Sunday, September 30, 2007

You Got Lonsdale on My Camacho! (Corojo Cetros)

Postscript: Second tasting - 3/22/08 - My second Camacho Corojo Cetros performed well in a closed-door environment. Good easy draw, but slight trouble getting an even burn for the first two inches. The taste was good, reminiscent of Padron Londres (also a lonsdale), but with a bit of molasses in the mix. Not a "wow" cigar, but a serviceable one. Both times this cigar failed to deliver a warm, fat sweet spot which I've come to expect from the fatter, robusto-sized Camachos. It went out a little to soon, with 1.5 inches left, but I decined to relight. I knew its best moments were behind it. Somewhat of a disappoinment, but a pleasant experience overall.

First tasting:
This one seemed so unlikely that I just had to bid on it at the Famous auction site: the Camacho Corojo Cetros (natural) - in a lonsdale size. Camacho? Lonsdale? How do you cross heavy metal with a string quartet?

Very well, it turns out. Like most lonsdales, the Camacho Corojo Cetros was a bit milder than it's fatter-ringed brothers. But tasty, fine-burning, and quality-holding until the last inch. Unfortunately, it was breezy outside the night I smoked this, detracting from the cigar-smoking experience. When the wind sucks the smoke out of your mouth, you're getting robbed of flavor. I'll smoke another one of these on a tranquil evening - and I'm guessing the report will be hands-down excellent.

Now to wax philosophical: There's something about the lonsdale shape that I like. Because it's narrower and longer, you get a cooler, less concentrated smoke, but with a pleasingly dusty, powdery consistency.

Then they get strong in the middle, much like a fatter cigar, but still with a certain amount of airy restraint. You don't feel like a hog when you're smoking a lonsdale. You feel dignified, yet fully compensated flavorwise.

I think I'm on the beginning of a lonsdale kick. Bidders, beware!

Going Too Low with Indian Tabac Boxer

I recently smoked an Indian Tabac Boxer ("Cuban Corojo") - another pit stop on my "how low can you go" quest to find the cheapest Rocky Patel cigar worth smoking. This time I think I hit bottom. No offense, Rocky, but nobody's perfect.

I lit up the Boxer while having a beer at Tom's Burned Down Cafe on Madeline Island, WI which is, by the way, one of the whackiest outdoor bars in the world and one you should visit at least once before you die. I figured if there's any place you can smoke in public and not get reprimanded, this would be it. I was right. No one scolded me or even looked at me askance. People were doing a lot crazier things that night than smoking a cigar.

The boxer was a friendly-looking little 4.5 inch robusto, fat and compact. But upon lighting, I was tempted to put it out and go for something else. It tasted somewhat dry, dusty, and harsh, with a pungeance of muddy red clay. To be fair, about halfway through it developed a warm, Rocky-ish flavor, a meatiness reminiscent of Camacho monarchas with about half the strenth. This flavor lasted quite a while, then turned harsh again at the last inch. I put the cigar down at that point.

For a cheapie, it was about what you'd expect. Not surprising in any way, unlike the Fire Corojo, which tasted better than its price. The I.T. Boxer is not one I'm planning to have again, unless someone comes up to me, sticks it in my mouth, and says "smoke this" without charging me a cent. Higly unlikely.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

If You Must Smoke a Perfecto...

...and you have lots of money to burn... then get yo'self a La Aurora Preferidos #2 Ruby Edition Tubo.

Otherwise, get yourself any number of straight-shanked cigars in the 3-10 dollar range, and have an equivalent experience.

I don't normally smoke perfectos, those bomb-shaped sticks that dovetail at both ends. Here's why: You spend the first inch smoking the first dovetail down to a normal ring size that produces useable smoke. Then you get two inches of nice, fat smoke. Then you get another inch of tar and nicotine-clogged dovetail burning at the butt end. So, in a five-inch cigar, you get two servicable inches of smoking. What's the point?

The point, apparently, is that when women go into smoke shops to buy their hubby a "good, expensive cigar" for his birthday, they get one look at the cute ruby-colored tubo and lose their minds. 25 bucks? Must be a wonderful cigar. He'll love it!

I didn't exactly love it, but I liked it. Those middle 2 inches were great. And it sure beat the hell out of an insipid Gurkha Centurian.

So if your wife wants to waste 25 bucks making you feel special, tell her to get a LONG, STRAIGHT cigar, not something that comes in a nail-polish pink tube that looks like it could serve as a vibrator.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Better Saint Luis Rey

A few months ago I purchased a St. Luis Rey Belicoso (dark natural, not maduro) after seeing it rated as one of the 25 best of 2006 by Cigar Aficionado.

I held it back in my humidor a long time, passing over it for other cigars because of my not-so-prime experience with a St. Luis Rey Rothchilde maduro - a cold, wind-in-your-teeth smoke that made me pucker with disgust and douse the cigar after 10 minutes.

Turns out my reservations were unfounded. I could hardly believe the belicoso was made by the same company. It started out a little hot and dry, making me fear it would be another Macanudo-like dud. But it quickly eased into an undercurrent of cream and soft spice; full-bodied smoke, but not heavy.

The subtley of this thing was surprising, considering it only costs about $3.50 per stick. It really drew out flavor in what might otherwise be a mild cigar. In fact, the St. Luis Rey belicoso is everything I usually wish a mild cigar would be - namely, medium-bodied and tasty.

I smoked two-thirds of it, enjoying its perfect burn, sensuous draw, and sheen of sweetness on the tongue--just barely noticeable and therefore tantalizing--and somewhere in the middle section I couldn't help but shake my head and say "man, what a great cigar!"

You know you have a winner when that happens.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

How Low Can You Go? Fire by Rocky Patel!

Can Rocky Patel make a bad cigar? I don't think so.

Case in point: The Fire Corojo, robusto size, which I received as part of a Rocky sampler pack. I'd never even heard of a brand named "Fire", much less of its association with the Rocky Patel name. A quick lookup at Famous revealed that they're cheapies, selling in boxes of 20 for only 34 bucks.

I couldn't wait to "Fire" it up and see how bad it was.

Not so fast, buster! This turned out to be the best cheapie cigar I've ever had. It burned well, drew well, and tasted not far removed from the Indian Tabac Super Fuerte robusto line. Perhaps not quite as complex - and certainly not as complex as the top-of-the-line Rocky "Vintage" blends, but jeeze, for $1.70, it went way beyond the call of duty. Worth at least double the price. I smoked it for 50 minutes, right down to the nub.

Once again this goes to show you that price and quality are not necessarily proportionate. In fact, it seems that the more you pay, the less "extra" quality you get per dollar. Call me asinine, but I would consider the Fire Corojo about "half" as good as a Rocky Vintage. Yet it is one-fifth the price! That is a strong value proposition, especially if you don't happen to have 10 bucks to fork over for a decent smoke.

The Fire Corojo had thick, strong smoke and a no-nonsense flavor, with hints of peppercorn and cream, and a bit of flinty earth tone. It fell right in line with my predilection for what I call "heavy naturals", crackly rather than ashy like so many of the market leaders that leave me shaking my head (Montecristo, Macanudo, Excaliber, La Gloria).

If Congress ends up passing the much-feared cigar tax to support child education, "Fire" might be the only brand I can afford and still feel like I'm smoking a good cigar. I'll keep it in my back pocket for further reference.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Super Fuerte in the Rain

Ok, guys, just how desperate can a man be?

I'll tell you how desperate: Day after day without a cigar, plagued by seasonal pollen allergies that leave your taste buds in ruin, knowing that a cigar under these conditions would only be wasted, good money after bad. And so the interminable waiting, waiting, waiting...

Well, today the temperature finally dropped, it got windy, and the ragweed seemed to go into hibernation. My nose was clear. I had only sneezed three times the whole day. So tonight I braved the elements and stole outside at 12:30 a.m. to finally SMOKE A GOSH-DURNED CIGAR.

My thinking went: I'll take a brand I've smoke many times before, so that if my palate is shot, at least I'll know what I missed. So I grabbed the old standby, an Indian Tabac Super Fuerte robusto.

The wind was howling so ferociously I had to roll down the deck umbrella, pull it out of its holder, and lay it flat on the ground. Then I lit the super fuerte, and it went up like a parched wheat field in August. I was in heaven. I drew and drew and drew, and the flavor was wonderful. Fast burning delight, as if the cigar itself know that a storm was approaching.

Then the rain started to fall. Was I going to cave into the elements, put this baby out and run for cover? No freaking way. I crouched under the awning, which afforded me absolutely no protection, cupped the Indian under my palm, and smoked like a fiend. I felt like a cigar junky, hoping no one would see me in my desperation. They didn't. It was 12:30 going on 1:00. Everyone in their right mind was asleep.

In a half hour, I polished it off. Cigars must burn faster in the wind... And this particular Indian, as if by God's providential will, had an especially open draw. God, I loved that flavor. That cream, that pepper, that brawn.

I smoked it down to an inch, doused it in the birdbath, and crept back into the house, my shirt soaked, my socks dripping wet, my jeans clinging absurdly to my ragged form.

Am I a fiend, an addict, a pathetic wretch of a man? Yes. But keep in mind, I've gone an entire week - that's seven days, count 'em - without a cigar. Can you blame any man in those circumstances? I think not.

It was the fastest cigar I've ever smoked, and I'd do it again. I am not ashamed. I'm a man, dammit, and a man has to live.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pardon Me While I Sneeze

My usual high-spirited cigar reviews are on hiatus due to ragweed allergies. Yes, I smoked a couple of cigars last week, but when you're breathing through one nostril, your critical sensitivities turn to sludge.

Oliva Series G Cameroon robusto - the allergy really put the kabosh on this. I could tell it would have tasted good if my sinuses were in working order; instead all got was a dry muddy sensation. I let my wife smoke it: A good cigar should not go to waste.

Gurkha Centurian - Sally smoked this, and I took my customary puff or two. Same crappy flavor as always. Sally chewed it to bits and it fell apart in the ashtray. Sultan of Brunei, 28-dollar retail, my ass. I've got one more of these left in my humidor, and I will never buy another. Not even if CI dumps them at $3.99 a stick.

Indian Tabac Super Fuerte robusto - Nothing can keep this bad boy down. Even with my nose clogged shut and my throat streaming mucus, the intense peppercorn cream and spiciness lavished my palate with wonder.

Camacho Coyolar, monarcha size (only offered at C.I. as far as I know) - its deep, warm flavor swam to the surface of my embattled palate, allowing me some real pleasure until the cigar went out at the halfway point. I've had a burn problem with two monarcha-sized Camachos so far (out of 8). Great taste, but too bad about the burn.