Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jericho: Not Your Typical Camacho

The Jericho robusto is not heavy and meaty like your typical Camacho. Still, for the bargain basement prices these things were selling for (I believe the whole line has been discontinued) they were a steal. Definitely a winner in the "Best Cheap Cigars" category.

The robusto size is medium-bodied with a soft leathery flavor supported by the occasional hint of sweetness. Toward the end it got stronger and much more enjoyable. It was smokeable to the nub. Great performance for a cigar that was supposedly neglected by the marketplace.

If you are one of the lucky cigar-munchers who realized that this brand is a steal and bought a box or two before they sold out, my hat goes off to you.

Monday, July 28, 2008

RP Cuban Blend: Decent Mid-Priced Offering

It's safe to say that Rocky Patel seldom sells a bad cigar, and that his price points usually mirror the quality of his products.

The Rocky Patel Cuban Blend (natural wrapper, toro size) is no exception. It's a medium-priced cigar with medium-priced performace - reliable in construction and burn, as all Rockies I've encountered, but lacking the out-of-body experience you might expect from one of his top-shelf blends.

The medium-bodied RP Cuban Blend burns well with a nice relaxed draw, and produces a spicy aroma. The flavor was nothing special, similar in character to an RP Sun Grown but not quite as rich. The development was minimal, maintaining a steady fullness and satisfying volume of smoke all the way through. It turned bitter before the nub, leaving about 1.5 inches unused.

A decent cigar for the $2.50 sale price I paid, but not a mind-blower.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

1964: A Good Year for the Beatles, But not Padron?

Price is no indicator of quality.

Let me say it again: Price is NO indicator of quality. If you like cigars and don't like wasting money, memorize those 6 key words.

I can think of a dozen cigars that I've enjoyed more than the extremely expensive ($14 list price, higher at retail) Padron 1964 Imperial maduro. This long, handsome, square-pressed, well-constructed cigar offers a good draw and burn but nothing much else special to speak of. The flavor was fairly strong and peppery and held up without modulation for a good 90 minutes or longer.

My complaint is that for this high a price, you'd expect more: Some nuanced flavor characteristics, some development, some "aha" or "whoa" moments as you puff away at each 2-dollar-plus inch. Instead it's just a straightforward head-buzzer of a smoke, like dozens of other maduro cigars that cost half as much. And the construction was not exactly perfect: It went out at the halfway point, and I had to pick up the pace and smoke it a little hotter than usual for fear it might go out again. I didn't even try to "nub" it, but let it go out with 1.5 inches remaining: Bitterness had set in. A perfect specimen it was NOT.

So, in summary, another overpriced disappointment on a par with the Arturo Fuente Hemingway Series. Overhyped, overpriced, and overused by people who apparently choose their cigars for prestige not pleasure.

And what about those dozen cheaper cigars I mentioned that offer equally good or better quality in the dark, full-bodied category? Here goes: Rocky Patel Vintage 92. La Flor Dominicana Chisel. Oliva Series G. Carlos Torano 1959. 5 Vegas classic (yes, the reviled 5 Vegas). Gurkha Regent (not exactly cheap, but cheaper and easier to find). CAO Italia. Almost every dark-wrapped Camacho ever made. Padron's own (and much cheaper) Londres or Ambassador maduros. The list goes on and on.

Repeat after me: Price is no indicator of quality...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

IT Cameroon Legend Grand Robusto - Strange but Good

A friend of mine recently tried an Indian Tabac Cameroon Legend (grand robusto) and his only comment was merely "it's different."

You mean good, I asked, or just different? He wouldn't say.

Well, I will unequivocally say that this cigar may be strange, but it's good. It is certainly a welcome diversion from the usual limited pallette of cigar flavors that fall into simple categories of mild, strong, sweet or earthy. No, this cigar is a true curve ball, tasting strong yet somehow cool and minty, with hints of flint, cinnamon, licorice or (dare I say it) chocolate in the finish. I liken smoking this highly variegated specimen to the experience of eating a strange chocolate truffle from France, tasting unusual ingredients, trying to read the wrapper in a language you don't understand, then finally giving up and saying, OK, I like it. No matter what strange things they put in there.

I'm guessing half the people who normally like Indian Tabac maduros and corojos will find this a repugnant, disgusting cigar reminding them of mushrooms roasted in chocolate. The other half will find it charmingly refreshingly, offbeat and unusual, and something to break the usual rotation.

In any case it is worth a try.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What Happened to My Indians?

As you can see by my trail of recurring posts on the subject, I've long been an avid Indian Tabac Super Fuerte robusto fan, holding it in high esteem as one of the tastiest and strongest habano-wrapped cheapies on the market. I was so impressed that I even bought a whole box of them last August for the astoundingly low one-day sale price of $25.

The ITSF robusto became my go-to smoke, the one I pulled out when wasn't sure what I wanted or when the weather wasn't conducive for an expensive cigar or when the wife might decide at any minute it was time to drag me to the latest chick flick.

Anyway, to make a long story short, several months went by since my last IT Super Fuerte robusto, and I only recently found myself in a position to smoke them again.

I've had two in the past few weeks. But something has changed. They're different now. They've mutated during the months of humidor rest into some other than the crackly, stringent, mind-blowing cheapies they were when I bought them. Time has mellowed them into something I'm not sure I like - something almost laid-back, subdued and - dare I say it - mellow.

No, they aren't "mild." They've just lost the energy and puppy-like zest that made me love them. They've become refined, somber, and almost complex. I liked them better when they were a one dimensional kick-your-ass and take no prisoners cigar.

If this is the fabled aging effect, I guess I'd better beware. Wonder what's going to happen to the Gurkhas and CAOs and RP Vintages I've been squirreling away at the bottom of the humidor for the past 18 months? I'm almost afraid to find out.

5 Vegas Series A

Quick note on the 5 Vegas Series A "Artesan" (robusto). It's a nice, strong, chewy dust-on-the-pavement type of cigar. It didn't develop into anything sensational, but didn't lose it's momentum either. Smoked well all the way to the nub without getting bitter.

Flavor character was dark and chalky and hard to describe, but not unpleasant. Similar to Hoyo 2nds or Montecristo Media Noche, but better and stronger than both.

Judgement reserved until I try a couple more.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rocky OSG Torpedo: Mild and Incompetent

I've commented before on the pleasantly strong but disappointingly short-lived RP OSG corona.

Now for the Rocky Patel OSG torpedo, a mammoth-sized, brawny-looking stogie that would seem to be a bargain at the now reduced price of $39.95 per bundle of 18.

It's not. Unlike its little corona sister, the OSG torpedo is mild and undistinguished in flavor - better than a Dominican, maybe, but nowhere near Rocky's usual capacity for complexity and wonder. And, just like it's naughty little sister, the OSG torpedo loses steam at mid point, in this case suffering a complete breakdown in construction. On mine, the burn gradually tunnelled in towards the center and snuffed itself out. After snipping off and re-lighting, all I got was charcoal.

So: Weak flavor + improper construction = Dud cigar.

The entire OSG line was "a dog in the sales department" for a reason. This is simply a sub-paar line of cigars, with undependable construction and uneven blending from size to size. The coronas are a decent smoke for the first 2 inches. But stay away from the torpedos, no matter how tempting they might look in a low-bid auction situation. You will only be saving a buck to spite the smoker, i.e. yourself.

Don Tomas Sun Grown Rubusto

In the cigar world, "You get what you pay for" is a statement that hardly ever rings true. Either you pay too much for a legendary brand that tastes like dog-breath, or you get surprised by a reviled no-name that tastes better than market leaders costing four times as much.

In the case of Don Tomas Sun Grown robusto, you really do get what you pay for: A cheap cigar that performs adequately (draw was a bit tight) and has a mild flavor appropriate for morning consumption.

Basically an uninteresting cigar. But this brand doesn't pretend to be anything else, and is priced accordingly. If you're devoted to cheap, mild cigars, go for it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Montecristo Snorer

Two words regarding the Montecristo Media Noche Edmundo: DON'T BOTHER.

It draws well, burns well, and looks good in your hand. Fine, if that's all you care about in a cigar. Because despite its tantalizingly dark appearance, this super-fat robusto has absolutely no flavor. Not harsh, not bitter, not charcoaly, not burnt-toasty, not shockingly horrible. Just bland. Nothing.

I doused it out at midpoint. It wasn't going to get any better.

A long time ago I tried the Montecristo White, one of the world's wimpiest and most overrated cigars. And now that I've had its opposite, the supposedly high-powered Media Noche, I'll never smoke another one of these preposterously overpriced status symbols again. Don't even try giving me a Montecristo. I won't take it. Give it to your dog.

Two words to describe the whole line of non-Cuban Montecristos: BOR-ING.

Maybe the Cubans do it better. One can only hope.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Good Cheap Perdomo, Beer Optional

I am pleased to report on the excellent quality of one of Perdomo's cheaper cigars, the 826 Slow Aged maduro (robusto size). I'd acquired a 5-pack these months ago at a rock-bottom bid (5 bucks!) at a auction and had tucked them away in my humidor, assuming they were dog rockets.

Wrong, Einstein. The first one of the bunch burned well, drew well, and had excellent nutty maduro flavor in the mid to strong taste range. If the wind hadn't tipped my beer over into my ashtray, I would have enjoyed it even more. (Yes, I was smoking in the wind, fiendish fool that I am. The fact that a cigar this cheap tasted this good despite 30 mph gusts is yet more testament to its quality). I ended up snipping off the wet end and lighting the unjustly foreshortened stogie all over again. No matter. It picked up right where it had left off, giving me loads of ample and surprisingly refined smoking pleasure.

I look forward to polishing off the rest of these underpublicized and reasonably priced gems under normal weather conditions. Even at their normal box price of $40, you can't beat em. And for a buck per stick at auction, you can safely say you are STICKING IT TO THE MAN.

Which in this case probably wouldn't be Nick Perdomo, but rather the faceless distributor who didn't make its usual obscene markup.