All posts by Pippin

I am a part time journalist and a full time cigar and pipe tobacco reviewer. If you enjoy "the leaf," Why not join us over at Cigarweekly.com. I personally have 30ish years of knowledge to share and I consider myself one of the lesser experts.

Meanwhile…

Rearranging the cabinet today I came across this gem, the Aging Room Quattro, and couldn’t resist.

Initial draws reveal mocha notes with some pepper on the retrohale. The smoke is plentiful and pleasant with no bite or bitterness. The burn is good and the ash is very a very solid light grey. A somewhat veiny chocolate brown wrapper with a very firm box press and a perfect bunch. The wrapper and foot have definite cocoa notes. After a perfect cut, the cold draw is perfect.

The El Robusto Porter is turning out to be a very good match. The cigar is another example of the skills of the Nodal family; a flat burn with excellent complex flavors.

The ring peeled off perfectly with no damage to the wrapper. The construction is excellent. The ash remains very solid.A slight touch up at the 2/3 mark set the burn back to even. The cigar is mostly medium body with medium to full flavor. The pepper notes in the retrohale remain light and pleasant. Coffee notes have joined the cocoa and are blending nicely.

Nearing 2/3 the pepper notes have picked up a bit but the overall enjoyment of the cigar has not diminished at all. The coffee notes are overtaking the cocoa, but in a good way.

Even with the touch ups and the somewhat veiny wrapper, the draw and complexity of the cigar earns it a 9/10. If Aging Room is not part of your collection, it should be.The cigar is smoking nice and slow. A hint of nutmeg has snuck in towards the end of the cigar. Even with long draws the smoke remains cool and pleasant as I approach the final inch, where I know I will have to put it down because my fingers will be getting hot.

Perdomo Texas Edition Robusto


When I first saw this cigar I just knew that I would have to review it, not only because I adore Perdomos, but because I am from Texas dammit!

A bit rustic wrapper with one prominent vein. Not a deal breaker so let’s see how it smokes. A mildly spicy wrapper and a mild aroma from the foot with a perfect bunch.
A perfect draw after a very clean clip.

A very clean draw with a sort of pecan flavor accentuating a medium to full tobacco note. This cigar is aptly named as it evokes the Texas notes of pecan, oak and mesquite. Nick obviously knows the nuances of Texas. There is also hints of red pepper and the nuances of tacos and tamales in the smoke.

If I didn’t know better I might think Nick was a San Antonio native from all of the flavors I grew up with. As it is, I would have to say that Nick spent a good time in San Antonio experiencing the various and wonderful tastes and aromas here.

As for the cigar itself it burns perfectly with a nice conical burn indicative of a perfectly constructed cigar.

I would like to invite Nick to enjoy a great Mexican dinner here in San Antonio so he could experience what an excellent job he did in capturing the Texas experience he captured in this cigar. Nick, you have an open invitation to join me for a truly amazing dinner in the Alamo City to see what an excellent job you did in capturing the essence of San Antonio in your Texas Edition cigar.

In fla wl construction, perfect complexity and perfect burn you have captured Texas and all it stands for. Please join me for an authentic Texas dinner.

Cohiba Esplendido CLE ABR02


Have you ever rolled a cigar between your thumb and forefinger, smelled the wrapper and the foot, and thought to yourself, “Yes, I really do deserve this?” Because tonight I really do deserve this and it’s a Cohiba Esplendido from April 2002.

Just holding the cigar makes me feel like I will be sinning when I set it on fire. See, that’s one of the differences between collecting cigars and collecting art. If I was an art collector, I’d be burning a Picasso for my evening pleasure.

Ahh, there it is, the inimitable Cohiba sweetness. I’ll have to take a forget pill later so these won’t be gone by the weekend. At least it’s not a Lancero; then I’d have to run and hide them all now.

Sometimes I will hear someone wonder out loud what the “big deal” is about Esplendidos; I hate to break it to you, but if you have wondered this after smoking one, odds are you smoked a fake. There is huge money in fakes, especially in resort towns and especially with Cohibas. I mean, think about it, counterfeiters don’t print ones. But I run on…

And, by the way, I am not saying that the Esplendido is the end-all of cigars; it’s not even my favorite Cohiba. But when they’re on, magic happens.

Barely a third of the way into the cigar and I’m running out of superlatives. I wasn’t even going to write this review until the cigar hit my hand. But not reviewing it seemed at that point to be an act of selfishness.

What about flavors? It tastes like a well-aged Cohiba. The complexity is just too much to try to break down. And the burn is perfect. Basically, it’s Cuban tobacco at its finest that has been carefully stored for nearly 15 years.

If you get the chance to travel to Havana and have money burning a hole in your pocket, pick up some. I’m not saying that these will ruin other cigars for you (I still smoke more Nicaraguans), but they really are “special occasion” smokes.

Rating? I could easily go all Nigel Tufnel and say, “These go to 11,” but I’ll skip the hyperbole and just say that this (with a few other special cigars) is the easiest 100 rating I can recommend. And, yes, Joe Bob says check it out.

Pipes vs. Cigars

Many pipe smokers smoke cigars and vice versa. What many fail to realize is that the two are not exclusive and that you can get the same enjoyment from a pipe as a cigar.

Lets’s start with pipes. Many pipes are “aromatic” in blend; they add rum, cherry, and may other “flavors” that really only add a “room aroma” that really adds very little to the overall flavor of the tobacco, justifying their presence with what is perceived as a room aroma that is pleasing to those around the smoker. This is generally a false conception that simply adds to the variety of pipe tobaccos available.

Cigars (premium-hand-rolled cigars) will also add to the atmosphere of the room. Unless one is smoking a low-grade machine made cigar, the room atmosphere will be pleasant as well, as the blenders of the cigar tobacco work their hardest to provide a pleasant experience for both the smoker and the people in the room affected by the smoke.

In many cases, care has been taken to provide a pleasant room aroma by the cigar blender while the pipe tobacco blender has taken more effort to provide his smoker with a pleasant flavor, room aroma be damned.

What I have discovered recently that the twain can meet with carefully selected tobaccos. Cigars are now including the more aromatic Perique and Latakia tobaccos in their blends while pipe tobaccos are now also including cigar leaf in many of their blends.

What is resulting is not an “us vs. them” mindset in premium tobacco smokers, but a nice “cooperative” blending of aromas that can be enjoyed by all.

Just leave out the cigarette smokers and the vapers…no one wants to smell that crap…

As usual, comments are welcome as long as they stick to the topic and attack no one.

Where do you get your cigars?

It has recently come to my attention that the graveyard where boom cigars went to die (aka CigarBid) is once a gain a useful tool, just so long as you don’t get caught up in a “bid frenzy” and end up paying more than retail.

Also, there are at least two vendors who feature a “make me an offer” page where you can get a decent bargain by following a few simple steps. First, of course, is lowball your first offer (no more than 50% of MSRP). Sometimes it actually works, but mostly I use it as a gauging point for how “close” I am to what they will accept. I know some who swear by the 80% of vendor price rule, but I have gotten away cheaper.

What if you absolutely positively have to have it immediately? Go to your B&M. If you don’t have a nearby B&M (aka Brick and Mortar shop), do some online price compareison and then grit your teeth and order them at asking price. Make sure to figure discounted shipping offers into the final price you pay.

Good hunting, smooth draws and use the comment section if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see addressed.

Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust – Part II

Sobremesa Corona Grande

From: Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (Steve Saka)
Vitola: 5.25 inches by 44 ring gauge (Parejo)
Capa: La Meca Ecuador Habano #1 Rosado
Capote: Matacapan Negro de Temporal
Tripa: Nicaraguan Gk Condega C-SG Seco, Nicaraguan Pueblo Nuevo Criollo Viso, Nicaraguan La Joya Esteli C-98 Viso, Nicaraguan ASP Esteli Hybrid Ligero, USA Lancaster County Broadleaf Ligero

Dunbarton Tobacco Trust Part II 2

The wrapper looked a bit rustic (by ‘rustic’, I mean it was not perfectly flat and smooth, which does not bother me), but smelled wonderful. And the cigar had a nice firm bunch. The Corona Grande clipped easily and had a perfect draw.

My first puffs revealed a complexity that was more than I had expected. And knowing how exacting Mr. Saka is with his cigars, my expectations were pretty high. I was experiencing a huge mouthful of toasted tobacco and leather with a light spiciness. The burn was razor-straight, and the ash was light grey and firm. To this point, it was a medium to full-bodied cigar, giving off plenty of smoke.

Pepper notes kicked in after the first third of the cigar, along with smoother leather tones and steady strong tobacco flavors. A light sweetness developed on the lips, and the cigar did not heat up.

At the two-thirds mark, some cinnamon notes developed to mix with the other flavors, which continued to deepen until I was forced to put the cigar down with less than one inch left.

Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust

Steve Saka, former CEO of Drew Estate and creator of the Liga Privada line, is in his third year of producing his own cigars, which include the Sobremesa and (as of 2016) the Mi Quireda. Both lines are excellent, and represent fine examples of Steve’s craft.

Mi Querida Gordo

After last year’s stellar Sobremesa, many of us were expecting bigger and better things from Steve Saka. Here, I am reviewing his new marque – the Mi Querida.

Dunbarton Tobacco Trust Part III 3

Upon first inspection, this Gordo has a very smooth wrapper with minimal veining and a perfect cap. The bunch is firm but not hard. The wrapper smells as much of coffee as it does tobacco, and the foot has sweet earthy notes. A nice clean clip yields a perfect draw with some light cashew notes to complement the tobacco notes.

Initial notes of pepper and light nutty tobacco are very pleasant. The dark wrapper of the cigar is a bit misleading when you taste the flavorful medium-bodied smoke. This is not a bad thing – just a really unexpected pleasure.

Expecting a fuller flavored cigar, I pair it with a Real Ale Commissar (Russian Imperial Stout), yet am still very pleased with the flavor combination.

After the first third, the cigar remains cool and extremely pleasant. The light to medium grey ash is firm, but falls just short of one inch.

The pepper notes continue, but otherwise this is a very creamy smoke. The burn isn’t ‘perfect’, yet it doesn’t require any touch ups.

At the halfway mark, the pepper notes have all but disappeared, leaving a very pleasant creamy flavor. There are light nutmeg notes, but this could be a result of the Imperial Stout. Still, the combination represents an almost perfect pairing of beer and cigar.

The volume of smoke is most pleasing, speaking to the excellent construction of the cigar.

I will admit to expecting great things from a Steve Saka cigar, and I am not in any way disappointed. Even were I to smoke it blind, I would still be very impressed. This one would definitely be included in a ‘desert island’ selection.

Even though I feel the Mi Querida perhaps doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of the Sobremesas, it is still one that has a place in every humidor – a solid 9.6/10 cigar. Joe Bob says, “Check it out.”

Sobremesa Elegante en Cedro

Dunbarton Tobacco Trust Part III 2

The wrapper and foot smell like rich tobacco. The cold-draw tastes like Tamarindo candy. The big event with this cigar is that it fell in the garden, yet was successfully recovered and ended up being a stellar cigar.

Steve Saka is not only a master blender, but also a master of dropped cigars. This will be my favorite dropped-cigar story of all time.

Dunbarton Tobacco Trust Part III 4

Back to the cigar… I thought Steve Saka had outdone himself with last year’s Sobremesa. I was dead cold wrong. Along with the Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Mi Querida Gordo (reviewed above) and the Short Churchill, Steve has not only topped himself, but has created a new class for himself.

Sublime flavors of tobacco, spice (remember the Tamarindo I mentioned) and deep rich leather blend together to make this a cigar to remember. And do your best to keep some in your box, because they seem to keep getting out and being smoked.

Getting older

Not talking about me (although I am); today I was digging through my stash of cigars and found some Bolivar Coronas Extra with a box stamp that basically translates to 4/99. That’s almost 18 years old. These cigars could vote in April…

Boli CE are known for their deep strength and multitude of flavors. After all this time, the strength hasn’t mellowed any, and the flavors have intermingled to present one of the most well-rounded cigars I have smoked in recent years.

These cigars are excellent when they are fresh, if a little harsh. The harshness has completely gone now. I did have some slight issues with the wrapper being fairly delicate, but simply smoking easy solved most of those issues.

The draw was tighter than I am accustomed to (having smoked mainly “domestic” (aka, legal in the US) cigars lately. but the work was worth the reward. A fine example of complexity and strength was my reward.

Jealous? You might well be, but I imagine (know) that there are aficionados with older and better cigars than I, so start your own aging section in your humidor (or get another that is dedicated to aging) and you will be rewarded as well.

To paraphrase Walter Brennan from “The Real McCoys,” it’s not bragging if it’s true.

Thanks to everyone who reads and enjoys my ramblings.

Room 101 Figurados are winners

(as previously featured on Cigar Weekly)

Johnny Tobacconaut Fileroid

Size: 4½ inches by 52 ring gauge

Room 101 2

Before I cut or lit this one, I noticed rich tobacco aromas from the cigar. The dry draw was perfect, and tasted wonderful.

I am a big believer in giving every cigar a chance up front, and this one earned it. A little spice on the tongue, along with back flavors of holiday spice bread, made me want to smoke faster. But I resisted.

The entire Johnny Tobacconaut line is comprised of figurados, which (in my opinion) gives you the widest spectrum of flavors in a cigar. The Fileroid does not disappoint.

Think of Gramma’s ginger bread cookies with lots of extra ginger, or maybe snickerdoodles with extra cinnamon, depending on your preference either for ginger or cinnamon. This cigar also smoked very smoothly.

Anyway, if you have been reading my Room 101 reviews lately, you won’t be surprised at the 9.5/10 I gave the Johnny Tobacconaut for total quality. Joe Bob says, “Check it out!”

I will follow up this review with another piece (below) on the new Room 101 Chief Cool Arrow (snicker, ask a friend who speaks Spanish), this year’s replacement for the Tobacconaut. Let’s see how that works out.

Chief Cool Arrow Ranflajo

Size: 5½ inches by 50 (maximum) ring gauge

Room 101 3

The smooth chocolate brown wrapper displayed some veins. I sensed very light aromas from the wrapper and foot, but it was chilly out. A perfect bias cut and pre-light draw evidenced the excellent construction of the cigar. I paired it with a Real Ale Benedictum sour.

The Chief line is a 2016 release, replacing the 2015 Johnny Tobacconaut. On the cigar’s paper wrapper, you see a picture of the Chief with an astronaut (tobacconaut) head under one arm. In fact, I thought I could detect traces of blood and tomahawk (just kidding).

The early flavors showed nuts and cedar as well as a very creamy mouth feel. The beer, however, was almost too sour – something I was not expecting from Real Ale. But I didn’t think it would unduly hurt the flavor of the cigar, which was burning fairly cleanly with a solid ash.

Some coffee notes began to emerge nearing the initial third. The cigar was still very smooth, giving off bountiful smoke. A very light white pepper note began to come out on the retro-hale.

By now, I knew I was wrong about the beer. Some of those sour notes were starting to transfer to the cigar. So I drank the Benedictum very slowly. At this point, I would certainly have not recommended a sour ale with the cigar.

This was a medium-bodied cigar with full flavors. A little more pepper was now noticeable alongside the rich tobacco and light nuttiness. The muted coffee notes also remained. At the halfway mark, the cigar still smoked coolly and smoothly.

At the two-thirds point, the smoke stayed very flavorful and smooth. This was a very pleasant cigar. The pepper continued to build, but not unpleasantly so. And the coffee notes remained muted as the tobacco grew richer. Meanwhile, the nuts all but disappeared.

I ended up putting the cigar down with one inch left because of wrapper heat. This was a very good cigar with an almost perfect burn and excellent construction.

I gave it a 9/10. Joe Bob says, “Check it out.”

Current Favorite Cigars

First, If I have given you a high rating on one of my reviews, please know that it was very hard to leave them off of this list. That Said, and in no particular order;

Dumbarton and Trust Sobramesa Short Churchill

What Steve Saka has created may not be for everyone, but it is definitely for me. A great morning cigar with coffee that provides a great kick off to the day.

Rafael Nodal’s Solera.

There was absolutely nothing I could find wrong with this cigar as it provided complete enjoyment from cut to put-down. A true masterpiece.

Edgar Hoill Travesio Pyramid.

If you have not tried this cigar and enjoy smooth yet full bodied cigars, get the to a tobacconist and pick up at least two because one will now be enough.

Room 101 Big Payback

I smoked the 6×60 hueso and could have not been more pleased with the result.  A maduro/oscuro that gives you more than you pay for in quality and flavor.

Crowned Heads Las Mareas and La Caremea

To separate these would be an injustice. Crowned heads is one if the premier boutique brands on the market. I will also include the Jericho Hill line (especially the lanceroos) as one of the finest cigars on the market today.

Foundry Falling Star

Michael Gianini is one of the true geniuses of the cigar world today, and this collaboration with AJ Fernandez will not let you down.

Room 101 Johnny Tobacconaut

Yes, this is the second time I have mentioned a Room 101, a Davidoff product, with good reason. One of the most complex and satisfying cigars out there today. And I expect that my upcoming review of their replacement, Big Chief Cool Arrow will have the same complexities ans the Tobacconaut.

Camacho American Barrell Aged

I will finish this “master” list with a cigar that debuted in 2015 and has avarything I could possibly think you would want in a cigar. The complexity is legendary.

Perdomo Habano sungrown

The Perdomo Habano wrapper were always on the top of my list when I went to the shop to bet a handful or cigars. His re-blend has just that something extra that stands out in my mind.

Now to my list of “could have made it” cigars. The Tabernacle blended by Nick-R-Agua, The Balmoral Anejo from Michael Herklots, Rafael Nodal Oliveros reboot. USA Distributions’d Hidden Treasure,  Karen Berger’s awesome continuation of her late Husbands’ Don Kiki line, absolutely anything in the PDR Catalog, La Serino’s new premiums…and I am sure I am forgetting too many that were good enough to make the list.

If I missed you (like I see I did with Fratello Boxer, the new Nestor Mirandao Line, Ventura, and anyone else I missed, I can honestly say that this was the absolute best IPCPR my wife and I have ever attended, and look forward to seeing you all again; probably not Next year because we hate Lad Vegas in July.

Best to all, and PLEASE bring IPCPR back to San Antonio…

To Steve Saka and all the other vendors we will be at C.A.T.S Fest next year in San Antonio. And if you come through San Antonio with a new release like the recent Black Diamond and Black Trading Label Company, please give me a heads-up so I can schedule and interview. (I still want to know how much Omar de Frias weighs….

A Rare Three Cigar night

Tonight I had the pleasure of visiting with my son. In the process I smoked three excellent cigars.
The first was a Room 101 Big Payback Hueso. This is was an excellent cigar with lost of complexity. Definitely a worthy cigar that paired wonderfully with a Santa Fe Espresso stout.

From there I moved on to a Profile torpedo, an excellent Cult product that went very well with a Karbach Karmadillo IPA.

Then I moved along to a Room 101 808, which was wonderful with a Santa Fe Espresso stout.

I was so overwhelmed by the quality of the cigars and the beer that I didn’t take notes on the flavors of the cigars.

I don’t often smoke three cigars in one night, so I didn’t take notes on the flavors of the cigars, but they were all excellent and I will write detailed reviews 0f all three in the future.

Needless to say I had a very good night 0f cigars and beers.

Here’s to you all having a similar night of excellent smokes.

Edit: As it turns out, I ended up smoking 4 cigars.

A PDR Habana Sungrown “put the cherry on top” of a grand evening, bleeding over into my birthday.

Smoke well my friends.

Crowned Heads Triple Review

This Article was featured on Cigar Weekly Magazine on October 31, 2016

Crowned Heads is a boutique brand committed to producing high-quality cigars that combine tradition and innovation. The company’s cigars are highly regarded by the premium cigar industry and smokers alike. Cigar Weekly member Jon Huber is a member of their team. And according to Huber, business is booming for Crowned Heads. New at the 2016 edition of the IPCPR were two lines – Las Mareas and Le Carème.

* * * * *

The Las Mareas is produced by the Garcia family (of My Father fame) using a Corojo wrapper.

I pick up hints of nutmeg and cocoa from the wrapper and foot. The construction is beautiful, with one vein running at an angle from the first third down. A clean clip with my Palio enables a satisfying medium cold draw. This is one of Jon Huber’s Crowned Heads marque, so I am going in with high expectations. The cold draw proceeds to yield notes of leather and cocoa.

The initial post-light draw does not disappoint either. Full flavors of well-aged tobacco with leather and subtle cocoa notes are evident. And lots of smoke adds to the satisfaction of this cigar. The medium grey ash is very solid, and the burn very clean. Yes… This really is a very well-constructed cigar.

I feel I must slow down, as the generous draw will get hot if I don’t. Otherwise, this is a lovely cigar that is developing almond notes as it progresses.

At the one-third mark, the burn is still even and the ash firm. The flavor continues to be leathery with nutty undertones, while some pepper in the nose has developed.

The ash continues to hold firm just past the one-third point, further confirming that this is a very well-constructed cigar. Nevertheless, I go ahead and dump the ash to avoid dropping it in my lap.

By now, this very smooth smoke has developed a touch of vanilla. At the halfway mark, the smoke is cool and very flavorful, and the burn remains very consistent. The cocoa detected in the pre-light has yet to emerge, yet distinct pepper notes remain on the finish.

Crowned Heads Triple Review 2

Two-thirds of the way in, the flavor profile is distinctly aged tobacco with hints of leather. A very subtle note of almonds remains. The burn remains straight, and the ash is still very solid.

The medium to full smoke remains consistent approaching the end of the cigar. What heat has developed is easily countered with small purges. Finger burn becomes an issue with one inch left, and I elect to put the cigar down.

The Las Mareas represents a most interesting cigar, with enough complexity to keep me interested all the way to the end. I’ll score it 8.75/10. It’s a very good cigar.

* * * * *

The Le Carème is produced by Ernesto Carillo, and incorporates a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Sumatra binder and Nicaraguan filler. It is available in four sizes. There’s also a sampler that includes one of each size. Crowned heads is sometimes associated with in-your-face strong cigars. This time the blenders have opted for a more creamy stick – thus the aptly named Le Carème.

Crowned Heads Triple Review 3

The wrapper and the foot give off definite notes of creamy tobacco. The bunch is solid but not hard, and the cigar clips easily, thereby providing a nice firm draw. The initial draw is pleasant and creamy, with a bit of spice.

Unlike the hard and fast tobacco notes of some Crowned Heads marques, this cigar starts in an easy and very pleasant mode. Like most Crowned Heads, though, it produces plenty of pleasant smoke and burns perfectly straight.

I can’t get over how well this cigar is smoking. Even though it’s so creamy, it still manages to pair perfectly with a Lagunitas IPA.

At the one-third mark, the creaminess kicks up a notch. There’s also a bit of a stronger tobacco note to enhance the flavor. The whitish ash is strong enough to resist a light tap. A light purge defeats the slight heat that has started to build, and the ash falls about halfway along its length. Meanwhile, the strength is building, but not unpleasantly so. This cigar is evolving into exactly what one expects from a Crowned Heads – a solid cigar full of flavor.

Given the lovely creamy start and solid build, I’ll give this one a 9.5/10.

* * * * *

I’ve also decided to include a review of one of the firm’s banner marques, Jericho Hill. This name, and the names of all of the vitolae, are inspired by the song ‘Cocaine Blues’ by Johnny Cash. Here, I’m reviewing the 12 Honest Men Lancero.

Crowned Heads Triple Review 4

The dark smooth wrapper is capped with a pigtail. The cigar offers up aromas of tobacco and leather, a firm bunch and a medium cold draw.

I find the initial draw a bit tight, but the Lancero still produces plentiful smoke and flavor. I note strong, but not harsh, flavors of a tobacco barn on fire – woody with lots of rich tobacco and a hint of panic.

The medium grey ash is very firm, and the burn perfect. One of my favorite things about Lanceros is how quickly the flavors develop. The panic is now gone, and the cigar has developed a rich leather undertone.

At the one-third point, I begin to feel confident that this cigar will be outstanding all the way to the end. It’s rich and smooth, and the abundance of smoke is keeping it in my fingers, and not resting on the ashtray.

One quick touch up about halfway through keeps the burn nice and even. I love Lanceros, and I will still say that the 12 Honest Men qualifies as one of my favorites. This cigar makes me proud to count Jon Huber as a cigar friend. It is so good that it brings me joy to know that I have four more in my cabinet.

The somewhat tight draw is not a problem, as it means I will have more time to enjoy this cigar. It also makes me want to listen to Johnny Cash while smoking it. And now I am!

Crowned Heads Triple Review 6

The heritage of this cigar makes it all the more enjoyable. Jon and the folks at Crowned Heads have a real knack for naming their cigars. If I had chickens, Egg Sucking Dog would apply to one of my dogs.

Back to the cigar… It continues to be a wonderful smoke. Two-thirds of the way through, the smoke is still developing, with cedar, leather and a nuttiness all apparent.

Another one of my favorite aspects of a Lancero is how cool the smoke remains as I smoke it. And this cigar is no exception. At this point, I am not looking forward to having to put it down.

Wonderful flavors and good complexity earn the 12 Honest Men a solid 9.75/10. Excellent job, Crowned Heads.

Rubbing Elbows and dropping names

Creating, blending an manufacturing tasty cigars is a talent that was on show in July at the  ICPCR trade show. Those who do it exceptionally well become superstars and are sought after and easily recognizable.

My wife and I attended and covered the 2016 show. I tried to tried to not fawn over every superstar I saw but sometimes I couldn’t resist. This is just a small representation of the cigar community elite at the show but these are the ones I posed with for posterity.dsc04350

Your humble narrator with Christian Eiroa of CLE, formerly the creator of Camacho cigars. His booth was well planned and represented the lines created by his family.

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My lovely wife with Michael Gianinni of General Cigars Foundry brand. A true maverick in his field. His cigars and his boxes were as interesting as his outfits.

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I love this one. That’s Edgar Hoill. To all you photography nuts, yes, THAT Edgar Hoill, who also designs one of my favorite cigars.

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Me with Jon Huber, long-time CigarWeekly member, former CAO ambassador and currently with Crowned Heads cigars. He brought a new style to the industry along with interesting blends and flavors.

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My personal favorite, Hamlet Paredes, former master blender at the Partagas factory in Havana, now working on his own line, the Tabaquero, with Rocky Patel. This is the fourth time I have talked to him. And yes, he remembered me.

So, maybe I posted this as proof that I know my way around the cigar industry, or maybe I’m just a narcissist. You’ll have to ask my wife.

Long ashes and smooth draws everyone!

Protocol – Backing The Blue

“Protocol is one year old this year,” said Bill Ives, co-founder and owner of the Protocol brand.

What began as a ‘local’ limited-release cigar company has grown from 5,000 cigar runs to over 40,000.

Originally available in Robusto, Toro and Gordo sizes, the firm’s range has grown this year to include a Lancero, which is getting rave reviews.

“The Protocol Lancero is being introduced as a small-batch production depending on its success with possible increased production in the future,” said Ives.

Protocol was launched at the 2015 IPCPR in New Orleans. The company, known as Cubariqueno, was created by two police officers, Juan Cancel and Bill Ives. The cigars are produced at the La Zona factory in Esteli, Nicaragua under the supervision of Erik Espinosa.

The Lancero sports a beautiful dark and smooth Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper with a firm bunch. The foot smells of leather and cocoa. I get an easy clip and a perfect cold draw.

An easy light leads to a nice full draw with plenty of smoke. Notes of tobacco, leather and cocoa emerge along with a bit of pepper on the nose. A light sweetness from the wrapper lingers on the lips. The ash is light grey and the burn is razor straight.

Protocol Backing The Blue 2There is a slight harshness near the beginning that disappears almost immediately. The leather and cocoa notes are complemented by a Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout. Smooth nutty notes also emerge as the flavor develops.

Tobacco notes subdue into a smooth creaminess that takes the flavor to another level. The creamy cocoa notes make the flavor quite exquisite. The ash is not flaky, but taps off easily every half inch or so.

No ‘double clutching’ is needed to produce plentiful smoke from the perfect draw of this cigar. And even deep draws don’t heat up the smoke. The uncut remainder of the cap unravels, but this has no negative effects. The smoke is thick enough to allow for smoke rings.

The tobacco notes return for the final third of the cigar without affecting the creaminess of the smoke. As is the case with most Lanceros, the flavor continues to develop for a truly complex smoke. Pepper notes then return to complement the overall flavor spectrum.

At about one inch, the cigar becomes too hot to hold, but it still qualifies as a nubber. Fractions off for two touch-ups – 9.5/10.

Protocol Backing The Blue 3Also new this year is the Probable Cause line, which includes a Robusto and a Churchill. The Probable Cause is wrapped in Mexican San Andreas Maduro leaf with Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan filler.

“We are classifying Probable Cause as a medium-strength cigar with full flavor,” explained Cancel.

The dark oily wrapper smells like a tobacco barn, and the foot of the cigar smells of earthiness with a touch of spice. The bunch is firm but not hard. A clean clip on a medium box press gives a perfect cold draw.

The initial draw produces strong tobacco and leathery notes, much as one would expect from a Maduro. The box press is easy to hold and draw on. Plenty of rich smoke is produced with each draw.

Some pepper in the nose develops to enhance the tobacco and leather notes. So far, this is a typical Maduro profile with a perfect burn.

Paired with a Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, the cigar retains its tobacco and leather notes with a bit of earthiness.

As with the Protocol Lancero, there is enough smoke for smoke rings from single draws. The smoke is also staying quite cool, and the burn remains perfect. The wrapper is leaving a pleasant tobacco aftertaste on the lips.

Protocol Backing The Blue 4The medium to light grey ash is very solid. Approaching the first third, the flavor profile has mellowed some to settle into a nice creaminess. There is still a pleasant peppery note in the throat and nose.

There is absolutely no harshness to the smoke approaching the halfway point. The ash is firm and the burn remains perfect. So far, this is a most pleasant cigar.

Just past the halfway point, the cigar starts to heat up a bit, indicating that I need to slow down some. The perfect draw, however, makes that difficult.

The flavor then develops a sweetness, replacing the tobacco notes and complementing the creaminess. This is becoming the ‘perfect’ Maduro cigar.

During the last third, the heat stabilizes. The flavor is still creamy, with a touch of sweetness. Only when approaching the last inch does the heat become an issue.
A solid 9.5/10 overall for this excellent Maduro cigar.

After three samples (two Lanceros and the Maduro), I can say that Protocol cigars belong in every humidor, especially of those who like medium to full Maduros and Oscuros.

IPCPR 2016

The 2016 International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Trade Show in Las Vegas was probably the most spectacular yet. Vendors and retailers were literally everywhere. It was a great thing that we decided to cover all four days, or we would have missed several interviews with more popular vendors on the floor.

The most encouraging aspect of the show was the overwhelming response of the vendors and retailers to the FDA information seminars. There was standing room only, and some people had to wait outside because the room was at fire marshal capacity.

As for the FDA, the language of its new guidelines, which force manufacturers to get approval for anything released after Feb. 15, 2007, is so vague that a lot of the industry is concerned about what exactly the guidelines mean. At best, it’s the FDA trying to get deeper into the pockets of the industry. At worst, it’s an aggressive attempt to destroy the industry as we know it.

In the meantime, most vendors were doing business as usual, releasing new blends and chasing market share as usual. There was a wide variety of new products from lots of people, plus a good sampling of re-releases of older blends (popular in their previous releases) that will also fall into the ‘grandfathering’ part of the FDA standards. Trust me: there are some smart people in this industry.

One notable exception is a major vendor with no new lines this year. Instead, they were assuring other people in the industry that they were being extremely proactive, and had hired their own team of lawyers to deal with the issue. Also, as you may have read here on CW, the IPCPR, CAA and CRA have joined together to file an injunction/lawsuit that challenges the over-reaching language of the new regulations. Now they need a judge to rule on it before August 8 to have immediate effect.

Busy all day every day, we were there from doors-open to doors-closed for three and a half days, systematically covering the trade floor to gather as much information as possible so we could pass it on.