Mad Dog

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Size: 5×50, Robusto

Wrapper: Sumatran

Filler: Panamanian

Strength: Medium-Full

Price: Box of 20, $114.99; 5-pack, $25.99

Grade: 8.8

Matt over at Tex Cigars recently sent us a couple of the Mad Dog sticks in the Robusto size. This blend is only sold as a Robusto and Torpedo, and is hand-made in Panama. Often grown with a bit of volcanic soil, cigars from Panama can carry some unique flavors. Though many cigars are produced in this region, less are actually shipped from Panama, which Tex lists as one of the unique features of the Mad Dog.

The Mad Dog rested in our humidor for a couple months and we’ve been itching to give it a shot. You can learn more about this cigar here.

This review comes from our close friend Chris; He and his wife just celebrated the birth of their first child, a healthy little boy named Lane! Everyone welcome Chris, and congratulate him on the new addition!


Appearance 1.8:
The appearance on this stick is beautiful—a reddish brown Sumatran wrapper that is very smooth and oily, the Mad Dog makes a great first impression. There are minimal veins and no soft spots—very well constructed. The pre-light draw is solid with notes of sweet pepper. The band on this stick is eye-catching, with a shiny chrome outline of a Mad looking Dog set against a black background.

Burn, 1.5:
By far the biggest deduction, the burn on stick struggled from the beginning. The “v” shaped burned only worsened as the smoke progressed. Though the ash was consistently colored and held well, the crooked burn required several touch-ups to correct. On the positive side, the draw on the Mad Dog was nearly perfect and never burned hot. The smoke emitted had a very sweet and enjoyable aroma and thick clouds were produced throughout. Had the burn been straighter, this stick would have scored around a 1.8 on burn, soaring it to a 9.1 overall grade. So, if burn issues don’t bother you, this is a high scorer!

Flavor, 2.8:
The Mad Dog transitioned exceptionally well; beginning with strong notes of pepper, by the second third the stick had mellowed out into a very sweet and smooth tasting cigar. The sweetness was complemented by a leathery taste that was very enjoyable to the palette. Great complexity, consistency, and flavor, the Mad Dog is a winner in the flavor category. There was also some noticeable body to this medium-full stick, which made the experience nice and relaxing.

Overall, 2.7:
At just under $6 a stick, I’d say this is a solid value. In fact, I would consider buying a box of these at the current price point of $114.99 per 20. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this cigar, even with the burn issues. The great flavor profile and beautiful appearance prevented me from being totally distracted by the required touch-ups. As I said earlier, had the burn on this stick been better, we’d be looking at a score into the low 9s. Thanks to Tex Cigars for providing this excellent House Blend.

(Total: 8.8)


Panacea Black

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Size: 6×50, Toro

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut

Binder: Dominican Republic

Filler: Cuban-seed Seco, Ligero, Olor Dominicano, and Nicaraguan

Strength: Mild-Medium

Price: Box of 20, $115.99

Grade: 8.1

Flatbed Cigar Company recently sent us their two blends, the Panacea Black (Natural) and the Red. After sitting for about 6 weeks, I decided to fire up the Black.

Flatbed is headquartered in Pennsylvania and they describe their business plan as being very simple: get the best rollers, make a bunch of blends, have a lot of people sample them, and pick a couple blends out of the lot to go forward with. This approach created the Panacea Black, in the Natural and Maduro, and the Pancea Red, which was recently released. Flatbed was formed nearly three years ago, with the Black being released in October of 2007. Primarily distributed in the North East, the Panacea has made its way into over 40 stores and are working to reach other regions. Though based in Pennsylvania, their factory is located in the Dominican Republic. Give them a visit here.

Now, on to the review of the Panacea Black.

Appearance, 1.8:
The Black has a nice exterior and is packed tightly without any soft spots—it seemed that it may have even been over packed but the nice draw proved me wrong. It had a clean tobacco scent dominated by a barnyard smell with the slightest bit of mint. The band is a very clean black and gold—it neither detracts from nor highlights the overall appearance of the stick. The band did however conceal a very slight tear in the wrapper where it appears the roll didn’t properly match, leaving a slight gap in the roll. Overall, the Black has a clean appearance despite some oddly matching vein patterns.

Burn, 1.9:
The biggest highlight of this stick was the burn. The draw opened up as the stick progressed and by the 2/3 mark it had an excellent pull with a nice thick cloud of smoke exuding from each exhale. The ash also held very well and was a nice white that stacked well atop a clean burn line. The Black did not require any touch-ups or re-lights.

Flavor, 2.1:
By far the greatest deduction, the flavor profile on this stick was bad. The problem was the aftertaste. The overall flavor on this stick was what you would expect from a mild-medium Connecticut—nice barnyard notes with a moderate amount of creaminess. There was also a bit of pepper on the finish which was nice. However, by the 2/3 mark on this cigar, the bitterness and harshness was overwhelming—it even tasted a bit sour. Having allowed the stick to rest for 6 weeks prior to smoking, I was very surprised by the aftertaste. My review partner experienced the same aftertaste when he smoked the other Black we received.

Overall, 2.3:
I was disappointed with the Black for several reasons; it carries a decent price point, at around $5.79, and the appearance and burn is very solid, which made me hope for a great experience. The flavor of this cigar fell completely flat and bore one of the worst aftertastes I’ve ever had in a handmade. My only suggestion is to let these rest 6 months or more and see if the flavor improves. I don’t have any of these left, nor do I plan to buy more, so I will not be able to participate in the wait and see experiment. I can’t recommend this cigar for purchase unless you find a deal on it and have no problem letting it sit for a while.

(Total: 8.1)

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Size: 5¼x54, Robusto

Wrapper: Ecuadorian ‘Desflorado’ Connecticut-seed

Filler: Cuban-seed Nicaraguan

Strength: Full

Price: $8.99

Score: 9.6

Today we review the newest cigar from Berger & Argenti, the Entubar. The release of this cigar was recently announced at the 77th Annual IPCPR Convention and Trade Show in New Orleans, LA. Shipment of this cigar was set to commence the middle of October to 150 tobacconists across the United States. According to a recent press release, Berger & Argenti Premium Cigars is a privately-held company headquartered in Miami, Florida with agricultural and production facilities in Esteli, Nicaragua. The press release also described the process utilized to create the Entubar:

Each deeply aged Nicaraguan filler leaf is carefully rolled into itself creating delicate ‘scrolls’ of rich, flavorful tobacco. This age-old method ensures open chambers of air flow from the foot to the head of the cigar, creating a superior draw…The ligero tobacco leaves that lend the cigar its unique full body is bunched independently from the rest of the blend before it’s re-bunched directly into the center of the remaining entubar rolled filler blend. This ligero channel ranges the full length of the cigar and extends ¼ beyond the finished trimmed foot, creating a startlingly unique fuse like appearance that virtually assures a perfect, conical burn with a long white ash.

To be honest, I was very intrigued when we received this cigar from B&A. Though I was familiar with the Entubar rolling method, I was not sure I knew the ins and outs of this time honored Cuban tradition. This process is different than the more common booking method, where the filler leaves are laid atop of one another and then rolled up.

So, with quite a lengthy introduction to a very unique cigar, let’s get to the review!

Appearance, 1.9:



Of course the first thing you notice about this smoke is the ¼ inch of filler protruding from the foot of the 54 ring gauge Robusto. It really gives the cigar a unique appearance. The wrapper is smooth to the touch and the cigar is firm with good weight. Though a band does not make a cigar, Berger & Argenti really did a great job with it. The label at the head of the smoke is double sided with a very classy sticker holding it in place. The inside of the label is an explanation of the entubar rolling method. The band at the foot adds a nice touch and the advice should be followed on this smoke. The pre-light aroma is of earthy tobacco with a hint of spice. The cigar cut cleanly and the cold draw is heavy on spice, leaning towards pepper with some sweetness.


Burn, 2.0:
After a healthy toasting per instruction, the cigar lights right up with a nice even burn ring. The draw is perfect, really one of the best I have ever had. We have posted additional pictures to show the burn progression of this smoke because of the unique rolling method. As you can see, the ash held for three plus inches and is medium gray in color. Burn temperature was excellent throughout and I smoked it to the nub. Not much to say here, as this smoke burned like a champ from foot to nub.


Flavor, 2.8:
The first puff on this smoke produced a nutty flavor and surprisingly no spice at all. As I moved into the first third, I picked up notes of cedar, some spice through the nose, and some herbal notes on the finish. The second third seemed to become fuller in flavor with earthy tobacco being the main character. This third of the cigar also had continued herbal notes with some spice and a tiny bit of caramel on the finish. As we rounded the corner and headed for home, the cigar picked up the green pepper spice a bit with the earthy tobacco flavor becoming increasingly fuller and more satisfying. The smoke was creamy throughout and this resulted in a very satisfying coating of the palate. Huge finish on the last third of the smoke, with the caramel still present on the exhale.

Overall, 2.9:
What a great smoke; the tradition of the construction really got my interest when I first started the review but at the end of the day, the draw, burn, and flavor is what really made the difference. The cigar was easy to smoke and the transitions and complexity were very satisfying. If you are lucky enough to see these, grab some or grab a box—they are well worth the price of admission and you will not be disappointed.

(Total: 9.6)

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Today we interview Barry of  A Cigar Smoker’s Journal. You can find him online or on Twitter. We’ve been enjoying Barry’s website for I guess around a year or so. He provides readers several reviews a week and is always ahead of the curve with reviewing production cigars, limited releases, and the cigars us folks with a tiny cigar budget dream of. Please join us in welcoming Barry–and don’t forget to take a look at his fully indexed website!

About You:

Where did you grow up? Where are you currently living?
I was born in Ft. Lauderdale, where I lived all of 6 days. Since then I have lived in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve been here for 40 years and have grown to loathe the city. I am a pretty laid back person, so the fast pace of the city was never for me and yet I remain. I have dreams of moving to Denver, Colorado or Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, although the latter is not realistic since I don’t speak French.

When were you first introduced to cigars?
I was 13 or 14 and I went to a Bar Mitzvah—the son of my Father’s coworker. They gave out cigars and my dad let me smoke it to teach me a lesson. I turned green and I swear I was the inspiration for the movie Shrek. Years later, about 10 or so, my friend was working nights in a cigar shop so I decided to stop by and that’s when my passion for cigars began to grow. I became a serious cigar smoker in 1996.

How long have you been smoking quality cigars?
Sonny, who sometimes reviews on my website, opened a cigar shop with some retired NYPD officers/detectives. I was welcomed into the fold and began to learn about the art of cigars and smoking in 1996. So, for the last 13 years I’ve learned and acquired the knowledge.

What is it you most enjoy about a good cigar?
It’s a few things, depending on the setting. When I’m alone, I enjoy the solitude with a stick, as I forget the day’s worries and get lost in the moment. It’s like therapy. $10.00 for a good cigar is better than an hour on any psychiatrist’s couch. Then there are times where I’m sitting with a group of friends laughing and sharing stories that always seem to develop over a good smoke. People don’t understand that a good cigar is like therapy so for me I’m not just blowing smoke.

What is your current involvement in the cigar industry?
I was managing a friend’s shop in the Bronx, where I had a % interest, but seeing they did business different than I, it made me rethink my involvement. I didn’t want to sully my name with the manufacturers. I currently write for Smoke Magazine where I am one of the review panelists for the fine publication. There is also my website, which I devote a lot of time to, but not nearly enough in terms of promoting it.

How would you like to become more involved in the industry?
I would love to develop my own cigar. But my dream job is to become a sales rep. I had an offer to work for Arganese but the offer was to low. My dream company is of course an established company, such as CAO, Oliva, Tatuaje, Illusione, Altadis USA, General, or Don Pepin Garcia.

Who have you most enjoyed meeting in the industry?
My favorite person in the industry is CAO sales representative Steve Faccenda. I got a great kick out of meeting Charlie Torano, Avo Uvezian, and Jon Huber as well. I would love to have a smoke with fellow cigar blogger Jerry Cruz, and almost did until I threw my back out and had to cancel.

How do you spend the rest of your business time?
I have my own company with my business partner, “Sonny.” He’s a retired NYPD Detective and we have our own security consulting and private investigations firm. We handle mostly corporate stuff, no marital stuff. We leave that for the TV show “Cheaters”.

How do you spend the rest of your free time?
I love to drive so I tend to make trips to see friends on the Jersey shore, and the occasional drive to Baltimore for crabcakes or to Philadelphia for some smokes and a drink or 2 at Mahogany on Walnut, which is above Holt’s. I also love baseball (Yankees), hockey (Islanders), and football (Jets). I am a fan of heavy metal music and I enjoy photography.

About Your Palette and Smoking Patterns:

How has your palette progressed over the years?
If anything it has gotten more sensitive, where identifying the notes in a cigar has become easier. I still prefer sweet (cocoa, cinnamon, caramel, etc) over leather and espresso.

It seems like you prefer full-bodied cigars. What are some of your favorite full-bodied cigars? What are some of your favorite mild-medium cigars?
I wouldn’t say I prefer full-bodied smokes, it just seems lately as if manufacturers have gone that way with their new releases. My favorite full bodied smoke is the Liga Privada No. 9. As far as medium bodied, give me the Illusione Eperany. For a mild cigar, I still love the Davidoff Short Perfecto. My all time favorite smoke, which I haven’t smoked in a while, is the Padron Principe Natural.

For someone just getting started smoking, what are a few sticks you would recommend?
I usually recommend a Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 or an Oliva Connecticut when someone wants me to suggest something for a new smoker. Those cigars are not too strong and are very flavorful.

Will you describe for us your smoking patterns?
It varies. I always have a cigar in the morning, usually in my car with the windows down, even in the winter. On weekends I’ve been known to spend the entire day in my friend’s cigar shop, which results in 4 or 5 sticks. On average I would say I smoke 2-3 a day.

You also seem to have a special spot that you smoke in, near the beach, right?

In the summer I like to smoke in my car right at the beach. There is a spot in Brooklyn on Brighton and 15th Street, where the block ends right at the beach. At 9am you can find me there almost daily smoking. Some people are disgusted by the smell, but I’ve made a few friends who have decided to stop and tell cigar stories.

About Buying Locally:

From reading your cigar review website, it is obvious that you are a big supporter of local tobacconists. Why do you feel this is so important?
The local tobacconist is a great source of information. I love it when I walk into a shop and I am greeted by name. Especially when the owner or worker joins me in the humidor to point out the new sticks. But it goes beyond that for me. Communities only thrive when local business is supported. So I try to spend my money locally for this reason. I do however buy the occasional box on-line from Chicago Cigar Co. or Atlantic Cigars due to budget issues.

Any local shops you’d like to give a shout out to?
Three actually. Joe at the Cigar Vault in Brooklyn, NY, who always goes out of his way to show me what’s new or to fill me in on cigars news. Ralph & Frank over at Fume in Montclair, NJ and the boys at Ashes Tobacconist in the Bronx, NY.

What is it you most enjoy about B&M’s?
The different people you meet from various ethnicities, classes, and backgrounds. The stories told, the lessons learned, and the various viewpoints everyone has. Fume Cigars in Montclair is a perfect example of this. To date, it is the closest to perfection in terms of what I want in a shop (great selection of cigars, a great lounge, and great people).

What would you say to those who only shop online for cigars, to encourage them to buy locally?

I realize people shop online because of the convenience. But support your local economy and spend money within it. Without supporting it, a community can only survive for a certain amount of time.

Thanks Barry for joining us!

Thank you for the interview, it was fun and I feel honored. Love your site and all you do to further the passion we share in cigars.

Oliva Serie G

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Size: 3.7×48, Special G

Wrapper: African Cameroon

Binder: Cuban-seed Habano

Filler: Nicaraguan Habano

Strength: Medium

Price: $4.20, Local

Grade: 9.0

A unique size that is sold in boxes of 48, the Special G is fun to hold and more fun to smoke. I picked this stick up a month or so ago from our local B&M and I’ve been waiting for a night when I only had 30 minutes or so to smoke. The Serie G comes in 11 sizes, including a couple of other unique sizes, such as the Belicoso and Figurado. The Oliva G was listed as #11 on Cigar Aficionado’s best cigars of 2006.

Obviously there is a lot to enjoy about this cigar so let’s get to the review!

Appearance, 1.7:
The Special G had a great pre-light aroma, with a sweet smell that reminded me of an old cellar. The draw was excellent, if not a bit loose, and the unique shape was a lot of fun to hold. The head and foot looked nice but could have been a little cleaner with some very slight wrapper pulls. The overall exterior was good but the wrapper had a bit of a rustic feel with noticeable veins and a leathery appearance.

Burn, 1.8:
The G had a very open draw with plenty of thick smoke pouring from each exhale. Though this may be due in part to the thin size of the Special G, it burnt fairly hot throughout. The ash was excellent and moved very cleanly through the Figurado type foot. The ash layered and stacked very well and was a nice, clean gray. The perfect draw kept the score high despite the hot burn.

Flavor, 2.7:
The G started off with a bit of harshness and heat, but it quickly cooled off. The smoke was dominated by black pepper in the first half and never really transitioned into the sweetness that was detected in the pre-light draw and aroma. I enjoyed the peppery notes but was hoping for some movement–the only movement was a decreased amount of pepper in the second half. The deduction here is for lacking a bit of flavor profile, though it scored perfectly for consistency.

Overall, 2.8:
Overall, this is an excellent smoke and one that I would consider buying a box of, especially as the winter months are upon us. When I smoke this stick in the future I will pace myself a bit and hopefully this will help with the hot burn of the tiny stick. The flavor was great on this stick and it had a very fun burn to it and drew very well throughout. This is a winner to be sure!

(Total: 9.0)

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Win a box of Arnold’s House Blend No. III, valued at $110.50!


Arnold’s Tobacco Shop is sponsoring a great contest for us this week! Their House Blend, blended by La Flor Dominicana, is a great Medium-Full bodied cigar. We recently reviewed the No. III and it scored a 9.1! You can read the review here.

Now, on to the reason you’re here–the contest! All you have to do to be entered to win is:

– Help us name our future cigar review website–leave a comment with your suggested website name.

It’s that easy! We’ll pick a winner and Arnold’s will send you a great box of smokes! It couldn’t get any easier!


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Win a Box of These! Click Here!

Size: 6X50, Toro

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra

Binder: Nicaraguan

Filler: Dominican Republic

Strength: Medium to Full

Price: Box of 20, $110.50

Grade: 9.1

A couple months ago we started talking with Bruce Goldstein of Arnold’s Tobacco Shop about his house blend. We were hearing some pretty good things about the La Flor Dominicana blend and wanted to try them for ourselves. Bruce was kind enough to send us a box of his House Blend No. III to review and we have been very excited about firing them up.

Bruce also spent some time interviewing with us. You can read the interview here, where Bruce talks about his move from a local Manhattan shop to a strictly online retailer. And, stay tuned tomorrow for a contest! Bruce has generously donated a box of his No. III to give away to one winner! You can learn more about the Arnold’s house blend here.

So, on to the review!

Appearance, 1.9:
When I first took these cigars out of the box, I noticed that the Ecuadorian wrappers were very delicate and appealing. The light to medium brown sticks seemed to exude creaminess from a glimpse at the wrapper alone. The construction of the stick was very consistent with a firm touch and with good weight. The black, gold, and white label is classy and raised and the words Hecho a Mano, or handmade, is a very nice touch.  The pre-light aroma is of clean tobacco with some light spice at the foot. The cold draw produced similar notes but with some sweetness on the finish.

Burn, 1.8:
The draw of this stick is perfect, not to loose and not too tight. It toasted and lit well with a nice burn line; however, one the smokes I lit did V some but it corrected itself within the first third. The stick produced an adequate amount of smoke and the temperature of the smoke was very nice. The ash held well past an inch and a half before I bumped it off. No touch ups or re-lights were required at all.

Flavor, 2.7:
A flavor of fresh tobacco with a hint of peat really hit me on the first draw. The first third continued this profile of fresh tobacco, some leather, and hints of spice in the nose. The finish was not long but had a pleasant character of fresh grass with some mint. The second third of the smoke really seemed to bring a nutty presence to the flavor profile, with more leather and less spice. The finish at this point is more full and with more body than earlier. The final third of the smoke did not transition much from the second third but was very consistent. Throughout the smoke there was a creaminess that was very nice and coated the palate well.

Overall, 2.7:
I enjoyed this smoke for a number of reasons. The flavor profile was very nice and consistent. The cigar itself was well constructed and in turn smoked well. Lastly, I enjoyed the fact that this was a house blend from a family that has such a great history in the tobacco business. The cigar is a great deal at $5.50 a stick, and it is well worth the money at that price point. I look forward to smoking a few more of these and trying other sizes at some point in the future.

(Total: 9.1)