Camacho Havana Monarca

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I make no apologies for being a cigar fiend, but I’m aware of the impact that fiendish behavior has on the cigar market. If it were just me and a handful of fanatics, it wouldn’t be such a problem, but it’s not. It’s you. And you. And you. The root of the problem is that cigar fiends like us are always on the prowl for a new blend, regardless of the number of sweet smokes already available. Hence old companies with reputations that have stood the test of time must needlessly reinvent themselves, trowel vanishing cream over well-earned wrinkles, test out new crops, whip up new blends, and conjure up flashy new ad campaigns.

Or sometimes, they just repackage the brand and get a new band design.

It’s hard to believe, but the Camacho Havana cigar has been around for over forty years.  I would guess that the blend has changed somewhat over that span of time, but from talking to old timers it sounds like it hasn’t changed that much. Back then it was considered more of a full than a medium-bodied cigar, but that was before the heyday of the heavyweights. By comparison with Camacho’s Corojo and Coyolar (and Triple Maduro and so on) the Havana is a sweetheart. But it’s still fairly steely when compared to the mainstream blends popular a few decades ago.

Like the majority of Camacho’s blends, this is a Honduran puro– the wrapper is a Criollo leaf from Jamastran and the innards are Honduran corojo. Available in twelve (count ‘em) twelve sizes, there is a stick to match any desired duration. Today’s target is the 5 x 50 Monarca.

In 2007 the boxes were reengineered to display better on retailer’s shelves, but I’m not sure why the bands were changed. Perhaps to appeal to the short attention span of your average cigar fiend? Lookie! It’s NEW!

The new gold band surmounts a mediocre looking cigar — the wrapper is lackluster and the roll a bit lumpy, but the cap is triple wrapped and tight. After slicing off the cap with a guillotine cutter I notice the draw is free and easy. Maybe a little too much so.

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The first flavors out the gate are earth with a touch of pepper. Compared to the Camacho Corojo toro I smoked last weekend, the Havana is positively friendly. There’s no fight to this guy at all — just an easy cruise down the boulevard with the top down.

To accompany the loose draw is a fast burn, but it never overheats or gets bitter. It’s just a little too quick for my liking. The ash also has a tendency to blossom — the wrapper ash curls out and either breaks off or blows away.

Midway through the cigar I notice a creamy texture to the smoke — a little unusual for this brand. The flavors are still earthy — mineral and salty notes — and the aroma is slightly sweet. I noticed this with the aged Camacho Havanas I had last year — the aroma is of mild ginger and wood. A more powerful filler blend would overwhelm these delicate elements, but there’s a fine balance here.

I wouldn’t call the Camacho Havana a terribly complex cigar, but it has enough weight and spice to keep my interest for the 30 minutes it takes to smoke one — my only complaint is that 30 minutes seems unduly short for a robusto sized cigar (for me, anyway.) I think the Corojo will remain my mainstay blend from Camacho, but the Havana is a worthy medium-bodied alternative.

Prices vary, but it looks like a box of 25 is running around 100 bucks. Eminently reasonable, and a steal at any lower price.

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Final Score: 83

~cigarfan

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Camacho 1962 Robusto

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After a somewhat unfortunate, but educational trip down memory lane with the Camacho Havana, I thought it would be nice to fire up a few Camachos of more recent vintage. Like the Havana, the 1962 is a medium bodied blend with a criollo wrapper, so I snagged a fiver on C-bid a couple months ago hoping that I would like it as much as the Havana. The fresh Havana blend, I should say.

The big word on Camacho has lately been their 10th Anniversary Limitada (a triple corojo which should be hitting the shelves any day now) and the Triple Maduro, which has gotten mixed reviews. The 1962 was released sometime last year, but has existed in relative obscurity, perhaps because it is a Cigars International exclusive.

Some cigars are rock stars, some are the guys next door. More often than not I’d rather have a beer and a smoke with the guy next door. Lose the ad glamor and give me a break on the price, please. (CAO is ridiculous with this sort of thing — nightclub glitz, Flavorettes, but I’m giving them a break because the samurai parody is friggin hilarious… if you haven’t seen it and you have a few minutes to spare, check it out.)

The only serious marketing the Camacho 1962 is getting is a fancy label and some nice pricing at CI, and that’s just fine by me. A funny ad and hot chicks are nice, in moderation, but the bottom line is that if it smokes well, the cigar will sell itself.

The 1962 shares the double band conceit that is becoming more common of late. Ignoring this, a close examination of the wrapper shows a moderately dry wrapper, smooth with just the beginnings of plume — very fine but sparse crystals light up the wrapper if you hold the cigar at the right angle to the light. The cap is a little sloppy, but it shears off nicely and a quick prelight draw shows just the right amount of resistance.

The first third is dominated by a dry, mildly tart, almost citric flavor. A dash of pepper here and there spices it up a little. The middle section stays on the same path, but adds a touch of sweetness to the dry wood flavors. The aroma is compelling though — an interesting musky smell combined with cedary sweetness. The burn wavers a little, but is self-correcting. The ash is a solid dirty gray and only requires two trips to the ashtray if you’re a long-asher.

The ’62 robusto saves the best for last: a bittersweet chocolate flavor overtakes the dry woodiness for a last minute comeback. The aroma slides from musk into coffee punctuated by clove. The finish stays very dry to the end, and serves up a good dose of black pepper as a coda.

This is an interesting and fairly complex cigar with great construction, but it is very dry tasting. As strange as it sounds, I think lemonade might actually work with this smoke. It reminds me a little of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffees, and like Yirg it might take some getting used to. It’s an intriguing medium-bodied cigar.

Retail prices are around 4 USD, but you can usually snag them for far less on Cbid. The 1962 does not have a typical Camacho flavor, so if that’s what you’re after you might want to sample a few before bidding on a box. But for an everyday, sitting-around-the-garage (and thinking about getting rid of that old PC monitor and cleaning things up but not really) kind-of-cigar… it’s not bad.

Camacho Corojo 11/18

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Camacho’s Corojo Diploma was among the first cigars I reviewed for this blog, so when I cracked the humidor last night and heard that groan from Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” I knew it was time to revisit one of Camacho’s Special Edition corojo cigars. Sometimes you just want a super heavyweight, and this is one of them.

The 11/18 shares a lot of the same characteristics as the Diploma, but the shape is certainly different. The 11/18 is a bulbous figurado that starts out at the head at around a 48 ring gauge, expands to about a 54 in the center and then narrows again to a 48 at the foot. It’s a rough looking cigar with a ruddy but very oily and thick wrapper, and a cap that looks like it might have been applied by school children. (Obviously it wasn’t, since it cuts perfectly, but aesthetically it leaves something to be desired.)

Like Camacho’s other Corojo cigars, this one is pure unadulterated Honduran leaf from Camacho’s farms in the Jamastran valley. Simplicity itself. The seeds used for this tobacco are descended from the “original” Corojo developed in Cuba, a strain which is no longer in use in Cuba due to its susceptibility to disease and mold. The Special Edition cigars (Diploma, 07/05, and 11/18) are loaded up with extra powerful sun grown ligero from these special corojo plants.

I enjoyed a hearty meal of meat and potatoes in preparation for my after-dinner smoke, and having retired to the porch with a glass of Talisker and this Camacho 11/18 I got right to work. After cutting this cigar with some care I was met with a spicy pre-light flavor with a little salt. The roll is solid and well packed, but it draws really well.

The first third of this beast is full-flavored, but relatively tame. Up front I noticed a sweet cereal taste (as in grain cereal with sweet tobacco overtones, not Fruity Pebbles) which I remember as fairly unique to the Diploma size. I haven’t noticed this with the standard Corojo Monarca, or any other cigar for that matter. There’s also a lot of salt here, and it’s surprisingly smooth. Full flavored, absolutely, but with no harshness. Just the way it should be.

After an inch or so I ran into the problem that everyone speaks of with respect to this cigar: it really does not want to burn evenly. I struggled with the burn throughout the length of this stick and had to correct it every ten minutes, which is usually enough to make me throw out what I’m smoking and head to the humi for another one. But I had this one by the horns, and anything else after this particular cigar would taste like slightly warmish air.

At the mid-point the power of this cigar is at full tilt. The aroma is rich and heady, almost sulfurous, and the flavor is incredibly complex with leather, pepper and sweet tobacco. The aftertaste is earthy and lingering with a very long finish. About half an inch into the two-thirds section, after the bulbous part was nearly consumed, this cigar threw me aside like an old dish rag. At this point the flavor is so overpowering that I think it loses a lot of the subtleties that characterize this smoke. The nicotine content is also very high at this point and if you’re not used to it you really have to take it easy. I walked away with a mild headache and had to go lie down for a while.

The 11/18 is a real work of art I think everyone should try at least once, and if you love full-bodied cigars you’re going to get hooked. The only nagging issue with this cigar is a badly uneven burn. But corojo is rather notorious for having this problem, so this may just be the price you pay for a cigar of this caliber. Well, not the only price. These retail for around 9 to 10 USD per stick.

It’s quite a ride, though not one I’ll be taking everyday.

–cigarfan

Camacho Select Robusto

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The Camacho Select is the brainchild of Julio Eiroa, the patriarch of Camacho Cigars. Julio is also the father of Christian Eiroa, president of Camacho Cigars. As often happens between fathers and sons, there are differences in taste and personality, and this cigar is an example of this. Developed by Julio to fit his personal taste, the Select series was designed to be somewhat milder in body and tone than Christian’s Corojo series. Evidently there is even a contest between the two to see whose cigar will sell best.

Camacho is known for strong full bodied cigars like the Camacho Havana and the Camacho Corojo, so I was looking forward to something more medium bodied, which is usually what I smoke. I was anxious to try the Select since its release last summer but had trouble locating any locally, so I finally sprang for a fiver online in the robusto size and let them relax in the humidor for a month or two before firing up a couple to review.

The wrapper on the Select is Cameroon, but according to the information on the Camacho website the nature of the binder and filler are “undisclosed.” Some vendor and review sites list the filler and binder leaves as Honduran, which makes sense since Camacho’s Rancho Jamastran is in Honduras, but the precise constitution of this cigar cannot be officially confirmed at this time.

The wrapper is just slightly oily with average tooth for a cameroon. One of the five cigars had been patched, but this didn’t affect the way it smoked. They all had great construction — even burn, good draw, so no complaints in that department.

The Select robusto starts out with a burst of spice, a burn on the tongue and throat that borders on harsh. After an inch or so the spice mellows down though, and I’m able to enjoy the smoke. It continues to get smoother as the cigar progresses, moving from cayenne to a spicy cedar flavor to a sweet wood for a moment before entering salty territory. This cigar has very definite flavor transitions.

True to its advertised description, this is a medium bodied cigar, but it packs a hefty nicotine punch. (I actually couldn’t finish the first one because I wasn’t prepared for it — on subsequent occasions I made sure I had a full stomach and a drink on hand. ) The aroma is not typical of cameroon until you get past the strongly spicy prelude; after that comes the expected gentle spice and incense, followed by softer notes of juniper smoke.

The aftertaste also goes through a transition from mild with a short finish to quite salty, eventually becoming bitter.The last third of the Select becomes increasingly salty and really pours on the nicotine. I can’t say I really cared for this.

Up to the two-thirds point I’d say this is a great cigar, especially the middle third. But the last third really goes in a strange direction and delivers an unexpected payload. In the contest between Camacho Corojo and Camacho Select, I have to throw my vote to Corojo. With all due respect to Julio… Congratulations Christian!

El Legend-Ario by Camacho

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Among the many questions I have about this cigar:

  • El Legend-Ario. Why the hyphen?
  • On the Camacho website the following helpful information is available about the components of this cigar: Wrapper – Shhhh! Binder – Shhhh! Filler – Shhhh! Why the secrecy?
  • Why no band?

I have my theories, but no real answers to these questions. My guess is that it’s for the same reason all new cars look like electric shavers– it’s marketing and hype, fashion even. Like Rocky Patel’s very successful Edge line, the El Legend-Ario has no band and is packed in crates of 100. The hyphen is probably an attention getting gimmick for crazy people like me who think about these details, and the secrecy behind the makeup is traditional marketing sorcery. The bigger the secret, the larger the draw.

But in reality, what really fascinates me about this cigar is simply that it is made by Camacho. The Eiroas have been producing some of the most distinctive cigars on the market in the past few years, and I’d try anything they make, at least once.

The guys at the Stogie Review reviewed the El Legend-Ario on their site and also on the Dogwatch Social Club podcast. After listening to the show and reading their reviews I had to grab a couple.

Cigarcyclopedia has apparently infiltrated the Camacho operation in Danli, and they have come away with the highly classified information that the El Legend-Ario is a Honduran puro, composed entirely of leaf from the Jamastran Valley. The one I’m smoking today is the figurado, which is about 6 inches long and flares to a 54 ring gauge at the foot.

The construction on this stick is good, but not great. Both of the samples I’ve tried were a little soft, and though they burned evenly the loose roll contributed to a fast burn. I’m a fairly slow smoker and I burned through these in about 40 minutes per stick. A little fast for a torpedo.

The El Legend-Ario is mild by Camacho standards. I’m accustomed to the Corojo and Havana lines, which are comparatively strong and peppery. This one is almost bland by comparison. The predominate flavor is mildly bitter coffee, with a nice woody overtone. There isn’t too much of a transition as its burns to the end, just a smidgeon of pepper making an appearance on the finale.

I’d say this is a middle-of-the-road cigar for Camacho, a brand that has a reputation for big Honduran flavor. It’s a good cigar, but I have to say I was mildly disappointed. A nice July 3rd cigar. But not for the 4th.

N.B. The “electric shaver” comment was stolen from the movie Sin City.

Camacho v. Camacho

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Camacho SLR Maduro, Plaintiff
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Camacho Coyolar Puro, Defendant

The parties in this case, after a failed arbitration process, have filed briefs, short fat leafy briefs, seeking final judgment in the court of Cigarfan. The disputed point is one of taste, and applying the law thereof is the task at hand. The applicable statute is embodied in the terse legal maxim “De gustibus non disputandum est.” The parties will now accompany the judge for an evening in chambers with a bottle of Chateau Thames Embankment, after which judgment will be rendered.

Now then… I found a pack of Camachos at my local tribal smoke shop that included four robustos from their several lines: SLR Maduro, Coyolar, Corojo, and a Diploma. (For 13 USD I couldn’t resist.) I’m familiar with the Corojo and Diploma (which in fact is a Corojo) so I thought I’d pit the other two against each other in the court of my opinion.

The SLR maduro is Honduran with a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper. I wasn’t too impressed with the flavor of this stick, but I wasn’t really expecting to be since I don’t care much for the natural version of the SLR either. (Yes, the judge may enjoy a prejudiced disposition. Tough oats.) The dominant flavor seemed to be graphite, a lot of char and just a touch of maduro sweetness. Full flavored, but I just didn’t care for the flavor. On the positive side, it burned perfectly straight with an effortless draw. Fine construction.

The Coyolar is a Honduran puro, named for the farm on which the tobacco is raised. The wrapper is an attractive colorado maduro that is just about the same shade as the maduro SLR. The flavor profile is close to the Camacho Corojo line, but not as well rounded. It tasted to me like a combination of the Corojo monarca and the SLR… Unfortunately, to me this comes across as an adulteration of the Corojo blend. There’s a sharp element to the Coyolar that the Corojo doesn’t have, perhaps comparable to the difference between cloves and cinnamon. Comparing it to the SLR is a little more difficult, but I have to say that the flavor profile of the Coyolar with its spice and leather gets my vote over the SLR. Both had great construction, so no complaint there.

So it comes down to a matter of conflicting flavors, over which this renegade activist judge must preside. Facts are considered, opinions are weighed, evidence submitted. After several moments of smoky reflection, Judge Cigarfan rules in favor of the Coyolar.

Case dismissed pending appeal.

Camacho Corojo Monarca

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Wrapper: First Generation Corojo (Honduras)

Binder: First Generation Corojo (Honduras)

Filler: First Generation Corojo (Honduras)

The corojo leaf is the original Cuban wrapper leaf. At one time corojo leaf was the standard wrapper for Cuban cigars, and the criollo variety was the standard filler. They are both, however, very sensitive to blue mold and other maladies, so the genetically pure forms are no longer grown in Cuba. Hybrids have instead been developed that are resistant to tobacco diseases.

The makers of Camacho, the Eiroa family, have revived the original pure corojo strain on their farms in the Jamastran valley of Honduras. The plant evidently thrives there, even though it is still susceptible to the same problems in Honduras as it is in Cuba. The Eiroas obtained the seeds from the grandson of the farmer who first developed the corojo plant on a vega in the Vuelta Abajo called Santa Ines del Corojo.

The Camacho Corojo line is a little different than the traditional Cuban blend — it is pure corojo. Not just the wrapper. The whole shebang. With a band that looks like the classic brown and white labels of the oldest Cuban brands, you might reasonably expect this cigar to rival the best of Cubans.

Don’t confuse this line with some other cigars that include the name “Corojo” — the Punch Rare Corojo comes to mind, since it doesn’t even contain the corojo leaf. The Camacho line is something entirely different.

The Monarca is a fantastic robusto. Excellent construction with a firm draw and perfectly even burn. The ash drops with a thump on the ground when tapped after an inch or so. A full bodied cigar with an intriguing aroma — it starts out earthy, with a really nice floral element, and builds up to a smooth leathery taste. A serious cigar, but one with subtleties as well.
Probably not a beginner’s cigar, but not a steamroller either. For a steamroller try the Camacho Corojo Diploma. For a great after dinner smoke, paired with a single malt or a Guinness, the Monarca does it for me.