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!

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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 # 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

Cigar Review #4 – Havana Soul

The Smoking Gun Cigar Review September 15, 2016 Havana Soul
Toro – (6 x 52)

Here’s another find from the Cigar King exclusive collection. I’m so happy to have found this place! These store brands have been carefully blended, created and rolled to produce a very good cigar- good on the tongue AND the wallet. This Havana Soul is another fine example of a great smoke that you can’t find anywhere else. While you might think this blog is only focused on the brand of one company, I’ve been smoking several blends in the past weeks and taking notes on a wide range of cigars from many different companies. Those reviews will be posted soon. But, in the short term, I thought it would be fun to try all of the different house blends made for Cigar King and compare the flavors and quality of some of the internets best-selling cigars, that are also available in my local brick and mortar cigar shop.

A little history: As I started doing some research on this cigar, I found it had an interesting history. Although it has been recreated and re-blended several times, it still comes across as a premium example of a medium to full Nicaraguan cigar.

The first version was a collaboration between Mitchel Hirsh and Don Pepin Garcia. It was blended and manufactured by Don Pepin Garcia, at the El Rey de los Habanos factory in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida. It was well-acclaimed and very popular. However, that cigar was discontinued in 2007. In 2010, Rocky Patel reintroduced the line, and despite its success, ended production within a relatively short period of time.

Finally, (I believe in 2015), a collaboration was born between Mitchel Hirsh and A. J. Fernandez, using the same blend and tobaccos from the original production. This modern Havana Soul is produced at the Tobacalera Fernandez factory, located in Esteli, Nicaragua. I’ve never had one of the original DPG version of this cigar, but I can’t imagine it could be any better than the newest incarnation.

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

What are you smoking?

Havana Soul – Toro (6 X 52)

Who makes it?

It’s made exclusively for Cigar King by A.J. Fernandez.

Where’s it from?

Its made in Esteli, Nicaragua at the Tobacalera Fernandez Factory.

What other sizes are available?

The only size available is a Toro (6 X 52). It is a limited run of 200 boxes of 20. You might want to try

it sooner rather than later. I don’t think they’ll last very long.

How much does it cost?

The Cigar King website has it priced at $37.95 for a five pack, $69.95 for a ten pack or $129.95 for an attractive black lacquered box of 20. I think my two individual sticks cost around $9.00 each.

How well is it constructed?

The cigar is beautifully constructed. I don’t know how they do it and I know it doesn’t make sense, but it looks well-finished and rustic at the same time. There are small veins throughout the wrapper and it has a nice oiliness to complement the dark color of the wrapper. The cap is a traditional three liner. I usually don’t talk about bands, but this one is a classic. It has definite “old word charm” and raises the sophistication level of the overall appearance of the cigar. It has a nostalgic feel that, I imagine, is what a cigar looked like 100 years ago. (I’m not that old!)

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

The blend is an aged Nicaraguan filler and binder with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The cigar is aged for one year after being rolled. This produces very rich flavors and aromas. I caught nice leather and barn notes on the wrapper and a hint of vanilla and cocoa on the foot.

One thing I’ve not discussed in my blog is a dry draw. Many cigar smokers and experts say you can taste a good amount of “what the cigar is all about,” by cutting it and taking a few draws before you light it. I do this, especially when I am reviewing a cigar. It allows me to taste the raw quality of the tobaccos used in the blend. You will often taste things you’ve never experienced when smoking. On the Havana Soul, I was able to pick out more of the richness that was about to come and a hint of sweetness that I didn’t expect. Try it sometime. It’s a good way to start developing your palette and tasting all those “hints and whiffs” that many cigar reviews talk about. (You can also tell if your cigar is plugged before you light it and find out if the cigar you have chosen sucks…or doesn’t, as the case may be).

How did it light?

It was a good light. I used a Xikar double torch lighter. If you’d like to know more about lighters and lighting, read my article called, “Cigar Etiquette #2 – Lighting and Smoking.”

How’s the draw?

The draw was a little on the firm side. But, this gave the cigar a good “mouth feel,” which I really like. Not too loose…not too tight.

How does it burn?

I smoked two of the Havana Soul Toros and had no problems with either. They burned evenly and perfectly.

Is there a predominate flavor/taste?

As I smoked the cigars, I did notice a lot of rich flavors that came in and out as I went through the cigar. However, for me to mention everything might be a bit overwhelming and convoluted. As I’ve said before, you might not taste the sames things I do. I have very strong flavor preceptors, so I’ll make it general. It was rich and spicy. I did get some pepper notes, that I have to mention. If you like that Nicaraguan spicy pepper taste, you’ll like this cigar.

Did it change as you smoked it?

The cigar did change as I smoked through it. In the second third, it became a little bolder and in the final third (almost exactly two thirds of the way through the cigar), I tasted a strong black coffee quality. It was so present and tasty, it made me want a cup of joe. But, it was at ten in the evening and I didn’t want to be up all night.

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

It is, definitely, on the stronger side of medium, with a finish I would call the lighter side of bold.

Would you smoke it again?

Yes, please! I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of some well known Nicaraguan blends I’ve had in the past (spicy and rich).

Should I try it?

You should! I think it’s a great price (especially by the box). I think you’ll have trouble finding a comparably price cigar of this quality.

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

No. But, you can order them online at http://www.cigarking.com or pick some up at Cigar King, in Scottsdale, Arizona. If you get the last box of 200, please let me know and please share. You owe me something for telling you about them!

Conclusion:

The Havana Soul by Cigar King and A. J. Fernandez is a fantastic cigar that is sure to be sought after and considered a classic when it’s gone. It’s rich and bold, spicy and delicious. I hope that Mitchel Hirsh can continue to come up with the same quality of fine cigars he has produced through his great collaborations with major blenders and factories. However, if the FDA gets its way, we may not be able to enjoy anything new. If you don’t know about the new FDA regulations on cigars, please look it up and support the cause of cigars. We have to make our voices heard if we want to continue smoking new and exciting blends.

If you do happen to stop by Cigar King or order on-line, tell them you read one of my reviews and want to try a cigar I’ve suggested. Also, if you have a stick you would like to know more about, please let me know. I’m happy to tell you what I think and share my knowledge and research with you.

So, that’s it for this review. 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 Etiquette #2 – Lighting and Smoking

Smoking Gun Cigar Review September 12, 2016

Cigar Etiquette #2

Lighting and Smoking

Sorry I kept you waiting with that cut cigar and no idea what to do next. I’m pretty sure you figured it out on your own. The next step is lighting; one quick word on prepping that cigar: Don’t cut a cigar until you’re ready to smoke. It will contribute to the drying out of the tobacco and your cigar won’t smoke well. If you don’t have a cutter but you still want to prepare your stick in the cigar store, that’s fine, but you need to smoke it within a few hours or you’ll regret it. (I usually can’t go more than a few minutes).

As long as people have lived on earth, they have liked to set fire to things. I think this is why we have so many options for lighting things today. When it comes to cigars, we have the obvious choices of candles and other open flames, but I would strongly discourage either of those, because both can negatively effect the taste of your cigar. Matches are an option, but it’s hard to light a cigar with a regular kitchen match. There are cigar matches that are elongated and, obviously, burn longer, but they are kind of expensive. They are also difficult to keep lit in any kind of breeze or wind. If you’re going to use a match, strike it and let the sulfur burn off the tip before you use it on your cigar. If you don’t do this, you’ll likely experience that sulfuric taste in the first few draws.

Another natural choice would be cedar. A small strip of cedar, referred to as a “spill,” is a great way to light a cigar (if you have the time and aren’t in a windy area). Here is an excerpt from my review of the Cigar King’s Purofino Milenio by PDR that talks about lighting with a spill.

Light the strip of cedar (referred to as a “spill”), then toast the foot, never touching the flame to the cigar. When you do this you just want to toast the foot, rotating the cigar around until you just see a few wisps of smoke. You’re not lighting the cigar just yet, you’re getting the tobacco as close as you can to spontaneous combustion. Hold the flame of the spill under the cigar about an inch away from the foot of the cigar— not touching it. Draw on the cigar and you will see the flame magically flash up to the cigar. Draw and rotate the cigar until it is lit. Never touch the flame to the cigar! This can cause a charred taste to appear, and you don’t want that. Try lighting your next cigar this way. It’s a very traditional and nostalgic way of lighting. If you don’t know where to get a cedar spill, ask your local tobacconist. They usually keep some around for people to take. Try it. I think you’ll like it.

Next, we come to lighters. There are so many choices on the market that I’m only going to mention a few good and bad choices. First, we have the famous Zippo lighter. While great for lighting cigarettes and other things, don’t, I repeat, DON’T use it to light a cigar. Zippos are fueled by lighter fluid, and unless you are a fan of the taste, it’s a bad choice.

Second, are “soft-flame” lighters. These lighters emit a candle-like flame and are fueled by butane. You can find the cheap form of these lighters at most convenience stores, groceries or gas stations (Bic being the most common). They are inexpensive and easy to use. However, they are not designed to be left lit for very long, and you have a good chance of burning your fingers in the cigar lighting process. There are better choices. On the more economical end of the spectrum, Djeep makes a great disposable cigar lighter. You might have seen them as give-aways at a cigar event, but you can usually buy them at cigar stores. They are larger than a Bic, and last much longer. I kept one in my car for over a year and it still worked.

There are better choices, though, for the cigar smoker. Xikar, Calibri, S. T. Dupont and Jet Line are a few very good companies, most with lifetime or, at least, limited warrantees. All of them use butane and can be kept and refilled for years. (I have one soft flame Calibri that I’ve had for at least 15 years and it still works as well as it did the first time I used it). You’ll find a range of pricing, as cheap as $19, that will do the job and do it well.

The last, and most commonly used style I want to discuss is the torch lighter. You can find torch versions of all the lighters I’ve mentioned above. These are also fueled by butane, but produce a strong jet of flame with which to light. You’ll find anything from a single jet torch to four or five jets. Here’s the thing—the more jets you have in your lighter the hotter and faster it will light a cigar. Of course you’ll also burn through fuel more quickly. I have a single jet that I use on my porch that only needs to be filled once every two months. My lighters with more jets have to be filled every week or even every few days, according to how much I use them. If you’re lighting a cigar to enjoy outside during a hurricane, a four or five jet might be a good choice, if not, one or two will do the trick.

The only drawback I have found with a torch lighter is using it outside during the daytime. Remember that the fuel is butane. This makes the flame blue. Frankly, on a bright sunny day on the golf course, I can’t tell if it’s lit or not. It does make it a bit harder to light a cigar and not char the end if you can’t see the flame. I never have had any trouble with one on a windy day. There are some new torch lighters that have a coating of nickel around the jets. This causes the flame to change to a lovely red color, which is much easier to see. However, I’m not sure how long the effect will last before the nickel is burned up.

Now, let’s light that cigar. If you read the first part of this blog, you already know how to use a cedar spill to light your stick. That’s the same method you should use with a match or a soft-flame lighter (toast, rotate, draw – never touching the flame to the cigar). It’s not as easy as it sounds. At least lighting up cigar after cigar is a practice that you can enjoy as you get the technique down.

Lighting with a torch is a little different. Some experts say it does change the taste of the cigar. There’s no way you can do it without charring the end of the cigar. You’re placing a jet blast (or multiple jets) on the foot of the cigar. The jets are burning at 2,600 degrees fahrenheit. I’ve burned by fingers and, on one occasion, part of my beard while lighting a cigar. (That’s a story for another time).

If you’re going to use a torch, and chances are most of you own one (they’re a bit of a cigar parlor status symbol), start the lighter and hold it an inch or so from the foot of the cigar. Don’t put it right up to the foot, you’ll get a tobacco scented candle and not a cigar. Rotate the lighter or the cigar, making sure you’ve toasted (or as the case may be, torched) the entire foot. Try not to let the flame touch the wrapper. It will char quickly and easily. When the foot is all aglow, looking like it is already lit, hold the lit torch an inch or so below the foot of the cigar and draw. It will, most likely, immediately take…and you’re smoking!

Now sit back and enjoy a great smoking experience. Don’t be rushed. Relax and let the wonderful flavors dance across your tongue. Most experts suggest to draw on the cigar about once every thirty seconds. I’ll admit, I usually smoke a little faster than that. The most important thing is to take your time. If you draw too quickly, you will cause the tobacco to burn faster than it was intended and you will probably get a harsh taste and a hard ash (one that won’t drop right off the foot—it will be spiked and pointed instead of being even). It’s also recommended that you slowly rotate the cigar as you smoke. This is supposed to produce a better and more even burn. But, if a cigar is rolled and constructed well, I don’t think this is necessary.

Let the cigar do its job. It burns and you puff. You don’t need to ash it every time there’s a quarter inch of ash. Good construction means good construction. Most premium cigars will hold an ash for well over an inch. (Sometimes it will hold for three or more inches). If you want to be safe and not ruin any good shirts or furniture, I recommend letting it go for at least an inch before holding it over an ashtray and lightly tapping the side of the cigar. Not only does it look cool, it makes for a better smoke.

Now, what do you do when a cigar you’re not finished with goes out? Don’t worry. It happens. Sometimes it has to do with construction. Sometimes its the weather (high humidity). Sometimes you’ve been talking too much and not paying attention to your cigar. So, your cigar decides you must have something more important in your life than smoking, and says, “Screw this. I’m outta here!” In any case, hope is not lost. Your stick can be relit. Just tap off any remaining ash and use whatever lighting style you prefer. Slowly rotate the flame around the burnt edge of the cigar, and when you see some red, start puffing. If you’ve partially smoked your cigar and you don’t relight it within the next (and God help me for saying this) hour, I wouldn’t recommend relighting it. I don’t think you’ll like the taste. The most I would wait is 10-15 minutes, but only if you’re just too busy to get back to it.

I guess a smoking etiquette article wouldn’t be complete without talking about the band. What do you do with it? Well, there are a few schools of thought. If you’re smoking with your friends and they know what you usually smoke, don’t worry about it. If you’re with a group and you’re planning on smoking some rare, expensive (or potentially illegal to purchase—you know what I’m talking about) cigar, don’t flaunt that band! Take the band off and be one of the masses. I’ve been in shops before where I think I recognize a band of a hard to find cigar and the smoker is obviously fidgeting with the stick to get me to ask, “What are you smoking?” only to tell me, “Oh, you can’t get it here.” If (s)he then tells you how rare it is and asks if you would like to try one, then that’s ok. If (s)he just did it to show off…not cool!

One thing the band is good for is gauging when to put the cigar down. Don’t try to smoke through it, unless you like the taste of burned paper. If you are going to leave it on until near the end (the last third), it’s easier to remove the band when it’s been warmed (as you smoke the cigar). The factories that produce cigars use a vegetable based adhesive to attach the band and when it slightly heated, it loosens and pops apart easier and usually doesn’t damage the cigar.

So, if you like to smoke with the band, that’s fine. If you like to take it off, that’s alright, too. It really doesn’t matter. Remember what I always say, “If you like it, smoke it”.

In the third and last part of this cigar etiquette series I’ll talk about what to do when you’re done smoking, how much of the cigar you should smoke, and storage of your at-home cigar stock. I would love your feedback and questions on cigars and cigar smoking. Please feel free to contact me through this page. 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!