Saturday, May 17, 2008

Rocky Patel OSG: On Second Thought...

After my first review of a Rocky Patel "Original Sun Grown" corona a few months ago, I'm returning with an update.

I've had a couple more OSG coronas since then, and have noticed that they maintain their quality for only about 2 inches, i.e. you are only getting a half-smokeable cigar.

However, at today's prices (dropped recently to $39.95 for bundle of 18 at CI; winning bids as low as $28.00 on you might decide that half a cigar is worth the price. Looking at it this way, a Rocky Patel OSG corona is a great 20-minute smoke, and now quite affordable. Just remember to toss out the second half, before it turns bitter and charcoaly and ruins your memory of the previous 20 minutes.

Hitting the Jackpot: 5 Vegas Classic Torpedo

Note: The deliriously misguided review below has since been retracted. I leave it here only so that you can see what delusions a man will suffer when he hasn't smoked a cigar for two weeks. Read at your own peril...


What a wonderful thing it is to be surprised by a high-performing inexpensive cigar!

Several months ago, someone gave me two 5 Vegas cigars - one "classic" torpedo from the bottom shelf, and one "Limitada 06" from the top shelf. Thinking the 06 would certainly be the better of the two, I smoked it a few months ago and found it satisfying but not eye-popping.

Then yesterday, encountering beautiful weather for the first time in weeks, I almost took out one of my super-expensive "saving for the right moment" cigars to smoke out on my deck. Unfortunately there was quite a breeze blowing, which can really notch down the experience of a cigar, no matter how high its caliber. So I opted instead for a cheaper cigar. This time, the 5 Vegas "classic" torpedo.

The 5 Vegas line seems to be the victim of a certain amount of disdain among cigar snobs. I haven't seen a magazine review of one in the 17-plus months that I've been a cigarhead, and bloggers seem relatively unmoved. However, based on my experience last night, I urge all of you to go out and buy a five-pack or at least a single 5 Vegas classic torpedo. This thing is incredible for the price, and can easily hold its own with cigars twice as expensive.

To start off, the 5-V torpedo was constructed excellently, with an oily, firm, deep brown sumatra wrapper that gave way just a little upon a squeeze. The band slid right off and, looking at this thing naked, I could have sworn it was a 15-dollar cigar (not me naked, the cigar).

Upon lighting, the smoke was immediately cool, powdery, billowy, and full. The flavor had a mixture of earth, wood and cedary sweetness that are hard to come by in any cigar, much less a lower-shelf one. Touches of coffee, cereal, maple and mineral were also in evidence, i.e. the whole shebang. Although the flavor didn't "develop" midway like a Rocky or a Camacho, it was perfectly balanced from the start, and maintained that balance until the last inch.

What an undervalued, underappreciated cigar! If my humidor wasn't already stuffed to the gills, I'd order a box of these or bid up a few 5-packs at

I can't speak for any other sizes in the 5 Vegas classic line, but the torpedo is a winner.

Note: The one I smoked had five months of nap time in my humidor. So you might want to put yours to bed for a while before lighting 'er up. A bit of beauty sleep makes any cigar more refreshing.

H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon Corona

The corona-sized H. Upmann Cameroon won a 90 rating a few months back in Cigar Aficionado. I also took note of it because of its relatively low price point, listing at around $4.25, if I recall. I finally got around to trying one and was slightly disappointed. Although it earns its 90 in terms of appearance, construction, draw and burn, it falls short on flavor.

Flavor, in my book, counts for the lion's share of any cigar experience, as long as the other attributes are working properly. I mean, who wants to smoke an excellently constructed, perfectly burning, fine drawing 17-dollar cigar that tastes like play-dough? (Actually, plenty of people seem to do just that, including some of the lucky "I smoke cigars for a living" aesthetes at at Cigar Aficionado). I think the cigar snobs have it wrong when they over-weight any of the other categories compared to taste. However, that is a much-debated argument and one I won't continue to elaborate on here.

Back to the Upmann Cameroon corona: It's flavor was not especially sweet, peppery, woody, chocolately, fruity, cedary or any of the other more far-fetched attributes that we cigar freaks like to think we taste in good cigars (Plum? Basil? Anthracite, anyone?). It was just a nice, medium-bodied, tobacco-flavored cigar, similar in my mind to the natural-wrapped Arturo Fuente's I've had. The smoke was pleasanty thick, a bit toasty, and pleasantly full for cigar of this ring gauge. It did not turn bitter until the last inch.

I don't plan to smoke another one of these again, but I recommend it for the price. Try it once, you might like it. Not my particular cup of tea, but then again I don't like tea that much, either. Some people do.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Quick notes

Rocky Patel Vintage 2nds 92 perfecto - continues to be a good mini-smoke upon multiple outings. Better than the Fuente Hemingway short story, and a hell of a lot cheaper. This one had excellent burn and body from first puff. Never hot or bitter, although others have evidenced this previously. I think the improved performance was due to the fact that I'm no longer chugging these in below-freezing temperatures. Cold weather truly does dampen the experience, no matter how high the quality of your stick. Got nearly 30 minutes out of this one, the longest so far. Again, not hot-boxing while freezing one's ass off truly makes a different experience.

Alec Bradley Maxx Nano (petite corona)- second time just as good as the first. Tangy, slightly minty and a touch of cream. Excellent for a 4-inch cigar.

Perdomo Lot 23 robusto (natural) - every bit as good as the recent Aficionado 90 rating. Immediate good flavor, rich body, full without being heavy. Creamy undertones, developing throughout. A high-quality mid-priced cigar that smoked well up to the last third. Quite rich for a non-maduro. For the price ($6.50, 4 bucks online) you can't get much better. I'll have to try the maduro version next time.

Indian Tabac Candela Toro - nice easy draw, full thick smoke, nondescript at first but warming in the middle to a nice meaty autumnal flavor. Another reliable Rocky Patel product at the affordable end of the scale.

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