MATASA 30th Anniversary Toro

cnv0389.jpg

Manuel Quesada established MATASA (Manufactura de Tabacos, S.A.) in Santiago in 1974, at a time when the Dominican cigar industry catered mainly to domestic consumption. Around this time the Dominican Republic established tax-free export zones which attracted entrepreneurs like Quesada to a country not really known for producing cigars. Baseball players, yes, but not cigars.

MATASA is best known for producing the Fonseca brand (and all its offshoots) but Quesada’s family has been in the tobacco business for generations, going back to pre-revolutionary Cuba where they were primarily leaf growers and brokers. The companies founded by Quesada’s great great grandfather, Sobrinos de A. Gonzales, and his great uncle Constantino Gonzales, were the largest leaf brokerages in the world before the family was forced out of Cuba at gunpoint.

The Quesada family left for Miami, where Manuel Quesada Sr. was able to secure a loan– with no collateral– from a bank the family had done business with since 1907. They invested in warehouses and machinery and soon a fledgling leaf brokerage was started in the Dominican Republic, selling leaf to many of the same customers they had in Cuba. One of those customers was Juan Sosa, whose Miami factory was struggling with labor issues. Based on their previous business relationship, Sosa and Quesada joined forces in Santiago and in 1974 MATASA was born. During the same year, MATASA bought the Fonseca label from Antillian Cigar Co. in Miami.

The MATASA 30th Anniversary by Fonseca, created to celebrate the founding of the company, was introduced in 2005 in only two sizes: a 5 3/4 x 54 perfecto, and this 6 1/2 x 52 toro. The binder and filler were selected from bales of Honduran, Dominican, and Nicaraguan leaf aged over ten years. When this cigar was chosen as the Robb Reports’ “Best of the Best 2006” cigar, Quesada told Richard Carleton Hacker,

…we used the finest of old, noble leaf so that we would have the depth of some of the choicest aged Cuban-seed tobaccos, but without the hardened strength. What we got was a strong yet smooth cigar that reminds one of chocolate pudding.

The wrapper is a high priming Olor Dominicano grown by the Reyes family in the Cibao Valley. The limited number of cigars produced was determined mostly by the amount of wrapper produced. “We said we’d make cigars as the wrapper for the project came about,” Quesada told Smoke Magazine. “You’d like to have 100 percent yield from the wrapper crop, but you never do… If you get 60 percent of usable wrapper out of any given crop, you should go to church and thank God.”

In the end, only 30,000 cigars were produced.

The wrapper on this Anniversary Toro is rich and oily, though as it turns out it is also quite thin and delicate. The roll is solid and the head is finished with a triple cap. The prelight scent is of sweet tobacco and hay.

From the first puff the flavors that pour forth are dark and rich — coffee bean and cocoa, with chocolate making a lasting appearance after an inch or so. Beneath the overarching sweet bean flavor is a grassy or green wood flavor which makes the overall impression something like light-roasted coffee. Meanwhile, the aroma is complex, adding an incense-like quality to the smoke.

The body builds strength after the first half, about 45 minutes into this supersized toro. The flavors gradually veer away from cocoa and enter spicier country, with pepper on the tongue and baking spices on the nose. At one point I thought I detected cinnamon, but after an hour of chasing scents my palate might have been a little fatigued.

Part way into the last third I heard the dreaded crack of wrapper splitting; I looked down and my cigar had suddenly unraveled. Thankfully I was nearly finished with this ten dollar Anni, but I was still a little disappointed. (Sadly, this is the second one that has finished in this fashion for me. Other reports are more favorable, so maybe I just pulled from a bad box.) Otherwise the construction here is very good — a fine draw and a slow cool burn.

If you’re a Fonseca smoker, be aware that the MATASA 30th Anniversary is a much heavier cigar than your standard Fonseca, but don’t let that dissuade you — it’s not a giant killer either. This is a limited edition cigar, but it is still available and doesn’t appear to be selling out anytime soon. Part of that may be due to the price, which is in the 8 to 11 USD range. Not your everyday cigar, but a special treat for maduro lovers. Just be extra careful with that wrapper!

-cigarfan

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Don Lino Africa — Duma

Don Lino Africa Duma Close-up
— Photo courtesy of Miami Cigar & Company —

Cigar Stats
Brand Owner: Miami Cigar & Company – Miami, FL
Tabacalera: Esteli, Nicaragua (Plasencia)
Model/Vitola: Don Lino Africa Duma (Cheetah)
Size: 5.0 x 50 (robusto)
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano (1999)
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Cameroon, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua

Other vitola sizes available

  • Kuro (Waterbuck) 4.0 x 45 (corona extra)
  • Kifaro (Rhinoceros) 6.125 x 52 (toro)
  • Punda Milia (Zebra) 6.5 x 44 (lonsdale)
  • Kiboko (Hippopotamus) 6.5 x 58 (toro)
  • Tembo (Elephant) 7.5 x 50 (double corona/churchill)

All sizes are offered in beautifully adorned boxes of 25 with the exception of the Kiboko (24) and the Kuro (tin of 4 or box of 40)

 Don Lino Africa Vitola Name Animals

Some background on Miami Cigar & Company

Common traits prevalent among cigar making stars in the industry are unbridled passion coupled with persistent hard work. Nestor Miranda and his family are another example. In the late ’80s, working in the liquor business, Nestor had a chance meeting with a roller working for Guillermo León of La Aurora S.A. Using his skills as a salesman, Nestor made some suggestions on how to expand the La Aurora line and increase business. As he watched their success employing his ideas, he and his wife Miranda decided to launch Miami Cigar & Company in 1989 and distribute cigars. They acquired and launched the Don Lino brand in 1989 which were manufactured by U.S. Tobacco International at their factory in Danli, Honduras. The brand was a huge success. Production in the first year was 80,000 cigars and by 1995 it was up to 3.1 million. In 1995, Miami Cigar began distributing other UST products (Don Tomás and Astral) and in 1996 (during the boom) distribution jumped to a whopping 12 million (75% UST brands). As you may imagine, with those kind of numbers, Nestor retired from the liquor business in 1995 after 25 years and joined his wife full time at Miami Cigar.

What happened next would give anybody nightmares. In November 1996, after Miami Cigar had exceeded all sales projections, UST pulled the plug! They stopped shipping products for distribution and stopped manufacturing Don Lino cigars. The president of UST called and cancelled the contract with Miami Cigar which wasn’t due for renewal until February 1997. UST had decided to distribute their own and manufacturing of the Don Lino brand would take production resources needed elsewhere. Literally overnight, Nestor was faced with closing shop. And right before Christmas! His distribution humidor was empty. Don Lino was back-ordered about 3.5 million cigars. La Aurora/León Jimenes were maxed out and could not produce any more cigars for Nestor to distribute. His retailers were pissed. They couldn’t believe he had no cigars. They thought he was shipping elsewhere and giving them the runaround. And to top it off, he had to lay off most of his warehouse and office staff.

The gory details of this debacle can be found in the Cigar Aficionado interview with Nestor (April 2007) but suffice it to say, there is no quit in this man. He struggled for two years to find quality manufacturing for the Don Lino brand and in 1999 Guillermo León agreed to produce it in the Dominican Republic. Production has since moved again and is now with Plasencia in Esteli, Nicaragua.

Per the Miami Herald, the Miranda’s didn’t consider a lawsuit against UST until Nestor received a deposition in 1999 for a suit filed in Chicago against U.S. Tobacco by cigar distributors Cohabaco. A lawyer approached Nestor with some of U.S. Tobacco’s internal documents, that, according to Miranda, detailed U.S. Tobacco’s plans to obtain Miami Cigar’s distribution network all along, going so far as building a storage facility in Tampa to hold cigars originally intended to go Miami Cigars. In 2002 Nestor won a judgment against UST in the amount of $42.5 million which was appealed and then settled out-of-court. The final amount is undisclosed but I sincerely hope it was big!

Today Miami Cigar & Company distributes a variety of premium name brands, among them Dominican-made La Aurora and Leon Jimenes, Spanish-made Ducados, Wings, and their very own Tatiana line of flavored cigars, Don Lino and Habanitos. The brands owned by the company include Colorado by Don Lino, Don Lino Africa, El Gozo, Havana Reserve Don Lino, Smoke Tatiana – Flavor the Moment and Tatiana.

Miami Cigar & Company Brands

When things had calmed and the company gained its feet again, Nestor decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of his to go on a hunting safari in Africa in 2002. He used to watch Tarzan movies as a child in Cuba and had always wanted to see the land that charged his imagination as a boy. The hunt was a life experience and on the returning plane ride Nestor had an epiphany. Africa was such a great and vast country. Certainly there should be a cigar brand in it’s honor. Why not include some of their tobacco too! He and his son Daniel, who actually runs the operations for Miami Cigar, agreed. A new cigar was in order. Oh, but what to call it. Nestor thought the name of the majestic Kilimanjaro was appropriate but unfortunately someone had already claimed it. Finally, they settled on Don Lino Africa. They designed a elegant box and named the vitolas after select beasts that roam the plains of the Serengeti. But instead of English, they would use native Maasi, the language of the indigenous people of the African Savannah.

Don Lino Africa Plaque

The Don Lino Africa blend was introduced in 2003 and then re-blended for 2004. It is currently manufactured by Nestor Plasencia at his factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. Using 4-year aged tobaccos, the cigars are aged for an additional 5 months after rolling. During the blending experiments, Nestor requested they use a leaf of Cameroon in the blend. No one had done that before and when he tasted it, he said, “This is it!” In the interview referenced above, Nestor claims to use Costa Rican leaf in the blend but no one else refers to it. Early renditions claim some Mexican leaf as well. I think the manufacturing and blending have changed so many times, the old Internet info is blending with the new. The Miami Cigar website currently shows the blend as I have identified it above.

Believe it or not, the name “Lino” comes from the individual at the UST factory that Nestor used to deal with. He says “it was just a name, and it sold so well, why change it?” Wow, that’s deep!

Don Lino Africa Duma - Cigar Band

Bottom line up front …..
Full-bodied and full-flavored as advertised, this is a curious blend of tobaccos. The taste is like nothing I’ve had and if it weren’t for the total distraction of the burn problems, I probably would have enjoyed it. Every stick I tried had burn issues to the point where the experience was a disaster. Nestor better get his rollers together and give them a thrashing! It’s a cryin’ shame to have such extravagance in packaging and quality tobacco wasted on poor rolling technique.

Pre-light
The cigar is stunning to look at. A reddish-brown wrapper oozing with oils and covered in a small tooth cap to foot. I understand the wrapper tobacco was set aside in 1999 with this cigar in mind. The band, like the magnificent box, is truly a work of art. Being the brandophilist I am, this band was definitely tucked away in the archives. Someone did get overzealous with the band glue, but I was able to remove it without damage to the cigar or the band. That was a miracle in itself. The aroma from the wrap was distinctly barnyard and strong tobacco from the foot. The head was nicely finished with a double cap. Pre-light draw was good. The swirls of different color tobacco at the foot were very inviting. I was looking forward to a treat.

Don Lino Africa Duma - Cap & Foot

The Smoking Experience
The Duma begins with a sharp couple puffs, kinda similar to a Pepin cigar with just a touch of pepper on the nose. The flavor quickly settles into a base of dark wood and burnt toast. The pepper subsides for the first third but then re-enters mainly on the tongue and slowly builds to the end. The aroma was rich and deep. Can’t begin to describe it but definitely the best part of the smoke. About halfway, I picked up a few pulls of a caramel like sweetness that disappeared as suddenly as it arrived. Some interesting spice notes along the way including cinnamon and what seemed to be nutmeg and during the final third hints of cocoa and leather. All-in-all a very flavorful complex smoke which I would expect with that many countries represented. The cigar did start to get bitter at the nub but I was ready to lay it down anyway. Finish is long with a leathery aftertaste.

Ash was quite dark and a bit flaky. The burn was horrendous! It looked to me as if the wrap was several layers thick and was downright flame retardant. I was forced to torch the cigar every 1/4 inch to keep the flavors even and burn off the wrap to the next level. Burn maintenance absolutely ruined the experience for me.

Don Lino Africa Duma - Dark Ash

 

Don Lino Africa Duma - Ash Trail

This cigar is full-bodied, with a balanced well-rounded explosion of smooth, hearty flavor. With full strength to boot, it is not for the faint of heart. Starts out a little less than full but gets there pretty quick. Please have a seat. And by all means, this is not a breakfast cigar!

My take …..
This cigar just would not burn properly and therefore will fall from my radar, at least for a while. I smoke cigars for the pleasure of the experience. Every Duma I tried was so much work in the burn department, the rest of the experience was lost on me. I’ll try them again in a couple years if they are still around and hope the rollers have got their act together!

MSRP on the Duma is $156.00/25 or $6.24 per stick. Best online price I could find is Abners at $94.95/25 or $3.80 per stick. Price point is right if they could only solve the burn.

African Sunset

As in this beautiful scene, for me, the sun has set on Don Lino Africa for now. But as they say, the sun will come up tomorrow!

Smoke Til You're Green

Like it … Flavor Yes, Burn Absolutely not
Buy it again … Not anytime soon
Recommend it … Not right now

What others are saying about Don Lino Africa …..

26 April 2005
LC-Smoker – CigarPass
Don Lino Africa, Vertical Line Tasting and Summary

August 2005 thru June 2006
Various – Famous Smoke Shop
Don Lino Africa Cigars

29 August 2006
Uncle Moneybag$ – Leafy Times
Don Lino Africa Dumas

26 October 2006
Doc – Stogie Fresh
Don Lino Africa Kifaro

1 June 2007
Synquest
Don Lino Africa Kiboko (Hippopotamus)

1 June 2007
World Cigars
Don Lino Africa Kiboko (Hippopotamus)

20 July 2007
bobbyg29 – CigarLive
Don Lino Africa Duma

28 August 2007
AragornElessar86 – Cigar Crew
Don Lino Africa Kiboko

27 September 2007
admin – Cigars and Wine in Grapevine
Don Lino Africa – Duma

Top 25 Cigar – As of 16 October 2007
Don Lino Africa Duma
31 reviews
7.49 out of 10

Publications

1996
Shandana Durrani – Cigar Aficionado
A Mom-And-Pop Shop
In Seven Years, Mariana and Nestor Miranda Have Turned Miami Cigar & Co. into a Force in Cigar Distribution

February/March 2002
Joseph Finova – Smoke Shop Magazine Online
Miami Cigar & Company: Tasting the Flavor of Success

2 April 2007
David Savona – Cigar Aficionado
A Conversation with Nestor Miranda

5 April 2007
Cigar Aficionado Online–>Cigar Aficionado Forums–>Dear Editors–>
Nestor Miranda interview

August 2007
Video – 3:23 minutes
CigarTV.com interviews Nestor Miranda of Miami Cigars who previews the Don Lino Africa line of cigars at the 2007 RTDA trade show in Houston, TX

Miami Cigar & Company – Don Lino Africa


… lucky7

“It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep,
and never to refrain when awake.” (Mark Twain)

Olde World Reserve Torpedo (Maduro) by Rocky Patel

Olde World Reserve Box and Torpedo

Cigar Stats
Brand Owner: Rakesh Patel
Tabacalera: El Paraiso – Danli, Honduras
Model/Vitola: Olde World Reserve Torpedo (Maduro)
Size: 5.0 x 54 (figurado — box-pressed)
Wrapper: Costa Rica (Maduro) — Nicaragua (Corojo)
Binder & Filler: Nicaragua (rumored a little India too)
Cigar Aficionado Rating: 88 —2007 (I think this is way to low)

Other vitola sizes available

  • Robusto 5.5 x 54
  • Toro 6.5 x 52

All sizes are offered in cedar chests of 50 with a choice of Corojo or Maduro wrapper

Rocky’s Picture Collage 

Some background on Rocky ….. 

Rocky Patel is a shining example of what passion and hard work can achieve. He uses what he calls the shoe-leather express, his arduous but successful way of getting out the word on his cigars. He started in LA but now home and headquarters for the energetic 45-year-old is in Naples, FL but you rarely find him there. His road shows began in 1998, and they never seem to end: in both 2001 and 2002 he logged more than 300 days on the road. His travel schedule never seems to get any lighter.

Rocky is a natural born salesman. He sold china and cutlery door-to-door in high school, participated in Junior Achievement, sold grapefruit by the case and raised money in college for muscular dystrophy research. He moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, as a teenager, where he developed a lifelong love of the Packers to rival that of local born Cheeseheads. (In one proud moment he presented members of the team with his cigars.)

Patel, an entertainment and product liability lawyer turned cigar salesman, had a cigar-smoking girlfriend who “made him” join the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills. He went to his first cigar trade show in 1996 and was mobbed for business. This was the beginning of his strong relationship with the cigar industry as a major player.

Olde World Reserve Box

Rocky says, “The problem with practicing law was it was like taking a final exam all day long. You’re always stressed. In this business I’m always thinking about cigars and how to make them better — but I’m excited about it. I’m a perfectionist and I live to win, not just play. The cigar business is the same thing: acquiring the best leaf, creating the best packaging — it’s constantly on my mind.”

Per a quote on his website, the Hollywood lawyer turned cigar maker loves the quality of Padron, the construction of Davidoff, and the consistency of Fuentes. Patel wants to incorporate all of these admirable qualities into his cigars and make them affordable. His are definitely great cigars, so it would seem he is succeeding.

Patel’s original Indian Tabac brand has nothing to do with his heritage (he was born in India, and his real first name is Rakesh) but everything to do with the on-again-off-again Indian Motorcycle brand. Patel, who owns the Indian Tabac Cigar Co. with a silent partner, has to pay Indian Motorcycle a licensing fee on the brand. In 2003 he put aside the Indian Tabac brand name he worked so hard to build to create another — Rocky Patel Vintage Series. It was risky, but a huge success.

Company logos

Since both still exist, a point of clarification on the relative importance of the Indian Tabac and Rocky Patel brands to each other. As of the end of 2006, Indian Tabac sales were steady but made up only about a third of their revenue. The Rocky Patel branded lines made up the rest. When Rocky introduced the Vintage 1990 and 1992 Rocky Patel lines at the 2003 RTDA, it was a calculated risk. He wanted to change the direction of the products and marketing but felt it would be too difficult to do with the Indian Tabac brand. His intuition proved correct as the Vintage brands were a run away success. The Vintage 1990 and 1992 cigars are still the company’s flagship lines today. The Rocky Patel lines with their extensions now represent 70+% of company revenues.

Patel’s cigars are currently manufactured in Nestor Plasencia’s El Paraiso factory in Danli, Honduras. Rocky works with Plasencia to develop and refine the blends they want to offer. In fact, Rocky spends 60-70% of his time in Honduras working with the factory. The rest of his time is split up between marketing and running the operations.

Olde World Reserve Maduro Band

The Old World Reserve (“Master Blend 7XX” as it is designated on the box) was introduced at the 2005 RTDA in New Orleans, LA. That initial iteration, Rocky’s first attempt at the OWR, never made it out of New Orleans, and was ‘re-introduced’ at RTDA 2006 in Las Vegas, NV. This uniquely delicious and buttery smooth blend of tobaccos is actually quite mellow yet very deep in flavors. Olde World Reserve is Rocky Patel’s most expensive creation so you would certainly hope it has “the right stuff” and IMHO it definitely does. It is masterfully blended using top-quality tobaccos, extensive fermentation and aging processes, and the highest of quality control standards. Doesn’t matter if you are part of the Rocky Fan Club or not, you should give this cigar a try.

Exhibition Floor - RTDA 2005
Exhibition Floor — RTDA 2005

I have read folks who compare the OWR to the Padron Anniversary blends (1926 and 1964) but I think they are potatoes and grapefruits, with dissimilar profiles and therefore, not really a “better or not” situation. Both brands are top notch!

Some of the hype and buzz claim the OWR to be Rocky’s Vintage and Edge lines on steroids. Although you can pick out some similar characteristics with the other RP lines, I think the flavor depth of the OWR sets it apart.

Please note, the three sizes of the OWR are very different, each offering a unique smoking experience. That is another interesting thing about this line of cigars. The combo of size and wrap makes for a different experience, and variety is the spice of life, right? This review is based on the Torpedo size wrapped in a Maduro leaf.

Bottom line up front …..

I am a big fan of full flavored cigars which is why I like many vitolas Rocky has to offer (Vintage, Sun Grown, Edge jump to mind). Seems crazy to say, but the Olde World Reserve is a cut above. All of Rocky’s magic is realized in this cigar. Overall, an exceptional example of blending that is extremely well-balanced and surprisingly smooth. Don’t let the hype descriptions of power and strength scare you off! Even if you are a mild to medium cigar buff, try this cigar. I think you will be very pleasantly surprised. The Olde World Reserve is an eventful smoke that fully satisfies the palate of even the most discriminating aficionados. A very rich smoking experience!

Olde World Reserve Torpedo Maduro

Pre-light

Although it is a bit of a stump for a torpedo, these sticks are gorgeous to look at. The band is sophisticated and the foot is sleeved in a gold speckled brown tissue paper with the “RP circle-o-dots” logo in gold at the center. The sleeve is easily removed revealing the dark mottled wrap, smooth and oily. In the sunlight, a rosado hue in the background color is evident.  The cap is a little ruddy looking but well constructed nonetheless. Tightly packed, the stick is firm to the touch but fairly light in the hand. The wrap has very subtle sweet tobacco scent and the foot, soft earthy wood. Clip was very clean, no stragglers. Draw was perfect and tasted of strong southern sweet tea. As I toasted the foot the exquisite aroma wafted around my head and I began to salivate. It did take some effort with the torch to get this one lit but once there, no more external fire required.

Olde World Reserve Cap Closeup

The Smoking Experience

Right out of the gate, the flavor is spectacular with earthy wood and leather rolling over the palate and a tinge of sweetness on the nose. After a few pulls, a nice thick volume of cool smoke and in between puffs, beautiful curls of blue smoke from the foot. As the blend warms it settles to a creamy smooth base of toasted nuts, leather and wood with notes of sweet fruit on the nose (kind of raisiny). During the last third, an enjoyable espresso and bitter chocolate flavor develops and becomes more definitive toward the nub. Initially, the finish is nutty and rather short but evolves to a longer intense toasty espresso in the second half with a bit of pepper on the tongue. This cigar has an awesome aroma similar to “The Edge” but not quite as sharp and consistently sweet to the nub. Draw remained perfect from light to nub and the burn was clean.

Olde World Reserve Ash Trail

The ash was medium gray and held on well. Curiously, the stack of quarters effect common to most cigar ashes was present but began to swirl. Unusual looking to say the least. I only ashed this cigar once at the band. The nub carried the rest to the ash tray.

Olde World Reserve Ash Detail

In terms of strength, the first half rests squarely in the medium column and then it begins to intensify. The last inch and a half are definitely full strength. I would say it carries a mild nicotine kick but definitely not overpowering in any way. I suggest you do have something on your stomach for maximum enjoyment.

Short in physical stature but long on smoking time, this gar took me an hour fifteen minutes to smoke. And time well spent I might add!

OWR 2006 and OWR 2007 Comparison
2006 OWR (top) and 2007 OWR (bottom)

I have always been curious about where these cigar makers get the volumes of tobacco required to make consistent stogies year after year. Like the Vintage 1990 … where is all that 1990 tobacco stored. It’s certainly gotta be bigger than a warehouse (or 100 warehouses for that matter), the number of those cigars that have hit the street since 2003. Just as an experiment, I retrieved a 2006 OWR Maduro that has been resting in my humi since September 2006 and one I purchased for this review. As you can see above there is a definite color variation in the wrap but I’ll be doggone, I smoked ’em both and couldn’t taste a bit of difference. Rocky is good … I mean real good at what he does.

My take …..

I’ve tried a healthy share of both corojo and maduro wrapped OWR and come to the conclusion that, while both are good, I enjoy the maduro most. IMO it’s richer in flavor and offers a very nice sweetness from the wrapper leaf. The maduro is also very (very) smooth in character with an earthy backbone that’s deep and rich. Overall, this is a great cigar, one worthy of the highest of ratings from those who know cigars best.

MSRP on the Maduro Torpedo is $525.00/50 or $10.50 per stick. Best online price at the moment is Cigar Place at $39.95/5 or $7.99 per stick. My local B&M charges a whopping $11.12 per stick which is outrageous (and I told him so). Expensive, but if you want the finer things in life you have to pay the price. Definitely a exquisite cigar. If I were you I would try at least one and then decide if wallet dipping is in order. For me $8 is an easy decision!

Initially released as a limited edition cigar, the Olde World Reserve was only available in traditional brick and mortar tobacco shops. That is no longer the case as they can be found online just about everywhere. I began compiling a list of online vendors but it became so lengthy, I gave up. Just Google it! It pays to shop around on this one. They are a challenge to find in stock but the hunt is well worth it!

Olde World Reserve Corojo Band 

Smoke Til You're Green

Like it … Yes
Buy it again … Yes
Recommend it … Absolutely

What others are saying about
Olde World Reserve by Rocky Patel …..

15 July 2006
Jerry – Stogie Review
Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve – Corojo (Toro)

17 July 2006
The Stogie Guys
Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Corojo Toro

19 August 2006
cNote – Cigar Utopia
RP Olde World Reserve Maduro Review

September 2006
Smoke Magazine Taste Test – Volume XI, Issue 4
Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Toro Maduro
9.25 out of 10 Average Rating

December 2006
Smoke Magazine Taste Test – Volume XII, Issue 1
Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Torpedo Maduro
9.15 out of 10 Average Rating

28 January 2007
lanshark – Cigarzilla
Rocky Patel – Olde World Reserve

March 2007
Smoke Magazine Taste Test – Volume XII, Issue 1
Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Robusto Corojo
9.15 out of 10 Average Rating

11 June 2007
CigarMonkey – Cigar Beat
Olde World Series by Rocky Patel

18 June 2007
mongkut – Epinions
Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Maduro Toro – A Good Cigar, But Not My Favorite

August 2007
Cigar of the Week – Cigar Aficionado
Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Maduro Torpedo

24 September 2007
Gary Korb – Cigar Advisor
My Weekend Cigar: Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Toro

Cigar Aficionado Forum Discussion – Olde World Reserve by Rocky Patel

Top 25 Cigar – As of 2 October 2007
Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Cigars Torpedo Maduro
10 reviews
8.04 out of 10

Publications

1 May 2005
David Savona – Cigar Aficionado
Rocky II
Rocky Patel built his Indian Tabac cigar with endless trips to American tobacconists and Honduran cigar factories. Now he launches a self-named brand.
PDF

March 2006
Thor Nielsen – Cigar.com Magazine
Interview: Rocky Patel – Indian Tabac

September 2006 – Smoke Magazine Online
Rackish “Rocky” Patel of Rocky Patel Cigars
The Long Road

11 January 2007
James Suckling – Cigar Aficionado
Havana Corner: Factories, Pigs and Politicians

2 April 2007
Gregory Mottola – Cigar Aficionado
New Sun Grown Sixty From Rocky Patel

August 2007
Video – CigarTV.com
Rocky Patel at RTDA 2007 talking about his new releases

Official Rocky Patel Website


… lucky7

“It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep,
and never to refrain when awake.” (Mark Twain)

Cuba Aliados Anniversary

cnv0381.jpg

Before there was Puros Indios there was Cuba Aliados, the original brand and pride of master cigar maker Rolando Reyes, Sr. Today his cigars are made in Danli, Honduras, but the name “Cuba Aliados” conjures up images of an earlier time when these cigars were rolled in Havana.

Reyes’ experience in the cigar business stretches back seventy years and includes training and employment at the Partagas and H. Upmann factories in Havana. Eventually he opened his own factory — the original Cuba Aliados, named for an old bus line — that was producing six million cigars a year for the Cuban domestic market when it was seized by the Castro regime after the revolution.

The Reyes family moved to the United States in 1970, and after struggling to gain a foothold in Union City, New Jersey, Cuba Aliados was born again. Demand for Reyes’ cigars soon exceeded the supply, so they migrated first to Miami where they increased production, and then to Honduras several years later. They still maintain a presence in both Union City and Miami.

For many years Cuba Aliados had an Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper similar to the one on the Puros Indios cigar, and was distributed exclusively by JR Cigars. In 2004, distribution rights were reacquired by Reyes and the occasion was marked by a change to distinguish the two brands — a new Nicaraguan corojo wrapper was introduced to the Cuba Aliados line.

So I was thrilled to receive a sampler pack from Puros Indios that included two of their new Cuba Aliados Anniversary cigars — a beautiful Diadema No. 3 with a natural Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper and a Short in a rich and dark corojo maduro. The press release notes that both of “these unique sizes have come to represent Cuban Master Blender Rolando Reyes Sr. and his 60 years of experience in the tobacco industry.”

These Anniversary cigars celebrate both the century-plus tradition of the Cuba Aliados brand name as well as the seven decades of Don Rolando Reyes’ work in the industry. They will be available in both Nicaraguan corojo and Ecuadoran Sumatra wrappers, with filler from Brazil, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, and Ecuadoran Sumatra binders. All tobaccos are aged for at least six years and total production will be limited to between 200,000 and 300,000 cigars.

The Diadema No. 3 is an example of the cigars maker’s art at its highest. These are made completely by hand and without the use of molds, which takes considerable skill and experience. My sample suffered a little damage in shipping, but I was able to repair it with a little vegetable glue and it smoked fine. The prelight scent is slightly cedary and it cut cleanly to open a free prelight draw. The tapered foot lights as easily as if it were a candle. (In a Cigar Aficionado interview Rolando Sr. joked that some people are intially confused by this unique shape and don’t know which end put in their mouths!)

The first third focuses on cocoa and caramel aromas with a mild taste and almost no finish. It burns slowly and evenly and the ash holds nicely. The flavor builds gradually, bringing at the end a zing of pepper and a sharp aftertaste that sneaks up and wakes me from my reverie as the ash nears my fingertips. This is a very refined cigar with a sweet cubanesque aroma that at times reminded me of maple syrup. It’s an easy going but sophisticated medium-bodied smoke.

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The Short has an altogether different personality, starting with an oily corojo maduro wrapper that makes it look like a thoroughly grilled sausage link. There’s a ton of flavor packed in this 4 x 48 firecracker, but any prelight indication of this is hidden beneath a cedar sheath which imparts a distinctly woody scent to the wrapper. Once lit this little guy pours on a full-bodied sweet and spicy flavor with a rich leathery aroma and some residual cedar. Into the second half, the sweetness from the wrapper predominates. The woody component reminds me of PI’s Cienfuegos, but the Aliados is stouter, with more bittersweet chocolate and coffee notes. This is the heaviest cigar I’ve smoked from Puros Indios, and the rich flavor is best enjoyed slowly, sipped like a smoky cognac. My only criticism is that the thick and oily wrapper tends to burn erratically and needs an occasional touchup.

These are outstanding cigars, the best of the best from Cuba Aliados, and a fitting tribute to the master who started it all so many years ago. Suggested retail prices are $12.00 for the Diadema and $8.00 for the Short.

Thanks to the fine folks at Puros Indios for allowing me to preview these cigars. Stay tuned for the official announcement of interesting developments at PI for 2008: a new company name, a new logo, a new website and — most importantly — new blends, including their first cigar with a Cameroon wrapper!

–cigarfan

Trinidad 100th Anniversary Robusto

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Trinidad is a name that will forever be associated with the legendary “diplomatic” cigar that Fidel Castro bequeathed to lucky statesmen visiting Cuba. It was considered by many to be the most exclusive and presumably the finest cigar of its time. So it came as a surprise when Castro revealed to Marvin Shanken in a Cigar Aficionado interview that he never offered the Trinidad brand to visiting dignitaries — he always presented them Cohibas. In fact, he even denies knowing about the Trinidad brand in that sense.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a reason for that.

The Trinidad 100th Anniversary line was created by Altadis USA to celebrate the founding of the brand by Diego and Ramon Trinidad around 1905. The Trinidad brothers were originally hardware traders who bought their wares in the city of Santa Clara, Cuba, and then transported them for sale to the remote villages of the region. One day they were hauling their empty wagons back to Santa Clara to resupply and they noticed the magnificent tobacco crops of the Pinar del Rio around them. It occurred to them that they might as well fill their wagons and try to sell some of this commodity in Santa Clara when they got there. They did this, and subsequently found themselves in the tobacco business. But eventually they noticed that there was an even greater profit to be had in the final product, cigars. They hired a number of cigar rollers and set up shop in the nearby town of Ranchuelo. The Trinidad y Hermano brand was born.

The business continued to grow and the brothers hired more workers and moved to larger factories. The company was thriving until it was beset by what seemed at first to be a disaster: a large crop of tobacco leaf destined for cigars was attacked by the fearsome tobacco beetle. All seemed lost, so Diego ordered that the remains be chopped up and salvaged for cigarettes. But instead of a loss this turned out to be a windfall. They saw their profits double, and the cigar factory quickly became a cigarette factory.

And while they continued to make cigars, the Trinidads were primarily cigarette producers. By the 1950’s, Diego’s American-educated son, Diego Jr., had refitted and modernized the Trinidad factory into what Cuba’s weekly Bohemia called “An Industrial Giant of Cuba.” In 1959 their earnings were in excess of one million U.S. dollars. But within a few years this wealth and power would fall prey to the treachery of Fidel Castro in a very personal way.

Diego Trinidad was opposed to the Batista government which had seized power in 1952. Batista was a dictator of the first order, and Trinidad saw that if he was overthrown democracy might return to Cuba. This would be good for both Cuba, and his business. Fidel Castro’s revolution presented an opportunity for a return to democracy, the progressive constitution of 1940, and a better life. There was no indication at this point that Castro would seize power for himself and socialize the country’s industries. Documents exist that show Trinidad was approached by Castro for funding, and he thereafter made sizable contributions to Castro’s movement. In part this was to promote safe delivery of cigarettes through hostile territory in the countryside, but in part it had to be because he had faith in the movement. If only Trinidad had known that Castro’s victory would destroy private industry and rob him of his livelihood, he would no doubt have done differently.

So one wonders what goes through Castro’s mind when he hears the name Trinidad. Maybe there’s a very good reason why he denies knowledge of the name of this legendary cigar. It’s pure speculation on my part, but perhaps acknowledgement of a friendship betrayed — especially in the name of the world’s finest cigar — just doesn’t sit well with him.

The Trinidad Anniversary cigar celebrates one hundred years of struggles and success on the part of the Trinidad family. Altadis, who now owns the brand, appears to have released very few of these and I feel privileged to happen upon a few. Data on the release date and number of cigars produced is lacking, but we do know the nature of the blend: a Nicaraguan corojo wrapper, Connecticut broadleaf binder, and filler from Nicaragua, Peru and the Dominican Republic.

Upon first examination I thought there was something wrong with the head of this cigar. It looked like there was some stray tobacco caked or pasted on the cap, so I picked at it a little and to my surprise up popped a thin little pig tail! It was crushed down on top the head so completely that I didn’t even see it when I took the photo above. This, along with a quadruple cap, was my first indication that this was a finely constructed cigar.

The wrapper is an oily, darkish natural color with a little bit of tooth. Prelight the scent was a little grassy, but otherwise unremarkable. A somewhat difficult cut and an easy light later I was greeted with the sweet smell of corojo and gobs of smooth cool smoke. The first half of this cigar is perfectly balanced between sweet caramel flavors and a slightly salty cedar. The draw is a little on the tight side, but accommodating enough to bring a nice tasty cloud with each pull. The burn is even and trouble free, while the ash that builds is a solid white trophy that I proudly display to the dog. The dog is not impressed. I am.

Into the second third the body builds from an easy medium to something approaching full. The flavor wanders into the vicinity of cocoa, backtracks to leather, and then reminds me again of the salty cedar from the start. The last third develops a peppery core on the tongue while caramel and cocoa continue their jig in my nose. At this point I am almost ready to call this robusto “Pepinesque,” but it lacks the horsepower. The finish lengthens and the aftertaste grows spicier, while the smoke remains smooth to the end, departing with a sharp tang as it waves goodbye.

Take a look around your B&Ms for this one. It’s not much more expensive than the regular line Trinidads — around 8 or 10 bucks a pop — but in my opinion it’s light years better. It’s not as full bodied as the standard line, so if that’s what you’re expecting look elsewhere. But if you like a solid medium bodied cigar with a lot of complexity and classic corojo flavors, you won’t regret picking up a few. If you can find them.

VegaFina Robusto

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Over the years there have been several different cigars marketed under the name Vega Fina, mainly because the companies owning the brand name have merged or been acquired or simply changed hands: the brand name appears to have first been owned by Havatampa, an old manufacturer around since the early 1900’s. When Tabalera S.A. de España bought Havatampa in 1997, Vega Fina passed to them and was produced by Benji Menendez in Honduras with an Indonesian wrapper. Two years later, Tabacalera S.A. merged with the French tobacco giant SEITA to form Altadis, S.A. Soon after this, production moved to the Dominican Republic and Vega Fina was produced primarily for the Spanish and Western European market as an affordable Dominican premium (but also as a mass market machine mini cigar very popular in Spain.)

Vega Fina continues to be Spain’s most popular Dominican cigar, so Altadis decided to introduce it to the much larger American market early this year. Today they’re made in La Romana’s Tabacalera de Garcia under the supervision of José Séijas.

The VF robusto is graced by a creamy claro-colored Ecuadorian grown Connecticut Shade wrapper that looks good enough to eat. Beneath this, however, is a binder which causes me a little concern: Indonesian TBN. (I have to remind myself that the wrapper on the Dominican Romeo y Julieta 1875 is also TBN, and it’s not bad stuff.) The VF employs filler from Columbia, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras.

I tend to think of Indonesian TBN as the carpetbagger of cigar tobacco — it seems to turn up only when the “real thing” is no longer available. When Consolidated couldn’t get quality Cameroon in the late 80’s, they turned to TBN. When wrapper leaf of any quality was scarce during the “boom” years, TBN was there. And this is at least partly why it has a such a sullied reputation — it’s often been the alternative, not the prime choice. And unfortunately the alternative, especially during the boom years, was actually bottom-of-barrel tobacco billed as TBN when it may have been something else entirely. So what we were taking in general as “Indonesian” was actually the worst tobacco the region had to offer.

TBN stands for tobaco bawah naungan, which means “tobacco under sheet,” or shade-grown tobacco. Top quality TBN is a cross between native besuki tobacco and Connecticut Shade. It’s a nice looking leaf, so in addition to its blending qualities it can also serve well as a wrapper. Strangely it is also prized for its lack of aroma. I can’t think why this would be appreciated in a wrapper, but used as a binder here perhaps it makes more sense.

The VegaFina robusto is a suave looking cigar. The wrapper is smooth and supple with very few veins. The construction is very good from the start, with a cool even draw and a nearly straight-edge burn. There’s just a hint of pepper at first light. This quickly disappears and is replaced by a very mild bodied smoke with a creamy texture. Up until the half-way point the flavor is mildly woody with some herbal tea accents. The aroma is exceptional — it blends well with the flavor of the cigar and adds a spicy floral component. (Incidentally, there are none of the metallic overtones that I’ve noticed with Indonesian leaf in the past.)

The flavor picks up at the mid-point, not a lot, but enough to be noticed. Another dash of pepper is added to the mix and the finish goes from non-existent to moderately short at this point. The last third stays the course, and finally a discreet bitterness announces that the finish line has been crossed.

Overall the VegaFina robusto is an excellent mild blend: a fine mid-day smoke, great after breakfast. The price is right on these babies as well: I picked up a few for under 3 USD on the reservation, and it looks like boxes can be had for under 75 online. Factoring price into the equation, I think this is my new mild one. (Especially since it’s getting hard to find Nestor Reserve Connecticuts these days…)

–cigarfan

Domaine Avo ’50’

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Avo Uvezian has led a cigar-charmed life. He started out as a jazz pianist and composer, playing and touring as a very young man in Lebanon and the Middle East after World War II. In 1947 he traveled to New York, where he studied at the Juilliard School of Music and eventually was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. (He played piano in the First Army Band.)

After following family members to Puerto Rico and working in the jewelry business for many years he started playing piano at a local resort. He discovered that the guests enjoyed the locally made cigars he kept on the top of his piano, and after giving away one too many of his personal stash, his young daughter Karin suggested that he might as well sell them.

This was the spark that eventually led Uvezian to contact Hendrik Kelner of Davidoff, who had just opened a cigar factory in the Dominican Republic. Avo’s first cigars were called Bolero, but the name was quickly changed to Avo when it was discovered that “Bolero” had already been registered by another manufacturer. The initial production run in 1987 was about five thousand boxes. Today about three million cigars are produced under the Avo brand name and its extensions.

The first Avo cigars – the now Classic line – were released in 1988, but Avo is really more of a song-and-dance man, a self described “PR man,” than a business and paperwork kind of guy, so in 1995 he sold his brand to Davidoff. But he remains, with his trademark Mimbre hat and ice cream suit, the face of Avo Cigars.

The Domaine Avo was blended to be a stronger version of the original Avo. It was released in 1998 in a robusto size only, but other sizes, including this 6 x 50/54 perfecto, were added in 2001. The filler and binder are a blend of San Vicente and piloto from the Avo farms in the Dominican Republic, and the wrapper is Connecticut shade grown in Ecuador. Production is overseen by the inimitable Henke Kelner in Santiago.

This is a beautiful cigar. For a few months I kept it in the top row of my humidor just so I could admire it during those few moments of indecision when I can’t decide what to smoke. The wrapper is a creamy colorado claro with small veins that are just about evenly spaced. The head and perfecto foot are flawlessly formed. There is an overall sense of proportionality and balance to this cigar that makes me hesitant to commit it to the flame.

The head clips cleanly and the prelight draw is much more generous than I expected, even with a nearly closed foot. After an easy light the draw opens up even more and becomes completely effortless. This cigar exhibits excellent construction all the way around — a great draw and a slow even burn.

The Domaine Avo introduces itself with a handful of sharp peppercorn — a surprise, considering the genteel appearance of the cigar. The finish from the start is quite long, and I found myself thinking “This is an Avo?” The texture of the smoke is smooth and creamy like I would expect from Connecticut wrapper, but the aroma carries all the characteristics of Ecuador, a nice easygoing cedary spice.

After the first inch the pepper fades a bit into a mild woody flavor, balsa-like with a salty element. The spice from the wrapper combines with this flavor very well to create a complex smoky brew. The middle third continues in this vein, with the wrapper stealing the spotlight and the base flavors taking a back seat. Into the last third the pepper kicks in again. I found that I had to smoke slowly to keep the smoke in balance at this point– this is where a slightly tighter draw might be appreciated. But of course the sensible thing is to just slow down a little.

The balanced appearance of this cigar seems to be reflected in the way that it smokes: it ends very much the way it starts, with a lot of spicy drama. In between is a pleasantly pastoral interlude. An extremely classy cigar that falls in the medium body range, maybe stretching to full at the end.

The Domaine Avo “50” is not a cheap date, but you’re not taking this one on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the State Fair. This is an operatic cigar, and in my opinion it’s worth the 8 or 10 dollars it sells for. There are a lot of fantastic cigars in that price range (and less, for that matter) but if price isn’t an object this stick is definitely worth a look.

–cigarfan