Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reyes Family Subpar

If you're as skinflinty and suggestible as I am, you probably go out to cigarbid and watch what other people are bidding, thinking if they're bidding high, the cigar must be good. Well, it ain't always so. Case in point: Fuentes routinely going at 20 to 40 percent above list price. Huh? Folks, the Hemingways aren't THAT good.

Second case in point: The Rolando Reyes Family Premier.

I've had my eye on the Premier ever since seeing it advertised a few months ago. Early on in my cigar smoking days I'd had a brief infatuation with all things Puros Indios, enjoying their unique flavor characteristics, but ultimately was undone by their unreliability in construction and burn. Maybe this new cigar would set things right.

The fact that the Reyes chose to call it "Premier" set me to salivating. Obviously the family held this cigar in high esteem, and was offering it up as their crowning gem. On my many forays to, I noticed people winning 5-packs at 21 dollars one week, then 11 or 13 bucks the next. There seemed to be no clear public mandate on this cigar.

The next time the Toro size got listed, I put in the very first bid at a piddling 9 bucks and actually ended up winning (folks, if you want to win cheap, you absolutely must be the first bidder).

Anyway I'm glad I didn't bid 21 bucks like the poor bastard who won it the week before, because the Reyes Family Premier Toro is only a middling cigar. Of moderate strength, it sports a straightforward woody-peppery flavor and a commendable draw and burn - but for only two inches. At midpoint the burn muffles out (tunneling perhaps) and the flavor turns tarry. You might as well be smoking a sponge.

This cigar would have been OK for the price if it could only perform for the duration. It's too bad the Reyes didn't succeed with this one. I keep rooting for them, but they need to institute some quality standards in their rolling and more creativity in their blending.

Somewhat similar to:
Hoyo Seconds robusto maduro
Padilla Obsidian Belicoso

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Coy Toy: Padilla Habano Toro

I really get a kick sometimes out of going on the web to see what the distributors have to say about any given cigar I just smoked. For example, the Padilla Habano Toro.

Everything Cigars International has to say about the this particular cigar is wrong.

"A complex core of rich, toasty flavors..." Wrong. It has pleasant but rather one-dimensional, medium-bodied dusty or oaky flavor.

"... boasting eventful nuances of coffee and bittersweet cocoa": Blather. It is a straightforward tobacco experience, somewhat on the chalky side, which I personally don't mind.

"...topped off by a subtle touch of pepper on the finish.": Hardly. This is not a peppery cigar. If anything, it is slightly woody.

And finally: "The smoke is slow-burning and medium in body." Absolutely not. This is a fast-burning cigar that threatens to go out unless you puff on it every 30 seconds.

Actually, one part of the C.I. blurb is right: "medium in body." I gotta hand it to those creative marketing fellas at Cigars International. They sure know how to come up with a hundred different ways to describe three or four basic types of cigars.

To make this long-winded review short: The Padilla Habano Toro is a decent cigar that burns OK, tastes decent but not extraordinary, and probably costs a bit too much. It has a few moments of excitement in the middle, but never quite provides the ecstatic burst of flavor that it hints at. It toys with you, but doesn't quite deliver.

Remotely similar to:
El Rey del Mundo
Indian Tabac Candela toro
Oliva Series V robusto
Quintero Churchill

Dull, Dull, Dull: Partagas Spanish Rosado Rohito

In my quest to find the perfect short cigar, I stumble across some real dogs sometimes. The Partagas Spanish Rosado Rohito (4.5 by 50) is one such canine: A tightly wrapped, poor burning, weak-bodied, dull flavored dud of a sludge pole.

The short "Rohito" vitola is difficult to find online (if you're truly interested in buying one, try Bonita Smoke Shop) but my local cigar store happened to have a few.

The cigar looks invitingly brown, rough and beautiful. But the draw is so tight, and the consistency of the smoke so threadbare, that I barely stuck it through to midpoint. If I crunched down on it and closed my eyes, I could almost believe I was smoking a cigar. The best flavor characteristic I could discern in this strenuous manner was a hint of charcoal topped by a frisson of burnt onions. Not my idea of a connoisseur's delight.

I'd be curious to know if I'm the only one who dislikes this cigar. Maybe the other Partagas Spanish Rosado sizes are as good as the online reviewers say. I'm reluctant to take another chance.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eventful and Tasty: Gurkha Masters Select Robusto #4

Although called a "robusto" the Gurkha Master's Select #4 is actually more akin in size to a toro, being 6 inches long. The distributors claim that it has a 52 ring size, however I find it a bit narrower - perhaps 48 or 49.

Which is OK because this cigar smokes wonderfully. It lights quickly, draws easily and has an immediate spicy, eventful flavor that accompanies the cigar all the way to the nub. While not as "smooth and silky" as the Class Regent Torpedo, the Master's Select is tastier. It features a Dominican-grown Habana 2000 wrapper which, although light in color, provides a medium-bodied, rich flavor with hints of maple sugar and nutmeg.

I smoked this one while waiting for alligators to crawl out of a swamp in Florida. No alligators materialized, but I had one hell of a smoke.

The Master's Select #4 routinely goes on sale at Cigars International, 15 for 40 bucks. That is a great cigar at that price. If you're not willing to wait for the next sale, you can usually match that price by putting in an early bid on 5-packs at cigarbid. The Master's Select is up almost every week. I was recently able to win a 5-pack for only 11 bucks.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Complete Bust: Padilla Obsidian belicoso

A friend of mine swears by these black beauties, but also admits that every second or third cigar is rolled too tightly. This fellow has some kind of custom-formed wire doo-hickey to hollow out such cigars and make them smokable, but I'm in no such position.

My first Padilla Obsidian was rolled as tight as a rock. My tongue practically came loose from my throat trying to draw on this thing. I cut the cigar back and re-lit it twice, with no improvement, then gave up and threw the damned thing away.

My second Padilla Obsidian weighed little more than a feather, squeezed like a pillow and lit up like a charm. It drew cooly and excellently and tasted like... blah. Nothing. A chalky subdued charcoal flavor which was not unpleasant but quickly became boring. I put this one out at the mid-point.

I have one Padilla Obsidian left in my humidor. I'm guessing it's going to stay in there a long, long time because these little bastards have done nothing but disappoint me. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on George W. Bush. Fool me three times? Uh...

I'll let you know how that one turns out. Someday.

Graycliff Espresso and Double Espresso

A few months ago I stepped out of my cheapo comfort zone and spent a whopping $30 for a daily special on Graycliff Espresso PGs (robustos, 5-pack) at the Famous website. I must say that this is the highest price I've ever paid online for five cigars. I was feeling like quite the swashbuckler. But I figured it was the only way I'd ever get to try a Graycliff, because I sure as hell wasn't going to pay their standard prices of 12-18 bucks per stick.

Coincidentally a few days later, an office buddy presented me with a Graycliff "Double Espresso," whose name conveys a magnification not in size (the "double" actually being a short, stubby 4.5 inch robusto), but rather in flavor. He was happy to inform me that he had "only" paid 42 bucks (plus shipping) for his 5-pack in an online auction. Veritable highway robbery.

Finally, my chance to be a high roller, at half the blindingly astronomical retail prices.

I must say you do get a certain amount of quality and consistency for your Graycliff investment. These are solidly good cigars you can depend on. Both cigars are excellent burning and high-performing, delivering voluminous, potent and tasty smoke until about the last inch. You can't quite nub them, but you can come darned close. They have a salty, coffee-ish, slightly exotic flavor that puts you in mind of rum and spices, pirates on the high seas, marimba music, driftwood campfires and all that Caribbean type of gobbledigook.

Interestingly, the double espresso turned out to be tad bit milder than its single-barreled namesake. If you want more power, choose the "single" espresso not the double.

Yes, both these Graycliff sticker-shockers are excellent cigars. At 6 dollars, they are practically a steal. However I'd be reluctant to pay the usual box prices which come out to something like 12 or 15 bucks per stick. The extra quality for all those extra dollars? It's hardly measurable and in no way commensurate.

My recommendation is that if you ever see these on special, buy them. Otherwise stick with other strong but more affordable brands of your choice.

Somewhat similar to:
Don Pepin Garcia Cuban Classic 1979
Omar Ortez Originals
Oliva Series G Cameroon robusto
5 Vegas Series A (not highly recommended)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Oliva Series G Cameroon Torpedo

Let me start by saying that I am a big Oliva Series G cameroon fan. I discovered this brand last year when reviewing the Cigar Aficionado "Best of 2006" list, and found the short robusto featured as one of the cheapest cigars on the list. I immediately bought several and found them to be powerful, sweet and delicious. The robustos are invariably good and live up to their reputation.

Now for the torpedos.

With high expectations going in, of course, I could probably have expected some degree of disappointment. This is indeed the case. The torpedo lights, burns and smokes well, but is somewhat muted in flavor and power compared to the robusto. However, if a medium bodied experience is your preference over a fuller-bodied one, the torpedo is for you.

The Series G torpedo holds it's character well and is smokeable to the nub. That being said, I still prefer the robustos, which are higher powered and more exhilarating.