Cigar Review #12 – Cigar King Gold Series II

The Smoking Gun Cigar Review November 7, 2016

Cigar King Gold Series II

Toro (6.5 x 52)
Last week, when I was writing the review for the Cigar King Gold Series (original), I mentioned I was smoking and making notes on the second generation version of the same cigar. The Gold Series II is also a collaboration between Mitchel Hirsh and Rocky Patel. All the same, setting these two cigars side by side is like comparing “apples to oranges.”

These cigars are produced with different tobaccos, a different factory, but the same quality and care in blending a complex and flavorful cigar. The Gold Series II is a wonderful smoke. There are some similarities in profile between the first and second incarnations, but the smoking experience is COMPLETELY different. If you liked the original, I think you’re going to love this one.

Here’s what I found, in “part deux”:

A little history:

This cigar is another creation of Mitchel Hirsh and Rocky Patel. It was made to replace the original Cigar King Gold Series and is as good, or better, than the first. I don’t know much about the story of this cigar, but, when something is this tasty, who cares why, when or where? I just want to smoke and enjoy it!

As in previous reviews, I’ll list the questions and give an answer for each—based on my personal smoking experience:

What are you smoking?

Cigar King Gold Series II – Toro (6.5 x 52)

Who makes it?

It is a collaboration between Mitchel Hirsh and Rocky Patel.

Where’s it from?

It’s made by Nestor Plasencia at his factory in Esteli, Nicaragua.

What other sizes are available?

Like the original, it is only available in a Toro (6.5 x 52).

 

How much does it cost?

 

I believe the individual stick price is around $8.50. It’s available in a five pack for $32.99 or a box of 20 for $129.95. That puts the price at around $6.50 per cigar, based on box pricing discounts.

That, my friends, is the great thing about buying a box of cigars. This particular deal gives you $2.00 off the single stick price! If you really like a cigar and have the space, it’s always better to buy your cigars by the box. Many retailers will also offer special deals with a box purchase, like a free lighter, cutter or extra sticks. Look for these deals and take advantage.

How well is it constructed?

When you put the names Hirsh, Patel and Plasencia together, you know you’re going to get only the finest quality of tobaccos, blend and construction. This stick is no different. It is superbly constructed with a dark-brown oily wrapper and an expertly finished three-line cap.

(By the way, if you need a way of telling the original Cigar King Gold Series from the Series II, the second generation is the one with the beautiful gold foil, double band. That’s not really part of the construction, but the band can tell you a lot about the quality of a cigar)!

What’s the blend (or, at least, the wrapper)?

The Cigar King website states that the factory uses several experimental hybrid ligero leafs as fillers, grown in three different regions of Nicaragua, with a fourth grown in a small tobacco field in Costa Rica. The binder is Honduran Habano and the wrapper is a special Ecuadorian Habano, chosen from Nestor’s own private stock! The combination of the Honduran and Ecuadorian wrappers, plus the four different tobaccos in the filler, give the cigar a complexity and balance of flavor that allows the smoke to flow across the pallet and engages all of the flavor receptors on your tongue, not just the ones in the center (sweet and bitter).

How did it light?

Great!

How’s the draw?

It was even, throughout.

How does it burn?

Both of my examples had a perfect burn, down to the last tasty draw.

Is there a predominate flavor/taste?

 

My first smell of the cigar was light and slightly sweet, with hints of hay and honey. The foot had a dried fruit smell (like plum). My dry draw carried the flavor of some honey, again, and the dried fruit was still there. However, it didn’t taste sweet. It was rich and flavorful.

The first draw was a lovely mix of flavors and sensations. It was a little sweet, but smooth and complex. From here on it settled into a well-balanced blend with coffee notes and mild pepper/spice. The sweetness was still there, but it wasn’t overpowering.

Did it change as you smoked it?

Oh, yes! The second third opened up to a more bold flavor with less sweetness. The rich smoothness of the smoke coated my tongue and danced across my palate. There was a hint of saltiness that I noted, as well. (It made my mouth water).

The final third up through the finish was bolder, still. The sweetness was even less (almost hard to discern) as notes of cedar came into play. It stayed complex, smooth and creamy to the end. It may sound a bit strange, but in my notes I used the word sensual to describe the taste. And, I don’t use that word often (at least when describing a cigar)!

How would you describe its strength: mild, medium, or strong?

I would call it a medium plus. It does grow in strength as you smoke through it, but I don’t think I’d call it strong.

Would you smoke it again?

Yes (again and again)! It’s so well-balanced and complex. (I may have used those terms a few too many times in this review. But, I call ’em as I see ’em).

Should I try it?

You should! I really liked this cigar. It’s so… you know what I’m going to say. If you like a Nicaraguan flavor profile (that’s not too overbearingly strong) with a hint of sweetness, you’re sure to love this one.

Do you have an extra that you’ll give me?

I could if I would, but I can’t, so I won’t.

Conclusion:

The Cigar King Gold Series II, is a fantastically constructed, well-blended and well-priced example of what three masters of the craft of cigar making can do. It delivers balance and complexity of flavor that is sure to please. Even if you’re new to cigars or think Nicaraguan blends are too full-flavored for your tastes, you should give this one a try. With its mix of

sweetness and spiciness, it is sure to delight the pallets of the most discerning smokers.

This exclusive blend is only available at Cigar King. If you’d like to give it a try, you can stop by the store, located at 7830 E Gelding Dr #100, in Scottsdale, Arizona, or you can buy them through their website (www.cigarking.com).

Either way, tell them you read one of my reviews! I don’t think it will get you any special deals (I’d need to teach you the secret handshake and password for that). But, it would be great to hear that you liked what you read and wanted to try one of the cigars I’ve reviewed.

Well, that’s the end of this edition of The Smoking Gun Cigar Review. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through this page. I’m always happy to answer questions or tell you about what I’ve been smoking. Also, if you liked, appreciated or hated my review, let me know. I want to be a resource for the everyday cigar smoker. You don’t have to be an expert, you just need an hour or so to enjoy a good cigar.

And, remember: don’t let other people tell you what to smoke. If you like it, smoke it!

Advertisements

Cigar Review #11 – Cigar King Gold Series (original)

The Smoking Gun Cigar Review November 2, 2016

Cigar King Gold Series (Original)

Toro (6.5 x 52)

I’m closing in on smoking and reviewing all of the Cigar King exclusive blends. Today’s selection is the original Cigar King Gold Series. I’m finding it very interesting to smoke all of the cigars make by Mitchel Hirsh, owner of Cigar King. Even though all of these brands are cigars made by different factories and are collaborations between Mitchel and other blenders, there is a familiarity across the lines.

It’s hard to explain, but the complexity and balance of all of these cigars are much the same, but very different. If I were going to relate it to food (of which I am a big fan), I would say: I really like Indian food. I love the spices/curries that give them that “Indian” quality. Although the dishes have different ingredients and flavor combinations, they are all easily identified as being Indian; it’s the flavor profile.

The Cigar King exclusive blends are much like that. They’re made in different factories, using different tobaccos, but they all have an underlying consistency. While the obvious identifier is quality, I seem to get the same sort of tasting notes from each cigar. Now, that’s not to say they taste the same. They don’t. But, there are hints of certain things that make me want to try them all and come back to them again and again.

This Gold Series is no different. (As I am writing this, I am smoking and starting my notes on the Gold Series II. Same name; different tobaccos; different taste). I’m finding it to be familiar and tasty- just as the original. Here’s what I found in the first opus:

A little history:

The cigar is the creation of Mitchel Hirsh and Rocky Patel and is a limited production release. It is a small-batch production cigar that only yielded 250 boxes of a Toro (6.5 x 52) size cigar. (I don’t know how many are left of the original, but you might not want to wait on this one!) The Gold Series II is available, as well. I’ll be reviewing it next.

OK. I’ll list the questions and give an answer for each—based on my personal smoking experience:

What are you smoking?

Cigar King Gold Series – Toro (6.5 x 52)

Who makes it?

It is a collaboration between Mitchel Hirsh and Rocky Patel.

Where’s it from?

It is made at Rocky Patel’s El Paraiso Factory in Honduras.

What other sizes are available?

The cigar is only available in a Toro (6.5 x 52).

How much does it cost?

I believe the individual stick price is around $7.00. It is available in a five pack for $34.00 or a box of 20 for $119.95. That puts the price at around $6.00 per cigar, based on box pricing discounts.

How well is it constructed?

It’s a well-constructed cigar. The wrapper and cap are of the same quality you would expect in a premium cigar made in a top-notch factory. It has a lovely dark-brown wrapper with considerable veins, throughout.

What’s the blend (or, at least, the wrapper)?

The wrapper is Connecticut Broadleaf over a San Andreas Maduro binder. The The filler is a mixture of different tobaccos from several regions in Nicaragua.

How did it light?

It was a great light.

How’s the draw?

The draw was good and even.

How does it burn?

The burn was mostly good. I did have some small issues in the final third (but, in all honesty, I was distracted and not paying attention to my cigar.) Operator error!

Is there a predominate flavor/taste?

The smell of the wrapper was that of leather and barn. It did have an underlying sweetness. That combination says, to me, “This is going to be good!” I did catch some difference on the foot. I smelled more sweetness and a hint of cocoa and caramel/burnt sugar. The dry draw was much of the same.

On the first draw, I tasted a richness and fuller body than I had expected from the dry draw. There was a light floral quality with hints of hay/alfalfa and grass. The sweetness was still there, but only on the back end of the flavor combination.

Did it change as you smoked it?

Yes. The second third opened up to a much bolder flavor profile, with the hint of leather returning and a touch of dried fruit sweetness. (It may have been raisin. I was drinking something that may have masked the true flavor). There wasn’t as much pepper/spice as I would have expected with the filler that was used, but it was there, just not as strong.

The final third was stronger, still. The sweetness lessened and the full, rich flavor of the Nicaraguan fillers took center stage. The cigar continued toward a bold and potent finish.

How would you describe its strength: mild, medium, or strong?

I would call it a medium plus with a strong finish.

Would you smoke it again?

Yes, if I can get my hands on more of them. As I said earlier, I don’t know how many they have left. This was a limited run.

Should I try it?

Yes! If you like Nicaraguan tobacco flavors but don’t like the peppery tongue lashing you get with other blends, this is the cigar for you. Trust me. The fullness is there, but it isn’t overpowering.

Do you have an extra that you’ll give me?

No. I think I’m going to have to take this question out of my reviews. I’m tired of people asking me for free cigars!

Conclusion:

The Cigar King Gold Series (original) is a great quality, reasonably-priced cigar. It has tremendous flavor and evolves through some wonderful taste changes. It is closer to bold, especially in the final third, than some of the other Cigar King exclusives, and well worth a try. If you like strength but don’t like peppery spice, it’s a wonderful choice.

Flavor, quality and reasonable price are a rare combination in the cigar world. But, in my humble opinion, Mitchel Hirsh and Rocky Patel have produced a combination of those elements that will make you want to go back to this cigar again and again. I just hope there are some available that will allow us all to give it a try.

As mentioned earlier, this cigar is only available at Cigar King. They can be reached through their website (www.cigarking.com) or you can stop by the store, located at 7830 E Gelding Dr #100, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Either way, tell them you read one of my reviews!

Well, that’s the end of another Smoking Gun review. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through this page. I’m always happy to answer questions or tell you about what I’ve been smoking. Also, if you liked, appreciated or hated my review, let me know. I want to be a resource for the everyday cigar smoker. You don’t have to be an expert, you just need an hour or so to enjoy a good cigar.

And, remember: don’t let other people tell you what to smoke. If you like it, smoke it!

Cigar Review #10 – San Cristobal Quintessence

The Smoking Gun Cigar Review October 28, 2016

San Cristobal Quintessence

Epicure (5 x 52)

I was recently invited to attend a launch event for the new San Cristobal Quintessence. This new cigar was making its first appearance in Arizona at Cigar King, in Scottsdale. Being a big fan of the San Cristobal Revelation, I was very excited to try this cigar. I was given the chance to smoke one at the shop. I took notes on this one and took a second one home for a later smoke. Here’s what I found:

A little history:

The San Cristobal brand is part of the Ashton line-up. It was blended by one of the most celebrated cigar-manufacturers of our time, Jose “Pepin” Garcia. As I mentioned earlier, this is a new blend within the line, called Quintessence. It seems to be a fitting name. The word quintessence means the most perfect example of something or a prime example of quality and class. (Very much like me!) (That was a joke!)

The San Cristobal brand was introduced in 2007 and the Revelation was launched in 2013. So, this is the first new blend they have introduced in several years.

OK. I’ll list the questions and give an answer for each—based on my personal smoking experience:

What are you smoking?

San Cristobal Quintessence – Epicure (5 x 52)

Who makes it?

It is a Don Pepin blend, made by Ashton Cigars.

Where’s it from?

It is produced at My Father Cigars S.A. in Estelí, Nicaragua.

What other sizes are available?

The cigar is available in Robusto (5 x 50), Epicure (6 x 52), Majestic (6 x 60) and Belicoso (6.5 x 54).

How much does it cost?

The retail price of this cigar is around $8.75. The other sizes range in price from $8.50 to $9.50, according to the size.

How well is it constructed?

It is a beautifully constructed and wrapped cigar. (But, what else would you expect from Ashton and Pepin)? The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper is a nice medium-brown colored wrapper with small veins throughout. The cap is finished well. And, (although it isn’t really part of construction), I would like to mention this cigar’s band. With its colorful bird and flowers, it is a beautiful and nostalgic example of a premium cigar band. Even if I didn’t know anything about the blend or production, the band, alone, would make me want to try it! Well done, San Cristobal.

What’s the blend (or, at least, the wrapper)?

The cigar is a Nicaraguan tour-de-force, with an Ecuadorian habano wrapper, over binder and filler tobaccos grown by the García family at their Nicaraguan farms.

How did it light?

Perfectly.

How’s the draw?

The draw was just right—even, but a little tighter than some. (That’s what I like!)

How does it burn?

The burn was consistent and even throughout.

Is there a predominate flavor/taste?

When I first sniffed the wrapper, I noticed hints of leather, mild barn smells, some sweetness (which I think was vanilla). The foot, however, was much sweeter and had a caramel latte note. The dry draw was mild and sweet(ish). On the first draw, there was a definite sweetness with a bitter note (I mean that in a good way), and mild pepper.

The flavor very quickly settled in to grassy with hints of green pepper (like a good merlot). The vanilla was also present, but it was more like vanilla extract (not sweet, just vanilla).

Let’s talk about flavor profiles for a minute. There are four recognized flavor preceptors on our tongues: sweet (which we sense on the front of the tongue), bitter (which we experience on the back of the tongue), salty (which is at the sides in front) and acidic (which is at the sides in back). Additionally, in a more Eastern philosophy, you can add a fifth, Umami.

A common cigar blending technique will combine tobaccos that have very different characteristics that will each “light up” different flavor preceptors on the tongue. This way, you get a balanced and multi-leveled smoking experience. It’s like fireworks of flavor going off all over your mouth. The next time you smoke a cigar, stop and think about what part of your tongue is being stimulated. Is it the front (sweet), sides (salty), back (bitter) or back sides (acidic). You’ll start to know your pallet better and will start tasting cigars differently.

Did it change as you smoked it?

There were some definite changes in flavor as I smoked. In the second third I experienced more grassy notes and pepper, but the sweetness was still there. (It was like putting dried fruit in a savory dish – there, but not prominent).

The final third was much spicier with more pepper and a little more robust. Although, it was still well-balanced and rich. It stayed that way to the finish. It was an all-around tasty, Nicaraguan profile cigar.

How would you describe its strength: mild, medium, or strong?

I think it’s more than a medium, and starts heading toward full-bodied at the end. It was never overly strong, but was pleasantly potent.

Would you smoke it again?

Yes. Now that they are becoming available nationally, I will!

Should I try it?

Most definitely, yes! If you already like the San Cristobal Revelation, or you like a fuller-bodied Nicaraguan, this one might be just what the doctor ordered. Don’t be put off by it being stronger, you’ll still enjoy it. In a conversation with an Ashton sales rep., we decided it was like “a Revelation on steroids!”

Do you have an extra that you’ll give me?

Do you have one to give me? Look at your local brick and moral retailers. Ask your local tobacconist. Order on-line. If you find them, give them a try. If you find very many of them, send some to me!

Conclusion:

I don’t want to plagiarize, so I’m going to give the credit to Ashton Cigars for this quote from their website: “Drawn from a luscious Ecuador Habano wrapper and the finest, premium aged binder and filler tobaccos grown on the Garcia family estates, Quintessence is patiently rolled in Pepin’s immaculate factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, in four classic formats. Captivating notes of molasses, coffee and black pepper intrigue the palate with a placid sweetness. Hints of dried fruit, figs and sugarcane gather in wonderful proportion to culminating spices. Cool, civil aromas emanate throughout a medium to full-bodied finish. San Cristobal Quintessence exemplifies Pepin’s rise to prominence with tasteful indulgence.” (http://ashtoncigar.com/cigars/san-cristobal-cigars/san-cristobal-quintessence).

I don’t think I could come close to saying that in such a poetic way! It’s a great cigar. You should try it. And, you should thank local cigar store owners, like Mitchel Hirsh of Cigar King in Scottsdale, AZ, for supporting new cigars and blends. If the FDA has its way, we may not see anything new for a long, long time—if at all.

Well, that’s the end of another Smoking Gun review. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through this page. I’m always happy to answer questions or tell you about what I’ve been smoking. Also, if you liked, appreciated or hated my review, let me know. I want to be a resource for the everyday cigar smoker. You don’t have to be an expert, you just need an hour or so to enjoy a good cigar.

And, remember: don’t let other people tell you what to smoke. If you like it, smoke it!

 

The product photo was taken from the Ashton Cigars web-site. (http://ashtoncigar.com/cigars/san-cristobal-cigars)

Cigar Review #9 – Cuban Heirloom Connecticut

The Smoking Gun Cigar Review October 13, 2016

Cigar King – Cuban Heirloom Connecticut

Churchill – (7 x 50)

I’m almost through all of the Cigar King exclusive cigars. I hope you’re enjoying reading about them and are enjoying smoking them as well. Here’s one more to add to the list: the Cuban Heirloom Connecticut, made by Perdomo. I think this is the first Connecticut I’ve reviewed. It is a mild, yet tasty wrapper. If you’re looking for a great “early morning, on the patio, with a good newspaper and a cup of coffee” kind of smoke, this Cigar King example fits the bill!

Here’s what I found:

A little history:

The Cuban Heirloom Connecticut Cigars were created exclusively for Cigar King by Nick Perdomo, of Perdomo Cigars. These cigars are crafted by Cuban artisan blenders and rollers to deliver great quality, flavor and (one thing that’s important to many cigar smokers) LOW COST! They are made at the Perdomo Factory using three-year-aged tobacco and finished with a beautiful, honey gold-colored Connecticut wrapper. I believe the line’s been around since 2003, but I will have to check some sources to make sure. I do know it’s been a mainstay of Cigar King for many years and is a favorite of many of their customers.

As always, I’ll list the questions and give an answer for each—based on my personal smoking experience:

What are you smoking?

Cigar King Cuban Heirloom – Connecticut – Churchill (7 X 50)

Who makes it?

They are made exclusively for Cigar King by Perdomo Cigars.

Where’s it from?

They are produced at Tabacalera Perdomo’s manufacturing operation based in Estelí, Nicaragua. The facility is so big that it’s referred to as “El Monstro” (The Monster). The main building is 88,000 square feet, and is the second-largest cigar production facility in Nicaragua).

What other sizes are available?

Along with the Churchill (7 x 50), there is a 556 (5.25 x 56), Robusto (4.88 x 50), Toro (5.55 x 54) and Torpedo (6 x 54). These cigars are also available in four different wrappers (Connecticut, Cameroon, Sun Grown and Maduro). Not all sizes are available in all wrappers. The listing above is just for the Connecticut wrapper.

How much does it cost?

Now, this is where it gets interesting. These cigars come in Mazo (a Spanish word meaning “a group of,” or in this case a bundle of) 20 and range in price from $71.95 to $74.95 (with on-line discounts). That equals less than $4.00 per stick! The individual price of my sample was $6.95. This brings me to a good point. Don’t be afraid of buying bundled cigars. Some of them are extremely high quality smokes. Cigar manufactures often will put premium cigars in bundles (instead of boxes) to keep the cost lower for the consumer. Ask your local cigar dealers if they have any good bundled cigars, and they will lead you to some often overlooked, but great, cigars.

How well is it constructed?

This is a very well constructed cigar. But, would you expect anything less coming out of the Perdomo factory? The wrapper has that lovely honey brown color you would expect in a Connecticut, with small veins and a traditional cap. In addition, it has a nostalgic gold band, that harkens back to the classic pre-embargo Cuban cigars.

What’s the blend (or, at least, the wrapper)?

As I said earlier, this cigar is made from vintage tobaccos (aged three years), with a Connecticut wrapper and a Nicaraguan-grown Criollo binder and filler.

How did it light?

The light was very good. I always like the first draw of a Connecticut wrapper cigar. They are so light and clean tasting.

How’s the draw?

Perfect and even, throughout.

How does it burn?

It was incredibly even, like a row of soldiers marching in formation. Consistency and perfection!

Is there a predominate flavor/taste?

On my first nosing of the cigar, I got hints of light leather and spice, but there was an underlying sweetness. It smelled a little like plum brandy. (I think it’s called Slivovitz. It’s rich and sweet and will definitely keep you warm on a cold night).

The dry draw was exactly the same flavors as I had smelled. But, as I said before, the first draw was clean and light. I did notice some citrus notes (like a good IPA), but they weren’t strong, just present. However, there was no noticeable sweetness. There were light hay and grassy notes.

Did it change as you smoked it?

Oh, yes! That’s one of the great things about a Nicaraguan filler and a Connecticut wrapper. You really get to experience many changes as you smoke. The second third was very “Cubanesk” in flavor, with hints of milder spice and pepper (not black pepper, but more like white pepper). It was mild, but rich. The finish was much bolder, with hints of sweet coffee and cedar.

How would you describe its strength: mild, medium, or strong?

This is a Connecticut wrapper (but Nicaraguan on the inside), so it’s, certainly, not mild, but not strong either. I would put it on the lighter side of medium.

Would you smoke it again?

Oh, yes! Even for someone with a preference for stronger cigars, it was a great smoke. I like lighter cigars in the morning and this one is going on my breakfast menu.

Should I try it?

Yes! If you’re looking for a quality (but less expensive) cigar to fit into that Connecticut niche, I think you should give it a try. There are some trendy brands trying out Connecticut wrappers on their already well-known blends, so we know Connecticuts are becoming more and more popular. Why spend $10+ when you can smoke a tasty example for under $4? Now you can- with confidence!

Do you have an extra that you’ll give me?

Sadly, no. But, you can find them at Cigar King, in Scottsdale, or order them online at http://www.cigarking.com whenever you want. Anyway, why are you always asking me for cigars?

Conclusion:

If you’re looking to try a Connecticut wrapped, Nicaraguan made cigar that is a home-run in quality, taste and cost, look no further. I think you might have found one of your new favorites. Mitchel Hirsh and Nick Perdomo have crafted a beautifully balanced and flavorful cigar that will excite your palate and not empty your cigar buying fund. Although these are bundled cigars, they are of the “Calidad” (look it up – I can’t keep telling you what everything means), that you would expect of Cuban craftsmanship and cigar blending.

The Cuban Heirloom Connecticut Churchill can be found at Cigar King is located at 7830 E. Gelding Dr #100, in Scottsdale and can be found on-line at http://www.cigarking.com. I’m not sure if the name “Heirloom” refers to the crop or to something being handed down, but I’ll hand down this information; “You should try this cigar. You won’t be sorry.”

Well, that’s the end of another Smoking Gun review. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read. Maybe you’re just catching up here and asking, “Why all the Cigar King exclusive reviews?” Because, 1) I love trying new cigars; 2) I think Cigar King is the best cigar store in Phoenix, and; 3) lt’s interesting to taste so many different sticks (that are made by many different and well-known manufacturers) that have been produced by the same person.

You know how most cigars within the same line have similarities in flavor profile? Well, these Mitchel Hirsh collaborations are all different. The only similarities are quality, construction and cost. They’re all worth a try!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through this page. I’m always happy to answer questions or tell you about what I’ve been smoking. Also, if you liked, appreciated or hated my review, let me know. I want to be a resource for the everyday cigar smoker. You don’t have to be an expert, you just need an hour or so to enjoy a good cigar.

And, remember: don’t let other people tell you what to smoke. If you like it, smoke it!

Cigar Review # 8 – Cigar King Aged Reserve Maduro

The Smoking Gun Cigar Review October 7, 2016 Cigar King – Aged Reserve Maduro
Pyramide – (6 x 52)

As I continue my quest to try all of the Cigar King exclusive brands, I decided on the Aged Reserve Maduro for this edition. This inexpensive cigar is definitely a mover. Don’t be fooled by the price. It’s made from the same premium tobaccos as the other Cigar King brands, but has a price that might make you think twice about how many boxes (yes, I said boxes and not bundles) you might want to buy.

So, let’s dive right in. Here’s what I found:

A little history:

Introduced in 2005, the Cigar King Aged Reserve has been flying off the shelves for over 15 years. It’s combination of value, quality, and flavor are the keys to its success. The cigar is a collaboration between Mitchel Hirsh and General Cigar Company that took five years to craft. One unique feature of the cigar is that each cigar is wrapped in tissue, leaving only the band and the top inch of the cigar exposed. According to the Cigar King website (www.cigarking.com) and common logic, this method protects the foot of the cigar while still allowing you to view this gorgeous cigar’s wrapper.

Just like before, I’ll list the questions and give an answer for each—based on my personal smoking experience:

What are you smoking?

Cigar King Aged Reserve – Pyramide Maduro (6 X 52)

Who makes it?

They are made exclusively for Cigar King by General Cigar Company.

Where’s it from?

They are hand made at the HATSA cigar factory in Honduras.

What other sizes are available?

Along with the Pyramide (6 x 52), there is a Churchill (7 x 50), Corona (5.5 x 46), Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 52) and Gigante (6 x 60). All sizes are available in both Natural and Maduro.

How much does it cost?

All sizes come in boxes of 25 and range in price from $72 to $79 dollars (with on-line discounts). You can buy any any size, with the exception of the Gigante (which sells for $6.95), for $5.95, in-store.

How well is it constructed?

Both of my examples were meticulously constructed, with a strong pointed cap. (This is something I like on a pyramid or torpedo [shaped] cigar. If there’s not a good sharp point, the cigar probably wasn’t rolled well). The wrapper was a rich dark color with a light oily sheen. I do want to mention my cut on these cigars. On one, I used a straight cut, which works very well with a pyramid, though the cut was farther down than you might think is appropriate.

If you think about the fact that the end of this style cigar is tapered, you will get a much better draw if you cut farther down (this keeps the smoke from funneling through a small opening and having a hard draw). On the second cigar, I angled my blade to about 45 degrees. This opens up a larger amount of filler and seems to make the cigar smoke and taste better. As much as you think it will, it doesn’t effect the burn. Try it sometime and see what you think.

What’s the blend (or, at least, the wrapper)?

The blend is slow-aged Dominican and Honduran filler tobaccos along with an Ecuadorian binder leaf. The wrapper is Broadleaf Maduro (or Connecticut Shade, if you choose the natural wrapper, which are both grown in the USA and are from a 1997 crop of tobacco that is a Cigar King exclusive).

How did it light?

It lit well.

How’s the draw?

It was good and even throughout the cigar.

How does it burn?

It was consistent and even. I did have one little spot near the final third that I needed to tidy up, but it only happened on one of the two sticks (most likely operator error)!

Is there a predominate flavor/taste?

On my first sniff, I caught some leather and light spice. There was also a slight floral quality, but that might have been caused by the insect repellant I had just put on. (The mosquitos were viscous that night!). On the foot, I got a hint of honey.

The dry draw gave me another taste of that honey sweetness. However, there was also a rich dark quality, as well (like a good dark chocolate truffle, with a sweet caramel filling). As I lit the cigar I was very surprised by the character of the smoke. It was much bolder than I would have expected after the dry draw.

Did it change as you smoked it?

There were some definite changes as I smoke through it. As I settled in to the cigar, I tasted the leather notes again and got a hint of walnut, but there was no noticeable sweetness. The second third was a little bolder with more of the spiciness showing through and some black pepper. In the final third there was even more spice and the nutty quality returned. (I swear it tasted like good English black walnuts, to me).

How would you describe its strength: mild, medium, or strong?

Both of my examples were the maduro wrapped version, and I would put them in the medium- bodied category, despite the milder start.

Would you smoke it again?

I would. It’s rare to find a quality smoke for under $4 per stick (based on the box pricing). Just like many of you, I’m always on the look out for good, inexpensive smokes!

Should I try it?

You should! I don’t think you’ll find too many cigars of this quality at this price. I know I always say yes, but this one is a “no-brainer.” Also, you can take a handful of them with you to the golf course and give them to your buddies without breaking the bank. They’ll get a great smoke and you’ll be the hero of the group (even if you shoot 20 over par)!

Do you have an extra that you’ll give me?

At the price of these cigars, I’ll see what I can do. But, probably not. I think you should be buying some for me to thank me for telling you about them.

Conclusion:

The Cigar King Aged Reserve is a good quality, medium-bodied, premium cigar that is available exclusively at Cigar King. No matter if you’re looking for an everyday smoke or something for a special occasion, this is the stick for you. Most of the time a cigar of this price comes in a cellophane bundle. Now, I’m not saying that all bundled cigars are of lesser quality, but many are. These cigars are beautifully boxed and carefully crafted to give you a rich, flavorful and well-balanced smoking experience.

If you live in Central Arizona, stop by Cigar King, at 7830 E. Gelding Dr #100, in Scottsdale

and try one today. If you aren’t fortunate to live in the “Valley of the Sun,” you can always order on-line at http://www.cigarking.com. Either way, you should try the Cigar King Aged Reserve. I think you’ll find yourself coming back to this stick again and again.

Thanks for joining me for another review. I do hope you’ve enjoyed the read and, have perhaps, learned a thing or two. Just for the record, I don’t always like everything I smoke, but I don’t want to be too critical of a cigar others might love. We all have different tastes! So, if there’s a cigar you would like to know about, ask me. I’ll let you know what I think.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through this page. I’m always happy to answer questions or tell you about what I’ve been smoking. Also, if you liked, appreciated or hated my review, let me know. I want to be a resource for the everyday cigar smoker. You don’t have to be an expert, you just need an hour or so to enjoy a good cigar.

And, remember: don’t let other people tell you what to smoke. If you like it, smoke it!

The product phone was taken from the Cigar King website. 

Cigar Review #7 – HVC Pan Caliente

The Smoking Gun Cigar Review October 4, 2016

HVC – Pan Caliente

Robusto – (5 x 50)

In my search for new and exciting cigars, I recently came across HVC. The company was founded in 2011 by Reinier Lorenzo and started as a way of paying homage to Havana City, where he lived for most of his life. According to their website (www.hvccigars.com), their products are “inspired by the cigar tradition of Cuba, specifically Havana City, while incorporating the customs of our adopted U.S. home.”

I decided to write this review and post it prior to the arrival of Reinier Lorenzo, owner of HVC Cigars, to the Phoenix area on October 11. For those interested, there will be an amazing cigar dinner put on by Mitchel Hirsh owner of Cigar King at Sanctuary Resort on October 11th at 6pm. You will be able to meet and talk to Reinier Lorenzo, but also enjoy the opportunity to smoke three special cigars from the HVC line during a dinner pairing event.

So, in anticipation of the event, I picked up a few of the HVC sticks and gave them the once over. Here’s what I found:

A little history:

HVC is a relatively new company. They were founded in 2011. As mentioned above, Reinier Lorenzo is the owner and they have several lines within the brand. The Pan Caliente was the first one I’ve tried.

The name comes from Cuban slang and literally means “hotcakes,” but is intended to mean, “it’s selling like hotcakes.” I think it’s a good name, because this cigar could become a favorite. It’s a good stick at a great price!

Just like before, I’ll list the questions and give an answer for each—based on my personal smoking experience:

What are you smoking?

HVC Pan Caliente – Robusto (5 X 50)

Who makes it?

It is made by HVC Premium Cigar Company, owned by Reinier Lorenzo.

Where’s it from?

It’s produced at the Raices Cubanas factory, in Danlí, Honduras.

What other sizes are available?

It’s only available in a Robusto (5 X 50).

How much does it cost?

The Pan Caliente Robusto costs around $6.25 per stick, which is a great price for a cigar of this quality. It comes in a 25 count box, so that puts the price around $155, minus any discounts you might get on a box purchase.

How well is it constructed?

The cigar is beautifully constructed with a mahogany brown wrapper, small veins throughout, a light oily sheen and what I would call a marble head cap. I did some research and found out it’s actually called a “109-style cap”. So, what is that, you ask? That’s a good question. I tried to find some information on it, because honestly, I didn’t know.

A cuban 109 style cap is designed to allow the smoker, through the depth of the cut, to control the draw on the cigar. If you cut it shallow (close to the tip) you will get a tighter draw, and if you cut down further, a looser one. The shape is kind of like the end of a classic fountain pen cap. Its domed and perfectly rounded. It sort of looks semi-spherical, like half of a marble. I don’t know anything else about how it’s done, but I know I like it!

What’s the blend (or, at least, the wrapper)?

Although the cigar is produced in Honduras, it appears to be a Nicaraguan puro (that means all of the tobacco used, comes from Nicaragua). The blend is listed as “Made with the finest leaves from Aganorsa farms in Nicaragua.” So, not only is it all from Nicaragua, it’s from the same farm! No other information is given about the blend, other than the wrapper, which is Nicaraguan Criollo ’98.

How did it light?

The light was perfect.

How’s the draw?

I cut it a shallow, so my draw was a little tighter than normal. But, that’s what I like. It was a firm but smooth draw.

How does it burn?

No problems from either example. Good burn- a nice tight ash!

Is there a predominate flavor/taste?

When I first smelled this cigar, I experienced notes of leather and a light sweetness. The foot was very similar, but with less of the sweetness that I picked up on the wrapper. On the dry draw, I did notice more of a grassy quality. When I lit it, the grassy/hay flavor was predominate, but the sweetness was still there. A couple of draws into it, I was hit with some black pepper on the back of my tongue, which I love. The combination of sweet and spicy is one of my favorites.

Did it change as you smoked it?

The flavor became more bold as I smoked it. I tasted more pepper and it finished with a punch of spice that made me want to keep smoking (even through I was about to burn my fingers).

How would you describe its strength: mild, medium, or strong?

Although, it started fairly mild, there were very pleasant changes throughout the length of the cigar. I would have to call it a medium (when you average it out from start to finish).

Would you smoke it again?

I would love to smoke it again. I’m also trying some of the other cigars in the line. (While I’m writing this, I’m smoking an Edición Especial 2015, which I will review shortly).

Should I try it?

Yes! Right before the FDA Deeming Rule came into effect, earlier this year, new cigars were flooding the market. You’ve probably seen some brands pop up in your local shops and on-line that you’ve never heard of or seen before. While HVC isn’t that new, you still might not have heard of it. It’s definitely worth a try. If you’re looking for something with a little sweetness and good amount of pepper, this one’s for you.

Do you have an extra that you’ll give me?

I know, this question is getting old. And, the answer is still, no. You can find them in more and more brick and mortar cigar stores, as the company expands their market. They have great reps out there (like Anthony and Melanie Cantelmo, of Fear the Beard Cigar Brokerage) and the word is getting out about these great cigars.

If you’re in the Phoenix area, you should try to attend the dinner I mentioned earlier. It’s always great to get together with other cigar enthusiasts, have a great meal, and smoke some good cigars. (And, for some reason, they always taste better when you smoke them with the person that made them)!

Conclusion:

HVC Pan Caliente is a fantastic cigar at a very reasonable price. You might have to look around a bit to find it, but your search will be rewarded with a complex, flavorful and tasty cigar. Just because you might not have heard of something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it, right? There are so many great cigars out there! Smoke them. Try them. Enjoy them. You might just find a new favorite.

So, that’s it for this one. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it and, perhaps, you learned a thing or two. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through this page. I’m always happy to answer questions or tell you about what I’ve been smoking. Also, if you liked, appreciated or hated my review, let me know. I want to be a resource for the everyday cigar smoker. You don’t have to be an expert, you just need an hour or so to enjoy a good cigar.

And, remember: don’t let other people tell you what to smoke. If you like it, smoke it!

Product photo was taken from the HVC Premium Cigar Company website, located at http://www.hvccigars.com/#/shop/20772.

Cigar Review #6 – Ezra Zion All My EX’s Maduro

The Smoking Gun Cigar Review September 27, 2016

Ezra Zion – All My EX’s Maduro

Toro – (6 x 52)

Since Ezra Zion Cigars appeared on the scene a few years ago, they’ve had their share of great reviews and praise. I first saw the brand after moving to Arizona a few years ago. I think it was in 2014 that I found my first Ezra Zion on the shelves of my local brick and mortar shop. I thought it looked like a well-made and beautiful cigar, but the price was a bit high for a new and unknown product. I did, begrudgingly, try one. As memory serves, it was very good. I got in a conversation about quality vs. price, with friend of mine, who also works in the industry.

Obviously, Ezra Zion was a good cigar and was made with fine tobacco, but it was too pricey for the every day smoker. Most people will dole out $7 or $8 to try a new cigar, but when you go over $10, and the cigar brand is unknown, you’ll have trouble getting people to try your product. I remember saying, “If they can get the price under $10, they will sell those cigars, all day long!”

Well, they did. At the IPCPR Trade Show, the following year, Ezra Zion introduced new pricing and new products and have been (pardon the pun) on fire ever since. The FHK Truth, Tantrum PA and All My EX’s, have been welcome additions to my daily cigar routine and to my humidor. It was a sad day when the original All My EX’s stopped production (although, I was just able to find a box of the robusto’s at Cigar King and bought them all for “safe keeping.”) This cigar is the only one of my “ex’s” I’ve been sad to see go, or that I was glad to welcome back for another try!

Ezra Zion has introduced the new All My EX’s in with a Maduro wrapper, and I was asked to give it a try. Here’s what I found.

A little history:

This is a new cigar that takes over where the original All My EX’s left off. It’s a limited run of 20,000 cigars (like the original). The company is based in Texas and is run by Noel Rojas. So, it is fair to say, “All My EX’s lives in Texas.

To my knowledge, Ezra Zion is not an old company. I can find a few mentions of them on-line from 2013, but nothing from before that. I did find one reference to the name of the company. Apparently, it comes from the names of two of the founder’s children who died young. Also, the original owners were the founders of Cigar Federation. I’m not sure if the ownership is the same now. I’ll see what I can find out and add it to a future article.

Just like before, I’ll list the questions and give an answer for each—based on my personal smoking experience:

What are you smoking?

All My EX’s Maduro – Toro (6 X 52)

Who makes it?

It’s made by Ezra Zion Cigar. In case you want to check our their other offerings, here’s their webpage: http://www.ezrazionstore.com

Where’s it from?

It’s made at Tabacaleras Aroma de Jalapa, in Esteli, Nicauragua.

What other sizes are available?

It’s available in three sizes: Robusto (5 X 50), Toro (6 X 52), and Lancero (7 X 42).

How much does it cost?

The manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) is: Robusto – $8.50, Toro – $8.95 and Lancero – $8.95. They come in a 25 count box, so that puts the price around $220, minus any discounts you might get on a box purchase.

How well is it constructed?

The cigar looks a lot like the original version, only darker or oilier. It is a beautiful dark brown wrapper with a light oily sheen. There are small veins, throughout and the cap is finished well.

What’s the blend (or, at least, the wrapper)?

The binder is Nicaraguan, but I’m not sure what type of tobacco. The filler is a mix of Nicaraguan Corojo and Criollo. The wrapper is a Mexican San Andreas Maduro.

Since they are often misunderstood, let’s talk a little bit about wrappers. There are many wrappers commonly used in the cigar industry and they all have their own subtleties and characteristics. I’m only going to focus on a few here.

On the lighter side (both in color and flavor) is Connecticut. It can be grown and called Connecticut Broadleaf, when it is grown in direct sunlight, or Connecticut Shade, if its life is spent under a cheesecloth-type covering that blocks the sun’s direct rays.

Next, we have Corojo. It’s a little darker in color than the Connecticut wrapper. Originally grown in Cuba, the seeds were transported and now it’s mostly grown in Honduras. The original seeds were genetically modified in order to survive their new environment, so it does taste different than the original.

Getting darker in color and complexity is Habano. Ecuadorian Habano is, arguably, the most commonly used wrapper in the cigar industry. It’s very similar in color to Corojo and it’s also from Cuba. Today it’s grown mostly in Ecuador and Nicaragua. There are differences in taste and quality between these two wrappers. I tend to like Ecuadorian Habano a little more. It produces a predominately spicy flavor and a good amount of smoke. It is higher in nicotine than a Connecticut or Corojo wrapper, so be prepared.

Although there are many other common wrappers used in today’s cigar industry (Sumatran, Cameroon, Candela and Oscuro, to name a few) the last one I want to focus on is Maduro. It is the darkest in color and most intense, in flavor, of the four. It takes a long time for it to process and gain the rich dark color many cigar smokers enjoy. The tobacco will go through years of being stacked, unstacked and restacked before it reaches tobacco ‘maturity’ and is ready to be used as a wrapper. Maduro cigars seem to produce a sweeter quality, that is rich and full on the palate. The Ezra Zion All My EX’s Maduro is no exception.

There are studies that say the wrapper of a cigar could be responsible for up to 70% of the flavor. So, once you’ve found a wrapper you like, you will most likely enjoy it on other cigar blends. Try them all and see what you prefer.

You might also find that your taste changes according to the time of day, place you are smoking, or what you’ve had to eat. I like lighter tastes in the morning, like a good Connecticut Shade cigar, but prefer something a bit heavier and more flavorful at night, after a good meal. So, a Maduro is like my dessert, in a smokable form.

How did it light?

It was flawless. It lit even and well.

How’s the draw?

It has a tighter draw than some, but not too tight. It was even and enjoyable throughout.

How does it burn?

I got a great burn from both my cigars. I didn’t have to relight or retouch either one. They both held a very stable and lovely salt and pepper ash.

Is there a predominate flavor/taste?

When I took my first sniff, I did get nice hints of hay and leather, but there was an underlying richness and sweetness. The foot smelled a little bit like cocoa. On the dry draw, there was definitely a “nutty” taste. (If you really want to know, it tasted like walnuts to me).

When I started smoking the cigar, I tasted those hay and leather notes again, but also tasted that richness that made the cigar have a creamy quality, while maintaining its boldness. I also tasted the nut flavor again, but now it was more like pecan.

Did it change as you smoked it?

I did start getting some spice at the start, but it was masked by all the other lovely tastes I was experiencing. Near the end of the first third, I started to get some spice/pepper. In the second third, there was more spice and it was less sweet, but the creamy richness still came through. As I got to the final third, the nuttiness returned and the spice stayed strong to the finish.

How would you describe its strength: mild, medium, or strong?

I would call it a good, solid medium-bodied cigar with some lovely spiciness.

Would you smoke it again?

Of course! It’s a great cigar at a great price. I’m going to have to try the lancero, since that’s one of my favorite sizes!

Should I try it?

Yes. If you like a good Nicaraguan flavor profile, this one is right up you’re alley. Also, I think it would be a nice one to try if you like milder cigars but are looking to try something with a bit more oomph.

Do you have an extra that you’ll give me?

No. But, it can be found at many brick and mortar cigar shops throughout the country and on-line. If your local store doesn’t carry Ezra Zion, encourage them to get it. I don’t think you (or your tobacconist) will be disappointed.

Conclusion:

The new Ezra Zion All My EX’s Maduro is another homerun by Rojas. It’s a great smoke, a great price and a limited-edition that won’t be around for long. The company has reported that it intends to only make 20,000 cigars with this blend. The run will include 800 boxes total (300 boxes of robusto and toro and 200 boxes lancero). If this cigar is as well-received as the original All My EX’s, we will all be lucky if they last to the middle of 2017. (If I’m lucky, I’ll buy up a good amount of them myself).

The only good news about this and the past limited runs of All My EX’s is that Ezra Zion will be coming up with more delicious blends of their crop and sharing them with the cigar smoking community (as long as the FDA doesn’t get their way). So, if you want to keep trying new cigars, get involved and make your voice heard. Here’s a link that will help you understand what’s going on in the industry and how you can get involved: http://savetheleaf.org

Alright, that’s another review done. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it and, perhaps, you learned a thing or two. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through this page. I’m always happy to answer questions or tell you about what I’ve been smoking. Also, if you liked, appreciated or hated my review, let me know. I want to be a resource for the everyday cigar smoker. You don’t have to be an expert, you just need an hour or so to enjoy a good cigar.

And, remember: don’t let other people tell you what to smoke. If you like it, smoke it!

Product photo was taken from the Ezra Zion Webpage:  http://www.ezrazionstore.com/pages/all-my-exs