horssen talked to Juan Martinez from Joya de Nicaragua. And with Joya on board as a manufacturer, Mulder flew to Nicaragua. The first blend, a Habano version, was a success. It sells well in The Netherlands so a second blend was waiting to happen. And it is this La Sagrada Familia Maduro. Made with filler from Esteli, Nicaragua. Add a Dominican binder and an Ecuadorian Habano Maduro wrapper, and you have the La Sagrada Familia Maduro line. I did review the pre-release many years ago.

The cigar looks good. A slightly rough, yet evenly dark wrapper. Oily and a bit weathered under the scorching sun during the growing process. The black, gold, and white ring pop on the dark background. The aroma is deep and strong. Complex barnyard aromas. The triple cap is perfect. The cigar feels packed, hard.

The cold draw is good, with a mild honey flavor and a little kick in the aftertaste. The first flavors are dark, earthy, and leathery with the bitterness of dark chocolate. But not the flavor of dark chocolate. And there’s a hint of white pepper. The pepper gains power, and some honey supports it in the background. At the end of the first third, there is a bit of a liquor flavor, almost like rum-soaked dark chocolate. The Maduro sweetness kicks in during the second third. But not overwhelmingly. Nicely balanced with spice, wood, and leather. There’s even a milk chocolate flavor noticeable. The flavors become more complex. Wood, hay, chocolate, leather, and spices. Wood becomes the main flavor, with hay, white pepper, and honey.

Due to the thickness of the wrapper and the fact that the cigar is packed, it takes a little effort to get the burn going. But once it goes, it’s beautifully straight and slow. And the draw is fine, even though the cigar feels hard. The ash is light in color and firm. Not firm enough to survive a drop from the ashtray on the desk though. But that’s a user error, not a cigar error. The smoke is good. The strength is medium-full, just as the flavor. The smoke time is three hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? I liked it, but I like the Habano blend better.

Categories: 91, Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua, La Sagrada Familia, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , ,

VegaFina Year of the Ox

VegaFina Year of the Ox. One of the many brands that create a cigar commemorating the Chinese zodiac calendar. And a fitting review for today as the Year of the Ox starts today. VegaFina joined the brands that celebrate Chinese New Year a few years ago. Last year, Ministry of Cigars reviewed the VegaFina Year of the Rat.

This cigar is big, 6¼x56. Just like Davidoff, who started the Chinese zodiac theme cigars, the people behind VegaFina picked a big ring cigar. Maybe because the Ox stands for strength, and because it’s a big animal? The filler comes from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The binder and wrapper are Nicaraguan as well. As the wrapper, a Habano 2000 tobacco was chosen. Tabacalera de Garcia takes care of the production of the cigars.

I received the samples naked due to plain packaging regulations. But we know that the cigars have the normal VegaFina ring and the second ring in red. With an ox and Chinese characters in golden print. The cigar looks impressive, not only due to its size. But also due to a nice, chestnut brown and oily wrapper with a few thin veins. The triple cap is a nice bonus. The cigar feels well constructed, with no soft spots at all. The medium-strong smell is a mixture of hay and a little ammonia.

The cold draw is great. There are raw tobacco and sultana flavors. After lighting, the first puffs are a little harsh. Wood, leather, coffee, and pepper. But after a few puffs, the cigar mellows out. Salty, herbal with leather, soil, and wood. Evilution moves on to a herbal, spicy, and salty milk chocolate. The mouthfeel is a bit creamy, and cedar is noticeable in the retrohale. The flavor then becomes spicy with young, wet leather as the base flavor. There is some sweetness. It comes close to agave syrup, the vegan alternative to honey. The sweetness becomes a little stronger. The cigar then moves to licorice, sweetness, leather, and herbs. A little salt ties it all together. The flavors are balanced, smooth yet bold. There are more leather and pepper starts to show up as well. The final third starts with wood and dark spices. There is plenty of cedar as well, although pepper becomes the dominant flavor at the end.

The draw is fantastic, open yet with the right amount of resistance. The ash is light-colored. The light-colored ash is decent yet not very firm. The burn is quite straight. The smoke is okay, but not too thick and plentiful. The cigar starts medium in body but turns to full later on. The flavor is full. The smoke time is three hours and thirty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Even though it is a ring gauge too thick for me, yes I will.

Categories: 92, Casa de Garcia, Dominican cigars, VegaFina | Tags: , ,

Puro Ambar Legacy Robusto

Puro Ambar Legacy Robusto. Or should it be a Grand Robusto as it’s larger and thicker than the standard 5×50 Robusto Vitola? Anyway, the Puro Ambar brand is part of the portfolio Tabacalera El Artista. Recently the brand got an overhaul. New packaging and a new blend. But this is the old blend, with the old artwork. The line is around since 2011.

Tabacalera El Artista is not only a cigar manufacturer but also a cigar tobacco grower. And they are known for creating new varieties or bringing back old tobacco such as Dominican Negrito. The wrapper for the Puro Ambar is one of these exclusive tobaccos with the name 1900. It’s also part of the filler together with Criollo 98. The binder is Dominican Criollo 98 which is fermented in wine barrels.

The wrapper is dark. But a little rough with a few veins. It isn’t the best looking Maduro wrapper, but the rougher ones are often more flavorful. It’s oily and evenly colored. The white and brass rings match the wrapper, they compliment each other. Simple and clean in design. The cigar feels well constructed. The aroma is deep and dark. Manure and herbs. The herbs are very concentrated like vegetable stock cubes.

The cold draw is great, maybe even a bit on the loose side. There is a very mild cinnamon flavor in the cold draw. Once lit, the cigar releases wood with a dry sweetness. Soon these flavors are accompanied by leather and spice. The cinnamon and nutmeg are pretty pronounced in the retrohale. Halfway the cigar gets notes from dark roast coffee with sweetness, almost honey-like mixed with vanilla. The wood and leather are still in the flavor profile as well. Earthiness shows up with the bitterness and complexity of extra dark chocolate. Much like 80% dark chocolate. There is still spice and a little splash of pepper.

The draw is a bit on the loose side, but still acceptable. The burn isn’t razor-sharp but corrects itself so no touch-ups are necessary. The ash is salt and pepper in color, dense and firm. The smoke is thick and lush. This is a medium cigar, in body and flavor. And for its price, it is a very pleasant smoke. The smoke time is two hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? Most likely yes

Categories: 89, Dominican cigars, Puro Ambar, Tabacalera El Artista | Tags: , , ,

Liga Privada Unico Year of the Rat

Liga Privada Unico Year of the Rat. Last year I reviewed another Liga Privada Year of the Rat, but that had nothing to do with the Chinese Zodiac calendar. This one does, as it’s a limited edition specifically created for the year. The original comes from 2016 and has a connection to ice hockey and a Drew Estate Cigar Lounge in a hockey stadium.

The 5½x46 Liga Privada Unico Year of the Rat hails from Nicaragua. From La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate. It follows the same recipe as the other Liga Privada cigars, yet with different crops, vintages, or different tobaccos. So the wrapper is Connecticut grown broadleaf. The binder is Brazilian Mata Fina. The filler comes from Honduras and Nicaragua. But by using different crops, or different quantities of each kind of tobacco, the blend is unique.

At first glance, there is not a lot of cigar to see. Only the top inch, with the flag tail, is visible. The rest of the cigar, below the classic Liga Privada ring, is covered with gold foil. The foot is covered with a blue and golden Limited 2020 Edition ring. When the gold foil is gone, a very dark, almost black wrapper is shown. Leathery looking with a big vein. The wrapper is oily and delicious looking even though it’s rough. The construction feels good. The barnyard aroma is very strong.

The cold draw is fine, with an earthy flavor. That earthiness, combined with herbs and sweetness, is the first taste after lighting the cigar. This blend is smoother than the ones in the sampler. There is a hint of charred wood. But in combination with earthiness, leather, spices, and a little bit of pepper. The dark spices slowly take control without becoming overpowering. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, those flavors. The flavors are quite smooth and this blend seems more subtle than other Liga Privada blends. After a third coffee becomes the strongest flavor. Sweetness is getting stronger as well. In the final third, there is more strength and character. That comes with darker flavors, such as a hint of dark chocolate, pepper, and dark spices. The finally is more peppery with some nuttiness.

I left my office to grab a bottle of water, and when I looked back I saw the office filled with smoke. That’s what a Drew Estate cigar does. The smoke is thick, white, and plentiful. The draw is smooth and the ash is white. The burn is straight. This cigar seems smoother and more subtle than other Liga Privada cigars. It’s medium to medium-full in body, full in flavor. The smoke time is two hours and thirty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? If I could, I would. This is everything I want in a cigar. Flavor, balance, elegance, character.

Categories: 93, Gran Fabrica Drew Estate, Liga Privada, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: ,

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