I got a bad one. What do I do?

It eventually happens to all of us. You get a cigar that is underfilled/overfilled, plugged, or just does not taste good to you. But you spent good money on it. So what do you do?

If it’s a matter of disagreeable flavors, try purging your cigar. Hold your lighter near the burning end of the cigar and blow through the cigar. This will cleanse trapped gases that can cause bitterness that will mask the true flavors of the cigar.

If the cigar has serious construction issues (underfilled, where is it too “mushy” when you roll it between your finger and thumb, or plugged, where it is like sucking on a pencil) there are a couple of options.

For soft cigars, smoke very slowly and purge often. It will burn hot and uneven, but if you are careful you can salvage the smoke.

For plugged cigars, you can try using a draw poker, which is a metal rod you push through the center of the cigar to attempt to break up whatever is blocking the air flow. This can happen if a leaf or two get twisted together and form a hard spot. If the draw poker does not work, put the cigar back in your humidor and give it some serious time. As it ages the obstruction may shift or relax.

The other option is to cut the cigar up and shred it into pipe tobacco. Of course, if you don’t smoke a pipe this is pretty much pointless.

And yes, there will be cigars with perfect construction that draw and burn well that you just do not like. Most people tend to soldier through it so they don’t feel like they wasted their money. That’s an option, but I generally just put the cigar down in the ashtray and let it go out, replacing it with something better.

If you smoke cigars long enough, you will come across cigars that are either flawed or that you just do not like. I tend to buy smaller cigars when trying something new. It’s a lot easier to put down a corona than a churchill when it comes to feeling like you wasted your money.

Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes

(First part of this was written in November of 2015, the revisit is current)

Ever since getting to talk to Hamlet Paredes at IPCPR last summer I have been anticipating his new line Tabaquero hitting the market. I pre-ordered a five pack of coronas from an online vendor and received them last week. After letting them settle for a bit I had one Saturday night following my son’s wedding. It did not disappoint.
If you are unfamiliar with Hamlet Paredes, he worked at the Partagas factory in Havana for 20 years, becoming the master roller. He defected to the US in 2014 and went to work for Rocky Patel in Florida. His Partagas custom cigars always had a unique flavor and were much sought after and his own line I hoped would be just as good.
When I got to talk to Hamlet at the 2015 IPCPR in New Orleans he was very excited to be promoting his cigar for the American market.
CI describes the cigar this way: “Tabaquero comes draped in a San Andres wrapper concealing binders from Brazil and Mexico, and Nicaraguan long-filler. Medium-bodied, and containing Cuban-esque richness, flavors abound including spice, cocoa, coffee, pepper, earth, and subtle cream.
These are very dark wrapped cigars with good smooth construction. Firm, but not too, to the touch, with nice aromas of well-aged tobacco from the wrapper and the foot. Cut very cleanly with a Palio, and the pre-light draw was easy without being loose and had light hints of various flavors including tobacco and spice.”
My initial draw was a bit strong, but it mellowed quickly to a nice blend of tobacco and spices with undertones of cocoa and earth. The ash was nice and firm.
At about the half-way point a distinctive undertone of pepper starts to build.
The excellent construction of this cigar allowed for the smoke to stay cool and pleasant, which allowed a creaminess to develop.
It finished clean with no harshness in the after flavor and the cigar burned razor sharp with no touch-ups required.
The Tabaquero produced more smoke that you might expect from a corona. It smoked very much like a Habano and was easy to enjoy down to the nub.
I cannot in good faith compare these to Hamlet’s creation with Cuban tobacco; however, given the wide variety of leaves he had to choose from, he did an excellent job with the blend, binder and wrapper to create a most enjoyable cigar. I am definitely looking forward to smoking more of these in different sizes to see how well the filler competes with the wrapper, as a corona’s flavor is generally dominated by the wrapper.
Construction – 5
Burn – 5
Quality of flavors – 5
Overall impression – 5
5/5 Stellar cigar from one of the best in the business. Joe Bob says check it out.

Revisit

Smoking another outstanding Tabaquero Corona by Hamlet Paredes today. Love these cigars!
Beautiful smooth dark wrapper, very fragrant wrapper and foot, firm but not hard bunching, perfect pre-light draw.

Clipped and lighted perfectly and immediately produced ample flavorful smoke. Cocoa and leather notes with some pepper in the back of the throat and the nose.

A slight run was easily corrected and the cigar burned evenly thereafter. Woody notes picked up at 1/3 adding to the other flavors. This is a full bodied cigar with complex flavors that develop nicely as the cigar progresses.
I might be a bit biased as I always enjoyed Hamlet’s Cuban blends whenever I could obtain them.
Backed the cigar with a Sierra Nevada Otra Vez, which complemented the flavors of the cigar to perfection.
Second third was more flavorful as the tasting notes picked up and some cinnamon emerged; one of my favorite flavor profiles. A slight run was easily corrected and the even, flat burn continued. Hints of nutmeg emerged as I approached the final third.
One slight tear, which was my fault from removing the bands a bit too quickly, but it had no impact on the quality of the smoke. Cigar did not get warm until well into the final third, causing me to slow down, which was no easy task with a cigar this flavorful. It cooled back down as I slowed my smoking.
Excellent cigar that impressed me from light to nub. Get your hands on some of these stellar cigars. 5/5, Joe Bob says definitely check it out!
And huge kudos to Rocky Patel for picking Hamlet up to add to his already excellent line.

Clipping your tapered-head cigar

Tapered cigars (perfectos, torpedos, pyramids, salomoes, etc) are quite popular, and, in my opinion, should be cut slightly differently from round vitolas.

First and foremost, you need to use a quality cutter. I am partial to the Palio, but also own and use Xicar. Both feature very sharp blades that do not dull quickly and carry a warranty.

For your perfecto, I recommend cutting off approximately 1/2″ at an angle not to exceed 30 degrees. The angle opens up more surface for your draw and will gum up less than a straight cut.

I also do not recommend re-clipping. If your cigar does begin to gum up at the tip, re-clipping might be your only option (and, in my opinion, means that you did not clip enough initially). The main problem I see with re-clipping is the potential damage to the wrapper leaf. Even with a high-quality cutter, the wrapper is now moister than when you first cut it, which can cause an uneven clip and even a tear.

Many of my favorite cigars are tapered at the end, and I am very pleased with the results of clipping at an angle.

The Forbidden Fruit

Like many cigar smokers, you may wonder what the big deal is about Cuban cigars. A friend may have actually gifted you what he thought was a Cuban but was a horrible fake (they exist more than you might think).

With the advent of Nicaraguan tobacco grown in the Estelli region, the finest Cuban tobaccos have some serious competition. The quality difference between the 2007 RTDA and the 2015 IPCPR was amazing. Sure, there were some “misses” in the boutique companies, but these were rare and there were many more quality boutique offerings.

So, back to the question; what makes a Cuban cigar so special. It’s hard to pin down, but there is a certain quality to the flavors that is hard to nail down. And not all Cubans are created equal. A Vegas Robainas Familiar will taste quite different from a Cohiba Robusto, a Ramon Specially Selected and a Partagas Serie D No. 4. And that’s just a list of robustos. You also have Petite Coronas, Tre-petite coronas, Piramids, Churchills, Double coronas, and large selection of Figurados.

If (when) the trade embargo comes down, experiment. You will initially be put off at the cost, but as their competition thrives, their prices will moderate. Also find a good cigar shop. Many will offer reasonable memberships complete with discounts, and for a bonus cost you can rent a locker so as to never find yourself in the shop broke and cigarless.

I hope you are finding these articles interesting. (Hell, who am I kidding, I hope you’re reading them.) I’ve been smoking cigars for about 30 years know and have picked up some valuable information along the way that I would like to share with you, both in this blog and in my reviews published @Cigarweekly, your one stop internet destination for all things cigars, pipes, libations, music, politics and travel. And lots of humor.

Music to smoke to

Today, to accompany my Flor Cana and Illusi0ne 88 Robusto (see my cigar reviews on Cigar Weekly) I opted to hit “shuffle” on my iPhone. This ranged from Robert Earl Keane, Tom Waits, The Ramones and Mozart, to name a few.

To say that the music added to the enjoyment of the cigars would be a gross understatement. The true standout was George Jones’ He Stopped Lovin’ Her Today. This song always brings a tear to my eye, but in a good way.

Other songs that stood out were The Germ’s Lexicon Devil and The Ramones cover of Love’s 7 and 7 is.

If you don’t listen to music while you enjoy a cigar, you are missing an outstanding experience.

ICPCR winners (this man’s opinion)

Looking back at what can only be described as a stellar show in New Orleans, the 2015 ICPCR yielded a vast field of competitors for your hard-earned cigar dollars.

According to Cigar Afficianado magazine, My Father Le Bijou takes top honors, but I would like to offer some alternatives to this hard-to-find cigar that also earned a permanent place in many humidors.

Christian Eiroa’s CLE, who make their own wonderful cigars, has produced a boutique brand “designed” by photograoher Edgar Hoill. Known by his photographic creed, “One Shot One Kill,” or OSOK, his Nicaraguan tobacco cigars are something to be noticed. I especially like the Travesio, a 5.5″ “pyramid” with 1/2″ unfinished foot. It lights easy, smokes clean, and gives you more flavors than you expected, even when your expectations were high to begin with.

At the end of 2014, Rocky Patel scored a major coup in the cigar world by hiring Hamlet Paredes, former master roller at the Partagas factory in Havana, following his emigration from Cuba to the United States. Hamlet now has his own line distributed by Patel, the Tabaquero, and they are quite special. Immaculate construction, complex flavors and a medium to full body make this a cigar to keep around.

The rep we spoke to at the Alec Bradley display gave us samples of what he said was the only cigar at the convention to pre-sell out (we didn’t verify this claim, but it still sounded cool…), the Sanctum. A medium bodied beauty with lots of complexity and variety of flavors, the Sanctum should please anyone who likes premium cigars.

Curivari’s owner, Andres Throuvales, was probably the most engaging person we met at the show, and his Buenaventura line has been pleasing smokers ever since. I personally like all Curivaris, and the Buenaventura is no exception. Very pretty cigar with lots of flavor and lots of smoke in a medium-bodied presentation. Definitely worth finding if you have not seen or tried them.

USA Distribution had a very small corner booth at the show, complete with a live roller they hired from Bobalu Cigars in Austin. They were showing and sharing a cigar they called Hidden Treasure, and it is aptly named. Primarily Dominican tobacco with a nice dose of ligero leaves made for a very pleasant smoke that was smooth but still had enough strength to keep my attention. Unfortunately, like their name, they are so far a bit hard to find, but rest assured they are worth the effort.

New in 2015 but released prior to the show, the Perdomo Craft series made quite an impression. Specifically blended to match up with craft beers, the maduro, sungrown and Connecticut lines all lived up to their billing. My favorite was the sungrown paired with a triple IPA, although the maduro with a strong stout was a very close second. And the Connecticut with a lager was also an excellent pairing. If you are a fan of craft beers and enjoy them with your cigars, this line is not to be skipped.

There were many many other cigars worth mentioning, including the Euforia by GMD, Garo’s excellent maduro, the Arandoza red, white and blue lines, and too many others. It was an excellent show with very few low points. I look forward to the opportunity to cover future shows and share what I have found.

Tabaquero by Hamlet (released by Rocky Patel)

Ever since getting to talk to Hamlet Paredes at IPCPR this summer I have been anticipating these hitting the market. I pre-ordered from an online vendor and received them last week. After letting them settle for a bit I had one Saturday night after my son’s wedding.

If you are unfamiliar with Hamlet Paredes, he was the master roller at the Partagas factory in Havana until he defected to the US 11 months ago and went to work for Rocky Patel in Florida. His custom cigars always had a unique flavor and were much sought after.

When I got to talk to Hamlet at the convention he was very excited to put out a cigar for the American market.

CI describes the cigar this way: Tabaquero comes draped in a San Andres wrapper concealing binders from Brazil and Mexico, and Nicaraguan long-filler. Medium-bodied, and containing Cuban-esque richness, flavors abound including spice, cocoa, coffee, pepper, earth, and subtle cream.

These are very dark wrappered cigars with good smooth construction. Firm, but not too, to the touch, with nice aromas of well aged tobacco from the wrapper and the foot. Cut very cleanly with a Palio, and the pre-light draw was easy without being loose and had light hints of various flavors including tobacco and spice.

First draw was a bit strong, but mellowed quickly to a nice blend of tobacco, spices with undertones of cocoa and earth. The ash was nice and firm.

At about the half-way point a distinctive undertone of pepper starts to build.

The excellent construction of this cigar allowed for the smoke to stay cool and pleasant, which allowed a creaminess to develop.

Clean finish with no harshness.

Cigar burned razor sharp with no touch-ups required at all.

More smoke that you might expect from a corona. It smoked very much like a Habano and was easy to smoke down to the nub.

I cannot in good faith compare these to Hamlet’s creation with Cuban tobacco; however, given the wide variety of leaves he had to choose from, he did an excellent job with the blend, binder and wrapper to create a most enjoyable cigar. I am definitely looking forward to smoking more of these in different sizes to see how well the filler competes with the wrapper, as a corona’s flavor is generally dominated by the wrapper.

Construction – 5

Burn – 5

Quality of flavors – 5

Overall impression – 5

5/5 Stellar cigar from one of the best in the business. Joe Bob says check it out.

ST Cigars Unlimited Mardi Gras Lancero

Designed to go with a single malt, this cigar still paired nicely with a Porter.

Clean cut, even pre-light draw.

Mild-to medium flavors, medium grey ash that was a bit loose, but with a clean burn throughout.

Draw slowed as cigar progressed, as one would expect from most lanceros, went out about half way down and continued to have some burn problems throughout.

Primarily a one-dimensional cigar, but with nice flavor notes throughout. Not the best pairing with a porter beer, went better with rum.

Overall a very nice smoke for the mild-to-mid smoker and I would give it a solid 3-1/2 of 5 on the cigar weekly scale.

Probably would have been better with the aforementioned single-malt than the porter I was drinking that night.

Still, a solid cigar. Joe Bob says check it out.

ST Cigars Unlimited Mardi Gras Lancero

Designed to go with a single malt, this cigar still paired nicely with a Porter.

Clean cut, even pre-light draw.

Mild-to medium flavors, medium grey ash that was a bit loose, but with a clean burn throughout.

Draw slowed as cigar progressed, as one would expect from most lanceros, went out about half way down and continued to have some burn problems throughout.

Primarily a one-dimensional cigar, but with nice flavor notes throughout. Not the best pairing with a porter beer, went better with rum.

Overall a very nice smoke for the mild-to-mid smoker and I would give it a solid 3-1/2 of 5 on the cigar weekly scale.

Probably would have been better with the aforementioned single-malt than the porter I was drinking that night.

Still, a solid cigar. Joe Bob says check it out.

Nino Vasques Medio Tempo belicoso

Pretty medium brown wrapper (almost the color of a sun-grown). A medium box-press made the cigar easy to hold, and it cut very cleanly with my Palio.

Steady draw with noticeable spiciness that mellowed a bit without the cigar losing any of its very nice medium-to-full body. Produced generous amounts of smoke throughout and developed nicely with a nice clean finish.

Overall impression: this is a very weel-made and good smoking cigar that I will give a solid 4 out of 5. Joe Bob says check it out.

Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla

SCountry of Origin: Nicaragua

Size/Shape: 5½” x 52 Belicoso

Strength: Full

Wrapper: Mexican San Andres

Went to Hemingway’s our last night in New Orleans; the Cigar Dojo (http://cigardojo.com/) guys were there handing out samples. This was pointed out as the best cigar in the pack. It is a Cigar Dojo exclusive.

Well constructed, cut easily with the Palio. Nice easy pre-light draw with hints of leather and spices. Leather and spices were dominant after easy light.

Burned a bit hot at first, had to slow down, which wasn’t easy considering the complexity of flavors and dominance of good old-fashioned peppery strength. Backing down a bit was all it took to cool down the burn.

A muted sweetness developed about half-way through the cigar, and it finished strong with the sweet-spiciness and rich leathery base. I wish it had lasted longer.

Overall, one of the better full-strength so far, 4/5, Joe Bob says, “Check it out.”

Foundry Bolivar

Distributed by General, the Foundry is “re-imagining” what they referred to as classic blends in Ramon Allones and Bolivar.

The cigar is a beautiful dark brown, very smooth wrapper, pigtailed with an unfinished foot. Not too firm to the touch, it clipped very easily with my Palio and presented a very easy pre-light draw with toasted tobacco as the predominant flavor.

Lit easily, draw remained very smooth with generous amounts of smoke. The predominant flavor (which remained throughout) was what I think of as a classic toasted tobacco with undertones that developed as the cigar burned. The ash was mottled grey and held for about one inch. At that point it was likely to fall off, so I was glad I was next to an ash tray.

First undertones I notices was a pleasant bitterness that paired nicely with the dram of Jameson I was having with the cigar. Some pepper noted developed in the back of the nose. Some underlying sweetness and a taste of leather developed about half-way through the cigar, and the body of the smoke became very creamy, adding to the enjoyment.

The burn of the cigar was very straight and clean, no touch-ups were required.

This is a full-bodied smoke with medium to full flavors. Very smooth, no discernible harshness at all. The only time the draw got warm was when I was smoking too fast.

This is a very pleasant cigar. I had it mid-afternoon at one of our local cigar shops, and it was perfect for the time and place. 4/5. Joe Bob says check it out.

Perdomo Craft Series Maduro

Perdomo Craft Series Maduro, paired with a Stone Arrogant Bastard (which perhaps was too aggressive for the cigar).

Beautiful dark wrapper with no veins or flaws. Foot reveals generous ligero and releases wonderful spicy notes. Pre-light draw was easy without being loose. A very well-constructed cigar that cut cleanly with my Palio.

Veary earthy draw with hints of cocoa. Nice spice notes releasing the smoke through the nose (not inhaling).

Although the Arrogant Bastard is a bit aggressive, it still pairs well with this cigar.

There was a slight wrapper separation at the foot which was easily corrected and hardly worth mentioning; otherwise razor-straight burn throughout.

Nice full bodied cigar but silky smooth, as with most Perdomo products. My only quibble is the beer I chose. A smoother porter or stout would be a better choice.

At one point I inadvertantly inhaled the smoke, but it was so smooth that it didn’t cause me to choke.

To change pace a bit I mixed in a shot of Weller Reserve, which added to the enjoyment of the blend.

At the 1/3 point I have nothing at all bad to say about this cigar. The spiciness evens out, never getting too pronounced.

The flavor remains consistent well past the half-way point. A most excellently constructed cigar.

The spiciness grows as I approached the last third of the cigar. The draw did not heat up until the last inch, which is typical for almost any cigar.

The maduro is perhaps not quite as good as the sungrown (which I found to be absolutely stellar). Still, this is an amazing maduro, very fitting with the Perdomo brand and a great addition to the Craft line.

Now to find a suitable light-bodied beer to review the light-bodied Craft cigar. 4+/5. Perdomo hits another one out of the park.

Allegiance

262 Cigars (named for the month and year the embargo was signed) has a new release called the Allegiance.

Brazilian Mata-Fina wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and fillers from both Nicaragua and Honduras. Produced at the Tabacalera Carreras factory in Esteli, Nicaragua.

Designed to be be enjoyable by folks from every palate. This was the Robusto size.

Wrapper: beautifully smooth medium brown with one small visible vein. Cut very cleanly (used my new Xikar that Tasting Room gifted me after ICPCR) and had a very pleasant leathery/spicy pre-light draw. Lighted well with my Dupont Xtend.

Initial draw was very pleasant with flavors of light and mixed spices (not peppery). The smoke from the foot of the cigar was light and pleasant to the nose.

Spiciness (perhaps cinnamon/nutmeg with some caramel flavors) picked up about an inch into the cigar. There was a slight unevenness to the burn, but it never got to retouch bad. Copious amounts of smoke. I was particularly for my wife and her friend that the Redland Cigar Club in San Antonio has a good air cleaner system. It would take quite a large number of smokers to make this particular lounge smoky..

As the cigar progressed the flavors muted some, perhaps since I was drinking a Stone Russian Imperial Ale while smoking it, but it remained very pleasant throughout. Stayed very pleasantly medium bodied the entire cigar.

The cigar only began to heat up at about 1-1/2 inches, at which point I put it down.

Overall impressions; nice clean construction with a good draw, stayed cool until almost the nub, interesting blend of flavors to make for a very nice medium bodied cigar.

I would smoke it again. Overall rating, 3.75/5. Joe Bob says Check It Out!

GMD Nicaraguan Perfecto

A relatively small perfecto with a perfect deep brown wrapper. Excellent construction and cut perfectly (then again, I use a Paio). Nice spicy notes at the beginning which mellowed a bit but remained throughout the body of the cigar. Also, razor-flawless burn and perfect draw. Volumes of very rich smoke, which was something of a pleasant surprise coming from a smaller cigar, and a beautifully clean finish. I really hated putting it out before I burned my fingers.

GMD (Global Marketing and Distributing) is pretty new to the scene, but if this cigar is the kind of quality they produce, they will be around for a while.

Regular guy, honest reviews