Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cigars Shouldn't Taste Like Plastic: Onyx Reserve Mini-Belicoso

The Onyx Reserve apparently won a 94 rating a couple years back. Well, I wonder which size, because the Mini Belicoso is an underperformer.

Honestly, this cigar tasted like burning plastic for the first 15 minutes or so. Then it opened up and started tasting like burnt rubber, then burnt toast. By the last ten minutes it was tasting like a good maduro cigar.

This has got to be the strangest-tasting cigar I have ever smoked. I'm afraid to try another one.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Flaky pastry, cheese and crackers: Padilla 1968 Robusto

For the past two years I've been striving to describe the experience of smoking a cigar in the most visceral, subjective manner possible. But I've always failed, falling back on the staid solipsisms of professional cigar reviews a la Cigar Aficionado and a dozen web sites that pop up in Google.

Well, no more. I'm taking that Tom Wolfe leap and writing whatever the f^&*k comes into my head. Call it the new cigar journalism. Here goes:

After smoking the Padilla 1968 robusto on a crisp and breezy autumn afternoon, my overall impression of it was: Flaky pastry, cheese and crackers.

Read into that what you will. It's a Keruoac moment. It's a dada, ooh-ah signpost of wonder.

To put it in plain English: The Padilla 1968 robusto is a wonderful medium-bodied cigar. Flaky pastry, cheese and crackers. Warm nutty finger bowl of mouthy delight. Puff pastry in a powder keg, rocket to heaven on a slingshot budget, per cigarbid low 13-dollar crazy 5-pack win.

Similar to Rocky Patel Renaissance but better from the get-go.

Not the best cigar you will ever smoke, but worth it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

5-Vegas Classic Revisited: What Was I Thinking?

Several months ago I wrote a positively ecstatic review about the supposedly sublime quality of the lowly 5-Vegas Classic (torpedo size).

I must have been out of my f@#$ing mind. A retraction is in order.

I have smoked several of these in the months since, and can only say that I was sadly mistaken. The 5-Vegas Classic torpedo is an underflavored, boring cigar not unlike dozens of other dull, medium-bodied, brown-shaded Sumatra-wrapped bombers. Not that there's anything wrong with Sumatra: When Sumatra is good, it's great. But when it's bad, it's yucky pucker-your-lips, lemon grass bad.

I keep castigating myself for being duped by that first 5-Vegas torpedo. How could it have fooled me? How could it have tasted so good? I remember that day clearly: I was not inebriated or emotionally agitated. I was perfectly relaxed in mind and body. Yet still I was duped.

Even the way I described its appearance was off-base: I perceived it as being dark in color, and gorgeously toothy in texture. It's not: It's a light-brown, smooth-textured cigar, with nothing especially appealing about its appearance or odor. I should know, because I've still got five of these sludge poles taking up space in my humidor. After that first one, given to me by a friend, I went out and bid up 10 more on cigarbid. Lucky me! At least I won them for only 14 bucks total. I may be a fool, but I'm a cheap one.

My only explanation is that the first 5-Vegas torpedo I smoked must have been the last of an earlier blend. Maybe it really did have a darker wrapper. Maybe it really was a supremely superior blend to the one that's out there now. Maybe I had smoked the last of a dying breed.

Or maybe that first one wasn't even a 5-Vegas classic. Yeah, that's it! Maybe it was some other cigar altogether. Maybe it was mislabeled, an imposter. Maybe the guy who gave it to me had accidentally switched it with another, better cigar, and slipped the 5-Vegas band back on in a drug-induced trance.

And maybe my father is the King of Siam.

I stand in shame. Here's the embarrassing review again, if you want to read it for a laugh.

Vegas de Fonseca Sobrinos: Buy this now!

For those of you in the dark, Vegas de Fonseca Sobrinos (i.e. robustos) are on auction nearly every week at, routinely topping out at a mere 7 bucks per five-pack. With an early bid, I was actually able to win recently at a piddling 5 dollars, making this absolutely the best $1.00 cigar I could ever hope to smoke.

These prices are indeed highway robbery, because Vegas de Fonseca Sobrinos are extremely high quality, medium bodied, incredibly rich, full-flavored cigars. They exhibit a pure, smooth and nearly imperceptibly sweet quality that makes me happily think of something white, like coconut. Only they don't taste like coconuts, because that would be ridiculous.

However you might quarrel about the exact flavor equivalent (roasted pecans? Tortellini in cream sauce?) They smoke as well as much more expensive blends such as Gurkha Regent or Joya de Nicagagua. They are worth a try and certainly worth a lousy five bucks. Hell, if you don't like 'em, I'll buy 'em off of ya.

Cigar Aficionado was absolutely right to rank this cigar among the top 25 of 2005. They are still that good, and seem to have been forgotten in the ongoing onslaught of new-blend hype that escalates from year to year. Take my word, you should be buying as many of these as possible, before the supply runs out or the blend changes.

I'm only giving this gem-in-a-closet secret away because I've got several of these babies in my humidor already. As the holiday season approaches, all I can think of are ways to help my fellow cigarheads. Aren't you all lucky.

Pirate's Gold: No Joke, You Can Actually Smoke This Cigar

If the "aye matey, har-dee-har, walk the plank" band on this cigar puts you off (pirate with a black eye patch), don't let it: The Pirate's Gold by Rolando Reyes (maduro robusto) is actually a quite tasty and serviceable cigar.

The maduro robusto is pleasantly mild but tasty, with subtle wood, nutmeg and honeyish flavors that you might recognize from other more expensive Puros Indios blends. This is a great cheapo cigar for when you're doing odd jobs out in the yard, painting the deck, excavating a new basement, fire-bombing anthills, or whatever the hell else makes you feel like a man.

In fact, the Pirate might actually be good enough to smoke in complete repose with a drink in hand and your feet stretched out at poolside. I haven't done that yet but someday I might just try it.

You won't find a better cigar for $1.20. The way the economy's going, we might all be smoking Pirate's Gold this time next year. If we're lucky.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

RP 92 Perfecto: Consistently good butt-kicker of a smoke

I've lately gained a renewed appreciation for the Rocky Patel Vintage 92 perfecto, probably the best-tasting short perfecto I've ever encountered.

In previous reviews I've chastized this little tyke for burning slightly hot and not satisfying like a big Rocky 92 robusto or torpedo. Well, I was naive. I've tried small perfectos from here to kingdom come. I've tried Oliva Series G special G. I've tried Fuente Hemingway short story. I've tried every 4-inch cigar I can get my hands on. None of them can touch an RP Vintage 92 perfecto.

The trick is to smoke these things slowly, with plenty of time between puffs. You will be rewarded with a rich, hearty, spicy smoke with nearly the fullness of a 50-ring cigar.

One more thing: I've only smoked SECONDS in the RP Vintage perfecto line. Factory rejects. Unwanted black sheep. Runts of the litter. And I've always won them at auction for under 2 bucks per stick. They still kick ass. They still put the Fuentes to shame.

Folks, place your bids early at $7 per five-pack or $25 per mazo of 15. Eventually, you will win. And you will never find a better $1.80 cigar.

Rocky Patel Renaissance robusto

The RP Renaissance, a relatively new addition to the Rocky family, is a fine-looking Sumatra wrapped cigar. Appealing light brown in color, well-rolled, and smelling like a trip to paradise. But with Sumatras, you never know which direction the flavor is going to go.

At first, I was disappointed. This thing tasted no better than the last 5-Vegas classic torpedo I smoked a few weeks ago. A nondescript puckery smoke.

After two inches, however, the character veered into slightly nuttier, earthier territory. Whisps of flavor here and there which got increasingly more pronounced as the cigar approached its nub.

Still, this is a medium-bodied cigar. It never gets strong, peppery or spicy. It never develops an exotic, blast-you-into-outer-space sweet spot. If you understand this going in, you won't be disappointed.

My only problem is that the first 2 inches were lackluster. You don't expect this from a Rocky, and it's somewhat of a gut-punch when you realize what's happening.

Similar to:
Padilla 1968 robusto (a better cigar)
5-Vegas Classic torpedo (worse)

Blue Label Torpedo by Gran Habano

Not much to say about the Blue Label torpedo. I won a five-pack of these for 7 bucks on cigarbid. Now I know the reason why: It's a mediocre smoke.

It's a huge, elegant-looking torpedo, brown and rich-looking, impressive if you're into length and visual appeal. It lights easily, draws well, and produces a hefty volume of smoke. For some dudes, that would be enough.

Not for me. The flavor is a dull mixture faintly suggestive of cardboard, lemon peels, and old socks.

This is great cigar if you are drunk, playing golf, or otherwise not paying attention to your tastebuds. If you're sitting in a lounge chair, sipping a highball, and hoping for glorious epicurean relaxation, you're gonna be mighty disappointed.

Go get 'em, bargain hunters.

Remotely similar to:
5-Vegas (classic) torpedo.
Nestor Reserve Maduro torpedo
Montecristo Media Noche Edmundo