262 Revere Robusto

262 Revere

262 Cigars was originally slated to be called “Revolution Cigars,” so it’s entirely appropriate that they produce a blend named for Paul Revere. On the other hand, it isn’t clear that the American revolution was the intended reference: evidently there were trademark issues with the original name, so the company was named 262 for the date that the Cuban embargo was imposed (2/62).

In any case, the revolution that has concerned cigar smokers more recently is the one to “keep the government out of our humidors,” to quote the 262 website.  Bureaucrats and the FDA have taken the place of redcoats, and torch lighters are our lanterns.

The 262 Revere is a Nicaraguan puro with a wrapper from Jalapa, double binders from Esteli and Jalapa, and fillers from Jalapa, Esteli, and Condega. Did I mention… Jalapa?  Selling me this cigar was not a challenge.

Four classic sizes are in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Corona – 5.5 x 44
  • Lancero – 7 x 38
  • Toro – 6 x 54 (Box Press)

262 Revere 2

Construction Notes

The wrapper on the 262 Revere Robusto is a smooth looking maduro with a semi-gloss and a few veins. The rounded head is topped with a functional single cap. Some of the robustos I’ve smoked have had some soft spots, but these have not affected the draw or the burn, which has been consistently good. I’m not sure who cares about, or even notices the odd soft spot in a cigar… if you see someone in the cigar shop palpating the cigars… I suggest a discreet exit and perhaps a word with the manager.

Overall construction: Very good.

Tasting Notes

The Revere Robusto opens with leather and spice in a moderate and balanced dosage. There are notes of bittersweet chocolate and cinnamon on the nose, and gradually a mild bite on the tongue develops. After an inch or so the leather deepens a little, edging into musky territory. The smoke texture is in the medium range, with a strength to match.

The spice comes and goes through the middle section of the cigar, and there is more cocoa on the nose. It does develop more of a bite toward the end of the cigar, but it never reaches full power. The complexity of the flavor muddles a bit toward the end when the pepper grinder takes over and the muskiness turns to earth and char.

262 Revere 3

Conclusion

The Revere is a Nicaraguan puro, and it has the pepper and tannins to prove it, but it has a muskiness that I often associate with Honduran cigars. The wrapper is very aromatic for such a dark leaf — the combination of cinnamon and leather and coffee is quite tasty. At times the pepper threatens to overcome this delicate combo, but it perseveres.

Perhaps the 262 Revere is best summed up this way: after I smoked one, I happened to find a box at a ridiculously low price online and snapped it up immediately. I haven’t been disappointed.

Final Score: 90

Advertisements

Cohiba Macassar Toro Grande

Cohiba Macassar is the latest edition to General Cigar’s Cohiba line, which is sometimes called the “red dot” Cohiba to distinguish it from the famed Cuban cigar. The Macassar joins four other Cohiba blends currently in production: the Black, Dominican, Nicaragua, and XV lines.

Cohiba Macassar

Macassar, otherwise known as Diospyros celebica, is a variety of ebony that grows in Southeast Asia, particularly on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It’s a visually striking wood, especially prized by luthiers for fingerboards, and evidently it is also good for turning. Like all ebony, it is rare and expensive. A 6″ x 6″ x 2″ block of Macassar ebony runs about $60 USD. The tree itself is endangered, largely due to the conversion of its natural habitat to crop land.

The Macassar is a super premium blend presented in 10-count boxes that incorporate a veneer of this elegant and expensive wood. I know I should appreciate the beauty of this, but my first thought is actually: “Where is Lew Rothman when we need him?” Lew ran JR Cigars for years and was massively successful. He was also a great defender of the working man’s right to smoke a decent cigar at a decent price. He used to say that the difference between a 2 dollar and a 10 dollar cigar is 8 bucks. I appreciate that sentiment, but I’ll also tell you right now that Cohiba’s Macassar is no La Finca.

The wrapper is a habano strain grown in a part of the Connecticut River Valley where the conditions aren’t as conducive to tobacco agriculture as others, but the result is a more flavorful leaf. The binder is a Connecticut broadleaf that has been aged for 6 years, and the filler is a blend of Dominican leaf from the Mao region and Nicaraguan Jalapa. All of these tobaccos are aged at least 4 years (the binder for 6) and then aged an additional year in rum barrels.

Surprisingly, this is not a limited edition. It’s a regular production addition, so it should be around for as long as people are willing to buy a cigar at 20 bucks a pop. It’s available in 3 expensive sizes:

  • Toro Grande: 6 x 52
  • Gigante: 6 x 60
  • Double Corona: 7 1/4 x 54

Cohiba Macassar 2

Construction Notes

The Macassar Toro Grande does not look like a super premium cigar, but it is built like one. The colorado maduro wrapper is thick and veiny, and the rounded head sports a functional but less than attractive cap. The roll is solid, and the draw is spot on. It burns evenly and slowly while it builds a solid gray ash.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Toro Grande opens with chocolate and coffee on the nose and a dash of pepper on the tongue.  After half an inch or so the pepper grows in balanced intensity, without overpowering the other flavors. At this point I’m getting a whiff of charred oak barrel with some fruitiness, maybe a touch of cola.  The smoke is smooth and medium to full in body.

About half way through this cigar I notice what it is lacking: tannin. This is surprising, especially with the woody note that emerges at this point. It’s fairly rare for a cigar with a woody flavor profile to lack tannin, especially the big woody Nicaraguans that have taken over the mainstream, but the Macassar manages fine without it.

The coffee and chocolate flavors soften to cocoa in the second half. The aroma is complex, woody with dark spices and a musky note that suggests leather but doesn’t quite get there.  This cigar begs to be savored towards the end — rushing it results in char and bitterness. Make time for this big boy.

Conclusion 

Rough edges often accompany complexity in full-bodied cigars, but the Cohiba Macassar sidesteps all that. There is a price for this, of course: an MSRP around $22 USD.   Part of this price covers the rare wood used to decorate the box, which is unfortunate. I’d be perfectly happy with plain old Spanish cedar and a break on the price.

Then again, “Cohiba Spanish Cedar” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Maybe they could call it the “Antimacassar” instead.

Thank you, folks. I’ll be here all week.

Cohiba Macassar 3

Final Score: 89

El Galan Reserva Especial

El Galan Reserva Especial

It was William Faulkner who said, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” With the death of Fidel Castro and the relaxation (for now) of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, it would be good to remember what old Faulkner said. Regardless of what happens in the near future, what happened to Cubans during and after the revolution will continue to have an effect on thousands of Cubans and Cuban-Americans. There’s no escaping history.

The cigar business brings that history to the present, from seed to smoke. Take the subject of today’s little examination: the El Galan Reserva Especial. The founder and blender-in-chief is Felix A. Mesa, who is originally from the Cabaiguan region of Cuba. He comes to the industry with some familiar credentials: three generations of ancestors who worked the fields of Central Cuba and made their names in the business.

Look carefully at the band and you’ll see in the center El Galan himself, “the gentleman.” Flanking him are two small photographs: on the left is Felix Mesa’s mother, Ana Nancy, working in the tobacco field removing tobacco buds, and on his right Mesa’s grandfather Francisco working on his farm. (Check out a fine interview with Felix Mesa at hoochly for more.)

Like many cigar makers with Cuban roots, Mesa eventually made his way to Nicaragua, and today he operates a factory in Esteli where about half a dozen different blends are made. For many of today’s greatest cigar makers, Cuban roots now flower in Nicaragua.

El Galan Reserva Especial is a Nicaraguan puro made in four sizes:

  • Airosos – 5 x 52
  • Gallardos – 6 x 52 torpedo
  • Apuestos – 5 3/4 x 54
  • Obesos – 6 x 60

Construction Notes

El Galan Reserva 2

I test drove El Galan Reserva in the Apuestos size, a square pressed cigar with near-toro dimensions. The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro, rich and slightly rough. There are a few prominent veins and the triple cap is not quite perfect, but definitely serviceable.

The cigar is rolled well with a good draw and a slow burn that meanders a bit but corrects itself. Each one of the three I smoked for the review was consistent in this regard, so there’s good quality control here.

Overall construction: Excellent

Tasting Notes

El Galan 3

There’s a nice blend of sugar and spice here. The Apuestos open bright and peppery with a citric bite, but this is balanced by cedar and a touch of graham cracker on the nose. The body is medium, growing to full, and the strength is around medium to medium-full.

The pepper diminishes as the cigar develops and more savory flavors appear on the palate. The smoke becomes meaty with an earthy aftertaste. A few sweet notes continue to dance on the nEl Galan 4ose, but they deepen a bit as the cedar loses its edge and becomes more oaky. A finale composed of increased earthiness, char, and pepper closes out the cigar.

Conclusion

I don’t usually expect a lot of complexity from cigars with wrappers this dark, but El Galan Reserva delivers. It’s well built, consistent, and in the $6-7 USD range for all four sizes, it’s nicely priced. This is one to check out if you’re looking for a complex and meaty maduro.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask Jeff, writing for Casas Fumando early this year.

 

Final Score: 90

Partagas Ramon y Ramon

Partagas Ramon

I remember my first Partagas… a No. 10, if I recall. It was a smooth, mellow, mildly spicy cigar that tickled my virginal taste buds and left me a believer in the brand from that moment on.  Eventually I learned that the active ingredient in that blend is a Cameroon wrapper. For me, Partagas is Cameroon, and the Partagas Benji Menendez Master blend is the best of the lot. Okay, the Cuban Partagas is something else entirely, but the Partagas Black? No, man. I don’t know what that is, but to me it’s not a Partagas.

Cameroon wrappers came into popularity as a substitute for Cuban wrapper after the embargo was enacted in 1961. While many cigar manufacturers gave up in despair at the loss of Cuban tobacco, Stanford Newman (founder of the J. C. Newman Cigar Co. and maker of Cuesta Rey and Diamond Crown cigars) found that Cameroon wrappers might serve as a good alternative. Cameroon is certainly not identical to Cuban tobaccos, but it has a similar earthiness, plus an additional spiciness.

The Newmans and the Fuentes have done amazing things with Cameroon, but the folks at General Cigar have kept up with them. The Cameroon wrapper they are using for the Ramon y Ramon is a high priming, sungrown leaf cultivated in the Belita region by the Meerapfel family, who seem to have a monopoly on the choicest leaf in Africa.

The heart of the cigar is blended with a proprietary tobacco developed as a hybrid: agronomists crossed a delicate vintage strain with a more robust and disease-resistant variety to create the romantically named “PM01”.  Pair this with some Nicaraguan tobacco, hold it in place with a Dominican wrapper, and finish it off with that Belita Cameroon, and voila! — it’s a Partagas Ramon y Ramon.

Four sizes are in production:

  • Robusto – 5 1/2 x 50
  • Maxim Grande – 6 x 52
  • Gigante – 6 x 60
  • Fabuloso – 7 x 54

Partagas Ramon 2

Construction Notes

Cameroon wrappers add tremendous flavor and complexity to a blend, but they are rarely pretty. They tend to be brittle, dry, and they don’t look terribly appetizing. This one is a case in point: the wrapper is rough and dusty looking, a pale yellowish brown, almost grayish. On the positive side, the wrapper is strong and so far I haven’t had one split on me.

The roll is solid and the head is finished in a rounded Cullman cap. The Ramon y Ramon draws very well, burns evenly at a moderate pace, and leaves a firm light-gray ash in its wake.

Overall construction: Excellent

Tasting Notes

The Ramon y Ramon opens with the leitmotif that recurs throughout this cigar: earthiness  with a minty tang. It’s not the same earthiness that you find in a Cuban cigar — it’s not as subtle, not as bready, and it’s spicier — but it’s vaguely similar. The spiciness takes the form of cedar scents, white pepper, and cinnamon on the nose.

In the mid-section of the cigar there are bittersweet chocolate notes, a little more pepper, and a continuing eucalyptic mintiness. The body of the smoke is about medium, with a strength to match.

The complex and alluring aroma of this cigar never lets up, so I’m willing to forgive the excessive tannins that sneak in at the end. Keep a drink handy to cure your pucker.

Partagas Ramon 4

Conclusion

The Partagas Ramon y Ramon has a Cuban-style earthiness at its core; it’s similar to the Toraño Cameroon in this respect, but it’s more complex. The aroma alone is worth the price of admission, which is around US $7.50. For the moment this cigar is a brick-and-mortar exclusive, but it’s well worth a trip to the shop. For me, it doesn’t quite beat out the Benji Mendendez, but it creeps up awfully close.

Final Score: 91

Herrera Esteli TAA Exclusive

Herrera Esteli TAA

Several Drew Estate blends have put the spotlight on Connecticut Broadleaf, most notably the Liga Privada No. 9, but the Herrera Esteli TAA is the first cigar blended by Willy Herrera for Drew Estate to use a broadleaf wrapper.  (The original Herrera Esteli utilizes Ecuadorian Habano and the Norteño uses San Andres maduro.)

Before joining Drew Estate in 2011, Herrera was known for his work at El Titan de Bronze in  Miami, but he has also created blends for Ernesto Padilla, Nestor Miranda, La Palina, and others.

The TAA was designed as an exclusive to members of the Tobacconists’ Association of America and was released at the TAA convention in April of this year.

Beneath the broadleaf wrapper is a Brazilian Mata Fina binder and the filler is a blend of the usual Nicaraguan suspects — Esteli (surprise!), Jalapa, and Condega. Only one size is in production, a 6 x 52 toro, and the cigar is sold in 12-count boxes. The cigar is made at the Drew Estate factory in Nicaragua.

Construction Notes

The broadleaf wrapper is a little rough but it oozes oil and has every appearance of richness. The head of the cigar is rounded, perfectly symmetrical, and the cap is almost seamless. The roll is solid and the draw is firm but easy. The cigar burns evenly and leaves a solid, light gray ash. The rollers in La Gran Fabrica have clearly taken extra care with this one.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Herrera Esteli TAA 2

Tasting Notes

The TAA Exclusive takes broadleaf seriously, and it takes full advantage of the woody sweetness of this stellar leaf from the first puff. This is a very smooth smoking toro; it develops a little bit of spice in the last third, but up to that point it really focuses on the strengths of its broadleaf wrapper.

The cigar is earthy on the palate, but the aftertaste is quite mild. The mouthfeel is somewhat waxy — the earthiness on the tongue, sweet woody char on the nose, and the waxy texture combine to create an effect that reminds me of a freshly extinguished candle.

The cigar develops a little more body and picks up some spice and some coffee notes in the last third. It isn’t a particularly complex cigar and the flavor transitions are not dramatic; the flavors are focused and tend not to stray too much from the ones that it opens with.

Herrera esteli 3

Conclusion

The Herrera Esteli TAA Exclusive is a broadleaf lover’s classic. It isn’t as bold as the Liga Privada No. 9, but it’s far more elegant than Nica Rustica. It’s rich, perfectly constructed, and easy to smoke. My kind of cigar, actually. On the other hand, if you find smooth billows of humus, sweet wet wood, freshly ground coffee, and a smattering of pepper at the finale a little too tedious, you’ll be saving yourself $12 USD per stick by leaving this one at the shop.

Final Score: 90

 

 

 

Blood Red Moon Mini Perfecto

Blood Red Moon

To survive the summer heat this year I stuck to smaller cigars, and this little perfecto from Cult Cigars was one of the better ones in my arsenal. Cult Cigars have been around for a while now — I reviewed the Cult Classic almost three years ago — but they appear to have a hit on their hands with Blood Red Moon.

Large format cigars have been gaining in popularity, and it seems like they get larger everyday. (Sometimes to a ridiculous degree. You will never see a review for 7 x 70 size cigar here. Sorry, but my gob stops at 60.) Cult has gone the other direction with Blood Red Moon. Three formats are in production, and the largest is a slightly oversized 5.5 x 54 robusto; the others are a 4.7 x 42 mini corona and a 4.7 x 44 mini perfecto. The perfectos are perfecto when you’re trying to find maximum shade under a Joshua tree in the desert in July.

I smoked the Mini Perfectos in abundance this summer — all in the Ecuadorian Habano wrapper — but all three formats are also available in Connecticut shade and Habano maduro. They arrive in packs of five, sold separately or packaged in bricks of 50. No bands, but the boxes are attractively illustrated.

Construction Notes

The Mini Perfecto in Ecuadorian Habano is a nicely shaped figurado: pointy at the head with a Presidente style foot. (Similar to the foot on a Fuente Hemingway.) The wrapper is a ruddy colorado maduro, a little bit veiny but sheeny.

It’s hard to know where to cut a head like this, but the cigar draws well with even the most conservative cut. It burns evenly and fairly slowly. I was tempted to puff these quickly at times and learned that they will get a little ornery if disrespected.

Overall construction: Excellent

Blood Red Moon 2

 

Tasting Notes

The first half of this Mini Perfecto is  marked by oak and black pepper. There is a surprising note of freshly baked bread on the nose, accompanied by an earthy aftertaste. I usually associate this combination with small Habanos like Partagas Shorts or Ramon Allones Small Club Coronas. Finding these flavors in a readily available $2.00 mini perfecto is my definition of a cheap thrill.

In the second half the oak turns to cedar and a touch of coffee enters the fray. The earthy flavor at the foundation remains for the duration but it can get heavy with overzealous puffing. For a small cigar it has a decent kick, which, depending on your tolerance for Lady Nicotine, could be another reason to take it easy with these little fellers.

Blood Red Moon 3

Conclusion

The Blood Red Moon Mini Perfecto excels both as a small cigar and a bargain smoke. The flavors are complex and the construction is uniformly excellent.  If you’re summerizing (or winterizing) your collection, or just looking at a light paycheck this week, Blood Red Moon should be on your horizon. Smoke them slowly and they will pay dividends that far surpass their humble $2 USD price tag.

Final Score: 90

Aging Report: Troya Clasico by Don Pepin Garcia

I am inclined to aestivate as an escape from the summer heat, and this year a blistering August drove me even deeper into hiding. The occasional cloud of smoke drifting across the yard was generated by California forest fires rather than my cigar hobby. With high temps ranging from 105 though the 110’s for most of the summer, I hid in the cellar like a frightened vampire. I did get out for some small cigars in the wee hours of the morning, but not until this weekend have I managed to fire up a full sized cigar. I thought I would celebrate the distant approach of autumn with an old friend: the Troya Clasico LXIII.

Troya Clasico 16a

This cigar is almost ten years old now, and as reported earlier, it has mellowed to the point of fading. I only have a few left, and time is running out for these once brilliant churchills. They are still stately in appearance — golden brown wrappers with impeccably crafted triple-wound heads — and time in storage does not seem to have affected them adversely. They still draw and burn perfectly, as I would expect any classic Pepin-made cigar would.

These were never powerhouse cigars — elegance and subtle complexity were their hallmark from the beginning, combined with a touch of Pepin’s trademark tannin that made the epithelia twang like a guitar string. That twang is just barely detectable now. In fact the flavor on the tongue is barely a reminder of what it once was. Lightly roasted nuts with a dusting of black pepper is about it. What remains is an amazing aroma.

At first there is toast and cedar. Slowly the cedar develops more complexity and sweetens into sandalwood. The smoke is buttery in texture and the aftertaste is clean, leaving a very mild aftertaste of wood and earth. In the mid-section there is some cocoa, which reminds me of the old Pepin cigars. Oh the old Red Label, the Sancti Spiritus, the original Padillas… As a tear is about to form in the corner of my left eye, I am shocked back into the present by something new — sugary sweetness, almost like cotton-candy sweetness. This lasts only a few moments though, and then the cedar machine roars back and rumbles full bore to the end zone.
Troya Clasico 16b

Maybe it was a month of near abstinence making the heart grow fonder, (smoking yard gars exclusively is a kind of abstinence, right?) but I really loved this cigar. It has lost some depth of flavor as it has weakened in strength, but the complexity of its aroma has increased by an equal measure. An extra helping of ligero might have helped it weather the years a little, but it’s still a masterpiece.