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IMG_3955

Size: 5×50, Robusto

Wrapper: Brazilian Arapiraca

Filler: Mixed Nicaraguan

Strength: Medium-Full

Price: Box of 20, $45.95 at Cigar.com

Score: 8.6

Inching closer and closer to burning through the 7 House Blends offered by Cigar.com, today we take a look at the Brazilian Label. The Brazilian is rolled by Tabacalera Fernandez and is the most recent addition to the House Blends. Sold in boxes of 20 and in 4 sizes, there are also several sampler options by size and House Blend variety. So far, we’ve reviewed the Blue, Purple, and Corojo.

In our reviews so far, we’ve noted consistency and great flavor profiles in what is surely a value-priced smoke. So, let’s see how the Brazilian matches up.

Appearance, 1.4:
The pre-light draw and aroma on the Brazilian is quite complex and very full. There is a sweet and pleasant espresso with a slight spicy undertone at the foot. The rest of the stick has a medium-full roasted aroma with thick and creamy notes of cocoa. The wrapper is quite moist with a few soft spots, though packed very well at the foot. The overall exterior is rugged, with raised veins and a leathery texture. Though the head is triple capped, there is not much more to speak of on the exterior. The green and yellow band are simple and pop well from the dark wrapper. The pre-light draw creates a very unique taste—a bit of a dry rub on the tongue that I haven’t experienced before. It has a very solid draw and appears to be a very interesting smoke.

Burn, 1.7:
The Brazilian lit very well and created a fairly straight edge throughout. As I’ve experienced with all of the Cigar.com House Blends, the burn on this cigar is quick, really quick! The Brazilian released a great cloud of smoke that smelled excellent; it reminded me of the sweet smell emitted from melting chocolate over a campfire. The ash started off very poorly with a big split down the middle. Once I ashed at the one inch mark it corrected itself and burned great.

Flavor, 2.7:
Up front there was a fairly strong shot of pepper with a bit of body to accompany it—the Brazilian introduces itself well. The dryness picked up on the pre-light continued throughout the smoke and the finish reminded me of the smell from wet lumber. There were a lot of wood notes in both texture and flavor, with cedar and other earthy flavors taking over the early notes of spice. I only picked up the sweetness when exhaling through my nose, which complemented the other flavors very well. Overall, this was a very rustic smoke that had excellent complexity and a medium-full body.

Overall, 2.8:
As has been my experience with the other Cigar.com House Blends, the Brazilian delivered in the flavor and burn departments—a very consistent smoke. The flavor profiles were very interesting, though I was a bit distracted by the dry finish at times. This is the classic story of the ugly duckling, where the inside is what matters. At around $2 a stick this is going to be hard to beat.

(Total: 8.6)

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Graycliff_2

Size: 6×52, Torpedo (Pirate)

Wrapper: Jalpetec Maduro

Filler: Peruvian, Columbian, Mexican, and Brazilian Long Fillers

Binder: Ecuadorian Sumatra Binder

Strength: Medium-Full

Price: $12.00

This is Agent 24 from The Cigar Spy! I am back doing some “off-the books, contract work” for the gentlemen here at Cigar Reviews! My target for Matt and Jed was The Graycliff 1666 Pirate. Graycliff is known for their high-end cigars to match their famous resort in the Bahamas. The 1666 Pirate is a special edition cigar released to commemorate the church that was built in 1666 where the resort now stands. The area has a rich history and this cigar is meant to honor that history. We shall see if it can stand up to the high standards set by Graycliff and in turn by Matt, Jed and I!

Appearance:
The 1666 has a beautiful blue with gold outline band. This is the first thing to catch your eye and it is very appealing. The wrapper is dark, almost black,  and is oily and very toothy. It gives the appearance that it’s gonna bite! Construction is firm all the way from head to foot with very few veins and I see no defects in the roll. The foot gives off an aroma of dark chocolate and fresh cut hay. After the cut, the pre-light draw is a little tight, but I am still able to get a solid pull.

Burn:
From the light, the 1666 has an excellent draw, putting to rest any worry I may have had. I am getting thick clouds of white smoke that smell of roasted nuts and cocoa. The burn was even until about half way through, when it started to burn unevenly. I gave it a few minutes to try and even out on its own, but ended up having to do a minor touch-up with the torch. That being said, while it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the smoke, I expected better. The ash was a solid white with flecks of brown with little to no flakes and held about an inch to an inch and half before I felt it needed to be ashed.

Flavor:
The flavor profile on the Graycliff 1666 Pirate did not disappoint. Right from the start, I had hints of roasted nut and dark cocoa. These flavors stayed consistent throughout. I also got the occasional hit of a sweet spice. It had a little bite to it, but with an undercurrent of sweetness. Also from about one third of the way through until the final third, I tasted some wood and earth undertones. I retrohaled throughout the entire cigar and was never left with an overpowering feeling of spice. It was quite smooth. The overall flavor profile was complex and I would rate it as high-end medium to low-end full in strength.

Overall:
Graycliff is known as a high-end smoke and is not something I would normally smoke, if only due to the price point. I enjoyed the cigar from start to finish and would smoke it again, if gifted. I have had other lines from Graycliff and always found them to be high quality and enjoyable. The 1666 falls right in line with the rest. The flavor was complex and enjoyable. At no point was I overwhelmed with nicotine and it went well with both the Stella Artois and spring water that I paired it with. I could see this being an everyday smoke if you can afford $360.00 a box, but that’s not for me. If you enjoy a medium to full- bodied smoke that keeps you on your toes with the flavor profile, then I recommend trying at least one. I do not believe you will be disappointed! Thanks to Matt and Jed for bringing me back for another “perilous” (ha, ha) mission!

Graycliff_1

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IMG_3652

Size: 5×50, Robusto

Wrapper: Connecticut

Filler: Cibao Valley, Dominican Republic

Strength: Mild

Price: Box of 20, $39.95; 5-pack, $12.00

Grade: 8.4

Resurrected by Fonseco’s master blender, Manuel Quesada, this Dominican filled, Connecticut wrapped cigar is a consistently smooth smoke at an exceptional value. Available in the mild Connecticut and Maduro for some time, a fuller-bodied option was recently released, the Intenso.

As much as anyone, I enjoy a great value smoke to have on hand for family and friends and of course for myself. I often look for new 5 packs that I haven’t tried in hopes of finding a great, low-mid priced box purchase. The Cu-Avana is a winner in this category! I’ve worked through quite a few of the Natural and the Maduro and we’ve got some of the Intenso headed our way. You can read our review of the Maduro here.

So, I finally decided to put a pen and paper to my value smoke and see just how well it scores.

Appearance, 1.5:
Surprisingly triple capped, this Connecticut is wrapped with a simple blue and gold label. The exterior is a bit bumpy with a rustic, leathery skin. Though the cap is well done, the foot is quite bumpy and misshaped. The aroma on the cigar is predictably that of barnyard with some sweetness. The top 2/3 of the smoke was very tightly packed and dense. The draw was decent and had notes of sweet hay.

Burn, 1.8:
The burn on the Cu-Avana was very solid. Though the draw was a bit tight the first third of the smoke, it opened up nicely and carried a very tight and well-colored ash. The ash held well into the half-way mark of this Robusto before I knocked it off. This is a very consistent aspect of the Cu-Avana–always a clean, tight ash, a straight burn, and a good draw.

Flavor, 2.5:
If you are looking for a flavor powerhouse this is not the smoke for you. If, however, you want an unobtrusive smoothness, this very well may be your value smoke winner. The flavor is predominated by a sweet hay with the slightest bit of pepper on the opening few draws. There was little transition in this cigar—just a solid consistency.

Overall, 2.6:
At around $2 a stick, you will be hard pressed to find a better value. I’m sure I used the same sentence to describe the Cu-Avana Maduro, but it’s true. As I’ve spent some time with both of these smokes, I prefer the Maduro due to the added sweetness and a bit more complexity and transition. However, for an early morning read of the paper with a nice cup of coffee, this would do the trick nicely in my opinion. It’d also be a nice addition to yard work. Though the score is in the low 8s, this is because of a hit to the appearance, which I think most of us can overlook when it comes to value.

(Total: 8.4)

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IMG_3668

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!

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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)

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IMG_3435

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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IMG_3547

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:

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IMG_3579

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.

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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.

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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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IMG_3523

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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