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Size: 6×52, Torpedo

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro

Filler: Dominican

Strength: Medium-Full

Price: 20 for $49.95 at Cigar.com

Score: 8.6

Another blend produced for Cigar.com at the Tabadom Factory in the Dominican Republic, the Red Label is our next fire in the 7 blend house line. Available in 4 sizes and in boxes of 20, this is another fine value from Cigar.com, with all sizes priced under $50. Enjoying the last couple weeks before the cold moves us into the garage, or the man cave, the night was a fine one to spark this Torpedo. This review comes courtesy of Chris, a frequent guest to our burn parties!

Now, let’s get to it, this Red looks ready to go!

Appearance, 1.6:
First things first, this is a very rustic looking smoke with a heavy, leathery appearance and a very dark and oily Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. It has a fairly nice weight to it with some looseness in the wrapper, especially toward the foot. For the most part, however, the roll is tight. The Torpedoed head has an odd transition toward the point that ends with a very pinpointed head. The aroma is nice and hearty with some rich notes of sweet spice. The draw is very nice, if not a bit loose, with the sweet and creamy spice picked up on the aroma coming through on the cold draw—I am expecting some pretty distinct flavors on this one. The deduction here is for the jagged head and the mixed-colored wrapper that takes on a very aged and slightly battered appearance.

Burn, 1.5:
The biggest deduction on the Red is the burn. The draw was nice, with plenty of smoke being emitted, but the burn was incredibly fast, as seems to be characteristic with cigar.com houses, and was also fairly jagged. The crooked burn required a couple touch-ups and one re-light to realign, but this wasn’t a huge distraction. The ash was consistently colored with a nice brownish-gray tint. The burn was a big deduction but not a huge distraction.

Flavor, 2.7:
The Red introduces itself well with some hearty spice up front that soon mellows into a very smooth and creamy smoke. Into the second-third of the smoke, a bit of sour harshness arrived that could best be described as a bit musky, but this passed very quickly and was easily forgotten. The maduro produced the characteristic sweet creaminess that you expect and the Dominican filler complemented the sweet wrapper very well by adding a bit of spiciness and complexity to the flavor profiles.

Overall, 2.8:
The mantra on this line of smokes seems to be, if you can overlook a less than perfect appearance for an excellent value and a punch of flavor, this is a must-try. Within the 7 blend line, there are more than 2 blends I’d consider buying a box of. I’d enjoy trying the Red in a robusto just to make some flavor comparisons, but all in all, this is an excellent value with lots of flavor. I would recommend this smoke to most folks, especially since this line seems to have a bit less strength than advertised—this falls into the Medium family in my assessment.

(Total: 8.6)

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Montecristo

Size: 5X42, Petite Corona

Wrapper, Binder, Filler: Cuban Puro

Strength: Medium

Price: Gifted

Grade: 9.2

Introduced in 1935, Montecristo has emerged as the best selling Cuban cigar in the world. A good friend of mine gifted me this cigar about six months ago. It has been resting up nicely in the humidor and I figured it was time for me to fire up it up.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Appearance, 1.7:
The wrapper on this smoke was somewhat toothy with a few prominent veins. The construction was nice and had a good weight, consistency, and cap. The pre-light aroma and cold draw produced earthy tobacco notes with a very subtle sweet spice on the end. The band was classic Montecristo, which always gets me a little excited since we all know Cubans set the bar for handmade smokes. Though not really a scoring factor, I really liked the size of this smoke; it just felt really right between the fingers as I got ready to put the torch to it.

Burn, 1.9:
After a quick clip and toasting, the foot of this smoke was aglow. The draw was very nice and produced an adequate amount of smoke with just the right amount of effort. The ash was grayish white in color and held to well over an inch before I knocked it off. The temperature on this stick was nice considering the small size and there was never a hint of harshness, which I sometimes encounter with smaller smokes.

Flavor, 2.8:
The first puff on this Cuban puro produced earthy tobacco notes with a mild sweet finish. As the smoke progressed, I picked up some woody flavors with a dominant earthy tobacco profile. The second third seemed to carry on the above earthy tobacco notes but on the exhale there was some darker notes of cocoa with a continued finish of spicy sweetness. The final third of the smoke was consistent with the second third but with a hint more of the spice. All in all, the No. 4 produced an earthy tobacco flavor profile with hints of cocoa and some spice throughout. Not terribly complex but very, very consistent.

Overall, 2.8:
All in all this was a great smoke with a very consistent flavor profile. Because of the lack of pricing, I can’t really take value into account but I know these cigars are reasonably priced at authorized retailers outside of the states in comparison to other Cubans. This is a good forty five minute smoke that will not leave you with a full feeling that is characteristic of a heavy stick and, for that reason, the No. 4 can be enjoyed at any time of day. I really enjoyed this one on a Friday here in Georgia.

(Total:  9.2)

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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.

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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)

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We’ve worked our way through the nice cigars sent to us by Davidoff. We would like to thank them for the generosity and for continuing to reach out to smokers. Over the last month or two, we reviewed four cigars from Davidoff: the Maduro R, Millennium Blend, Seleccion 702 LE, and the Zino Classic. Each cigar had its own flavor profiles and they sent us a great variety within their more full-bodied line of cigars.

Below we’ve included a summary of each of the smokes reviewed for a quick reference to those interested in exploring Davidoff’s full-bodied offerings. We had a great time reviewing these Davidoffs; they were all consistent in appearance and flavor and made cause for lots of conversation. Let us know which of the 4 you prefer.

madThe Davidoff Maduro R (9.1/10, Full Review Here)

By far the favorite of the four smokes, the Maduro R has a beautiful dark brown wrapper and cut very clean with notes of licorice. The R scored a nearly perfect score in the burn category with a slight deduction for a loose ash. The flavor profiles are not over-bearing but were smooth with a subtle sweetness. Overall, this smoke is worth the $15 price point per stick.

The Davidoff Millennium Blend (8.7/10, Full Review Here)mill

The Lancero had a nice pigtail head and a clean wrapper with a nice draw and sweet notes. The ash was a nearly perfect white and held very well but one re-light was required. There was a consistent flavor of roasted nuts, hints of cedar, and maybe a hint of dark chocolate but the transitions were very subtle. Overall, this was a good smoke but at $20 there are several other sticks I would recommend for a special occasion.

seleThe Davidoff Seleccion 702 LE (8.1/10, Full Review Here)

Another very clean Ecuadorian wrapper with minimal veins and excellent pre-light draw. We did a joint review on this stick and we both had loose, mixed-colored ashes and one of us had to re-light. There is very little if any movement in this cigar and the flavor was rather bland throughout. By no means is this a bad cigar, but when the price of a single ($25-8) is the price of a good 5-pack of other smokes on sale, it is hard to justify re-purchasing or recommending this stick.

The Zino Classic (6.9/10, Full Review Here)zin

The appearance on this Torpedoed classic was excellent–beautiful wrapper, elegant band, and minimal veins. This was another joint review and the ash on one of the sticks created one the most dramatic splits I’ve ever seen, creating nearly two separate ashes. As with the Davidoff’s, the flavor profile was very subtle and hard to pick up on; there was a bit of pepper but the rest was a bit bland. Though priced more nicely at around $7 a stick, there just wasn’t enough flavor for me to buy this one again.

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Size: 6½x52, Torpedo

Wrapper: Maduro

Filler:
Cuban-seed, Dominican Republic

Strength: Full

Price: 6-pack, $55.00; Box of 25, $185

Grade: 8.9

Velvet Cigars in New York City recently sent us a few samples of their full-bodied house blend, The Tompkins. Each of their three cigar lines is named for locations in New York City’s East Village; the Tompkins is named for Tompkins Square Park.

In the past four years, Velvet has sold over 50,000 of their house blends. Their website describes their house blends the following way:

A master blend of finely aged Dominican, Cuban-seed tobacco, each Velvet Cigar is a handcrafted, exceptional smoke. Our expert rollers select only the choicest of leafs to craft our exclusive line of cigars. For over three generations, the family-owned business has produced cigars that have stood out for consistency and flavor.  It’s a passion you’ll taste in every stick.

You can learn more about their line of house blends here. We held onto these smokes for about a month and we’re ready to fire one up!

Velvet

Appearance, 1.8:
I was first drawn to the eye catching band on this cigar; it had a very elegant color scheme of scarlet and gold and it really seems to fit with the Velvet line of cigars. The toothy wrapper was in good shape, though it did have some evident veins which gave the smoke a bit of a rugged look. The cigar was firm to the touch with good weight but was a little spongy towards the foot. The pre-light aroma was of clean tobacco with some hay at the foot.  The cold draw produced notes of leather and some spice in the back of the throat.

Burn, 1.6:
After a clean cut and a good toasting, I had this Torpedo lit up. The draw was a little tight at first but opened up after ten minutes or so. I did not feel that this stick produced an adequate amount of smoke; in the first third I almost felt like I had to work at it a bit to keep it going. The light gray ash held for 2 inches before falling but after that it did not hold well for the rest of the smoke. However, there were not any issues with touch ups or re-light.

Flavor, 2.8:
The first third of the torpedo produced notes of leather and spice with a cedar type finish. Even though there was not a large amount of smoke at this point, it really coated my palate well. The second third of this cigar really opened up and produced more smoke and flavor. The leather was still present, but the cedar notes were replaced by a much sweeter finish. The last third of the smoke lightened up a bit with an earthy tobacco flavor capped off with a lingering sweetness.

Overall, 2.7:
The highlight of this smoke is the flavor profile; it was a very full flavored smoke and I would rate it more towards medium to full as opposed to full bodied. The $9.00 per stick price is fair and I think most purchasers would be satisfied with that price point. I still have another Torpedo in the humidor, along with a Robusto. We will add to this review in the future when we spark the Robusto. I hope the burn issues will clear up with the next stick; if they do, this one will likely cross the 9.0 mark.

(Total: 8.9)

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Size: Robusto, 5×50

Wrapper: Panamanian Maduro

Filler: Cuban seed grown in Nicaragua

Strength: Medium

Price: Box of 25, $59.95

Grade: 8.9

The Corona Nicaraguan Selection was introduced in 1997 and was Corona’s first House Blend. They recently released a 10th Anniversary to commemorate the occasion. The original blend is hand-made in Central America under the care of Gilberto Oliva, Jr., a fifth generation Cuban master blender. The long filler in this blend is aged Cuban-seed grown in Nicaragua and is protected by a Panamanian Maduro wrapper. This stick is also available with a more mild Sumatra seed grown in Indonesia. Corona compares this stick to the Padron line of cigars.

We want to give a special thanks to Jeff over at Corona; he was kind enough to send us a heavy care package full of great smokes to review and great attire to kick around in. This is our first review of a Corona stick and we’ll have several more to come in the next few weeks. Click here to see what else is in store.

Let’s get to it!

Appearance 1.9:Picture 009
This is a gorgeous stick; the Maduro is very oily with no color variation. When I go into a smoke knowing that it costs less than $2.50, I typically have low expectations for the appearance category. Not so on the Corona Nicaraguan; the dark wrapper is complemented wonderfully by a white label with the Corona logo brightly embossed. Back to the wrapper, there are no soft spots and very little veins to speak of.

The pre-light aroma was excellent; a sweet and clean tobacco smell with hints of bitter chocolate and creamy caramel. It definitely had a medium-roast smell to it that seemed to promise a flavorful smoke. The pre-light draw was a little tight with the Cigar Spike but it pulled fine when I cut the head. This stick could have easily received a 2.0, but the simple roll of the Robusto, along with an over-stuffed head, prevented a perfect score; had all these same qualities existed on a Torpedo or Figurado, it would have likely scored perfectly.

Burn, 1.6:
The largest deduction in this review came with the burn. Though the draw was excellent and the ash was a beautiful white, there was a bit of flowering in the first couple inches of the ash. The burn also started to “v” toward the second third of the smoke and I was forced to re-light this stick once (though this was toward the beginning and may have been a result of the poor draw from the spike). The strengths were the coloration and hold of the ash and the thick smoke that the draw produced.

Flavor, 2.7:
The flavor on this stick did not disappoint; it matched nearly perfectly with the notes picked up in the pre-light draw. Notes of bittersweet chocolate and creamy caramel, along with a very clean undertone of tobacco. There were no barnyard flavors to speak of, just a steady medium-roast flavor. There was some fairly heavy spice in the first third, but this eventually passed and was dominated by creaminess. The body of this smoke came on in the second third and it was obvious that this was on the heavier side of medium.

For those that love creamy smokes with a little bit of body, this is the smoke for you. It reminded me a bit of the Sosa Wavell and the 5 Vegas Original. Lots and lots of flavor is packed into this smoke and it was very consistent throughout. It is hard for me to determine shifts by thirds due to this House Blend’s consistency.

Picture 010Overall, 2.7:
Overall, an excellent smoke! This stick is actually under $2.50 on Corona’s website right now. These sticks are usually packaged in boxes of 20 but the manufacturer shipped out a lot of boxes holding 25; Corona has maintained the same price and the sticks are now $2.40 a pop—that’s a deal on this stick. I enjoyed smoking the Corona and would be interested to sample the Natural wrapper, as I prefer more Mild-Medium smokes. My enjoyment with this stick was a bit hampered by the re-light and the little bit of touch up required when the burn began to run.

The verdict: buy a box; if you like Padron, 5 Vegas, RyJ, Sosa, Rocky Patel ‘90s, pick up a box of these and you may not realize the difference.

(Total: 8.9)

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